Our final days in hot, steamy Singapore… tying up some loose ends; sadly waving goodbye to our favorite old haunts; my birthday “weekend”; a boys (with honorary girl) weekend of gluttony, crocodiles, hideous spiders, gigantic monitor lizards, getting marooned way out in the boonies in the torrential rain… and (hopefully) avoiding contracting Mr Fu’s plague…
Photo’s are here or you can just click on the photograph above.
After all the excitement of recent trips we decided to take it relatively easy in our last weeks and enjoy the rest of our time in (now) horrendously hot and humid Singapore. There were a few things we still wanted to see and do… the night lights at the weirdly futuristic Gardens by the Bay… a trip out of the city to the northern reserves and, for old times sake, Geoff wanted to revisit the remains of the village of his toddler years (before Changi Airport was built on it!).
During our absence for most of February it seems that someone turned on the sauna in the city. Apparently it hasn’t reached its worst yet so our imminent departure is, frankly, fortuitous! It makes a summer in Florida look positively chilly…
I managed to catch up again with a girlfriend, Sally, from Melbourne – both of us out of our native territories this time around – and I got to see the inside of a luxury suite at Marina Bay Sands which is undoubtedly as close as I am ever likely to get ;-). The views from her room and the world renowned infinity edge rooftop pool over Marina Bay and the city were quite fabulous as per all the hype.
My birthday “weekend” was an extravaganza of lattes, cakes and other miscellaneous delicious food gluttonies.
We re-visited all of my favorite places :-). It is so much better to have a whole birthday weekend rather than just one sad lonely birthday “day” ;-).
So… it started with Saturday morning curry for breakfast 🙂 (which is actually a first) at Lau Pa Sat hawkers stands, we then latte-crawled our way through my favorite various cafes and coffee shops in Kampong Glam (I shall miss this place the most 😦 ), endured a long session of Chinese massage (more on the horrors of that below) and finally staggered up to the old refurbished army base, Dempsey Hill, for dinner at my favorite Euro-Asian fusion restaurant, PS Cafe. We will miss Dempsey Hill too with all of its trendy bars and restaurants… but that can only be a positive for our now bulging waistlines ;-).
The same again in reverse on Sunday morning… back to Kampong Glam for more European influenced latte, cake and crab cakes equally as good as any we have enjoyed in Maryland (the centre of the universe for crab lovers), we then braved the wet market in Chinatown for lunch and finally back up to Dempsey Hill for curry with Geoff’s old ex-pat pal from Bristol…
Not surprisingly, we spent the intervening weekday evenings running vigorously around Fort Canning Park trying not to keel over from heat exhaustion…
Our final weekend was passed doing more boy-related activities. I managed to squeeze in one posh final peranakan dinner at Violet Oon’s Kitchen and rather wished we had discovered it earlier in our culinary explorations.
Because Changi Village was still on our hit-list we thought a boys weekend extended beer session might be best preceded by something a little more peaceful and restorative before the booze started to flow… so we took a quick trip out to the northeastern tip of Singapore. Changi Village is a curious mix of 1960’s style lower income housing and trendy coffee shops and bars. From the Boardwalk there you can see Malaysia across the Straits of Johor. As anticipated the beaches were still singularly unappealing re-confirming our decision to take various expensive trips to southern Thailand to get our sea and sand “fix” rather than waste time on the Singaporean beaches. It was definitely more appealing as a sailing bay… unless the thought of swimming in murky waters amongst the floating debris and a large tractor tyre is your thing, of course. Still, although the walk was very pleasant, the air-conditioning in the lunch cafe afterwards was infinitely more delightful ;-).
Thereafter, the weekend was all beer, pizza, beer, curry, beer and beer with Geoff’s old friend Paul (the same friend of previous blog photos and several previous curries and beer nights 😉 ). We all decided it might be advantageous to work off some of the calories of the day before with a brisk walk through the Sungei Buloh Reserve on Sunday. Naturally, none of us could get started without another round of emergency breakfast lattes, cakes and sandwiches just in case we got lost and didn’t make it out of the swamp and back to civilization for lunch ;-).
Without cars in this city you have to travel everywhere by subway, buses and cabs. For us, it is an alien world… it is, however, what 82.5% of the Singaporean population must do…
We are just about used to some of its benefits (speedy, cheap and clean transportation all over the city) but there are occasions when it is just a massive inconvenience not to have your own car. Sunday was one of those days.
So… cab to Paul’s house… emergency food… cab to the wilderness for our walk.
In order to convince me to leave the air-conditioning for the second time in a weekend after our Changi Village excursion, I was tempted to Sungei Buloh Reserve by Paul’s promise of crocodiles, lizards, snakes and mangrove views over pristine waters…
What I actually got (and Paul and Geoff may object all they like!), is 1 long distance croc (perhaps that was for the better, on second thoughts), 2 gigantic monitor lizards (one of which was none too thrilled when it got bashed on its head by some idiot swinging her Gucci handbag about (not really territory for handbags and heels but you do see some unusual sights on this island), a collection of nasty spiders (yuck), mangroves, a lot of tidal mud, copious numbers of mud skippers (difficult, but not impossible to see in the mud of the same color 😉 ) …and quite a bit of scattered trash lodged into the tidal flats… Had it floated all the way from Thailand or was this of Malaysian beach origin? ;-).
Couldn’t believe it was Singaporean as the rest of the island is almost spotless…
Returning to the matter of public transport… the sweaty heavens opened just as we were finishing our walk… not that we could have got much damper anyway… so Paul tried to summons a cab using his cellphone app. This is a fantastic cab calling system with GPS and all the bells and whistles including being able to watch the approach of your designated cab and the license plate of the cab – love it – works wonderfully in the city.
However, it doesn’t work quite as well in the wilderness. Not a problem – a bus was waiting at a stop by the entrance to the Reserve so we hopped on assuming it was going to the Kranji MRT station back out in civilization. I am not entirely sure why we assumed this and the alarm was only raised when Paul (native here for a full 15 years) thought we “might” be traveling in the wrong direction… and, in fact, further into the wilderness…
Perfect. Hot, sweaty, awful hair, starving and thirsty and we had leapt onto a bus without checking where on earth it was going. Still, it was nicely cooled and none of us were quite sure what to do other than sit there trying to dry out for a while and delay the decision for as long as possible. It took us some while to make a decision as to a course of action whilst the bus meandered slowly through obscure park areas and tourist facilities, none of which Paul had ever heard of. It finally pulled up at “Bollywood Veggies – Welcome to Paradise”. The bus driver was vaguely amused that we thought he was heading to the MRT station but did kindly tell us that if we alighted here, the bus for the MRT would be along in 45 minutes.
Bollywood Veggies turned out to be a family destination (perfect again!). It is a hot, sweaty, humid organic farm in the middle of nowhere with exciting diversions for kids such as picking vegetables, walking through muddy paddy fields and cuddling the farm dog (I am NOT joking). For all this fun, there is an entrance fee of $2 per person.
Not feeling inclined to pay $2 each to watch vegetables grow in the rain, we sat in the entrance for the full 45 minutes watching a solar-powered plastic butterfly fly round and round in circles while Paul persevered in vain to use his cellphone app to call a cab to come and find us miles out in the boonies ;-).
Eventually, as Paul’s cellphone battery must have begun to die with all of the repeated SOS cab requests, the 2pm bus finally arrived. Great :-).
None of us could quite believe that it was actually the same driver and the very same bus which had dumped us out in “Paradise” to fry 45 minutes earlier when he might actually have taken pity on us and just let us sit on the bus in the freezing AC until he had finished his circuitous route and returned. Naturally, to add insult to injury, the bus route took us right back to where we had started hours earlier at the entrance to Sungei Buloh Reserve ;-).
It’s a good job we all have a sense of humor :-).
Having said that, this performance would never have happened under my watch ;-).
Note to self… in future maintain strict control over all tourist and travel related activities and never trust 2 grown men to get us where we need to be in a timely fashion using public transport ;-).
So, to end the “car free” return trip from Kranji to Hillview – we then stood outside a hot subway station waiting for a cab to take us back to Paul’s to recover with more food, beer, food and beer until we all passed out with fatigue at 10pm.
It was without doubt interesting and diverting to get out into the island’s north western swampy parts for some fresh air and to stretch our legs and chew the cud with Paul for another day (which was a lot of fun). I had determined, however, from the moment of being deposited in Bollywood Veggies’ alleged Paradise, literally dripping in sweat, bright red and sporting the very latest Hair Bear Bunch affro hair-style, that I would not leave the air-conditioned luxury of our apartment again until we wave goodbye to our host city of the past few months ;-).
In between the food-related activities of our final 2 weekends, we squeezed in a final Chinese foot massage at our “local”. We will very much miss the various delights and torments of a decent Chinese foot massage. Nobody else does it like the Chinese…
I was looking forward to being pummeled by my “usual” ancient torturer at the Lao Fo Ye Wellness Centre in Bugis. However, one look at him perched on a stool in the back of the shop was enough to suggest I opt for an alternative masseur for once. I mean absolutely no disrespect when I say that the Chinese appear to be generally quite a sickly race. It is just an observation from our many close encounters with cab drivers, shop assistants and trips on public transport. For reasons unknown they just suffer from a LOT of really stinky colds, coughs, sniffs, sneezes etc. etc. which seem to spread like wildfire.
Barely sick in Florida at all for the best part of 9 years we have both, during our South East Asian odyssey, contracted nasty irritating colds from our various Chinese-related excursions and interactions – most notably – Hong Kong and any time we have used a cab to get to the airport and have been sneezed on and sniffed at for the entire 30 minute journey by the cab driver :-(. It has got to the point where our obsessive compulsive disorders have reached quite dramatic levels of paranoia and we now sani-wipe our way through the the entire travel experience from the cab door, to anything at all that the sniffly driver may have touched with his plague-ridden hands (including but not limited to credit cards, receipts, luggage handles etc. etc.), to wiping our passports down after check-in, immigration and the endless passport and ticket control checks which are made when you depart Changi Airport if anyone at all has sniffed, or sneezed at us… to the airplane seats, seat belts, arm rests… head rests… you name it….
It used to just be me…now I think poor Geoff will also soon need OCD therapy ;-).
Anyway.. Mr Fu (name changed to protect the guilty) sat for the entire time on his stool, wearing his incongruously labelled “Wellness Centre” yellow t-shirt, sniffling into his equally ancient and greying handkerchief. Then he proceeded to rub it and its contents vigorously and enthusiastically all over his face, mopping at his eyes, forehead etc. etc… sniff, blow, rub… repeat. I thought the horrors could get no worse but then he lodged this piece of bio-hazard cloth firmly between his nose and upturned top lip and there it sat balanced precariously for minutes on end until he repeated the whole grotesque sequence all over again.
Luckily (and I do mean this in the nicest possible way), Geoff was in considerable pain during his own massage (I wish I had been too if the truth were known) so his eyes were clenched shut for the entire massage and, thus, he was saved the full horrors of Mr Fu’s stinking cold…
I wish this were the first and last time I have witnessed such bizarre behavior… but it isn’t… ;-).
With that, I knew that as much as we have loved our time here in South East Asia (and neither of us would have swapped our once-in-a-lifetime experiences here for anything in the world)… I, at least, was almost ready to head home before I caught another cold ;-).
So we leave with some great memories of a beautiful city – with lovely historic buildings and cutting edge modern living side by side. We have had some great meals and piled on the pounds in appreciation :-).
Geoff will be very sad to leave his co-workers here with whom he has built some strong relationships… he has throughly enjoyed working with them all and working for an extended period in a number of entirely different countries and cultures. Geoff’s blog on the topic of working in the APAC region has been getting a lot of attention too. On the matter of Geoff’s blog, I was mildly irritated to see he’s had almost 1,200 views! 😉 There I am spending hours writing about my “fascinating” insights into and observations of cultures, food, landscapes etc. etc. and there he is waffling on about boring old timezones and conference calls and he has three times as many followers! 😉 Typical!!!!! 😉
Anyway, it has been a unique opportunity for both of us :-).
Only one more country to go… adios Singapore… it has been an absolute blast 🙂 !