A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Susiep539

The longest train ride in the world!

sunny 33 °C

Now some people think commuting is a pain. Getting up at 5 or 6 and spending maybe 2 hours on a train. They may have a point, but if they want a real challenge they should try the Jungle line from Singapore to Tanah Merah in Northern Malaysia (practically in Thailand).... Due to our ticketing cock up we were forced to take the day train rather than the rather more appealing sleeper (which leaves at 6pm and gets in at 7am). The day train on the other hand leaves at 330AM and arrives at 6PM....a very long day indeed! The process was also made all the more stressful because, due to political complications, the station in Singapore is still owned by Malaysia. You therefore enter Malaysia BEFORE you've left Singapore! You then go through Singaporean immigration before finally crossing the border. Part of the complication is that the Malaysian border police do not stamp your passport, or provide you with a visa, you get that when you leave the country (ridiculously). So of course noone explained this to us, which made for a very stressed Susie for the entire journey, half expecting us to get thrown into a jail somewhere and be deported! Fortunately this is not the case....

The train itself was pretty fun. You get amazing views of the countryside and how "real" Malaysians live. It does go on FOREVER though but fortunately (and unsurprisingly) John managed to sleep pretty much the whole way. Susie didn't.
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We finally arrived in Tanah Merah to be greeted by a rather pushy taxi tout and a suitably inept driver (more on this later) who assured us they'd take us to Khota Bharu where we would spend the night before going to take the boat in the morning for the Perhentian Islands. Upon arriving in Kota Bharu, after a drive of about an hour (much more than we had been expecting), we showed the driver the address and he semi-told us he didn't know where it was. Hurrah! NOT. He then proceeded to ask a random passer by who didn't know either, followed by a phone call to his friend, presumably the pushy one from earlier. He sent him in....well it was the wrong way to put it simply. We ended up on some country road in the dark on the way to an airport. God knows where we'd have ended up if it wasn't for us thrusting the phone number of our hostel in his hand and telling him to call it. As if we were in a monty python sketch, the hostel was completely the other direction and actually just a few roads from where we had turned onto the road to nowhere earlier! Eventually he found the way (after another call to the hostel, and his mate), practically threw our bags at us and was off into the night 80 ringgits richer but more than pissed off!

Fortunately the lady at the hostel, which was called Pad D (PADI?) was friendly and greeted us kindly (however she did tell us we'd got off at the wrong train station, a mix up by both of us, but not the end of the world). She told us we could get something to eat at the nearby night market so we headed there to fill our, now growling, stomachs.

The night market was down a dark alley (her reassuring words) and was a collection of stalls selling traditional Malay food, with not a drop of English in sight! A rather Taxi-stressed out Susie did not appreciated this forced cultural experience and sent John out to acquire something to eat. The busiest stall was inevitably the one without any signs, menus and, of all things BLUE rice! Of course John had to go there and "explore". He waited for a good 10 minutes until a rather burly woman said something along the lines of "go get that white boy some food2 in Malay. Soon I had blue rice and curry in hand (literally, because there was no cutlery anywhere). The food itself was amazing though! We even went back from seconds! (Irresistible at 5MYR (£1) a time!).
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Finally we headed back to the hostel to get some kip, and to prepare ourselves for another day of travelling tomorrow! These islands better be worth it!

Posted by Susiep539 04:06 Archived in Malaysia Tagged taxi train malaysia jungle rice blue d line pad malaysian khota bharu Comments (0)

Last day in Singapore

sunny 30 °C

We had a lazy start and didn't get up until after 10. We packed out things up and checked out and then went to the Arab quarter to get fried rice and murtabak (a bit like a naan bread with mince in the middle) for breakfast. We wanted to explore the Arab quarter more, but it was really quiet (probably since it was sunday morning) and so we just had a quick look and went back to the hostel, got our bags and took them to another hostel, where we'd be staying the next night, as it was close to the train station (since we had to be there at 4am, and the MRT and buses weren't going to be running).

We then faffed about changing money for the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia (we'd been told there was nowhere to get cash out near there), and then got the MRT to where Susie's Mum lived when she was a little girl. Unfortunately the house isn't there any more, but we had a lovely look around the area, and it was nice just to see a non touristy bit of Singapore! IMG_0257.jpg
We then got dinner at a food court in a nearby shopping centre, and treated ourselves with 3 different dishes - a dim sum and noodle soup, teriyaki chicken and rice and a selection of curries. Yum yum yum :)

We then tried to walk to the MRT stop to get the bus to the Singapore Night Safari (a zoo, but at night). However, it was (a lot) further than it looked on the map, and so we got one bus to the MRT stop and another to the zoo, and got there exactly on time :) Unfortunately as we got off the bus some IDIOT behind Susie stood on the back of her flipflop and broke it :( A big stress, and then a short Blue Peter moment later, the shoe was fixed with 2 hair clips, and off to the zoo we went!

We were both really impressed by the zoo - we saw lots of exciting animals, including a clouded leopard, a giraffe really close, lions, etc. There was also a really good animal show, and we got seats right at the front. It included hyenas, a wolf, and otters who knew how to recycle! We both loved them! It was quite eerie being in a zoo at night, but there were a lot of idiots being noisy (mostly stupid English people), but it wasn't too bad and we just waited for them to go past. We saw almost every animal there was to see, and we came away happy people!
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A slightly dark picture of some leopards

We got the bus and the MRT back to the hostel.We love the Singapore MRT. Partly because costs average about S$2 per ride, which is only £1, partly because its clean and efficent and 100% better than the tube, partly because the tickets are recyclable - you pay S$1 (50p) extra as a deposit which you get back when you return the plastic ticket - but mostly because of the singing ladies! At most stations, a message comes over the tanoy with 3 women singing "train is coming, train is coming, train is com-miiiing, please start queing, love yoooouuur ride". It's hysterical, and set to a really catchy jingle, so we're singing it a lot at the moment!
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The lovely singing ladies!

Anyway, once we got home, we packed up then fell into bed - 6 hours until we need to be at the train station!

Posted by Susiep539 07:24 Archived in Singapore Tagged singapore Comments (1)

Buses, trains, monkeys and Taiwanese propaganda!

sunny 30 °C

Well what a crazy few days it's been! Where to start?! As we said in the last post, we had to go to the station to check if we could get a train to the Perhentian Islands. Fortunately we could :D HURRAH! And we got one of the last 5 seats available. Getting up at 7 was worth it afterall....

After the station it was off to Suntec City, an enormous shopping centre, split over 3 skyscrapers, with the much famed "Fountain of Wealth" at its centre. As Paul told us the day before...its just a fountain....which it would have been if it hadnt been covered over and a stage put at the middle of it. So much for that one!

After the disappointment of Suntec we took a much needed nap at the hostel to prepare ourselves for the mental afternoon we had planned. After a delicius curry in Little India, which we ate with out hands (and John spilt all over his shirt), we went on a mission to the Nationl Park, a tiny slice of jungle in the middle of a massive city. After a long and confusing bus ride there we were presented with a 160m hill, the highest point in Singapore, which was the route the national park took. All was well and good when we did the "common" trail, straight up to the top on a path. We saw a lizard, butterflies, squirrels and a weird vole type thing and lots of other naturous things besides. We then figured, we're young, we're energetic, we don't just wanna do the "common trail" and headed off to do the other 3 trails at the top of the mountain. 2 hours later we emerged, exhausted, bored of trees, anything green and most of all STEPS. Not just normal steps though, massive steps, which John's little legs really did not appreciate.
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Our spirits were somewhat lifted as we walked down the road back to the bus. A family of monkeys were camped out by the side of the road and it was awesome to watch them having a bath together :) As one passing American commented, "we walked all the way to the top of that f***ing hill and didnt see jack s**t and now here are the monkeys...by the road..." we couldn't agree more....
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However, the day was not over yet! Next we took the bus to Chinatown for the Mid Autumn celebrations. The whole town was lit up and t was a great time to be there :) Lanterns_in_chinatown.jpg

By this point we were pretty exhausted and Chinatown was absolutely rammed! We watched a bit of an award ceremony for the best decorated Trishaw in Singapore, grabbed a quick but surprisingly tasty noodle supper, and slowly dragged our feet to the river where we'd seen them setting up a few days previous. Once we got there we felt as awake as we had 13 hours before, but we were lifted once again by the amazing light displays which had been put on. There were floating platforms covered in scenes from myths all made from cloth and lit up on the inside. They really were amazing to see! However, it didn't take us long before the lights faded and we were ready for bed, though the unsubtle plastering of the entire event (and most of Chinatown) with adverts from the Taiwanese tourist board did not escape us! A long MRT ride later, the longest day of our trip so far came to a close......more to come tomorrow!

PS. To see more photos of our trip to Singapore go to this linkSingapore Photos

Posted by Susiep539 07:01 Archived in Singapore Tagged singapore Comments (1)

Living the high life

rain 28 °C

Today was our first full day, and we certainly made the most of it!

After a rather disturbed nights sleep (our beds are by the door of our 24 person dorm, and a group of stupid people arrived at 3am with hundreds of wheely suitcases, which they took in and out a million times, as well as switching on and off the light switch about a hundred times), we had a lazy morning, not getting up until 10:30am. We showered and had a piece of toast for breakfast, with the most dubious jam/jelly stuff on - it had the consistency of really runny honey, but not sticky, and looked like jelly, and tasted like sambuca. Apparently its soe bean paste, but its one Asian food John and I could do without! We then headed out to wander into the city centre. Luckily, it wasn't too hot - no hotter than when we arrived last night - and so we managed the mile or so without fainting! After a while, we walked past some escalators set into a hill - random - which we just had to try climbing! We went up and found ourselves in Fort Canning Park. This is where Raffles, Singapore's "founder" (well, the British guy who went over and claimed it after the Singaporeans threw out their old Sultan, apparently because he spent all their money on lots of food!) set up his house in 1819. He chose it because of the view, but unfortunately there are a lot of trees and too many tall buildings for there to be a good view now. However, it was a nice place for a wander round and a chill out.

We then wandered down to the river and along to the harbour, where we took a picture of a lion statue, just because all the other tourists were. We discovered later that Singapore in Malay means Lion city, and its named because someone thought they saw a lion (apparently it escaped their notice that lions don't live in SE Asia, and it was actually far more likely to have been a tiger). The lion statue marks the spot where Raffles first landed in Singapore, so I guess it is good we took at photo after all! We walked round the little bay, marvelling at the arina Bay sands hotel, which is 3 giant skyscrapers, with a pretend boat across the top of all three, with a garden and a swimming pool on it! Since we haven't uploaded any photos yet, you'll have to get the idea from this photo, courtesy of google images!

As it then started to rain, it was a quick march over to Chinatown to get roast duck and rice and chicken noodles for lunch - a wallet friendly £1.25 each. Yum! We wandered round a bit more, making notes of things happening in the next few days - it's the id autumn festival this weekend, which is apparently a big deal, so there's lights up everywhere, and performances and things tomorrow night, which we're hoping to head down to.

After a bit more wandering, we went to meet John's friend Paul. After getting a little bit lost (we were meeting outside starbucks and there are too many!) we met up and he took us to the swanky Swissotel, where we got in a lift which had buttons for floors 4, 5, 69 and 70! Up we went to be greeted by the most amazing view! Turns out this is the highest in Singapore you can get as a member of the public and it was incredible! We had a few drinks (2 beers cost the same as a night's accommodation - oops - but the view was worth it!! We met a few of Pauls friends and went on a wander round the harbour. We then went to the Hawker centre near Paul's house and ate chilli sting ray, chicken legs and fried rice. It was really tasty :)

We finally got back at about 10pm, where we checked about our train to the Perhentian Islands for monday...turns out it is fully booked so first hing in the morning we're heading to the train station to book whatever we can! We both felt exhausted, but jet lag soon set in, and neither of us got to sleep until after 2:30am, which when the alarm is set for 8am is not a good feeling!
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Posted by Susiep539 08:48 Archived in Singapore Tagged singapore Comments (0)

The adventure begins...

Flight to Singapore via Dubai

29 °C

So, after months of waiting, we've finally set off on our travels!

After several last minute panics about things we should have/shouldn't have, had forgotten, might have forgotten, etc, (admittedly mostly on Susie's part) we left yesterday (8th Sept) from Johns house to head down to Gatwick. We arrived a rather excessive 4 hours before the flight was due to take off, only to be told that there was a further 1 1/2 hour delay, meaning we had 5 HOURS to wait. As if we weren't spending enough time on this journey already! After some wandering aimlessly around Gatwick (playing air hockey on an ipad while listening to Dubstep in Dixons, racing the toys in Hamleys, Rockin' Rabbit totally beat Pudgey Pig) and some travel scrabble playing, we finally boarded our plane and set off to Dubai. An uneventful (and unfortunately unsleep-ful - we were too distracted by the cool camera on the plane that shows you the pilots view and the view from under the wing!) 7 hour flight later, we landed in Dubai (where it's Rammadan so we couldn't eat or drink anything), with 20 minutes until we had to be ready to board out next flight. Cue a few minutes of getting cross at people not getting off the plane fast enough, and then a quick march through the airport. Fortunately we were there in time, only to them find there was a delay as they were still loading luggage onto the plane (ours perhaps?!?). We set off, only 30mins late this time and had another fortunately uneventful flight to Singapore (watching several Disney films and episodes of Outnumbered on the way).

We arrived here at 9:30pm Singapore time, and it was still 29oC!!! We got our luggage, almost a miracle given the transfer! (although John did have to climb on the conveyor belt to get his since the whole thing had jammed. Cue 6 Singaporean porters scrambling up the luggage chute to unblock it while a random member of the public helped throw bags down the hatch....British health and safety would have had a fit!) Then we got onto the MRT (metro) to take us to the centre. The metro was fast and clean with big signs up saying $500 fine for eating or drinking or bringing flammable liquids on?!?! Also you get an oystercard like ticket even for just one journey, which gets dispensed from the machine. Then you get $1 back as a deposit when you reinsert the ticket after your journey. TFL could learn a thing or two for saving wasted card tickets!

Once we arrived at the rather fragrantly named "Lavender Station" we set off for our hostel. After only getting slightly lost on the way (which was nothing to do with Susie's map reading skills), we walked to our hostel. It's pretty nice, and the staff member on duty, Geoff, greeted us by name and is very friendly. At only £8 each a night, its not quite the Raffles, but it'll do us!

We headed out to get food, from a Chinese fast food place down the road, interestingly named "Beach Street Scissor Cafe" that had a massive queue of locals out of the door, so you know it has to be good, even if their unique selling point is that they chop all the meat with scissors for you as you order it! (John thought it was a sign for a hairdressers when we first saw it!) We had very tasty rice with various different curry sauces and meats and veg on, with a drink, for the grand total of £3 each! After dinner, we wandered round the area we're staying in, known as Little India. It's seems like a really safe and friendly area, but so SO busy! By this time it was gone midnight and everywhere was still packed, with loads of people everywhere! We accidentally found our way into a MASSIVE department store called the Mustafa Centre, which had hundreds of everything, and we really do mean everything - rice cookers to shoes to vegetables to suitcases to fridges to toiletries. For future reference, there's no point buying anything before you come - I think we could have bought everything in our bags from this one shop - including the bags themselves!

Tomorrow we're going to wander round some more - familiarise ourselves with Singapore a bit. We might meet up with a friend of John's from school who lives here too.

For now it's off to bed, so night night, or day day, or whatever. Our bodies have no idea what time it is!

Posted by Susiep539 18:44 Archived in Singapore Tagged england singapore Comments (2)

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