I arrived at the LCCT early on day 9 with (thankfully!) a much safer driver than before. I checked in with plenty of time and sat in front of the gate, thirsty. I decided eventually not to hold out for much longer and purchase a cheaper option of bottled water than Air Asia might offer on board. I sipped, happy with the knowledge that my hour long flight will be thirst-free. The boarding call finally came, and I walked with confidence towards the gate. An immigration officer stopped me. Had I done something wrong? She told me to dispose my water bottle. I explained that I bought this after passing security, and that of course they wouldn’t let me through with a bottle of water. She told me I was simply not to board the plane with water. How people smuggle duty-free booze onto planes, I’ll never know!
The flight was the shortest, and thirstiest of all flights I have ever been on. I boarded, took off, filled out extensive forms for Singapore and landed. After clearing immigration, I headed for a train station and took their public transportation services to where I was to meet a familiar face. Thank goodness that their native language is Singlish (a hybrid of English and something Singaporean), which allowed me to understand most of what they were saying without any issues whatsoever. I was finally rested on the train, and was thirsty since I hadn’t had a drink since my final moments in Malaysia. As I reached for my water bottle that I purchased at the airport, I noticed a sign in front of me: No Drinking.
I was all checked in and finally met my familiar face. We went to Arab Street for lunch, where I was told that the best of the spiciest foods were available. Being a spice connoisseur myself, I took the challenge with a great smug look on my face. I had already dealt in Malaysia with street food of the upmost spiciest burn one could experience with a mere short toilet stop in the morning. Singapore had nothing on me. I sat down and ordered something which sounded spicy, with a glass of chocolate milk – a Singaporean speciality. While we waited for our food, we reminisced about our good old days and updated each other with our current good days. The lunch was cooked, and arrived in front of our noses. My familiar face told me to be careful. I listened, ignored and took a large mouthful. Thank goodness I had chocolate milk.
Close to Arab Street was a toy museum. It was in one of the smallest buildings I have ever seen for any museum, and wondered whether it was just a guy’s house whose owner just kept all of his childhood belongings and charged people to see them (and yet not play with them). We ran in after some lightning charged through the Singaporean clouds. Afraid that we would get struck, we busied ourselves in old children’s books and toy telephones.
Once the rain had died down, we ventured into the shopping centres of Singapore. Though large, it was nothing to boast much about.
The following day, I had some time to myself for the day so I decided to get lost. The first thing I noticed was my stomach rumbling, so I headed to a hawker. This is essentially a large food hall where you are able to eat whatever tickles your fancy. I browsed for a while, but my eager stomach led me to the hawker too early. Thankfully, one stall had already opened, and I ordered a refreshing squeezed fruit drink and a stick of kiwi. Once that had been sucked away in under a minute, my nose started to tingle. Food was being prepared and so I set my eyes on one with a reasonable health and safety grading and settled for a roast duck lunch. The portion was slightly disappointing but it was enough to produce buckets of saliva and I was satisfied.
Once I had satisfied myself, I took a brief walk around Chinatown. The place is unlike the Chinatown seen in London. It’s a lot calmer and seemed more “natural”. Reflecting back on the one I’m more familiar with left me with a feeling that the Chinatown in London truly was built for tourists in mind. Though it’s an obvious thought, it struck me there and then. I peeked through some back doors down alleyways, and when I had my fill, I headed to a bus stop.
I took a bus heading someplace. I wasn’t too sure where it was going, but I know I eventually wanted to arrive at Marina Bay. I was on it for some time before I realised that the bus with the same number on the other side of the road was actually heading to Marina Bay. What wonderful luck. I quickly got off at an apartment complex and waited for the next bus headed in the opposite direction. Eventually, I made it. At least I thought I did.
Marina Bay was the final stop according to the details on the bus and yet the hotel I wanted to reach with the infinity pool seemed miles away. I scowled in secret to express my distaste at the false advertising but without attracting unwanted attention to avoid getting arrested for it is a country where even chewing items you can’t swallow is considered illegal. Getting lost seemed a big part of my trip in Singapore as I took halls and alleys for a long time before finally making it there.
As I saw the entrance in the near distance, I realised that I didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the clientele hovering around taxis and the revolving door. The hurried, sweaty look didn’t quite make the cut so I quickly straightened myself out before acting rather 5-star for my big entrance. The main lobby was a vast area filled with rich people and rich caviar. I struggled to find a way of reaching the top as I wandered around the money-making marvel.
After walking around aimlessly like helpless chicken for an hour, I eventually ventured to walk around the outside of the vast building. I did manage to find the entrance to the viewpoint atop the hotel with a set of stairs going downstairs. I couldn’t quite compute the maths here, but I headed down nevertheless. I found myself at a dimly lit foyer where, believe it or not, you can buy a ticket to board an elevator to the top! My snobbish attitude got the better of me, and without hesitation, I ascended the stairs I just came down, filled with the knowledge that I am once again ascending without parting a single penny.
I decided to take my empty wallet elsewhere, and headed for the nearby gardens by the bay. Bizzare red towers forming metal tress loomed over smaller, natural trees. It was nice to get lost in what seemed like a well thought out jungle with designated paths – a brief break from the busy centre that is Singapore. This was the time I took to take a few moments to sit in the humidity and the sun and catch my breath.
I headed for the train station, not quite knowing where I would go. I looked at the MRT map and decided that air conditioning would be a great way to recover from the humid, tranquil moment in the gardens. The stop “Pasir Ris” looked far enough, and I ventured towards a place unknown to tourist books.
Upon arriving, I felt a little more refreshed having spent a long time in an air-conditioned carriage. This place was actually one of my favourite places in Singapore. Away from the hustle and bustle, this location boasted a large park with a small beach. The view from the beach was less flattering, as it consisted of cargo ships moving back and forth incredibly slowly, but the tranqulity there was at least natural in comparison to the gardens. I sat at a bench overlooking the small patch of sand, hypnotised by the tree fluttering in the sea.
I lost track of time and rushed back to Chinatown, where I would meet friends that I hadn’t seen for some time. I trusted them to do the ordering, though knowing S.E. Asia, I was surely in for a surprise. The time was jolly, and the catching up was fun. I met some new interesting people and it was a perfect end to my brief stop in Singapore. I took a walk with my familiar face through Clark Quay during the night, reminiscing about the time gone by. It was a slightly sad ending, but also a positive one.
It was then time to get ready for Bali.