Joe's Travels - Round the World 2003

 Diary - Week 2
Friday 21st February – Singapore


Travelled on the MRT (subway) - very clean and efficient - and then took a bus to the Botanic Gardens where we spent a couple of hours looking around the fantastic National Orchid Garden. Here there are over 700 species of orchids and 3,000 hybrids – apparently the largest display of orchids in the world.

Next we strolled along Orchard Road – famous for its department stores and a mecca for all shoppers. We then had a quick look around the Raffles Hotel.

In the evening we went to the Night Safari at the Zoo. An incredible experience - we saw a huge number of animals, dimly lit in their (mainly large) enclosures, seemingly unaware of being stared at by the passing tourists. For me the highlight was walking through the Malayan fruitbat enclosure – here you can get right up to the bats and feel the wind from their huge wings as they flap above you. Also impressive were the hippos, giraffes, and leopards, whilst the most ridiculous animal had to be the mousedeer – with a head like a small deer but tiny skinny legs that were quite out of proportion to its body.

Saturday 22nd February – Singapore

Went for a swim in the morning at the local swimming complex just down the road from our friends' apartment. Amazingly clean, and with not only an Olympic size competition pool, but a second pool too. Wonderful to swim in this heat, with mynah birds flying around and huge palm trees surrounding the place.

 Fish at Underwater World, Sentosa

In the afternoon we took a cab to Mount Faber from where you can ride by cable car 70m above the port to the island of Sentosa. We then toured the island using the monorail and visited the dolphin lagoon first, where you watch a couple of pink Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins performing the usual tricks. Next we crossed the rope bridge to a tiny island which is continental Asia’s most southerly point. After this we visited Underwater World where, apart from some interesting fish and jellyfish in smallish tanks, you get the opportunity to walk through the main tank in a large perspex tunnel and can see a huge variety of sharks, stingrays and other fish swimming over and beside you – a truly amazing experience.

Finished off the evening with an excellent noodle meal in Chinatown.

Sunday 23rd February – Flight Singapore to Brisbane

Up fairly early at 0715 for our flight to Australia. Took Singapore Airlines flight to Brisbane, departing just after 1100 on a 777-200. We arrived Brisbane a little late at 2030 local time (2 hrs ahead of Singapore).

Took ages to collect luggage, go through immigration and then security (bags were X-rayed on arrival too) as Australia is very strict on what can be imported into the country in terms of foodstuffs. Tried phoning a number of backpackers hostels but most were full, however we found space at Tinbilly Travellers in the centre of Brisbane. Tinbilly’s was a nice surprise as it’s only 6 months old, very clean & smart, and we paid $25 each for a shared room for 6 (but we’re the only people in it). It even has an en-suite bathroom. Not bad for under a tenner (GBP)!!

Monday 24th February – Brisbane to Southport

Took the train from Brisbane to Nerang – a 1 hour journey south. Unfortunately for us today was the day that Queensland’s 18-month+ drought came to an end, and it rained hard practically all day. All the news channels showed pictures of floods and washed-away sections of road. Of course it's great news for the farmers and many other people who have been suffering badly from the drought.

In the evening our friends gave us a quick tour of Surfers Paradise which was looking wet and windy. At least it’s a lot warmer than England!

Tuesday 25th February – Southport & Surfers Paradise

 Surfers Paradise

Spent the day in Surfers Paradise - the weather started off sunny but soon we saw a storm approaching over the sea, and just made it to underneath a shop awning before a deluge arrived. When it rains here, it really rains! Fortunately the heavy showers were fairly brief and we were able to spend some time on the beach interspersed with shopping in the large shopping malls in the middle of town.

Met up for a drink with Zoe Stroud - a friend from Loughborough - who works at the highly recommended Surf’n’Sun backpackers.

Went to the Sushi Train bar for lunch. First time I’ve had sushi - it was good, and pretty cheap here. We only paddled in the sea as it was very rough and not inviting enough for a swim. There was hardly anyone on the beach today due to the weather!

Wednesday 26th February - Southport to Brisbane Airport then flight to Cairns

Still raining quite a lot in the Brisbane area so we escaped the weather by taking the Airtrain from Nerang to Brisbane Airport then a Virgin Blue flight to Cairns - 1,000 miles to the north, and within the tropics again (16°South). Temperature on arrival at 1945 was 29°C - so pretty warm and humid. Booked into the Caravella Backpackers 149 for a couple of nights. Got a decent twin room with en-suite shower for $55 per night. It's not as central as some of the other hostels, but is on the Esplanade and we have a view of the ocean (just) from our room.

One deal the hostels give out is a free dinner and free drink at the incredibly popular Wool Shed Chargrill & Saloon - so of course we headed straight down there for a meal and a good night out.

Thursday 27th February – Day trip from Cairns - The Great Barrier Reef

 Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef

A fantastic day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, setting off at 0830 on a fast boat (Osprey V) and with 5 hours out on the reef at two locations.

The temperature was once again about 30°C onshore but a little less out to sea. Our first anchor point was 36 miles NE from Cairns and we stayed there for 2½ hours. There were about 70 of us on the boat, plus at least 10 crew – all very friendly and determined that everyone should have fun and enjoy the day.

This was the first time I have ever been snorkelling, and what a place to try it! The views of the coral and the fish were completely amazing – one of the best things I have ever done. I went back in three times as it was so good you just had to go and see it again! Unfortunately it was quite a windy day, so the sea was quite choppy and hard to swim against the wind.

After lunch on the boat we were off to another reef location a bit further south, and 32 miles from Cairns. Here we spent another 2½ hours and again we snorkelled several times and saw a huge variety of wonderful fish, including the resident Maori Wrasse that apparently always comes up to the boat. The sea was really quite rough by now and that did slightly spoil the experience, and also meant that the semi-submersible trip was cancelled which was disappointing. Met lots of great people on the trip - and would definitely recommend this to anyone.

Went out for a meal in the evening at a rather smart outdoor café and had kangaroo. Very similar to beef steak! Spent a second night at Caravella Backpackers.


Back to: Week 1 (Thu 13th - Thu 20th Feb)
Forward to: Week 3 (Fri 28th Feb - Thu 6th Mar)