Tag Archives: Singapore

Stop off in Singapore – exploring

Singapore harbour still attracts a lot of shipping

Singapore harbour still attracts a lot of shipping

Today after breakfast on the 38th floor of the Mandarin Orchard hotel we went for a walk, seeking out the old parts of Singapore, and the garden by the bay. We had a long day to kill. Our flight to Australia was due to take off at 12:45am, so we planned on eating enough to tide us over in the lounge at the airport, then sleep our way home.

Singapore national museum on Stamford Rd.

Singapore national museum on Stamford Rd.

Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce building

Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce building

A brochure we found offered a river cruise on a bum boat – it seemed a good deal to me. The feet were starting to get rebellious, and the damp heat doesn’t encourage activity. Map in hand, we strolled up Orchard Road, (ducking into buildings now and then for a cool-down) then around to the river. Old buildings are still there if you look for them. So are the new towers of the financial district, around Raffles and Stamford, and some very interesting modern architecture.

Quay St

Clarke Quay

Lunch - mostly eaten

Lunch – mostly eaten

Anyway, almost by accident we found Clarke Quay, an old part of Singapore hanging on. Eateries lined the street, awning-covered platforms with tables and chairs on the river bank, the kitchens in the ramshackle buildings over the road. Spruikers stopped us at every establishment, showing us their fresh seafood in fish

Hi-tech sound and air con - with peacock feather

Hi-tech sound and air con – with peacock feather

tanks, ready to be picked and killed. But the prices were too high for us for a lunchtime nibble. Besides, I’m a bit squeamish about that sort of thing. Yes, I know it’s daft.

We ended up at an Indian place offering a curry, rice, Naan, and a couple of condiments and a drink for $10. Sounded good to us. We ordered water to drink, buttered chicken and lamb tikka masala. The meal was delicious – not too spicy and very filling. We never did go on the boat trip. We needed cash and we didn’t have any, so we strolled on to find an ATM. We ended up near a new development by the bay, and decided to find a train to get us to the garden, and certainly back to the hotel.  Unlike the London tube, the Singapore train network is not intuitive. We were looking for Stamford station and must have gone up and down escalators a dozen times, passing hundreds of shops. Eventually we ended up at Raffles station. It seemed we were just a couple of stops from the garden. One station on this line, then change to another line for one more stop.

Part of the garden by the bay

Part of the garden by the bay

Giant dragonfly

Giant dragonfly

These giant pseudo trees are used for the light show

These giant pseudo trees are used for the light show

The gardens are beautiful and they have their own website here, and there’s a Youtube video of the light show here. I wish my feet were up to the task of doing them justice but they weren’t. So we took the train back to the nearest station to the hotel and made our weary way back to the foyer to await our airport shuttle.

It was a long night before we finally settled on the plane. This was a smaller, older aircraft so the seats didn’t lie completely flat. It took me a while to get to sleep, despite being dog-tired. But eventually a nice little flight attendant woke me to offer me breakfast. The plane wasn’t full, and we sped through customs and immigration. Our best guess at where we’d left our car in the long term carpark turned out to be right, and we headed for home.

Stop-off in Singapore – meeting the locals

Singapore, looking along Orchard Road

Singapore, looking along Orchard Road

We had decided to spend a night in Singapore instead of going straight home. We didn’t fancy landing at 7:30 in the evening, getting through customs etc and then be faced with a four hour drive home. So we took an airport shuttle to the Mandarin Orchard. Here’s a tip. The airport shuttle services most of the large hotels, at the cost of S$9 each (ie S$18 – the Singapore dollar is the same as the AU$). A taxi would have cost us around S$60. They’ll pick you up, too. You just have to ring and book a time.

We’d upgraded our stay for a few worthwhile perks, like getting up to the 38th floor for free drinks and nibbles and breakfast, and the clerk found an empty room so we didn’t have to mooch around until the usual check-in time of 2pm. We showered, changed into Singapore clothes, and went out for a look around hoping to keep the jet lag at bay. We were in Orchard Road, which is just shopping, so we ducked in and out of air-conditioned edifices, generally pootling around. Inevitably, we ended up in a camera shop. The proprietor had the gift of the gab and persuaded me I had enough lenses – but this converter can double the magnification, and it’s much cheaper than a new lens, too. It sounded like a good idea at the time, and Pete drove him down to a reasonable price.

It being lunchtime we looked around for somewhere to eat and ended up in a basement offering hawker type food. We settled on ‘chicken rice’, which seemed to be a favourite staple. It turned out to be (um) chicken and a bowl of rice. We sat at long bench tables open for anybody. A lady came to sit opposite us, intent on her bowl of food. Pete nudged me and pointed out a poster. “That doesn’t look anything like the carrot cake you make.” It didn’t. It looked like fried up mince. What could I say? “No, it doesn’t.”

The lady sharing our space said, “It’s not cake.” She then described how it’s made. I won’t even try to remember. Read about it here.  That instigated a conversation. She told us we should be having soy sauce and/or chile sauce with our chicken rice, and went herself to fetch a couple of little bowls from the vendor for us. We chatted with this lady for several hours, talking about food and cooking. She was a real estate agent, taking a lunch break. We learned nobody buys land in Singapore (unless they’re very rich). But they buy their apartments. When she went off to work we emerged into the humid heat.

What now? We dithered and a local approached us. What did we want to do? We asked about the satay markets Pete remembered from his visits here thirty or forty years ago. Our new best friend explained they were now in the gardens by the bay. Very nice place, they have a light show after seven, then you can eat. Was there anything else? We asked if there were any computer shops around. “Oh not here, shopping space is too expensive. I can show you a place. I’m not due for work a while yet.” So he escorted us down to a building a few blocks away, took me firmly by the arm, and led us into a shop where he introduced Patrick, who would look after us. Patrick tried to sell me a lens – a converter that would double my telephotos, and would also enable wide-angle shots. I’ve got a prime wide angle lens, and we’d just bought the converter, but we listened. We were told the lens was worth $3,000 – but you can have it for $2,500, plus you get your GST back. Every time we tried to leave, the price dropped. We said we’d think about it and come back tomorrow and we finally backed away at $500. The smell of rat was becoming increasingly pungent.

Interestingly, our new best friend was hanging around outside the building, apparently almost off to catch his train to work. Maybe he hoped for a commission from his work for Patrick.

Having sore feet, we went back to the room and I looked up the lens on the internet. Nobody else seemed to have such a device. And the moral of the story is yes, you can great some great gear in Singapore at a great price. But do your homework before you go shopping. Know what you want and what it should cost. These dudes are masters at the selling game.

We had intended to go to the garden by the bay for light show and satay, but jet lag got the better of us. After an unintended nap of a couple of hours we went up the hotel’s 38th floor for drinks and to admire the sunset. A storm was rolling in. We decided to order room service and have an early night.

Sunset between the apartment blocks

Sunset between the apartment blocks