Tag Archives: Singapore

Quick Getaway to Johor Bahru

Since I started working Singapore, Malaysia has been the country whose immigration stamp is the most prominent in my passport; I’ve re-entered Malaysia so many times and I don’t even think I have re-entered Cambodia as many times.

I have only few to KL a few times from Singapore but what made the difference is Johor Bahru; it has been my short day getaway from Singapore. I go there with local friends, with non-locals, and even by myself.

Considering the currency devaluation of Malaysian ringgits against SGD (and USD) recently, Malaysia has been a place I have my eyes on especially when it comes to shopping. I’m even more inclined to shopping in Malaysian, than in Cambodia.

For those that might find this useful, let me share with you a few things about Johor Bahru and what this city has to offer for Singapore residents.

A trip from the central Singapore into Johor Bahru can take between 1 to 4 hours: The trip by bus or train to the border takes roughly an hour, depending on where you depart, and if you are lucky, getting your passports checked and stamped, at both Singapore and Malaysia sides can take as little 30 minutes, but it can also take as long as 4 hours. It’s always very quick at the Singapore side, but it can be really excruciatingly long at the Malaysia side. I tend to attribute that to Malaysia’s less efficient way of working, but, prejudice aside, it might be because they are intentionally slow to control the influx of people into the country.

So try to go when there’s less traffic, if you can figure out when, although I usually can’t. You may refer to www.checkpoint.sg to forecast the traffic, for some rough estimate.

City Square (just right after the checkpiont) is very sufficient for shopping and a number of other leisure activities. There’s a new high-end, shopping mall, well connected from City Square and CIQ (Custom & Immigration Quarantine Complex). There are pretty much everything you need, from food and household consumables (Guardian/Watson) to luxury products (Nike, H&M, etc.) and even traditional costumes. The only thing, I reckon, is lacking is a hyper-mart. The closest mall with a hyper-mart is 15 minutes away by bus (the bus fare is less than 1.5 ringgit) – KSL City Mall.

Johor Premium Outlet (JPO) is a must to check out, especially if you like brand products and want to explore JB more than just shopping. A really nice place it is, located quite secluded (or maybe it is how Johor is, big and spacious), JPO is no ordinary shopping mall. The whole place is organized to look like a small porshe residential village, with a number of well-connect villas which are actually stores of brand products. I later found that the place shares a lot of similarity with Cabazon Outlets in California; the place must be associated with the same corporation.

Parking lot beside the mall
Didn't manage to take any such pic of the place, so I looked for one from the internet
Didn’t manage to take any such pic of the place, so I looked for one from the internet

The journey there is close to an hour bus ride from CIQ; there are 6 or 7 buses run daily by Causeway Link Bus to JPO. You may go find a bus JPO1. Here’s the schedule of the bus; one way fare is 4.5 Malaysian ringgits.


Besides shopping, for a couple of times, guided by anon-Singaporean, non-Malaysian friend, who lives a less conventional, more adventurous lifestyle and visits Johor very often, I took a stroll along a few local streets close to City Square. This is something a very un-singaporean thing to do, as a lot see JB as a a very unsafe place to visit (actually anywhere in the world is unsafe when compared to Singapore).

If you take a walk down the overhead bridge that connects CIQ and City Square and head southeast, you’ll see more of JB, food stalls, barbers, sari shop, etc. that locals go to etc. Further, after 10 mn or so, you can easily find a nice pedestrian street, at the beginning of which there is a remarkably red coffee house, at a corner, that serves good Malaysian snacks and drink at really cheap prices. Later in the afternoon, locals will take out their mat and open their little stalls that sell a good variety of nitty gritty items, from clothe and purses to household tools like screwdrivers. Definitely an area to explore.

I came across this walking along the street. Fortunately, the place has been now renovated and this repugnant graffiti was painted over. :D
I came across this walking along the street. Fortunately, the place has been now renovated and this repugnant graffiti was painted over. 😀


Senai Airport: Especially for those that live close to the Woodland Checkpoint, Senai Airport of JB can be quite a cost saver. It’s very well connected to KL by AirAsia and Malaysia Airline, and I once flew to Yangon from there through KL, during the SG50 holiday in Singapore, so it was a much cheaper option than to fly from Changi. If my memory serves me right, there are buses departing there at every hour from CIQ and the journey takes about 45mn.

I have also heard about a few other places, which I have yet to explore, including the Lego Land. Considering the size and the location of JB, I should think there are some nice boutique resorts for relaxation as well. I’ll dig up some more about them and will check a few out when I’m better off, with more money to spend on such luxury.

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About Cambodia on “From Third World to First”

It’s been a long but very interesting reading. It’s been inspiring and eye-opening. There are lessons about leadership, about relationship, about politics, about purposefulness, about confidence …. all of which I find incredibly empowering.

In addition to all above, here’s a short extract that I found really captivating and moving – definitely one of my favorite parts of the book.

“[…] I prefer to remember Cambodia as the oasis of peace and prosperity in the war-torn Indochina of the 1960s. Choo and I made our first visit to Phnom Penh, its capital, in 1962. Prince Norodom Sihanouk personally greeted us at the airport and had dancers in traditional costume scatter flower petals on the red carpet as we walked to the car after I had inspected a guard of honor. Phnom Penh was like a French provincial town, quiet and peaceful with wide boulevards reminiscent of the Champs Elysees in Paris lined with trees and flanked by side roads also shaded by trees. There was even a monumental archway, a Khmer version of the Arc de Triomphe, at the center of a major crossroads, the Place de e’independence. We stayed at the Palais du Gouvernement, formerly the residence of the French governor general, by the Mekong River. Sihanouk himself lived in the old palace. He entertained us to dinner in grand style, then flew us in his personal Russian aircraft to see Angkor Wat.

Sihanouk was an extraordinary personality, highly intelligent and full of energy and joie de vivre. He had the airs and graces of an educated French gentleman, with allt he accompanying gestures and mannerisms, and spoken English the French way. Medium in height, a little rotund, he had a broad face with flared nostrils like the stone carvings on the temples around Angkor Wat. He was an excellent host who made each visit a memorable and enjoyable occasion. His banquets of French haute cuisine, with the French wines and beautiful cutlery to match, were a treat. I remember going to his palace in the provincial of Batambang, driving up to a raised entrance typical of driveways in French chateaux. As we arrived, short Cambodian guards, looking dwarfed by their thigh-high gleaming black Napolenonic boots with helmets to match, saluted with glinting swords. The reception and banquet halls were luxuriously furnished and air-conditioned. There was a Western and a Cambodian orchestra. Foreign diplomats were in attendance. It was a royal occasion.

The prince was mercurial, hypersensitive to criticism. He would answer every press article that was in any way critical. Politics for him was the press and publicity. When he was overthrown in the 1970 coup he said that he sought refuge in Beijing because he feared for his life. I believe that had he returned to Cambodia then, no soldier would have dared to shoot him on arrival at the airport. He was their god-king. He had kept Cambodia an oasis of peace and plenty in a troubled, war-ravaged Indochina by maintaining a precarious balance between the communists and the West. He sought the friendship and protection of the Chinese while he kept his ties with the West through France. When he stayed in Beijing instead of returning to defy the coup makers, the old Cambodia was destroyed.

I met him again when he came to Singapore in September 1981 for talks on forming a coalition with the Khmer Rouge. It was a changed Shihanouk. He had gone back to Phnom Penh and been a captive of the Khmer Rouge. He had been through a harrowing time; many of his children and grandchildren had been killed by Pol Pot, and he himself was in fear for his life. The old bouncy Sihanouk had been destroyed. He laughter, the high-pitched shill voice when he got excited, his gestures—all were more muted. He was a living tragedy, a symbol of what had happened to his country and his people. The Chinese had rescued him just before the Vietnamese captured Phnom Penh at the beginning of 1979. He appeared before the UN Security Council to speak against the Vietnamese invasion, and he became the international symbol of Cambodian resistance. For a long time he was unforgiving and adamant against a coalition government with the Khmer Rouge.

After the Khmer Rouge occupied Phnom Penh, the Cambodians, or Kampucheans as they called themselves during Pol Pot’s regime, were not active in the region. A senior minister, Ieng Sary, visited me in March 1977. He was soft-spoken, round-faced, and chubby; he looked the softest, kindest person, one who would look after babies tenderly. He was the brother-in-law and trusted aide of the infamous Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader who had slaughtered from 1 to 2 million Cambodians out of the a population of 7 million, including most of the educated, Cambodia’s brightest and best. He made no reference to this genocide and I decided against questing him. He was bound to deny, as their Khmer rouge broadcasts did, that it ever took place. Ieng Sary was realistic. He wanted trade—barter trade. He needed spare parts for factories, pumps for irrigation, and outboard motors for their finishing boats. In exchange, he offered fish from the Tonle Sap, Cambodia’s famous inland lake which flooded every year and produced excellent fish. The barter trade did not flourish (they had problems with logistics), so we had little trade or anything else to do with them.

Relations between Vietnam and Cambodia deteriorated with border clashes. Vietnam attached Cambodia in 1978 and captured it in January 1979. Thereafter, Cambodia existed in my consciousness only through our activities in and out of the UN to garner votes to block the Vietnamese puppet government from taking over Cambodia’s UN seat, and through our support for Cambodian resistance forces operating from the Thai-Cambodian border.

Sihanouk’s son, Prince Ranariddh, I had met several times between 1981 and 1991. His father had placed him in charge of the royalist forces near the Thai border with Cambodia. Ranariddh resembled his father in voice, mannerisms, facial expression, and body language. He was darker-complexioned and smaller, more equable in temperament and less swayed by the mood of the moment, but otherwise much in the same mold. He had his father’s fluency in French and had taught law in Lyon University before he took over the leadership of the royalist forces.

When I inspected their training camp in northeast Thailand in the 1980s I noted that it was not well organized and lacked military spirit. It was the best Ranariddh could do because, like him, his generals and officers spent more time in Bangkok than in the camp. As we were supporting them with weapons and radio equipment, I felt disappointed. After the 1991 settlement, the big aid donors took over. Ranariddh became the first prime minister (with Hun Sen as second prime minister) when his party won the 1993 UN-organized election. When we met in Singapore that August, I warned him that the coalition was a precarious arrangement. The military, police, and administration belonged to Hun Sen. If he wanted to survive, Ranariddh had to win over a part of Hun Sen’s army and police officers and some of the provincial governors. Being called the first prime minister and having his man appointed dense minister were of little value when the officers and troops were loyal to Hun Sen. He probably did not take my words to heart. He might have believed that his royal blood would assure him the support of the people, that he would be irreplaceable.

I met Hun Sen in Singapore in December that same year. He was a totally different character, a tough survivor of the Khmer Rouge, a prime minister appointed by the Vietnamese in the 1980s but agile enough to distance himself from them and be acceptable to the Americans and West Europeans. He left an impression of strength and ruthlessness. He understood power, that it came from the barrel of the gun, which he was determined to hold. Once the Khmer Rouge was on the decline, and Ranariddh could no longer team up with them to challenge him, Hun Sen ousted him in 1997 and took complete control, while remaining nominally second prime minister. Sihanouk had become king again after the 1993 election, but his poor health and frequent absences from Cambodia for cancer treatment in Beijing had taken him of the cockpit of power now occupied completely by Hun Sen and his army.

Cambodia is like a porcelain vase that has been smashed into myriads of shards. To put them together will be a slow and laborious task. As with all the mended porcelain, it cannot withstand much pressure. Pol Pot had killed 90 percent of Cambodia’s intelligentsia and trained personnel. The country now lacks a coherent administration. The people have been accustomed to lawless conditions for so long that they are no longer law-abiding. Only the gun is feared.

The people of Cambodia are the losers. The country is crushed, its educated class decimated, its economy devastated. Hun Sen’s coup caused Cambodia’s admission into ASEAN to be postponed. It was eventually admitted in April 1999 because no country wanted to spend US$2 billion for another UN operation to hold fair elections. Cambodia had had 27 years of war since Lon Nol’s 1970 coup. Its present leaders are the products of bitter, relentless struggles in which opponents were either eliminated or neutralized. They are utterly merciless and ruthless, without humane feelings. History has been cruel to the Cambodians.]

Page 324-328, “From Third World to First” by LKY


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Beautiful Places around the World

Siem Reap, Cambodia
siem reap

Koh Kong & Sihanoukville, Cambodia
kohkong kps

Takeo, Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Kratie, Cambodia


Other province, Cambodia

other provinces


Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
kuala lumpur



 Hong Kong








Dubai, the United Arab Emirates


Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates

Moscow, Russia


St. Petersberg, Russia

Istanbul, Turkey


Corum, Turkey

Athens, Greece

Malta, Malta

Victoria, Malta

Rome, Italy & Vatican City

Le Cinque Terre, Italy

Pisa, Italy

Florence, Italy


Padua, Italy


Venice, Italy


Vicenza, Italy

Verona, Italy


Milan, Italy

Trento, Italy

Feltre & Pedavena, Italy

Feltre and Pedavenaa

Ferrara, Italy
castello estense-ferrara

Cittadella & Marostica, Italy

Rhine Falls, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Heidelberg, Germany

Speyer, Germany

Munich, Germany

Bled, Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Graz, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Paris, France

Belgrade, Serbia

Budapest, Hungary


The United States of America

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

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Things to Do when in Singapore

It was December 10, 2006; a group of 10 Cambodians and I, as the delegation to the Sunburst Youth Camp 2006, were taking off from the Pochentong Airport to Singapore. It was one of the most thrilling times in my life, as I got to experience my first airplane ride to a country other than Cambodia.

Singapore is actually the smallest country in Southeast Asia but, at the same time, has proven itself as probably the most developed in the region. Different from many countries in Asia, Singapore is very well organized in its own beautiful ways, with quite an impressive balance between development and nature, despite its narrow space. The people thus enjoy a great amount of welfare, high intellectual ability and, in general, high standards of living.

It was definitely an eye-opening experience. Although Singapore is only 2 hours away by plane from Phnom Penh, in many ways, both are different. In the bus from the airport to the hotel that I stayed for the next 7 days, I remembered feeling deeply contented and constantly mesmerized by all the development and all the new things that caught my eyes.

As during the entire stay in the city and the country, everything was planned and organized by the organizers of the Sunburst Youth Camp, I didn’t need to plan or pay for anything profound at all; therefore, sharing with you how to plan your trip financially would not be very possible. However, I’m going to write about the places I’ve been to–places that may be of some interests to you about Singapore.

What to do in Singapore:

Pulau Ubin, an island of OBS (Outward Bound Singapore)

OBS is like a place for outdoor, sportive activities. It’s located on an island, which is about 10 minutes by boats from Punggol Point Jetty. There facilities and tools for such activities as rock-climbing and the like can be found. Actually, I was not that into sports and I didn’t do much of it at all, so I wasn’t very keen on the activities. However, getting to do them with many other first-timers, these things were a lot of fun after all. I was quite inspired by the activities and learned a number of things from them as well. Mainly, most, if not all, taught us to appreciate working in team and encouraged trust and team spirit, pointing out how important each element is. For instance, rock-climbing requires a lot of strength and that could really take tolls on people who don’t have head for height; but many could pull that activity off and managed all the way to the very top. In fact they, or we, were not that strong and not that skilled to do such things, but during our climbing, we had a whole team on the ground, who was helping with the belaying and keeping us safely up. All each climber needed to do was to trust the team, believe in themselves, and to keep moving up with their strength.

Suntec City

If you want go shopping and having some fun strolling around, Suntec City is definitely the place. There are big shopping malls packed with hundreds of shops selling a big variety of products, from shoes and clothes to electronic appliances. There are also numerous places for you to try typical Singaporean, culturally diverse food.

Marian Square, Esplanade, & Merlion

You can view some of the remarkable things of Singapore here—some views that are really good for photos in this country. Just along the river, you can’t miss the famous building of Esplanade, which was beautifully designed, shaped like a rounded jack fruit.

Just about some 100 meters away, there is this big famous, symbolic statue of Singapore, Merlion, standing upright facing the river, with the Singapore skyline in the background. This Merlion is another thing not to miss including in your pictures when going to Singapore.

Singapore Science Centre

This science centre is a nice place; I had a good time taking a look at quite a few things which were very creatively made. Some were cool, some were impressive, and some were simply entertaining. I’ve been there twice, actually, but I still managed to have some fun the second time.

I was there with quite a few people, and upon arriving at this place, we immediately headed for the Omni-Max, where there’s a huge screen. It wasn’t 3D but the room was enormous with the capacity of hundreds of people, and the screen covers the entire ceiling of the room. We could just down in the chair watching at the screen ahead of and above us. It was one of my favorite parts.

China town and Little India

These are two separate places but both great spots in Singapore for shopping. Obviously, China town is where you can find a lot of Chinese little stores, Chinese cuisines and people, and Little India is run by the Indian-Singaporean population. At both places you can buy many things at quite a good deal, if you know how to bargain.


There is a lot to do and see in Sentosa. There are zoos, underwater museum, theme parks etc and etc. To get there, you take a bus or tram going directly from the city or first going up the hill on one side of the river, then taking a cable car up in the sky, enjoying a good view of this small country and sliding yourself down until you reach Sentosa. Then, you can choose and go do and see whatever you want to do and see. There’s a good chance you can’t do everything in one day or let alone in one afternoon, so it’s advisable that you choose well what you want to do and see on this resort if you don’t have a lot of time. From my experience, with limited time, although having been there twice, I only managed to do very little things insides, one of which was entering the underworld museum where I could see many sea creatures inside glass walls.

Night Safari

This place is where we can go, when it’s getting dark, sitting in the tram slowing going across artificial forest for us to enjoy the view of some wild animals. Interestingly enough, the tram is all open and most of the animals, including tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, etc. were only some metres away. Although I can imagine that the safari in Africa can be a lot more surreal, this one was also a very cool experience. Besides from the ride, there were also some animal shows, some folk dances, so on and so forth. There are also stores from which we could pick up and pay for some souvenirs for our friends and family.


Singapore is home to one of the most convenient public transport systems, I think. Many places in the city are very accessible by buses, trams and metros. You can get yourself a card and use it for easy access to all available public transports; the card is rechargeable with cash through machines that can be found at the metro stations. Charge on each ride depends on the distance it covers, and when I was there, recharging the card with 5 s. dollars was enough for a few days in Singapore.

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