Hello! Michele here….
We arrived in Singapore on March 4th. To get here we took what was supposed to be an 8 hour sleeper train. The funny thing is that the 8 hour train was exactly 4.5 hours late - meaning that we left Jerantut, Malaysia at 2:30am and arrived in Singapore at 3:00pm. Although the train ride was very jerky, the bed was comfortable and the set up for the sleeper beds was close to ideal. So, you want to know what a sleeper train looks like? Well, I wouldn’t say this is the best photo ever but I think you can get the idea:
In this case, each sleeper car train had one main isle and people slept on both sides in either a top or lower bunk. The lower bunk is about $5 more expensive because it’s much easier to get in and out of. You have a curtain so there is some privacy. We also got a fitted sheet, a flat (top) sheet, and a pillow with a pillow cover. If you are a short or small person, you can put your bag at the foot of your bed. However, if you are a bigger person, you most likely need to put your bag in the isle (as you can see from the photo). The lights are kept on all night as a deterent to theft and other problems. In the morning we got hot chocolate and cake, breakfast of champions for sure.
The border crossing was no big deal. When exiting Malaysia, passport control people borded the train and stamped our passports. Soon after this, everyone got off the train. We looked out the window, along with another couple from London, and concluded it wasn’t the Singapore station, so we just stayed on the train. In retrospect, it did seem weird that we were the only people on the train, but I guess we were busy doing things and didn’t notice. After we were stopped for about 5 minutes, an official looking person came aboard and told us that we had to take our bags off the train, and go through Singapore passport control and immigration. So that’s why we were the only ones on the train! Getting through immigration only took about 10 minutes then we got back on the train. A few minutes later, we arrived in Singapore.
As I mentioned, we were 4.5 hours late arriving in Singapore so by that time, we didn’t want to screw around with public transportation and simply caught a cab to our hostel, which was in a part of Singapore called “Little India”. This was quite a deluxe hostel. In fact, Hangout at Mt. Emily (as it’s called) was more like a funky high class hotel with unique architectural features, a hip restaurant and bar, free breakfast, free internet cafe, movies shown on a large plasma screen TV, free coffee and tea all day, a laundry center with coin operated laundry machines, and an outdoor lounge with a bubbling fountain.
We loved staying in Little India. It had all of the positive features of India and none of the bad ones (i.e., no cows or garbage in the streets). Walking down the street we heard the familiar sounds of Indian music and smelled the scent of incense coming out of the shops and restaurants. We found an all-u-can eat Indian buffet that we like so much we ended up eating there 3 nights in a row! This restaurant, The Ganges, had some of the best food we have had on our trip.
About Singapore…Singapore is a city, island, and a country with a population of 4.2 million people. Over 90% of the people live in high rise apartments/condominiums that are subsidized by the government. There are strict laws controlling littering and waste emissions. It emphasizes public transport and restricts car ownership making it almost totally polution-free. Many people have called Singapore “sterile” but Mike and I enjoyed the very clean atmosphere and ultra modern public transportation where buses and metro are equipped with plasma screen TVs.
Like Malaysia, Singapore is a mix of different cultures. Four languages are spoken and many signs are in these four languages – English, Mandarin (Chinese), Malay (Malaysian), and Tamil (South Indian dialect). Here is an example:
While in Singapore, we had a lot of errands to run and a long “to do” list. One thing we now realize is that we tend to save our errands until we get to big cities where there are more facilities and resources. In big cities, people are also more likely to speak English so we can more easily figure out how to do the things on the “to do” list. However, this cuts into our sight seeing time (as was the case in Bangkok, for example). Unfortunately, this also happened in Singapore.
We did manage to get down to the harbor front area and take a cable car from the harbor front to the top of Mt. Farber, then on to Santosa island. We stopped at Mt. Farber where we had lunch at a very foofy restaurant that emphasized fashion and food presentation over quality or quantity but it had an excellent view. The photo below was taken through the floor to ceiling glass that surrounded the restaurant. In the photo you can see the lush jungle foliage that is all around Singapore. (After all, Singapore is only about 60 miles from the equator). The cable car goes to the harbor front and through a building, before going on to Sentosa island, which you can also see in the photo below.
On this day, we also managed to go to a sad, somewhat depressing Reptile Park. Half of the 12 exhibits were closed (and in fact it looked like the reptile park itself was about to close for good) but we did see an alligator feeding which involved alligators eating whole raw chickens. We also entered Iguana Kingdom, where we were surrounded by 15 to 20 of the largest iguanas either one of us had ever seen. Finally, we watched three very large monitor lizards playing in the water and two giant tortoises eating lettuce before seeing an araipama, the largest fresh water fish in the world. (This one was about 7 feet long).
Our day downtown got a little brighter when we discovered this fine creature, just hanging out on a palm tree. Isn’t he/she beautiful?
photo — Mike
Next stop…New Zealand!