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For a long time I had no desire whatsoever to visit Singapore. Being there was not enough: a reputation for straight-laced, boring control was adequate reason to ensure I stayed away. Then the reputation started to change, so much so Bangkok was losing out to the boring place. Okay, so recent events have made Bangkok less interesting, but surely not enough for Singapore to eclipse the world’s party town. Once that was suggested I needed to go and find out what the truth really is.
Flying from Bangkok the first impression was that somehow I had left Asia and landed in the West. Cleanliness, efficiency, organisation and finally, a taxi driver who was worried about breaking the traffic rules. And yes, inevitably, the prices were more West than East.
I had been told that Orchard Towers was the place to go, and the Orchard Hotel was just about next door. So that is where I stayed. It was not a bad location as Orchard Road is one of the main shopping streets. Taxis appeared to be reasonably easy to hail, except for when it rained and sometimes at peak hours when calling one seemed to be a good idea.
I rampaged around Orchard Towers pretty thoroughly on my first night. There is a front and a back tower, and although there are a couple of places in the back they were both empty. The bars that are in the front are primarily discos full of lonely ladies. The vast majority of these ladies seemed to be from Thailand. Regrettably, among them there were also a significant numbers of ladies of the second kind.
Each floor is fairly small with two or three bars plus other shops and offices. There are escalators connecting the floors, which are conveniently turned off at about 11 pm: just as the peak hours at the tower arrive! The bars are all very similar with a large bar, a dance floor and a go-go pole somewhere near the dance floor. Sometimes a girl will get on the pole and wiggle self consciously for a minute or two, however most of the time the girls hunt on foot trolling the punters for a rise. The punters mainly stand, although there are normally a few seats at the bar and at high tables, drinking S$10 (230 Baht) beers. However beware of flyers offering house pour at S$5, this is for the cheapest spirits and if you ask for a beer, lo and behold the bill is back to S$10 or even S$11.
Crazy Horse, on the top floor, was the best bar by far. At all times this bar seemed to be packed and had a real buzz about it. There was always at least one girl on the pole and the DJ did seem to make a real effort. The main drawback was the number of Katoeys.
The most bizarre bar was the Country Jamboree where country and associated music reigned. There were no poles but plenty of roving ladies. But what I liked most, or found weirdest, was the tele’ showing rodeo clips. Did you know that to rope a running steer from standing (that is one horseman at the front and one at the rear) it takes about 5.3 seconds? Or that bull taunting in the rodeo is by clowns? Yes: the things you learn when you travel! But I liked this bar: it was a place where the music volume was controlled and a seat at the bar normally possible.
Other bars worth a mention are FB's (back LHS 2nd floor), which is a bar not a disco and the beers are cheaper. Early in the evening it was packed, but the crowd dispersed as they went home, or in pursuit of livelier game.
Makati City almost inevitably had a Philippine band belting out contemporary covers. However the girls that prowled still seemed to be predominantly Thai.
So to briefly compare Orchard Tower to say Nana Plaza: the girls are older, fully dressed and the drinks twice the price. On the other side there are no bar fines and the girls do tend to speak some English. It is more like three floors of Nana discos than Nana Plaza. Then if you should happen to fall in lust there is the small matter of S$100 short time and S$ 150-200 long time.
Opposite Orchard Towers, under the hotel, is Muddy Murphy’s. This is a well-patronised Irish bar selling a good range of beers. The Old Speckled Hen caught my attention as I used to sell that beer in the UK. This is a different version in that it is pasteurised, as opposed to live, and nitrogen is used to raise it. To me it came up far too cold, but none the less a few pints helped kick start the party I was about to have!
In my three night stay I hit three other areas in spite of a violent storm on the second night, which really slowed me down. Needless to say, despite five hours of torrential rain, nothing flooded!
Parts of the old dock area have now filled up with bars and restaurants. I started down at Clifford Pier, virtually on the front, and should have been able to have a gentle walk down the riverbank to Boat Quay. However the gods intervened, I would probably have got wetter walking than swimming. So I never did the waterfront but got to the Boat Quay later, and never visited Clark Quay further up river.
On the Boat Quay I found solace in Harry’s Bar where a jazz band played. There is an upstairs bit that is for those who like it quieter, although I found the jazz downstairs vastly preferable to the acid jazz (read techno) that every bar seemed to play.
The nearby London House was packed and I did not even try to get in, behind that is Molly Malone’s which seemed an apology for an Irish bar, plenty of out of the box Guinness effects but missing that essential ingredient: customers. Apart from a mass of seafood restaurants there are plenty of strange smaller bars with a girl, or girls, hustling outside to get you in. They look like clip joints but the one I did try was no problem. Very few girls, beer at the normal S$10 and music to go deaf by!
At the road bridge end of the Boat Quay there is a sign to a jazz club hidden away on the second floor. I climbed up from the quay, but left via the road entrance. South Bridge Jazz is a genuine jazz club with a small bar and not much room anywhere. However it was clear this is where musicians come and as I sat nursing a few beers several different people played. All was going well ‘til a little girl, who I think was something to do with the management, took over on the drums! As they say, you can screw up on any instrument and the sound, with luck will not be too bad, but on the drums…..! I left and caught a cab back to the safety of rodeo riding.
Chijmes (pronounced Chimes) is a place many will be familiar with because it periodically appears in football (round ball) programmes. The commentators retire there when they get fed up with the studio. This was a Victorian protected village with a wall all round and church in the middle. The church is now a function room and the buildings around are bars, restaurants, boutiques and trendy shops. China White, one of the main night clubs in Singapore, is here in the basement next to a very average Irish bar called Father Flanagan’s. China White reminded me of the modern trendy bars in London. The doormen were not wearing earpieces and running round with clipboards, but they were very sniffy when I trundled up and had a peer in. I was way too early but it looked far too hip for me. The lonely ladies that went there expected a ride home in a Porsche, not S$150, although of course they would cost you far more than that amount in the end!
Upstairs, in the garden area, there were some quite interesting looking restaurants. I caterpillared round for a while trying to pick one to eat at. Of course, as the modern trend goes the menus were all fairly small and thus limited. The cooking style was biased towards Mediterranean. I settled for Grappas and had a very passable meal that cost S$170 for three courses and a bottle of wine.
My final night I tried Emerald Hill, which was just down Orchard Road. This is an old street of shop houses once used by Chinese merchants but now the home of the fashionable and even more ‘in’ bars. The first bar I tried was 5 Emerald Hill and was a typical modern bar with plenty of wooden tables and old signs. It was on various levels and peanut shells were scattered on the floor in lieu of sawdust. A beer was a much more reasonable S$5.
This bar area is very small and starts on Orchard Road. I tried one new bar with techno music, too many greeters and a modern chic bar with plenty of glass and bottles. A small Stella Artois draught set me back S$15: not so reasonable.
However the place that had attracted me was a tapas bar called Que Pasa. This has been around a long while and preceded the trendy mob they now have there. I had several tapas dishes and a bottle of wine for S$124: all very enjoyable and a suitable final meal in Singapore.
I did enjoy my few days in Singapore: a good visa run but certainly not a cheap visa run. As regards the question of Bangkok nightlife versus Singapore nightlife: frankly there is no competition. That is unless you like trendy bars and hunker after the west. Or are really keen to drink after 2 am.

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