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By Tom Blake
I never drink alcohol before noon, and the thought of drinking something stronger than beer or wine before that time is even more unfathomable.
And the thought of my partner, Greta, sitting on a barstool next to me also having an adult beverage before noon just doesn’t fly. She barely drinks at all.
Maybe I had illusions of being Ernest Hemingway, writing a scene for a novel, just as he did when he frequented the very bar where Greta and I were seated.
A little background is in order. When Greta and I booked the 82-day cruise we are on, she circled Nov. 11, my birthday, on her calendar, noting that the ship would be docked in Singapore on that day.
Greta had been in Singapore twice in the early 1980s and had become familiar with the famous Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel. Writers such as Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, and W. Somerset Maugham used to drink and write there.
In 1915, a bartender at the Long Bar named Ngiam Tong Boon, invented the Singapore Sling, a gin-based cocktail that has become famous the world over.
Greta circled the calendar because she thought it would be special to take me, a writer and columnist, to the Raffles Hotel Long Bar for a drink on my special day.
But, not long after setting sail, we heard that the famed Raffles Hotel was closed, undergoing a major renovation. Her plan to treat me to a Singapore Sling in the very bar where it was invented was dashed.
But then we heard in a presentation by the ship’s Cruise Guide, Ian Page, that, while the Raffles Hotel was indeed closed, the Long Bar was open.
So, on that Sunday morning, Nov. 11, after attending a moving Armistice Day Memorial Wreath Service aboard ship, Greta and I ventured into Singapore. I had mastered the Singapore MTR subway system the day before so getting there in this city of eight million people was a snap.
We both had subway Tourist Guest Passes, which meant we could get on and off the trains as often as we wanted. The cost was about $7 each for the day.
Our first stop was to visit the famous Merlion statue, a 27-foot-tall, 70-ton historic landmark featuring a lion’s head and fish-like body with water spewing from its mouth into the Singapore River. It is the symbol of Singapore.
And then we relaxed in the Courtyard of the Fullerton Hotel, a gorgeous building located close to the Merlion. There were six McLaren sports cars parked at the hotel, including a yellow-colored one. The owner was standing next to it; he said the car had a mere 750-horsepower engine and retailed at $750,000.
Next, we made our way to the shuttered Raffles Hotel and followed the signs to the Long Bar. And as if on cue, whom do we run into there? Tour Guide Ian, who was taking pictures for the travel presentations he does on board.
Because it was early, we were able to score two seats at the bar itself—something that’s hard to do because that is the “in” place to sit. There is a burlap bag of peanuts on the bar top in front of each bar stool; it’s a tradition at the Long Bar to toss your peanut shells on the floor.
Bartender Jonathan whipped up a couple of Singapore Slings for us. The time on the clock behind the bar was 11:55 a.m.
Was it worth the tourist-driven, $26 price tag for each Sling?
For a once-in-a-lifetime stop at the Long Bar in Singapore, for its famed namesake cocktail—yes, it was.
There we were, each having a Singapore Sling before noon on my birthday—you only live once. Greta was thrilled. Her plan to treat me in Singapore had materialized, after all.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites http://www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at www.findingloveafter50.com. Email: email@example.com.