June '19 - Departure: via Singapura
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
The 4 weeks between finishing work and leaving went very fast. I had to vacate my unit, move into my parents place, organise a seemingly unending number of small things, and look after my suddenly, chronically constipated elderly cat. Thanks in part to a Marie Kondo style de-clutter (feels good, try it) I was able to cram all my stuff into various corners at my parents house; it's pretty full there.... thanks mum and dad!
I don't do long haul flying very well, at all. Take off, landing, heavy turbulence, all good, in fact enjoyable, but the mid flight monotony equals claustrophobia. The lead up to these flights is often a struggle. For this reason I decided to split the trip with three days in Singapore, which turned out to be a good idea.
I've been to Singapore before, for a week in 1989 as a 11 year old. A very mature and responsible 12 year old apparently. While my parents were both down with food poisoning, me and my 9 year old sister would go food shopping together; it was McDonald's every time. Mature, or parents delirious from food poisoning?
My impressions of Singapore 30 years later? It was pretty modern back then, which I loved as a kid, but now there's very little 'grit' to offset its modern side and this makes it feel a bit sterile. It's calm and orderly, neat and tidy just like a Marie Kondo wardrobe. What I do like is how the harshness of the ultra modern is balanced with well preserved colonial buildings and greenery.
Singapore is known as the Garden City, and the tree lined streets and botanic gardens amazed me as a kid. They're still great; plus they've added some noteworthy attractions like Gardens by the Bay and many new commercial and residential buildings are plant-covered. The Cloud Forest (pictured below) is incredible.
I actually never knew how long and rich Singapore's history is, try almost two thousand years. Nor did I know that the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in WW2 was one of the greatest military defeats in the history of the British Empire. The Battlebox bunker is a must visit (pictured below left is one of the escape doors). This bunker is where the British made the decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese. It's located on top of the largest hill in the city, surrounded by gardens.
One thing everyone does know is how great the food here is, and cheap. Many Singaporeans don't have a kitchen at home and I understand why - eat out, always! The smell of food certainly triggered memories of my time here is a kid, particularly the fruit stalls selling Durian (I don't actually mind the smell, is that strange?). Smells always trigger memory for me much more than any other sense.
A couple of other random things I kept noticing. The more luxurious the car (there's quite a few), the less the need to indicate, adhere to speed limits, stop at red lights or keep a reasonable distance from the car in front. Status eh, arguably a worldwide phenomenon but it seemed really noticeable here. The other thing was how long traffic lights take to change! I'd estimate 2 minutes for each traffic light phase and most pedestrians will wait patiently for their turn even if no car is in sight. I kept up my reputation for jaywalking but must admit I don't know how long the jail term is.
My taxi to the airport was piloted by an elderly lady who drove with her arms through the steering wheel so she could simultaneously manicure her nails on the dashboard. Unimportant dashboard info such as speed was not visible through the various magazine snippets and good luck trinkets, which also meant she was unaware (despite the noise) that the indicators were always on, often in the opposite direction of her intended turn. Lastly, to maintain speed she repeatedly tapped the accelerator rather than keeping her foot on it; the turbulence during this drive was worse than the upcoming flight. All very impressive and worthy of the small tip I gave.
A painful but good foot massage (at midnight) and time to board for the 13 hours to Amsterdam. I sat next to a no-nonsense, serious Chinese businessman named... Fun. He was going to The Netherlands to learn techniques for high intensity agriculture, indeed a Dutch specialty (did you know, The Netherlands is the second-largest agricultural exporter by value in the world, this is a country half the size of Tasmania with 17 million people). 10 minutes after take-off, Mr Fun proceeded to sleep and did so the entire flight. I slept not.
Click the gallery below to see more photos related to this "blog" (please don't call me a Blogger).