Or not Bali…

Wow, what a day…I have to say, Singapore has not been kind to us so far.  I am just starting to recover from the events of the past few hours.  So as I mentioned in the last post, just written earlier today, we had a ticket to go to Bali, leaving Singapore at 6:30 this evening.  Ask me if I’m in Bali? No, I am not in Bali.  I am still in Singapore.  Man, what a terrible day.  Okay, so anyway, here is the story:

Went to the airport without a hitch, taking the MRT.  Didn’t take long at all.  Stood in a long line up for web check in.  Finally got to the front.  Oh we’re in the wrong line up.  Okay, no problem.  Go to the right line up, still have 90 minutes before flight leaves.  Man takes our passports and itinerary.  Asks us where we are headed after Bali. 

“Umm, probably Bangkok” 

“Okay, can I see your itinerary for that trip?”

“Ummm, no we haven’t booked it yet.  We don’t know when we are going.”

“Oh, well you need an ongoing ticket in order for us to release the bording passes.”

“Okay, ummm..we don’t have tickets yet, so what can we do?”

“Buy tickets to leave Bali”

After much cursing and deliberation and WTF’ing we asked him how much it would cost for us to book tickets to leave Bali, and go to Bangkok in approx. 30 days.  Answer? About 500 SGD.  Commence freakout.  Then things really started going downhill.  We asked him if there was anything else we could do and he said no.  We left the counter and freaked out over to the side a bit.  What should we do? We have our ticktes, the plane is leaving at this point in about an hour and we can’t possibly spend that much to fly out.  To give you some perspective, we just bought our tickets *TO* Bali for under $200 CAD including all taxes.  Tickets that eventually, went in the garbage.  Read on, and I’ll explain.  So anyway, we go back to find out where the internet is.  It’s upstairs and in another area and we don’t think we have enough time to check competing airlines for ongoing tickets and book and pay online and still board our flight.  To add insult to injury, the guy we were dealing with at Jetstar was a total asshole.  While I realize it was probably our fault for not being clear on the visa regulations, he was completely unhelpful, and mostly ignored us.  I had to practically beg for his attention to get him to answer our questions.  I had never had to book an ongoing ticket for an entry visa before, so this was new for us.  As well, M had been to Indonesia before and didn’t have this problem, so it’s a relatively recent law change.  We took it for granted and didn’t check as we got used to never being asked.  Our fault, for sure.  But the terrible service didn’t help anything.

As time dwindled away as we tried to figure something out, M suddenly realized that although we didn’t have departing tickts from Bali, we did have return tickets to Canada leaving from Bangkok.  Proof that we didn’t plan on staying in the country illegally forever.  Maybe this would work? He went back to the counter to find out (at this point I was turning into an ugly terrible customer service nightmare and also worried about causing a scene and getting arrested in SG, so I decided that I should not talk to this man anymore).  M hurried back.  Yes, this proof of ticket would work.  But it was in my email.  I didn’t have a printed copy anywhere.  We weren’t going to need it for at least three months, so I thought I had plenty of time to get it.  The internet cafe in the airport doesn’t print and the man at the Jetstar counter refused to use his computer to access it from my email.  We were fucked.  Time was running out.  I tried getting wireless on my Kindle but it didn’t work.  I recently broke my ipod and the wireless hasn’t been working.  The plane was boarding and we were out of time.  M went back to the Jetstar counter one last time to try to basically beg the man to help us.  He refused, instead saying that he couldn’t print flight info from competing airlines.  If we would have had more time we could have done something.  Maybe borrowed someones Ipad or I don’t know what.  But in the end we ran out of time and the flight boarded.  The stupidest way to miss a flight ever.  At the airpot, on time, checked in online, printed check in documents…did everything we thought we were supposed to do….and this is how we missed our first flight.  Worst.  Day.  Ever.

After tearing up in the airpot with dissapointment, we contemplated our next move.  Fuck Bali.  We can’t afford to buy another ticket to go there and buy our onward ticket in peak season.  We had expected to get a three month visa upon arrival and wait for peak season to pass before we left.  Now it just became unpractical for us to spend money on another two tickets there and out for a 30 day visa.  We thought we would fly to Bangkok but we had already decided that we needed more than a one month visa for Thailand.  Thailand has recently changed their visa regulations as well and you only get a 30 day visa for flight arrivals for Canadians.  We had decided that we needed to apply for a longer 90 day visa before going back there so we could complete our plan of going north.  If we flew directly into BKK, we wouldn’t have enough time to make it worth returning.  We had no choice but to head back to Singapore and plan our next move.

Did I mention this is the worst day ever? Took the shuttle back to the hotel we stayed at last night.  I got the name wrong by the way, its Summerview, not Sunview (I think that’s what I said before).  Now we are heading back into SG for the packed holiday weekend.  And lo and behold, the icing on the cake, our hotel raised their rates by another $30 SGD.  I couldn’t help it.  I got back to our room and had a meltdown.  Full on weeping mess.  I was devastated after doing so much planning for Bali.  I had maps, itineraries and ideas of restaurants and things I wanted to visit.  I don’t want to give the impression I am inflexible.  I have travelled in SE Asia before and I know “things can happen”.  For sure, this has been a lesson for me that I need to be even more relaxed and realize that things don’t always go the way you plan them.  Lots of people miss their flights.  Lots of people have messed up plans and bad things happen but it was just too much in one day.  The guy being an asshole, being so close to “fixing” the problem but the stress of trying to race against the clock to figure it out, getting back to our hotel that is already way out of our budget, it was too much.  We are major budget travellers that had to sacrifice a lot for this trip and to save up for it and these kinds of things are pretty big blows to us, financially. Oh and incidentally, the hostel we booked in Kuta, also lost, 24 hour cancellation policy.  We’re paying for it anyway.

Anyway, I am feeling a bit better now, realizing that these things happen for a reason and just because we didn’t get to Bali today doesn’t mean I don’t get to go.  Our plan now is to research visa turnover time and try to apply for a three month visa for Thailand and see if we can move to a hostel tomorrow to save money.  Bali can go on the backburner until flight prices go down again after peak season or we do it on another trip.  Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully we can find a decent dorm that we can stay in just till the visa gets processed.  Then, buy another flight and start over.  We don’t know what else to do. 

That’s what’s happening right now….stay tuned! Things have to go up from here, right?


Singapore and onto Bali…

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! 😛