Wednesday, 7 October 2015

2 soggy days in Singapore...

We arrived at the airport bright and early on Monday morning, excited to check in and relax before our marathon of a flight. We sat down for some lunch (garlic chicken kiev for Will and a flatbread pizza for me) and then picked up last minute bits like an adaptor and some throat sweets for Will – too much shouting on Saturday me thinks! You always think there’s loads of time before your flight but by the time you get past security it’s a bit of a rush to fit everything in, no duty free shopping for me!

Pimping it up with his hat - the steward told Will he looked like Ollie Murs!

13 hours, 2 cheeky glasses of vino and a fried behoon later and we touched down in Singapore. Onboard there was a great selection of films and I had to cut down my shortlist to Pitch Perfect 2, Cinderella and Inside Out – an upbeat if somewhat childish selection! I tried to nestle into my chair for a quick sleep but the person in front decided to fling the back of their chair into my face :( I had an inkling this might happen but what I was completely unprepared for was the cankle situation! They had got so full of fluid from lack of movement that my calf and ankle looked like they had fused together, gross! Thankfully it sorted itself out after a good night’s sleep.

It was such a good idea to get the afternoon flight from Heathrow because it meant we arrived in Singapore at 9:30am and could have a whole day exploring. The annoying thing was the amount of rainfall, which came in long showery bursts and tried to put a bit of a stopper on our plans – we battled on regardless, knowing we had to make the most of our time there. A local told us the weather had been even worse recently because of ‘The Haze’. We smiled and nodded but didn’t really know what he was talking about so had to do a bit of research. It turns out every year Indonesia burn huge amounts of forest in order to make room for the plants used to make palm oil and this creates vast amounts of smoke which make Singapore look so foggy.

The hotel we stayed in was lovely. We had everything we needed, they replenished our supply of water bottles and Oreos everyday, yes Oreos! Breakfast was a small but pleasant affair of cereal and toast, (which I was immensely relieved about after Will told me there would only be fish!) And they even let us borrow one of their many umbrellas for our excursions.

We explored the city on foot and on our way around we got stopped by the rain again, (even with the umbrella we were getting soaked) so we took shelter and found ourselves under a theatre foyer canopy. We played ping pong on a circular doughnut shaped table, intended for use by more than one couple but we seemed to be the only ones around and outside. We realised after that this was an art piece by Lee Wen entitled 'Ping Pong Go Round'. Play finished when Will tapped it onto the wet side (despite what he may say!) and neither of us fancied getting it back. 
You can just about see the table on the right hand side.

There were some interesting sculptures inside so we had a butchers and quickly discovered an art gallery with an exhibition celebrating Singapore50 - 50 years since Singapore became independent. The artists’ work revolved around identity as individuals as well as the country itself. I particularly liked John Clang’s ‘The Land of my Heart’ collection of photos, on which he had pencilled little comments 

and Justin Zhuang’s multi layered illustration and photo collage. 

Even the entrance to the gallery looked good!

We caught a glimpse of the Marina Sands Bay hotel before walking over to the Sky Garden, one of the things on my want to do list. 

Don't think you'd see much from the top!

There were 2 conservatories, the first was the ‘Cloud Forest’, which looked like a big foresty hill, complete with waterfall and stalactites. We walked up and around it, looking at the various plants you would see on a typical mountain. The second was the ‘Flower Dome’, which was a little less impressive but still very exotic! 

The city was very bright and colourful during the evening...

We ate at what we thought would have been the equivalent of a greasy spoon back home in the UK but the food was soo good and really well priced too. Will had Kampong chicken and I went for the fried rice. The flavours were incredible, subtly but really tasty; I’d love to learn how to make a version when we get a proper kitchen again.

I really wanted to get off the beaten track and do something that threw me out of my comfort zone so I persuaded Will to go to Pulau Ubin island, via bus and then bumboat. We weren’t sure when to get off the bus and we seemed to be the only Westerners on board. Will had told me before hand – don’t worry everyone speaks English perfectly, there’ll be no trouble at all… Famous last words! We managed to tell the bus driver where we wanted to go and his English, although minimal, was much better than my Malay, Mandarin or Tamil will ever be! We had read that the boat only leaves when there are 12 people to get on it and we a tad apprehensive that we would be waiting hours until the right amount turned up. The man who we assumed was the captain kept talking to other customers who turned up slowly but surely. We could tell by his fingers how many more we waiting for but there seemed to be a time when there were more than we needed and still we didn’t go. We witnessed some kind of family reunion by the looks of things; there was crying and hugging and food exchanged but they didn’t end up getting the boat with us. After a short wait we set off. 

The boat trip only took about 15 minutes and when we arrived we picked up a map from the tourist office. Many people were hiring bikes. We had no special agenda and just decided to wander. 

We came across many Buddhist and Hindu temples and shrines; the whole place felt quite untouched and very spiritual, almost magical. It was a great time to reflect on our time there and what we wanted to achieve this year. The island was big enough that we didn’t bump into other tourists so often; it almost felt like our own private paradise. 

It all looked so inviting; I really wanted to make an offering of some kind, but didn't know how!

Not sure if you can see but there were loads of terrapins in the water and all clambering out, thinking we came with food for them!

We saw lots of butterflies wafting past, (larger than any I've seen in the UK), plants I didn’t know the names of … and some I did! 

Can you see the coconuts?!
Real bananas!
Around the middle of our visit we heard a crash of leaves from above us and Will half whispered ‘monkeys!’ It was such an amazing experience to see them in the wild and so great that it was unexpected; I felt very grateful and that it was an omen of more good things to come. 

Some short hilly climbs led us to views overlooking quarries and lakes. 

Some other tourists stepped over the barrier and asked for a photo - I wasn't that brave!
When we tried to return by boat a storm had just started. We waited under cover, watching the builders working on the jetty put down their tools - one only quickly managed to save his electric drill from the downpour! We thought we would have to wait until the rain stopped but no! The captain ushered us on, all 6 of us (I then realised that his wait was for more people, not for the storm to pass!) and we headed out into the rain and thunder and lightning – it was a little scary to say the least but at least we survived to tell the story!

On the plane we spoke to a woman who told us we should definitely get a cocktail at the Raffles Hotel so late that afternoon after a quick lunch...


we walked along to The Long Bar. It was a good job we didn’t wait until the evening as it was already very busy and we had to sit up at the bar. We both went for a Singapore Sling but the price gave us a bit of a shock, especially when they added both tax and a service charge - SD$75 for 2 cocktails! (That's about £35! Will seemed to be in shock for the rest of the day...) I enjoyed the experience but once was enough! There were little bags of monkey nuts on the tables and it’s still tradition to throw the shells on the floor after eating them. (Obviously I declined, not wanting to endure the wrath of my intolerant tummy!)

The hotel has a very English colonial look!

Not such a fan of the pineapple!

Later in the evening we took a wander down to Little India. We walked around for a little while down the back streets until we came to the main road, with its colourful decorations and music blaring out from the shops. We went inside a Hindu temple, where people had taken their shoes off outside and many people inside where praying and making offerings to the many gods and deities. 

On our way back we passed a mosque with a sign that said ‘visitors most welcome’ but only at certain times and we had just missed it. The people inside were praying and the chanting echoed outside; it was almost trance like and such a shame we couldn’t visit.

We had our last Singapore meal, another delightfully cheap feast. Looking back I'm a bit disappointed with myself for not trying more of the local cuisine, especially as I had written about it and researched it so much before but everyone who knows my distaste for 'weird' textures may have some sympathy! We met Will’s friend Rick for a quick chat. He told us tales of his recent trip to Bali and it sounded amazing – another place to add to the list!

The metro service or MRT trains were easy to navigate and it only took us about half an hour to get to the airport for our early morning flight. This one only took 9 and a half hours. We were delayed for an hour due to a small mechanical problem which they were trying to fix- I said to Will I’d rather they had just lied and said we were waiting for a space on the runway! We made up the time above the clouds. This flight was the smoothest I’ve ever been on with hardly any turbulence. The other passengers on board were slightly more annoying than our previous one (Will had some lady who kept trying to elbow him off of his arm rest and even tried putting her bag where his feet were…) and the food and service not quite as good as Singapore airlines but not bad nonetheless. 

On to the next leg of our journey!

1 comment:

  1. Monkeys! Yay sounds awesome. And the food and flowers look amazing :). Xxx p.s 3 great film choices for the plane!