Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Salutations from Singapore!

As you can see, I tried my hand at alliteration in the title today. More of a passing thought than a real attempt at serious writing, my brain is still far too frazzled from traveling all of that way so quickly that I'm sure I'll be disgusted with the quality of writing when I look back in however long.

So, Singapore. I think I can sum up my general impression in the following phrase: Great ideas, awful implementation. I'll back this up with examples: the train service, fantastic speeds, long trains, every 4 minutes, extremely cheap. But only 20 seats per carriage, so everyone stands. Not so much of an issue, but when you see the cost that's gone into the rest of it, it seems a slight oversight. Next up, the train doors match up with a kind of wall on the platform with doors in. Fantastic idea, no access to the tracks so no need to worry about people going onto the tracks, people dropping things on the tracks etc. Poor implementation? Human error, the trains line up with the other doors maybe 1 in 10 times, which reduces the space for everyone to get in and out with. I could go on. I won't.

Above all, innovation and a desire to think differently seem to prevail here. People warned us that it was a police state but on the whole it just seems to be a really busy city. Full of rules, yes, fines for eating in the wrong place, fines for dropping litter, fines for bringing chewing gum into the country. Our welcoming statement on our arrival card was in large red letters: "DEATH TO DRUG TRAFFICKERS" and the kind lady over the intercom reiterated this with that wonderful word 'Mandatory death sentence'. Of course the girl in the seat next to us chose that moment to tell us about baggage handlers slipping drugs into passengers luggage to get it into the country and having it retrieved by other baggage handlers this end so she had had her bag wrapped at the airport. At that point I'm a littler nervous, I hope she was making it up. Anyway, I'm typing this, so no one tampered with my luggage I guess. It was locked anyhow.

We're staying at a little place called the Mercury Backpackers Hostel, and so far we're quite impressed. The rooms are small, but everyone has their own locker and the air con is wonderful in this heat. The beds are well made with nice pillows and linen, so we both slept pretty well last night. On the downside, tiny rooms and no kitchen (the latter of which worried us until we went out today). Jacuzzi on the roof too!

And regarding the no kitchen, after asking what I assume is the manager (very friendly man always around reception helping everyone with everything he can) to point us towards a Singapore breakfast, he gave us directions to a 24 hour food court around the corner. Wow oh wow. To start, I ordered a watermelon juice from one of the stalls for approx 1 pound. For Aussie/US viewers, that's about $1.50 ish, and expected a can with chinese writing on to appear from a fridge. Imagine my surprised when the woman smiled and pulled chunks of Watermelon from a bowl, dropping them into a juicer. My jaw just about hit the floor. But they're everywhere here, fresh juice shops of all shapes and sizes, cheap and tasty, combos of everything you can imagine. Aya and I proceeded to pick randomly (well, I did, she can read Chinese, so I bet she picked something she knew) from the variety on offer and settle down for breakfast. I think the total cost was about 4 bucks. True, we could eat cheaper in the kitchen, but not by much, and not for nearly as well (quality was superb).

Anyway, after that we hit the center of town, a few shopping centers, a couple of temples and China town. While there, we walked through some of the food courts and I have never been stared at so much in my life! I was the only caucasian, but it was like they had never seen one before! Two teenagers said hi to me to show off to their girlfriends, who were both looking at me like I had grown a second head. The older people did a few double takes and then we were through and out into the next one, where the process started again. We were in the back areas I guess, Aya leading the way into the dingy looking (but amazing smelling) food courts.

Anyway, we hit up a Mos Burger (Japanese Burger King) for some chips and a shake before heading back as my feet felt like they were going to fall off, and here I am, writing this post. Early night again tonight.

Pictures are uploading, for those who want to see them, the Picasa album thing is here, they're still going: https://picasaweb.google.com/100530533598214468473/TravelPhotosSingapore?authuser=0&feat=directlink

Right, until tomorrow! Spread the word about this blog!

Andy

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