Report from Tomorrow - Vol 28

1USD = S$1.69 (S$1 = 0.60USD)

Singapore Slings

Most people know next to nothing about S'pore (including us before coming here) and for some, the phrase "Singapore Sling" describes their complete knowledge of the subject. This drink became well known because the author Sommerset Maugham supposedly did some of his writing while drinking Singapore Slings in the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel here in Singapore.

So after we arrived here, Mary decided we had to go there sometime and she could have a Sling and I'd take a picture of her. Fine, whatever. So this summer we had good friends visiting S'pore and we called them at the hotel and when prompted where to meet, we said "The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel".

The Raffles Hotel is named after Sir Raffles who played such an influential role in the early English history of the island. (Mind, you, he gets lots of credit for things, but we have already stayed here longer than he did. Go figure.) It is a huge white establishment (one block square) in the heart of downtown S'pore. It's not a particularly tall building, but by reputation, history and pricing is the snobbiest place in town that we know of, at least.

There are several drinking places in Raffles. The Long Bar on the second floor is not particularly large, nor is the bar particular impressive. But it is a pleasant irregular shaped room filled with comfortable furniture surrounding tiny tables. The Long Bar serves baskets of small Asian peanuts which you are encouraged to eat and leave the mounds of peanut shells on the table or floor - apparently something else it is famous for.

Our friends were late arriving because when they first arrived and asked for directions to the Long Bar, the doorman, taking one look at the informal clothes they wore, directed them outside and around the block to a side entrance - rather than take the shorter walk through the main lobby - or at least that's the story they told us. :-)

Not to worry, we were together finally. Our friends were accompanied by their two boys, now grown into fine young adults. So we six sat in the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel and ordered S'pore Slings - well, I had a lime juice. We chatted amiably, eat peanuts, tossed some shells on the floor and caught up on our personal news - and had a very pleasant afternoon.

Of course the first order of business was to document the event, so I took Mary's picture holding her S'pore Sling. We continued sitting there for the next few hours, talking, laughing and sometimes ordering more drinks. Finally, it was time to leave for supper somewhere and we called for the bill - which left us simply stunned when we read the total of S$168!!

An analysis of the bill showed the nature of the damage. I've written before how expensive drinks are here and Raffles, as one would might expect, is the leader of the pack in this too! I only had one lime juice and the boys had been gone for half the time, so it wasn't like people had been doing hard drinking. In retrospect we actually had a small warning. While we were waiting for our friends, we looked at the snack menu and observed that the cheapest item was S$6 for a couple of pieces of garlic bread.

So it was another one of those "once in a lifetime experiences", something to tell your kids about - how we had a few drinks and tossed peanut shells on the floor in the Long Bar of the S'pore Raffles Hotel. This is undoubtedly how such places continue to maintain the folklore that goes with a place like Raffles.

So if you come visit us in S'pore, you'll understand if we suggest you see the Raffles Hotel on your own.

Lightning

Singapore is one of the most deadly places in the world as far as lightning is concerned. This small Manhattan sized island, is struck by lightning once every other day (180 days a year). Statistically speaking, the odds of getting hit by lightning here are astounding. More people die of lightning strikes (about 100/year) than traffic accidents.

Surprisingly, the electrical infrastructure is extremely reliable and safe. Ann Arborites will not believe this, but I was told several times (since I didn't believe it the first few times), that people do not buy surge protectors for their electrical equipment here.

For the most part there are few electrical or telephone poles to be seen along the streets here. I presume this is because everything is buried underground. I recently discovered that at least some businesses (maybe most) rely upon surge protection which is built into the power grid for the buildings, and so do not feel the need for extra protection. We've been here 8-9 months now and I've never seen the power even flicker once - not something I can say for a comparable time in either Minnesota or Michigan.