Everything was closed for Chinese New Year but it did give us a good opportunity to get the more touristy things done without crowds of people clogging the streets. Walking tours of China town, the old colonial area, a cheesy photo of us at Stamford Raffles statue and a trip to the Asian Civilisations Museum ensued. The Museum was the highlight with great content from all over SE Asia. One of those museums you could go back to several times and just concentrate on a certain area. After having my brain warped by too much input in the museum I came outside for a break and came across an impromptu Chinese dance performance with pounding drums and juddering dragons. Cool.
Later in the evening we went to the zoo for the night safari - since alot of the big cats hunt at night, this is the best time to see them. The zoo is quality, with large natural barrier enclosures and great viewing areas. Tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, lions, fruit bats were a few of the creatures we encountered with the big cats coming right up to the glass windows while foolish punters cooed at them as if they wouldn’t rip their arms clean off.
On Tuesday, we went to the science museum. This was pretty good, with nice optical illusion displays and a range of stuff on power, human body, flight and genetics. Zapping hydrogen filled balloons with a massive tesla coil was a nice gambit but not sure it would have passed UK health and safety law. Afterwards, we toured around the city a but more and had a look at the famous Raffles hotel. I had a few beers, my first in about a month and after stumbling into a pond that looked like black marble in the dark much to the hilarity of passersby, it was clear that I can no longer hold my liquor.
By Wednesday we were running out of things to see and starting to think Singapore’s reputation for tedium might be justified. We headed over to Sentosa island, which is a small island just of the coast. It has been turned into a theme park island with a shedload of different themes mostly for kids. Its quite horribly tacky. However, the aquarium there was supposed to be good so we gave it a spin. They had some cool, massive Japanese crabs and a Dugong (strangely ugly seacow-like creature) but not much else and it wasn’t a patch on Hong Kong’s aquarium. There was a show by the pink dolphins included which wasn’t bad though. In the evening we had the misfortune to be bored enough to watch Ghostrider. I think the worst film of 2007 award will undoubtedly go to this abomination. Nicholas Cage is about a good an actor as Keanu Reeves, Brian Blessed or my sofa.
By Thursday we’d had enough - Singapore is a really clean, well laid out city, with excellent organisation and transport and its probably a decent place to live and work. As a tourist destination though it doesn’t have many draw cards and although cheaper than Europe its 4 or 5 times as expensive as Malaysia. There wasn’t anything more to see so we went to the Automobile Association to find out the enraging requirements for driving into Singapore as by this time we’d pretty much decided to ship from Singapore to Fremantle. We got a bus out back to KL and checked into the hostel again for the night.
On Friday, we motored around, clearing up what we needed to do for shipping and getting ready to explore Indonesia on foot. Indonesia had a few rum requirements of its own - you have to show a ticket for getting out of the country to get in (genius) and you can only get a visa on arrival at certain points of entry otherwise you have to get one beforehand. We didn’t have time for that so we decided to fly into Jacarta and fly out again from Surabaya which would give us 14 days in Indonesia. It would be tough going to try and fit everything we wanted to see into that time but there was nought to do about it.
It nearly went wrong from the start when we showed up to KL airport and sat around congratulating ourselves on arriving in good time. However, when check in time came we couldn’t find the desk only to be informed that the sly old dogs have another airport for budget carriers which is 20km from the main airport. A run to the bus luckily got us there in time and the flight to Jacarta passed off smoothly. Upon arrival it was fairly late so we got a bus into the centre and walked to a hostel without seeing much.
The next morning we set off on a walking tour to see the sights. The hideous national monument was first on the list. A brutally ugly tall pillar with a tacky flame on top, with a massive queue to take the 10 man lift up to the summit we decided not to bother and headed off. We had a look at the massive Istiqual mosque (also ugly), the nearby catholic church with weirdass see-through spires (ugly) and the freedom monument (not as ugly). From there we headed to the disappointing national museum before a walk around the old Dutch colonial area of Kota and the Chinese Glodock area. The city is not pretty and there’s not much to see but people are genuinely friendly and twice we got roped into doing interviews for school children learning English. The constant cries of “Hello mister” can get a bit tiring after the 70th time you’ve heard it in 5 minutes but its meant to be friendly. Even the touts are pretty cool and happy to have a chat even if you don’t want to but their stuff. Given the time we have available we decided to get an overnight train to Yogyakarta which would get us there at 6.30 the next morning.