Thursday, January 30, 2014


Executive summary by darmansjah

Neil Humpreys has returned with his latest book, Return to a Sexy Island and tells us where the best places in Singapore are.

Can you remember your first holiday? It was probably a caravan holiday in Clacton, Essex. In the UK, the caravan is the working man’s holiday home. Today, it takes 90 minutes in a car from my hometown Dagenham to reach Clacton. When I was a kid, it seemed to take fortnight. Our first caravan cost £500, but those childhood memories are priceless. Having said that, we had no toilet, so if you needed a twilight crap, you were in trouble.

Can you share some hideaways you discovered while living in Australia the past five years? The Big Rock inside the You Yangs mountains ranges between Melbourne and Geelong. Panoramic, almost post-apocalyptic views-which is why Mel Gibson’s mad Max was filmed there. Kennett River along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is the best place to see koalas in their natural habitat, with the ocean as a backdrop. I saw my first wild wombat at Victoria’s Wilsons Promontory National Park, and stopping the car at dawn to allow an emu to cross the road with her chicks as the sun rose behind them is an image that will never leave me. Oh, and swimming near wild seals in Port Philip Bay off Queenscliff was pretty special too. Swam over a stingray and thought I was going to do a Steve Irwin.

Name three places in Singapore which are underrated. I’ll give you three great places that are unappreciated: Bishan Park, the Sotuhern Ridges and the reservoirs being linked together around Sengkang and Punggol.
How different is Singapore from when you used to lived here? At the northern shore of Sentosa, where the old ferry terminal used to be, there used to be a creaking gift shop that sold the crappiest gifts known to Mankind and a couple of tired looking exotic birds who’d squawk a lame ‘hello’ at visitors. At that exact spot today, Resort World Sentosa has built the stunning Crane Dance, a free water and animatronics show like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere. Just behind that is Universal Studios Singapore, which I’ve not visited 13 times.

Which part of the world do you always like to return to, and why? Pulau Ubin, the rural, kampong Island off Singapore. It’s a reminder of what Singapore once was, a visual reminder of what the country both gained and lost. For that reason alone, it should never be urbanized. I don’t think it will be now, but you never know. It’s only a 10-minute bumboat ride from one of the world’s most sprawling, densely populated cities and yet a short bike ride takes you deep into a forest of monkeys, hornbills, snakes, monitor lizards and wild boars.

What are three essentials to have whenever you travel? More than one form of currency – cash, credit card, international ATM card etc. invariably, at least one of them won’t be accepted somewhere. And I must get the local newspaper, it gives an immediate feel for the style, language, tone and issues of a town as soon as you arrive.

Could you share with us a personal favourite travel snapshot accompanied with a short explanation of it? I loved the Railway Corridor, the green spine running through the middle of Singapore from top to bottom. The site of the former KTM Malaysian railway line that carried trains into JB is a wonderful, hidden green gem, possibly unique in such a dense city. I walked through most of it and the Railway Corridor has the lot; forests, wildlife, seclusion, tranquility, history, heritage, great old buildings.

What is your dream travel destination? Somewhere green, quiet, natural and full of native wild animals, preferably with an air-conditioned hut with satellite TV to watch English Premier League football at weekends. That sound like paradise. Return to a Sexy Island (Marshall Cavendish, US$15.99) is now available at major bookstores.

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