Prada shop on Orchard Road

En route to Laos

It was with some trepidation that I left home for my latest trip. This was to Laos and was to be a very different experience to any trip I had undertaken before. I was volunteering for several weeks on a new project teaching teenage girls from rural villages to sew. I was anxious my skills would be inadequate for the occasion. Whilst I can sew, I am not the most accurate of needlewomen and have never taught it before.

Rooftop swimming pool
Rooftop swimming pool
Corner of colourful building in Little India
Corner of colourful building in Little India

My journey began with a five-hour bus ride from Taupo to Manukau where I spent the night prior to catching a flight to Singapore the following morning. Here I had two nights at the YMCA. I had visited the city earlier this year for the first time in 30 years and realised it was an easy place to stopover (and it was the cheapest airfare I could find at the time which is always a consideration!) I had a full day in which I walked and walked, returning to the hostel for rest stops, to tend to my blisters (the first produced in my well-worn shoes), and to shelter from the tropical rainstorm that I was lucky enough to escape. The YMCA is located at the start of Orchard Street and a central location for exploring. It also had a rooftop swimming pool that was an attraction when I booked but didn’t use.

In the morning, I set off to wander Little India. I found this area fascinating although it was still early (at 8.30am) and many of the small shops had not yet opened for the day. By the time I had walked along Serangoon Road and returned though, the streets had come to life. I detoured along the side roads and discovered murals and colourful buildings. Along Serangoon and Race Course Roads elaborately decorated Hindu temples were interspersed amongst the shops and houses. There was a busy food area near the Tekka Centre, which seemed to have finished business for the day as the concrete floors were being washed down, making walking through it precarious.

Whilst I was strolling back to Orchard Road, the skies became ominously black, and I wondered if I would reach shelter in time. Thankfully, I did as it rained as it only knows how in the Tropics. A little later, I set off for Fort Canning Park, which is near the National Museum and behind the YMCA. The park was much bigger than I expected with a variety of gardens to wander.

The remains of Fort Canning
The remains of Fort Canning
Garden on Orchard Road
Garden on Orchard Road

It was the site of royal palaces in the 14th Century and a strategic location for the British Army in colonial times until the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942. Raffles House is at one end of the park and overlooks the harbour. The flag pole in front traditionally displayed flags spelling out messages in morse code to ships entering the harbour.

There was also a film showing for the Bicentennial of Singapore which I naively thought I could watch. Tickets were sold out for the entire month so I may have to do that on my return in September.

My final venture of the day was a walk up Orchard Street, Shopping Central of Singapore! It did not appeal, but I had to look. I am not a good shopper! However, I was impressed with the amount of green space between the large malls and especially appreciated the area, albeit concrete, where I could sit and watch the shoppers from above when my feet protested the abuse I had given them all day. As with everywhere in Singapore, the streets were clean, there were wide spaces for walking and the old mingled with the ultramodern. I had dinner at a street stall before returning to my room to re-pack and put my feet up.

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