3.6: Singapore

Day 133: Melaka to Singapore

This morning I packed and left for the bus station. As I was leaving the guesthouse I met a girl from Scotland who was also going to the bus station so we went together. It took a while for us to find the bus stop to get to the bus station but we got there eventually. When we arrived she went to her bus for KL and I got the bus to Singapore. The bus journey went quickly and when we arrived in Johor Bahru, the bus stopped twice; once to exit Malaysia and again to enter Singapore. The bus stopped at Lavender bus station which conveniently was located close to where I was staying. I walked to Kampong Glam, which is the Islamic quarter, and went to Sleepy Sam’s Hostel. It is located in a pretty pedestrianized street with the Sultan Mosque at one end. The hostel itself is nice and has a café and also has free internet and a free breakfast.

133.1. The Sultan Mosque in Kampong Glam.

After I checked in I went to the metro station and bought an EZ card, which is similar to the Oyster card in London and can be used on the metro and buses. I went for lunch at an Islamic restaurant called Zam Zam’s and had a Murtabak, which is bread filled with mutton and onions. It is a bit like a big Cornish pasty. I then went to Orchard Road to try and find a Rough Guide for China. I eventually found it in one bookshop but it was expensive so I bought a Lonely Planet from another bookshop that was about half the price. Afterwards I went to Club Street for a beer. It was a very up market area and the beer I had was very expensive, about $S12 (about £6). Afterwards I went for a walk around Chinatown and had some food and a much cheaper beer in the night market.

Day 134: Singapore

Today I went to visit SIMTech, a company that does high tech research for manufacturing and includes some optical metrology research. They are under the Singapore Technology and Research Agency (A*STAR) and are located on the campus of Nanyang Technical University in the far west of Singapore. I met with Mok who does an EngD through Cranfield University where I did my PhD and I had originally met him there when I was working as a researcher. Mok showed me around some of the labs in the morning and then we went for lunch in one of the campus canteens. Mok had been unexpectedly called to a meeting in the afternoon so I went to the culture centre on campus and saw a display on the history of Chinese people overseas. I walked back and saw the Art and Design building which has unique architecture of two intersecting arcs with grass covered roofs. When I came back I met with Dr. Zhang who heads the Precision Measurements group and we discussed the possibility of me working there after my trip. He described his group’s operation and asked me some searching questions about my PhD research and my career aspirations. I struggled to answer some of them since I hadn’t thought about work for a while. It seemed to go OK though and I agreed to send him my CV and contact him again when I return to England.

134.1. The Art and Design building at Nanyang Technical University.

In the evening I went for a walk around town and took some photos of the skyscrapers at night. I came back to the hostel and joined Omar, who is from the Philippines and in the same dorm as me, and an English guy and a Scottish girl. We had a few beers which we bought from the 7-11 and seems to be the cheapest way to drink in Singapore.

134.2. Singapore at night.

Day 135: Singapore

Today I’d arranged to meet with Joey, who I met before on Christmas Day over breakfast in Luang Prabang. She arrived at the hostel while I was sitting outside eating my breakfast. She suggested that today we do a walk through some parkland in the centre of town. That sounded good to me so we got a metro to the Harbourfront and then walked towards the University. We walked to the top of Mt. Faber, a hill overlooking the city where we saw the cable cars leading down to Sentosa Island. We crossed the Henderson Bridge, which is designed like a wave, and then followed the Forest Walk, a kilometer long section of steel walkway. We then visited a floral garden and walked along the canopy walkway, which wasn’t quite as impressive as the one in Taman Negara.

135.1. A walk in Singapore.

We came back into town and had some lunch. Afterwards Joey treated me to a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel, the most famous hotel in Singapore. The tables all have bowls with peanuts and the floors are covered with peanut shells. Joey showed me how to correctly peel a peanut.

135.2. Singapore Sling and peanuts at Raffle’s Hotel.

I went back to the hostel and met with Joey at around 19:00. She arrived in a taxi with her friend Dhana, who she’d also met in Laos. I’d met Dhana then in Luang Prabang as well but only very briefly. We got in the taxi and went to Little India and went to a restaurant. There we met some more of Joey’s friends, Lai Lian and Joey, who I know by their initials LL and JK. After dinner we went to Clarke Quay and went to a bar called the Pump Room. We had a few beers and later met another of Joey’s friends called Winnie. Later on a band played. Being the new guy, the girls wanted to torture (sabo) me, so they sent a letter to the band to say that it was my birthday and to bring me up to the stage. They eventually succeeded and took lots of pictures. We left the bar around 2:30 and went for some food before getting taxis back.

135.2. Night out at Clarke Quay.

Day 136: Singapore

Joey came over to Sleepy Sam’s hostel at around 10:30 and we went to visit Sentosa Island. We went to Siloso beach and then went for a walk around the island. We visited the Underwater World aquarium and saw turtles, rays, moray eels, some bizarre creatures that looked like little angels and a dugong called Gracie.

136.1. At Siloso Beach on Sentosa Island.

136.2. Bizarre creatures in the aquarium: A Sea Angel and me with my twin brother.

Afterwards we went on a cable car up a hill and did the luge ride. It is a bit like go-karting but there is no engine on the karts since it is all downhill. Joey looked cute in her helmet. We had a race to get to the bottom, which I won. We then took a walk through the Sentosa flower show and saw the Merlion, a huge statue of a half-lion half-fish creature which is the symbol of Singapore. Joey had to go back in the afternoon to see her family as it was Chinese New Year’s Eve. 

In the evening I went to Zam Zam’s restaurant again and then went out to the cinema. I watched Red Cliff II, a Chinese movie directed by John Woo about a battle in the 3rd Century during the time of the Three Kingdoms that spelled the end of the reigning Han dynasty. It was very good and I will try and get hold of the first part when I get home.

Day 137: Singapore

Today I decided to visit the zoo since the one here in Singapore is rated as one of the best in the world. It was very busy as it is Chinese New Year and the zoo is one of the few things open, though it was mostly Indian people there since the Chinese were likely at home celebrating. I saw some white tigers that were in a large enclosure with water to swim in and they seemed happier than the ones I saw in Chiang Mai. There were many primates including baboons, Colobus monkeys, proboscis monkeys and a large enclosure for Orang Utans. There were also polar bears and Komodo dragons.

137.1. Singapore zoo.

Afterwards I came back to the hostel before going to Aljunied metro station to meet Joey. We sat outside the station on the grass as we waited for LL and JK to arrive and when they did we went for dinner and later met Joey’s friend Kris and her son and daughter. After dinner we went for a walk around the Geylang red light district. The streets were all lined with many girls, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, but also some from Thailand and China. Behind them all the buildings seemed to be hotels which advertised room rates by the hour. The girls got me and Kris’s son to walk in front because they wanted to see how much attention we got from the hookers. It wasn’t much though as it was apparently quieter than usual because of the Chinese New Year. We then went to a stall so that I could try Durian, the infamous fruit that is so pungent that it is banned from public transport. Joey made a video of the whole event. I didn’t react as much as she expected me to though as it didn’t smell as bad as I expected. It tasted alright but the texture was very gooey and not very pleasant and it was very rich and I couldn’t eat very much of it.

137.2. The Durian experience.

We then got the metro out to JK’s house in the north east of the city. On the metro line there is a station that is missing, apparently dead bodies being discovered there when it was being built and it was never opened. You can see the station in the half light when the train goes through. When we got to JK’s place we had some wine and Joey and JK taught me how to play Mah Jong. It was complicated but I began to get the hang of it as the night went on.

137.3. Singapore in Mah Jong.

Day 138: Singapore to Macau

At 9:00 we got up and said goodbye to JK and headed to the metro. LL and Winnie got off at different stops and Joey came back with me to my hostel where I packed my bag and checked out. I left my bag at the hostel and Joey and I went to visit the botanical gardens and orchidarium on Orchard Road. Afterwards we went back to Sleepy Sam’s and went for lunch before I picked up my bag. We sat outside the hostel and Joey read the entry in my journal from when we met in Luang Prabang. She read another entry from Nepal and I told her how Kanchha had taught me Nepali on the trek. I taught her some Nepali phrases and Joey taught me some Mandarin. She remembered much better than I did when Kanchha taught me. Then we headed to the airport and Joey came with me to see me off. We went to the budget terminal were a bit early so we had a while to wait until my flight departed. The time soon came though when I had to leave and we said our goodbyes. I was sorry to be leaving her. The flight was about 3 ½ hours but it went quickly enough as I slept most of the way.

138.1. At the botanical gardens on Orchard Road.

When I arrived in Macau I went to get a bus into town. I had some Macau Patacas that I’d got from the ATM but I had no small change and the driver wouldn’t change large notes. Luckily I was bailed out by an Irish guy and his Australian girlfriend who were also boarding. We got off the bus and shared a taxi to the San Va Hospideria, which coincidentally was where they were also staying. I’d booked it in advance since I’d been recommended it by Natalie when I was on Pangkor Island. The taxi driver spoke no English so it was a bit difficult but we got there eventually. The guy at the guesthouse spoke no English either and I was a bit worried since I hadn’t printed out my confirmation email but in the end it was no problem and he knew who I was. Once I’d checked in I went out and bought some stir fried noodles and some beer and went back to the guesthouse. It was good to be back in the land of cheap beer.