Having just been married for a couple of days it was time to pack our bags and go off on Honeymoon somewhere. I had already been to Singapore twice so I have to admit it, I wasn’t exactly that enthralled about going there yet again and especially for a once-in-a-lifetime Honeymoon. The new wifey (a certain…Ms Su) and I, had pondered the question about where to go for quite sometime and while I was more interested in popping over to see Angkor Wat or India again, Ms Su, who had never been on an airplane before, was excited at the idea of Singapore. Supposed she had got the idea from a couple of poncey travel shows she had watched on TV. Then again, in the eyes of a Thai, it would be a bit of a joke to inform the locals that you were taking your new wife on Honeymoon to…Cambodia! They’d think you were mad.
Picture caption: In Singapore, and looking for a beef steak or even a Gin Tonic? Well, you know where to go!
One other reason I have to admit for deciding on Singapore was the dirt cheap flights available from Air Asia. I was very soon to realize the meaning of the saying ‘You get what you pay for’.
We had it (or I ought to say …..I..) all planned for three nights in Singapore, that was until I saw the receipt from Air Asia just about an hour or so before we were due to head for the airport which read flight out on 25th and come back 29th. Now, I soon informed Ms Su, the culprit in this instance, that that did not add up to three nights but instead four. Worried that we just did not have enough cash to take for five days, we could do nothing but borrow a few thousand baht on the spur of the moment. Wondering just who to borrow some extra cash off, the name ‘Mum’ sprung to mind. She hadn’t gone back home to Nakhorn Sawan yet and the cash dowry I had given her was still lying upstairs. Great form by the new son-in-law having to ask ‘mum’ to the likes of “Excuse me mum, but that dowry money I gave you, would you mind if I borrowed some of it?” And I’m not joking!
Now, howabout Air Asia? Well what can you expect for 999 baht a ticket? Free food? Absolutely no way, even if they do delay you for something like 4 hours! Well, by the time we had got on the plane you could only imagine how darned starving we were. Had to make do with Air Asia’s rip-off ‘Mama’ noodles selling at 60 baht a container. Now, the plane may look new on the outside but the seats inside look like old wretched Bangkok air-con bus rejects. Now, fortunately I’m rather short for a Farang and so leg space doesn’t worry me but this long lanky Dutch guy sat beside me was so cramped in that he had his knees stuck up at his chin for the entire two-hour flight.
Now, one serious disadvantage of working in Thailand and earning Thai Baht is that the Baht is pretty worthless when you go abroad. I mean even Laos, Burma and Cambodia are more expensive than Thailand! So, after securing a right cheapo flight the next thing to do, back there in Bangkok, was to book a room over the Internet. On both occasions I had been in Singapore before, before heading to or from either Sumatra or Malaysia I had stayed in a dormitory to save some hard-earned cash. Knowing the wife wouldn’t exactly appreciate being stuck in a room with 20 unshowered banana-shake backpackers I had the unenviable task of finding a decent but cheapy room. Just scanning over a few websites I had noticed that rooms in Singapore were darned expensive in comparison to Thailand, I mean everywhere in Singapore. Only one budget area stood out – ‘Geylang’. Sod it! I didn’t care what kinda area this was, the rooms there were far cheaper than downtown. After booking the room over the Net a regular reader at thai-blogs, a Singaporean working in Thailand, wrote to say “Hi Steve: looking forward to your Honeymoon in Singapore? Just thought I would write to advise you that, that area you will be staying in, called Geylang, is infested with ‘ladies of the night!” So, that was why the area was so cheap!? All the hotels there, mostly only did naughty short-time business!
Now, living in Thailand you get used to ‘ladies of the night’ prowling around hotel lobbies, so I thought nothing of it and perceived that all the dishy-darlings would be upstairs in some dark and dodgy back-alley bars. Didn’t even bother telling Ms Su the FAQ. Geez, the area was completely swamped with pretty out-a-date ladies of the night, a few 6 foot 4 watermeloned ladyboys and a whole platoon of hairy-moustached Indian men watering at the mouth while admiring the attractions. Well, Miss Su didn’t actually mind, she was instead rather inquisitive at such ladies’/ladymen lining the streets like Bangkok election posters.
Now, Singapore may have fancier toilets than Bangkok but their taxis have a long way to come
Now, one of the things that seriously had me seething with frustration almost from the moment I had arrived at Changi Airport, were the Fast Food American Junk Food hauunts such as Burger King and Big Macs. Geez, they were relatively cheap to eat at, but the problem in these gaffs was actually trying to find a seat in one of them due to half the Singapore student population and freelance workers who had set up office with all their homework, PCs and telephones plonked at the tables, looking completely indifferent to paying customers who had nowhere to sit. I mean, even Terminal One and Two – Burger Kings, were fill to the brim with darned students and other misfits sat around working, half of them even had the cheek to sit themselves in the restaurant for half the day and not even purchase anything. Left me wondering whether Singaporean students even bother going to school.
One other disadvantage about living or travelling in Thailand for a long time is that the country has so many beautiful and interesting places to see that when you go very much elsewhere the enthusiasm all turns into a bit of an anti-climax when you arrive. Look at poor old Sentosa Island in Singapore, the government has done wonders to doll the place up to attract tourists but has very little to offer in comparison to the island resorts in Thailand. No disrespects to Singapore and her people, the governemnt has turned this little unwanted former British island into an economic miracle over the past forty years. And where respect is due, Singapore doesn’t have that much in regards to ‘beauty’ but the government has successfully made whatever little they have into something at least worth visiting.
Well, after a couple of days on Singapore I finally had to have a word with Ms Su about her continual conversation topics. On Sentosa she was going on about “Not bad, but even the beaches of Bang Saen near Pattaya are nicer”, then, in a restaurant “Tight Singaporeans, won’t even give you a free glass of water with your meal unlike in Thailand” and “Impolite service in these food courts, haven’t even received me food and the savage waiter is asking me to pay”, next “These Singaporean girls have absolutely no sense of fashion, just look at the bottom poking out of that!, seen Thai girl country-bumpkins dress nicer and more fashionably”. I finally come to the end of my wit after visiting the ‘National Orchid Garden’. Now, I gotta admit that I found the place more than beautiful. Only for Ms Su to reply “Yeah, it’s nice here but I been to a really nice orchid garden in Chiang Mai before” and then at Singapore’s largest food joint ‘Lao Pa Sat’ I said to Ms Su “Now come on darling, you gotta admit that Thailand does not have a food center as huge as this” only for her to say “I think I been to one bigger than this in Thailand”. I wanted to give me new darling a right throttling around the throat. It was only after she had noticed how upset I was getting at her continous waffling on about Thailand vs Singaporean, and I, threatening never to take her abroad again, was quiet once and for all.
Going back to ‘Geylang’, I think that the area we stayed in had to be one of the dirtiest that Singapore has to offer and you have to say – they are few and far between, most of the country is baby-bum clean. I remember back to the likes of ’97, when after having just come back on the boat from Sumatra after a few months there, I was desperate for something Thai again. On arriving in Singapore I had heard that there was a place that all the local Thais hung out at and it was called The Golden Mile, a Thai shopping mall of some kind. What a place that was, in complete contrast to squeaky-clean Singapore-style this place was just littered with loadsa ‘Isarn’ Thai construction workers sat on the stairs scoffing away at Somtum, grilled chicken and sticky rice whilst getting half-plastered on imported Thai whiskey. In those days that was a heck of fine place to go after having sat round Sumatra’s lakes for three months doing absolutely nowt else but read books and watch guesthouse movies. Couldn’t imagine what the local Singaporeans thought about this Farang sat on the steps of the Golden Mile Plaza, supping Thai imported beer and babbling away in Thai (actually I think it was Lao!) probably thought I was the scummiest westerner in the country!
Talking about the word ‘fine’. Now, what a ‘fine’ country Singapore just is! The authorities in charge may not be as strict as they once were but they are still posters up everywhere with signs warning ‘Passengers found munching a burger on the subway train (MRT) will prosecuted and fined the sum of 500 Singapore Dollars!” Shiver-me-timbers, that’s like 12,500 Baht!
Since the Thai governement has recently got into ‘heavily promoting neighbouring countrys’ citizens to visit Thailand’ I should care to pass on this ‘stevesuphan’ advice of the week. How about Thailand promote itself to Singaporeans in this way??
“Fed up with all those darned fines in yer own country? Well, come to Thailand! Our ever user-friendly police officers are of the highest calibre and efficiency. Broken the law?? Well nevermind, our trusted officers have been trained to the highest proficiency in allowing offenders to pay ‘fines’ on the spot!!! Drunk-driving, no license, speeding? Who gives a darned, just thrust a couple hundred baht in the right direction and our officers will see you off with that ever famous ‘Thai Smile’.
BTW: At 175 Baht for a big bottle of beer, on the street, yours in name did the gentlemanly thing and refrained from the consumption of alcohol throughout the entire duration of his stay in The Land of Chili Crabs and Clean Bogs.