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By marksams, 08/16/2010 - 10:53

Singapore airport is massive, similar in style to how I remember Frankfurt from my European travelling days. Life just seemed to get easier for us on arrival. No language or communication issues, and everything was well signposted, sophisticated, and intuitive. We were back in a well-developed modern metropolis, with sleepy Brunei behind us.

Statue of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, opposite Boat Quay, SingaporeSingapore is impressive, and especially after our recent travels to China, Japan & India it was clear to see that Singapore had managed to take the best of all these cultures and meld them together nicely in one little island. The British heritage is also celebrated, with many statues and plaques of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles dedicated to his "genius and perception in changing the destiny of Singapore from an obscure fishing village to a great sea port". I think this is the first time we've visited somewhere which didn't mention 'British Empire' and 'serious conflict and bloodshed' together in one story, which meant we could relax straight away. Add to all this a thoroughly modern approach, good housekeeping, attention to detail, and evidently good governance, and you have Singapore, with lots of proud Singaporeans.

We were lucky to be there during the celebrations for the 45th National Day and the National Day Parade (NDP), with military armour rolling through the streets, fast movers between the skyscrapers, Chinooks carrying the national flag, and a good fireworks display in the Padang and harbour areas. The national anthem was playing over the load speaker, followed by public recital of the Singapore pledge. I found this mildly amusing at first, but quickly realised this is probably exactly what 'broken Britain' needs.

Other days we wandered the city; through 'Little India', 'Chinatown' and into Suntec City (reminding me of Sunshine City in Tokyo), and then past Raffles hotel. Looking out to sea it was easy to see why Singapore is so prosperous - container ships filled the waters like a Tesco's car park on a Saturday. Little India, especially the MRT station there, really took us back to New Delhi. So many Indian men clamouring at the ticket machines; tourists as well as locals. This was the first time we had seen Indian tourists in large numbers anywhere on our travels.

We stayed in a hostel for a couple of nights, before transferring to our pre-booked hotel. The hostel was located in a street made up of bars and karaoke clubs, with young courtesans mingling among the smokers on the pavement. Although quite civilised by western standards, the contrast from life back in Brunei was mildly shocking.

Finishing up with the local speciality of Kaya on Pandan bread, we jumped on the plane out of Singapore, still wondering why such a futuristic and modern city has such maddening and frustrating ticket machines in the MRT stations. This ended our 6 months in Asia. Next stop - Sydney, Australia.