I didn’t accomplish much in my first day in Singapore as I was on a staying-awake-for-28-hours marathon trying to outsmart the jetlag. No success there.. My first effort here was a morning coffee in the airport following an all-nighter. My first thought was Singapore maybe is not that expensive paid a normal McDonald’s coffee price. I was wrong.
I spent the next seven hours wandering aimlessly downtown. It was a long wait until the 2:00 pm check in time. I had an unpleasant mix of just enough jet lag and not quite enough caffeine to not figure out that I should have booked the cheap(ish) dorm for the prior night to avoid doing the zombie walk for so long.
Later, I explored the city. There was a seafood place called No Signboard that was supposedly good. It was dreadful. I had the cheapest thing on the menu, a $28 rice dish with pieces of mystery fish in it. There was a prawn in the mix. Then they tried to charge me an extra $2.50 for the unordered peanuts on the table and another $0.80 for a napkin. I was offended – after all, what sort of self-respecting brute uses a napkin? Then I saw their shark fin soup ad on the way out. It’s a few hundred dollars. It’s also extremely poor to whittle down an endangered species for apparently bland cartilage soup. No Signboard Seafood is an awfully irresponsible operator. And, Singapore is expensive.
Changi prison was a sad memorial to the Japanese occupation. By the numbers it’s even worse:
- 4%: An allied prisoner’s chance of dying under Nazi captivity.
- 30%: Any POW’s chance of dying under Japanese captivity.
A theory for the brutality was bushido, the willingness with fight to the death. This mentality can be extended to look down on POWs as the lowest of the low. The most unfortunate part of the whole situation was the conquest of Singapore didn’t have to happen. When 36,000 Japanese troops surprised the 85,000 British and Allied troops the Japanese advance was a bluff. The bluff paid off and Singapore was, in Churchill’s words, the scene of the “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.”
An app called Skyscanner is popular on the travel scene. It’s used for finding cheap flights. This is bad for both productivity and one’s carbon footprint – it shows up train routes, in particular, as being wildly overpriced compared to discount airlines. I had planned to take the train to Kuala Lampur, Malaysia having heard it’s a good trip. I was going to take a night train with a sleeper bed for about $120.
Then I checked Skyscanner. Full disclosure, it to neither work well or consistently. Yet, the concept is brilliant and it clued me into who the area’s discount carriers were. An hour later I had a $30 ticket to Jakarta and a $40 trip back to Kuala Lampur. Jakarta is big and chaotic from what I hear but it will be fun to see firsthand. And one of my biggest disappointments in Holland was missing the Indonesian food so now I can atone for that.
Interestingly, my public bus back from Changi broke down. This was not in character for Singapore. It was probably their first breakdown in decades. I got out and decided to walk but got hopelessly lost. Normally in my part of town, Clarke Quay, the monstrosity that is the Marina Bay Sands is broadside. It’s the boat or fish on top of three towers. It’s also where they have the famous infinity pool. If they had dorm rooms for $10 I would have been all over that but I think I’m off a few zeros on my target price. Anyway, it made for easy navigation.
The next day I decided to check out Raffles Hotel before my flight to Jakarta. I went to the famous Long Bar that Hemingway liked. It was more or less a regular bar, but they were nice enough not to charge for peanuts unlike No Signboard Seafood. They also had a fan system on the room of big ping-pong racquets driven by a piston-style push bar. They also charged $25+ for a drink. Interestingly I saw no frantic writing efforts for anyone trying to channel the muse of creativity by spending time in a Hemingway haunt. It was a great wind up because Indonesia will look even more affordable now.