Friday 4 March to Tuesday 8 March 2016

This is the outward stopover on our way to Australia and is therefore a sub holiday if you like.  Our journey commences with a chauffeur ride to Heathrow and then the usual wait in the lounge, broken by a shopping excursion for new noise cancelling headphones.  Sony this time, the Bose having reached the end of life before packing and the Sony ones are quite a bit less expensive.  Our first journey is a Qantas A380 “Spirit of Australia”.

A four hour stopover in Dubai in the middle of the night allowed us to see  what appeared to be a completely new huge terminal (since our visit some years ago with Stephanie) and to take a lengthy ride between “A” gates and “B/C” gates.  Eventually get some sleep on the Emirates A380 taking us to Singapore.  The seating in business class is far more packed than in the Qantas plane.

So it is well into Saturday by the time we hit the ground, the humidity and the heat.  We retreat to the hotel “Royal Park” on Upper Pickering and in the evening venture out to Clark’s Quay which was where the traders used to store goods for export and is now the local young people’s eating and dining playground in the evenings (thumping music etc).  We settle on Little Saigon for a meal and it is pretty good.

Sunday has one pre-booked activity – lunch at Pollen – based in the Flower Dome and linked to the original Pollen Street Social in London.  A golf buggy whisks us from the general entrance to the restaurant and my birthday meal can commence.  Starters very good and excellent European cheeses.  Skirt of beef is a little ordinary.  Then we can visit the Flower Dome as it is included in visiting Pollen but we have to pay to visit the Cloud Forest dome which is adjacent.  All very worthwhile.

Photos of the Flower Dome are here, whilst photos of the Cloud Forest Dome are here.

Emerging into a typically tropical (hot and humid) afternoon we walk through some of the gardens to the Dragonfly bridge and then across to the Marina Bay Sands – three huge tower blocks with a “boat” apparently linking across the top of the three towers.  We find our way to the bar on 57th floor for a drink (above Tower 3) and enjoy the view across Singapore.

General views of Singapore are in this album.

Our return journey is via Metro – four stops takes us to Chinatown at the end of the Downtown line (cue much singing along to Petula Clark).  We then take a wander around Chinatown (75% of the population is Chinese – apparently historic ethnic origin remains important) and choose a restaurant in which to eat.  As ever with a Chinese we probably order far too much – which arrives when the chef determines – that modern concept of dining in London obviously has a much older tradition!

Royal Palace Hotel has comfortable rooms and the air con seems reasonably attuned.  The breakfast room is incredibly noisy and there are so many choices the buffet stretches a long way – the croissants being at the far end.  Both tea and coffee are odd – but after some experiment I am starting to believe it is the local sweetener rather than the actual coffee!

Monday 7 March is my birthday and Jackie gives me a very nice Dunhill wallet which will remain safely in its box for the time being.  Many other birthday wishes as the day progresses.

We descend to the pool area but the sun is not coming out to play today.  A couple of hours rest but again background music is omnipresent.  A few drops of rain as at Clark’s Quay pushes us back indoors, although that is all it is.

A booked tour this afternoon to see the river and have the relatively recent history  explained to us – important since the British arrived in the nineteenth century led by Stanley Raffles (East India Co) and were in charge for 150 years followed by a couple of years of independence, a couple of years linked with Malaysia and last year (2015) completed 50 years of independence largely under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew.

Photos of the walking tour are here.

The old civic buildings built under the British now form a cultural centre of museums and so on.  The last years has seen some major reconstruction with huge tower blocks all overthe City; all with proper feng shui treatment.  The river edge has seen the former merchants’ houses and warehouses converted to restaurants and other modern uses and is now a thriving area.  The river has been cleaned and provides the water into a new reservoir which is used to supply drinking water.

Photos of the River Boat tour are in this album.

The main purpose of the tour is to take tea in the Tiffin room at Raffles hotel – famous for the Singapore Sling, but we take champers as it is my birthday (and most cocktails depend on a large amount of sugar!).  Tea is excellent and huge; Jackie had been threatening a single piece of cake – but no, there are sandwiches, dim sun, curry puffs, little cakes in huge numbers, tea (better with no sweetener), and even a bread and butter pudding and do not forget the scones – plain, raisin and cheese! Immense and far too much consumed.

And photos of the tea at the Tiffin Room and Raffles

Time for us to move on to our real destination.