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Published: February 14th 2014
This blog really began years and years ago when Singapore refused me entry due to having visible tattoos and the behavior and appearance of the person who was travelling with me....another reason why I forever a sworn solo traveler. For years I could only get a transit visa limiting me to a few hours to transit out of there again..so a lot of careful juggling of airlines and times is involved in Asian travels as its such a handy transit hub.
Coming back from the Philippines I was planning on doing the usual hanging around the airport for as long as I was allowed and grabbing a sleeper room for a few hours. As i went through immigration I picked the line with the big happy jolly giant customs official as he looked like an OK sort of guy. The super smooth oils of Changi rolling along it didn't take long for me to reach the top of the queue. He looked at my passport and started giggling, for a huge man he had a tiny little girls giggle, which made me giggle. Another guy came over to look at what was making him laugh and he laughed too. He eventually regained
his composure and noted that I had dutifully ticked the YES box to the have you ever been deported or refused entry question. He played around with his computer and started laughing again...that long ago?...yes I nodded. For that? ..yes, I nodded. I decided to broach the subject of the ludicrousness of this situation in the hope we might get it resolved and he went off to see a superior. A few minutes wait and my passport was stamped with a 100 day visa.
YES! ALL IS FORGIVEN!
Finally I could get a glimpse of this mythical sterile functional Rolex of Asia, if only for a 24 hour layover. I love hate the dysfunctional ways of Asia, I take to buying my own watermelons and showing bartenders how to make watermelon shakes. I get dive shops to fish around in their kitchens at home and find me blenders. Nothing works perfectly well in most asian countries, but its perfect for Asian countries, its part of their quirkiness. Im not a city girl, big cities scare me, I tend to transit through them and head onto islands.
Roughly the same time last year I was flying back from Tahiti to Auckland and was watching
Beautiful stained glass giant vases
Anthony Bourdain's The Layover Singapore on the plane. Now I was allowed out of the airport I decided to have a layover. I grabbed a hotel in the old quarter and had paid the S$9 shuttle bus to the door at the airport, of course the most expensive way to book a hotel but I didnt really care.
Early afternoon Singapore driving along amazed at how pretty this city is. Its modern, sleek, green, clean, orderly and funky but oh so obedient and kind. Its a considerate city. The traffic signs ask for patience. The streets are wide and lined with stunning gardens, traffic flows efficiently and everywhere there are the entrances to the MTR. I couldve taken this option but time was of the essence. I wanted to taste Singapore.
My $99 hotel was in the old Bugi street Area. No room service, a coin fed internet desk with late 90s computer but air conditioned and clean. I was starving. I had a quick shower, threw on a dress and headed down to the 7/11 and up the road to Bugi Junction. This shopping mall was something else for me, the girl that hates malls. This one has open spaces and
All filled with fresh flowers, foliage and kales.
feels strangely western. Smiling Singaporean women dressed impeccably in the latest fashions headed for the upper floors to be even more impeccable while I asked the very helpful insanely smiley young guy who appeared to be some sort of concierge for the mall where I would find food and an ATM.
One level down. My eyes opened wide, my mouth dropped open and I started salivating.
Watermelon Shakes being freshly prepared on a production line, so they stayed cold, ready to take away thoughtfully packed for you to walk home with. I bought 4. Cappucino, a muggaccino with chestnut and cinnamon flavouring...i took one sip and stood there savouring it, my eyes closed as Singapore parted around me and flowed on like a school of baitfish. Now what to eat. The choices were endless, friendly staff at the front of every restaurant quietly standing there with a hello and a smile not a sales pitch. Eventually, I decided on....lots.....of food!
Sashimi from the Japanese place, presented like a precious gem, steamed dumplings from the next place, squeezing in a thom yum at the thai place. Stomach full, wandering onwards.
Gold leaf decorated Tiramisu. A frangipane tarte with fresh glaze strawberries sparkling like precious
pink hearts. For a midnight snack Chicken Kayage. All presented in boxes made to carry home. If this is how Singaporeans eat, I am moving there.
I made my way back to the hotel, arms full of food, and then I smelled it..just one street across from my hotel, the places Bourdain had talked about. I couldnt help it. I bought a newspaper and sat on a plastic chair outside a little eatery full of locals. I ordered a steamboat type dish with seafood and vegetables. The flavours exploded into my mouth. No holding back on the spices here for the expats, this was real Singaporean cuisine.
I staggered next door, unable to resist the urge to eat Hainan Chicken so I stood in line, like everyone else, surely a sign - it was. I rolled onto the next place and grabbed a serving of noodles to take back to my room because I wasnt sure my legs could hold up the extra weight I had eaten in the last few hours.
Up the elevator, spread all the food out on the bed and flick on discovery channel. I ate until the incredibly cool doco on Chameleons had finished. Id sampled everything I
bought. I even talked to my deserts and told them how beautiful they were. I hung out the window to watch Singapore go to sleep.
I woke up 15 minutes before the shuttle bus was due to arrive and had to frantically throw everything into my bags. I should have splashed my face but I didnt have time, and I do thank the bus driver for letting me know politely I had noodles on my chin......I was trying so hard not to be a bogun Aussie!
Back at the airport. Changi rightly deserves those awards. What a beautiful and efficient airport. I visited the gardens and browsed the shops before having a watermelon shake in the massage chairs and grabbed a bite to eat. As I was heading towards the departure gate I had to smile at the announcement coming over the speakers.
A Sheikh had been being called for several minutes and now they were announcing that he had been disembarked.....seems everything's equal in Singapore. For once, it wasnt me getting kicked off the plane.
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