Singapore: Hanging out with Shao Ming

Singapore Travel Blog

 › entry 28 of 28 › view all entries
In what I expect to be the last travel bus I'd take on this trip, I headed down to Singapore. And as half expected, my bus drops us off in the middle of nowhere again and it is once again nighttime. Well, it wasn't really nowhere, but alongside one of the main roads close to Singapore's Little India sector. However, a quick walk and read through of my travel book showed very few hotels nearby. So after getting some Singapore Dollars from the ATM, I hailed a taxi and asked him to take me to Chinatown. Unfortunately, there weren't quite as many cheap hotels here either (it seemed the one I was looking for had closed down because I couldn't find it) as I had to walk around a bit more. I eventually got myself holed up in a cheap looking place... that cost S$40. With the exchange rate at about 1.5 Singapore Dollars --> $1 US Dollar, this was going to be a bit expensive. At least the place was on Smith Street, Chinatown's famed night market. Got a quick bite to eat and then proceeded to a LAN cafe to leave a message for my contact in Singapore before they closed for the night.

My friend in Singapore, Shao Ming, is also another forum acquaintance like Darren. Through exchanged messages, I managed to get his phone number and a prepaid phone card to call him up the following morning. We then met up in the early afternoon. Since he had just finished exams, he was willing to let me stay at his house over the weekend with his parents' permission. This of course required hauling my stuff from the hotel to the suburbs outside of the main city where he lives. Fortunately, public transportation is smooth although backpackers are definitely a rarer sight here than anywhere else I've been to. As in, I didn't see any others. Before that, we even went to go watch a movie, The Wolfman, at a mall with a few of Shao Ming's friends. The movie wasn't anything special, but it sure felt weird walking into the elevator and movie theater carrying 2 backpacks on my back and chest.

The outside suburbs of Singapore pretty much consists of multiple 12+ story high apartment complexes interspersed along quiet roads. It really gives off a neighborly feel as there are several parks and sitting areas in between. Shao Ming's place was in one of these apartments and was a nice clean place. After getting up a little late on Saturday, I scanned Singapore's main newspaper, the Strait Times, for job openings (my little project in Singapore) and marked a few offerings that I would apply for later. Shao Ming also helped map a route for us to go look for hostels. Afterwards, we had a light lunch and proceeded back into the main city. We actually headed back into a different part of Little India to start our hostel search. We didn't find the exact place we were looking for, but the hostel we stumbled upon, The Prince of Wales, looked promising. $18 dorm beds and a bar downstairs with free wi-fi. So I reserved a room for Sunday evening. Afterwards, we took a walk to the nearby Singapore National Library Building where Shao Ming needed to drop off some books. And I tell you, this library is huge. What was even cooler was the library drop box even had a video screen above it which showed your books dropping onto a moving tray and indicated a red "wait" or green "ready" light. Pretty snazzy stuff.

The main event for the day however, was a huge gathering at a shabu-shabu place in a mall. One of Shao Ming's friends was leaving for China and this was a farewell party. Thus, he and his entire university cosplay club (estimate 25 people) were there with the express intent of eating and lounging around for hours. I didn't talk too much with everyone, but it was quite fun and just sitting at a restaurant for hours was the kind of thing that fit the pace of this trip. And the food was excellent; they had many different kinds of meat marinated in teriyaki or szechuan style or whatever else. We started at around 4 and didn't leave until almost 7 PM. From there, we hung around at a nearby bowling alley and arcade where I got to play some GuitarFreaks. It was a very carefree evening. After a while, we excused ourselves and headed home.

On Sunday morning, Shao Ming's mom took him, his sister, and myself out for breakfast and quick errands. We went to a small market area and had pancakes and omelettes similar to what I had seen in Koh Tao. Amusingly enough, we even had the local political representative stop by our table to wish us a Happy Chinese New Years and gave us some mandarin oranges. It was very homely. After some shopping, we went back home to peruse the newspaper some more and then relax. In the evening, Shao Ming went along with me back to The Prince of Wales and we agreed we'd meet up again later. Then I settled in for what I expected to be a long haul.
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photo by: easyjobrob