11 September 2009

Reflecting on the East

And, here we are at gate C16 in Singapore Airport, when we should've been in the air by now after boarding through gate C19. Well, something's happened and the flight's delayed, but, otherwise, everything should be ok! Just sorting a few photos now.


Good-bye Asia. I've been there for just over 2 years. On 20 August 2007, I entered Asia at Singapore for a 3 day stop before going to Japan to teach English and Bible for 2 years. I have so many good memories. Have made many good friends. Have shared the message of Jesus. I will miss many things about Asia, but mostly the people.

We are well an truly on our way back to Australia now. I can't see anymore lights. It's about 5 hours to Darwin, stop for a couple of hours, and then another couple of hours to Cairns. Finally back in my home country, Australia.

Today I got up early to have breakfast with John, the kind man who let me stay at his house. We chatted over breakfast, he went to work, and I had a bit more rest. I began the day late, did some emails, packed and left for Palau Ubin. It's a small island, part of Singapore, but just off the eastern edge of the main part of the country. It's not far from the airport.

By the time I caught the bus, the train, grabbed some lunch, caught another bus, waited for the boat and got onto the island, I only had a bit over an hour there. I rented a bike for $5 and cycled along the tracks there. It's a great little island for cycling. There are so many rental bikes there! Headed back to airport, checked in, had a shower for $8.40, caught up with Gaby for dinner and went through immigration.

The day before yeserday, I caught the train from KL to Singapore (about 7 hours). Before we crossed the boarder (from Malaysia to Singapore), a lady came through the train and stamped our passports to say we'd left Malaysia. After we crossed the water and entered Singapore, the train stopped, we all got off, walked through immigration to enter Singapore, and then got back on the same train and kept going. When I went through immigration, I didn't have the address of where I was to stay, since I was just planning to meet my friend at the train station, and I'd forgotten to write their phone number down too, and, I didn't have a printout of my plane ticket for leaving Singapore 2 days later.... not good! I consider it fortunate that they let me in (maybe because I'd been to Singapore before, and my passport looked reasonable and my attitude wasn't confrontational). Anyway, next time, I'm going to make sure I have an address, phone number and departure ticket with me.

Finally reached John's place about 11pm, and got some rest about midnight. Didn't think I'd need to set an alarm, fell asleep quickly, and the next thing I know (after dreaming) was .. Whao, it feels like I slept reeeeally well, and it's probably late! It was 10:03, so, I freshened up, headed down town and caught up with a good friend.

We went to St Andrews Church, the first church in Singapore. It was quite nice! Then, we saw soe of the Dead Sea Scrolls! Well, only a couple of fragments, but it was a pretty good display on the history of the Bible, including the ancient manuscripts, preservation, transcribing, translations, and even about the reformation. I was really glad I cold go, see it, and even see some of the original Dead Sea Scrolls!

We headed down by the river for lunch and ate some nice Thai food. Walked around a few other nice places, including the Merlion, museums, parks, shops etc. Overall, it was a very pleasant day.


Reflecting on my trip through Asia...

Well, basically I have travelled in Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore in the past 3 weeks.

From Tokyo, train to Shomonoseki (western Japan), night ferry to Busan (1 day), train to Seoul (5 days), night ferry to Tianjin (near Beijing in China) and bus to Beijing (5 days), night train to Shanghai (2 days), night train to Hong Kong (2 days), flight to Thailand (4 days), flight to Penang in Malaysia (1 day), night train to Kuala Lumpur (1 day), train to Singapore (2 days), night flight back to Australia.

I have to say, Singapore is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is quite aesthetic. Almost every part of the country (well, city) has a beautiful appearance. There is plenty of vegetain, trees and parkland in between the many apartments and office buildings. It is quite clean, well designed, and appealing to the eye. Unfortunately, there isn't much "untouched" or "virgin" land left in Singapore.

After being in Japan for 2 years, then travelling in Korea and then China (both of which have cars driving on the right-hand side of the road), when I arrived in Hong Kong, I felt refreshed, and I think it's because it was setup by the British. It just felt more "normal" (for me, that is), and more similar to Australia, which was also a British colony. I would have to say that Hong Kong (and also Singapore, since it was also setup by the British), are the most liveable of the places I visited in Asia. This is possibly true for most other Australians.

Thailand had a nice feel. It has more of a "mysterious" or "exotic" Asian feel... they kind of feeling you get when you hear/see the temples of Asia, the fine foods of the East, the soft-natured people and the tropical jungles. Bangkok was quite a well developed city with pretty much all you would expect in any world city. I had no problems there. The Thail massage was really good at AUD 10 for 1 hour!

I was quite tired most of my time in Malaysia, so I took it easy and enjoyed it. China was the least clean of the places I visited. The people were the most aggressive there, compared to the other countries I went to. Many people trying to sell you things. People pushing to get places, but not unbearable. Plenty of construction going on in China. Even though I was only really in Beijing and Shanghai, it was possible to see the strides China is making in it's development.
Korea was quite a fun place, probably because I was with groups of friends. Seoul is a very safe and convenient city. It was nice there.

After a while, all the train networks of the cities I went to felt the same. Tokyo, by far, had the most complicated one. Beijing had the most stable (least rocky) trains, maybe because of the wider gauge, and it was also the cheapest (at 40 cents anywhere in the city). Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul had the cleanest and nicest networks. Almost all of the cities had trains fairly frequently (every 5 minutes or so), which I thought was quite good.

Cars in China and Korea drive on the right-hand side of the road (same as US), but cars in Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore follow the UK (same as Australia).

Power plugs in Japan are same as US. In Korea, they use two round pins (like Europe, I think). In China, I found almost every power outlet had fittings for US, Europe or Australia type plugs, quite convenient. Thailand had 2 or 3 round plugs. Malaysia and Singapore had plugs like the British (3 large chunky plugs).


Am very glad I was able to see different parts of Asia on my way back to Australia after working in Japan. I travelled fairly cheaply, catching ferries and trains, budget flights and economy seats. Stayed at friends places or caught overnight transport mostly, paying for less than 7 nights. But, spent money when there was a chance to see something interesting or eat something declicious!

People are people. Around the world, people have the same hopes, same desires, same needs. The same hurts, same happinesses. We all want to live good lives. We all want safety, health, kindness and love. Many people have religions and want to be close to God, and want Someone to hear their prayers. Everyone deals with conflict and working together.

How should we live our lives? Live lives responsible to our origin. Where do we come from? We come from a Designer, a Creator who cares and loves each one of His children. We are also accountable to those who we know and interact with. As we come to be in harmony with the God of heaven, and seek peace between ourselves, we will be preparing for eternity.

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