Singapore: New York 2.0

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We went to Singapore by bus. In fact, we had to split up across busses, as there were not enough tickets available for us all to take the same one. Iza and Tomek took an earlier one, while the rest of us followed later. The border crossing consists of first leaving Malaysia, a five minute bus ride, and then Singapore customs. At each point, you have to leave the bus. When entering Singapore, we left our guidebook (dubbed “The Bible”) and a fleece on the bus. After we entered the country, we could not find out bus.

It turns out that the bus we were on never did cross the border but instead went back to Malaysia. It was not a problem continuing into Singapore as we could board any bus from the same company. However, the books and the fleece were lost. This was a problem as we had made arrangements to meet Iza and Tomek at a particular hostel, which was in the guide book.

Weronika called the bus company and they said that our stuff would arrive with the next bus. Luckily, we were able to write down the hostel details from another backpacker who had the same book as us. We found the hostel, and Iza and Tomek were already checked in.

Singapore is very clean. It is a modern city with daring architecture and lots of green spaces. The atmosphere is relaxed and everything seems quite at ease. Tall buildings in the business center are surrounded by neighborhoods with colonial architecture as well as many modern buildings. In general it is very pleasant. We all agreed that this would be a great place to spend a bit of time working. However, there are some strict rules about which we found out at the border and from souvenir t-shirts in Chinatown:

    Importing chewing gum is prohibited. This one was broken by accident.
    No dancing in public allowed
    Not flushing a public toilet is a finable offence
    No spitting

We called the bus station and unfortunately our things were not there. They said our items were at Johor Bahru. Since we were going to this city the following day anyway, we told them that we would pick them up there.

After a nice dinner and obligatory fast internet, it was time to explore the city. I, however, needed to do some work so I stayed at the hostel. The rest of the group walked around the waterfront and admired the diverse architecture, the nicely lit city, and the mythical water-spouting lion-snake.

Alcohol is very expensive in Singapore. Luckily we had two warm beers from Pulau Tioman which somehow got tangled up in Paddy’s backpack and were not found at the border. They chilled out quite nicely on the air conditioner and were a refreshing accompaniment to the evening.

Our hostel is located very centrally. It seems pretty clean and there are no signs of bed bugs. Iza and Tomek had a private room, and the rest of us ended up in a private dorm room zas well. However, walking to our room we had to pass through a hallway filled with beds, which gave this place a pretty strange vibe.

The next day we did a nice thorough walk through Little India and Chinatown, doing a little shopping to prepare for the Borneo jungle. The city continued to maintain its squeaky clean image, even in these traditionally grungy neighborhoods.

In the late afternoon we headed out to Johor Bahru, which is where we had to catch an early morning flight the next day. After crossing the border we arrived in a bus station. Unfortunately, our books and fleece were not there. This was a bit of a problem as the guidebook we borrowed from the hostel was very sparse with information, and proved to be of little help. After a few phone calls, the things were tracked down to a bus driver in Singapore, who would arrive in Johor Bahru at 11pm. Supposedly he was holding the books in hand.

We asked around for information about hotels and about transportation to the airport, but each time we got different answers. It seems like everyone is willing to help you and provide you information, regardless of whether they know anything or not. We were all frustrated and tempers were wearing thin. We decided to head into city center as the only thing that everyone giving us advice seemed to agree on was that there were cheap lodging options available there.

A short bus ride rbought us right to the Malaysian exit border checkpoint, which happened to be the city center. Johor Bahru, dubbed JB, is a border town. However, it is quite large and looks very modern, with skyscrapers dotting the landscape. Down on the street level, it is very busy with lots of people running around in every which way and many stores, most of which sell cell phones.

We ended up finding a comfortable and clean hotel at a descent price right in the city center. After another half hour of running around and getting information, we were able to conclude that the earliest bus to the airport will not do it for us and we will need to taxi (teksi) it. Weronika and Tomek headed back to the bus station to meet the bus driver who had our things, while I found a hotel lobby which allowed me to use the internet and do some work.

When I walked back to the hotel at 1am, the city was still as alive as it was when we arrived. All the cell phone places and food stalls were open and bustling with customers. Weronika was back from the bus station and actually had our books and fleece, which must have toured half of Malaysia and all of Singapore without us. I took a quick shower and lay down to sleep. The bed was extremely comfortable–perhaps the most comfortable I’ve slept in since we’ve left the States. The sad thing is I had only about four and a half hours of sleep before we would need to get up and head out to the airport.

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