Friday, November 03, 2006

Singapore and Malaysia

I'm now here in Singapore. I got in last night around midnight after a long day of traveling. Melody and I woke up at about 5 AM to finish up packing and getting the house ready for us to leave for a week and a half, and made it out the door around 8 to catch a 10 o'clock bus to Narita.
Melody and Lori's flight left a few hours before mine did, so I kicked around the airport for a couple of hours and did the usual things to kill time there...observation deck, browse the electronics, relax and read with a Guinness.

Boarding was interesting. I flew United, an American carrier. If I'm not mistaken, back in the US, you can now bring a bottle of water on board as long as you bought it on the secure side of the TSA screening. I figured that it would be no different here, and bought 2 drinks to keep me hydrated through the 7 hour flight. As I walked down the jetway, however, I noticed a table set up with about 20 bottles of various drinks...all from people who thought like I did. So, it was a long thirsty flight. They came around a couple of times with the beverage cart, but not enough for my liking.

Singapore seems to be a pretty cool place. It reminds me of Hong Kong, but without the vertical nature of that city, with high rises carpeting the hillsides. But, the ubiquitous use of English, the cleanliness, great public's a nice place.

In an effort to avoid a caning, I haven't chewed any gum, and in fact, haven't even been able to find any to chew if I wanted to. Doesn't seem like they sell it at all at the couple of places I've been. I did jaywalk, though. Once.

I'm staying in the Bugis Backpacker's Hostel, which is conveniently located near Little India and the north part of the central downtown district. I haven't really spent much time there, arriving at about 1 AM last night, and heading out at just after 6 this morning to wander, get my bearings, take some pictures, and join my tour to Malaysia. I figured that, since I'm so close, and there hasn't been a coup or anything that put it off limits, I'd join one of those organized tours to visit the southern state of Johor.

Malaysia was really felt somewhat like Oman to me, or a little like Macau. It's a Muslim country, so there were mosques all over the place. I did see one Catholic church, and several Hindu and Buddhist temples, but mosques far outnumbered them.

We only had 5 people on our trip, which was nice. A couple from Utah, and two British ladies and I made up the whole group. They shoehorned us into a 44 passenger bus (with seats much better than I'd been in the night before), and we were on our way. We stopped first at a place where they made pewter trinkets. It was interesting to see the process by which the tin, antimony and copper was mixed and melted, and then poured into molds. I resisted buying anything, not wanting to schlep it around for the next week and a half.

Next stop was an orchid farm...though flowers aren't really my thing, it was pretty interesting to see the hundred or so different types that they had there, and I did learn a few things as well like:

  1. 1. Orchids don't need to grow in dirt. Air is fine.
2. You can cut off just one inch of an orchid and it will take root and grow.

3. Something else...but I forget what it is.

There were acres and acres of flowers and shrubs and all sorts of plants. Pretty neat.

After that was done, we drove to Kukup, a traditional fishing village. We ate a delicious lunch, and then took a short boat ride to look around at the fish farms there. We saw red snapper, anchovies, groupers, and a bunch of other "eating" fish, as well as some little fish that would squirt water at bugs or whatever they were trying to eat. We also saw an electric eel (our boat driver touched it and demonstrated that it really was electric), a puffer fish, and a horseshoe crab. We also saw a fish eagle flying around which was neat. Big, and with a white head, it looked somewhat like a bald eagle.

The fishing village was really interesting, and will be better illustrated with pictures in the next coming days.

Tomorrow, I leave for Siem Reap to join Melody and Lori there. They leave tomorrow morning for a long bus and truck ride into Cambodia, of which I'm jealous. But, getting to take a day trip to Malaysia makes up for it, I suppose.

More coming soon...

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