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To go from Nongsa to Singapore meant we had to cross the busy Singapore Strait…Coming from Wellington where to see another ship at sea is an event and although we had been conditioned to seeing more sea traffic lately, we still wondered how we would handle it.
The strait is only a couple of miles wide at the narrowest part, but they say about half the world’s shipping goes through there, a ship every 2-3 minutes and then there are also the hundreds of local fishing boats…
Altogether we had to go about 40 miles to get to Raffles Marina, going along the Strait from east to west, crossing in the middle. We stayed on the edge of the shipping lane on the Indonesia side, where the fishermen were fewest, then when the way seemed clear,did a 90 degree turn to get across to Sentosa.


It was much easier than we expected, there was shipping around all the time, but it was predictable, we had no surprises, although would rather not do it in darkness or conditions with poor visiblility…
But there was a lot of boat traffic all the way and in the Straits of Johor, going up to the Raffles Marina also fishing ‘villages’, -on stilts, to the edge of the channel.

We took a berth in Raffles Marina, which like most in these parts is associated with a ‘club’offering high class eating, accomodation, swimming pool and other recreational facilities.

At Raffles the Marina is the poor relation of the club, somewhat run-down, but we still had free access to everything on offer and the pool was a treat.The Chinese Restaurant was also one of the best.
Although right at the western corner of Singapore and about as far away as possible to get from the city, Raffles have a regular shuttle bus into the nearest MRT and then there’s easy transport everywhere.

One of our first trips into the city was to the grand old Raffles Hotel

to meet Leona for gin-slings

followed by lunch in Cross St., one of the several downtown ‘hawker’ food markets

Singapore is all about eating and shopping, -that is, apart from working hard; but that’s what Singaporeans ‘do’ and we did plenty of both too over the following weeks…
It was a chance to update our electronic ‘toys’ from the wide choice availabe and there’s a great variety of excellent, cheap food everywhere.

But we also enjoyed the sights of the city.
Downtown is the oldest part, around the river

although there’s not much that’s old left after the development of the modern city, there are still a few survivors

to add interest, colour,

and ‘back-alleys’

Right there too is historic Fort Canning where Singapore began. It’s on the hill and has cool shady gardens

and is a good way to walk to escape the busy streets.

Chinatown is an enclave close to the city centre, it has a lot of interest. There’s lots more food and ‘Chinese’ shopping in the old ‘shop-houses’,

and several temples; to Buddha

and other deities,

beautifully, extravagantly decorated in the traditional, colourful Chinese style.

Little India is not far away and likewise is an ethnic part of the old town still living the traditional way.

It was just a day or 2 after the festival of Deepavali so the decorations were still in the streets.
We took a guided walk. It was mostly of interest; taking us through the ‘wet’ markets of fresh meat and produce

with clothes drying in the Singaporean way on bamboo poles from the apartments above;

more eye-catching than the Sari demonstration going on below.

We were introduced to the man with the parrot who told fortunes;

Fatima who does the ‘henna’ body decoration;

a cotton textile shop with a lot of cheap colourful products from India;

and invited to sample from an Indian sweet shop (too sweet for most of us!)

or to buy from a goldsmiths if we preferred…
I never knew before that what I thought was cheap Indian jewellery because it is more yellow than the 18 carat gold to which we are accustomed, is actually the opposite, as it’s 22 or 24… Indian women wear their investments!

Many of the old shops are being rejuvenated for modern use, creating attractive terraces.

Not surprisingly, Little India has a strong Hindu presence, with shops to sell floral decorations and other ‘temple products’ to share with the gods;

street-side shrines

and lavishly overdecorated temples to Brahma, Vishnu and others.

The carved figures above all tell quite a story, much of it seems too gruesome to be a part of a religious establishment…

and a fantasy to say the least!
Inside it’s busy with devotees and accolytes

not deterred by the steady flow of barefooted, inquisitive tourists with flashing cameras…

Not all of Singapore is busy city. Cycling is surprisingly rewarding and mostly not even difficult as the traffic is (generally) well behaved, in the law-abiding, Singaporean way.
There’s good cycling around the island with areas of wide, quiet roads and tree-lined streets

bushy parks around the reservoirs of the central hills, such as the McRitchie;

and even challengingly steep hill climbs over a short distance

as at Mt Faber which has a 360 degree outlook over Sentosa Island and the central city.

Toward the north of the island are extensive, well kept cemeteries, crowded of course, but open space all the same. The Chinese

are kept apart from the Christian

who are kept apart from the Jewish who are of course apart from the Muslims, etc.

At the northern-most point is the busy causeway to Johor Bahru,

Malaysia is only just across the water.

Near Raffles Marina is an area of town known as ‘Chinese Gardens’, for reasons quite apparent as there is a large park area of gardens with a Chinese theme.


and in town at the back of Orchard Road are the city botanical gardens.

There are no grand floral or formal displays of the English style, but they are cool open places to get away from the people, traffic and the shops.

Throughout the island however, even between the tallest and most crowded of the government sponsored apartment blocks there are trees and little spaces of green, small gardens for the millions of people who can have none of their own.
Their apartment way of life is totally anathema to us who come from the wide open spaces of an under- populated country and to us, remarkable that people can seem to be happy living that way.
It is also remarkable (but probably just a reflection of harsh penalties) that with so many people in confined space, there is no litter, no visible sign of vandalism, grafitti, or even rebellious teenagers… and neither do the police have an obvious visible presence, the people are self-policing.
It’s a regulated way of life being Singaporean.

The Singapore Zoo and the Jurong Bird Park are world-known, we saw both. Although we have some concerns when we see large animals pacing in small places or large birds with clipped wings, both places seemed as good as they get with most of the wildlife being given the dignity it deserves, the restraints being as much as possible by natural barriers.

For the like of the baboons, whole environments have been created

proudly ‘prizewinning’ among the zoos of the world.
There’s plenty of opportunity to get up close and personal with animal faces, friendly;

and some maybe less so.

Not all the emphasis is on the large or fearsome forms of animal life, the butterfly enclosure is a colourful place

and there are even the smelly fruit-bat deserves a presence

At the birdpark there’s a similar opportunity to interact with the tame exhibits

some with walk-in enclosures

or with clever use of one way glazing

see some of the more timid, but beautiful plumage.

There is a new marina development in Sentosa Island, the owner still keeps his boat at Raffles Marina, it was berthed adjacent to us. He takes it around to the new marina every weekend for sales purposes and as possible prospective Sentosa berth buyers (???) we ‘hitched’ a lift on one Saturday morning.

It took about a quarter of the time it had for us to cover the same distance and it was an enlightening experience to travel through all that harbour traffic at the height and speed of the ‘other’ sort of yacht owners…

The new marina is nice, but only just opening and without power to the berths or other facilities yet. Maybe next time we pass through Singapore we’ll stop for a few days, but I don’t think we’d like the price-tag of a permanent berth!

Our stay in Singapore extended longer than the 10 days we originally intended, but that’s not unusual. It was almost 6 weeks before we felt it was time to move on and by then Christmas was making it’s presence felt.
In the shopping mecca of Orchard Road the decorations were all there to attract Christmas spenders.

It gave us the urge to move on as we wanted to be in Langkawi by late December, there were places to go on the way.

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