Archives for posts with tag: travel

Today I managed to get to see much more of the city, taking in Chinatown, the Harbour Front Centre and the Singapore River as part of an evening on the town. 

Chinatown left an impression. It’s a large district of the town, with a diverse food market in the centre. The sights and smells make it a must see. Talking of smells, I got to whiff the delightful odours of the Durian Fruit today (they make pancakes from it). It’s pretty overwhelming. The fruit is not permitted aboard local trains and busses because of its pungency. We also passed by the Sri Mariamman temple – an amazing building in the centre of Chinatown. Close by is the Buddha Tooth Relic, which contains pretty much what it says on the tin.

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Speaking of trains, the Singapore MRT (Mass Rail Transit) system is pretty amazing. Hyper-clean, efficient and railed off by screens to avoid anyone getting too close to the tracks. There are signs on the floor telling people where to stand when alighting the train. The toll gates instantaneously calculate your fare based on the distance travelled – it’s completely cashless and based on a card top-up process. It’s also one big public service announcement, with signs telling people the fines for bringing food and drink onto the trains, or asking people to give up their seat for people in need. 

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It must be one of the only cities in the world where you don’t see people begging. Maybe I was in the wrong places, but I didn’t come across any vagrancy at all – not even packs of teenagers parading their boredom and weltschmertz for all to see. Everyone seems polite, well dressed and civic minded, even the kids. Added to that I saw no stray cats or dogs. Even mosquitos are a rarity in a country that’s only a few miles from the equator.

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We went to the Harbour Front shopping centre for the evening. Across the strait was Sentosa Island, a theme-park / leisure area for the city. It’s connected by cable car and sky-train monorail. The shops are already bedecked with Christmas decorations. I have to say it’s an incongruous and strange sight when the temperature outside is a muggy 30 degrees. From our vantage point in the Queen and Mangosteen pub, we were treated to a wonderful lightning show – no sounds, just regular darts of electricity illuminating the sky.

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It was also the first time I was able to appreciate the Singaporean accent. To my untrained ear, it sounds a little like the Mauritian accent – a mixture of English and other regional accents. 

Finally, we ended up in a bar on Boat Quay just across the river from the Asian Civilisations Museum. We were all quite tired then, so we quickly made our move back to the hotel – the conclusion of our last night in Singapore.

Still no sign of the phone. I’ve no idea where it might have gone. The hotel are doing an investigation, but I am now doubtful anything will turn up. 

All the pity, because we ended up in downtown Singapore last night but I have no photos to post up. We were in a bar / restaurant called La Terrazo, near Chinatown. The area is full of bars and clubs and there was a buzz to the place. It reminded me somewhat of Chicago. Apart from the low houses in this area itself, it’s all modern skyscrapers. Singapore is a high-rise society. Almost everyone lives in a government funded apartment, the cost of which, even subsidised, can be enormous.

Everyone talks about the government here too. The taxi-driver yesterday morning couldn’t stop talking about the government all the way to our destination. According to the BBC, Singapore tops the tables for so many important things: low crime rate, education, health, low corruption – yet has some of the unhappiest people in the world.

Singapore also is one of the biggest cities for gambling in the world, surprisingly close in annual revenues to Las Vegas. Singaporeans themselves are discouraged from gambling and have to pay 100 dollars per night for the privilege of attending a casino.

Many of the expats I have spoken to here love the place. The reason they commonly cite is its centrality. It’s only a short plane ride from Bali, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. Kuala Lumpur is only a few hours up the road. It’s terrific for those of a certain age who want to see the world. 

Tomorrow is my last day here. How time flies.

Oh Christ. No photos tonight. I’ve lost my phone. I’m not sure if I misplaced it in the taxi on the way to work or in the hotel somewhere. It might even be at work, but so far no sign of it anywhere. I’m experiencing withdrawal systems.

Other than this, today went ok. Lots of work again, but a nice meal in the evening in the centre of Singapore. This time we ate at the Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng restaurant in the plush Ngee Ann City shopping centre. I have a love of Asian dumpling soup, so I was in seventh heaven.

What is it about Singaporean taxi drivers? Last night, we were just a little tardy getting into our taxi and before we knew it the car had driven away – a cloud of black smoke in its wake.  The driver was clearly annoyed that we had tried his patience so much. Today we took a cab with a driver who clearly preferred the delights of Siberia to the humidity of Singapore. The cab was absolutely freezing inside. We were delighted to get back to the hotel, so we could start to get circulation back into our hands and feet.

I can’t get over the friendliness of the people here. Everyone I have met is so willing to help. Their attention to detail is impressive too. When I was asking about my iPhone, the receptionist I had given my details to needed to server another customer, whereupon the other receptionist got involved seamlessly, as if they had both communicated telepathically.

Jetlag is having its effect tonight. I’m wrecked now. I’ll be up early tomorrow to put the finishing touches to my presentation tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll hear some good news about my phone.

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First time on an A380! Such a quiet take-off too.

The amount of space you have is enormous. Zillions of TV channels and noise-suppression earphones as standard.

The Singapore Airlines staff could not have been nicer. Very pleasant, helpful staff. Their reputation for friendliness is well deserved.

And the veal dish. Oh my. Melting in your mouth like chocolate…

No turbulence on route, but no view either as lights were down and most people slept through the night. I stayed awake reading a book for most of it. Better to go to bed tired than wide awake.

I watched Pacific Rim en-route. It’s all AARGH and BAAH and RAAR. Did these actors have to shout their way through the movie? Could they not have whispered to balance things up, as it were?

We left Heathrow at sunset and arrived at sunset in Singapore. The plane routed via Russia, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, then south of the Himalayas. I caught a brief glimpse of the mountains en-route.

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No big delays on arrival. Taxi driver was a bit mad though. He also wanted us to pay him in cash – which was a problem. The hotel sorted us out.

Got to my room and had the Best Bath Ever. This could become a habit.

I’m finally back from my world travels, having flown a distance of 18,000 km in the past ten days. My travels took me to Texas and Germany with a short stop in London. It’s been quite an experience. I have learned many things, such as:

1) To be very careful when booking flights with British Airways. If you try to change your booking within 24 hours of travel (even if the reason is legitimate, such as a freakin’ snowstorm), they will do everything in their power to stonewall you. I arrived in at 7.30 am into Heathrow and when I tried to get an earlier flight to Stuttgart than the 18.45 flight I was booked on, I was met with indifferent shrugs, middle-distance stares and a definite feeling that I was the bad guy for even daring to ask. I was happy to travel on standby, but that option was shut down straight away. I’m pretty certain that neither of the two earlier flights to Stuttgart that Saturday left with a full complement of passengers, but how could that possibly be their problem? That would be penetrating the bureaucracy, now, wouldn’t it?

2) Texans (at least the ones I met) are mindbogglingly polite and helpful. You could go nowhere without a “Can I help you?” or an “I beg your pardon” coming from somewhere. I have to put in a special mention to the American Airlines ground staff in Austin, who worked from 4 am to 7 pm on Thursday to ensure that all their passengers were taken care of. Almost every flight to Dallas had been cancelled and stress levels were stratospheric, but nevertheless these people worked wonders while keeping their sense of humour intact.

3) German people speak to each other in lifts, even if they don’t know each other. Now that’s just plain weird. Elevators are designed to make you feel enormously self-conscious and inadequate. This talking thing just isn’t playing by the rules.

4) When flying there is only one true currency: access to an electric power outlet. The more gadgets we carry around, the fewer chances we have to recharge. Methinks books are very safe.

5) I can now sleep on transatlantic flights! Actually, I can sleep on all sorts of flights! All they need to do is turn on the engines and pfffft, I’m out. This can mean only one thing. I’m getting OLD.

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