Singapore Diary – Part 1

Another suitcase in another hall…

…specifically, another airport hall.

The last time I was in Singapore was nearly 20 years ago. When HK Sister left the country with husband and Niece Number One (then a toddler) in tow, we ceased to have a reason to visit.

A planned visit in March 2003 was cancelled at the very last minute due to the SARS outbreak. In my bid to reorganize the travel plans for our group of nine, I did not manage to call Les Amis to cancel our dinner reservation. That kind of bad manners still haunts me.

I have been harbouring a vague fear that, in this nation state where everyone knows everyone and the government knows everything, there was a black mark against my name for that misdemeanor.

But there comes a time when we all have to take the plunge.

Investment Banker Friend had invited us to his 50th birthday dinner in Singapore and so we booked four nights on the island. Mr Gochugaru did the heroic thing by heading to the airport from work on Thursday evening and arriving in Singapore Friday evening, then leaving Singapore on Tuesday night. It is now Wednesday morning in London and he is heading to work even as I write.

Singapore is nothing if not efficient and life here runs along smoothly as so many of your needs are anticipated beforehand.

We had a grand time: meeting up with friends from university and church, exploring new areas and attractions, eating, shopping and for Mr Gochugaru, sleeping. We could not have done this without help and advice from Investment Banker Friend’s wife (aka Shoe Lady) and also Travel Couple.

Our travel suggestions will be shared over the next few posts. In the meantime, here are some very gruesome pictures taken at the Haw Par Villa. The background to it is that, as a child, I was brought here during one of my holidays in Singapore. The visit started with a tour of the Ten Courts of Hell. In each of the sculpted scenes, the audience is told the punishments for certain sins. In case you didn’t understand, the blood-soaked figures would provide a visual aid.

There were severe punishments for major offences like murder, and also (what any child would consider) less grave offences like not honouring your parents. Since I had attended a Christian school and learnt about Jesus’s love, I didn’t think I would go through this kind of hell.

40 years on, I wonder how many visitors believe that you can achieve salvation by good works and not by God’s grace. I would imagine most people think this way. Indeed, the first Court of Hell is where the good get separated from the bad and travel along the Gold or Silver Bridge on to a better life.

Later when we told IBF about our visit, he too wanted to know if the scary tableaux were still there as he had also been taken there as a child. These days, what frightens Singaporeans is the lack of a good education and a good job. Haw Par Villa is outdated and irrelevant to the younger generation, but for IBF and myself at least, some of the depictions of a non-Christian hell must have kept us on the straight and narrow path all these years.



In the next post we explore Singapore’s vibrant food scene. If there is a punishment for gluttony it would be diabetes and heart disease, so you can forget all about the horrors depicted in the photos above.