November 2015 - Singapore to Malaysia

1 November 2015   Singapore
We had a wonderful night’s sleep with the sheets pulled over us as the freezing air wafted through our bedroom.

After all the motoring that we’ve done in the past couple of weeks, it was time to change the engine oil.  It’s normally a horrible, hot, sweaty job, so I took advantage of the air-conditioning and did a full engine service - it all went well.  Meanwhile, Glenys ventured outside and started to wash down the deck, which was very dirty and salt-encrusted after three months without rain and the ash from Borneo.

We had ham sandwiches for lunch - yes, we can buy ham, bread and lettuce here, which have been impossible to buy in Indonesia.  In the afternoon, Glenys carried on with some more hosing-down and I did some admin work, checking our bank accounts to find that we’ve been well below our monthly spend limit while in Indonesia.  Unfortunately, I suspect that we’ll be breaking the bank here in Singapore.    

Marina Bay Sands at night

In the evening, we caught the MRT over to Chinatown and wandered around, having a few beers and eating at some of the street stalls.  We had one small plate of chicken and rice in the Chinatown complex at the end of Tengganu Street, which is supposed to have over 500 food stalls and is a riot of smells and noise.  We then had a larger meal in Smith Street, which is a bit more upmarket, but very pleasant, sitting at tables outside in the street.

We called in at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which free and fabulous.  The fourth floor has a magnificent shrine (called a stupa) made of solid gold, which houses the holy relic - the left canine tooth of the Buddha, recovered from his funeral pyre in Kushinagar, Northern India.  There’s a rooftop garden with the temple of 10,000 Buddhas and the world’s largest prayer wheel.  The third floor houses a very good museum explaining the history of the Buddhist religion and a there’s a magnificent main temple on the ground floor.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to fully explore everything before they closed, so we’ll be going back again next time we visit the area.

We walked over to the Marina Bay area, which is to the south of the city and all built on reclaimed land.  I’ve seen a lot of cities, but the views of the skyscrapers of Singapore lit up at night and reflected in the water is stunning.  One of the most interesting buildings is Marina Bay Sands which consists of three towers, connected at the top by a 1 hectare roof terrace with the world's longest “infinity” swimming pool at 146-metres long.  Unfortunately, you can only go in the pool if you’re staying in one of the hotel rooms, which cost at least £200 per night.

Our final stop was at the Gardens by the Bay, where we watched a light show at the Supertree Grove. These huge artificial trees (50 metres high) look like something out of the film Avatar and, at night, are lit by thousands of coloured lights. We watched the light show, which was very impressive with the lights synchronised to music, but the music was uninspiring, being heavily biased to Disney songs.

2 November 2015   Singapore
It was a shop-until-you-drop day.  We caught the MRT underground to Bugis and walked to Sim Lin Square and Sim Lin Tower, which are two huge, seven-storey malls, packed with shops selling camera, computer and electronic kit.  Our first stop was at a small repair shop where we had our iPad battery and touch screen replaced for only £50.

I teased myself by looking at SLR cameras.  I’ve more or less decided on a Canon SLR camera, but I’m not too sure about what lens to get.  I’ll have to do some more research and read some more reviews - half the fun in buying new gear is the agonising over what to get.  On the positive side, Glenys seems to be resigned to me buying another camera.

Another camera shop in Singapore

After lunch, we went back to the Mustafa centre and bought two MP3 players, a DVD drive and a few other things.  I made sure that we were in and out quickly this time and I kept Glenys in sight at all times.

We walked for fifteen minutes to a dive shop called Scuba Warehouse, which had a very good stock of most things.  We went into a buying frenzy and bought two full length sting suits, a snorkel, a muck stick, gloves, a new dive knife and an inflatable Surface Marker Buoy (SMB).  I was even able to buy replacement covers for our regulators.

Loaded with all our new stuff, we went back to Vivocity where bought a new vacuum cleaner, did a major grocery shop and caught a taxi back to the marina - cabs are very cheap only costing about $5-10 Singapore dollars for the trip from Vivocity.  One of the nice things about staying in a posh marina is that they have little golf buggies running about.  We asked the cab to drop us off at the reception and they called a man on a buggy, who dropped us and all our shopping off at the boat.

3 November 2015   Singapore
Glenys woke up with some kind of flu virus, so she had a quiet day on board.  I left her suffering and went out to do some serious camera shopping.   After some more agonising, I eventually a nice new Canon 750D with a Sigma 18-300mm zoom lens.  I also went and picked up a new macro lens for my underwater camera, so I should now be able to take good pictures of small creatures without having to crop and edit the photos so much.

We both spent the afternoon chilling out and then watched a movie in the evening taking advantage of the air conditioning.

4 November 2015   Singapore
Glenys was feeling much better today, so we visited the Haw Par Villa Park, which is an amazing (if slightly bizarre) piece of Singapore history.  It’s an early example of a theme park, being built in 1937 by the Burmese-Chinese brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par (the developers of the famous Tiger Balm ointment).  The park consists of hundreds of painted statues set out in dioramas depicting traditional Chinese stories and fables.

Haw Par Villa Park

Haw Par Villa Park has gone through its ups and downs and is currently owned by the Singapore Tourist Board, who tried to modernise it in the 1980s, but lost a lot of money.  It’s now completely free to enter and, consequently, is run -down, but that seems to add to its charm.  The café and some of the areas are closed, but we came across a couple of old guys who were repainting some of the statues.  

I must admit that I wasn’t too keen on this trip, but I’m so glad that Glenys dragged me along because it’s very interesting (and was great place to practise with my new camera).  Each of the dioramas has an information board describing a fable and the moral of the story.  There’s the story called “Journey to the West”, which is a classic Chinese tale about a Buddhist monk called Tripitaka and his companions; the Monkey King, Pigsee and Sandy - I can remember a TV series about the book called Monkey, which aired when I was a kid. 

The highlight of the park is the “Ten Stages in the Court of Hell”, which is a tunnel taking visitors past a series of judgmental dioramas depicting little clay humans being tortured by demons in a many different ways for many different sins.  You disrespect your elders and you get your heart cut out; waste food and you get cut in half; and get caught for business fraud and you are ground up by a large stone.  It’s quite grotesque and I read that most of the children of Singapore have had nightmares after visiting the place.

It was once rumoured that Haw Par Villa comes alive at night, and that the statues are actually dead humans covered in wax.   Even now, as security guards perform their duties around the park, they continue to leave offerings, such as food and cigarettes, in front of certain statues to seek protection.

We made it back to Vivocity mall in time for  lunch at the excellent Food Republic, which is thirty or so  stalls selling a variety of foods for different countries.  Stuffed full of Chinese food, we waddled to the cinema, where we were surprised (and a little chagrined) to find that we qualified for old age pensioner rates - half price for being over 55.

5 November 2015   Singapore
This was our last day in Singapore, so our first job was to go to the Port Authority “One-stop” office to clear out.  It was very fast and efficient, but we still have to go to the quarantine anchorage tomorrow to clear out of immigration.

Indian curry for lunch

With our admin done, we went to Little India to do some sight-seeing.  It was lunch time by the time we got there, so we went to the Tekka Centre and had a fabulous Mutton Curry with Black Bean Dal, Cauliflower Bhaji, Rice and a Nan (all for £5).  The place has hundreds of food stalls selling a wide range of Indian foods.  It’s crowded, hot and noisy.  Everyone eats from plastic trays on plastic tables, but it’s very Indian - most of the locals are eating their curry with their fingers and chapattis.

Bloated with far too much curry, we wandered around the various market halls.  Little India is gearing up for Deepvali in five days’ time, so the streets are lined with stalls selling garlands of flowers and decorations.  Girls are queuing up to have henna tattoos on their hands and mothers dressed in saris are bustling about buying food for the celebrations.  It’s a pity that we won’t be here.

We were planning to visit a couple of Hindu temples, with their fabulous statues and carvings,but they were all closed between 12 and 4, so we retired back to the boat and tidied up ready to leave in the morning.  In the evening, Tom and Susie from “Adina” came for drinks in our air-conditioned saloon - luxury.