The Snake and a Singapore Sling

Trip Start Aug 30, 2006
Trip End Sep 06, 2006

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Friday, September 1, 2006

I woke up thinking it was probably about 7am in the morning, was therefore amazed when I checked my watch and it was only 4.45am!  I tried to go back to sleep, but no luck, so I gave up and read.  I was in the shower by 6 and we were downstairs for breakfast by 7am.  It was a wonder that Fred didn't have heart failure at me getting up so early in the morning, ha ha.  This is the second breakfast we've had at the hotel, and I feel it's worth a short comment.  The scrambled eggs have a funny taste & are only barely lukewarm.  There are little spicy sausages (also lukewarm) different types of Asian cuisine (probably lukewarm) including noodly things, 3 types of melon and a scary conveyor belt toaster.  But at least it's free.
After breakfast we swept out the door to try and find a place that sold stamps so we could post some postcards to family & friends.  Well, we finally stumbled on to a shop that sold stamps, but do you think we could find a post-box!  I found it very hard to communicate with some of the people in Singapore.  They are all very friendly & smile lovely white smiles at you, they just have no idea what you're trying to ask them & when they reply they talk with a strong accent and very, very fast!
This morning we went on a Harbour Cruise abroad the Imperial Cheng Ho - a modern Chinese Junk - quite stunning really!  We went past Sentosa Island (where we were planning to go later).  Sentosa Island was a lot bigger than I expected, and looks very green and tropical.  There were heaps of boats, big & small out in the harbour which looked tremendously busy.
We stopped for half an hour at Kusu (or Turtle Island) which had a Chinese temple, some sand beaches, lots of palm trees and lots of little turtles kept in captivity (also 2 very sad looking snakes - Fred still didn't want to get too close to them, even after I pointed out it was just too darn hot for anything to want to lunge and attack.  Fred remembered the Island (and the snakes, hopefully not the same ones) from when he went to Singapore years ago.  It was lovely sitting out on the deck of the boat with the wind blowing in our hair and the sounds of discordant Chinese music blasting out of the ships speakers.
When the cruise was finished we went back inside the Harbour Front complex (after having our bags scrutinised by customs type people - maybe due to all the cruise ships around?!) and had lunch at a MacDonalds (well, we had to try it at least once) which was pretty much like our MacDonalds except that had a burger made of rice cakes (or something like that, I didn't feel adventurous enough to try one!).  We took an elevator up 15 stories to the cable car which travels to Sentosa Island and then onto a Mt Faber behind the harbour.  Sentosa Island was pretty, but very overpriced & obviously targeted at us tourists.  We took escalators down to look at the huge Merlion statue (yes, they had outdoor escalators - mind you it was so hot that they were most welcome instead of trying to climb lots of stairs as Sentosa is quite hilly) but because of the exorbitant cost of going up inside we didn't stay long.  We ambled past some lovely cool fountains, Fred asked a guide if he could cool his feet off in one, but he was politely told 'No!'  On the way back I paid two Indian men $5 to hold their female albino python, while one of the men supposedly 'charmed' her with a flute.  She was a light yellow/cream colour and quite heavy (but not as big as they can get, one of the men said).  Fred was having quiet hysterics (I think I mentioned before that he isn't too fond of slithering things) but he did video the experience for me as the main reason I did it was to show Joshua!  The snake felt soft & smooth, but I could feel the strength of muscle in her as she twisted her head around trying to coil.  She didn't really worry me, but that's mostly because pythons are slow, fast hissy snakes I wouldn't be too keen on!
We had ice-cream (thought we'd be patriotic as they claimed to be New Zealand icecream) and that set us back $7 for two - ouch, and it just about melted away before we could eat it due to the HEAT.
Amazing sights on the cable car back, lucky I'm not scared of heights *ahem*, okay, I did get a little freaked when Fred said 'Hey, lets rock the cable car!'  We decided to go all the way up to Mt Faber, unfortunately I made a slight bad judgement call and suggested we got off to have a look around.  Unfortunately we had already left the cable car when we saw the huge queue to get back on again.  So we ended on catching a taxi back to the hotel, but it only cost $20, a bargain considering how far away we were - and we got to sit in air-conditioned bliss for 20 minutes!
Anyway, we were picking up at 6 for our dinner tour (Singapore by Night) and driven briefly through the city with the tour guide showing us some interesting spots we hadn't seen before.  We stopped at what is known as the 'Boat Quay' which is a curving stretch of pedestrian road by the riverside.  On one side are brightly lit marques with chairs/tables for dining by the river (lots of Chinese lanterns hanging around, and quite pretty at dusk when we got there) and on the other side of the street are the restaurants, all very close together and with 'hosts' (often pretty girls in long Chinese style silk dresses) holding menus and trying to get you to eat there.  By the top of the stairs leading down to this area we got our first glimpse of some trishaws and their owners (both were stretched out in the seats dozing, with Asian music blaring from a radio).  The restaurant that was part of our tour (dinner included in fee) was called "The Hot Stone" and although the food was in the upper range cost for a restaurant, the prices of drinks were astronomical!  A jug of beer was $35, a bottle of wine $55 (glass $12.50) and even a lemonade/coke was $6!  So Fred and I asked the waitress for water - she said 'Sparkling or Mineral', we mumbled in reply 'Just water please', the waitress then grimaced and said 'Oh...TAP water!' We felt cheap, but there was no way we were going to pay those prices, though every one else in our group ordered drinks.  We had a set menu as part of the tour package.  For starters we had a yummy homemade mushroom soup, then the main course came out on a wooden dray on top of a sizzling hot black stone - Fred had steak & I had salmon.  Both were raw and we had to grill them ourselves on the hot stone - pretty cool!  The mains came with 2 mini spring rolls, and 2 beef satay sticks.  For desert there was a little custard type dish & coffee.  By this time night had fallen and all the tall buildings had lights on, pretty fairy lights around the marques twinkled and bumboats buzzed up & down the river looking for customers. 
After we had climbed back on the bus, we drove back through Chinatown, to a night market called Bugis St, where there were lots of those cheap stalls, mainly selling clothes & souvenirs. We only had about 20 minutes to explore, so we shopped quickly before getting back on the bus & continuing on to the famous Raffles Hotel for our Singapore Sling.  We went to the Long Bar in Raffles, which had much 'old world' atmosphere.  Inside the bar it was dim with the muted light from green lamps, woven fans hanging from the ceiling waved back and forth together in time and empty peanut shells covered the floor - this dates back to early tradition when the owner said that working men who came to drink there after a hard day could just drop whatever on the floor and someone else would clean it up for them later (wouldn't it be great if you could do that in your own home?!). The Singapore sling was nice (very sweet & pink) and came in a tall glass with 'Singapore Sling' imprinted on the side.  It has gin, cherry brandy, pineapple juice, lime juice, Cointreau, Dom Benedictine, Grenadine, a dash of Angostura Bitters and is garnished with a slice of fresh pineapple and a cherry.  Fred & I had one each (came as part of the tour package), we couldn't have afforded anything else if we had wanted it (one drink I saw was a big Margarita & it cost $58!!)  I think the sling was normally $18!  Inside the bar we were entertained by a really good band with a sax, guitar & bongo drum.
We walked around the hotel for a few minutes after we finished, watching hotel patrons dining outside in the centre courtyard being entertained by live music, then we hopped back on board the bus.  Raffle had a real old-feel elegance about it, very tropical Bogart movie type thing.  I would have liked to stay longer to just soak more of that atmosphere up.
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