This quarter found me on my ‘nomadic doorstep’ in Singapore. Admittedly, it took me a long time to bond with our latest port of call. While Singapore is a friendly, clean and prosperous city with endless architectural marvels and delicious food, it initially felt sterile to me, lacking in edge. After having sailed for four months through diverse, exotic Indonesia, the luxuries of Singapore offered welcome but uninspiring comfort.
Perhaps is was an unusually lengthy rainy season or the divisive US political climate that dampened my spirits. Or maybe life had just gotten in the way. We spent our early days in the region shuttling between Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia where our boat Amandla was initially moored before we brought her to Sentosa. The Captain underwent two unplanned surgeries, fully recovering from both in the quarter, albeit more tired than ever of endless ‘treatment’. The prospect of boat refit coming in the second quarter did not lend itself to the excitement. And my focus had shifted from daily sightseeing to trying to find creative ways to replenish the cruising kitty.
Luckily, we were blessed with welcome visits from my family and friends. Plus I enjoyed dinners out with Singapore-based former colleagues who had long since become confidants. And we were very, very well cared for by The Captain’s wonderful local friends Roberto and Rosie, their gorgeous daughters, and their welcoming extended ‘families’.
But although my touring time was limited (and the sun even more so), I was determined to find inspiration for my lens in Singapore during the free moments that I had to experience it. To find it, I returned to my most calming and rejuvenating source, Mother Nature. Singapore showcases her in abundance. I just scratched the surface with visits to MacRitchie Reservoir, Mount Faber Park, and my favorite, the off the beaten track Pulau Ubin.
Pulau Ubin can be reached from the city center by hopping the MRT and/or bus (2, 29, 59 or 109) to the Changi Village Hawkers Market, then hopping a bum-boat at the Changi Point Ferry Terminal (SG $3 one way leaving whenever 12 people are aboard or SG $36 if you want to hire a boat for one). Not exactly easy to get to, but well worth the trip.
The island is one of the few remaining places to experience the kampung lifestyle in Singapore. It is also a national park designed to conserve Singapore’s diverse nature and cultural heritage. Motorized vehicles are limited and travel is mostly by bicycle (I hired one from #25 Mr. Chia +65 98798237 the last seller on the left side of the road with bikes in good condition for a fair price).
I managed to cycle half the island with my destination being Chek Jawa, an extensive wetland on the southeast corner of the island. I visited low tide and was treated to a grand show.
Singapore’s natural beauty acted as a muse that allowed me to view the city through a new set of eyes. The streets suddenly came alive for me and I found inspiration everywhere that I turned: Kampong Glam, China Town, Little India, The Downtown Core, Geylang, and my favorite stomping ground, Tiong Bahru.
My top ‘street’ experience was meeting the Koh family. I was photographing the streets of Tiong Bahru, an art-deco housing estate built in the 1920s, the oldest in the city-state. Eric Koh found me wandering about and invited me over for some tea and discourse. I spent a wonderful two hours getting to know this family while his mother filled me with endless Chinese New Years treats. Quintessential, welcoming Singapore.
In the end, my time in Singapore was too short with so much remaining to be explored. I look forward to returning again.
We’ve lifted anchor and set sail for Phuket via Port Dickson, Klang, Pangkor, Penang, Langkawi, Ko Bulon Le, and Ko Lanta Yi.
Along the way, our list of boat repairs grew as Amandla’s instruments were damaged by an electromagnetic surge from a lightning strike in Port Dickson (a catamaran in the marina kitty corner from us was hit directly and six other boats were also impacted). We hand-steered the rest of the way to Phuket, luckily with the assistance of our friend Lucio, a sailing Captain who was visiting from Italy. Amandla will remain in Phuket for a month of repairs and then head back to Langkawi at the end of April to replace the damaged instruments.
My memories of Singapore and prospect of future travel in SE Asia are keeping my spirits buoyed.