Love in the Lion City. Photo taken at ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
Despite various challenges of expatriate living in Penang for more than 2 years now, we’ve been counting our blessings continuously. Big and small blessings are all blessings to be grateful for! When I left Manila back in 2010, my only goal was to work for my family; I never thought that earning a decent living in Malaysia would give me an opportunity to bring my family to my work place, to live abroad and be with me, more so, to go to neighboring countries with them with travel expenses less than you imagined.
Flying to another country by all means, is considered the most convenient way but indubitably, doesn’t come cheap in spite of so many seat sales every now and then. Apparently, we’re a family of 3 so all costs are always multiplied by 3. You do the Math, I’m weak at it. Fortunately, Malaysia is a gateway to other Southeast Asian countries that can be explored by crossing borders on foot via commuter buses or trains without spending an arm and a leg. We already experienced crossing Malaysia-Thailand borders on foot last year when we went to HAT YAI and just recently, when we revisited BANGKOK. But it was the first time for us to head south by bus and cross the Malaysia-Singapore borders sans air tickets.
Another grace from living in Malaysia is delighting in a volume of gazetted public holidays within a year. On our last long weekend, we savored my invitation to review LEGOLAND MALAYSIA in Johor Bahru, the Malaysian state a few kilometers away from the Lion City. Expectedly, we grabbed the opportunity to visit Singapore again. My family’s very first trip to Singapore was in August-September 2011, and I came back solo in mid-July a year after to attend to the sponsored trip by OASIA HOTEL and SINGAPORE BLOG AWARDS. It always feels good to go back to the city and unwind.
THE NIGHT SPENT INSIDE SUPER NICE DOUBLE DECKER BUS
The bus liner’s called Super Nice and it truly lived up to its name and our expectations. We availed of our bus tickets to Johor Bahru from Penang Sentral in Butterworth a day before our trip (it’s wiser to purchase an advance tickets, about a week or two prior to schedule; tickets are easily sold out like hotcakes particularly during long holidays).
Reclinable seats ala-Lazy-boy, super comfortable leg room and uninterrupted sleep made our night trip very remarkable. For a 60 ringgit (USD 19.60) per ticket, we got to rest entirely and became ulitimately ready for a day in Singapore.
We left Penang around few minutes past 9PM, Friday, September 14, 2012 and arrived Johor Bahru via direct trip (did not pass by Pudu Raya bus station in Kuala Lumpur) at 6:30AM. Nine hours after, we found ourselves in LARKIN BUS STATION in JB. We hit the restrooms to freshen up and filled in our tummies with much needed breakfast.
Our first meal in Johor Bahru were roti canai with egg that came with Indian-Malaysian tamely spicy dip that even Gabby learned to love, coffee for Tina and me, and a canned soya milk for Gabby. Solb!
After grabbing some bites, we hailed a taxi cab and went straight to our hotel in Johor Bahru. Believe it or not, I only made the reservation online few minutes prior leaving our apartment in Penang. Most hotels in Johor Bahru were fully booked because of the much-anticipated-public opening of Legoland MY thus, even the recommended hotel of the said theme park was packed. I luckily chanced upon ZENG ZENG BUDGET HOTEL and paid RM 80 (USD 26) only for one night in a deluxe-twin-bed-air-conditioned room with breakfast for two.
We checked in and paid additional RM 45 (USD 14.70), took shower, freshen up again. The staff of Zen Zeng were so friendly, they were even ready to provide us embarkation cards for Immigration purposes. The staff at the reception counter advised me to take a shorter trip via taxi to the bus station closer than Larkin. Around 11AM, we found ourselves in KOTA RAYA Bus Terminal in Johor Bahru en route to Singapore.
As first time travelers by bus from Malaysia to Singapore, we learned that other than those more expensive tourist buses that one can avail from travel agencies, the best option is to take either of the two public bus numbers that transports passengers in and out of two countries in less than an hour with frequent trips until midnight. These are SBS Transit Bus # 160 that takes travelers from Johor Bahru to Jurong East and the one we rode, SBS Transit Bus # 170 that took us to KRANJI MRT STATION in Singapore from Kota Raya in JB. The fare’s SGD 1.70 per pax (USD 1.38).
There’s a FOREX within (Larkin and) Kota Raya Bus station; we changed our MYR to SGD. Good thing I didn’t forget to bring my few SG coins; they’re necessary for purchasing bus tickets.
Inside SBS Transit Bus # 170…
*TIP : Take all your belongings before you hop off the bus. You only need to pay for the bus ticket ONCE. Keep your bus ticket and alight at Departure Hall/Malaysia Exit border for Immigration purposes. After having your passport stamped (or as they frequently termed it here, chopped), go down the escalators and turn left as you reach ground level. Look for the signage of the SAME BUS NUMBER but NOT necessarily THE SAME BUS (either 170 or 160 if you took SBS Transit), wait and queue. The waiting will not take few minutes. Hop on the bus and no need to pay again, just present your ticket previously purchased. The same process is repeated as you reach Arrival Hall/Singapore Entry border where you need to present passport again and an embarkation card.
Walking towards Arrival Hall/Singapore Entry Border…
*Repeat : Hop on the BUS with the SAME NUMBER but NOT necessarily the SAME BUS. You only pay once. Get it, children?
It was a Saturday, and the following Monday is a replacement holiday in Malaysia so it was not surprising to experience traffic jam in the short bridge connecting Johor Bahru and Singapore. It took us almost an hour and a half exiting Malaysia to Singapore including the Immigration formalities. But on our way back from Singapore to Zen Zeng Hotel in JB that night, traffic was already eased.
Finally, Singapore! We meet again!
SBS Bus Transit # 170 took us to KRANJI MRT Station and from there, we purchased a reloadable MRT cards. It was only one long-45-minute-train ride from Kranji Station to our destination.
It’s impossible to tour Singapore in a day, so we only chose two spots. Because Tina and Gabby had only seen the most luxurious hotel in Singapore from afar last year and they were not with me when I went there last July, I opted to bring them to Marina Bay Sands this time for our late lunch. Yes, it sounded like, we only went to Singapore to eat lunch and dinner and to use their spotless toilets. The other place we went to was City Hall Mall to meet a Singaporean friend.
The scenes inside MRT from Marina Bay Sands Station to Bayfront.
Look how Gabby enjoyed his time inside those highly efficient MRT trains…
Et voila! We’re inside THE SHOPPES AT MARINA BAY SANDS…
I’ve been to the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands thrice and was invited by the MBS PR Officer to experience Sands Sky Park last July so somehow, I became a bit familiar with this iconic Singaporean landmark. I told Tina and Gabby the dining options in MBS and we knew where to go. With only limited budget, we can only dream of dining in CUT by Wolfgang Puck someday.
It was not Mozza by Mario Batali nor Cut by Wolfgang Puck nevertheless, it was a family favorite! We decided to savor what’s not found in Penang. It was a sumptuous late lunch at PEPPER LUNCH! The last time we had those sizzling-cook-it-yourself-beef-pepper-rice with ultra yummy honey brown sauce and butter was in TUNG CHUNG, HONG KONG last February and in its sole branch in Malaysia in Pavilion Mall, KUALA LUMPUR last May. Gabby’s favorite in PL is Beef Pepper Rice, I always have it double beef servings, while Tina tried PL’s Beef Yakitori with a hint of spicy sauce. Sarap!
After having our late lunch, we went outside MBS and I brought them to ArtScience Museum…
Because Harry Potter The Exhibition which I saw (with Andy Warhol 15 Minutes Eternal Exhibit on media pass) last July was still on display, I was glad Tina and Gabby became excited to see it. It’s a must for fans of HP movie/novel series to experience whenever they find a chance. (The show in MBS runs only until end of Sepetember 2012). We went on queue, paid SGD 24 per ticket for Tina and me and SGD 14 for Gabby. Despite no photography’s allowed inside the exhibit, it’s a bliss to see Gabby enjoying everything, specially pulling those mandrakes from its pots and shooting balls in that Quidditch set up. Tina had fun going through all those props and costumes used in the actual movies as well. It felt stepping inside the movie scene and it was more exciting for me the second time around.
DINNER AT CITY HALL MALL
We left Marina Bay Sands for City Hall Mall via MRT at around 5PM. We strolled around City Hall Mall and met our Singaporean-blogger-friend, Mag with her friend, Angie. I asked her recommendations for dinner and we all opted to try the offerings at The Hand Burger. Everything looked nice and tasted OK too except the Chicken Cajun Cordon Bleu which Gabby and I ordered was surprisingly spicy; our boy’s taste buds were too young for such.
*The last four photos without watermarks are posted with permission from its author, Mag, the awesome blogger of fashion, food and funfinds @ www.modgam.com. Thanks, Mag and thank you for the dinner and coffee treat!
Meet the wonderful blogger behind www.modgam.com, Mag, our Singaporean friend whom I consider the twin sister I never had because in so many ways, we think alike. Surprisingly to a new found friend, she was there when my family and I experienced one of our lowest. Behind those bubbly smiles, colorful locks and stylish outfits lies a true person with a heart of gold.
Mag came to meet us that Saturday night with her good old friend, Angie who’s extra pleasant too.
We left City Hall Mall via MRT to Kranji and went back to Johor Bahru that evening. We reached our budget hotel and got to freshen up again before midnight. It was one of our longest days nonetheless, memorable. The following morning was spent in Legoland Malaysia, and on the evening of Sunday, we hopped on the bus at Larkin Station, slept on the bus again and wake up the next morning in Penang. Ahhh, it was still holiday. A Monday-holiday for us then!
Singapore, until we meet again!