Sleeping under palm trees

The Singapore airport is nicer than some of the places I have slept over the last few months. I could easily have slept on the floor and not worried about bacteria or bugs. I initially was lying uncomfortably on a chair but then I found some padded round leather seats to lie on. I took a photo of some of the people sleeping next to the artificial palm tree island next to me. I didn’t really go to sleep but rested my eyes for a few hours. On the signage board, there was a flight departing at 2:30 am. Why would anyone take that flight? At 3:40 am., several armed guards came by to see our passports and boarding pass. Quite surprised to see them so heavily armed.

Other signage – moving walkways are called travellators. At the Hong Kong airport, they have a video screen showing people exiting gates A and B. I thought that was clever. In HK, sign for a clothing store.

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Why is the airport difficult?

One of my many odd hidden talents is the ability to cry on command. I can produce real genuine tears that once started make the person observing so moved with empathy that they have to help.

Arriving at the Singapore airport, I was ready to cry to the customs agent, the porter, the girl at customer service and now the supervisor at counter. Fortunately, he was kind to me and I didn’t need to unleash a fury of tears.

At the check-in counter in Bali, the check in agent only gave me my ticket to Singapore and not the connecting flight. I told her I had a connecting flight and she said I would pick up the next ticket in Singapore. I asked about the luggage and she said I would also have to pick it up. I said I prepaid for luggage services so I would not have to go through customs and lug my stuff for 7 hours. She said, sorry, but you need to pick it up. Not wanting to argue with her, I accepted the boarding pass and got on the flight.

On the flight, I asked the flight attendant where I could pick up the next boarding pass and she too said I needed to go through customs. She told the other passengers with connecting flights the same message.

Onward through customs, with luggage picked up, I then spoke to everyone mentioned above to assist me. I didn’t want my luggage based on principle. I paid for a service and I wanted to stay inside the airport after security clearance – that’s where all the services can be found which requires a boarding pass.

Upon reaching the supervisor and explaining the situation, he told me everyone misinformed me and I should have not exited customs. He said it’s possible that leaving Bali, due to a partner airline, they might not have the same communication about policies. He said he would help me check in my luggage and produce a boarding pass, even though the check in time is at 4 am. He said I should bring up my grievance online with Tiger Airways, which is something I do not need prompting to do. Last time I wrote an online complaint to another airline, it produced free frequent flyer miles. Not that I did anything with those miles but it was a nice gesture.

The fun part about waiting for the supervisor, a Chinese monk came to talk to me and ask about his flight. He too is here at 10 pm for a flight at 6 am. Unfortunately, he has to wait until 4 am to check in. I was proud to communicate with him and be understood. It’s nice to know I have the words to communicate even though I have been so out of practice.

Once through security, I found the gym, the movie theater and dinner. The only movie I might be interested in, is playing at 3:45 a.m but I doubt I will make it to that hour.

Sleeping at the Transit hotel for budget room rate is $47 sgd at terminal 1 and 2 (6 hour block), $35 for terminal 3 (rates called slumberette or nap – 3 hour block). The rainforest lounge ($30 for first 3 hours, $8 for subsequent hours). As much as I would like to sleep and try a slumberette, I’ve never paid that much while traveling so I am not going to start now.

I am disappointed I did not take my swimsuit out of my luggage. For only $14 sgd, I could have used the pool and jacuzzi.

If you have a layover of 5 hours or more during the day, you can take a free guided Singapore tour. They take you around town for FREE.

Dinner was a delicious South Indian dosa. At the cash register you can pay in Singapore dollars, US dollars, Japanese yen, Euros, Australian dollars or Hong Kong Dollars. I thought that was neat.

It’s 11 pm and I am getting tired. I might consider finding a bench or somewhere to lay my sleepy eyes but I always get concerned about missing my flight. Once, I was so tired between a connecting flight, I slept directly at the gate and missed the flight. I’ll set an alarm this time and hope for the best.

Photos: random pictures at the airport, the monk I spoke with, driving to the airport in Bali – passing a truck of chickens.
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Bye Singapore, it’s been lovely.

Possibly the only free attraction in Singapore is the Botanical Gardens. A very beautiful place with a Victorian bandstand, rainforest, special exhibit on orchids and a permanent exhibit showcasing regional medicinal plants for healing.

Pictures: Metro sign (notice the fines), Orchids

Arrived to Bangkok this evening for my massage class, beginning Jan. 1. I have now flown into Bangkok twice, once from Vietnam and now Singapore and flown out twice, to Myanmar and Cambodia. Bangkok is starting to feel familiar, almost to the point of not needing a map.

At the end of 2012, my grand total of countries visited is 21. Only 172 more to go (count by UN standards, but may be more depending on how you count.) Happy new year! Welcome 2013. Ready. Let’s go.

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Orchard Street, Singapore

“The stamina of a camel, the strength of an elephant and the beauty of a horse are all sustained on a vegetarian diet.” sign posted on wall at the Indian restaurant. Indian food in Singapore is fantastic. Singapore was a central port for the British via India many years ago.

Today I went a free walking tour with local university students studying tourism. They answered my question about praying. In a Buddhist temple, one goes to pray for anything they wish for. For example, you are in a lottery to buy a flat, pray – please let me get it. If they do get the flat after praying, they return again to thank the Gods for bringing them luck. Also, interesting, another type or prayer, there are sticks that you sort of pray with and shake. The one that falls out of the stack is brought to a fortune teller to have their future told with that stick.

On our tour we walked by a Hindu temple and Buddhist temple next door to each other and our tour guide said, after praying in the Buddhist temple, Buddhists will go to the Hindu temple to pray some more. Sort of covering all your bases. Enough Buddhists have entered the Hindu temple that there is a Buddhist statue, the Goddess of Mercy sitting next to the Hindu statues.

On the tour, I learned about subsidized Singapore housing. Apparently middle class people live in subsidized housing, typically 4 rooms in an apartment and you may only request to buy one if you are married or will be soon. If you are single you are ineligible to enter the lottery to purchase because of the low birth rate. The government encourages only families to buy – another interesting government policy. Most people do not rent in Singapore.

For lunch, I had tea with friends I met in Vietnam. It was proper tea. If you’ve never had tea served by means of a glass kettle, porcelain pot, multiple porcelain cups, tea leaves, wooden measuring spoon, and wooden tongs – you are missing out. It was very educational to be shown the etiquette behind tea drinking, in Mandarin, I might add. If you find yourself in Singapore, go to the Tea Chapter. I highly recommend it. They can give you the lesson in English too.

Pictures – iconic Merlin park, Orchard Street (main shopping street – similar to 5th Ave in NYC) the picture is a street lined with glass ornaments sponsored by Visa. I thought it was a very appropriate display for the neighborhood. Next, an escalator going up 4 levels. I shopped on those 4 levels at my favorite stores – Muji, Daiso (Japanese brands). When you go above the 4th level, I went out of my price range – Harry Winston was on the next floor.

I have actually very much enjoyed walking the malls. There is typically a very good food court in each mall – not like the food courts in the U.S. but this is actually a place you want to eat with good food and great selection. Besides shopping, the mall is a great place to beat the heat. I don’t know how anyone lived in this country before air conditioning.

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This is Singapore

I learned today at the Chinese Heritage Museum, the old immigrant shophouses and homes for migrant workers in the 1930’s look like present day New York apartments, in my opinion they are equal in size. I also learned, in Singapore today, if you wish to buy a flat, the government will look at the block quota for equal Chinese, Malay and Indian representation. If the quota of a specific ethnic group is at max, then you need to find somewhere else to buy. Interesting government policy on culture? I like how everyone speaks to me in Mandarin. I didn’t realize in Malaysia and Singapore, Chinese was the main language, after Malay.

The weather here is hot, sticky and very humid. It rains about every 5 minutes because of the rainy season.

I cracked today and bought some expensive shoes. The kind of shoes you might wear on a nice spring day with a dress. It wasn’t quite an impulse purchase but maybe not the most rational one for someone still backpacking. I couldn’t take looking so disheveled any longer, especially being in mainstream cities. I don’t know what I am going to discard from my pack but something will need to go to make room. Everything I brought with me has been used and there isn’t anything I would drop, so I know I packed properly. The only exception would be books, prescription sun and eyeglasses and my med kit. I didn’t use any of my meds in the warmer countries but did eat half of the contents in Nepal. The books, next time I will switch to a Kindle or iPad due to weight and access. There were many countries that did not have English language books for trade or purchase.

At the night safari zoo, I saw a Malay animal – a deer pig mix, called the Babriusa. Why you would mix those animals I have no idea? I also learned only the alpha male and alpha female wolves mate. The other wolves are single for life, unless they leave the pack. The night safari was very cool because I was able to see nocturnal animals and the zoo is open concept, no cages.

In the last few days, between Malaysia and Singapore, I have been to a mosque, Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist temples. It has been very interesting to watch people of different faiths pray. Some commonalities are everyone makes an offering, takes off their shoes before entering, and women dress modestly (head, shoulders, and knees covered). As to who they pray to and what they say, I have often wondered.

Pictures: jackfruit and starfish fruit, view from Singapore flyer.

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