Just at an internet cafe here in Singapore for a bit before heading to the airport, so no time for adding photos today, sorry! I do have some from New Years in KL at from here in SG but they will have to wait. Ahhh Singapore, what to say. I think I’ll gain some better perspective after leaving. In a few words: I like it. But we did have a bit of a rough start. Our bus ride here was fine and going through customs and immigration over the land border was surprisingly smooth. I think it helped leaving after the Xmas holidays were finished, so most kids were back in school. There were no lineups anywhere. The traffic was good so the trip was a lot shorter than we were originally expecting. We arrived at a bus stop in SG and since I had done a bit of research, I had a vague idea of where we needed to go to get to the hostel we were looking at. We hopped on a bus and after about a ten minute ride and a ten minute walk, we arrived in Geylang, also known as SG’s red light district.
We got to the hostel I had been emailing, and not only did they claim the person I had been emailing didn’t exist, but the rates I thought we were going to pay, didn’t exist either. Due to their general surly service and the fact that their private room was actually a triple tiered dorm with no window and the size of a small train compartment, we decided to look elsewhere. Around the corner in the same area, we found another guesthouse, this after wandering around with our backpacks looking for both a hotel and a bank machine. We talked to the guy at the front desk of this place and he was actually trying to discourage us from staying in the private room, which was in their older building, and instead wanted us to stay in their dorm in the new building. Since it would be more expensive for us both to stay in a dorm than in one private room, we persisted. Uhh, yeah. We checked in and looked at our dismal state of affairs. The room had a bunk bed. That in itself, not a problem for us. It had aircon which worked, which is a luxury for us. We are not the luxury flashpacker type. However, once we saw the blood (yes, blood!) and mold on the walls and the pools of piss in the bathroom (which he warned us didn’t work!) we decided it probably wasn’t for us. Luckily we hadn’t paid as we hadn’t found the ATM yet, we walked around once again looking for somewhere else. Finally we stumbled upon another hotel we were recommended by a couple friends we made recently. Compared to the last place, it looked much better but it meant we’d be going from $44 SGD to $65 SGD with the rate going up on the weekend. Fine, no problem. We went back and got our bags from the blood wall place, told him sorry we couldnt stay after all and walked back to the other hotel and checked in. While a small step up, we soon realized we weren’t in a much better place. Mold covered every surface in the room. The walls, the vinyl wallpaper the wood, everywhere. The smell was overwhelming (and I’m being serious here, I’ve stayed in plently a musty place, happily! But this was a bit beyond our limits). The bed itself was made of vinyl. Vinyl. And the bedsheet came to about the 3/4 point of the bed so when you got in, you were touching the bare vinyl bed. The sink emptied out onto the floor. Whole families of 6 were crammed into rooms next to us, screaming and running down the halls all night. It was awful. I stayed up as late as I could just so I would be so tired, I could fall asleep right away and hoped that morning would come soon.
Whine, whine, we survived and checked out early the next morning. Headed down to look for yet another hostel in the guidebook, wandering arounda new area to not be able to find it anywhere. Finally I found a payphone and tried to call them. No answer. We were getting really frustrated by this point. Hot, tired and stinky, we just wanted a decent place to put down our bags for a couple days. We knew we needed to find a place fast. We were only going to be here for a couple days so every hour we spent wandering around with our bags was time lost from sightseeing and actually enjoying things. I left M with my bags and wandered around the neighbourhood a bit. Finally, after looking at another scuzzy moldy flop house (and quite sure a den of prostitution), I found a very nice hotel. At $150 SGD though, a huge leap in our budget. However, after going back and talking about it with M, we just realized it wasn’t worth the struggle anymore. We were tired, we were losing out on “fun” times and in the end, what were we going to remember from the trip? The money spent on a hotel room or the time we spent having fun looking at stuff? We dragged our bags to this last place and were so relieved to finally check in to a place that is MUCH nicer than we are used to. Highlights included: bathtub (actually clean enough to have a bath in!), buffet breakfast included, clean bedding, tv, aircon, kettle with tea and coffee in the room, free luggage storage, helpful friendly front desk staff, no mold! etc etc. We were very happy and I finally had the best nights sleep I’ve had in ages. Far above and beyond what we normally get travelling but a worthy treat in these circumstances.
The rest of the time in SG has been good. Apart from the higher cost of food than we are used to, we found it to be a very good city to hang out in. Green and beautiful with amazing modern architecture, we vowed to come back and stay at Raffles one day. I will say more about this kind of stuff when I get a chance to post pictures I think. We walked around Orchard Road a lot (tree lined shopping district), checked out Raffles and the Marina Sands Resort (gorgeous), Fort Canning, our area of Bencoolen and some temples. The best part about SG food has been the huge amounts of Vegetarian food everywhere. We were even given a veg guidebook by the tourism office. That and the fresh fruit and vegetable juices have been great. The fruit and veg juice is very cheap and since you can drink the tap water here you don’t have to worry about them adding water, like you do in other places.
Anyway, today we are onto Bali as I mentioned, and another hotel room. This time we decided to take a chance and actually make a reservation at a place with a so-so rating, but the most reasonable priced place we can book online. Our plan is to stay there for one night (in Kuta) and look around for a cheaper/better place the next day. We arrive in Kuta at 9:15 tonight so it was a good idea for us just to have a place to head to as soon as we get out of the airport. For everyone’s reference though, the hostels and hotels in my above-mentioned experience are:
Ideal Backpackers-surly staff, coffin like rooms, overpriced but looked clean
River City/Kallang Backpackers-blood on walls, piss on floors and probably harbouring large families of illegals!
Hotel 81 Orchid-mold everywhere, weird sheets, horrid smell
Sunview Hotel-in Bencoolen, fantastic but you pay a lot more!
As far as staying in Geylang itself, I wouldn’t neccesarily not recommend it for the area. It is supposed to be the red light district but I don’t think I actually saw any “ladies of the night” while I was there. I did however see:
-A dead bloated cat with its legs up in the air and a towel over its head
-A fight between a crazed man and woman from our hotel window where they basically beat the shit out of each other
-A man laying on the sidewalk with his face all bloodied up, making a phone call on his mobile
-And possibly worst of all: tonnes of live frog porridge restaurants!! Aquariums of live frogs waiting for death everywhere!! 😦
Crossing my fingers for Bali. Don’t think I’m going to be much of a fan of Kuta itself but I’m looking forward to Ubud and beyond. M has scared me a little bit as I don’t think Indonesia is his favourite place to be. Loves the country, but hates the hassle and pushiness of the touts and transport issues (flat tires, delays etc). Sounds kind of like India! I can do this!
PS-Sorry, I can’t spell check on this ancient computer for some reason. Forgive my mistakes! 😛