I passed a bundle of laundry to the desk clerk.
I asked for a towel and got one.
I showered and shaved.
I marched down Kitchener and Serangoon Roads to the Mustafa Centre, where I exchanged 220 Thai baht, 10 U.S. dollars, and 361 Malaysian ringgit for 161 Singapore dollars.
While I was there, I bought a padlock for my defunct locker back at Tresor Tavern.
All this I accomplished before eleven o'clock.
I went back to the hostel and sat in the lobby, sweating, updating my journals and letting my parents know I was still alive. I also spent some time writing down the addresses of everything I wanted to see and eat in this town today (Thursday, July 31).
I went to Chinatown to check out the Heritage Centre and was told it cost $10 SGD to get in.
I said "Screw that with a pitchfork."
I went to the foodie street and had some laksa, a spicy noodle soup in greasy orange broth which is central to Peranakan (Chinese-Malay) cuisine and Malaysia's national dish. It consists of rice vermicelli (though this touristy dump used spaghetti) in coconut milk and curry broth. My bowl included hard-boiled eggs, cockles, bean curd puffs, and bean sprouts, and cost $4.50 SGD.
I did not take a food selfie. Too hungry.
On an impulse I walked across South Bridge Street and caught the open-top sightseeing bus for $25 SGD. We swung out west, down shady, tree-lined Havelock and Zion Roads, curving up to the Botanical Gardens (the one thing in Singapore that I didn't see and wish I had). Then we went dead east on Orchard Road. As clean, bright, and shiny as this city was, dazzlingly clear as it dried from the previous night's rain, there wasn't much to it besides shopping, eating, and authoritarianism. "HAPPY 49th BIRTHDAY, SINGAPORE!" squawked loud orange banners on every lamppost, but on the subway trains were stern admonishments to the citizens to be polite when boarding or exiting, to move to the back or offer your seat to an invalid. Public service announcements printed starkly in black, white, and red urged citizens to perform the vital five-step method to eradicate dengue fever (promptly emptying every container on your property of standing water).
What was most jarring was seeing so many Occidental franchises. Malaysia and even Cambodia had KFC and Starbucks, and Seoul has Burger King and McDonalds and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, but Singapore was just mad—Long John Silver's, California Pizza Kitchen, Coldstone Creamery, Quizno's Subs, and everything else British or American. I was disappointed. Foreign excursions are supposed to be...well, foreign. And I hated to think that the average Singaporean's idea of western culture was a soggy McDonald's sandwich, some limp fries and a syrupy soft drink.
|The Singapore River. Really takes your breath away, doesn't it?|
|Pro tip, kids: this is more fashionable than wrapping it around your forehead and more sanitary than sticking it back in your pocket after every wipe. Just be prepared for lots of concerned fellow travelers to ask you how you hurt your wrist.|
The Flyer isn't very popular with the locals. According to TIME, they gripe that it's too far away from everything and costs too much. I didn't sympathize with the former sentiment but certainly the latter: tickets were $33 SGD. Concordantly, there wasn't much of a crowd. I rolled up at seven o'clock, bought a ticket, hustled through all the supplementary bullshit they put up to make waiting in line more interesting—planetariums and historical placards and whatnot—and got some fantastic views of the downtown area and Marina Bay.
I'd meant to sample the best that Little India could offer me in the way of eats, but my internal compass was taking a much-deserved rest. I couldn't find my intended destination, Bali Nasi Lemak in Geylang. So I went back to the neighborhood of my hostel and sat down in the same little halal Sri Lankan/Thai cafeteria where that snaggle-toothed Samaritan Singaporean had bought me a bottle of water the previous evening. I had some iced lychee juice and a plate of nasi goreng thai for just $4.50 SGD. For afters I had some sort of fried fish dumpling, also delectable. I couldn't discern the waiter's thick Tamil accent when I asked what it was. Sounded like "kampop."
I got an A&W root beer for dessert (you don't see those every day in Asia) and returned to the hostel to update my journals. My time in Singapore was at an end. The next morning I would mail postcards, check out of the Tresor Tavern at noon, and catch the metro for Changi Airport.
If you'd like to find out why I hate Singapore, come back tomorrow.