Ahh, the wonders of modern communication. B and I met through the internet back in its early days and we haven’t forgotten how to communicate online.
Virtually the first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to go online and talk to B. Rather than type our conversation, as we did when we met, we took advantage of Skype for free telephony. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite seem to get video working, though a reboot solved it too late.
It was over an hour later when I finally readied myself to move off. A breakfast voucher had been slipped under my door, but when I reached the dining area beside the attractive swimming pool I discovered that the food was just fried egg, baked beans, toast and watered down juice. No thanks, considering the delights that lay outside!
I checked out and ate a very generous serving of sardine filled murtabak (filled Indian bread) with a curry dip and drank Milo Ais beneath the hotel. Then I set out to explore the area, which was drying out from overnight rains.
Geylang Serai is predominantly Muslim in nature. I found many food court stalls selling nasi lemak, nasi padang (nasi is rice), soto ayam and more, most of which I wanted to try but had no room for. I love the many hawker stalls under the big shed roofs of the food courts. It’s relaxed, friendly, has so many choices and for such cheap prices.
From a local discount store I stocked up on a few small items that I had forgotten or needed, like an umbrella, batteries and a nail clipper.
I realised that I was wandering closer to the MRT station, which was a later destination for that day, so I walked back to Joo Chiat Road. Ornate and historic shopfronts remain along the street, which is somewhat less sanitised than Chinatown.
As I walked under the narrow awnings of the shops I found so many delicacies to try, or that I knew that B would love. I was especially attracted by the “coffee shops” which are actually just small collections of food stalls under the open-sided corners of buildings.
I succumbed to the temptation to purchase some curry puffs and ate a spicy popiah, a pancake roll containing salad and sometimes meat. Despite the accompanying lime juice, it was spicy enough to require an inc cream afterwards. The shop vendor had difficulty believing that I could use chopsticks.
I had to pass up on the delicious looking otak-otak (a very spicy fish paste wrapped in babana leaf and grilled) as I simply had no room. Likewise, there was no way I could fit in any of the other wonderful food I walked past. Eventually I gave up and headed for the station, thought I bought some, not-so-nice as it turns out, rambutans along the way.
The cool, but not particularly comfortable elevated light rail (MRT) whisked me across the city to Bugis. This was our base station for our last stay in Singapore and the area brought back many memories. But I had a purpose in mind: computer shopping.
Sim Lim Square is world famous for its discount electronics shopping. Six denselyn packed levels of computer, video and mobile phone shops. I wander up and down and down and up looking for the best deal on various parts.
After an hour and a half I was sick of the place. I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, so I thought about walking down to Suntec Plaza to look there. Then I decided that I couldn’t be bothered and went back in for the last couple of bits and pieces. I needed these for the workshop in London.
I then wandered through Bugis Street and around Bencoolen where there were market and some guy singing badly. I bought Alex a couple of items of clothing from the OC Department Store, but I was tired and hot. I wished that I wasn’t flying out that night and instead had a hotel room and pool that I could relax in for a siesta.
I reasoned that the airport should have rest facilities. I tossed up returning to Paya Lebas first to eat an early dinner in the Geylang shops. As I walked back to Bugis Station I noticed the “temporary” Albert Street food court sheds and took a closer look. The first stall inside sold my favourite “pancake” kueh. I wasn’t going anywhere else!
As usual there were too many options. I bought some lamb and chicken satay sticks and a lime juice. Besides me were a group including an Australian girl eating bright green rice (pandan rice). I wanted it, but had to eat the kueh.
I went back and bought some of the kueh, two peanut filled and another with bright orange coconut filling. It was too much! I felt so full, so exhausted that my next move could only be to the airport.
The MRT required a change at Taneh Meras and then delivered us to Terminal 3. From there I caught a driverless “Skytrain” to Terminal 1.
The contrast between the two terminals was stark. Terminal 3 was fresh and modern, a work of art as well as a functional building. Terminal 1 was old and badly in need of its ongoing renovations.
The check-in area was packed with muslim families, though an immigration official told me it was always like this. I checked into my flight to London early, but could still only get a window seat near the rear of the aircraft. I was terrified! Over 13 hours trapped at the back where the turbulence feels worst on what was known as a rough route.
But there was nothing I could do, so I passed quickly through immigration and towards somewhere that I hoped I could relax.
It used to be that there were free day beds and places to sit down and hook up your laptop to the net. Whether they disappeared due to the ongoing renovations or have just been done away with altogether, I’m not certain, but you now need to go to a lounge to find somewhere to rest.
I came close to booking a sleep in the Rainforest Lounge, but realised that I had insufficient cash and no desire to withdraw more. I solved the internet issue by getting a password from the information counter, allowing me to connect via wifi. However there were very few seat in the terminal other than the departure gates themselves, and ours wasn’t open yet.
Eventually, I found myself seated at a Burger King overlooking the runway whilst children played in the kids area nearby. My nerves were shot and I was utterly exhausted. I just wished that I wasn’t going anywhere, that I was at home in my own bed with my own family.
I took out my MyLO and fortunately found B online. We voice chatted for over an hour and by the end of it I felt a whole lot better. It was so good to hear her voice!
I was ready to go catch my flight now.