singapore - Where's Byrne?

singapore

06.03.2012 – 09.03.2012 Sunny 32°C

We taxied it to Malacca Sentral (15RM) to get the bus south to Singapore, which just happened to be waiting for us. 22RM each. Malaysia’s buses really are the best in Asia. The seats are huge, comfortable and you can actually turn your aircon off. They put Thailand’s to shame. Three hours later and a walk across the border to get our bags scanned and passports stamped out of Malaysia and into Singapore we were dropped off at Queen Street Bus Station. I say bus station, it was more like a car park next to the Sim Lim Tower. The couple we had met in Borneo then met up with in Borocay, Dave and Audrey, had just been around Singapore the week earlier and gave us some excellent advice about where to stay and the things to do. Across the road from the bus station was Dunlop Street and the start of Little India. Down Dunlop there were tons of hostels. We went in and out a couple to get a general idea of prices for a dorm bed (£10 – £20) until we come across The Inn Crowd, a hostel rammed with travellers. We got two beds in a dorm of twelve for $20 each ($2 to £1 so £10), dumped our gear and set off with the map and advice given to us by the very helpful white guy with a funny eye on reception. (I say he was English, B thinks he was European).

Little India. Verdict: If you like Indians and all the gear that comes with them, you’ll like Singapore’s Little India. Every other shop was a restaurant or Indian Hawker type place and there were carts around selling snacks. Shame I don’t like Indian Food. Any of it. When I say that to people I feel as though I have to back it up by adding I have tried it too. Kormas, Tikkas, Rogan Joshs, Baltis, Tandoori Chickens, Naans, Poppadoms, Onion Bajis. I haven’t found anything likable yet. I hate cream in sauces and I hate coriander, that seems to rule out half of the options. Even their straight chicken and chips tastes crap.

Original Tour Bus Trip. Getting off the efficient Singapore tube, the SMRT (but with a stupid payment system whereby you pay a $1 surcharge on every ticket you buy, then when you finish your journey, you queue up at the machines and insert your ticket to get your dollar back) in Chinatown in search of decent grub, we stumbled into a food court, with over half the hawkers closed. Settling for a Char Kway Teow (the biggest one I’ve had so far) we carried on walking and found the real Chinatown. We’d noticed loads of tour buses circling past us and after our successful try of one in Shanghai thought this would be a great way to get around. One pulled up in South Bridge Road in Chinatown, an Original Tour bus so we jumped on and bought twenty-four hours hop on, hop off for $18 each (£9). We could have bought tickets for $36 each which entitles you to use buses of other companies but we thought we’d be OK with the Original Tours as they seemed to float around a bit. First, we stayed on the bus for a complete route to see where we wanted to get off and take mental notes of what we wanted to see. We jumped off at Clarke Quay, a group of bars and restaurants lined up along the river, had a beer (£5!) and went back to the stop to wait for a bus back to Little India where we were staying. There are three Original Tour buses and they are supposed to come every forty-five minutes. It didn’t turn up and we were not happy. Rather than get a cab or use the SMRT we decided to walk back and cut through Fort Canning Park, which goes up and over a hill, through a university campus, past many shops and finally towards Sim Lim Tower. The bus driver was going to get it in the morning.

A pretty rough nights sleep due to the aircon being on full and noisy idiots in our dorm room was followed by a frustrating hour and a half waiting at a bus stop for our Original Tour Bus to turn up. We found the stop, or what we thought was the stop due to road works and waited. Five minutes later it popped round the corner but when I flagged it the driver just waved in front of him, 100 yards up the road where the temporary bus stop was. B and I picked up our pace to a fast walk to get there and unbelievably the bastard drove off. I was already going to have a moan about the bus not turning up the night before, the tosser driver had really pissed me off now. The next two buses didn’t turn up either which resulted in a very long wait so when he did turn up we got on and I had a right go, asking him where the previous two buses were. ‘Accident’ he said. ‘Not my problem’ I replied, our twenty-four hour ticket ran out at 4:30 so I told him to add the hour and a half to make it 6pm. He refused point-blank and rudely told me to ‘phone the office’. Shithead.

Heritage Walk. We got the bus that day to get to the Marina where the Helix Bridge (a DNA modelled bridge), the Singapore Flyer (Singapore’s version of the London Eye, which is 30 meters taller than London’s and is pointed out at every opportunity), the Sands Hotel (3 tall buildings with a boat type structure containing a bar laid across them), the Merlion (a fish, lion statue that spits water) and various other attractions were and completed a walking tour from a leaflet we picked up in the Marina Bay City Gallery. This took in bridges and buildings constructed when the British were there as well as the cricket club, monuments and the Parliament Buildings. It ended at Boat Quay where there were loads of seafood restaurants and bars. Clarke Quay was five minutes walk away. Verdict: Well worth it. Quite long in the Singapore heat at 3km but was good.

We used the bus one more time to do a complete route (eventually, the first one didn’t turn up, again) taking in Orchard Road where all the shopping centres were and a couple of other places, getting off in Chinatown for a good meal. Singapore’s Chinatown isn’t the best I have been to and was too rich for our blood, a meal for 2 coming to well over £20 with no drinks. We walked to the Lau Pa Sat Food Centre about 15 minutes away which was more to our liking, spending £4 or so on great local food. We SMTR’d it back to Little India and had another crap nights sleep at the Inn Crowd, this time purely down to noise made by some twats outside our room and the odd person coming back late. Big dorm rooms are a nightmare. Original Tour Bus Trip Verdict: Don’t bother or pay the extra $’s. You’ll be stuck waiting for buses that don’t turn up otherwise.

Sentosa Island. We SMTR’d it to Sentosa from Little India and got the monorail to the island from within a shopping centre. We didn’t really know what was there but Sentosa seemed to be on the list of things to do. It’s basically a good attempt at turning the island into a theme park, but with lame results. Universal Studios is located right on the north tip although expensive at $60 each, and there is a beach along the south tip with a rope bridge to a tiny island, with a signpost ‘The Southern Most Point Of Asia’. Not surprisingly, it looked out to the sea. There was a small zoo type place that showcased a huge Iguana ‘touch and meet’ but the rest was closed, the Orangutan show postponed because of ‘the star’s’ ‘MC’. ‘What’s an MC?’ I whispered to B while the narrator was blabbing. She didn’t know either. Menstrual Cycle? Presume so. You could rent a Segway from, somewhere we couldn’t find and you could go ‘indoor skydiving’, but that’s about it. An Aquarium, closed, various bars and restaurants, closed and a golf course, no thanks. We spent a few hours there and headed back to our hostel on the SMTR for an internet afternoon, including buying our Aussie working visas. Exciting stuff! Verdict: Tough one. Suppose you have to go but if you missed it due to time constraints, don’t lose any sleep. Sentosa – sort it out! Reopen the attractions and bars.

Singapore was nice but nothing special in my opinion. It’s expensive for what’s there and you can’t take a photo without a crane in the background such is the amount of building work going on. It’s a very new city, everything is shiny but it’s very strict and isn’t mad on having been owned by the British for so long. Also Singapore fried rice doesn’t exist.

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