Amy on the Road is a travel fiction series following Amy, a young Aussie on her first forays into backpacking. Follow her misadventures from the beginning at www.annkaddley.com
From Jakarta I’d been planning on heading to Brunei, Malaysia but with earthquakes reported in Sabah I decided to simply stopover in Singapore before heading onto Thailand. It was a bit nerve wracking changing plans so close to leaving but I figured that was the idea with this backpacking thing wasn’t it? The freedom to change your mind at a moment’s notice. At the last minute booking flights, my FOMO kicked in and I decided to see as much of Singapore as I could stretching my stop over to a grand total of 30 hours. I’d read about Changi airport online and thought I could easily book a bed there overnight, see some sights and be ready for my flight the next day.
My flight touched down at Changi at 1pm on a Tuesday and the race was on to see all of the things. I’d concocted a plan to jump onto the free tour that afternoon then come back to the airport to explore and sleep, checking out the next day for a proper look at down town, before checking in for my flight at 8pm Wednesday night. Wellllll that was the plan anyway.
I came off the plane and rushed through the seemingly endless transit area in search of this free tour sign up station, dumped my baggage and was off on a free heritage tour before you could say “Bob’s your uncle”, or in this case “have you booked a bed for tonight”. The tour was pretty cool, we got to see the Raffles hotel and drive through China town and little India, before catching an old Chinese junk down the Singapore River. Two things immediately struck me about Singapore. It’s clean, like super clean, you can be fined for so much as chewing gum here and all the cars are new and buildings tidy. Secondly it’s hot, like tropical, sweat beading, sticky hot. After two and a half hours I was glad to be back in the air-conditioned luxury of the airport.
Starting to feel a bit filthy I thought I would check out the hotel situation. Changi is pretty amazing it has everything inside the airport, so I went up to one of the transit hotel desks to ask about by the hour vs overnight rooms and got a rude shock. They were booked out, the lady was nice, she rang around but the only thing that wasn’t booked was 5 stars and way outside my price range. I could have a shower but a bed for the night wasn’t going to happen. It was then I made a strategic error, in a huff at the lack of facilities (there was some kind of conference on and the city was packed) instead of heading into the city proper in search one of the few remaining bed’s , I decided I would just sleep in the airport. I mean they had sleeping lounges and movie theatres right, and I only had 28 hours before my flight.
So I headed off, hand luggage in tow to explore this airport that everyone raves about. Don’t get me wrong Changi is clearly the best an airport can be but it’s still essentially an airport. Up and down the terminals I wandered dragging my case, I had a go on the Slide at T3, but found myself panicked at letting my luggage out of my site even for a few moments. The butterfly and sunflower gardens were beautiful but I couldn’t stand the sticky outdoor heat for long.
I browsed through some stores and admired some fat fish at the Koi pond but I was tired and had the beginning of a headache behind my eyes. I had been up early that morning and the bright lights and recycled air in the terminals was relentless. I managed to find a seat in a free cinema for a few hours rest, only to be driven out again by the incessant screaming of a baby in the next isle, there was a large extended family of Filipino and they seemed to be settling in for the long haul.
I was beginning to run on empty that strange, surreal, sleep walking feeling I had previously associated with long bus trips was closing in. If you have never done much travelling it may be hard to understand. It wasn’t that I was grumpy or not enjoying myself but there is a sort of windblown feeling of exhaustion, where things start to blur together slightly, so instead of remembering detail in retrospect you only have the feeling of a place.
It can’t have been past 11pm when I headed for the sleeping lounge, a quiet corner filled with reclined lounges. Of course every last one was taken with wearied tourists, snoring away. I went for a walk for fifteen minutes but still no lounger. Determined not to miss the next one that came available I collapsed against a pillar half dozing sitting up. I felt very alone, somehow cut off from the sea of humanity, busy rushing to and fro around me. It’s times like these when I miss home and my Mum and wonder exactly what my disapproving father would think of his daughter on the other side of the world, six weeks on the road and still not smart enough to pre book a hotel room.
About 12:30 I snagged a lounger and passed out for a few hours curled around my carry on. 4am and I couldn’t suppress the urge to pee any longer, of cause when I returned someone had taken my lounger. I gave up and wandered around the quiet airport. I watched the sun rise over a sea of sunflowers in amazing yellows and oranges, some of last night’s nostalgia still clung to me and I didn’t want to ever forget the feeling of this moment, watching the travellers stir and go on their way.
I was first in line for the ‘Macca’s’ breakfast menu, a cup of coffee and I was ready to make the most of my last 14 hours in Singapore. The day flew by in a stream of sights and smells. I ate street food from a little stall, wandered the botanical gardens and the gardens by the bay, overlooking amazing harbor views and huge avatar like trees. I looked in about a million shops but couldn’t find anything that wasn’t expensive or tacky to preserve my memory of the last 30 odd hours. I even visited Singapore zoo and was back to the airport in time to check in for my flight.
Boarding seemed to take forever and I was asleep as soon as the plane took off, my memories of Singapore a haze of sleep deprived impressions, of clean streets and delicious noodles. Next time I’m in Singapore I’m definitely booking a room ahead of time.