The descent into Singapore was protracted. The airport was so busy that we had to wait in order to land. Since we had last visited, they had built another terminal and the taxi driver who took us to our hotel told us that Terminal 5 was planned. Singapore is a popular stopover.
A prosperous, polite, island city-state, it has quite a few rules that become apparent to visitors. This helps to make a clean, safe environment. Before you arrive you have to fill out an arrival card. You are warned that bringing drugs into Singapore carries the death penalty. The form itself is a pain when you have been on an aeroplane for over 10 hours. Among other things you have to find your passport number, flight number and fill out your address twice, making sure you get everything right.
When you travel around Singapore, other rules make themselves apparent and it becomes obvious why the city is so clean. A $500 fine for eating or drinking on the MRT (the underground transport system) which also bans durians (a fruit) for some reason. In certain places you cannot smoke without risking a $1000 fine. And yet, our standards of personal safety do not match up with those of Singapore, for example: workers sit in the back of open trucks as they travel along the roads.
Having just two nights here - one full day - we had to get a move on. As soon as we had dropped our bags in our rooms we made for Little India. A ten-minute walk to Novena MRT Station, got our tickets, onto the train, a change from one line to another and a bustling world of colour and noise hit our senses. Cyclists swarmed past us, also buses, coaches, cars, as we queued to cross the road. Stallholders were getting their wares in, it was about 8 pm. Many of them sold bright, multi-coloured garlands for a few dollars. In contrast were jewellery shops, sometimes three in a row selling masses of gold, and they had customers in! What a wealthy place, such an abundance of products for sale.
Komala Vilas is an Indian vegetarian restaurant we knew in this area. Joe sussed out its whereabouts using the 'Handy Smartphone' from the Ibis hotel - amazingly, a phone for personal use, with free international calls that could be made with it to a selection of countries including our own. We were soon making our way through the tables at the restaurant, arousing some stares, being the only customers who were not local.
The waiter showed us to a table with two men and a family. People were busy eating without cutlery, scooping up a variety of dips and chutneys with dosai pancakes. Soon we were doing the same. Some of the curries and pickles were eye-watering. My nose was starting to run and my tongue verging on going numb with the strength of the spices but I was determined to finish it. You get huge portions for a cheap price. Freya and I shared a chappathi and poppadom dish that came served on a banana leaf. There was even a kind of pudding - a little sweet dish of tapioca with noodles and cashew nuts in. Joe had onion uthappam. Sweet tea and coffee followed.
I was in long trousers and although it was fairly 'cool' that evening (maybe 27 degrees) as they had had recent rain, I was feeling it on the walk back to the hotel, trying to keep up with Joe and Freya. As soon as I got into the room, I ripped my trousers off and literally collapsed on the floor for a few minutes, before heading straight for the shower.