Last stop - Singa-poor!
Trip Start Feb 11, 2010
26Trip End Dec 11, 2010
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Where I stayed
Chez Birnie, Cantonment Rd
Nevertheless, my schooner is always half-full. These minor disruptions paled into insignificance against the thumping the English cricket team dished out in the first two tests of The Ashes. Furthermore, I was able to enjoy the Baggy Green’s misery with some very dear friends from my Uni days (although I’m sure Kate would have preferred me and Danny not having our eyes glued on the TV screens whilst insisting we were listening to her). Fair play too for Rich getting on the beers just a day after landing; and drinking on in the face of jetlag. So after a final lunch with the trusty Nicolin (the inspiration behind my blogging – as a quid pro quo: www.travelpod.com/members/travellingtans ), I was dashing to make my plane to Kuala Lumpur.
8 hours later I was touching down in the Malaysian night. Tip: Do NOT try to be smart and book the window seat immediately behind the emergency door on a plane. The on-line booking screen may give the impression this would give you about 10ft of legroom; but the untold reality is that the emergency inflatable slide is stored in this area. Consequently, you ultimately end up with less legroom than in an ordinary cattle-class seat. The two passengers to my left couldn’t help but smirk as they basked in excessive space to stretch their limbs. I ended up resting my legs on top of the slide’s casing. The joke would have been on them had I fallen asleep and kicked the release lever by mistake. The fact my cramped legs were able to carry me off the plane without a sniff of deep-vein thrombosis was a personal victory. For once, I was grateful for my hobbit legs.
KL itself didn’t have much to offer. A brief look at the Petronas Towers (formally the tallest building/s in the world at 452m) was the highlight. Topically, they reminded me of a pair of Christmas Trees, glowing white in the humid, dark sky. My main aim here was to book a train to Singapore. The night-train? Fully booked. Any of the 3 trains the next day? Fully booked. Ditto the next two days. Tell you what KTM Trains – I’ll fly instead. The following morning, after a wild-goose chase between the 20-minutes-apart terminals for Air Asia (the Ryanair of Asia i.e. 40 Ringgit just for having a bag), I departed the city aptly named 'muddy confluence’ and made the short flight to Singapore.
Here, I had the luxury of being put up in a glamorous apartment by my fellow Harroldite, Helen. Despite being here for what is technically "monsoon season", Singapore has NEVER recorded a temperature below 19C; so this was my last few days of warmth. Day 1 was a perfect blend of gin & tonics on the balcony and copious glugging off Champagne, all whilst reminiscing over old mutual friends and the village life of our youth. This was the perfect remedy to my previous 24 hours of public transport nightmares.
The only regret I have about my time in Singapore is that I didn’t have enough of it. There is such a wonderful mix of cultures and influences in a relatively small area – it really deserves thorough exploration. I loved the fact that I could be staring at the oldest Hindu temple in the country one minute, then the Sultan Mosque the next; all with a New York-esque skyline as the backdrop. Not to mention the stunning botanical gardens – home to the fantastic Garden of Evolution (look away now Creationists…it claims that the Earth and it’s plantlife are a tad older than 4,000 years) that walks you through the ages from mosses to ferns to rainforests.
Then of course there is the food. From the cheap and delicious hawker markets to swanky river-side restaurants and everything in-between: its here. Whatever your taste, whether it be Chinese, Indian, Thai, British, Malay, Japanese or Indonesian, gorge away. My personal favorite was visiting Little India and eating my entire meal off a banana leaf. Although I must admit, I do still enjoy a touch of class. Supping back on a Singapore sling with Helen in amongst Clarke Quay’s bars was a great way to wind up my travels. The stark reality hit me in the face like a wet fish when, for the first time, I uttered the words “I fly home tomorrow”. A bittersweet feeling if ever there was one.