Singapore/Malaysia: In Transit

Disclaimer: This is being written on the road (to steal from a certain Aussie) and without pictures, just text. I’ll add photos later when I’m safely back in South Korea. So if you only want pretty pictures, come back later, don’t worry, I’ll let you know when.

Day 1 (01/01/2011)

5am seems even earlier on New Year’s Day. No wild times for me last night, although I suspect some firends are just ending their nights in Seoul. I’m slapping at my alarm and rolling out of bed in a zombiefied state. I had a bit of beer and soju but Alex’s 1am text was missed due to me being asleep.

I pray the bus leaves at 6:10am as advertized, by 5:40 I am stumbling, slipping and shivering into -20C winter weather in just a few layers; no winter jacket, mesh(y) trainers and cargo pants because Singapore is 25C now and I don’t want to lug the heavy gear around for 2 weeks. I’ve opted to take ReconBlue as my sole backpack – but DeepGreen needs to go walkabout. It’s ben over a year since Vietnam and Cambodia, while it has returned to South Korea, I can tell DeepGreen requires a more substantial adventure.

This is a first for me. I huddle my way up towards the Metro Station in the hopes of finding a lone taxi at the taxi stand located there but I don’t make it that far. After two block I see… someone opening up (or breaking into) a cab… at 5:45… New Year’s Day. I hope he’s not still drunk, but he takes me to Lotte Mart quick enough. He doesn’t have change though, either he did steal the cab or he’s as asleep as I feel. 1000 Won tip it is!

Yes! The airporter bus runs as usual! That was a major concern.

Another breeze through check-in and security. No checked baggage is unquestionably the way to travel. Oops, why are the Currency Exchange kiosks at the least convenient places? Why none near the far gates?

Pssst Kate; 1 hour, 40 minutes. Incheon <-> Shanghai. Just saying.

I’ve landed the safety seat. If anything goes wrong I’m supposed to help out. Yet, they inform me I can’t touch or play with the emergency exit. Like I’m going to help out. I’ll get out, but not help out. I feel like my naughty niece Kylieanne who loses all her toys for being an independent 2 year old. I start up a conversation with the young girl beside me, Chu-an, a 20 year old university student. She’s adorably young and naive. This is her first international flight.

She confirms her youth about 20 minutes into the flight when she eagerly taps my shoulder and points out the window. “Look.” So I look. Pretty clouds but nothing special. “That’s ice.” Uh, what? “It’s ice.” Okay. I let her have this one. A while later she says, “Oh, I think they are clouds.” Yes Chu-an, they are.

Meanwhile, in Byron’s show “It’s funny on a flight…” Sitting in the flight attendent’s 5-point harness seat is Lee Hye Jin – a lovely Korean stewardess. Guess who spends landing and take off chatting her up? That’s right. Me. Nothing will come from the email address and mobile number I gave her… but her co-worker was grinning at the two of us by touchdown. Everyone had fun.

Shanghai. I’m in the right seat to realize, holy crap planes land nosecone to tail – two minute gaps between touchdowns tops!

There is more to due in the Shanghai departure area than in Gwangzhou. Oh super fun Chinese transfer story 3 (the other two were in Gwangzhou.) All the transfers wait in a holding pen, grouped behind a gate, then the gate opens and it as a processional that loops back on itself and through a few back doors, a semi-attentive wand scanning and they we literally cut thruogh the cleaners’ rooms to emerge in the departure lounge.

Chu-an is too nervous from her big move and long impending flight to sleep. Not me. I’d just settled down for a long winter’s nap, as I’ve got a seven hour layover, when Chu-an shakes me awake. “Byron! They changed my gate!”
“Blwaah?”
“It departs from Gate 21!”

We’re at Gate 24, from my supine position I can see Gate 21, it’s about 200 m along the concourse.
She also has 3 hours to go 200 m.

This is a bigger deal for her than for me. In fact, my gate has changed as well, when I ask the attendents where my flight leaves from, they say “Gate 29.” “This is Gate 29 and it’s not on the board.” “OH… ummm.” “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got time.” And I do. Lots of time.
Shortly after noon I take Chu-an to the Acting Cafe for lunch. In retrospect, I think it was just acting as a cafe. For $30 US we got beef and noodles soup, five chicken strips, kiwi juice and mango juice. I paid. Because I remember the guy who bought me a drink on a flight to England because $5 for a can of Molson Canadian was too much for me to pay.
Now, things have changed. I’m approaching 40 and I’ve got money, but I still stay in hostels because I like that form of travel. (Hell, as I wrote this I was drinking an ‘on special’ $8 SingD (Singapore Dollars) and it’s good but shouldn’t I get a snog and a reach around at this price?) But I can still clearly remember how appreciative I was for a warm can of average beer. Now I’m in a position to pay someone else back. It’s why my haggling skills are weak, why I buy stuff from Black Hmong girls and why giving 10 000 Won to Vietnamese airport check-in people who hold PLANES for me is an easy call. I’ve had a few kindly encounters in my time. Now I can give back, so I do. Willingly. Happily.

Seriously, a random act of kindness is never the wrong choice.

Eventually Chu-an’s plane opens the gate and I wave her a fond farewell, after giving her my email address.

Zzz. Glargh. Wha…?

Boarding time, finally. It would be easy to spend a lot of money in Chinese Duty Frees. Why do my flights always load so far from the terminal? Another busride to the middle of the tarmac. What aren’t they telling me?

Flights are pretty much standard for me now. It seemed a long 5 hours but the only notable bits were the guy beside me spilling his tea in my lap – these are my only pants! And a pretty picture I took with the wing meeting the horizon around sunset.

“We have arrived in Singapore. Current time is 9:20PM and the temperature is 26C (79F).”
Yay!

Okay, Singapore may be too efficient. Four languages, easy to use SMRT (subway), good directions, a sense of safety, I might need to search out some trouble. It is such a melange of people; English, Chinese, Malay and Indian.
I might be punch-drunk tired but I approve.

Any country or city-state with ‘No Durians’ signs on the subway (SMRT) earns entertainment marks from me.

I navigate myself to the hangout at mt. emily with relative ease. It’s Singapore so it’s priceyfor what I get, but it’s clean and safe.

One cool shower later and I feel a lot better. Although with this humidity I have too many long sleeves and not enough t-shirts and underwear.

At 12:30, I’m the last one in my dorm in bed.
Works for me.

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