18.05.2016 - 20.05.2016 30 °C
First visit - 18th May - 19th May
The morning we were leaving Old Town Guesthouse in Melaka we were treated to some homemade fruit cake baked by Chua's girlfriend for breakfast. We got a taxi to the central bus station and soon found out that the next bus to Singapore wasn't leaving for 2 hours. Marvellous. AT least the station had chairs and a few shops to pass the time. The one thing it didn't have were spare plugs for us to charge our Kindles for the coach journey ahead.
We did eventually get on the bus and, it was an impressive one. The chairs reclined very generously and had in-built massagers as well as plug sockets! For first few hours I played Monopoly on Lauren's Kindle as the view outside was a little miserable because of the rain. We arrived at the Malaysian exit border and got through quickly and easily but, a few minutes later at the Singapore border we were faced with long queues full of people with less than content facial expressions and body language. We hedged our bets and chose one of 10 queues hoping we wouldn't be hanging around too long. After only a few minutes we noticed a few people and families queue-jumping which understandably was driving the Singaporean security guard absolutely crazy. One particular women was moving and climbing over barriers in the hopes of getting closer to immigration. Once she thought she'd secured herself a better position she would then gesture for her elderly parents and other family members to run over. I am not exaggerating when I say she tried this 4 or 5 times, often when the guard's back was turned. She eventually got a loud telling off and was forced to stay separated from her family - who actually ended up worse off in the queue stakes.
We did finally get through immigration after about 1.5 hours but then had to wait a further half an hour for the rest of our coach's passengers to get through and get back on. By the time we got to Singapore's city centre it was 8pm and we'd been travelling for over 7 hours, even though it was only supposed to take 4-5. Upon stepping off the bus and getting our bags we frantically ran to the first money-change shop we could see in order to pay for a taxi to our hostel.
It luckily wasn't too long of a drive to Green Kiwi hotel and we were promptly shown to our 12-bed female dorm. The hostel was very basic with very small bunk-beds, no proper lighting and a cramped and untidy bathroom. It certainly wasn't the worst hostel we'd stayed in but it was the most expensive - that's Singapore for you. At least we were getting warmed up for our next country - expensive Australia!
We only technically had one day in Singapore as our flight to Sydney was at 1am so we wanted to do something that was free or cheap but not too intense. After having a look through our guide book we decided to visit Haw Par Villa - an old 'theme park' set up by the Tiger Balm brothers. We figured out how to get there on the wonderful MRT system and off we went. The park (previously known as Tiger Balm Gardens) is an outside park covered in thousands of statues and dioramas depicting stories and legends from Chinese mythology. As per usual it was boiling outside and pretty humid too so we couldn't stay out in it for very long but we did spent a good hour wandering around marvelling and the weirdness. The most interesting area was the 'Ten Courts of Hell' cave where you could see just that - plenty of small figurines being tortured in various ways for various crimes (one of which was failing to pay your rent).
We had a late lunch at a little Chinese buffet just up the road from our hostel and not long after packed our bags to go to the airport. Again we made the most of the well-connected MRT system to get to Changi airport. Unfortunately the tube was packed so we were packed in like sardines - stood up with our massive backpacks on and sweating profusely. We arrived at the airport 7 hours before our flight was due to leave - only because our hostel didn't have a good communal area where we could hang out and the airport has loads of things to entertain us.
After watching Peanuts the Movie in the 'Entertainment Lounge' we tried and failed to find the snoozing area where there are apparently reclining seats where you can sleep for a while. We were deliriously tired and bored and so did the thing we love best - eat. Soon enough we boarded our Scoot Air flight to Sydney knowing we'd be back in Singapore in 7 weeks.
Second visit - 3rd July - 5th July
After a month and a half in Sydney we were back at good old Changi airport. The flight was fine but we did get a bit of turbulence. At one point I asked Lauren if she'd managed to sleep to which she replied "I'm not sure, I did have a moment when sleep came all over me". This resulted in me crying with laughter for a few minutes.
We got in a taxi and made it to my cousin Katherine's apartment block where we would be staying for the next two days. We did have a small issue in that I somehow had managed to not get Katherine's FULL address - I had the name of her apartment complex but not the actual block or apartment number. We spent 10 minutes or so chatting with the security staff at the front gate trying to determine where Katherine lived and how we could get in touch with her despite having no working phones or any WiFi internet. Luckily, anticipating our arrival, Katherine did come down to the front and meet us. We made our way up to her sixth floor condominium and plonked our scruffy bags down. The apartment was, as expected, lovely - very modern and roomy with a big balcony and great open-plan kitchen/dining room. Katherine very kindly prepared a delicious vegetarian homemade meal for us and her partner Sam and we sat on the balcony chatting about Brexit, food and our trip.
The next day we were more than happy to chill out while Katherine and Sam were in work. We first went to one of the two available pools on the complex for a swim and brief sunbathe (bearing in mind we'd been in an Australian winter for 7 weeks and therefore lost our tans). It was bloody glorious in Singapore (as it always is) - very hot but not too humid. The pool is ginormous and spans across 5 of the towers. One part of it has jets for massaging and another part has a white sand floor. There are also picnic and BBQ areas - all for the jammy residents (and even jammier visitors like us). There are also tennis courts and a gym on site but we obviously gave those areas a wide berth.
Our skin and bones were certainly happy to see the sun again (even if only for an hour). After a decent swim that left my legs sore for the next 2 days, we spent the rest of the day watching Netflix (the new season of Orange is the New Black to be precise). It was quite wonderful.
Then, as evening approached, we got the number 10 bus into the CBD and walked around the Marine Bay Sands shopping mall where everything was far too expensive and small-sized for us. At 7pm we met Katherine at the bottom of tower 3 and squashed into the lift with a load of Chinese tourists. Lauren and I had dressed as smartly as we could - which was difficult considering we only had the crappy clothes we'd been carrying round for 6 months. The Marina Bay Sands hotel is a rather fancy establishment that has a dress code so we were a little nervous about getting turned away in our flip flops and with our hairy pits. We were fine though - I think women always fair better in these situations than men.
We found ourselves a table at the end of the tower overlooking a truly magnificent view of Singapore. Katherine bought us all delicious cocktails as we watched the sun set over the Asian metropolis. We could also see the sky-pool on tower 1 which had lots of people positioned shoulders-over the edge looking out.
We finished our cocktails and made our way to Keong Saik road - an area full of restaurants, coffee-shops, bars, hawker stalls and cafés. We chose to eat at a Japanese restaurant called Neon Pigeon which has apparently won lots of awards. I started with a painappuru cocktail in an amazing samurai cup/flask thing. We ordered lots of sharing plates and all tucked in to a bit of everything. At the end of our meal the lovely bar-manager came over and did a 3-second-saké challenge whereby she poured the rice wine into our mouths for 3 seconds. I've had saké before and really disliked it but this one was actually very tasty.
For our last day we went for a swim at the other pool on the sixth floor which wasn't as dramatic but still pretty damn great. We got the bus into town again and met Katherine for a Lebanese lunch where we discovered the middle-eastern version of a yogurt lassi - Ayran. We then walked around a bit and ended up in a big Chinese shopping centre called the People's Plaza. There we decided to have full body massages which I enjoyed immensely but Lauren didn't. Basically I came out feeling like I'd been carried off to a wonderfully relaxing dreamworld where my body was voided of all knots and stress and Lauren came out feeling like she'd been in a prisoner of war camp for an hour.
We got back to the apartment, packed our bags, said our goodbyes and jumped into our cab heading to the airport.
Even though we didn't see or do much in Singapore we both liked it much more than we thought we would. Not only were we happy to be back in the sunshine but we were also delighted to get a feel for Asia again - even if it was really brief. The cuisine, the people, the streets and the shops - it was all nostalgic.
We definitely weren't so eager to kiss goodbye to the sunshine and we also weren't looking forward to the 15 hour journey we had ahead. But the silver lining was that we were going to gain a day back. Manchester awaits...