June 25, 2006 Singapore Flashback
Thirty-seven years ago I sailed into Singapore as a petty officer on the US Aircraft Carrier Hancock. I went ashore back then and walked around for a day. I remember three things from that visit: Orchard Road, The Singapore River, and Raffles Hotel. This year Judy and I decide to go looking for those same places in today’s Singapore.
Thirty-seven years ago Orchard Road was a narrow street which headed out of the city into the countryside. Back then I walked out Orchard Road until I was on a dirt road lined with small residential houses behind hedges and muddy runoff ditches. Orchard Road is now all high rises and upscale shopping malls. I don’t see any thing which rings a bell in my dusty memory lane on Orchard Road.
Thirty-seven years ago the Singapore River was a transshipment center for rubber exports. Sampans and lighters were loaded with bales of raw white rubber by skinny, mostly naked, Chinese coolies, and then unloaded onto ships waiting in the roadstead. As I wandered the back alleys at night back then I caught glimpses through doorways of the coolies reclined on narrow wooden benches, the thick smell of opium smoke mixed in the air with the exotic cooking smells from the streets. The Singapore River is now lined with trendy restaurants and skyscraping buildings of multinational banks, and tour boats ply its waters.
Thirty-seven years ago I walked into Raffles Hotel and had a Singapore Sling. I remember Raffles as a cool, quiet, shady, and very pleasant haven of relaxed elegance with more than a few impeccably dressed bell boys, waiters and concierges moving silently through the lobbies and bars, ready for the slightest glance or wiggle of a finger from one of brits who made up most of the guest list and whom were always seen lounging nearby. At Raffles Hotel this week I experienced a flash back: It’s the same as I remember it. Judy and I wandered in, sat in big chairs in a cool inner courtyard, and each had a glass of white wine. White-hatted chefs prepared exotic foods under a green awning, bartenders swizzled drinks in tall iced glasses, and waiters hovered nearby. It was a nice flash back. I saw the Singapore Sling on the drink menu, and I remembered it from 1969, but we’d already ordered our wine.
Maybe in another 37 years we’ll go back again and have that Singapore Sling.
Click here for another Singapore view
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Singapore