Archive for the ‘Singapore’ Category

map_of_sri-lankaAfter a lovely few days of respite from life on the road with Rick and Lou in Singapore it is time to move on to my next destination.

I say my fond farewells to all after a day of playing with their children, shopping and catching up on the blog. Rick finishes work in time to drop me off at the airport with plenty of spare time before my flight to Sri Lanka.

FlagAs far as I am aware the Sri Lankan waves are not accused of war crimes so I will not be boycotting any activities whilst here regardless of what the rest of the Commonwealth thinks.

My flight arrives on time in Colombo where I am met by a driver who takes me and my surfboard the three hours south down to Hikkaduwa. Upon arrival at 2am I am shown to my room, which is right on the beach, and in no time at all I am nodding off to the sounds of the waves lapping the shore.

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hippo_busI have a day to amuse myself in the city so decide to take advantage of the double decker bus tours here. As I am being driven around the first thing I noticed was the surprising number of military aircraft in the sky.

Singapore must spend a huge amount of money on its defences to fund the activity I am seeing. Particularly because the city state is only half the size of the Isle of Wight.

Marina-Bay-SandsThe tour takes me past the scene of last night’s crime at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

I am still a tad worse for wear from the skin full that Rick and I had managed to put away the previous night when I drive past the building that looks like a ship that has been deposited on top of three office blocks.

WP_20131114_023I got off the tour bus to take a stroll around the Botanical Garden in the city that includes the National Orchid Garden.

The plants are amazing but the experience is hotter than hell because no air seems to circulate around the pathways alongside the beautiful flowers.

WP_20131114_031Here I am doing my best to impersonate David Bellamy alongside one of the orchids, complete with my beard which is coming along nicely. A typical orchid has three sepals and three petals. The sepals are similar in shape but one petal is usually different to the others. It is called the labellum and is the landing spot for pollinating insects.

Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants according to the information at the national garden, and there are more than double the number of birds species, and about four times the number of mammal species. 

WP_20131114_116Cooling down I took a stroll by the lake in the botanical gardens amusing myself by watch terrapins making love. Very slowly!

There were loads of fish in the water too and everything knows that humans are usually a free feed so they all come to check you out when you do the same in return. It was too hot to hang about though so I headed for the bus once more and back into the city.

WP_20131114_130At the end of my day I wandered down to the famous Raffles Hotel, named after Sir Stamford Raffles who founded the city, to have a cooling drink in their courtyard.

I managed to resist the urge for a Singapore Sling which was created in the hotel’s Long Bar. I preferred to go for a Tiger beer that had been brewed a few miles down the road.

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WP_20131113_020After a delightfully lazy evening with the Dumpletons it is time to get out and about in Singapore. I spend the day with Lou, and after dropping Archie off at school we head off to the waterfront.

In recent years there has been a massive land reclamation project here on the island, which has moved the whole of the southern shore a staggering kilometre out to sea.

WP_20131113_024The city state is almost entirely dependent on trade and you can see how much shipping passes through the area by the number of boats on the horizon in these shots.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch before checking out the results of a sandcastle building contest being undertaken by a group of school children further down the beach. 

WP_20131113_027The heat here is relentless and it required a recovery nap at home before I was able to go out and join Rick at his office on the 35th floor in town.

The tower looks down on the Singapore Flyer, which is the world’s largest ferris wheel, and the adjacent pit lane buildings which are unused apart from when the Formula 1 circus is in town.

infinity-pool-marina-bay-sandsRick and I then headed off to the magnificent Marina Bay Sands Hotel for a beer.

It was only one beer there though because it smashed the record for the most expensive pints thus far on my tour. $43 for two beers was unbelievable but I suppose that somehow they have to pay for the upkeep of the huge pool lined with palm trees that runs along the top of the building fifty five floors up. On of the best views in the city is peering out over the edge of the infinity pool looking down on the illuminated skyline of the financial district.

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sindo ferryWith all my gear on my back or in my hands it is thankfully just a short walk from the Harris Hotel to the Sindoferry terminal.

I am as close to the equator as I have been on this trip or indeed ever before and have to say that the heat is brutal here. The air and the water are both so hot that there is no respite on offer for finding shade or taking a dip in the sea.

Balcony 1The ride on the ferry is air conditioned though and is very quick, so it only takes me an hour to get into Singapore. Unusually it is also the first time on this trip that I have arrived in a country travelling by the sea.

I will be staying with my former neighbours in London, Rick and Lou, whose flat was just a few balconies along from my own. I actually saw Rick for a few drinks when I arrived in Australia earlier on my travels because he was in town on business, but I get to see him and Louise this time round, as well as their two boys Archie and Dylan.

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batam mapMy flight on the little plane had only got me as far as Padang in Sumatra. It is a bit grim and having spent a night there on my way out to the Mentawai Islands I didn’t fancy another!

It was still before eleven o’clock in the morning so I though I would try and bring forward my connecting flight from Padang to Batam Island near Singapore rather than spend the next twenty eight hours in the Axana Hotel waiting around.

I was stunned that changing my ticket was only going to be 200,000 Rupiah or 20 Dollars. Making the change also meant that I could get on a plane within half an hour too, so it wasn’t a tough decision to make once I had collected my bags.

WP_20131112_013The flight from Padang to Batam was very quick and I was able to sort out my ferry ticket and a hotel room whilst I waited for my bags to be unloaded off the plane

A cheap taxi ride over to the Harris Hotel next to the ferry terminal and I was soon enjoying the air conditioning and free wifi in my room.

I was pretty tired too after a day which had started two boat rides and two flights back before dawn, so decided that a nap was in order too.

I woke in time to enjoy a pizza and some beer in the restaurant before finally getting to watch the first of The Hobbit trilogy on the HBO channel in my room.

indo WaveThe wifi gave me the opportunity to finally upload my Mentawai pictures and time to reflect on my time in the Islands.

The following morning I had to say selamat tinggal to Indonesia for the last time on this trip. I thoroughly enjoyed my visits to all the various islands I have stayed on. The waves here have been as good as I have always heard they were, so there is a good chance of me returning here in the future.

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map_of_sumatra After an early start in Singapore I have an eighty minute flight to Jakarta which finds me back on Javanese soil for the first time since G-Land. Largely down to the unbelievably efficient Changi airport it was a painless trip. It also meant I crossed the equator again. 

However I don’t stop for much longer than the time it takes me to get another Indonesian visa, because my next flight takes me on to Padang in Sumatra. I have ended up flying about a thousand miles on two flights just to get a hundred miles across to the west side of Sumatra which is a bit wasteful, but it was out of my hands. It is the second overnight stop before catching a boat to the Mentawai Islands tomorrow.

Padang BuildingThe first thing I noticed upon arriving in Padang are all the wonderful buildings.

There are so many style like the one you see here, with the roof eaves arcing exponentially upwards.

The whole of this area got absolutely hammered by the Boxing Day earthquake and Tsunami of 2004 so it is good to see so many magnificent structures still standing.

WP_20131026_032However that doesn’t stop the Axana hotel in Padang, where I am staying for the night, providing me with earthquake survival tips when checking in.

Definitely a first and given how many hotels I have stayed in around the Pacific Rim of Fire without getting anything, I can admit that it is a tad alarming that this one thinks it necessary.

sumatran_tigerThere are other natural threats around here for me to consider though, albeit in dwindling numbers. The Sumatran Tiger is listed as critically endangered because there are only 400 left in the wild. It looks like it may go the way of both the Balinese and Javan Tigers that are now extinct, which would be a massive shame.

One of the sad facts of the world is that there are already more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild.

Saying that though I didn’t fancy my chances much if I bumped into one on the way back from my beer run to the shops! 200kg of danger that I wouldn’t want to mess with.

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WP_20131025_002I am on my way to the Mentawai Islands which are off the west coast of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean. There was no chance of getting there via a direct flight from Hanoi so I have got to make a couple of stopovers to break up the journey. The first of these is today in Singapore.

I am only going to be in Singapore for eighteen hours between the flight in from Vietnam and the flight out to Jakarta tomorrow. I will also be returning here for a few days later on my travels.

Consequently I have checked into the hotel at the airport itself to minimise on transit grief, and allow myself a day off everything apart from the ever present administrative backlog.

WP_20131025_005My hotel is so close to Changi airport that it is possible for the air traffic controllers to watch me doing the back stroke in the pool on the roof.

However in the interests of public safety it is probably best that they keep focused on the the job at hand.

I should say at this point in all fairness to them arriving at the airport is probably the most pain free landing, immigration and customs process of my entire trip.

From walking through the doors of the plane, to checking into my room at the hotel took less than twenty minutes. I can’t fault Changi airport at all to be honest the service and standard of the place is amazing.

Worlds-Tallest-Slide-in-Singapore-AirportSaying that though, any airport that decides to build the world’s largest helter skelter slide inside it is always going to get my approval.

The biggest slide is four stories high and buying enough duty free entitles you to a free go, which I am hoping to take advantage of later today. Wheeeeeee!!!!!

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RamboIn John Rambo style I am breaking out from behind Vietnamese lines today, but without the aid of a compound bow or any RPGs. To do this I was originally going to buy a moped in the north and then try and get it across Laos, Thailand and possibly Myanmar all the while heading down towards Singapore.

Whilst that journey might have been a wee bit challenging with an eight foot board attached to the side of my wheels it wouldn’t have been impossible. However the stresses of that, or the warnings I have been given about the number of ne’er do wells in that area which is known as the golden triangle, who might want to try and take advantage of a surfer on his own, were not what put me off attempting the journey.

Area mapIt was more as a result of getting a bit burned by my Central American road trip earlier in the year. I looked at the map and wondered realistically how long it might take to complete the journey. I would have had enough time originally but shuffled my flights into that spare time to ensure I was at Tom and Lily’s wedding, and was a bit glad when my hand was forced on the matter

There would undoubtedly have been some fun stuff to report on including some potential for surf on the west coast of Thailand as I worked my way down. There is still an outside chance that I may still get to surf there, but it just depends on how I juggle the days remaining on this trip.

As a consequence of all the above I wisely opted for a taxi to the airport where I am getting on a flight down to Singapore, instead of the Top Gear Scooter Surf Special.

Singapore-flagIt all went well today apart from at Hanoi’s airport, which must be the most inefficient one I have experienced on my travels thus far. I almost missed my flight because their check in system is as well administered as their highway code.

I have two hours of utter chaos before scraping through by the skin of my teeth as usual. The look on the check in clerk’s face when he realised he would personally have to run my 8’0″ surfboard through the airport to ensure it got on my flight was priceless.

I will not dare open my board bag until I get to the next beach in fear of what might have happened to the contents due to the knocks I am sure it has experienced along the way today! 

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Me and RickI have been in Sydney for about 10 days and am delighted to hear from one of my old neighbours in the flats I used to live in back in London. Rick is a Kiwi who works in the oil business and is now based in Singapore.

However he is in town for a couple of nights on business and we take the opportunity to catch up over a few beers.

Lions vs RebelsWe meet up in a rugby club that is located right in the heart of the city. There is not a rugby pitch in sight, but the atmosphere there for the game between the Lions and the Melbourne Rebels is like any rugby club in the world.

We are joined by one of Rick’s colleagues James and have a great laugh watching the game, whilst reminiscing about motorcycle trips across Europe to Austria with the rest of our ‘chapter’ Dom and Adam, who join in the fun back in London via the internet. A great night.

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