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World Tour1 – Singapore

February 20, 2007

Minor problem to sort out at Heathrow before we flew out; with 3 days to go, Kuoni finally agreed with us and with the Foreign Office statement that Fiji was just a little too unstable at the moment for holiday-makers. So we chose Tahiti as a replacement. The trouble was at that point we already had all the documents, including flight tickets. Luckily it wasn’t hard to find the Kuoni rep. at Heathrow to swap old for new. No-one else was on exactly the same tour so we never saw another holiday rep. for the whole 4 weeks.

Instead of British Airways, nearly all our flights were with Qantas this time. Singapore took nearly 13 hours but the food and wine were fine and the individual TV screens meant I could watch “The Queen”.

Singapore airport was nice. Open and airy, with incoming and outgoing passengers mixing in the same airside areas (unlike, say, Heathrow). Best of all there was a bar and open air smoking section on an upper level! Refreshed, we strolled down to a nearly empty baggage area, passport control and customs.

After they messed up by first giving us a non-smoking room, we settled into the Carlton Hotel. A rep. phoned to confirm the trips we had booked.

Day 1 proper. A whole day trip around the city and its suburbs – villages connected by fast public rail transport. Did you know the main railway station and the tracks north to Malaysia are still owned by Malaysia ?

Haw Park VillaFirst stop Haw Park Villa. A Chinese businessman spent a lot of money constructing this to remind others of the traditions and beliefs they might otherwise lose in a foreign country.

In particular, the Ten Courts of Hell. with its scenes of torture, and horrific deaths for those who lived a less than perfect life.

Buddist Temple

Integrated into one of the ‘villages’ was this Buddist Temple ‘Bright Hill’, reputedly the richest in the world, since Buddists consider it a duty to give to the needy and to their temple.

One photo (in the pouring rain) cannot do justice to the carvings, gold leaf, statues and grounds of this amazing collection of buildings.

Later (still raining) we came to the Changi War Memorial to the allied dead in that part of the world. Out of curiosity I browsed the register and there it was: all the details of my Uncle Ron. His name was carved on the actual memorial, too, but, like so many others, there was no grave. I felt very strange and cold.

Day 2 was a city tour “In the footsteps of Raffles”. Its itinerary and commentary allowed us to learn more about Sir Stamford Raffles and his part in the building of Singapore.

Raffles Hotel for Singapore SlingsNo such trip would be complete without a stop for tea and cakes at the Raffles Hotel (which turned out to be virtually next door to the Carlton), followed by a Singapore Sling at the bar. Apart from its price, the disappointing thing was that the mixture comes from a pump (!!) into 2 litre plastic containers which are then stored in the bar’s fridge. All the barmen have to do is pour some into a glass and add the usual cocktail silly bits. I don’t like gin but I have to admit it was rather tasty. I can post up the recipe if anyone would like it.

Bum Boat

The next part of the trip was a harbour tour in a ‘Bum Boat’. Again, fascinating snippets of history from the guide’s commentary. If only I could remember it all!

The final stop was a pewter factory and shop, where Sue bought a pot. She buys a small pot in every country we visit. I get a t-shirt.

We browsed the City’s shopping areas, which are linked (and linked to their underground railway system) by underground shopping malls. To escape the heat and humidity, or rain, most people use them to get from one building or city centre block to another. And it did rain. One thing we bought was a bigger carry-on case for Sue. About £10 for a trolley case to hold a lot more than we left the UK with.

On the last evening we joined a coach trip to the zoo for a ‘night safari’. Part walking on trails through the ‘jungle’ and part on a slow road train, we saw at least 40 different animals, most of which are so nocturnal you’d see little of them normally. It was very well presented and organised and worth doing, with or without children! There was the usual selection of eating places and tacky tourist shops near the entrance.

Fine City

No chewing gum or graffitti in Singapore. They’re banned. You can, and will, be fined for all manner of anti-social behaviour, motoring offences etc.

That’s why I had to have this t-shirt.

Next stop – Sydney, Australia.

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