After a nice 4.5 hour bus ride costing $13 each we arrived in Singapore. The actually driving time is only about 3 hours but then there is the time to go through the border.
Singapore or as it is known the republic of singapore has 5 million people of mostly Malay, Chinese and Indian decent. It is located on the southern tip of the Malay peninsula about 137 km north of the equator. It is separated from Malaysia by the straits of Johor and from Indonesia by the Raiu islands.
Singapore has been part of various empires but modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post.
Singapore was occupied by the Japanese during the second world war and reverted to british rule after the war. Singapore gained its independence in 1959.
We decided after staying in a few low budget hotels we would break the bank and stay at the Raffles Hotel which is one of the most famous hotels in the world It opened in 1887 and named after sir Stamford raffles and was occupied by the japanese troops during the second world war The hotel is managed by the fairmont hotel group (who also manage the empress hotel in Victoria). Some of you may remember a few years back Cat who worked in the pool at oak bay, she is a friend of Sean's and now works for the fairmont hotels. I contacted her and she was able to get us a friend's and family rate at the raffles (I knew somewhere along the line there would be payback for all those aquatic parties at my house).
People like Nelson mandela, Michael Jackson, bill Clinton etc have all stayed at the raffles. Diana krall has also stayed here and they have a picture of her in their famous people gallery. I did ask if they wanted to put up a picture of Marianne and I but no takers - guess we are not famous enough YET!
From the moment you enter raffles property you are treated as a celeb. You are greeted by the doorman who looks like something out of the movie The King and I. Your bags are taken out of the taxi and you do not see them again until you are in your room (hope they don't look inside as i have lots of dirty laundry) We went to check in but our room was not ready for a few minutes so they said they would have two complimentary singapore slings sent to our room. Singapore slings sell for about $25 Canadian each. This hotel is where the Singapore sling was invented as a ladies drink in the 1920's and I remember it being very popular in the 1970's. Many tourists come to the hotel bars to sample the drink and apparently they sell about 4,000 per day which equals $100,000.
Did I mention that tourists are not allowed in the lobby of the hotel. The security is very tight for us guests.
Once our room was ready (about a five minute wait) the front desk staff introduced us to our butler who would take care of all our needs during our two day stay.
We were taken to our room which was unbelievable -- really felt we had stepped into the grand old days of southeast Asia that you see in the movies but with all the modern conveniences.
The raffles reputation is most definitely not only based on the luxury of the surroundings but the incredible customer service. We went to lounge by the pool for while and the bartender brought us two cold bottles of water, fruit skewers and a cold face cloth soaked in eucalyptus to cool us off. Of course the face cloths were served on a silver platter. Lots of tourists visit the hotel 's longhorn bar (place where the Singapore sling was invented) but there is a section saved for hotel guests only so you do not have to wait to get in. Marianne and I could not resist splurging on a few more slings.
Our butler Adie was fabulous, the night before we left when we got back to the hotel from touring and there was a fruit basket, a towel animal and two sprigs of orchids boxed up for us. In the morning after our wake up call complimentary coffee was brought to our room and set up in the sitting area. As we drove away from the hotel in our taxi the staff stood there and waved goodbye. This was a once in a lifetime experience and made our Singapore stay very memorable. Now to tell you about the sights:
Marianne's 84 year old dad joined us for this leg of the trip Singapore is a very organized city and the traffic is much more civilized than that of KL.
We decided to do the hop on off bus tour to sightsee. I always try to find a hop on off tour when traveling as they are an inexpensive way to see a city. The usually cost between $25 and $45 for 24 hours. The buses will have several different routes throughout the city and many stops. You can hop on and off at any stop and usually the buses run every 15 minutes. Most large cities in the world have these buses and if you are traveling I would highly recommend taking advantage of this tour.
I thought we had seen spectacular architecture in KL but it holds nothing to Singapore and the magnificent buildings here. Both KL and Singapore have lots of construction happening and new buildings going up everywhere. It seems to me that Asia is going to be the new powerhouse of the world (if it isn't already) you can tell there is lots of money here by the cars and how people are dressed. Singapore is more expensive than the rest of Asia but probably no more than Canada or Australia.
The city has a little India (where we spent 4 hours shopping and I almost got talked into a sari but resisted), Chinatown, little Arab and of course the famous orchard street where all the high end shops are located.
We went to an Indian restaurant in little India and had a lovely lunch, we also visited another bhuddist temple where ceremonies were being performed.
After sightseeing it was back to raffles and another few $25 singapore slings.
I am off to Phuket tomorrow to take advantage of the free two nights accommodation in surin beach then off to patong (the most popular beach area in Phuket) for a couple of nights before I leave for Vietnam. Marianne was to join me but the flights on feb 20th from Phuket to sydney are overbooked and she was concerned about flying standby and not getting back to work on time. So we parted at Singapore airport- thanks Marianne for a fabulous three weeks and Brian for joining us in KL and Borneo. You both were great travel buddies and I hope you enjoyed it as much as i did.
Do not fear I will not be alone in Phuket as Marianne's 20 year old daughter Kate and friend are flying in and we will be getting together. Marianne trust me with your daughter. What happens in Phuket stays in Phuket!!!!