I just know as soon as I mention Singapore and Raffles that many of you are going to think cocktails, especially the eponymous Singapore Sling. So let's get the ingredients out of the way in case you fancy mixing one and I'll continue with my review. Now many people have their own ideas and of course there are variations on the theme. But this is what I had in mine as I sat watching the sun go down: Gin, lime juice, syrup, club soda,cherry brandy and a slice of lemon and a Maraschino cherry for garnish. I liked it that much I ordered another !
The hotel itself is everything I expected, beautiful architecture, finely manicured lawns, painstaking service and a rich atmosphere that yells HISTORY. It's not hard to imagine gentlemen with thin moustaches and slicked back hair cavorting with their younger mistresses. Nobody who is anybody passed through Singapore without puffing up their feathers at this famed hotel.
If Raffles hosted the rich and famous, the rest of Singapore never was, and still isn't, far behind. There's wealth in abundance in this part of the world and you can't miss it. The buildings gleam, the cars sparkle and every other shop seems to be a designer outlet. On the surface it seems the only people feeling the pinch are those tourists who have lost everything in the casinos. Singapore is said to be on a par with Vegas these days as far as footfall in the gambling dens goes. Only Macau leaves it standing.
One of our must-see attractions was the world famous orchid collection at the Singapore Botanic Centre. We were astonished to learn that they have 3,000 gorgeous specimens here. Believe me, ANY gardener would want to take home dozens and dozens of these mesmerising plants, you are absolutely spoiled for choice. The rest of the Botanic Centre has plenty to offer and what started out as a planned morning visit stretched into six hours with a short stop for refreshments.
It goes without saying that unfortunately this sovereign state is synonomous with the war. The horrors are remembered at Changi Museum where there are some excellent but harrowing exhibitions detailing the suffering of the POWs. Another prisoner who you will have probably heard of stayed just up the road at Changi Prison. The notorious Nick Leeson was incarcerated here after losing his bearings. Sorry, I meant after losing Berings all their cash and bankrupting them.
On a lighter note, Singapore Zoo comes highly rated. It's classed as a "rainforest zoo' and is often voted the world's best in this category. I often have a crisis of conscience where this type of 'entertainment' is concerned but the animals seemed well kept, healthy and had space to move. Like many things in Singapore, it wasn't cheap to visit. But they get up to two million visitors per year so they're doing something right.
The skyline in Singapore gets ever more impressive. The latest ultra-chic hotel is the Marina Bay Sands with its signature Infinity Pool. It doesn't have the background of Raffles, but this rooftop pool provides serious competition as the place to be seen. A leisurely swim here is quite literally unique. The water seems to disappear into thin air and the vista is something very special.
Haji Lane is the mecca for some retail therapy. It's a very narrow thoroughfare that wouldn't be difficult to miss. But what it lacks in Oxford Street brash it makes up for in quirkiness. You spot something that you consider to be very imaginitve and must-have. Then three feet away you spy something else that is even more captivating. Believe me, an hour down Haji Lane and you are paying the excess on your airline luggage. The lane also boasts a lovely little ice cram parlour and there's authentic middle eastern fare to be had locally.
Talking of food, this is definitely one area where you can break the bank or penny pinch. We decided on the frugal approach most of the time and ate from the kiosks that are liberally dotted about. Don't let the on-the-street dining approach deter you, for a pound or so you can be tucking in to a delicious and nutritious meal. Not once did we even remotely suffer from an upset stomach, the high standards of hygeine and cleanliness are rigorously enforced.
Transport in Singapore is what you'd expect, clean, reliable and safe. Needless to say you're unlikely to be travelling great distances and therefore the fares are minimal. The taxis tend to be what we could consider up-market vehicles, it's quite usual to see Mercedes and BMWs plying their trade. But again the tab will be reasonable and we used them often, particularly at night when it's easy to get lost among the high rises.
All in all a holiday choc full of wonderful experiences. One I'd repeat at the drop at a hat. And definitely a place to stop off for a few nights if you're going half way round the world to Australia or New zealand and don't fancy doing it in one huge chunk. Who would!