The six hour bus ride to Singapore was quite uneventful. Very comfortable seating which allowed for some shut eye. Along the way we stopped several times for bathroom breaks and for lunch at a cafeteria-style rest-stop. Since I’d been so good calculating how much cash we’d need we only had 7 Ringgit (about $2US) for lunch. We shared a sliced roast duck and rice dish that came out to exactly 7RMB and considered it a light lunch.
The two border crossings were very easy as we had to disembark with all of our belongings and go through security as Singapore is a very strict country. Once in Singapore, the first stop was to an ATM to get new money. Although we were only here for two nights, I thought it would be a good idea to take out the max as Singapore is an expensive country. Unfortunately, I calculated the exchange rate incorrectly (it happens) and took out more than the max, I guess Chase didn’t have a problem with that). We then got into a taxi to our hotel with the friendliest driver. The hotel we stayed at was a Hotel 81 which is a chain in Singapore. There are anywhere from 20 to 50 of these hotels throughout the country (we received conflicting reports) and they are basic. We wanted to stay in a hostel, but even shared bathrooms are very expensive in this city. We found Hotel 81 which has an en-suite for the price of a hostel, so we picked a location that had the best ratings and ran with it. The location was in the red light district, but this didn’t bother us too much as Singapore is very safe. But you get what you pay for as the room didn’t have a proper cleaning, the mattress was made out of rubber, and the pillows were the same that you would get on a plane. On top of that the tv had no remote and the showerhead fell off the wall the first time we used it.
By this time we were getting hungry as it was night time (not a very eventful day). Singapore is famous for their food, especially the chili crab, and we were recommended by two of my classmates who studied abroad in Singapore (Charlton and Kristen) to go to a restaurant called Jumbos. We ordered the crab, which goes for 44 Singapore dollars for one, along with a vegetable dish, fried rice, and some steam buns.
The crab is swimming in a chili sauce and there is just no good way to eat it without getting extremely messy. We got the approval of some locals sitting next to us that it was ok to dive in, so we did. The steam buns are plain bread that we used to sop up the sauce. To say it was good would be an understatement although we felt like we needed a shower afterwards. Washing that down with a $10 beer took up the entire budget for the day, and it was getting late at this point, so we taxi’d it back to the hotel for the night.
We decided to sleep in a bit the next morning even though we had a long list of places we wanted to go. Once we were mobilized our first stop was Little India. We first tried to walk there, then realized it was too far, then tried to find the MRT, but couldn’t, so hailed down a taxi and off we went. Serangoon Road is the main street in Little India, so that was the directions I gave to the driver.
He asked me to be more specific, so we told him we were hungry and wanted some food. Ever since Penang, Amy has been on a huge Indian food kick, so we just had to get some for brunch. Once again we certainly enjoyed the food, but also started to notice how expensive Singapore was. For just two simple meals with coffee and waters to drink, we spent $30. Our friends told us to only eat at the food centers (which are massive food courts) as they were cheap and very good, but for some reason we didn’t listen to them. Oh well.
We continued down Serangoon Road, stopping at shops and Hindu Temples along the way. As we got to the end of the street, we stopped to get our fortunes told by a fortune telling parrot. The man asks your name, tells it to the parrot, then opens a cage where the bird comes out and selects a card from the table. The man then opens the card with your fortune (see video below). Amy goes first and finds out she is bound for a lot of good fortune in the future.
She will make lots of money from business, her children will be well educated, there will be a wedding in the family soon, and all difficulties will go away. Not bad, so now it’s my turn. Once again the parrot comes out, takes his time as he checks me out, then grabs a card to hand to the man. He opens it up and hands it to me. I find out that troubles are ahead. I will need lots of perseverance, but eventually my troubles will go away. It was the kind of fortune you love to get when you are about to head home to find a job.
After I stopped sulking (what does a parrot know anyway), we cut through the Tekka food center (where we should have eaten) and made our way to the MRT to take it one stop to Orchard Road. Orchard Road is the 5th Avenue, Michigan Ave, Rodeo Drive of Singapore. From the MRT you can go in one direction to all of the shops and the other direction takes you to the famous Raffles Hotel. We decide we would rather go shopping first, so we turn left and start walking. About a few blocks later we realized we were headed to the Raffles Hotel.
Not a good directional day for us I guess. The Raffles Hotel is famous because it is the place that invented the Singapore Sling. So we just had to try one. We knew going in that the beverage was $28, so we decided to only order one. I figured I would get a beer instead because how much could a beer actually cost, certainly no more than $10 (there was no price for the beer on the menu). The Singapore Sling was a little too sweet for me, but Amy enjoyed it, and we got a chance to get out of the heat. Thirty minutes later we were finished and got the bill. It came out to $50. Apparently my beer was $18, then add on the 7% tax and 10% service fee. Congratulation Raffles Hotel, you have now won the title of most expensive bar tab for two beverages.
After that we walked around the area a bit. We are starting to notice how clean Singapore really is (amazing how much a difference it makes when you leave the red light district). We then got back on the MRT to go to the other end of Orchard Road as it was just too hot to walk (over 100 degrees F). The MRT drops you off in a mall, so we didn’t have to go outside.
We saw a bubble tea shop, so got two of those when Amy noticed a salon, Aveda, right next door. She has not had a haircut in quite a few months and they had availability immediately, so haircut time it was. Even though I am probably in more need of a cut, I decided that it was a little too expensive to cut my hair. Instead, I walked around the mall to kill some time. Now, Amy felt like a new woman as we continued to walk the rest of the way down Orchard Road.
We made it back to the MRT to once again take it one stop to the Quays, which is a street along the river which has many chain restaurants and bars. We contemplated taking a river cruise, but instead decided to just walk along the promenade. All of the walking was getting really hot, so we decided to stop at a seafood restaurant for some beverages (I noticed a sign that said buy 1 get 1 free). While there our stomachs started rumbling, so we ordered a few appetizers to hold us over until we made it to a food court later. The appetizers were quite large and filling though (along with the beer) and the tab was once again quite high, so we just skipped dinner. Exhausted from the day, we searched for a taxi to go back to the hotel. Rush hour lasts between 5pm and 8pm in which it is quite difficult to find a taxi.
On top of that the taxis have an 'extra’ charge that increases as you drive. So it typically costs double to ride in one during these hours. Not cool Singapore. Once back at the hotel, we searched for a Laundromat as we were both out of clean clothes (it’s amazing how sweaty your clothes get in this hot part of the world). Laundry was our activity for the evening before going to bed (our first time doing our own laundry as up until now we could hand it to someone else, pay a small fee, and have perfectly ironed and folded clothes a few hours later). How better to spend an evening in steamy Singapore than in a non-air-conditioned Laundromat watching your clothes (we couldn’t leave them for fear of them being swiped in this neighborhood).
Same same…but different (a popular phrase in Asia). We woke up at the same time, went down to the same crappy breakfast, and ate with the same Australian couple as the day before. However, today we were on our way to Singapore, a city that we have been looking forward since the start of the trip, especially if it was as great as we have heard along the way. Once breakfast was over, we packed up our bags, checked out, and had just enough money to make it to the new bus station in KL. I have been trying to predict the amount of cash needed in each city as Chase likes to take $5 from us every time we use an ATM (on top of the fee we pay to the local bank). For the first time, I correctly predicted. The bus station is pretty far from the city center though, almost near the airport. But this bus station would make many airports quite jealous. It was spectacularly clean and very well organized. We went to the bus company's counter to collect our tickets and off to the gate to wait for our bus to arrive. There are many different classes of buses heading from KL to Singapore. Some try to make the trip more comfortable than a plane with very comfortable seats, wifi, and a lounge that plays movies. This was a little higher than our budget allowed for, so we went with the cheapest bus, which was still very nice.