CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE
"Because the all the trains to Malaysia are full for three days straight. Didn’t you know that the end of Ramadan is a huge travel time? You’re going to stay right here in Bangkok, dearie."
Umm, no thanks.
Instead, I booked a single night at a hostel right in front of the train station and immediately set to work completely revamping weeks two and three of my Southeast Asia Adventure. I quickly learned that the buses to Malaysia were also full, and that flying to Penang or even Kuala Lumpur (known around here as KL) would be prohibitively expensive. However, I could fly to Singapore for $51.
Turned out it was a real deal. I know this because I bought the $51 ticket, showed up at the airport in Bangkok the next day, got on a plane, and got off the plane a couple hours later in Singapore, the most expensive place in Southeast Asia! I had to pinch myself repeatedly, but it wasn’t a dream.
You Just Touched An Unidentified Sticky Object In The Dark
But I was too tired, and it was too late, to leave. I managed to sleep for six hours on the bed that I didn’t even want to touch, and escaped into the relatively clean city air bright and early the following day, in a city I hadn’t planned to visit, with no map, plan or place to stay, and carrying all of my stuff with me. I felt so relieved.
This is not the bright shiny side of travel.
However, I found another hostel nearby that had cleanliness standards and strong WiFi, checked in and blissed out on clean sheets, air conditioning and my good friend the Internet for a couple hours.
Things flow smoothly and efficiently, like a well-oiled machine. Shopping and “Food Centres” abound in this megacity, and I visited plenty of both to see what Singapore had to offer. I wasn’t disappointed.
Singaporean signs constantly remind people to be nice/kind/polite. One example is the subway seats painted with flowers and big signs reminding people to “Be sweet – Give Away This Seat” and stick figures of needy groups such as older adults, people using crutches and pregnant women. Another example is the signs on the subway doors, such as “Give Way Glenda,” reminding boarding passengers to allow current passengers to “alight” before getting on.
“Garden By The Bay” is a huge garden between the metropolis and the water. The awe-inspiring futuristic Marina Bay Sands Hotel’s trio of towers wall it off from the rest of the city, and it was surprisingly quiet. The Supertree Grove was simply magical. Following excellent advice, I went to the garden during daylight, and stayed until evening, so I could see the garden and towers with and without natural light. The entire time was stupendous.
Honestly I don’t know what to say about it, other than uttering more and more exaggerated superlatives, so I’ll stop talking and let my pictures tell the rest of the story.
I am embarrassed to admit that I had no idea that KL was a “big deal.” I hadn’t planned to come here, as I didn’t have time, and hadn’t done any research whatsoever. I just showed up, got a taxi to my accommodation, and settled in. The only thing I knew coming in was that KL had a set of twin towers I had to see, and that Malaysia Airlines was in trouble (and for good reason).
On arriving in Malaysia, I noticed the level of racial tension rocket up from Singapore’s “no worries, mate” to “I strongly dislike you, and I’m going to make sure everyone knows about it.” Racial group members such as Malay, Chinese and Indian, tend to socialize exclusively within their own communities, and don’t mix much. And when they do mix, there is often palpable tension on all sides. Therefore I do dub thee “Malaysia Salad” (with no dressing).
My lunch at Cafe Benko demonstrates a great example of KL: Korean-style Japanese bento (“Benko”) made by Chinese Malaysians served to an American. Malaysia’s official tourism slogan of “Truly Asia” seems apt.
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Incubation Station Creation
However, right after 6pm rolled around and everyone else left the office, somebody started drilling holes RIGHT ABOVE MY HEAD. It was incredibly loud, and intermittent, so I had trouble locating it. It wasn’t anywhere on my floor, anyway. I gave up looking, since I figured it would go away soon, but when 8:30 rolled around and they were still going at it, I decided to go searching again. And I found them.
Apparently the entire 24th floor is under construction. When I got off the elevator, I saw dozens of guys working in what looked like a disaster area. My Malay and Chinese language skills are, um, zero, and while there were one guy who sort of spoke English it was pretty touch and go.
Most of our discussion consisted of me pantomiming holding my hands over my ears every time they started the drill, and saying “ouch ouch ouch” and pointing to where my office was, right below the drill, and saying “ten pm phone call. Phone call. Stop drilling then? Okay?” The other half of the discussion was mostly him insisting indignantly “but it’s after six!”
They must have understood get the message, though, because they did indeed stop drilling after 9:45pm. And then at 9:55pm, I found out my phone call had been rescheduled. Zing!
All in all, it was quite a nice week. I met oodles of incredible new people, had lovely conversations with my hostel mates in Singapore and homestay host Swee in KL, and saw tons of interesting and pretty things.
Next, on to Penang, Malaysia!