It is true what they say about Singapore airport as we breezed through and out to the MRT system. We were really excited. Unchaotic spic and span streets combined with clean air to give a completely invigorating change after four months in rough and ready India.
Singapore gleamed in the morning sunshine. This was our second time in this vibrant state and we were here to play. Orchard Road was quiet as the great hulks of hotels and shopping centres stirred from their easy slumber.
The guidebook described ‘Lloyd’s Inn’ as mid range and gave it their recommendation. It was 7.30 am when we were looking at it from the outside. Located on a quiet suburban street of low-rise modern apartments and smart houses, it was a typical 70’s style, American Motel. Miko turned her nose up.
“It really doesn’t look mid range does it?” she asked rhetorically.
Inside the poky and grubby reception, the desk clerk stared with surprise and didn’t bother to offer his help as they struggled through the doors.
“Check In isn’t till 12”, he stated.
A distressed Miko sighed. “We told you we’d be arriving early”.
“All rooms are full”, he replied.
“So we can’t look at one first then?” Miko declared.
We were already having second thoughts about the accommodation choice, and were ready to scream. Miko decided to check the listings for other options and to ring around. While Knox investigated the other hotels on the street. While he was away Miko’s eyes nearly popped out of her head at what she saw. From a guest room, a transvestite wearing pale pink panties, a matching bra, and fluffy pink-heeled slippers came tottering out to reception.
“Oh, I had such a fabulous night!” he said to the receptionist in his dramatically camp and exaggerated voice.
“I’m on a roll, I’ll take another night!” he giggled before turning on his heel back to his room.
Miko’s jaw near hit the floor as her mouth gaped open when another he-she wiggled in through the front door wearing a teeny-weeny bit of cloth one might loosely describe as a dress.
“Is this the back stage for the Gerry Springer show”, Miko thought as her stress levels quickly notched up.
“I’m not staying here!” Miko blabbered to a returning Knox, explaining the head turning moments he had just missed.
It didn’t take long for her story to be graphically enhanced when a scantily clad floozy sauntered in with a client, hands all over each other.
“This is a bloody hooker joint!” spat an irate Miko, as they dragged their bags back outside.
A taxi pulled up and dropped a person off. We didn’t hesitate and grabbed the attention of the driver. It was time to get the hell away from this bawdy house fast!
The check in delay was a blessing in disguise. These things happen for a reason. What a breath of fresh air the cab driver was. This fantastically cheerful man calmed them down after the stressful encounter and when he talked the pressure gauge dropped instantly. He picked up on the highly-strung atmosphere immediately and presented an insight into the importance of health.
“Money can come back again, but life can’t”, he soothed.
Digesting this, an uplifting feeling rose in our tired bodies. Heading in the general direction of the chosen two areas, he continued to chat happily about his family, being a taxi driver, and holidays. His attitude was relaxed concerning their indecision of where exactly to go. Instead of tutting or raising eyebrows, he offered more words of wisdom.
“Don’t think too much”, he smiled. “There are three very important things to remember when looking for a hotel”, he continued profoundly. “No 1, it has to be cheap, No’2, it must be clean, and No’3, it needs to be convenient”, we smiled and nodded in agreement.
“The three C’s. Cheap, Clean, Convenient”, he repeated again.
We laughed aloud.
“You see, don’t think too much!” the cab driver trumpeted as the lesson was learnt.
A calming aura and distinctive meaning to his words made one sit up and listen. The car drove up the wide Bencoolen Street, a 10-minute walk from Orchard Road. Breaking easily to a halt outside a cluster of hotels. Knox tried a few places, which happened to be full, but luck was in at the modern ‘Hotel 81’. This Singapore chain described itself as being for the budget conscious. The rooms were compact but comfy and contemporary.
The cost was a bit more than they had planned to spend but they weren’t going to extravagant lengths besides the words of the cabbie echoed in their minds as they gratefully accepted. Miko breathed easily taking in the phrase, ‘Money can come back, but life cant’, as a sign to shop till she dropped!
After a few hours kip, we were chomping at the bit to taste the atmosphere of Orchard Road, with its wide-open avenues, lined with plazas, posh hotels, and delectable restaurants. At 6pm this shopper’s paradise was buzzing. Thousands treaded the boulevard, with its clean, non-chewing gummed pavements and its profusion of grand modern architecture together with a parade of lavish designer labels, such as Tiffany’s, Versace, Gucci, and Prada. We steered clear of these egotistical brands preferring to commence in the surfing world of the Pacific Plaza that also boasted a magic hair salon, that ended Miko’s four month styling drought and glamorized her with a sexy bed-head look! It is easy to spend here in this bustling city. All palms are open at the ready to eagerly accept cash yet a relaxed ambience and politeness prevails. Apologies were forthcoming if one banged into someone else or crossed their path, a refreshing change compared to the ‘everyone for themselves attitude’ of many places around the world. With the first purchase procured, we crossed the road and entered the ‘Far East Plaza’.
A youthful energy resonated an electric charge through a warren of corridors where the clothes were unique and the prices a reasonable tag. Most shops were miniature but with a good eye, knack and style these Singaporeans turned them into cute boutiques full of imagination and flair, making use of every tiny bit of space.
Their rails and shelves were dressed with beautiful rare garments of silks, chiffon’s, and cottons accessorizing them with delicate silky rosebuds or rosettes. It was like a glittering Christmas box where heavenly surprises sprung out on every fingering of the apparel hanging. Like a step back in time, 1930’s French boudoir vogue was expressed by some of these chic outlets that used music, frills, and flowers to decorate the atmospheric mise-en-scéne. Miko was in her element and Knox was enjoying the ride. Bulging bags later, smug smiles and that healthy glow that consumer gratification gives we remembered the need to eat.
Eating out was a joy in Singapore. There was so much choice, it was always satisfying, and never disturbed the critic in us.
We dined at the alfresco tables of a small Tratorria set in a piazza among other restaurants and bars. Tasty pasta, bellismo pizza, scrumptious salads, fresh out of the oven breads, chilled beer and wonderfully fruity Italian vino pleased our appetite to a ‘T’. Oh Mamma Mia! The night didn’t stop there; one hasn’t been to Singapore if they don’t join in with the Singaporeans favourite pastime, karaoke!
We checked out the Plasma English Pub’, which had nothing in it to distinguish it was English at all. Except the singing language off course. The atmosphere was welcoming and friendly as we were quickly brought a large jug of beer to get us into the mood for a singsong.
“Here’s the song book”, chirped the young friendly waitress.
“Already!” we chorused, while looking at each other cringing. We were stone sober.
“Yes, have a look”, the waitress laughed.
Jeanette was in her early 20’s, and very interested to hear all about their adventures so far.
“I would love to travel the world, you are so lucky”, she enthused.
Jeanette was amazed when they told her they’d saved for the whole trip in a year, after eventually getting their arses into gear.
“Oh my god, how? Did you have a good job?” she exclaimed, and was stunned when we explained their humdrum, humble jobs with very average pay.
“Oh my god!” she expressed again with eyes wide and mouth ajar.
“I could never do that, so much bills to pay, and Singapore’s very expensive”.
“Don’t ever say you can’t do it, or it’ll never happen. We told ourselves that as well and wasted over 3 years”, Knox impressed.
“You need to get into focus, have a plan, stick it up in a place you’ll see everyday. Hold yourself to it”, Miko confirmed.
“I never thought of it that way”, Jeanette replied.
“Neither did we, but its common sense really”, Miko smiled.
“When I go home tonight, I’m going to do that”, stated Jeanette.
We loved to see that she was so excited.
“You guy’s are so lucky”, she said again walking on to serve someone else.
Miko wasn’t brave enough, or more to the point drunk enough to sing when the karaoke mikes were handed to them. Knox didn’t need the lubrication as he’d chosen his party piece ‘King of the Road’! Miko took a back seat while he vocaled out the words loud and clear at the comfort of their own table. There was no scary stage here and the crowd was so laid back, courteous and fun. There was not a boo in sight. Even with an echoey mike the clapping clientele cheered as Knox took a gulp of his beer on finishing.
The trip to Singapore wasn’t particularly about sightseeing. We had visited Sentosa Island, the pleasure park centred around the legend of the Merlion, taking a cable car ride, and checked a few other places of interest 5 years before. Once they had made preparations for their trip northward and unearthed more treasures on the Orchard road strip, we delved into the enchantment encapsulating Raffles Hotel. It’s sumptuous elegance and associations with literary greats such as Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham, had gripped our imagination. A colonial icon of a bygone era, its luxury was a testament to the wealth of this thriving trade cross roads orchestrated by its name giver ‘Sir Stamford Raffles’. Posing like a monument in its neo-renaissance architectural grandeur, the hotel battled with the latest state of the art high rises for the continuing influx of riches.
It was a breath of fresh air to see that even with all the modern tall glass structures around, the well spaced blocks still maintained areas of low key buildings along leafy avenues. In that respect Raffles was not totally dwarfed, and still attracted plenty of attention. We had wanted at some stage to spend a self-indulgent few nights in its ‘suite only rooms’. This time though we satisfied our curiously with a stroll in its interior gardens and resisting the temptation to fork out 20 dollars for its famous creation; the Singapore Sling. They had fun with the camera beside the tropical palms at its famous frontage were the doorman in his full British Raj-Regalia enhanced the old-world feel.
After a day of rest was spent sleeping and revitalizing our intoxicated bodies they arose for an early start happy in the knowledge that a month would see us return before their flight out.