Trip Start Apr 30, 2004
88Trip End Jan 28, 2005
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Singapore is one of the worlds top travel hubs with a world class airport, so we were expecting a slick, modern, chrome and glass railway station. It's not at all like that, it's an old, tired building with few people about. We were forgetting that Singapore is the end of the line for Malaysian Railways and there aren't that many trains in and out each day. Most people arrive and leave by plane.
The train from Wakaf Baharu takes 13 hours and again is right on time.
We head, via a 2 mile hike and an MRT ride to Little India, where there's a small clutch of budget accommodation. After another hike, we book into the 'Inn Crowd' who have a double room for 1 night only. It's clean, tidy and has everything a backpacker needs, except a warm welcome. We were treated like naughty schoolchildren by the matronesque, monotone Australian receptionist / owner, who needs lessons on dealing with pepole or a career change. 48 Singaporian dollars per night (16 pounds) gets you a room with a double bed, air con and TV with DVD. Toilets and showers, which were spotless, are shared. A bed in a dorm is S$18 each.
Not surprisingly, Little India is full of little Indian restaurants, the food is delicious, the portions are good and the prices are unbelievable. For lunch we have a set vegetarian meal each. Served on a banana leaf, comes a mound of rice surrounded by seven small stainless steel pots. 3 pots contain different curries, 1 pot a cucumber relish, 1 pot a kind of chutney, 1 pot a yoghurt and hte last pot contains a creamy cottage cheese. Also included in the S$4 meal is a naan bread and a drink (1.30).
Within 100 yards of each other, we'd experienced our most expensive hostel and one of our cheapest meals.
A two mile walk, checking accommodation as we go, brings us to the Cactus Hotel. The staff are lovely and we book the following nights room. The rest of the afternoon is spent walking, searching out and eventually finding a bookshop selling Indonesian Lonely Planet, to help with our onward travel plans.
Little India at night is full of bustling, colourful, aromotic streets. The shops, market stalls, cafes and restorans are noisy and busy. We try a different venue for dinner, with equally satisfying results. Full and worn out from walking we head back to our room and try to sneak past matron.
Expenses S$3 / pound: MTR 4.40, accom 48, water 1.7, lunch 8, tea and cake 14, internet 7, dinner 9, Indonesia LP 49.35
Wed 28 July - Day 87
We check out of 'Inn" and into Cactus Hotel. Soot and Sientheng made us very welcome and gave us directions to the nearest MTR station.
The MTR is the easiest way to get around, it's fast, smooth and efficient. All the stations are spotless and everything looks brand new, they exemplify Singapore.
Singapore is a city, an island and a country, ruled over by the Socialist Peoples Action Party (PAP) who keep the locals strictly regulated, in a nanny state like manner. From carrying our regular death sentences on drug importers down to S$500 fines for smoking in public places and S$1,000 for dropping litter, PAP keep a close control on social behaviour.
The government, htrough restrictive licensing, huge import duties, and central toll charges, have made car ownership a rich mans hobby. This greatly reduces the amount of traffic and pollution. So it's no real surprise the city is so clean. There is also a huge amount of greenery; trees, plants and small parks are everywhere.
It takes around 10 minutes to reach the Harbour Front MTR station, where we try to glean some information on feries. We catch another MTR to Chinatown, and following a walk round, hop on one of the hop on - hop off tourist buses. S$6 for a day pass.
Our first hop off was at the beautiful Botanic gardens. 52 hectares containing specimen trres, manicured flower beds, a four hectare patch of jungle, a 600,000 specimen herbarium and one of the worlds largest orchid displays (over 60,000) in the stunning National Orchid Garden. It would have have taken our mums and dads months to look round, and the two Sue's (Moffitt and Thompson), both habitual cutting stealers would have needed a tractor / trailer to carry them away.
Back on the bus we do a full circuit taking in all the sights of Singapore, including Orchard Road, Chinatown, Little India, the Colonial District, the Quay's and the Esplenade.
We finally hop off in Chinatown and MRT it back to our hotel. Once again we're tired out, Singapore is practically on the equator, heat and humidity are a constant and the temperature never drops below 20C. 32C today. We don't venture far to eat, and have our most delicious Indian meal to date. (Hurry with the curry. We can't get enough).
Expenses: Accom 55, postcards 2.40, laundry 10, bus 12, lunch 9.98, orchid garden 10, drinks 4.60, dinner 6.20, internet 5, MRT 10.60
Thurs 29 July - Day 88
Back to the Harbour Front this morning to book our ferry tickets to Batam, for tomorrow. With time not being a constraint, we have decided to try and continue our journey overland, which means getting a boat to Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). It's extremely difficult to attain concrete information, bit we're pretty sure we need to take a boat to Jakarta, then a boat ot Kalimantan. The boats to Jakarta, we htink, leave from either Batam or Bintan in the Riau Islands which are an hour from singapore. Singapore is lovely and we'd loved to spend a few more days here, but the accomodation on the Riau Islands is so much cheaper, and we need to sort out our boats. So the Riau Islands it is. (I've never heard of them).
Our day is spent walking, having a clsoer look at some of the sights we saw from the bus. There are some lovely walkways alongside the Singapore river which divides the Colonial District from the Central Business District. Boat Quay and Clarke Quay have been restored and turned into dining and shopping precincts.
We walk past 'Raffles Landing', a statue of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles mark the spot where he first landed in 1819, on his way to turning the island into a bastion of the British Empire. On our walk to the Singaporian Institution that is Raffles Hotel, we pass majestic colonial buildings, statues and War memorials. We also have a good look at the S$600 million 'Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay', a double domed theatre complex which the locals call the Durians, because of its spiky appearance. It looks bizarre, but is very striking.
Raffles Hotel is now surrounded and kind of suffocated by the extremely posh Raffles shopping and dining arcade. The original hotel building, built in 1899 is still there, with lavishly dressed porters outside and scores of westerners in pressed clothes and leather shoes milling around trying to look posh.
Singapore is a shoppers paradise. THere are endless huge shopping complexes. Fortunately, our budget allows Rene to look but not touch, and the looking lasts as long as it takes hte air conditioning to work its magic.
We spend all day walking, and following a short sharp monsoon, arrive back at the Cactus at about 6.30pm. We don't stop though, we grab our swimming gear and walk to the nearby superb Farrer Park public pools. It looks like a brand new football stadium outside, but its an open air, Olympic sized pool. The whole place is bright yellow, and swimming under the flood lights in the open air was fantastic, especially when it monsooned again.
We dodged our way back through rain, grabbing some food from the Lavender Fod Square, a large communal dining area, surounded by food stalls, which is just over the road from the Cactus Hotel. Food courts are everywhere in Singapore.
Expenses: Accom 55, Ferry singapore - Batab 40, Swimming 2, dinner 6, beer 4, lunch 10.