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Singapore Stopover

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Once seen as too clean and controlled to be of any interest to the traveller, these days Singapore is worth a second look.

Having worked hard to build its reputation as the business hub of South East Asia, Singapore is renowned as being clean, efficient and safe.

The last time that I'd spent more than a few hours passing through it's (impressive and efficient) airport was about ten years ago and I felt then that I'd seen enough shopping malls to make the need for any return visit to Singapore fairly redundant.

However after a work trip to Sydney with my photographer colleague Tristan, we were looking to avoid as much of the Northern Hemisphere winter as possible and so were looking for ways to delay our return to London and (given our flight connections) Singapore was by far the easiest option.

Tristan had booked us into the Marina Bay Sands - not just a hotel, this is a massive casino and shopping complex. What had caught Tristan's eye was the ambition of the massive three towers of this development, topped by a rooftop pool spanning the towers, designed to look like a luxury yacht that has run aground atop Singapore's skyline.

We were staying in a Club Suite which means that you can not only quickly avoid the frenetic chaos of the ground-floor lobby, but it also gives you access to the rooftop pool and lounge area.

We did occasionally manage to drag ourselves away from the spectacular infinity pool and it was worth the effort. I love food so the Tekka Market in Little India was a real treat; Tristan loves electronics and gadgets so he immersed himself in the Sim Lim Square mall which is full of discount electronics stores. Chinatown has the normal array of market stalls but is still worth checking out; and the shopping centers of Orchard Road are a great way to escape Singapore's humidity - we had a great lunch of chili crab in the massive food hall of the ION retail complex (I felt a little remorseful as the chef scooped up the wriggling crab - he was however delicious). We also made regular stops for dumplings - slippery and slurpy to eat, it's surprising how many you can get through before your stomach realizes that you're totally stuffed.

If you're looking for nightlife, the big name restaurants and hotel bars are the safest bet although the bill will quickly add up as you search for the city's best lychee martini. There are some edgier bars in the Tanjong Pagar and Neil Road areas, however it's all pretty quiet mid-week. DYMK (which stands for 'Does Your Mother Know') is popular with locals.

Our stopover quickly developed into a fairly happy routine - a swim after waking up, an enormous buffet breakfast to set us up for the day, a bit of shopping and exploring, back to the hotel for another swim and maybe a cocktail, then out for dinner and drinks. It's a lifestyle that's fairly easy to fall in love with.

Inevitably our time in Singapore had to end and we headed homeward bound to London. Goodbye infinity pool. Goodbye lychee martinis. Goodbye chili crab - I will miss you most of all.

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