Before I get into what promises to be quite a lengthy post I thought I should probably start at the end. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So I’ve made it safely with no problems of any concern whatsoever to my short stay studio apartment in Melbourne. The plan from here is to move out tomorrow into a shared apartment with other students in Deakin’s halls of residence (basically upstairs somewhere). For now, I’m trying to knock back a mug of coffee to keep me going through crippling jet lag just long enough to finish this and get started on cooking some soup. This update is so long that I almost recommend you consider getting a mug of coffee to get you through it. I promise I’ll add some pictures to make it look more interesting.
So, back to the beginning.
I got up as late as 04:15 am to be driven to Manchester airport to get on a plane to Munich, where we had an hour before getting back on to fly to Singapore – a total travel time of at least 12 hours. Out of those I think I slept for maybe three of them. I arrived in Singapore at around 8am the next day, with the only plan in my head being to get to the hotel. I decided to put this on hold for a bit to take advantage of the WiFi in the airport so that I could let people know that I’d made it okay. After getting a taxi to the hotel and still being a few hours early to get into my room, I decided to try to find Clarke Quay (the nearest area of any interest to the hotel). Unfortunately, to say that I have a good sense of direction would be roughly as misguided as my sense of direction. Even after picking up a free, detailed fold up map of Singapore and asking at the hotel for some hints, I still found myself trying to walk up a down escalator in a mall in the opposite direction to where I wanted to be. Good start. But on the back of what must be considered to be two nights of poor sleep quality, the jet lag and the searing heat of Singapore (the lowest recorded temperature since 1929 in October is 20.6 degrees. I checked the temperature in an air conditioned shop at one point and it was 28 in there.) I could almost be excused. Almost.
I eventually found Clarke Quay and enjoyed walking through the modern area which was packed with bars and restaurants before purchasing a 24 hour City Sightseeing bus tour ticket, riding round on one of the loops for an hour to familiarise myself with what I might want to see and heading back to the hotel to get into my room, get my head together and plan the rest of my day. After getting on to the bus again at Clarke Quay, I got off at one of the first stops afterwards at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. This is exactly what it sounds like, nothing surprising to be found here, just some nice looking trees and flowers.
There were differently named gardens (I only did two or three as there was a lot of walking involved and to be quite honest I kept falling asleep on the bus.) such as Evolution Garden and Healing Garden. Evolution Garden was ordered chronologically, so as you walked through the garden, the more recent the species of plant would become. Healing Garden comprised of plants that had been used in the past as some form of remedy for muscle aches or illness, with plants being accompanied by labels informing the walker of what the plant would have been used to cure, as well as handy advice encouraging the reader to seek professional guidance as opposed to using Papaya to treat kidney stones.
I hopped back onto the bus to go to Orchard Road next. An upmarket shopping haven, Orchard Road is the retail and entertainment hub of Singapore with malls lining the street. I opted to go into a mall called Orchard Central, mainly because the building caught my eye. Inside, most of the corridors were actually quite narrow allowing for more shop space, with shops ranging from massage professionals to chocolate shops. I didn’t spend too long in the malls, partially due to the number of places I wanted to see, largely due to my passionate disinterest in shopping.
I hopped back onto a bus and travelled to the Suntec hub, where I got off very disorientated and confused so proceeded to get lost again before finding my way to the Esplanade MRT (Singapore’s public transport links, in this update assume I’m talking about underground trains, because I didn’t use anything else.) and eventually finding Singapore’s Merlion.
The Merlion became Singapore’s mascot for the tourism board once established, and this one stands at 8.6 metres tall (28 feet). There’s another, very slightly larger Merlion on neighbouring Sentosa Island, but more on that later. (By now I imagine you’re getting quite tired of reading, got to keep the interest up somehow, haven’t I?) As you can see, by this point it had got dark, so from this area I could view the skyline of Singapore as well as the Marina Bay Sands hotel towers, the Singapore Flyover, the Helix bridge and other iconic Singapore sights. I sat near the Arts Theatre ready to watch the ‘wonder full’ Singapore light show over the Marina Bay area and noted down “Lots of walking. Very tired. Haven’t worked out how to get back yet. Be a laugh.”
The light show itself was good, nothing spectacular, but it was good. Singapore surprised me here in that in the background to this light show, there was a distant thunder storm rumbling with the occasional bolt of lightning striking the Singapore Straits. This, if I was thinking, probably should have been enough to prevent me going towards another garden where the main attraction was trees.
But this was in a corner of Singapore, that if I visited the Gardens by the Bay, I wouldn’t need to come back to the next day. So I walked round and over the famous Helix Bridge, designed using the DNA strand as inspiration to the Gardens by the Bay. I was expecting to take a few pictures of some trees lit up and then just leave. After snapping pictures of Silver Garden, I intended to do just that. Right up until I saw some more big magic trees in the distance, and decided that I’d come all this way so it would be a shame not to. This turned out to be Singapore’s greatest and most pleasant surprise, as well as one of the greatest decisions I made in Singapore. As I got to the entrance to Supertree Grove there was an announcement to declare that a light show was about to begin. At this point I struggle to describe just how good it actually was, so I thought I’d include a video here to do the talking for me and give your mind a rest from all this reading!
First I was lost in amazement from this show (which lasted probably at least 15 minutes with other songs including You’ve Got a Friend in Me from Toy Story and the Circle of Life from Lion King) and then I was lost in Singapore. Again. Looking for the MRT station which was very clearly signposted but by this point I think my tiredness was changing the direction of arrows on the signs. That’s the best explanation I can come up with, anyway. I eventually got back to Clarke Quay, navigating the underground MRT network very easily to then walk through Clarke Quay at night, where it was all lit up with both, light and atmosphere from so many bars and restaurants jostling for business. I stopped for an ice cream on the way back where the man who served it was able to sort of juggle it around on the ice cream cone with his ice cream scoop… thing. I’d watched him tease the kids before me going for their ice cream, getting them to try and grab it out of the scoop thing as he twisted and turned it, but I thought he was doing it because they were young…. Nope. Surprised him a little when I actually managed to grab it after a few failed attempts and to be fair, it was probably the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had. Much appreciated in the heat too.
You’d be forgiven if you were to take a break now to refill that mug of coffee. I know I’m getting tempted but it gets really good now.
Spoiler: I get lost.
The next morning I checked out of the hotel, left my bags with them and went to the mall I’d accidentally stumbled upon the first time I ever got lost in Singapore to pick up a sandwich from 7-eleven to keep me going. I caught the bus from stop 6, Clarke Quay, and headed all the way to stop 18, Singapore Art Museum (SAM). This was my last bus ride as my 24 hour ticket was due to expire soon after I’d got off, so I jumped on the MRT (each of these journeys only costing around S$1.80 which is roughly 90p) to Little India.
At Little India I had a little wander around and found the very simply named Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. Rolls off the tongue nicely. The temple is Hindu and in order to enter, shoes and socks had to be removed and left outside, so I did so. As someone who has never visited anywhere like this before, it was quite a confusing experience in that I had no idea what was going on, or what the etiquette was for taking pictures, or where was okay to stand and where not okay to stand. It was different, but I’m certainly glad I went to look.
From Little India, I took the MRT to Chinatown, which was quite busy and… well, hot.
So I bought a classic magnum and a cold can of mountain dew, this was the only time I experienced a language barrier, having to point on the sign what it was I wanted, with English being one of four official languages spoken there (the others being Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.) Following my exploration of Chinatown, I hopped back on the MRT to the Harbourfront where I proceeded to get lost on the hunt for the boardwalk to the Island of Sentosa. As often the case, I eventually found it and strolled across the boardwalk to Sentosa. Where I got lost. Again. Common sense kicked in fairly quickly here, as I decided as long as I could see the Tiger Sky Tower, I could probably find my way to it.
This assumption was (rather obviously) correct and I soon managed to get there, but not before seeing the Sentosa Merlion (you know that thing I said I’d come back to later? Well here it is, almost two hours later and I remembered!) which stands at 37 metres tall (around 121 feet… So nearly 100 feet very slightly bigger than the other one). The view from the Tiger Sky Tower looked out over Sentosa to sea and back across to Singapore, too. I put together a (very) short and (very) fast timelapse video of part of the descent in the tower which I might as well include here.
I stayed around after my trip up Asia’s largest stand alone observation deck to use available WiFi, steal some shade and buy 1.5 litres of much needed water.
I then walked back across the boardwalk to Singapore and explored the mall that the Harbourfront MRT was built into, only to discover a park area on the roof which was odd but very pleasant. After accidentally finding my way into a Singaporean Toys ‘r’ Us store (I got distracted by a large LEGO Merlion at the front of the store) I took the MRT back to Clarke Quay, where I ate on the riverfront. I was later reunited with my bags at the hotel and within minutes inside a taxi being transported to the airport to make the journey to Melbourne.
So now I’ll (finally) start to end where I started; at the end! It’s good to be clear. Once my plane landed at the airport I was greeted by a company providing a free service to students to their destination wherever that may be in Melbourne. I was on a mini bus with 4 other students all 16 – 18 years old and all from China. None of them knew the address that they were going to, one of them spoke English well and they were asking wonderful questions to our Australian driver, Glenn, such as “do kangaroos drink beer?” I was the second to last to be dropped off with the English speaking girl getting off last (rather fortunately for Glenn). He asked where I was from, so I said Wales, then he laughed and said “oh boy, you’ve really got a strong accent there” and said that I’d love it here. So far I’ve had more nose bleeds than I’ve made friends but once I get into my permanent accommodation and get started with lectures and things, I’m certain that’s going to change very soon, and I really can’t wait to tell you all about it. Especially if you’ve got this far reading. I hope this has been even slightly interesting, might try to make them shorter in the future but when it comes down to it I think more detail is better than no detail.
So here I am, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia!