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Friday 20th August - Darwin to Singapore
By Claire
Monday, 23rd August 2004 04:31

We checked out of our room and had about three hours left before the shuttle for the airport. I checked my mail and we went into town to upload some photos in an internet cafe. We bought postcards and stamps and just had time to grab a sandwich before we had to collect our bags and jump on the bus. The Qantas queue was very long and two French women barged in front of us, but we got there in the end. We arrived at the airport two hours before the flight and by the time we'd checked in we had under 20 minutes to write all the postcards and go through security and quarantine.

I'm not sure what we'd done to upset Qantas but we were given the worst seats on the plane, the ones right at the back that don't recline and are right next to the loos. But it was only a four-hour flight, so it wasn't too bad. It took over an hour for them to feed everyone in the cabin, but after a while one of the stewards felt sorry for us and gave us food early, which is nice. I had to pay for a new immigration form (because I made a mistake on one) with a piece of chocolate, but I later sold it back to the steward for another chocolate. You probably had to be there.

My grandparents (and three uncles) lived in Singapore for three years from 1947. I'm hoping to have a look to see if I can find any of the places they lived. Fortunately, the first place is now Changi Airport and we landed on just about the exact spot, so I didn't have to try too hard. We left the plane and entered a place of orchids and fountains and dragons and a cactus garden, and that was just the airport. We walked through immigration with no queue at all (and I gained a tiny triangular packet of m&ms), our bags were already on the conveyor belt and I didn't even notice customs.

We grabbed some money from a bank machine and tried to get a shuttle to our hostel. The man said we'd have to wait for 40 minutes and a taxi would be better, so we joined the queue and experienced the humidity for the first time. It had rained earlier in the day, and the taxi driver felt it was a bit cold now. But we were almost soggy before we'd even got into the car.

The driver didn't seem to want to take us to the hostel and suggested countless alternatives along the way. Reluctantly, after taking wrong turnings and telling us he didn't think the hostel existed, we arrived and he charged us more than was on the meter, but we let it go. He probably would have earned commission had he been able to get us to go to one of his hotel recommendations.

Our hostel room was small but clean and had air conditioning which made Mikey happy. We checked in and paid for three nights. The hostel is a little tatty and run down, but it's clean and very inexpensive.

At about 8pm we decided to go and explore. We're staying in a part of the country called Little India, and, sure enough, just down the road were loads of small Indian cafes and even more saree shops. We stopped briefly in a local shopping mall, which had eight floors overlooking a giant atrium. Most of the shops were still open and there were quite a few people shopping. We accidenly found ourselves in the basement supermarket surrounded by ice buckets full of fish parts and whole fish and cuttle fish and shellfish and a whole bunch of other strange things.

Back outside in the humidity we walked through the market stalls and shops, all with bright colours and fruits and fabrics hanging outside. Everything smelled of incense. After a couple of hours we ended up in a food court for a drink and I tried a weird bright pink fruit with white flesh and little black, edible seeds. It was called a dragonfruit and tasted a bit like a tasteless kiwi, but looked impressive. We finally went back to the hostel and after braving the slightly strange loo (it has a shower attachment on it...) we went to sleep with the air conditioning on.

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