3 Days in Singapore
If you live in Thailand at one point or another you must do a visa run. Thailand has very strict laws for foreigners and there are a lot of hoops you need to jump through to stay for an extended period of time. As an American, when you land in Thailand you automatically get a 30-day tourist visa no problem. Tourism is huge in Thailand and they make it easy to come and visit. Before we left California, Jeff and I applied for a multiple entry visa at the Thai Consulate in Los Angeles. We paid $80 each for a 120-day visa. Because it was a multiple entry it meant that after 60-days in Thailand we would have to leave the country and could re-enter for the second 60-days of the visa. We figured this way we could meet some expats and find out what the best visa was to stay for an extended period of time instead of trying to obtain an education or long term visa before we left Los Angeles.
Since we’ve been here we’ve learned that the education visa is the best way to go. We can pretty much stay as long as we want as long as we are enrolled in Thai Language classes, up to have and a half years. However, we wanted to use up our 120-day visa before enrolling in classes, and boy did the first 60-days go by fast. Without realizing it our 60-days were up and we had to leave Thailand immediately. Due to obligations with work we couldn’t leave right at the 60-day mark. For each day we stayed in Thailand past our visa we had to pay 500 baht each, which is about $15 each per day.
Some new friends of ours, Megan and Giles have been living in Thailand for 2 years under an educational visa, but due to some complications also had to do a visa run. They had done some homework and discovered that right now the cheapest flights were to Singapore and asked us if we’d like to come along.
We had everything planned. Fly to Singapore for 3-days and stay in the airport to save money and then return to Thailand with new visas. The Changi Airport in Singapore was recently named 2013 Best Airport in the World. They have sleeping beds and showers for travelers. They even have a butterfly garden, a huge slide (random but fun!), and a free movie theatre so who needs a hotel? Since Singapore is pretty expensive we thought we could just stay in the airport and take the metro into the city when we wanted to explore.
First and foremost getting to the Phuket airport is not the easiest thing in the world. You would think that getting anywhere on an island would be easy right? Not here. Phuket is a huge island full of hills and windy roads and really expensive cabs. From where we live in Phuket a cab to the airport costs 800 baht, which is about $20. We decided to meet at Megan and Giles apartment to get a cheaper cab which cost 700 baht. Of course as soon as we get close to their house it started pouring rain. I’ll save rain on a motorbike for a later post, but with luggage I’ll just say that it’s not the most comfortable thing in the world.
We arrived in Singapore at 1:00 am. Barely anything was open in the airport. Still, we were pretty excited so we went through customs and about 5 seconds after, realized all the wonderful award winning amenities were in the departure or transit lounge. This destroyed every plan we had made. We couldn’t get back into the departure lounge until a few hours before our flight… three days later… goodbye sleeping beds and hot showers. After a little laughter about the situation we found the most comfortable place to sleep which just happened to be a closed Starbucks (not the best nights sleep).
Just a few hours later, at exactly 7:00 am, we awoke to the sound of Starbuck’s employees moving chairs and stomping their feet as loud as they could in hopes of waking us all up. From here we looked up the cheapest hostel we could find online and decided to book our next 2 nights there thinking it had to be more comfortable than the Starbucks at the airport.
Singapore has great public transportation. We each paid $20 Singapore Dollars, about $15.80 USD to get a 3-day unlimited access to all public transportation including the oh-so-clean metro and all the buses.
Megan and Giles had to drop off their passports at the Thai Consulate so Jeff and I waited with all our luggage at the metro stop by the Consulate. This was our first real glimpse of Singapore. I don’t know what I expected it to be like but Singapore is extremely rich. It is extremely modern, clean, and architecturally stunning. If someone were to take all the best assets of every city around the world and design the perfect city, you would get Singapore.
After Megan and Giles finished up at the Consulate we decided to make our way to the hostel. We were all pretty excited to set our bags down and have a good shower after our late night in the airport, but reality soon set in. As beautiful as Singapore is, we found ourselves at the worst place you could probably find to stay at in the whole country. Walking into this hostel was like the scene in Trainspotting where Renton is forced to use the worst toilet in Scotland. We should have known that since we booked the cheapest place that it wouldn’t be perfect, but I at least thought it would be clean. Luckily we got a room with four beds and since there were four of us it could have been worse. The bunk beds looked like hand me down metal prison beds and the floor was covered in odd stains, water and leftover hair from other travelers or perhaps drug addicts, who knows. The humor of the situation only sunk in when Megan went to the hostel next door which was clean, stylish and comfortable. When she asked how much for a night, a women responded with “$40 an hour, would you like a man or a women?” Megan then realized she was in a brothel only disguised as a hostel.
Since we couldn’t get a refund on the room we decided to bite the bullet and stay. Our bags were locked up and safe and we didn’t have any strangers in the room and after all, it was more comfortable than Starbucks.
Finally we got to explore more of Singapore. We went down to Marina Bay where most of the attractions are. We were able to take the metro and walk anywhere we wanted to go. Singapore is full of beautiful skyscrapers and designer malls. We spent the evening exploring the city and taking in the skyline. We enjoyed some local food, similar to Thai but a tad different, still very good though.
The second night in the hostel they made us switch into a 6 person room. There were four of us and one Chinese man who, although possibly well intentioned, came off as a probable drug addict who may or may not have lived in that hostel for several years. He had a bag of medication that he kept fidgeting through and he kept staring at us. After a few minutes of awkward silence we all decided we’d rather stay our last night in the airport. We packed up our bags and told the hostel that we had to drop off our luggage at a friends house near the airport since we had an early flight even though our flight was at 5:00 pm the next day. We didn’t want them to know we weren’t coming back.
Once at the airport we thought we would try to check in and get access to all the great sleeping amenities the airport had to offer. Unfortunately, our airlines, Jetstar, doesn’t let you check in online and get your boarding passes and would not let us check in until 4:30 am. Since it was already 11:30 pm we decided to grab some food and just stay up.
Who would have known that staying up all night in an airport would be our funnest time in Singapore. The four of us sat at McDonalds, shared stories and laughter until 5:00 am when we decided to check in, go through immigration and find a place to sleep in the sleeping lounge.
The whole experience was really fun. I was really impressed with Singapore, but it has a completely different feel than the rest of Asia. It reminded me a lot of home and I found myself missing the charm of Phuket. Overall I was really glad to have the experience but thankful to be back home on our little island.
As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world.
Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more.