24 Hours In Singapore
Pull up a barstool in Raffles and order a Singapore Sling. Go on, you know you want to do it...
Sunday 23 April 2006
Cool it in the Carlton café
07.00: Catching the sunrise is pretty cool, meteorologically speaking, but it isn't long before the Singapore sweat sets in, so pack plenty of shirts and tops as you'll be wringing them out throughout the day. The four-star Carlton Hotel, 70 Bras Basah Road (00 65 6338 8333; carlton.com.sg), where London's 2012 Olympics-winning team made their base, offers rooms from S$196 (£69) per night and does a substantial buffet breakfast at its Café Vic. Alternatively, you might prefer to wander around the KK Market in Little India watching the amahs - most middle-class Singaporean families have a servant or two - jostling for the bullock's penis. Apparently it makes a tasty stew. Then, if you have the stomach for it, breakfast at one of the hawker stalls on nasi lemak, a slice of omelette with coconut rice, anchovies, chilli and cucumber served in thin brown paper or on a banana leaf. Really delicious.
That smells a bit fruity...
10.00: Stroll slowly through Little India, which is the spiciest part of Singapore - in the aromatic sense. The smells can be inhaled along Serangoon Road, and the cobbled alleyways off it. There, tiny shops are packed with everything from the latest in hi-tech equipment to carpets and cosmetics - much easier on the nostrils than the seasonal whiff of durians, a fruit which is rapturously acclaimed by local people but banned in offices and other enclosed spaces.
Coffee and curry to go
11.45: A coffee and a curry puff from a street vendor won't dull the appetite for a light lunch at the famed Komala Vilas, 76/78 Serangoon Rod, (0065 6293 6980 komalavilas.com.sg). Fast food, south Indian style (try the dosai, a huge thin pancake used to mop up a variety of mild vegetarian curries), served up within three minutes and costing about S$5 (£1.80) a head - so cheap they won't take credit cards.
From Islam to orchids
12.30: Plenty of time left to explore the Islamic Quarter and Chinatown during the afternoon. Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive and you won't get harangued if you don't tip. The MRT (Mass Rapid Transport system) is state-of-the-art and the bus service is excellent, too, so you can easily find your way later to Singapore's best free show, the Botanic Gardens in Holland Road, to take tea among the fabulous orchids.
A quick sling in Raffles
16.00 On the way back freshen up at the hotel. You could stop off for some serious shopping in the many air-conditioned malls along Orchard Road. But while Singapore may be more cheerful than of yore, it is no longer cheap. Psstt? Looking for a fake Rolex? These days it is more likely the touts will try to sell you a real one. Raffles, world-famous for the Long Bar, which used to be the haunt of Somerset Maugham, is just across the road from the Carlton, and though the Singapore Slings are overpriced and the hotel is thoroughly modernised, there are still echoes of colonial snootiness.
I'll have a crispy black ant
19.00: The sun sets so suddenly that it could be daylight when you dive in for an evening swim at one end of the hotel pool and pitch dark when you finish the length. But if you are still feeling under the humid weather, enjoy this dinner with a difference. At the Imperial Herbal Restaurant, Metropole Hotel Level 3, 41 Seah Street (0065 6337 0491; metropole.com.sg), you are given not so much a menu, more a prescription. Where else in the world would the waitress inspect your tongue and take your pulse before you order? Tell her what ails you - anything from a headache to diabetes or arthritis - and she or a Chinese herbalist "consultant" (who for a small additional fee will also give you a check-up), will recommend what to eat - say codfish flambé with garlic and ginger to relieve fatigue. Mind you, the prospect of side dishes of pickled snake and deer's penis (is no male animal's appendage safe in Singapore?) may cause more stress to the prospective consumer than they are purported to relieve. Crispy black ants are apparently good for arthritis and a black chicken for PMT. For more orthodox well-being there's a dozen ways to enjoy great crab at Number 3 Crab Delicacy, 256 Outram Road (0065 6327 2148).
Live sex show - at the zoo
21.00: Now head for the Republic's only live sex show. The wonderful Singapore Zoo Night Safari (0065 6269 3411; nightsafari.com.sg) frequently seems to coincide with bonking time rather than feeding time, not least among the huge African elephants. Truly a sight to warrant a welcome nightcap back at one of the proliferating bars and bistros along the quayside where Singapore, which once insisted on short back and sides, now lets its hair down.
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