Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Singapore - exploring a bit more

Yesterday we all felt a bit more awake than we did on Monday. Richard never eats breakfast anyway but Tim and I went to the hotel restaurant where they advertised set breakfasts for $7.80 (Singapore dollars - so that's about £2.60 Cyprus pounds or $5 US). Tim ordered bacon and eggs, I ordered scrambled eggs on toast. They came with a glass of fresh orange juice, coffee, and two extra pieces of toast with butter and marmalade. Tim doesn't drink coffee so they gave him a larger glass of juice. Not too bad, we thought... although the actual bill was a bit higher due to the various taxes that get added on. The coffee was good anyway and much appreciated!

By the time we were ready to go out it was nearly noon. We had decided after much discussion that we would buy a Canon video camera, something we had considered for a while, with some of our money from last Christmas. We were quoted an excellent price on Monday from one of the many shops stocking these. So we walked to the Far East centre in the Orchard Road shopping precinct, and went straight there. Unfortunately there was a different salesman, and he said that we were quoted an incorrect price... and that the actual one was a lot higher. More, in fact, than we would pay to buy the same camera from Amazon UK.

So we went into yet another shop, and there was a very friendly salesman - Chinese, but behaved much like a Cypriot, so we felt quite at home! He gave us a good price, then tried to sell us various other bits and pieces such as a long-life battery and a wide-angle lens. We weren't sure about the battery but he said that if we bought it we would get a free padded camera case, and as we wanted one of those it was worth getting the battery! However we really didn't want a wide-angle lens. Once we convinced him of that, he shrugged and smiled and said he had to try anyway! Then he threw in three free mini DV tapes. He also treated us to some coffee, although it was sweetened. But as it was so strong, that was probably just as well. It seems that they use either evaporated or condensed milk in coffee here, and if it's the latter then it will be sweet even if they don't add any sugar.

Then, not feeling very adventurous, we had lunch at Subway once again. And wandered around a bit more before deciding to visit a mall further away where there was a music shop Tim wanted to see. It was about 4km away and the weather was threatening, so we caught the excellent MRT (Mass Rail Transit - like a more efficient and very clean version of the London Underground) to the nearest station, 2km away from the mall, and (as it then started to pour with rain) a taxi to the mall itself. We could perhaps have used buses but haven't been able to find a bus map and could easily have got lost. What's more, with three of us, taxis work out very reasonable. The MRT cost us $1 each, the taxi cost us $3.20 (about one Cyprus pound!) ... and since the highest charge is for the first kilometre, it would probably have been significantly less than $6.20 to get a taxi all the way. Still, it was interesting to try the MRT at least once. Public transport is excellent in Singapore, or so it seems. We did think about renting a car but rental costs are very high, not to mention insurance, petrol, parking fees and the likelihood of getting lost. We could take about 20 short taxi rides in a day for less than the cost of renting a car!

The mall contained two music shops, also a big discount bookstall which we enjoyed browsing, and a drinks bar where we could sit as long as we wanted. Lots of teenagers seemed to be doing homework there, it was interesting watching people coming and going. We stayed there till after 5pm then Tim said he'd like Indian food so we consulted our 'Lonely Planet' guide and decided to visit the area called 'Little India'. As it was raining, yet again, we opted once more for a taxi. It was quite a distance and as there's a slightly higher rate during peak traffic hours, we paid just over $9... but even that's less than three Cyprus pounds. It seems odd to be using so many taxis but they're very efficient and such good value. And the drivers are so silent, such a contrast to those in Cyprus or the UK.

There was nearly a disaster when we got out of the taxi and realised that Tim had managed to drop his mobile phone inside. But Richard used his mobile to phone Tim's number, and the driver answered after several rings... so we told him what had happened and he said he would bring it back to the place where he had dropped us. And, indeed, he did just that. We gave him a tip of course - tipping isn't normal in Singapore, but bringing back a phone was well above the call of duty! We were most impressed. And relieved.

We were right by a mall called Tekka, which didn't seem particularly Indian but had an entire floor devoted to inexpensive clothes that looked reasonable quality. And they had trousers in Tim's waist size, which is two inches less than the smallest available in Cyprus! So we found him three pairs: jeans, casual beige trousers, and smartish black ones. And some trousers for Richard, and a handbag for me... the whole lot came to the equivalent of about £25 Cyprus pounds. Unbelievable.

Then we wandered into the Little India district, which looked very different from the consumerist and well-organised Orchard Road district. We haven't been to India, but the streets looked very like pictures we've seen of Indian towns, with higgledy-piggledy shops selling all kinds of vegetables, spices, silky clothes, artwork and more. We saw several people riding bikes, for the first time since arriving here, and half expected to see a rickshaw coming down the street! There were many Indian restaurants and takeaway places and we could have stopped at any of them - Singapore has high standards of cleanliness and hygiene, and no doubt they are all quite safe. But we were intrigued by one we had read about, the ' Banana Leaf Apolo', where food is eaten not from plates but from large banana leaves. So we found our way there, and it was packed with both locals and tourists, though the Singaporeans were mostly Chinese rather than Indian.

The food was good though rather hotter than I like, and plenty of it. We had to order extra fruit drinks as the curry and tikka masala were so hot, and even so the total bill came to less than we paid the day before at the Newton Hawker Centre.

Richard wanted to walk further into Little India to find the Arab quarters, but Tim and I were tired - Richard gets more awake during the evenings while we start to wind down - so eventually we caught yet another taxi and came right back to the hotel, again for not much more than a single Cyprus pound.

1 comment:

kookyskittles said...

Hi there!
Welcome to the tiny island of Singapore!
Little India is great! Did you go to Mustafa Centre? It's a 24hr shopping mall, with almost everything you want! Electronics, fashion, food and more!
have you been to Arab Street? It's somewhere near Bugis... if not, do try to fit in time and head there. Great selection of pretty cloths, and cafes for you to chill out at! Try the sarabat (pronounced as: sa-rah-but)tea at one of the corner, Indian stall.. could be a tad sweet for you but it is yummy!
There's an Arab cafe called Samar... great place to have dinner.. food is not too bad, slightly pricey but you get to sit on the floor, surrounded by Mid-Eastern decor and cushions... but be there after 7pm cos the 2nd floor is open from then on.
Enjoy your stay and hope we have been kind to you!