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Published: January 8th 2018
Mandy posing in front of the Financial District
Firstly, a big thankyou to everyone who read the last entry on the blog and a bigger thankyou still to those who added a comment or two - fortunately none of them fell into the 'offensive or rude' categories and were, therefore, automatically blocked by the site!! Now, that would have been something!
So, let's move on to the next blog entry and with this in mind, many of you may know that Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, a man already heavily involved in the British Empire's expansion into South East Asia, including into Malaysia and Java, Indonesia. However, before someone looks to get a petition together to tear down his statue in Westminster Abbey, it should be remembered that he was a fervent supporter of abolishing slavery and his name is still venerated to this day in Singapore. So, let's leave this little bit of British history alone shall we?!
As I said, the Raffles name is everywhere in Singapore today, including Raffles Place (the centre of Singapore's financial district), Raffles Hospital (one of the largest hospitals in Singapore) and Raffles City (a large downtown complex of offices, hotels and a shopping mall
The Merlion guarding the Financial District.
and built on the site of the Raffles Institution, the first school in Singapore) to name but a few. Singapore Airlines until recently, even used to call their Business Class service, Raffles Class!!
So, why am I wittering on about this you might well ask? Well, the most famous use of the Raffles name in Sinapore is, of course, the historic Raffles Hotel. This iconic luxury hotel dates back to 1887 and is one of the key landmarks of Singapore. The famous guests who have stayed at the hotel are too muerous to mention, but particularly during the first half of the 20th century, included most of the great and the good from the worlds of film, politics, high society and the aristocracy. It was even said that when the Japanese occupied Singapore in 1942, soldiers arrived at the hotel to find the guests dancing one final waltz, before they were captured! The hotel was also the birthplace of the famous Singapore Sling cocktail, invented by barman Ngiam Tong Boon. The Raffles Hotel is one of the main reasons why many visitors come to Singapore and a visit will definitely appear on every tourist's wish list.
it was on ours. We had decided which day would be best to visit, what we were going to wear and how we were going to frame the photos of us all drinking our Singapore Slings. Cost was not an issue, it just had to be done! So, it was to be the afternoon of our second day in Singapore that we would share this experience. Our morning was taken up with an organised city tour, taking in The Esplanade, the National Orchid Garden, the oldest Buddism, Confuscianism and Taoism (combined in one place) temple in Singapore and finally, Little India. A decent tour, if perhaps a bit rushed, and after 3 hours, we left the group and decided to walk from Little IndIa to our experience at the Raffles Hotel. It was a long walk, but we were excited about our visit with the adrenaline flowing, so the walk felt like nothing more than a mere stroll. And, before too long, we were in the right road, past a massive and very modern YMCA building, past rows and rows of very upmarket shops and also past the doors of the luxury Ritz Carlton - we were definitely in the
The front entrance with only low level boarding in place.
Round the next corner and there it was...........covered in scaffolding and boarding. THE FLIPPING PLACE WAS CLOSED FOR RENOVATION!!!!! What a disaster! Surprise, surprise, they did have a temporary gift shop open in the building site, flogging all things 'Raffles', but at $75 for THREE Raffles' golf balls, they can jolly well 'Singapore Sling' their hook!!
All joking apart, we were obviously disappointed, but as Doris Day once said, 'Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be'. Singapore has had so much more to offer than one famous old hotel and in addition to the fantastic experiences mentioned in my previous post, the last two days have been brilliant. I mentioned the City Tour earlier and the highlights were definitely the Esplanade and the National Orchid Garden.
The Esplanade is an area between the Financial Centre and the Marina Bay, which is basically a freshwater reservoir for the city. It is also home to the national symbol of Singapore, the Merlion a half lion/half fish mythical character; apparently, Singapore means Lion City although, somewhat surprisingly, there have NEVER been any lions in the city - no, I don't quite understand it either! The National Orchid
Most of the hotel is covered like this.
Garden was pretty stunning, and (as the Ronseal advert states, 'It does what it says on the tin').........the garden was full of loads and loads of orchids. In fact, if I remember it correctly, Singapore exports over 10 million orchids a year!
After our 'Raffles debacle', we decided to forget the Singapore Slings (for a while) and down a few Tiger beers instead, although I have to say, I would be very surprised indeed if Singapore has a problem with binge drinking - at not far short of £10 a pint, you'd need very deep pockets indeed to get even close to being tipsy............. let alone bladdered!!
In the evening, we went back to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to go up to the Skypark (the boat shape structure at the very top). A bit of queuing both to pay and then to ride the lift, but once up there, the sights were amazing, with a roof top view of the 'Supertree' light show we saw the night before and yet another terrific light and water show shortly after, in the Bay itself, round the other sidE of the Skypark. Later, after passing up on the opportunity to
View from the Skypark 1
A beautiful nightime view across the Gardens by the Bay, with ships anchored out at sea, at the top of the picture.
spend an hour in a supercar around the Singapore Grand Prix circuit for a cool 800 US Dollars EACH (!!!), we legged it back to Clarke Quay nearby to our own hotel and found a nice bar to sit down and finally get our one and only Singapore Sling each - definitely a cheaper option than the supercar.........JUST!!
That was Saturday and today, Sunday, was our last in Singapore before flying off to Auckland this evening. So, we decided to catch the MRT (underground) to the Botanic Gardens and what a place. Firstly, it is absolutely FREE! It is also big, beautiful and like most everywhere else in Singapore, in immaculate condition. It was also very hot and extremely humid, but we still stuck it out for a good few hours and saw some stunning flora and fauna and although we heard but didn't see much wildlife, we did come across a very large monitor lizard and its young. He wasn't totally pleased to see us though, especially with Sue videoing his every move!
So, that's it; we've done Singapore, although we did make one last stop off in Chinatown on the way back to our hotel, to
View from Skypark 2
A snippet of the water and light show in Marina Bay.
take a snap outside the only 'Michelin Starred' street food restaurant that we are aware of and a place that Tim had been told about. The food looked great and was very cheap, but unfortunately we didn't have the time or the appetite to try it out.
Singapore is a fascinating place, obsessively clean (almost clinically so) and beautifully looked after. The buildings are amazing (both new and old) and the people seem genuinely and rightly proud of the success of their small, but important country. We can highly recommend our hotel, the Swissotel Merchants Court. The staff were brilliant, the rooms superb and the breakfasts to die for.
Now it's on to Auckland and the first 'main part' of our trip. If Singapore was good, what can New Zealand possibly have in store?
But before I close, 'What about some more interesting facts/questions?', I hear you say. Well first things first, there were, of course, the questions posed last time; there were a few answers, with Steve correctly coming up with Lindisfarne as the group behind Lady Eleanor and Dan coming up with Vatican City as one city state and getting very close to the other
one, before clearly losing the will to live!! - it was Monaco by the way. And as for Singapore's World Day, it was, in fact, World Toilet Day!
And so, to today's teasers:
* There is a fruit that is banned from being taken on all public forms of transport in Singapore. Does anyone know what it is and why? Sorry Steve & Lily, I know this is too easy for you!
* I mentioned World Toilet Day above and Singapore definitely has a thing about toilets. You can be fined $150 for NOT doing something connected to toilets. Any ideas what?
* There are 4 principal languages spoken in Singapore, namely English, Mandarin, Malay and one other. What might that be?
That's it folks. Episode Three is done and dusted and by the time you read this we will be in Auckland, 13 hours ahead of you!! TTFN and don't forget to check out the additional photos at the end of the blog!
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