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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Days 66 & 67: The long road to Singapore

INDIA | Thursday, 10 January 2008 | Views [1073]

Varkala Beach, Kerala

Varkala Beach, Kerala

Thursday 10th & Friday 11th January

I checked out of the hotel and took a rickshaw to Varkala Station, where I caught the 10.30 train to Trivandrum, and onwards to the airport, getting there at 12.00. My flight was scheduled to leave for Mumbai at 16.00, so I was on the early side, but better safe than sorry, especially in India.

I had some lunch, and sat beside an elderly guy who lived in Tampa, Florida but who had been brought up in the southern Indian city of Bangalore. He was a very interesting person to talk to, helping to shed some light on how things work in India and commented on how much things had changed since he had lived there. My last proper meal in India was a fish curry and rice, not the best but a good idea to get some food into me as there wouldn't be any on the budget flight to Mumbai with Air Deccan.

When the check-in desk opened, I was told that there was a delay, and the flight would not now take off until 18.00, and was told that this time would potentially be put back further. There are regular problems on many routes in India at this time of year due to heavy fog in Delhi, which prevents planes from getting off on schedule, and this has a knock-on affect to flights that aren't even going between Delhi. After a few hours delay, we took off for Mumbai at 19.30, and I was relieved to finally get in the air. Any further delays and my connecting flight to Bangkok would have been at risk given that it was due to leave at 05.00 the next morning. Or, at least, that was me getting more worked up than was necessary, so no change there!

En route to Mumbai, we had to make a scheduled stop in Cochin, a half hour flight from Trivandrum, to pick up and let off people on our plane. This stop saw a small group of Indians try to get off the plane, probably for no other reason than they wanted to stretch their legs. The poor stewardess had her work cut out trying to get them to return to their seats. I was also bemused by the fact that an airport security official had to go through every single piece of hand luggage, pulling items from the overhead lockers to make sure that each of them was accounted for by the passengers sitting in the seats below. The general sense of chaos was symptomatic of the general disorder I had become accustomed to in India.

We eventually got back in the air and about two hours later touched down in Mumbai. The domestic arrivals area was brand new and gleaming, perhaps the most modern looking sight I had come across in all my time in India. I took the free shuttle bus to the international airport, made my way through the security check, just in time to join the queue at the Cathay Pacific desk which was just about to open. This was around 01.30, so, after getting through immigration, I relaxed for a few hours before we were due to board.

Things were going according to plan as we boarded the plane and took off before 06.00, so pretty much on schedule. Although I hadn't had any sleep and had quite a distance ahead of me before getting to Singapore, I didn't feel like sleeping. Apart from a brief snooze after take-off, I didn't get much rest, preferring to watch the TV, and I looked out the window to see the sun rising over SE Asia, as we were served breakfast of croissants and omelettes. I like airplane food, it's never that good, but it helps to kill time, so you can't really complain.

We touched down in Bangkok around 10.00, and I had a few hours to kill so wandered around the spanking new airport, happy that I had stepped back into the First World once again. There were many shops, restaurants and cafes, and I enjoyed the first decent cup of coffee I had had in months. It was only a small thing but it made me happy.

The flight onwards to Singapore took off at 12.30, and it took all of three hours to get there, arriving bang on time. With only a four hour delay at the start of the trip (the leg I could have afforded to lose time on the most), the journey had panned out very well, and I felt good as I stepped off the plane and into the ultra-modern terminus at Changi Airport.

I collected my bag and stepped out into the main arrivals area. I thought back to my arrival in Delhi just over two months earlier, and of the vulnerable feeling I had on arriving at that strange, chaotic place. Then, there had been nobody on hand to help, leaving me to the vultures who preyed on new blood like me. The scenario couldn't have been anymore different in Singapore; a helpdesk stood right in front of me, and an assistant provided me with maps and directions on how to get to Mark's flat in the centre of town. Mark is a friend from Derry who has been working and living in Singapore for the last nine months.

I took the MRT to Tiong Bahru station and waited in a coffee shop until Mark finished up at work. Although I had just arrived in Singapore, I already liked the place because things were the complete opposite to India: efficient, easy, comfortable and orderly. It may seem sterile to some, but at this point in my trip, it was exactly what I needed. I really liked India and all its charms, but the contrast made this particular taste of modernity all the sweeter.

I finally met Mark and we went back to his flat and caught up, having not seen each other in a few years. The flat is in a modern complex, with a fantastic swimming pool area and views of the nearby city centre from the fifth floor balcony. To me, this was complete luxury, and I was very lucky to be made to feel very welcome, and I looked forward to the prospect of staying there for a few days.

Later in the evening, we headed out for dinner and I hoovered up a bowl of ramen noodles and gyoza (fried dumplings)) in a Japanese restaurant on Clarke Quay, an area by the river teaming with places to eat and drink. The food was delicious: fresh, tasty and a very welcome change from curry. As nice as some of the food in India had been, I had become bored of the usual rice/curry/bread dishes, and the choice and variety of food on offer in Singapore made me almost giddy!

After a stroll about the busy cluster of bars and restaurants - they even have a branch of 'Hooters'! - we took a cab back to the flat. I was, by this stage, pretty tired ater my marathon journey, a good day and a half, and most of that without any sleep. However, the overriding feeling was one of excitement to be in Singapore and to be back in the 21st century!

Tags: planes trains & automobiles


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