Stark

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
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Flag of Singapore  ,
Sunday, November 5, 2006

Jackie ran me in to Auckland City Centre to collect my airline tickets from the Sunday collection booth (long story) then it was back over to the airport for another goodbye. She'll never know it but I have such a lot to thank her for. As life-shaping as the last two years have been, Jackie's helped heaps with the direction. I'll say it again. She's the angel on my shoulder. Bless her.

Had a classic checking in my baggage. It seems that as my tickets have been printed in two sets - four outward, four inward - this has caused a bit of ambiguity and as a result I was told that I couldn't take two bags through the check-in, only one. After a few deep breaths they said they'd 'let it go' on this occasion but warned me that I might have further troubles at my next check-in. After all this time I'm starting to wonder just what exactly is written on my head? All I could do was email the flight centre back in Queenstown and voice my concern. This I did.

Singapore Airlines. Spot on. Professional, impeccable and consistent. I can't speak highly enough. I was fortunate enough to get a window seat again and unfortunate enough to have to cause the stern, professionally dressed gentleman in the aisle seat close his newspaper, get himself up and stand aside, all so that I could get into my seat. As the inconvenience was so apparent, I decided I might try and help the situation. This meant being a little pro-active and getting everything I might need for the entire journey out of my bag. This way, I wouldn't have to reach for it again during the flight, thus causing more distress to old Sterny. I tucked my belongings in and around my seat and stood up to put my bag away for the remainder of the flight. As I did this he took a long deep breath and raised both eyebrows. 'Looks like I anticipated THAT one,' he said, and folded his newspaper one more time before standing aside. I smiled and nodded, confirming his apparent witty intelligence. Then all my Christmasses came at once. A big, bounding rough old Sheila, our 'middle seat', was here to join the party. She was fantastic: bubbly and bellowy with plenty of random bullshit to talk/giggle about and who clearly was going to have our no-smiling, no-talking highly important paper-reading dickhead climbing the walls. I'll never be able to express the joy.

Doreen and I nattered like two old school chums for ages, intermittently, between soaking up all the joys our hosts at Singapore Airlines had kindly provided us with: classic retro video games, comedy shows, movies and music. It was a doddle of a flight and the eleven hours flashed by without any notice. Our paper-reading friend had an awful flight by contrast, though considering how much inconvenience he had to put up with from Doreen and myself, it's hardly surprising. I think Doreen needed the toilet a good three times during the flight, while I had his concentration interrupted at least twice. After his initial witty remark about my bag I never heard a peep from him the entire time. Until we came in to land. I was sat listening to music in my own world when I noticed him lean forward in his chair and motion something in my direction. I looked over and he signalled a neck-slicing action with his outstretched hand, clearly the signal to pack away my MP3 player before coming in to land. He absolutely despised me.



I'd forgotten that Singapore sat on the equator. Never even gave it a thought. Which is why stepping off the plane came as a bit of a shock. It was just after 8pm, at around thirty degrees with full humidity. Jeeeeesus! Coming from four degrees with zero humidity, I was dressed appropriately for the howling chill. How amazing a climate change can be. It was like stepping straight into a steam room. Conveniently though, the airport was made to be humanly bearable by the fiercely abundant air-conditioning that blasted out thick gushes of chill in every nook and cranny. Like the flight, moving through Singapore airport was a pleasurable and trouble-free process. I went from plane to exit door with not a smidgen of hassle. It was all very clockwork with impeccable timing and as I approached the external doors my taxi came swinging in, boot open. My voluminous baggage was taken from me swiftly, pressed in to the back of the cab and we were on our way. Twenty minutes and $20 dollars later and we found ourselves in Little India, an immense culture shock given how immediate the new environment was presented, and how radically different my previous environment had been. The overwhelming shift in climate only enhanced matters.

The Inn-Crowd backpackers is situated right in the heart of Little India - the 'Indian quarter' if you like - of Singapore. I didn't see one westerner amongst the herds of locals - the majority of them Indian, dotted with the occasional Asian, all of them pushing and pulling in a random hustle and bustle of mixed direction - the road being the main footpath. Many of them were stood huddled in shop doorways sharing stories and tales of humour or conflict, some were sat cross-legged in small groups on the floor spilling themselves form kerbside to road talking and shouting energetically or playing simple games to amuse themselves. The taxi driver beeped his horn three or four times just to squeeze us into a ridiculous space between two old cars for us to unload. I was amazed no-one was injured. It was pure chaos.

After checking in to the hostel I made my way upstairs to the bunks where I met a healthy selection of dormies: including Pierre - on his way back to France, a fat Irish couple who by the smell of things hadn't seen a shower in weeks, and Neils - a Swedish guy in his sixties who's been travelling around the globe for sixteen years in a small boat. He's in Singapore temporarily, waiting to take delivery of some important ocean charts before he can sail away in to the sunset. He was a jolly fellow with white, tied-back hair, and sat sweating on his bottom bunk in nothing but a pair of old y-fronts, arms wrapped around the front of his belly like Santa. We stood nattering for about an hour as I stacked bags and took out a change of clothes. I'd been given the bunk above him.

I'm not sure if it's the same with all hostels in Singers, but the Inn-Crowd are pretty hot on their 'no bed bugs' policy. Shoes must be left downstairs in reception, sleeping bags are not permitted in dorms, neither are backpacks, at least not anywhere near the bunks. As air conditioning runs flat out here twenty-four-seven you're given a couple of towel-like blankets for covering yourself up during the night. The hostel offers a hive of local information and arranges heavily discounted trips to some of the local attractions. Staff are really friendly here and the facilities are more than adequate. While it's not as 'spectacular' as the website shows (are they ever?) it's more than adequate for my simple needs and seems an agreeable enough place to be spending the next few nights. Singers. I'm here already, and to think I spent last night huddled in a cold damp garden shed on a different continent. Amazing..
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