Friday, March 18, 2005

Raffles Hotel, the Singapore Sling, Singapore food, and plenty of Shopping

Well the departure from Heathrow was quite exciting, as I stupidly decided to escort Carly and her luggage to her Singapore Air check-in desk in Terminal 3, and once we'd said goodbye dash back over to Terminal 4 via the unreliable Heathrow Express train to check into my Qantas flight - but I left it a bit late and on arrival I found out that the reason that there is no queue is not because they knew it was me coming.. but rather that i am the last person to check-in and that i am lucky I wsn't any later - Note to self: When taking different flights from different terminals, let Carly check-in herself next time!!

We've been crusing around steamy Singapore for two days now, after what I can definitely claim to be the shittiest Qantas flight i've ever been on. And it sounds like Carly had one that was just as bad on her Singapore Air flight at almost the same time, for similar reasons: Turbulence, and crap staff!

After leaving Heathrow, my flight began hitting mild turbulence which delayed the serving of the first meal/refreshment. Not to worry, they eventually got round to everyone before anyone wanted to sleep - but unlike the usual excellent Qantas in-flight service, I had the crew from hell! These guys were absolute tossers, standing around chatting all flight, ignoring buzzer calls, abusing passengers for little or no reason.. the list goes on! If we weren't in transit and weren't up for such a busy time when we got to Brisbane I'd be drafting my complaint letter right now! Amnd to make matters worse, the turbulence got worse as we crossed over India and approached Singapore, and as such the second meal got cancelled because it wasn't safe for the crew to serve it! Absolutely shithouse, and no drinks either!!

I was not a happy camper when we landed in Singapore.

We met up in Carly's arrival terminal, and after collecting bags we booked ourselves a hotel in the city from the accommodation desk at the airport (which is an excellent way to do things last minute I should add!!), and then caught the amazing rail system from Changi to Orchid Road. The walk from the station to the hotel was terrible - not long, just terribly hot and with large packs on and extra hand luggage I nearly watched Carly collapse before I had to take most of her gear for the rest of the walk. We'd arrived at 7pm at night, so the first night nvolved not much beyond getting some noodles at a bar down the street, and a good nights sleep. The hotel here has been great - reasonably priced, small, but nice, and with a typical asian 'english breakfast' included! (would you like a cup of coppee!?) - and it is right in the centre of the shopping area, and not far from the central sights.

Yesterday I got all of my Apple computer accessory buying out of the way in the huge IT shopping malls, and with a very patient Carly by my side during the experience we now have an extra bag of toys to complete my home-office setup when we return to London. Later that day we went to the Orchid Road strip and went through the malls and boutiques, and were quite amazed to find most big brands to be more expensive than London, and pretty much on par with Australia.

Last night we walked down to the famous Raffles Hotel, and took a seat in the Long Bar to have the obligatory Singapore Sling cocktail. Despite the rediculous price it was a great experience, the bar has apparently changed little since colonial days, with the old ceiling fans still combating the tropical heat and humidity, and timber window louveres blocking out all but the few necessary slithers of sunlight which pierce through the warm air catching the dust, and the rich timber floor covered in crushed peanut shells - the product of the bowl of them you receive from the excellent bar service as soon as you take a seat.. I didn't want to take any photos of the scene, but it sticks well in my memory as a great hour or so of me and my girl just sitting there soaking it all in.

We then walked on to the CBD area, over the river and past a whole row of touristy-looking restuarants and bars, but that wasn't what we were after - so we continued on into Chinatown and came across this big restuarant full of locals, so we went on in. We sat down and picked up a menu, which had absolutely nothing written in english, and therefore no prices we could read!!! Oh shit!!! and by this stage the whole restuarant of families etc is just staring at us as we're the only non-asians in the place!! We must have looked a sight!! But we couldn't walk out!! You just can't I said to Carly!!

Stuff it we thought, lets just give it a crack based on the pictures! - so we ordered some bugs and a few other things, and we pretty much got what we were after! Which was a good thing as we'd have been stuffed if we had to complain. At the end we paid and said goodbye to the waitresses and the smiling guys who looked like the owners (just like we would back in Asian House), and walked through the rest of the historic chinatown district on the way back to the train back to the hotel.

Today we made an early-ish start and headed out of the city to the Singapore Zoo. Having been to Taronga Park and a few other smaller ones, this is another of the big ones that we've been wanting to go to. It was a great day, and it was good to see a different range of animals than the usual because of the different tropical climate here. We saw the large tiger display they have which is very impressive, and also a few of my favourites - the Red Panda's which i'd first seen in Sydney.


Carly in front of one of the amazing primate displays they have there

After we were all Zoo'd out out we travelled back into town and packed our bags ready for the second leg of our trips that night. We returned to Changi Airport on the train again (this time with less weight in Carly's backpack), said our goodbyes before our seperate flights, and checked in at our respective terminals. That is where I am sitting now - in the very same spot where I posted the very first spargoblog entry.

So tomorrow morning, exactly 6 months after we left to start this adventure, we'll be landing just after each other in Brisbane, with some very excited family members waiting for us to come out those arrival exit doors!

-shane

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