Friday, 26 November 2010

Go to prison, do not pass go, do not collect £200

Friday 26th November 2010

MP3 track of the day: Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley

Weather: Not too bad actually; still hot but not as much as other day ... and it's been very cloudy (Singapore is no way near as hot as Fiji).

I had a list of things to complete today. Starting with the most important, I needed to purchase a Raffles polo shirt for my dad and post it home. Next I had to get some money out, to actually pay for said shirt, and to exchange for some Malaysian money (when I arrive in Malaysia I will be dropped off at the bus station to then catch another bus to my hostel, hence I need some money to pay for said bus journey). Once these jobs had been completed the plan was to head to Changi Prison (I thought I might book a night there as I heard you get free meals).

The polo shirt, posting it and withdrawing money ($200 dollars, £100) all went pretty straight forward, however trying to exchange around £50 worth of Singapore Dollars was a nightmare. I wanted to change my money at a bank, as I didn't really trust these 'money change' offices located all over the city. Every bank I went into either didn't do currency exchanges or I had to wait a day to get my Malaysian money (I could get British Stirling, US Dollars or Euros straight away, but the currency for the only country with land borders to Singapore I had to wait a day as no bank held a stock of cash … how crazy). Whilst looking around I found a second-hand book store; as I had now got rid of five guidebooks I thought that it would be okay to purchase a novel to read. I purchased 'Emperor: The Field of Swords' by Conn Iggulden. It's a fiction novel based in Roman Times, set in Gaul … I'll have to see how it goes.

To prevent me wasting my entire day (and I was getting pretty hot) I decided that I would head to Changi Prison and then look at exchanging my money when I got back into the city center. Bus number two, from Victoria Street, my guidebook instructed me to take. I therefore made my way to the bus stop, stopping to pick up food for breakfast, and got on the bus. I was just about to break into a rather delicious looking chocolate muffin when I stopped, wondering if I was allowed to eat on Singapore buses … no one else was eating. I decided to err of the side of caution and wait until I got off the bus, it wouldn't be too long.

One hour it took to get to the prison, one hour of starvation. Once off the bus I ate at the bus stop and then I took my first malaria tablet (no problems with side affects as of yet). Now I bet your all wondering what the hell I was doing at Singapore's state prison. Well, on the 15th February 1942, Changi Prison was the location that the surrendered British army was marched to by the Japanese. There was a free museum, at the prison, which was very well presented; not too much information, not too little. It was also quite moving with all the photos and personal comments, so much so that one elderly British gentleman did break down and cry for a little while. It was very interesting and I learn't many things that I didn't know before, for example, we've all herd of Schindler (Schindler's list; the film about a German who saved the lives of Jews within Nazi Poland) well there was an equivalent Japanese guy located here, within Singapore, trying to do the same. Also some Japanese guards did sneak in medication and food for their prisoners as I'm sure they didn't agree with the conditions. It was a weird feeling, having enjoyed Japan (and liking the Japanese people) so much to then be reminded of what they were responsible for in their history. On reflection I think that it's important never to forget what's happened in the past, however it is also important to forgive and remember that firstly the Japanese of today aren't the Japanese of 1942, and that the British certainly weren't perfect with our own colonial rule.

Other things the museum mentioned was about the life for the ordinary civilian population of Singapore (after the defeat of the British), the persecution of the Chinese-Singapore people and the roles of all the allied nations who fought in Singapore (mainly Indians). It took me an hour and a half to make my way through the museum and then I caught the number two bus back to town. Once in town I went to have something to eat before getting back on the case of exchanging some currency. I got out my guidebook and it said that:

...The are also money changers in shopping centers and at hotels. No black market operates in Singapore, nor are there any restrictions on carrying currency in or out of the state. This means that rates at money changers are as good as you'll find at the banks...”

That made me feel a little better using a money changer and so I handed over eighty Singapore dollars (£40) and I got one hundred and eighty-four Malaysian Ridgit back (£37.50), so not too bad really.

I made my way back to my hostel where I picked up my washing (no half day closing here!) and packed my bags for tomorrow. Tonight I'm going to chill, get some tea and maybe either read my new book or go to the cinema (not sure if I have the cash, and the cinema in Malaysia will be cheaper, however I really fancy going to watch a film).

Tomorrow I'll be in Malaysia. I've enjoyed Singapore; it's certainly not as good as Japan or New Zealand but it's a nice for a stop over and there's plenty to do. I'm looking forward to Malaysia; I'm looking forward to the food and the cheapness, however I'm a little nervous of bartering as I need to do a bit of shopping as soon as I get there … have to get used to it though!

Toodle Pip!

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