#920. I nominate Singapore as an undestination.

By Paul Perton | Travel Photography

Oct 25

Deep into October and I’ve yet to write a word for DearSusan. Shame on me.

Parking – Singapore
Reception – Singapore
Untitled – Singapore
Morning shadow – Singapore
Modernist Singapore
Untitled – Singapore

It’s hard to write when you’re having fun. Me ’n Mrs P both have birthdays in October and in recent years, have chosen to spend them both in Singapore. That’s two weeks – more than most visitors spend there in a lifetime. Even the locals give us very odd looks when we say how long we’re in town for.

I’m a little concerned at this point that you might misunderstand my nomination and choose not to visit after all. That. Would. Be. A. Mistake.

This is one of the world’s great cities, there’s more than enough to do, the food is eclectic and wonderful, the weather unremittingly predictable, there’s a brilliant museum to see and it’s hard to imagine that the population could be more friendly, or helpful.

So why is it an undestination?

Good question.

Parking – Singapore
Conversation – Singapore
Parking – Singapore
Robertson Quay night time – Singapore
Panama hats – Singapore
Modernist Singapore

If you look, you’ll find history under almost every coat of paint. Shrines outside shops and homes, mosques, hawker centres (eating places) in every small district. Then there’s a modern CBD, office towers, the newly renovated Raffles, underground shopping malls, blissful air conditioning.

It’s extraordinary, but I couldn’t really come to terms with what I was seeing, leastways photographically. I’d photograph a bowl of char hor fun (wok fried noodles, beef, mushroom, egg and oyster sauce) in a heartbeat, but could find little that appealed to the street photographer in me.


You are joking, of course.

I’d slimmed down my ”away” kit and wanted to get as much use of my recently acquired 35mm f1.4 Distagon as possible. On an X-Pro2, I found the perfect pairing and shot almost exclusively with it for the first week. Catching sight of my X-H1 skulking in the hotel cupboard one afternoon, bought a switch and more perfection, just a bit heavier.

So what did I shoot?

Botanic gardens close up
Rainy day – Singapore
Building site – Singapore
Happy hour – Singapore
Rainy street – Singapore
Road works crossing – Singapore

The odd, eye catching shadows that an equatorial sun can create, some bizarre building details, several car parks and urban scenes and quite a lot of very shallow DoF images that pleased me hugely.

Looking back on recent visits, this realisation has been a while coming. I’ve shot thousands of photographs in and around the city, but there are few I’d choose to put in a roadshow, or exhibition.

Looking at Flickr and searching for images shot in and around the city produced the screen grab you see here – 99% shot across Marina Bay, highlighting the famous hotel and the Supertrees – every visitor ought to see all of these places. If you want to capture something different, you’ll need to work quite a lot harder.

That said, if you’ve already been to Singapore, you will recognise just about every shot here as it captures the moment, place and people that make up this remarkable undestination.

Bar blur – Singapore
Lines, lines and more lines – Singapore
Rainy street – Singapore
Botanic gardens close up

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  • philberphoto says:

    Paul, some of the pictures in your post are among my favorites I have ever seen from you. Truly delightful! It also shows how much Singapore and your new lens inspire you…
    But an un-destination? On food alone, Singapore rises above that level, to stellar location, and there is much more besides, of course. That is why you have not shot food. Because you knew it would destroy your titular claim. If you insist, then I nominate Singapore as an un-un-destination!

    • Paul Perton says:

      Philippe, you rumbled me 🙁

      Still, I now have an opportunity to go back next year (already in planning) for the birthday(s) bash and some more exploration.

    • Adrian says:

      I’m struggling with this one a bit too, Pete!

      Internet bloggers have turned the Singapore street food scene in something where good reviews result in 1 hour queues at one outlet, whilst every other place selling the same food doesn’t. The culture of idolising food which should be cheap and found on every corner doesn’t work for me, and the sheer volume of Singapore street food blogs becomes boring and for me counter intuitive. The food there is great, but I’m not willing to schlep across the city for an hour to queue for some blogger recommended noodles when the same thing is available on whatever city block you’re standing on… But that’s just me.

      Nine of this takes away from Paul’s lovely photographs, so full of light and atmosphere.

      I think anywhere is an un-destination if you try hard enough to find the back streets off the back streets, but as a South East Asian travel hub and a stopover tourist mecca, it’s hard to conceive it as an un-destination… And the Bayside is so photographed because it is so lovely… But Paul is right there is so much more there than that too.

  • Sean says:

    I do like some of these images – the trio of chairs; the mystery woman; the stack of straw hats; and the last image of the leaves. Once again, it’s these small things, I sense, that get noticed and recorded. They build a library – personalised points of view and feelings expressed – of what contributes to the documentarian, the character of a particular location, that to them, is subjectively an un-destination.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I’m completely lost with the different generations of definition of “un-destination”. I thought it was mostly about shooting stuff nobody else had, in a section of the universe mostly – if not totally! – devoid of tourists.

    Whatever – Singapore offers you the choice – you can find whichever subject you want.

    And it’s definitely one of the friendliest destinations.

    It’s also one of the safest places on the planet! I remember one night when I went out to a night club and walked back to my hotel along a short cut through poorly lit back streets, thinking to myself that I simply wouldn’t even consider doing anything of the kind, anywhere else I’ve ever been!

    Some people think it’s too highly regulated, but you don’t go to another country to criticise – you go there to enjoy what it has to offer, and if part of that is a law telling you not to scatter cigarette butts all over the place, then so be it. If you don’t like that, don’t visit Singapore, stay home, and scatter cigarette butts all over the floor where you live, if that’s what you prefer to do.

    The standard of living has risen dramatically over the years since I first went there Paul. And they now enjoy one of the wealthiest economies in the world. Which they have worked hard and long to develop, so all credit to them.

    Unfortunately it has left you bereft of the opportunity to include a bicycle among your photos.

    Never mind – they are all very impressive even without a bicycle.

    And it’s not necessary to hang around the “destination” places. There IS a “real Singapore” to be found outside all of that, and all those skyscrapers – with a vibrant life of its own – great for “street”, if that’s what floats your boat.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Well, a city maybe famous and full of tourists bbut some areas of it completely empty of famous landmarks and selfie opportunities. There’s value in locating a great little village no one has heard of, but it’s also a lot of fun to find stuff no one ever sees in more touristed areas. So, while London and Singapore aren’t necessarily undestinations, they are home to multiple undestination areas worth exploring and never featured in the tourist brochures 🙂

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Best memory was the day I spent on a boat, headed out from a marina near Changi Prison – nor’west of the main island of Singapore, to the other side of an island off the Singapore coast. Lunch in a “forbidden” restaurant that only people like my hosts for the day are allowed to go to (it was not even supposed to be there – but because of who its normal patrons were, the government tolerated its existence). And later, swimming with pink dolphins, in the Strait – one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had!

  • Steve says:

    Paul, I agree with Philippe, some of your finest. Morning Shadow, Conversation and Panama hats, to pick three, but it seems rude to exclude some others!

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Paul, you’ve made me add Singapore to my long list of places to see & photograph!
    Maybe your wonderful photos are not representative of landscape in the traditional sense, but they definitely capture urban landscape – which you’ve got down pat. It’s hard to choose favorites – and I know there’s no requirement to do so – but Bar Blur, both Rainy Street, and the two with people shadows really resonate with me because of the strong design elements and the story they tell. Nicely done, my friend!

  • Frederick Hartman says:


  • Michael Fleischer says:

    These are fantastic images, Paul.

    Intimate and and filled with seductive moods of a moment…!

    I particularly am fond of Bar Blur, Panama hats, Modernist Singapore and the last
    Rainy Street ( Yellow Citroen logo?)


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