Saturday, 12 November 2011

Land Lubbers again – Danga Bay & Singapore

21 – 26 October 2011
After arriving in Danga Bay Marina we were all very keen to get off the boat so, despite not having actually cleared customs and immigration, we headed to the restaurants and bars in the marina complex. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe a big stamp on the passports, DEPORTED. But what the hell, we were hungry and thirsty. (Actually, the marina officials assured us it would be fine.)
Will chose a very classy looking Chinese establishment and in a small fit of extravagance we said why not. We enjoyed  a very nice meal washed down with a good bottle of French Sav Blanc and then held our breath for the bill. At about $45 Aus for the two of us it was expensive by our recent standards but in Australian terms it would seem a cheap night out.
First up next morning we headed for a local shopping mall to organise Malaysian sim cards for our phones and pick up a handful of fresh supplies. We had to make it reasonably quick because at lunchtime the Marina had a mini bus organised to take a number of the other skippers from the rally into Bahru Johor to complete the clearing in processes with Customs and Immigration. It’s a good deal for us because all we have to do is give the skipper our passports and he is required to do everything. We don’t even have to front up.

Looks good - but don't get too close
Danga Bay Marina was built to be the centre piece of an upmarket canal type residential area and while it looked great and featured good restaurants, bars, a very large conference/reception facility along with a pretty good standard of pontoon fingers etc to moor at, the actual facilities provided for cruisers were the pits. The toilet/shower facilities were worse than filthy and unusable. The men’s shower had been broken off at ground level so if you were desperate enough to use it the methodology was apparently to turn it on full bore so it squirted up hitting the ceiling then you could stand underneath the water as it fell back to the floor. NOICE!!
The marina is located on the northern side of the Johor Straight only a kilometre or so from the causeway joining Malaysia and Singapore. As a result there’s very little tidal flow to flush the water through and it showed. We were moored in the rankest water we’d encountered in our travels as clearly demonstrated on our second night when Rob had to clear the putrid body of a dead dog that floated in between the marina finger and Atlantia getting caught up in our fenders. Unbelievably, despite the filth, there was a small colony of otters in residence at the marina. Adding to the dismal facilities, the staff were worse than unhelpful with any question or request their attitude just seemed to be ‘It’s free. What do you expect.’ When Rob went to the office and asked them if they would call us a taxi offering to pay for the call they refused, instead telling him to go and stand on the 6 lane freeway and flag one down. Very safe – NOT!
While we were enjoying  the company of many of the Rally people and Will had invited us to stay on for the rest of the month and use Atlantia as a floating base to do some exploring from, the depressing surroundings of the marina made our decision to leave very easy. After only three nights at Danga Bay we packed up our duffle bags and backpacks and organised a taxi into Singapore.
 It was strange stepping off the boat for the last time, knowing that this really was The End of our Asian sailing adventure. Since leaving Cairns on June XX we had sailed over 3600 nautical miles to reach this point and along the way we met many amazingly interesting people and experienced more than we could of ever imagined. It’s been a hell of a ride and certainly one we’ll never forget
We’re sure Will would of preferred our company until Margaret returned from the UK but we had to go. We were extremely appreciative of our fantastic time on Atlantia and are certainly hopeful of catching up with both Will and Margaret somewhere up the Malaysian coast.
After spending so long in Indonesia, crossing the causeway and arriving in Singapore was a bit of a culture shock. For a start we were travelling on a very large, multi-lane motorway. It was filled with cars not motorcycles and the bikes we did see were Suzuki Hyabusas, Honda Fireblades and other big road bikes. We were even passed by a couple of Harleys within 20 minutes of being on the island. The traffic flow was organised and orderly. Road signs were plentiful and made sense. The difference was further reinforced when a Lamborghini zoomed past. Civilisation at last.

Now we’re into land travel mode our strategy is to try and be frugal to stretch our limited dollar supplies without going to such ridiculous extremes that we don’t enjoy the experience. Our first port of call therefore was Ideal Backpackers where we’d booked a private room for a little under $50 Aus per night. We’d chosen it on the internet based on location near the city and very close to the rail and the fact it offered secure luggage storage for a small fee if you wanted to leave your bags there while you travelled elsewhere. As we had no intention of lugging our two 25 kilo duffle bags all over Malaysia and Thailand it suited us fine to leave them here until we returned to Singapore to fly home in December - although they were a bit surprised when we said we wanted to book nearly six weeks storage. Apparently the usual is a day or two. Our room proved to be excellent. It was clean, air conditioned and spacious enough to empty all our bags and sort out what we were taking with us in our small backpacks and what was staying. No mean feat.

The Boat Quay is a trendy bar & restaurent area

We then spent the next three days exploring the sites of downtown Singapore. We enjoyed visiting many of the historic spots learning more about the history of this fascinating cross roads of the world. We also caught up with our crew mate Marc again along with Alan and Noi off Rogue for lunch and a couple of beers. We found a big screen at Boat Quay to watch the Gold Coast V8 Supercar race but left before the Rugby World Cup Final. Australia was already knocked out of the comp and there were way too many Kiwis in the place who were more than happy to remind us of the fact. The bars at Boat Quay also charge amongst the highest drinks prices in town making elsewhere attractive for dinner.
What you get for an arm and a leg at Raffles Long Bar
Most nights we chose a different one of the scores of very affordable local restaurants that surrounded our accommodation and got to experience all sorts of new dishes, even though we weren’t sure what we ordered sometimes and were often still none the wiser after eating it. You did have to careful ordering anything chilli or you needed a fire hose chaser. However, despite our dedication to being adventurous when sampling local cuisine, neither of us has been able to bring ourselves to try the fried bull frog yet. Maybe next time.
The works of Hyung Koo Kang were amazing
Of course, despite knowing it’s simply a tourist rip, we just could not visit Singapore an go past Raffles without calling in to the famous Long Bar and sampling a Singapore Sling. At $20.60 Aus plus 5% service fee, plus 10% tax, maybe it should be called the Singapore Sting but what the hell. We shared one and can tick the box, been there, done that. The Raffles Hotel itself is a beautiful building, filled with extremely expensive, high end brand name shopping. Just the place for us to wander around in our best grotty yachties gear. Simply walking past the door of some of the shops made our credit cards quake in fear.

The mayhem of Little India's Deepavali festival.
We took in an amazing exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum by a Korean artist, Hyung Koo Kang, who works in oils on aluminium producing huge stunning portraits. We got caught up in the incredible atmosphere of the Little India section of town in the full throws of celebrating the Hindu festival of Deepavali. The lights, colour and crowds were amazing.  Amongst all the mayhem we ran into Helmet and Renata from Nuku Aloofa on a street corner and quickly sought refuge in a nearby cafe for a chat and a cold drink before re-entering the fray.

We also learned another lesson when we had dinner in one of the restaurants. Having chosen a ridiculously jungle theme decorated place just for the fun of it, we perused the menu making our choices one of which was Beef Rendang. When the waiter came to take the order he asked whether we might like to try the special of the day, Venison Rendang, instead. Of course, why not. By the time the meat was buried in enough good, spicy rendang sauce it was impossible to tell the difference – until the bill came. The venison was four times the price of course. Note to self, always ask the price when offered the special.

During the day we walked kilometres, exploring the city blocks and marvelling at old and new architecture and the engineering of places like the spectacular Marina Bay development with its surf board topped three towers. We wandered through more spectacular shops resisting the urge to buy stuff we didn’t need for our travelling lifestyle. Normally shopping in Asia makes Australia look expensive but not if you’re talking genuine Harley Davidson Motor Clothes. OMG! The Singapore shop makes Morgan & Wacker’s at home look like Target. Same gear – just add zeros.
We enjoyed Singapore. Even if it is more expensive than the rest of South East Asia, it doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to have a good time. We’ll be coming back for a couple of days in December and have a few places we didn’t get to, like Chinatown, earmarked for a visit before we jump on our big Emirates bird to fly home on December 15. (Would you believe Emirates fare was 45% of what Qantas wanted so no Qantas Club lounge and frequent flyer points this time. )
Meanwhile it’s back on the road as we zig zag our way north through Malaysia to Thailand.

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1 comment:

  1. I am so please Rob is writing this blog as I am already confussing dates and places. Thanks Rob not only for the wonderful blog but also for sharing this unbelievable experience with me. Karen


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