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Published: February 21st 2008
The Singapore Sling
looks lovely doesn't it?
A major change in my travel itinerary saw me sacrificing Vietnam in favour of Nepal and North India. I had recently spent almost three months in Indonesia and the Philippines, and feared I had reached my limit of palm trees, jungles and fishing villages. Whilst there would be so much more to Vietnam, I thought the physical landscapes of Vietnam would share many aspects with the countries I had visited. I desired a greater difference in beauty and culture to jolt my senses out of complacency. The snow-capped mountains of Nepal and the desert cities of Rajasthan would be ideal. When travelling for a long time, there is the tendency to take nature for granted. At the start of the trip you marvel at the mountains, you bask in the beauty of the beaches and wander in amazement around local markets. Your first waterfall is magnificent, but there is the temptation to view your fifteenth waterfall as "just another waterfall". After seeing a ten Hindu temples, you don't get as excited about seeing the eleventh. I'm not saying I am ungrateful or unappreciative of the travel experience. It's just that repeated exposure to natural beauty and culture lessens the "wow" factor.
this is not the city to live in if you have a fear of heights
To anyone reading this who is planning a world trip, my advice would be to balance and vary your countries as much as possible, in terms of the landscape and the culture. Give yourself a regular dose of culture shock. (does anyone else agree or disagree with this?) This is what I was hoping to do by factoring in Nepal and India.
So my plans had changed, but arranging the flights wasn't easy! The option I booked was the three-flight combo of
This might sound like a ridiculous journey, but more direct options would have cost me three times as much. These three flights came to less than 200 pounds in total. The timings meant I had a six-hour layover in Singapore, which gave me enough time to nip out from the airport for a Singapore Sling at the famous Raffles Hotel.
I got a suprise when I arrived at Kuching airport for my flight. Brendan, an Aussie guy who I had been travelling with for the past three weeks, was there. He'd made a last minute decision to visit Singapore, and had bought a ticket on the same flight as me. Nice
Singapore by night
this was Clarke's Quay
I was impressed with Singapore. It was clean, efficient and ultra-modern. The city was busy and bustling, much like London, but the people seemed to move around with more grace, a river of people flowing smoothly across the sidewalks. People in London always seem to be in a rush, whereas here they were moving with purpose but without haste or hurry. The streets were spotless, and there were signs everywhere with warnings, rules and directions. Because of the complex ethnic blend of the people, most signs are in four languages - English, Malay, Chinese and Hindi. And there are so many signs because the Singaporeans love their rules! Jaywalking is illegal. Eating food on the tube is illegal. You can even be fined for not flushing a public toilet!
And so Brendan and I arrived at the legendary Raffles hotel. Built in 1887, Raffles is an upmarket and almost regal hotel with 875 staff, all wearing designer-uniforms. There are actually two staff for every guest! The hotel has eight restaurants and five bars. We were here to try the Singapore Sling, a world-famous cocktail which was invented here. But our first mission was actually getting in. We
drinking in style
sitting with a sling in hand, our mission was accomplished
were both wearing shorts, and Brendan was also wearing flip-flops and carrying his rucksack (my rucksack was in storage at the airport). Raffles is a high-class establishment, and we would have been more at home in a
hotel called Riff-Raff. But I was determined to get in at any cost. If our initial entry failed, I would move to Plan B. I would try another entrance, shake hands with the doorman whilst palming him a $50 note, and say in my best English accent "Good to see you again. It's been a while. Could we have a table for two by the window please", as if I was a regular. But we made it into the "Bar and Billiards" room without any fuss, and ordered our Singapore Slings. One of the flavours in a Sling is cherry. There is almost nothing I don't eat, I am a true omnivore. But cherries are one thing I loathe. They are the Fruit of the Devil. I hate fresh cherries, dried cherries, cherry coke and cherry lipbalm. I reserve a special hatred for "cherry lips", those lip-shaped candy abominations from the 80's. So why was I on this mission to try a Singapore
The Clinic Bar
why not relax in one of our wheelchairs and sip a cocktail through an IV drip?
Sling? Well, despite my passionate loathing of cherries, I had to try one of the world's most famous cocktails in it's birthplace. And the verdict? It was magnificent. The cherries didn't make me gag, and somehow the flavour blended in with the other ingredients to make a sublime cocktail drinking experience. I thought the exact recipe for this would be a closely guarded secret, but I can reveal it's exquisite proprtions
SINGAPORE SLING RECIPE
15 ml Cherry Brandy
120 ml Pineapple Juice
15 ml Lime Juice
7.5 ml Cointreau
7.5 ml Dom Benedictine
10 ml Grenadine
A Dash of Angostura Bitters
Garnish with a slice of Pineapple and Cherry
Another famous fact about Raffles hotel is that the last wild Tiger in Singapore was killed there in 1902. Apparently it made it into the "Long Bar", and was shot whilst heading towards the bar. Maybe it heard about the Singapore Sling and wanted to give it a try?
After our sling we met up with Joyce, a Singaporean friend of Brendans. She took us on a small tour of the city. Our final stop was Clarke's Quay for drinks and dinner. There was a crazy bar here called The Clinic, which has sofa seats made out of old hospita beds, illuminated by the big round lights usually found in surgery. There were also tables where you sit down in wheelchairs rather than proper seats. But the wackiest concept was the drinks. Some cocktails are served out of large syringes, whereas others are served from a drip. The drip bag is hung by the table on a tall metal stand, and you slurp the cocktail through an IV tube. Very bad taste, but a funny concept.
And so my 6-hour whirlwind visit to Singapore was over. Next stop, Nepal!
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