Think of a city with 2,000 years worth of history that has been burnt down once, bombed, rebuilt and remains the largest city in the EU. Imagine a place that mixes architectural grandesse and history with contemporary arts, great theatre, the best in English-language comedy and cutting edge music.
The sun has long since set, but for the food vendors on Lebuh Chulia, business is just beginning. Along the crowded sidewalk, local people queue up for steaming, fragrant bowls of wonton soup and heaps of fresh noodles, wok-seared in a dark sauce. Outside a shuttered shop, a vendor pours the water from coconuts into plastic bags filled with shredded fruit.
Ask any Singaporean, and he’ll bemoan the rising costs of living, the surge of mega-malls, the skyrocketing housing prices, the overcrowding, and even (especially) the heat. But mention one thing — food — and that grimace will morph into an earnest, forthcoming grin and a flurry of suggestions. No other city invests so much of its soul and identity into its cuisine, which, like the city itself, is a kaleidoscopic mish mash of cultures, traditions and flavours.
If Singapore was a man, he’d walk on water. What was once waves on the Singapore Straight just 10 years ago is now the shiny new face that Singapore likes to show to the world. A combination of government spending and foreign investment has sat world-class architecture, tourism spots and cultural centres on land reclaimed from the sea.
As we drove the 34km from Seminyak Beach to the town of Ubud, the boutique shops, restaurants and luxury resorts, morphed into villages, farmland, rivers and narrow winding roads. Then, as suddenly as they had disappeared, once again we were surrounded by the trappings of tourism. But despite some similarities, the two towns have unique souls.
North Korea feels frozen in time. It lies somewhere between a 1930s Soviet Union and a futuristic vision of society, as imagined back in the 1970s.
An African safari inevitably figures on almost every adventure traveller’s bucket list, sandwiched somewhere between Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands. After all, who hasn’t dreamed of following the footsteps of intrepid explorer, David Livingstone, one of the first westerners to overcome deadly diseases and wary natives to cross the continent in the mid 1800s? Or Scottish journalist Henry Stanley who, with the help of 200 porters, forged through 1,100km of African jungle to finally meet up with Livingstone and utter the now famous greeting, “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”