One of the major attractions of life in Singapore is easy access to regional points of interest. Airlines including Silk, Singapore Airlines, and the amazingly affordable Tiger Airways and Jetstar, offer direct flights to a number of tourist spots in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. These flights are usually conveniently scheduled to make short weekend trips worthwhile to top attractions including Siem Reap, Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, Hanoi, and Saigon.
Furthermore, there are a number of easy side trips made from the island by car or ferry that allow for a brief respite from city life.
Pulau Ubin is one of Singapore’s biggest offshore islands north of mainland, and is good for short day trips. Pulau Ubin is known for its biking trails especially, and is said to look like Singapore did long ago. It also has adventure training schools and houses a small population. Visitors usually go to Pulau Ubin for seafood, hiking, cycling, camping or fishing. To get there, take a short 10-minute boat ride from the Changi Point Jetty. You can just hop on the first available boat upon arrival, which should cost SGD 2.50 (unless you want to book the entire boat to avoid waiting for other passengers). Services operate from 6.00 am to 11.00 pm. Make sure you get one of the last boats out, as you probably don’t want to stay out there overnight unless you’ve specifically planned to camp.
One of Singapore’s best attractions is Cookery Magic. The signature class takes place in Pulau Urbin on the last Saturday of every month and offers visitors cookery lessons in a Kampong House. Guests enjoy a tour of the island before picking herbs and spices to be used during a cookery lesson.
Batam & Bintan Islands
The Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan are favorite getaways of local Singaporeans. Just slightly more than an hour away from mainland Singapore, the two islands offer beach and golfing getaways, seemingly far away from the hectic life of cosmopolitan Singapore. Bintan is better known for its nicer beaches and resorts, while Batam offers a number of good value golf resorts. Bintan’s luxurious Banyan Tree resort offers a gorgeous retreat for adults, while resorts like Nirwana Gardens, Angsana, and Bintan Lagoon are better (and more affordable) choices for families. A popular place is Nikoi Island, an island resort off the coast of Bintan that allows guests to book a one, two or three bedroom beach house on a luxury conservation island. As for value for money and time, these two islands are nearly unbeatable given their offerings, scenery, affordability, and near proximity. To get to either island, one should make advance accommodation and ferry bookings, as weekends and high seasons can be very full. Ferries operate from three terminals at Tanah Merah, Harbourfront Terminal, and Pasir Panjang.
Tioman, Rawa, and Sibu
Tioman, Rawa, and Sibu are the most popular islands in the Seribuat Archipleago off the coast of East Malaysia. These islands are the perfect places for water-sport lovers and divers, as quality of the water is unparalleled in the near region. For miles from the shore, the water is shallow and strikingly clear; as the water gets deeper, so does the beauty of the underwater sights. With fine sand beaches, dense jungle, and gorgeous island scenery, these islands are gems in the region. Some resorts are very well developed, while others are more rustic, offering only the basic services, no air conditioning, or spotty electricity. To get to the islands, you can take boats from Mersing, on Malaysia’s east cost. You can also take a plane directly to Tioman from Singapore’s Seletar Airport. Local Singapore tour operators can also easily arrange full bus/van and ferry transportation. For diving expeditions, contact diving organizations instead of tour agencies for better packages.
- Discovery Tours – Offers weekend travel packages to Tioman, Rawa, and other islands off the Malaysian coast. Tel: 6733 4333
- Berjaya Hotel and Resorts – Offers vacation packages to Malaysian destinations including Tioman, Redang, and Langkawi. Tel: 6227 7678
- Asia Travel – Travel packages, flights, and accommodations for numerous Asia destinations.
- Orpheus Dive / Passion Scuba, arranges weekend dive trips to Malaysia and Indonesia and offers weekly lessons. Tel: 6223 2190
- Gill Divers, Offers diving courses and dive travel packages in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, and the Maldives. Tel 6734 9373
This small town about 3-hours’ drive from Singapore on Malaysia’s west coast, is a historical high point of interest, as it was a significant trade and political post for colonial powers including Holland and Portugal. Its Dutch architecture and famous Portuguese fort are worth a look-see, as is Jonkers Street, famous for excellent food stalls, Peranakan architecture, and antique shops specializing in Peranakan jewlery, ceramics, and textiles. One can even stay in a traditional Peranakan shophouse-turned-guest house to get a real feel for old-Peranakan Malaya.
Malaysia’s capital is a 4-hour drive or 45-minute flight north from Singapore and is widely celebrated for its interesting city sights and food culture. A bustling city, it is also famous for the Petronas Towers – the world’s tallest structures. Numerous hotels abound, including budget hostels and five-star international chains.
- Check http://www.tourism.gov.my for more information on Malacca or Kuala Lumpur