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Weekend trip from Singapore - suggestions, please.

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I will be in Singapore the week of June 3rd and would appreciate any suggestions for a weekend away from the city-center.

I do not want to get on a plane (so I guess that means KL?), would like to see more of Asia (culture, sights), and always like the outdoors. My budget is $150/night.

Thanks!

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    Well, first I have some suggestions for places to go IN Singapore:

    1. Pualu Ubun. This is an island in the narrow waterway between Singapore and Malaysia, and most of it is a national park. You can rent bikes and explore the little bit of wild jungle and wildlife left in Singapore. There are some good seafood restaurant here as well. The website for national parks in Singapore is http://www.nparks.gov.sg, this site is full of ideas for visits to other parks as well.

    2. There are other parts of Singapore which you can go to which will make you feel like you have gotten away from the city. Singapore does have some beaches, especially the very pretty one along East Coast Park, a public park with biking, roller blading, windsurfing, etc. The water clarity is not as good as other parts of SE Asia of course, and you can see all the tankers and other huge ships out in the roads (and can sail around them) which is very different. I would not call any of the beaches in Singapore especially beautiful and would not go to Singapore for the beaches, but they do make a nice afternoon of walking, biking or sailing. There is a windsurfing area in Singapore's East Coast area with a nice beach where you can rent lasers and windsurfers and have lunch or dinner. Pasta Fresca Seasports Centre, 1212 East Coast Parkway, Singapore. Tel 65-4495118 . You can also rent bikes or rollerblades and ride along the East Coast park, take a look at the National Parks website. There are some very good seafood restaurants in this area. There are also some beaches out northwest of Changi Airport in the Pasir Ris area which also has good bike paths and you can rent sailboats.

    3. You can waterski or wakeboard in the Ponggol Point area of Singapore, about a 20 minute cab ride, you can also get there by public bus in just over an hour or so. The skiing is on Selator island, in the waterway between Malaysia and Singapore. You will definitely feel like you have left the city behind. Take a look at http://www.williamwatersports.com.sg/. There are some great seafood restaurants here as well.

    Closer into the city there is man-made area where you can also waterski and where international competitions are held. Take a look at http://www.extreme.com.sg/

    4. The Polo Club has polo matches, usually at least one Sunday a month. 80 Mount Pleasant Road. These are great fun to watch. This club is private, but the rules are generally ignored on match days and you can just walk in; the restaurant is generally open to the public on weekend evenings. The club is in an area of "black and white" bungalows and is worth strolling around to see how the British Raj once lived and how some very lucky (mostly expats) live today in colonial splendor.

    For weekend trips:

    1. I am not really a fan of the beaches in Bintan, but it certainly is easy to get there from Singapore. There should be hotels in that price range, also look at the Banyan Tree Bintan, which I believe is probably the nicest on the island, go to http://www.banyantree.com/bintan/index.htm

    2. Next closest in terms of distance would be Desaru in Malaysia, which is just over an hour from the causeway, the closest true beach area from Singapore. Pretty good beaches and better than what Singapore could provide. A pretty drive, you can rent a car or should be able to take a public bus. I would not make this trip on a Friday afternoon or back on a Sunday, as you will run into big jams of Singaporeans leaving or coming back into the city on the weekend. I believe you can also take a ferry from Singapore to Tanjung Belungkor, and then a taxi to Desaru. You might search a Malaysian or Singapore tourist board site for info. I have not been there in more than 20 years so cannot recco hotels. I believe there is some good dirt biking in the area.

    3. Rawa Island - IMO the most beautiful beach in SE Asia. Drive or bus to Mersing (3 hours), then take the ferry out to the island. Can't say enough good things about this island. There is one little hotel, not 5 star, more like a 3 star, but perfectly comfortable with a great staff. You can snorkel and kayak right from the beach, or hire a boat and go to deserted islands and reefs for better snorkelling or diving. It may be just out of your price range in June, but take a look at rawasfr.com. There is a more budget bungalow hotel next door called le club rawa, take a look at http://www.journeymalaysia.com/islandrawaleclub.htm. I stayed there a few times when it was a private weekend lease, it is basic but very nice, hopefully they have kept it up.

    4. Pulau Sibu/Pulau Tinggi/Tioman - Rawa is a bit north of these. There are several islands in the Johor state area including some marine parks. Take a look at http://www.paradises-ink.com/asia.members/Malaysia/johor.cfm and http://amranns.tripod.com/JohorRecreation.htm for suggestions on islands. A helpful commercial site for Sibu is http://www.siburesort.com. To get to any of the islands, you drive or take a bus to Mersing and take ferries out, it should also be possible to take the catamaran from S'pore to Tioman (a fun trip, 2-3 hours) and hire a boat to get to the other islands. I am not a fan of Tioman, but for a weekend it is OK. If you stay on Tioman, avoid the larger resorts and go to the north and other less-developed parts of the island.

    5. Drive up the east coast - Rent a car and drive all the way up to Kuala Terrenganu in 2-3 days if you have time, or as far as Kuantan for a weekend. (You should be able to get a public bus to Kuantan as well.) The road winds through rubber and palm oil plantations. There are lots of beautiful deserted beaches and small villages, including the lovely little town of Marang. You can hire fishing boats to take you out to deserted islands for snorkelling, etc There is a Hyatt in Kuantan, great for a weekend. There is a wonderful 5 star hotel near Kuala Terrenganu, the Tanjong Jara, that is one of my favourite places. Take a look at Take a look at http://www.tanjongjararesort.com or the website for Small Luxury Hotels of the World at: slh.com (might be a bit far for a weekend drive). If you are very lucky, you may be able to see the giant leatherback turtles which come to lay eggs along the north part of the coast in July and August.

    6. If you don't want a beach, a good weekend trip would be Malacca/Meleka on the west coast of Malaysia, which has several Portuguese colonial buildings and an old Chinese town as well. Very interesting and different, some good antique shopping and restaurants, and a Malay cultural musuem. It is on a beach but the beach is not much. You can take a bus or drive yourself by renting a car either in Singapore or just over the causeway in Johor Bahru (renting here is cheaper, take a taxi or bus to Johor). The drive takes about 3 hours. Haven't been in a few years, but there is a Renaissance hotel there which was nice. You might want to search for other more traditional Malay/Chinese hotels, people on this site may have suggestions or run a search here.


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    I just checked the Polo Club website and the annual Cartier event is June 8 -11 which would be worth attending, it's free but you have to dress up for the finals (which is also fun esp for women as we get to wear hats, but men get to wear white flannels. . .). Take a look at http://www.singaporepoloclub.org/default.htm and http://www.singaporepoloclub.org/cartier06.asp.

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    Be aware it's the school holidays here. This normally means that weekends that would be exodus of Singaporeans up North to Malaysia and Bintan, Batam. Chances that places like Tioman, Bintan, Batam would be fully booked.

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