I've left Europe for the first time at the end of July to visit Singapore, Indonesia (Bali) and Hong Kong and I've written up a few things. Maybe I'll add some pics later.
Train to FFM at 1728 - let's hope DB wont kick us off the train as per faulty data on behalf of the travel agency we shouldn't be allowed to take one today. It proved to be no problem and the train ride itself was uneventful and boring. FFM airport is huge and confusing. Took a cab to the hotel. Driver wasn't amused by 7 EUR fare. Turned out the shuttle bus is 6 EUR for 2 persons. Hotel room was small but nice with semi-working air conditioning.
Up early, breakfast was ok, but expensive. I hate to pay 9+ EUR for a few rolls and stuff. Much too early for checkin, the shops weren't interesting either. Luggage was only 34kg with one of the suitcases being quite heavy, we'll see how that'll work out on return. Entered the boarding area 2h before takeoff, security guy was rather puzzled by that. To all the people who told me that such flights had more room for my legs: well played... Takeoff was around 3 pm, so one hour late. Farewell, connecting flight?
Well impressed by Cathay Pacific's inflight entertainment system, it actually works better than when I last tried XBMC or the sorts. Started with Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Not too bad, but not good either. Next up: I am Bruce Lee, awesome documentary. Then Vertigo, a Hitchcock movie I've always missed to watch somehow, really impressed. And the soundtrack rocks. Then I started with Season 1 of Person of Interest - the main setting screams facepalm, I suppose its endorsed by CCTV proponents worldwide, but the series in general is quite ok. The last hour I randomly selected Chinese pop music which turned out to sound like China's answer to Celine Dion, just a bit more enjoyable. Arrived at Hong Kong International Airport still an hour late, at Gate 63. Managed to sprint ahead of the security check queue. Connecting flight: Boarding in 20min at gate 3. Doh. Managed to get there with like 1min spare as it is literally on the other side of the huge airport (I think there are Gates 1 to 70) but there was still a queue. Hooray for 4h more to Singapore. Managed to get some sleep in. Grabbed 2 Prepaid StarHub SIMs for 15 SGD each at Changi Airport (and bought a 1 GB data plan for 7 of those prepaid Dollars. It turned out to sometimes have better signal than o2 at home...) Took a cab to the taxi after some shenanigans of not queuing up for the taxis inside the building. (Queuing up is huge here, I suppose thats what being a crown colony does to a country and there are several signs reading "Please Q!" 20 SGD for the ride, I like those prices. The room wasn't ready, so went out for some cool drinks. The hotel room turned out to be big and clean with a hellish sort of air conditioning. Took a 3h nap, then went out to stroll around a bit between the MRT stations Chinatown and Clarke Quay. Dinner at the Maxwell Food Centre and had some Laksa.
WHOA THE BREAKFAST. Chicken Teriyaki and Baos, Grilled Salmon and Chicken Pies. Oh well, at least the coffee was horrible or I'd called shenanigans. We had booked a city tour and were to be picked up at 8:30. No bus in sight and just as the chief luggage concierge took charge (I was really impressed that for once this hotel seemed to employ really competent people, something totally unheard of) it arrived. Our guide (before we met her I already imagined it would be someone who couldn't speak German or English) turned out to be fluent in German and 6 other languages and originating from France, but speaking with a Dutch accent. Wat. It was a good idea to get a tour around and be able to recognize some buildings early on, despite generally not being a friend of being guided much. Saw the inside of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the National Orchid Garden and Mt. Faber. After the tour we stayed in Little India and went around there and moving towards Arab Street. In the afternoon we bought some EZ-Link public transport cards and went to Vivocity, a huge mall at the waterfront. Hardly any interesting shops in there if you're not keen on brand clothing, but it was nice anyway. The top storey holds a popular Hawker centre where we had dinner. Prices were still ok (5 to 10 SGD per meal), but the Maxwood one seemed much more legit and less touristy. Or let's better say it didnt look like built like a Chinese village into a shopping mall to attract the customers of said mall.
Up late, breakfast was a little less awesome (spicy Indian mutton chop and pancakes) but still excellent. Took MRT and bus to MacRitchie Reservoir and started the 10km tour to the TreeTop Walk and then back to another bus station. Took a while and before we even reached the main attraction we got soaked by a tropical rainshower. Bought some flu meds just in case, air conditioning is bad usually, but in a wet t-shirt I started shivering. Sipping on some hot Green Tea as I write this. Dinner was the famous Chicken Rice that I got to takeaway at the Maxwell again. 4 SGD, spicy, perfect. As I just mentioned my hot tea, the Hotel left a water cooker and tea and nespresso and bottled water for free here, never in my life have I used seen such a thing, especially as there is indeed a pricy minibar in the room. Singapore has Schweppes Ginger Beer by the way, Im already trying to figure out how to ship a crate of it home. So much better than their Ginger Ale. Apart from that there's also Mango and Lychee juice in cans, Root Beer and Cream Soda and best of all, freshly made Sugar Cane juice. Yummy. Havent seen many local sweets/snacks yet. A bag of tapioca crisps lacked salt. A lot of salt. Noteworthy? things I saw but didn't buy: Trolli gummy bear chocolate, Hershey's chocolate bars, Bockwurst in jars, chicken feet.
Spent the morning on Orchard Road, many expensive malls and one that seemed to house mostly Filipinos. Nothing too interesting apart from better Bubble Tea than at home and Strawberry Fanta. Ended up in a mall with only small designer furniture shops. Took a nap in the afternooon, then a boat tour on Singapore River. Sampled a delicious Singapore Sling, then more strolling along Clarke Quay and Chinatown. Dinner at Maxwood again, this time with Ais Kachang and Durian Milkshake. First sip smelled and tasted like a blended Roquefort cheesecake, but after a short while it was more cinnamon/vanilla flavored.
Plan for the day: Singapore Zoo. Located a bit remote, so it's MRT and bus. Weather seems fine though. The Zoo is pretty awesome, the compounds are large and still easily accessible from all sides to get a good view. Spent around 6h walking, looking and taking photos. There's even a boat ride on a reservoir to get from one end to another. Watched a Sea Lion show and some fire-eaters. Apparently standing near the front and impressing one of them with your size makes them take you to the stage and let you take your shirt off and do silly things. Was fun though. Had excellent Indian food at the Zoo for dinner. Sadly now it began to rain and we only did the Night Safari on the minitram (twice actually), not by foot. Wasn't bad actually, just a little disappointed we missed some parts. Finally saw another trained animal show. Not only in that one they often lay some focus on environmental issues and tell people what to do and not to do. You could think it's a bit much, but the general tone of the presentations make it not bad actually. Best part here were some animals trained to sort trash into different recycle bins: cans, paper and plastic. This ~15min show was the only one not cancelled due to rain and exactly 5min after it finished it began to rain again, lucky indeed. Took the bus home and only then noticed that the MRT stops at around midnight, so first we tried 3 different stations for connecting trains citybound, but had to take a taxi in the end as the last trains all only operated away from the city centre, probably to get people home. I really do wonder what the people working in shifts are doing...
Did some souvenir shopping in Chinatown, found a Tintin store and did some sightseeing in Katong. Sadly we'll miss National Day on the 9th, as there are flags and decoration around already everywhere and we even saw a helicopter carrying a huge flag today. Then it's packing time already.