Singapore: The Last Days

Singapore skyscrapers and food hawker centre
After bobbing across the South China Sea from Tioman Island, Sara and I found ourselves nervously waiting for our 12:30 bus at the Mersing Terminal. At the advice of some information we read on the ever-so-reliable internet, we had booked the bus days ahead while in Melaka. The girl at the Mersing ticket counter was surprised when I mentioned a 12:30 bus to Singapore, but she told us it would come. She was right. Thirty minutes late and filled with sleepy passengers, it arrived. The driver told us we would have to transfer to get to Singapore. His English wasn’t great so we spent most of the ride wondering if our transfer location would be obvious.

Eventually we arrived at the Queen Street Terminal in Johor Bahru. The driver motioned for us to follow him and brought us to where we had to catch a local bus into Singapore. He purchased the tickets and waited with us for 20 minutes for the bus to arrive. We weren’t sure if this was part of the service but we were glad not to have to do any deciphering for a bit.

The local bus took us to the Malaysian border check-point where we had to get off with our luggage and go into a large modern building, through immigration, and out the other side where we waited for another local bus (not the same one that dropped us off). We then repeated the process on the Singapore side of the border. It took about 30 minutes per checkpoint plus about 30 minutes of driving. After a boat ride and four buses, we finally arrived in downtown Singapore (RM25.20/$8 for the buses including all border buses).

Singapore Kam Leng HotelWe checked into the Kam Leng Hotel, the most expensive hotel of our trip. Fortunately, my trusty First Class Travel Visa Infinite card covered most of the cost ($80/night). Singapore is expensive but there are cheaper accommodation options. Hostels are often dorm rooms though and we felt like we might as well pretend we are classy mother-f’ers while we are in a classy mother-f’n city. Kam Leng is a new hotel on the edge of Little India, across from an excellent hawker food court. The rooms are clean and have a cool vintage vibe to them, with modern-industrial touches. The walk-in rate is much more than what we paid booking ahead.

My favourite thing about Singapore is the hawker food centres where you can get cheap and delicious food that will make you reevaluate your life. Biting into a freshly made dumpling made me want to be a better person. Slurping down some sliced fish bee hoon soup made me want to live everyday like it’s my last. Each stall only makes a few dishes, so you know they’ve mastered the meal. If they haven’t, they won’t make any money. The locals know best, so get into the longest line and order what everyone else is having.

Singapore food hawker centre
Maxwell Food Centre, one of the more popular spots for lunch.
We spent a sweaty day walking around the city and dropping our jaws at the various sights. Singapore is impressive. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that. Everything is kept so clean and perfect. Personally, I like a city where I feel like I can urinate in an alley after a night of heavy drinking. I wouldn’t pee on Singapore. I’d feel too bad about it. Also, the fine is $1000 so I’ll hold it in until I either get home or win the lottery.

24 Hours in Singapore

Our city walk took us through the quaint streets of Little India, the cleanest Chinatown I’ve ever been to, the overwhelming business district, the “holy shit” inducing waterfront. Escape the heat of the city by taking the public transit between sections. It’s efficient, thorough, and easy to use.

Our last day in the city was spent in two locations. First, the Mustafa Centre, a 24-hour shopping emporium. The perfect place for our last-minute scramble for gifts. We cruised the aisles and rode escalator after escalator through grocery sections, housewares, electronics, jewellery, toys. All the exploring skills we had acquired over the past four and a half months of travelling were put to use. We went back to the hotel, stuffed the crap we bought into our bags, and headed to the second location: the almighty, get down on your knees and show some respect, please no direct eye contact, all hail the Changi Airport. For an international flight they recommend being three hours early. We showed up even earlier and used the early check-in system which allows you to get the most out of the Disney Land of airports. We wandered the butterfly garden, sat in the free massage chairs, bought a couple of not-over-priced beers at the convenience store and sat by the koi pond. If you like shopping, they’ve got you covered. Wanna see a movie? The free cinema is on the upper level. Go for a dip in the pool. There’s even a giant slide that spans multiple floors. I want to ask Changi Airport’s father for permission to marry that wonderful transportation hub.

Changi Airport Singapore
Ryan sits next to the koi pond with a Lone Star Light (beer not recommended).
I said goodbye to my beautiful Changi as we soared over Singapore. Our flight back was with Jet Airways. We booked the tickets after using Flight Fox. It was a good airline, and cost us much less than the average flight from Southeast Asia, but we had a layover in India and Brussels. After 30 hours of travel, we touched down on Canadian soil. As we waited for our bags, I prepped myself for the inevitable question, “How was your trip?” It was fantastic, fun, frustrating, difficult, life-changing, mind-expanding. I learned many new things about the world and about myself. All five of my senses experienced new sensations. My worst fears were one step closer to being conquered. I had epiphanies. I was tested physically and mentally. I missed things and I experienced things that will be missed. I saw happiness and felt deep sadness. Life became bigger and the world became smaller. We couldn’t wait for the next adventure.