Why only seven hours? It does seem like an awfully short amount of time to spend in a city-state, even one as small as Singapore.
The reason is simple: Singapore is expensive.
Not expensive compared to the UK (pretty similar prices in fact), but compared to the rest of SE Asia, Singapore is not designed for those with budgets on their minds. A bed in a dorm in Singapore is the equivalent to a whole day's budget in Indonesia, prompting us to stay in the neighbouring Malaysian town of Johor Bahru and get the bus into Singapore (which takes 1 hour, and costs about 40p) for a day trip.
11am: Arrival in Singapore
Our bus dropped us off at an MRT station at the edge of town and we spent the first twenty minutes blinded by the sparkling cleanliness of the public transport. Following Indonesia, it felt like I had been transported to a cold and sterile future, where everything was shiny silver and glass.
After regaining our sight, we hopped a train to City Hall.
Our first port of call in Singapore was beautiful, but, unlike Chinatowns in other big cities, it was lacking in character. The disasterous redevelopment campaign by the government has ripped the soul out of Chinatown, and replaced it with (very) expensive restaurants. Luckily there are still a couple of traditional enclaves, including the Thian Hock Keng Temple and Amoy Street (with an excellent food court), that are definitely worth a visit.
1pm: The Colonial District
Ahh, there' nothing like the simple delights of sitting back with a Singapore Sling in Raffles Hotel, taking in the same sights and sounds as such notable dignataries as Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad - and this was nothing like that.
We could only afford to peer in to see how the other half live, and it looks good. Being in the Raffles Hotel can make even the most PC of us nostalgic for the good old days of colonialism, and the civilizing force of the Brits.
Luckily the effect was momentary, as the disparaging stares at our shabby clothes and lower class airs forced us to make a hasty retreat.
2pm: Orchard Rd
Stepping into the huge malls on Orchard road was like being transported home: I found myself surrounded by Top Shop, Dorty Perkins, Warehouse and River Island. The air was filled with the familiar scent of Starbucks (I confess, I succumbed to the evil charms of a frappacino) and the comfort of comerce was like a security blanket keeping me warm.
That said, Orchard Road does not live up to it's hype: The Champs-Elysées this is not, and it doesn't have a patch on Oxford Street.
3pm: The Arab Quarter
Saddened by the realisation that I can no longer afford the high street brands of home, we hopped back on the MRT and headed to the Arab Quarter.
This was much more our scene; nice cafes, cute shops and restaurants, streets lined with Arabian carpets and cloths. It felt like a different city. Of course, like all of Singapore, it was meticulously clean. It seems that making gum illegal (that's right, illegal), and fining people for so much as breathing with bad breath has had the desired result. I spent most of my time worried that the clean police were going to appear to take me away at any moment.
4pm: The rain
Inevitably, as things were going so well, the rain had to come. Not a light drizzle, not even a downpour, but a thunderous, angry storm making the streets deserted.
We found shelter in Little India in a charming pub. Unfortunately, it would seem that you have to mortgage your house to buy a beer in Singapore, and as we are already homeless, we settled for soft drinks and played cards for an hour.
5pm: Little India
Finally, part of town that has a little litter! Not a lot, but just enough to make you feel like people actually live there. Little India, as you would expect, is full of Indian restaurants and spice shops. The air is perfumed with incense, curry and jasmine, and Bollywood music assaults the ear drums on every street. It also seems to be the poor end of town.
Feeling more at home with just a little bit of filth, this is where we spent the rest of our day, looking at temples and finding a suitable venue for dinner. Naturally we had a delicious curry in a street cafe.
Exhausted and broke we headed back to the bus station and made our way back to grubby Johor, and the wonderfully unkempt Footloose homestay.