25 October 2010 | Johor Bahru, Malaysia
After nearly two weeks we are still securely tied up in Danga Bay Marina in Johor Bahru. The Sail Malaysia Rally dinner and official briefing for our sail up the west coast to Langkawi, was held last weekend. Prior to that we had two busy days in Singapore sightseeing and shopping. Singapore is a short bus ride over the causeway from Johor Bahru. There are about 80,000 Malaysians who travel each day across the causeway to work in Singapore, so it is always a busy thoroughfare. The infrastructure for customs and immigration on both sides is well developed and well managed. It is a straightforward and efficient process. We were very impressed with Singapore's rail and bus transport which is easy to use and gets you around the city quickly in air conditioned comfort! Our visit to the 'Battle Box' in Fort Canning Park was really interesting and informative. It consists of a group of underground rooms and tunnels which was used as the command centre by the British and allied forces during WWII. Extremely realistic life- size models of army personal produced in England similar to what you'd find in 'Madame Toussards ', help recreate the story of the days leading up to the fall of Singapore to the Japanese. It is an audiovisual exhibition with some of the models designed to appear as if they are actually speaking . Fort Canning Park is a peaceful, leafy retreat amongst the hustle and bustle, but one of the many 'green' areas of Singapore which has a cooling affect in an otherwise steamy climate. Last Thursday we enjoyed a tour of south Johor organised for the rally participants. We were taken down to the SE and SW tip of Malaysia which overlooks the Singapore Straits. A maze of boardwalks have been built in amongst the mangroves which are now a protected species and a focus on this environment has been developed into a tourist attraction. Surprisingly the mangroves were littered with all kinds of rubbish washed in from the adjacent busy shipping straits. Afterwards we were taken to a local village for a traditional Malaysian lunch which was quite delicious and then onto a pineapple museum(!) entirely devoted to the history of pineapple growing in Malaysia. Yesterday was 'Deepavalli- the festival of lights' one of the major festivals for the Indian community here. It is celebrated in a similar way to Christmas, with families dining together and exchanging gifts which is often money. Last night we heard fireworks being set off all over the place so guess that was the finale. For the rest of the community, the Chinese and Malays, it is just a public holiday and a chance to shop in the many plazas and dine out in the many restaurants. The Sail Malaysia Rally commences tomorrow with the first stopover being Malacca and apparently a very interesting place to visit. Unfortunately the anchorage in the bay there can be very exposed if the winds blow in strongly from the west. As it is only a 3 hour bus ride from Johor, we have decided to stay longer in the marina here and travel by road to Malacca, stay for three days and join the Rally tour and attend the official dinner. We will then return, set sail on Friday and catch up with the Rally further up the coast.