Sunday, May 4, 2008

Setting foot on the mainland ... very tentatively

It occurred to me that I've spent the last two months on various islands: Fiji, New Zealand, Australia (that's just a big island, really), Bali, Java, Borneo, but after a bit more wondering around Kota Kinabalu, waiting for 24 hors to pass since my last dive, I was all set to climb on another Air Asia flight and finally fly to the Asian mainland in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

Wondering around KK: I went to see the State Mosque... It's quite large amd rather modern looking, but overall, fairly underwhelming

Now Johor Bahru is in Peninsular Malaysia, so when the airplane landed I was actually back on the Asian mainland... But soon I thought better of this - I was really headed to Singapore, JB was just a cheaper flight than going directly into Singapore, so a 30 minute bus ride, a relatively easy middle of the night border crossing, and I was back in the relative comfort zone of being on an island: Singapore this time.

Some quick impressions of Singapore, now that I've spent a day here:
- it's not nearly as clean as you'd think. Yes, it's clean, but I was expecting pristine and immaculate, instead it's sort of on the level of any Western city: a lot cleaner that most of SE Asia, but not as clean as I'd imagined. My hostel is in Little India (most are), and while a lot cleaner than actual India, Little India certainly has its own collections of trash on the ground. Oh, and people do jay-walk too!

A Hindu temple in Singapore's Little India, honoring the rather blood-thirsty Goddess Kali

- outside of Little India, Singapore really does look like a big financial capital, with sky scrapers and expensive cars on the road:

The odd looking sea lion(?), which has become a de facto mascot of Singapore

The strange looking, bulbous buildings are the Esplanade Performance Center

I've also learned that it's quite, quite hot in Singapore - I was told today was a cool day of 'only' 33 degrees, Celsius. I went and played pickup frisbee with the locals in the afternoon - running for three hours in this heat's a serious challenge. Came away exhausted and hurting after not having gotten that much exercise in four months, but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. Afterwards, I've discovered what is now easily my favorite place to eat in the world: the Foodmore food court, near my hostel, is just a food court, but all it has is lots and lots of different places serving all kinds of SE Asian food: Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, anything you want! There's even a 'Western food' place, but I'm honestly not entirely sure why you'd ever go there.

Tomorrow, I'm committing myself to mainland Asia, taking either a bus or a train all the way North to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and will probably be staying on the mainland for the next few weeks, heading towards China across Malaysia, Thailand, and Laos.

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