I must confess to being a little remiss in my blogging duties as I near the end of the Big Trip. Our stay in Fiordland seems like weeks ago now, and, looking at the calendar, I see that in fact it was. After Fiordland we spent a couple of days in the Catlins, the laid-back bit at the very bottom of NZ. With its high sheep population, forested hills, windswept golden beaches and near constant rain the area triggered nostalgic memories of holidays in Wales. Except in Wales the forests aren’t rainforests and you don’t tend to get penguins and sea-lions on the beaches. After that, three days in Mount Cook national park, where I kayaked in a glacier lake, walked in sunny alpine beauty and got disgustingly drunk with the staff of the YHA where we stayed. Our final stop in New Zealand was the psuedo-English town of Christchurch, a good place to chill and home to punts, trams, and a top organic Japanese restuarant.
And then, with some small regret, we left New Zealand for the last leg, a week split between Singapore and the Indonesian resort island of Bintan. Yet again our travel agent had given us an unneccesarily stressful flight option. Rather than fly direct in 8 hours, we went via Sydney, with a 5 hour stopover, more than doubling our travelling time. Knowing it would be hell and not wanting to waste our few days in Singapore feeling crap, I invested in a homeopathic jet-lag remedy. My internal jury is still out on homeopathy but I think this stuff did help, as I was not the tetchy, confused jelly I usually am after a long trip between time zones. Which turned out to be a bad, or at least, an expensive, result.
The flights were as grim as I’d expected. Though mercifully free of national football teams this time, the Mandatory Grizzly Child was a real screamer, and I got a grand total of about 2 hours sleep. Plus, our arrival time of 3am was about as bad as it gets when it comes to adjusting the body-clock. But when I woke up at 9am this morning I felt OK, in fact good enough to want to go out and explore.
Though I like to find out about places I visit before I go, Singapore, being near the end of the Trip, received only cursory research before I left. Add to this the heat and humidity here and my usual plan – head for somewhere interesting on foot and see what I find – didn’t appeal. So, when the nice taxi-driver outside the hotel engaged me in converastion I didn’t brush him off. I like to think I’m not a complete mug, and so far my caution has stood me in good stead. Certainly if I hadn’t just been told by the hotel tour rep that the taxis in Singapore are safe (unlike Peru), I would have just walked away. But I was lagged, and he reminded me of Foo Yung from Big Trouble in Little China. To his credit, our man (his name’s Robin, not Foo Yung, or so he says) did turn out to be basically honest. However, like many people here, he knows a mark when he sees one.
I’m not a great fan of shopping but I twigged pretty quickly that Robin only managed his extra-low-fares-with-impromptu-city-tour by including selected retail outlets on the tour, outlets which no doubt give him a nice little back-hander. And I did foolishly mention that Beloved might want some clothes and that yes, I did like unusual jewellery, especially jade.
Perhaps if I’d been less jet-lagged I could have resisted the gentle but inexorable Chinese soft-sell, though they really do know how to work a customer. Perhaps if I’d been more jet-legged – as jet-lagged as I expected to be without my herbal remedy, say – then I’d have been unable to cope at all, and walked away. Though then we might well have found ourselves stuck in the back-streets of Chinatown with no clue where we were and no taxi.
Anyway, without going into detail (I still wince when I think about it), Beloved and I have recently been parted from a ridiculously large sum of money for clothes and jewellery which, while they may well be bargains (though the clothes, being made to measure, have yet to appear), don’t qualify as things we really need. At least not as much as we need to be able to afford to eat when we get home.
On the other hand, after than wallet-clenchingly unwise experience, any expenditure on tours, food, drinks etc. will seem (in relation) negligible. So, when I finish here I think it might be time to start on the Singapore Slings. To help with the jet-lag, of course.
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