Updated: May 31, 2020
Things don’t always go as planned. That is the constant lesson in long-term travel. It's also a constant in life. So the only real option is to embrace it. Sometimes it turns out to be a best case scenario, like the time I unexpectedly ended up in Singapore for 36 hours.
My plan was to fly from Taipei to Bali via Singapore. I expected it to be a long day of travel. That is my new normal so it's more of a fact of life than a nuisance. Leaving Hualien, I took a leisurely train ride to Taipei, a subway out to the airport and then played the usual airport game of window shopping and eating expensive snacks. I sat at the gate, reading and rotating through my pile of snacks when the first flight delay was announced. Then the second. Then the third. Great. Even with the hours of delays, my layover in Singapore was long enough to catch the next flight so I wasn’t too worried. Just getting tired since I’d decided to fly over night.
Eventually we landed in Singapore and most of the passengers found a spot to nap at our transfer gate. Milling about as people do before they actually announce boarding, I watched people gathering from my decently comfortable spot across walkway. Still sleepy, but not completely unobservant, something seemed off. I wandered over to see what the issue was. As I approached the gate, I saw the problem. Ten minutes before we were supposed to board and the screen was flashing a bright, red ‘CANCELLED’.
This was the first time I’d ever had a flight cancelled so I wasn’t really sure what the new plan was. Unfortunately for the ground staff, they had as much information as the rest of the passengers - almost none. That didn’t stop 100 grumpy and tired people from swarming them and demanding answers.
I stood on the edge of the crowd, just close enough to get an idea of how they planned to handle the situation. They were rebooking people on the next flights out. Since I didn’t really have any reason to be in Bali right away, I didn’t need to be on the next flight out of there. Flights for that morning and evening quickly filled. Soon flights weren’t available until the next day and the airline started booking people into hotels along with their next flight. It occurred to me that I could avoid the annoying throng of people harassing the staff trying to help them, find a spot to get breakfast and come back later. The later I came back, the longer I could stay in Singapore on an all-expenses paid mini vacation.
By the time I got my turn in line, the next available flight was not for another 36 hours. The airline had booked me into a 4 star hotel with early check in, late checkout and included lunch, breakfast and cab fare to and from the airport. On top of that, I have a good friend who lives in Singapore who I’m pretty sure I woke up with my chain of “Guess where I am?! What are you doing today?!” texts at 5:30 in the morning.
So I collected my bags, got a cab to the hotel and checked in. After living in a hostel for most of my travels, a private room is a nice upgrade. A fancy hotel was next level. But fancy hotel or not, I didn’t want to waste my time sitting there all day when I could be out exploring. After a very much needed nap, lunch, and a google search of things to do in Singapore, I headed out to see what there was to see.
I spent the early afternoon wandering around little India, checking out the shops of saris, flower stands and food stalls in Tekka Centre.
In the evening, I met my friend and local Singaporean for dinner and a wander through the city. We hit galleries, snack spots, wandered and settled in for some good late night conversation by the bay. Something about it felt distinctly like being back home in Toronto.
I really need to do better at taking pictures of and with people, instead of just catching a bad photo of Kye wandering away.
The next day, I headed out to see one of Singapore's most distinct attractions - The Gardens by the Bay. The entry fee wasn’t cheap but since the airline booked me into a hotel with direct access the the airport subway line, I had some extra cab money that I put to much better use.
The gardens are touristy for sure but they are also really beautiful and completely worth the visit. The outdoor tree structures are pretty cool by day, though from pictures I’ve seen, I missed out on seeing them lit up at night. The second garden was pretty too, decorated for Chinese New Year, which gave it even more colour. The best one though is the garden that you can climb through. The centre structure is covered in plants from top to bottom, has a waterfall running through it and multiple areas to walk through on the inside, complete with various exhibits of flora and fauna.
These ones reminded me of the mean lion flowers from Alice in Wonderland.
Behind the waterfall.
My time was short but I made it back to Little India for one more delicious meal, collected my bags from the hotel and headed back to the airport. As usual, the universe took care of me.