Leaving Phuket we landed in Singapore’s Changi airport, jumped on one of their smart MRT metro trains and found ourselves in Clarke Quay trying to find our hostel. Up until this point we’d always had a private room but for the first time we were going to have to experience a dreaded dormitory. Probably great fun when you’re 18, but when you’re married and your Mrs is prone to running about and talking in her sleep (sorry Em), not all that comfortable. We’d booked into the Woke capsule hostel after hearing it recommended by our Aussie friends Harry and Lisa. The idea is that each person gets their own capsule in one huge dorm room, it sounded a bit more private than other dorms and so we gave it a shot. After checking in we were pleasantly surprised by how well kitted out each of our coffins were. We had a TV, headphones and even a little fan that had been stripped from an old pc. At the end of the bed was a blind to shut the room off. We had two big lockers between us and a smaller one each, pretty good!
We left our 6th floor hostel and went out for a stroll around the place. There’s definitely a similar feel to Hong Kong in how ordered and sensible everything is, though maybe a little bit more sterile here. We walked down to Chinatown and found ourselves in one of Singapore’s infamous hawker centres. These places are huge multilevel malls full of simple stalls selling clothes etc, but they also have huge food courts. Hundreds of small kitchens are set up selling cuisines from all over the world, in this centre Chinese, Japanese and Korean food. It’s all stupidly cheap too. We saw food we’d seen in China but couldn’t find out what it was there, here it was written in English next to each dish. So for just over a pound I had some lovely roast pork and noodles and Em had a Japanese chicken katsu. We’ve come to realise that we both love our food and Singapore was certainly going to deliver.
It was now hammering it down with rain so we sat under the overhanging roof of a Buddhist temple hoping it would stop. It wouldn’t, so there was nothing for it but to run back to our hostel. On the way we passed a mosque and a Hindu temple, this place seems to have a lot of cultures and faiths all living happily next to one another.
We took a small detour next to the river where seafood restaurants selling the biggest crabs you’ve ever seen lined the path. Beers here were silly money so we couldn’t even stop in one of the nice bars, so we headed back. On the way we passed strip bar after strip bar, I presume for all the big money bankers. I was surprised to see a red light district here given that chewing gum is banned!
Back at our hostel after drying off we visited the common room/kitchen where all of the food and drink was free 24/7! We drank a few mugs of Milo, an Australian chocolate Horlicks equivalent. Feeling pretty tired after a day of travelling we hit our capsules wondering if we’d sleep at all with all of the other guests coming and going.
The next morning we woke feeling like zombies after having slept like logs all night, probably the best the whole time we’d been away. We hit our shared kitchen and I demolished a stack of toast covered in the local delicacy of green coconut jam. A bit hard to get your head around to begin with but I loved it, Emma was less impressed.
Today, we were on a journey to Kranji war cemetery to visit my Grandad’s brother’s grave. The pair of them had left England on the same boat arriving in Singapore to help defend it from the Japanese. In a huge blunder, less than two weeks later Singapore fell to the Japanese. My Grandad became a POW (see my Kanchanaburi post) and David his brother died. All I know is what has been officially recorded ‘presumed died of his wounds’, it’s likely he was involved in the last stand before England surrendered Singapore.
We arrived at Kranji station and made our way to a huge queue at the nearest bus stop. A kind employee of the bus company must have noticed the lost expression on my face and kindly advised we walk to the cemetery and save our money. Sure enough we were there in no time. The cemetery was empty yet immaculately maintained. Gardeners were walking around tending to everything, one guy was even washing the stones down. Small bright green lizards were basking in the early morning sun and the birds were singing, it was a very peaceful place. We checked in the site’s record book and found a reference for the location of David’s grave, after 15 minutes of walking back and forth we found the spot. It was a strange feeling, this was a relative I never knew yet I felt quite sad stood in front of his grave. I’ve seen pictures of my Grandad stood beside it from when he’d bravely gone back to visit in the 90’s. David died for his country at the age of 25, something I’ll likely never have to risk in my lifetime. We walked around taking in all of the nationalities that had fought and died for England side by side here.
After the somber morning we had some awesome noodles and an iced milk tea back at the station before heading to little India. Not having visited India, the country, we were keen to get a little taste of it here. The sights and smells were completely different to where we’ve been so far yet familiar too, we love our curries back home so it felt quite welcoming and normal being there. We stopped off for a drink, I was seriously regretting having eaten lunch already, there was so much around here that I wanted. If we’d had more time I’d have eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner there. Instead I had a masala tea, chai I suppose, really spicy and yet refreshing, it gave me pretty bad hiccups though for the following thirty minutes. We carried on walking and covered miles by the early afternoon. I had to find somewhere to sit for a minute as I was knackered and ended up nodding off for 20 minutes, I’m getting like you Dad 🙂 We both had a worryingly cold dinner at a hawker centre here in little India before heading back to our hostel, concerned that we might be seeing our dinners again sooner than expected.
We spent the evening washing our clothes for free back at the hostel, listening to the genius of Karl Pilkington on Emma’s iPhone whilst waiting for wash cycles to finish. We kept hearing fireworks and looked out of the nearest window to see some going off over the marina, a jet had flown over too. They were getting ready for a huge 47 years of independence party a few days after we’d be leaving.
The next morning after another few rounds of green jam on toast we went out for a stroll through the banking district near the marina. It’s quite a sight and makes you feel a bit small. The sun was out today and we found ourselves running between shady spots. You could feel your scalp burning every time you stepped out in the sun so there was nothing for it, but to go Asian. With our umbrella up things became easier and we could started to enjoy our surroundings more.
The new Batman film was out so we took the opportunity of being near a big modern shopping mall and went to see it. The film was really cool, literally, we were shivering in our seats as the air con was so good. Before the film started there were lots of national service and anti corruption ads which were interesting to see. After leaving the cinema we were keen to walk around the Marina Sands area opposite. Words can’t do the place justice. Try to imagine three tall towers of luxury hotel rooms, ok, got it? Yeah, but now stick what looks like a ginormous cruise ship on top, supported by the three towers. You’ll have to check out the gallery to get the full craziness of it. No doubt it’s impressive but I wouldn’t say it’s especially attractive. Oh, and before I forget, there’s an infinity pool running the length of one side of the ‘ship’.
There was nothing for it other than to try to get up to top of the place. The whole area under the towers is a giant hotel lobby/high-end shopping centre. Each tower has a lift for paying guests only so that was our line of attack. We walked to the lift of the end tower past a very plush unmanned reception desk. We’d made it, we were in the ridiculously snazzy lift. We pressed for floor 58 and the doors closed. We now started to worry about what we’d be met with when the doors opened at the top, security guards? A posh bar? We were dressed like a pair of skanky travellers so it would be pretty obvious we shouldn’t be there. But the lift didn’t move, it wanted a hotel room card swiped before it was going budge, bollocks! We left and walked to the middle lift for another attempt. This time a security guardess stopped us in our tracks, she looked us up and down and immediately placed us in the ‘pair of jippos’ pigeon hole in her mind. She insultingly told us the lift wasn’t for ‘us’ and that we should try to access the public viewing deck. Basically we wouldn’t be allowed in any bar on the top floor so we should piss off. After having been made to feel like a small piece of excrement I don’t feel so bad in pointing out to you that while she was clearly a lady, she had a carefully trimmed, deliberate moustache gracing her upper lip.
The public viewing deck would surprisingly set us back more money than a pair of skanky jippos could afford, $20, and the queue was too long any way so we put that idea to bed. We went for a walk in the huge garden area behind the building which passed a few hours. Loads of waterways had been landscaped along with large art installations, a pretty nice spot. There were also several Eden Project like domes full of rainforest style ecosystems, but again disappointingly they were beyond our budget. By now it was dark and all of the gardens were spectacularly lit up. We started heading back and stopped for an Indian Thali meal in the Marina Sands shopping mall. We then walked outside intending to take some night shots of the impressive skyscrapers of the banking district opposite. Loads of people were sat out on the decking by the water in front of us like they were waiting for something. We sat and joined them and sure enough in ten minutes time an incredible light show started. Fountains were pumping water into intricate shapes before us whilst video was projected onto the falling water, it was a stunning effect and coupled with some lasers and music we were blown away. The show was a story about life, showing children growing up and getting old and new generations starting. At one point in the video a dandelion was blown sending its seeds flying, at the same point a stream of bubbles were blown out into the air above us, all of the children sat watching around us were now running around trying to burst the bubbles. Somehow we managed to catch the show again when it was played again an hour and a half later. This time we put our cameras down and just enjoyed it. If you’re ever there, make sure you catch it as you won’t ever forget it.
Back at the hotel a few mugs of hot milo were sunk whilst we updated ourselves with our friends, for something very special was happening the next day. We would be flying to Bali to meet up with them all for four weeks of fun and we couldn’t wait!
You can hear about it all soon from the Mrs, just once she’s got around to writing it 😉