In January 2011 I sent the Writing Pilgrim out on a worldwide journey in search of ideas and inspiration for stories, novels and blogs. I would have liked to make the journey myself but I’m not a rich man and I have a wife and four cats that need me, a blog to maintain and novels and short stories to write so my hands are a bit tied. The Writing Pilgrim is a free spirit, travelling on the crest of a creative wave and looking to experience the world in a lifelong journey he has long wanted to take. Whatever insights he can share I hope you’ll look forward to as much as me.
An Island of Beauty
Greetings from Singapore. It’s but a small island south of Asia but it’s an amazing place. After Australia my path was pretty much decided for me. The tour group I had mistakenly joined ordered me to board a plane for Cairns and from there we made our way north for a flight to Singapore. I knew nothing of the island before we arrived. I suspected it had something to do with singing but visions of choirs lining the streets and daily concerts in the pristine parks proved to be a far cry from the reality of what I witnessed.
On arrival our group was met by the tour guide and we swapped the plane for a luxury coach that immediately took us on a tour prior to the stop at the hotel. I felt somewhat guilty that I’d pinched someone’s place on this tour but being your partner in fictional crime I didn’t think anyone would mind all that much. The temperature in Singapore was very hot, with only the occasional cloud cover offering any relief from the sun’s rays. I don’t cope well in the sun, as you know, so began to sweat before we’d even reached the coach, which went down well with the tour group.
Driving through the streets it was clear that Singapore was made up of two distinct groups – Chinese and Muslim settlers. Red banners were visible from the balconies of many apartments and we were informed these were home to Chinese families while those parapets decorated with many plants and flowers tended to be home to Muslim families. What wasn’t in question was the feeling of security in Singapore. I felt relaxed on arrival and in no danger even as I write these words to you now. Is it wrong of me to also mention that there are a lot of beautiful women here, at least two or three on every street you wander along? I’d happily stay here but know I must continue my journey for your sake. When it’s over, however, I may come back here.
We learned much of Singapore’s history during visits to Changi village and museum, especially its occupation by the Japanese during the Second World War. Moving testaments of this terrible time were quilts that prisoners were made to sew while in captivity. The women would craft this fine material and sew messages of love for their husbands, fathers and sons they were forcibly separated from. It’s a fond reminder of how strong people can be in times of extreme adversity. Monuments are prevalent throughout the island and I find such tributes moving whenever I see them, especially those seemingly endless lists of names.
After our quick tour of Changhi, we booked into the hotel and were let loose on Singapore ourselves. I chose to wander aimlessly throughout the city and see where I ended up. I witnessed mosques, the Sultan’s Palace, the market stalls on Arab Street, Thian Hock Keng Temple, China Town and Little India. The heat became so intense, however, that I wanted to return to the hotel but ended up wandering off in the opposite direction. I found myself in Fort Canning Park which, given its scale, was the last place I needed to be.
The first ruler of Singapore is said to be buried in the park and later the British chose the area to build a house on the hill and fortified the area with walls and cannons. As much as I was interested to learn more I was ridiculously thirsty in the heat and longed for the nearest shop. As luck would have it I came to an archaeological dig site in the park. Nothing remarkable about that you might be thinking but what I spied there was simply heaven – vending machines! Okay, they weren’t part of the dig, at least I hope not, but they were in full working order and housing dozens of ice cold drinks. I bought two and sat for the next quarter of an hour drinking one in a big gulp while slowly enjoying the second. After two cans of coke I felt replenished and fit to wander the remainder of Fort Canning Park.
The main house was beautiful though I wasn’t allowed in, not that I’d have wanted to with the present gardener with a malevolent look. It’s the sort of place that would suit you and your good wife Mrs B, not the gardener but the house. Situated at the top of a steep hill, the Fort Canning Centre is surrounded by land worthy of your six cats and it offers welcome seclusion from the busy city centre. I suddenly pictured myself sitting outside overlooking the park, sipping champagne, preferably in the shade, and relaxing in the knowledge that this was my home and very private as well. I must stop my hopeless dreaming!
So, what can we take from Singapore? Well the tourism is vast on the island so happens you could use this in Elenchera, one of the colonised islands could become a major centre of tourism as well, after overthrowing their colonisers of course. The Fort Canning Centre could be the sort of home the Governors possess when Odrica and Eligantiar are at the peak of their colonialism. I’m not sure. I’ll leave it up to you. The sight of disused cannons in the park and the difficulty I had getting to the house are impressive reflections of how good a stronghold it must have been.
I’ll leave Singapore with a heavy heart but it is my duty to you to learn and see as much as I can on this journey. Where to next? Difficult to say. Two things I do know though: 1) I’m not ready to come home yet and 2) I will be coming back to Singapore.
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