this blog might be a bit of a biggun as i havent updated it for a while - got the whole of singapore and the first few days of NZ to update y'all on. So here goes.... Singapore government are, to put it bluntly, dictators who steal vast quantities of money from its citizens. However, they are definately doing something right as it was by far the cleanest, most organised city we have been to. Prices of food and accomodation were rivalling those of the western world. The streets (as a friend from nottingham [manisha]) pointed out to me, were ABSOLUTELY spotless. Im sure manisha mentioned caning for littering or chewing gum in public or whatever. To secure funds to do this, not only was singapore the first place we have seen with speed cameras (not ot mentione actual road markings), in every car on singapores roads is a small card which is topped up with dollars. As cars pass under certain checkpoints money is automatically deducted from the cards - driving underneath it you can see your money disappear. As I say, it rivalled England in terms of cleanliness. Even the disgustingly practical ring roads and dual carriageways, were garnished with rose bushes, palm trees and hanging plants that covered the ugly metal central reservations. The skyline, like London, is clouded by cranes and scaffolding as countless new buildings are popping up -including a hotel/business centre/amusement park, which includes the worlds biggest public cantilever. Unfortunately i couldnt go up it as it opened a couple weeks later.
We got a free map and found our way to a niceish hostel a short walk from little india. With map in hand, I then went in search of..... well.... singapore. Little india, was obviously like walking through india. Incense hung heavily in the air, saris and wooden trinkets were displayed in every other shop, and those shops in between served rotis and curries to customers, on the typical plastic lawn chairs and tables lining the pavements. Add to this the gentle undercurrent of BO, traffic that refuses to stop for anyone or anything and men who tell you to go into their shop to buy a carpet/saris/dope/massage, and you have little India - the only thing missing was the piles of burning rubbish and the cows mating in the middle of the roads, but then im sure the dear singapore government would have something to say about THAT one!
Manisha pretty much got it spot on when she said the only reason anyone comes to singapore is because of the man made structures - the island has little natural beauty in its own. The central business district has the typical investmnet banking towers, filled with overpaid westerners who are taking advnatage of being away from home to cop off with some local woman/prostitutes. In front of the CBD, runs the river that is lined with the smaller shops and former chinese boutique houses, that marked the city's oringal function as a fishing town. Along with the shops are the countless bars selling pints for 9 british pounds a go. When i went out with manisha we found an irish pub that sold SNAKEBITE!!!! At 9 quid a go we only had one, but one was indeed, more than enough for me :D.
Stretching away from the CBD, there is little else to do except shop shop shop etc. With well over 500 shopping centres (think 500 4 storey brent x's), selling EVERYTHING one could ever want, even the best laid plans for the day went up in smoke as i would normally be lured into one of the shopping centres for an impromptu spending session. With the vast number of shopping centres opening onto the street - each vast shopping centre begin horrifically over air conditioned, as one walked down the road you found yourself constantly walking through gusts of air at 15 degrees, shifting up to 40 degrees, then rapidly back down to 15. It was as if not only singapore's buildings, but much of the streets were mechanically cooled also.
A couple of nights manisha also showed me the bar she hangs out in. Cheap drinks (by singapore standards) crowds of dirty old british expats grinding against local woman, and all the peanuts you could eat. So yeh, shopping, eating some of the nicest chicken noodle soup ever, riding the metro and meeting manisha sums up my singapore experience. That and i got a taste of durian. For a dollar i got to try the infamous fruit - the fruit which carried a $500 dollar warning should you be found eating it on the metro. Yes it didnt smell ideal - not exactly rotten meat, just slightly rotten fruit. The texture was like custard, with a slight greasy residue. Never had a fruit like it before, and although im sure if i ate it slightly more I would grow to appreciate it, I dont think I will try it again. Dipping into the bowel of manisha facts, she advises me that durian is either a love or hate, with some of her friends actually throwing durian parties. Apparently eating it in a confined space the smell takes days to get rid of. Whatever floats the singaporean boats :D
Anyhoo, singapore done, and with it the last glimpse of the daylight our shorts and flip flops will get. They have been shoved into the deepst corners of our bags. From here on out its NZ which is in mid winter at the moment. So goodbye tans and constant reliance on air conditioning - its back to sitting near radiators :P.
After a 7 hour flight to brisbane (me and emily nearly missing it due to a spontaneous stop to buy a slice of cheesecake and carrot cake), an 8 hour night stop off in brisbane (from midnight to 8am so no chance of any food as everything was shut) thena 3 hour flight to Auckland. We landed in auckland early afternoon - local temperature 16 degrees. Hmph, the 35 degrees of singapore was well behind us now. We are renting a car to work our way down NZ, so after picking it up, we begab our excursion to central auckland to find a hostel. We found a cheapish place called internatioanl YHA. Dorms obviously, but some of the cleanest toilets ever. We went to the shops to stock up on pasta, milk, bread and cheese and began the final month of our travelling :(. We were in auckland for a couple of days. We went to kelly tarltons underwater adventure place, which although aimed at kids, we got to see a 2 metre wide sting ray, sharks and penguins - aswell as seeing the auckland skyline. Following auckland we went down to Rotorua. Famous for its hot springs, mud baths and shooting geyers. We arrived and tracked down some steaming crators and some geothermal pools to swim in. 13 degrees outside, immersed in 42 degree water. It was bliss, and a sheer contrast to anything felt previously on this trip, mainly cos it has never been this cold outside.
We even managed to get in a night out in rotorua. Lavabar a short walk from the hostel is free admission for backpackers. The music, although not quintessentially cheesey, did us good, though the drinks were slightly pricey. This was only because the pound is fecking awful atm - the same with singapore. Formally 3 singapore dollars to the pound, it is now only 2 :(.
Next morning i was pleasantly sober, and i went for a customery walk round the town. It rained furiously but with all my valuables safely waterproofed the only thing i had to worry about was the sulphur smell that seems to constantly enuglf the town. Today however is the biggun... WHITE WATER RAFTING!!! A 45 minute ride down grade 5 rivers, with drops of upto 7 metres. Apprently capsizes rarely happen so nothing to worry about really. We have been advised that if we do capsize going over the falls, to get in the foatel position so the waterfall wont pull us under. Good thing to know i spose.... So thats todays acticity, along with driving to taupo where we will be skydiving... hopefully, if i have the nerve. Next time i write i should have done the white water rafting and also possibly thrown myself out of a plane at 20,000 feet. Here's hoping i'll be alive to write the next entry :D:D