After 25+ hours of flights, we arrived in Singapore in the middle of the night and EXHAUSTED. Because we had such a long trip planned (possibly a whole year of travelling), we decided to ease ourselves into the travel mindset a bit (that means hotels instead of hostels, and Ubers instead of walking/public transportation). So we used some of Kyle’s valuable Marriott points to book ourselves a room in the middle of the city and called an Uber to drive us there.
SINGAPORE MUST-DO HIGHLIGHTS:
– Haji Lane (for shopping, eating, photo-taking, and exploring)
– Botanic Gardens
– Nightly light show
HOW TO GET THERE:
-Plane, train, OR bus (Bus seems to be the most convenient and cheapest if coming from a short distance)
MY TRAVEL DIARY:
Though we were driving in the dark, the first thing I noticed about the city was the tree-lined highways and the vine covered traffic barriers. Such simple touches that were so effective in making the city feel manicured and clean. I have to say my favorite thing about Singapore was the huge amount of green-space in the largely metropolitan city. Everywhere you look there were trees and beautiful plants! The effect was that of a city living in harmony with the jungle. Yes, I know this was manufactured by the planners of the city, but it’s still very nice.
The next morning, we set out to explore the city; this was our only full day there so we had to make the most of it. Of course we beelined it to Haji Lane. This was the most adorable little street with fabulous shopping! I was so tempted to buy basically EVERYTHING, but part of the fun of backpacking is that anything you buy has to fit in your pack… and let’s just say I’m not in the position to be carrying much more 😉 Haji Lane takes it’s name from the Arab pilgram-brokers who arranged for haj travelers to make their pilgrammage to Mecca. The area maintains an indie vibe, full of clothing boutiques, coffee shops, and ice cream.
We took an Uber (again with the easing into the traveler lifestyle) to the botanic gardens which were gorgeous and best of all, FREE! It has been chosen as a UNESCO world heritage site and it did not disappoint. We saw endless amounts of bamboo, palms, fig trees, and a robotic lawn mower!! Hehe it was basically a Romba for grass 😀
We decided to go to a local grocery store and scope out the eats in this part of the world. We picked up some local food and went back to our hotel and had dinner picnic-style on the 18th floor while overlooking the city 🙂 It started to rain and we enjoyed the sounds of the showers from our covered nook. We spent the rest of the day relaxing there and watched the sun go down. There is a light show every evening in Singapore and we were able to see it from little corner of the city! During the holiday season they have several shows per night so we watched the first one and then headed off to bed.
We woke the next morning and had to make our next move. We knew we wanted to go to Kuala Lumpur that day but hadn’t yet booked transportation. We had planned on taking a train but came to find that trains on that route sold out quickly. We settled on a bus and got a good deal on a last minute booking (about $22 USD per person) – about HALF the typical price for that company! The bus turned out to be a good experience! The seats were comfortable and spacious and the back of each seat had a little screen that had movies loaded into it (much like an airplane entertainment system, but with fewer options).
We arrived to Singapore exit immigration by bus and got through the line in a matter of minutes. Singapore in general seems to be very efficient and technologically modern. We then got back on the bus and drove for 15-20 minutes before arriving at the Malaysia entry customs checkpoint. This is where the stress started. There were only a couple booths open to receive travelers and there was no clear queue. Oh and there were HUNDREDS of people who all arrived at the same time. Kyle and I were in the last seat on our bus so we were the last to get in line. We were also two of the only foreigners on our particular bus so I was already starting to sweat that the local people would get through more quickly and our bus would leave us.
Turns out my fear wasn’t far-fetched. We stood in line for nearly an hour as the Malaysia officers took their time, whether it was due to slow computer equipment or a general lack of urgency, I don’t know. But it certainly was not efficient. We finally got our passports stamped and hurried to the next room where they would x-ray our bags. This went quickly, as the customs officials did not seem too concerned with any of our belongings. We grabbed our bags and literally sprinted to find our bus. We arrived just as our driver was shutting the bus door. Ack! Talk about stressful. Ultimately we had been in line for approximately an hour, elbow to elbow with hoards of other sweaty people. But we had made it and were ready to sit for the next four hours, anxiously anticipating our next adventure: Malaysia!