My Stage is the World

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive

Journey’s End

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Brace yourself

After spending my last day walking around the Botanic Gardens and Chinatown – Lau Pasat is closed for renovations – I spent the evening by the bay with one of my sister’s friends who works in the city. My cocktail was about 50% marshmallow and we shared a mix of breakfast nachos (they had scrambled egg), Parmesan fries and strawberry pancakes. We also took a super fast elevator to her office’s roof garden for spectacular views of the city. A good end to my adventures.

Of course, being me there was more drama to unfold…

Braving the MRT to the airport I was heavily questioned at customs because the last letter of my first name hadn’t quite fitted so they wanted to make sure I was who I said I was.

Finally on the plane, I started watching a film while we sat on the ground for an hour. Slightly worried about my connecting flight I persevered with ‘Broken’. It’s a good, if slightly odd, film, but the ending is pretty graphic. I started to feel sick and dizzy and needed some fresh air… Obviously this wasn’t likely on a plane.

Guess who got to experience an oxygen mask on a plane? Yup, little miss squeamish who faints.

So I spent the first hour of the flight (when the seatbelt sign was still on) laying on the floor of the aircraft with my feet on a box, with an oxygen mask over my face. Just another thing to take in my stride…

However, for the rest of the flight I was treated like a minor celebrity – the stewards brought me extra drinks and biscuits and the first officer came over several times to check I was OK.

After that I played it safe and watched Hercules and To Kill A Mockingbird.

Running out of time

By the time we landed in Dubai, my connecting flight was already boarding and it took ages to disembark. When the couple in front of me decided to have a full-on PDA in the plane aisle I almost stabbed them with my pen.

I ran off the plane, skirting the lady in a wheelchair and skidded to a halt in front of the man shouting “Gatwick? Istanbul?”, ranting at a fellow traveller – a maths PhD student at Oxford.

He and I chatted as about six of us were escorted through the airport to a special security point (one poor girl was then searched, even though there had been no time for us to change our bags’ contents since checks in Brisbane/Singapore).

Not only did we make it, but they held the plane to check our luggage had all been found. So this flight was also delayed… But on the plus side I was sitting just behind First Class and had a spare seat next to me.

The rest of the flight passed fairly smoothly (Pete’s Dragon, Shakespeare in Love etc.) and all too soon we were landing in Gatwick Airport, where both of my parents were waiting.

My dad dashed off to catch a train to London so my mum and I braved the rainy, flooded roads of England.

Remind me why I came back again?

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Total tourist

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Walking in sunshine

With a limited time in Singapore I was determined to make the most of it. To me, this means walking everywhere and finding all manner of things lurking around each corner.

After checking in to my hotel (after tents and hostels, it was the most beautiful room I’d ever seen) and having a shower I headed out into the city. I wandered aimlessly for about four hours and stumbled across a free gig in the Arts Centre. Linden Furnell was a pretty talented Aussie guy who’d studied in Singapore. His songs were pretty deep, with powerful lyrics that made me reflect. Damn him.

I got lost on the way back by following the map – what a stupid idea. I then had what was effectively a chilli crab pot noodle, which I ate with chopsticks in my pyjamas.

The following day I had an agenda – find chilli stingray and go to the night safari. Simple. Google Maps suggested 800m to Little India, but I went the scenic (aka long) way to the travel agent. A very helpful man told me I could just catch the bus to the safari and buy my tickets there. He also told me not to go to Malaysia on my own because I “have the blonde hair and the pretty face. It is not safe. Find some friends.” He even said his son would go with me at the weekend, but I had to decline.

Little India was bizarre. It was colourful and busy, but smelled of cheap mint/bubblegum chewing gum. I somehow found myself upstairs in a salon having my eyebrows threaded after asking the price – a fairly reasonable $4. My eyes watered a lot, even though it wasn’t particularly painful.

I then walked to Chinatown to find Lau Pasat, but I gave up and stumbled into a Buddhist temple. Full of Buddhas I was presented with a spiritual book, which happened to fall open at a page about promiscuity – hmmm.

After perusing hundreds of food stalls, I finally settled for a $3 bowl of Laksa. It was a sixty-year-old recipe he’d learned from a master and he made each bowl separately with all natural ingredients.

His technique worked – the laksa tasted of the ocean and was delicious. The stall owner explained that cooking was his passion and he had started the stall when he retired from the stage. He and his friends – who I met – still got together on Thursdays and performed in Retirement Homes. He was also a very positive about England and its people, which was very refreshing.

Where the wild things are

Stepping off the shuttle bus to the Singapore Night Safari, S and I started our nighttime adventure with the walking tours, setting off down a dark path, through barely visible jungle into the unknown. All sorts of creatures lurked in the bushes and I was quite jumpy at times, especially when rats crept past, frogs jumped and lizards crawled.

The idea is that nocturnal animals are more energetic at nighttime and it was interesting to see their behaviour in the dark. At one point we were surrounded by wallabies, another time by fruit bats. There was also a dark cave that dripped water with nasty reptiles sleeping behind (thank God) glass cases.

On the walks we also saw civets, tigers, rhinos and deer… Plus sloth bears, invisible night squirrels and night pelicans (I still think the zoo man made this up as they looked more like pterodactyls). There was no crocodile though. We asked and were told “No, no crocodile.” When we later found an ’empty’ river marked Crocodile we figured his story checked out, but we didn’t hang around for too long!

Our first tram ride was a hilarious experience. We got on halfway round and our guide was quite bloodthirsty, explaining that “hyenas can run non-stop for 3km. They are also strong swimmers, so they will bite you until you fall down and die.” “Lions tend to ignore humans, but they will still rip you limb from limb if provoked.” Every animal then became a danger to humans, as we made up ways they could kill us… Including being sat on by a hippo until we die.

Just in time for the last animal show, we watched otters and raccoons recycle rubbish and an escaped Python dominate the stage and a poor Korean tourist’s neck.

Back on the almost empty tram, our new guide was far more positive and we had a much better view of the elephants and lions. The hippos had been asleep the first time, so as we rounded a corner I saw them, exclaiming “Yay hippos!” Which turned out to be buffalo… Hopefully I redeemed myself by remembering a male elephant was called a Chawang… We also saw a giraffe sitting down – which led us to ponder how giraffes sleep.

Returning to the city just before midnight, we finally found somewhere for dinner – a Thai restaurant open until 5.30am. The food was good, although there was no wine and they appeared to be playing Westlife’s Greatest Hits – quite bizarre.

In fact, the whole evening turned out to be “surreal, but nice”.

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