9th Feb 2011 - Penang, Malaysia & Singapore
Return to a childhood home and awesome views of Singapore
North to Kranji
Today we are going to the north of Singapore to an area called Kranji, to try and find where Tracey lived for a couple of years when she was a small girl. This is about 20 km from the centre and near the Malaysian border so we decided to try our EZ Link swipe cards on the bus and caught the 170 from a few hundred yards away from the hotel. Bus fares depend on the length of the journey, type of bus and whether or not it is air conditioned ! Luckily this one was as it was about a 50 minute journey, which for the most part followed the path of the Rochor Canal (which actually appears to be an off flow for the storm drains). Throughout the city there are extensive works as they build the remainder of the circle line train (it is currently only a semi circle line) and the new Downtown Line.
A half remembered childhood
Kranji has a Commonwealth War Cemetery and Memorial which can be seen from the main road as we got off the bus. Tracey lived on Jalan Bumbong which is a short residential road next to some protected woodland and close to industrial estates and an army training area. As we walked up the road Tracey felt she had some vague recollections of living there, however she was only 5 when she left. We were not sure whether or not the house number was 91 or 99 which were both close to the end of this no through road. It was obvious that some of the houses had been knocked down and re-built as they were all originally armed forces accommodation, and some of them now look like mini mansions with security gates and expensive cars. When we got to 91, Tracey felt that this was not the right house, so moved on to 99. The owner of the next door house was in his front garden, so we explained why we had come and asked if he thought his neighbour would mind if we took a photo with Tracey in front of the house – he was very helpful and said that the current owner was home and he was sure she would not mind if we asked her and explained. When we rung the bell, an Indian lady appeared who hardly spoke any English and I do not think she understood what we trying to say, however she said her son would be back soon – whether to help us or see us off the premises we were not sure, so we took a couple of quick pictures of the house (and the road) and were on our way, still not entirely sure if this was the right house.
Return to the city
We decided to walk the mile down the road to catch the Metro from Kranji station as we thought this may be a bit quicker, and have better air conditioning and leg room than the bus, however as the North South line goes out to the west before we had to make a change at Jurong East to get onto the East West Line (are you following this !), it took about the same time as the bus. We alighted at Bugis Station, walked through the covered market and headed back to the hotel for a midday break.
In the afternoon we decided to go back to the Marina Bay area to see it in daylight. We walked around to the Bugis Station and caught the train to Raffles Place and changed for the southbound train to Marina Bay. The whole bay area is still under development and we had to walk through a semi building site before getting on the Marina pedestrianised area. From whatever angle you look, there is no doubt that the Marina Sands hotel is an awesome sight. We walked to the base of the hotel where there is a very glamorous shopping centre – not surprisingly there was a Ferrari shop with an F1 car in the window – there was a sign saying “no photographs” but Tracey got caught taking a photo of an arab in front of the car and they both were sent packing with a flea in their ear. More surprisingly there is a canal running through the shopping centre complete with little gondola type boats for hire ! We also encountered yet another Chinese Dragon Dance causing mayhem in one of the shops – it is quite amazing how they will completely bring business to a standstill and are not only tolerated but welcomed. I suppose they are trying to bring luck to the rooms and premises that they visit.
Marina Bay Hotel Skypark
I was wondering whether you might be able to go up the towers of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, and just as we were deciding that you probably could not (and it was just for guests), we took an elevator down to what we thought was the subway and found ourselves in the “Skypark” ticket area. For £10 you can take a trip up to the 58th floor observation deck (basically the banana shaped area) and take in the view. We could not resist so up we went – the lift had a choice of floor 1 or 58 and it ascended the 58 floors in an amazingly quick time. Once up on the deck the general public have access to about a third of the area – the rest is set aside for guests, including the 200 metre high largest outdoor pool in the world. The views are stunning - you can see the continuing construction in Marina Bay, hoards of ships at anchor off the coast, a whole lot of Singapore, and the pit straight of the F1 circuit. There is also a bar there where we decided we must have a drink - £15 for a pint of Stella and an iced coffee !!. Naturally, we made them last and sat talking to another English couple who have been visiting Australia and have stopped here for a couple of days on their way home.
We then descended in the super fast lift and walked on to the F1 circuit pit area, which is currently being readied for a Chinese New Year event on Friday which we will unfortunately miss as we will be on our way home.
From there we completed the walk of the marina area and caught the train back to the hotel to take a breather from the heat.
Vegetarian chicken on the streets of Singapore
At about 8pm we took a stroll round the block to look for some good local food. At a conservative estimate, I reckon you could eat at a different place every day for a year without going more than a few hundred metres from the hotel. We ended up in Xing Hua Restaurant – a local cafe with some tables on the street. We were somewhat surprised to see chicken and fish on the menu of a vegetarian meal, but our waitress explained in broken English that all so called meats are tofu or bean curd etc. Tracey had Mango oat chicken and I had dried chilli and mushrooms with some beautiful rice. The waitress was lovely and said we should also try a special Chinese New Year salad only made at this time of year. She bought it all out and prepared it in front of us explaining what each ingredient was. Then we shared a large bowl between us – a Chinese couple came past, recognised what we were eating, and stopped to comment about us celebrating the new year and wished us good luck. Throughout our trip this has been typical – complete strangers offering us help, directions , information and advice, or just simply being friendly – and not just those in the service industry but lots of people we have met on the street or whilst using public transport. We will be sad to be going home on Friday.