Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wanderings in Singapore

It's not getting to the library to use the wireless that's proving difficult, it's finding a place to sit with my computer! Oye!  Anyway, on to Singapore :)

Leaving Pulau Tioman was, like I said before, very hard to do, but we were so excited to see Singapore.
    Around 10am on Wednesday we said goodbye to our beloved Nipah, and once again piled into the two motorboats and took off towards the Pier.
    Being so high above the water we were able to see that the water surrounding the pier was literally crystal blue. Although there was garbage here and there, the fish were so much more enchanting to watch.  Schools of tiny fish swam all around us and at the end of the pier a large blob of what we first thought was coral, then seaweed, we finally determined was another school of very large fish.  It was incredible!  I searched hard to see a shark, stingray or even a turtle, but alas I was not a lucky one.
    After about 45 minutes of waiting we finally spotted the ferry.  Along the island there are many different stops, only reachable by boat and for this ferry trip our stop was the last.  As the ferry pulled up closer a crew member came out on deck and said "This boat is full, you can wait an hour for the next ferry or you can stand."  Well, standing for an hour and a half didn't sound to pleasant but on the flip side, if we waited an hour for another ferry there was no guarantee we could sit on that one either and we most definitely wouldn't make it to Mersing in time to get our bus to Singapore.  So we opted for the first ferry.  We made our way onto the already overcrowded ferry and squeezed our way out the back door.  There Sarah and I found a cramped and very uncomfortable place to sit in a stairwell.  At least the ride felt mercifully short.
    The bus ride from Mersing to Singapore was ridiculously cheap and not very long (around 4 hours).  The only part of it that was brutal was that my aircon vent cover had been broken off, so a jet stream of frigid air was spewed at me the entire ride and I only had a measly scarf to block me from the elements.  Needless to say I was more than happy to get off the bus at the border (we got on an off of maybe 5 buses once we reached the border, it's sounds like a pain but it wasn't that bad).

     Once we finally reached the heart of Singapore our first priority was to find a place to stay.  Thankfully Sarah had been there before so we headed to the place she had stayed, Sleepy Sams, to see if they had a room.  Sleepy Sams is a nice little hostel/cafe inside of a historic building on a walking street in the Islamic district of the city.  I was highly impressed with it.  We stayed in a dorm style room of only girls.  Curtains had been hung from the wall to give more privacy/block unwanted light and each bunk had it's own reading lamp.

    We had arrived in the city fairly late, so that first night we decided to just find an ATM and then get dinner.  We settled on a restaurant that claimed to have "The Best Muslim Food in Singapore."  I got this strange roti-esq large fried pastry with Chicken inside.  It was really good but much more than I could ever eat.

When we planned the trip we had only given ourselves a short amount of time in Singapore (less than 24 hours), and while it would have been nice to have had more time, we did and saw a lot of things in the short amount of time we had (and spent a lot of money, Singapore's expensive!).
    We got an early start and took the subway a few stops to the Esplanade Theater, which they say looks like a giant Durian ( a large spiky fruit).

     From there we walked to the Singapore Flyer, the largest Ferris wheel in the world.  Originally I hadn't planned on going up the Ferris wheel because of it's steep price ($20, which is a lot for Asia), but then I thought why not? I might never come back to Singapore again so I might as well do it now, and I'm really happy I did.
     The entire ride takes about 40 minutes and you can see EVERYTHING.  Each carrier is made almost entirely of glass so that no views are taken away.  I could see the massive port area (the largest in the world) where we refueled while I was on Semester at Sea, I could see the street where we were staying, the distant Merlion, as well as a full view of the colossal casino they're constructing across the inlet (the building as a large banana shaped platform on top covered in palm trees!)
      To go along with the ride we were given little audio guides that you could either hold like a cell phone or plug your own headphones into.  We were able to learn a lot about the city, although not much about it's history, mainly about how "fung shui" it is.

    Our next stop was to see the famous Merlion, which spouts water into the harbor.  After we got our fill of pictures we grabbed some lunch and then headed to the Botanical Gardens.  Because the gardens were so huge we picked up a wheelchair for Kelly (who was still on crutches) at the information desk and then went off to find the rainforest

Overall I REALLY liked Singapore.  It's one of the few places in Asia where I could see myself living for an extended period of time.  Two big factors in that are that it's clean (thanks to several laws including one prohibiting gum!) and people actually follow traffic laws.  Imagine that.  If you ever get the chance to visit Singapore, even if it's for less than 24 hours like us, DO, it's totally worth it.

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