Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Day 16 & 17: Arrival Into Singapore

"I want tell story," he said, in very broken English, taking out a plastic bag stuffed full of clothes. "I have this for fifteen years. It from my mother." He takes out various garments - they are covered in blood. "This from me." It's also covered in blood.

This was our introduction to Singapore, upon arriving in our Chinatown hostel, and speaking to one of the guys in our 12-man room. Chinese, with very very broken English and a nervous manner. Upon establishing where we were from, he launched straight into his "story", complete with bloody props, which we never quite fully got to the bottom of, but sounded grim, and connected with Chinese law, or lack of it. The good news is that his family live very near one of the Wonders on my list, the Spring Temple Buddha, and we have exchanged email addresses, so I hope to hear more of this story.

Burness has already stated he does not wish to be present.

I don't think the above is a typical introduction to Singapore, which has been very enjoyable so far. A fast, busy, slick and modern city, with excellent public transport, we arrived on Monday evening and soon after checked into our hostel. Our hostel name, wait for it, is "A Beary Good Hostel." It is full of large teddy bears, bear calendars, and plenty of other puns on the word "beary". I'm finding it entirely charming. The hostel itself is very cosy - i.e. small - with 12-man rooms which are surprisingly quiet - I'm sleeping better than in the 4-man rooms in Sydney.

We've only had one full day in Singapore, as I write, and that was spent taking in a preview of the Marina Bay Sands hotel-casino-shopping complex, one of my candidate Wonders. It wasn't the best introduction. Very overcast, we got off at the nearest subway stop and walked towards it. Although the complex is complete, some of the surrounding area is still being worked on, and so the approach from the subway station involved skipping across some busy roads, alongside construction sites. The angle too was not the most flattering to the three-building hotel, approaching from the "butt" of the SkyPark, thus not getting to see the complex in its full glory, face on. By the time we'd got closer, the casino and shopping complex at the towers' foot partially obscured the view of the towers. Together with the general greyness of the day, the wonder of the Marina Bay Sands was eluding us.

It was still early - before 9am - and the whole site was very quiet, with most the shops yet to open. Inside the atrium of the actual hotel was a little busier. By 10am, the nearby ArtScience museum, situated in the intriguing lotus-like building next to the shopping centres, had opened so we went in. There were a few exhibitions going on, primarily one displaying many works by Salvador Dali. It was good, but of far greater enjoyment was the Van Gogh one, in which the many walls of a gallery had the works of Van Gogh lit up by projectors, changing to music. It might not sound much on paper, but it person, walking up and down the gallery, it was quite an experience to have the walls continuously changing, with huge paintings surrounding you.

Outside the weather was ominous, and we tried to make it to the subway station before a torrential downpour stopped us - Burness had no umbrella and my umbrella wasn't coping anyway. We took shelter under the overhang of a glass building, which turned out to be a tourist centre for the developing Marina Bay area. Here was an interactive model of the area, and a very helpful Filipino girl who gave us all kinds of ideas for things to do in Singapore when the rain stopped. She also gave us a short summary of the works going on. The Marina Bay area is built entirely on reclaimed land - the original beach side used to be at Raffles Hotel, which must be slightly irked that a busy road takes the place of its nice beach. The amount of land reclaimed from the land is incredible, and includes the entirety of the Marina Bay Sands complex, meaning that the Marina Bay is a completely artificial creation. The idea is that Singapore's new downtown will be shifted to Marina Bay, for reasons I'm not quite sure of - is something wrong with the current downtown?

The rain eased a little, and at our travel guide's advice, we located the Lau Pa Sat market and ate really cheaply under a octagonally floor-planned cast-iron covered food hall dating from 1894, with Victorian style decor. Even getting a seat was a mission as the place was packed, but once done we had a choice of all kinds of different Asian cuisines - Chinese, Indian, Korean, Indonesian to name but a few. We selected some cheap and tasty Korean bibimbap.

After doing a quick electronics shopping, we picked up our Grand Prix tickets. Singapore's night-time street circuit Grand Prix takes place this weekend, and we have tickets for the main day on Sunday. Already, the city was beginning to change its shape, with barriers being erected, roads being closed off, and grandstands and stalls cropping up, giving the place the air of a giant music festival. In some ways it is a festival - Rick Astley, among others, is playing on Sunday. Alas, when I expressed my excitement to the ticket girl, she explained to me that my general walkabout ticket (the cheapest available) did not allow me access to the area that Rick Astley would be performing in. Damn me for being so cheap.

We also popped into the Raffles Hotel for the obligatory tourist tick-in-the-box "Singapore Sling" cocktail.

It was full of tourists, also drinking Singapore Slings. But despite the £14 cost, it was quite nice. Burness even had two.

Some dinner in Chinatown, and a final night in "A Beary Good Hostel" awaits, although our friend with the story doesn't seem to be around. We may have to find his story out another day as tomorrow we move onto more luxurious territory - one night at the Marina Bay Sands.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a day I had in Singapore: rain, walking through building sites, and an expensive Singapore Sling... Raffles was nice, though, and the "free" spicy nuts excellent.

    Enjoy the GP. I'll be looking out for you, so a big gesture is needed. Run on the track, hold a flare, present the BBC show etc.


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