The Backpacker Diaries
From Singapore to Perth and Alice Springs in a week
Clare man Ciaran O'Connell has left Ireland behind to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip backpacking around the world. Internet access permitting, Ciaran will be corresponding with us as he enjoys his travels.
This week Ciaran takes a last look around Singapore before flying into Perth and heading on to Alice Springs.
How’s she cutting? Week ten already and as the run-up to Christmas was nearing, I was visiting the roasting hot city/country of Singapore before flying to Perth, Western Australia and making my way up to Alice Springs.
On arrival in Singapore on the six-hour bus journey (the most luxurious I’ve had all trip) from Kuala Lumpur, I was pleasantly surprised by the design ,layout and sizes of the buildings here. As we toured trough the city towards our destination, I saw so many stunning buildings (and maybe it’s just me and my studies), but before even getting off the bus I was already excited about the Tiger City might have in store.
The belly was rumbling when I finally alighted and I had to stock up. We were dropped of close to a place called the Golden Arcade, located in the Thai part of town (each of the major regional nationalities have a foot hold in Singapore, so you have the likes of little India , Chinatown , the Thailand zone).
The arcade was like a smaller, more compact versions of Dundrum Shopping Centre but with way more shops and eateries. The food was good and cheap but what stood out for me was the number of drunk Thai people (mainly men ) stumbling around the centre(it being only 2pm on a Sunday).
Curiosity got the better of me when I spotted some of these lads stumbling out of tiny shops, half the size of the average sitting room, but with a front facade and blacked out windows. With music pumping out of each shop front, I decided to stick my head into one.
What I found was a gang of lads just sitting around getting pissed in a pub-style boxed room, singing karaoke to each other. A little strange, but they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.
A group of local singer started singing about how ‘the weather outside is frightful’. It sounded strange in 32 degree heat.
After finding my accommodation (Rucksack, the best little place I’ve been in so far, is run by two locals girls, one of which was a reality TV winner) I headed down to the water front to watch the lights come on around the city as the sun set and bounced off and behind the massive towering buildings
On my way, I passed the National Museum and managed to blag my way in for free. As well as range of exhibits on local history, the museum also featured a touring exhibition from the Congo. It was a short but extremely interesting stop.
I ended the evening taking a visit down Orchard Road, the Grafton street of Singapore. At Christmas time, the street is at war with itself, as the shops all try to outdo each other in the Christmas lighting and entertainment stakes. A group of local singer started singing about how ‘the weather outside is frightful’. It sounded strange in 32 degree heat.
Singapore sings Christmas:
As I had only the following morning left before I caught my next flight, I had to quickly fly around the city’s sights. I kicked off at the Raffles Hotel, a historically important and worldwide known major hotel built some 130 years ago during the time of the British Empire.
As I strolled around the visitors section, it had a real feel of royalty about it with five-star bling everywhere. Even the porters were kicking it. Another more personal interest in the hotel stemmed from the fact that my dad had been there 30 year pervious, as he used to work in the hotel industry.
I used this fact to blag my way into the main lobby to get a quick snap – an area which is normally reserved for the high and mighty of society rather for than the humble backpacker.
After a few other sights, I headed up to the floating soccer pitch in the harbour before checking out the new conference and business area currently being built. This area was also the location for what was the highlight of my trip to Singapore – The Sands SkyPark.
The only way to describe it is to say it was three sky scrapers side-by-side but joined by a roofing system called the SkyPark. This spanned the length of the three sky scrapers and formed the silhouetted shape of an army ship sitting 57 stories off the ground.
The next day, after a mad rush to the airport as Qantas messed up my flights, I finally landed in Australia. I alighted in the western, and slightly colder than anticipated, city of Perth.
I found it a little strange for the first two days in that I was staying with an Aussie mate and hadn’t met many Irish over the past ten weeks. Then, when I walked the streets it really felt like been back in Dublin with the amount of Irish accents everywhere.
It wasn’t just the Irish around town as the barmy army, aka the crazy English cricket fans, were floating about the place. We tried to get tickets for the cricket clash but found that they had all been sold out months ago.
As well as meeting up with some old friends, I tried to sample Perth’s nightlife a little but to no avail. On the first night I was out, I rocked up to the club in shorts and flip flops (as I had done previously in Thailand) but as we reached the door the bouncers naturally stopped me and said, “No tongs allowed.”
This roadblock was the start of my experience with how strict Australia is, and the reality that I really wasn’t in the relaxed Asian continents any more began to dawn.
To which I replied, “I’m wearing boxers “ before showing him the band that sat just above my shorts.
They were kind enough, through their laughter, to let me know that tongs are in fact Aussie-speak for flip-flops. Sadly, my play on words and a bit more Irish blarney didn’t work on these guys, even when I told them that I was only in town for one night and that all I had ever seen of Australia to date was Home and Away and sure weren’t they always in shorts.
Amused but unyielding, the boys said they would lose their jobs if they let me in. This roadblock was the start of my experience with how strict Australia is, and the reality that I really wasn’t in the relaxed Asian continents any more began to dawn.
It had a sense of coming back to reality about it, when that absence of freedom and an increase in rules and regulations, began to bite.
With a couple of days on my hands, we opted for a couple of quick trips, one of which was to the funky little town of Freemantle just outside Perth. We also went to Swan Valley (the vineyards of the countryside around Perth that is home to loads of micro-breweries). Here, we got to witness watching how beer was grown, developed, matured and sold alongside big slabs of steak.
But before leaving Perth, and with the temperature rising, (sorry, not trying to rub it in) I decided to check out some of the beaches. A beach life, surfer culture is deeply engrained in this part of the world and it was interesting to notice how the government helps sustain this by providing massive shower and changing services at every beach. They also have regular life savers and shark watchers which helps to put your mind at ease in the rough seas.
To end the week, I made my way north and towards the centre of the vast content and the small town of Alice Springs. This quiet town had little by way of attractions, but I did get to visit the Flying Doctor Museum, which recorded the years of development and growth of what has become a vital service.
Well that’s about it for this time but next week I’ll fill you in on my experiences visiting the number one iconic Aussie attraction – the massive Ares rock at Uluru. I’ll also detail my trip south to Adelaide where I spent Christmas visiting my uncle Pat and meeting cousins I’ve never met before.
See you after, kid.