Monday, 1 October 2012

Stop Off in Singapore

Ok, yes I know I've been really rubbish with updating this but it's hard to find the time now I'm in Australia. It's been a bit hectic with sorting stuff out and trying to find a job but I think I'm getting sorted now. Anyway back to two weeks ago (seems like much longer now)....

The journey from Malaysia to Singapore started well but ended up being a nightmare. I managed to get on a really nice coach heading south and was enjoying the journey when we had almost got to the Singapore border and everyone else got off the coach. I was waiting for the bus to start up again when another coach reversed straight into the side of the one I was on shaking the entire thing and leaving a massive dent in the side. So the drivers of both of the buses started shouting and waving bits of paper around and trying to take photos of each other. I poked my head round the side of the door to see what was going on and one of the men from my bus told me I'd have to wait for a replacement which would take another 2 hours to get there! By this time it was already late and getting dark so I didn't want to wait that long. Luckily he was really nice and bought me a ticket for a local bus that was apparently going into Singapore (I had no Malaysian money left). Going through Singapore/Malaysia immigration was really confusing too, I had to get off the bus twice with all my luggage and fill out a form. The second time I couldn't find the bus again so I was hanging around lost for about twenty minutes. I had met an English guy, Sid, who was another backpacker so at least I wasn't on my own and we just waited for a while before realising it had probably gone without us! EVENTUALLY after catching a different bus (my third of the journey) we got to Singapore city, a full three hours behind schedule. By this time it was about 11pm and I was starving so we went in search of food and found a food hall place taht was still open serving Chinese/Korean etc. I know I had promised to try to be adventurous but all these stalls were selling things like chicken intestines, feet, livers... any part of a chicken you can think of they were serving it up on rice! It's enough to turn you vegetarian... After another trek looking for a taxi we eventually got to the hostel and went straight to sleep.

The next day was a lot better after my eventful journey of the day before. I was raelly glad to have met Sid on the bus because the hostel I was in wasn't exactly very friendly - nobody spoke English and everyone ignored me. It was really different to everywhere I had stayed before. Anyway we headed over to Clarke Quay and walked around to the Marina Bay Sands hotel. This is one of the highest points in Singapore and the hotel is built like three towers with a platform connecting the tops of all of them, it's really cool and futuristic. It was really nice just to do some sightseeing and look at all the crazy architecture and to take lots of photos. Even the benches were bits of modern art! This part of Singapore is so modern I can't imagine what it would have looked like even 20 years ago. We had to pay $20 to go up to the top of the hotel (which I thought was ridiculous but figured I was 'on holiday' so I'd push the boat out) and even then we were kept in a really small area at the front with the rest of the commoners, away from the hotel guests who got to use the rooftop pool and the rest of the space! Another thing - everything is so commericalised. When we got to the top of the lift the staff took photos of us in front of a CGI image of the hotel, then tried to sell it to us for about $40! And people were actually buying it!

Sid went off to meet his friends then so I went for some lunch and to look around the shopping centre attached to the hotel. There are so many designer shops, including a Louis Vuitton that actually floats in the middle of the lake, and even boats just sailing down the middle of the shops on an inside river - it's crazy. After lunch I visited the Art Science museum next door and went to an Andy Warhol exhibition which was really intersting. The staff in there tried to get me to stick on a blonde wig and take a photo of me to sell me for another $25 - I politlely declined...

In the evening I went for a drink at Raffles, the oldest hotel in Singapore and where a lot of celebrities like Michael Jackson have stayed. It's where the original Singapore Sling was created so of course it'd be rude not to try one! Also traditionally people eat peanuts in the Long Bar and throw the shells on the floor so it was fun to do that. It tasted great and was good to say I've been there but would probably have been better with company, it's not that fun drinking on your own even if it is at Raffles Long Bar.

I had a really nice day and I'd imagine Singapore would be a great place to have fun if you were loaded but I felt like it's way too modern and commerical for me. I didn't really get to see any 'culture' or history like I did in Malaysia and Thailand. Everything seemed a bit synthetic in my opinion. Not sure if that's the right word but I hope you understand the sentiment.

Top of Marina Bay Sands hotel

Clarke Quay

Boat in the middle of a shopping centre... as you do

Pointless bench..

My second day in Singapore I decided to go to Sentosa Island. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this but it turned out to be basically a massive theme park. I got a cable car over there (Angry Birds themed - $30 for the picture they take of you getting in...) and had a wander around. In the cable car picture below you can just make out the Merlion statue which is massive and is half lion, half fish. It's a symbol of Singapore but I couldn't tell youa  lot more as you ahd to pay to get in and read about it. Basically Sentosa is not the best place to be if you're on a budget! I spent the afternoon on one of the (man-made) beaches and sat next to a group of Philippino ladies who kept asking me to pose for photos with them all individually because, quote, "I look so different"! I kind of understand how famous people get annoyed with people taking pictures of them, I kind of wanted to point out that I wasn't a tourist attraction. So I took a photo of them back.. They were really friendly actually, just so weird that people think I'm such a photo opportunity.

My new BFFs
On the third day I had a morning before having to get to the airport so I went to China Town. Finally some culture! I really enjoyed having a wander. I bought some bits from the market and then visited  a couple of temples. There is one Chinese Buddhist temple/museum that I visited where they claim to have a tooth of the actual Buddha which is thousands of years old. I was quite excited to this but when you get to the actual room it's not on display but inside all this gold and behind loads of glass. Plus, you can't take pictures, so it's hard to say if it's actually there or not. The rest of the temple was really interetsing though, it's so elaborate and so much gold everywhere. The picture below is of my protective spirit, having been born in the year of the horse. He is meant to guide me when it comes to leadership and career goals!

I had some lunch at one of the street side restaurants which was really yummy (no chicken body parts) and did some people watching. There was loads of old Chinese men just hanging around the main square playing chequers who looked like they'd all been there for the last 20 years not having moved.

So that was my time in Singapore. The best bit for me was definitely China Town and the temples. You can get a bit lost and lonely in all the glamorous parts if you're a solo traveller I think. Would come back one day to explore more but maybe with somebody else!

I'm now in Perth and have been for the last 2 weeks, which for me is even less like Asia and less "cultural" again. I feel a bit like I'm in Croydon, just with slightly better weather. Then again maybe I'm being too harsh as I haven't had a chance to do the touristy thing yet. It's so different when you are planning to live somewhere rather than travelling through. I'll keep you updated!

Love Jem xxx