Today I pretty much decided that I was going to treat Singapore as a holiday destination rather than being a traveller.
The place seems more geared up that way, and the the hoped for interaction with fellow backpacker at my hotel has not materialised. Other than a couple that I can hear in the room opposite mine, I’ve not seen a soul at the hostel besides the staff. Again they’d advertised as a backpacker hangout, and again the reality turned out somewhat different.
So when I got in last night, I planned what I wanted to do for the next couple of days.
Today started at the Flyer. Singapores larger answer to the London Eye. There were very few people in the queue, and the staff kept the minimum people to a cabin that they could. So instead of sharing with the 15 strong posse of Indian holidaymakers behind me, I found myself with just two other people in a cabin that can hold 28.
On balance I preferred the London Eye to the Singapore Flyer. This is simply because of location. The Eye is right in the heart of London, and everywhere you look you will spot a cool or historically significant building. The Flyer is is little removed in comparison, so whilst you still get spectacular views of Marina Bay and the developments there the rest of the view cannot hod the attention.
As the Grand Prix had been held just a couple of days earlier, I was able to see most of the track. The main grandstand and pitlane complex has not yet been dismantled, and so it was fascinating to see the track from this angle.
After a fast food lunch of Popeyes Chicken (not keen), I joined a Duck Tour of the city.
The Duck Tours are now pretty famous worldwide, appearing in many cities. But for anyone unfamiliar the Duck is an amphibious Vietnam era vehicle that has now been repurposed to the take people like me on tours around cities and their surrounding rivers.
The tour was really enjoyable, taking in a lot of the F1 track and then into the reservoir where we got a closer look at some of Singapores iconic buildings. Unfortunately, half way through this my camera battery expired in a not so subtle reminder that I had forgotten to charge the battery the previous night. So I had to revert to my iPhone for the remainder of the trip.
The Duck tour was worth the money, but I’m reticent to take the facts they provided at face value. For example they repeated the oft-told tale that chewing gum is illegal and can land you in trouble if you have it when you enter the country. This is just plain wrong as chewing gum was available to buy in just about every convenience store that I went in. There are pretty severe fines for incorrectly disposing of chewing gum, but to claim its illegal is just a falicy.
I returned to my prison cell for a shower and to literally recharge my batteries before being picked up for my last activity of the evening – a tour of the city, dinner and finally cocktails at Raffles.
This began extemely promisingly as I was picked up from a nearby hotel in a rather swish BMW. From Minivan with doors that couldn’t close to BMW in a few weeks. I’m going up in the world. But I was disappointed as I was dropped off to join the tour at… the Singapore Flyer.
When we left the Flyer we were taken to a very nice seafood restaurant with very nice views of the bay. It was at this time that I realised had made a monumental cock-up by leaving my memory card in the reader when I backed up the photos I had taken earlier in the day. So once again I was left with the iPhone for my picture taking needs.
The meal was very nice but there was a little tension with one German couple. The man had sat down first, right in front of the air-conditioning unit, which was also the seat with the best view of the Bay. After a while he started to complain of being too cold. The waitress started to turn down the chiller, but the German started to berate her for not turning it off. The poor girl was trying to explain that chiller was needed for the restaurant and not just this one seat. if she turned it off completely it would be uncomfortable for every other patron of the restaurant. This wasn’t good enough for our German friend who started shouting and gesticulating for her to turn it off.
This pissed me off.
Really pissed me off.
I was sat opposite the German, and told him to sit down, shut up and leave the poor girl alone she has everyone to look after not just him. I also reminded him that he had decided to sit there by choice and if he was uncomfortable he could just move instead of having a go at some poor girl that was just doing her job. He looked a bit shocked, but my heckles were up, so I followed up by telling him to stop being so selfish as the air-conditioning was for everyones benefit, not as his personal plaything.
A couple of other people on the table now started speaking up in agreement.
The German relented and said ‘you are right, I am sorry’. My job done, I now listened as someone else said to him that is wasn’t us that he should be apologising to. The next time the waitress came around, she got an apology.
I got chatting to the other people around the table, who with the exception of one person were all from Australia, part of the same family and on a stopover coming back from a wedding in Turkey. They told me that their niece had just married an Englishman. “I’m sorry for your loss” I said and we all got into a bout of British/Australian piss taking.
The other person on the table was a South African lady who was also on a stop off having been in Jakarta for the last month.
After dinner we went for a drive around the city, and stopped at Bugis Market. This was disappointing with nether the drive, or the market unique enough to justify stops.
Next we went to the legendary Raffles Hotel to take on Singapore Slings at the Long Bar. Everything that I have read over the last few days has said that this is the one thing that you must do in Singapore. Hoaving now done it, I am inclined to agree.
The bar would not look out of place in Casablanca. Wicker petal shaped fans waft on the ceiling. The lights are dim, but not so dim that you feel in darkness. The cane furniture is plush and incredibly comfortable. The house band are very good, interacting with the audience and posing for photos as they play. They’ve a dodgy version of ‘Light My Fire’ but they do an excellent ‘Baker Street’.
I’d never had a Singapore Sling before, but seeing as it was invented at Raffles, it would seem churlish not to have one here. A bright pink gin concoction it comes in a tall glass, cherries and pineapple on top. It is sweet, but not sickly.
I sat right back in my comfy chair, sipped on my drink and nodded along appreciatively as the band did a passible ‘All along the Watchtower’. I just felt completly chilled out for the first time since Yangshao and the time passed all to quickly.
As a tour it was a bit rubbish. But it was only £20 and I felt I got my moneys worth with the meal and the drink. I couldn’t recommend it as a tour. However, I would strongly recommend heading to Raffles for a drink if you are in Singapore.