Hunting for White Lions

Australian-born comedian Jonathan Atherton, a regular on the Singapore comedy scene, once joked that he loved Singapore and that he couldn’t wait to see what it would look like when it was finished.  He’s of course referring to Singapore’s ever changing sky (and shore) lines.  I had to laugh – because Singapore reminds me of a game I recently became addicted to on my phone called City Island.  You get a plot of land, build some houses, some shops, attractions and facilities, then buy some more land, build some more houses and some attractions and then you start to upgrade and replace them – a never ending game of upscale.

There’s always something new happening in Singapore.  I worked out this is my tenth trip to Singapore in just over a ten year period and every time I return, which in some cases has only been six months apart at most, there’s always a new attraction or some new upgrade, new restaurants or new shops.  And I think that’s why I love it so much.

From the minute I depart the airport, I anxiously scan the world outside the taxi cab windows for new gems.  For me it means the list of things to do in Singapore just never seems to near its end.  I’ve done loads of things in Singapore, and I always think “I’ll just relax this time”.  But then I start reading and next thing you know – well, there’s just not enough time to do everything, which means that I’ll simply have to come back again!

But for now, my plane has landed and the familiar landscape twinges at my heart and head with excitement.  For this trip, I am not alone, travelling with the lady who’s idea it was to come in the first place – Erin, and meeting up with my sister and brother in law, who arrive tomorrow, and will be undertaking their first international trip ever.  So I’m looking forward to whatever this trip will bring.

Ten minutes out of the airport, the cab driver informs us there is a new MRT line (the Downtown line), and a new expressway, part of which runs underwater and cost $4.3 billion, both of which have opened in the last week.  Work has already commenced on the second part of the Downtown line.

After checking into our hotel, the Carlton Hotel, we head for food paradise, stopping into the Tiffin Room at the famous Raffles Hotel for Christmas High Tea.  The Raffles Hotel is a stunning jewel in Singapore’s crown.  First opened in 1887 and immortalised by famous writers Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway and Alfred Hitchcock, the Raffles is a beautiful glimpse into Singapore’s regal, British Empire past.  Of course, as with most things during this time, the common population was unable to afford to visit the Raffles, and this much has not changed – with rooms at the Raffles starting at around $800 AUD per night.

High Tea 1

High Tea 2

So I am glad to be able to afford to fork out the cash to at least attend the high tea.  We are shown to our little table by the window and bought a three tiered tray littered with an assortment of finger sandwiches, pastries and desserts.  Which would have been enough, except there was also a buffet table scattered with fruits, more pastries and an assortment of Asian specialities such as pau, gyoza and dumplings.  The food is really good, and the atmosphere lovely, given we are seated behind a harpist.  Our glass of champagne completes the meal nicely.

I am glad that we have an evening of sitting down to follow this food fest, because I’m not sure I could spend much time walking around.  We have arranged to do the Christmas Lights Night Tour of Singapore this evening.  We are doing the tour with City Tours, which is a new thing for me, as I usually tour with Tour East in Singapore, so I’m interested to compare the service between the two.  We have a hotel pick up organised, which runs smoothly, however, when we get to the meeting point at the Flyer, it all seems so unorganised!  People are just milling around everywhere and there’s not much direction.  We seem to sit around forever, partly because we didn’t partake in the meal included with the ticket, due to our afternoon’s indulgences, but mostly because it just seems unorganised.

First stop on the tour is Gardens by the Bay.  I have visited here in the daylight, taking in one of the bio domes and wandering through the Supertree Grove, but this, all lit up against the night sky, is a whole different experience.  It is nothing short of stunning.  Each evening there is a light show which takes place (free) which attracts tourists and locals alike.

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The evening air is remarkably cool for Singapore, something I’ve not experienced here before.  Although I can tolerate the humidity of Singapore in return for the amazement I get from this city, this cooler Singapore is a welcome change.  Back on board the double-decker, open top bus, with the air blowing in our faces, our next destination is a drive down Orchard Road to glimpse the last days of Singapore’s annual Christmas light up.

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I’ve seen these Christmas lights twice before and didn’t think they held the magic of previous years, but for visitors from Perth – you’ll certainly be amazed at what Christmas holds in the tropics, and you’ll find the Christmas streets of Perth naked in comparison.

Our last stop for the evening is a cruise on the Singapore River, which is always a relaxing experience.  Tonight though, instead of the regular bumboat ride along the river, we board flash-looking new cruise boats, though still skippered by age-old Chinese captains – yes folks, Singapore has changed again.

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The night colours of Singapore just keep on improving, with each visit.  It’s an awesome sight to behold which adds to the magic of Singapore.  I couldn’t have thought of a more relaxing, carefree evening, but I think there are two girls who will sleep very, very well tonight!

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