I find it hard to believe that I have been back from my Singapore trip for almost four weeks………where have the days gone? It is also difficult to get back into the routine of blogging, always a bit hit an miss on this site, but I had better make a start as the longer I leave it the harder it is…..
Suffice to say that my holiday was great, and I was very pleased with how this old bird managed the heat and the huge distances walked – I came home to our 14th floor apartment most days exhausted, but it was nothing a G&T plus a good night’s sleep could not fix and we were off to do more the next day. We visited the new Gardens by the Bay, saw the National Orchid Collection at the Botanic Gardens, did a little shopping along Orchard Road, visited China Town, Little India and Arab Street, went to the Museum of Eastern Civilization where we bumped into Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, and travelled miles on the MTR, Singapore’s very efficient underground rail system. I found the people friendly and polite, and I was usually given a seat on the MTR if it was crowded by the local folk. (Incidentally, the MTR has a card payment system very similar to Victoria’s MYKI, the difference being that it is very cheap and it works.) We ate wonderful food from street hawker stalls, food courts, swish restaurants by the river, and we had high tea at Raffles Hotel on our last day. This was particularly poignant for me as I recall stories from my Father about going there in the late 1930′s when he was stationed in Singapore as a young RAF officer and very much part of the colonial ex-pat life. I could imagine him walking on the lovely marble verandahs or drinking in the Long Bar with friends.
Singapore impressed me by it’s slick sophistication and efficiency, it is becoming more and more modern with the demolition of old colonial buildings and constant construction of new multistory ones. The old parts are still there, but one needs to search for them and I was pleased to see a few old ones are being restored and renovated too. The economy is obviously buoyant, and it is a shopper’s paradise if one was so inclined. There are endless shopping malls where one could purchase anything one wanted at whatever price one could afford – cheaply or high end designer products. I would have liked to have bought a few things at the British India stores but made do instead with a visit to Marks and Spencers, Mustafa’s, Tangs and Robertson’s. I was particularly surprised to find a branch of Brunetti’s – a Melbourne coffee shop I know well. All in all, I did not buy much more than gifts for special folk at home and a couple of cheap Indian tops.
We also flew to Penang for a couple of nights, where we stayed in the Eastern and Oriental Hotel – built in 1885 and quite spectacular. I really liked Penang and would have liked to spend more time there, we really only had time to explore around Georgetown and did not get into the hills. It is much less modern, more third world and more fascinating in being able to see what it was like in earlier days. Again we walked miles, or travelled by the free bus around the town, it was less overcast and much hotter and at times quite a challenge but well worth the experience. One highlight was a tour of the 1880′s Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion which is still a private residence and B&B, so we could only see part of it. It was fascinating to learn about the various Peranakan cultures both in Indonesia and Singapore, and to see their art, textiles and different styles of food.
I took endless photographs, but they have turned out to be happy holiday snaps, rather than the good photos I was hoping for. When travelling with others there is little time to stop and think about a shot, as they have to stop and wait too. In addition I resorted to using my iPhone as I became fed up carrying my big heavy camera in the heat. I have not yet processed all the photos, but am hopeful that I shall have enough good ones for another Blurb book which will be a wonderful record of our trip. I cannot possible share them all here, but will post a few and I guess more on my photo blog over the next little while.. You may click on any photo for a larger image.