A superficial survey
February 23-25, 2002 - I made up an excuse to go to Singapore - buy a digital camera. Not that Singapore has any great bargains in that department, but the model I was buying, a Sony F707 was selling for about $200 US less than in Bangkok, so that savings would at least pay for my air ticket and hotel. But why travel alone? Hello, old girlfriend! Want to go to Singapore for the weekend? You do? Great. And that was that. So much for saving any money - might as well make a holiday out of it.
Ning dutifully picked up a copy of a Singapore guidebook written in Thai and proceeded to educate herself about Singapore far better than I would, though Rough Guide does make a handy little guidebook, "The Mini Rough Guide to Singapore". I can imagine the publishers sitting around their London office, deep in thought, index fingers placed to their mouths, "hmm, we shall call it... Mini Rough".
Being just after the Chinese New Year and a holiday weekend in Thailand, some Buddhist holiday I know not what, the plane was fully booked, and Don Muang, Bangkok's International Airport, was crowded as could be.
So with a bit of mayhem leaving Thailand I could only imagine what might await in Singapore. We landed at Changi and got our first taste of Singaporean efficiency. Never in my life have I cleared immigration, picked up checked bags, and exited an airport on an international arrival so fast as at Changi. It couldn't have been more than ten minutes from exiting the airplane to entering a taxi. I was very impressed.
The taxi was a nice comfy Mercedes that cost the same as any other taxi. Riding to the center of Singapore I was again impressed by what I saw - trees, gardens, nicely landscaped grounds around the expressway. And many colorful buildings. Though almost gaudy at times, I came to like the colorful paint schemes that characterize so much of the architecture in Singapore. Pastel colors of every shade of the rainbow and then some as each building in a row adopts a different shade. I quite liked it.
We stayed at the Miramar. It was a little more of a hotel than either one of us required but the whole thing came on a package and given the high price of hotel rooms in Singapore, if we had just tried walking in to a cheaper place, the savings would likely not have been significant.
Checked in, we then went for a long walk with the ultimate goal of purchasing a digital camera. Ning would then choose Sunday's activities and Monday we'd probably just go shopping or something.
So we walked around a bit, and yes, the streets and sidewalks are clean, but not that clean. There is garbage lying about though not very much. And I did step on something gooey - was it chewing gum? Well, it was kind of black and dirty, so I'm not really sure what it was.
Let me clear something up. I, too, had heard all the stories of Singapore being a bit of police state with fines for this that and the other thing and certainly one would expect to see plenty of police about, right? Wrong. In the forty-eight or so hours we were in Singapore I saw only two police officers. One was riding a motorcycle around Sentosa Island and the other I saw standing next to his motorcycle along the expressway as we returned to the airport on Monday afternoon. I could have spat, chewed, and tossed litter all I wanted. Than there's that thing about flushing toilets. Well, all the public restrooms I ever used were automatic flush anyway. And no, Singapore public restrooms aren't all that clean. Certainly cleaner than, say, China, but nothing to get excited over - assuming then, that one gets excited over spotlessly clean public restrooms in the first place.
Anyway, we wandered closer to downtown Singapore all the while I was noticing something else pleasant about Singapore - the cars actually yield to pedestrians in crosswalks!!!!! That's an Asian first! Well, second, if I recall in Hong Kong they also tended to yield to pedestrians, but then again when a swarm of two hundred people pours into the street when the light changes one doesn't have a whole lot of options other than to stop. But here, it could be just the two of us readying to step into the street and whatever car was preparing to turn would hold that thought until we were out of the way.
We walked around some more before stumbling into one of the large electronics shopping malls on Bencolen Street. Here I haggled over prices employing the tried and tested bargaining tactic of walking away when dissatisfied with the price, for surely they'd chase after me offering a lower price. Nope. They just went back to doing whatever it was they were doing, perfectly content to have me walk away as far as I wanted. Not ready to make a purchase here, we jumped into a cab and went over to Orchard Road and the Lucky Plaza where I eventually made my purchase for the same amount of money as if I had bought the camera back on Bencolen Street. In the basement of Lucky Plaza is a good food court and we ate plenty.
As Gordon had a new toy he wasn't about to do anything but play with this new toy so that finished off the day for sight-seeing, but it was already after seven in the evening, anyway. And still daylight. Being an hour ahead of Thailand and Cambodia the sun sets later in Singapore and it really did feel odd to both of us to have sunlight to well past 7:30 pm.
Day two. More walking. We went first to the Chinatown area and popped into the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple. Yes, you just read Chinatown and Hindu temple in the same sentence. We quickly came to the mutual determination that we had seen better Chinatowns elsewhere. Probably because both of us have been to China already.
So, Ning, it's your day, what do you want to do? Museums? Galleries? Culture? Oh, Sentosa Island, Singapore's answer to Disneyland.
Actually Sentosa was good for a laugh. We took the cable car over giving us a nice expansive view of the Singapore port with the skyline of downtown Singapore beyond it. It's a pricey place to go and some of the attractions struck me as perfectly silly, Volcanoland??, but Underwater World had some interesting fish to look at. Piranhas grow that big! The entrance ticket to Underwater World includes a dolphin show at Dolphin Lagoon, so we boarded the bus and zipped to the other side of the island, where we were treated to a brief, and I do mean, brief, dolphin show.
Then it was back to the main island. Dinner at Boat Quay, a long strip of over-priced restaurants offering alfresco dining. We chose some Indonesian place that was quite good, never mind the cost. Remember folks, most of my eating is in Cambodia and Thailand.
The final day was spent wandering about Orchard Road shopping malls looking at a lot of expensive things and not buying them, except for a watch, but that was her money.
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