Tuesday, April 19, 2011

(Travelouge) Oriental Outings Day 3: Feeling Rustic

March 3, 2011

The day started with an exotic adventure! During the breakfast, when we were comparing Indian and Pakistani food to the Singaporean food, Jeffery dared me with spicy chicken; specialityof a nearby restaurant. Thinking that this would be a piece of cake, and cannot be more piquant than Javed's Nihari, my favourite breakfast, I happily accepted the challenge!

After a few bites, I realized that my assumption was not that accurate, and after a few more bites, my eyes and nose started running freely. On the other hand, Jeffery was jubilantly busy in providing me with tissue papers with a winning smile! Later, Cai Shi revealed that the restaurant sells food with various spices level starting from level 1 and that was level 30! So, beware if you happen to visit Jeffery!

Dare it?
Think Nihari is nothing to do with the breakfast? You may be surprised to know that the royal dish used to be served in the breakfast in Mogul's Delhi. The root word "Nihar" is borrowed from Arabic which itself means "morning"! So the next weekend, instead of having Halwa Poori, head to Dehli Javed Nihari, who starts selling the stuff as early as 7 in the morning!

After this red chilly experience, we took some guidance from Cai Shi for modifications in the Wikitravel’s Singapore Day 1 Evening Walk and then got back to the MRT to reach to the City Hall station.

Lets go!

Admiralty MRT station

Guess what?

Inside the MRT
Soon we were in the middle of the CBD, or the Central Business District. Gazing hundreds of high-rises, including the Esplanade and the three towered Marina Bay Sands, we were feeling like a rustic fellow overwhelmed by the grandeur of a metropolitan!  From the CBD, we took the halifax crossing to Marina Bay Sands Resorts which houses Singapore’s biggest Casino.

Marina Bay Sands


The bad place

Rising high!

The skyline

Interestingly, gambling is generally prohibited in Singapore; however, there are laws that allow integrated recreation, which implicitly permits such casinos. More interestingly locals are discouraged to even enter into the bad place by imposing a hefty entry fee of SGD 100 (~ PKR 7,000)! And this was the only reason why our host had never been to the Casino.

Upon Jeffery’s advice, we took our passports with us, to avail the free entry for foreigners. The multistoried devil’s arena was gigantic, yet crowded, mostly oldies trying or destroying their remaining luck! Poker was in demand and there were banners offering coaching services! Ambiance was rather depressive and suffocating, as should be in any usurping place, despite high roofs and big halls.

Our next stop was Merlion, a half-fish and a half-lion symbolic statue of Singapore. For us, that was not impressive at all, may be because of the engulfing skyscrapers, however, tourists were taking photos with almost religious enthusiasm, so did we! We were about to complete the ritual when we heard a deafening roar as if the Merlion got aware of our heretical believes! Some people started gazing upwards as if they were already expecting something. It was the second rumble that brought us in the real world; the weather had suddenly changed and a dark bunch of clouds had started marching towards us! Typical Singapore weather!

The rain started heavily, making it difficult for us to get back to the Raffles MRT to reach home to pack for the airport. But once you are in the MRT, you can bet your life that you will be at your destination as per the schedule, come what come may!
The reliable MRT

While leaving the home, Jeffery and Cai Shi gave us a bighearted goodbye. Though we were in a bit hurry but we could easily feel a sense of belongingness to Jeffery’s place which provided us with warmth, comfort, and above all a confidence in humanity! Our first Couch Surfing experience was priceless!

In the meantime, Khalid called to let us know that he is also coming to the airport to see us off. After checking-in, Khalid offered us the goodbye treat, which we readily accepted and chose the airport Burger King to get ourselves stuffed with the junk! This over-eating was purposeful amid the no-frill Air Asia flight.
Goodbuy Singapura!
Budget airlines, or low cost carriers (LCC), are in vogue in many parts of the world, notably in Europe. LCCs have cut down most of the facilities, including in-flight meals, and thus costs peculiar to regular air travel. For the benefit of travelers, this has brought airfares to new lows! Ryan Air created quite a buzz when it offered ridiculously low fares, as low as 1 Euro, within Europe! Meanwhile, an array of other ventures also jumped in and a cut throat competition started. Air Asia, a subsidiary of Malaysian Airlines, followed the same model and instantly gained popularity among tourists around South East Asia.

For a distance of around 1,700 km, from Singapore to Bali, we paid PKR 11,000 (~USD 130), i.e. PKR 6.5 per kilometer for the whole family and luggage. This is less than to what we would have paid to a rickshaw driver bumping around the city! Therefore, we had nothing to complain even if we were allotted to the penultimate seats and served with water and peanuts!
Peanuts, literally!

No free lunch!

It was raining cats and dogs, when we landed at Ngurah Rai airport in Bali. We had to wait in the plane so that the ground staff can make adequate arrangements as the airport of the third world country was not that state of the art. Looked like that the three hours flight took us years behind!

Then came the second shock to confirm that the flight was actually a transition between two contrasting worlds. Standing in front of the immigiration officer, past midnight, I asked him about the telepohone facility around to check with our guesthouse, which we booked online, about the airport pick-up. To my surprise, he took out his cell phone to ensure our conveyance! That was a real welcome beyond hollow commercial smiles! 

The last shock had yet to come! It was only when we found Putu, who was waiting for us in the arrival area, we realized that we forgot to collect our luggage. Bang!

We tried to make it back via the exit gate and obviously got caught from the airport security. What happened afterwards is too long to describe here except for the happy ending, i.e. we were allowed to pick our luggage including Misha’s stroller!

All’s well that ends well!

1 comment:

  1. My Travbuddy.com friend Hadi kindly reminded me of Halal food constraints while eating in Singapore. It is advisable for Muslim travelers to check if the food is halal before ordering. At times, even chicken may not be from halal sources and then the use of oil and other stuff may also cause problems.