The day started early – we had to catch the 7:30am Express train to Singapore, a 7.5 hour journey. We left to get a cab at 6:45 (for a 600m journey) as we wanted to be early and we have heavy bags. The normally plentiful cab supply had dried up though, and we waited for 20 minutes before we caught a cab. The driver must have thought he had some fresh tourists on board because he took us in the wrong direction, and we were soon stuck in traffic on a one way street. Fear gripped us as the clock ticked. It was 7:27am when we passed our hotel, finally on the short road to KL Sentral station. It was exactly 7:30 when we arrived, Kip ran out to hold the train while I unpacked the car, and with a He-Man effort carried all of our baggage across the road and into the station. As I entered the door, Kip came running with a rail employee in tow, and we were escorted all the way to the platform. As soon as we were on board the doors closed and the train started, we didn’t even have time to put our bags in the rack.
We bought 1st Class tickets (AUD$20) and it was not a mistake. The seats were comfortable, with lots of leg room and the air conditioning was plentiful. I had the window seat, and I settled back to watch the countryside go past. Not a lot to report, lots of banana trees and palms. At least I had time for a bit of a snooze and to write up my blog posts from my notes in the moleskine.
Crossing the strait into Singapore, it became clear that this was a different kind of place. Identical highrise apartment buildings in clusters of five dotted the landscape – all looking new. A bit of a contrast to KL, where even the new buildings had the beginnings of the dark concrete blight. There were still some run-down old houses or even shanties, but they were on perfectly paved roads with immaculate gutters and sidewalks.
Through historical circumstances, the terminus of the train line is technically Malaysian territory and typically it was filthy, smelly and bustling with activity. In the cab away the driver did not hide his disgust at the filthy station and supported his government’s attempts to try and buy the territory back from Malaysia. It wasn’t long and we were at our hotel in an old part of Chinatown, with beautifully preserved terrace style shops and hotels. Our host was very friendly and helpful and the room was clean and well maintained, much better than our KL room (and more expensive).
Our bags dropped off, we set out in search of food. We found a stand selling pisan goreng which is a tasty fried banana. We didn’t want to fill up as it was late in the afternoon and we needed to save space for our special dinner.
We hopped in the subway to Little India. The light rail is very clean, fast, cheap and Singaporeanly efficient. There were little signs everywhere with friendly imperatives: “you should let others sit here if they need it more than you”; “wash your hands” (this sign on the train). The fine for pulling the emergency brake on the train was S$6000 which is around AUD$5000.
The purpose of our visit to Singapore was mainly to get a new camera and phone. So we headed for Sim Lim Square, the best place to get electronics. Sim Lim Square is a shopping centre devoted entirely to electronics. It is about 7 levels high, the first 2-3 levels are devoted to cameras, the next 3 to computers and peripherals etc. You go from place to place getting prices which drop considerably the more places you try. It is hard to explain the bright lights and shiny things that surround you, the photos don’t do it any justice. Geek heaven.
The recommended technique for camera purchasing is to start at Level 1 and get prices, playing each shop against the others for incremental improvements. Then off to Level 2, where the purchase will happen. Through this method I purchased my new Sony DSC-P200 for S$660 (AUD$500) with a 256MB Memory Stick Pro. I also picked up a USB Bluetooth adapter so that I can talk to my new Sony-Ericsson T630, whose price dropped 50% during the course of haggling.
This post cut short due to time constraints…