Last night rummaging around in a box of old papers I came across a copy of The Ballad of East and West by Rudyard Kipling and the first four lines sent me scurrying for my old Singapore photograph album and wondering whatever happened to ‘The Batik Inn’ in Orchard Road. (next to C.K.Tang?)
(Above advertisement copied from 1970 Papineau’s guide to Singapore)
In the mid 1960’s The Batik Inn used to be a favourite of mine. I would often ‘live dangerously’ and catch a bus outside of RAF Changi main gate and for a few cents take a death defying ride into Singapore city and then walk along Orchard Road to The Batik Inn.
I can no longer recall the actual entrance to The Batik Inn but passing down the side of the building one came into their ‘garden’ laid out with tables and fringed, to us Europeans, by exotic trees and shrubs. Here I would sit dreaming away the warm tropical evenings with a Tiger beer, absorbing that most heavenly of fragrances from the Frangipani and listening to quiet, seductive oriental background music as table top candles flickered and danced in little jars.
I recall their superb Chinese cuisine and in particular their spicy Indonesian Satay which was absolutely mouth watering.... (but could never surpass my favourite ‘satay man’ by the roadside in Changi village, but that’s another story)
In spite of being in the city limits, moths and bugs abounded, fluttering about the garden and occasionally one was treated to a glimpse of an Atlas Moth as it silently and majestically winged its way across from table top to table top.
The connection with Rudyard Kipling is in this photograph....
Leaving by the same way, alongside the building, one walked through this arch way and under those very thoughtful third and forth lines of ‘The Ballad of East and West’.
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!
(NB looking through the archway, is that a little Fiat 500 travelling along Orchard Road, right to left, and now revamped and recently introduced by Fiat to the European market)
My many memories of Orchard Road do not end here.... with my girlfriend at the time, we often walked bare footed along Orchard Road during the day and frequented a little Italian coffee house (not the Magnolia Bar?) and I’m pretty sure it was near C.K.Tang, where would order ice cream with our coffee. Our favourite ice cream was known as ‘Cassata’, I seem to recall the coffee house may have been called ‘Sorrento’s’, but I can no longer be 100% sure.
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