Sunday, 19 November 2006

Happenings 2006 Number 8


It’s a hot and sultry Sunday morning on 22nd October as ‘Envy’ motors out of Nongsa Point Marina, on Indonesia’s far northern Batam Island, into a haze shrouded Singapore Strait; this busy waterway is infamous among cruising yachties who have to weave their way through the huge amount of traffic that plies these narrow shipping lanes, reputedly half the world’s shipping.

We started our crossing in smoke haze and finished in a thunderstorm downpour, but had to dodge only three large ships, (well that’s all we saw in the rain and haze) before reaching the sanctuary of Singapore’s highly rated ‘Raffles’ Marina, with its restaurants, bars, hotel, swimming pool, gym, chandlery etc, situated at the western end of the island.

After the first two days catching up on never ending boat jobs, it was time to rediscover Singapore. The Marina offers a free bus service to the railway station, from where quick clean electric trains can deliver one to most places of interest around Singapore. Often referred to as a garden city, this modern, bustling island is like a big lushly verdant, manicured parkland. Greenery and shops are everywhere, and the city-state is famous for its smooth efficiency.

Most afternoons bought thunder and heavy rain, and a cooling respite from the tropical heat. But the weather didn’t dampen our exploration of Singapore, mostly using the modern MRT rail system, as we shopped ‘til we dropped in all the marvellous malls and stores, visited their world famous Zoo, got seduced by a variety of Asian food, indulged in the sights, colours and smells of Little India and Chinatown, or simply relaxed in the pool and spa at the Marina.

Raffles is a name synonymous with Singapore since founded by Sir Thomas Raffles in 1819, and the top-class Raffles Hotel is not only a local icon but a timeless symbol of colonial luxury. Regrettably, we never did make it in for one of their well known ‘Singapore Slings’, but that’s something to look forward to next time around.

Then Audrey’s mother, Lavinia, flew in from Brisbane for a hectic week’s visit, as we tried to make the most of every day. She and Audrey had a good time electronics shopping in Sim Lim Tower and Sim Lim Square, and window-shopped much of the town, while Lavinia visited some Art Galleries as well and generally soaked up the sights, shapes and colours of Singapore as future subject material for her painting and other works of art.

We were impressed to see the extent of government backed modern high-rise housing development and were told that by the mid-1990’s Singapore had the world’s highest rate of home ownership. Other local observations were the extent of mobile phone usage – it seemed every second person had one, and every third person had a cold, of which malady we also became participants.

Following three months in Indonesia it was a real treat to find supermarkets with a larger range of product, systems that ran like clockwork, order and cleanliness that, by comparison, bordered on sterility, drinkable water straight from the tap, clean crisp paper banknotes, and the widest range of state-of-the-art electronics anywhere, several items of which found a new home aboard ‘Envy’.

Singapore was the starting point of the associated “Sail Asia” rally, a continuation of “Sail Indonesia”, with the fleet sailing and sightseeing its way up through Malaysia to Langkawi Island, just below the Thailand border. Following the usual Rally dinner and briefings, the 3rd November marked the start of this section of the Rally as participating yachts headed out of the Johore Strait, in windless conditions, for the cruise northward up Malaysia’s west coast.