|If you feel you’ve missed out on
celebrating the Birthday of the Monkey god or Dragon Boat Festival or
perhaps the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts and the Mooncake Festival,
I’ll tell you how to make up for it.
In a word, the answer is Singapore.
You may be surprised when you first arrive. The city is
large, modern and spotless. It’s like no other place in the world. You
can be fined for throwing a cigarette butt in the street or spitting out
your gum. You can be fined for jay walking. That may apply to other cities
but in sunny Singapore they take it very seriously. In a city of 3 million
prosperous natives, million dollar condos are considered cheap and
Singapore boasts the highest per capita consumption of Mercedes Benz cars.
Here you can shop till you drop and when natives are not shopping,
they’re eating. The number of restaurants is staggering. There is an
eclectic blend of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and western-style restaurants.
Many are in the conservative areas like Tanjong Pagar, Boat Quay and
Clarke Quay. There are ships arriving daily from all over the world and
the airport, like the rest of the city is first class. Even their
skyscrapers rival those in other cities in Asia and America. Modernity is
the key and while ancient daching scales are still used to calculate
weight and price of pearls, the computers are king in commercial centers.
This independent entity covers over 250 square miles and
owes its design and modernity to two individuals. The first was Sir
Stamford Raffles, its founder, who bought the island from its Malay ruler
in 1819 in order to set up a trading post. His free port rapidly grew on
the east-west trading routes. It is no longer a sleepy village.
After independence in 1965, the driving force behind Singapore’s success
was Lee Kuan Yew who, as Prime Minister until 1990, led the people from
rural slumber to a high-tech awakening. This grandson of a Chinese coolie,
held a double degree in law from Cambridge University and created a
community with a standard of living second only to Japan. He and Raffles
created a well-ordered society with religious and racial tolerance. The
city is a true ‘garden’ with 3 million people of all cultures. While
Malay is the official language, English is heard almost everywhere.
Service is ‘efficient’ and everything works, even the police, so watch
out for that cigarette or gum. That applies to buses, elevators, theatres
and chopping centers or air-conditioned restaurants. And speaking of
theatres, Western entertainment is very much alive there. People like
Pavarotti, Simon & Garfunkel, Michael Jackson, Elton John, and Eric
Clapton have performed to great crowds. Cats, Les Miserables and Evita
played to rave reviews. My choice was a local show with Malay dancers and
traditional music. Some of the hotels offer this as dinner entertainment,
and the food is memorable.
There are things to see and do including such exotic
things as a visit to the Reptile Park, Night Safari, Crocodilanium,
Underwater World or impressive Zoo. There is even an exotic Botanical
Garden. Add to this, well-trimmed golf courses and nearby beaches and you
have a holiday for the whole family.
Singapore is in a ‘growth triangle’ linked to Johur
state in Malaysia and Riau islands in Indonesia. While the temperature is
generally between 75 and 88 F, I found it humid if not hot, but remember
it is almost on the equator. July and August are the warmest months.
Rainfall is most abundant from November to January. Light summer wear is
most practical. It is 16 hours ahead of Pacific Coast time. As a duty free
port, it combines cosmopolitan ambience with the best of Asian
My knowledge of Singapore had to do with stories I had
heard about the local gentry sitting around the Raffles Hotel sipping
Singapore Slings while the Japanese closed in on them in WWII. I could
picture the British gentry sitting in huge wicker chairs discussing the
invasion under slow moving ceiling fans. Of course, I headed to Raffles
and the famous “Long Bar” for my over-priced Singapore Sling. At
almost $20 per drink, one can imagine the profit when the drink is mostly
juice and they sell an average of 1000 per day. The mixture comes from a
tap, pre prepared to formula. Fruit and swizzle sticks are added, and
voila, a Singapore Sling where it was invented. Would it taste
differently? I’ll never know. I watched my wife enjoy hers but being the
he-man that I am, I ordered beer. It was a fun experience though not
because of the drinks. On the bar were large baskets of peanuts in the
shell. This is the only place in Singapore that you are ‘allowed’ to
throw the shells on the floor. Because it’s a no-no in the rest of the
city, it was a greater pleasure for me. The place was crowded and it was
cool. I enjoyed it as a place I knew about in history.
The Long Bar is in the Raffles Hotel at #1 Beach Road.
It’s part of a first class hotel with 104 suites, 12 restaurants and
bars offering Asian and local food. Other facilities include a health
club, ballroom and shopping arcade. It’s pricey but a different
If the $15 Passenger service Charge is not incorporated
into your air ticket, you will be required to pay it during check-in
You can see your travel agent of Fax the hotel for a
reservation at 65-3397650. There’s also a Sheraton Hotel with 404 rooms
or a less expensive room at the YMCA Orchard Street #1.
It might be wise to contact Singapore tourist Board
office in Los Angeles Tel; 1 323 852 1901 or in New York at 212 302 4861.
They will send you material to help plan your stay. Enjoy your stay. Visit
Raffles and watch those cigarette butts. First offenders may be fined up
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)