I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that this will be the last part of this epic saga. I have a few days left to cover, but not too much stuff (I don’t think…) so fingers crossed everyone and lets see if we can get through it.
So, we’ve covered the wonder that was dinner in the carpark and have somehow struggled through to Thursday. This was the day of our long awaited trip to Bintan Island which, mercifully, was fairly uneventful. Bintan is an Indonesian island just under an hour off the coast of Singapore, and the holiday resorts stretching across its northern coast make it a popular holiday destination for Singaporeans. Because it was the school holidays we were a little worried that our hotel would be overrun with families and – even worse – children. Amazingly, however, we managed to pick some sort of mid-season low season for our visit, and there was hardly anyone in our hotel. We stayed at the Angsana which, it turns out, is a very posh hotel with its own private beach and some very nice restaurants. Safe to say that our stay, while short, was very sweet and a welcome rest from the madness that is Singapore.
In no time at all Sunday had, unfortunately, rolled around and we found ourselves back in the bustle of the big city. It’s not a nice shock to go from a practically deserted beach and your own private deck to suddenly being thrust back into crowds of people. I don’t really like people. My living choice probably wasn’t the smartest. Anyway, I digress. Back in Singapore we had precious few days before it was time for mum to leave, and we still had roughly 50,000 things to fit in. We had booked onto a WWII walking tour on Monday afternoon and, perhaps rather stupidly, had thought it a good idea to try and do the Botanic Gardens beforehand. I’ll come back to those, as they happened twice. The walking tour, however, was probably one of the best things we did in our whole 10 days. Organised again by Original Singapore Walks the tour took in the WWII history of the Changi area, on the far east coast of Singapore, and explored the horrors brought on by the Japanese invasion and eventual occupation after 1942.
First stop was the Changi Chapel and Museum. Located next to Changi prison, the museum covers the history of POW’s kept in Changi, and other locations in Singapore, after the Japanese invaded. The modern prison stands on the site of the old prison, and it’s a shame that the original building wasn’t preserved, but the museum has managed to save some artefacts from the old prison and covers the conditions suffered by the POWs throughout the war. The majority of my knowledge on WWII history is about what went down in Europe, so it’s fascinating to see so much on the war in the East. We couldn’t help feeling sad, though, at the Singaporean attitude to heritage and the preservation of history. Maybe I’m too used to Europe, where the majority of the major historical sites and brilliantly preserved, but the Singaporean desire for destruction and reinvention always saddens me. The motto of our tour seemed to be ‘now destroyed, on this site there used to be…’. It was almost a relief when we saw a previously historical site converted into a hotel, at least it’s still there. After the Changi museum and chapel (which, I forgot to mention, was elaborately decorated with biblical scenes by a POW, lost, rediscovered in the 60s and eventually restored by the same ex-POW that had decorated it in the first place) we visited the last remaining gun site from the Johor battery (the actual gun having been replaced by a replica, after the original was destroyed before the invasion) and Changi beach where one of the worst massacres of the Sook Ching took place. I tell you, war and militarisation makes people do some bad, bad things. I’ve managed to make this depressing now, so I’ll wrap up my history geek out by saying that, despite the apparently depressing nature of the material the walking tour was really very good and definitely worth the afternoon we dedicated to it. Yes, I’m sad that the few remnants of WWII history are so scattered around and unloved, but not everywhere is like Europe and I just have to live with that.
Before I move on to happier topics one more word on war. Our tour guide kept going on about the civilian war memorial at City Hall throughout our tour and, low and behold, on our way out the same evening we managed to stumble across it. And it is absolutely giant, and very, very impressive. I don’t remember exactly but I think it has the ashes of some of the Sook Ching victims buried underneath it. Don’t quote me on that though.
Post walking tour we needed to lighten the mood, and so designated Monday night as Singapore Sling at Raffles night. I’ve managed to avoid quite a few Mother’s Day’s recently and my penance was taking mum out for a very nice, but pretty expensive, Singapore Sling. I’ve been outside of Raffles Hotel before but our trip up to the famous Long Bar was the first time I’ve been inside. It’s basically everything you’d hope it would be: colonial style room, wicker chairs, actual fans on the ceiling (not ceiling fans, big handheld type fans that move about mechanically), a big, old looking bar and shutters on the windows. The Singapore Sling was also very good and it definitely helped that there was a never-ending supply of monkey nuts which you’re allowed to sling onto the floor to your hearts content.
Somehow we’ve already reached the last day (sort of). This was the day of shopping which, in classic style, we had down in about an hour flat, and of another trip to the Botanic Gardens. I say another trip because we had already gone, sort of, the day before, except that our trip was severely delayed by torrential rain and basically ended with us running around the National Orchid Garden because we had to get to the other end of the country for our walking tour. Despite the threat of dodgy weather and the unfortunate time constraints I was glad we’d taken the trouble to visit the Orchid Garden, I’m hardly an Orchid expert but there were some very beautiful plants and the coolhouse provided a much needed shelter from the horrific humidity. On our second trip to the Botanic Gardens we were, thankfully, granted a little more time. Although, not as much as we would have liked, due to the unfortunate fact that my shoe broke halfway there and I had to send my poor, long suffering mother back to the nearest shopping mall to hunt me down some new ones. And she hadn’t even managed to have her lunch. I am very cruel. Anyway, shoe-gate over and we finally made it to the Botanic Gardens for the second time in two days. On our first trip we got very overexcited by the wildlife in Swan Lake, particularly the turtles, and this time around I was convinced that I saw an alligator. Turns out it was just a very large monitor lizard but we did later see it running across the grass and into some bushes, which was pretty exciting. The second trip was mainly to see the Rainforest area of the gardens, which we took a leisurely wander through before wondering what we would do if one of the tigers which used to inhabit Singapore, when it was still covered in giant trees and mangroves, suddenly appeared out of the trees. The likely answer is run briefly before being eaten alive. I’ve been, briefly, to the gardens before, but this was my most extensive visit and I really liked it, particularly the mangrovy, overgrown secret paths and the Swan Lake.
With the end of our trip to the Botanic Gardens came the end of mum’s stay. I think it’s safe to say we did way more than I thought it was possible to fit into a week, and as much as I missed her after she left I was quite glad of the rest. However, there’s plenty left for us to do on her next visit, so you can expect another slew of posts as long as these in the near future.
Leah Out X