Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 4: Singapore

25-26.6: Munich -> Dubai -> KL
27.6: KL
28.6: KL
29.6: KL -> Miri
30.6: Miri -> Mulu
1.7: Mulu -> Camp 5
2.7: Pinnacles
3.7: Camp 5 -> Miri -> Kuching
4.7: Kuching -> Singapore
5.7: Singapore
6.7: Singapore
7.7: Singapore -> KL
8.7: KL -> Merang
9.7: Merang -> Lang Tengah
10.7: Lang Tengah
11.7: Lang Tengah -> Kuala Terengganu -> Pulau Kapas
12.7: Pulau Kapas -> KL -> Teluk Intan

13.7: Teluk Intan
14.7: Teluk Intan, Ipoh, Kuala Kangsar, Taiping
15.7: Teluk Intan -> KL -> Kuching
16.7: Kuching, Kubah NP, Matang wildlife reserve
17.7: Semenggoh, Kuching wetlands NP, Kota Kinabalu
18.7: Kota Kinabalu -> Labuan
19.7: Labuan -> Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei)
20.7: Ulu Temburong NP -> BSB
21.7: BSB -> Seria -> Tasek Merimbun -> KL
22.7: KL
23.7: KL
24.7: KL -> Dubai
25.7: Dubai -> Munich

4.7: Kuching -> Singapore
Hotel Regin, Singapore. This hotel is a budget hotel (rooms in the 75-100 SGD range), in the Kallang (Geylang) area. This is supposedly the red light district of Singapore, but I don't notice any sex shops or prostitutes on the street. Probably whatever goes on here is quite discreet (not like the corresponding area in Amsterdam).
The rooms of the Regin hotel are relatively basic and small. Furniture includes a cupboard, fridge, TV, phone. Bathroom with hot shower. No breakfast, no Internet in the room, but good wireless Internet connection in the lobby. The Kallang MRT station is 5 minutes away by walking.
I hear later that there is a new hotel in Singapore (Value hotel), which should be quite good value).

Weather: overcast, both in Kuching and Singapore. No rain in Singapore. Quite hot.

Early morning wake up at 6:30am. By 7:15am I have checked out and am in the hotel van to the airport. After check-in at the Airasia counter brief breakfast at the Starbucks while checking the emails. The Airasia flight takes off at 8:45am sharp - I'm impressed.

We land ahead in Singapore of time at 9:45am (scheduled arrival at 10:10). I proceed through immigration, retrieve my luggage, get some cash at the ATM, jump into a taxi and before 11am have checked in at the Regin hotel.

Brief chit-chat with the taxi driver on the way from the airport to the hotel. There is apparently a "best value" hotel (or something similar), recently built, offering very good value rooms in the 60-100 SGD price range.
Several options regarding prepaid SIM cards. Singtel recommended if you only want to use the card for phone calls for a few days. SIM cards are sold in 7-11 convenience stores.

The Maxis SIM card BTW allows roaming in Singapore, but phone calls are expensive (RM 2.50 to call Malaysia, who knows how much to receive calls when roaming with the Maxis card in Singapore).

Kailang, where the hotel lies, is partly a red light district (a "chicken area" as Shirley would call it, since in Chinese a prostitute is called "chicken"). Not a big deal actually, but you are quite out of town. Calculate 7 minutes to walk to the MRT station, perhaps another 5 minutes to catch the next train, 10-15 minutes to arrive to destination. Totals 20-30 minutes "door to door" to get into town.

After checking in I walk to the MRT station. A trip into town costs 1.50 SGD, a day pass costs 8 SGD. The day pass is valid on the day you buy it and expires at midnight. Children pay if they are taller than 90cm. I take the MRT to Chinatown.

Chinatown is beautiful and very colourful. The old colonial style architecture is very well preserved here, or has been restaurated. Very characteristic buildings, lots of life on the streets. Lots of shops, restaurants, food stalls. A typical German city is half-dead on Sundays, but here is Singapore there is lots of life on the streets.

I have to walk to several 7-11 stores before I find one which sells SIM cards, because they are all out of stock. Registration with a passport required. I buy two Singtel SIM cards for 8 SGD each, with 10 SGD of airtime on each card.

After that I have some quick food in a KFC restaurant, then explore a bit the area. Beautiful architecture, a mix of old and new, colonial era buildings and modern buildings.

At 1:40pm I start getting back to the hotel, arriving there at 2:20pm. Shirley has already arrived and is having lunch somewhere. I wait for her in the hotel. After about 20 minutes she arrives with the small one. Family reunion scene, chit-chat.

Rest of the day spent with the family of Shirley. We go into town at 5pm, then have a dinner in a food court at 7pm.

5.7: Singapore
Hotel Regin, Singapore.
Weather: blue sky in the morning until 9-10am, then overcast the whole day. No rain.

We get up around 9am but by the time everybody in this big group is ready and set for leaving it's after 11am. Actually the parents of Shirley have gone out for breakfast and we are waiting for them.

In any case at 11:15am we leave the hotel and walk to the nearby Kailang metro station. There we take the metro and with a change in the Outram park station we arrive in the Harbourfront MRT station at 12pm noon.

Then we lose quite some time trying to find out how to get to Sentosa. First we try to catch a bus, but this is full, so we go back to Harbourfront, then buy some food because it is already noon. Finally at 12:40pm are about to take the monorail to Sentosa. Shortly before 1pm we are in the Resort World station. What an achievement, it has taken over one hour and a half to get here.

Long discussion about what to do next because the tickets to the Universal Studios are sold out. Some funny guy popping up offering tickets for a 50% surcharge. Perhaps he bought them early morning in large numbers and that is why the tickets to the Universal Studios are sold out.

The "adults" (parents of Shirley, uncle, aunt, two sisters) go to the casino (where they will lose a lot of money), while Shirley, me and the kids go to the Underwater world.

To get there we need to get back on the monorail, get to Siloso beach, and from there get the Blue Line bus to Siloso point. It's 2pm when we finally are at the Underwater world. Getting to this place has taken us almost three hours, unbelievable.

Overall getting around in Sentosa is quite time consuming, because you can't walk and have to take buses and/or the monorail. The attractions are spread over a large area.

The aquarium of the Underwater world (ticket: 22.90 SGD adults, 14.90 SGD children) is nice, but unimpressive - in fact the aquarium near KLCC is better (and that aquarium we saw in Dubai was orders of magnitude better). What are cool are the sealion and dolphin shows with trained animals.

After the shows at 4pm we get out of the Underwater world and get out of Sentosa. It takes some time, because we only are back in the Harbourfront MRT station at 4:30pm. There we have some lunch/dinner in the food court area.

At 5 something pm the other members of the group join us. Nobody won money, they all lost money in the casino. 

We then get back to the MRT. Shirley and the others will meet the other uncle and have a common family dinner, while I take the MRT to the Esplanade, where I spend the evening taking pictures of the area.

6.7: Singapore
Hotel Regin, Singapore.
Weather: overcast sky with blue patches in the early morning. The sky opens up at 9am, then mostly sunny until the afternoon. In the afternoon gradual cloud buildup, then overcast. No rain.

I get up at 6:45am and leave the hotel at 7:15am. The idea would be to shoot some photos with the early morning sun, since in the afternoon the sky is mostly overcast here. However there is very little sun in the early morning, because clouds are blocking the sun.

I walk through the business district around 8am. Huge crowds of people rushing to the job. Then I take the MRT to Chinatown and am there until 11am. Beautiful, charming, colourful area with colonial era buildings. I take tons of photos. The sun finally comes out around 9am.

A bit after 11am I take the MRT back to the hotel. Shirley and the others are now almost ready and leave the hotel before 12pm heading to the zoo. I take a shower, check my emails and book a flight for tomorrow to KL.

Finally shortly before 1pm I leave the hotel and try to join the others in the zoo. Getting to the zoo involves making it by MRT until the Ang Mo Kio station, then taking bus #138. I'm in the MRT station shortly after 1:30pm and must have just missed the last bus, because I have to wait almost half an hour for the next one, which leaves shortly before 2pm.

At 2:30pm I reach the zoo. Again it took a long time - over one and a half hours - to reach an attraction in Singapore. A taxi would have been faster, but probably quite expensive.

The Singapore zoo is an open zoo, meaning that (most) animals are not behind cages, but in areas mimicking their natural surroundings. You walk along suspended paths and bridges through the zoo. In the kangaroo area you actually walk along the kangaroos. Quite a good number of animals (even polar bears...). Not that exciting for me because I have already seen so many zoos, but the kids like it.

I have some food in the restaurant area of the zoo around 6pm, then together with the others we get to Jurong east by bus and MRT. There there is a Chinese food court where the others have a common dinner. We are back in the hotel quite late.

Later in the MRT while we are on the way back to the hotel, there is a message on the loudspeaker, where a female voice asks to report suspicious people. I point the finger on Shirley, she points a finger on me making a funny face, finally we both point our fingers on Natasha. Our two years old definitely looks suspicious, she must be a terrorist affiliated with Al Qaida. What a stupid request, to "report suspicious people". Somehing like this only happens in Singapore.

7.7: Singapore -> Kuala Lumpur
Flat of Sara in KL

Weather (in Singapore): cloudy in the early morning, then the sky opens up and it gets blue and sunny with some clouds. The usual clouds buildup in the afternoon does not occur, probably because there is some wind which blows away the humidity which would otherwise go up and form the clouds. Just around 5pm the sun disappears behind the clouds. Quite hot, no rain.

We manage to check out of the hotel at 11am. Shirley and the others head to the Harbourfront MRT station, from where their bus to Malaysia is leaving at 2pm. I instead will spend the day shooting some photos of Singapore because this is a beautiful sunny day and will fly to KL in the evening at 9:20pm.

I first take the MRT to the Arab Street area, exiting in the Bugis station at 11:40am. I spend the next hours walking through the Arab street and Little India areas. There are several mosques and many beautiful colonial heritage buildings. Especially Kandahar street is very nice, lined by beautiful shophouses. Very photogenic.

At 2pm I briefly walk into the Sim Lim square mall (electronics and photo gear) and buy a new eyecap for my camera, to replace the old which broke.

At 3pm I take the MRT to City Hall, then slowly walk to the Singapore Flyer panoramic wheel. This lies in the newly developed Marina Bay area, of which lots if not all is built on land reclaimed from the sea. Lots of construction still ongoing, I guess it will take another 1-2 years until all construction is completed.

This part of Singapore did not exist when I last visited in 2003. Here there is the newly built Singapore casino, this new hotel built on three towers connected on the top and other buildings which have yet to be completed.

The Singapore Flyer panoramic wheel is not cheap (adults pay 30 SGD) and consists of airconditioned gondolas, which rotate very slowly. The ticket allows you to do one rotation, which takes half an hour to complete. Cool view of Singapore from the gondolas.

It's 4:25pm when I get out of the Panoramic wheel. I walk to this newly built hotel with the three towers, crossing the cool designer bridge with the DNA strand pattern. Kind of a olympic games sports park look. At 5pm I get back to the hotel by MRT, arriving 5:30pm.

There I check my emails and book an Airasia flight for tomorrow evening to Kuala Terengganu. Will try to get to Pulau Kapas, and if there is no accomodation, will go to either Redang, Perhentian or somewhere else.

At quarter past six I go to the Marina area for some sunset shots of the Singapore skyline. Some other people with cameras and tripods are also there, all waiting for the sunset. Today is a good day, because the sky is only partly covered with clouds.

At 7:40pm sharp I take my things and rush to the nearest taxi stand. By taxi I first go to the hotel, pick up my bags, then get to the airport, arriving at 8:15pm. Good timing, by 8:20pm I am at the Airasia check-in counter, one hour before the planned departure. 

The Airasia flight is delayed by half an hour and only lands shortly before 11pm. At 11:30pm I'm in a taxi to the flat of Sara, where I'll spend the night.

Copyright 2010 Alfred Molon