Started here, ends here – Singapore
I had difficulties with writing this post. Even watching Kung Fu Panda 1, 2 & 3(!) became a higher priority. It is the same feeling, like before important exams I suddenly have the urge of cleaning my apartment and washing the dishes, as if with this I could not only delay studying but the exam itself as well. In this case: if I don’t write this post, the whole adventure is not over yet…
But still, as I travelled to the South in Malaysia, Singapore felt closer and closer. It was hard to leave Malaysia behind. This country with rich historical heritage, exciting cultural mixture and amazing tasty food. I loved the twin cities of George Town and Melaka as well as the Cameron Highlands. And now as I think back to the early days of my travel, Kuala Lumpur was not to bad either. (http://www.pinterjuco.hu/quick-stop-in-kl/). But this move could not be delayed further, so I caught a bus from Malacca to Singapore.
Malacca to Singapore
This topic comes up pretty frequently in travel forums, usually painting a dark picture about traveling by bus between the two countries. But it is not. Really. Just try to be a conscious traveller, avoid the masses and you will have a pleasant travel. I have a rather emotional reaction on the “don’t travel by bus, fly” type of comments. Ok, let’s put the economic reasons aside for a moment and be conscious about your travels: if we already burn a lot of gas/diesel/kerosene to live for our passion, at least we should think about which way of traveling harms the Earth less. Is it really essential to fly if the distance is only about 2-300 km? How big is our carbon footprint with each way of traveling? And even if you don’t care about this too much: the Asian low cost airlines don’t offer tickets for a couple of cents every time. So, don’t be lazy, and look for the most ideal options even if those are not the most comfortable ones.
Flying was not an option for me, as the closes airport to Malacca is still too far aways. I didn’t consider traveling by train either, as I should’ve had to take a bus first to reach the closest railway station. So I chose taking a bus, and actually this was the cheapest option for me, plus the carbon footprint of this travel was in between the flight and the train ride, as a compromise.
Once the bus ride is mention, the people against are coming with the argument, that there are always a huge crowd at the border, plus you have to take your own luggage on foot when you are crossing the border. Well, I don’t think the latter is such a huge problem. And the “there’s always a huge crowd” argument is an exaggeration as well. You’ll agree with me once you understand the dynamics of this border crossing. So, what happened here? Singapore is about 250 km away from Malacca (this is like a Washington DC to Philadelphia or a London to Cardiff trip). Malacca is a popular destination among the Singaporean tourists who like to spend the weekend there. Many Malaysians work in Singapore and either travel home only for the weekend or commute every day crossing the border. After knowing all these, it is not a rocket science to figure out when you can avoid the crowd, right? I traveled on Monday with the intention to reach the border around early afternoon, and guess what, I didn’t wait at the border, not even a minute. There was no rush to catch the bus after leaving Malaysia or entering Singapore, no stress of waiting in the long queues, but there was enough time to go to the toilet or to by a snack. I definitely recommend to everyone to take a comfortable and safe Malay bus.
Arriving to Singapore was a kind of homecoming. The hot and humid air was already familiar and I left for the closest metro station with confidence, buying my ticket to Chinatown as if no time had past since my first visit. I didn’t want to return to my first accommodation in Singapore, but Chinatown is really ideal for me, so I was sure I will find something in this neighborhood for my last night in the region. Why? Because it is really easy to walk to Marina Bay from here, I can spend as much time as I want to watch the skyscrapers and enjoy as the city is lit up and I can walk home in safety during the night. And I knew a couple of super cheap food courts around.
The first person I met in my hostel after checking in was Deborah, whom I met in Penang and we had our Cameron-highlands adventure together before we separated there, I travelled to Malacca and she travelled to Kuala Lumpur. We figured before that we meet here, as coincidentally we booked a night in the same hostel in Singapore. It felt simply comforting to have someone I know around on my last days.
I decided to skip adventure-hunting this time and only visit some places that I really liked during my first visit. Honestly, I didn’t have much time for anything else, as I only spent an evening and the almost full day before my flight left in the night.
Obviously I was about to die of hunger after the long bus ride, so I needed to eat something yummy. I went back to a hawker center that I discovered during my first visit when I was walking towards Marina Bay. Imagine a huge pavilion with at least 50-60 little food stalls representing almost every asian national cuisines at one place. I remember when I visited for the first time, I was a bit confused. I didn’t know the majority of the dishes and I was relieved when I finally could detect a couple of Indian dishes that I knew. This was a totally different experience this time. It felt like entering into paradise. Having all the culinary experiences of the last five month I didn’t know where to start, what to choose… the majority of the dishes I knew already and I moved around with confidence.
Feeling happy after my dinner I moved slowly towards the bay. It was less and less daylight and the buildings started to be lit up. I remembered walking on the same streets five months ago, it was full moon and I coincidentally walked into the light- and sound show in front of the Marina Bay Sands. I was laughing about it last time, as thousands of people were watching the show in admiration. I kinda re-lived that night as again I arrived just in time for the show. It felt good to be there, to watch the show, to stop thinking, just sink into the collective experience.
Next day I left my backpack in my hostel and left for a comfortable walk in the business district among the skyscrapers.
Then walked around the famous sights in the bay when the heat arrived until I reached the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum. Here I felt for the first time during this 5 months adventure, that I miss some cultural experience, so I went in to watch two exhibitions.
The interactive FutureWorld exhibition was just amazing. Hours went by without me noticing it. It was outstanding as a visual experience and as an interactive program as well. It was centered about nature, the cities and the universe, it was simple but creative and engaging. It is great for kids as well. I spent so much time here, that Deborah found me at my favorite section , at Cosmos, though she came to the exhibition more than an hour later than I did. So we moved on together to the next exhibition on street art. We figured, that both of us were inspired by Penang and its lovely street, to have a deeper understanding of the story and of the iconic pieces of the Asian street art.
I used the last hours before sunset working on my tan in the deckchairs around the Bay, and pretending not to cry over leaving Asia. As a good bye present I watched the light and water show at the Bay again – for the third time – before I left to the airport still wearing my shorts. I only changed my clothes at the airport to match the weather that awaited my at home.
Singapore was the best start and end for this trip. I loved that city, even if it is so different from everything else I experienced in Southeast Asia. I realized, that even if I expanded my comfort zone and enjoyed the places I visited, I still missed structure and cleanliness. At least visually for sure. People here were pretty, elegant with style, looked good and smelled good as well. For a moment I felt like going back to my old life. Office, good job, following good old social standards and meeting expectations, skirt-blouse, perfume… But at the very moment when I could name this feeling, I immediately knew, that this is just a sentimental moment of mine. I don’t really desire to have my old life. And I would’t exchange for anything the experiences of the last couple of months, the adventures and the learnings, actually nothing that I gained or that happened to me. Especially not the feeling, that I can do it whenever. Because I know it without a doubt, that this was not my last travel. When, where and how will be the next one? No need to rush ahead I simply enjoy what I have now.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it is called present.”
I don’t care who is the original author, I heard it in Kung Fun Panda
- Grab from downtown Malacca to Malacca Sentral: 8 MYR (2 USD)
- Bus from Malacca to Singapore: 26 MYR (6,5 USD)
- ArtScience entrance fee – one exhibition / two exhibitions / unlimited: 17 SGD / 28 SGD / 38 SGD (13 USD / 21 USD / 29 USD)
- ArtScience FutureWorld entrance fee adult/student: 19 SGD / 14 SGD (14,5 USD / 10,5 USD)
- Metro ticket from downtown to Changi International Airport: 2,4 SGD (2 USD)