SINGAPORE – STILL FASCINATING!

Originally published March 2020 – updated and expanded 23 March 2022

As international travel resumes to Singapore, I have updated and added to this story originally published when I began my blog last year.

Singapore is one of the first countries,since the Pandemic began, that has reopened to Australian vaccinated travellers without the need to Quarantine. Australians have been included in Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) where travellers from some countries only need a supervised self-swab Antigen Rapaid Test within 24 hours of arrival.

However, note that the Australian Government still urges travellers to maintain a high degree of Covid caution if holidaying in Singapore. Measures such as social distancing are being eased there this month. But, like the rest of the world, Singapore still has a Covid challenge. Masking continues to be regarded as a major measure to avoid Covid infection in Singapore. Hope my story below gives you a few tips for visiting this fabulous place – a vibrant small republic with one main island and 63 satellite islands!

Don’t let anyone tell you Singapore has lost its heart with ultra modernisation. Singapore’s soul is still there. You just have to shift your butt out of those high rise Western hotels, resorts and shops and look for it!

I first visited Singapore as a 19 year old in the early 1970’s when it was a regular flight stopover en route to Britain. As a young islander from the Australian State of Tasmania, I was very raw when it came to travel. Melbourne was the big smoke to me back then. Hadn’t ventured as far as Sydney!

So Singapore overwhelmed and delighted me – fulfilling my dreams of an exotic and exciting city. It’s safe to say that I was so enthralled with Singapore that it put me on the path to my many subsequent travel adventures. It was my first travel destination love.

On that trip, and a subsequent trip a few years later, I stayed in Orchard Road, searching out China Town, Bugis street and many of the other famous Singaporean attractions of the ’70’s. Singapore back then was very hip (still is)!

I have a photo of myself on the balcony of my hotel in the ’70’s with a beehive hairdo and wearing a fringed leather waistcoat over a roll neck jumper, complimented with fringed leather skirt and boots. I thought I was very cool. Oh dear! The young can deceive themselves!

A lot has changed since then. It’s still a fabulous city, but many people who knew it in the distant past feel Singapore has lost its old charm. I disagree. Singapore has an intoxicating blend of old and new, and the spirit of old Singapore is well and truely alive. Be prepared to explore, to seek out.

I’m not suggesting you ignore the ‘new’ Singapore. It’s too fabulous to do that. Drink in and enjoy the modern architectural delights of Singapore such as the amazing Marina Bay Sands hotel. During the last two years of the pandemic, many Singapore hotels have used the time to renovate and upgrade. Several new luxury hotels also opened last year, including The Clan, Duxton Reserve and Oasia Resort Sentosa.

Modern architectural icon – Marina Bay Sands hotel

One of my favourites, the historical 1800’s Raffles Hotel, began a major renovation in 2017, completing it in late 2019. Here, you will find a taste of the new and the old Singapore.

Famous people such as Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward and Charlie Chaplin have stayed here. Unfortunately, the guest list hasn’t included me (waiting for my Lotto win). But I have visited, enjoying its famous High Tea one afternoon in 2017, shortly before the hotel closed for its reno project.

I’m not sure what was in the tea, or if I was simply overloaded and unbalanced with the hotel’s delicious cakes and boutique sandwiches. But an hour after leaving, I tripped over air and broke my shoulder bone! “Tripped over air”. Isn’t that a delicious phrase. Not an original of mine, unfortunately. I heard it on the radio the other day and thought it perfectly described my Singapore fall.

There was this tiny step on the pavement. So tiny that it barely qualified as a step. And, self absorbed in taking photos as I walked, I failed to notice the change in terrain under my feet, and “tripped over air”!

My camera, hung over my shoulder, swung down ahead of me towards the pavement as I tumbled, and like any good camera parent, I instinctively hugged it in a protective embrace. Result – the camera was saved. My left shoulder took the pavement impact and fractured.

The perils of travel. I didn’t immediately realise the extent of my injury, presuming I had badly strained a muscle in my upper arm. I was in terrible pain, but we had a flight to Japan early the next morning. So subconsciously, I didn’t want to explore the possibility of an injury that might hinder that.

A visit to a chemist confirmed that Singapore has the most glorious array of effective heat patches I have ever seen. I downed a lot of panadol and even a little traditional Chinese medication as well, proceeding with my holiday as planned and not finally consulting a Doctor until my return to Australia three weeks later.

Along the way, I even managed a short cycling adventure in Japan that I had booked before leaving Australia. I am a nervous and wobbly cyclist at the best of times, but with one painful fractured arm that was somewhat useless, the cycle ride shows that I am either one determined traveller or simply doggedly stupid.

My injured arm took well over a year to recover, including a visit to the operating theatre when it morphed into a frozen arm.

This has not put me off visiting Sinapore again, and I’m especially looking forward to returning to the Raffles for a peek at the hotel (and perhaps more High Tea), hoping that its restoration has maintained its colonial heritage.

I enjoyed High Tea at the 1800’s Raffles Hotel in 2017, just before it closed its doors to renovate

It’s not surprising that I lost concentration in Singapore, too transfixed on photographing the scenery around me. I love both the modern and old faces of Singapore, a delicious multi cultural cocktail mix with a fascinating history.

Singapore’s wonderful character stands out more if you turn away from the main tourist places and search for treasures less known! It’s a matter of doing your research before you leave home. Or having a good local personal guide.

2017 AND A HISTORICAL LOW RISE HOTEL NEAR ORCHARD ROAD

On my 2017 Singapore visit, I looked for a hotel that had some of that famous old Singaporean character and history. I didn’t want to stay in a modern high-rise hotel. I found what I was looking for at the historical Goodwood Park hotel, close to Orchard Road. It’s a building that goes back to 1900 when it was the Teutonia Club for the expatriate German community.

Goodwood Park hotel – packed with Singaporean history!
Historical Goodwood Park had the first hotel swimming pool in Singapore

The hotel changed hands in 1918 and was renamed Goodwood Hall after the famous English racecourse. By 1922, it had become a restaurant entertainment centre. In that year, the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova performed there.

By 1929, it had become the Goodwood Park hotel, and by the end of the 1930’s, it was one of the best known hotels in Singapore attracting guests such as the Duke of Windsor and future King of England when he was still the Prince of Wales.

During WW2, the hotel was converted to a residence for high ranking Japanese soldiers. After the War, it was home to the British War Crimes Court before returning to hotel service. More trivia. It was the first hotel with a swimming pool in Singapore.

You can’t get too much ‘old Singapore’ than that! It’s expensive – but not in the realm of other ‘old’ hotels like the Raffles or the 1920’s built Fullerton, especially if you look out for a good deal! I got one dealing directly with the hotel, but it’s also worth checking other booking sites.

They do a High tea here if you can’t afford the one at the Raffles!

An old building in Katong

2019 and KATONG

In 2019 I returned, still on a quest to explore more of ‘old’ Singapore. No broken arm this time!

I headed to the ‘suburbs’ in the eastern part of Singapore, settling in at an upmarket hotel in the heart of the historical Katong district. Katong was home to the Peranakans (Chinese or Straits born Chinese), and popular with Eurasians. It was home to the wealthy elite in the late 19th century through to the mid 20th century. Today it offers a mix of cultures, wonderful preserved old buildings, and narrow lanes to wander where you’ll find traditional Peranakan crafts and cuisine.

The area is famous for its Katong Laksa (coconut curry rice noodles). I didn’t actually get to try the Laksa – I believe it’s quite spicy – but I did enjoy some great food there.


I enjoyed roaming the streets of Katong where you discover some of the oldest shops in Singapore, soak up the beautify of the old buildings and immerse yourself in a great community atmosphere. A taste of Singaporean history and culture worth seeking out.

Katong is only a 15 minute drive from the central city, and about the same distance to Changi Airport.

HOPE YOU ENJOY SOME OF MY OTHER KATONG PHOTOS BELOW

Don’t forget that if you are spending time in Singapore, there are some excellent tourist passes available. You’ll find the latest information about them at the site below:

Also SEE MY OTHER SINGAPORE STORY .. DEMPSEY HILL – SINGAPORE .. published March 2021

4 comments

  1. Such wonderful pictures of dizzying buildings and man-made structures! The Singapore hotel looks like it defies physics. Sorry to read about your injury, although glad your camera was spared.

    Like

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