Thursday, 10 July 2008

Day 414 More from Singapore

Singapore has been very sociable in the hostel, the staff are very friendly, welcoming and create a nice atmosphere. It is back to late nights and the odd drink, but not anywhere near as late as in Penang. I seem to be one of the last ones to turn in, these youngsters just can't take the pace. My problem is that I sometimes go a long spells without any really long conversations, so when I get the opportunity I seem to make the most of it. Strangely enough everybody I have a long converstaion with tells me they have a flight the following day, but I have wised up to it now, one of the first questions I ask them is "When are you leaving". I saw a t-shirt the other day being worn by a girl, it said "Why does the weirdo always sit next to me", I am that weirdo! I followed her around waiting for her to sit down. I was once again up early, well 8:30ish, but I just seemed to carry on where I left off, so didn't get away from the hostel until about midday again. I walked all the way down to Chinatown via Kinokuniya, the bookshop that had a map reserved for me, so at least once I get to Sumatra I know which way to go. The map has a scale of 1:4,500,000 so I will only be travelling about an inch a day, so I should be able to do that even with a lie in. Chinatown was a bustling little place, with shops full of all sorts of dead things which smelt even worse than Durian. There is no shortage of clothing and electrical shops either, surprise surprise. I walked back along the river giving fantastic views of all the tall buildings of the commercial district. Combe has a tall building, the church, but it's not as tall as these thingys. I passed the Raffles Hotel, I don't suppose they would let a scruff like me in, so I didn't bother asking. There is a statue where Raffle landed in 18 something or other, there is also a hospital dedicated to him. I hope he wasn't ill when he arrived as it doesn't look as though it would have been there at that time. It turned into another late night as I met up with 4 Irish lads. I had to concentrate really hard to catch everything they said as their accents were really strong. I played table football with them and even watched a film without falling asleep, that's a first.

Finding the ferry port to Batam was challenging, but not as challenging as finding out if I can take a bike on an onward ferry to Sumatra, the best answer I got was "no it is not possible", the worst answer was "What's Sumatra, is it a town?". It's only the 6th biggest island in the world and just across the waters from Singapore, it's a bit like a ferry operator in England saying "What's
Ireland?". I think the safest thing is to head back up to Melaka. The first thought that sprang to my mind was "Oh bollocks", but clearly I couldn't put that in a nice blog like this so I will say I thought "Oh blow, what a shame" and I will leave you to read between the lines. I cycled across to Sentosa, a little island a stones throw from Singapore, that was a disappointment too. You even had to pay $3 to get on the thing. I offered $2 for cash but it seemed that their sense of humour detectors were switched off. If you are a beach person it was alright, but I am not, so it wasn't. It was pleasant, clean etc, etc, but it also felt very artifical, it felt very man made, just a big beach resort. Singapore has more beach resorts than Combe. Combe doesn't have it's own flag, or it's own currency what! There was a little road with nothing on it, literally nothing, then I saw a sign on the cycle path next to it saying "Main road ahead, dismount", then another on a little downward slope saying "Steep hill, get off and walk". I made my way back to Chinatown for a late lunch. I got back just as it was raining, good timing for a change. I met a friend of Nick's in the evening, Audrey, whom I had met a couple of days earlier at the hostel, she was going to take me out for a little walking tour. She arrived and I had to pop upstairs for my wallet before we left, so I soon returned "Oh, I thought you were going to change". I was already dressed for a night out in my best clothes, this is as good as it gets. These days I have to rely on my wonderful personality rather than my stunning good looks when I meet people, but first impressions are important and I look like a tramp! We went to a hawkers for some excellent and plentiful food followed by a trip to see some of Singapore lit up at night, very impressive too. I asked all sort of questions as I wanted to gain a bit more of an insight into life in Singapore. She told me that the people of Singapore feel very restricted by the laws here, and that she personally yearns for the freedom we have in Europe. With laws such as, no chewing gum and no jay walking as well as it being illegal not to flush the toilet, there had to be a big fat fistful of more serious laws that would restrict people. There are heavy taxes and little in return, so no NHS, there is national service, and a whole host of rules and regulations about the type of house/flat that you can live in, there are payment meters in all cars and on all motorcycles for journeys that have to be paid for on arrival at your destination, I was surprised. My view had been very different, it looked a wealthy and easy going lifestyle, but as a tourist just passing through you really only ever just scratch the surface, but Audrey helped me make the scratch a little deeper, but making deeper scratches is probably illegal here! I suspect living on an island the size of the Isle of Wight with 4 million other people feels somewhat restrictive too without all the laws. Audrey was a wonderful host, a Singaporian of Chinese decendancy and a Jehovahs Witness that didn't try to convert me, and a delightful person. She talked non stop and then exlaimed "I normally don't talk like this, when I go out I hardly ever say anything", I found that hard to believe. As we waited for a taxi home for her she said out of the blue, at least that is how I remember it, "I always try to be positive, no matter how bad things are I always try to smile, and it normally works, it makes me feel good and I feel much better". That was good to hear. When I returned I once again met the Irish lads, Conor, Darren, Brian and David, a fine bunch of lads but my little brain has to work overtime when they all start talking at once. I only learnt their names as I left them to turn in at 3am. I told them I will have forgotten them by the time I got upstairs, but I had already forgotten them by the time I had washed up my mug.

This morning followed my normal lifestyle here, wake up, get up, eat breakfast whilst talking, eat a second breakfast whilst talking to somebody else, this time to three Welsh guys. Now come on, you can't expect me to remember their names as well, one was named Alun, the other two something else. I made my way on foot to a cycle shop, but took a diversion to an art museum as the outside looked interesting. I stuck my head inside to find that I had just timed it right for free entry, I had also timed it right for a free guided tour. Well, if it is free I will have it. We were shown a bit of a sculpture type job, birds in a cage with the title of "We are happy, are you?" a reference to life in Singapore which rather emphasised what Audrey had been telling me the previous evening. I never did find the bike shop, it was getting late so I decided to give it a more serious attempt tomorrow.

Singapore has more tax free shopping than Combe, but Combe has more shop free shopping. After a shopping trip in Combe you never come back and say "I couldn't find what I was looking for".

I rather like it in Singapore, for me it is relaxed, it's not the most exciting city in the world and it hardly feels Asian, but right now it suits me fine. In reality though I think I need the social life at this time, there is always somebody to talk to, I like the access to the internet to keep in touch, and I suspect that deep down I like the feeling that there is an airport and I can be home easily in 24hrs from any given time. I know I should be moving on, but I find it comfortable here, it is going to be hard to move on. Looking at the map of Indonesia it is huge with not much between where ever I land and Jakata, but I suspect that is just the lack of information on the map.

In reality Singapore is nothing like Combe other than the fact that people live in both of them. No, Singapore is more like Dubai, a finished Dubai without the need to show off, it even has green grass using a natural watering system rather than sprinklers everywhere.

Now Dubai IS a bit like Combe!


clement said...

hi john !

bloody hell i can not believe what i read on your last post !!! do u really think that durian are smelling bad ????
shame shame !!
ok, man, the ones in malaysia were a little bit bizarre !! but if u could have been there to taste all of the ones i ve found on the way back to bangkok.... oh my god !! i m addict now but it s really too expensive in bkk.
well, i hope ure fine, and i hope although u ve found some nice places for tiger-pints to remember the soho-pub !
have a safe trip !

desastar said...

Hey John,

I recently found your blog and am enjoying reading about your trip. I wish I have the guts to do what you are doing. Here I am thinking 12kms is a long way away! Seeing you are coming to Australia, you must bring some durians over for us! Enjoy the experience and travel safe!


Mr Larrington said...

They let /me/ into Raffles Hotel for tiffin while disguised as a pikey, so a smart fellow like you should have no trouble :-)