Today’s plans revolved around getting ourselves to Gateway so we could join Becky for lunch in the nearby Kampong Glam area, the Malay Muslim quarter. As a result we decided to plan a route that would include some of the areas that we were denied yesterday as a result of the machinations of Formula One.
We therefore headed from the apartment towards the river and joined the riverside walk at Clarke Quay. This is an area of varied eateries with the focus on the river, with its river taxis and river trips. We particularly admired the signs on the hoardings around one new development which seemed to sum up the spirit of Singapore, ‘Look out for the next change …’ and ‘Upgrade in progress ….’. As we headed east along the river we finally reached the Parliament House, recognising in the distance the Victoria Theatre and the Asian Civilisations Museum that we had encountered yesterday. Just past the Parliament we came upon the copy of the Raffle’s statue at the point of his initial landing in Singapore and admired the stepped riverbank on the opposite side, with the restaurants of Boat Quay.
Following North Bridge Road we skirted the Grand Prix enclave, marked by the yellow fencing, past the new and old Supreme Court and arrived at St Andrew’s Cathedral. A dominating Victorian Gothic structure, its interior was cool and quiet, despite the wide open doors and windows. After a short period of meditation we moved on and came across the Raffles Hotel, our goal of yesterday, which we used as a short cut. Although we could not access the lobby we were able to wander through parts of this imposing edifice and enjoyed a visit to the billiard room.
From here it was only a short step along Beach Road to the Gateway where we met Becky, who led us to the Kampong Glam Café for a delicious Arab style lunch. Over our repast we discussed plans for the afternoon and decided that China Town was a realistic prospect as it was conveniently on bus routes. Lunch was extended by virtue of our first torrential tropical downpour, which thankfully started just as we had paid the bill and lasted only 10 minutes or so. On our way to the bus stop we passed the Sultan Mosque and visited the distinctive Art Deco skyscraper at Parkview Square. This is a remarkable building, worth a visit for the quality of the Art Deco decoration and the height of the ceiling of the ground floor bar area.
Careful instructions from Becky ensured that our first use of Singapore buses was painless and we alighted near Cross Street. Passing the Jamae Mosque, with its distinctive twin pagoda gateway, and the Sri Mariamma Temple, we visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple with its extravagant gold decorated interior and myriad statues. We then wandered the street market to the Chinese Heritage centre, which recorded the experiences of the immigrants to Singapore and which contained a fascinating reconstruction of the interior of a typical shophouse, with the residential floors subdivided into cubicles which housed whole families.
By this stage we felt that we needed a rest so returned to Becky’s by an easy bus journey up River Valley Road, past the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.
Serendipity now takes a hand as we are given two tickets for the Padang grandstand for tonight’s practice session. Becky’s friends, visiting for the Grand Prix and also staying with her, decided that arriving after a 16 hour flight, including 2 hours delayed, they were not going to be in a fit state to enjoy them. As a result, come 9.30pm we hail a taxi and return to the Parliament House to enter via gate 4. Unfortunately this was closed so we finally entered the Padang via gate 5, our exit of last night. At least we knew the way. We enjoyed an hour of watching the F1 cars zoom past before we returned to our bed, having also revelled in the experience of seeing Singapore by night, in all its illuminated glory, including a laser show from the Marina Bay Sands.