Thursday, October 17th - Singapore

Having missed the breakfast in the hotel yesterday today we were determined not to repeat that. With the amount of activity we do each day we need the energy! So, we headed down in time for the breakfast buffet which was quite good indeed with several tables having a good assortment of food. The pineapple was very nice - I am assuming it was grown locally and not picked from a tree weeks ago - The congee, fried noodles, seeded bread and hash browns (a la McDonalds) were also very filling. After our disastrous last breakfast at the hotel in Hong Kong this was a refreshing break though doubtless it will be far more expensive (signing it to the room is both good and bad…).

The first order of the day was to walk over to Little India. I have never visited a Little India before so I had been looking forward to this. Only a short walk from the hotel the banners for “Deepavali” (Diwali) strung out across the road as far as we could see (the round shiny bits turn out on closer inspection to be CDs!) are quite colourful as are the other decorations. The first thing we saw was a market set up for the holiday selling all sorts of interesting things - From saris, Indian sweets, flower leis, to tacky Singaporean souvenirs (seriously, a bottle opener with “I love Singapore” on it?).


As Mel and I were poking around I spotted the Banana Leaf Apolo restaurant in one of the units to the side of the market - For those of you that may not recall what I might have said earlier in the journal, the Banana Leaf is a bit of an obsession with me having visited a restaurant in Hong Kong of the same name quite some number of years ago where they served us fantastic food on top of banana leaves placed on the table instead of plates (particularly notable was the coconut rice plopped on the table by a guy carrying a wooden bucket containing the stuff). I peered into the windows…but, it was far too early to eat yet. Looks quite large inside though.

No what???

We continued looking through the market then started walking down the road with Mel looking in various shops for earrings for the quartet she sings with.

Very Colourful Markets

For the most part we also visited any shop looking marginally interesting that, critically, had air conditioning. Eventually she found some in a particularly cool (but not frigid) shop that were suitable for the stage (they need to be “over the top” so they stand out when you are way up there in front of everyone in the bright lights). At three pairs for $10 it was not a killer either though she did spot a few small, “cute”, purses that went with the ensemble (ie, they were very “blingy”). There were a lot of shops selling cheap stuff - Knock-off jeans, t-shirts, electronics, CDs, DVDs, etc. Not really our cup of tea so we made our way along the pavement deeper into Little India.

Eventually we spotted, behind a bunch of corrugated iron being evidently being used to shelter some restoration work being done, the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple. The garish pillar above the entrance encrusted with carvings of animals, people and plants made sure we did really miss it.

The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Sri Veeramakaliamman is a Hindu temple devoted to the worship of the goddess Kali. As we approached the entrance there were shoes arranged neatly off to the left with polite signs asking those wishing to enter to remove theirs before visiting. We looked into the rather active and garishly decorated interior with paintings on the walls and ceilings above.

Inside the Temple

We stood observing for quite a while trying to determine whether we should go in or not before taking our shoes off and taking a closer look (dirty socks is a small price to pay) - Not often we see this sort of thing in London. The main room consisted of a main altar that was sectioned off with railings with several priests (?) taking offerings from worshipers to place before the altar itself. Two small altars were on either side but to the immediate right as you entered the room was a small annex with two more altars that were, when we visited, the site of a lot of frenetic activity - We seemed to have visited during a service. There were a lot of visitors, quite a lot of chanting and the smoke of incense was everywhere. Taking a small door at the far left corner of the room we found ourselves outside of the temple with several more altars with things being burned. Some of the statues, I must say, did look quite aggressive and almost cartoon character-like (not meaning ANY disrespect of any kind). Circling around behind the temple we passed several more altars before returning into the main hall. There were several people selling food that was obviously intended for sacrifice throughout - Bread and fruit it seemed. We spotted a number of local birds inside that were obviously aware of this so appeared to be quite happy…

Where are my shoes?

Returning to the heat and humidity we put our shoes back on and visited another interesting looking market set up under a large tent (in this heat!). Wandering around and it looked like this market was largely devoted to selling clothing. Some of the saris looked amazing or, at least, very bright and colourful (!).

Saris On Offer

The men’s kaftans also struck my eye as well. Mel found a couple of shirts at a stall near the back (thankfully with some fans that took away a bit of the bite of the heat) - Quite nice looking. The stall owner was very friendly and chatted with us for a few minutes. That is the way to make a sale! Two shirts later we thanked him and were off to leave the tent before we passed out…

Leaving the market we headed back in the direction we had entered to the Banana Leaf restaurant for something to eat and to cool down for a few minutes. We had to enter through a market where the flowers and decorations from the stalls were hanging everywhere - You have to crouch down and part your way through them…

The Banana Leaf Apolo (my restaurant review here) specialises in food from India (funnily enough, being that we are in Little India!). Entering off of the market we did not see anyone in the foyer or at the welcome desk so we made our way further into the restaurant where we were spotted and shown to a table beside an indoor waterfall - Water cascading down a glass wall. A few tables here and there were being used but we were largely alone. Not being that hungry we looked through the rather extensive menu anyway but settled on two lunch meals: I had the “Mutton Biryani Set” ($10) which was very tasty though there were a few bones. Mel had the “South Indian Vegetable Meal” ($8) which was served in a number of small metal containers in a trail (a “tiffin” style meal) with roti and also very nice.

Mel's Lunch

As promised, everything was served on banana leaves though we did not eat with our hands…The meal, despite the price, was very filling and I have to say my lime juice ($2.50) was very nice and not too strong (Mel’s mango smoothie was good as well, $4.50 though). I did find it a bit cheeky that they charged us for the disposable cleaning towels they gave us after the meal though…The service was not great as it seemed they were more interested in chatting amongst themselves near the cash register at the far end of the hotel. Anyway, having paid we made our way out stopping only briefly to note the various restaurant reviews posted on the wall that seemed to be very positive. Evidently the restaurant has been around for many years though I understand there are several branches elsewhere in the city (particularly a large one a couple of streets over on Race Course Road).

We made our way east out of Little India along some small side roads finding interesting little buildings here and there - Not feeling awkward at any time in our wanderings. We did spot some buildings that were obviously used for accommodation where the battered old tall wooden shutters hopefully kept out the sun and rain given there were no windows…Being so close to the centre of the city I can’t think that these places with their peeling paint and simple furnishings were really all that cheap…

Small Hindu Temple

Later we found ourselves outside two more temples just around the corner from our hotel. The largest of these two temples was Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho which is a traditional Chinese temple for those believing that praying to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, the Goddess of Mercy will bring them good luck.

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho

There were a number of stalls selling flowers for temple visitors and a number of spiritualists as well telling people’s fortune. This time we did not go in but I had a look inside at the very ornate interior - Once again, this temple was very busy. Another Hindu temple next door was not quite so busy…

Just before the hotel we were accosted by some people on the street who wanted us to visit their Reflexology - Likely because we were some of the very few people about. Mel was keen so we gave it a try. I have never had Reflexology but was willing to give it a go (after a few minutes of convincing). This place also offered massage which they also tried to sell us throughout our 45 minute session.

The small shop had a set of a number of comfortable recliners along the right hand side then along on the left with massage tables set up at the back. We were not the only ones invited to sit for our session. We immediately nestled into the seats and sat back to enjoy (?) the experience. It was one foot at a time, going something like this: Take off sock, massage (aggressively) with a cream, then push and prod at various bits. Mel’s Reflexologist was fairly gentle though she had done this before a long time ago so was perhaps still limber. My guy spoke less English but seemed to relish my occasional jumps and yelps as he got stuck right in. I did not know so much pain could come from my feet…I was assured this was all very good for me with instruction how different parts of the foot affected other parts of the body like the head, the kidneys, the heart, etc. All I know is that there was pain in my feet…At $25 I think this was quite a good deal and we assured them as we left that we would consider possibly returning tomorrow (our last day here) for a massage…Debriefing as we walked down the street Mel indicated that she wished she had my Reflexologist as hers was TOO gentle. I suggested perhaps she would not have wanted mine.

Back in the hotel we stopped for a few minutes to check the (free) Internet along with the rest in the middle of the lobby. After the free Internet on my phone the whole time we were in Hong Kong it is quite a bit different here. I am not sure I miss it but it does feel a bit funny being a bit out of touch. I suppose if something comes up whoever can always call anyway…

Back in the room we got changed to head out again. Another item on Paul’s list was a visit to Raffle’s Hotel Long Bar which is, truly, a Singapore institution as the origin of the Singapore Sling. Everyone must have a visit and try the Sling. Hearing conflicting information about the bar we made a bit of an effort and dressed up a bit before heading over. Crossing over from the hotel we walked along the covered pavement and followed a small sign up to the first floor where the bar is located. Asked first if we were a guest we were shown to a table in the middle of the room crunching as we walked over to it - The peanuts, you see, are free here and the tradition is to just throw the shells on the ground as you eat from the bowls on every table. At one point during our stay a waiter explained this to a child at the table beside us in dramatic fashion by dumping half of the bowl onto the floor to the child’s amazement.

Someone get me a broom...

The dark wood bar stretches along one wall and around a corner. The ceilings have a number of mechanical fans keeping the air moving (though the air conditioning did not need any help, I feel) - By “mechanical fans” I mean large fans made of palm leaves about half a meter across that were suspended from the ceiling in rows with a metal rod pushing and pulling them so they waved - Quite an interesting looking effect. Sitting down we ordered what we were only able to order - A Singapore Sling for Mel and for me? A “virgin” Singapore Sling. At $27 for the full Sling and $14 for my alcohol-free variant these were NOT cheap and I joked whether we could keep the glass (though watched to see if anyone did take theirs with them just in case…but, sadly, none did). The drinks were really tasty and we sat and chatted for quite a long time - Going through several bowls of peanuts in the process. I can see why the drinks might be expensive - People taking their time to soak in the atmosphere and work their way through the sacks of peanuts stacked up to one side of the room (under the metal spiral staircase to what must be a more exclusive part of the bar). The buzz was so pleasant here - We were very comfortable just sitting and soaking it up.

Chin chin!

Sadly we realised that we would have to eventually leave so making our way out we turned to the left after exiting, staying on the first floor to enter into the hotel proper. The inner courtyard has a restaurant with a number of umbrella-festooned tables where expensive food is served. There are palm trees and other plants everywhere - Truly the picture of a traditional colonial environment. Making our way around the balcony overlooking the courtyard we passed by a number of expensive shops and more restaurants (HOW much for a steak?).

Raffle's Hotel Courtyard

We headed down the large marble staircase at the back entrance out onto the street to return to the hotel - I had been using the trousers from my suit I had picked up from Sam but the waist is a bit loose requiring, I feel, a belt. So, being belt-less, I felt that I should change before continuing our evening.

The jeans were nicely snug as we headed back out onto the street and passed once again by Raffle’s. We were headed out now that it was dark to the Singapore Flyer for a view of the harbour at night. As we walked along Raffle’s Road the Formula 1 geeks inside us noted that we could spot on the surface of the road where the racing track had been rubbed out. It is still amazing to think that we were walking along a F1 track…

Anyway. At $33 the Singapore Flyer compares to the London Eye and other similar experiences. We purchased our tickets and were directed up an escalator under the Flyer itself. The Ferris Wheel is above a small complex of shops with the ground floor containing a set of small stalls, “The Singapore Trail”, like a “Hawker Market” selling an assortment of food. There are also Subway and a Popeye chicken restaurants around the corner along with a 7-11 so it is not quite high-end but it is not really low end either…and very well done with a bit effort at making “The Singapore Trail” look like 1960s Singapore.

Food Court under the Flyer

Directly under the Ferris Wheel is a small garden with running water and a waterfall with walkways.

Singapore Flyer Ticket

On the first floor is where we were directed through a set of displays about Singapore called “Journey of Dreams” that is largely aimed at children but we enjoyed here playing with a few of the more interactive displays on offer. It was not busy so we made our way up the final set of stairs through to where we were ushered quickly into a capsule just departing…There were already about six other people on board but we did not let that bother us as we spent the whole time trying to get pictures out of the windows that surrounded us. This was made difficult by the lights on the wheel itself that kept changing intensity and colour…But as we climbed we were able to make out the expressways that are all around us as they cross over one another and the harbour itself.

On Board the Flyer

Across the water to the east we were surprised to see a rather large golf course that we had not even known was there. It was lit up bright as day even though it was getting to be fairly late in the evening. To the south of us we could clearly make out the glowing biomes of “Gardens by the Bay” with the, also lit, “Super Trees” in the gardens beyond. The glowing Marina Bay Sands Hotel was spectacular and as reached the top of the trip (an announcement told us we were there) we realised we were pretty much even with the top…

Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Harbour

Continuing over we were able to see the rest of the harbour with the Merlion and the skyscrapers of the city centre behind. It is certainly a pretty city, at least here.

A great way to see the city. It has been a very long day. We stopped by 7-11…go on, guess? What, slurpee??? How did you know?


We made our way back to the hotel along Raffles Avenue where we had to use a pedestrian underpass for the “City Hall” subway station. Traveling down the escalator we descended from the humid heat into the cool dry air conditioning of the station and were surprised to see a number of kids break dancing and just hanging out. We have not seen much of this here so it was good to see that beyond the sterile looking city all around us people are still people. Regretfully we headed back up the escalators on the other side of the road to find ourselves in the park surrounding the tall thin Civilian War Memorial (the “Memorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation” though we could barely read this engraved in stone at the base at this time of night).

Now, not trying to gross anyone out too much but the heat and humidity particularly here in Singapore has been giving me a lot problems with chaffing. It is not that pleasant particularly when we are walking around so much. Tonight it was particularly painful…Time to relax in the dry cool room…

⇒ Continue to Friday, October 18th - Singapore