Our final week on the Southeast Asian peninsula brought us full circle – sort of. The half-year adventure in one of the most beautiful regions on earth began in the ultra-modern world of Tokyo and ended in the almost as modern world of Singapore. The only real downside to our arrival in Singapore was the sudden increase in costs, as we had officially returned to the ‘West’.
Staying at the Inncrowd hostel in Little India, we had very little in terms of a plan, so we just headed out to wander the streets. The first thing we noticed, although we’d hear about it prior to arrival, is how absolutely clean the city is. I mean spotless. The reason for this is that the fines are incredibly steep for anything from spitting on the sidewalk to littering, to not flushing public toilets – though I’m not sure whose job it is to enforce that last one. The fines for such offences hover in the range of $2000(CAD), so it’s a very serious deterrent!
Out on the streets, much like the rest of Asia, the food and market game is a strong one. Fantastic snacks, rice and noodles, grilled meats, and some of the best sushi I’ve ever had, all delicious and incredibly inexpensive. I don’t think we ate at an actual restaurant the whole time we were there. However, there was one place we decided we had to stop in and sample the house speciality… the Raffles Hotel, birthplace of the Singapore Sling. Now while we went in with high hopes, we left a little more disappointed. The drink was alright, but as it’s become a tourist spot more than anything else, the cocktails were pre-made and sitting in pitchers, waiting to be poured into tacky souvenir glasses. We opted out of the glass, but the drink itself still set us back nearly twenty dollars. Glad we at least gave it a try, but won’t be doing it again.
The Singapore Zoo
One spot we were told to visit while in town was the Singapore Zoo. Now we’re not typically fans of zoos in general, but this place was pretty impressive. Most enclosures were huge and designed like the natural habitat of the animals, plenty of space to move around without being cramped up in some unfortunate cage. Also at the zoo was a large enclosure where birds and small mammals, including lemurs and small deer, walked freely amongs the visitors. A highlight was seeing a massive white Bengal tiger, and while seeing one in captivity isn’t necessarily the greatest feeling in the world, the fact that this magnificent creature is so horrifically endangered, zoos are ways that can keep the species alive. Definitely one of the better zoos we’ve visited and it certainly changed my overall opinion on zoos, but it still wasn’t perfect.
Aside from exploring the fantastic architecture and beautiful art of this glimpse into one possible future, we simply took in whatever else Asia had to offer before we left the beautiful continent behind; and on our final evening, we’d be greeted with one final treat. But first, we had to celebrate Thanksgiving! How do two Canadians on an incredibly tight budget celebrate a holiday that isn’t acknowledged in Singapore? Oddly enough, 7-11. With the biggest bottle of cheap sparkling wine we could afford, we popped into the convenience store up the road from our hostel in hopes of finding a quick snack. To our surprise, there was a machine that for around one dollar poured out hot instant mashed potatoes and gravy! Never before or again have we encountered such an oddity, but as it was Thanksgiving, it was perfect! It didn’t taste all that great, but the cheap wine helped out with that. Laughing as we ate the ghetto dinner, we soon packed our bags and prepared for the final journey to the airport.
The Best Airport in the World
Changi. We arrive early in the evening for our 8 am flight the following morning. This is a common practice among budget travellers that serves two purposes, the first to save money on a room, also to avoid the risk of missing a flight due to unexpected morning traffic. Typically, we simply sleep in a chair or even on the floor waking early in the morning to check in, however, this time we were treated by a more than pleasant surprise. Upon asking what time the next morning we’d be allowed to check in to our flight, the lady at the desk kindly informed us that at Changi, you are allowed to enter the departures area up to 48 prior to leaving. Not knowing what awaited us on the other side, we knew it would be better than the floor, so we checked our bags, printed our tickets and made our way through security. This is where the fun began. Computers with internet access, massage chairs, movie theatre, comfortable beds, and x-boxes – All Free! As a bonus, there was a 7-11 inside that sold cheap beer all night, we hardly slept at all trying to take in all the free amenities this fantastic airport has to offer!
After only a few short hours of sleep, although completely worth it, we sleepily boarded our plane and soon left the continent we’d spent nearly half a year exploring. The time has come to start the second half of our adventure, as early in the afternoon, we arrive at the originally planned destination: Australia.