I had already been to Singapore once during a backpacking Round The World trip that lasted fifteen months and saw me working in San Francisco, visiting a friend in Sydney and catching various respiratory diseases in New Delhi. At the time, it was the mix of cultures that I liked the best in the city-state, but when I returned, seventeen years later, on my way to Australia and New Zealand, it was the transformation into a world city that I found fascinating. This was an exotic culture, but its British colonial background and the slow seep of Western thinking through the global marketplace (which is also one of ideas) made it a lot more approachable and comprehensible. Although I spent thirteen weeks travelling in New Zealand aiming to write a book about the country, it was my days in Singapore that kept inspiring me to jot down my thoughts and transcribe my journals when I came back. In the end, I gave up and returned two years later to finish the book that had emerged, published again by Summersdale. As it was commissioned from the beginning at 70,000 words, nothing was cut. As a result, I think it kept its cohesion better.
As that trip to Singapore en route to the South Pacific had been marred by having my arm in a sling, I thought it would make a fitting metaphor for a tourist’s blinkered view of a different culture. And if you are in any doubt that it happened as I tell it, here is the picture to prove it.
Singapore Sling also made it in the Lonely Planet’s Recommended Reading for travellers to Singapore and once again, I am very grateful for that.