Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Singapore - The Mall City

We kicked off the Asia part of our trip by spending a few days in Singapore. We flew direct from Christchurch to Singapore on Singapore Airlines. It was a fairly uneventful 10 hour flight and customs was a breeze; the customs officer didn't ask any questions before stamping our passports. Of course it was probably so easy because you'd have to be crazy to try anything illegal here. The customs card clearly states that drug trafficking merits the death penalty and I vaguely remembered the American who was caned for defacing public property a few years ago. According to our guide book, it is illegal to chew gum and there are fines for not flushing public toilets. And as we saw on the subway from the airport, it's also illegal to transport durians on the train:

We had no problem abiding by this rule, as durian is an acquired taste (and smell) that we have not acquired yet.

We arranged to stay with a Japanese couchsurfer named Kuni. He works for a travel agency and is a prolific traveler (as well as very busy couchsurfer). He lives in the Little India portion of Singapore which is very central and his condo/studio apartment was very nice with great views of the city:

Even though he has only the one room, he hosted us for three nights and two other American for one of the nights we were there. Additionally, the first night we arrived, he took us over to his friend's apartment where we met some other locals who were also hosting their own couchsurfers. Singapore is a very multi-cultural city; at this party there were people from Singapore, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Panama and the USA and those were just the people that currently live in Singapore. The couchsurfers were one woman from Switzerland and three of us from the USA. We had a great time at the party. We drank several different kinds of sake and we did a "stair climb" up 29 flights of stairs in celebration of one of the couchsurfer's 29th birthday. Here we are lined up before our climb:

Singapore has been a great start to Asia. We found a medical clinic where we received all our inoculations that are recommended for the region and we got our first taste of good, cheap Asian food. The food here is outstanding. There would be no reason to ever cook for yourself here as around every corner is a food court/food mall where you can find any style of food you want for around $3 or $4 US per person. Of course, Singapore also caters to wealthy people so there are fancy places as well, but you can find very good food for little money. Here is a typical looking food court:

Speaking of eating in restaurants, we'd like to give a public thank you to Jaimee's friends Becca and Evan who surprised us with an e-mailed gift certificate to the restaurant Blue Ginger. Apparently Becca found the restaurant on-line and got us a gift certificate to the restaurant. We went there for lunch today and it was excellent. It was such a nice surprise and a very nice restaurant. (Hint: you can find our upcoming locations on our calendar page, but we'll be in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok in the coming weeks :-)

Originally we'd planned on staying here until Saturday, which is when we have a connecting flight on to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. However, we've actually toured around enough that we're moving on tomorrow. We're going to take the bus tomorrow to the town of Melaka on the west coast of Malaysia. We've also booked a room at a guest house there based on the recommendation of one of the American couchsurfers we met. It's going to cost us $7 per night for both of us to stay there. We are definitely glad to be in Asia.

We called Singapore the Mall City because it really is block-to-block full of shopping malls. There are high-end malls selling Prada and Gucci to huge street malls in Chinatown or Little India. We did our fair share of browsing but as we're trying to travel light did not buy anything. But, the energy of Singapore is infectious. Most of the malls are open until really late which is a contrast to New Zealand where even in the touristy sections everything shuts down around 6PM.

Here are the pictures from our short stay in Singapore.


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