Second chance for Singapore

Second chance for Singapore

I am standing in front of the Indian Airlines boarding counter at the airport in Chennai and wait. It has just been announced by loudspeakers that the boarding has been moved from gate C to gate A. The Indians and I had to yield Gate C to the Russians, who flew to Samara. I still have the picture of the 12 year old girl, wearing hot pants in my head. Unbelievable at this age, but when mom and dad do not have anything against it, haha.

Behind me, an Indian woman with a boy comes to the counter. I make myself important and say, “Boarding Pass, please.” and both of them start laughing. But the thing with the real boarding seems to take a little longer, so I take a seat and wait again. The Russians are obviously more important.

As we finally pass the gate and walk down the sloping footway, I’m surprised when I see a – for me at least – brand new Dreamliner of the Indian Airlines. A Boeing 787-800.

Everything was very modern on board and the crew very friendly. I have a window seat. But the windows are so blue here. What’s this? Some dimming system, because it doesn’t let all of the suns’ light pass inside and somehow the crew seems to be able to control it too. Well, never seen before. It’s an awesome new feature inside the Boeing 787.

We take off and the first hour of the flight I do nothing but worry about a crash. I like to fly, I really like it. Preferably over land. But here we had for almost the entire approximately 4-hour route virtually the Bay of Bengal below our feet. There are days when I’m just terribly afraid to sit in an airplane, which falls into the water – for whatever reason – and is not completely shattered, killing all inmates within seconds, but makes a successful splashdown and then slowly starts to sink.

Would I still have enough time to get out? Would the panic on board be so enormeous that the exits would be blocked?

Funny questions, because the answers to them I would receive in the appropriate moments. So why ask myself these questions if I do not even know whether I’ll ever get an answer. Enough of my occasional crash panic.

During the approach on Singapore, the sun is setting. A magnificent view of the city’s distant skyline reveals itself and across the broad, orange-red stripe of clear sky stretches a gray-black cloud cover. A wonderful view.

Singapore is so wonderfully easy to visit: the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport – the subway) is practically connected to the whole city. So too to the airport. I go to the station, buy a tourist pass and get the credit card sized card. Once at the entrance to the subway just hold it to the card reader and done. After I embark, a western-looking younger man gets on the train too. He also carries a big backpack with him and does not seem to be sure whether he’s on the right train.

He tries to find out with his i pad. We start talking. The ride starts now, from Changi Airport to the first MRT intersection, where the Chilean and I have to change trains in order for us to reach each of our final destinations, which are not far from each other by the way. Funnily enough, he reached Singapore from the Malayan mainland, where I want to go after my visit to the city.

As an English teacher in Vietnam, he has earned a small contribution to his travel budget for a few weeks. $25 an hour does not sound bad! The food in Vietnam and northern Thailand tasted the best so far he stated and after Singapore, where he has searched for the cheapest accommodation, he will go on to Bali. In any case, I did not look for the cheapest accommodation, no. After all the stresses and struggles in India, I now want to treat myself to a little luxury! The Village Hotel in the Bugis district features an outdoor pool, large, luxurious rooms and many small amenities, such as a flat iron in the rooms … yes, that’s right! 😉

When I arrive at a new location, I usually go through my standard ritual: check in, go to the room, stow things in the right place – toilet bag to the bathroom, laundry net on the floor, install the mosquito repellent plug, set up the WiFi connection, slippers in front of the bathroom, clothes to a practical place – and then outside to briefly explore the hotel environment. Right in front of the hotel entrance there is a 7-Eleven, yeeeeyy! 7-Eleven is an international chain of convenience stores that are open almost round the clock and offer all sorts of junk food, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes and chilled products.

How I missed something like this in India!

There is a mosque close to the hotel, located right in the Arabic quarter. There you can get Lebanese and other Arabic food. That’s how a few minutes later I find myself sitting outside a, by turkish style influenced eatery with a view of the mosque, dining Hummus. To me that shows how versatile and international Singapore is. Mainly Chinese, Indians and Malays live here. But also thousands of Europeans and Asians from different countries live and work here as well. A colorful mix out of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindhus, Christians and many more.

A buddy of mine has been working at the Swiss Embassy here for a year and recommended a few localities and places to go to before my last visit to the city already. The last time I was here was in February 2016 with Dom. But we only had an afternoons time for Singapore, since our flight to Switzerland left on the same evening. Back then I wasn’t open enough for the city and depresst anyway for I had to leave Asia and therefore get a seven hour time difference between Lims’ and my location again.

This time it is completely different! Singapore is modern, excellentely linked, the people speak english, nobody is pushy, no hustle and no honking here, almost no pollution, it is wonderful! A huge contrast to the past month in India.

Wednesday morning begins with a junk food breakfast at 7-Eleven. The hotels’ breakfast at 18 Singapore Dollars I didn’t wanna afford. By the way: 1 Singapore Dollar is approximately 0.70 Swiss Francs. A chocolate drink, a coffee and two rolls full of preservative agents for 7 Dollars, please. Thank you.

I am walking in the streets, it’s raining. Next to a cleaning specialist, who is taking a break from work, I sit on the ground and enjoy my breakfast. First stop for today is the National Museum. Since I have a lot of time left until it would open at 10:00 o’clock, I decided to walk there, instead of using public transport. After I few hundread meters I noticed, that the humidity here is much higher than in central India. About 80% it is. I am sweating and exhausted already.

The National Museum is wonderfully interesting designed and retells with the help of exhibits, photos, digital content and audio recordings Singapores’ history, from the very first populating until today.

The country has a very exciting history and can be admired in many ways. This place is an example for a peaceful living together between different people and religions. Of course, the English also did their part in shedding huge amounts of land in the 19th century and creating one of the largest trading centers in Asia.

The countrys’ motto is: Forward, Singapore! The average annual income is higher than in Switzerland. Prosperity prevails and there are over 126 different banks here, of which 121 are foreign.

The average annual income in 1960 was 1310 SGD per person. In 2014 it was 71’318. A massive increase of 5444% in the last 54 years! Forex trading is also flourishing. This means that in 2014, 291 billions USD in foreign exchange were traded…daily! There is also a lot of trade in goods and thus every 2 to 3 minutes a ship comes or goes to the port of Singapore, where almost 34 million 20-feet containers have already passed through, since it’s existence. For all of you, who have ever seen a 20-feet container from the inside, that’s quite a lot, isn’t it? 😉

After these interesting and astonishing figures, which I got from my tour inside the National Museum, I continue my way to Chinatown, the old chinese district of the city. There are still old houses and little stores here, which are being overthroned by high-rise buildings in the background. In a big shopping complex I’m eating duck with noodles from one of the many food stalls.

This is where people seem to meet for lunch and debating. Hundreds of tables and chairs surrounded by dozens of small food stalls attending with varieties of treats.

After lunch I am visiting the beautiful Buddha Tooth Relic temple. Yes, this is a temple where a tooth of the very first Buddha (Sidharta) is supposed to be kept. The tooth itself is not on display, but the hundreds of believers who gather inside. A few priests in the front row read the prayers and all others, sitting in the back, repeat them or read them in their own books.

I observed the believers and it seemed to me that many of them not really knew from what page of the book their priests lead the prayer. I came to that conclusion by watching their fingers, which followed the chinese signs on the pages and here and there jumped to another spot – forth and back – or suddendly entire pages were turned over.

Many Buddhist temples I have seen in my life and this one was also beautiful. But precisely because I have seen so many already, I didn’t wanna spend to much time in it as I didn’t have the feeling of seeing something here, that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Again I am sweating and exhausted of all the walking and sight seeing. Consequence: back to the hotel and try out the pool =)

It is superbly cool and it is soooo relaxing to take a bath in it. I seem to be the only guest who had this glorious idea. I could also indulge in a cold beer, but I don’t feel like. A bit of sun bathing, listening to the music and sleeping.

Everything at the same time: I am a real multi tasker *grin*

As the sun is slowly starting to set, I make my way to the city. I would like to see the Marina Bay again. It is a bay in the heart of Singapore surrounded by hundreds of hotels and bars. Among others the Marina Bay Sands too. The fancy high-rise bulding on whose three towers a gigantic ship lies. On the left side of it, the Singapore Flyer, an observation wheel.

Behind me are the enormous office buildings of the Maybank, the UBS and other banks. The historical Fullerton Hotel and in front of all of them the Merlion. A lion statue, who spits prosperity and luck in the form of water from it’s mouth into the Marina Bay. There are hundreds of people here, who seem to take pictures and selfies every second. Of themselves in front of the Merlion and the Skyline.

But this isn’t India here: nobody wants to take a selfie with me! Have I become ugly in such a way since Dom left me? Hahaha.

Well this is Singapore and not India. People here see Europeans or Americans or other pale faces every single day 😉 They live and work with them. So I am nothing special anymore. Although I am actually a very famous person. I wonder whether they have ever heard of “Eine Geschichte aus Triengen”? Whether the film was to be seen here in one of the multiplex cinemas 10 years ago?

No further thougts on it. I am hungry. In a bar the happy hour is imposed on me and I get two big cool beers for the price of one. As it is so hot – even now that the sun is gone – I have to drink the beer fast for it to remain cold. Two Singaporians or Chinese sit next to me, selectively speaking chinese or english.

Well, it might have been korean or japanese or any other language which I don’t understand. Whatever.

The burger and the fries are ordered and I keep myself busy with the beer. There is also free WiFi here, as there is in almost any restaurant. I am able to text with Lim and tell him about my day. At last, there is no more time difference between us, yeey!

I beat the beer fast, but actually it beat me. No good idea to gulp one liter of beer that fast in a hungry state in this heat. My head would tell me exactely the same later. The burger was awesome and when I got the bill, I was taken aback: 47 SGD for two beers and a burger with fries! Well…it’s Singapore.

I head to the Merlion to photograph the skyline and the whole scenery at night. With my supercool mini tripod it’s gonna be awesome. I attach the tripod to a railing, set the exposure to 20 seconds, select the display window, focus and press. Two seconds later the self-timer kicks in and the exposure begins for 20 seconds.

But what happens: the selfie-ists are posing around the railing and every movement of the camera during the exposure turns the picture into a catastrophe… thank you, I think. But at some time, I also get lucky and I manage a photo without anyone touching the railing noticeably.

After all the clicking I go to the MRT and off to the hotel. There my head starts to ache, thanks to the fast beer drinking. Well, a bit of chatting with Lim and then off into bed.

The second day in Singapore is not very special. Breakfast at Seven Eleven, then off to the Gardens by the Bay. This is basically a huge, green park with all sorts of plants, compounds and greenhouses. In one of them, the environment in the rainforest is simulated, in another one in the desert and so on. I am not fascinated and therefore I go back to the MRT after only a short walk in the park.

The Asian Civilizations Museum is interesting, but not nearly as exciting as the National Museum. I’m strolling in the streets a bit. Like a jog trot. In the Arab Quarter, I treat myself to a foot massage. In the evening, I consider my buddy’s tip and make my way to Level33, a brewery and restaurant on the 33rd floor of the Marina Bay Financial Towers. The beer is good, the food is wonderful. It is busy, most of the guests seem to be expats or tourists. The view of Marina Bay from here is incredible. I take my mini tripod and start clicking again.

Thankfully, I was able to take two pictures before being requested to not put the camera on the porch, because if it fell down and hit someone, the restaurant would be responsible.

What’s the nonsense I think, before it comes to my mind, that I would not like to be hit on a walk along the Bay by a camera flying from the 33rd floor either. Well then.

Nevertheless a nice last evening in Singapore. Because tomorrow I continue to Melaka in Malaysia.

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