Day 210: Sling Your Hook

Today we left sunny Singapore. We saw one last tourist attraction, “The Raffles Hotel”, before wasting time at shopping centres until our flight to Bali. Everything went to plan with no hiccups. The only downside to the day involved a smelly Frenchman, but you’ll have to read on to find out about that. By the time we reached Bali it was late afternoon, and even later still by the time I’d finished this blog. I hope you enjoy today’s post, as it didn’t half take long to write.

• I must have slept funny throughout the night, as when I woke up I was left with a stiff neck and sore throat. One thing’s for sure, I was definitely dreaming nonstop. You know you’re using the Internet too much when you start dreaming about having a bad connection. Sarah wasn’t long behind me in waking up, then we spent the next 40 minutes getting ready and packing our bags. When everything was back in the holdalls we went downstairs to put them in storage. Sarah then hired a locker for the day for our day bags, while I made us breakfast.

• We agreed to meet Sarah’s parents outside at 11am. Just as we were finishing up our toast Simon appeared outside the window. I washed up our things, then we went outside. There was a slight moment of panic when Ann and Simon didn’t have my day bag. It was the second time this trip that it was temporarily lost. It was now more important than ever as it contained mine and Sarah’s hospital bills, without those we couldn’t claim on the insurance. I specifically remembered leaving it in their room beside their safe, but both Ann and Simon said they had no recollection of seeing it there. Immediately we returned to their room, only to find it hidden on the shelf below the safe. I wasn’t that concerned, I knew it would be there as the hotel they were staying in was very secure. It was unlikely anyone would have sneaked in to steal it. We then returned to our hostel to put all the day bags in the safe, and headed to the MRT around the corner.

• The destination: The Raffles Hotel. This building was very exotic looking looking, and was famous for being the birth place of the cocktail “the Singapore sling”. At £11 equivalent to enjoy one at the bar we didn’t bother. Instead we admired the architecture and surrounding grounds, and had brunch in the cafe. All around us were tall white pillars which propped up the even whiter ceilings, and there were long corridors leading to even more elegance. It was easy to see that the Raffles hotel wasn’t a cheap build. A lot of time and effort had gone into the chalk white walls and beautiful gardens. There was a stunning fountain which sat solemnly in one of the many courtyard as well. It would have been nice to stay there for a night, just to see how the other half lived, but at this point in my life it was way out of my price range, and given the way I was dressed I definitely wouldn’t have fit in. Before stopping for food we moseyed around the gift shop. As soon as you walked through the door there was a miniature model of the hotel and surrounding roads. So far it appeared we’d barely scratched the surface, although, a lot of it was reserved for guests only. Such as the swimming pool on the roof. Every item in the shop was highly priced, and rightly so, everything looked like it was made of expensive materials. There were strange items for sale, such as boot polish. It just goes to show, people with money will buy anything. So long as it comes with some level of status they’ll buy it. Who spends 30 plus dollars on boot polish for goodness sakes. Simon seemed to think there would have been a pot in each room for the guests. Some of the other more ridiculous items included umbrellas, plastic carrier bags, and baseball caps. Everything had the Raffles Hotel stitched/ printed on to it in one way or another. After looking around we passed the many designer shops (like Louis Vuitton) and went to the cafe.

• Their snacks and drinks weren’t that badly priced. Unlike the Singapore sling you could get coffee for just 6 dollars, which was about £3. Most things were the same price as home. We each had a cup of coffee and enjoyed some cakes. Sarah took some photos of us sat inside (making me feel like we looked cheap for doing it), then Ann and Simon pocketed some napkins and sugar. You only live once I guess. Now the thieves were feeling high on life from their high stakes steal, we decided to leave. While the girls visited the bathroom I noticed a shop with expensive paintings hanging on the walls. I felt drawn to the pieces on offer. Granted I couldn’t afford the 4,500 dollar price tag, but I really loved the artwork. I asked the man behind the counter who they were by, and he responded by saying they were done by a Singaporean street artist named Zero. Zero did something I’d never seen before, he uses spray paints on canvas to create truly unique and brightly coloured pieces. I took a free art booklet, and slip of paper with the names of each piece on, and quickly snapped a few pics while the man wasn’t looking. When I got back to the others we spent the next hour or so wandering around the Marina Square, and Marina Bay shopping malls.

• Because we had time to waste until we had to be at the airport, the malls were (according to Sarah) the best place to go. In the first complex (Marina Square) the girls looked around a couple shoe stores, thankfully I had a booklet from the art shop to keep me occupied. When Sarah was done looking we began making our way towards the exit. That was until the words “Raymond Weil” caught my eye. Simon also had an appreciation for a fine watch, so he joined me as I went inside the shop. The story of how I came about this particular watch brand goes back some way.
Once upon a time I was flicking through a “Men’s Health” magazine when I saw a page advertising the most stunning watch I’d ever seen. It had a large square shaped, rose gold frame surrounding a black face. Either side of that were brown leather straps. What the picture failed to show was the cost of this beautiful timepiece. This had left me curious ever since, even after going on the company’s website I still couldn’t find out its cost. Well, after going in the shop today I got my answer. It turned out this watch was still in production, but they didn’t stock it in store. Instead there was a similar looking piece in silver. After talking with the woman we found out why. She said, and these were her words…
“We don’t have it here, but we can phone the manufacturer to order you one in. Just to give you an idea of how much it would cost, it’s around 28,000 Singaporean dollars!”
I then burst out laughing like never before. In English money that was 14,000 pounds. She then joked that I had expensive tastes. Well after seeing the expensive artwork earlier on, and always having a space in my heart for that watch I guess she was right. We thanked her for her time, then rejoined the others.

• It was another hot day in Singapore, so the small walk between the two shopping centres was a sweaty one. Again we had to cross the Helix bridge to reach Marina Bay, but we were thankful for the a/c inside. If anything it was too cold. Just outside the front doors were men on harnesses climbing down the large glass windows giving them a clean. It made for a funny photo for the blog. The plan was to go to the Gardens by the bay one last time for Ann, as she was still in love with them from the first light show. I said I’d catch them up as I wanted to check out the ice skating arena on the ground floor. While I made my way down, the others climbed the escalators towards the roof. After I noticed the arena only had a thin smooth later of ice I ran back to catch up, only to find them coming back down complaining that it was too hot. It was true, when I reached the top of the escalator I immediately felt the heat, it was practically palpable. Heat does rise after all, and being on the roof was probably the worst place to be, even the door handles were hot to the touch. In the end we went back down to the ground floor (beside the ice rink) to eat dinner. I didn’t enjoy mine, but the others did. Afterwards we caught the MRT back to Chinatown to collect our bags.

• When we all had our bags we met outside our hostel. Simon then waved down a Mercedes Benz taxi (flash I know) and by some miracle we managed to squeeze all our luggage into the boot bar one, my bag. Instead it went on Simon’s lap in the back. Somehow 2 suitcases, a holdall, and three day bags fit in the trunk. We then made small talk with the driver who told us a couple facts about Singapore. He explained how the Gardens by the bay were only constructed last June, so I’d imagine they’d be hosting a special light show next month. He also said there was a new rail system being built which will take people around the outside of the city, even reaching as far as the harbour. So new arrivals by boat won’t have to catch a taxi into the city anymore. Given how efficient Singapore is it wasn’t difficult to believe they’d have it done in the 3 year time frame our driver described. Outside the airport were a list of airlines on numbered signs, this a small thing that made a huge difference. It enabled the taxi driver to locate which door we’d need for checking in. See what I mean about efficiency. Simon paid the friendly driver and left him with a tip, then we grabbed a trolley to take the bags inside.

• It was inside the front doors we played a game of switch-a-roo. We each had a weight limit of only 20kg. Because Ann and Simon brought out our clothes it meant their bags were slightly overweight. Sarah and I took some of the bulky items and we all got through check in smoothly. I’m glad we’d already checked in online, as the people who hadn’t were queueing up for days. After going through security we wasted time in the duty free shops. It was here Sarah got an early birthday present from her mum and dad, a lovely scented perfume. After that we made our way towards our gate for boarding. While moving along on the travelator we were overtaken by a Frenchman. We could smell him before we saw him. Unfortunately he was on the same flight as us. While standing in line we had the misfortune of standing behind him, briefly sarah caught the number of his seat on his ticket. HE WAS SITTING BEHIND US. After we had our bags scanned once again at security, and we located our seats, we felt sick. We were locked in cabin with no air to circulate the smell, so we had no choice but to endure it. Even the woman sat beside Sarah and I was holding her nose. Before taking off it was like a bad joke, almost as if this guy knew he smelled and did it on purpose. He stood up from his seat to put his bag in the overhead storage, each time using over the top gestures causing his armpits to float about beside us. Luckily the sleeves of Sarah’s hoody had traces of perfume on them from the shop, and they masked the stench. But if it wasn’t for that, I was going to pull down the oxygen masks because this was considered an emergency.

• For the next 2 and a half hours I typed my blog and Sarah watched tv shows. The whole time we did battle to breath healthy air and ignore the fact there was a Frenchman acting as an olfactory terrorist. Around 9pm we touched down in Bali, Indonesia. There were some passengers who stayed on the plane to continue to Australia, but as for us we had reached our destination. Sarah and I were among the first people to get off the plane, but we found ourselves having to wait for the others to catch up. Before we could collect our bags from the magical carousel we had to buy visas for Indonesia. Luckily for Sarah and I we had some American dollars in our bag. It came to 50 dollars for the pair of us, whereas Ann and Simon used the Indonesian money they’d purchased in England. It was the first time they were millionaires. When we received our visas it was a case of grabbing the bags, going through one last security check, and finding a taxi to take us to our hotel. One thing of note, as we waited for our bags a Balinesian gentleman wandered over with a trolley. What he was hoping for was to take our bags outside and in return receive a tip. Although we didn’t ask for him, he stayed until I mentioned it to Sarah. She wandered over to tell him we weren’t interested. Poor Simon wasn’t any the wiser to these tricks yet, and would have probably let the man push them for us thinking it was part of the norm. But one thing was clear, we were in a poorer country again.

• It was strange to be somewhere new. Ever since we’d left the islands, Sarah and I had been retracing our steps by going back to places like Pai and Chiang Mai. Bali was unknown territory for me, I was now in the same boat as Ann and Simon. Sarah was the only one to have been here before. Outside the airport was mental, there were more taxi drivers than ever before. They stood in large groups, as well as lining the streets looking for fares – some were even holding name cards. Every single one of them was eager to get your attention in the hopes you’d go with them. But past experience had taught us they were usually the more expensive ones. Seeing as we had just arrived, we hadn’t quite got our heads around the currency, so I am unsure if we got ripped off with what happened next. There was a taxi booth filled with drivers, also waiting for fares. Sarah did all the talking (like usual) and the main guy handling the money said 85,000 Rupiah. Yet on the board behind him it clearly said 60,000 to Seminyak. He then muttered some words about our hotel being too far away in Seminyak, and told us if we wanted to pay 60,000 they’d drop us in the middle of nowhere and we’d have to walk the rest of the way. We didn’t need the attitude, but in his defence he may have felt sick of everyone telling him what the sign said behind him, and accusing him of being a rip off merchant. We paid the money and our new taxi driver also performed a miracle. Although this car was nowhere near as fancy as a Mercedes, all the bags fit in the boot, except for the day bags which went on our laps.

• It was dark outside by this point, and after being in Singapore for the last few days we quickly learned it was worlds apart from Bali. If anything Singapore was the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The first most noticeable thing about Bali at night was the severe lack of street lightning. I don’t know how the driver managed to avoid the countless amounts of scooters pulling out in front of him. Every other junction they’d pull out without warning. The next thing I noticed was the quality of the roads, they were back to being of poor quality. Potholes every few feet and chunks of concrete missing from the edges was a common site. Then there was the fact it looked a little like a slum, there were small local shacks and the occasional convenient store. I envisioned Bali to be this place filled with luscious green forests, and white sand beaches after watching “Eat, Pray, Love”. I was later told by Sarah that Ubud was most likely to be similar to what I had in mind. I’m not complaining about it at all, to me it resembled Thailand slightly, but for Ann and Simon this must have been a slight culture shock. Eventually we left the shacks, badly lit roads, and stray dogs behind us in the rear view, and found ourselves in the more populated area of Seminyak.

• The roadsides were filled with tourists from all over, Indonesian 7Eleven equivalents in the form of Circle K and Mini Mart, as well as fancy bars and tempting restaurants, basically everything you’d associate with a holiday destination. No doubt this was a relief for Sarah’s parents, as up until then I bet they wondered what they’d let themselves in for. After a 15 minute car journey we arrived at the entrance to “Grandma’s Hotel”. It looked amazing. Just what the doctor… sorry, Duxbury ordered. Ann and Simon did a good finding this place. There was a restaurant downstairs which sold both Balinesian and western dishes, a circular pool right beside it, and a spa off to one side. The staff were really polite and friendly, and they checked us in right away. Our rooms were perfect, and kind of resembled the more expensive places we’d stayed. There was a comfy double bed, an en suite bathroom (with a lovely hot shower), and the most important feature of all… a tv. What’s more, it came with countless channels including HBO and Cinemax. We now had movies at our disposal. We didn’t have long before the hotel’s restaurant stopped serving beer and drink. After dropping everything off, Sarah and I went down ahead of her parents.

• The menu was fairly small, but it had everything you could want, including burgers and pizzas. If all else failed they were my go too’s. I was pleasantly surprised by the sounds of the Indonesian foods, and looked forward to trying some. Instead of ordering the pizza I had initially thought about, I had instead the fried chicken in butter sauce. I don’t know if this was an Indonesian dish or not, but it was very tasty. Shortly after our arrival Ann and Simon showed up. Ann and Sarah both ordered the same dish as me, and we all enjoyed some mocktails to go with it. While Simon had a couple beers and a different dish. We’d just managed to get our orders in 5 minutes before closing. At the end came the confusing math lesson as we figured out the currency exchange. It worked out to be roughly 15,000 rupiah to the English pound. The total for the meals came to around 460,000. Which I think worked out to be just over £5 each. It was very clear that Bali wouldn’t be anywhere near as expensive as Singapore, but it would sure as hell be confusing figuring out the exchange rate.

• After our meals we all returned to our rooms, and for once we didn’t have to walk, or travel, 5 million miles to get there. After showering we got into bed and I thought about concluding the evening with a movie. It was then I remembered I was far behind on my blog, and out of some weird sense of guilt I felt I had to do that instead. When we looked at the clock to see what the time was, we discovered it was getting on for 1am. For the fourth night running Ann and Simon had managed to keep us out until gone midnight. Just how did they keep doing this?

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