Singapore is a vibrant city in Southeast Asia that combines the best of the old and the new with so many exciting things to see and do. This makes it easy for visitors to get travel overload. When that happens, it’s time to break away for a day, to experience a more traditional way of life in an exotic culture or just commune with nature. Getting away in Singapore frequently means hopping a ferry for a relaxing sea voyage, while some day trips from Singapore start with bus or cable car rides.
Batam Island can be seen from Singapore, which is just across the Strait of Singapore, making Indonesia’s eighth largest city just an hour’s ferry ride away. It’s popular with Singaporeans and travelers alike, especially those who like to golf or gamble in one of the many casinos. The cuisine is seafood based, including the gong-gong sea snails found only in nearby waters; chili crabs also are popular dining fare. A variety of sports activities, including water sports, beaches and go-kart racing can be found at Waterfront City. Popular attractions include the Mesjid Raya Grand Mosque at Batam Center and the Buddhist temple, Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya.
Melaka, or Malacca as it is also known, was once one of Southeast Asia’s most important trading ports, only to be replaced by Singapore. The colonial architecture of this historic city has been well preserved and is a major draw for tourists, who can tour the 18th century Dutch house at 8 Heeren Street or the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum. Travelers are sure to be hungry when they finish the 3-1/2 hour bus ride from Singapore, and may want to try Melaka’s most famous dish, ping-pong ball size chicken rice balls.
The small island Pulau Ubin offers visitors a chance to see life as it was in 1960s Singapore. There’s no municipal water or power systems; instead, residents get their water from wells and electricity from generators, and rely on farming and fishing for food. Pulau Ubin is an opportunity to stroll through Singapore’s last villages, also known as kampongs, or ride a mountain bike through the island’s rugged trails. Chek Jawa, a wetlands with a wide variety of marine life on the island, is popular with nature lovers. Pulau Ubin is a 10-minute bumboat ride from Singapore.
Beachcombing on white sandy beaches and surfing in the South China Sea are just a few activities available to visitors to Bintan Island, reachable by ferry from Singapore. Visited by Marco Polo in 1201, Bintan Island was long a safe harbor for Chinese and Indian trading ships seeking protection from raging storms in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. The largest island in the Ruau Archipelago today is a drawing card for eco- and adventure travelers as well as those who just want to relax. The top-end resorts are situated on the island’s north coast while the east coast around Pantai Trikora is more affordable and laid-back.
Malaysia’s second largest city, Johor Bahru, can be found on the southern Malay Peninsula. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, Johor Bahru today is a major shopping draw for tourists and Singaporeans alike since prices for consumer goods, clothing and toiletries are cheaper here than in Singapore; City Square is tops for shopping. Less than an hour’s bus ride away from Singapore, Johor Bahru is an ecumenical city with mosques, and Hindu and Chinese temples worth seeing. Visitors single out the Hindu Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple for its uniqueness. Johor Bahru also is home to Legoland Malaysia.
Sentosa Island bills itself as the “fun state.” With such a myriad of activities, it’s hard to argue with that. Travelers can take a nearly 600-foot high skytrail to the 19th century Fort Siloso, walk on beaches, visit a butterfly preserve, go for nature walks, take in a marine mammal show, ride bikes or get up close and personal with birds. The place has something to interest everyone. The new jewel in the crown on the island is Resorts World Sentosa, an enormous complex comprising of Universal Studios theme park, S.E.A. Aquarium, a casino and shopping malls. The fun starts before travelers arrive since the easiest way to get there is to take the Singapore Cable Car. Visitors also arrive on bikes and cars.