Out of the box

Across the table from me is an old friend – J.

We met over six years ago in Melbourne. Since then, we’ve crossed paths in a few different parts of the world. Tonight, it’s my last night in Singapore and it’s a surprise encounter.

Due to some confusion about who would be where when, we’ve had a few hours together on this air-conditioned evening. He’s looking very studious, writing something that’s probably very important while I’m writing about him.

It’s a great feeling when events take you by surprise. It often leaves me trying to draw upon those musty reference points.

Before taking off to Singapore, common adjectives that were thrown my way were: clean, orderly, safe and impressive. It’s definitely all of those things but I don’t think it’s the stereotype of rigid Asian culture that it’s made out to be.

On this equatorial weekend, I’ve seen people scatting and cruising in way that doesn’t seem stoic. People slide around in baggy t-shirts and scuffed jeans like they’re too hot to bother. I’ve struck that in other in parts of Asia but wasn’t expecting that here – nor the accompanying cheeriness.

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(Singapore City Centre – 02.09.17)

This city (reminder to self: country) isn’t languid or lazy – it’s one of the most successful in the world but on the surface, it doesn’t look like it’s ground itself down to a pulp to get there.

Today – I did what I only ever seem to manage to do when away from Melbourne. Amble through gardens. This morning I walked through the botanic gardens, which aren’t too far from where I’ve been staying.

They’re pretty special. Two hundred-year-old trees, rain forests, beautiful lakes – just a hop skip and jump from the concrete metropolis.

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(Singapore Botanic Gardens 03.09.17)

From there, I went to the modern version in the Marina Gardens. It’s famous for the Gaudi-esque giant sculpted trees. They’re an incredible sight – really stark and a celebration of the city’s growth and elusive ecosystems. The giant dragonflies are also worth checking out!

Still I didn’t quite know how to feel about this ‘attraction’ after the natural beauty and history at the Botanic Gardens. The Marina Park is definitely out of the box – and leaves you wondering what you expected to see in the first place.

That’s what I like about the gardens and Singapore – it’s changing message that guide through cultures, wants and representations.

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As any good tourist would, there was no way I was going to visit Singapore without having a Singapore Sling in the Raffles Long Bar. With its ornate touches and peanuts, this human zoo was a step back in time compared to the surrounding downtown.

As for the Sling, it was pretty potent (and pricey) cocktail that managed to be both scrumptious and tropical. 8.5/10.

The next stop is India. Five years ago, I travelled through Rajasthan with a favourite old companion. I remember walking through the streets of New Delhi and barely being able to hear myself think as activity over-crowded the senses.

Tomorrow I’m ready to return – this time to the South, and gearing up for the next adventure. I’ll head there with a lot of inspiration from this city state, its fierce pride in knocking down sterotypes and taking new ideas out of the box.

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(Downtown Singapore – 02.09.17)


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