Think Singapore, think the former British colony that is a tiny little island at the bottom of continental SE Asia that enjoys one of the world’s lowest crime rates – Yet has one of the world’s highest execution rates.
The British moved out 45 years ago this week and left behind probably the single most modern country on the planet, in terms of buildings it must really rival the Emirates for pushing the boundaries of structural engineering and creating stunning architecture and huge buildings that rise way into the sky above – Google ‘Marina Bay Sands’ to get the idea.
Singapore is also one of the most ethnically diverse countries I have been to. For such a small nation there is a multitude of people, cultures and religions. All united by the red and white flag and an idea that Singapore is ‘your country, our country’
Look in the right places and Singapore is full of prostitution, cheap food and beer. Look everywhere else and it is a sterilised nation created and ruled by an almost dictatorship.
We had got the night (well morning) in a cheap hotel and got booted out about 3pm. We took the MRT north to Woodlands so we could head for Johor Bahru (JB) in Malaysia. The crossing is simple, stamp out of Singapore, stamp into Malaysia. The bus kicked us off at City Square which is basically a big mall and then from there we got a taxi to our hotel. We are staying at Tune Hotel Danga Bay, which is 10MYR from City Square (£2) and our hotel is my favourite chain in Asia with the comfiest beds of any hotel I have stayed in throughout the world, except for maybe the Hamptons in the US. The room is about 60MYR per night which is about twelve quid. You have to book ahead though, we got these rates about a week in advance. But for places like Kuala Lumpur, you’re talking about booking a fortnight ahead at least.
The first day in Singapore was sightseeing. Last year we came to Singapore and didn’t really think much of it. That I now know was down to the fact it was a hub for flights and really every day we had were tired days looking the windows of the MRT or rushing back for a flight later that day.
The process of Malaysia to Singapore is simple. City square mall is joined to ‘Imigresen’ from floor 3. Literally walk through and leave Malaysia. Go down stairs and get one of the many buses to Singapore. Most go to Woodlands or there abouts, but CW2 (causeway express) goes to Queen street which is Southern Singapore and near to Bugis MRT. The cost is 2.50MYR or $2.50SGD depending on which way you are going.
CW2 is the best option for us and so you jump on and cross the bridge connecting the two countries, then get booted off at the other side. Go through Singapore immigration and then back down stairs onto the bus and then 25 minutes later arrive at Queen Street. I suppose 25 minutes from the North of the Country to the South shows the size of Singapore. It beggars belief how such a midget nation can be so overwhelmingly wealthy – I am told though that every single freighter on the planet goes through Singapore harbour.
The first day was spent around the awesome Marina Bay Sands, which basically is three huge buildings all connected by a roof structure and built on so-called ‘reclaimed land’ (which is basically a fake island constructed because they ran out space on the mainland) Charlie had seen this built on National Geographic and wanted to visit. It is opposite a mall littered with Versace, Luis Vuitton, Rolex and the like. As such it is also full of the elite social classes, most seemed to be British.
Singapore has 2 huge events coming up and as such most of the city is gearing toward these. The first is this week on the 9th August and is its 45th Birthday. It completely denounces British rule and parades its people around the streets in pride whilst its midget size navy does a few fly bys for good measure. I was really tempted to stay for this as I’m sure the day would be great, alas tickets were allocated long ago. The second event is the Youth Olympic games which the country appears to have spent and absolute fortune on and is immensely proud to be host of the inaugural event.
The second and third days we the same crossing between countries and ultimately spent on Sentosa.
Sentosa is an island at the far South of Singapore. It is basically an island full of gorgeous beaches (which I think are manmade) and loads of stuff to do from world class shows, to zip lines in the jungle, to go kart racing – Essentially its manmade paradise.
It is connected to the mainland by bus, taxi, monorail and cable car. We used the monorail as it was cheap at only $3SGD (£1.50) This includes the entrance fee which for foreigners is $2, for Singaporeans $100 – Bargain if you ask me.
None of the things on the island were really worth the money and so we hit the beaches. Palawan beach is the ‘family beach’ where the beaches are actually quite empty and the water shallow and warm. There is a footbridge ‘Indiana Jones style’ that leads to a tiny islet. It is deserted and full of palm trees that look like something out of Castaway. The point being this little island of paradise is the Southernmost point in Mainland Asia and is also the closest to the Equator you will get in Asia. It’s about 160km away from the Southern Hemisphere and the imaginary line that crosses the globe horizontally. There were of course times we were further South in Asia than any of the other few Billion people that occupy the amazing continent. The novelty soon wore off after id put every body part as far south as I could – I realised this when I couldn’t get my leg down from the fence and needed help.
We retired to the beach and had an awesome day in the sea and on the beach in Singapore before returning to our hotel in Malaysia.
I have really warmed to Singapore this time and I have realised that the tiny country holds more family activities than the UK at a fraction of the cost.
The only problem for us now is that Abi’s passport has only 3 blank pages in it. Every other page either has a full page Visa on there or at least 6 stamps. The obvious problem is that we are close to running out of space, particularly for Visa’s which require a full page. Therefore when at Immigration I have been asking if he can get her stamps on the pages whereby they can squeeze at least one more stamp on there.
On the 7th August (tomorrow) we spend our final day in Singapore and all being well we go to Singapore Zoo which supposedly is the best in the world, before taking a night bus for the 12 hour journey to Northern Malaysia to Butterworth where we take a ferry to Penang – Arguably Malaysia’s second most famous island after Borneo and one which holds nothing but historical beauty of a former British colony and traditional Malay lifestyles.
From Penang we have 3 choices, we either head back to Cambodia via a few Thai Islands and then travel right up through Vietnam before flying home. The second choice we have is to head up to Bangkok and then fly out to the Philippines. The final option is that we head North to Bangkok and then fly to Myanmar (Burma) and spend time there.
Each possibility poses its own problems and benefits and so as yet we remain undecided.
Thanks to those who have stuck with us and followed our travels thus far. As the journey enters its final third we hope to have shared our experiences with you and that you have enjoyed them. For the family following our blog rest assured the end is not far away and we will be home soon x