Grey and muggy and not much to see..
03.02.2013 - 05.02.2013 32 °C
My enthusiasm for the train from KL to Singapore decreased dramatically as 4pm, our scheduled arrival time, came and went and it was five o'clock before we pulled into Singapore Woodlands. There, once through border control, I realised I was in the middle of nowhere, or at least as in the middle of nowhere as one can be on a small island state. And it was grey, overcast, hot, sticky and raining heavily. I walked through some weird shopping centre place in search of an ATM for some Singapore dollars. Once I found one and estimated how much cash I'd need for a day and a half, I made my way back to the bus stop. A girl helped me work out which bus to take to the nearest MRT (tube) station however the driver wouldn't accept my $10 note, the smallest denomination I'd received from the cash machine. I was by this point sweaty, grumpy, very rained on and carrying a backpack that was getting heavier by the minute. I made my best 'please' face but when that didn't work I swore at him under my breath and stomped of to the taxi rank where the queue was long and taxis infrequent. Eventually I was rescued by a Turkish man called Mustafa also with a backpack who offered me $1.10 in change for the bus which was lucky as the taxi queue wasn't moving anywhere fast.
We travelled to the MRT station together where I got change, paid him back and then ditched him as he seemed to be struggling with remembering where he wanted to get to and I was in no mood to wait around. The MRT journey took 40 minutes and then I got lost looking for the hostel. Needless to say that by the time I arrived, after 7pm, I was not a happy bunny. Having eaten nothing but 'dry food' all day I was hungry so, after a beer, I ended up eating at Burger King. I should have felt bad about it as Singapore is known for its food and I had just wasted one of only three meals I'd have there on fast food but at that moment I didn't care.
The next morning I woke feeling refreshed and ready to give Singapore a second chance. Leaving the hostel at 9am it was already warm and sticky and still grey and overcast. The Bugis area had lost the bustle of the previous evening when it had been packed full of excitable shoppers and eaters. I walked to an area called Kampong Glam where there were some cute boutiques and cafes as well as a few mosques but being so early everything was still closed. So I walked through little India which was just waking up and beginning to emit food smells. Both areas were not inline with the Singapore of tower blocks and glass-fronted buildings I'd had in mind. The rest of Singapore however was. I walked through the colonial district, past the iconic raffles hotel to the river where the high rises were out in full force, looking miserable against the skyline.
I wandered aimlessly round china town for a short while, which seemed disappointingly like just another business district, then through a park before going to the Asian Civilisation museum on the north bank of the river. And Lonely Planet 2008 had lied to me again - having been promised exhibits on Japanese anime, I found ancient artefacts from across the continent, exhibits about Islam and the different strands of Buddhism. It wasn't that it wasn't interesting, but having wanted I brighten my afternoon with cartoons it wasn't exactly what I'd been after!
After lunch the only other thing I'd really wanted to do was go to the aquarium but it was on a small island off Singapore and I felt the cost may clear me out of Singapore dollars. So I went to the only major area I'd not yet covered, Orchard road, the shopping district. Most of it was indoors (for obvious muggy/rainy reasons) and the street outside was like a busier version of Berlin's Kurfurstendamm - uninspiring. So another city in a day done. Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps I was just grumpy (and had been bitten by a lot of insects since arriving) but I concluded that Singapore was either a place to visit if you wanted to throw money away on shopping and drinking or a place to live (if you wanted to be hot and sweaty and throw money away on shopping and drinking) but not a place with a vast array of sights nor budget entertainment options.
In the evening I'd arranged to see a couple of former colleagues. We drank at a rooftop bar on the sixty-something floor of a tower block in Raffles Place - apparently the worlds highest altitude rooftop bar - and the views were obviously incredible. You could see practically the whole of the island, the river, boats docked in the port and even the various patches of different weather across the island including flashing lightening in the distance.
As they regaled me with tales of office life I could not have been more glad to be out of it all. Their stories of how the owner of the company had kicked one of them in the eye on a night out and injured another to the point of requiring stitches reassured me (as if I'd ever had any doubt) that I was well out of that world. I couldn't really believe I'd put up with such ridiculousness for so long. When I'd first resigned, I'd actually made a list of all the reasons why I'd quit (it was a long and easy list to write) to look at in case I regretted my decision - over six months on however, I'd still not looked back at that list and now I didn't think I ever would.
After just a couple of drinks we parted ways and as I walked back to the hostel, I was looking forwards to leaving Singapore the next day. I felt in a way as though as if the parts of my trip I'd most looked forwards to were already over (namely India and South East Asia) and I intended to give myself a sharp kick up the a*** the next morning to get rid of any travellers fatigue and ensure that the Southern Hemisphere would prove to be an as enjoyable and memorable experience as the north.
A plane at 7.25am meant that I got up at 4.45 to travel to the airport and was thoroughly pissed off to find that my driver had dropped me at the wrong terminal. But as we left the grey of Singapore behind and the plane flew over Indonesia, the sky cleared up and the sea was bright blue again I cheered up immensely.