Singapore Fling

We were sad to be leaving Ko Tao, not only because it marked the end of our paradise beach stay but because we had to repeat the long and painstaking boat and bus trip back to Krabi, and then follow it with a long travel day to Singapore. Fortunately, it ended up going much smoother this time and we arrived in Krabi late at night and decided to just stay with one of the hostel touts fishing for people at the bus station. Our flight plan to Singapore wasn’t too fun; we had to switch planes in Kuala Lumpur over a 5 hour layover. It ended up going by a bit faster than expected because we spent a significant amount of time talking to baggage claim services- my leatherman pocketknife was stolen and my bottle of Armani cologne had been smashed. The latter must have been endured an especially impressive hit. I’ve dropped that glass bottle several times. It is quite thick and was also packed inside multiple bags-short of someone telling me the bag got nailed with a crowbar, I have no idea what could have happened to it. Nevertheless, the backpack smells a lot better now and our travel insurance is supposed to cover 80% of the cost of our stuff due to damage/loss by the airline so hopefully this will end just being a minor inconvenience. We loved our arrival into Singapore. On the plane we read the accompanying wikitravel article we had. A comedian had apparently coined Singapore as “Disney World with the death penalty;” another deemed it “the world’s only shopping mall with a seat in the UN.” In some ways, both of these sentiments proved to be true. Singapore is a tiny city-state, about 3.5x the size of Washingon DC. According to the CIA Factbook, its GDP per capita is ranked the 8th highest in the world (the US comes in at 9th). In the old days, customs officials would force dirty looking backpackers to have a haircut or take a shower before entering the country. Many of these seemingly martinet restrictions have since disappeared but chewing gum and pornography are still illegal (as are publications by Jehovah Witnesses); being caught trafficking drugs results in a mandatory death sentence. As we took the subway from the airport to our hostel, I couldn’t help but liken Singapore to being something like an Asian London. The city struck us as being very safe, somewhat expensive, and very clean. The humidity made it a bit sticky (this was actually the closest we have ever been to the equator) but like living in Louisiana, you can spend most of your day in the air conditioning and hardly get affected by the heat.

We were a bit exhausted from the long day so we did little that night except eat dinner and fall sleep. We found a nice Indian place to satiate our hunger. As always, it was superbly delicious. To recover from our flight from the day before, we decided to sleep in a bit our first day. Most of our hostels on this trip have supplied breakfast quite generically, ie Western-style breakfasts, such as eggs and toast. But now and then, we’ve been able to get a little something extra. This time it was “kaya,” a delicious coconut jam that comes in unfortunate green color. We were also served dragon fruit, but somewhat to our disappointment, no durian. Being an obviously very urban city we spent most of our days walking around town. We first went to go see the legendary Raffles Hotel, so that we can imagine where we would be staying on our next trip to Singapore. Afterwards, we found ourselves stumbling down Orchard Street, the miles long home of innumerable shopping malls. We stopped into one that also had a cinema and we went to go see Get Smart! The sun had set and everyone had left work for the mall by the time we were let out of the cinema. We decided to spend a little bit of time looking for anything interesting that we could also find on sale- we both found a few things but being hungry, we decided to return tomorrow instead. We had been craving, though hesitant, to eat sushi over the past few weeks. Seeing as we were in a country whose hygienic standards are likely stricter than that US’s, we sought out to find the perfect sushi restaurant, which we eventually succeeded in another mall down Orchard Street. We enjoyed an after-dinner street-side snack of ice cream sandwiches as we strolled down Orchard looking for yet another mall, this one known to contain a huge Border’s store. We found this as well, but we were dismayed by the prices that were sometimes double the US prices. We had hoped that the multinational chain would have lower prices than some of the local shops we had peering into earlier in the day but we were a bit disappointed to find that this wasn’t the case. We returned back home close to midnight with the intent of waking up a bit earlier the following day.

The next day we set out to try to take advantage of the month-along summer annual “Great Singapore Sale,” where retailers evidently discount their wares. We ended up both buying enough clothes to realize we would have some problems on our next flight with its 15kg/person weight limit. I also bought durian flavored ice cream sandwich. Durian has often been described as smelling like “sewage” or decay. Officially, it is an offense to carry it on public transport or bring it into a hotel room, the smell is so bad. The best way I can describe its taste is to say that it is something close to the “warm” sweetness of a fruit that is about to go bad. It didn’t leave the nicest aftertaste in my mouth and Katie deplored the way it made my breath smell so we decided that we likely wouldn’t need to try the real thing. Interesting enough though, it made us realize that the awful smell we often perceived in fruit markets all over the tropics was nothing more than durian (and that all the fruits for sale were not rotting, as the overlaying stench suggested)!

We had been needing to finish up some blogging as well as submit a scholarship application so we returned to the hostel during the hottest part of the day to take advantage of their free internet. For dinner that night we found a small food court where Katie got half a barbequed fish and I was able to satiate my rekindled Indian food craving.
We spent our final, half-day doing nothing more than wrapping up a few loose ends. Having spent the previous few weeks with unreliable Internet, we video conferenced with our parents in the morning. After that, we picked up a copy of Jane Austen’s Emma (We enjoyed Persuasion so much we decided to keep reading the Austen series, albeit backwards). After getting our final Asian noodle dishes for lunch but before having to take the subway to the airport, we went to go take some pictures of the Raffles Hotel, something we neglected the day prior.

Aside from having to both carry on an additional bag of “stuff” so as to avoid the overweight baggage fees, we were stunned to discover that Australia requires a visa for all nationalities. Though we have no idea how we missed this, as we checked and rechecked visa requirements for all the countries we were visiting, as Americans we qualified for an “e-visa” which the airline took care of for us in less than 15 minutes by just making some mouse clicks over the Internet. Though a bit annoyed by what was essentially hardly anything more than a governmental tax, we were grateful that we had no other surprises till our arrival in Australia. (I tried to use my Polish passport as I am a bit low on free visa pages in my American one, but I was told that Poles don’t qualify for an e-visa.) One thing that we did encounter when we landed in Darwin, almost 4 hours later, was how incredibly strict the custom agents were. Many people were having their luggage hand-inspected and a number of items which are typically not a problem in other countries were highly scrutinised by the agents. We were nervous about our wooden nativity scene we purchased in Bethlehem. Though sealed with lacquer, we were afraid of problems as one particularly macho looking agent gave an Asian fellow hell, as he hand-inspected his luggage one pair of undies at a time, for having a wooden elephant statue with him. Deciding to act a little more sheepish and naive than perhaps we really are, we guiltily declared our can of Nescafe as food being brought into the country. We had a cordial chat with a young officer, during which we continually expressed concern about the Nescafe. A bit charmed and likely annoyed, he checked with a superior and said it would be okay. After a pass through an X-ray machine and not having to endure a moment more of further scrutiny we passed through with our souvenirs not earning a second’s more attention.

One Response to “Singapore Fling”

  1. Estefana Rachels says:

    All dz stories does nt bother wenger so suggestion is nt useful 2 him.

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