Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Melaka to Singapore

In which we stay in a pigsty
Starring two Australian naval officers who had an unfortunate but unsurprising fireworks accident

Singapore is expensive.  Not just, 'oh you’re on a travelling budget so it seems expensive'-expensive, but proper, gasp out loud expensive.  We had prebooked the best hostel in town at the princely sum of $60 a night and having had our expectations set by Malaysia were a little shocked to check into to a windowless room with bunk beds that smelt very strongly of silage.  Or possibly some sort of bed bug killing spray.  The bathrooms were pretty disgusting and the free breakfast consisted of a bucket (yes really) of boiled eggs set out on the table beside a pile of bread and huge container of margarine that was of such a low quality you might consider using it to sort out a squeaky door but certainly not spread it on your toast. 

The only thing I had ever heard or been told about Singapore was that it was very boring but very clean.  Both of these facts turned out to be only partly true.  I suppose, from all the posturing, I expected pristine white marble sidewalks and newly polished tar but the streets of Singapore struck me as no different from most others – complete with scattering of cigarette butts and cat poo.  Even the famous rule about not jaywalking is more rigorously heeded by the Swiss.

I met up with a work colleague for lunch and discovered that Singapore’s boring character is also a myth. He filled me in on the very comfortable lifestyle that the expats lead with their polo club memberships and their pools and their maids getting paid ‘headache money’ (when the wife has a headache).  Oh and very low tax. That’s a nice benefit too.   Also on the main shopping street there are mafia run brothels with tempting names like 'Four Floors of Whores' - to be fair I think it might have been the Australians that told us about those rather than my colleague

We did a bit of wandering down along the quays where old warehouses have been painted in bright colours and turned into bars for the expats who were out in force over lunch.  Our pigsty was in Little India so we had a good look around the fabric store lined streets there as well and a very nice curry.  There is also an Arab Quarter with some gorgeous murals, streets full of palm trees with views down to the main mosque and nice little cafes. 

Wandered out in search of a beer in the evening and were just gasping at the prices on the menu when two bored Australian naval officers came over and offered to buy them for us.  Having saved the cost of Eurostar ticket to Paris (return) for two rounds of drinks, we sat through tales of their recent adventures in Cambodia where they had spent $700 on booze in two nights (remember the 50p mojitos??), blew up a coconut on their hotel balcony and seriously injured a toe in a firecracker incident.  Mmh.  I retired early having heard enough about dirt biking to last me, ooh, a lifetime. 
From Singapore I took my first flight to Borneo.  While I was a bit disappointed to be giving in to the conveniences of air travel, there isn’t any other way to get to Sabah from Malaysia and you have to admit that London to Singapore isn’t too bad as far as overland goes.  I got over it pretty quickly.  It is BORNEO after all!

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