After eleven hours from Cape Town on a glorious Singapore Airlines 777, I am actually in Asia. Arrived Singapore at 5 a.m. and by 5:30 a.m. was on a spotless Singapore Metro train riding downtown. Consumed by the choice of 60 on-demand movies on the airplane, I didn’t sleep a minute and was exhausted. I almost jumped over the counter at the Swissotel and hugged the desk clerk when he told me my room was available at 6:30 in the morning. After a few hours recuperating, I headed down to Mt. Faber to have a look around. Standing not very tall at 105 meters, this was a hill by Cape Town standards, but nevertheless the highest point in Singapore. There is a cable car system that runs from the ferry port up to the top, and also from the ferry port out to the island of Sentosa. A view from the top looking down with Sentosa in the background


Riding across to Sentosa, Singapore’s massive port, and downtown in the distance


Riding down the far side of Sentosa towards the beach, ships everywhere waiting to get into the port


The beach itself is pretty nice but clearly built where no beach existed. The day is hot and fairly sunny, but the beach pretty empty. Taking note of the hundred or so cargo vessels anchored directly offshore, and wondering what may be leaking or being dumped out of them, I decide to wait until Thailand before swimming in the ocean in Asia


Singapore is pretty small – the island itself is only about 20 miles long and 10 miles wide, and Central Singapore is concentrated in an area much smaller than that. With a great subway system, you can pretty much get anywhere of interest in just a few minutes. There are multiple ethnic districts, including Chinatown and Little India. I found Chinatown to be fairly bland, although that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I (all of us in fact) have seen so many of them


Little India on the other hand was pretty cool, all decked out for Deepavali, the Hindu Festival signifying the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. It is also the Hindu New Year


I stopped by the Tekka Market which has endless rows of hawker stalls selling every type of Indian food imaginable. Deen here served me up an order of lamb roti prata, which was phenomenal. His assistant spreads out the dough into a big flat pancake, brushes it with egg, drops in some minced lamb and onion, folds it together and hands it to Deen to cook just right


Regarding the cleanliness of these little stands, apparently the city regularly inspects each stand citywide and gives them a grade of A, B or C or else shuts them down. Each stand has a big card with the grade on it that must be displayed. All the stands in the Tekka Market seemed to have a B grade, so I tried not to think about what it takes to get downgraded from an A to a B and dug in. Like I said, it was great.

Located right in the heart of downtown Singapore is Lau Pasat, a hawker center that is open 24 hours a day. Mr. Ali here cooked up some pretty tasty lamb and chicken satay


which I enjoyed tremendously until, on my last satay, I noticed that his stand had a C grade. I rationalized that with those hot coals nothing bad could survive, and made a mental note to check the damn sign before eating next time. Nothing too bad came of it, although a minor dose of Pepto was required the next day.

The Raffles Hotel is designated as a historical landmark in Singapore, named after Sir Stamford Raffles who founded Singapore as an English outpost in the 1820s. They love this guy in Singapore, Raffles Hotel, Raffles Plaza, Raffles Place, Raffles Blvd., Raffles Ave. Singapore Airlines even calls their business class Raffles Class. The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel is also famous for the invention of the Singapore Sling, concocted by one of its bartenders back in the early 1900s. Naturally I had to see what all the fuss was about. Served in a tall glass, the gin based mix is bright red and garnished with a pineapple and cherry. Despite having all that going against it, the drink itself is not bad, although after a few I returned to a more traditional Tennessee blend. A shot of the Raffles Hotel courtyard from upstairs just outside the Long Bar


Orchard Road is to Singapore as 5th Avenue is to New York, ridiculous high end shops everywhere, with one odd twist thrown into the mix. The Orchard Towers is a huge complex full of bars and clubs, notably a club called Top Ten. For simplicity I’ll just borrow the quote directly from a Frommer’s review: “It’s the most notoriously sleazy joint in Singapore and throws a wild party every night of the week. The huge space is like an auditorium, with multi-level loungy seating areas looking down onto one of Singapore’s best soundstages and dance floors. A cover band plays three sets of pop and rock 7 days a week, but people don’t come here for the decor or the music: Top Ten is a pickup joint for Thai working girls. Other clubs in the building, called Orchard Towers, host ladies from other parts of the region, which is how the building got its unofficial name . . . Four Floors of Whores. No joke.”
In Singapore somebody is executed every nine days, it is illegal to sell chewing gum, and the punishment for spray painting graffiti is a public caning. Yet right in the middle of one of the most heavily promoted tourist areas sits the Orchard Towers. Interesting.

Clarke Quay and Boat Quay along the Singapore River consist of a long row of restaurants, bars and clubs with varying themes and closing times. Lots of Americans and English hanging out there, which probably explains how I met a couple of really cool Americans there one night – Star & Tonya. We had a great time and it was the wee hours of the morning before we parted ways, me to sleep all day the next day, them to fly back home to the States.

A shot of downtown Singapore from across Marina Bay


and the allegedly world famous Merlion, the symbol of modern day Singapore


Yes, it is a lion’s head on a mermaid’s body, and as it is apparently a symbol of great Singapore pride, I won’t say too much more about it. All I could think about at the time was jumping under the stream that the Merlion was spewing out, it is so ridiculously hot and humid in Singapore. At 1 degree and change north of the equator, temperatures were over 90 degrees with humidity over 90 percent. A lot of people walk around with umbrellas up to shield themselves from the sun. As soon as I would step outside, instant sweat. Apparently the Singapore prime minister nominated the air-conditioner as the most influential invention of the twentieth century. My kind of guy. Air-conditioners consume one third of the electricity used in Singapore. As a result, you are constantly walking from out of the steam bath into the ice box wearing a moist t-shirt. One review I read about Singapore ended with a woman claiming she had to leave Singapore immediately to avoid a premature death by air conditioning. I laughed at the time, only to realize a few days later that I suddenly had a cold. That did not bode well for the people seated near me on the overnight flight to Tokyo.

And for those of you who demand that I appear in some of these photos, yours truly riding in the cable car over to Sentosa Island.


It was good to see Singapore for a few days, and also good to be leaving. Off to the Land of the Rising Sun.

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