My scheduled departure time was 11:15 am on Wednesday 31 August on JQ7, a Jetstar International flight. I received an SMS message a day before that the flight has been delayed to 12:45 pm departure time. That shouldn't be a problem as it was only a 1.5 hour delay and my connecting flight in Singapore doesn't depart until 7:30 pm.
I woke up on Wednesday 31 August morning about 7 am with lots of time to kill before going to the airport. A second SMS message from Jetstar International was received at 7:15 am. To my horror, the departure time was revised to 4:15 pm! The only explanation given was flight delayed due to an engineering problem. My heart sank wondering if the aircraft was safe to fly. What about my connecting flight in Singapore to Penang. I need to know more from Jetstar about the flights. I decided to call the Call Centre. I got through to the Call Centre without any problem. A foreign English with an American twang. Not an Australian Call Centre. It was in Philippine. A guy answered my call and introduced himself by the name of "Carl" or "Karl". Each of the operators must be given an English nickname.
Karl assured me that there was nothing to worry. He said the aircraft is safe. Jetstar will not fly the plane if it is not safe. That was my slightest worry. I wanted to know about my connecting flight to Penang. He seems confident and "guarantee" me that Flight 3K677, operated byJetstar Asia, will wait for my arrival before leaving the tarmac. Karl used the word "I guarantee you, Mr Khoo...the plane will wait for you"! I knew that was hard to believe. I asked him again, and he got a bit impatient, and repeatedly himself again, "Mr Khoo...I already told you that the plane in Singapore will wait for you to arrive"! Next question..."alright.., what is the revised schedule time for 3K677 to depart Singapore" I asked Karl. He didn't know the answer and put me on hold for over 5 minutes after which he said to me "Mr Khoo...your flight to Penang departs at 3:10 pm". I said, "what??...are you saying it is tomorrow?". Karl answered, "Yes".
I said, "so Karl...didn't you say that the plane will wait for me??...what happened to your..., I guarantee you?" No apology, nothing from him for providing an incorrect information.
Next I asked him what was the arrangement on arrival in Singapore since my Penang flight was not until the next day, e.g., accommodation, transfer, meal...will Jetstar pre-arranged for the stranded passengers. Karl was quick to respond and told me that I could book my own hotel and submit an expense claim on their website, which will take 2 weeks to process. I wasn't convinced after the first misguided information provided by him. I asked, "...are you telling me that I can book any hotel?? and that Jetstar doesn't care??" It was almost comical how this conversation progresses by the minutes. He then put me on hold again...this time it took longer almost 10 minutes. Karl came back, "Mr Khoo...you don't have to worry. Jetstar will arrange your accommodation on arrival. You need to go to the Transfer Desk on arrival and someone will meet you". I had enough of Karl after his last unconvincing response and had to take my chances on arrival.
On arrival in Singapore, touched down at Changi International Terminal 1 at approximately 10:40 pm there was no Jetstar ground staff meeting me at the Gate. I was told to proceed to Transfer Desk C. It was chaotic with many passengers like myself with a connecting flight affected by the delay to find out what has been arranged for us. The airport Changi staff at the Transfer Desk was not informed of JQ7 delay. They were surprised to see all of us asking about our next flight or accommodation. There was no communication between Jetstar International and Jetstar Asia. It took over an hour before Jetstar Asia ground staff managed to sort out the mess. Fortunately our hotel was arranged and a $30 meal voucher was provided at a hotel in the airport, located in Terminal 3 at Changi - Crowne Plaza.
On checking in at Crowne Plaza, slightly past midnight local Singapore time or past 2 am Melbourne time, I was completely exhausted but still wide awake from dealing with Jetstar ground staff for a hotel.
I was very pleased as I entered into the hotel room. It was spacious with a huge bathroom with a bathtub situated at the end of the room. First thought came to mind. Ran the tap for a bath. Undressed and soaked myself in a nice warm bath. Closed my eyes and let all my aching muscles untangle from the stress and anxiety of not having a room arranged by Jetstar. Feeling refreshed, I slept well into what was left of the remaining night.
I woke up early about 6:15 am. Wondering what I could do to kill my time before my next flight. Google is my friend. I asked Google and searched for things to do in Singapore. Not interested in the new Singapore, which I have seen in the past. And, not keen to spend too much money as Singapore is an expensive place to visit. I came across an old suburb - Tiong Bahru.
Tiong Bahru is the oldest housing estate in Singapore and recently has gone through some gentrification with small trendy shops - cafes, bakeries, bars and other retail outlets. It is famous with its low rise art deco architectural buildings with curves and symmetrical streamlines. The centre piece is the wet market and food court centre. I read as much as I could in Google and how to get there from Changi Terminal 3. I estimated how long it would take to get there and back and how much time I could spend walking around the housing estate, visit the wet market and pack in an early local breakfast at the food court. I had to leave early if I want to avoid the business rush hour.
The trip to Tiong Bahru was easy. There is an MRT station at Changi Terminal 3. It took 10 minutes to walk to the station from Crowne Plaza. The hotel is interconnected to Terminal 3. One thing that impresses me most in Singapore is the city and everything in the city is well planned and layout for efficiencies and comfort. It is one of the cleanest city I have ever seen. The train fare was $4 Singapore dollar return trip. The self ticketing machine does not take $10 note if it is for less than $5 fare. It took approximately 35-40 minutes for the ride. I allowed myself two hours to get there and back and two hours to explore Tiong Bahru.
On arrival at Tiong Bahru, the station was quite busy with the morning commuters rushing to work. I asked a few people before I found my way to the oldest housing estate. I knew I was at the right place on sighting of a few blocks of art deco style housing estate building. Not long I found the Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre. There are 3 levels - ground level is the wet market, middle level is the food court and top level the car park. Surprisingly it was low key and quiet. Not as busy as I have expected and it was 9ish am.
There wasn't many people at the wet market or the food court. Either I was too early or too late. Difficult to tell. I browsed the individual stalls. Place is clean. Again it was quite low key..no shouting with lack lustre noise. I searched for something to eat. Best sign is to follow the crowd and the queue. I sensed I had made the right choice when I saw a long queue at the Wanton Noodle stall. Ordered a combination wanton and char view (chinese barbeque pork) noodle dried to try. Cost $4. This Singapore version is different from the Penang wanton noodle. It is plain with no dark sauce. The char siew slices thicker with less fat. The wanton soup is how should I describe it - strong in flavour, almost too powering to drink. Overall it wasn't as good as I expected but strangely enough, it has a lot of good reviews according to Google. I guess Singaporeans have not tasted the original version in Penang, which is many times better. I am not being biased but this is true. For the best hawker food, even Singaporeans flock to Penang to eat!
With the remaining hour I have left at Tiong Bahru, I continued my walk and admire the art deco buildings. None of the retail shops were opened as it would have been still early.
Visit Tiong Bahru for a different perspective and experience of the old Singapore.
Penang Insights blogs about travel and food, sharing with anyone who enjoys traveling to other destinations, taking photographs, meeting people, experiencing new cultures and traditions, enjoying cooking and trying other cuisines.