Welcome to Singapore

 Well, my last day in HCM City was just a lot of wandering around, eating of KFC and retrieving a package from the Consulate. This contained my now-useless Nationwide card and some CDs of a tv program thoughtfully sent to me by a chap from ZZ9. It’s about Komodo Dragons and, as I’m intending to go and see them, I’m classing them as research.

Other than that I enjoyed my balcony, tooke a handful more pictures and watched the truly awful Gingerdead Man on DVD. This film was overpriced at a dollar.

I was up fairly early, got packed and was out of the room by 10am. I used virtually all of my remaining dong on the rent. Of course, as the price was quited in dollars and I was paying in dong, it was 16,000d to the dollar. When the quote in dong and you pay in dollars, each greenback is only worth 15,000d. Sneaky.

The trip to the airport was the usual simplicity for HCM City. Walk over the road and jump on to the 152 as it pulls up. Get charged twice the local rate, as you’re twice the size, and sit back. No need to brave the horrors of the open roads on the back of some psycho’s motorcycle or break the bank on a taxi.

For breakfast, I treated myself to a chicken leg with chips and a big plate of fruit (pineapple, watermelon and dragonfruit) for the comparitively high price of $6 the lot. Still, just over three quid for a decent airport meal isn’t bad by western standards.

Despite the aeroplane not arriving until 10 minutes before we were due to depart, we arrived in Singapore 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I guess we had a tailwind or something. The immigration person was friendly and helpful, if a little slow, and a studenty-type accosted me after I got my passport stamped to ask where I was from and what I’d thought of the immigration person. In fairness, she was pretty nice – one of the most pleasant I’ve encountered but till not in the same league as the Kiwis. She did make a deal of my beard not being on my passport photo, but she said that normally things “disappear” (such as hair and glasses) rather than appear!

Getting to the hostel was fairly cheap and simple. After converting some of my US dollars to the Singapore version, I got the free bus to Terminal 2 and then wandered down the corridors to the MRT train station. $2.50 got me a ticket to Bugis station, $1 of which was refundable in exchange for the “used” ticket when I arrived there. There was one change to be made, which wasn’t obvious to a novice like me so I owe a small “thank you” to two natives who spotted that I wasn’t sure whether to change trains or not and made sure I made the switch.

A five minute walk from there and I arrived at my digs. Very swish – the Inn Crowd on Dunlop Street. Bill paid up front, $10 key deposit for a locker big enough for my valuables, rules explained and walked round the corner to the second building where I’ll be crashing out for the next couple of nights. EVerything seems sparkly clean and secure, so I’m happy. The staff are friendly and helpful, and there’s a free self-service breakfast from “early” till midday. I’ll be taking advantage of that as I have a lot of trekking round zoos to do, and will doubtless be getting ripped off for my lunches.

The only downside is the lack of free internet, or at least wireless. There are two PCs – well, three but one’s broken – and you’re limited to 30 mins a day free access which is fair do’s. Anything else is chargeable. I’ve wandered around and all the wireless signals I can get are secured. Damn technologically advanced countries full of people who know what they’re doing!

However, I did as if there was somewhere I could use wireless and I’ve been told that all McDs’s have free wireless. There’s a 24-hour one up the road so I’ll be checking this out at some point!

I was getting peckish after the long day so took a walk around. I found a lot of buildings. And shops. And a food court. I eventually settled on a Thai restaurant and, after correcting the diction of the guy who showed me in (he’d used the feminine “ka” instead of the masculine “krap” – I mean *tut*), ordered chicken with basil and chilli with a side order of steamed rice and an orange juice. The orange was dilute, but nice and the chicken was delicious.

I didn’t have time for dessert – and I was stuffed anyway – as I’d also bought a ticket to see Snakes On A Plane at the nearby cinema. $8 a ticket still ranks as notably cheaper than back home and the cinema was pleasant enough. The film was also quite a giggle, if remarkably stupid in places. Very much a “brain on auto” job.

Then back to the hostel, where I thought I’d put my NUFC flag up by my bed – and then realised that I can’t remember where I last saw it. I have a nasty feeling it went missing in China Beach as I repacked my entire bag there and don’t remember seeing it. I definitely packed it in Hanoi, and I didn’t unpack my entire rucksack in HCM City so… who knows. I’ve gone through my entire rucksack (both of them) and no joy. It’s gone. Gutted. At least it’s replaceable – feel free to buy one and send me it, anyone!

It’s gone 11pm as I type this (clocks are one hour ahead of Vietnam) and I’m a little tired. I also intend to get up early and do both the Zoo and Night Zoo tomorrow, so it’ll be a long day. I expect to fill a memory card and flatten a set of batteries. One last trip to the main building to check the times for breakfast, though – no point in being too early! Posted by Picasa

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