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Published: March 2nd 2009
From hassle in Dempasar to sanity in Singapore! Saturday 28th February 2009
Every time we visit Dempasar airport (and this is the fourth time on this trip) we have problems! We checked in OK with Singapore airlines for our flight, then made our way upstairs, paid 150,000 Rupiah each for departure tax (about ten pounds sterling) and then went to pass through security to Departures. The officious little man at the desk said “You have stayed here illegally!” Whoops! How come? We arrived on 29th January and a 30 day visa takes us to 28th February. When we booked our flight in Darwin, the girl at the Qantas office checked the calendar and booked the flight accordingly. On arrival, 30 days ago, nobody queried our stated departure date of 28th February. 30 days ago they were happy to cover our passports with all their little rubber stamp marks, no problem. So, now we have been told that they count the days INCLUSIVE of the arrival date and the departure date making 31 (even although we have only been here 30 bloody days). Basically, it is all a big con, yet another Indonesian way of trying to cheat the tourist, which
seems to be the national pastime.
So we had to pay another 200,000 Rupiah each. Could we make a credit card payment (having successfully used up our currency just leaving enough for coffee at the airport)? No way. This is Indonesia. We had to go back downstairs, out of the airport, get 400,000 out of an ATM, then come back in through the bag security check, back through the departure tax desk, passport control and then go to an Immigration office (????) to pay the money, get our receipt before returning to Security and entering the departure lounge.
So, after all of this hassle we were not sad to leave Dempasar today. We have enjoyed Indonesia and it has been a good experience; the Komodo Dragons and the snorkelling were great, but it isn‘t somewhere we would return to. It hasn’t been easy travelling in the rainy season; we’ve often been damp, worn damp clothes and have found the unhygienic surroundings difficult at times. It will also be nice to be somewhere where one has less hassle from hawkers. In Indonesia it is constant. With the decline in tourism it has got worse than ever before. It is
never-ending pestering. Even in Departures getting ready to board a flight, one still has “Where are you flying to, Madam?” “Do you want a massage or to buy some souvenirs while you await your plane?” “I’ll give you a good price!” “You have plenty of time!” the latter being said in the absence of any response whatsoever from the victim (me), in other words, in ignorance of where one is flying to and thus how much time is available! Let me leave! I am not a mobile bank!
Sanity restored: arriving in Singapore
Singapore is so CLEAN! Nobody is pestering us to buy anything! This is a different world! We love it already! However, we arrived in quite dramatic circumstances, as follows…
We arrived in a thunder storm, in fact the plane had to circle 100 kilometres away before we were safe to approach Singapore to land. The thunder was ear-splitting and the lightning forked and wicked. On the shuttle bus from the airport to the city we saw an amazing sight. Lightning hit the ground and then it leapt and was running down the road between the bus and the pavement, actually audibly crackling and with
so much energy that the BUS MOVED. Those crazy people, who love to pay for extreme thrills, eat your hearts out! A young American guy sitting in front of us was momentarily speechless and then just quietly said “Err, that was a bit close!” It was indeed. Everyone sat pretty stunned after that.
Our hotel is great and very central (Raffles is just a few blocks away). We ate dinner at a lovely little Italian trattoria near the Singapore Art Gallery; the tagliatelle with salmon and creamy gorgonzola sauce was to die for. I had a lovely long soak in a hot BATH to end the day, which was so luxurious after a month of cold water showers that often only trickle. The creature comforts of Singapore are just what we need, to recharge the batteries before trekking off across Malaysia to Thailand. OK so it is still hot, humid and wet but inside it is all cool air con, dry and cosy. Nice!
Singapore Sightseeing Monday 2nd March 2009
We have had two great sightseeing days. Singapore is such a delight on the eye. Old colonial buildings jostle alongside soaring sleek skyscrapers and the whole ensemble
Cricket pavilion, clock tower and skyscrapers behind
is adorned with parks and walkways with lush green foliage, an abundance of bougainvillea, hibiscus and green lawns. It is a most beautiful city. The river is the heart of the city, with riverside bars and cosmopolitan restaurants serving dishes from around the globe. We took a river trip on one of the old converted “bumboats” that used to haul goods from the ships to the quays in days gone by. Singapore is small and compact so it is wonderful to walk around and so we did. We managed to avoid the thunder storms, which tend to occur late afternoon. We made sure that we had a Singapore Sling in Raffles as we had promised ourselves and pretended that we could afford such opulence.
Singapore is a grand old Victorian dame who is bang up to date in the twenty-first century; a paradoxical mixture that really works. The traffic flows, the rain dries up and the sun shines down on this most affluent of cities. It is wonderful! Tomorrow, however, we are leaving the comfort and style and heading across to Malaysia, with our rucksacks on our backs and a long bus ride to Malacca. We posted some stuff
off today, one box to Spain and one to England, to lighten the load (or to make space to buy a few more souvenirs)! It is air mail only to Spain from Singapore, not surface mail, so it cost a fortune but at least it will make the bags lighter.
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