Where The Wind Takes Me – Day 37

Where The Wind Takes Me Series - Table of Contents

EntryNotable Places/EventsStart of DayEnd of Day
Day 0 - Apr 21-22 2024Plane (Edmonton > Calgary > Tokyo)Edmonton, CanadaTokyo, Japan
Day 1 - Tue Apr 23 2024Akihabara, Sensoji, Tokyo Sky Arena, Taiwan Food FestivalTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 2 - Wed Apr 24 2024Nezu Shrine, Tokyo National MuseumTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 3 - Thu Apr 25 2024Akihabara, Ginza, Yurakucho, Bocchi the Rock! Exhibition (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 4 - Fri Apr 26 2024Craft Gyoza Fes, Niku Fes, Odaiba, Kameido Tenjin ShrineTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 5 - Sat Apr 27 2024Niconico Chokaigi 2024Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 6 - Sun Apr 28 2024M3-53Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 7 - Mon Apr 29 2024Train (Tokyo > Osaka)Tokyo, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 8 - Tue Apr 30 2024Tsurumibashi, Expo Commemorative Park, Osaka Station (with Miyu)Osaka, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 9 - Wed May 01 2024Kyoto, Takenobu Inari Shrine, SaiinOsaka, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 10 - Thu, May 02 2024Train (Osaka > Tokyo)Osaka, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 11 - Fri May 03 2024Reitaisai 21Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 12 - Sat May 04 2024Japan Jam 2024 (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 13 - Sun May 05 2024National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 14 - Mon May 06 2024Plane (Tokyo > Taipei), Liaoning Night MarketTokyo, JapanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 15 - Tue May 07 2024Taipei Main Station Underground Mall, Ximending Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 16 - Wed May 08 2024Shilin Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 17 - Thu May 09 2024Raohe Street Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 18 - Fri May 10 2024Songjiang Market, Guang Hua Digital Plaza, Shida Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 19 - Sat May 11 2024Dihua Street, Huaxi Street Night Market, Guangzhou Street Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 20 - Sun May 12 2024Gongguan Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 21 - Mon May 13 2024Plane (Taipei > HK), Train (HK > Guangzhou), Stayed with KelTaipei, TaiwanGuangzhou, China
Day 22 - Tue May 14 2024Zhongfu Square, Alpaca Sighting (with Kel), Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 23 - Wed May 15 2024Panyu Square, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 24 - Thu May 16 2024Nancun Wanbo (with Kel), Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 25 - Fri May 17 2024Train (Guangzhou > Xiamen), Zhongshan RoadGuangzhou, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 26 - Sat May 18 2024Xiamen Railway StationXiamen, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 27 - Sun May 19 2024Mingfa Shopping MallXiamen, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 28 - Mon May 20 2024Train (Xiamen > Guangzhou), Stayed with KelXiamen, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 29 - Tue May 21 2024Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 30 - Wed May 22 2024Tianhe Computer Town, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 31 - Thu May 23 2024Comic City, Shangxiajiu Square, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 32 - Fri May 24 2024Train (Guangzhou > Hong Kong)Guangzhou, ChinaHong Kong, China
Day 33 - Sat May 25 2024Wan Chai, Temple StreetHong Kong, ChinaHong Kong, China
Day 34 - Sun May 26 2024Chungking Mansions, Nathan Road, Ladies' MarketHong Kong, ChinaHong Kong, China
Day 35 - Mon May 27 2024Central Market, Sino CentreHong Kong, ChinaHong Kong, China
Day 36 - Tue May 28 2024Tea at Minimal (with WingBenny), Dragon CentreHong Kong, ChinaHong Kong, China
Day 37 - Wed May 29 2024Plane (HK > Singapore), Tampines N2 Shopping StreetHong Kong, ChinaSimei, Singapore
Day 38 - Thu May 30 2024Tampines Regional CentreSimei, SingaporeSimei, Singapore
Day 39 - Fri May 31 2024Lunch (with Debbie and Zixiang), Bras Basah Complex, I Light SingaporeSimei, SingaporeSimei, Singapore
Day 40 - Sat Jun 01 2024People's Park Complex, People's Park CentreSimei, SingaporeSimei, Singapore
Day 41 - Sun Jun 02 2024BishanSimei, SingaporeSimei, Singapore
Day 42 - Mon Jun 03 2024Dunman High School, Katong Shopping Centre, Parkway ParadeSimei, SingaporeSimei, Singapore
Day 43 - Tue Jun 04 2024Hell's MuseumSimei, SingaporeSimei, Singapore
Day 44 - Wed Jun 05 2024Flight (Singapore > San Francisco > Vancouver > Edmonton)Simei, SingaporeEdmonton, Canada
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts!Edmonton, CanadaWe'll see

Wednesday, May 29 2024 (Day 37)

Today was a very pivotal day for my trip, and one of the other main reasons (besides the concert with Quintopia and meeting up with Kel) that I had planned this trip in the first place. I’ve talked about it in bits and pieces in my main blog segment before, but basically due to being born a male in Singapore, and my parents migrating away to Canada when I was 14, after I had registered for National Service (this happens at 12) but without actually doing it, I was considered a draft dodger and was not allowed back in the country on threat of arrest (I think). I had reached out to the government agency that governs this after fully finishing my gender transition surgery though, and two years ago I had even come back into the country on their invitation, only to be detained at the border by immigration anyway untill various people worked it out.

Now, after yet another two years, they were still working on trying to get me an exemption (I’m not sure this will ever come) but in the meantime had supposedly made it so that there was no longer any travel restriction against me and that I was free to leave and enter Singapore. They could not give me an absolute guarantee though since they were not the immigration border department, and when I emailed that department they basically also said that they couldn’t give confirmation either and I’d have to speak to a border guard on duty if necessary.

So anyway, this part of the trip was always fraught with uncertainty — I couldn’t book my return trip for sure until the night before my plane ride into Singapore, so that I could cancel my plane ticket in the 24 hour window after purchase if necessary, because if I got bounced back from the border, I had no idea where they’d send me. Back to where I came from (Hong Kong) onward to my next port of call (San Francisco and Vancouver), or wherever else I wanted (in which case I’d probably have gone to nearby Malaysia or something). Because I didn’t know how I’d be leaving Singapore, I also didn’t know where I could stay in Singapore, because the end date needed to be flexible and it’s hard to find something flexible, especially in Singapore where anything outside of hotels and hostels are more or less not legally allowed.

Nonetheless, last night I booked the following itinerary:

Wed Jun 05 2024
Flight: UA 2
Takeoff: Singapore 08:45 (GMT+8)
Landing: San Francisco 09:15 PDT
Duration: 15h 30m

Layover: 1h 36m

Flight: UA 2051
Takeoff: San Francisco 10:51 PDT
Landing: Vancouver 13:12 PDT (Main terminal)
Duration: 2h 21m

== Separate ticket ==

Wed Jun 05 2024
Flight: WS 172
Takeoff: Vancouver 15:00 PDT (Main terminal)
Arrival: Edmonton 17:36 MDT
Duration: 1h 36m

It cost $700 and change for the first ticket, and $150 I think for the second, and I paid a little bit more for a good seat selection on the San Francisco to Vancouver flight ao that I can get out faster, since to make the 3 pm flight, I’d have to pass immigration and retrieve my luggage and then check in at the WestJet desk again by 2:15 pm, 45 minutes before takeoff. That part is tight, very tight.

However, since I needed to book a ticket type that gave me 1 checked luggage, the cheapest ticket type was Econoflex, which also comes with some sort of ability to change my ticket to a later flight that day, if there’s room, which would come into play if I am unable to make that flight. There’s some weird rules around that, and I’m not clear if I have to pay the specific price difference based on usual seat prices (which are often very inflated last-minute) or only based on if I change cabin type, but it does seem like there are multiple options for me even if I miss that 3 pm flight so it’s not the end of the world if that happens. Science, I guess. Worst come to worst, I stay an extra night in Vancouver somewhere and then take a cheaper flight overnight or the next morning.

I also had another nagging worry that my voice wouldn’t recover and I would have to navigate that potential mess at the immigration border without a proper working voice. Especially since I might not be able to use my phone depending on regulations (or handcuffs). Thankfully, for whatever reason my voice returned late last night while I was in my hotel room, during my final few remaining hours in Hong Kong. It was still slightly hoarse, but it suddenly went from about 20-25% voice to about 90% voice, which was ridiculous. But did help assuage that one worry.

Anyway, all those plans were necessary to handle the possibility that I would get bounced at the Singapore border, but I still had to actually find out if I would get bounced at the Singapore border or not, or even possibly arrested (though I felt like that was near impossible since I had done everything as above board as possible, and had not received any indication that I was not actually welcome). I definitely worried about the possibility a fair amount over the past few days though, and it was a little bit hard sleeping last night because I had to finish my last blog entry first, which went quite far into the night, and then I had to be up by 6 am and check out by 6:30 am in order to reach the airport by 7:30 am for my 9:45 am flight. I figured about two hours would be fine even though it was an international flight, since it was also a morning flight. (I was correct. Pro traveller moves.)

I took a bunch of different trains from Wan Chai to get to the Hong Kong Airport Station, this took three different transfers but the morning commute wasn’t as packed as the afternoon commute that I had become used to so I didn’t really have problems navigating the system even with my luggage.

Hong Kong International Airport was large, with mutiple levels of shops and then multiple levels of gates beneath the shops or something:

Kind of. The “or something” turned out to be a monorail system, or as they called it, an “Automated People Mover”, that took passengers to another part of the airport. It was the same terminal though and I got the feeling that the entire thing was probably walkable if one was there 3-4 hours early and bored out of their minds. But I wasn’t, so I don’t know for sure.

After immigration and all that, I ended up at the gate with a very nice 1 hour 8 minutes before takeoff, and 28 minutes before alleged boarding. I sat around eyeing the people across from me, who were playing some sort of card game.

Our gates were on the ground floor, and there weren’t actually any planes nearby to board. Instead, there was a bus to take us to where the plane itself was parked. I didn’t take a picture of our bus, but the gate next to us was boarding when I first arrived, and I took a picture of that bus.

They didn’t weigh our bags or anything like that when it came time for us to check in, which was nice since I was fairly certain that my backpack was slightly overweight, never mind my extra personal item bag (which I think was supposed to count against the weight limit too, but who knows.). We queued up to wait for the bus, then crowded on it, and the bus route to the plane was so long that I nodded off a bit. How does getting from the gate to the plane take 10 minutes??

Regardless, we finally arrived at the plane and clambered onto it one by one (there was a specific warning that more than two people on each step wasn’t allowed, which was kind of ominous since we all had luggage). The view was nice, though.

And then we took off. This 4 hour plane ride on the Greater Bay Airlines airplane was actually really nice. Even though we were in economy, the plane was only maybe about 2/3 full, and there was no one in the seat between me and the person who had the window seat in my row. For some reason, perhaps because I could stretch out a little bit more than usual, the seat wasn’t hurting me either, and I ended up managing to take two nice naps in that four hour span. The stewardesses kept wandering up and down the aisle through the duration of the flight, trying to sell people food and drink, but they at least provided a free bottle of water to everyone as well.

By the way I think I might have read somewhere in the itinerary of the tickets I bought yesterday that that intercontinental United Airlines flight that I booked only(?) provides free lunch, which seems a little bit low. Hopefully I understood it wrong. But nonetheless maybe I need to go early to Changi Airport and use their lounge there to load up on food.

When I arrived at Singapore, I pointedly went to use the washroom before even approaching immigration, expecting the worst and preparing for a long interrogation again while hoping for at least a quick death. I hadn’t filled in the arrival card that all arrivals to Singapore needed to fill out yet, though I knew there was one, and I filled that in just before the immigration gates via a QR code that was posted there. By the time I was ready to actually try the immigration gates, most of the people from my plane were already gone through and there weren’t many people queued up.

I wandered up to the gates armed with my passport and the printout of the email that I had received. I wanted to actually talk to someone and get guidance as to what to do instead of try the automated gates, but the first guard that I found waved me on to the gates anyway even when i raised the printout and tried to tell her about it.

She actually waved me to the gate for local passports instead of foreign ones, despite me showing her my Canadian passport — she said it was okay since those gates were empty and the foreign passport automated gates still had 1-2 people in line for them. I shrugged and stepped up to the local passport gates. It scanned my passport, scanned my face, took my thumbprint, and promptly threw an error that said something like please wait for an immigration officer. Oh boy, this was it, I told myself. It knows.

The officer that was nearby on the other side of the gates saw what had happened and waved me back through the gate that I had tried to enter from, and told me to go back and try the foreign passport gate instead. So I did so, and.. it let me right through. It scanned my passport, scanned my face, took my thumbprint, and passed me without a second thought. What? Where was the five hour detention, the hopeless panic (more like boredom), frantic calls to my CMPB officer, and so on? Before they could change their mind, I ran on through and grabbed my suitcase from the baggage belt, and passed through customs without any issue either. I had entered Singapore “normally” without a hitch!

(The next day, I received approval on my arrival card and a visitor’s card in the email lasting 30 days. This is despite me declaring my old passport on the arrival card, including putting down my full old real name/dead name from when I was a male citizen here, since I want my interactions with the government to be entirely above board. Granted, I knew they had already did something to “link” my old passport and my new, female, Canadian passsport the last time I came here and got detained, but I had no idea exactly what they had done.)

Nothing has felt so good on this trip as having a pleasant 4 hour plane ride, and then waltzing right through the immigration gates like a normal person into Singapore. What a day. I had been updating my CMPB officer over Whatsapp once I had booked the plane, then again as I was about to board it, and I sent her one last update after I passed immigration, and she told me to take care and continue remaining contactable like I had been.

Once I was through the gate, I bought an eSIM from Holafly again, something that I had done not only for Singapore but also the China and Hong Kong legs of my trip. I enjoy the ease of installing their eSim, as well as their “unlimited” 5G service, since I’ve been listening to a lot of Twitch streamers while walking around the various big cities of the world. Or of East Asia.

I had arrived in Terminal 4 of Changi Airport, but I was going to take the train to the lodging that I had booked, and that station was located in Terminal 2. There were free shuttle buses leading from one terminal to another near where I came out, so I took one of those:

And then took the train three stops to Simei MRT Station. I had picked up a transit card from Kel, one of several cards that her friend had supposedly given her, and I was planning to top that up and use that for my travels around, but I found out to my amusement that the previous owner of the card had actually left a negative card value of $2.45 on it. Oh well. I paid that off and then put a bunch of money on it anyway.

After reaching my stadium, I enjoyed a walk through the neighbourhood with my heavy luggage to my lodging. I passed by wholesome things like breezy HDB void decks with new chair types that I had never seen before:

Children selling snacks and things to raise funds in front of a kindergarten:

And a Malay (I think) funeral.

There was a park next to my lodging area:

With what seemed like a community garden too, neat.

I was stuck outside of the lodging front gates for a bit and unsure how to get in as the front gate bells weren’t working or something, which also happened the last time I booked something from this site. But eventually I got in touch with the landlady and one of her daughters let me in and showed me to my room.

I don’t want to give pictures of my lodging yet because I suspect it’s not fully legal (although it did autofill the lodging’s address into my arrival card when I was filling it in — I’m not sure what the mechanic of this was or where it got that information from), but it turned out my room inside the lodging is actually really tiny:

On one hand, it’s only $50 a night and that’s a great price, there’s also a washroom next to it that is basically private. On the other hand, those two rooms are detached from the main house, I have go to through the house to get to them in the backyard, so they’re basically the maid rooms of this bungalow. And there were normal bedrooms in the house for rent too, and they were $70 per night with photos of large-looking rooms, and this one was just below it with a picture that disguised how tiny it was and that it was outside the house, so I was not happy about that.

But the room is still surprisingly cozy, and cools up very fast, and even though it’s smaller than even my first room in Japan earlier this trip, it doesn’t have a stupid double-decker bed blocking the light and making it feel like a prison, so I can probably survive here for a week. Power plugs and fresh water are abundant and nearby, the wireless internet is very fast, and as long as I don’t see too many bugs, I should be fine here for a week. Plus, being detached from the house actually means I can cough my lungs out and visit the toilet without disturbing people. I do kind of like the quaintness of living in this room, but we shall see what I think of it after a week or so.

Also, the woman who runs the house is very nice, and said she’d let me know if there’s room in one of the other bedrooms for me to upgrade part of my stay into if I want to (next day note: and this upgrade seems to be happening already). Also she waived the laundry fee for me, which was like $10 a load, and that was super nice of her too. I paid her for my rent in the meantime via Revolut, $350 for 7 nights here.

After settling into my little prison, I went out for dinner, taking a bus to a nearby outdoor shopping area. It felt weird to randomly see other people wearing Dunman High shirts since I also bought a couple of those for home use the last time I came by.

The shopping area nearby was called Tampines N2 Shopping Street. Simei and Tampines are next to each other and the two little communities sort of blend together, and my old home, Tampines 294, was very close to this “shopping street”, just a stone’s throw across the road from it actually. But I no longer recognized anything here due to the relentless march of time and progress. I still wanted to eat here due to that though.

The first thing of note I saw was a place where you could leave reusable bags for others to use.

There was also a community centre nearby and I got a nice picture of it framed by sunset clouds.

My first goal was food, as I hadn’t eaten all day, and there apparently were two different food hubs in this “shopping street” (which unlike Japan’s shopping streets, are a glob of shops spread out in a radial manner within 2-3 city blocks instead of shops lined up along one or two long roads.) I went around and took pictures of one, then ate, then found the other and took a couple shots of it too. The first one looked like this:

I had my meal, the Kway Chup Set, for $4.50 from the store in the last picture above. I had actually tried to buy Mee Siam from another store but got told that that dish was morning to lunchtime only!

A woman wandering around from the drink stall asked if I wanted a drink, and I said sure, and soon got a big cup of bandung/rose syrup for $2.50.

After I supped, I walked around more and then found the second food area. It was located near the back of the area and basically bordered the residential HDB blocks behind.

I had been looking for a Fried Hokkien Mee store in the first food area cause that’s my favourite all-time dish, but there was none, and I thought that that was weird. Well, perhaps that was because there was a store in the second food area that sold it. That store was closed anyway though, so even if I had found it before I had picked a meal I wouldn’t have been able to eat it!

I wandered around a bit more and took a few pictures of the non-food stores in the area before heading home. Those pictures are stuffed into the following gallery.

I took a bus home after that and had a nice bath in a very.. quaint.. bathroom, which I took a picture of the next day but will post below. There’s also pictures of the semi-outdoor ktichen area outside my little room and my little bathroom. There’s a third door that leads into the indoor kitchen and the rest of the house from there, and a note on the door says to make sure to close that door at all times — likely because the outdoor area attracts flies and cockroaches and more on occasion (there were still unwashed pots and bowls in the sink).

I have seen a spider and a couple of flies but nothing to panic over yet. Despite that, I had a nice night in my room and it was a surprisingly comfortable sleep, despite it being cramped and small and not even big enough for me to properly open my luggage case without rearranging some furniture. Oh well.

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