After two days here our impression is of a great city, for me one of the best we’ve seen so far. Its clean, law abiding and confident of its place in the world and not afraid to show it in its architecture.
There are so many unusual, unique buildings here it’s difficult to single one out as the icon of Singapore, but one of the more impressive is the Marina Bay Sands Hotel which comprises three tapering towers, 56 storeys high, arranged in a curve and topped with a huge plinth that makes it look like a giant Stonehenge. But this building is
|The Marina Bay Sands Hotel|
|Jackie outside Raffles|
|In the grounds at Raffles|
It is possible to walk through parts of Raffles without having to be a guest and we did do this, including walking into the Long Bar on the second floor, where baskets of monkey nuts are provided on every table and you just drop the shells on the floor when you crack them open. The Singapore Sling cocktail was famously invented here, a red coloured drink provided in a tall glass with decorations on top.
|The ballroom at Raffles (where's the dance floor?)|
I really wanted to have one of these as it would be a real tick on the bucket list to say you’ve had a Singapore Sling in Raffles (to be fair I have done this in the past, some years ago) but Jackie wouldn’t let me spend the S$26 each! There’s plenty of money here and the Rolls Royces and Ferraris parked outside were testament to this, so we felt somewhat out of place, but couldn’t help thinking ‘wouldn’t it be nice, if…’
Singapore has a long history of Chinese traders in the 14th century, but it wasn’t until Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, an employee of the British
|Sir Thomas Stamford Raffle's stature at the point where he first came ashore|
January 1819 looking to establish a port in the region to try to exploit the lucrative spice trade, then monopolised by the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, that the modern Singapore was born and flourished. He established the city, built himself a house on Fort Canning Hill, oversaw the layout and building of the early city and established some spice gardens in which he planted cloves, nutmeg and all the other spices in order to try to break Holland’s monopoly. Many of these things can still be seen and we walked round the recreated spice gardens and saw the well-known spice plants and trees and a whole host of other spices we’ve never heard of that all go to make the special tastes of Asian cooking that we find so hard to recreate at home.
|In the Spice Garden|
|A nutmeg tree|
Also on Canning Hill is the Battle Box, a place I really wanted to visit, but when we got there a note on the outside said that it’s closed until further notice. The Battle Box is a fortified underground command centre that was used in WW2 and recreates the final moments of Lieutenant-General A.E.Percival the GCO of all forces in Malaya, before he surrendered to Japanese troops under the command of Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita on 15th February 1942, completing the total humiliation of Britain and with it destroying forever the legend of the invincible British Empire.
|These are cloves|
As it happens, I’m reading a book that Jackie picked up for me in Australia titled: Defeat in Malaya, the fall of Singapore, by Arthur Swinson. It’s quite an old book, but it’s a very revealing account of events that led up to the total destruction of British Malaya and Singapore in 55 days and shows a catalogue of errors, indecision, lack of understanding, lack of preparedness and a disbelief that the Japanese would ever launch an attack and declare war against America, Britain and Holland simultaneously. It was far too late when reality finally dawned on the ‘never-never land’ of what was then laid back colonial rule. Lieutenant-General Percival does
|These are coco beans growing straight from the branch|
|We decided not to have anything from this hawker stall|
The Battle Box was where Lieutenant-general Percival emerged carrying a white flag to seek terms of surrender, but nearby is the Council Chamber building where Lord Louis Mountbatten received the surrender of the Japanese in 1945, but never again would Britain be held in the same esteem in the Far East.
|I think they mean it!|
We are staying in Little India, which is a small area to the north away from the general affluence of the city. Here hotels are more modestly priced, we’re paying S$135 per night (about £70) for an average 3 star type hotel and surrounding us are loads of Indian restaurants, which is great. We’ve had three nights out so far and been to one restaurant twice now, but still not had a really hot curry. I asked for a reasonably hot curry last night, it was good but not particularly hot and tonight I asked for a really hot curry and it was OK, but still not that hot. When we go to Thailand I’m going to take the advice of an Australian who told me to ask for ‘Thai hot, not Australian or European hot!’
|Views from the top of Marina Bay Sands Hotel|
Today we took the ‘City Sightseeing’ open top bus tour with commentary which gave us lots of facts, for example, 85% of housing is publicly owned, only 15% private and, as a result (they say) there is almost no homelessness. Also, traffic congestion is kept to a minimum by electronic charging of certain roads by overhead cameras reading number plates, also by a 100% tax on imported cars and a CO2 negotiation system that keeps old cars off the road and efficient cars on the road. It seems to work as traffic does flow well even at busy times. Another thing was that the land area of Singapore Island is growing as land is reclaimed from the sea. The city is now 25% bigger than before, the sea being up to 1km further away than before.
|The quantity of large shipping in this and the previous picture I think is quite amazing|
|The Singapore Flyer in the foreground|
The hop-on-hop-off bus meant we could get off to look at things during the day, so the one thing I wanted to look at was the Marina Bay sands Hotel. We’d been told that for S$20 you can go to the top and stand on the plinth that, on one side is a cantilever that overhangs the third tower by a huge amount (the height of the Eiffel Tower was mentioned, but I think this must be the whole length of the plinth, not the overhang). Anyway, the view was absolutely amazing, being higher than the Singapore Flier, which they tell us is ‘bigger than the London Eye’ (yeh, whatever!). From the top we could see the size of the port and the massive quantity of large ships anchored there, islands
|Bottom left is the biggest floating stage in the world|
|Bottom left is the art and science museum (looks much better at ground level, but I didn't get a good picture)|
|Looking along the 'plinth' containing the swimming pool|
So tomorrow we’re off to Thailand. We’ve packed a bag we’re leaving here at the hotel and will collect it when we come back here on 26th October. We’re still coming to terms with the heat and humidity, 33-35⁰C in the day, 27-28⁰C at night with very high humidity. Air con is required to be on all night and we go into a shopping centre wherever we can to cool off, you just can’t be out for too long. How did the British get on in the old colonial days before air conditioning? I just can’t imagine!
|The red roofs are the Raffles Hotel|
|Jackie on the cantilever on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel|
|The skyscrapers of the business centre|