Wednesday, November 24, 2010


My departure from London went well, despite a minor “baggage problem” at the airport in London that almost made me reconsider staying in London for another few months. Apparently the travel agent in London that set up my Around-the-World ticket neglected to tell me about the luggage details. This meant that when I showed up to the airport with my baggage I was told that I was overweight. After I realized that the lady at the desk was talking about my baggage and not my massive physique, I soon found that international flights in the rest of the world have different baggage standards than international flights from the US. While international flights from or to the USA are allowed 2 pieces of checked baggage (each must weigh less than 50lbs).  The rest of the world is only allowed a combined checked-baggage weight of 23kg.  This meant that the two bags (23kg and 20kg) that I had packed to according to US standards were way over the limit. I asked if I could just pay the fee and go anyway, thinking it would be the usual $50 charge that I’d paid on past international flights, but when the receptionist calculated it out she said that the fee would be 440£!!! Needless to say, I was not going to pay a fifth of the ticket price for my baggage, so after the thought of staying in London till after Christmas flashed through my mind I got ready to negotiate. This ended up being unnecessary as the lady was very nice and either the look of despair when she told me the price or my dashing good looks did their work and I was given a waiver through to Sydney. Looks like I’m going to be losing some weight in Australia.

The actual flight to Singapore went fine, I managed to fit in about four and a half movies, 3 meals, and a few naps, and woke up to find that the weather had gotten a lot warmer but that it was still raining. The 30-minute tram trip from the airport and 4-minute walk to my hostel left me drenched in sweat and cursing the amount of luggage that I had brought. After dropping off my stuff in the hostel I changed into shorts and a dry t-shirt and headed out into the tropical night to look for food. My hostel was located in a part of town that wasn’t very touristy so food wasn’t too expensive and I ended up eating at a restaurant around the block where a lot of the locals were eating. Despite the fact that I couldn’t really identify anything on my plate besides the dumplings, I really enjoyed the meal, and ended up eating there the next night as well. After dinner I walked around for a while and stumbled across a fruit vendor near the hostel. We had a long discussion in his broken English about all the different fruits he had to offer, most of which I hadn’t heard of, and I ended up walking home with 4 big plates of fruit to try before I collapsed into jet-lagged and dreamless slumber.

I got off to a late start the next day in an effort to realign my internal clock (which failed).  After an unsuccessful effort to link up with some of the Singapore parkour guys on Facebook, I took the train into the city to explore Singapore. I arrived at the southern point of the Marina and walked all the way around the waterfront looking at the skyline and taking a lot of pictures of the really cool buildings.*

*Note: I have learned that despite giving great quality video, the Sony SXR-63 does not take good pictures at all, hence the very blurry series of shots below.  Still trying to figure out a way to get pics with more than .6 megapixel resolution, but haven't had much success.

The view that greeted me as I came out of the tram station.

The skyline in the background.  As you can tell, I hadn't quite adjusted to the sunlight yet.
My vote for the coolest building in Singapore.  Designed to look like a cruise ship at the top, the low pixelage does poor justice to the view.

The merlion, symbol of Singapore.

One of many sculptures that seem to have been distributed at random around the Marina.  The Marina has been the focus of a huge redevelopment effort in the past decade, and it's now a very beautiful and relaxing place to spend the day.
After making my way around the Marina I headed into the center of Singapore. I ended up walking through most of the downtown area during my wanderings and made a point to visit the two major ethnic centers that had been hyped up to me the most, Chinatown and Little India. While Chinatown was pretty interesting, with some cool Buddhist Temples and lots of interesting shops, Little India was pretty disappointing.  Beside the Hindu temple it just seemed like street with a bunch of shops selling cheap trinkets and plastic goods.  There was a big covered market at the end of the street that was somewhat more interesting, and I enjoyed watching the groups henna tattoo artists at work (almost got one and then realized that I didn't know what to have them draw and even if I did, I didn't have anyone to show it to).

The Hindu temple in Little India.

Interior shot of the Buddhist temple in Chinatown.  Does not do justice at all to the splendor of the decoration.  Kinda of hard to get a good shot with low light conditions, no flash, and dismal resolution.

Throughout Singapore I was struck by the blatant consumerism and a need to buy that seemed to be just as intense, if not more intense, than the one that I had gotten used to in the States. Maybe I just wasn’t as aware of it back home, but Singapore definitely seemed to emphasize having the “newest and latest” version of everything from cars to toasters. I was also disappointed to find that the prices in Singapore were nowhere near what I had expected or hoped. I had envisioned a haven of low-priced digital cameras and other electronics but instead found that I had gotten better deals on some stuff back home before I left (and this was even taking into account the government tax that was refunded if you spent enough money).

No riding, no smoking, no spitting, no jaywalking, no cursing, no eating on the tram, no drinking on the tram, no alcohol....

..... no walking on the grass, no cameras in the tram stations, no cell phones in certain areas .....

... and my favorite sign of them all.  The classic pun that I saw all over was "Singapore is a fine city."  Lame but very true.

I stayed downtown late enough to watch the sun set on the skyline and then took the tram back to the hostel. After another meal in a restaurant near the hostel I stopped by the fruit vendor again to pick up a few more plates of different fruits to try. Out of all the ones that I tried, during my two days in Singapore, the dragon fruit and the Thai grapefruits were really good so hopefully I’ll be able to find them in Australia.

My new favorite fruit.

One of the best sculptures that I saw throughout the city.  I did a double-take and had my shirt halfway off before I realized that these kids weren't going anywhere in the near future.

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