Sunday, March 23, 2008

I arrived in Singapore too late to do much but sleep, though I was neither tired nor so inclined. Truth be told, I was back in a hostel environment with fellow travelers again in a city that felt quite western, and I wanted to go out. I was excited. The drive from the airport was in stark contrast to my drive to the Jakarta airport earlier that evening. A 10km trip there had been swamped in traffic and took 1.5 hours. I was almost late to check in for my flight. A trip of an even longer distance here took maybe 15 minutes on wide roads with marked lanes and everything. But all that didn't mean I was going to get any celebrating done that night. I gave in and went to sleep. The next day would allow me to hang around the hostel with free high-speed (actually high speed, not 128 kbps) internet and catch up on the home front whilst meeting fellow travelers. Remember also that between Java being off the regular tourist path and me staying in hotels, I'd not had much interaction in Indonesia, so it was with great pleasure that I joined a couple for dinner at the Boat Quay that night, not to mention hung around afterwards with a very pretty Welsh girl. Yes, I was happy to be back on the tourist trail after all.

After my first day on the internet punctuated by this brief dinner and Welsh company, it was time to properly set out and explore Singapore. That is, after taking care of some non-internet business. Like, finally, a call home. And then a trip to the Australian embassy to prove to the tax and superannuation people I'd left the country. By which I mean, a photocopy of my passport and visas with a stamp on it that cost me $40. And did I mention a long chat with ANZ on why they hadn't sent my bank card to Singapore as requested. But, after that, it was time to explore. I was near Orchard Road, the famed shopping street of Singapore (which, I'd later realize, is saying something since EVERYwhere is a shopping street). I was delighted to see a massive Borders, though I soon found a bookstore called Kinokuniya which was even better, and spent some time in there - I've finished all my books and am hungry for more. I was delighted still more to see a movie theatre (I've not been to one this year) and yet more delighted to discover western-style buttered popcorn. 10,000 BC was starting right away and I was there. Not as epic as I'd hoped but it was nice to be in a theatre again and the movie wasn't bad, just not great. I went back home to Little India and went for dinner with some of Sally's (the Welsh girl) friends. Sally was MIA, but we enjoyed some nice Indian food (our hostel is in Little India, after all), eating with our hands and everything. After dinner, my American friend (Dan) had found recruited yet another young lass from his dorm and I sat with the two of them and a Canadian from Victoria drinking Canadian Club and Coke. I discovered this doesn't mix so great with curry. Good night.

Day three in Singapore I set off for Chinatown. Unfortunately, aside from a temple, it's not all that interesting. Some food stalls, lots of souvenir stands, and while I did try some of the food, my luck didn't fare too great. Still, it passed a few hours of wandering and eventually did fill the old belly, plus the temple WAS pretty cool. In addition to the architecture, it was filled with little Buddhas and a giant one and, well, yeah, neat. Speaking of architecture, probably the most unsung building in the city and my favourite is the Parkview Square building. It sports some art deco styling (think: Chrysler Building, New York City circa 1930), is incredibly detailed, has giant statues atop it, and all of these details are extravagant, expensive, and excellent. The interior is likewise perfect and I did manage to get a couple photos before the guard let me know that because there are two embassies in the building, this isn't allowed - very nicely, by the way. And then, when I raved excitedly about it, he showed me where the cameras didn't cover so I could snap a photo of a bronze 'painting' atop the elevator.

While en route to Chinatown, I also spent a good portion of the afternoon in a book market. Five levels of bookstores and art stores beside the National Library making a pleasant diversion for me. I couldn't sell my two books, however, since the best they'd offer me was 50 cents each. Get real! So they can turn around and sell them for $18. I'll carry and trade them, thanks very much. I did pick up three books (Bryce Courtenay - April Fools Day; Stephen King - Carrie; Neil Gaiman - Stardust) for $8.50 CDN though, but not from the people who tried to rip me off. That accomplished I also picked up Raymond E. Feist's Magician and Michael Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Club, two newer books, and now I have a traveling library to last me for some time. And on the topic of markets, I spent a couple hours wandering the many, many, many, many, MANY electronics shops in Sim Lim square. The place is huge! Six stories of cameras, TVs, music players, computer parts, authentic products and knock offs, bargains and steals. I felt like a kid in a candy store, albeit a well-behaved one who, though I looked at a few computer accessories and mobile phones, did not purchase anything.

By now, I'd seen most of what Singapore had to offer. It's amazing how easy it is to walk everywhere, but there's also the ultra-futuristic MRT (subway) and a great bus system should you need speed or rest. I spent a bit of time looking around downtown at the tall buildings, getting rained on in the process and ending up in an interesting museum on the history of Singapore, and a bit more time looking at the Arab/colonial quarter. It's certainly an interesting city, but an expensive one relative to Indonesia in particular, and so I leave tomorrow after 5 days here for Malaysia. I'm accompanied by a guy from Denmark, Kristoffer, whose rough plans match mine, so why not split some costs for a while. But not after a Singapore Sling tonight and a visit to the world's largest fountain, The Fountain of Wealth in SunTec Plaza. They're both roughly in the same area, the former is to be had at Raffles Hotel, the place where the now famous and eponymous local drink was first concocted. Well, OK, so I did see the fountain already by day, but I want a good night photo. Or I should say wanted. I just got back from this excursion and the fountain was shut off for the night (apparently the laser show is at 8 then they shut it off) and the Singapore Sling was $25 Singapore, and while it was the best one I've had, I have 1: Not had more than one in my life; 2: Not been satisfactorily convinced that ANY drink of that size is worth even half that much. Still, I finished my drink, said farewell to Singapore, and went home to get some sleep, something that could be quite a rarity in Singapore if one weren't careful.

Singapore Photos

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