Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Dirty Way Out Of Singapore

I was going to fly to Kuala Lumpur today, but I couldn't get a flight, so this morning I booked myself on a bus, and this evening I went up to the Golden Mile Complex on Beach Road. And wondered if the person responsible for naming things in Singapore needs to be fired.

Air travel is seen as bad for the environment, but still retains some sense of glamour. On the other hand, coach stations are never glamourous places, but "Beach Road" suggests sun, sea and sand, not foul air, fumes and frustration. You will understand how grim it is there when I say that Subway was looking inviting.

To get in the mood for bus-based transport, I'd taken a bus from Sago Lane (historic sites of Death Houses, if you want to visit) up to Beach Road. As I walked over to the check-in counter, I passed the world's most inept transvestite. He was wobbling on dirty, thigh-high high heeled boots and was wearing a furry gilet, which showed no appreciation of Singapore's heat and humidity. The only other pretence to femininity was a look of abject horror on his face. I inspire that a lot.

Golden Mile Complex is down the road from Golden Mile Tower; the two buildings buttress an expensive looking apartment building, whose residents look like they moved there by mistake. Golden Mile Complex, where you go to get your ticket, is a hive of grumpy people sat at counters. Each will have an ambiguous sign in front of them, like "Pick Up Tickets Here". I never used to think that was ambiguous, but it turns out that if you go to pick up your ticket from a hatchet faced woman behind a sign that says "Pick Up Tickets Here", she'll angrily wave you down the counter to a woman in a sequinned Snoopy blouse, who'll either file her nails or give you your ticket.

I got my ticket and walked back to Golden Mile Tower to wait for the bus. As it was hot and sweaty outside and I had an hour to wait, I thought I'd go in Golden Mile Tower. That was a mistake.

The only reason anyone should have to go in Golden Mile Tower is to be able to leave Golden Mile Tower. It's full of dingy karaoke bars - the kind where they have blacked out windows and framed pictures outside of women with price tags on - and the Century Snookerium, which is either somewhere to play snooker or, more likely, a pool-cue-a-go-go deathtrap with opaque windows. I left and went over the road, where I stared at Subway until sanity returned, then went next door to a supermarket and bought some water, a packet of potato crisps and some Applemint Ricola, because I'd been bombarded with advertising for that flavour when we went to see The Hunger Games last week.

I stood and waited for my coach. My "First Class Massage Coach", which sounds wrong no matter how you look at it, and I drank the water, ate the crisps, and then threw the Ricola in the bin by mistake, which means I'm now very bitter and cannot relate what Applemint tastes like.
To get people onto the bus they have a man equipped with a walkie talkie, a heart-shaped tattoo behind his left ear, a tight white t-shirt, strangely clingly, strangely triangular grey satin trousers, and hi-viz orange crocs. Basically, after you've been in a Singapore boy band and you stop being successful, then you start telling people to get onto buses to Malaysia. It's a progression, of sorts.

(Of course, there's nothing wrong with tattoos. If you're a pirate. Otherwise, I think all the people with scrabbly biro-scribbles on their hands, necks and heads on Beach Road should have thought a bit longer before making the commitment. I'd say they need their heads examined, but who'd want to look at so many bad tattoos?)

Still, I'm on a bus now, and in about five hours and fifty minutes, I'll be on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, trying to find my hotel and wishing I knew what Applemint tasted like.


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