Hello all. I'm using the free internet at Singapore's Changi Airport, which puts BAA's sad efforts to shame (and I doubt that Heathrow Terminal 5 will be that much better, either - although I'm sure the Landscaping will be grid-tastic!).
As I'm unable to come up with an interesting narrative style for my reports, I'm going to do it on a day-by-day basis. Photos will have to wait until I find a computer in Australia with the necessary. So, from day one, here goes...
Wednesday 11th October 2006
Flight was delayed slightly as a result of the air crew being involved in a road traffic accident in Central London (or so they said... I wonder if they are issued with a book of excuses). Found myself sat next to a sheep-farming couple from North Yorkshire, and boy could you tell it! The man was dressed in a reasonably smart linen suit, complete with socks and sandals and they both had goodly broad accents. At least they weren't dairy or pig farmers... I'm not sure my nostrils could have coped for 12 hours! Still they were most pleasant and we chit-chatted a bit. Apparently it was their first long-haul flight for 32 years (they were on their way to NZ), so they were a bit unsure about how things worked on the plane. And it didn't help that they couldn't understand a word the air hostesses said (in pretty good Engrish, I thought)... I had to stiffle my chuckles as I had visions of Little Britain and Marjorie Dawes. "Say it again..."
Other than that the flight was pretty uneventful. Made good use of the free bar with a Singapore Sling, some half-decent red wine and a nice large cognac. There was no choice left when the food arrived, so it as beef and noodles or nothing. Welcome to Singapore.
Thursday 12th October 2006
Managed to sleep a bit on the plane (most unlike me - must have been the Cognac), so didn't feel too bad when I arrived (on time - the delay had been made up for). It was 31C and humid, with some sunshine and a bit of cloud. Not bad at all.
Got to the Hostel (New 7th Storey Hostel - google it) about 3pm and was pleasantly surprised. Dorm for 4 was clean and tidy, and not on the road side, which was lucky as it was a 4-lane highway, US-style (like the whole of Singapore).
Spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Colonial Core (resisting the temptation of a Singapore Sling at Raffles - 21 Singapore Dollars!) and Fort Canning Park (1 n or 2?), which was a nice gentle introduction as both were quite quiet and well-manicured. Everything seemed very clean and orderly, much as I expected from a pseudo-democratic capitalist dictatorship.
Got back to hostel and met nice Canadian couple in my dorm, who had just arrived from Malaysia. Pleased that I wasn't sharing with anyone too odd. Wandered over to the nearest food hall for dinner, which was a cheap and delicious Thai Green Curry and a Mango Salad (rather heavy on the fish sauce - my own fault as it was in a separate dish). Was joined at my table by a bloke from Oz who was over in Singapore for business. He gave me several tips about W.A., but was actually from Melbourne. Wandered around the market and bought an odd-looking fruit(which upon further inspection turned out to be a very elongated mango) . Happy days. In bed at 9.
Friday 13th October 2006
Wandered round Chinatown in the morning, full of the (slightly sanitised) sights and sounds of China. Found a great place for lunch, and had wonton (sp?) and noodles for $3. Starfruit juice was less of a success (bit watery, despite asking for no ice).
Got the cable car over to Sentosa Island in the afternoon and wandered around the Singapore Disney, without paying to go into any of the attractions. Lounged on the beach for a while, but resisted a swim as the water looked a bit murky (has a paddle though, which was nice after walking all morning). Sentosa is a weird place, it is like the jungle is trying to take back over and some of the paths are in a rather poor state of repair for Singapore. I quite liked that, though, and the fact that away from the attractions themselves there wasn't a soul. I saw my first wildlife in the form of a huge Monitor Lizard and several butterflies (one was huge). Got the cable car up to Mount Faber and had a wander around the park up there. The haze was thickening all the time, though, and so the views weren't as good as they could have been. Still, it hadn't rained and (naturally) was very warm.
Duck and more noodles for dinner and then went to the Art Gallery, as it is free entry on a Friday night. Nice building, shame about the art. Bought some mini-bananas and Chinese Lychees from the market on way back (they look like little brown apples but tastle like a cross between grapefruit and "our" lychees - 'tis a great place for a fruit-lover like me).
Got back to find the Canadian couple had been replaced by another Canadian couple. I mistook them for yanks at first due to a preponderance of the word dude and general loudness, but they turned out to be quite nice and decidedly un-freaklike. Phew.
General thoughts after two days: Enjoying things so far - still amazed by how the heat hits you when you leave the air-conditioned buildings (which everything is round here). And it is quite typical of any city in that the shoppings streets are heaving whereas the parks and gardens are almost empty (which is good as it provides a refuge from the bustle). I think I like the tropical lushness (and fruit therefrom) best so far...
Hmm... this is taking longer than I thought (I'm probably waffling), so I might have to leave it in a minute and go to the gate. Probably time for one more day...
Saturday 14th October 2006
Spent the day in the Botanical Gardens (walked there and back along Orchard Road - Singapore's shopping Mecca and general hell-hole equivalent of Oxford Street). It was a lovely peaceful contrast to the city and there were plenty of butterflies and tropical birdsong (especially in the area of rainforest - although still no rain, just haze - so much so that you could hardly see from one end of the gardens to the other). Bought some picnic stuff en route, including Dragon Fruit, which looks amazing, but tastes like a bland Kiwi Fruit. Carrefour Singapore-style was an interesting experiences. The rows of Chinese produce are amazing! It would be quite cheap to buy local (Asian) stuff, but Western goods are pretty expensive, which is to be expected. Asian food all the way for me then!
Absolutely knackered after walking there and back (and miles around the gardens themselves), so after a quick Katong Lahka (Fishy noodle soup - lots of seafood - v. spicy and delicious) and fresh lime juice (like those sweet Grenadian limes, I imagine, M&D). Back at hostel at 8:45pm, ready to drop, which, as luck would have it, so were the Canadians. Slept like a log.
Sunday 15th October 2006
Think I overdid it yesterday, so decided to take it relatively easy on my last full day. Did some washing in the morning and lounged around the hostel... watched a bit of TV, including a news article about Japanese Melons which sell for $120US. Bargain.
Walked around the Islamic and Indian quarters in the afternoon. Both were heaving with people - interesting but not exactly my ideal location for a Sunday afternoon stroll.
Went back to Little India in the evening, with the Canadian couple, as it was the last day for all of us. Had a nice Indian meal and the first beer of the trip. Went into a Hindu temple during a service (we asked if we were allowed, but still felt uncomfortable). Fascinating, though, but mind boggling to see people with such devotion. After all that excitement it was a late night. Wasn't in bed until 10pm!
Monday 16th October 2006
Had a final wander around the locality of the hotel this morning and then got back to pack things up. Checked out at noon and made my way to the airport. Glad I did as there is plenty to do (including a nice [cheap - UK airports take note] lunch of more duck and pak choi and noodles and other random stuff). And now here I am writing up my diary from the last few days.
Thoughts about Singapore: Busy, built-up, commercial, but also good food, clean and tidy
and lovely parks and gardens. The worst thing was the haze, which got steadily worse during my stay. You can hardly see the aeroplanes outside now! The haze rather muted the colours (which would have been splendid around Chinatown and Little India and in the gardens, I imagine). Everything was just a bit grey (including the sun). Still, it is an excellent place for a stopover and a fine introduction to Asia (especially for a first-time solo-traveller). I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for a longer stay. In fact, the bloke on the front desk of the hostel said to me yesterday, "You still here? You stay a long time!" Says it all really. People passing through, only stopping long enough to shop and eat.
Well, I think I'm just about up-to-date. No time to check it, though, and I'm typing this quite quickly, so please excuse the mistakes (especially the pedants amongst you). Let me know if there are any horrendous things and I will go back and edit them.
Must dash... don't know how far away the gate is (although judging by the rest of the airport, probably only a well-laid-out stroll away...)
Bye for now,