Not much change here since I frst visited, some 4 years before, but I now had longer to look around, and check out some of the things I didn't see last time. The flight over to Singapore was 11 hours, but this wasn't quite as boring as usual, as Singapore Airlines have installed small LCD TV sets in the back of all the seats, so you can watch the films much easier. The 25 channels also repeat after 2 1/2 hours, so you can plan your viewing, and can now watch 3 crap films in 1 flight, all with crystal clarity. They also have a Nintendo system in the handset at the side of the seat. The flight was 29,000 feet, but there wasn't much to see at all. Changi Airport, the model of efficiency, had my luggage waiting on the carousel when I got there. This happens nowhere else.
I was met at the airport by a holiday rep, who took me to the Furama hotel, where I stayed. This is a decent hotel and is located in Chinatown. It's a walk to Orchard Road, but the hotel itself is very nice. I would stay there again. The Furama hotel also allow you to buy the towels which are embossed with the name of the hotel and they do make very reasonably priced souvineers. After dumping my luggage and getting changed, I went for a walk. Within 90 minutes of leaving the hotel, I was approached by a man of about 25-30, "Hello, Where you from?" I replied, and (of course), he had just been to England, and (naturally) he worked for Singapore Airlines. So if he did, why did he spend the next 5 minutes trying to sell me an imitation Rolex watch?. I wonder if lying comes naturally to these particular people (Not all asians, I must add). ,and whether they do it to each other in the course of normal life. Perhaps they have a "Bullshit filter" that allows them to function properly. After this I figured I would go off and find something interesting to look at. If there's one thing guaranteed to be big and impressive, its religious architcture. Singapore has no shortage of this, and because its freedom of religion, no shortage of different types. There is a big white cathederal, the first thing I came across, but I didn't come all the way from England just to look at cathederals, we have enough at home. (Oh look, its another cathederal). There is a big Mosque here too, a couple of big Chinese temples, a Sikh temple, and a Hindu one too. Both of these last two are in the part of town called "Little India", which is supposed to be like India, according to the guide books. Well all I can say is, it's similar, but this is largely due to the fact that there are many Indians around. It's much cleaner than India, and there are no people begging, although this is probably due to the fact that begging is illegal in Singapore.It's probably punishable by beheading, if the other laws are anything to go by.
I managed to find a part of Singapore that was not quite as squeaky-clean as the rest of it, and that was Chinatown, which was, like nearly all others, a bit untidy. It's quite interesting though. I decided one evening to get some of this meat stuff I had seen much of in Hong Kong. It is sold in shops whose only could scheme seens be be yellow-gold and Red, which are populated by wizend old Chinese women. The meat itself is sold in various types and shapes, but all have two things in common, the meat is always brownish red (Regardless of the animal it came from), and it is all very shiny. I got two pieces of beef for about 3 pounds, each was about 3mm thick and the size of a slice of bread. I'm not sure of the intended method of eating, but I just took them out of the bag and ate one with my hands. The first impression is "Mmm", and about halfway thorugh the first slice, I was still enjoying it. By the end, I felt like binning the other one, so I did. It's much too dry and rich and just errrgh. There are masses of old style Chinese shops here, and I think many of them are not that way for tourists, they just havn't moved on. I noticed that the more grandiose the shop name, the crapper it, or its products actually were. For example, a shop named "The Wong International Import/Export Corporation" could just as easily turn out to sell washers. I saw one shop called "Fook On Co.", which the teenage boy in me thought was quite amusing.
After one day of almost constant walking, I limped back to the hotel. I had walked so much that the joint at the top of my right leg felt like it had sandpaper in it, and after I had started favouring the other leg, my left foot hurt too. I had also sunburnt all my face and arms, but not too badly. The Furama Hotel was quite good, I always judge hotels by the number and speed of the lifts and the size of the TV. There were four fast lifts and a 21" Toshiba, so that was quite good. I now have a Furama hotel towel and facecloth as souvineers, but I chose to buy these rather than steal them. My leg still hurt when I got up, so I decided to use the MRT for the rest of the stay. It only costs about £2.50 to got to the end of the lines, so it's quite economical, and speedy. I took the MRT all the way out into the suburbs, to the Huge Chinese garden, with 9 storey pagoda (With 180 steps, which I climbed), Stone boat, Twin pagodas, and statue of Confucius (Confucius he say...) There was piped Chinese music from hidden speakers, to add to the effect, and Pepsi vending machines to take it away again.
I went and had a look at Raffles Hotel, and very nice it is too, but I had heard about the price of the drinks, so I didn't go in for a Singapore Sling cocktail, I went off for a McDonalds shake instead. I confess, I did eat some McDonalds while I was there (Free mini Tabasco sauce kit with every large meal!), but I did try other things too. I had some Korean food (Not dog!), which was like spicy Chinese. It came with a small pot of chilies, and I tried a very small bit which blew my head off. The man opposite me on the table put all of his into his rice, and ate them, how I don't know. There was another small pot of I don't know what, just in case you had any felling left in your tongue. I also had some chinese type food, though I'm not sure exactly. There is no doubting whether its hot though, it comes in a clay pot which feels like it's just emerged from the kiln, and the food is merrily boiling away while you wait for it to cool enough to the point where it will only burn you.
The weather was good, about 30 degrees C , with high humidity, and it only rained once. But did it rain, 3 hours of total tropical downpour, which I was out in, trying to devise a way back to the hotel which was all undercover. (It failed, and I got soaked). I went on a half day tour of the east coast of the Island, which include a Malay village museum, which is how the island used to be before many people came here, and Changi prison, where Nick Leeson was held at the time of writing this. Changi prison is also where all the prisoners of war were kept during the Japanese occupation during WWII. The tour guide informed us that the main road from the airport into town can be converted into a runway, in the event of another invasion. The other tour I decided to take was to Batam island, near Singapore. At the time of booking it said to bring your passport, so that day I found myself in...Indonesia - Batam Island
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Copyright © M.F.Hughes 1998