No more laptop :(

Trip Start Sep 30, 2010
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Trip End Nov 29, 2010


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Flag of Singapore  ,
Saturday, November 6, 2010

I'm putting several days into this one post, so it may be long...
On Thursday I left KL by bus for Singapore. The bus was the most luxurious public bus I've ever been on - huge leather reclining seats, loads of space, meal and drink service and TV's in the seatbacks - I will be disappointed next time I travel on the Megabus back home. Strangely they didn't make any announcements so it was a bit hit and miss when we got to Singapore customs, but we all got through OK. Once off the bus I did my usual trip to a cash machine then caught a taxi to the hotel - once again I got the one taxi driver in Singapore who doesn't know where the Roberston Quay Hotel is. When I got to the hotel it has a sign saying it was voted amongst Hotelclub's most popular hotels in Asia, so he really didn't have any excuse, and was quite embarrassed. The hotel had mixed reviews online and I wasn't expecting much, but given the hotel rates in Singapore, this was what the budget would run to...It has a very offputting smell when you walk into reception and the rooms smell of disinfectant. The hotel is circular, so the rooms are all the shape of a piece of pie. The rooms are rather tired and a bit dusty, but well equipped, and the best thing is the view of the Singapore River which I have. It's also very close to Clarke Quay which is a lively area with lots of (very expensive) bars and restaurants - I was a bit shocked by the restaurant prices - 20 pounds for some pasta and a glass of wine at one of the cheaper ones!
On Friday my laptop died - it's screen is blank. I took it to an Asus service centre and they think it's the graphics card, and as I don't have the receipt with me to prove it's under guarantee, I'll have to wait to get it fixed when I get home. So I'm now relegated to using internet cafes :(
Friday was a public holiday for the Hindu festival of Diwali, known as the festival of light - more about this later. In the morning I walked to Marina Bay, a new modern development at the end of the Singapore River. The focal point is Marina Bay Hotel which consists of three towers with a sort of boat thing on top which is a restaurant and viewing platform. By the bay is also the Merlion - half lion half mermaid, which is the symbol of Singapore. The Opera House with it's spiky outside is also by the bay. It is incredibly hot and humid - quite like being in a steam bath when you're outside. Fortunately there is a mall on every corner with air con, so you have to try to cut through malls to get where you're going and keep cool. I walked to Suntec Mall via underground walkways. There was the world's largest fountain (allegedly) called the Fountain of Wealth. There was also a New Look! I took the MRT back, which is the Singapore metro - very clean and super modern.
In the evening I thought the place to be for Diwali would be Little India, so I went there hoping to see some Diwali celebrations. I walked out of the MRT into a sea of Indian men drinking beer. Once round the block and I felt very uncomfortable - there was not a woman in sight, let alone a white person....so I went straight back on the MRT - no idea how Diwali was celebrated :(
I called in China town on my way back, although by that time I was feeling pretty exhausted, so I just wandered through the market and went back. I was amused by lots of market stalls calling themselves departmental stores!
On Saturday I thought I would have a relaxing day at the beach. I took the Sentosa monorail to the island of Sentosa, which is very close to Singapore. The island is being developed as a resort island and they have just opened a Universal Studios theme park here, so still lots of building work going on. It's quite a small island and it felt a bit like being in a theme park. There were free trams running to the two beaches. I went to Palawan Beach and tried 5 minutes in the sun - I felt like I was melting! Singapore is 136km from the equator, so it's hot! I paddled in the sea, which was very warm. The view was a bit strange - it's like a tropical island but with lots of container and commercial ships queuing to get into Singapore harbour. To get some respite from the sun, I went to the aquarium - this was quite small and I have never seen so many people in such a small building. They all seemed obsessed with pushing to the exhibits and taking photos of everything using flash, when there notices saying no flash....there was a conveyor through the shark tunnel - we were like sardines! All I could see were people's heads. There was also a doplhin and fur seal show. The dolphins were rare pink dolphins, and very pretty. Still very few western tourists here, even in the most touristy area! I feel quite conspicuously white!
Singapore is sophisticated, expensive, affluent and confident. They say their motto is courtesy and kindness (not sure if these are all foreigners pushing onto the MRT...). They say it could be the world's 3rd densest city on the planet in 20 years time. It's got quite a lot of green spaces and if it weren't so damn hot, it would be very pleasant! There are fines for littering, eating and drinking on the MRT, and it's illegal to buy or sell chewing gum. Crime is apparently non-existent.
I am feeling that South East Asia is not at all what I expected. It's a region that is developing way faster than Europe, and I have realised being here that I feel a bit out of my comfort zone because this society is more advanced than ours - and I didn't expect that. It feels like SE Asia is trying to emulate and outdo the west. There seems to be an ambition and pride which we have lost. There's a real drive to have the biggest, fastest, tallest, and there seems to be no fear of change.
It also feels like a very young people driven culture, very trendy and confident. Shopping is an obsession here and it's the young people who are spending money - they must be well paid, is all I can say!
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Comments

Wendy on

Very interesting! So glad you included photos of all those ships off the beach.

You are covering a lot of territory in your unexpected free time. I hope you are still up for your Intrepid tour by the time it starts.

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