Arriving at Kuala Lumpur airport is really pleasant, and after chuckling at the awesomely named Nööödles restaurant I find out that all the budget taxis are booked, so I decide to try my luck at the bus instead. It costs only 10 ringgit (around 20 sek) but first of all takes like 40 minutes before it even leaves, presumably because the want to fill it up. Delirious with sleep deprivation I desperately try to stay awake on the way into town. They drop us off God knows where and I start for a taxi, but the guy tells me it’s just a ten minute walk down the road. Always a good sign when the first person you meet is not trying to scam you! =)
It turns out that we have wildly different opinions on how far you get in ten minutes of walking though; when I, five or six blocks down the road start looking for the road, I can’t really find it. There are lots of helpful people with decent English to ask though, and after about 40 minutes of running around in circles with my ˜30 kg pack I finally find the place. Turns out that the road I was looking for was like two blocks from the bus, or about three minutes of walking…
Well, at least the hostel is excellent! Very nice beds with a little privacy booth up by your pillow and excellent WiFi. They also have a nice common room where you can sit down, have a beer and swap stories with all the other backpackers. The place is called the Back Home Hostel, and I can heartily recommend it! I pop out to the nearby Chinatown for a bite to eat before bed and find a very nice Indian restaurant where you can watch the guy making the Naan bread in the kiln right outside. Two mango lassis and some lamb stew later I look around Chinatown for a bit, but since it’s around ten in the evening now, most places are closing up. It’s mostly counterfeit sneakers, bags and shirts though. Not particularly interesting stuff. I like the mood of the place though, the salesmen aren’t very pushy and you can actually browse without getting jumped immediately. There are also a bunch of really fun street food places which always makes for good pictures.
I have three days alone before Jen, her roommate Jourdan and Jourdan’s boyfriend Alex joins me and since Jen hasn’t been to Kuala Lumpur I opt for heading down to Singapore, which is only a 5 h bus ride away and which Jen has already been to. The plan is to spend two days there and then head back up to Kuala Lumpur for the last day and then meet up with the others at the airport in the evening. The ride costs like 80 sek and the seats are luxurious, albeit old. Immigration and customs are not very onerous but a funny detail is the x-ray guy who asks if I’m a diver based only off of what he sees on the x-ray (probably my BCD, dive light and camera housing). He even recommends some dive spots in the area.
Having forgotten to cache the google map for Singapore I have to ask my way around, but no one seems to know where the hostel is. After a good while I find a cab though, and it turns out to be pretty far actually. The hostel I booked here isn’t nearly as nice as the one in Kuala Lumpur but not bad either. On Jen’s recommendation I get tickets for the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo. The shuttle ride over there is positively frigid since they’re blasting the AC at top capacity, as per usual in southeast Asia… My right arm is entirely numb and I’m shivering as we are finally let off at our destination.
The safari consists of you riding a train of electric carts and a guide narrating what animals you’re passing. She has to spend most of her time telling people to shut off their flashes though. It’s pretty cool though because the animals are all calmly grazing right next to the train and not at all bothered by our presence. We get to see flamingoes, various antelopes and even lions, all surprisingly active, much moreso than any animals I’ve seen in a daytime zoo actually.
About halfway you can hop off and walk a few trails. Here you can see the fishing sibet cats, flying squirrels, slow loris (always adorable) to name a few. My favourites though are the otters and the porcupines. Both running around, chasing each other, playing and in the case of the porcupines, showing off their awesome spikes. Another favorite is the fruit bats, now if you haven’t seen fruit bats before, imagine something like a house cat with bat wings and you’re pretty close. They’re even called “flying dogs” in Swedish. So you enter this cage and the bats are pretty much just hanging out, eating fruit. I stand there and watch one munching away at arms length when it suddenly decides fly over to the other end and I can even feel the flapping of its wings as it passes over me!
Hopping back onto the train we see giraffes, hyenas, tapirs and other African savannah-dwelling critters before coming full circle. Since I lingered on the walking paths a bit I’ve missed the show where they play around with some of the animals. And since those are the only other things you can do I decide to head back to the shuttle bus. I only have a vague idea of which of the stops are close to my hostel so I just decide to get off at one that sounds nice; Little India. It actually is nice, and I manage to get some dinner, even though it’s almost eleven o’clock at night. The temperature is a nice 25 degrees and I decide to walk all the way back, having cached the map this time and using the GPS on the tablet it’s impossible to get lost. It’s not a very pedestrian friendly city though with super wide streets and barely enough time to get across the road in the allotted time at the crosswalks. It never feels unsafe as there are plenty of other people my age out walking as well. All in all it takes about an hour to get back and by now I’ve gotten some feel for the layout of central Singapore.
The following morning the plan is to join a walking tour, but since I have to get some additional money first I plan a screwup margin. It’s lucky I did since all the ATMs are telling me I can’t have any money. Finally I figure out the cause: My ICA Mastercard has this feature where you have to explicitly have to unlock certain parts of the world before being able to get money at an ATM. The trick is to remember doing this in advance since the ATM will only tell you that something went wrong. In the end I did have enough time to sort out the money and still get to the tour in time, so hooray for planning!
The tour takes place in Little India and we get to learn about the flower garlands, pan and other typical Indian customs. We stop at a temple, a spice shop, a sari shop, a sweet shop, the market and a small museum. It’s a pretty good tour, even though I didn’t learn much new on account of already having been to India. Final stop is a henna painter place and I get to be the model, getting a nice dragon painted on the back of my hand. I continue my Indian streak by having lunch at a vegetarian place together with a nice girl from the tour. The rest of the afternoon is spent walking around, just looking at things. I pass through Chinatown, littered with old men and women who wants to do your horoscope or tell you what kind of person you are based on your feet. Not really my cup of tea I move on to the more modern parts of the city. I’m not really sold on Singapore as a city, it’s too sterile and car centered. If you want to walk around without constantly having to watch out for cars you have to go into a mall, and then you instead run the risk of hypothermia since they’re always running the AC at full blast.
Towards the evening I try to find a good spot for getting a picture of the skyline and I eventually find one down by the marina square. I’m kind of disappointed at Singapore as a whole at this point and decide to head back to the hostel for an early night. Turns out I picked the best route possible! As I go down to the underpass at Esplanade drive I hear music playing, it’s a bunch of teenagers practising their breakdance moves. Many of them are pretty good and I stay and watch for a good while. There’s also an adorable kid at about four years old mimicking their moves while the amused and proud father is watching. Resurfacing at Connaught Drive I see more kids, these guys are practising Cricket, with two batters at the end of a cage and two teams of bowlers throwing balls at them. This too is a lot of fun to watch and I stay a while here as well. This entire area is covered with different sports fields and I also pass football players and two female teams facing off in what can be described as a mix between Ultimate Frisbee and Basketball, haven’t seen that before. The last stretch I walk down along the southern bank of the Singapore river which is teeming with life; joggers, strollers and even a couple of parkour guys. It’s a really nice way to wrap up my day.