Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 2: Singapore, Desaru

30-31.7: Munich -> Abu Dhabi -> Delhi -> Singapore
1.8: Singapore -> Desaru
2.8: Desaru
3.8: Desaru -> Singapore
14.8: Jakarta -> Kuala Lumpur
15.8: Kuala Lumpur -> Kuching -> Batang Ai
16.8: Batang Ai
17.8: Batang Ai (longhouse and waterfall trip)
18.8: Batang Ai -> Kuching -> KL -> Bangkok
20.8: Bangkok -> Kuala Lumpur
21.8: Kuala Lumpur
22.8: Kuala Lumpur
29.8: Kota Bharu -> Temenggor lake (Royal Belum state park)
30.8: Tour on Temenggor lake and Belum reserve
31.8: Belum state park -> Ulu Muda
1.9: Ulu Muda
2.9: Ulu Muda
3.9: Ulu Muda -> Dabong (near Gunung Stong state park)
4.9: Stong state park -> Gua Ikan -> Gua Musang -> Dabong
5.9: Dabong -> Tumpat -> Kota Bharu -> KL
6.9: Kuala Lumpur
7.9: Kuala Lumpur -> Abu Dhabi -> Munich

30-31.7: Munich -> Abu Dhabi -> Delhi  -> Singapore
Overnight in the plane
Weather: rainy, around 20C in Munich. Over 30C in Abu Dhabi (probably close to 40C at 11am). 35C in Delhi airport at 5pm.

We reach the airport around 9:40pm, then proceed to the gate. After checking in we go through passport control and security and head to the gate. Very early boarding: already at 10:20pm (one hour before the planned departure) people are queueing up - interesting.

The plane (an Airbus 340 of Etihad) takes off only at midnight, i.e. with a 40 minutes delay. It lands however on schedule in Abu Dhabi around 7am. Once in Abu Dhabi, Shirley and I split. Shirley will head with the kids to Kuala Lumpur, I'm taking the flight to Delhi and from there to Singapore.

So I walk to gate 10 in terminal 1. This looks like the same terminal from which we departed in January for Munich (or is the architecture of all terminals the same)? Free WLAN in the terminal, although a bit slow. Only Internet, no email access (probably they are blocking the port).
Overall a bit messy terminal. The electronic information boards only show the flights in the next 30 minutes - quite useless.

Around 10am I walk to gate 10 and finally discover that the gate has changed to 15. Security controls are a bit lax: some people put their notebook computer on a separate tray, in my case I don't have to do so. Quite a difference from the hyperprecise security checks in Munich.

Boarding starts with some delay at 10:50am (flight was supposed to leave at 10:40am). Gates 14-16 are for flights to India. 40 minutes in the queue, until I'm allowed to get on the bus for the plane. The plane departs at 12:10pm, with one and a half hours of delay.

We land in Delhi at 5pm, half an hour later than originally scheduled. This is the new airport which apparently has been recently completed. After some checks (boarding pass, security) I reach the gate area with the duty free shops.

The airport is quite stylish and makes a good impression. Computer power sockets and smartphone charging stations are everywhere.

I had read some horror stories about this new airport. People reporting arriving in the middle of the night and being unable to get into the terminal because they had no boarding pass and couldn't get one because the airline office was closed at night. Forced to spend the night in some weird area, waiting for the airline office to open and issue the boarding pass.

Nothing like this luckily happens to me, as I got the boarding pass already in Munich.

The flight leaves around 11pm and lands in Singapore shortly before 7am.

1.8: Singapore -> Desaru
Pulai Desaru Beach Resort & Spa, Desaru (Malaysia). 300 RM for a large room with some furniture, LCD TV, phone, A/C, fridge, water boiler, attached toilet + bath/shower. Breakfast included (rather mediocre). This is a beach resort on the Desaru beach, a long piece of sand, quite narrow, cute but not too impressive. The resort has an own pool, a small gym, a largish lobby with a shop and a restaurant. The restaurant is not too terribly good. WLAN is only in the lobby area (not in the rooms) and quite slow, actually almost unusable.
The resort is quite old and has seen better days. Not sure if it's worth the RM 300 I pay for the room.
One problem of this place is the location: there is just another resort nearby, then nothing. No shops or restaurants in walking distance. If you want to go anywhere you either need a car or a taxi. To the next village with shops it's 8km (RM 15 by taxi).
Weather: tropically hot, more or less overcast in Singapore in the morning, later the sky opens up. Same weather pattern in Desaru, where it rains around 2:30pm.

Once in SIngapore I proceed through immigration, retrieve by luggage and go to the arrivals area, where I withdraw some cash from an ATM (the money changer has not so good rates). I also get a SIM card from Starhub (15 SGD) and get a 1GB/1week data package for 10 SGD.

The thing to clarify now is how to get to the hotel in Malaysia. I check at the information counter. There is a ferry leaving from the Changi ferry terminal, but it's not so clear what time it is leaving. It would seem that it's not leaving every hour, only a few times/day, the next one at 12pm (or 10am?) and now it's only around 8am.

After some breakfast in the airport (good set of kaya toast, chicken noodle soup and lemon tea) I decide to take a taxi to the hotel, as it seems the easiest thing.

Turns out later that this is not such a good idea, because I'll have to change taxis two times (and waste quite some time and money) before reaching the hotel. It would probably have been better to either take the Changi ferry or book a limousine service.

The thing is that a standard Singapore taxi is not allowed to drive into Malaysia. Only special taxis which you get at a taxi station in Bugis (Ban San street taxi stand) are allowed to drive into Malaysia. These drive to the Johor Pasar Bakti taxi station in Johor Bahru. The taxi is shared with three other passengers (i.e. one taxi for four passengers) and the trip costs 10 SGD.

So the taxi I take at the Singapore airport brings me to this taxi station in Singapore (for 22 SGD). There I have to queue up and wait quite some time, because there are many people today and few taxis. One driver offers to bring me to the hotel for 180 SGD, which is too much.

It's 10:10am when it's finally my turn and we drive to Malaysia. Everything proceeds smoothly. At the Singapore border crossing the taxi driver hands over our passports to a pretty female officer who after checking our faces does the border formalities. Same procedure again at the Malaysian border post, where I get a standard three months visa.

Around 11am we reach the Malaysian taxi station in Johor Bahru. Some discussion with the taxi drivers about the price. Initial request is RM 180, which I bring down to RM 160. I'm probably still paying too much, but after two nights in a plane I'm not in a position to make extensive negotiations. Besides, I can't just say no and walk away (no other transportation option available).

So we drive to the Pulai Desaru Beach Resort & Spa, the hotel I booked for this weekend stay, arriving at 12pm. Once there, the room is available for checking in (normally the check-in time is 3pm) and the clerk tells me that I'm upgraded one class.

Around 1pm I have some lunch in the resort restaurant, then at 2pm I take a taxi to the nearest town. There I get a Maxis SIM card for my smartphone (RM 8.80 with RM 5 of airtime on it; I top it up with RM 50 and buy a 1GB data package for RM 30 valid for one month; 3GB would have cost RM 68). I also buy a pair of slippers and some groceries.

Then I call the taxi and get back to the hotel. I spend the rest of the day not doing much, just exploring a bit the area. In the evening I finally sleep at 9pm.

2.8: Desaru
Pulai Desaru Beach Resort & Spa, Desaru (Malaysia).
Weather: hot, today more blue sky and sunny than yesterday, although there are clouds in the sky and always a thin clouds layer. Heavy rain in the evening at 8pm.

I wake up at 8am, get ready and have some breakfast. Around 10am I take a taxi to the Desaru fruit farm (RM 25 for the taxi trip, another RM 25 to visit the farm).

The fruit farm lies about 10km to the south of the resort and contains a multitude of tropical fruit trees and tropical fruit plants. I end up joining the 10:30am guided tour. This lasts a bit over an hour and the tour guide introduces us to a number of different fruit trees and other food plants. Quite interesting tour.

Then, after the tour there is a presentation about the locally produced honey, where the girl claims that their honey is genuine and last forever, while the stuff you find in the supermarkets contains 70% sugar.

Around 12:30pm I take a taxi back to the hotel. I spend the rest of the day not doing much, swimming a bit both in the sea and in the swimming pool and resting a bit.

In the evening I check the ferry to Singapore. The hotel staff tell me I have to book in advance. RM 70 (taxi) to get to the ferry terminal in Tanjung Belungkor; the ferry itself costs RM 62.

3.8: Desaru -> Singapore
Bay hotel, Singapore. 200 SGD for a comfortable, but small room. Very modern with toilet, shower, LCD TV, phone, free Internet in the room, hair dryer, tea making equipment, small table with chair, small cupboard. The room is fine, but has about 1/3 of the area of the hotel in Desaru. Location opposite the Harbourfront metro station (starting point of the Sentosa shuttle). Breakfast included.
Weather: mix of overcast, thin clouds layer, patches of blueish sky, sunny. No rain, warmer than yesterday.

At 8:50am the phone rings and the receptionist informs me that the 3:30pm Belungkor ferry is full. Options are the 11am ferry (too early) or the 6:30pm ferry (too late). So, after checking the price, I book a taxi to Johor Bahru for RM 140.

At 12pm I leave the hotel by taxi. It's the same taxi driver of the past two days. The trip proceeds smoothly and around 1pm we reach the taxi station in Johor Bahru.

Some discussion, some offers which are too pricey. I queue up for the shared taxi. But today there are no Malaysian shared taxis going to Singapore. After a while finally a Singaporean taxi driver agrees to make the trip for the Malaysian price (RM 15/person. We leave at 1:30pm.

We then get stuck at the border. Many cars queueing up at the border today. Probably because today is Sunday and Malaysian cars don't have to pay the 35 SGD entrance fee, so they drive to Singapore for shopping. Personally I don't understand why they can't simply abolish border controls and create sort of a Schengen zone.

We probably lose 30-40 minutes at the border, then finally drive to Singapore. I ask the driver if he can bring me to the hotel, but he tellls me that he only does the Singapore-Johor Bahru trip.

So I wait for a taxi and after a while finally one arrrives (SGD 8.90 for the trip). I'm in the hotel by 3pm.

After unloading my stuff, I walk out of the hotel at 3:30pm. Opposite the hotel there is the Vivo mall. There I have some late lunch in the food court, then go to the MRT (underground network). Since individual tickets cost 2 SGD, I buy a pass for SGD 12. This contains 7 SGD of usable balance and trips cost less than 2 SGD (most around 1-1.50 SGD).

I take the underground to Orchard road. Today this is full of people and all shops are open. Most shops are for expensive, branded overseas stuff. I walk along Orchard road looking for a food shop or convenience store, but can't find any. It's all high end shops or department stores. Or perhaps these convenience stores are hidden somewhere.

At 6pm I walk into the mall next to the Dhobi Ghaut MRT station. There I spot a KFC restaurant, where I have a chicken burger. Then I fetch the underground to the Bayfront station (Marina Bay area).

The Marina Bay area hasn't changed since last year, except for a skyscraper which is nearing completion. I walk to the supertrees area and am there until after sunset. Shortly before 8pm there is a music and lights show in the central supertrees area. I'm back in the hotel around 9pm.

Copyright 2014 Alfred Molon