My first taste of Singapore

My first taste of Singapore

September 1962

By John Wilkins, Stoker, Royal Navy

With a mounting feeling of excitement, I stood on the upper deck viewing the harbour. One of the first things I noticed was the smell. An exotic smell of spices mixed with an aroma like rotting cabbage emanating from the jungles across the straits in Malaysia.

Coming onboard were some local tradesmen such as Taylors, cobblers. Offering a full wardrobe ready to wear in 24 hours. One individual was known as Peanuts ran a dry cleaning business. He had the memory of an elephant and a brain like a computer. He would spot a sailor who he had not seen for years who had not paid his dry cleaning bill when he sailed. Immediately he would corner that individual demanding payment for the outstanding bill from years ago.

Before we were allowed ashore, we had to attend a presentation given by our Chief Stoker

covering all the dangers of fornication. Accompanied by some graphic movies on STD’s

The R.P.O. (resident policeman) gave a lecture on where not to go areas out of bounds.

He went into some detail about Kai Tai’s/ katoey (Lady Boys) and risks of being filmed and left open to blackmail. We mainly paid attention-taking notes on where to go.

We are now on tropical harbour routine. Turn too at 07:30, secure at 12:30, shore leave 13:00.

Eventually, we went ashore it was too hot to do much so we made our way to Aggie Weston’s in the Sembawang dockyard

We spent the hottest part of the day lazing around the swimming pool. Once it cooled down, we got some scan in the dining hall.

After being fed, we wandered down to Sembawang village. That consisted of block of buildings with shop, bar shop bar totaling about 15 bars with an alfresco restaurant type of stall at the end the galley part was a barrow with a charcoal fire using a large wok. Not exactly hygienic but great tasting food no less. Here we were introduced to Tiger beer with a lemonade top. The bars all were table service served by Bar Girls/hostesses. They got a token if you brought them a drink (cold tea) that they redeemed at the end of their shift. They also offered other services sometimes, for a price. They would say things like “U WAN JIGY JIG ME NO 1 VELY CLiN ME LUV U LOOONG TIME” We stayed in the Ville until they closed around midnight. Then a fast black into singers and Buigis Street until the early hours. Being fascinated by the katoeys. Then staggering back onboard in time to turn too


2 thoughts on “My first taste of Singapore

  1. Irv Trinkle says:

    The excellent story by Mr. Wilkins took place a bit before my first visit to Singapore. All he talked about was still there but add a few things as noted in my comment here.

    The USS King (DLG-10) visit was after an extended stay in the Indian Ocean while escorting the 1st nuke carrier USS Enterprise CVAN-65. Operations were to support East Pakistan vs Pakistan vs India in their 1971 battle over what is now Bangladesh. The Ruskies were supporting India.

    The Singapore Hyatt opened for business just over a week before we arrived. I was able to get a suite that was poolside and cost was around $25 or $30 a night at a 5 star hotel. Poolside room meant sliding doors that opened on to the pool and lots of visitors and lots of booze of assorted types. Hotel prices for drinks of any kind were out of the question so at the suggestion of a bellman we hit a local supermarket (their term) and loaded up a shopping cart with beer and liquor. Back to the room and put it all on top of a dresser. Left the room and went out to check the city and when I got back there was a note attached to a bottle of aspirin on that dresser along with booze untouched. “Sir, Please be careful when you are drinking this much.” Signed by: “The Maid”.

    Best Steak Flambee I ever had anywhere was at the “Troika” a Russian restaurant along with “Baked Alaska” for dessert. It was a great port visit after going from North SAR in Tonkin Gulf, to the I.O. and back to NSAR and on to Subic. It was really special because USN ship visits to Singapore in those days were still pretty rare.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Al Pelletier says:

    Oh how I remember the Aussie beer drinking contest. Dive, do 10 push ups, drink a mug of Tiger Tops, run 30 feet and tag your team mate, and so on until a team of Aussie or Yank sailors wins. (and everyone staggers away laughing their asses off).

    Liked by 2 people

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