Shopping in Chinatown.
Singapore, destination number one on the final leg of our trip. Our first city, and our first country as it turns out. Call me ignorant, but I didn't realise that Singapore is a country all of its own, and not just a city in Malaysia as I had thought. Its a big city/country as it happens, with a population of 4.5 million calling it home.
We flew in from Perth on our final Qantas flight, and it was the same as the others, absolutely top notch. The food was brilliant (braised beef with veg and mash) and the interactive entertainment had films just released as well as classics. During our 5 hour flight John watched 'The Last King of Scotland', and 'Borat' for a second time, as well as the beginning of a few other movies.
Outside eating and sharing our meal, like true Asians!!
The flight over and after prying me from my chair we headed into the impressive terminal. It was late on Monday evening when we arrived, so our only intention was to make it to our hostel and its hopefully to a quiet dorm room for the night. We jumped in the first taxi we found and our driver gave us loads of tips on what to see and do in Singapore, pointing out the sights as we drove past the impressive skyline of the city. Our hostel was in the city's large Chinatown which, along with Little India, make up a large part of the citiy's atmosphere and feel. Most people describe Singapore as a melting pot for all the Asian cultures, and on first impressions we would have agreed. The hostel was great, apart from us having to stay on the 4th floor without any lift (our backpacks have turned into huge, swelling spaces with a life of their own).
Chinatown by night.
Our first night was spent looking for some food and a phone card to phone home with.
We only had 3 nights in Singapore, so day one was about seeing as much as possible. We decided to partake of what is considered the national pass time of Singapore, which would you believe, is shopping. All the signs and books say that you will inevitably find yourself in a shopping centre of epic proportions, so instead of fighting it we headed straight for shopping central, Orchard road. Sure enough, it was one massive complex after another, each one making even the mighty Lakeside look like a small corner store. After an enjoyable 6 hours ( I said they were big!) OK, it was more like 3 hours, but still! We then headed back towards our Chinatown residence, stopping in the Chinatown markets on the way to have a look at the offerings, which were of course plentiful and extremely cheap.
Now look at that for luxury!
After another hour or two had passed we were heading back when we passed a Hindu temple called Sri Marianman, which had extremely colourful walls and was adorned with statues of cows and gods and scenes of every description. A sermon of sorts was being held inside, with music from drums and pipes belting out a continuous, hypnotic beat. Entry was open to all, as long as you did not go beyond specific spots and took of your shoes before entering, so we decided to have a look at what the 'other side' had going for them. The temple had stunning murals and statues, and all around us Hindus were saying prayers and making offerings. We didn't stay too long, feeling like outsiders where we did not belong, and so headed to our hostel to drop off our shopping before we tried some of the local stalls for food.
Having a look around in the temple.
We settled on a Chinese style stall which was of course open air, and they served the locally produced Tiger beer which made me happy. The food was awesome, all well prepared and served on a huge green leaf. Day one in Singapore and Asia was over, and so far it was off to a good start.
Day two, and we had barely had a chance to finish a great breakfast/lunch when the phone rang and we were on our way to meet a friend from Port Hedland. Tony Cherry was one of the regulars in our restaurant, as his job working in the mining industry regularly takes him to the ore rich region of Australia which we called home for 3 months. When he asked on our travel plans before we left it emerged that he may be in Singapore the same time as us, and sure enough we were on our way to meet him for a drink before he caught a flight to Indonesia that same day.
Waiting for the bus.
We headed to a British styled pub by the waterfront and passed a couple of hours swapping stories about Port Hedland and the like before he gave us a ride in his taxi to his hotel which was near little India. So, after saying goodbye we spent more hours engaging in Singapore's national sport, some hard core shopping. We spent our final night in Singapore at a very 'local' eatery, which hadn't a word of English on the menu so we were braving the risk of ordering cat or dog! It went fine though, in fact the food was lovely and cheap too so it was a decent night. John had hoped to return to the same pub to watch Liverpool compete in the Champions league final, but the kick off time of 3 am proved too much in the end, and instead we slept like babes until our early rise so that we could catch our bus into Malaysia the next day.
Singapore's high risers.
On arrival we found that the only bus not booked was the 'luxury liner' trip to Kuala Lumpur, so we ended up paying more than planned but next to noting by British and Irish standards. Luxury was a complete and utter understatement! There were only 16 seats on the full size bus, and each leather seat fully reclined and had proper leg rests so that you could lie back and sleep if you wanted to. Built into each seat was a full massage system, so that we could at all stages of the journey enjoy a soothing massage as we watched the full size adjustable television monitors that sat in front of each passenger. If you didn't want to watch any of the brand new releases that they had on offer, you could simply pull the play station joypad out of the seat beside you and enjoy a selection of the top games at your command.
Inside the Hindu Temple.
And while all this kept you far from boredom, a hostess worked her way up and down the bus offering drinks, a decent meal and a warm blanket if you were feeling the chill, and all included in the price! Bloody paradise, and well worth the 17 pounds we paid to travel 5 hours (Waterford to Dublin or London to Swansea!) in complete and utter style. Within no time at all, we could see the twin peaks of the Petronas Towers; Kualur Lumpur, here we come!
Let's hope the rest of Asia is as comfortable and welcoming as Singapore and its bus companies have been so far!!