October 9, 2006 == Welcome (flash) page


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We've just ended a bit more than two weeks in Singapore. We got to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur and Tioman Island and we've left the island city for another island, this one being Batam, in Indonesia.

We came to Singapore for a camera and we stayed because we liked our room and the city and the food. Gerry's Sony video camera had gotten long-in-tooth; after he dropped it in Turkey it would only take stills and then the "take a picture button" stopped working and he had to take pictures using a remote control. In Kuala Lumpur he read about the new Kodak P712 and would have bought it but couldn't find it there. Lucky him. In Singapore he got to test it and was surprised by how slow it was to take a picture. Instead he bought a Panasonic Lumix FZ-50, which just came on the market. It's 10 megapixel and has loads and loads of features, including almost-TV quality video.

When we got to Singapore we moved into the Tai Hoe Hotel on Lonely Planet's recommendation. It was acceptable for a two-night stay but no longer: nowhere to sit but the bed, no room to swing a cat never mind all of our stuff. So our first night we explored for something else but didn't find it. The next morning we went a few blocks to the Classique Hotel, another LP pick. When we found the room was more spacious, had free Wi-Fi for internet, and a lower price than the Tai Hoe, we were sold. When we discovered the room had a safe-deposit box so that we could go about with less weight in our backpacks we could hardly wait to move in. The room was as good as expected, being quiet and dark even though on a main street. The staff were helpful, if distant.

As our first week was ending we decided on another week. This gave Gerry more time to find the camera of his choice and us time to see more of the city and especially to eat more of its food.

In our first week in Singapore we got a good feeling for the central city. Much of our time was spent walking around and that's how we saw Little India and then Chinatown. We saw a program on Singapore TV about the Singapore River and its many bridges and that led us to a pleasant few hours: walking over as many of the bridges as we could.

Sweet and Sour Pork, Singapore Style
Sweet and Sour Pork, Singapore Style

In the second week we started going to the same areas we'd seen before but to see new things. The Asian Civilization Museum was a hit for us although we saw it late in the day and were a bit too sleepy. We went to Chinatown for one of the many Lantern Parades celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival and two days later went to Chinese Garden to see another lantern festival. This one turned out to be "The World as Lanterns", with lantern reconstructions of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Blue Mosque and more. Enjoyable if not overwhelming.

Long ago when we left Sumatra, we'd planned to be back in Indonesia by about September 1. However, when we were told in KL that we couldn't have a 60-day visa we dawdled, first in Malaysia and then in Singapore. That had a silver lining as far as Indonesia was concerned: it gave us more time to find the schedule for the Pelni Boat, the government run inter-island ferry system. We wanted to take one to Jakarta so that Gerry could boast he'd travelled from Beijing to Jakarta entirely by surface transport. We learned from the web that a boat leaves once a week from Batam Island so we set our course for Batam.

This morning we said good bye to Singapore and Hello to Indonesia. Or sort of. We did take a ferry, rather easily, from Singapore to Batam, in just 50 minutes. But when we got ourselves into a hotel, the Royal Eastern, we found that we were half-way betwen the two. The plugs in our room are Singapore style, not Indonesian. Half of the TV programs are from Singapore and the easiest English paper to find is the (Singapore) Straits Times. not the Jakarta Post. Batam is so close to Singapore (about 20 km) that we still get excellent reception to BBC World Service on FM. The people themselve are Indonesian: they speak less English and are much more determined to get your business. On the other hand, they smile more than Singaporeans.

We mentioned that we liked the Classique Hotel more than the Tai Hoe Hotel. The Royal Eastern is another cut above the Classique, for a few dollars less. Here we get not only free Wi-Fi included, but breakfast everyday, a room twice the size, and a swimming pool. If Indonesia had only given us a 90-day visa we'd be here a week instead of rushing off on Wendesday on the Pelni boat. Oh yes, we did manage to buy tickets today — at only three times the price given on the web.

October 9, 2006