While Singapore itself already offers an extensive list of cool things to see and do, it is still not enough for an expat like me who just loves exploring new places. I don’t know why, but I quickly get bored if I see the same surroundings for too long.
Fortunately, Singapore turned out to be the best place to stay at. It offers all the comfort, safety, infrastructure and standards of the Western life I was used to from home, but at the same time is a perfect gateway to numerous neighbouring countries that are still a bit more original. Within only a few hours, you can easily reach so many different countries and islands, and you don’t even need to invest a lot of money either. However, since I was still a student on a budget, and also traveled on a bi-weekly basis from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, I generally avoided flights, since I was just tired of airports, security checks and planes. Hence, the list you can find here is ideal for those who search for getaways which can comfortably reached by ferry or car. Enjoy 🙂
The following two destinations are definitely not a place to spend your entire weekend at, but they are certainly worth considering as day trip! In fact, they are the perfect solution when you don’t have time to go away for the entire weekend, but fancy seeing something else than skyscrapers and perfectly maintained parks, and at least give you an idea of how Singapore used to be back when it wasn’t a mega city.
- Pulau Ubin
This island, located at the East coast of the main island of Singapore, is reachable withing only around 15 to 20 minutes by ferry- which, in this case, are small fishing boats that take around 7 SGD to take you over to Ubin. The boat ride itself is already quite pretty, allowing you to enjoy a nice fresh breeze.
At the place you arrive, there are many shops and restaurants- this is pretty much the only place where you can get food, so if you didn’t bring any, make sure to get it here. Don’t worry about drinks though, there are little stalls located along the roads where one may purchase a refreshing young coconut or, if you feel a bit less fancy today, a plain water or any sort of fizzy drink. Also, there are countless shops where you can rent a bike for around 10 SGD per day. Honestly, it is not necessary to do that, since the island really is quite small, however, you will certainly be a lot faster if you get one- since we didn’t want to spend forever to explore the island, we got some and made our way straight to the mangrove path, which apparently is one of the very few places in Singapore where these trees grow. The path leads you along the coast, and definitely is worth a stroll!
Also, there is an old cottage nearby, which is the perfect spot for a little picknick. Finally, there are also two Buddhist temples on the island! In fact, I really enjoyed visiting them since they were the first I saw outside the busy streets of Singapore. Going to one in the middle of nature in a quiet and peaceful area is an entirely different experience. Also, there are many cute turtles in the pond, so watch out for them 🙂 We spent maybe 7 hours on the island- however, I believe you will take longer by walking. Furthermore, there are campsites, so if you do want to stay overnight, this can be done easily!
2. St John’s, Kusu island and Lazarus Island
The reason why I mention all of these island at once is that there is only one single ferry covering all three. It departs at the cruise centre at Marina Bay only 4 times a day every 2 hours, first stops at St. John’s Island and then carries on to Kusu Island before returning to Singapore. Lazarus island can be reached by walking over from St. John’s island. I recommend taking either the first or the second ferry ( 9 am and 11 am respectively) to start off your journey, and then always spend the time until the next ferry (so 2 hours) at each of the island- you really don’t need more time to explore the surroundings-and taking the early ones also gives you more flexibility in case you- unlike me, who always wants to be on the go- are just looking for a nice sunbath at the beach.
St. John’s island formerly housed a quarantine station for cholera cases detected among immigrants in the late 19th century and was later also used as home for those infected by other diseases such as leprosy. You can still see some of the ancient houses the patients lived in. Nowadays, it is ideal for a nice stroll through nature and to relax at one of the beautiful beaches (However, I do recommend walking over to Lazarus Island since the lagoon there is much more beautiful!).
Kusu Island is
a bit smaller than the other two, but it offers a bit more to see. There is a Buddhist as well as some Malaysian shrines, since a legend says that that a magical tortoise turned itself into an island to save two shipwrecked sailors – a Malay and a Chinese- hence, there is also a pond which serves as home for some cute turtles. Also, there are a lot of benches and fire places, so this island is the perfect spot for a nice barbecue with friends 🙂
The two following islands are really just an hour by ferry away from Singapore, yet the atmosphere is already totally different- you can really feel the Indonesian culture already. Thus, these are the ideal getaways if you fancy to see something different, but don’t want to travel far.
I surely prefer this one over the second one, Batam. The reason for this is that Bintan offers a lot more attractions, a more beautiful nature, and a lot more original culture. There are many resorts which you can go to, and naturally, they own the most beautiful beaches. However, if you want to see more of the original lifestyle and/ or don’t want to spend so much, just choose a cheaper accommodation (there are many hostels, hotels and bed and breakfasts readily available!) and then, if you still want to enjoy the beautiful lagoons, just pay the entry fee (it’s never more than 10 SGD) to one of the resort beaches.
You can then stay there the entire day, relax at the stunning beaches and also enjoy all the offered activities (obviously, they cost money again! ) such as kayaking and snorkeling.
We did exactly that, and stayed in a little town in the less popular area of the island. Thereby, we could also explore beautiful temples and the chaotic streets- which make you appreciate life in Singapore even more! 🙂 On that day, I got to pray at a Buddhist temple for the first (and so far also last) time, since one of my friends is Buddhist and kindly introduced me to this fascinating world.
Also, we “rented” a taxi driver for one day- it was incredibly cheap, especially for all the things we saw: First, we went to an absolutely beautiful fishing village entirely built on stilts. Honestly, if I could choose a place to stay at when I want to write a book or something, this would be my number one choice. I cannot possibly think of a more peaceful place.
And if this wasn’t enough for one weekend, we also did a little boat tour through a mangrove forest, which was amazing! We even saw snails and other exotic animals living in this habitat.
There is much more to explore on this island, for example you can hike up a hill, but we could not possibly have done more in the course of only two short days:)
When a friend from Germany visited me, it was clear we had to do something special! Hence, we chose to get away for the weekend to another country, so he could see some different surroundings as well. But, as I mentioned before, this island is a lot less original than Bintan. In fact, it is a bit like Singapore, just a lot less organised. However, it is still worth a trip! Actually, it is the best place to go if you want to do watersports, such as water skiing and wakeboarding. There is a cool resort to go to, where you can do that for a pretty good deal, even including meals. Naturally, there are also many hotels and beach resorts, so for a spa weekend or something similar, it is perfect- That is just not my personal cup of tea.
While there are still many pretty beaches which you can visit for a nice sunbathing day, many of the artificial tourist attractions are pretty old, not much visited and create an almost depressing atmosphere. Hence, make sure to get a taxi (again, this is the best option due to a lack of a public transport system, and it allows for the greatest flexibility, while it is still really cheap!) and ask the driver to bring you to a nice hidden paradise 🙂That’s what we also did. Actually, we booked a guided tour at our hostel, and the driver showed us an ancient immigrant village of refugees coming from Vietnam during the war, a chocolate factory and ultimately a beautiful beach (which was actually all we asked for, but more never hearts, right?). Since the refugee village was located at one of the many islands that are connected to Batam via bridges, which allowed us to visit these little pieces of land as well.
However, we spent most of the time at the pretty beach- and that’s really what you should be doing, if you are not the one for water sports!
Ok, this will end today’s post. Naturally, there are many more islands and countries to cover, however, I did not visit any countries besides Indonesia and Malaysia since Singapore was always so busy, and I believe this post was already long enough anyway.
Next time, I will talk about where you can go in Malaysia for a weekend, so make sure to check it out if you are planning a trip there! 🙂