After a couple of hours riding a bus from Melaka to Johor Bahru, finally we arrived at the Malaysian/Singapore Immigration border. The immigration/custom process is simple, if you know what you're doing: (1) getting off the bus at the Malaysian side of Johor Bahru to receive the Malaysian exit stamp, (2) getting back on the bus, just to drive less than a mile across the bridge, (3) getting off again, with all of your belongings at the Singapore side to receive the Singaporean entrance stamp. If you don't know how it is done, the drivers will gladly yell it to you. That was what happened when Beau and I just standing there, as we looked like idiots, tried to follow everybody that was obviously having the process as their daily routine.
As we thought it couldn't get worse after got yelled at by the same bus driver twice, once in Malaysia and once in Singapore, it seems that we were the only non Malaysian/Singaporean on the bus; the rest of the pack already anticipated the process with stacks of filled in immigration cards. As we approached the Singaporean immigration booth, a lady gave us each an immigration
Cable cars to Sentosa Island.
card and sent us to the end of the line to fill out all the information required. By the time we were back at the booth, she looked at us in a funny way as if she never seen anyone without the immigration cards before, and she gave us each a stack of Singaporean immigration cards, just in case. Our effort to explain that this was the only time we're visiting Singapore and that we didn't need all these cards was fruitless, so we ended up with about fifty cards in our hand. Just in case, right?
It has been an interesting start in Singapore, but it is just the beginning of the experience. When we tried to locate our bus, we couldn't find it anywhere, and it was evident that the bus did not wait on us as we needed more time to deal with the immigration card incident. Nonetheless, we were stranded on the immigration building without any transportation to the city center. Fortunately, next to the immigration building is a shopping center, and we went through a tunnel across a busy road to the taxi stand. The first stop was the ATM to get some Singaporean
An Indian temple in Little India.
dollars, and we started our journey in the island city. We went directly to Chinatown, where we were staying for the night, and we had a chance to see a glimpse of the Singaporean skyscrapers at night. For sure, Singapore was one of cleanest country in the world, with zero tolerance of trash and no chewing gum. Absolutely no piece of trash outside trash cans whatsoever. The streets are wide with green medians along mixed architectural style tall structures. Singaporean culture, lah
I realize that people speak Sing-lish, an English with heavy Chinese accent. Just like our Canadian buddies who speak with lots of "-eh", Singaporeans speak with lots of "-lah" ending on their sentences. So, sentences like these, "Aiyah, cannot wait any more, must go oreddy
", "Dun anyhow touch here touch there leh
" and "Where are you lah?
" are common to hear around Singapore.
Chinatown is a perfect place for a cheap hotel, and for fifty bucks a night in downtown Singapore, our hotel room was interesting. It has no windows, roughly 20’x15’, complete with a bathroom, a queen size bed, two dressers/cupboards, and a TV/fridge. There was enough room for one person to walk
This is when Beau hit his shin over a paving. Ouch!
from bathroom to bed and vice versa; even we had a hardtime to find a floorspace to put our backpacks. Plus, no durian was allowed in the hotel complex. Sightseeing in Singapore
SRSSA (Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart & Associates, Inc.), the architecture firm I work for has a Singapore branch, located at the Clemenceau Avenue. It was interesting to see the office, projects, and people at the 14th floor, where we had a rare glimpse to see Singapore from above. Mr. Greene was in his office, and he was so surprised that I showed up in his office. One of his associates, David, showed us around the office and talked about the ongoing projects in the office.
The next destination was the famous resort Sentosa Island, so we headed out to the cable car station located at the tip of the mainland Singapore. From a distance, hanging above a green body of water, we could see a huge Mermaid-Lion, the Merlion
, the symbol of Singapore, in the middle of something looked like a tropical jungle. Singapore skyline was behind us, and everywhere you look, it was just breath taking. The highlight of the trip was around
Mass Rapid Transportation sign
A "NO DURIAN" sign on the MRT cars.
the Merlion itself; an integrated landscape design with water features. Beau got injured with a big bruise on his shin when he tried to jump into an island in the middle of a water feature, and hit his shin to the edge of the pavement. Ouch! At the end of the stream of water, we saw a huge compass with directions to major cities in the world. When I saw the Northern American cities, I was thinking that it was about time to go back to Atlanta.
After another ride of the cable car, we were back in mainland Singapore, and we were off to the delta of the Singapore River to see another famous Merlion spitting out water to the harbor. We walked around the area, and decided to taste an authentic Indian food on a food stall strip along the river. It was interesting meal with strong curry and spices, and right away, I felt my stomach turning. Not a good sign for tonight.
After walked by the historical Raffles Hotel (where they invented the Singaporean Sling), we hauled off a taxi to go to the Orchard Road to see some shopping actions. To my surprise,
Merlion at Singapore River
I think this is the spot where tourists take pictures of Singapore the most.
I realized that we see a very diverse crowd here, people with different look of ethnicities. Orchard Road was stretched for about two miles, wide open sidewalk with thousands of people walking around, in and out shopping centers. There were many stores, malls, shopping centers, food vendors, and souvenir booths everywhere, but everything was in order. We entered some of the famous ones, and the only purchase I made was a wallet. Beau got several items, including his new travel wallet, and some clothing items. Important to know: the taxi culture
As we needed to head out to the bus station that would bring us back to KL (Malaysia), we had to stop a taxi to catch the two hour dateline. There were lines everywhere on the taxi stands. Obviously we didn’t know that primetime for taxi is from six to ten, and around nine o’clock, we started to join a long taxi queue that lasted forever. At least there were sixty people standing in front of us, waiting for a taxi with the rate of one taxi per ten minutes. While Beau were calmly reading his “Demons and Angels”, I started to panic to think that we would miss the bus, then we would miss the flight to Bandung (Indonesia), and then our flight back to the States on the next day. This could be a problem. One thing I noticed, there were lots of taxi that stopped on random spots along the street to pick up people. These people looked like locals, and of course, they know the taxi system better than us foreigners.
I decided to get off the queue, while Beau was staying, in order to get the taxi sooner. We HAD to get to the bus station before eleven, and we HAD to get our taxi. I was thinking of stealing some taxi from someone, by waving around frantically at the side of the road. Soon I found out that it didn’t work; I had to think some other creative way. I started to ask around how this stupid taxi system works, and I came across an angle named Amy to help me out. As she was waiting on her taxi herself, she was willing to make a phone call to make a taxi reservation for me. I overheard the phone conversation, which sounded like this, “Amy”, that was it. I was so overwhelmed with the system, but Amy wrote down frantically on my book as she recorded some information needed for me. Basically, in a rush, she explained that to book a taxi reservation, she called an automatic number of a Taxi Company, and all she had to do was to provide her name. The taxi company would track her location based on her cell phone number and GPS system, and then they would provide her the taxi number and the time she should wait. She told me not to move anywhere, as the taxi would pick us up at the spot where she made the call. I waived at Beau, while her taxi came and off she went. Less than five minutes, our taxi came, and people across the street at the taxi stand looked at us in disbelieve.
Long story short, we made it to the bus station on time and catch our 5-hour ride back to KL, then our 1-hr flight to Bandung, Indonesia.
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