English and the Garden

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Where I stayed
Travellers Inn, Singapore

Flag of Singapore  ,
Friday, October 7, 2011

Its good to be back. 3 and a bit years since our last and first visit to the country of Singapore and for me it's as if we never left. I loved this place first time around. I liked the way it seemed organised without trying. The people know the rules and just get on with things. Last time we stayed here we stayed in the Parkroyal on Beach Road. A 4* Hotel with a rooftop swimming pool. We ventured out of the hotel several times over our 4 night stay, pretty much all times as part of an overpriced tour. The exchange rate was $2.5 to the pound last time we were here, pre recession.

Our train ride from KL is the last we are expecting to take on our travels. Its a sad moment for us. 20 minutes into the horrendously bumpy journey though we are pleased to be seeing the back of such an experience. I'm thrown around like a rag doll in the top bunk and with nowhere to store the bags I didn't have much space up there either. The overnight part of the journey wasn't a benefit - I maybe managed to close my eyes for 1 or 2 winks, not the customary 20 some would be allowed.

We arrived at Woodlands early in the morning. Woodlands is an interchange where the Malaysian government and the Singaporean government have came to an agreement that trains will terminate. Previously trains would have headed into central Singapore but now its a little more complicated and awkward.
We took to walking to the metro station which was although boiling hot, not an altogether unpleasant experience. The first signs were good. Out on the edge of Singapore, the roads have pavements, and not cracked broken messy ones. We have struggled to find good pavements in the centre of some cities. The metro easy enough to sort out - this must have been the first of it's type. All other metros seem to have copied the setup. Not expensive, a 20 minute ride into the centre costing about 60pence each. Out of the window we can see blocks and blocks of apartments all numbered and brightly coloured. Very much like council flats, except they are clean looking. The streets are not covered in graffiti. The blocks of flats have recreational areas and swimming pools. This is the bottom end of the accomodation market and it looks comfortable. Not bad so far - something we didn't see before.

Once arrived at 'Lavender' we step out onto a typical Singapore back street. A food court, some hustle and bustle - and two minutes later we get to 'The Travellers Inn'. After reading many reviews and not finding many places under $60-70 dollars for a night we settled for here. Most places have dorm rooms and this place at least had a couple of private rooms although the bathrooms/showers are shared. The reviews suggest that the Inn likes their rules. Not a big surprise for Singapore. We arrive very early, pay our dues and are told that we cannot check in until 2pm. The staff are lovely and friendly and very welcoming. We ask if we can leave our bags and that is fine - they can be left in the corridor as the place is locked tight with CCTV cameras pretty much covering every nook and cranny. We ask if we can use the showers for a wash and we are given an ok on that too (on the priviso that we only use up one shower and take turns as they are for the current guests really). At the time Kate notes that the Double room is empty and nobody is in it, it is made up. There is only one double room and it is to be ours and so why don't they allow us to check in. Rules is rules.
After washing, a little tired from a viscous final train journey in which neither of us really got any sleep we headed out onto the streets with one plan in mind. The Botanical Gardens.

We visited the Botanical Gardens 3 years ago for about 20 minutes as part of a City Tour. That tour included visiting the Merlion statue which was covered with a scaffold, the botanical gardens for 20 minutes, a gemstone factory (where they tried to sell us stuff) and something else which is not important enough for me to remember. In fact as part of the tour we only visited about one tenth of the gardens and so we wanted to see what the rest of it had to offer. Getting there would require a metro and a bus journey - one day later and the new Metro line to the Botanical Gardens would open, the development never ends.

It's good. Its really good as gardens go. Tidy, beautiful, lots to see and for the majority - free. We found a lake with turtles swimming around, a Lizard the size of my arm in the undergrowth trying to swallow a toad whole, an Evolution Garden (showing plants through history), a Ginger garden (cue the ginger jokes) and an Orchid Garden (the paid bit we didn't go into this time around as we did it last visit). Good time had, many bites sustained and extremely tired on finishing our walk around. I hadn't really slept now for 30 hours. Kate was getting angry as the bite spray doesn't seem to upset the Mozzies at all - she wants a Killer Evil Deet spray and all these places sell is 'Deet free' trying to be kind to the environment.

Back to the hostel and we finally checked in. Into our room, its small but more than we were expecting. Not allowed to put bags on the beds, Do not set air conditioning lower than 24 degrees, No food/drinks allowed into the room except plain water, Don't electrocute yourself etc etc. There are quite a few 'house rules'. The fact is the rules are there to try and control the experience and not to upset other guests - its just they go a bit overboard. We don't mind too much as the staff are very nice.

Anyways. A little tired we decided we needed a break from tourism and so went to the cinema in one of the many malls. We found one showing an English film and watched it with a packed over excited, way too amused, slightly ridiculous audience. They were laughing at everything. I wouldn't mind if the film was something brilliant - it was Jonny English. Better than the first, but only just - the film did not deserve such a response from the crowd. I half expected a round of applause when the credits rolled they loved it so much.
I found it funny that they found it funny so we were both happy I guess. Rowan Atkinson is still a comic genius though. 

A pizza hut after the film left us over budget for the day. We had underestimated how much this part of the trip would cost. The strength of Singapore over the last 3 years has meant that it is $2 to a pound now and a pint of beer will set you back anything between $12 (on a happy hour) to $30 and above in a poncy bar. Drinking is not going to be high on the agenda for the next few days.

We got back early (8pm) and the little Hostel lady made her customary 'Eho' squeak at us both. She seems lovely but it seems to be all she says. We're knackered.

Half asleep, the noise outside the room is pretty maddening. It's not late I know, but some of the other guests are pretty loud as they are coming in. Our room is on the ground floor and so everyone has to walk past us to get to bed. Most manage to be reasonable but one big cow woman feels the need to crunch down heavily with a bang on every step she takes up the stairs. She throws her feet down.

The stairs have a sign saying "metal stairs, please do not stomp". Perfectly reasonable, it's just normally you don't have to tell people not to be inconsiderate pillocks - or so you would think. Didn't she read the god damned sign!!!?!

For some, the signs would be too much. But this is how Singapore became great - years ago signs were everywhere, don't do this, don't do that. Now people just do it, they know the rules. They are not unfriendly - its just a way they like things to be done.

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