A Brief History Of Singapore

All of the moisture in my head had been replaced with sand in the night. I looked around for the badger whose arse I felt like I’d been licking. Ugh. Fuck alcohol, I’m never drinking again* (* Terms and conditions apply). The gorgeous shower at the hostel went some way to restoring some shred of humanity, and the masala dosa we located up the road and applied to our faceholes helped massively in lieu of a McDonald’s breakfast and a day binge watching Netflix whilst telling anyone within earshot that I was probably dying, but I wasn’t looking forward to a day of sightseeing in a city which redefines humidity. Clutching a bottle in one hand and trying to stop my brain cells from seeping out of my ear with the other, we stumbled to the National Museum of Singapore because there was at least a chance of air conditioning.

It’s an interesting way to kill a couple of hours. The top floor gives sort of a room by room overview of life in Singapore focusing on the people and their lives, growing up in the kampungs, the small villages, between 1955 and 1965 as the country tried to establish its own identity. There’s a room dedicated to Singapore during colonial times filled with artifacts of the time and mannequins dressed in the attire favoured by the upper classes. But my favorite room, the one I found the most fascinating, possibly because I didn’t even know it was a thing, was the room titled “Surviving Syonan 1942 – 1945”.

Sir Raffles, credited as the founder of Singapore. Though I’m pretty sure it was already there when he arrived

In February 1942 the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese and triggered the darkest period in Singapore’s history. Everything was renamed with Japanese names from the national newspaper to government buildings, and even the country itself was renamed Syonan, meaning “brilliant south”. Clocks were adjusted to Tokyo time and propaganda flooded every media outlet, including radio broadcasts and films. Currency was replaced with “banana money,” the Japanese military currency. Everyone was required to learn nippon-go, the Japanese language, as they tried to replace English but this failed as most people either refused to learn or found it too difficult. But these weren’t the worst things. These are things the people could handle. What really fucked them over was the crippling starvation.

Singapore imported most of their food and of course imports stopped. The Japanese seized all food stocks and rationed them back to the people, but there was a severe shortage, at least that’s what the people were told. Rations were apparently given out on a first come first served basis and at short notice, leaving desperate people scrambling for a loaf of bread or a bag of rice. It’s said, however, that the military had huge stashes of food for themselves and their supporters and basically used food as a way to control the population.

The death rate reached an all time high as everything was in short supply from food and medicine to fabric and fuel. The people became resourceful, growing tapioca and sweet potatoes, finding substitutes for things they couldn’t have, recycling old clothes into new, cutting up tyres to use as shoes. Nothing was wasted. Syonan remained until the Japanese surrender and the British moved back in.

If we had hawker centres in Brighton I’d need to buy Primark out of fat pants.

My hungover brain absorbed as much of this as possible. I found it fascinating. For everything Singapore has been through it’s recovered incredibly. The rest of the museum traces the history of the city state from it’s roots as Singapura, through it’s life as a Crown Colony and the occupation of the Japanese, right through to independence and charting its growth as an important international port.

But all this learning was making my head hurt. We attacked our hangovers with food from a hawker centre and retreated to the Botanical Gardens which are actually fucking massive. Once you’ve made your way to the centre you still have to get out on foot to find a bus or an MRT. I wondered if my insurance would cover me for helicopter rescue.

If you look closely you can see the mosquitoes lying in wait.

It’s worth a visit, the Botanical Gardens, especially if you didn’t spend the previous night attempting to fit your body weight worth of vodka into your liver and can walk more than five metres before having to sit down and question your life choices. It’a nice and peaceful and there are a few bodies of water you can lie down by and sleep for half an hour if you don’t mind potentially losing a toe to a terrapin. Eventually we made it through the park but it wasn’t until we were back at the hostel packing our things ready to head to the airport that we realised we still hadn’t had a Singapore Sling.

I wonder if the swans realise that someone has built giant replicas of them.

Okay, this needed to happen. We’d intended to have one at Raffles but apparently you pay a shit tonne of money for a pre-mixed cocktail so once we’d ruled that out it kind of slipped our mind. The guy at reception said we could find cocktails at Clarke’s Quay. Thank fuck for the fast and easy MRT making last minute liver abuse possible. It didn’t take us long to find a place right by the water where we could apply one to our faceholes. It’s actually a really cool place to hang out too, I get the feeling this is where the cashed up beautiful people come to part with money in exchange for food and booze. I can’t see us on a night out here unless we win lotto or reach that drunk point where you become convinced you’re a millionaire and want to buy a shot for everyone in the bar.

Obligatory Singapore Slings.
Clarke’s Quay. My bank account shrivelled just looking at it.

Singapore though, guys. It’s well and truly won our hearts. I love how diverse it is, taking on identities from Malaysia, China and India. There are four official languages which reflect this; English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, and there’s a fifth language called Singlish. Skylar reckons if she spoke Singlish to us we wouldn’t have a bastard clue what she was on about. Interestingly though the city state refuse to officially recognise it. It’s so fucking safe here too, you can wander around pissed out of your head at 3am and no one will bother you. One bloke we met said it was because of the penalties which include caning. “Three strokes and you can’t sit down”, he told us with a chuckle. And it’s probably the only place in Asia that I don’t mind catching a taxi. Usually I avoid them like they’ll cause my arms to drop off because I detest haggling but it’s literally illegal for them to not use the meter or try and overcharge you here. It’s wonderful.

I think with these things you’re meant to hang the lock and throw the key in the river but fuck that shit in a city where you get fined for littering.

It’s such an easy place to be if you don’t mind allocating a significant portion of budget to just three days, but if you stay off the booze you can keep costs down. We’re British though. Just the words “happy hour” mean a challenge that must be accepted and it was nice to just go out on the piss in proper pubs and bars. I definitely want to come back here, not because I still feel like I have more to see, I’m satisfied that we covered everything we wanted to even though we didn’t “do it all”. I simply enjoy being here and it’d be lovely to come back, hang out with Skylar some more and just exist in Singapore for a few more days.

Bonus photo: I was so hung over I was quite sure I was on the verge of death and all I wanted was a cup of tea and was given this abomination. It’s instant liquid tea. It kept separating. This was the worst moment of my entire life including that time Tescos ran out of bacon.

Stayed at: Adamson Lodge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.