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How's Bayou? Raffles & the Value Menu

Prosperity reigns at Singapore McDonald's.

It was the $7.32 Diet Coke in the mini-bar that sealed the deal: There would be at least one very happy meal at a Singapore McDonald's to compensate for hotel amenity prices that would have made the upper lip of Sir Stamford Raffles -- lauded as the founder of modern Singapore in the mid-19th century and namesake of the hotel on which we were splurging for two nights -- quiver.

True, we'd circumvented the $21 price of a Singapore Sling, the legendary Hurricane-like pink drink invented in the Long Bar of Raffles Hotel sometime between 1910 and 1915, by ordering a complimentary one on our Singapore Airlines flight into the prosperous Southeast Asian city-state.

Atrium of legendary Raffles Hotel, home of the Singapore Sling

And on the advice of the airport's information desk, we'd taken the spotless metro -- to see how the real folks live -- into the city for a wallet-friendly $2.60 per person, exiting directing across from the fabled hotel.

Doesn't get any better than that ... unless you're trying to impress the bellman and welcoming staff at one of the world's most famous lodging places.

"We could always say that Porsche Carrera over there is ours," I quipped to Millie as we rolled our suitcases up the winding walkway, "and that we didn't want to be ostentatious."

But there was no need to worry. From the moment we entered the towering three-story, cream and dark-teak atrium, we felt right at home, the way I hope guests feel when we welcome them to Madewood.

We'd felt the same way at Bangkok's Banyan Tree Hotel -- our cool respite from New- Orleans-mimicking warm-and-humid temperatures -- where the trendy, open-air rooftop restaurant, Vertigo, really made you dizzy as you scanned the golden, sapphire and emerald-like adornments of buildings old and new across the nighttime skyline -- the W Hotel to Raffles' refined Roosevelt demeanor.

Bangkok street vendors rival Mardi Gras kitsch.

Bangkok's street-market vendors proudly display goods that a Mardi-Gras souvenir collector would cherish. And a Samurai Beef Burger with piping-hot corn pie at any of the multitude of McDonald's, open 24 hours with delivery service, will cost you about the same as a Big Mac and fries at home.

Every Thai knows and cherishes a name that has disappeared from New Orleans neighborhoods, 7-Eleven (now Circle K at home); and the narrow aisles, like those in the French-Quarter Rouses, of the typically-diminutive shop I insisted we visit, were packed with brilliantly hued cakes, snacks and pretty-lady accessories. Of the 4,000-plus 7-Eleven outlets in Thailand, only stores near temples are barred from selling alcohol and smokes; but they're free to market the same junk food that Thais and Americans alike covet at other locations.

Shops in Singapore are more organized, standardized and monitored by the state; but to my combined horror and delight, just around the corner from stately Raffles ... a shiny McDonald's in an upscale mall that makes Lakeside seem like a third-world market.

Delights you won't find at your local Circle K

January is a time to celebrate new opportunity in Singapore, and McDonald's was touting optimism in a program that supports charitable organizations by donating a portion of the cost of its Prosperity Meals to disabled and challenged Singaporeans.

So for $7.65 -- just 33 cents more than that mini-bar Diet Coke, I feasted on a half-po'boy-size Prosperity Beef Burger (tamari/BBQ-sauce & fresh onion), Prosperity Twister Fries (think Rally's spicy/Arby's curly), a Bubbly Joy Prosperity McFizz (a spritzed Fanta) and a deep-fried pineapple Prosperity Pie (Caution HOT!).

Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves. How can you not feel prosperous when you've saved by consuming a substantial meal for just pennies more than the price of a mini-bar Diet Coke?

Warrior at Chinese temple in Singapore guards affordable Diet Cokes

We'd visited a Chinese temple in the center of Singapore the previous day, and I'd noted the odd proximity of a painted warrior to a Coke machine just inside the temple.

"Back off," his menacing visage seemed to threaten. "All these nominally-priced Coca-Cola products are MINE!"

But it's all relative. Afternoon tea at Raffles is $31.60, not far from the Windsor Court's price for a similar, oh-so-civilized repast. We passed on it for two hour-long reflexology sessions -- roughly the same price -- at the mall across the street, confident that Raffles' vaunted tea couldn't be any better than the Windsor Court's offering in its elegant setting.

And our taxi back to the airport was metered at $11.25, a bargain compared to the $5.20 we'd paid to hang onto straps and make two line changes on the metro in.

But it made us feel like Singaporeans to politely push and shove, and to initially be humbled by the sight of Raffles' imposing colonial facade as we crossed the street.

I may not be able to juggle prices in foreign countries with ease, but, as the trademarked McDonald's slogan trumpets, I'm lovin' it!"

How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.

How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.