My first international metrotrek! Excitement plus. Markets, Deepavali celebrations, cheese grater architecture and flying bodily fluid.
My first official blog about an overseas metrotrek! After a five hour flight from Perth, an extremely quick run through customs and a short train trip to Bugis station I was at my hotel on Dunlop St, Little India. Sure my hotel room didn't have any windows and there was hardly enough floor space to stand, but it was clean and it had air conditioning. The room wasn't that important anyway as I came here to metrotrek, not lay in bed watching Singaporean TV.
Excited about exploring the city I quickly dumped my bag in the room and head out. What new experiences were in store for me? Little did I know, I was about to receive an interesting experience straight away... an old Asian guy on a bike calls me stupid and spits at me. That's correct, saliva flies in Singapore, a country well known for its strict laws on spitting. To explain why someone would hurl bodily fluid at me take a look at the following picture.
This is the first picture I took in Singapore. The very first. Notice where the picture is taken? That's right, the middle of the road. The Muslim guy in all white is about to tell me to move because there is a car behind me. But the foot paths are poor, and the foot paths that do exist are covered in crap from the shops lining the road! Of course, I don't move quickly enough and the driver honks the horn. It's my fault, but in my defence everyone else is walking on the road and the cars are moving slowly. Anyway, the Asian guy on the bike was behind the car that honked me. The few milliseconds that he lost waiting for me to move must have conflicted with his busy schedule and so I was called stupid and spat at. What a dick.
So, not the best way to start my metrotrekking adventure around Singapore. But I pressed on, heading down Dunlop St to Serangoon Road.
As a kid my family took me to Singapore. What I remember was a really clean city: no chewing gum, no spitting etc. Little India is a bit more "colourful" than I expected and not the Singapore I remember. There is shit everywhere, people sell random useless crap, it smells, there a homeless people sleeping in random places, it is noisy and people spit. But despite all of this, I actually liked Little India. Why? It was different and I never felt unsafe. Sure an old Asian guy could spit at me and called me stupid, but I have been called much worse back home in Australia.
Little India was colourful in more positive ways. Luckily for me I was staying in Little India during Deepavali, a Hindu festival also called the "Festival of Lights". There were people out buying Deepavali merchandise and the streets were decorated in vibrant colours. Along Serangoon Road these decorations hung over the road, creating a dramatic effect as I walked along. The Deepavali decoration creators are very resourceful people, using the shiny side of CD/DVD's to increase the illumination of their creations.
As you can tell from the path map the trek was very random. Not knowing where I was going I just walked in directions that looked interesting. So it is really hard to explain the route. Think this is a good way to explore Little India. In some cases I went through the same section of road three times without noticing. I am certain half of the people that saw me thought "stupid white tourist". Maybe that Asian guy on the bike was onto something. I was overawed by everything going on. The bustling, the crammed streets, the smell, Indian people staring at me and the random crap people were selling and others buying.
While being flung around Little India like a pinball I did come across some really awesome stuff. For example, I stumbled across a market along Serangoon Road selling decorations for Deepavali. There were people everywhere and the brightly coloured merchandise "overhead" was a spectacle. The stall holders really needed to place their merchandise higher as it was at head height for me. The whole time I was in a crouched position trying to make my way through a gauntlet of stalls and people. I have absolutely no idea what any of this stuff was, but it was awesome being amongst it for a short period of time. Didn't stay for too long as I am sure it was only a matter of time before I accidently hung myself in some sort of Deepavali brightly beaded chandelier thing.
After more random strolling in the humid heat I worked up a thirst, the type of thirst that only an ice cold beer would quench. Luckily I found myself right next to the Berseh Food Centre (on the corner of Jalan Besar and Jalan Berseh) and soon enough I was sitting back with an ice cold 640 mL Tiger, which is one of the local beers. Just what the doctor ordered. Then I had another one.
With a beer buzz I decided to head out of Little India and down to Marina Bay, on of Singapore's major entertainment areas and probably a tourist trap. On the way I pass by the old and new of Singapore. A predominate old feature of Singapore are the brightly coloured shophouses. As the name suggests, shophouses consist of a commercial area on the ground floor and residential accommodation upstairs. Many of these shophouses have abandoned the commercial element and are now multi-million dollar residences.
Another common sight on my way to Marina Bay are religious buildings. Singapore has a very diverse cultural background and this is obvious from the variety of different religious buildings. Right near my hotel on Dunlop Street, Little India, is Abdul Gaffoor Mosque. Further along the walk I stumble upon the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple on Waterloo Street in Rochor, a very popular spot for tourists and worshipers alike.
The closer I get to Marina Bay the more modern the architecture becomes. A building of particular interest was Bugis Junction CapitaMall on Victoria Street, Bugis, which fuses natural greenery and a cheese grater.
The fusion of shrubs and kitchen implements was however nothing compared to the architecture on Marina Bay, specifically Marina Bay Sands and the Art Science Museum. The best way to describe Marina Bay Sands is as a massive long cruise liner hovering atop three skyscrapers. It is a sight to behold. The Art Science Museum is more like a fancy fruit bowl or the shards of a popped basketball. A great vantage point to see the sights of Marina Bay is the Outdoor Theatre which is part of the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay complex.
I am definitely going to explore this area more, however that is enough for today. It has been a long day of travelling, I have already walked 10 km and I want to reduce the chances of saliva assault. Better return to my hotel in Little India. After resting and taking in the enormity of Marina Bay and the skyscrapers of the CBD from my vantage point at the Outdoor Theatre, I return to Little India using public transport. Great start to my metrotrekking adventure in Singapore. What does tomorrow hold for me?