At Journey’s End

An emotional conclusion to my adventure in Singapore

I put a great big cross on my bucket list on November 27th as I stepped out of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands MRT station to be greeted with the high-rise view of my end destination.  I had accomplished my ambition of an overland adventure spanning an entire continent, and it took days to wipe an everlasting smile off my face. There was a noticeable spring in my step during the final 4 days!

A second Innings

My stay at the Bohemian Chic hostel located in Chinatown was an ideal spot to get around the city. I didn’t get a great first night’s sleep as, let’s just say, I had to stop the guy beneath my dorm bed from pleasuring himself at 5AM, and making a horrendous racket to accompany his buzzing alarm clock. But I warmed to the place and the owner took great care of me, despite the backpacker atmosphere being a little muted.

While Singapore is a place that I visited two years prior, I managed to enjoy it just as much the second time – even some places I had previously visited. I had more time to walk around Little India and find souvenirs for the family, and a chance to take a more leisurely stroll through the beautiful, man-made Gardens by the Bay. There was no compulsion to see all the tourist sights in the city again, so even if it was hanging out at the old cricket club or the Fullerton Hotel, I felt at ease just admiring the history of this modern metropolis.

Looking out over a  sunset from the Supertree in Gardens by the Bay

My return was also a chance to visit sights I couldn’t cover the first time. One notable stop was at the recently opened National Gallery, which has undergone conversion from former city hall and supreme court, originally built in the 1920s. It’s quite remarkable how well preserved these buildings are; the two buildings have been merged together and the original facades remain untouched. The interiors are equally well preserved, visitors can even walk into the jail cells and see the trapdoor above.

Inside the gallery, the court rooms have been converted into themed art galleries. Most of my time was spent browsing around a special exhibition running in conjunction with the Tate gallery in London to depict images of those living under colonial rule. While looking through some visitor crafted art outside the gallery, an assistant outside the gallery approached me and became the first stranger who moved me to tears. In a peaceful, soft tone he mentioned about not thinking about the future and past, and taking time away to meditate. It was as though he had met the voice in my head and could tell some of the personal challenges I had tried to overcome in the past few years.

Inside the National Gallery of Singapore. facing the bridge between the Supreme Court and City Hall

The next day I headed to the ArtScience museum at Marina Bay Sands which featured a NASA exhibition. It’s much smaller than the Air and Space museum in Washington D.C. that I visited earlier in the year, but there are a number of interesting artefacts here from the US space missions. Later on, I perched beside the Marina water just in front of a nearby Louis Vuitton store, and admired the skyline while reminiscing about my trip.

Marina Bay Sands

My final excursion just a few hours before my flight was to the place that I partially credit for inspiring this trip in the first place. A second visit to Singapore Zoo didn’t fail to amaze me, especially watching the orangutans free-roaming the tree-tops. I can’t help but admire their human like characteristics and playful behaviour. It might sound strange, but I think humanity can learn a lot from our ancestral relatives. Sometimes, life’s about enjoying the bear necessities (as Baloo said from The Jungle Book).

Often it takes a second visit to somewhere to really appreciate a place, and that’s what I found with Singapore. I was reminded me of how convenient the city is – the public transport system works brilliantly and the city centre is easily walkable – it helps Singapore is only the size of Greater London. It’s wonderfully clean and green, unpolluted and uncongested, which is in stark contrast to most of the other Asian cities I had visited on my travels. It’s up for debate whether this is a universally good thing. I stand by my original conclusion of it being a rich cultural melting pot and a luxurious place to live, even if it’s quite sterile in places.

Homeward bound

I wasn’t dreading going back home, and I hadn’t even thought about it until I arrived in Singapore. The time had come to return and there were certain comforts that I was quite looking forward to – namely, my bed and home-cooked food! There were so many memories I had to dwell on that I didn’t have the mental capacity to even think about going back to my old life until I got there.

After bidding the city farewell, my final destination was Changi airport where I spent my final night on a bench in the terminal. I couldn’t sleep prior to my 6AM flight to Kuala Lumpur, which would then connect to London Heathrow (all for a very modest £240 via Malaysia Airlines)

I was last on-board the A380 jumbo jet in KL after falling asleep at the gate. The flight was perfectly acceptable; I managed to bag a window seat beside an emergency exit door so had plenty of legroom. I didn’t bother with any of the in-flight entertainment – this had almost become an alien luxury – but instead caught up documenting my experience.

An unremarkable and comfortable 13 hour flight  brought me to London Heathrow at the scheduled arrival time of 15:00. Not long afterwards I received emotional welcome by my parents who were prepared with balloons and a thick winter jacket at the arrival gate.

Within two hours of touch down I had arrived back in Milton Keynes, back to my own room that had been empty for months. Despite the memories still flashing through my mind, for the time being I put these aside. I untied the rakhi, a bracelet that my mother originally tied to my backpack for protection, and fastened it to my wrist as an omnipresent reminder of this journey of a lifetime.


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