Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Archive for the ‘Singapore’ Category

The Little Prince, artwork at the Fullerton Hotel

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 31, 2015

Artheline is the signature of artists Arnaud and Adeline Nazare-Aga, whose stunning sculptures – inspired by the original illustrations in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery – are on display in the Fullerton Hotel.

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Posted in Singapore 2015 | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Singapore, Saturday May 30th 2015

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 30, 2015

Fullerton HotelWell, here we are in Singapore, en route to the UK and Europe.  The flight was uneventful and as always with Singapore Airlines, the service was faultless.  Even the food is edible!

We are staying at the Fullerton Hotel, which is very grand.  There were two Rolls Royces parked outside when we arrived (in a Toyota Camry taxi).  This is the last of the grand hotels that we’ll be enjoying in Singapore: now that we’ve had a night at Raffles (which was lovely) and another at the Marina Bay Sands (too crowded, too noisy) we shall in future be staying in less expensive places.  But it is a lovely way to start a holiday, especially when there is a 14-hour long haul next, to London.

courtyardroomWe have a courtyard room, which is spacious and comfortable and deliciously cool.  Through the window we can look down to the courtyard which is where we had afternoon tea last time we were here in Singapore.  We went there again tonight for some splendid patisserie after we’d had a rather ordinary Chinese meal along the river.  I couldn’t help thinking of Masterchef as I tucked into a scrumptious chocolate bombe, washed down with a nice glass of Baileys…

It’s only nine o’clock here but it’s after eleven Melbourne time, so it’s time to curl up with a book in bed.

Posted in Europe 2015, Singapore 2015 | Tagged: , | 10 Comments »

High tea at the Fullerton Hotel, Singapore 2012

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 20, 2012

The plan for today was to visit the Art & Science Museum – but what a let-down that turned out to be!  There were two special exhibitions: the Harry Potter one, which didn’t interest us at all, and the Andy Warhol one, (of mild interest) and the 4th floor science display, which was what we really wanted to see.  However, you could only get into the science display if you bought a ticket for Harry Potter or the Andy Warhol, so that’s what we did.  And then we went up to the 4th floor.

The display consisted of two rooms with interactive screens that projected stuff onto the walls.  There was not one fossil, or rock, or coin, or exhibit of any kind.  It was all completely digital.  The stuff that was projected onto the walls was complete drivel, and it took us less than half a millisecond to work out that the place was a complete waste of time.   What a shame that kids who are interested in science might be fobbed off with this place!

Anyway, we then went down to see the Andy Warhol exhibition which was quite interesting but not $15 worth of interesting.

So we cut our losses, crossed over the bridge and took a short walk along the esplanade.  It was rather hot so we went into the first available building which turned out to be the Esplanade Mall.  It was deliciously cool, there was a nice place called Loola’s for a restorative cup of tea, and upstairs where the concert halls were, there was also a library!

From there we continued along the waterfront until we reached The Fullerton, a grand hotel which was the Post Office, pre war.  We had planned to have lunch there, but it turned out that they offered High Tea in The Courtyard, with a glass of champagne and music from a grand piano.   So that’s what we had instead, and very nice it was too.

We have to check out of here at 11.30 pm tonight, for our 2:30 am flight to Moscow.  Such are the hardships of the long-haul Aussie traveller, I hope they wake us up if we nod off in the departure lounge!

Update (back at home)

On reflection, I might have been a bit harsh about the Art and Science Museum.  It stands to reason that not every city can have a grand science collection – the major museums of the world already have most of it, and since most of the great discoveries in science happened in Europe, it stands to reason that early chronometers and steam engines and whatnot belong where they are, not in Singapore.  Singapore is a young country and it doesn’t have a history of hordes of amateur gentlemen naturalists and paleontologists pillaging the world for specimens either.  A collection of any significance would have to be bought, probably at vast expense, assuming that it were possible to acquire something worth having.

When it comes to more recent discoveries in science – bio and nano-technologies and advances in physics that I don’t even know the names of – Singaporeans may have played a part in these advances, but it’s hardly the kind of science you can bung in a glass cabinet for kids to pore over.  I’ve seen the Wellcome Exhibition in London, showcasing medical discoveries and I have to say that it’s not nearly as interesting as the fossil collections or the stuffed extinct animals.

A digital museum actually makes sense in that context.  Ok, you can’t have the British Museum or even the Melbourne one in Singapore.  And it’s probably not worth the expense and effort of having a token traditional science museum.  But maybe you can have a digital alternative with animals and interactive thingies that can generate interest in science and explain key concepts.  Maybe to the digital generation, (especially if they haven’t been to what I call The Real Thing) those images projected on the wall are appealing.  Maybe I’m not their demographic!

Posted in Dining out, Museums, Singapore 2012 | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Singapore 2012

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 20, 2012

Well, here we are in Singapore, en route to Russia.  It’s been a long day.

We’re staying at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, and yes, it is the most spectacular hotel in Singapore but it’s not quite our kind of place.  We are on the 24th floor, and the view is gorgeous, but as soon as you step outside the peace and quiet of your room, there are people everywhere.   Like Chadstone at Christmastime on steroids!

We ventured upstairs to the Skypark to check out the restaurants but abandoned it very quickly and went in search of somewhere quieter.  After a whole day on the plane we were much too tired to explore very far, but eventually we found a place called High Society which was a bit more serene.  The food was forgettable, which is not what you expect in Singapore, but by then we didn’t care very much.

Back up in the room with the harbour lights twinkling, it feels more relaxed.  Tomorrow is another day!

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Singapore History & Art Museums, Wed 22.9.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 24, 2010

Our body clocks were still on Melbourne time so we started off our day in Singapore at five in the morning but loafed around in luxury and had a late breakfast. Even so, it was still comparatively cool (for Singapore) when we set out for our visit to the National Museum of History. It’s housed in the lovely building you can see at right, but has been recently renovated. We enjoyed ourselves, but in my opinion they have overdone the hi-tech at the expense of providing the visitor with any useful information. 

The visit begins with a long and utterly pointless tramp down a long pathway to the bowels of the building. It probably symbolises going back into the past, but for small children, the elderly or inform, it doesn’t offer anything except a long walk. There’s nothing to look at en route, and the welcome on the obligatory audio gadget was just annoying. 

Even more annoying is that when you get to the galleries there are no print explanations about the exhibits, only the audio which is slow and not particularly informative. For each gallery there is a dumbed down introduction, and then for each numbered item in a cabinet there’s more information if you program in the item number – but it’s a slow and tedious way to find out anything. Unless you’re prepared to stand there and load up each segment for each item you miss a lot, and there aren’t any serendipitous discoveries, which is one of the things I really like about museums. We came out not knowing much more about Singapore’s history than we did at the beginning (That is that it began as a trading centre, then became a British colony, followed by Japanese occupation, squabbles with Malaysia and Independence.) We much preferred the Asian Civilizations Museum which we visited last time. 

However, quite by accident, we then stumbled into one of Singapore’s best Chinese restaurants. We’d worn ourselves out by the time we’d walked to and around the museum and it was time for a late lunch – but the most prominent of the museum’s restaurants offered disappointingly European fare. Tucked away behind the obvious places is Chef Chan’s Restaurant, and it was here that we had the best Chinese food we’ve ever had. (And that includes a meal at the Flower Drum in Melbourne.) 

We couldn’t resist menu D, which offered the steamed sliced frog with red date and black fungus and ginger onion. It was a fascinating dish (though tricky to eat with chopsticks)   

Prawns with green beans

 

Frogs and fungus

 

 but it was the sauteed beef with snow peas, celery and black pepper sauce which really impressed. Perfectly cooked, and perfectly balanced in terms of texture and taste. A truly memorable meal. 

 

Our next stop was the Singapore Art Museum, housed in what used to be a massive boys’ school run by the De La Salle Brothers. It’s a young gallery so the focus is on contemporary artists and were most impressed by the exhibit of Cheong Soo Pieng’s works. He’s an extraordinarily versatile artist and his work is influenced by his travels throughout SE Asia. 

Back at Raffles to collect our bags we had a cocktail at the famed Writers’ Bar to while away the hours before our flight. The bar is a salute to writers who have stayed at or written about the hotel, my favourites being Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham George Bernard Shaw. It was in honour of these writers that on my first visit in 2005 I had bought a little souvenir key chain, and – having mislaid it, I was disappointed to find that I could not buy a replacement because they were no longer making them. 

When we were checking out and were asked if everything was satisfactory (how could it not be?!) I mentioned this disappointment as a joke. No problem, said the manager, and vanished off to the shop despite my protestations. He was back before long and produced one of these lovely key chains as a complimentary gift. It was the second-last one they had and it’s a collector’s item because they’re re-designing them. I’m going to take very good care of this one! 

It was all downhill from there. Changi airport has all manner or luxury goods for sale but the food hall for dinner between check-in and departure is very ordinary and we ended up picking at some rather dull sushi in a far corner of the airport. It was a very long day before we finally boarded our 11.05 flight to London…

Posted in Dining out, LitLovers pilgrimage, Singapore 2010 | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Raffles, Singapore, 21.9.10

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 21, 2010

Well, here we are in Singapore and it hasn’t taken us long to get used to the high life here at Raffles! There are complimentary drinks (we – yes, predictably – chose Singapore Slings); complimentary chocolates; a complimentary Moon Cake; and even a complimentary mini tea-set, which is rather sweet and a nice way to welcome us when it’s their Moon Festival, eh?

 The room is gorgeous. It’s a Palm Court Garden suite, and it’s almost the size of a an apartment or small house. There is a lounge furnished with suitably colonial furniture, a massive bedroom, and a bathroom bigger than my library at home. The ambience is just like those Graham Greene novels you’ve seen on screen except that there’s air-conditioning as well as ceiling fans. We even have our own butler to look after our every need. I don’t have the heart to tell him to stop calling me Mrs Harding!

The flight was uneventful. Screaming babies were a long way away, and the service on Singapore Airlines is always first class even if you’re in economy. I started reading Sarah Dunant’s Sacred Hearts, an airport novel for the lover of the Italian Renaissance, while Tim read up on Spanish cities on his iPad, and it seemed we were here in no time. A most voluble taxi driver pointed out the latest in architectural splendours on the Singapore skyline, but what I love about this city is the profusion of flowers and greenery contrasted against crisp white buildings. Singapore is a truly beautiful place and we are going to have a lovely time when we go out and about tomorrow.

Posted in Singapore 2010 | 4 Comments »

Singapore Sep 21-22

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 11, 2010

Our body clocks were still on Melbourne time so we started off our day in Singapore at five in the morning but loafed around in luxury and had a late breakfast.  Even so, it was still comparatively cool (for Singapore) when we set out for our visit to the National Museum of History.  It’s housed in the lovely building you can see at right, but has been recently renovated.  We enjoyed ourselves, but in my opinion they have overdone the hi-tech at the expense of providing the visitor with any useful information. 

The visit begins with a long and utterly pointless tramp down a long pathway to the bowels of the building.  It probably symbolises going back into the past, but for small children, the elderly or inform, it doesn’t offer anything except a long walk.  There’s nothing to look at en route, and the welcome on the obligatory audio gadget was just annoying.  Even more annoying is that when you get to the galleries there are no print explanations about the exhibits, only the audio which is slow and not particularly informative.  For each gallery there is a dumbed down introduction, and then for each numbered item in a cabinet there’s more information if you program in the item number – but it’s a slow and tedious way to find out anything.  Unless you’re prepared to stand there and load up each segment for each item you miss a lot, and there aren’t any serendipitous discoveries, which is one of the things I really like about museums.   We came out not knowing much more about Singapore’s history than we did at the beginning (That is that it began as a trading centre, then became a British colony, followed by Japanese occupation, squabbles with Malaysia and Independence.)  We much preferred the Asian Civilizations Museum which we visited last time.

 However, quite by accident, we then stumbled into one of Singapore’s best Chinese restaurants. We’d worn ourselves out by the time we’d walked to and around the museum and it was time for a late lunch – but the most prominent of the museum’s restaurants offered disappointingly European fare. Tucked away behind the obvious places is Chef Chan’s Restaurant, and it was here that we had the best Chinese food we’ve ever had. (And that includes a meal at the Flower Drum in Melbourne.)

 We couldn’t resist menu D, which offered the steamed sliced frog with red date and black fungus and ginger onion. It was a fascinating dish (though tricky to eat with chopsticks) but it was the sauteed beef with snow peas, celery and black pepper sauce which really impressed. Perfectly cooked, and perfectly balanced in terms of texture and taste.  A truly memorable meal.

Our next stop was the Singapore Art Museum, housed in what used to be a massive boys’ school run by the De La Salle Brothers.  It’s a young gallery so the focus is on contemporary artists and were most impressed by the exhibit of Cheong Soo Pieng’s works.  He’s an extraordinarily versatile artist and his work is influenced by his travels throughout SE Asia.

Back at Raffles to collect our bags we had a cocktail at the famed Writers’ Bar to while away the hours before our flight.  The bar is a salute to writers who have stayed at or written about the hotel, my favourites being Joseph Conrad,  Somerset Maugham George Bernard Shaw.  It was in honour of these writers that on my first visit in 2005 I had bought a little souvenir key chain, and – having mislaid it, I was disappointed to find that I could not buy a replacement because they were no longer making them.  

When we were checking out and were asked  if everything was satisfactory (how could it not be?!) I mentioned this disappointment as a joke.  No problem, said the manager, and vanished off to the shop despite my protestations.  He was back before long and produced one of these lovely key chains as a complimentary gift.  It was the second-last one they had and it’s a collector’s item because they’re re-designing them.   I’m going to take very good care of this one!

It was all downhill from there.  Changi airport has all manner or luxury goods for sale but the food hall for dinner between check-in and departure is very ordinary and we ended up picking at some rather dull sushi in a far corner of the airport.  It was a very long day before we finally boarded our 11.05 flight to London…

Posted in Singapore 2010 | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

10 Things I Learned About Singapore

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 20, 2005


1. Singapore defines itself as a ‘young’ country. According to our tour guide, its history starts with its independence and its colonial past survives only in the historic buildings. For Australians, this is a bit confronting, because The Fall of Singapore to the Japanese in WW2 is one of the defining moments of our history.
2. On the other hand, they celebrate Raffles as a man who saw the potential of the place as the crossroads of Asia. The plaque on his statue reads ‘On this historic site Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles first landed in Singapore on 28th January 1819 and with genius and perception changed the destiny of Singapore from an obscure fishing village to a great seaport and modern metropolis.’
3. It’s an interesting mix of fiercely competitive private enterprise and government intervention. Their economy is based on tourism, finance, trade, biotechnology and education, and it’s a city of merchants, with a tax rate of 2.5%. The government, however, pays women to have babies and offers a $S30 000 subsidy to couples buying a home of their own if they take their parents with them. It also spends a good deal of money painting and upgrading public housing so that it always looks nice and doesn’t detract from the shining clean and modern image that Singapore presents to the world.
4. In a curious deference to world opinion, their Year 12 exams are examined in Cambridge. The rationale is that this gives the qualifications credibility and acceptance all over the world, which they might not otherwise have.
5. Their national language is English, not an Asian language, though children must learn other languages at school. Very pragmatic.
6. Grace Kelly stayed at Raffles.
7. The old Supreme Court Building has a dome like St Paul’s Cathedral. The new Supreme Court Building looks like a space dish.
8. Singapore never stops rebuilding itself. There are always cranes on the horizon.
9. Everyone seems to take great pride in what they do. People with the most menial of jobs – cleaning a glass shelf, for instance – could be seen doing their work carefully and with attention to detail. No surly taxi drivers, no cranky shop assistants or waiters. Their airline service is fantastic. It’s very pleasant, and it’s not just in expensive hotels and restaurants.
10. There are more museums and an art gallery to visit on our next stopover!

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Singapore: High Tea at Raffles 27.9.2005

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 19, 2005


Here we are in the most famous hotel in Singapore, in the Tiffin Room. That’s a Singapore Sling, the real thing this time, in a glass with the Raffles logo on it. This is the recipe: 30ml gin; 15 ml cherry brandy; 120 ml pineapple jiuce; 7.5ml Cointreau; 7.5ml Dom Benedictine; 10ml Grenadine; dash of Angosture Bitters, garnished with a cherry and slice of pineapple.
We took High Tea International, a smorgasbord of finger food from Malaysia, India, China and good old Britain. Not exactly as it would have been in Somerset Maugham’s day, but close enough – as I discovered when I foolishly chose a sandwich which turned out to be made with Peck’s Paste.
Like much else in Singapore, Raffles is all white lattice and palm trees. The waiters wear crisp white linen suits, the napery is white, and the service is superb. And after enjoying a scrumptious tea, there’s the Raffles Museum to explore, full of fantastic memorabilia. Wonderful old postcards and photos from the 1930s in its heyday in society. Naturally there is a souvenir shop, where I bought some Raffles coasters to use in The Left Wing and a copy of the Raffles Cookbook for my beloved Tim so that he can recreate these splendid meals at home.

There is also the Writers’ Bar, named for Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad amongst others. I wonder if I could get an Australia Council grant to write The Great Australian Novel there??

Posted in Dining out, LitLovers pilgrimage, Singapore 2005 | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Singapore: Asian Civilisations Museum 27.9.05

Posted by Lisa Hill on November 16, 2005

After a good night’s sleep in the lap of luxury we made an early start for the Asian Civilisations Museum. (http://www.nhb.gov.sg/ACM/acm.shtml We had a terrific tour guide, Sandra, who showed us around the museum in Empress Place. (There are two, the other one covers a later period in Singapore history). Her theme was the voyages of a C13th Chinese admiral who made seven voyages before there was a change of emperor and all trade and contact with other countries was shut down. The emperor ordered that all records about the admiral be burnt, so all that is known about him is from records of places that he visited and from journals of those on the journey.
She showed us beautiful Chinese artefacts including an imperial bowl with a seal so fine that only the user could see it, and some less fine quality porcelain made for trade. There was also a bowl for a Sumatran emperor and some chinoiserie that my mother would love!
Singapore, she said, was a place between the two great civilisations of India and China, so there are elements of both cultures in some artefacts – like a Buddha with a top-knot, and on Chinese pottery, the Hindu swastika, for them, a symbol of hope for happiness. Islamic culture was influential too, because of their interest in continuing to develop knowledge during the European Dark Ages. There was a book of medicines, a pharmacopia, and navigation tools – which were developed because Muslims need to be able to orientate themselves towards mecca.
There was also a wonderful display of the Tang Ship, the wreck of an Arab dhow discovered only in 1998 and the contents restored and put on display. Wonderful pottery, especially the green splashware which I’d never seen before. There was a ewer with a lion’s head stopper, and some enchanting soup bowls which had tiny 3D animal figures in the bottom of the bowl… perhaps to encourage children to finish eating their dinner??
Definitely a place to visit again on a Singapore stopover.

Posted in Museums, Singapore 2005 | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »