Nightmare on the MRT, a true story by John HIll
A little while ago Nina and I, and my daughter Pam and her husband, returned to Singapore as part of my my birthday present – to myself I might add. Pam was only 6 when we went to Singapore and my son Paul was 4. After a week acclimatizing in a hotel in Changi I found us a brand new house in Serangoon (Jalan Pacheli). At that time the road itself had only just been built, every house was new and we were surrounded by matelots and blue jobs. Not another pongo in sight. Therefore, when we returned two weeks ago Pam wanted to see where we lived. For those who remember Serangoon gardens there were three or four really good bars and  restaurants, the Captains Cabin, the Ocean Bar and the Canberra Bar. Were they still there? Could we find them? and that’s when the ordeal began.  “What’s the best way to get to Serangoon?” I asked at the Novatel on Clarke Quay which, in my day, was a grotty waterfront on the river which itself was often composed of dead dogs and cats and the odd human thrown in for good measure. The water was foul to say the least. Today Clarke Quay is a very ‘up market’, magnificently manicured waterfront of high class restaurants and cafes. However I digress. “The best way to Serangoon is to go via the MRT.”  This is the new underground system, clean, no food, chewing gum, and air conditioned.  However, I digress again. I was told however not to get the MRT to Serangoon, but to Bisham,  a new development, and then get a taxi. It would be easier. “Best you get an all day ticket to take you anywhere” I was informed. Good idea thought,  I wrong !!!!! So off we trot (well stagger) to the nearest MRT station (Clarke Quay). Very handy. Now where do we get an all day ticket? Damn good question. The station was vast, like a mini King’s Cross with thousands of people milling about everywhere and everything done by machine and credit card. We asked a number of people who looked at us, tried to explain but to be frank, we didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. (Chinglish is not one of my stengths).  Eventually we found an office and asked. “Ah so” he said “you want day ticket yes?” Phew getting somewhere now. “ah solly no day ticket here, you must go Dhobi Ghaut. Big station”. “So how do we get to Dhobi Ghaut?” “No ploblem, you take MRT”.  an you see where this is going? “So how do we get a ticket to Dhobi Ghaut?” “Ticket from ticket machine!!” So we get a ticket to Dhoby Ghaut (about a quid) and when we get there we have to find this office which sells all day tickets and we did. “Four ‘all day’ tickets please”.   Again, “no plobem, that is ten dollar each, four tickets, one hundred and twenty dollars” J “errrrrr excuse me, four times ten is forty not a hundred and twenty”. “Ah so, yes, but you have to pay twenty dollars deposit on each ticket and money returned when you bring ticket back tomorrow” Talk about one foot in the grave I don’t believe it. So we forked out and the tickets were a bit like a credit card, hence the extra because they were plastic and could be reused. Never mind we’ll take them back tomorrow. Back on the MRT to Serangoon ( well Bisham) . When we got there, we tried to get a taxi. You had to be joking. Ten thousand buses going to all parts of the island but not a taxi in sight. Well what did I expect?  I was standing at a bus stop, the taxi rank was just around the corner. Eventually we found one and asked “Serangoon Jalan Pacheli.”  “Ok. No ploblem”. We found the only taxi driver in the whole of Malaysia and Singapore who didn’t know Serangoon. Eventually guided by me  (great white hunter) we found Serangoon and there it was: Carisbrook Avenue , Burghley Drive. Chilselhust Grove exactly as it was fifty odd years ago and of course Jalan Pacheli. Now inhabited by Chinese. The old bars had disappeared in name but were there under new names nevertheless. Now I know you’re getting bored with reading this but the saga has not yet ended. Halfway through the tour in 1967 we moved to Upper Serangoon to Hillside Drive so I now had to find my way there and believe it not, we found our other house and had a chat with the Chinese occupant.  I digress again.  You think that’s the end of the story,  wrong!!  We now asked the taxi driver to take us to the nearest MRT so that we could get back. He took us to a bus stop and said “better you take bus to MRT cheaper use day ticket ok”. So there we were at the bus stop. 95 degrees and not a clue which bus to take. Eventually we found one to take us to the MRT and returned to Clarke Quay. Then a bit of sightseeing, China town (via MRT) Raffles (via MRT ) all the old haunts (even Bugis street which was still there but no Kai Ties) and eventually back to Chinatown to eat, down a few Tigers and then a few more Tigers and then back to the hotel.  Hang on, that’s not the end….  Next day, we went to the Clarke Quay station to return our tickets and get our deposit back. “Solly not here, have to go to Dhobi Ghaut OK” “So to get to Dhobi Ghaut we have to buy a ticket.. yes?” “A so. Yes. Can’t use all day ticket, that was for yesterday”  So to get this straight, I bought a ticket to Dhobi Ghaut, that’s 2 changes on the MRT, get my deposit back and then have to buy another ticket back to Clarke Quay (another two changes on the MRT) wasting at least two hours underground for the sake of the deposit, minus the two fares to and from Dhobi Ghaut. I don’t think so!!!!  Does anybody want to buy four all day tickets on the Singapore MRT, plastic, credit card size, dated March 1st, 2015. Any offer acceptable, otherwise I shall put them on ebay.  John Hill