FW: Arrival in Malaysia and a trip to Singapore

Serenity of Swanwick
Phil and Sarah Tadd
Wed 15 Nov 2023 12:03

Having arrived in Puteri before the start of the Sail Malaysia Rally we had time for a day of boat work and shopping before we headed off for a visit to Singapore. Out here the equivalent of Uber is Grab and having downloaded the app we were able to get out to a shopping mall and also to the bus station for the trip to Singapore. On Friday we had an impromptu group meal at the local Indian Restaurant Spice. Sarah seeded the idea amongst the group and about 26 people turned up, good trade for Spice but hell sorting the bill. All went well and it was a good evening.

Meal at ‘Spice’. The table kept growing as more people arrived
Saturday morning and off to Singapore, Sunday and Monday were Diwali holidays so we had booked a hotel in Little India one of the ethnic areas of Singapore and the centre for Diwali celebrations. The way to get to Singapore from Johor is by bus at a cost of RM4.50 each, about 80p in English money but you need to pay with a RM10 note and no change was given. The bus takes you to the Malaysian border post where you get an exit stamp in your passport then across the bridge and on to the Singapore border post, details have to be submitted digitally using your mobile phone to immigration and you get an entry pass. Only then can you go through border control, all electronic no passport stamps. The bus then takes you to the metro station.

Singapore metro, very clean and tidy, no access to the train until it is alongside and stopped.

In Singapore by midday we made our way to the Gardens on the Bay for a look round and to see the

Supertrees, a number of treelike structures which are all illuminated at night, we also went up on the Skywalk, a walkway between the Supertrees from which you can look out across the gardens. 

Skywalk amongst the Supertrees

Then heading toward downtown and the skyscrapers we walked through a massive mall, three levels of shops stretched along a long concourse. We didn’t realise there were so many outlets of the Dior and Versace type but they were all here. 

Inside the large mall between Gardens on the Bay and downtown, all the big named shops are here.

Downtown skyscrapers and Chinatown Buddhist temple.

Through downtown and into Chinatown with its small shops and large temples. With tired legs we headed down into the Metro for a short ride to Little India and our hotel. The celebration of Divali or Deepavali as it was called here has been going on since October and this was the final weekend. 

Welcome to Little India.

Our route from the station to hotel took us via the Deepavali village, one main street with a couple of offshoots packed with people buying flowers, decorations, fireworks, gold trinkets and jewellery, colour everywhere.

Inside Deepavali village, so colourful.

The hotel was basic but clean and comfortable and the small restaurant we found nearby was friendly and helpful, it was empty when we arrived which can be a worry but it filled quite quickly and the food was good. 

On Sunday we went on a breakfast hunt, not wanting spicy or rice we ended up in Starbucks! Then a look around the local temples before checking out. Andy, Ludmilla and the boys, from catamaran Somerset, are moored in Singapore. This is probably the last time we will see them before we head in different directions so we arranged to meet at the Sultan Mosque. 

Sultan Mosque, main entrance

and inside, a vast prayer hall.

This was the first mosque that we had actually been able to enter. We were prepared with our knees and shoulders covered but Andy and Ludmilla had to don the issued clothing before entering. You could look across the prayer hall and take photos but not go any further, on other days there are tours available. Not being religious it is still interesting to compare the different views and methods of prayer. After a tasty lunch in a Turkish restaurant we then made our way back to Puteri. 

Painted buildings in the Turkish area by the Sultans Mosque

The return trip cost 5$S each and although we had managed everything else in Singapore using bank cards, they were not accepted on the bus. We had to find an atm, take out the minimum 20$S. Although it is the same bus company and same length trip this is £3 each, still cheap but almost 4x the trip over. This trip took a lot longer as our arrival at Malaysian border control was at the same time as a couple of coaches of tourists, we all had to go through immigration and customs, but we got another 90 days in Malaysia

Sunday evening we had the free welcome dinner in Puteri, paid for by Johor tourism, at the Hard Rock Cafe. Plenty of food, loud music and unlike Indonesia we didn’t have to sit through lengthy speeches or welcome dances.

Welcome dinner at Hard Rock Cafe

Monday we were signed up for the Johor tourism board tour of the sights, the Sultans Palace, craft village, Parliament Buildings and then out to the Southernmost point of mainland Malaysia.
The Sultans Palace has been closed to visitors for over 10 years and we were the first group to be allowed access. No photos were allowed anywhere except for the official group photo. The whole place was museum like showcasing the history of the Sultans and their wives, the gifts received and artefacts brought back from foreign tours along with the guest accommodation. An early Sultan was a friend of Queen Victoria and frequently visited England, the buildings are influenced by British and Malay architecture. The palace overlooks the Straits of Johor, between Malaysia and Singapore and when the Japanese overran Malaysia, driving the British out, the Japanese based themselves here as they believed, correctly, that the British would not bomb such a beautiful building.

After the obligatory walk round the gift shop we moved on to the craft village with some interesting craft work on display.

An interesting bamboo musical instrument at the Craft Village, plucked or tapped it makes a sound quite like a piano

Then on to the Parliament and government offices. The government is based on the Westminster style and the architectural style is taken from the Grand Mosque and the Alhambra palace. The path from the government buildings to the parliament and the interior of the chamber is lined up with Mecca. The Sultan has the ultimate say in whether a law is passed or not and he sits below a copy of the Quran so that his judgement and that of parliament is inspired by Allah.

Inside the parliament chamber, under the pineapple skylight

The walkway between the government offices and the parliament building aligns with Mecca

A dance troupe in the civic gardens displaying traditional dress

At long last we were taken to a food court for lunch before the final part of the tour, Tanjung Piai, (cape of the golden leather fern) the southernmost point of mainland Asia. At the junction of the Malacca and Johor straits the National park was set up to protect the wetlands and mangroves from erosion and oil spills in this area of heavy shipping. There is a replanting scheme in progress and boardwalks take you out to view the flats and to reach the southernmost point.

Water monitor lizard, we saw these swimming around the marina, about 2m long.

Southermost point of mainland Asia

The next stage is to clear out of Puteri and head north.