And it begins...
May 14, 2008
|World Trip No 2
Depart: Wednesday 14 May 2008
Return: Saturday 14 June 2008
Singapore, London, South Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Toronto, Vancouver, Anchorage, Hawaii and New Zealand
Day 1 – 14 May 2008
We had to be up this morning at 5am for Ray to get us to the airport by 6am for our 6.30am flight to Sydney.
We’re both tired and the reality of being on holidays hasn’t sunk in yet. In fact, at this present moment, I think we’d both rather be tucked up in bed still sleeping.
The flight is late (it’s REX airlines so that’s not unusual) but we board and climb into the clear sky as the sun starts to rise. It is a beautiful sight.
It’s almost a perfect flight, there’s absolutely no turbulence and the morning snack hits the right spot.
The only downside is the near frozen blue leather seats that take your breath away as your bum falls into them.
We descend on time and walk to the transit bus where I see a familiar face tapping on the window and waving an overdue hello.
It’s Miriam, an ex work colleague from GSAHS.
As I step onto the bus I yell “ Hello Miss Miriam” and she asks what I’m up to. “Around the world” I call back enquiring what she’s doing in Sydney. “A meeting with the privacy commissioner” she yells back to the filling bus.
And while I jokingly tell her her that it sounds like fun, I know that on any other day I would be serious. But today, I’m off to catch the world.
We drag our 5 bags out of the domestic terminal and shuttle bus it across to International. For some reason we find that we always get dropped off at the opposite end of where we’re supposed to be. So, getting my shoes and my unfit glutes ready we roll the heavy bags from one end of the exceptionally long terminal to the other.
JC will be loving this!
Christine is there to greet us and it’s so wonderful to see her smiling face again.
She got up at 5am just to meet us here – journeying from the top of the Blue Mountains, Mt Victoria, to the airport.
We spend a short hour chatting over a cuppa before Michael and I have to dash off to catch our flight to Singapore.
I feel pretty bad about the fact that she will spend 6 hours traveling in a car for just one hour of catch up.
She politely tells us it was worth it but I can’t help but feel slack.
We race into customer, no time for duty free, no time for snacks, just enough time for a quick wee before we board.
The 8 hour trip goes pretty well. We watch movies, have a couple of bevies and a snooze before arriving at the ultra clean, ultra organized Changi Airport in Singaport.
After a wee bit of confusion about where the hell we’re supposed to go we find the Singapore Stopover desk. They arm us with lovely ‘Singapore Stopover’ stickers to wear (God I love being such an out and out tourist!) and we jump on our transfer bus to the motel.
Driving along the neat, clean freeway that is flanked by lush green vegetation we start to bget into the mode of tropical holiday life. It’s slowly starting to sink in that we’re on holidays but it just doesn’t quite seem real yet.
As we drive along closer to the CBD we see the sprawling high rise apartment buildings. The modern, sleek, clean ones are privately owned while the monotonous, ugly blocks are owned by the Government. They’re still no comparison to the suburban Melbourne housing commission homes.
Although it’s interesting to note that Singapore has one of the highest home ownership rates in the world. Quite impressive!
We arrive at our motel, the Peninsual Excelsior and are promptly stripped of our luggage, pushed into an elevator and told to go to the next floor to be checked in. Ah –
I love cattle class!
Checking in takes forever. The girl serving us is in training and seems very unsure of herself and almost scared of us. Maybe we just stink and she’s trying to be polite. She explains that she’s upgraded us to level 16, a deluxe room, but renovations will be causing noise between 9.30am and 6pm. We don’t care we assure her, as ‘we’ll be out shopping’.
She then disappears – gone, hidden in a back room somewhere and we’re left to languish for a good 8 – 10 minutes wondering what the hell is going on.
After much toe and finger tapping (on our behalf) our host finally returns. She tells us in broken English that she can’t give us the room on the 16th floor, actually, she can’t give us a non smoking room at all. She appears genuinely afraid of our reaction and reminds me of my days in hospitality when I had to give someone bad news. I can imagine her belly churning and can hear her voice wavering as she tries to steel herself for our reaction.
We couldn’t give a toss though, it’s a room, a bed and it will be fine.
So up to level 12 we head to inspect the newly refurbished room that we’ve been promised we’ll “really love”.
Opening the door I have visions of a large, expansive room featuring all the latest gadgetry and mod cons – after all we are in the electronics crazy country of Singapore.
But no, it’s just a normal, boring, ordinary room just big enough to swing a cat in. Two big pluses though – it’s very clean and it has a fully stocked mini bar which is where I head to first.
Cracking open a local ‘ Tiger’ beer (Think of VB only more bitter) MJ inspects the mini bar list. I had warned him that my Lonely Planet guide said alcohol was dear in Singapore, but I don’t think he believed me.
I hear “ Holy shit, they’re $10 bucks each” and quietly relish my small victory. No need to gloat though or go down the ‘I told you so’ path because I know there’ll be plenty more, much sweeter opportunities as the trip unfolds.
Besides, another beer at the moment sounds great and I don’t want to put MJ off. So we crack open another tinny although this time we go for the Heineken.
Looking out the wide window of our room, we see the sun has set and the darkness has enveloped us. The Singapore eye looms closely it its glowing pink lights.
We’re now hungry and have a thirst for more beer so we get changed, don the runners and head into the still warm and humid night.
MJ reminds me that he hates this weather but his rumbling belly drives him on.
This place is bustling but unlike parts of Europe and other parts of Asia I actually feel safe here. So safe that I actually carry my handbag on the outside of my clothes and MJ puts his wallet in his back pocket (not that I’m entirely comfortable with that).
We stop off at a sex shop and are disappointed at its small size (who says size doesn’t matter?), the prominence of males in-store and it poor product range. Even Risque back home is better than this.
We walk another couple of blocks, but decide that ‘The Bar’ we saw across the road from our motel is probably the best bet for some grub and grog.
Walking into the bar I suddenly feel under-dressed in my pseudo backpacker garb and quite self conscious.
We’re greeted immediately and are ushered to one of the many colourful lounges that hug the side walls.
Our drink orders are executed with deftly precision and we sit down to enjoy the sounds of a Singaporean Beach boys.
One drink quickly becomes two so we order some local food – MJ a beef burger and fries and the Chef prepares me a non-seafood Mee Goreng with Chicken (with a kick).
Always the inquisitive one, MJ dips the tip of his pinky into a weird, red sauce on the table.
He just sits there and stares at me as his eyes widen and his mouth drops. It’s a straight chilli sambal and his poor Western tongue can’t handle it.
I had purposely stayed away from it for that very reason.
So yet another beer, some more singing tunes (this time by an exquisite Singaporean girl with an incredibly soft and smooth voice) and we decide that it’s time to hit the hay.
We’ve got a big day of shopping and eating tomorrow and we want to be on our game.
MJ pays the $116 bill ($30 for food and the rest for 6 beers) and we head to the hotel where the bed swallows us up in comfort.