Vacation in Singapore

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Singapore isn't cheap, so booking a room was a time consuming and annoying project.  No joke, rooms at the YMCA are $200+ a night.  So I finally found a place that looked decent, was close to the metro, and would let me reserve a room without paying up front.  It was in the red light district, which many of the reviewers found shocking and problematic, but the oldest trade doesn't make me all that uncomfortable.  Our area of Bangkok has plenty of women and pseudo-women lined up at all hours of the day, and I find it more fascinating than frightening.  If I think about it too thoroughly, I find it heartbreaking, but there are definitely worse tragedies in the world.  So I booked us a room in the Geylang area of Singapore.
 
Our hotel was relatively nice, but it really was an island in a sea of hookers, and the waters had obviously been polluted by time and overuse.  If Thailand is a bastion of pubescent prostitutes and young-looking transvestites, then this section of Singapore was garrisoned by robust, maternal women whose obvious experience in the trade didn't seem to promise a good time, but instead assured customers would be utilizing damaged goods.  A few tiny, chain-smoking pimps stood sentinel on street corners, eyeing the awkward swirl of aged women and foreign clients.  But we spent 5 nights there and no one bothered us or sifted through my pockets as we walked purposefully to and from our hotel. 
 
Lindsey and I arrived a day before Derek so we could apply for our new Thai visas and celebrate our 4-year anniversary in an exotic location.  When you live in Thailand, exotic destinations are not in short supply, but we thought it would be cool to be somewhere different.  Our plane got in late, and we didn't have the time or energy to go out for a posh night on the town, so our romantic meal was at a hawkers' market and consisted of questionable meats floating in a bucket of noodles.  I considered that this might be an odd way to celebrate four years since our first kiss (and second date - Lindsey's a good girl), but if anything has been a mainstay in our relationship it's wandering the planet and eating local fare.  So it was a cool night.
 
The woman in charge of visas at the Thai embassy wasn't my favorite person in the world and refused to be swayed by things as overrated as logic and international law.  So we only got one 60-day visa and will have to head abroad again in a few months.  But with that out of the way we could focus on our travels with Derek who arrived that night.
 
I hadn't seen Derek, my big brother and good friend, in a year.  But strangely, it didn't seem like that long.  One, because I haven't seen most of my family in longer than that, and we talk online all the time, so the magic of the internet keeps the relationship from feeling distant.  Still, I was incredibly happy to see him.  He was less thrilled to see me and regularly told me I looked like I'd been living in an internment camp because I was too skinny.  The fact is, I have lost weight because I no longer drink 4 days of the week or do shots of queso every chance I get.  Derek was seeing me through the tinted glasses of American double cheeseburgers and deep-fried everything.  I look perfectly normal for Thailand.  So I accepted his first few well-intended comments and then told him to eat shit for the rest of the trip.  For anyone else concerned, I am trim, but I'm still all kinds of sexy.  Rest easy. 
 
I knew what to expect out of Singapore, so there wasn't much chance it could disappoint me.  I realized it was a sanitized version of Asia, with little to no genuine culture.  But it's also very Western and convenient, which is why we chose it as a spot to meet.  The public transportation is phenomenal, there are great museums, and tourist sections of town are very well done.  All of this translates to prices four or five times higher than most of the country's neighbors, but I knew this ahead of time too.  So I tried not to let it bother me and paid $12 for a beer without choking on my own bile.  We walked the river front, hit up some cool bars, ate some good food, and caught up on all that had happened in our lives in the year since Derek came to Thailand.  We're not very interesting people, so this took about 4 minutes and so Derek then told us about everything going on in the States and updated me on the family. 
 
I'll breeze through the 5 days in Singapore.  Everything was crazy expensive, everyone spoke English, and the city had done an amazing job turning many sections of the island into incredibly successful tourist traps.  We waited in line for 45 minutes and paid $15 to take a 3-minute cable car ride over the most unimpressive scenery I've ever seen.  It was like a bird's-eye tour of a gypsum mine with the horizon covered in scaffolding and commercial ships.  I quickly hated myself for being suckered into this excursion to Sentosa Island, but half-way through I had much more distaste for our companions who kept exclaiming how beautiful everything was.  Apparently, exposed rock and the aesthetic brutality of commerce and shipping were not available in the dungeon they had been living in.  I realize I have been fortunate enough to visit some cool places, but I'm really not that hard to please.  I've said this before, but I lived in El Paso for 15 years, so I am impressed by almost anything with an even mildly attractive landscape.  The cable car delivered us into throngs of tourists who immediately hurried to get into other lines and pay whatever extortionist prices Singapore had deemed fair.  We pushed through them and walked down to a faux beach and paid $12 for a beer and $6 for a bottle of water.  It would have only been a more unpleasant purchase if the beverages had been served in enema form.
 
But we did find some attractive beaches and some descent food farther along the beach.  The ubiquity of ships on the horizon really detracted from the scenery, but the sun was out and it was nice for all of us to be so far from home and work.  We all had good laughs about the experience, and I had a great time.  We caught a cab off the island and I vowed never to return to Sentosa except to burn it down.
 
The Singapore zoo really is world class, and the lack of cages makes it an experience like no other.  We saw amazing primates and stared at the tamarins in particular for at least half an hour.  Lindsey took a photo with some orangutans and the polar bear exhibit was phenomenal.  That was probably our best day in the city.  Also, we ate Taco Bell 3 times, which in itself was probably worth the $100 we paid for round-trip tickets from Bangkok. 
 
We spent a lot of time in the Clark Quay area and checked out both Chinatown and Little India.  All in all, Singapore was just what I expected and I enjoyed it, mostly because of the company.  We then decided to head to an Indonesian island for some relaxation and golf.
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Comments

sissylow
sissylow on

Singapore Sarcasm !
This entry has you written all over it! I don't know if you made me want to go there but I'm glad you did because it made me laugh a lot!

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