And so it begins...
Trip Start Nov 30, 2008
18Trip End May 08, 2009
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Where I stayed
carriageways of outer Singapore, with English signs and over-sized
commercial buildings, I briefly wondered if I had, in fact,
inadvertently landed in the west coast of America.
The troubles at Bangkok airport has necessitated a last minute
decision: should I sit tight and and hope the airport would reopen
soon? Or throw out my carefully planned itinerary and fly to Singapore
instead. With the siege showing no signs of stopping, and unwilling to
lose much time from my trip, I chose the latter.
With alarming inevitability, the final hours passed: booking a
hostel, last minute packing, a rainy drive to Heathrow and tearful
goodbyes. A brief hesitation at the gate: maybe I should just go home
and have a nice cup of tea? The moment passed, and so I left London.
Scoring four seats to myself, a large glass of red wine (ok, two) and a
sleep-eze helped the thirteen hour journey pass quickly, and almost
before I knew it I found myself in the taxi, driving through the
Americanesque highway, headed for Little India.
I realised something was wrong as soon as I saw the barman's
somewhat bemused glance at my bulging rucksack. The hostel had closed
earlier that day for refurbishment - hadn't I got their email? I
explained that checking my email at 37,000 feet hadn't been convenient,
and anyway I'd already paid. So clutching S100$ refund in hand I set
about finding an alternative bed at 8pm in the lung-crushing humidity
After forty minutes or so of searching I finally scored a single
room at Nava's Place - I couldn't face a dorm bed, though private rooms
were expensive and in short supply. Windowless, and with a shared
bathroom, it didn't immediately seem ideal. But the air-con was
amazing, the bathrooms clean, and the darkness appreciated as I slept
off my jet lag! I booked a second night.
I didn't see much of Singapore, heavy rain preventing a trip to the zoo
to find the free-ranging orangutans, and to the night safari. And the
prohibitive prices made me opt to leave after my second night - the
cheapest beer costing the same as a decent room in a Thai hostel! Only
food was cheap - and incredible both in variety and taste. It's said
that Singapore's national past times are eating and shopping - the
plethora of huge food food courts in proximity to even bigger malls
stands testament to this. My most memorable meal was minced meat soup - a simple sounding meal, but this soup contained fish balls, tofu, mushrooms, noodles, pork dumplings and various veg in addition to the minced meat, and was utterly delicious.
On my first night, with my body still eight hours behind, I took a trip
to Clarke Quay with a group of backpackers I met in Little India. A
playground for trendy Singaporeans, the entire area is undercover and
illuminated by beautiful Christmas lights, giving the impression of a
big shopping mall, with bars and clubs where the shops should be.
Stunning Singaporean girls, immaculately turned out, brought glamour to
the place - leaving our group obviously out of place in flip flops and
shorts, with barely a scrap of make up between us! We later found out
this was their passing out celebration - having just completed their A
levels. Clarke Quay isn't without a sense of humour though - the first
bar we went to had wheel chairs instead of seats, resulting in a
telling off for attempting wheelies - in marked contrast to the chic
elegance of the other patrons! Only a little telling off though - on
the whole I found the Singapore people cheerful, friendly and helpful -
always ready with a smile, and keen to chat.
It was with a little regret I left my hostel this morning, having
barely scratched the surface of the city. But as I sit on a
comfortable, air-conditioned bus to Melaka, I see the vaguely Western
sights and sounds of Singapore retreat, replaced with something far
less familiar and I feel my journey is truly beginning.