We have breakfast in the hotel. It is self-service on the balcony above the reception area. There are fruit juices, cereals, fresh fruit, cheeses, cold meats, toast and coffee or tea.
Before leaving the hotel we book two outings with the Singapore reps. This evening we are going on a night city tour of Singapore and tomorrow we are going to Sentosa. We fly out to Cairns tomorrow night so our tour will take up most of the afternoon,
We again walk down Orchard Road and to the Far Eastern Shopping Centre. We go around all the floors and finally settle on the trader on the ground floor. I choose a silk dress and jacket and we haggle. He starts off at £250 but we walk away when we get him down to £150. He doesn’t call us back so we think we have got a good deal. Maureen picks her colours and I ask him to make a Swiss cotton shirt for Michael and cashmere and silk trousers for John We leave deposits and arrange to call back on April 5th.
We should be in Heathrow on April 5th, but have already decided to break our return journey by another stopover in Singapore. There is so much to see and we both feel the return journey in one leg is too strenuous.
A beautiful Chinese girl is called down from the workshop to measure us. She draws a design for us to choose. There is no air conditioning in this shop and the shopkeeper supplies us with bottles of water for free. He also allows us to smoke. Smoking is forbidden in the building but he keeps an ashtray under the counter.
We have a cup of tea under the shade of the Hagen Daaz cafe. It is raining as we people watch. An old man is sweeping the wide pavement. We walk back to the hotel and take the air-conditioned free bus around the tourist route. This takes us right around Singapore. We end up at the Botanical Gardens and the driver calls, “Everybody off! Next bus fifteen minutes!”
We don’t understand why but follow everyone off. Our hotel is the next stop on the circular route.
The sky is heavy and dull with huge rain clouds threatening. We watch a Chinese bride and her sailor husband pose for wedding photographs in front of huge palms at the Botanical gardens. They are a beautiful couple. The pink flowers woven into her hair match her husband’s buttonhole and she smiles shyly as we take photographs of them. The photographer crossly waves us away as the flash from my camera is affecting his.
We eat a Caesar salad at the Botanical Gardens’ cafe but it is very expensive and we feel cheated. It is still raining heavily and it is very hot. We decide to do the Botanical Gardens and Orchid House on our return leg. We buy postcards and catch the bus back to the Orchard Hotel.
We have time for one more trip down Orchard Road. We find an underground supermarket and buy nectarines, biscuits and individual cartons of orange juice for our trip to Sentosa tomorrow. We also buy large bottles of water and one smaller bottle which we can keep in the fridge in our hotel room.
We change for our evening tour and a rep collects us from reception and ushers us on to a small bus. He gives us labels to stick on our clothes. Each colour of label represents a different trip. Very few of the people on the bus have the same green label. The buses meet up at the bottom of Orchard Road, We are on the correct bus and most of the passengers get off and line up on the pavement until they are herded to their correct bus. People wearing green labels get on our bus and a pleasant Chinese girl introduces herself as our hostess for the evening.
First of all we go to the harbour and out on the bum boats. They have tyres all around them which are used as fenders. They were originally known as “bump boats” but over time the “p” has dropped off. In the gathering darkness we go out to the entrance of the harbour and view the Merlion. As we turn around night has fallen and Singapore looks like New York with high rise buildings and lights illuminating the myriad of shapes. None of the structures are strictly rectangular. The buildings are circular or have curves and many have green tiled roofs in the same gentle curves we have seen on the temples.
Some of the chop houses at the North harbour are now used by yuppie bankers as the huge banking and commercial buildings stand behind Collyer Quay. Historically these chop houses had been used by the sailors coming into port.
Two ladies from South Africa and a French man join us. He has very little English as we have very little French but he tells us he is going on to Bangkok and there are knowing smiles all round.
We are taken back on to the bus. The next stop is a Chinese restaurant for a meal included in the price of the coach trip. The five of us join some other English people and we have a most adventurous meal. The waitresses, who have no English or French, are unable to tell us what the food is that they are serving. There are no menus so it is a guessing game as a series of different dishes are served for everyone to sample. Two of the English people have said that they are vegetarians but like everyone else they don’t know if they are eating meat or not. It all adds to the humour of the evening especially as the drinks orders are met correctly There is no problem with English there.
Next stop is Bugis Street Market. It is now 11 pm and the market is as busy as if it were mid-day. We smell the durian stalls and race off in another direction holding our noses. We try to buy hats with larger brims in the market, without success. The market is so large we cannot see around it in the thirty minutes allocated.
Our final stop of the evening is Raffles Hotel, which is every bit as impressive as we’d imagined. It is on Beach Road, but the beach is now further away as there is constant land reclamation in Singapore. A hotel no longer, suites are available to rent from 500 to 6,000 Singapore Dollars per night.
We enter the Long Bar, crunching peanut shells underfoot as we walk to a vacant table. The four of us buy Singapore Slings. There is no air conditioning, just huge raffia palm fans in constant motion on the ceiling. Philippe buys a beer. He will not pay 18 dollars for a Singapore Sling but we lend him one of ours to pose for a photograph. There are peanuts in their shells in dishes on the tables. We are asked to shell the peanuts and thrown the shells on the floor. It seems criminal in such a lovely room, but there are so many our contribution will make little difference.
We have the option of staying on longer in the bar and making our own way back to the hotel, but decide to meet the bus as planned. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, which is now today. We get confused trying to find the entrance of the hotel, where the bus had set us down. We end up racing down stairs and along corridors, up other stairs, but the bus is still waiting for us.