Emmanuelle Jary - 2011-04-12
Singapore is a lot more worldly and sensual than you might have first imagined. This city state is a place that reveals its charms to those who know how to look beyond the clichés.
Usually when someone mentions Singapore the received reaction is something in the order of a frown. At best it’s considered worthwhile as a shopping stop or a place of gentle transition before venturing on to Indonesia. It’s the last stopover of a Western hybrid version of Asia but in this case it’s the West sanitised, clean and policed.
Singapore is all this, whilst possessing other qualities at the same time. This city state of 4 million people is a nation of immigrants: 77% Chinese, 14% Malay, 8% Indians and several other diverse minorities. It is also a city of festivities, a veritable melting pot by nature.
Everyone here has their own New Year festivities, ancestors and celebrations. Among the best known are the Hungry Ghost Festival in August to summon the memory of the deceased, the Mooncake Festival, celebrated in September at the time of the full moon, the Deepavali festival – the October festival of light in October and November which commemorates the victory of the Hindu Lord Krishna over the demon Narakasura. Indian festivities, Chinese New Year and the National Day on August 9 bring everyone together in the same spirit, because whether they are Chinese, Indian or Malay, they are above all Singaporeans. Some come to pray at the mosque near Arab Street; others indulge in the pleasures of shopping and the abundance of cooking in the Chinatown food courts. You can visit Hindu, Confucian and Buddhist temples, and then venture into the heart of Little India, the district of a thousand fragrances. The multi levelled Tekka market has cheap bracelets, "Bollywood" DVDs, Sari shops, spice and incense.
After this whirlwind of ethnicity, a walk in the gigantic malls is another class of exotic experience. These are pulsating, flashy and vibrant in every direction. This city that dabbles in just about everything is attractive, exciting and extravagant, but it can also be annoying for the very same reasons of its excessiveness. You find yourself wondering: how much do I like this place? Enough to be very happy to arrive and just as happy to leave and travel on eastwards – towards other extremes.
Singapore Airlines has daily flights from London to Singapore. This award-winning company has a particularly attentive on-board service and very fine cuisine.
566 Chiswick High Road, London, W4 5YS
Tel: 0208 750 2708
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