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Going out with a bang in Singapore

SINGAPORE | Monday, 10 October 2011 | Views [336]

Pulau Tioman – you’ve probably never heard of it and chances are you won’t know many people who will ever go there. It isn’t that it’s off the tourist radar or even that it is a complete hidden gem. It has more to do with the fact that it isn’t Langkawi and it isn’t Pulau Perhentian. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, but Tioman seems to be an after thought for most tourists after visiting the two big hitters. Key for me though is the shining reviews it gets from the Malaysian people. I always think it is important for a place to be loved by both the travelling community and the natives.

Placed off the South East shore of Malaysia peninsula and nicely situated for a quick getaway to Singapore, Tioman was a great place to charge the batteries in preparation for the fast moving Singapore weekend ahead.

A lot of time was spent relaxing, meeting locals, playing board games in the sun and reading a good book on the beach. It was wonderful to quite literally have nothing to worry about – the remainder of the trip was planned and thought out and all we had to do was enjoy the little time left before being dragged back to reality in the UK.

At this point I was travelling with one companion. We aimed to see Tioman’s wild side, heading  into the lush jungle that suffocates the fringes of the golden beaches surrounding the island. It was hot, sticky and hard work in parts – and that was before we lost the path and ended up face to face with snakes and wild mammals! We’d gone looking for adventure and boy did we get it. After falling off the beaten trail we enjoyed (minus the scratches and snakes) navigating our way back to civilization through the thick undergrowth of a real jungle. We looked a state on our return to the beach. Covered in sweat, mud, scratches and leaves all the locals could do was laugh at how we had lost the trail but for us, it was a real trekking adventure!

The time had come to pack our bags and head to Singapore for Grand prix weekend – excitement could not have been higher.  I think because we had visited Singapore as a City three weeks earlier, it made visiting it as a sporting arena even more memorable. Streets we had walked down before were shut off, replaced by seas of flag bearing F1 fans, mesmerising entertainment venues, food and beverage vendors and an atmosphere befitting one of the greatest spectacles of the sporting year.

Without having seen a Formula One car at full tilt with your own eyes and ears it is difficult to describe the sensation it gives off when roaring round roads designed for public transport links, eco friendly cyclists and open top tour buses. Car’s at the pinnacle of technology, possessing 900 plus horsepower and top speeds of 185mph, smash through the streets of Singapore. Mingling between skyscrapers, rushing past landmarks and screaming down to the waterfront of the Marina Bay – Wow, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up just recollecting it!

Most of the weekend was spent in nocturnal disarray. The action on track, for most of the weekend, didn’t begin until 10pm local time. We would sleep until 5pm and head for some local street food – Singapore chow mien, spring rolls, shredded duck, sweet and sour pork - the food is mouth watering and for Singapore, an absolute bargain! After food downtown Singapore was calling and the buzz of the F1 hub drew us in around 8pm.

Following the action there would be entertainers on every corner, the headline stage provided acts playing into the early hours and only after that did the party really get going in Clarke Quay. We gritted our teeth and paid the extraordinary price Singapore charges for alcohol, managing to keep ourselves entertained until 7 or 8am before returning to the hotel in time for breakfast. It was the most out of sync, jaw dropping, whirlwind of a weekend I could possibly of imagined and an experience that will stay with me forever as one the best.

When I left Singapore it signalled the start of my journey home – I had no idea it would end with me on a camel in the desert! My flight was from Kuala Lumpur, only six hours by bus and a good excuse to see friends I had made during my earlier visit to the Malaysian capital. Arriving at KL airport for my 2am flight to Dubai I instructed the baggage handler to put my battered and beaten backpack all the way through to Newcastle - my final destination. He gave me a look of confusion and so began my unexpected 30 hours in Dubai.

Although somewhat awkward due to my lack of clean clothes, unhealthy bank balance and the need to get home for a job interview, it was another stamp in my passport and ticked off a few more boxes towards becoming a seasoned traveller. Never before had I been to the desert, ridden camels and bounced down sand dunes in 45 degree heat, gotten a stiff neck from looking at the world’s tallest building or in fact, visited an Arab country. It didn’t mask the hardness of the airport floor on which I slept my last night away from home but I ended up being quite thankful to whoever made the mistake with my airline ticket!

Right now I am back home. Coxwold. In the last 14 weeks I have visited 6 countries, been on 10 planes, 28 buses, rented 2 cars and 4 motorbikes, slept in 30 different accommodations including buses, airports and beaches. I’ve used 26 boats, numerous taxi’s, bicycles, tricycles, even camels and a horse and cart, earned another 20 stamps in my passport and had unforgettable experiences with some of the best people you could hope to enjoy them with. It was all a far cry from a late September evening in Yorkshire, but there must be worse places I could call home.

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