We arrived in Singapore at about 4pm, after our two hour flight from Kota Kinabalu. At the airport we were efficiently on our way to our hotel without any fuss. As we boarded the airport shuttle we were told by the driver to fasten our seatbelt. We did as we were told but it was odd as we hadn’t had to use a seatbelt for most of our trip so far. Oddly we nearly had two collision on the way to our hotel, I’m not sure why. I think it’s that some people follow the road rules and others don’t, which makes it unpredictable. In the rest of SE Asia rules aren’t followed as much but everyone knows where they stand.
We checked into Victoria Hotel, which reminded me of all the generic hotels I’ve stayed at for work. Having said that it was spotless, there was hot water, the staff were very friendly and it was the most expensive place we had stayed in.
Ambreen was still with us at this stage and we headed straight out to meet up with Colin and Steve who had taken an earlier flight to Singapore on their homeward-bound journey. They only had a few hours left before catching the final leg of their journey to London. We spent a final few hours having something to eat at Clarke’s Quay which reminded me of the restaurant area at the O2 but out in the open. We did lose a little track of time as the guys missed their transfer back to the airport. However, they made it despite not having any Singapore Dollars left. I never did find out how they paid to get back?!
While Ambreen was with us we packed in all the main tourist attractions. The Singapore Flyer was first on the list, it’s like the London Eye but bigger. From the top you got the feeling that you could see all of Singapore as after all, it’s tiny. It’s basically a compact city with 4.5 million inhabitants on an island.
On our whirlwind sightseeing tour while Ambreen was with us, we went to Little India, China Town, Raffles and the famous Night Safari.
The Night Safari was a strange experience; it’s like visiting the zoo at night. When you arrive you are first herded to a show which is a bit like being in a circus. You have performing otters, python and bear type creatures amongst the many. After the show you are waved onto a tram which takes you around the park and you get to see lions, elephants, deer, hyenas, hippos and much more. We elected to jump off half way round and do a walk to see flying squirrels, clouded leopards and bearded pigs and then jump back on again.
It’s the oddest experience as you are in the rainforest and you can’t always see what stops the animals just coming up to you and biting you head off. However there are absolutely no bugs of any kind and it’s tacky as hell. BUT it’s fab and lots of fun. The highlight was seeing three huge hippos cuddled up sleeping in their mud pool.
On Ambreen’s last day we met up with one of her friends, Eunice, who has moved back to Singapore after working with her in London. She was a lot of fun and we made tentative plans to meet up again before we left.
Once it was just the two of us we slowed the pace down again and spent the next few days pottering about. The more I got to see Singapore the more I felt like we were in a game, something like The Sims. It’s spotless, orderly and everything looks new. A lot of it’s like a computer generated image, so perfect. We got told off for eating in the MRT, their equivalent of the Tube. On our part it was a genuine mistake, I’d popped an Indian sweet bought from Little India in my mouth and offered Jono one. I hadn’t started chewing before I got a stern telling off.
On one of the days we took a trip to Sentosa, a ‘theme park’ off the island of Singapore. It has beaches and some tourist attractions; the one that drew us over was the luge. Basically you sit in a go cart contraption and point yourself down a hill. It was fun and a good taster for a much bigger and longer one found in New Zealand which we’ll get to. Sentosa just adds to the computer game feel of Singapore because as there is music being piped out everywhere. I liked it but it was not Jono’s favourite place, I think the plastic nature of it was too much for him.
Something that was a departure for us was a home cooked meal courtesy of Lauren and Hadi (her boyfriend). I’d first met her while travelling in Thailand 10 years ago. They’d just got back from Cambodia that day but they were up for meeting up and feeding us. We had a lovely evening, reminiscing and sharing travel stories.
On our final night we met up again with Eunice and her husband and went for our final meal in SE Asia at a hawkers centre. Hawker centres are excellent places to eat as they offer a whole variety of food from different stalls, all under one roof. Eunice and Owen ordered a plethora of dishes for us to try, including my favourite of the night, stingray. It was a perfect evening to end the SE Asia leg and thanks to Eunice and Owen we did not pay for a penny!
Singapore was our last stop in South East Asia and both of us were feeling apprehensive about leaving. The “western world” was beckoning and both of us felt strange about re-joining it. The 5 hour flight to Perth was ahead of us and we would soon be in the thick of it.