The day was scheduled for sightseeing in Singapore. I drew up a fairly elaborate list of places to visit and food to be enjoyed, after researching various sites and suggestions from friends. However, the first item on the day’s agenda list was the Church of the Holy Spirit, where I planned to attend the 9 am service. However, by the time I got ready it was past the hour and I rushed to the church, wanting to participate fully in the service. At the entrance to the church was written, “Enter to Worship, Depart to Serve”. I was amazed by the number of cars that filled the church compound. The large church was full and pews on two floors of the church were almost taken. There were separate enclosures for family, thereby ensuring that the rest of the congregation do not get disturbed by small children and the special attention they seek in such gatherings. When I reached the church the parish priest was in the midst of the sermon. I managed to get a seat and attended the rest of the mass in worshipful prayer. I observed that almost the entire congregation received communion in a disciplined manner, row by row going up to the priest.
Sreekanth was ready by the time I got back home and after taking leave of Ammayi we left in search of Murugan idly shop. We eventually got there after many enquiries on the way near Little India. The rather small outlet is located near Saravana Bhavan, the restaurant chain that had farmed out from Chennai. As we were about to take seats I was surprised to see Pradeep of Batam there. He and his family were expected to travel to Singapore for the weekend. But I never expected to meet them here; what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be, for I had wanted to take leave of them in Batam. Pradeep, Ani and Memo were having breakfast at Saravana Bhavan. After we had had our breakfasts we spent quite a while in conversation. I was most heartened to hear that Pradeep would most likely relocate to China in a few months’ time. We took leave of the charming couple and their lovely daughter only because they had a deadline to check out from the hotel they were saying in. Time had gone by effortlessly in their company.
Back to the Murugan idly shop, where Sreekanth and I placed orders for ghee podi idlies, vada and masala dosai by entering quantities on pre-printed sheets of menu. The restaurant, as was to be expected, particularly on a Sunday, was working over capacity with even non-Indians among the customers. I didn’t find the service level very great but the idlies were quite a different matter. They seemed to be made of milk and butter mixed with idly batter! The spoon cut through the idly without any resistance and it did not have to be chewed; it almost melted immediately as it was put in the mouth. Four different chutneys accompanied the orders along with sambar. The ghee podi idly has to be eaten without any of the accompaniments if one has to experience the real taste of the idly. I did not find the masala dosai a distinctly different experience; I have had better ones in the past.
When I alighted from the Orchard MRT and came out on to the street I found the place refreshingly different from where I had been more than a decade before, yet retaining its old charm. I came to know later that massive sums were spent a few years ago to revamp the boulevard. The road got its name a couple of centuries ago from the orchards and plantations the road led to. The 2 km Orchard Road is the hub of retail and entertainment in Singapore. Tangs, Lucky Plaza, Ngee Ann City, Wisma Atria, ION Orchard, Plaza Singapura and many other famous building line the street. It is arguably the busiest street in Singapore, with the possible exception of Raffles Place. High end shopping may not part of the budget tourists agenda, but a stroll down the street up to the Istana definitely is. Many food vendors keep up a steady supply of local favourites. Sreekanth I had a slab of mango ice cream folded within a slice of marble bread.
In search of the Merlion we walked and walked till we reached the erstwhile Telok Ayer Market, that is now known by its colloquial name Lau Pa Sat, which literally means old market. It took my breath away. Cuisines from all over the world under one roof were available here. Catering to tourists and business workers the food court has been renovated many times, the most recent being last year.
We headed resolutely to Raffles Place, which was intended by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, to be at the heart of a huge commercial emporium. The developments of Boat Quay and Collyer Quay hastened the development of the area and it steadily grew into the retail cum banking hub of the city. The place is where many of the iconic buildings and landmarks are located now. We spent quite some time in the Centre Square admiring the tall buildings surrounding it such as the UOB Plaza, One Raffles Place, Republic Plaza and One Raffles Quay. The Fullerton Hotel Singapore is located in the old renovated Central Post Office Building and is a striking piece of architecture as one approaches the tourist icon of Singapore, the Merlion. Being a Sunday the place was over crowded. Selfie sticks and cameras were everywhere. People were trying various angles and poses to get unique shots of one of the most famous landmarks in the world. The Merlion, regardless of the activity around it, continued to spew water through its mouth. The rather unusual durian shaped Esplanade Theatre, the stock exchange and the Singapore flier are in near proximity to the Raffles place.
We walked across to the many administrative buildings near Raffles Place such as the Old Parliament House, the old and new Supreme Court as well as the well preserved Anderson and Cavenagh bridges. The shops and stalls that populate the historic landmarks sell souvenirs and food. By the time I was done with this area I was nearly exhausted, more because of the infected middle finger on the right hand. I had been carrying the condition since Batam; self medication was not helping. Puss had surrounded most of the top digit and swelling had made the finger throb. We decided to go to Geylang next, which is considered to be a wonderfully active place with a lot of history relating to immigrant workers who reached the shores of Singapore in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of the shop houses built then are still preserved well in the area. Besides, the place is known for its red light district. By the time we got to Geylang I could not tolerate the pain anymore. It was a struggle getting through a plate of Chicken Rice.
Sreekanth contacted a doctor friend who prescribed immediate application of betadine. While I headed home to rest Sreekanth went off to a medical shop to fetch supplies. He dressed up the finger expertly and I rested for a while. It helped; the throbbing reduced. The doctor was very concerned about the condition and wanted me to get to a clinic. I decided to postpone that till I reached Kuala Lumpur. I was most disappointed that I could not get through the rest of the sightseeing agenda, particularly the Gardens by the Bay. Anyway, I guess, there has to be a provocation to come back some time, and this may be it.
In the evening as Sreekanth and I were on Tiger Beer appetizer I had a message on Facebook from Roshan George, a resident in Singapore, who enquired if we could meet. He works for the Land Transport Authority just a short distance away from where Sreekanth is a tenant. He and his wife, Reenie, came a short while later on their swanky bike and we walked to an eatery for fried rice. Reenie works as a researcher, primarily dealing with Rolls Royce. Both of them are avid travellers and we spent some lively time together before I went off to rest before the drive to Kuala Lumpur the next day. The stay in Singapore had been eventful, but expensive from the point of taking the car into the country. However, I would not have spared any expense to meet souls like Ammayi and Sreekanth.