October 26-31, 2016: Chris was working really hard on numerous boat projects since returning to MOKEN on October 10, so we planned a little break halfway through his time off and jetted over to Singapore for a few days of R&R and plenty of shopping. In keeping with our usual theme, the shopping was primarily boat related.
As luck would have it, our Aussie boaty friends, Greg and Janice (S/Y Windchimes), needed to make a visa run to Singapore at the same time. So we all booked into the same hotel and had a good catch up.
Greg played tour guide and took us to a couple of marine stores and electrical shops, including the impressive Sim Lim Tower with four floors of small stalls selling every imaginable electrical supply, tool and gadget. We stocked up on stainless steel hose clamps, electrical connectors and cleaning products not readily available in the Philippines. We also talked to the Asian distributor of Alexseal marine paints in preparation for repainting MOKEN’s green hull sometime next year.
In keeping with the boat theme, we made a day trip north from Singapore, across the Straits of Johor and into Malaysia, where we explored the marina at Puteri Harbour and had lunch with their Swedish friend, Inga. It was a long day, but worthwhile to check out different marina options.
Much has changed in the area since Greg and Janice’s last stay a couple of years ago. The modern marina is flanked by large new condo developments, hotels, shops, restaurants and lots of additional construction. It’s like they are building an entirely new city from scratch. It certainly wasn’t what we were expecting. Neighbouring Johor Bahru was a big, loud, chaotic city that I was glad to leave behind as we made our way back across the border later that afternoon and returned to Singapore, which actually feels tranquil by comparison.
Exploring a new city for the first time wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local food. Singapore is certainly not cheap, but we managed to uncover a number of excellent and reasonably priced options at small eateries and large hawker centres located around the city. We also found excellent dim sum, Szechuan, traditional clay pot rice with seafood, satay, grilled squid, Indian curries, noodle soup and oodles of other tasty treats. The highlight, though, had to be Din Tai Fung. Their handmade pork dumplings and pork cutlets were incredible. The former were recommended by Greg and Janice’s son, the latter by our Uber driver. We kept going back for more.
Although the city is very orderly, it wasn’t quite as clean as we had been led to believe. We found litter scattered around on the sidewalks and in parks, and, although it was nowhere as bad as most other cities, we commented on it every time. When you expect super clean, every empty soda can and scrap of paper stands out like a sore thumb.
Our trip was not without a few obligatory touristy moments. The four of us ventured in to Little India as it was in final preparations for Deepavali (aka Diwali), the Hindu festival of lights, slung a Singapore Sling at the impressive old colonial Raffles Hotel and bussed it to Marina Bay to watch the evening light show. The first two were impressive, but the light show was disappointing at best.
After Greg and Janice left, Chris and I wandered through Chinatown, walked down to and around Marina Bay and up the new cantilevered SkyPark atop the Marina Bay Sands hotel for magnificent 360 degree views over Singapore, newly reclaimed lands that have been turned into parks, and the busy strait beyond dotted with hundreds of cargo vessels. There is construction in every direction.
Aside from the wide variety of food, one of the most impressive things about Singapore is how creatively they have incorporated green space into a city of this size. With space at a premium, greenery isn’t always confined to ground level. Sometimes, you find it in highly unexpected places. Don’t forget to look up.