My job had a two-week break between semesters, so I decided to take a whirlwind tour of 4 southeast Asian countries: Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia. I had actually planned to hit up some of the Indonesian islands as well, but it just didn’t work out in my favor.
Malaysia: I started my journey from Seoul to Kuala Lumpar (the capital of) Malaysia. I have a penpal who lives in the same city, and prior to going on the trip, I was struggling with booking stuff/ nailing down what I wanted to do. She suggested I sort it out when I got there. Besides, we planned to meet up so it would be no big deal, right? Well, something came up and she had to take her parents out to another province, so we couldn’t meet up. The hostel I stayed in, Back Home, was great! I ended up extending a night so that I could work out some concrete plans. It had been a long first day and I met a “stalker” in the train station (sorry mom, I never mentioned this before). He wanted to hang out and join me in my walk around the market areas. I declined his offer since the markets were a little far from my hostel and I didn’t know the guy. I told him we could walk to the park area just a couple blocks away. To my surprise, there was an event going on with lots of children playing and families out. I had had enough of him after about an hour so I told him I would be heading to Indonesia in the morning. It was, of course, a lie, but hey- no need to tell creeps all your info. In fact, it’s better not to!! [Side note: I had messaged my friend with his info, telephone numbers and a description, with photos and told her I would check back in with her when I returned– gave her an expected time and did so. —Working in Corrections for 8 years gave me SOME smarts! hahaha]
So, the next morning I went exploring a bit and to the twin towers. There are only a limited number of tickets handed out each day and I arrived too late to get any, so after walking around a bit, chatting up a woman in the park (who had happened to be on the same flight to KL as I was, and now we were in the same park), and grabbing a bite to eat, I headed back to the hostel. There were some guests sitting in the common area. We all ended up becoming friends
and went to Chinatown to grab lunch and look around a bit at the shops.
After trying, to no avail, to make some plans in Malaysia– I was fighting the universe it seemed– I decided to go on to Singapore the next day on the bus just behind one of my new friends from the hostel, Pili. [From there, I had planned to catch a ferry to one of the Indonesian islands, but it was a no go as well.] The 6 hr bus ride to Singapore was uneventful, other than the flat tire and the immigration process. I had never entered another country via bus before so I wasn’t real sure what to expect anyway. It was a lot of shuffling here and there. Off the bus, with the luggage, go through this line, then that one, go find the bus (ALWAYS be sure to memorize your bus plates!!– again, Corrections). Get on the bus with the luggage, drive a couple minutes, off the bus again– with or without the bags??? lol…
Singapore: Now, just to clarify, Singapore is both a city (the capital) and a country. The country is just one large city! Apparently, there was a huge convention going on in Singapore, because all the hostels were booked! Pili and I walked around all of Chinatown (two friends from the Malaysian hostel recommended a hostel they had stayed in in Chinatown) trying to find something. We ended up finding the recommended hostel but it was booked. I will still recommend it to others though, because it was CLEAN, reasonably priced, the rooms were nice and it had good amenities. We ended up in the only hostel in Chinatown with availability for the night: I couldn’t even fit (width wise) between the bed and the wall… for $27 US per person per night!! OUCH!.. the good news: 1) we didn’t have to go to an expensive hotel and 2) there was an air conditioner!
I had some reward points left with IHG (Intercontenential Hotel Group) and thought that Singapore would be the most bang for my buck since Singapore– everything– is basically equivalent to US Airport prices!! Fortunately, I had enough for the two remaining nights I would be “stuck” in Singapore.
Henna Art is done in many Hindu cultures. It is a CULTURAL thing though, not a religious thing. It’s a kind of semi-permanent (usually lasting about a month) decoration, usually done on the hands or feet, during times of celebration. Many women also have henna art painted on a pregnant belly (and hands) to signify a happy and healthy pregnancy. You may have seen henna art for wedding ceremonies. (I think this is the most common form that we Westerners are exposed to.)
Singapore has some great architecture. I walked around a lot and got lost often. People in Singapore want to be helpful but if you ask three different people directions to the same place, you will get three different answers. Ugg! Singapore is also pretty clean and has a lot of laws: no littering (and it’s enforced), no eating or drinking on the subway- with CCTV to monitor it, no chewing gum– in the whole country! Wow. Anyway, my hotel was great! It turned out to be a great decision, because after all that walking and the rainy weather, my foot (ya know, the one with pins and screws still in it!?!) decided to give up! So, I laid in my hotel bed, with this amazing view, and watched Korean TV.
Ironically, I really felt homesick for Korea! I saw this (furniture store) sign while I was out to get something to eat… hahaha– it summed up my Singapore visit!
I had a flight reserved on a budget airline from Singapore to Vietnam. I was ready to leave that part of SE Asia. I will definitely go back (and plan to actually DO stuff there next time), but as you can read, not much of a show stopping vacation up to this point…. I was hoping things would look up for my second and final week of vacation–in Vietnam and Cambodia. [Check out part 2: Vietnam and Cambodia]