Singapore. What’s that all about?

It’s all happening. First let me finish with Seoul. We spent Sunday morning with Bex having breakfast off her hill. And then, once she’d left for Borneo (I know, I know), we walked to the military memorial. Which was fab. Outside was a lovely commemoration to all of those who had died in the Korean War, plus a large display of tanks, planes and the odd warship (yes, that’s correct). They had a B52, which you may recall from watching the odd US war film as they bombed the begeezers out of everyone from Korea to Vietnam – and are now deployed to the Straits of Hormuz. Inside was a tasteful display of Korean military might … For me the floor that showed the details of the Korean War was the most informative and moving.
By the end we were shattered, having walked a distance again. We did some minor admin, woke at unearthly o’clock and tottered along to catch the bus to the airport.
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Singapore Airlines were efficient, if not as comfortable as Cathay Pacific, and we made it to Singapore mid-pm, took the metro to where Ollie and his fiancée, Faz, live (C’s nephew – he’s another teacher and she’s big in financial consultancy), and then we went out for the night.
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Singapore. Well, what’s that about? Think the Isle of White proclaiming independence from the UK (Singapore from Malaysia). Think Canary Wharf on steroids. Think Swiss efficiency (the transport minister resigned last year because the metro messed about for a day), with German cleanliness. Think Crazy Rich Asians. Think the best bits of Manhattan combined with the best bits of Monaco. Think big, yet tasteful; tall, but slender. Think no chewing gum – it’s banned. And you have it.
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Singapore used to be just a trading port. The southern apex of the trade route between India and China: the Gibraltar of south east Asia. Having snatched independence from Malaya (in the 60s?) it soon became a financial hub as well. And now it has decided that it wants to be a tourist destination to top the things it does well. The Marina Bay Hotel – you’ve got to see it to believe it – and the attached fabricated neon forest, is a draw of its own. The skyline, the old colonial buildings, the marina built on reclaimed land, the zoo, the high-end (and v expensive) shopping, the theme parks etc, etc, are all making it an attractive destination.
For the well off.
It is expensive. Alcohol is Norwayesque prohibitive. Eating out is not cheap. And I can’t tell you about the hotels as we were lucky and stayed with Ollie, but with limited real estate (there is no spare ground on the Isle of White/Singapore), I reckon they’re pricey.
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But you won’t beat the skyline anywhere. So it might be worth the mortgage.
On Tuesday we walked and walked, met up with one of C’s girls for lunch, and then walked some more. We had a delightful Greek supper out with Ollie and Faz (thank you both so much for your generosity!) and then picked up a coach on Wednesday – for one-fifth the price of a CO2 busting airplane – and headed off to Kuala Lumpur.
More of KL next time. We’ve been here for two nights, are staying for a third and leave on Saturday for an adventure and a half. Again, more next time.
All I will say is that, again, we have been v fortunate in that the mum and dad of the girl we caught up with in Singapore are KL-based. And, (in their words), by way of paying C and I back for looking after their two girls for six years we have been royally looked after, hotel included. More later.
The weather? Low to mid-30s. Some rain. Hot and humid, but workable if you shade-hop and drink plenty of water. And backpacking? Well I carry mine and pull C’s – her pelvic floor isn’t what it used to be. So far we’ve managed well enough.
Hurrah!
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Heart and Seoul

We’ve made it. Seoul via Hong Kong. We were remarkably well looked after by Cathay Pacific. The flight to HK was 11 hours and even in cattle class I had lots of leg room. The food was good and the in-flight entertainment was fab … I can recommend The Widows  and Beirut. Oh, and Free Solo, a 90-minute documentary about a mad American who climbs the highest vertical face in Yosemite National park … at 1000 metres. He climbs it without ropes and on his own. It’s heart in the mouth stuff and every child should be made to watch it – just to let them know what you can do if you put your mind to it.

Anyhow. It’s fab to see Rebecca and Steven (they’re both teachers at Dulwich College international) and great that they had today off with the Koreans celebrating their memorial day. We’re staying with them until Monday, when we fly to Singapore … we meet them again in Bangkok a week and a bit later at which point we pool resources and hoof it around SE Asia for almost 4 weeks. (Hurrah!) Between now and then Bex is heading to Brunei with the school (in their first year Steven has been to China and Phuket, Bex to Hong Kong and Japan – all looking after kids from the school). They have landed on their feet here, but they do both work really hard. We are v proud of them.

Today, struggling against the jet lag monkey on my shoulder (C was in much better fettle), we walked all over Seoul, a city built on a series of steep hills that would have defeated the Romans. The photos tell the story, so I shall recount a couple of observations instead.

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Inside the palace … hundreds dressed in their Sunday’s, all taking photos of each other

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all that’s left of old Seoul

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we didn’t climb this hill, but it felt like it

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climbed this, though

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drawn for us, the Ladley family motto: diligence will make you succeed

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Bex can confirm that when you go to this cafe you are joined by loads of cats

First, South Korea is hardly a tourist location. Any history and associated buildings were literally obliterated by Japanese occupation (no love lost there) in the first half of the 20th Century, and later by the Korean War (50 -53), so any architecture is very new. It has developed into a huge industrial nation (Samsung, LG, Kia, Hyundai etc) with the infrastructure struggling to keep up. It feels like a West African nation which has been given a shot of speed. There are plenty of classy new build skyscrapers, but you don’t have to look too hard to find a lot of quick-build concrete, smelly drains and badly erected electricity wires. There is no crime and the people are all lovely, if slightly reserved. The youngsters are into fashion and k-pop; they are delicate (boys and girls), but, again, lovely.

Seoul has things to offer. We did the main hill with its huge tower, the sprawling palace (we watched the non-military changing of the guard) and the very small and very twee ‘old Seoul’; a couple of delightful streets of immaculate wooden houses with tiled roofs.

On the way there I was accosted by an elderly lady who was part of a demonstration outside the American Embassy – they demonstrate a lot in Seoul, all peacefully. Bex reckons it’s a national past time. She wanted to tell me that they were protesting against Kim Jong-un, and that I was to tell Donald Trump that he was to assassinate the North Korean leader. I didn’t have the the heart to tell her that I knew some people and they had been given very clear instructions to do the same to His Dondaldness.

We’re off to the DMZ tomorrow, which should be fun! Until Sunday …