Raffles Hotel and Night Safari

By the time we had got ourselves organised and ready to go out it was 1.30.We had a bit of toast from the hotel and then set off to find Raffles Hotel. This famous colonial style hotel is a Singapore institution and I’m very excited about going there today. I have read many books that mention Raffles and the history of it really appeals to me.

The hotel was built in 1887 and originally opened as a 10 roomed bungalow. Over the years further rooms and bars were added including the famous Long bar and Bar and Billiards room. It is said that when the Japanese captured Singapore in 1942 they encountered the guests of Raffles having “one last waltz”. Despite being used as a camp for prisoners of war Raffles survived and in 1989 closed for 3 years for restoration and refurbishment.

We walked from the train station up to the hotel itself, my immediate impression is that it isn’t what I expected. Dwarfed by huge sky scrapers, my vision of the hotel surrounded by jungle vanishes but still it is immediately recognisable from photographs I have seen.
It really is more of a legend than anything else and was once called “a symbol of all the fables of the exotic east”.

As you look at the hotel, to the left is the newest addition to the building, the Raffles Arcade. This contains over 70 over priced shops but despite myself I couldn’t resist buying a few souvenirs and came away clutching a poster that I have no idea how we will get home in one piece and a brass key ring
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After a quick look around the hotel lobby we head for The Long Bar. The Singapore Sling was invented here and no matter how expensive and touristy, there’s no way I’m not having one. The basic ingredients are gin, pineapple juice, lime juice and cherry liqueur, topped with a morello cherry and a slice of pineapple- yum. The kids had non alcoholic Slings and Simon went for a gin and tonic. Its my step mum Paulines birthday today and we have a toast to her. Happy Birthday Pauline!

The Long Bar is excellent with dark wood and rattan furniture. There are bowls of monkey nuts on the tables and you are expected to throw the shells on the floor. With its graceful sweeping ceiling fans and sparrows flying around, we all loved it.
This gorgeous old hotel has got so many stories attached to it and for me these tales of jungle adventurers, tigers being shot in the Bar and Billiards room and previous famous guests completely made it and we had a great time.

Simon then went off to the train station to book our onwards train tickets; we have planned to leave Singapore for Malaysia on Saturday night taking a train directly to Kuala Lumpur.

In the evening we set off for the Night Safari, originally we wanted to visit this attraction and Singapore Zoo but time and money constraints mean that we have chosen to give the zoo a miss.
The Night Safari has consistently been voted Singapore’s top tourist attraction so we have got high expectations and we’re not disappointed.
We arrive and make our way to the animal show first, the animals involved include otters. owls and a huge snake amongst other creatures. The show is informative and really good fun and the kids love it.

Next we board the tram; this 45 minute ride takes us through the foothills of the Himalayas, sub Saharan Africa and the tropical rain forest. The tram is almost silent and for the most of the ride its almost completely pitch black. Of course it’s still over 30 degrees and as there has been torrential rain today everywhere is wet. We pass lions, tigers, elephant, deer, giant guinea pigs, tapir and buffalo amongst many other animals. They appear so close you could almost touch them and there are no signs of fences, the animals seem to be unaware of us passing so close and ignore us. The low level lighting allows us to view the animals in a more natural looking environment than any zoo I have been to and it’s a really good experience.

Lastly we decide to complete one of the night walks, it is now 11.30pm and we are starting to feel a bit tired. We choose The Forest Giants walk and make our way in the darkness along a narrow path, through the massive trees of the rain forest. There isn’t anyone else on the walk and apart from the noises of the jungle it is completely silent.

This is actually natural rain forest and I spend half the time convinced some horrible spider is about to jump on me. Nothing I could have imagined could have prepared me for what we actually saw though. We came to a door on the path and when we went through realised that the canopies of the tree are enclosed in a fine mesh.

At first we can’t see anything but slowly become aware that there is slight movement in the trees around us and there are big black shapes attached to the branches.
A foot away from our faces we finally make out the bodies of resting giant fruit bats. Oh my god they are massive and despite us trying to quietly creep away we must have disturbed them because suddenly with no warning one took off and swooped across our heads so close we had to duck.

I have never seen anything like these and they are truly amazing and creepy.

We catch a taxi back to the hotel, it now gone midnight and we are all tired it has been a really good day and we’ve had a great time.