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Asia Fantasia! Part 3 – Yeehaw Singapore.

Exchanging bodily fluids with The Merlion at Marina Bay, Singapore.
Singapore is a revelation. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in South-East Asia I’m sure and possibly even the world! Seamlessly efficient in every aspect. We passed through the airport with ease, changed some money, and purchased an electronic ticket for public transport system in no time at all. The only slight hitch came when I realised I’d left my copy of Lonely Planet at the Bureau de Change and had to march back to find it. Fortunately, with this being saccharine-sweet Singapore, the lady at the counter had put it to one side for me. It’s a city taken over by the Stepford Wives! 😀
We took the MRT train to the Tanah Merah interchange and then another on the North East Line to Chinatown.
Chinatown rocks again! I love the Chinatown districts of Asia (I may have mentioned that previously). We followed the map to the first hostel from Lonely Planet and discovered it was closed down so we headed north to the next one; The Backpackers Cozy Corner at Bugis Junction. We got ourselves a twin room with aircon for S$50 (£25) per night. We then headed back into Chinatown for a meal at the People’s Park Complex food court. Very nice food at a couple of quid each and cheap Tiger Beer in big bottles for S$5.00. We caught the metro around town and had a look around Little India; which was pretty impressive with all the lights up in preparation for the Deepavali Festival.
Little India preparing for Deepavali


We spent our first full day wandering around the city and sightseeing around Marina Bay, The Merlion Park and the Orchard Road area. It is a pretty amazing city and Orchard Road has the tons of huge shopping malls which must be paradise for the local and visiting women alike! Every conceivable brand you can think of is represented with flagship stores; Chanel, Gucci, Dior, Prada, Cartier, Armani… a bit out of my price range let me tell you! Although Dan managed to treat himself to a really nice set of Sony headphones for S$100.00 (£50) and they did sound amazing. There are loads of ultra-modern structures that are tourist attractions in their own right; things like The Helix Bridge, The Esplanade and The ArtScience Museum that can be interpreted as a lotus flower or an outstretched hand, and so many others that are worth seeing.

The Helix Bridge, The Lotus Flower and Marina Bay Sands Resort.

Thursday 6th October
With some sightseeing done I decided that the next day was to be a “doing” day and we took the MRT to Tanah Merah and then the no 2 bus to Changi Village. Immediately adjacent to the bus station is the small ferry port for the crossing to Pulau Ubin (on the amusingly titled “Bumboat”).
Pulau Ubin is a beautiful and very lightly inhabited island a short hop from the North-East corner of Singapore; and has been set aside as a nature reserve. There are virtually no vehicles, save for the Rangers transport, and you either walk around or cycle. We hired a couple of mountain bikes from the small cluster of ramshackle buildings near the harbour and followed the signs for the Ketam Quarry Mountain Bike Trail. It was a pretty good course and they have made the best of the terrain available. I enjoyed the riding but it was very tough work in the heat & humidity; Dan moaned all the way around! 😀  We had to stop constantly to take on water in the punishing conditions and we were soaked in sweat by the time we had finished.
When we got back to the village we had some lunch in one of the cafe’s, replenished our water supplies, and then headed off on one of the nature trails out towards the highly protected mangrove swamps. As you approach this sensitive area you have to abandon the bikes at the perimeter and walk the last few hundred metres past the information centre and onto the elevated viewing platforms.
We spotted wild pigs foraging with their young in the bushes; which was pretty cool.
The view from the platforms was breath taking in every direction and we watched a huge electrical storm approaching in the distance, for a good while, before making a dash for the bikes and retreating back to the village. We stopped a couple of times and tried to photograph and video the hugely impressive sheet lightning strikes and the deafening cracks of thunder that followed without much success. In the nick of time we scrambled under cover and into a shop-come-cafe to sit out the storm. I have honestly never seen so much rain in such a short time in all my life. It was actually gushing in torrents from the corrugated rooftops and we laughed, slightly in awe, at the spectacle.
Stair-rods for rain on Pulau Ubin; if Carlsberg did rain storms…

In the evening we had a nice curry at a restaurant on Boat Quay, at Dan’s request, before going to the unbelievable Clarke Quay for a few beers. That was a revelation… £8.82 for a pint of beer! That’s definitely the most money I’ve ever paid for a beer; and we bought quite a few of them too! Ouch!

A far cry from the 13pence we had paid for a beer in Hoi An, Vietnam a few months previously. 
We settled in the Highlander Bar and boogied to the house band, who were very good as it turned out. And the female vocalist was hotter than the weather! 🙂

I haven’t been to many places in the world were the women are as hot as they are in Singapore; our heads were spinning so often we were in danger of developing whiplash by the end of stay! 😀 Phewee.
The amazing, under cover, Clark Quay.
 
Friday 7th October
We may have had a bit of lay-in today! The Clarke Quay lager putting paid to any notions of an early start. Today we were heading for the garish tourist mecca that is Sentosa Island, once a key strategic defence point and now a heavily developed theme park/resort of sorts. All because I wanted to visit the furthest point south of continental Asia; just so I could say I had really.
It was a considerably underwhelming event. You cross a fancy rope bridge to a small islet and reach a small boarded area to be greeted by a view of hundreds of tankers and cargo ships blotting the horizon. We had much more fun clambering out onto an almost horizontal palm tree hanging over the water.
That evening we were going to view the Marina Bay Sands Laser Show from the bridge that spans the river. I thought it was pretty cool; Dan was underwhelmed for the second time that day! We ate again at the Peoples Park Complex and drank cheap Tiger beer before once again biting the bullet and calling in at Clarke Quay on the way back to the hostel.
The horizontal palm at the end of a continent.
Saturday 8th October
Again we got up late, bloody lager, and decided to visit the SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands for the views across the city; great views too although a bit expensive at S$20 each.
We hung around the hostel in the evening ready for an early start in the morning. Dan, bored, nipped out for a beer and returned a little while later with a six pack of Tiger beers, bless him, which we shared before turning in for the night due to an early start for our flight to Langkawi.
Sunday 9th October – Singapore to Langkawi
We got up at 07.00am, had a quick breakfast and checked out about 07.45am. Caught the MRT from Bugis Junction to Tanah Merah then the transfer to Changi Airport. No problems through the airport; it was Singapore of course! Dan had Subway for breakfast and we used the free computers for a while before boarding the flight to Langkawi. And so came the end of another chapter in our travels and the beginning of another.

Singapore is a great place to visit for the backpacker and probably even greater for the tourist on a higher budget. We had enjoyed our stay but were looking forward to getting back in to, what we considered, real Asia and the fun that comes with travelling in a slightly less organised fashion 🙂

More Images Below.
The view from Chinatown towards Boat Quay
Chinatown, Singapore.

Not sure what was on offer at this nightclub!
Some old dude enjoying a nap under a bridge. We weren’t sure if he was dead or alive!
Dan misbehaving!
Me & Dan on the Marina Bay Sands Skybridge.
Your average water feature in Singapore!
Dan suitably impressed with the local transport!
The odd looking Merlion and an odd looking bloke.
We weren’t sure whether to board this or not!
I wonder which way we headed? Pulau Ubin.
Dan suitably unimpressed by mountain biking in punishing humidity.
Wild pigs foraging. Pulau Ubin.
Dan at the mangrove platform. Pulau Ubin.
The underwhelming view from the end of the continent!
Impressive laser show at the marina bay.
 

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

2 Comments

  1. Charlene Lie

    Hi Neil,

    I'm writing to you from MLA Events, the main event company appointed by the Singapore Tourism Board for the Merlion's 40th Birthday Celebrations happening at the Merlion Park this September. I came across your blog while researching for content to use in a video-photo montage for the light show event.

    It would be great if you would allow me to use this photo (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-IZJiwUF1uJk/TuUFHSwE-GI/AAAAAAAAAXs/qOO-117wIJE/s1600/Malasia+Trip+237.jpg) in the montage.

    The event will be free for all, and will run for 5 nights from 12th to the 16th of September. Do let me know at charlenelie@gmail.com

    Cheers,
    Charlene

    Reply
  2. Neil

    Of course you can Charlene, I feel quite honoured! Thanks for asking; I'll email you the full size image.
    Cheers
    Neil

    Reply

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