16.05.2012 - 19.05.2012 36 °C
Our Airasia flight from Bali to Singapore had been bought a year before. (I had bought extra baggage but not forked out any extra for food, priority seating and certainly not for extra leg room). After 4 months around SEA arriving into Singapore airport and jumping on the MRT into the center felt like another world. It felt uneasily like a developed country.
We checked into the fantastic Five Stones hostel just near Clarkes Quay and were met by an old buddy from medical school. Yan took us to Clarkes Quay for a beer and nachos before whizzing us off for an incredible Singapore Chilli Crab dinner overlooking the sea. The view out to see twinkled with 1000’s of lights: hundreds of ships queing to get into the busiest port in the world.
Chilli crab. Yummy! I never found out what Yan's bright idea with the crab was....
Waking up the next day I ate my first cereal and fresh milk in 4 months. How I missed it! I then headed off for a run around the Marina Bay and Quays on the on the running track. Singaporians are just crazy for running and the city is a constant throng of runners! Arriving back I woke Lynne up and ate more cereal. With Lynne up and raring to go we walked out to explore Chinatown.
The contrast between well restored merchant houses (much like the fantastic Georgetown in Malaysia) and modern sky scrappers is fascinating. We stopped at the City Museum where Lynne got a bit too excited by the town planning, but it was well worth a stop (for me it was for great food court opposite. $3 for huge plate of Singapore Chinese!) After a bit more walking we stopped for delicious Dim Sum. We were getting carried away with the tasty and cheap food!
After some serious pavement miles we had a rest back at the hostel and in the evening headed off to the ubiquitos tourist trap Raffels for a overpriced Singapore sling and beer. We had been given instructions by Lynne's dad to find his old drinking haunt, the Army and Navy club, which we were informed overlooked Raffles. After circling Raffles a few times and consulting the mobile phone internet we worked out it was still there, just behind the some scaffolding and covers. Shame. Still, hanging out in the old colonial bar and breaking peanuts and hurling the husks on the floor is quite fun.
Later we went to the Esplande to meet up with Yan again for a few drinks and watch the amazing buildings around the marina bay light up. It is amazing how life works out sometimes. Your wife's mother ruptures her oesophagus and then a few days later you meet up with an old med school friend to find he is a upper GI specialist. Not only was Yan a fantastic host and guide, he was also very kind in spending time talking about the implications and future after such an incident.
Later that evening we finally sat down to make a decision about the future of the trip. Initially it had seemed simple, then after being told in no uncertain terms by Lynne's dad not to return it seemed complicated again. We worked out the costs, thought about delaying flights here and there, but in the end it boiled down to the simple question of flying further away from home, or going home and being with Lynne's family. By 3am I had cancelled the rest of the RTW trip and bought new tickets leaving in 26 hours to London.
Suddenly a holiday with over 2 month left on the clock shrinks to just over 24hrs. Time to fit in far too much into one day. We headed off to Little India and enjoyed wandering the old streets, temples and picking up some gifts for the family.
Next stop was the cable car up to the Mount Faber. To be honest the whole cable car and viewing is well run with some ok views but not a patch on Hong Kong, or seeing the Manhattan skyline. However only a short walk (though in 36 degrees and 100% humidity it felt long enough), was the brillaint Henderson Waves. A stunning bridge through the rain forest.
Next stop, Marina Bay Sands. The building is enormous and is sat on top of Asia's second largest casino. Singaporeans, much like a lot of asia, love a flutter despite the huge joining fees and daily charge just for entering. The casino makes more money for Marina Bay than all its casinos in Las Vegas put together. Macau and Singapore are heralding the decline of Las Vegas. We explore the ridiculous shopping malls and then went to the top to have a drink. (Top tip, you can either pay to go to the top to have a look around, or go to the bar for free where two drinks is slightly cheaper than the elevator charge, though not if your wife orders a Champagne cocktail!).
With hours remaining on our trip we decided to battle Singapore at rush hour to make it out into the centre of the island to visit the fantastic Night Safari. The Zoo is attached to Singapore zoo but a different entity entirely and only opens after dark. There are a number of walks but the highlight is the Jurassic park esq open train ride. The enclosures are very cleverly designed with no bars or cages, but hidden water ditches. It gives the unnerving feeling that the animals could wander over to you at any point and take bite. The animal show was fun as well but we hadn't left ourselves enough time to enjoy it fully and would definitely return.
There seemed little point in going to bed after getting back from the Night Safai well after mid night and a early start 04:15 only hours away. And so we stayed up organising all the last little boring things that you need when returning suddenly e.g. Car Hire etc. I ate some more cereal and watched some movies. Heaving our rucksacs on for the last travel we hit the near desserted Singapore roads and hailed a taxi to the airport. Two hours later we were in KL again, and 11 hours after this we touched down in London heathrow.
The next three months:
My dad very kindly came to pick us up at LHR and drove us back to Shrewsbury. They said we could stay as long as we needed and we joked that we would stay for a few months in that case. Some nervous laughs followed. The next month flew by with daily trips to the hospital and trying to get our lives in order. We had planned to spend the last two months of our trip getting everything ready for our return. I got some GP locum work around Shrewsbury and did some rowing and coaching at the local rowing club. Three months later we finally made the planned move to London and have settled in East Sheen near Mortlake on old Father Thames. Three months since Lynne's mum ruptured her oesophagus she has finally been allowed to start sipping water.
A common question is: 'So have you got it out of your system?' And I guess this was partly the aim of the trip, to satisfy that need to explore and experience what is out there. If anything this trip has ignited that hunger even more. Most of all it has shown us that all those fears that stop people from travelling, the worries about jobs and money, losing touch with the system which means paying tax, a mortgage, building a pension, are even weaker than before. We met endless inspiring people who had carved out the life they wanted, were successfully travelling with young children, had taken the risk. So for anyone thinking of travelling, or the reasons why they can't. I'll leave it to Mark Twain to finish off. (ultimate cheese moment)
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain