Before I kick off, I’d just like to recommend the site Best-Singapore-Vacation. It’s nice, friendly, simple and full of good advice. It doesn’t go into huge depth, but it’s a cracking starting point for information on Singapore.
I didn’t plan anything today as the weather still looked a little… changeable. As it happens, the expected deluge never occurred, but I stayed near buildings nontheless, just in case. I do have a waterproof jacket with me, but walking around in that would be like dressing in my own portable sauna in this climate.
There are a load of really nice people at the hostel, so I spent a couple of hours in the morning just chilling with a few and nattering about where they’ve been. I passed out details on Oz and New Zealand, other people told me about Malaysia and Japan – this is what hostels are all about.
Finally, I got off my backside and ventured into the great (sweaty) outdoors. I paid a quick visit to Bugis Street Market, which is full of the dodgy shops you get on the Quayside in Newcastles on a Sunday. Loads of knock-off merchandise at silly prices. Seriously, it’s almost cheaper for me to buy a whole new wardrobe of t-shirts than to do a laundry. Well, it would be if I ever washed my clothes.
I was actually peckish quite early, so I walked back down to a nearby hawker centre for lunch. Finding a table with only a couple of seats taken, I choped (reserved) one of the spares and then had a wander around to see what I wanted to eat. Oh, “choping” is reserving a seat before you purchase food. It’s definitely recommended in the busier centres at main mealtimes otherwise you’ll find yourself seatless with your food dripping down your arms. The simplest way to do it is to dump a cellophane wrapped packet of tissues on the seat or table. Seriously, that’s the universal Singaporean signal for “choped”! Other things (such as umbrellas) are also acceptable, but don’t be a numpty and use a mobile phone or your wallet. Your seat may still be there when you get back, but your valuables won’t be.
After a walk up and down the aisles, I settled on a place doing something nice and simple – chicken and rice. I chose boneless chicken with no skin and ordered it then went to sit down. Within a minute, my meal (plus some lovely chicken stock soup) arrived and I coughed up the very economical sum of $2.50 (less than a pound). Very nice it was, too.
The rice needed something else to wash it down, so I re-choped my seat and went for the nearest fresh frui stall and bought a “small” (half-pint) banana milkshake for $1.50 (50p) which was utterly delicious.
At those prices and with food that good, I don’t think I’ll be resorting to McDs and the like again while I’m in Singapore unless it’s very late on and the hawker centres are shut.
Time to do some browsing. I had one of those days when I wasn’t in a shopping mood, but did have things to shop for. I want a small camera as mine’s too bulky for nights out. I also need a new mobile handset as mine’s getting a little dodgy. A girl in the hostel last night had a new Sony Ericsson K800i and, frankly, I was astounded how good the picture quality from a telephone was. She’d bought hers at home and I’ve now seen them for around $598 (£200) over here – about twice what I’d pay for a camera, but it gives me phone and camera in one. And I’ve not looked into the cheaper shops in Sim Lim Square yet where I can haggle. Time for some checking online and a look at what I could expect to pay for one back in Blighty. If I can make a huge saving, then I might just plump for one.
While walking around, I spotted the seasonal decorations going up all over the place. Orchard Road is festooned with lights and trees. The Cathay Centre has the world’s pinkest xmas tree in the lobby, and there’s even an M&Ms stall outside another shopping centre all done up to look like a candy house.
Now, I’m not exactly “Mr Christmas”. Anyone who knows me will tell you that and I have my reasons. However, one thing made my heart melt today. As staff were busy erecting a tree in one of the centres, a little girl was dancing round her mother’s feet pointing at it and excitedly gasping “Christmas! Christmas!”. That is what this time of year is all about. Kids. Stuff the religious significance and the commercial crap we now have courtesy of Hallmark. Kids are where it’s at, and I know that little girl will be having a complete ball in a little over three weeks.
I’ll take this time to remind everyone who knows me – don’t send me any cards! I don’t have a house! If you absolutely have to get me something, then make a donation via the PayPal thingy to the right (or pass it to my folks who can get it into my bank without incurring any fees). For the rest of you – the “card once a year brigade” – I ask a small favour. Work out how much your card and postage would cost, even if it’s only something like 50p (cheapskate). Go to the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation and give that sum to them by PayPal – they can take credit cards with that, so you have no excuse. Thanks, folks!
Also on Orchard Road, I got to see the Thai Embassy. This building is completely out of place with its surroundings, but hardly qualifies for the “eyesore” tag that Lonely Planet has slapped on it. The story is simply that the King of Thailand bought the land for the building around 200 years ago for about $10,000. On it was built a simple, but quite large, 2-storey structure. As the years have gone on, the value of land on Orchard Road has skyrocketted. If you thought I did well out of my house, then this place really makes that profit pale into insignificance. From $10,000 to $629million as per the last offer made to the Thai government.
It’s alleged that the recent Thai president who was hoofed out for being a corrupt piece of work was considering accepting this (and likely shaving some of the cash off the top for himself) but the Thai people would have been in uproar. As the King himself bought the land, it would be an affront to his memory to sell – and the Thais take their royal family very seriously indeed. The photos I took of the building aren’t too good, but generally speaking it’s not easy to photograph embassies and the like – people tend to get a little suspicious so I had to take them from the cover of trees on the opposite side of the road. Not all all suspicious. If I don’t post again tomorrow, I’ve been arrested.