Day 132: Spanglish

What a beautiful place Singapore is. Although it is its own country these days, its small size makes it quite hard to use that word when describing it. Seeing as we were all rested, after our long days travel, we were better able to appreciate our new surroundings. We had a really good first day, and it went a little something like this:

• I didn’t bother with an alarm, as I thought it would be best to wake up naturally. I felt all the more better for it, then ensued the morning rituals of getting ready.

• Our breakfast was perfect. A buffet of toast and boiled eggs. I got through 5 and a half eggs, and around 6 pieces of toast. I then washed it down with a strong cup of coffee. After washing my plate and mug, it took a while for everyone to get sorted.

• We spent the next 40 minutes to an hour faffing around. It seemed to take forever to leave the hostel. We took a map from reception, and with a few places highlighted, we ventured outside.

• There were 6 of us, it was Anna, Sarah, Megan, Jenna, myself, and the Spanish man we met at the bus stop the night before. We learned his name was Julio (pronounced Hoolio), and was from southern Spain. Julio was a tall 5 feet, had salt and pepper hair, a slim build, and a slight overbite. He spoke good English, if not slightly broken in places, but overall was a nice guy and easy to get along with.

• The girls started out looking for a market (bloody typical) only this time they had a reason. They wanted to buy shoes so they could look smart enough to get into certain buildings. For example the Marina Bay Hotel had a dress code, which suggested its guests looked smart casual. Seeing as the girls only had flip flops, they’d need something else.

“But wait a minute, this will be 10 times worse. It was bad enough when they were looking at the stalls casually, with no particular purchase in mind. Now you are with 4 girls, all of which are show shopping! Best of luck my friend, you’re going to need it, as well as the patience of a saint!”

• I used this time to better acquaint myself with Julio, and brush up on my Spanish. A little while ago, while Internet shopping, I bought a “learn Spanish” cd for the computer. Granted I only used it a few times, but certain words stuck. I used these to my advantage, and for the majority of the day my Spanish teacher Mr Julio and I spoke about animals, colours, shops, and other subjects. In return I helped him with trickier English words. Whenever he’d try to explain something, and struggled to find the right words, he’d use the following sentence: “you understand, no?”

• I feel as though I mastered a lot of what I learned, and I was surprised at myself when I was able to recall animal names from the training cd. We soon left the market, so we could visit the botanical gardens.

• The streets of Singapore were so clean, and it was pretty obvious that the country/city itself is pretty affluent. You only had to look at the futuristic architecture, or the expensive sports cars driving around to notice that. It is an amazing place. It really grew on us as the day went on. The only downside was how much everything cost.

• We caught the underground train system to get us closer to the gardens. From the station it was a 15 minute walk. I used that time to learn more Spanish, bibliotheca, limon, bruha, being just a few new words I learned. We soon arrived at the front gates, and what lay before us was mind blowing.

• It is illegal to spit on the streets of Singapore, it results in a heavy fine should you get caught. This may be the reason why everywhere is so tidy, but by comparison the gardens were immaculate. With a dedicated team of cleaners it was no wonder. The botanical gardens of Singapore are something else entirely. I was so impressed with the lay out of this place. Long wide pathways, all around were picturesque scenes: trimmed bushes, colourful vibrant flowers, children playing football on the large grass areas, couples walking hand in hand, swans swam atop the beautiful lakes, it was like something from a movie. The place was so big that we didn’t have enough time to cover all of it. However, Meg, Anna and myself paid 5 dollars to visit the orchid gardens.

We darted about as quick as possible, because we agreed with the others we’d be out in 15 minutes, as we all had to be back at the hostel for 5:30pm for our scooter tour. There were many rare flowers to be admired, some big, some small, some short, some tall (sorry for sounding like Dr. Zuess there). We didn’t have enough time to get to the celebrity garden unfortunately. This was a place where flowers were named after celebs who had visited over time. We saw what we could, including the cool house where such plants as the Venus flytrap were. The temperature was so low inside (to represent their natural environment) that we didn’t want to leave, as it was so much nicer than the humidity awaiting us outside. We snapped plenty of pictures before finding our friends. I couldn’t help thinking it would have been a place my nan would have loved, if only she had come travelling with us.

• The heat was unbearable, and later on that day I realised I had burned my neck. We were all sweaty messes, with most of the sweat located on our backs. While we were at the gardens we were fortunate enough to see a baby lizard. There was a sign that explained their presence. They were harmless to humans, and only ate small animals. It also said they liked to hang around a water source, and we’d most likely find them near swan lake. Julio’s eagle eyes spotted the baby amongst the bushes. We took some photos before eventually leaving the park.

• We returned to the train station to catch a ride to the hostel. We grabbed some food before heading back, which was no mean feat. We were pushed for time, it was already 5pm and we had only an hour in which time to locate food, have it cooked, eat it, pay the bill and return. Meg suggested the Indian she had the previous night. When we finally reached the building (some 1km away) it turned out to be a clothing store. It was only at night that they changed to sell food, but had we not walked there I wouldn’t have found Norris Road. By far the best street in all the land. In the end we found a rubbish little joint 300 metres from our hostel.

• I refused to eat there because of the terrible lack of variation in their dishes. Instead, I chose to eat a couple pasties from the nearby 7 Eleven. I had enough time to get changed before meeting everyone again. At 6pm we were at the hostel ready and waiting.

• The scooter tour was by far the best thing we had ever done, forget riding elephants, or petting tigers, scootering around Singapore to see the sights is what it’s all about. And what’s more, IT WAS FREE!

• Nora was the name of our guide, she took us around the block to make sure we were all scooter efficient. She suggested that some of us wear shoes because flip flops might be problematic. The only reason she was wearing them was because she did it a lot, and was a pro. We began the tour by visiting a toy museum and the biggest mosque in Singapore. The toy museum was only small, in fact, it was a house. It had a crazy man running it, and made Jenna and Meg pose for lots of photos. As for the mosque, we didn’t go inside. Instead we took some pictures of the building itself, before scooting off to the next stop.

I don’t quite know how we didn’t get ran over, as certain sections saw us riding in the roads. It was really fun to ride around though, as the pavements were all smooth, and the roads were like fresh Tarmac. It was very easy to pick up speed. We were taken to the first ever hotel in Singapore next. The group was informed it was where the cocktail “Singapore sling”, was first invented. We posed for a group photo and moved on.

We then stopped outside a triangular shaped monument for another photo, before scooting to an underground marble area. This was a place where street dancers, and other artists would go to perform. This section of the tour was really fun to ride around, and it was hilarious when one of the girls crashed into a pillar. As we whizzed around, our tour guide took more photos, before taking us to another location. As we got upstairs to the inside of an expensive looking building, Sarah got told off by a security guard for riding her scooter indoors. Naughty naughty!

Around the corner from there was a very famous landmark in Singapore. There were three towers standing high into the sky, and on top was a construction designed to look like a ship. Of course, I am talking about the Marina Bay Hotel. We took more photos before moving on again. The waterfront was completely flat and smooth, meaning we were flying along as we made our way to the bridge that lead towards the hotel. By this point the sun was setting and the city lights began illuminating. We made a stop of our own to capture some more pictures of the skyline (which included the Singapore flyer), then continued to another strange looking building. This piece of architecture had won a prize for its aesthetic appeal, we used the escalator inside, then continued scooting away.

We followed our intrepid leader to a strange area filled with ginormous fake trees. The area resembled something from a fairy tale, or a brothers Grimm story. At 7:30pm we were treated to a light show. I caught some of it on video, and took some pictures, before the group set off once again to watch a water light show at the waterfront. The day was great, all these activities which would have taken us ages to find alone, were happening one after the other.

The water light show was amazing. It began with a constant cloud of water spray being fired into the air, next, a lot of music began playing. There was a boat sitting in the water behind the cloud, and was projecting images and video onto the it. This is what created our aquatic cinema. As the show grew more and more dramatic, waves of fire were shot into the air. It must have been hot, as I felt it all the way at the back row. Then bubbles were released to float across the audience (of which, Sarah caught 2 in her eye). The shows climax was the song “wonderful world” by Louis Armstrong, with various people on the water spray taking it in turns to sing. When it was over we followed Nora to the next stop.

Because it was so dark out, it made navigating between people quite difficult, and fun at the same time. We could tell certain people were frustrated by our presence, but we were having too much fun to care. Nora decided to take us for food, she chose a little restaurant where the locals go. I use the word restaurant in the loosest term. It was more of a food hall. We had some refreshing drinks, I had some noodles, and Nora bought us some flavoured crushed ice as a present. When we were finished, we rallied together one last time to visit the quay.

The quay is a river in Singapore, much like the waterfront in Bristol. It has many bars and restaurants running along each side, we spent about 30 minutes relaxing at its edge. In the distance we could see a slingshot, people were taking it in turns to be fastened inside the ball, before being launched into the sky. It was entertaining to watch, especially when the other ride swung the ball across the water. When Nora stood up she took another group photo, then lead us back to the front doors of “the Inncrowd” (our hostel). Another group photo was taken, and that concluded our joyride tour. The pictures would be emailed to each of us soon after.

• We didn’t hang around, only staying long enough for the girls to freshen up, and me to buy some water. The 5 of us then went out for food.

• We only roamed as far as one square block, before stopping in the third restaurant for a meal. I wish we had stayed in the first place though, not for their terrible food, but to admire the man who looked like an orangutan (due to his haircut). I was looking to get a haircut you see (as I hadn’t had one in over 4 months) but didn’t know what style to go for – at least not until then! I didn’t feel too hungry when we sat down to eat, but that didn’t stop me from eating a whole dish of chicken fried rice. After our meals Sarah and I returned to the hostel because we were shattered. The others went in search of beer. With the prices of Singapore’s alcohol being so high, that decision seemed crazy.

• When we got back to our dorm we felt as though we had walked into a freezer. Personally I like it when the rooms are cold, I find it easier to sleep. Sarah on the other hand. Our bunk bed was directly underneath the a/c unit, and seeing as she called top bunk, she was in for a cold night. I was tempted to let her suffer for “shotgunning” the bed when we first arrived, but somewhere inside me a heart grew, and I let her share my single bed. Much like the lyrics of the Bob Marley song. We must have been comfy, as after I finished writing my blog entry, the pair of us fell asleep quite quickly. Even if Sarah was shivering!

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