Well a nice Sri Lankan Airlines flight, with cabin crew smiling and extending Sri Lankan hospitality, brought us to the Lion City, which is more popularly known as Singapore. But with us came the rain also, because when we left Colombo, the sky was overcast, but it was not raining, but as soon as we touched down at Changi Airport the illuminator illustrated the mood of the weather in Singapore.
It had been a long time since the last time that I came to this city. Back in those days Changi Airport used to be one of the finest, with that trade mark water fall in the waiting area beyond customs check-post. So I was expecting to see the same scene again, but our flight landed at terminal III, which did not exist in those old days.
But hey the new terminal was more elegantly designed and had the capacity to handle lot more traffic, than we saw after arrival. As usual the first people that you come across in any country at arrival are the immigration folks, who in Singapore as always were welcoming, with a special passport control tint.
The baggage claim area right beyond the passport control in this new terminal was more spacious, with loads of trolleys besides each of the conveyers and electronic boards indicating the flight numbers, whose baggage was supposed to arrive at any one of the given conveyers.
Well we went through all of this arrival ritual very swiftly and coming out I tried to scan the waiting area for the waterfall, but it was nowhere to be found. The first change that I noticed was that unlike old times now you have more options of going to town from the airport. To the earlier existing options of taxi and bus, now you have SMRT subway reaching right into the new terminal III.
SMRT subway is by far the most inexpensive mode of travel in Singapore, because when you buy a single journey ticket, you get a refund of 1SG$ when you return the ticket using the GTM (General Ticketing Machine). Keeping up with the Singaporean tradition, the process of buying tickets in the subway is totally automated. All you have to do is to select the operation from the menu in the GTM, then select your destination and deposit the required amount and the machine spits out a contactless smart card ticket. The only things to note are that the GTM does not accept banknotes of values greater than 2SG$, so if you have 10S$ bills make sure to get change from the passenger service counter, before attempting to punch in your ticket. By the way at airport station they have a person posted near the GTM to help new comers with the process and to give change. It is so very convenient!
We decided to take the subway to town to go find some place to live. I remembered from the old times that in Serangoon road area and China town, there used to be tons of guest houses, which offered rooms at very nice rates, so we took the subway to little India.
Coming out of the subway, I had my shock. It was all so different: more crowded, lots of new buildings, congested roads and a touch of Hong Kong. Our endeavour to find a guest house soon proved to be a fatal exercise. All those guest houses were nowhere to be seen. In fact what had happened was that all those guest houses and cheap rooms had been replaced by hostels and B&Bs. Most certainly the prices that I was looking for had also become a thing of the past. It took us more than 3 hours to finally find a nice hostel, where we had all the required amenities. We went to ABC hostel on Hamilton road and after leaving the hotel in Negombo at 4:00 in the morning, had the first chance to land ourselves in bed.
We humans have a hard time controlling our natural urges and needs, so after a short time of relaxation, hunger pulled us out of bed and dragged us towards some eatery, which would be working at that hour of night. Luckily we found one place a few blocks down Victoria street and took seats to eat. I will not ruin your appetite telling you the cost of the food and the quality, but for our empty stomachs anything would go at that time.
After having something in between dinner and breakfast we returned to the hostel and it took a very short time for us to fall asleep. Our first night in the lion’s den, we passed in a cave. Well don’t take it so literally, but the match boxes in the hostels are shaped more or less like wooden caves. Well as they say “Do in Rome as the Romans do”, we slept in a cave in the Lion city!