Day 14: A chilly reception – Singapore

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We stepped gingerly off the boat with sunburnt faces, raw lips and bruised hips.

It was like stepping into another world. I was reminded of a cartoon I once watched where, for some reason, Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble had been teleported into the Jetsons’ future word.

“Ugg!” I said, as I pawed inspidly at the neon buttons of a lift.

“What did you say?” asked Michael

“I said, ‘Surely there are no two countries in such close proximity that are so different?’”

“What about England and Narnia” he replied, almost instantly, “They’re pretty different and they’re only separated by a cupboard”

I nodded.

Due to our ships delayed departure from Indonesia we were very late for check-in at our hostel. I was worried because, due to the F1 event, it had been really difficult to find accommodation. We were due to check-in at 3pm. It was now 7pm.

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We tried to ignore the distinct possibility that our reservation had been given away as we made our way through the futuristic cityscape. Pushing the prospect of a night on the streets into the back of our minds, we tried to distract ourselves discussing the differences between our former and current countries.

Indonesia seemed to vibrate with colour and friendliness and a pleasant grittiness. Singapore, on the other hand, seemed clean almost to point of being sterile and much of it smelled like a dentist’s waiting room. The people here instantly came across as more aloof, sometimes cold, even in customer service roles.

The woman who checked us into Urban Hostel, for example, must have been abducted and replaced by a giant scorpion, wearing human skin, stretched over her exo-skeleton as a disguise. As we walked up the pristine white staircase to reception, I felt an icy trickle of fear seep down my spine.

As soon as I laid eyes on her I knew that she made the demon masseuse back in Jakarta seem like Mary Poppins.

“Yes? What do you want?” she hissed upon our arrival, barley lifting her eyes.

“We’ve b-b-booked a r-room,” I stammered.

“Name?”

“Egan mam,” said Michael, taking off his cap and twisting it in his hands.

She looked into her book and searched for our name, with a long, sharp fingernail.

“You!” she growled, clenching her fists. “You were due at 3pm! It is now 7pm! Do you not realise that I could’ve given your reservation away?!”

“Our boat was late,” Michael said truthfully, knees knocking.

“You could have phoned!”

“Our boat barely had an engine let alone a phone,” I said.

“There are plenty of phones in a Singapore,” she spat, with a bit of venomous bile dribbling onto the desk.

“We only got here half an hour ago. We just wanted to get here as fast as we could” We daren’t wait for a response. Michael grabbed the key from her clutches and we scarpered into the safety of our room. “We’ll make a break for it later,” I panted. “She’s got to sleep sometime”

“Richard?”

“What Michael?”

“I… I think I’m in love with her”

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