30.07.2014 - 04.08.2014 34 °C
We’d had to leave Indonesia on a Wednesday, since our visa was expiring, and we needed to be in Singapore for the weekend to spend time with our friend Ben who lives and works there, but we were concerned about spending too many days in a place as expensive as Sing. So we flew into Johor Bahru in Malaysia, less than half an hour’s bus ride from Singapore, and to save a bit of money we spent two nights in a hotel there. For the same price as two bunk beds in a dorm in Sing, we got a massive room, a gym and pool and had cable tv so we could watch a bit of the Commonwealth Games. Since there’s not too much to see in JB we just enjoyed having the facilities and popped out only for cheap food nearby. We were then good and relaxed for Singapore on Friday afternoon.
Ben came to find us at our hostel in Singapore after he finished work on Friday, we were drinking beer on the balcony (Brits Abroad!). He then took us out for yummy food in Chinatown near where we were staying followed by drinks with several of his ex-pat buddies from his Dragon Boat club. Our first impressions of Singapore were that it was rather like we’d expected and that we really liked it. Parts of it reminded us very much of the good bits of London, (this was probably emphasised because we went to a London Pub on the river bank and spoke mostly to British people on the first night) though of course hotter and also tidier - Singapore is impeccably clean. The prices are like London too but we’d decided to just forget about our budget for the weekend, we wanted to enjoy our brief time there with Ben.
The following day we’d been invited by the Dragon Boat club to go to their training spot and have a go at Dragon Boat racing. This seemed like a great idea and very Singaporean! So we went with Ben to the quayside, donned some floating vests, had a quick land demonstration of how to hold the paddle and learned what certain commands shouted by the boat captain mean. And then off we went. There were 14 paddlers in the boat, sat in twos. We spend a good hour learning the drills and then practicing sets of 1-3 minute paddling. It was really quite hard, especially on the back muscles, but got more fun as we went on. We then split up the people between our ‘beginner’ boat with the more experienced team members’ boat to even things out and had a 250m race. Tess was very pleased that the team she and Ben were on won, (and beat Rachel’s ho ho!)
After a good 3 hours on the water, we had a couple of well-deserved beers on the quayside together with getting to know the crews a bit more. Then we all popped back to Ben’s place to get showered and into dry clothes (Dragon Boat racing is a very soggy affair) and we tarted ourselves up (well, a bit) for a night out. That night dinner was in a shopping mall food court, but it was far from the fast food crap that you get in such places back home, Singapore loves food and does it very well. We had ‘hot pot’, not like Betty’s from Corrie, but in this place you select your fresh ingredients and hand to the chef who serves it cooked up with delicious mix of spices and extras in a massive bowl with portions of rice on the side. It was yummy indeed.
From there we went out to meet Ben’s cousin (who also lives in Sing) and her friend in an area that again reminded us of bits on London, before we were taken out to a very grand looking bar (looks kind of NYC early 20th Century, but in fact is only a few years old) it has a massive wine rack going right up from behind the bar to the high ceiling. After a while we realised why Ben had insisted on sitting with his back to the bar, it was so we’d have a surprise when we saw how they get to said wine. A lady (in a short skirt may we add) dons a harness and remote control and zooms up there, moving around with her controls to get the exact spots she needs to, it was like a glamorous Peter Pan panto scene. As if we had not had entertainment and delights enough that evening, we then went off to the Arab Quarter where we shared a shisha pipe in front of a very attractive, gold domed mosque. A very full day and evening!
We had a bit of a relax the next morning as Ben invited us round to his shared apartment to use the gym and pool facilities for a while, (so we could pretend we lived in Singapore and were just enjoying the weekend!) After that he took us for lunch in a great ‘real food’ café close to his road then the two of us left him in peace a while to go visit the Botanical Gardens. These were very beautiful, with a really good orchid garden and a big open area around a lake on which was a stage with a Chinese orchestra was playing some very soothing music, though they were just sound-checking for the evening’s performance so we were lucky to get to enjoy a bit. We then had to dash back to Ben’s as we had agreed to pick him up as he wanted to take us to visit the “Gardens by the Bay” and “Marina Bay Sands” at particular times of day, he was a man with a plan….
What an afternoon and evening it was though, this whole area was really worth spending a few hours in. We first saw Gardens by the Bay, where we did the short canopy walk, giving views down to the gardens and around, this was very cool. Afterwards we walked around the main shopping mall at Marina Bay Sands, as soon as we entered it was very unlike regular malls, it certainly ain’t the Arndale. There is a (albeit short) river running through it with gondolas giving people rides. All of the shops are pretty quality (or rather totally ‘blingy’), the likes of Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Cartier, Tiffany & Co…. needless to say we didn’t do any shopping!
Not long after sunset, Ben hurried us to the waterfront where we watched the nightly ‘sound & light show’, which was not at all as naff as it may sound and was actually very enjoyable, especially given the setting with the lights of some of the city’s tallest skyscapers in the financial district in the background. After this, (via a minor interlude where Ben went on a half hour hunt for vegan chocolate because he had a craving), we got the lift to the very top of the Marina Bay Sands where we treated ourselves to an expensive cocktail to drink as we looked out to the views over Singapore from there, it was really quite amazing. After that we shared a cab back to Ben’s apartment to pick up some things we’d left strewn around the place then we all went for a final farewell glass of Prosecco (or 3) at a very reasonably priced wine bar close to him.
And that was that really, we said our goodbyes and next morning the two of us got a bus back over the border to JB and then another onto Malacca. So that leaves two final weeks on the Malaysian Peninsular, which will be the final blog of our travels, coming soon…