Six Years Ago at Inn Crowd Hostel in Singapore
|Dunlop Street in Little India July 2014|
STORY: I arrived at the airport with only a day to spare. I just came back from a month traveling around Indonesia, and I didn't want to spend all my 24 hours in Singapore's Changi Airport. I wanted to go back to where it all started, to where it all began. I rode the bus heading to this unforgettable hostel and paid $9 SGD.
With only three people inside the 11PM ride, we headed towards Little India. It's my fifth time in the city but i still feel excited every time i go back. I stepped out of the bus and found myself in front of Inn Crowd Hostel. Six years ago seemed a very, very long time for me now. I finally went inside and grabbed the only bed left. Beside me is a Malaysian girl who was checking in with her 14 year old brother and 65 year old mother. Amazing! I told the concierge that this is the very same hostel i stayed years ago. He smiled a bit and immediately asked me for my passport so i can log in. Fair enough.
|Dunlop Street in Little India November 2008|
Much has changed since i first stayed here six years ago. The new building on the next block has now been sold, and what's left is the renovated old main building. It has the same vibe as it was years ago. There were a good number of tourists at the common area. Some where watching television, others were on their phones and tablets busy with Facebook, and a few chaps drinking Tiger beer. The price is still the same for the beer, and the refrigerator is still at the back behind the concierge. I spent close to a week here before, just relaxing at the hostel. Sometimes, i would go on a walking tour to Chinatown or Orchard Road, get stuffed with delicious local cuisine, and then go back to the hostel to meet back people whom i just met but later on became my really good friends.
I paid a few dollars to rent a towel, and checked the dorm room where i will be staying in. There were a couple of beds taken, but mostly the 10-bed dorm room was lonely of people.
There are now more lockers installed, and the bathroom is cleaner, still with good running water. Generally, the facilities have all been improved. It was totally different before. I would remember getting out of the shower and seeing the local people cooking at the kitchen opposite the bath area. It was open, and on same elevation, people could actually see your head while you're cleaning.
I fixed myself up and went downstairs to grab something to drink. Of course, it was Tiger beer. Unlike before, where i would usually take my turn and pay a round of pint for all my drinking buddies. Now, i was drinking a can outside alone. It feels different, and memories of the past become more intriguing. I wondered if the generation of travelers now seem to be different from travelers before.
Directly in front of the hostel is a brothel where a couple of Asian women, dressed to perfection, waiting for customers. I looked at them, trying to remember what that brothel was before. I remembered it was a massage place just beside where the gang would go for late night drinks and shisha.
I met a French tourist who was also at the hostel for a few days to wait it out. His visa for Indonesia expired so he needed sometime before he comes back. He's eager to be a dive instructor in Komodo National Park. It was a good chat, as it was interesting to know more the interests and thoughts of other travelers nowadays.
Six years ago, i met an Italian guy who never flew from his hometown to Asia. He arrived in East Timor several months after, on board a cargo ship that almost sunk halfway from Indonesia. He is now in Paraguay sipping coconut juice in an island i have never heard of before. There were also two Polish girls who've spent a year in India, finding happiness in a sad country. They're now back home but have plans of going back to Asia real soon. The Australian guy is a great character. He lost his passport on his way to Singapore. He spent two weeks completely stranded in a very expensive city. Whenever we meet someone new, he would tell the same story of how he lost it. Never fails! He is now in Vietnam with this month's girlfriend and teaching English. There were two English girls who've become my travel buddies to Sentosa, and even to the movie house. One of the girls left earlier than expected, the other spent the rest of the days doing absolutely nothing. We even watched James Bond on its first day showing. They're now both happily married. There was a french guy who just quit his job in marketing and now spending a few weeks in Asia. On my last day, he asked me if i think he made the right decision. He wanted his job back. The last time i checked, he was in Greece with his wife on honeymoon.
The list of people I've met six years ago would go on and on. They've become really good friends, and we would chat on Facebook from time to time. I would always smile reading their birthday greetings once a year. Seeing their lives unfold as years pass by made me realize how beautiful and inspiring traveling is. I've met so many people from around the world, with different religions, economic backgrounds, and personal tastes. These people who live totally different lives has now become a part of my life. And for that, i thank the hostel for making it happen.
Inn Crowd Hostel pretty much stayed the same as it was before. It's still the convenient cheap place to crash in when you're in Singapore. The people manning the place are an efficient bunch of people. And anyone asking if it's any good would absolutely get a nod from me.
Yet, i feel different now. I am still pondering if it was Singapore that changed or the travelers in Singapore. I slept that night, eager to find the answer.
The next day, i rode a taxi going to the MRT bound for the airport. I said goodbye to the people at Inn Crowd Hostel earlier, and got the back seat of a newly polished Toyota car. The people at Inn Crowd were too busy, and the French man whom i gave advice the night before, was glued to his laptop.
As we sped away, the driver shouted at me because of a misunderstanding with my backpack. The ride was hell. He became more furious and asked me to step out and walk to the MRT instead. I paid the fair exactly and he left. I looked around the city for the last time and went up the train track.
|Thai Massage in 2008, Brothel in 2014|
REALIZATION: The universe works in mysterious ways. I just got the answer i was looking for the night before. I felt that I've always known about the answer, i was just trying so hard not to admit it.