The border was a picture of organised chaos, with hordes of Malaysians crossing into Singapore on foot, on motorbikes, and in cars. There was also a score of passenger buses and everyone had to pass through a bottleneck at Immigration then reboard the correct bus on the side of the road beyond the customs office.
When we reached Singapore, we were dropped off on Bridge Street right in the heart of the city and we asked an Irish tourist about good places to stay. He recommended a crashpad¹ called the Why Not Homestay and so we caught a bus up to Raffles Hotel and walked for 10 minutes to find the place.
We took a room for 3 which cost us 8 Singapore dollars each, then after cold showers, we went to a nearby McDonald’s for shakes and burgers. Back at the homestay, we rested for a few hours then walked down to the Raffles Centre: a huge shopping mall with great air conditioning. We changed some money with a money-changer and fiddled with toys in a toy shop while we enjoyed the cool climate, loathe to go back out into the heat.
Raffles Hotel was as we expected: an oasis of Colonial splendour heavy with atmosphere and old-world charm. We settled in at the Writer’s Bar in the lobby, sipping Singapore Slings and contemplating the extortionate rates they charge…from 600 to 8,000 Singapore dollars per night.
From the opulent splendour of Raffles, we walked up into Little India: a part of Singapore where many Indian people, the descendants of indentured labourers, live and work. We went to a restaurant serving South Indian vegetarian food on palm leaves to be eaten with your fingers. Delicious!
On the way back down to our crashpad, we spent an entertaining 10 minutes riding up and down in a glass elevator in the Paradise Centre.
¹Crash pads in Singapore were apartments that enterprising owners had converted into backpacker accommodation. They were rough, dangerous and very, very cheap!