Singapore - The city in a garden

Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
Trip End Jun 07, 2012

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

19th April - we made the decision to stay the night in Kota Bharu to allow us a whole day to get back to Penang for our flight to singapore. That evening we ate at the local food Market. Being a predominantly Muslim area, my little shorts didn't go down too well! It's not a touristy area at all, so we endured a LOT of staring. The food however was delicious; curried chicken and onion rice served in banana leaves. We also sampled doughnuts Malaysia style - INCREDIBLE! The following morning we explored the morning Market (the best in Malaysia apparently). It was a large bustling market, offering everything from Malaysian cakes and sweets, to fresh fruit, meats and fish. For breakfast we sampled several different types of cakes and sweets. Although incredibly flavoursome, most were fried, meaning that we had very heavy and greasy breakfast. This left us feeling decidedly sick afterwards!

We had booked our bus the previous day and could not believe how easy and convenient it had been (literally right outside the hotel), boy was our luck about to run out! The journey back to Penang should have taken about 4 and a half hours...add 7 and a half hours to that and you get the actual time it took - 12! After about 2 hours on the road our bus broke down. I say broke down, we didn't actually stop, the driver couldn't get the bus out of 1st gear so we were going along at about 10km/h. We had a flight to catch at 9pm that evening and worked out that we could still just about make it back in time (even though we were travelling at a snails pace) having given ourselves plenty of extra time. What we didn't account for was the 2 hour stop at a service station as we waited for a mechanic to turn up. By this point we had surrendered to the fact that we would miss our flight and made the most out of a bad situation - ate copious ice lollies, enjoyed the playground and made friends with our fellow Malaysian travellers (who thought we were just married for some reason), must have been how happy we looked (3 months constantly in each others company has not made us want to kill each other yet, quite the opposite actually)! When the mechanic did eventually turn up, he did some sort of bodge job (we broke down about 15 minutes later). The driver finally decided it was time to get a new bus - 11 hours later, and Malaysia is meant to have one of the best public transport networks in the world, we must have been incredibly unlucky. Finally, we arrived back into Georgetown at about 10pm, went out for some delicious, and cheap, sushi (which went some way to making up for our disastrous day).

21st April - having decided to take the night bus that evening, we had a very chilled out day - went to the cinema (twice), watched battleship and lockout. My preference was titanic 3D, but that was very quickly dismissed by Ross. He promised me that there would be some decent eye candy in the other two films (he wasn't wrong)! So we were both happy. We had sushi again for lunch and tandoori for dinner before catching the night bus to Singapore.

22nd April - arrived very early into Singapore, after a very uncomfortable journey - we were shattered. As our room was still occupied we decided to wander down to little India for breakfast. The first major sight was Sri Veeramakaliamman temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali. After that we had the inevitable food stop - tandoori chicken and naan bread for breakfast, yum! We then popped back to the hotel and settled into our room, not exactly a steal at 60 a night (about 3 times as much as we'd paid anywhere else, but cheap for Singapore). The hotel itself was pretty cool, we felt like we had made the transition from backpacker to flashpacker; roof terrace with standing pool, snooker table, rows of computers and unlimited coffee were all at our disposal. This was luxury at its finest! At 2pm we met up with Michael and Viv, a couple we met during our Halong Bay tour (remember that?!), and they showed us around their native city. We started with an amazing lunch at an ex-army barracks come boutique food and craft centre, quite an experience. They then took us for a guided tour of Chinatown (where Michael had grown up), including the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Sri Mariamman temple, and numerous hawker stands, Chinese craft shops etc. After Chinatown came the CBD and Marina Bay, an area packed with upmarket shopping malls, art galleries, bars and hotels, which has been reclaimed from the sea by some clever engineering. We watched the sun set over a few beers on the boardwalk overlooking the beautiful Singaporean skyline, caught a sound and light show which also featured liberal use of fire (always pretty cool!) then headed for dinner at a traditional Singaporean hawker centre. We tried classics such as frog legs, alongside more unusual dished such as 'gong gong' (a sort of sea snail). After dinner Michael and Viv insisted we cruise around the red light district, not that Ross took much persuading! We saw hordes of men roving around the area in packs, but very few ladies of the night; apparently all the action took place behind closed doors in hotel-brothels, well away from prying eyes, thank god. We had such a fantastic time with Michael and Viv and they showed us a whole side of Singapore most tourists never even know exists; far from being 'sterile' or lacking character, as many people claim, the Singapore we saw was one of the most interesting places we have been throughout the trip. The city is a melting pot of different religions and ethnicities, all within easy touching distance thanks to Singapore's efficient transport system. It is also remarkably clean and green, a rarity in southeast Asia, and we found the people to be unfailingly welcoming. The architecture was a mix of Bombay and Beijing, colonial splendour and super modern skyscrapers. We loved it!

23rd April- we struck out alone, and without the luxury of an air-conditioned BMW 7 series, and braved the city on foot. We explored many of the same areas we saw the day before, but did each in more detail. Amongst the most interesting sights were Fort Canning Park (which had elevators to take us up the steep hills!), the Fullerton Hotel (if money were no object, undoubtedly where we would stay), Merlion Park, the Padang ( with it's old school cricket club), and One Altitude (although as soon as we walked out onto the 62nd floor, eagerly anticipating sinking a few Singapore Slings while the sun set, the lightning alarm went off and we had to come straight back down).

24th April- we visited Arab Street, including the Hajjah Fatimah Mosque and Alladin's gift shop (naturally), bought a new suitcase at a 24hr Market called Mustafa's (or was it Abdul's or Mohammed's?!), and visited a best match marriage consultants to check out the 'latest beauties' available for our enjoyment. That evening we said a fond fairwell to Singapore (we will miss it, but we'll be back, hopefully!) and boarded a nightbus to Kuala Lumpur. The next stop in our epic adventure.

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