Saturday, October 16, 2010

Singapore (and getting here)

Singapore's cheap, efficient and air-conditioned MRT provides a blessed escape from the humidity outside its train carriages. There's also entertainment on board in the form of hilarious jingle announcements. In a kind of 1950s/60s style sing song, like they would have had in Britain and the United States, passengers are urged to give up their seats for the less able. There's also a little ditty on the platform which goes "train is coming, train is coming" in a tune not dis-similar to that of the BBC's tacky tv game show Blankety Blank. Get the picture ?

I took the MRT from the airport into the city centre last night to find my budget hostel accommodation. At least it has air-con and free internet.. but it's a big step down from the luxury of the final days in India.

Because of a special schedule change to pick up Australian athletes from the Commonwealth Games, my plane from Mumbai left at 6am (with a 3am check in) and went via Delhi. Once there, an organisational farce unfolded as first no-one greeted passengers disembarking to go into transit for two hours, then security wouldn't let us through re-screening because they didn't have our flight on the list, and Qantas had to write out boarding passes by hand so they could get an official security stamp. The rigmarole was repeated when it came time for boarding again, and our optimistic departure time of 10:10am ended up being somewhere closer to 11am. Paperwork wasn't in order. There was no printer to give a hard copy of the passenger manifest, and the cabin service manager ended up having to write one out by hand using the boarding pass stubs.

There were lots of people in yellow and gold tracksuits, who had spent the previous two weeks competing in the Commonwealth Games. They all had to sit in economy. There were a couple of officials with me in business class, and one of them gave me a lapel badge designed for the Australian team.

I'm in Singapore for a couple of nights before moving on to Bali for four nights. This morning I caught up with a businessman friend, Richard Tan, who I met when I was in Singapore a few years ago and have kept in touch with since. We had tea and cake, then some delicious soup for lunch and just spent the time chatting.

Yesterday I reached the three-quarters mark. I've got one quarter of my trip to go. It feels as though time is hurtling towards the end, but I've got more than a month still to enjoy in South-East Asian countries.. plus I'm looking forward to being joined for most of that time by my friend David, who is flying out from Wellington and will meet me in Malaysia.

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