Having escaped from the
Vasco da Gama we entered Singapore. As we passed down an escalator into Immigration the passengers gave us one last goodbye laugh. Mr Potato Head appeared at the top of the escalators with both his and Mrs Potato Head’s rather large suitcases. Unable to manage
both suitcases onto the escalator, he placed one onto the escalator in front of him unattended!! As soon as it started moving it tipped over and went down like a bowling ball flying down a slippery lane, taking out the passengers on the way. A perfect strike!!
leaving passengers and luggage in a heap at the bottom. Luckily no-one was seriously hurt. Goodbye Vasco da Gama….. never again!
Luckily our time in Singapore
proved to be excellent. We have both been here together a couple of times before and Steve was also here about 25 years ago. Things have changed dramatically from a time when the main attractions were Clark Quay, Raffles Hotel and The Merlion statue. The city
is now packed with ultra-modern hotels, shopping malls, office buildings, theme parks, gardens and a whole host of other attractions. It would be easy to spend at least a week here and never be bored.
We were meeting up with
our friends Craig and Sal. They were here on holiday from the UK, celebrating Craigs 50th birthday which is in a few weeks, and they had arranged to come a little early so our trips coincided. As we arrived on Steve’s birthday it was celebrations all round!
Unfortunately, we weren’t staying in the same hotel. They had booked into the fabulous Marina Bay Sands which is fast becoming one of the iconic hotels of the world. So after dropping our luggage at our ‘not so iconic hotel’, we made our way across the city
to the Marina Bay Sands to meet them. They had a lovely surprise for Steve, a small birthday cake with a candle (which was six times the size of the now infamous one inch cake from the cruise). We were then treated to a guided tour of the hotel. Their room
was amazing, the balcony and bathroom were both easily bigger than our room. We went up to the observation deck on the 57th floor which had incredible views of the city and is home to one of the largest infinity pools in the world at over 100 metres long……
how the other half live 😉.
Over the next three days
it was pretty much non-stop. We went out for some food and a couple of beers in Chinatown which, probably due to the ongoing Covid19 outbreak, was pretty quiet! The following day we set off early for a walk around the city. Our hotel was about three miles
from the city centre, in a lovely area with red neon lights, women standing on street corners and some of the hotel rooms could even be rented by the hour…. very convenient! There was however an MRT (underground) station close by. The Singapore MRT system
is excellent, it is clean, efficient, cheap (about £1 a trip) and covers the whole city. Twenty minutes or so after leaving our hotel we were in the heart of Singapore. We walked around the downtown area, past Raffles Hotel, around the Marina Bay area before
meeting up with Craig and Sal at The Pan Pacific Hotel (where they had rellocated after three nights at Marina Bay Sands). Not too bad a hotel in it’s own right!
We then made our way to
the Zoo. Singapore Zoo is without doubt one of the best in the World. As well as housing many well known species it also has a large collection of lesser known species like the Tree Kangaroo (no Sal it’s not a squirrel!). After several hours of walking around
the zoo, and Sarah had pushed some children out of the way to have her photograph taken with a couple of Orangutans, we made our way towards the exit. As we walked along one of the roads we saw a lizard come out of the trees. It was at least three feet long
(head to tail) and looked as though it had escaped from its enclosure. Then on the other side of the road another lizard of similar size emerged. The two lizards walked around each other in ever decreasing circles before, in a flash, they sprung up onto their
back legs and grabbed each other in a weird grip, something between a wrestling hold and a waltz. They battled, pushed and shoved each other for several minutes and one started to bleed on its side. A couple of members of staff passed by and reacted as if
it were an everyday occurrence. Eventually one lizard forced the other into some sort of storm gutter and the fight was over. “That was better than any entertainment we saw on the cruise”, said Sarah.
Singapore also opens a
section of the zoo at night. So after we had eaten some food we re entered for round two. ‘The Night Safari’, as it is called, involves a tram ride around the zoo past various enclosures which are cleverly lit to give a different perspective to a normal trip
to a zoo. You do get relatively close to the animals and some are even free roaming. After the tram ride you are able to follow a designated path which winds its way past the enclosures and exhibits. The highlight for Steve was walking through the bat enclosure
where huge flying foxes were hanging from the roof netting and some of the trees looking like something straight out of a horror movie.
All in all we spent almost
eight hours at the zoo. That, on top of the 4 hours we had spent wandering the city in the morning, meant we arrived back at our hotel pretty tired and unable to take advantage of any local attractions!
The following morning we
made our way to The Gardens by the Bay. This is a huge park area housing all sorts of trees, plants, art exhibits and a couple of huge purpose built glass domes immitating a rain forest and cloud forest. You could easily spend a whole day and evening there
and we only scratched the surface. Craig and Sal had visited before we had arrived and had explored the domes and seemed quite impressed. We didn’t really have the time, which was unfortunate, but we had an important appointment to attend!
Raffles Hotel is a Singapore
institution. It is over 200 years old. It has been extended and improved over the years, and survived both World War II and the Japanese occupation. It has served nobility, royalty, rock stars and movie stars and has recently undergone a large refurbishment.
The hotel looks immaculate. It is a piece of the nineteenth century, slap bang in the middle of a thriving and expanding 21st century city, but although dwarfed by its surrounding it still seems to command pride of place.
So we left the Gardens in the Bay to head to Raffles Hotel for Afternoon Tea in The Grand Lobby. The hotel operates a strict dress code. Walking around Singapore’s humidity and heat dressed for Raffles wasn’t really practical. Our hotel was a little too far out to return there to change so we had carried our finery, on our backs, in a couple of small packs. We arrived at the hotel looking a little hot and bothered, dressed in shorts, t-shirts and flipflops. Steve explained our situation to the concierge, who was more than helpful and guided us to some fabulous toilets from where we emerged ten minutes later, all changed, looking a million dollars (Sarah US dollars and Steve Zimbabwean dollars!).
We were joined by Craig
and Sal and the four of us spent a fabulous hour and a half tucking into sandwiches, cakes, scones and ice cream, all washed down with some posh sounding, great tasting tea. This was all beautifully presented, with impeccable service, in superb surroundings.
After a quick trip upstairs to see the famous Long Bar with it’s floor covered in monkey nut shells, a photo at the front of the hotel with the traditionally dressed porters, and a trip to the toilets to return to our normal clothing, it was back to The Pan
Pacific for Craig and Sal to get changed. They had been given a voucher for a couple of free cocktails on their arrival (we had been given a small bar of soap) and as Sal wasn’t a cocktail drinker Steve and Craig decided to get a couple of Singapore Slings.
Off they went to the bar, sitting side by side, and ordered their free check-in cocktails. Craig pointed out how the situation might look to the waitress, who didnt know them, and was then quick to return to the women as Steve tried sitting on his lap and
give him a kiss!
We all went for another walk around the Gardens in The Bay before saying goodbye and heading off to our different hotels to pack as we were all leaving Singapore the next morning. Craig and Sal were heading North to Dubai to finish their holidays and we head South back to the land ‘down under’ for what will, hopefully, be a memorable trip across the vast country.