Monday, 5 November 2012

Backpacking Around the World

I am not a dorm person by natural inclination. Normally, I prefer a private room, and in most sea countries a good private room can be had in the $15-$20 per night price range, however, not so in the City of the Merlion. Here a basic private room will start in the $50 plus price range. Not overly exorbitant, but a price to avoid if travelling for an extended periods of time, however, there is an alternative to the hotel scene. This is a backpacker hostel.

Once, hostels were non-existent in Sing. It was high-class tourism or nothing, now, fortunately, this has changed. There are now a host of backpacker hostels in the city. Most of these cluster near the lower income areas. These areas include "Little India" and "China Town". As you walk through the streets of these locales you will see buildings dating back to colonial days, in a traditional design, two or three stories high, intermixed with the occasional 7-11, and the somewhat jarring appearance of a pub with the name "Prince of Wales", or something similar.

Finding a good backpackers can be done the old fashioned way, asking fellow travellers—always a good source of advice. There are also a host of websites which list and decribe backpackers. Also of course, there is the pedestrian alternative of simply arriving in Sing, disembarking from your conveyance, and then walking through the backpacker areas, and judging what you can see.

From my somewhat limited experience most of these places are good. They all supply a similar service, it is the trimmings, and extra assistance that transforms a good hostel into a great hostel.

A Sing backpacker will cost you in the region of sing$20 plus a night. For this you will receive a bunk bed in a dorm. This will be a long room, with maybe four, five, or a dozen or more two level high bunk beds. There will be a common shower/toilet facility here, and a common area.

This might sound a tad bleak, but the right hostel, approached with the correct frame of mind, is a fun and itneresting place. Think of your bunk as simply a place to sleep and to leave your clothes and gear. A quiet zone. There are always lockers for your valuables (if there is no locker keep on looking). Follow a fairly obvious protocol in the dorms. Keep the noise down, clean up after yourself, and keep your gear tidy. Most of these places are co-ed, so, if you are awoken at 3am by two newly arrived Norwegian girls changing clothes and getting into their bunk, try not to oggle.

The place to do stuff, socialise, eat & drink, play computers, is the common area. This is usually usually filled with seats, tables, bean bags, books, fridge, microwave, a few computer terminals, and wifi is always present.

After spending a day or two in a hostel you will notice a rather charming informality. People lay on been bags sleeping, others chat to their family in friend in different languages over Skype. People arrive and depart at all hours from everywhere to anywhere else. Brief and intense friendships can form in moments, blossom, and then fade as people travel away. A varied and rich slice of life.

Some things to know about hostels. These points apply in general, but of course, variations on a theme ensue.

a. aircon, aircon in the dorms is usually not in use during the daylight hours. This keeps costs down and reinforces the idea that a bunk is simply a place to crash, not to live.

b. a few books, a lending library, a big tv, public access computers, a few decorations on the wall—these are the little things that make a good hostel.

c. don't panic if you see someone's feet projecting into your shower stall from the neighbhouring stall. Most likely drunk, not dead.

d. sex—not in your dorm, not on the roof. The only good place for sex in a hostel is in the shower stall—try and do it when others are not using. Everyone will know what what is going on.

e. expect to see many of your fellow backpackers staring into their computers, playing with their mobile phones, twittering, facebooking, generally living online.

A time in a backpacker is recommended for all travellers. Sing is a good place to start. Bon Voyage.

Your first view of Sing,
entering from Malaysia

Buildings of Sing

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