YES! Alhamdulillah! Finally, I have done my 1st SOLO ABROAD journey! I know this must sound laughable to other globetrotters but for me, it is a huge deal that I have started to getting out from my comfort zone and venture the world on my own. All the while, I’ve always have Kakak as the mastermind and of course the whole entourage of family; or via agencies (China and Palestine-Israel) or colleagues (China), friends and my You-Know-Who. Like I said in my 2017 New Year Resolution; this year is going to be The Year of Metamorphosis (REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/ahlan-wasahlan-2017-a-year-of-metamorphosis-living-the-life-of-lime-lemon-lemonade/) and this is what I am going to do; to emerge out from the comfort zone!
I was captivated by the political manifestation of Singapore’s 4 official languages.
I drove my car after school straight to Tune Hotel JB (I’ve stayed there 6 years ago with my family when we went to USS Singapore; so I was a bit comfortable with the environment. REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/backpacking-travellogue-uniquely-singapore-universal-studio-merlion-parkcity-hall-orchard-road/). The journey took me around 5-6 hours, from Serendah, Hulu Selangor to Danga Bay, JB. I’ve booked the hotel via Agoda.com for 2 days. The first night, I’ve managed to visit Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque. Unfortunately it was under renovation but I managed to capture the ethereal facade under the twilight scene. I had the opportunity to perform Maghrib prayer at the nearby hall opened for Moslems to pray.
Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque. Majestic!
The next day on Saturday 6th May 2017, I went breakfast at Al-Yasin restaurant; opposite Sultanah Aminah’s Hospital at Jalan Mahmoodiah and then went to JB Sentral as I’ve purchased the Shuttle Tebrau, a KTM train to commute from Johor Bahru to Singapore in the most economical pricing (RM 5 per journey) and time (merely 5 minutes!). I bought the ticket for the 12.30 p.m. but I arrived earlier because knowing that when we are to enter another country with its own immigration process, timing is essential. Luckily, I did that! Once arrived at the Woodlands CIQ Train Checkpoint, I went straight to the immigration. The officer was curious about my Israeli exit pass stapled onto my passport but of course since Singapore is having good rapport with Israel, I believe there would be no harm done.
Sultan Mosque in Singapore! Finally I was there!
The interior design. Very cool atmosphere.
According to the information I have gathered prior entering Singapore; I could actually take bus 950 straight to mrt Marsiling, the nearest mrt station from Woodlands CIQ. But I was excited to “warm up my ligaments and sinew” that I’ve decided to walk the 2 km distance! But, the trick was that I didn’t have any printing out and of course I couldn’t rely on smartphone for Internet coverage AND not to mention I have to save the battery as my power bank is quite untrustworthy! So, by trusting my hunch I’ve decided to BLINDLY walked all the way to a direction that was totally OPPOSITE to the right direction (I think for 1.5 km away!) until I realized that this could not be the correct direction – I was supposed to be in Woodlands Center Road; not Woodlands Road! So, I walked back to Woodlands CIQ.
I took the other way as that way was equipped with the landmarks I remembered from the map :-
- Sheng Siong Supermarket;
- POSB Bank
- An-Nur Mosque
- Marsiling Primary School
So, I walked 2 km to mrt Marsiling and finally saw it. Now, once you get to mrt station, your life in Singapore would be super easier! I bought the ticket from Marsiling to Bugis as I wanted to see the Malay Settlement at Kampong Glam. The nice thing about Singaporean’s mrt is that the waiting period is never exceeding 6-7 minutes. The trains would keep coming and coming! From Marsiling, I took the train to Newton to change the train line. From Newton, I boarded down to Bugis. The duration time was tantamount to 40-45 minutes as Marsiling is situated at the north of the island whereas Bugis is situated at the south of the island! Singapore is visitor-friendly country (it’s a small island with international tourists, what do you expect?!) so you don’t have to be scare to be lost as there were signboards. Walked around 600 meter and you would see the golden dome of Sultan Mosque of Singapore! YES! I’ve been meaning to come here since 2011 but at that time, we couldn’t make it so this time I’ve ensure myself to set footsteps there as I LOVE HISTORY SO MUCH!
The information center catered for non-Moslem visitors. I think this is awesome!
Kampong Glam, one of Singaporean Malay’s oldest and prominent settlement.
It was a beautiful mosque and very spacious as the big fan was pinning under the dome. I felt so relaxed performing the prayers there. There was also an information space dedicated for non-Moslem visitors who want to see the interior design of the mosque and to know more about Islam. I like the style where there was some limited space attended for these non-Moslem visitors – so there was no question whether these visitors were to distract the Moslems in performing the prayers! I think Malaysian mosques could somewhat emulate this.
The vibrant graffiti in the area. Very artistic. Very Penangite-ish! Haha!
There were rows of Moslem restaurants mushrooming the pavement walks in front of the mosque, creating a feel of a Moroccoan-bazaar ambiance. Mostly, the restaurants are the Middle Eastern’s and not that many of the local Malays’, sadly. Since I’ve decided to really being thrifty and vowed not to spend so much of my SD100 (equivalent to RM300! Gasp!), I’ve decided to only eat the famous murtabak at Singapore Zam Zam Restaurant, just opposite the mosque. Wow, for SD6, the portion of the chicken murtabak was HUGE and very delicious! But I just couldn’t consume all because it was too huge, so I’ve decided to take them away for supper! You must always be THRIFTY when you are travelling! Haha! In addition, the Teh Tarik was OK. I thought that the Indian Moslem waiters were friendly and nice BUT I hate to say the Malay manageress was very smug! Maybe she was in tense as the waiter did not provide any bills for me but really – if not because of my sore throat and the voice wasn’t hoarse; I would have already “slamdunk” the Malay manageress with my foul words! But I managed to retaliate with cynical “Thank You” back to her – which of course was treated with nonchalance. Nevermind, I would make this known later on via Instagram. Manners must be learned and taught!
The big portion of chicken “murtabak” from Singapore Zam Zam. Delicious. The waiters were nice but the Malay manageress needed some lesson for being so snobbish and smug!
Anyway, around 4.30 p.m., I made my way to Gardens By The Bay. From mrt Bugis, I alighted at mrt Bayfront and straight to Gardens By The Bay. It took me around 45 minutes to discover the real place where I could collect my goody bag and t-shirt as it was situated at the opposite of the road (and in Singapore, you can’t simply cross the road nonchalantly like in Malaysia!!). I hanged around at Marina Bay Sands waterfront area and bumped into my USM friend, Halim Toha! Hahaha! Wow, the world is indeed small, no?
Halim and I, captured by his friend. The world is a small globe, no?
Haha! I am officially a geek! LOL!
At 7.30 p.m., the participants for non-competitive Fun Run 4.5 km gathered according to their sides – The Light and The Dark Sides. Crowds thronging and I was a bit suffocated as I hated being in crowded area. Took me around 50 minutes to complete and I loved the packaged-coconut drinks they provided (Malaysian manufacturer should have done that as well here in Malaysia!!!). I didn’t hang around that long after the running because I didn’t want to miss my 11.15 p.m. Shuttle Tebrau at the north of the island!
The fun cosplay!
Alhamdulillah, I managed to arrive at Woodlands Train Checkpoint at 10.55 p.m. Thank God I arrived earlier because I was later told to print the ticket at lower floor of the boarding entrance! My legs ached but I just need to force myself! At 11.20 p.m., I arrived at JB Sentral.
Duelling of the light sabers?
We were compressed into these lines! Suffocating!
4.5 km, folks! OK-lah, for amateur like me. Haha!
This morning, Sunday; I checked out from the hotel and had breakfast. I went to see the front facade of Istana Bukit Serene (Palace of Serene Hill) where the Johorean royalties dwell. I also saw the big letters emblazoned “JDT” at a stadium; the acronym made famous due to the local football frenzy. I love the ambiance in Johor Bahru- very much like my birthplace in Penang. I don’t know; perhaps it was due to the beach shores or the multiracial and colonial elements? I was also an avid reader of the weekly column written by the reigning Johor Queen, Tunku Zarith Sofia in The Star newspaper; so naturally I have that unfathomable respect for Johor, as she was always poignant in her writings especially on societal and religious taboos.
One of mesmerizing sculpture in Gardens By The Bay. Floating baby?
Prior to this second visit, I had my prejudice over this term coined as “Bangsa Johor”. I thought it was hilarious and quite nonsensical and politically, the term has become somewhat a canon of harmony-or-disparity amongst the homogenous Malays (on how you look at it). Nevertheless now that I’ve explored Johor Bahru a little bit more intimate, I feel that the prejudice is baseless. I think I understand the reason for the coining of “Bangsa Johor”. I now see that Johor is a state kingdom that embodies Wasatiyah (balance) between conservatism and modernism – the royalties still adhere to their roles as the custodians to the Malays and Islam (visible through the royal emblems around JB) but at the same time, encouraging the open-mindedness in racial tolerance. I also think “Bangsa Johor” is a term coined to unify the Johoreans irregardless their races or religions so that they are proud with their state, no? I am sure there are many social science journals discussing about this but as for me, I find it empowering to have the tagline “Bangsa Johor”. What an ironic revelation, no? It is true that “seeing with the eyes is the great teacher.”
And I have to say that the initiative taken by Johor to elevate the prestige of its local football team is something to be applaud! I mean, I am not a football fanatic but I could see the new modern thinking brought by the JDT team – they elevated the prestige of the football club ala the English premier. When I went to Stamford Bridge for Chelsea’s stadium, I was captivated by the merchandises sold and the support of their ardent fans – and I guess JDT is marking its own standard along with that footsteps, not far behind!
The facade of Palace of Serene Hill.
Beautiful Marina Bay Sands.
On whole, I would be coming back to Johor, and Singapore; sooner! There are definitely a lot of eye-catching fishes in Johor and Singapore! Haha!