Wednesday 28th November 2001, Singapore.

We had a bit of a battle with the hotel’s ‘original’ plumbing this morning. John decided to treat himself to a soak in the bath, only to find that both taps supplied hot water! (I hasten to add that, after a certain amount of experimentation, we did get cold water, and the problem never manifested itself again …)

After faffing about in the hotel for a while, we set out on our first full day’s sortie into downtown Singapore. John was keen to visit a WWII museum, but none was mentioned on our freebie visitors’ map. However, various tourist information centres were listed, so we picked the nearest (in Orchard Street) and struck out purposefully.

Having traversed several arterial roads and building sites, we eventually found ourselves at ‘Orchard Point Shopping Centre’, where the tourist office was supposed to be located. We spent several minutes touring the centre before concluding that no such tourist office existed. By this time we were both feeling extremely hot and sticky, so we ordered a couple of iced drinks and rested our legs in Starbucks.

The next nearest office was the other side of town, in the Chijmes compound. We must have walked straight past it last night. By the time we arrived there we were feeling thirsty again, and we were beginning to think about lunch. To John’s great annoyance, the tourist office was closed. Unsure what to do next, Brigid suggested heading for the nearest shopping mall to buy a guidebook. “OK”, said John, thrusting the freebie map at Brigid, “find us a bookshop!”

Brigid gestured feebly at the mall the other side of the road. John (by this stage enraged) took the map and stuffed in the adjacent bin! We then noticed that the newsstand just behind us had a fairly comprehensive stock of maps and guidebooks, clearly displayed in a rack – not five feet from where we were standing!

Armed with an AA Pocket Guide, we set off in search of lunch. Thinking of her waistline, Brigid had in mind something like vegetable chow mien, and suggested we try Chinatown.
John, still in noticeably bad humour, stamped off towards the bridge. In the event, we weren’t overly struck by Chinatown – mainly because most of the businesses were … Chinese! We hadn’t a hope of understanding the menus, or (as we discovered when we finally settled in a popular-looking café) making ourselves understood.

The result was that Brigid ended up with a truly horrid soup called Fish Maw, in which unidentifiable fish parts, noodles, and cabbage floated in an unappetizing watery broth.

John asked for chicken and noodles, but ended up with an equally unappealing soup. However, it did clearly contain pieces of white chicken meat and cabbage. Instead of noodles, John was given a bowl of plain rice.

We ate what we could, and moved on. At least, with the help of the guidebook, we had identified Singapore’s principal History Museum, so we made our way there, arriving just in time for a 3D show called “The Singapore Story”. Although the 3D effects were few and far between, they were quite good, and we found ourselves ducking involuntarily as we watched a ‘dog fight’ between two miniature planes. They swept over our heads, then “BANG”! One of them sustained a direct hit and exploded in a ball of flames. We flinched as debris (including the plane’s propeller) hurtled towards us. Later, a Japanese soldier stepped out of the screen and pointed his bayoneted rifle menacingly at the audience, before singling out his target (somewhere over our left shoulders), and firing! It was all good fun, and went a long way to restoring our sense of humour. After the film, we toured the museum, filling in the gaps where the show’s commentary was drowned out by the rousing orchestral score.

We had a delicious curry at the Shish Mahal restaurant next door to the hotel, which we then walked off by making another tour of the market.