Clean, green, well-behaved and law-abiding it may be, but Singapore is far from lifeless and Singaporeans are far from dull. The city has a plethora of bars, clubs, pubs and party places where its people love to let their hair down and live it up.
Most famous of Singapore’s watering holes is the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel. It is a slice of old Singapore; all polished teak tables, green lamps, wooden beams, heavy ceiling fans and worn brass, with narrow French doors opening onto wide verandahs and with the long curved bar which gives it its name, as its focal point. Steeped in a century and half of history, it whispers with stories of times past and of old colonial characters long gone.
The traditions of the Long Bar, however, are very much alive and dutifully observed by the steady stream of visitors who flock to it, like pilgrims to a shrine. The Singapore Sling, invented here almost a century ago by barman Ngiam Tong Boon and whipped up now by the fridge full, is almost a holy obligation. The potent pink pineapple-coconut-cream-tasting concoction is ritually sipped, accompanied by peanuts in their shells, which are, according to custom, dropped on the floor and crunched underfoot.
Still, is something lost in the loudly marveling voices, the ankle socks with sandals, the pantacourts and the tank tops of today’s Long Bar, we wondered? And we found ourselves thinking wistfully of white linen, panamas and voile, with the occasional crisp comment tossed from behind the Straits Times.