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SE Asia December 2005

Taiwan / Hong Kong / Singapore - March/April 2011 - Page 6

Day 16 - Saturday, 9 April 2011


Today I went to Johor Bahru, which is the Malaysian frontier town just north of Singapore.
Getting there is amazingly cheap, but time consuming, a bus ticket costs about $3, but you normally have to change busses twice, once from Singapore into frontier zone, and again frontier zone into Malaysia.
Today however, I got an extra special 3rd bus change, because my bus broke down on the highway in the middle of nowhere!
It seems every single bus I have been on is stuffed in some way. The engine stalled a number of times and he was always able to get it going again, one time going around a corner was pretty funny because it was evident to me that busses rely on power steering!

The border control stations are huge and quite impressive, if you are taking your own car you dont have to get out but they make coach passengers get out and change busses as I mentioned.
Its hard to work out how this can be so cheap, the return trip was about $1 as you pay in Malaysian Ringgits.

Unfortunately, the bus station in Malaysia, is nowhere near anything at all. This I find perplexing. As soon as I get off I have 25 new friends offering to take me to Singapore, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, and also we play the guessing game of where I am from. Best way to dismiss these guys is to speak in a made up language and look confused, I go with 'Nada fa ta misu, chock chock!'
The chock chock had the desired effect and they dissapeared.

So I wandered around the vicinity which is a market for fresh foods and burkas (Malaysia is a muslim country), complete with a mosque, its an outdoor market, basically a big shed with no sides, but they still managed to have a mcdonalds.
I found an ATM and took out the equivalent of $30, the smallest amount it would let me take out, and headed for the regular taxi line.

All of these taxis have written on them, all over them, 'Meter taxi, do not accept fixed price fare, no haggling, running off meter is illegal' etc.
Do you think this made a difference to the drivers? All of them are quoting me fixed prices to go places I dont know about, so I explained that I dont know where I want to go! So we best find a driver prepared to turn the meter on and follow my directions. There was a great deal of grumbling and eventually an old guy accepted the challenge.
I told him I was here for the day, turn the meter on lets head that way, I want somewhere air conditioned where I can find lunch.
Eventually I spotted a giant shopping centre (Johor Bahru basically exists for Singaporeans to do their grocery shopping for half price), and told the driver to head there.
The fare came to about $3, I paid him the equivalent of $5 and he seemed super excited!

This behaviour was repeated on the return trip, even though I knew where I was going, I decided to play the game again, cause its fun!

Now onto the pictures.

Bus #1, it was very uncomfortable, and struggled to get into gear, the chassis sounded like it was in the process of snapping, multiple times.

Sure enough, it suffered a terminal explosion eventually, after dying twice and encountering a brief ressurection.

Whilst waiting for the replacement bus, I spotted this. I did a detailed inspection and logged the condition, location etc.
Now the tax man can pay for my holiday.

Replacement bus, also of poor condition!

Inside the Malaysian side of the frontier zone, they had a lot less armed police looking to beat anyone with a camera than the Singapore side.
They did however have a long scrolling list of prohibited imports, which included photos of the queen of England?

This is where you get dropped off. It was hot as hell, much hotter than any other day so far.

This is whats nearby, I dont think setting off for a walk in that directon will get me anywhere.

Inside the market at the bus station is not much better, nothing at all to look at except burkas.

Riding in a taxi, the seat doesnt go back, my knees are around my ears, and the air conditioner is louder than a chainsaw.

Inside the giant mall, its the worlds biggest supermarket, very good quality, and full of people from Singapore, it really is half the price here for everything. Families had things like a years supply of toilet paper and washing detergent.

I had to spend my $30 somehow, so I picked the most expensive lunch I could find, a gourmet chicken salad at Kenny Rogers Roasters Chicken, as featured on an epsisode of Seinfeld. They only have this in Malaysia, I remember from when I was here in 2005.
It turns out I couldnt spend all my money, I still have about $10 left over despite stocking up on junk food at a 711 and tipping every taxi driver.

This cat was enjoying the inside of the mega mall, the tiles were cool I guess.

Back at the bus terminal, I did find a huge food court on the roof, it was linked by a stair case only which I had missed earlier.

Also found this market for the locals, it was pretty dirty and smelt bad. Like rotting vegetables.

Singapore takes their border security seriously, this is the control point for people coming from Malaysia, its enormous.

The big storm

Soon after I got back from Malaysia, there was a huge thunderstorm.
I had a great view of this from my hotel window, but try as I might to photograph them bolts of lightning, I couldnt.

It didnt actually rain much, and the storm passed in an hour or so, which meant I could head out and find some dinner, I didnt go far hence theres not a lot of photos.
Also, this is my last night in Singapore, roughly this time tomorrow I will be on the plane back to Australia, but I will probably update this from the airport before I leave as I have a full day tomorrow still.

I found a huge games arcade, they had many more actual games rather those silly gambling style games. Thes coolest type were these group top down games. I have not seen them before, there were some bigger ones that involved projectors as well. This is cool because its not something you can emulate with your playstation.

An upmarket mall, yes I was struggling to take photos of anything interesting!

For dinner I had an old favourite, pepper lunch. I love it because you can add a huge amount of chilli sauce and pepper and it all frys into the rice until its a crispy sauce.

Here I am, in my commando shorts, ready to kick ass and take names.

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Day 17 - Sunday, 10 April 2011

The longest day

Today is a day where I have to check out of my hotel by 11am, and my flight is not until 11pm.
Its hot, but at least the hotel will mind my bags.

On my way to the museum I found these multicolored spiral staircases which I found interesting.

The museum I chose is the National Museum of Singapore, because it was apparently the biggest, yet it was small and pretty dissapointing.
It was however free today for some reason which is a bonus! Its normally $10.

They dont seem to have much to show, so instead show movies of various things instead.

They did have some old colorful clothes.

And a photo of a princess, Prince William could have picked her instead.

Then there was this wrap around movie experience, but im not sure what it was about.

And then another wrap around movie, but im almost sure this one never started, I sat there for a while, it was nice and cool.
Finding a cool place was the main reason for going to a museum.

In total I could only entertain myself for just over an hour at the museum before I wandered off, this is some tourist boat things in Clarke Quay.

I did however finally get a decent laksa for lunch, it was spicy and delicious.
One thing I find strange, I never found anyone selling beef rendang at all!

Luckily, nearby there was a computer mall having a sale (which was crap cause they put prices up, I was there 2 days ago!). Accomponying the sale was a cosplay competition.

This is apparently some scary guy from world of warcraft. The most hilarious guy was dressed as mario and came on and did a whole routine where he jumped and smashed on the ground just like Mario does.

Lots of people stood all day watching the cosplay competition, they were up to contestant 50 something when I left.

As I have never been outside the airport here before, I have never checked in before. Theres an entirely different check in area for elite level frequent flyers. I didnt really like it, you have to sit down and chat with someone, why not just give me my ticket?
The advantage is you then get a different line for immigration etc.
Surprisingly, my bag never went through an xray check at all. Maybe it will at the gate, which is horrendous, happened in Bangkok, enjoy a 2 hour line up.

Best thing about checking in early after a long day walking around, the shower in the first class lounge. I enjoyed a 30 minute shower with the multiple jets that shoot at all angles.

The actual food service is not as good as most others, they periodically bring around different small meals like this one. They do have an ice cream and cake bar still though.

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Day 18 - Monday, 11 April 2011

Home again, briefly

The flight home whilst relatively short at 6 hours and 45 minutes, was quite annoying.
It was full of families with small children screaming, all around me. Also there were a lot of people on the plane for whom the experience was a novelty, hence turning the seat light on and off as fast as possible, pressing the call bell over and over, flicking your seat tray up and down were fascinating....
The good thing is it went straight to Adelaide, so I didnt have to finish with a short domestic flight.

I was pretty damn tired and getting a cold by now, hence I didnt finish updating this straight away, I am cheating, its actually Wednesday now that I am writing this!

The home briefly part is, I flew into Adelaide where I live on Monday, flew back to Sydney for work Tuesday, and took a train to Wollongong Tuesday night where I am now.
The funny thing about this train is it took 2.5 hours to travel about 100km, standing up, on a train from Sydney to Wollongong.
It occured to me that in 1.5 hours I travelled nearly 500km, the full length of Taiwan, in comfort, for the same price, just a week prior.

So time to wrap up my visits to the various destinations.
Hong Kong - still my favourite place, the city surrounded by mountains with a great mix of west but authentic Chinese influence is fantastic. You can visit here cheaply, but still do 'nice' things if you feel like it.
You are never far from something exciting, be it visiting the mainland, Macau, or taking a flight to anywhere in Asia with easy transfers.
Even in Hong Kong theres hundreds of islands to explore, all with mountains and walking tracks.
The only issue is the Pollution!

Taiwan - I thought it was fantastic. I certainly dont consider it to be friendly to the first time or lazy tourist. Research is needed, you should understand the trains, the food, and be prepared for next to no English.
Taipei is a great place, but dont underestimate Kaohsiung. Taiwan in general is still fairly authentic, the biggest influence is probably Japan rather than China on their tourism industry, but its not America/UK/Australia like it is for many other locations.
The people here seem very happy, I didnt see any true poverty and never felt in danger. It is more open and accepting of foreigners than Japan, I never felt like I was an intruder and people didnt try and avoid me on trains and restaurants (this really did happen in Japan quite a bit).
However, the main problem is pollution.
If I went here again I would go to the east coast and the mountains, getting there seems to be easy enough and forward planning is not required, its small enough to consider day trips.

Singapore - I did not enjoy my time in Singapore very much. It is all very much the same wherever you go, except for Little India. It is very western and boring, the malls are all the same and all high end. It is more expensive than Sydney, not just for high end goods but even if you compare Mcdonalds/Starbucks/supermarket prices. This is despite the Australian dollar being extremely strong right now.
The transport in Singapore is great and is cheap, thats their big plus. The biggest negative is that theres nothing to do. Wandering the streets is not that interesting, so they need attractions, they cost a lot and arent great.
The city is full of retired westerners in cream colored shorts, untucked shirts because of their huge bellies and some sort of leather sandal type of arrangement. Hence its a destination for people afraid to go somewhere more interesting.

So thats that, I had a good time, I am over my cold pretty much already. Not sure where I will go next, probably somewhere work related with a holiday on the end, who knows!

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Day 1 - Friday, 25 March 2011
  Adelaide to Melbourne
  Melbourne Airport
  Welcome to Hong Kong
Day 2 - Saturday, 26 March 2011
  Walking around before stuff opens
  Lamma Island
  Mong Kok
Day 3 - Sunday, 27 March 2011
  West Kowloon
  Central, briefly
Day 4 - Monday, 28 March 2011
  Taking it easy
Day 5 - Tuesday, 29 March 2011
  My favourite place in the world
  I missed a flight, sort of!
  Taiwan, eventually I got here
Day 6 - Wednesday, 30 March 2011
  Taipei 101
Day 7 - Thursday, 31 March 2011
  The flower fair and Danshui
  Taiwanese people hate fancy shops
Day 8 - Friday, 1 April 2011
  Zoos, Gondolas and Lingerie
  Shilin Night Market
Day 9 - Saturday, 2 April 2011
  Bullet train to Kaohsiung
  Out and about in Kaohsiung
  Yep, more night markets
Day 10 - Sunday, 3 April 2011
Day 11 - Monday, 4 April 2011
  I ate at mcdonalds
  The hotel and the airport
Day 12 - Tuesday, 5 April 2011
  Transiting Hong Kong
  Singapore is hot
Day 13 - Wednesday, 6 April 2011
  Mostly closed until late afternoon
  Little India
Day 13 - Thursday, 7 April 2011
  The zoo is mostly, closed
  Went out to dinner
Day 15 - Friday, 8 April 2011
  Din tai fung
Day 16 - Saturday, 9 April 2011
  The big storm
Day 17 - Sunday, 10 April 2011
  The longest day
Day 18 - Monday, 11 April 2011
  Home again, briefly