Singapore in a flash

 Changi Airport

We did Singapore in such a flash that I almost forgot that we had done it. You have to love airlines such as Jetstar for their capacity to be able to offer such cheap flights. It does come at a cost sometimes, however, which is not necessarily financial. We did not really want to hang around an airport for almost a day (as we were arriving mid morning and would be leaving later in the evening). Would we leave the airport? Would it cost to get out? Was it worth the cost? Could we store our backpacks somewhere? Could we find something to do for a few hours? We had done no research on this at all, as we simply had not made it our priority. I figured that we’d work it out!

Upon disembarking, we walked around the airport like Alice of Alice in Wonderland …eyes wide and mouth gaping! Well, Singapore and its airport were not quite what I had expected, although I must be fair and say that I am not sure what my expectations really were. Singapore’s Changi Airport is a destination unto itself! Apart from the fact that it’s enormous, it felt like one big entertainment centre offering everything from free internet usage to computer gaming areas and free massage (OK, so they were chairs and not people). We certainly made use of a number of these free options.

A bus with a view 

After a few minutes of wide-eyed stares, looking around an airport that looked more like an entertainment centre than an airport, we came across a tourist information desk, offering free Singapore City tours. Free? What? WHAT is for free these days? I thought “no way, this can’t be”! Well, apparently in Singapore it can! There were actually two tours available, the Cultural Tour and the Coloniol Tour. I wanted to do both! We ended up doing the Cultural Tour. Clearly one can only get a snapshot in two hours, but it was a great ‘taster’ of what the city had to offer.

Singaporean architecture

Due to the tours being free, they clearly filled up quickly. We had a meeting point at the airport, and we were then whisked away for two hours in a luxury coach. What were our observations and what did we see? My over-riding sense of the city was that it was so clean that it looked sterile. Like most people, we’d heard all of the stories about how clean it was, and from what we could see it was true. The tour guide was most informative, and gave us some interesting facts and figures. I kind of got the feeling that he too thought his system was a bit ‘anal’ … I tried not to form my opinion in so little time!

Thian Hock Keng Temp

To be honest, it felt like information overload. And in true Ombi style … I was trying to suck in as much informaton as I could … my head was swinging left-right-left-right. Whilst there was a lot to take in, the
thing I remembered most was our quick stop in Chinatown, including the oldest temple in Singaore, 160-year-old Thian Hock Keng Temple. It was indeed a beautiful and impressive temple. We were told that we had 15 minutes to look around it. Alex and I decided that we would leave the temple and see if we could see even a little of the surrounding area. It is on the famous Telok Ayer Street which is one of the earliest thoroughfares in downtown Singapore. Whilst we could not explore in detail, it still gave us a bit of a feel for the Chinese part of the city. Running back to the bus, we were the last ones on! Some things never change!

Ayer St!

We were delivered back to the airport as promptly and efficiently as we’d been taken away. The tour had been short but great! We used the internet once again as well as the massage chairs, and before we knew it, we were back on a plane and flying home. We had certainly filled in our time at our day in Singapore. Did I enjoy it? Well, yes. Would I go back? Not sure. Perhaps as a stopover I might, but it did not strike me as an absolute must-see destination!

Another day, another country added to our list!

Ombi

NOTE: The last few blog entries were a bit jumbled. Sorry! This day in Singaore was actually the last day of our two week trip to Thailand over Christmas and the New Year.

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pretty shutters
Inside Thian Hock Keng Temple

The locals doing their thing
It has the word coffee in it!

Modern Singapore
Proof of our brief rendevous with Singapore
Singaporean skyline

Paradise Updated

Making our way to Ko Kood

Oops, mixed up our entries. This post should have actually come before the last one (Bangkok) … enjoy!

We had no option but to get up early, as the fast boat we had chosen to Ko Kood was leaving early (being someone who likes to sleep in, and especially whilst on holiday, this was much to Alex’s chagrin). We had an idea of where we might stay as we’d been there before. We met a lovely young Swedish couple on the boat, Johanna and Thomas and they asked if they could get off with us and check out the place that we were possibly going to stay at. Of course! As we got closer to the island and dropped people off at their various destinations, we admired the beauty of the island and its clear, sparkling turquoise waters. Now THIS was the paradise that we had been wanting to see. Ko Kood is still scarcely developed, and those of us who make it here, spread ourselves out over a small number of places to stay. The most amazing thing is that most of the places have their own private beach so that it feels like you have the island to yourself. Maybe this is why we struggled with Ko Chang!

The beach infront of our accomodation

We got dropped off close to Mark House Bungalows and made our way directly there. It was exactly as I had remembered it.  Despite looking around at a few other places close by, we ended up at Mark’s, because it was well-priced, clean, comfortable and close to the beach. Johanna and Thomas decided to stay there too. Once we settled in, we went for a walk and reacquainted ourselves with the area. Had it changed? Well, yes … there was more construction going on, there was now a road with a few cars (as opposed to no road and no cars a few years earlier), some restaurants had disappeared whilst new ones had appeared … but it was still as relaxing and beautiful as I had remembered it. That first afternoon was spent at the beach, a five minute walk away, and directly in front of Peter Pan Resort. Ah, relaxing, reading, sunbaking, running … all my dreams rolled into one! Although we had taken neither a laptop or mobile phone with us, the resort had a computer for its guests to use, which was outside, in an open space. In my ‘more front than Myers’ kind of way, I frequently went along and used it. Not as many stilettos and sequins here, so I did not look so out of place! Despite the fact that we did not stay here, the seaside accommodation was gorgeous. Next door was the ‘new kid on the block’, Tinkerbell Resort … we popped in to take a look … ooh, la, la! Exy but gorgeous! We basically went to the beach in front of these resorts daily, as it was the closest one to where we were staying.

Beautiful waterfall

These few days here were really laid back. Apart from relaxing at the beach close by, we went out for a few longer walks, taking us to other beaches, as well as a day kayaking, which proved to be eventful to say the least. Mark House Bungalows were on a canal, and close to some waterfalls. We thought that we’d take advantage of their free kayaks, and go to the waterfalls. On our last trip we had hiked to the falls so we knew they weren’t far. So, off we went … we had not checked the kayak and we took no life jackets (due to my having worked as a swimming teacher and lifeguard, I am sometimes not vigilant enough, due to my overconfidence). It was a lovely ride down the canal; peaceful and tranquil, taking in all the sights and sounds. I vaguely recalled Johanna and Thomas telling me about some huge jelly fish they’d seen the day prior. Not a problem, we were in the kayak, not out of it! We soon came to a tiny rickety pier, where we ‘parked’ our canoe, and walked a further 10 minutes to the falls. Despite the many people there, locals and foreigners alike, we spent a fun  hour there. The water was fresh (as opposed to salty) and bloody freezing; some would say refreshing! After a splash and a play, we made our way back to the kayak. This where the REAL adventure began!

The view behind Mark House Bungalows

Back in the kayak, we seemed to have the wobbles! We were rowing in unison, but balance seemed lacking. At first I was not overly concerned, but five minutes into our trip, we were struggling for balance and as we rowed, the kayak was tipping and the lip of each side touching the water. I suddenly felt like we were going to go over, and no sooner uttered, over rolled the kayak … there was nothing around! Not even a shore! Only mangroves! If any of you have seen or been through mangroves, you will understand that … well, there isn’t anything to stand on as there is no shore! Was I concerned? Well, by now, yes! My main concern was Alex, my second was the jelly fish! I told Alex to grab the edge of the boat and we paddled the short distance to the side of the … mangroves! Safe and sound, figuratively speaking, I ignored any notion that I may have been surrounded by a thousand jelly fish. Survival first, digital camera second! That little baby wrapped around Alex’s neck (luckily the smaller and less expensive of our two cameras), was kaput! Water plus digital equals all over red rover! The screen looked hammered, but we pulled the card out – with any luck we may not have lost our pictures …

It’s a tough life!

… so, we’d survived the roll-over and now we needed to be ‘rescued’. All of my years and experience as a lifeguard kicked in…with not a solitary person or boat in sight, I took off my shoes and stripped off to my bikinis. I then swam into the middle of the canal, and started calling for help. It was not so much that I was afraid, but there was no way that we were going to be able to swim kilometres down the canal lugging all of our stuff. No one around! I was not going to wait till next Christmas, we’d just had it! I told Alex that I was going to swim and get someone. Would I be OK? Yep! We’ve all got our strengths, and I am very fit and an exceptionally strong swimmer. So off I set…after almost a kilometre I came across a local in a kayak, and although he had marginal English, I was able to explain that we had tipped over and that Alex was waiting in the water by the kayak. Whilst he made his way towards Alex, and eventually got him into the kayak, I made my way towards a pier on the canal and waited there. By this time, I , and later we, had an audience, and questions were being asked. Soon after picking up Alex, I was picked up too, and we made our way back to Mark House Bungalows. We looked like a sad and sorry version of Hawaii-5-0!

Having dinner with Johanna and Thomas

I must say, I was furious, as this could have been a potentially very dangerous situation. I told the lady at the bungalows what I thought, including that I thought she should have at least given us life jackets! To this, she pointed to the life jackets and told us that we had not asked! Suddenly my anger subsided, as I realised that not all countries take safety as seriously as we do in Australia. As it worked out, the kayak had not been checked, and some plug or other had not been replaced!  I also realised then, that we should have taken some responsibility and checked things out ourselves. One can never be too complacent. The camera was seriously dead, but the card had been saved and we were able to retrieve the photos. No jelly fish stings and Alex and I were both alive and well. Overall, it was a pretty good scenario! Ticked off at first, we were over it by dinner time, and able to laugh about it! What else could we do? At the end of the day nothing important was lost – goods can always be replaced, lives cannot!

Going on a fishing trip

That night Alex, Johanna, Thomas and a few others went on a fishing trip. I was umm-ing and aah-ing about whether or not I’d go. I went to look at the boat and decided, after its lack of a sun deck, that I would pass. No thanks, I’ll take the beach! Apparently, it was a fun few hours … I will have to take Alex’ s word for it.

Over the next few days, we continued to laze around, yet fit in a few walks. It had always been our intention to take it easy here, before going to meet Daniel in Bangkok, where we would catch up for the New Year together. Some of you may recall that we met Daniel whilst in Laos in 2005, we then went to visit him in Quebec, Canada, a few years later. We have always remained good friends. Dan has been teaching English in north-eastern Thailand, and is actually just about to come out to Australia to study for a year. Although he will be studying in the ‘opposition town’ (aka Sydney), he will come and spent a few days with us in Melbourne, in mid February, before he begins.

One of the many spectacular views on the island

We’d had a marvellous time on Ko Kood, but it was soon time to go. Due to ensuring connections with buses and the like back on the mainland, we caught a bus to the Ko Kood port, and then a ferry on to Trat, from where we would then catch a bus directly back to Bangkok. The almost one hour ride to the Ko Kood port presented us with more lovely views of the island, and the ferry ride across was pleasant and calm (which is great for a person that suffers from motion sickness). As I looked looked back at the spectacular views, I was both sentimental and sad to see the island go. Despite the fact that it had been beautiful and idyllic, things had changed, our paradise had been updated…

Ombi

PS  Dear Lonely Planet your Thailand’s Islands and Beaches book sucks!  If you can’t muster up an adequate amount of information, don’t put a book out! It’s more like a note book…you know, decent cover, nothing inside!

“I took some time out for life” – James L. Brooks

Books read:

The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

Ko Kood sunset
Seriously delicious mango!
Where the beach meets the canal 

Hanging out with ‘the boys’ at the waterfall
The offending kayak …
One more gorgeous view

Another day …yet another gorgeous view!
Temple out at sea
What part of ‘don’t do drugs’ isn’t clear?