The Travelling Teacher: Farewell Australia and hello again to Asia. What’s it all about?
After bidding a fond farewell to Australia, it was time to move on. I travel back to Asia but this time in pursuit of exploring Singapore, for a brief few days, and Kota Kinabalu. Whilst in Singapore I visit a site with the most amazing vertical gardens that look like a prop out of a Avatar movie. The magical feel continues during my exploration in Kota Kinabalu as I witness new creatures and plants. If you’re a nature lover, this week’s blog is definitely one for you!
Singapore: Getting there
I couldn’t believe that it had been 3 months since we started exploring Australia but the exit dates on our Visa made it real! The time had flown by, so I would definitely recommend getting a longer visa when visiting Australia but also make sure you have a good income to support you there too! If you’re reading this and you’re not already a member of the IQBar team, then definitely check them out! I would have been lost without this income I received from working for them.
It was another early start and a day of travelling to head to Singapore from Cairns. First, we had to get a flight from Cairns to Sydney. This flight was only 3 hours which literally flew by (pardon the pun!). Then with only an hour layover in Sydney we had time to eat, catch up on some work and then we were back on board our second flight. The second flight was longer than the first, at 7 hours it sounds longer than it actually felt.
7 hours later we were in Singapore and as we left the plane the first thing that hit me (and my hair) was the humidity! As Singapore is so close to the sea and because it rains a lot, the humidity here is high!
Singapore: Food and markets
As soon as we’d checked in at our hotel and dropped off our bags, we were out tracking down the nearest and tastiest place to eat. We’d spotted a place we’d passed as the taxi was dropping us off and we made a bee-line for it! The food here was gorgeous! One dish that wouldn’t normally take my fancy based on looks, was a plate of green leaves….but in fact, this was my favourite and I kept coming back for more! I even thought that the crispy duck we had here was more tender and tastier than the duck we had tried in China!
One day we decided to take a walk to one of the many Singapore markets. We headed for the one nearest to us which was a good 30-minute walk. There were such a variety of stalls here and it was interesting to see the difference in the fashion and trends. Patterns and large pictures or text on clothing was very ‘in’. Once we’d had a good look around the downstairs of the market we headed upstairs to the food court. There were so many food stalls here which meant lots of choice when selecting where to eat. I was blown over by how cheap the food was! If you’re thinking of heading to one of these markets, ensure you’re up nice and early. Many of them open at around 6am and are closed by 11am. They get busy too! Lots of the food stalls had already sold out and closed by the time we had arrived at the market.
Fuelled with pork, noodles and red bean snacks we walked on into the city. The humidity here definitely made for an intense walk and after 40 minutes of walking and some huge sweat patches later, we had made it into the city. The prices here were far higher than in the food court we had been in just hours earlier. Throughout this walk one thing that really stood out to me was how clean it was. I’d heard it was clean but you really appreciate it once you see it for yourself.
Singapore: Gardens by the Bay
This beautifully spot had been recommended to me and it did not disappoint! Firstly, when I saw its name ‘Gardens by the Bay’, I did underestimate how big it would be! Also, I did not expect the vertical gardens here to be so cool, the tree shaped structures are just amazing! Not only do you witness these magical looking futuristic trees as you enter the gardens but they have more inside too!
Check if you have a discount code! If you’re staying with a well-known booking app then you possibly may have been sent a discount code to visit this place so make the most of it and apply for the code BEFORE coming here.
We decided against going on all the attractions as it can work out a very expensive day. One which we did pay to go in was the cloud walk, which is an indoor garden with a waterfall. They have some really cool plants here and some amazing design pieces of art hidden within the gardens. We decided against the Tulip building as they weren’t in bloom yet and that saved us some money!
The main attraction for us were the Supertrees (the vertical gardens I mentioned at the start). We stayed in the gardens until the evening and watched the spectacle that is the evening Supertree light show. We were lucky we had arrived early and secured ourselves a top spot under one of the smaller Supertrees so we could watch the show. As the evening light dimmed, the trees began to awaken and glow around us! It was like the gardens were coming to life. I was impressed by their look in the day but by night, I was even more entranced by these vertical sky gardens.
Kota Kinabalu: Getting there
Our stay in Singapore was short but sweet. We were soon heading back to Singapore airport to make our way to our first stop in Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu. I have to take some time to appreciate and explain just how beautiful Singapore airport is! Out the front of the hotel were masses of potted orchids. Everything inside also had a futuristic vibe. Even the check-in process was very technological and we had to check in using a machine. However, as per normal, my passport got rejected by the machine.
The flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu was only around 2.5 hours long. When we arrived in Borneo, the airport here felt miles apart from the large glamorous airport at Singapore. As the popular taxi app we had been relying on didn’t work here, we purchased a sim card at the airport and then ordered a taxi via the local popular transport app. We were soon on our way to our accommodation. Little did we know, this was the beginning of a very long night. The taxi journey only took around 15 minutes but once into the accommodation we spent around 1 hour + searching for our room, moving rooms and waiting around. It felt very much like we were staying in a prison cell. With the accommodation being too risky to leave our things in, we used the following day as a work day and then the next day we were on the move. As things really are cheap here it was easy to find better, safer and cleaner accommodation for only slightly more money.
Kota Kinabalu: Day trip
We’d booked in on a small group tour to the National Park. We started the day by visiting a suspension bridge that is used by the locals. There were broken boards and rails and it was so bouncy that I was pleased when we made it safely across to the other side. Once across, we were at a local market where the local traders still do Batar (trade for trade).
Back on the bus it didn’t take long before we noticed we were ascending and could see some low lying clouds. Our next stop was a viewpoint of Mount Kinabalu. We were so lucky with the timing as the clouds were positioned perfectly so we could just see the peak. As we’d been in the minibus for a little while we were in need for the toilet but to use the facilities here, you had to pay. With no change on us, we were at one with nature.
Next was a stop at the botanical gardens. There were so many wonderful species of plants here. Particularly lots of the tube flowers that trap their prey. Also, I was blown away at the variety of the species of orchids here. We were super lucky to see the leaves of the jewel orchid! Beautiful! However, we weren’t lucky enough to see one in bloom though. With them blooming every 15 years, our odds were out-numbered.
During our time at the gardens we were able to try some of the local plants and ate some of the dark jungle berries which were better than the blueberries we have at home, much sweeter and juicer. Also, we tried some small banana like plant which had lots of seeds in it. It was the most bizarre thing! We ate the seeds from inside the plant which tasted like banana but a watery and freeze-dried banana.
We ended the day with a trek through the rainforest. Whilst trekking through the moss-covered forest with leaves and vines hanging everywhere, we spotted the skin of an emperor bug. This was so cool! These emperor bugs are everywhere and you often see them flying around but if you don’t see them, oh my, you hear them! They are LOUD! The best way of describing the ‘call’ of these insects is to say that they sound like a car alarm.
After a busy day of exploring it was time to begin the 3-hour ride back to our apartment. As we began descending down the narrow mountain road we thought we could have a snooze. However, the clouds soon covered the road in a dense fog and we could barely see. To make it worse, the rain as coming down heavy. This was definitely no time for a nap!
What’s it like to work here?
I mentioned that I would have love to of spent more in Australia but it is costly there. Ensure that you have regular working hours booked in to help support living there!
Whilst travelling I decided to invest in a travel laptop bag. This bag is by no means nice to look at but it was such a god-send for putting my laptop in. Also, having a bag that could be wheeled around made such a difference when also travelling with a giant rucksack on your back. So, if like me you’re carting your laptop around, invest in a wheelie travel bag. It makes such a difference and it just looks like a normal travel rucksack but there’s a little compartment for your laptop.
In Singapore we purchased a ‘traveller sim’ in the airport. This was only a few pounds and we had 100GB for 5 days. We weren’t sure how to register and weren’t told when purchasing it that we needed to register it at the store we purchased it from. Luckily, we found a nearby chain to complete the registration. This did take a little while to being operating though so be patient.
What’s up next?
I will be continuing my travels through Malaysia in my next blog and I have an animal encounter that will stick with me for the rest of my life! So, look out for next week’s blog.
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