Yesterday was one of our favourites so far. And we weren’t expecting it: Singapore was only a transit destination for us on our way to Indonesia! Once again, the enjoyability factor was largely due to people, to connections.
My morning started with a sly hand creeping up the side of the bunk (I was up top) and stroking my leg. Considering the clientele of the mixed sex dorm in which we were staying, I awoke pretty sharpish (bucket list item completed: sleep in bunkbeds). Thankfully, it was only James attempting to wake me from my (slightly disturbed by my neighbour’s snoring) slumber. We were staying at Coziee Lodge in Kallang, our first ‘proper’ hostel experience. All in all it’s a nice enough place, with themed rooms: ours has bunks that are sort of cabin-like. We are self-proclaimed hostel novices, and the biggest problem we faced was the etiquette of changing into your nightwear in a hostel: in the stinky little toilet with suspicious puddles all over the floor? That just doesn’t seem right. Wriggling around under your thin blanket, in fear of body parts suddenly popping out willy nilly (excuse the pun)? And what about your choice of nightwear in such heat? I was slightly alarmed by the man in only his pants lying on top of his blanket a mere two metres away from me. And that was my husband… Any advice on hostel etiquette very welcome.
We were up and out well before the snorer, men in pants or any of the other 11 sleeping beauties stirred. Heading to the metro station, we were fairly confident that we would be able to navigate Singapore’s metro system. How different from the London Underground could it possibly be?
It turns out we were largely proved right. Singapore’s chief language (certainly for the younger generations) is English, meaning that signs, maps, announcements etc were completely understandable. To be honest, after only a couple of weeks away I already feel strange about the fact that such a huge amount of people abroad speak our language, and we as a nation are so poor at learning others’. It has made me feel somewhat lazy but also, I suppose, extremely privileged. It certainly puts my AS Level French to shame.
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the Singaporean metro system. We bought EZ Link cards (which we discovered would work out as a cheaper alternative to a tourist pass for us) and hopped on. As with most things in Singapore, the metro was clean, calm and easy to navigate with little flashing lights signalling each stop. Ideal.
We alighted at Bugis to meet our dear friends, Dilane and Nora, for breakfast. They introduced us to a Singaporean phenomenon – kaya – a sweet, sugary spread that you can put on toast, and mix with peanut butter, cheese, eggs, or even more sugar! Just in case we weren’t on enough of a sugar high at that point, we also ordered ‘Milo’, an iced chocolate drink. Yum.
After jotting down an extensive list of suggested options for our day’s activities from our educated friends, we headed to the National Museum of Singapore for an educational and really fascinating look at the country’s history. It has gone through so much change in leadership and such extreme suffering (for example, tens of thousands of its Chinese population was murdered in the 1940s under Japanese rule) up until their independence, and we had never heard about it in the way that we hear about other groups being oppressed at a similar time. The trip comes highly recommended by us, for a reasonable $10.
As any good Singaporean tourist should do, we felt our trip wouldn’t be complete without enjoying a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel, even with its extortionate prices (31 Singaporean dollars + tax), so that was our next stop. It turned out to be a great decision; we stayed there for a long time chatting with a retired Australian man called Steve, who gave us lots of tips for the Aussie leg of our trip, and gave us some more insight into Singapore and its people. Thanks Steve!
Our day ended with a trip to the zoo for the famous ‘Night Safari’. It involved a lot of queuing, a lot of shrieking children running around and a lot of sweating. It wasn’t quite the experience we expected in all honesty. The ‘Creatures of the Night’ show left us feeling slightly uncomfortable at the highly trained nature of the animals, and weren’t convinced by the amount of space they had in which to roam…
This morning, we had a short amount of time to kill before heading back to the airport, so on a whim we headed to Arab Street to browse the stalls of brightly coloured carpets, materials and clothes. At the end of the street we came across the Sultan Mosque, an important pilgrimage point for Muslims and an impressive building that we would have loved to look inside if it was open (from 2.30pm until 4.30pm).
We could have packed more in if we had been speedier; we had hoped to see the Botanical Gardens, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Art Gallery and gone on the Singapore Flight (ferris wheel overlooking the city) but we both were much more satisfied by going slower and spending time investing in things that inspired us…
Because surely that is what travel is all about?