April 5 and 6: Singapore and Kuala Lumpur

Singapore

This was the last of our return Port visits. To accommodate passengers taking short duration return cruises (Sydney to Sydney; Melbourne to Melbourne; and Singapore to Singapore, QM2 has somewhat wandered around Australia and now around the South China Sea. But, we have no complaints. Those additional days in Sydney and Melbourne were very welcome as was this second stop at Singapore.

A fortnight ago we did the two things in Singapore we were most keen to do, spending most of our day in Little India and Chinatown. But we’d heard good things about the new Quayside in Singapore and about the Gardens On The Bay.

Despite our best efforts we rarely sleep much after 6am and this meant that by 8 we were queuing to leave the Ship, wondering what delays would ensue because of Singapore’s insistence on face to face immigration procedures, including fingerprinting. This caused significant delays two weeks ago and again on this visit. But our early start meant we avoided them and it was not yet nine when we left the Metro system at Clark Quay. We had coffee in Starbucks, using their Wi Fi to download an offline map to Google maps and were soon wandering along the river. It was all very pretty if, somewhat Disneyesque. And the bars and cafes were mostly closed this early in the morning.

We didn’t tarry long and were soon back n the Metro, re-tracing our steps to within sight of QM2 and walking – in what was now terrific heat – to The Gardens On The Bay. We’re not great fans of Gardens, botanical or otherwise, but this place was very special. The highlight was an extraordinary very tall (perhaps eight storeys) conservatory, which reproduced mountainous rainforest conditions, complete with frequent misting. A long walkway snaked its way from top to bottom. It was stunning.

 

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We might easily have eaten there because there were plenty of very attractive eating-places. But, instead, we decided to take a circuitous route back toward the Ship and visit Chinatown again. We didn’t shop (or not very much) but instead made again for Food Street and had an outstanding lunch. Singapore restaurants serve some exceptionally spicy Chinese food and we had dishes of prawns and fried chicken each fried with and served with dried chillies. With some egg fried rice, wine for Jan and Tiger beer for me, it was simply wonderful and all for about £40. And I was juvenile enough to photograph this unusual offering from the menu:

 

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Kuala Lumpur

We’re probably in the busiest period of this cruise, with this being the second of five consecutive port visits. It really feels remarkable to have a day in Singapore, sit on the balcony with a glass of wine (Jan) or a glass of Bourbon (me) and watch Singapore merge into the distance, have dinner and go to bed and then wake up in somewhere new. In this case, Port Kelang in Malaysia.

We had reserved places on the coach, which dropped us off in KL for five hours, and we were delivered to the famous Petronas Towers by shortly after ten. We had no wish to go the viewing platform on the top of the tower(s) particularly on a misty day and instead found our way into an adjacent shopping centre where we were able to have some excellent coffee and pasties at an Illy franchise while we plotted our day, once again using fast Wi Fi to download an offline map of the city (it has to be said that this is a marvellous Google innovation. Once downloaded, one needs neither Wi-Fi nor a data connection because your whereabouts on the map is shown via GPS. It makes finding your way around a strange city much, much easier and at absolutely no cost).

We were also able to find any number of ATMs in the shopping centre, buying Malaysian Ringits at an exchange rate of 5.5 rather than the 3.8 offered by the tour guide (who nevertheless got a lot of custom).

We then negotiated yet another Metro. This one, like the Singapore system is very new, air-conditioned, fast, comfortable and cheap, most journeys costing about 40 pence. But, as in Singapore, buying tickets can be a performance. The manned ticket offices (here on in Singapore) will not sell single journey or return tickets. But one still has to queue there because the ticket machines don’t take cards, nor notes larger than 5 Ringits (about £1). So, unless one has some small notes the ticket office has to help which they do cheerfully. In exchange for my 50 Ringit note I received a huge bundle of mostly 1 Ringit (20 pence) notes, and proceeded to feed them into the machine four at a time for each of our journeys.

We travelled to Chinatown, described by Lonely Planet as the cultural heart of the City and spent almost the whole day there wandering the Central Market and nearby streets. The market, largely composed of permanent stores in a large cool market hall was fascinating, more expensive than most markets visited but selling stuff of generally better quality. We admired a beautiful Kashmir Rug and I thought that if it was less than £500, I might consider buying it. It was £5,000.

Jan bought a beautiful, silk Chinese jacket and a couple of pairs of inexpensive but very pretty shoes. By a process of sign language the young woman in charge of the shoe stall told us we had spent enough (about £40) to qualify for free flip-flops for each of us. We searched fruitlessly for size elevens for me and fives for Jan but found neither. When we indicated we would manage without a local woman eagerly asked (again through sign language) asked if she could have the free pairs and was delighted when we agreed.

We hoped we might eat here and found a very attractive Malaysian restaurant on the top floor:

 

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We had Thai pancakes and a Malaysian Chicken and Chilli dish along with rice (and beer and wine) for about £30. It was good, but not of the exceptional standard we enjoyed in Singapore yesterday.

We meandered back to Petronas Towers. It was now mid afternoon and the Metro and the city was much busier. We had a look at some of the shops in the bottom floor of the shopping centre we had earlier visited. They were largely local. There were also one or two international brands here – such as Uniglo – which sold clothing at prices at about a third of those on Regent Street. Jan was able to buy The Malaysian Woman’s Weekly and I got a copy of The Kuala Lumpur Star which was entertaining, including as it did, an advert for apartments in what was described as a UK Garden City, second in prominence only to London, but which, after careful reading, turned out to be Salford.

And then, to finish the day in authentic fashion, and as we walked to the bus before its 3pm departure, the skies opened in dramatic fashion and we were spectacularly soaked. But it did not spoil another lovely day.

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martinandjansjourney

62 year old male on the edge of retirement and giving that a trial with a four month break. Not our first Cruise, but certainly our first and only World Cruise.

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