The following article is a commissioned article I wrote for this month’s issue (November 2010) of SMILE, the in-flight magazine of Cebu Pacific Air. You may browse the magazine online at http://www.cebusmile.com
TEXT EDGAR ALAN ZETA-YAP
PHOTOS LESTER LEDESMA (TANJUNG PINANG), EDGAR ALAN ZETA-YAP (JOHOR BAHRU AND PULAU UBIN)
The neighboring Indonesian island of Bintan may be known for the Singaporean- owned luxury resorts along the northern coast, but the rest of the island surprises visitors with old-world reminders of a rich history, centering on the seaport capital of Tanjung Pinang. Take a boat ride through the mangroves of the Sungai Ular (Snake River) and see a 300-year-old Buddhist temple. Or visit Pulau Penyengat (Wasp Island), once the epicenter of the Riau sultanate. Explore the old mosque of Masjid Raya Sultan Riau, the tomb complex of Raja Ali Haji, and the Dutch fort ruins of Benteng Bukit Kursi.
TO GET THERE Take the MRT to Tanah Merah Station, and then take Bus 35 to the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. A two- hour Penguin or IndoFalcon Ferry goes to Tanjung Pinang (S$50.00/PHP1,666). www.bintanmaranathatours.com
A stone’s throw across the strait, Johor Bahru (or simply JB) is catching up to its neighbor. The booming Malaysian state capital is living up to its name, which means “new jewel” in Malay. See the impressive Moorish-Victorian architecture of the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque, the Royal Palace Museum and the Sultan Ibrahim Building. Wander the streets lined with Chinese shophouses, Hindu temples and Malay food stalls, and immerse yourself in its rustic charms. With its large shopping malls, JB can be paradise for the bargain hunter. Check out City Square or Plaza Pelangi malls for the best deals in town.
TO GET THERE Take the MRT to Kranji Station, and then take a Causeway Link (CW1) bus via the Woodlands Checkpoint (S$0.80/PHP27). From the Johor Checkpoint, you can simply walk to the city center or grab a taxicab.
Considered the last kampung (village) of Singapore, Pulau Ubin is a 10km stretch of mangrove swamps, rubber plantations, abandoned granite quarries and mysterious shrines. With its bucolic stilt houses and bumboats, the island offers a rare glimpse of how the progressive nation looked just half a century ago. Explore the island on bike, which can be rented at the jetty village (S$10/PHP333 per day). Watch out for monitor lizards and Oriental pied hornbills and see the German Girl Shrine, a yellow shack where reside the remains of a young girl, venerated as a Taoist deity since the 1930s, near Ketam Quarry.
TO GET THERE Take the MRT to Tanah Merah Station, and then board Bus 2 or 29 to Changi Village bus interchange. At the Changi Point jetty, catch a 10-minute boat ride (S$2.50/PHP83) to Pulau Ubin. The boat operates from 6am–11pm.