Dressing down for dinner

I'VE JUST been slurping a bowl of noodle soup in Singapore's China Town. It was either going to be that or a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel, but in the end the idea of having to shave and get into a jacket and tie at this time of night was an unacceptable price to pay.

I had just spent 14 hours sitting in the wooden spoon of aeroplane seats: 66G, the very last seat in the entire 747 Megatop. Basically, if you come up with anything higher than 66G, then you know you are going to be in the toilet. Not that this bothered me in itself (after all, the better you sleep on the plane, the worse your jet-lag is going to be), but the idea of turning round and looking good at the end of it all was too much.

So, instead of having to pretend to be Noel Coward or Somerset Maugham, I managed to get away with a convincing performance of a ravenous back- packer in a pavement cafe, unable to afford anything more substantial than noodle soup with a few shrimps and flakes of fish in it.

It was not that I wanted to snub Sir Stamford Raffles himself, of course. This was a man, four of whose five children died young of tropical diseases. He was also a man whose vast collection of botanical specimens and notes was lost in a fire at sea. He ended up bankrupt and dying from a brain tumour. From what I can make out, he suffered so that others might drink Singapore Slings after him.

But in spite of this, I chose the noodles. Why? Don't get Singapore wrong. Any place where you can sit on a hot black night under a fan in a colonnaded walkway on the pavement and slurp noodle soup has got to have something going for it. There it was, the familiar Chinese table paraphenalia of spoons, sticks, small bowls and tea-cups. Stucco buildings with painted shutters loomed up from over the road. Chinese ladies shuffled in and out carrying dishes. The people around me were so multi-cultural and spoke in such rapid machine-gun fire voices that it was impossible to guess what language they were speaking.

This may be a tiny little country, but the Singaporeans don't half look after it. On the drive from the airport I saw nothing but glorious trees. Litter? Don't even think about it. Perhaps one of the oddest things is that this (overwhelmingly Chinese) city should have an area called "China Town" at all.

As I slurped my noodles, I felt as though this could still have been some remote outpost of empire, in which ethnic groups had been bundled together without consultation. I saw a table full of English tourists flapping over a giant insect that was dive-bombing their table. Geckos crawled far and wide. An American teenager loped past - casing the joint for a graffitti attack? And there was the Chinese youth, floating with a mysterious lightness. Maybe I had arrived in a magical equatorial zone where bodies had no weight, where gravity had no pull, where people stayed permanently fresh of face.

Except that gravity seems to be pulling twice as hard as it usually does on me right now. I guess it is the punishment for too much travelling. Stamford Raffles was not the last to suffer this fate. Singapore today is also a country where cars are fitted with electronic cards from which value is automatically deducted every you time your car passes within the confines of the business quarter. As I write these words, my own internal electronic pricing system feels like it is running well short of value. I have not even paid S$10 for my Singapore Sling yet.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones