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Published: January 13th 2020
Lyn and I arrived here on Christmas Eve at around 5.00pm. Met by Pip at Changi Airport after an initial flight leaving from Wellington at 6.55am to Sydney, a 3 hour transit then the flight to Singapore, by QANTAS. Uneventful and not too bad as both flights were in daylight which somehow makes the travel time seem more bearable. We'd stayed the night before in the Rydges Airport Hotel for a reasonable cost and it was much better then a God-forsaken early morning rise in Waikanae and the trip into the airport to be there by 4.55am.
We're here for 3 weeks which will include a side trip to Ipoh in Malaysia to see something different this time around.
Now only one sleep before we head home tomorrow - so, a summary of what we have been doing:
• Heaps of time with the Grandkids - swimming every day in the complex pools, excursions down to food hawker stalls, to shops, to parks, just playing
• Gardens by the Bay, Cloud Forest
• Sentosa Island, Water World
• Pulau Ubin Island
• Pasir Ris Park
• Singapore Zoo River Safari
• Fort Canning
• Singapore National Museum
• Cooking School (Lyn and Pip)
• 10 Pin Bowling
• Very nice restaurant meals sans kids
• The MRT
It's been busy and interesting getting to see more of this little powerhouse of a country and still so much to see and do - next time. We have slowly been adjusting to the constant heat and humidity. It's not quite as hot as when we were here in October but I'm only talking about 1 or 2 degrees when the temps are well over 30 anyway.
Our little side trip to Ipoh, Malaysia was much better than we had expected, not that we had much expectation. We chose Ipoh to visit because it seemed to be off the well-beaten tourist trails and and might offer a more genuine visitor experience but we didn't know much about it apart from what is available on line.
One thing, it's hotter than Singapore!! Ipoh is the 4th largest city in Malaysia, founded on tin mining, now defunct and searching for income streams to keep the city flourishing. They have made big efforts in the last few years to attract tourists but it's still a lesser known and less popular destination. We enjoyed it. Lots to see and do, a compact city easy to get around in, the cost of living very cheap, friendly people, great food.....
Highlights were a very intimate hop -on-hop-off bus trip with a Chinese Malaysian woman on board as our guide. She was great fun, full of information and wanting to Know about us; there were only us and another couple on board so we had her undivided attention for two hours. Recommend it.
The old colonial architecture in the old town is something to see as well. Remnants of the British residency when fortunes were made in the rubber and tin industries. Ipoh was called Millionaires town for a long time as people amassed great wealth from, mainly, the tin mining industry. The railway station was spectacular but unfortunately access to it was restricted to the ticket, waiting room area. We were soundly stopped from getting onto the platform. No way and accessing any other parts of the three storey building was out of the question. From the outside - spectacular. Concubine Lane was a delightful area as well. Narrow lanes, quirky shops and stalls, yummy cafes, great food. We really enjoyed wandering in that area. The night market was a bit of a jumble sale of stuff all at super cheap prices and open every night from 8.00 until 2.00am.
The Ipoh surrounding area is limestone country with extensive caves to explore; the Cameron Highlands are a short drive away with access to cooler air at up to 1200 metres asl.
We decided to make a day trip to Georgetown in Penang. It's two hours by car. I go the chap on the tourist desk at our hotel to do me a quote - 940 Ringgit for the day (10 Ringgit = $3.65NZ at the time). So I went to the Information Centre downtown and asked the same question - 350 Ringgit return with the driver waiting for 4 - 5 hours while we explored Georgetown, Done!! This was in a Grab car; like Uber but better we think and incredibly cheap in Ipoh. A trip to the old town from our hotel, about 3 km, was costing us 4 Ringgit.
We arranged to be picked up at 8.00am next day. Our young driver, Dennis, had little English but seemed to know what our trip was all about so off we went on the 4 lane highway between Ipoh and Penang. Dennis was quite sanguine about barreling along at 120kph while using his cellphone. We got there safely, at the end travelling over a long, long bridge across the sea to Penang. From there it got interesting. Dennis drove us into Penang, kept on driving, kept on driving; we noticed we had passed the same buildings several times and seemed to be going around in circles. I said to Dennis, "Where are we going Dennis?". There was a vague mumble from him, he kept on driving, I asked again. He asked for my cellphone as his was out of battery. He looked up maps, kept driving round in circles. Finally I said loudly, "STOP!" I explained that we wanted to go to the Georgetown Heritage area. He had no idea so we got out and started walking after arranging to meet him at that spot in 4 hours time.
We did find the area we were after and it is very heritage, old Chinese, street paintings, narrow streets, chock full of tourist trap shops, eating places and unlike Ipoh, packed with tourists. We wandered, sat and had cold drinks, ate, wandered some more, took photos and generally enjoyed soaking up the old charm of the place. Dennis was where we had arranged so all good and another two hours back to Ipoh. A good day.
We are on our second to last day in Singapore. Flying home tomorrow via Sydney, arriving in Wellington mid afternoon. Looking forward to weather with variety but maybe not as much of the cooler temperatures and unsettled stuff we have been reading about.
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