Sunday, 26th July 1987
I boarded the Malaysian Airlines DC10 at Perth Airport. I took seat 25K and after about 30 minutes we took off. The was my first DC10 aircraft and I wrote that I found it cramped compared with the 747. I sat next to a couple; a retired British army officer who had married his German wife whilst stationed in Paderborn. They now lived in Perth but were using Malaysian Airlines to go home to London for a break.
The service on Malaysian was excellent. I thought the Malaysian stewardesses were quite beautiful in their traditional-style uniforms. I had a supreme of chicken for dinner and lots of beer was offered too and I took it. I slept through most of the inflight movie, Duet for one staring Julie Andrews, but woke up in time for the final credits.
At 10pm we landed at Kuala Lumpur airport. Kuala Lumpur was the Malaysian Airlines hub and I had to change there. It was a decent enough place to change but the coffee was vastly overpriced at 2 dollars a cup. I found a Sydney paper on a seat and sat reading about a crisis in the Royal family and how soap had become unromantic. It was almost midnight by the time they called my flight.
Monday, 27th July 1987
Eventually we boarded the plane to Singapore. This was a much smaller Boeing 737, another new type for me, and it was almost empty. I sat in seat 10A and I had 3 seats to myself. The plane took off at 00:50
After its short 50 minute flight we landed at Singapore Changi airport. It was 01:40 in the morning but it was still 27 degrees outside. The airport at Changi was very impressive and was renowned as one of the best in the world.
Unfortunately the first airport bus didn’t leave until 6:30am and so I was forced to see more of the airport than I had planned. I found a bench in the arrivals area and sat down.
There was only one other person waiting there and he was oriental. I said hello and he quickly introduced himself as Fujita-San from Tokyo. He was 29 and told me that he was on his way to Sydney at 9am. His English was pretty limited but he had an electronic calculator-style translator machine with him and was obviously keen to try it out. We got on really well. He would type a word of Japanese and show me the English. We chatted like this for over 3 hours and then went for a coffee together.
He gave me one of his Japanese Manga comic books and I felt bad having to discard it to save weight a few days later.
At 6:30am I wandered down to the airport bus station and started to look for the bus into Singapore. I was helped by a Chinese Singaporean Airlines steward who introduced himself as Malcolm. He boarded the bus with me and then talked incessantly about his life as a steward and about visiting the UK, a country, he told me, he was fanatical about.
Malcolm kindly got off the bus with me in Little India and then pointed out the direction in which I should walk. I set off down Serangoon road in search of 562A and a hostel that John and Al had recommended to me months before in Sydney.
Singapore was obviously a mix between the east and west. To someone coming from Malaysia it would have seemed quite western, but for someone coming from Australia like me it seemed quite exotic at first. I wandered along Serangoon road totally enthralled by the strange mix of temples and shops. I looked long and hard but I couldn’t find 562A.
Eventually I gave up and then stumbled across a place called “Das Travellers Inn”. After a bit of negotiation I secured myself a bed in a large mixed dormitory. There were still a lot of people in the room asleep when I entered the room and I gingerly made my way to the one remaining empty bed. I put my rucksack on the floor, lay down and fell fast asleep.
At 10am I woke suddenly. The room was now empty and so I wandered downstairs to the common room to find that they were laying on complementary coffee. I enjoyed a couple of coffees and got talking to the only other person in the room; Simon from Hull.
Simon was heading almost in the opposite direction to me. He was out of Thailand and on the way to Indonesia and then to Sydney. He had already spent two days in Singapore and told me that he found it a bit sterile.
We had another coffee together and decided to have a look around together. We headed straight out and made a beeline for the famous Raffles Hotel. It was decadent and luxurious. We checked out the Writer’s bar and the Tiffin Lounge and then headed to the Long Bar. We sat watching Indian dancers perform whilst enjoying our Singapore Slings; the signature cocktail of the hotel.
We then headed out onto the beachfront. There with lots of sky scrapers in the background and in front of them all we found the famous Singapore white lion statue.
We headed through the duty free shopping areas to the Thain Hock King temple and near there we found a food centre where we had a cracking meal of chicken rice, chili sauce and cucumbers.
We went back to Little India via Bencomen Road and bought several cans of sprite on the way to quench our thirsts. It was overwhelmingly hot and humid. I tried to sleep when we got back to the hostel but it was 27 to 31 degrees and far too humid.
In the end I just sat and watched Singaporean TV with a German girl. I thought the TV presentation was very professional compared with Australian TV. They had a little jingle “We are Singapore”. Although the content of the main news item; a proposed change in local bus routes, was a little dry. I watched the video top 40 and eventually I managed to fall asleep.
Tuesday, 28th July 1987
On Tuesday morning I woke up refreshed and had a fantastic breakfast of fish ball soup, noodles and some pork. Simon was still around and together we walked off through Little India towards Orchard Road. The shops were a mixed bag. Most of them were small trading outlets selling this or that and there seemed to be an extraordinary proliferation of shops selling rubber tyres.
We had a look at the Temple of 1000 lights and its gigantic luminous Buddha.
After Little India we came to what we thought was “Little America”; Orchard road. Here were rows of modern air-conditioned western-style shops and the interiors were more luxurious than anything I had seen since leaving the USA.
We popped into the little Singapore museum with its interesting dioramas of the history of Singapore, wonderful Asian artifacts and even a nice display of school children’s art from the local schools.
Simon then went off Aumaster travel and picked up some tickets for Indonesia and I headed off into Chinatown in search of a haircut.
After a bit of searching I found a place and, whilst munching on Rambuttans and Star fruit, I used sign language to indicate to the barber that I wanted the whole lot cut off. He had ancient scissors and razors but he did a good job.
Then, directed by a lovely Chinese couple, I found the railway station and looked at the prices for the trains to Malaysia. I decided on a 3rd class single for Kuala Lumpur.
I walked back via the post office and found a little food stall overlooking the river and city hall. I had a splendid bowl of seafood noodles washed down with a Tiger Beer or two and then I followed all that with a refreshing sugar cane juice. I caught the bus back to Das Traveller’s inn.
At 9pm Simon’s friend Edwin called round and we went out with him. Edwin was a very well-spoken Chinese guy. He was actually Malaysian and was studying at Nottingham University in the UK, but he was working on the Straits Times as a cub reporter for his vacation job. Simon had met him by chance on his first day.
Edwin took us first on a trip through the red light district and then to a big food centre. It was all very atmospheric and we watched a big crowd gathered around an alternative medicine stall. We had some more delicious seafood noodles and headed back.
Wednesday, 29th July 1987
We went to the Orient Hotel which was a huge pagoda building tower block in the shape of a tower block. Edwin had the afternoon off and we met him out of the Straits Times offices. We went off to have lunch in a Japanese restaurant on Orchard road. This was my first ever introduction to proper Japanese food and I found it delightful. I ordered a “Bento Box” full of prawns, sashimi, various pickles and, best of all, a bowl of extremely tasty miso soup.
After lunch Edwin and I put Simon in his taxi for the airport and we went to the International Hotel for coffee. We spent the whole afternoon discussing politics with Mrs Thatcher and Lee Kuan Yew figuring prominently in our conversations.
I said goodbye to Edwin and then headed through the beautiful botanical gardens to the Lido Cinema. The Lido was a run down ramshackle affair and I bought a ticket for the early evening showing of the brand new James bond film; The Living daylights, with the new star Timothy Dalton.
I enjoyed the film and called in at a food stall on the way back for some beef and rice.
And then it was back to Das Traveller’s Inn and off to bed.
Singapore had provided me with a good introduction to Asia and I was now ready for more.
It had also given me great introduction to Japan. I was still a bit apprehensive about going to Japan, so meeting Fujita San at the airport and liking the food so much had made me feel a lot better about it.
The next stop was Malaysia.