As Budget-minded we became over several months of traveling, we choose to travel from Mersing to Singapore with the cheapest operator at the bus station and pay only 16 Ringgit per person instead of 60 Ringgit. The luxurious option would have brought us to downtown Singapore within 2.5 hours, the budget trip turned out slightly different:
– 12:00 pm: Bus station Mersing, compare prices and buy ticket, but ticket system does not work.
– 12:30 pm: Gave up on the tickets for the moment and instead got ourselves two portions of nasi ayam, a copi-ais and a coke.
– 13:30 pm: Back to the bus station, no tickets, but “you no worry, I book your ticket for you, come back at 14:30”.
– 14:30: System still does not work, but we meet a Czech and a Slovak with tickets.
– 2:50 pm: Two tickets arranged, going to Singapore today!
– 3 pm: Boarding, we are leaving.
– 3:30 pm: Or maybe we are not, there are still a few seats empty.
– 16:00: We left! To Johor Baru, not to Singapore, that would have been too easy.
– 6 pm: Arrival in Johor Baru, changing to the same ‘colour’ bus, line number and destination does not seem to matter.
– 6:45 pm: By bus to the Malaysian CIQ building (customs, immigration & quarantine) for a departure stamp.
– 7:00 pm: Bus broke down, so we had to walk.
– 7:30 pm: Got our stamp, looking for the next bus.
– 20:00: Half an hour cueing. Confusion all over the place about the right bus, but again the number and destination is not important, as long as the bus is yellow.
– 8:15 pm: Arrival at the Singapore CIQ building. Filled out our arrival cards and waiting in line for the stamp.
– 8:45 pm: We are allowed to enter the country, passport stamped and here we go again: waiting in line for the next bus.
– 9:30 pm: Now the colour, the number and the destination are important. We jump in yellow, CW2, Queen Street.
– 22:00: Little India, Singapore, yes!
Since we’ve been traveling in Malaysia, we’ve started to love China Town and Little India neighborhoods. Life goes on almost 24 hours a day and guesthouses and food are cheap and delicious. But Little India on Sunday night is like buying presents on Christmas Eve, on flip-flops. Streets are full of market stalls, sound systems and places to hang out, shops sell their products through megaphones and it is crowded.
We pick a guesthouse around eleven o’clock where we are waved in by two French girls from the balcony, because the entrance is tucked away behind rows of people and stalls. Ali, the owner of Ali’s Nest, was the owner of a Chinese restaurant in Drunen in 70’s and 80’s and speaks a few words of Dutch.
The first destination during our stay in Singapore is, of course, the Marina Bay Area. With the stylish Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the Financial District skyline and the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel, the Marina Bay makes an impression, especially when you consider that the whole area has been built on extracted land. Around the Singapore Flyer the curb stones and commercials of the street circuit for the grand prix of Singapore are still visible and we can view the pit lane and starting grid at close quarters. Unfortunately, the name of Max Verstappen does not appear above the pit boxes of Torro Rosso.
After a day of Singapore, we notice that the number of malls is almost infinite. Not only above ground can you walk almost non-stop from huge shopping mall to shopping mall, also most downtown metro stations and even pedestrian tunnels under major intersections often turn out to be shopping malls of four underground floors.
The different neighbourhoods in Singapore are more clearly distinguishable from their style and population than in Melaka, Georgetown or Kuala Lumpur. In the Colonial District we imagine being back in Europe, while Arab Street, Little India and Chinatown each clearly express their own style, culture and religion. Really convenient to choose a place for our lunch and dinner: afternoon banana leaf rice or masala dosai in Little India, in the evening shawarma in Arab Street. But after almost four months, we didn’t miss the noodles and rice.
As evening falls and the Singapore skyline lights up, we are treated to the light and laser shows of the Marina Bay Sands and the Bay Gardens. Singapore never seems to sleep and gradually our biological clock shifts, we have breakfast at noon, shopping is rarely done before midnight and fortunately the launderettes are open 24/7, because we do our laundry at three o’clock at night.
Before leaving Singapore we decide to visit the botanical gardens and spend an afternoon at Sentosa. The southernmost tip of the Asian mainland, also known as Concrete Island, is full of resorts and theme parks. A few nice stretches of beach are enough to relax, before AirAsia takes us to Kuching. Back to Malaysia, on to Borneo!