It was with some regret that we said goodbye to Kuantan and Malaysia today. We packed our belongings into the car and drove out past the kampongs to the airport.
The Sultan Ahmed Shah terminal was quiet. Most of the shops and services were closed, though there was a restaurant and small local products shop open. Apart from our flight, the only other scheduled service was a Malaysia Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur around 7 hours later.
Check in opened shortly after we arrived. We put our two big bags through the scanner and then carried them to the single Firefly check in desk. They ignored the fact that my bag was 1.5 kg overweight. Maybe because it evened out between the two of us.
More waiting, then the departure lounge gate opened and we passed through, this time our hand luggage was screened (but not the stroller). Another wait in the lounge, where we had good views over the tarmac. Unfortunately, there were no airforce operations to watch. The staff at the immigration booth were taken by Alex. He attracts so much attention from the locals, doesn’t complain when they carry him, even out of sight of his parents.
Our white and orange Firefly ATR-72 500 turboprop ride to Singapore appeared, taxiing up the tarmac and parking outside the gate. It took a while to unload the passengers, check the aircraft and load in our luggage. Families with small children (including us!) were asked to board first, so we walked out to the aircraft with the stroller.
Another family disassembled their stroller in front of us and carried it up into the aircraft, so we did the same, only to be told that we should have left it down the stairs. This Indian family had brought their Indonesian maid along with them to mind their children!
The cabin of the turboprop felt a little larger than the Dash 8 turboprops that QantasLink run, it was all very fresh and clean inside. I sat at the window, while B took Alex on her lap. The propellers began their high speed rotation and we surged into the air.
Over the kampungs, the coconut palms, the palm oil plantations. Our route to Singapore took us along Malaysia’s east coast and past the resort islands. The aircraft was less than half full and several groups of passengers moved around the cabin to get the best views. The comparison between the Singaporean and Malaysian accents now highly obvious to me as the passengers chattered away.
We were fed small muffins and juice by the two attendants as we cruised over the land. I’d read that the ATR-72’s weren’t fun in turbulence, but it was a pretty smooth flight. After an hour’s flight we descended over reclaimed land and directly into Singapore’s Changi airport.
Changi’s budget terminal was mainly populated by Tiger Airways. The terminal was so much nicer than the AirAsia budget shed in Kuala Lumpur.
We caught the free shuttle bus to Terminal 2, then the free minibus to the Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel.
After leaving our luggage in the room, we took a walk down the unexplored section of the East Coast Road, for a late lunch of yong tau foo, bits of fried tofu, fish cakes and quail eggs in a soup. Other combinations were available. Then char kuay teow noodles in a coffee shop.
B was tired, so we returned to the hotel. Alex, on the other hand, was in an extremely happy mood. We played and played on the bed until he became too noisy and I had to take him out for a walk. I carried him across to the hawker stalls of Marine Parade searching for durian (for B) or apom balik pancakes for me. No luck with either, so we crossed through Roxy Square and back to East Coast Road. There I discovered a shop selling the type of goreng pisang (fried banana in batter) that both B and I love. Unfortunately, there were only three left!
For dinner we walked up along Joo Chiat Road to a Peranakan restaurant on Joo Chiat Terrace called Chilli Padi (the little green chillies that are so hot). There we ate ayam buah keluak, or chicken in a black nut curry, grilled stuffed fish, stuffed cabbage leaves in a curry sauce and some delicious acar (spicy pickled vegetables).
Joo Chiat Road was very much alive on this Sunday night. Karaoke bars, dead during the day, were now alive, young ladies with tight skirts and high heels walked the street, men of various ages sat outside smoking, drinking and chatting to each other or talking on their mobile phones. But there were also families and students dining in cafes or the bright kopitiams, so the atmosphere was more one of happy relaxation than sleaze.