Just like businesses, every long trip has a dip.
I hit mine right as I was leaving Bali!
So here’s a brief rundown of what’s been going on:
I tried to time the amount of cash I was needing the last few days in Bali so that I would spend everything as Ieft the country. Plan didn’t work. I went to the ATM 3 times in like 2 days to take out small amounts. When I got to the airport, this is how it all went down:
1. They were checking TICKETS to get into the airport!!! I don’t normally carry my actual ticket with me, especially when traveling and no access to a printer! I kind of panicked and tried to go in through this side door, but the security guy got angry and told me to go back. So I went back and told the guys checking tickets that I didn’t have one, that I had to check in to get my ticket. He just told me to go ahead! WHEW! Dodged a bullet there.
2. They have the security ordeal set up as you walk in the airport. I thought this was strange, but after going through I was glad it was done, now I just get my ticket and get to my gate. Well, you’d think.
3. I got my ticket, started proceeding to my gate….walking over there and DOH!! Totally forgot about the retarded “exit fee”! They don’t accept credit cards and I didn’t think I had the cash…but I started adding up all my coins, and changed my last 10 US dollars, and I had the EXACT amount they wanted- 150,000 Rp! Sweet. So I paid it, got in line to have the bureaucrat stamp my passport and….
4. “Sir, there is a problem.” My heart sank. We’re they onto me? Was I flagged on some potential terrorist list somehow? Was I going to be headed to an Indonesian prison? “You have overstayed your visa.” Noooooooooooooo! I planned a 30-day trip. I began to argue with him. Arrived March 8th, leaving April 7th, 30 days. “No, 31 days in March, you have overstayed by 1 day. You must go back to the office and pay 200,000 Rupiah. SHHHHHHHHHITTTTT!
5. Now, my flight is leaving in 30 minutes. I have to run down to the ATM, go through security again, pay off the bureaucrat, and get to my flight? Ugh! Ok, well the race is on (and the bureaucrat wanted to hold onto my passport while I got cash, ha, like I was going to let him do that!). So I literally run downstairs and out of the airport, find the ATM, open up my wallet and….
6. BOOM! My ATM card is GONE! Freak out time! I realized that I left it in the last ATM I visited (it’s easy to do in Bali, they give you your cash then receipt, then there’s this pause and I’ve seen others walk away without their card too, and it was bound to happen to me after about 13 ATM visits!) My other ATM card expired at the end of March, and I couldn’t activate the new one I had because I didn’t have the PIN. So now my heart is racing, I’ve got about 25 minutes before my flight leaves and no money to pay off the bastards and can’t use credit cards. I go back in the airport, through security, and head to one of the shops and asked the guys if they know of any way I can come up with 200,000 Rp with just a credit card. “We charge 240,00 and give you 200,000”. DONE DEAL! He ran my card, gave me the cash, and I bolt upstairs and back to the bureaucrat, drop the bills and have him stamp my ticket! I breeze through the passport check and I’m running to my gate and hear a guy say “No point in hurrying, you still have to wait in line”
7. I was relieved to see the line, because it meant that I wasn’t late. Or….so I thought. The line, as it turned out, was ANOTHER SECURITY LINE! Yep. They do 2 levels of security (the exact same thing twice), in addition to the bureaucratic nonsense! After an amazing trip in Bali, I got worked on the way out! I made it through the line, got to my gate with about 10 minutes to spare. WOW.
Flight was an easy 2 hours, got in at 11:30pm and learned quickly as I landed that the taxis take credit cards!!!!!
Got a taxi to my hotel, walked in the hotel and the reception woman says “Hi sir, there’s a problem.” (oh I’m just getting used to that). “The air conditioning is broken and we have to put you in another one of our hotels.” So they get a taxi for me to head over to another hotel like 15 minutes away. At this point I have NO IDEA where I am, it’s 1:00am and I don’t even really care. The room I got was more like a closet, but it was clean and new, and I slept like a baby.
My days in Singapore were mostly spent looking for wifi, looking for a place to stay, and trying to figure out my ATM card issue.
One thing did come through. A guy, Keith, who lives in Singapore randomly contacted me on Couchsurfing, and said he had a couch available if I’m still looking. I thought he meant for 1 night. I met up with him on my second night and…..WOW, he’s got a sweet 2BR/2BA condo in the Chinatown area (the best part of town probably), and was open to me staying multiple nights! I totally didn’t expect any of it, and especially getting my own room, queen bed, bathroom, and view of the city from the 40th floor. I ended up staying 3 nights.
So Singapore in a nutshell for me:
It’s clean, nice, super urban, booming, amazing architecture, easy to get around, and so modern that it makes the US look like it’s in the stone ages! The subway system is sooooooooo much better than anything I’ve seen in the US (BART is ridiculous in comparison), and it’s cheap and actually goes everywhere! The food in Singapore is amazing, you can get everything pretty much and of course they have all kinds of fun asian food.
The language thing is interesting. “Everyone speaks English” is what I kept hearing. Hmmmmmmm…..not true in my experience! The vast majority of people speak Chinese as their first language. There are a good number of Indians as well, and the common language IS English- in fact, ALL of the signs are in English, American pop music is playing everywhere, and they have so many American chains it’s ridiculous. But when I go to ask directions, it’s a crapshoot. About half the people understand me and the other half look at me like I have 3 heads. Maybe it’s my California accent!
I just found it amusing to see everything written in English and then that look in someone’s eyes when you ask them a question in English!
And..it’s booming. There’s no recession going on in Singapore, it looks like the opposite. Buildings going up everywhere and lots of business going on. I think they are in pretty much a constant state of boom, usually ranked #2 in the world on the economic freedom index (Hong Kong usually is #1). Singapore has a flat 14% income tax- which is much less than the US. Just don’t get caught chewing gum or you could be in big trouble! (I read something that said you can have gum, but only in small quantities…guess those kingpin gum dealers better be careful!) Despite Singapore’s reputation for being crazy with their punishments of public canings, I didn’t feel like I was living in a police state- didn’t even see many cops at all.
So, no tourist stuff, a few pictures, a video of the sweet condo I stayed in, and did manage to relax a little, even got a workout in at the condo building gym & pool.
I’m in Kuala Lumpur now, still surviving. This post is insanely long so I’ll write more about KL soon!