Travel Blog: Week 21

Australia, Singapore and other places

Week 21: 01.04.2013 – 07.04.2013

Monday:-

Not feeling at my best today, so I dosed up on just about every type of vitamin supplement, throat gargle, herbal tea and headache tablet I could find and went back to bed. I even missed a trip to the tropical fish shop. The second of the Crawley’s fish tanks was back in action and they bought some guppies, hoping they would settle in and breed. Watch this space for “news from the fish tank”.

The rest of the day was pretty easy. A trip to the flicks with Ange and Nigel – probably the last one together. We saw “The Host”. I’d read the book and loved it so had to see the movie. It followed the book fairly accurately but was a bit cheesy in its production. OK for an afternoon viewing though – and by the look of the cinema a popular choice for Easter Monday.

I stayed in Joondalup when Ange and Nigel went home to buy some groceries and have a wander. I took the train home. This could be my last time in Joondalup station too. I think it will be a few days of lasts when mostly this trip had been full of firsts.

  

I was taking Ange and Nigel out for dinner so we changed, scrubbing up pretty well if I say so myself, and headed to the local Thai. This was a first to this restaurant for all of us and the food was FANTASTIC.

Tuesday:-

Didn’t make it to spin this morning as still not 100%. Ange put me to shame and went though. Well done her!

I pottered for most of the morning. Kind of getting ready for the big off. It was a relaxed day of not doing very much. Ange even made lunch for me.

Once Nigel was home we went down to the cafe at Burns Beach and had cake in the sunshine, and re-capped on the past weeks of my stay. It seems to have flown by.

On the way home I was dropped off at the station and popped into Joondalup. I’d found a love links outlet and wanted to get my Australia bead – a leaf seemed appropriate based on the number of photos I’d taken of foliage over here. I also found I certain kind of candy I’d been looking for – typical on almost my last day!! The turnstiles at the stations were open and so I was lucky to get my return journey for free.

Home and dinner cooked by Ange.

  

I considered booking my onward flight from Singapore but just couldn’t decide what to do. So in the end I decided to do nothing. I was going to wing it – so to speak. Then off to bed to read. Boo my last night in my Aussie home.

Wednesday:-

Didn’t get up until Ange and the boys had left. I made a last smoothie – it was a bit of a bumper one as I wanted to use up all the fruit. I also made an apple crumble for good measure as a little thank you.

I started packing in ernest. I hate packing and despite boxing up some things I still had a mahusive bag. How does that happen.

I made myself lunch and finished the last of my loads of washing. At least my clothes will be clean and fresh on this next stage. Thanks to the wonderful Aussie weather it all dried in time to be bagged up.

With parcels for shipping in hand I catch the train to Joondalup and the post office. I was hoping to collect my Script tickets from the local newsagent, but unfortunately that outlet for tickets had closed down. I’d just have to go to the box office instead.

The weather had improved over the last week and it was so hot. Quite glad to get back in the cool, although trying to close my backpack was sweaty work. Did I mention I hate packing!!

Eventually I was all done. All 3 of my bags were bulging at the seems. I left them at the door and headed back out again for the Script gig. Gareth and a friend were also going but they didn’t want to get the same train as me. In a cruel twist of fate they missed theirs and so we did end up on the same train – I just sat in a carriage as far from theirs as possible. We were soon in Perth and, surprisingly for me, I found my way directly to the Arena. Easily picked up my ticket and was in. I had a standing only ticket and with beer in hand took my place. Only about 5 people back from the front. I saw the end of Sinead Burgess, all of the Original Rude Boys, and half of the Script.

  

  

  

They were fantastic but sadly Ange had arrived outside and it was time to go if I wanted to catch my flight.

There she was outside waiting for me – bless her, what would I have done without them both during my stay here. My bags were in the car and we were off to the airport. Not for the only time for Ange. After dropping me off and driving away I realised I still had Ewan’s phone, the house keys and the SmartRider card. After a quick turnaround she was back and all was corrected.

I checked in. I have no idea how I got my checked or hand luggage through but I did – thank you whomever is looking out for me. Through passport control and the scanners – another thank you for letting those things I meant to put in checked through. Not overly happy that I was not given the option to be patted down rather than the walk in scanner despite my firm requests. Not sure that’s actually ethical. Australia – you’ve surprised me on hat one!

I was soon waiting at the gate to board. Lucky I could charge my phone here.

Thursday:-

The flight was sooo comfortable. The seats seemed huge, soft and very sinkable. I was soon asleep and before I knew it, breakfast was served. Almost a full English but with the added bonus of yoghurt, fruit and choccie muffin. Gotta love Singapore Airlines.

We landed and now what? I’d booked nothing and my next flight on the round the world ticket wasn’t until Bali in May. It was about 6am and my brain was a little fuzzy. I really didn’t know what to do and nothing seemed to jump out at me. After a lot of ummm and ahhhhing, including transferring to Terminal 2 to check out Tiger Airways flights, I decided to stay in Singapore for a few days.

  

  

By now it was 11am so I booked some accommodation online, fortunately there was free wifi here, got some cash and booked the airport shuttle. Only $9 – Singapore dollars, approximately 2 to the £. New money to get used to. I’ve only just sussed the Australian coloured notes. Oh well, as someone once told me, it’s all part of the experience.

I took my seat and waited on the shuttle to Little India. There were 3 drop offs and I was the last so I got a good look at the city – it’s busy but oh so stylish.

  

  

I arrived at the backpackers and was able to check in despite being early. What a great friendly place. Everything set up to be convenient and helpful. I even got a little hand drawn map to show me around the vicinity. I checked out the room which had an ensuite bathroom. It was a 4 bed dorm and I had it to myself.

Time to explore. I wanted to find the post office – I really need to empty my bag, especially as the next few flights probably won’t have such generous baggage allowances. I also wanted lunch and a restaurant was recommended. Boy it was humid. I found the post office but not the restaurant but I found an award winning cafe and had a great chapati and chickpea snack. I then meandered around taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Sensory overload, but so interesting.

  

I loved the markets with all the fruit, veg, meat, flowers, dried something or others – I bought some peeled fruit in a little plastic bag.

Eventually I found myself at a subway station and headed down to Chinatown. Another great bustling area with a different feel to it. I found the info centre I paid for a 2 day hop on hop off bus ticket. I also got the most amazing reflexology and shoulder massage. I was pretty hard core at times, and I felt pummelled after, but it was fabulous. I was there almost an hour and all for £15. It also meant I missed the downpour and thunder and lightning. At least now the air had cleared.

I found some street dim sum which was served in another plastic bag. Not sure what the contents of some of those steamed dumplings were but tasted delicious.

  

  

I walked a lot of the way home, stopping in a few shops to have a nose, but also to take advantage of the air conditioning and to buy an ice cream (it was so good). I even checked out the local cinema – nothing I wanted to see this time. I got the train the rest of the way.

  

It was dark when I eventually I got back to the backpackers. It had been a full day. I spent the evening sorting out my bag, using the other beds to spread everything out, and deciding what to send home. I’d just put my stuff away when there was a knock on the door. 3 more for the room – it was a full house. A party of 9 from the Philippines had arrived and I was going to be sharing with a lady (who seemed disappointed to be sharing) and her 2 nephews. They when out for dinner and I was asleep by the time they returned. I think the limited sleep from last night, day of walking, and massage all helped.

What a day though. I drew out £100 at the airport – had paid for airport shuttle, 2 nights accomodation, 2 day bus tour (which include boat tour), had Indian for lunch, a massage, and dim sum for supper – and still had change.

Friday:-

I was woken by my very noisy room mates who thought singing, calling from the bathroom and generally not being very thoughtful was the way in room shares. Eventually, they were ready and left. It was around 8. I’d had about 9 hours sleep.

I got up and helped myself to the free breakfast – boiled egg, banana and toast. I even tried peanut butter for the first time. Nah – don’t get why people like it. Give me marmite every time.

I popped back to the post office to buy a box and then headed for the bus stop. Another warm and humid day. I sat at the bus stop, according to the map. What I didn’t know was that road works had changed the pick up point. So I saw my bus drive past. I ran to catch it but sadly didn’t make it – I just got really sweaty. Mmmmm – nice (not). I decided to walk to the next stop which ended up being a fair way away and through even more roadworks. I got even more sweaty. I eventually found the next stop – so I thought – but even here the pick up point had moved. This time my bus chasing paid off and I managed to get on when the bus stopped at lights. I sat on the open top deck and watched the world, or at least Singapore, go by.

  

    

  

  

A audio accompanied us and gave little snippets of info along the way. I took the red line first. Then changed to the yellow about an hour later. On the bus I had a double take. Is that my Dad sitting on the opposite side – of course not, his glasses are much more trendy than those. But just for a moment……

The yellow line took me to the boat tour, which was around Boat Quay and the Harbour-side which is the location of the Merlion.

  

  

    

  

  

  

It also took me to the Botanic Garden, where I saw the most amazing trees and plants, oh and a couple of cute little squirrels.

  

    

  

    

  

    

  

    

  

    

  

Back on the bus, which was the first time by ticket got stamped – so I’d travelled all day for free so far, for a few stops then got off at Orchard Road to pick up the subway and head for Chinatown again.

    

  

I wanted to try some more of the amazing food and I saw this kind of fried pizza bread thing being made, so I. Ought a slice. I have no idea what it was or what was on it but it was amazing. I’d sat in the communal eating area to finish it and was approached by a lady – “do you want a beer?” “Sure!” so i had a beer and watched how the locals ate.

  

  

  

Still hungry and inquisitive I featured out for more street food, after a bit of banter where they kind of understood me and a kind of understood them I plumped for 8 steamed dumplings (with unknown filling) for $5 (about £2.50). I think they felt sorry for me because when the dish arrived it had 12 dumplings. By now the locals were smiling at me and were eager to watch me eat. Delicious and filling so those I didn’t eat were wrapped up and I put them in my bag.

  

I continued my walk through Chinatown until I reached Boat Quay. A much more happening area. I was approached by a guy who gave me a voucher for a free drink at a new bar. I thought I’d give it a go but once I’d walked around to the harbour and the Merlion. It was heaving so I stayed a while to watch the sun go down and the lights come up – there is the most amazing building on the other side of the harbour. If anyone remembers the famous Blue Peter, Tracy Island model, it reminded me of that.

    

  

  

Now…….back to find that bar and the free drink.

  

I eventually found the bar but it looked pretty dodgy and was empty. I still fancied a drink so went into the first bar and got a Tiger beer. How much!!!!!! Nearly the same amount as my room cost. It was a great place to be though. I spent the time updating my travel blog and vetting today’s photos getting rid of the crappy ones. Then a guy asked to join me and we talked for an hour or so. He was from Mauritius but lived in Paris and had been here a month. He knew the area and invited me to show him for the evening. After a quick trip back to the hostel and change, we went to a Cuban bar in Clarke Quay.

    

  

The night life was in full swing and there was live music at the bar. Lots of dancing ensued – partly helped along by the bucket sized Mojito. By now I was fading so didn’t want to go in to the next club. We sat on the quay steps before I headed back to my hostel.

The journey home was interesting to say the least. At Clark Quay there were prostitutes on every corner. Pretty high class ones, which I have to day naively I would not have noticed if they hadn’t been pointed out. They were women and men (at various anatomical stages) dressed as women. As we got nearer the hostel it changed to men on street corners. Just run of the mill men. Apparently, by day they are low paid construction workers and by night they do a bit of moonlighting (that’s the most polite way I can think to put it). They offer their services to women and men.

It was now the early hours so I snuck into my room as quietly as possible and was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Saturday:-

I was awaken early again but thankfully the family were out by about 7:30. I was tired and managed to sleep until 8:30 when I dragged myself out of bed and checked in at reception for an additional night. Luckily the room was still available. Relieved I had brekkie and went back to bed.

Today has got to be my most lazy day of the entire trip. It was pouring and so I went back to the room for a view more hours of sleep. I also packed up another box of stuff and ventured to the post office and a grocery store which sold some weird stuff.

  

Back to the room, more sleep, some Internet surfing to decide on next steps – which were not very fruitful and then eventually a shower and change. Good timing – just when the family came back to the room. By now I was hungry but it was still raining so I got some random noodle dish from the street vendors across the road. It was a seafood mix, I think, with some weird but lovely chilli sauce. Not bad for $3.50.

  

My sweet craving kicked in which I gave into and bought another icecream, which cost slightly more that my meal. Well worth it though. The rest of the afternoon and early evening I spent in the hostels common area updating my blog and watching a movie – “Season of the witch”. An OK Nicholas Cage film. I met an Irish guy who was a trainee corporate lawyer looking for a job and somewhere to live. I was invited to join a group of them for the evening. He also told me about a phone I could buy out here for $50. Need to look into that. Bargain!

I was feeling stir crazy and really wanted to go out – the rain had stopped as well. The earlier invite was in no way guaranteed so what to do?? The guy on reception came up with a plan for me. At 8 and 9:30 each night there is a laser show at the marina, if i was lucky I could get up into the bar of that futuristic looking building too. It’s usually $20 but I was given details of a way of getting in for free – I just had to dress up a little. I wasn’t going to make the 8 o’clock showing because even by train there were a number of line changes and it would take some time. I did make the 9:30 show. It was fantastic the way images and coloured lights were projected against the waterfalls. Pretty spectacular.

  

  

Now for my attempted to get to bar for free. I followed instructions to the letter, pretty unusual for me, and guess what…….I got to floor 57 and was in. I couldn’t get into the members area, or the swimming baths and spa (yes there were open jacuzzis on the top of this place) but made it to the bar and got to see Singapore at night from way above the skyline. Wow!

  

  

  

In the meantime, Ed the Irish guy, had texted me. Time to meet at boat quay and Molly Malones. Back on the train and a few line changes later I was at boat quay – where the hell was the pub??? A number of incorrect directions later I found it. Bit surreal, as it was a entrepreneureal business project drinks thing for about 20 trainees. I was asked a number of times what I was doing on the project – I had an almost believable story by the end of the evening and a few useful contacts. Another late night and another stealth mode entry back into my dorm.

Sunday:-

Another late night coupled with an early morning wake up from my roomies is not a good combination but sometimes you have to go with the flow – even if its through gritted teeth. If you can’t beat them join them. I decided to just get up and leave them to the room. I decided to stay another night so I could catch up on sleep before travelling further a field. A room was available but not the same room. I took it anyway.

Breakfast was the usual toast and fruit, but the area was busy today. A large group from India had arrived last night. I’m not sure I’ll even get used to the attitude of Indian men over here or indeed the manners of many of the men over here. The hacking and spitting, which for taxi drivers includes opening the door and disposing of whatever they’ve just coughed up into the road, and the belching is something I’m trying to ignore. I never did mind the little things!!!!

I returned to my room to pack up my bags and get ready to move rooms. It did seem to pack up more easily but I didn’t need to worry about splitting my stuff between checked and unchecked bags. I left them in the room to find if I could move yet. My new room wasn’t yet ready but helpful reception advised me to leave my bags in my room and they would move them for me when they were ready. Perfect! It meant I could go out straight away.

I walked into Little India and luckily hopped on the arriving tour bus – I still had credit left on it. Although the date and time stamped on it 2 days ago wasn’t clear so it’s possibly an open ticket.

I’d taken this route before but I wanted to get to the Garden by the Bay and this would be the most scenic, and free, route.

  

  

    

  

    

I did hop off a few times at places I hadn’t yet seen. The temple and its intriguing surrounding streets, Chinatown again ( for street food, which I’m addicted too, and a jade bead for my bracelet, oh and an old fashioned ice cream block between 2 wafers) where I decided to take the plunge and enter a temple to see some kind of chanting ceremony – shoeless of course.

Back on the bus and onto the Marina. I walked around the Mall for a while. This is real designer couture and you need mega bucks to shop here. I window shopped! Then out to the Marina itself.

 

  

  

  

  

Following the relevant signs I made it outside to the Garden.

  

What a mind blowing place this is. I don’t remember it being here in 2005 but it was pretty established. I paid $5 to walk the Skyway (worth every penny – we don’t walk almost real trees but its the next best thing as the orchids they have growing amongst the metal sculptures are fabulous).

  

  

    

It was so humid today, wearingly so, but as I was here I walked around much of the grounds. By now it was getting on and my legs were feeling heavy. I walked back through the Mall – it felt a bit like Hogwarts – I seemed to walk loads of flights of stairs just to get back to where I started. Eventually I made it to the main area.

  

I did consider staying there longer to go to the Museum or see a show but finances and the lack of availability won the day. I was done in anyway so plodded, yes plodded, to the bus. Only to see it pull away as I got there. This was getting to be beyond funny. I walked to the next stop which was nearer my end destination, found it and waited, and waited and waited. What is it with me and buses!!! I decided to walk through Chinatown (also on the way back) and I stopped at a proper restaurant for a meal. “Din Tai Fung” served reasonable delicious food.

  

I now realise why the street food is cheap, tasty but cheap. The noodle wonton soup here was to die for – the chicken flavour and wonton filling was actually identifiable. Worth a few extra bucks. Fed and watered (a constant supply of tea was on tap and my stomach sloshed as a result) I really needed to get back. With renewed energy i decided to walk more and stop at a few malls. They stay open late here. After checking out a few deals i decided to buy another mobile phone. One that I could use over here. It cost me just under 30 quid and could carry 2 SIM cards at the same time. Seemed a good deal. I eventually found the MRT station and travelled the last few stops to the hostel. I was bushed. I was shown to my new room – a large disabled room. I now had 2 male roomies – one had been hauled up for weeks with a broken leg. It was a bit weird sharing with these 2 but they were friendly. I was on the top bunk which was right near the air con. So it was a chilly night despite grabbing another blanket from the unused bed.

I think this will be my last day in Singapore – I’m ready to move on. It’s been interesting here but I didn’t feel particularly at home here (apart from the street food area in Chinatown).

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