Days 86-88: Jess is a Wanderer took the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. A rather treacherous journey but absolutely worth it to see this futuristic city!
Taking the bus from Kuala Lumpur airport’s transportation hub on the lower level couldn’t be easier. There’s a whole range of booking offices selling tickets to various destinations. For less than £15 I was able to book a bus to Singapore and the journey would take around five hours. Bargain! The coaches are considered luxurious and have two seats on one side and one seat on the other side. I book a single seat because I didn’t want to have anyone bothering me if they needed to pee at a scheduled stop. Turns out there were no scheduled stops but fortunately the driver needed to stop for petrol so I was able to negotiate jumping off and running for the bathroom. Tip: buses in Malaysia are not the journey length they say. Do not drink a lot of water thinking your journey length is what it said it would be.
Sadly, that wasn’t where my drama ended. Arriving into Singapore’s immigration section, I lined up and was then approached by an officer who informed me I had to fill in a form. I left the line, picked up a form and filled it in. Officer two checked the form and told me to proceed back to the line. I’m waiting in line and sadly, I’m officially in Singapore so my Malaysian SIM stopped work… boredom kicked in but it’s OK because officer 3 came over and checked my form and told me it was wrong. Despite officer 2’s checks, I had to leave the line and fill it in again. 40 minutes must have passed before I was finally at the front of the line and as I stepped to go forward, the guy announced his desk was closing. I was the only westerner there and I’m sure they were having a right laugh at my expense. Oh well, grin and bare it, find a new line! At this point, I was worried that the other two passengers on my bus would have gotten bored and left me behind. As I (finally) cleared immigration, I saw one waving at me in the doorway.
Putting my bag on the conveyor belt to be scanned, I heard a whisper asking me if I had any alcohol or cigarettes. Replying that I did not, I was met with a look of doubt so I told the officer, ‘Check my bag again…’ He wasn’t happy and as I picked up my stuff to leave, he wanted to know about the ‘bullets’ in my bag. I wasn’t sure what he could be on about but then after thinking for a moment, I realised he meant tampons! I tried to explain but he wasn’t really getting in so I sort of did a charades performance. He didn’t even acknowledge my explanation, turned on his heel and walked away. It made me remember the story of someone in a similar position who told an officer they were bubblegum and that he could keep one… I’ll have to use it next time.
Onwards to Singapore and within moments of arriving in the city I was awestruck. Skyscrapers towering in every direction. It was an incredible sight. Having grown up in the English countryside, there’s always been something appealing about skyscrapers but this was an entirely different ball game. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – so many different shapes, sizes, designs and colours. I couldn’t wait to get out exploring in the morning. Checking into my first ever capsule hostel, I was so excited for the next day. Despite the nine hour journey to get here.
I based myself in Chinatown because it was one of the cheaper districts to stay, had some of the best-rated food options and I do like a visit to Chinatown. My first morning, I visited the infamous one-Michelin-star-street-food restaurant: Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle – which is exactly what it says. For less than $5 you can have a meal and a drink. How is this even possible when a) you’re in Singapore and b) it’s a street-food place… well, it is possible and it’s worth a visit!
On my first day in Singapore I walked almost 25km. I was overwhelmed by the architecture and the comparison between old and new. The modern western influence compared with the traditional Asian designs. The colonial influences and the history of the place. However, above all of that, the different ethnic areas were what I loved most about the city. From Little India to Arab Street and Burgis (for the hipsters), there was a really magic in finding these pockets of the city where natives would based themselves. I loved the street art and temples of Little India. The mosques and Lebanese food options of Arab Street are a must-visit. Over in Chinatown there is Mosque Street, Temple Street and Pagoda Street – all named for their religious buildings.
Whilst on Haji Lane – a perfect spot for anyone who just wants to soak in some relaxed Singapore vibes, I visited a gallery and met the photographer herself. She recommended some top spots for night photography. Marina East faces Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer from across the river, providing lovely reflections and a sweeping vista of the city.
I had three full days in Singapore and I’d recommend at least five as a minimum. There’s just so much to see and do. I didn’t really go to Gardens by the Bay – I popped in one evening for the light show but found it overcrowded (and sorry to say it) quite tacky. Instead, I headed for the Spectra light show which is provided by Marina Bay Sands hotel. I’m not usually into dancing fountains but this one, of course, totally blew me away! I recommend seeing it at least twice. Once from in front of the hotel and once either from above or from opposite the hotel. Or hey, just see it three times from each of these angles! It was impressive and being above or opposite the hotel, you see the lasers shooting off the top adding to the effect. Very impressive indeed. There are two shows each day at 8 and 9pm respectively and they’re free! Plenty of eating and drinking options in the area so you can be fully fed and watered before and after the show. Don’t stand too close to the railing as you will get wet. I learnt this the hard way!
Near to the bay is a bar called Level 33. As you can guess, it’s on Level 33 and at near £30 it will be the most expensive gin and tonic you’ve ever tasted but it is so worth it for the view. This is the first ‘rooftop’ bar I’ve been to where they don’t have glass obstructing the view. Looking down over the marina (and the light show if you time it right) you can get some amazing pictures. Dressed like a tramp, I was (somehow) admitted and allowed to set up camp (and my tripod) for a couple of hours surrounded by lots of glamorous and wealthy people. This was also at the time when I had no deodorant so I’m not sure how I was able to visit but it was amazing.
My must do list whilst in Singapore would be: Little India, China Town, Arab Street, Haji Lane, visit exclusive Raffles hotel for a Singapore Sling (just don’t look at the price) and enjoy throwing peanut shells on the floor like a wild animal; lose yourself in one of the many malls – walk around pretending like you can afford to shop in the big brand designer places or if nothing else, just enjoy the most effective AC you’ve ever experienced; ride the metro system – it’s easy and so cheap compared to the cost of basically EVERYTHING ELSE in the city; go to Marina Bay East it’s definitely worth the walk; watch the kites fly down by Marina Barrage at sunset; wind down side-streets without looking at a map; visit a Michelin star restaurant – if you’re like me, it’ll be the only one you can afford; visit Level 33, you’ll have to buy a drink but it’s worth it; and finally, watch the people scurrying backwards and forwards.