|Sunday, December 3rd, we flew back over the equator, returning to the Northern hemisphere for the first time since we flew from Hawaii to the Cook Islands. It feels good to be back up north. Singapore is one degree north of the equator. We landed in Singapore real late, grabbed a bus and headed for a homestay in the Colonial District, which we read about in Lonely Planet. We couldn't find it because it was closed down. After walking around the back alley it was supposed to be located on, with our backpacks getting heavier by the second, we were solicited by a couple locals who told us about a homestay down the alley. We followed our guide, a young Asian boy, through a maze of back alley hawker food marts until we arrived in an old warehouse filled with bunks. It was basically one step up from a homeless shelter for mentally retarded and old, Singaporian men! It definitely wasn't, The George, the posh, luxury hotel we stayed in back in Christchurch, New Zealand, but it was late so we decided to bite the bullet. And hey, at $9.00 (Singapore dollars) each a night, you can't complain. Lisa popped in her earplugs and Joel got out the flashlight to read a book. Both are very effective ways to help you fall asleep.
When we arrived in Singapore, $1.00 U.S. bought about $1.77 in Singapore dollars (S). That's a pretty decent exchange rate, similar to say Australia, but it's definitely not Indonesia. Only one hour away by plane but such a different world!
Monday, December 4th, we upgraded from the homeless shelter to a pretty decent homestay in the same neighborhood. It's called Season's Homestay and the owner, Paul, is a really nice fellow from China. It's far from luxury -- cold shower down the hall and a foam mattress about one inch thick -- but costs here are so high that it's about the best we could do.
We spent the rest of the day getting our Hepatitis A and B booster shots. This was an adventure in itself. First, we took a bus to Singapore General Hospital, the largest hospital in Southeast Asia. We walked into the main building and they instructed us to go to another area. Walking from one building to the other is no small task in near 100% heat and humidty.
When we finally got to what we thought was the section of the correct building, we were sent to another section of that building. Then the staff of that section tried to send us back to the section we just came from. When we told them we had already tried that section, they sent us to a totally different building. Back into the heat and humidity and it's starting to get to us now. Lisa asks Joel, "Are you sure this is the way to go." No response. "Are you sure this. . ." "YES!!!" blurts back Joel. Lisa mutters under her breath, "Asshole." Oh the joys of traveling.
When we got to the next building, the third so far, we were told again to go to another section. The staff at this section was bewildered that we had been sent to them so they got on the phone to "get some answers". Guess what she found out. The biggest hospital in South-East Asia doesn't even do Hepatitis A and B boosters! We had to go to a totally different hospital! So it's back on the bus so we can go all the way across town to another hospital. By this time it's getting comical and we are joking about our earlier outbursts. It's so much more difficult to do simple, everyday things when you are traveling. You have to deal with a anguage barrier, you don't know where you are going, you're hot and tired, but you keep marching on because it's something you have to get done.
When we finally reached the second hosptial we were pleased to find a great Travelers Walk-In Clinic, where they were very helpful and we got the boosters no problem. We even got another prescription for Ciprofloxacin, super strong butt (a.k.a. diahhrea) medicine, which was good because Joel had to use up our existing supply. He caught a really bad bug somewhere along the way, and after not taking a "healthy dump" in almost a month, (Gross!) he broke down and used the Cipro. It works great.
Tuesday, December 5th, we wandered around Singapore. Chinatown is a trip. We waded (literally), through the fish juice on the floor at the fish market and stared in wonder at the buckets of live eels and turtles, caged frogs and fish of every different size, shape and color. People actually eat this stuff! Paul from our guesthouse told us to look for the old lady who kills and skins the frogs, but we couldn't find her. I'm not so sure we really wanted to find her anyway.
Above the market there is a huge hawker food mart with over 100 different stalls where you can get a huge plate of rice and Chinese food for about $3.00 (S). Yummy!
Then we went to a high tech internet place that is filled with over 30 computers, all occupied by Singapore teenage boys playing the same computer war game. It's interactive so they are all playing against each other. And each computer has 2 speakers so it's loud as hell. The boys are screaming and yelling as they blast each other away with machine guns and hand grenadas. This is the future.
Guess what we found out today. Mount Bromo blew its top! Only three days after we were standing on the rim, looking down into the huge caldera of Mount Bromo, it blew. An area 60km around the mountain is covered with hot ash! The entire area has been shut down to tourists due to its first eruption in over 5 years! Can you believe that? We really dodged some bullets in Indonesia. We just missed the "sweeps" by anti-U.S. groups in Solo (we almost stopped there on the way to Yogjakarta), we thought better of visiting Jakarta and Medan (which had experienced bombings within weeks of when we planned to arrive), Sumatra is experiencing the worst flooding in over 50 years (exactly where we planned on traveling overland), the province of Aceh is experiencing tremendous political turmoil (yes, we planned on going close to there) and then Mount Bromo blows its top only days after we leave! Wild stuff!
Wednesday, December 6th, we jumped on The Melaka-Singapore Express, a bus which will take us across the causeway between Singapore and Malaysia and north to the city of Melaka.