Heading South

Singapore Travel Blog

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My dad and I took a bus from Taiping to Singapore, with the bus company Konsortium. The bus itself was super comfortable - the seats were so big that there are only three seats per row (two on one side, one on the other). The only downside was the lack of toilet on board which meant we stopped several times during the 10-hour journey. Almost an hour of that was spent crawling into and out of Kuala Lumpur's main bus station (a badly designed, underground, stinking hot and packed place that should probably be avoided). Going through immigration and customs on both Malaysia's and Singapore's sides was, in comparison, easy and problem-free.

Lots of people come to Singapore and I've always secretly wondered why. This is my 4th or 5th time here, the last time of which was 2002 when my dad and I again visited my brother, who lives and works here. When I think of Singapore, I think of high rises, shops and businesses, clean roads, humid weather and not much soul. But this perception is changing (slowly)...

I think Singapore is a good place for people to get acquainted with, but not overwhelmed by, Asian culture. The standards of cleanliness here surpass that of many places in my own country, the food is cheap but genuine and you get little pockets of true Chinese or Indian culture here and there (not to mention many other cultures). To me, the most overwhelming thing about Singapore is the amount of shops and shopping centres that exist. How can people spend so much money all the time? Isn't there anything else to do? (Of course, I only despair because I'm not in the position to go spending hundreds of dollars on whatever takes my fancy.)

Another bonus is Singapore's clean, fast and easy to use transport systems. We managed to go to Jurong Bird Park and the Night Safari and back home (my brother has an apartment near an MRT station) all by public transport, without taking hours to get there as would be the case in other cities. And if you can't be bothered, taxis are also pretty cheap. Of course, you can get around by foot especially if you're downtown, but you might be caught in the rain...

So in the last few days, I've developed a fondness for Singapore. I know it has a lot to offer - it's one of those places where you can find just about anything you want, if you look hard enough. The variety of food (second only to shops) is notable... We visited two Japanese restaurants for lunch on consecutive days. My brother, knowing my dad is a chilli-lover, wanted him to try a ramen dish with an 8-chilli rating (the hottest). While my dad finished it without a problem, my brother and I struggled through our 4-chilli ramen.... and that was definitely too hot for me (and I like to think I can eat pretty hot, but not compared to my dad!).

The Little India neighbourhood is as colourful and smelly (in a good way) as you'll get. I can't say I enjoy working up a sweat in 32-degree (celsius) heat with 95% humidity, which is a fairly normal temperature, but wandering around the streets is not a bad thing to do. Bugis street is Singapore's infamous market, but probably best visited at night. Many shops weren't open when we browsed by around noon.

It was the second day of heavy rain when we visited Chinatown, so it lacked a lot of atmosphere, but the buildings were colourful and there were plenty of little stalls. Singapore boasts the largest fountain in the world. Indeed, it is pretty big, and has a contemporary design; at night there's a laser show and loud music blaring out of the speakers (it's rather odd).

So, if your plane stops over in Singapore, I would recommend a couple of days to have a peek into this strange mixture of eastern and western cultures.

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photo by: easyjobrob