PC 168 Singapore

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Singapore lies at the bottom of the Malaysian Peninsula, just north of Indonesia

It’s the warmth and smell of the tropics that hit you as you disembark at Singapore’s Changi Airport; that memory has stayed with me since I first came here in 1986. Sitting just north of the equator the Singaporean temperature ranges from a nigh-time low of 23°C to a high of 32°C; sometimes it rains and when it rains in the tropics, it rains, vertically …… but it’s warm rain!

After a year with Short Brothers, I took over the ‘India and the Far East’ sales patch. Singapore Airlines became my favourite and its hub was convenient to travel further into Asia. My last visit had been in 1991, staying as normal in the Marco Polo hotel on the corner of Grange and Tanglin streets.

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The architecturally interesting Marina Bay Sands hotel

Singapore has changed in 28 years! The Marco Polo hotel has been demolished and replaced by executive homes. Down in the business district what were ‘high rise’ are overshadowed by some stunning buildings reaching up into the clouds. We stayed in the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) hotel down on the waterfront, as it had featured in Giles Coren and Monica Galetti’s “Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby” a BBC series covering six extraordinary hotels.

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The MBS infinity pool on the 57th floor

The statistics are mind-blowing: three towers joined together on top with an infinity swimming pool, fifty-seven storeys, 2560 rooms, 10,000 staff, the laundry department has 160,000 different uniforms. You don’t need to leave the ‘integrated resort’ as it’s called, as acres and acres of shops, restaurants and traditional food stalls occupy the lower levels. To the south huge trumpet-like towers herald the beginning of a future exotic garden.

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Singapore is a small island (50 kms east to west, 27 kms north to south; about 720 sq kms) strategically situated between the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Pacific, on the trading routes from China and Japan to Europe. Its unique position was appreciated by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles who in 1819 developed it as a trading port. In December 1941, during World War Two, Japan invaded Malaya at about the time it attacked Pearl Harbour. A few weeks later, in February 1942 it overran Singapore and some 90,000 troops became prisoners of war. It was subsequently reoccupied by British, Indian and Australian Forces following the Japanese surrender in 1945. In 1963 it gained independence from Britain as part of Malaysia and became an independent republic two years later. Its population is predominately Chinese, but Malays make up 15% and Indians 7% and there is a significant expat community amongst the 5.65 million people who live on this very crowded island.

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The Harding Road PS Café, one of several in the Island State

Lunch on our only full day was at the PS Cafe on Harding Road, away from the concrete and glass, in amongst colonial period buildings, tropical vegetation and monkeys. Very occasionally you hear a distant police siren and are reminded of the C21st! Alison had been a colleague at Morgan & Banks, moved to Sydney, then married and settled in Singapore. Today she and her family live across the causeway in Johore State, where she teaches at the Malaysian outpost of Marlborough College, UK. Her youngish children are almost bilingual in Mandarin and English.

After lunch we drifted (nothing happens very quickly in the tropical, humid heat!) down to the internationally famous Botanical Gardens, where fauna and flora compete. I used to jog here from the Marco Polo Hotel so knew them well, but for Celina it was a new experience.

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The orchids are simply stunning!

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After half an hour our stroll through these beautiful gardens was interrupted by a tropical storm, so we headed for the Mass Rail Transit (MRT) and back to MBS.

Mark started out as a client of mine in the UK in 2004 ……. and as often happens when you work closely with someone, we have kept in touch. So much so that in 2011 he contacted me to ‘chew the fat’ once again. He and his wife moved to Singapore in 2016, from where he covers his company’s Chinese interests. We both agreed that when you’re travelling on business, you don’t necessarily have the time to be a tourist. So, wanting to rectify this, we met in the MBS lobby and took the MRT to China Town,

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……… walked through stalls dripping in the torrential rain and popped into the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. The reverential treatment of bits of hair, bone, teeth of those whose life is worshipped often suggests that the spiritual ‘body’ was a whole lot bigger than the physical one! Then back on the MRT to Raffles, the colonial hotel named after Sir Stamford Raffles and where a Singapore Sling was invented.

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We queued to have a drink in the Long Bar, with the obligatory peanuts’ shells scattered across the floor, and then back into the warm, damp air for a short walk to Chijmes. Situated in an old convent, the restaurant’s name cleverly echoes the historical connection, ‘Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus’ (CHIJ) and is on Victoria Street. It featured in the comedy film Crazy Rich Asians, as did the Gardens by the Bay on the seaward side of our hotel. Interesting to understand that food comes when it’s ready, and if cooked by two or more different chefs, can be more than 10 minutes apart! And so it was, Mark’s pasta dish came ten minutes after my Nasi Goreng.

Some say that Singapore is a ‘nice dictatorship’ but when you experience this clean city, where chewing gum is banned and no one dares to drop litter, where individuals show a huge respect for each other, you begin to think ‘Why not?’ Walking back to MBS through the government district, high into the night sky to our right rose the skyscrapers of the central business district, whilst ahead MBS shone like a beacon of consumerism, extravagance and bling!

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Singapore draws you in, it’s so unique ……..  and it calls you back!

Richard 27th December 2019

PS In our room at MBS the search for an adaptor for charging the iPhone etc was cut short by spying this nifty little socket. EVERY hotel in the world should have one!

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3 thoughts on “PC 168 Singapore

  1. Oh what a bother that your PC has become populated with adverts – from AliBaba, Air China, etc etc … and cookies, whatever they do. How sad, Richard … what had always seemed like a private letter from you has lost that sense of privacy we all enjoyed. But yes, please keep going, but maybe change the platform? Michael Jones

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    1. I had no idea Michael! When Celina just went to the site she did initially see some advertisements and WordPress say ‘this is supported by advertising’ but if you go ‘read more’ you read the whole PC without seeing any.

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