Airport and Taxi
When I wake up, the plane is going to touch down at Singapore airport. At 6:00 a.m. on 27 December, the plane lands on Singapore's Changi Airport. Ground temperature is 26 degrees Celsius. It only takes a few minutes to go through the procedure of the customs and immigration. But the luggage comes out rather slow, which takes about 20 minutes. After getting my luggage from the auto-conveying belt, I change two hundred US dollars for about 360 Singapore dollars at a moneychanger inside the airport. There are several moneychangers in the airport so that you don't have to run from one end to another looking for one. You can change most of the world currencies here, including RMB yuan.
The airport is warm and clean, but I feel a bit hungry. Walking around, I find a cafe at one end and a Burger King at the other. Confused by the names of the food, I don't know what to buy. An old assistant recommends me a breakfast package with a ham-egg-sandwich, a small bag of French fries and a glass of orange juice, which costs me five Singapore dollars (equivalent to 23 yuan). The food is not much different between BK and McDonald's. Realising my counterpart Mr. Shen, who promised to pick me up at the airport, might have failed to get up so early, I decide to take a taxi to the Polytechnic by myself.
Taxis are waiting outside quietly and orderly. I am allocated to a Malay driver who looks strong, dark, and rude. My heart begins to sink, for I think he will surely overcharge me. I give him the address on my envelope written in English, and he nods and says he knows where it is. As it is early in the morning, there is very little traffic, and the taxi drives smoothly and fast. Inside the car, it's cool and quiet. Outside, it rains heavily. I soon forget about the danger of taking a taxi in a foreign city since the tropical scenery takes me by surprise. Only now do I find it so difficult to search the right words to describe the beauty of a city. Only one word pops up in my mind: Green—green grass, green hills, green tropical trees that I never know the names of.
Before I know it, the taxi come to a stop at the gate of the Polytechnic. The driver charges me 10 Singapore dollars (equivalent to 45 yuan) for the 20-minute drive. I'm sure that I was not cheated, which I later learns never happens here.
Smart Travel Card
Putting down my luggage, I follow Mr. Shen to the Human Resources Department to get the necessary documents for Immigration Office to approve my employment pass. While waiting for the bus, Mr. Shen gives me a travel card (same size with our phone card) and tells me that it contains all the information about how much is spent, how much is left or overdrawn, and when it was used last time. When the bus comes, I get on from the front door and put the card into the slot, and press 60 cents among four choices (how much you should pay depends on the distance you are going to travel, and the maximum is 1.2 dollars). Then the card comes out from the other slot together with a receipt. Looking at the receipt, I am surprised to find that the remaining sum is minus 25 cents, which means the card is overdrawn. Confused, I ask Shen if passengers would overdraw the card and throw it away and buy new ones to save money. He then explains to me how wonderfully of the travel card works.
When you buy a travel card (which can be used for any public transportation, buses or underground) for the first time, you have to pay an extra 2 dollars for the value of 20 dollar-card. As long as there is money (even 1 cent) in the card, you can use it. But once the number becomes minus, the auto machine will not accept it (you have to pay coins). You can put more money into the card. But once you put in more money, the overdrawn sum will be automatically deduced. For example, last time you use the card, the receipt shows -25 cents. If you put 10 dollars into the card again, the real value inside the card is only 9.75 dollars. If you throw the overdrawn card and buy a new one, you have to pay an extra 2 dollars, which is more costly than putting money into your old card. In this way, the card can be used for as many times as possible to avoid waste.
Another interesting design of the card is that, there will be a bonus if you travel on the public transportation system efficiently. That is to say, if the time span between two uses of the same card is no more than 2 hours (the card will record all the information of your travel), you will be charged less than the normal price. For example, going to the Immigration Office costs me 60 cents on the bus. But when I get back on the same bus (of course not necessarily the same bus or train) in less than 2 hours, I am charged only 35 cents by the auto machine.