3 Countries in as many days!
Trip Start Jan 29, 2003
44Trip End Feb 01, 2004
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Where I stayed
If you remember, I had some disposable money in Kolkata, which came in handy, so I bought a pair of flip-flops off a man with a Jeremy Beadle hand, meaning I felt sorry for him and gave him a tip - 'Try not to swim in circles'! No, really he was alright I suppose. Then decided I NEEDED a silk sleeping bag liner, an essential I think you'll agree, so went to a materials shop and got me a couple metres of silk which cost about a fiver, not bad for the quantity! Then went up the road to a tailors who hemmed it all in, and sewed up the sides within an hour for 50 Rupees, about 65p! Met Nick for lunch, and had the best pizza since being in India which was also the first time I've had cheese out here which wasn't the dreaded cootage cheese, which unfortunately looks and tastes like white rubber! I think its called paneer? This was good, though it got me thinking how much I miss freshly baked bread and cathedral city cheese. Hopefully I'll survive?
After lunch I phoned Louise, then we both went for a walk round an indoor market
With time to kill, I decided to visit a local art museum which was free, and run by local students! Half way round, this Indian chap asked me what I thought of the exhibition. I told him I was no art expert, but some of it seemed alright. To which he replied 'Yeah, some of it is quite pukkah, but the remainder is just shite'! It turns out his father was Indian, his mother English, and had spent most of his life in Covent Garden, London, but his father had recently died and he had inherited a six million pound house in Kolkata. He was an artist, so all he did was paint or sculpt, or whatever artists do, smoke incredulous amounts of weed (which was obvious) and collect money from tenants within his property! He invited me to his pad, and I probably would have went, but I had to meet Nick as time was running out!
We got dressed, then took a taxi to the airport, and waited for our flight
The next thing to happen was quite unexpected! Apparently our flight had been over-booked, and a Singapore Airways official took us to one side and asked us if we could change our flights. We weren't that interested until he told us that in compensation, we would get put up in a top hotel, incur no other expense in India, (all paid for by Singapore Air), upgrade our flights, and give us S$300 each, about 120 pounds! If it hadn't been for that selfish tosser of a hairdresser, Stephen, we would have probably took them up on this offer, but unfortunately Stevo had already left for the airport, and our Singapore Air man could not guarantee that we would land in Singapore on the 26th! So sadly we had to decline and board the plane to Singapore. It was like having to throw away a winning betting slip!
After somehow managing to refrain myself from killing the Indian 2 rows in front of me on the plane after pressing the 'air steward' button every 30 seconds for the remainder of the flight, I closed my eyes and counted to 10! I have a lot of respect for people who work in the public sector but even more now for these poor air stewards, who were getting hassled beyond belief by these horrible, horrible Indian people who seemed to think that they could treat them like shit, because they were probably a lower class than them? I managed to contain myself before arriving at the most efficient airport I have ever been to. Had a coffee in the airport, and realised from this moment on that Singapore was not going to be cheap! We took the MRT (a sort of overground underground network) to Bugis junction, and for the first time had to step outside into the unforgiving extreme humidity of Singapore. I had to ring my T-shirt out virtually by the time we found a hostel. Lugging a 4 stone back pack around in 35 degrees of heat and 97% humidity is no fun, so the closest backpacker retreat sufficed. Now if Jonathon Ross pronounced our lodgings it might sound impressive, though unfortunately we were at the less glamorous Waffles hotel as opposed to the world-famous Raffles hotel in case any of you are a bit slow! After catching up on some sleep, we went for a KFC, which I had been looking forward to for the past week (2 pc chicken variety meal, splendid) then made our way back to the airport to meet the arrival of Stevo. Now what do you buy a 21 year old hairdresser who you are greeting at Singapore airport. What else? I went to the florists and got him a single pink rose! When we got to the arrivals lounge there was a huge amount of school-kids crowded round one of the gates. Now I know Steve was quite popular at home in England, but had his legendary status reached Singapore? NO, apparently the crowd were waiting for the supposedly world famous Chinese group NRG, or Energy, I don't quite know?
Met the man himself, and in exchange for his rose, I was awarded a double decker which was heaven, and Nick was given a Turkish Air complimentary wash-bag, which must have cost Steve the Earth?
We went back to the hostel, changed and then headed for the very glamorous looking Boat Quay. The famous Singapore sky-line looks fantastic at night especially overlooking the quay. We decided to go the first bar we came across. The Penny Black - Victorian English pub, which was especially nice as they had Heineken and Speckled Hen amongst others on draught! Ordered up 3 pints then I was give the bill - S$32 - about 4 pound 50 each. One pint was costing us more than our accommodation?!?! After savouring our pints, ensuring we didn't spill a drop, we ventured on to a Karaoke bar, where the beer was more reasonably priced. Here we made friends with the staff, played pool, and as all who know me, will have guessed blasted out a few tunes on the Karaoke. I think Steve started off proceedings, and eventually we had done 'Especially for You', 'No Matter What', 'Hotel California', 'Tears in Heaven', and many many more. In fact we basically took over that bar, and after a few more tunes made our excuses to the relief of the locals and left!
Took a taxi back to Waffles, got some beer and sat up on the rooftop garden drinking beer and talking crap including military tactics, religion, and children between ourselves and a couple of German lads. I do love this place, Singapore, but it is so expensive. We won't be staying here long. Bit of sight-seeing tomorrow, then leave the next day I'm thinking. It is great to be able to buy proper bread, and there are all of the main 4 food groups, within walking distance of one another: McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, and Pizza Hut!
After discussion we went to the bus station to sort out our tickets to Kuala Lumpur. No problem, and at S$25, not overly priced either at about 10 pounds. Though it turns out the cheaper way of doing it is to get a bus over the bridge and then getting another bus to KL. At least this way it's easier, I suppose!
We now had 24 hours left in Singapore, and so decided the best idea would be to visit the Tourist Information Centre which we did via a few shopping centres which are everywhere and are absolutely enormous! We got to the TI desk, but not before bumping into the one and only Cliff Richard!!!!!! He obliged for a couple of photos, but was not ever so friendly! I presume he was on a SUMMER HOLIDAY probably for a WEEK OR TWO. Though if he thinks he's not going to get hassled by fans, he hasn't got a MILLENIUM PRAYER! In fact, he should probably just hide in the SHADOWS! Ha Ha Ha! Aren't I hilarious! We decide our tourist option would include the River Taxi, and the Night Safari, but not before knocking back a few cocktails at the world-famous Raffles Hotel where we felt obliged to sample the Singapore Sling (home of this cocktail being Raffles), as well as the Millionaire Mix, and the Tiger Lily. They all tasted like shit, but this maybe due to the fact that at S$19 each, you expect them to taste like heaven! 8 pound cocktails are definitely not the way forward!
We couldn't find the River Taxi so had to settle for the longer, more expensive River Cruise, which was probably not worth the S$12, but reasonnably good all the same! Probably would be better at night!
At this point Nick decided to return to hotel to use the phone so me and Steve did the Night Safari ourselves. It took about 3/4 hour to get there. We paid the S$15 entrance fee avoiding the extra 5 it costs if you take a tram round. This was exceptionally good, and definitely the best Touristy thing I've done this year! We were not expecting to see all the animals, but you name it we saw it: From Rhinos to Giraffes to Hyaenas to reticulated Pythons to leopards to bearded pigs to lions, crocodiles, tigers and everything in between. One of the best bits is the harmless bat enclosure. They may be harmless, but these are the biggest bats in the world, and you can touch them, in fact one of their wings touched my head as it flew past me! When they fly you see actually how big they are and their wing-span must be over 1 metre long! I would def. reccommend this to anyone considering the Night Safari during their time in Singapore!
We went back and stopped for a Sirloin Steak (Sorry Louise) with chips and beans for about 2 pounds! It was midnight by the time we got back and after a quick chat with another German, decided to get some sleep, after walking more in a day than I think I did the entire weekend at Glastonbury Festival! Off to KL tomorrow!