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Phespirit goes to Singapore
Singapore     March/April 2003

Phespirit travelled to Singapore from Hong Kong. He was given a small SARS awareness card at Changi Airport but otherwise remained unaffected by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak that was afflicting the island. After spending his first night in Singapore, he spent his first day on a trip to Malacca over in Malaysia; it was only after his second night in Singapore that he began to explore the place.

The centre of the city around Singapore River has three main areas of interest for the first-time tourist:

  1. The Orchard Road Malls: two and half kilometres of ultra-modern, ultra-chic shopping experience.
  2. The Old Colonial District: Raffles Hotel, City Hall, the Supreme Court, and cricket on the Padang.
  3. The Ethnic Quarters: colourful immigrant communities of Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street.

In Phespirit's humble opinion, the pick of all these places is in Raffles Hotel ..... the legendary Long Bar.

Having entered Raffles Hotel via the main reception, Phespirit then spent several minutes trying to locate the Long Bar deep inside the huge complex (left and up a level). Like all newcomers he sought to feign a casual familiarity whilst quickly assimilating the correct etiquette to avoid committing any hideous social faux pas. He noted that the interior is a muted combination of stained wood, polished brass, green glass lampshades, and a collection of bamboo and hardwood chairs scattered on a mosaic of floor tiles, which is presumably part preservation, part recreation of its colonial heyday. Entirely out of place, however: the contemporary R'n'B dance music which is piped incessantly all afternoon .....

Now for a drink. Large plastic jugs of pre-blended Singapore Sling are kept behind the bar, their contents ready to be poured out in single or double measures with plenty of ice into a steel mixing machine. After a one second burst in the mixer, the cocktail is served into its glass with even more ice and the whole is topped off with a pre-prepared pineapple chunk and skewered cherry. Cool and delicious. Small bowls of complimentary peanuts adorn the bar. Customers help themselves and let their broken peanut shells fall to the floor, where sparrows bob around hunting for scraps. They come in through the open doors and fly up to the heavy wooden joists in the ceiling where rows of mechanical palm fans waft to and fro, keeping the tropical heat and humidity in check. The whole package ..... is simply a splendid place to be.

Away from the urban sprawl, Phespirit considered the best attraction on the island to be the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo. Phespirit is not a 'zoo person', as such, and rarely if ever visits them, but he broke the habit of a lifetime here on a personal recommendation and was suitably impressed. There are no fences, no cages or bars. Instead, the animals live in spacious enclosures separated from the public by discrete ditches. The perennial crowd favourites are the large nocturnal predators, but Phespirit enjoyed watching the otters and fruit bats most of all. Especially the eerie fruit bats.

Qualities of Singapore which remained consistent right across the island were the 33°C temperature and the staggering humidity; standard conditions for a latitude just above 1°N, or 137km north of the equator. At Phespirit's next destination the humidity was mercifully lower but the temperatures soared up and up. His next destination was Bangkok .....

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