We were supposed to travel economy this time but as the plane was fully booked, we were very happy to find out at the gate that we had automatically been upgraded to business class. I’m very rarely in a good mood early in the morning, let alone when I’m travelling, but I was literally singing and skipping onto the plane ;o). Extra free champagne is never a bad thing!
When we arrived in Singapore it was evening. It was clear straight away what a clean and organised and strict country we had arrived in as there was even a special allocated smoking-area outside the airport. I felt guilty even flicking the ash on the ground. Fag finished, we were allocated a taxi and the driver surprised us with his perfect English. The drive from the airport to our hotel, Orchard Hotel, was like a sightseeing tour in itself without the annoying commentary of a guide. Everywhere I looked was green, clean, tidy and pretty. Even suburbia had an air of pride and cleanliness.
We checked in and where again happily surprised as we were upgraded(ish) to a nice room as we asked for a smoking room. Once our bags were safe in room 1650 we joined the others in the bar in the hotel complex called Ballymoon’s. I chatted with Unni (who has lived in Singapore) and Wanda and started plotting my days whilst Tim would be busy working. I had picked up some brochures and maps in reception which proved very helpful indeed. Wanda told me about her fish massage she had had in a place just across the street so that was my first port of call the following day.
I took it slow and easy the next morning (or should I say afternoon he he) as is customary for me. I showered and actually unpacked my suitcase! What’s happening to me? The Singapore tidy-spirit is already affecting me… I found the massage place in the shopping mall which in the evenings is known as ‘four floors of whores’. I took off my footwear, washed my feet, folded up my trouser legs and sat down on the shelf over the fish tank and was told to look up as I lowered my feet into the tank. The little doctor fish immediately started suckling/nibbling away at my dead skin cells. Being as I am very ticklish I thought I would giggle my way through the whole thing, but the cute fish were working away in a surprisingly comfortable and nice way. Never thought I would use the word ‘cute’ to describe fish, but they really were. I also lowered my hands into the tank and they cleaned up my nails a treat. Although, I must admit, that once the novelty had worn off the 20 allocated minutes seemed to drag on a bit. Anyway, I dried up and donned socks and boots again, paid and was given a S$5 discount voucher for the next time which would later come in handy for when Tim wanted to experience it too.
I started walking down Orchard Road, which is a shopping haven for brand and designer conscious people. A little way down the road I spotted some beautiful handbags in the window of Valentino. The handbags looked as if they had been made with tightly packed roses in full bloom. As I have developed a bit of an interest in unusual handbags in the later years I went in to enquire about the price. I might be especially interested but let’s be honest… I do have enough expensive bags already so at S$3220 I chose to walk on.
However, April is hot and humid in Singapore so I decided to flag down a taxi and headed to the Raffles Hotel. The main entrance and several halls and staircases were exclusive to hotel guests (quite understandably so as there were quite a lot of tourists there). I went to the gardens and sat down at a smoking table in the open air bar. The place was not particularly busy so I was surprised to find that none of the waiters or the bartender seemed to see me. After a 10 minute wait I walked up to the bar and asked point blank if they didn’t serve smokers whereupon the waiter uttered a “sorry Sir”. I bought a pint of Heineken and sat down back at the table. I was given a bowl of nuts and that concluded the service I got from that place.
Not impressed I had to go back to the bar and pay. It cost S$18.85 and as I left S$1.15 as my tip I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and told them that I am normally a good tipper but as I did all the work myself they didn’t deserve any more. Not that I think they were too bothered as I’m sure lots of tourists tip them anyway, but it gave me some satisfaction all the same.
So, I walked up the stairs to Long Bar, the birthplace of Singapore Sling.
I was welcomed at the door and asked where I would prefer to sit. Talk about difference in service! I chose a stool at the bar and straight away noticed the big piles of peanut shells on the floor. I was swiftly served a fresh basket/box of peanuts. I went on to apologise to the barmaid for ordering a Singapore Sling as I’m sure she’s fed up with making them, but it had to be done! (There was another bartender there who had a terrible cold and who would have been better off in bed! He had a very Asian nose with huge open nostrils, giving the customers a clear view straight to his snot… Made me think of Bally, ha ha – “fair enough I’ll change that for you, no questions asked”.
1915 – The year Singapore Sling was first served in Singapore at Raffles Hotel Long Bar. The cocktail is made up of gin, Cointreau, cherry brandy, Dom Benedictine, pineapple juice, Grenadine, Angoustura bitters and limes.
Raffles Hotel – One of Singapore’s most graceful colonial landmarks is Raffles Hotel. This all-suite hotel houses a deluxe shopping arcade, museum, romantic courtyards and theatre hall. The Singapore Sling cocktail was invented here. Where; From City Hall MRT Station, walk towards Beach Road.
Spotted a bottle behind the bar that was called Charleston which was shaped like a cocktail shaker. Tried a shot but it didn’t taste very nice – way toooo sweet! Bought a beer and moved to a table just outside the entrance so I could smoke. A guy went into Long Bar with a bunch of free magazines and was promptly told by the man at the door that they didn’t wan them. I managed to get one off him so I had something to read. I think it was called Banter and it was quite entertaining! ;o)
Decided to head back to the hotel and when I entered the room Tim had just come back from the conference and was sitting at his computer ;o) We went down to Muddy Murphy’s, the Irish bar in the hotel complex and had a beer before joining the others in reception. We piled into taxis and went off to Thor’s favourite restaurant on Boat Quay.
Boat Quay & Empress Place – Located at the heart of the business district, Boat Quay has jazz bars, English-themed pubs and restaurants. Across the Singapore River at Empress Place are The Arts House and Victoria Theatre.
As we walked ‘en groupe’ on the quay we were accosted by every thinkable restaurant waiter possible trying to make us choose their place. I told them “no thanks, we have a reservation somewhere else” – even to the waiters of the restaurant we were actually going to – Doh!!! He he.
We were seated at a long table and Tim and I sat nearest to the river as we wanted to smoke and at the same time respect the non-smokers among us. Thor took the lead and ordered for all of us. Dish after dish kept coming and beer glasses were re-filled constantly from the waiter’s jug. Very difficult to keep track of how many beers you drink that way! One of the local dishes, Chilli Crab, was served in a gold boat-dish with Norwegian flags.
Chilli Crab – Crabs cooked in a chilli and tomato gravy, served with fried bread rolls. Dunk the bread into the gravy for a uniquely Singaporean taste.
All the food was great and plentiful and although a lot of the guys were talking shop we had a lovely evening!
One of the first dishes we had was called Drunken Prawns. Apparently they put the live prawns in spirit and then cook them. Delicious! However, I don’t know who was more drunk at the end of the meal, the prawns or me? I think I won that one as the prawns of course were dead!
The restaurant toilets were at the back of a souvenir shop next door, so every time we went to spend a penny we ended up spending a fortune on cack! ;o)
Tim with a crab claw nose ;o)!
Typical Singapore sign
Phil and his wife Ankana gave us a lift back to the hotel and we rounded off the evening by having a beer in Harry’s Bar and when they closed we went to a bar in the ‘four floors of whores’ Orchard Towers which nobody by this stage remembers the name of, but the waitresses wore cowboy hats and Sheriff stars. I think it’s simply known as the Cowboy Bar or Country Jamboree or something westernish… Anyhoo, we eventually staggered back to our hotel room.
I didn’t exactly feel fresh the next day! After Tim had left the room a guy from housekeeping rang the door bell. I shouted “I’ve got the Do-Not-Disturb light on so leave me the fuck alone!” Have they never heard of jet lag or hangovers?!?! I spent a long time watching telly in bed and once I was showered and dressed I had just enough energy to make it down to Muddy Murphy’s to repair. Tim came and went but I was never lonely as I sat by one of the smoking tables, so was joined by other chatty smokers. Especially enjoyed the company of 4 blokes from Fugro. They were a great laugh! Tim and I went up to the conference as it was a ‘networking’ evening but it didn’t prove very interesting so we went back to Muddy Murphy’s again. Tired and nicely squiffy we returned to our room and ordered room service. I had a pizza which was a bit like eating a cracker with tomato puree and pineapple. Under par to say the least! Oh well, my belly was full of beer anyway so no problems going to sleep.
Ran out of cigs the next day so got ready and went to the 7-11 street kiosk on Orchard Road and bought some. It’s quite an interesting little kiosk that sells just about everything including beer, wine and spirits but excluding chewing gum of course as it’s illegal in Singapore. Quite nice to see tarmac and pavements without white spots. I hailed a taxi and asked to be taken to Little India. I was told by the driver that Chinatown was walking distance away… So, I walked up and down the street where he dropped me and took in all the sights and smells of various stalls and shops. There was everything from butchers’,vegetable stalls, lamps, pots and pans and stalls where Indians made fresh flower garlands. I have never been to India but it reminded me of a marked I once went to in Baku or like one of the souks in the Middle East. It was teeming with people, goods for sale and delivery vans. It was also the only place that I saw in Singapore with a bit of rubbish on the ground. You could tell it was populated by people who didn’t care quite so much about tidiness and cleanliness as the rest of the island.
I started walking in the direction I had been told would lead me to Chinatown, but I soon got very warm so decided to sit down at an outdoor restaurant to have a cig and a beer. (Cheers! NU! Having a swig whilst typing this too he he). The restaurant was in a courtyard a little way off from the road called Albert Court. I watched a gardener pruning the large potted plants and thought it took a long time with the beer… When I got it, I understood why. It was ice cold and extremely fresh. They obviously didn’t just serve any old beer that had been standing in the pipes. A couple of minutes later the waitress came over with popadums, mint sauce and onion salad. Yum, Yum!!! + very clever as the onions with chilli made me thirsty for another beer. Although I would have gladly spent the rest of the day there, it was time to move on. Again, I walked on, in the direction I thought would lead me to Chinatown but as I walked I seemed to be going towards a highway and suburbia so I gave up on walking and hailed another taxi. Asked the driver to drop me anywhere in Chinatown whereupon he thought I was a typical girl who wanted to go shopping so he stopped at a new fandango shopping mall on Clarke Quay! Oh well, never mind. You have to make the most of it right? So, I walked across the bridge and ended up taking a seat in the outside section of Hooters. I was the only female customer and to tell the truth, I was the only one there with hooters. The waitresses were nice and sweet but kind of lacking in the chest department. They were wearing tiny shorts with tights, bobby socks and trainers and white vests with Hooters on the front and the rather funny slogan on the back: Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined. Had to get one so went inside and bought a couple of black vests for myself and a T-shirt for Tim and a shot glass which I may or may not give to Lise ;o). She collects them and asked me to buy her a ‘harry’ one, so I suppose that fits the bill. Maybe I’ll start a shot glass collection of my own.
Grabbed yet another taxi and went back to the hotel and Tim and I went to Muddy Murphy’s again. We were, by now, recognised as regulars and participants of the conference so we got happy hour prices all night, so no complaints from us ;-P. We shared a plate of mixed sausages and were pleasantly surprised by the good quality of the food. After a couple of pints we joined the other Seabird people at Harry’s Bar. To go to the toilet you had to go inside the mall next door. On my way out from having a Jimmy I heard proper live rock’n’roll music upstairs so I got on the escalator and went into check it out. Decided it was much more our kind of place so Tim and I made our excuses to the others and changed venues to Moonlight (at least that’s what I think it was called). The band was, of course, on a break just as we came in. We ordered a couple of beers and went out onto the balcony for a smoke. When we came back to the table I used the table for support to get up onto my barstool and my beer toppled over and spilled all over! Straight away, one of the ladies of the night came over to help us wipe it up. She introduced herself as Victoria and seated herself opposite us. However, it was quite obvious to us that this was no ordinary girl… She was in fact a chick with a dick. She/he asked if we wanted another couple of drinks and we were wise enough to decline so she/he soon lost interest. But, whoever said that couples get respected and left alone in these kind of places was sadly mistaken. I’m sat right next to Tim when one of the girls put her hand on Tim’s thigh and moved dangerously close to the family jewels! Tim picked her hand up and swiftly removed it and we had to tell her in no uncertain terms that we were together and not interested. We were there for the music and the band proved to be of a fair standard, so once we were left to our own devices we quite enjoyed the evening. Then we returned to our hotel room and ordered room service, which again was abysmal. Nice hotel, but crap kitchen!
On Wednesday, I was once again left to my own devices and had decided to check out the Tooth Relic Temple and Chinatown.
Tooth Relic Temple
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum – Housed here is the sacred tooth relic in an awe-inspiring relic stupa made from 420kg of gold. Resident monks perform a special ceremony three times daily, unveiling the inner chamber for public viewing. See the intricately carved wooden Maitreya Buddha image flanked by two Bodhisattvas in the temple’s stunning 27 foot-high main hall. Also check out the Buddhist Culture Museum and Eminent Sangha Museum. Where: 288 South Bridge Road. Open: 4:30am-9pm daily. Getting there: Short walk from Outram Park and Chinatown MRT
The taxi driver went on about the tooth not being real or something and I just thought it was immaterial as I wanted to see a temple (didn’t tell him that of course). I went in and walked around this fantastic place with my mouth open in amazement. Really gorgeous and there was a definite spirituality there. I bought a candle with a garland of flowers around it which I presented to the Bodhisattvas asking for the blessing of mum and dad and then placed it in the designated area opposite.
I was a bit early for the monks’ drumming so went to Chinatown and sat down at one of the outdoor restaurants and had a beer and a lovely Thai curry soup thingamidgy. Yummy!
The view of a street in Chinatown from my table
I went back to the temple but was a bit disappointed because (a) my candle had been removed, and (b) I could hear the monks drumming away in the tower but was unable to find the stairs leading up to see them. Oh well, happy to have experienced some local culture anyway.
Got another taxi back to the hotel and Tim and I went for one in Muddy Murphy’s (just for a change). Then we got a taxi from the hotel to the Singapore Zoo for the night safari.
We arrived at the zoo and bought our tickets. Then we went to the food court and shared a plate of chicken tikka which was surprisingly delicious. We had a couple of beers to accompany the meal of course. Toilet visit, then we took our places on the tram. Got off halfway so that we could walk to see the tiger. Once we’d seen it, we walked down the hill again and took the wrong turn so we ended up at the beginning again! Doh! Back on the tram (the last tram of the night in fact) we got front row seats and the guide was happy to keep quiet as we’d already heard the shpeel. At the second part of the journey an almighty wind blew and it started to rain. We’re in the middle of a rainforest! It was spectacular. We loved it! The animals were being a bit shy but we were comfortable, dry and very happy. In Singapore there are different classes of taxis and once outside the zoo we hailed one of the posh cars. We soon regretted the choice as we got the world champion of chauffeuring and ‘best available tourist guide’… according to himself. He did NOT SHUT UP!!! We asked him to take us to the hawkers by the Tooth Relic Temple and when he suggested that he could wait for us in case it was closed, we shouted: “NOOOOO!!!!!” in unison. There were only a couple of stalls open (which didn’t seem very tempting) so we walked towards Chinatown and through the rainy streets where everything was either closed or closing. We gave up and hailed a taxi back to the hotel. Tried Muddy Murphy’s which was just closing too. We can take a hint (at long last anyway ;o)) so off to bed we went.
Thursday morning, we both packed and then went to the closing of the conference. I still had a discount voucher for the fish massage and Tim really fancied trying, so we trotted across the road.
Tim thought the sensation was great and said that, had he been certain of privacy, he would have taken his pants off and lowered his bits into the tank (I’m sure he’s not the first man to have had that thought…). I pointed out that the majority of the fish were likely to have gone for the back as there was more likely more to nibble at there, he he!
Cute fish ;o)
Anyway, it was a non-issue as it was very public with people walking past all the time. In fact, Bob and Wanda popped by for a chinwag. Bob seemed skeptical to say the least. Big man scared of little fish?! Ha ha!
Massage over, we went to Muddy Murphy’s for a last beer before getting a taxi from the hotel side. We asked the driver for the Harley Davidson shop and it turned out that he was himself a biker. His name was Alan. It transpired later that he was also a chef who had a job waiting for him in Dubai in a month’s time. We decided to keep him on for the rest of the evening. He drove us to the HD dealership in a big mall and came with us into the shop where we bought loads of goodies.
We then said we wanted to visit a Hawker’s market so he took us to the best; Lau Pa Sat.
Lau Pa Sat – Known for alfresco satay hawkers in the evenings Lau Pa Sat is in the heart of the business district. It is also the largest Victorian filigree cast iron structure in Southeast Asia. Where: Boon Tat Street
Lau Pa Sat Hawkers Market
POPULAR Hawkers food CENTRES – The crux of enjoying the best of hawkers food centre is that if you see a queue, printed accolades of newspaper articles at the stall, the food is usually worth trying or waiting for. If you’re worried about getting sick, look for the hygiene license posted at the stall. A rating of “A” or “B” should be safe. And should you see a packet of tissues on the seat or table it means the seat’s taken. That’s how it works here, especially during lunch hours in the Central Business District.
We started off outside and sampled the satays with some noodles. Again, there were servers everywhere trying to peddle their menus. We quickly learned to say no and when we had finished the satays we walked around inside for a bit and asked our way to the smokers’ section. Tim minded the table and I went to different stalls buying a bit of this and a bit of that. Tim had tripe and all sorts of other disgusting stuff like pigs entrails I think it was called! BLAH! YUK!!! Not my thing, but lots there for every palette. Could have spent days in there and gotten very fat indeed. Full to the brim, the journey went on to a biker’s bar that Alan knew of, a bit out of the way, called Handlebar.
Very cool place with a huge outdoor area and lots of curios and photos inside. Lovely place to round off our Singapore visit!
So all that remained to be done was to return to the hotel, pick up our bags, check out and give Kjell a lift to the airport with us. Tim upgraded us to 1st Class!!!! But, the airport lounge was non-smoking so we went to the designated area which turned out to be a rooftop where we could watch the planes taxi. Really grateful that we smoke or we would have missed the best airport experience ever! There was even a bar out there! However, we only had time for one before they closed so what to do then? Improvise – well… steal actually! So, I smuggled 3 cans of Heineken out of the lounge hee hee! Naughty, but nice!
The flight was another story altogether, which is probably best forgotten…. Stupid Irish old perser bitch, faulty seat/foldaway table that wouldn’t fold and too much alcohol consumed by moi = recipe for major barney. Hey ho, all better now and regardless of the shitty ending it was a fantastic trip!