City State

Paper Ticket!

In 1986 a friend took off from Scotland to Singapore to work, not long after another had moved to Hong Kong. I had an open invitation to visit Singapore and, giving him a year or so to settle in, I took up the invitation in September 1987.

His cousin worked for Singapore Airlines in Scotland, so I was able to get a good deal on the flights too!

I had never been to that part of the world before – not even close – so I went with an open mind. Certainly Singapore was a jaw dropper. It made Scotland seem Third World.

Singapore Skyline

Craig had folded himself nicely into the expat lifestyle, and it was slightly surreal to be having lunch with him at somewhere like the Singapore Cricket Club – his firm’s corporate membership obviously.

The food everywhere was just amazing – “Indian”, Malaysian, Peranakan and various kinds of Chinese.

My friend in Hong Kong invited me to visit while I was in that part of the world anyway, and I found a cheap flight with China Airlines (the Taiwan airline) which also gave me a couple of nights in Bangkok on the way.

Bangkok Sightseeing

Craig was a frequent visitor to most capitals in Southeast Asia by virtue of his shipping finance work, so he was able to give me tips about what to see and do there – and what to avoid, obviously.

In those days Bangkok was still a generation behind somewhere like Singapore as far as development is concerned, and a total contrast to the squeaky-clean city state. A fascinating visit too.

Singapore Style

Then Hong Kong. Developed like Singapore, but also very different. The local people were much less friendly – in fact not friendly at all – and much less laid back than the Singaporeans. I think we went a bit crazy, or maybe I was jet lagged, but my memories are vague.

I do remember talking to an Indonesian Cathay Pacific flight attendant in a night club, about her father’s work in an orang-utan sanctuary in Borneo. It turned out we had little in common.

Friends of Friends

My hydrofoil outing with David to Macau is also a memory with some vague corners, but I do remember the fascinating blend of Portuguese and Cantonese cultures and architecture.

I was privileged to be visiting Hong Kong and Singapore to stay with locals – local expats admittedly – because that gave me an insight into those places I would never have had as a typical tourist. Then of course many of their friends were true locals.

Singapore Beach Life

I learned so much about the culture in those three places. Those cities drew me back on many occasions.

ⓒ iain taylor, 2020


This entry was posted in Bangkok, Hong Kong, island life, Islands, Macao, Singapore, Thailand, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to City State

  1. CliffClaven says:

    I first visited Singapore in 1979 and stayed at Raffles, before it was renovated almost beyond recognition. I couldn’t afford to stay there now! The infamous Bugis Street was still there, with its transvestites and rats. I rented a car and drove through Malaysia to Penang.
    Hong Kong? In the late 80s/early 90s I regularly flew Cathay Pacific to Asia and often stopped off in Hong Kong. I once mentioned a forthcoming trip to a Chinese girlfriend in Luxembourg and she lazily suggested: Why don’t you stay with my sister? Little Sister was married to a high-flying expat. In their apartment near Ocean Terminal a quiet Filipina amah served breakfast to me each morning: freshly-squeezed juice, freshly-baked rolls, freshly-brewed coffee. Every evening Little Sister took me to the Someplace Else bar in the basement of the Sheraton, where she always entered to a chorus of greetings. I watched in awe as she and her friends manipulated their men and their lives. It was like an episode of Ally McBeal in which Lucy Liu played all the roles!
    Thanks for prompting so many memories!!

    • admin says:

      Nice! I have a few stories from that era which I can probably now repeat. I’m assuming the 30 year rule applies to the Kai Tak Agreement and the Changi Agreement (what happens on the island stays on the island).

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