Hanna Hussein relives her childhood experience of driving into Singapore
WHEN I was younger, whenever my family visited relatives in Johor, we would always drop by Singapore for a day trip.
At that age, I didn’t know or care that Singapore wasn’t a part of Malaysia. Dad was driving!
I could only recall the endless traffic on a never-ending bridge, and a really serious looking “Mr Policeman” checking our car at the “toll-booth”, every time.
It has been over 20 years since I last entered the country via the land route. I am thus curious to know what it is like to self-drive through the Lion City.
So, I planned a holiday itinerary to Resorts World Sentosa Singapore, but the challenge was to kick off the journey from Kuala Lumpur.
Joining the long haul roadtrip is my husband, our best friend, his wife and 4-year-old daughter.
We start our three-night-long weekend getaway after work on a Friday. Departing from Kuala Lumpur, we head south via the North-South Expressway.
We plan to stay overnight in Johor Baru before crossing the border in the morning.
Night-driving can be tiring but we would take turns driving the car. Plus, getting behind the wheels of the luxurious Mercedes Benz GLC 200 is simply incredible.
No doubt, the GLC-class has lavish cabins and expensive details. The interior is luxurious — with a high valve perception of expresso brown combined with the exclusive open-pore ash wood trim and the Artico man-made leather dashboard. Sleek and sophisticated!
The SUV is super comfy for both driver and passengers, especially for driving long distance. The rear seats are roomy with generous headroom and extensive leg space.
The front seats are obviously more comfortable, especially for the driver, making it effortless when going behind the wheels of the GLC 200.
As for its performance, I’m not expert enough to comment on the technical specification but Mercedes-Benz offers a dynamically competent vehicle beyond a doubt.
Be it a city drive, stuck in rush hour, long drive or picking up speed, the GLC-200 offers the Dynamic Select mode, giving the driver fingertip control of the vehicle’s handling. The five choices are eco (lower fuel consumption), comfort (balanced driving), sport , sport and individual (personalised powertrain) mode that changes the configuration and characteristics of the engine, transmission, suspension and steering system in line with the selected driving mode.
It also offers an impressively high shift speed and perfect transitions for energetic sprinting as well as gentle, barely perceptible gear changes for enjoyable cruising. The vehicle is exceptionally quiet too!
As for safety features, there are seven airbags, Collision Prevention Assist Plus, Crosswind Assist, Attention Assist and Pre-Safe system. The car also comes with keyless start, parking pilot including 360-degree camera and other Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive technologies.
As for the boot space, it is huge! No complaints there.
After a four-hour drive (with a few quick stops at the R&R), we finally arrive in Johor Baru.
THROUGH THE BORDER
I am expecting less traffic crossing the border, considering that it’s a weekend.
But to play it safe, we decide to leave Johor at 9am to avoid the weekend traffic.
The traffic is smooth, and it takes only 20 minutes from the hotel to Woodlands. Not bad!
But once we reach the Malaysian Immigration, the traffic starts to slow.
First stop is the Malaysian Immigration counter. We only have to hand our passport to the officer. We then continue to cross the causeway, and have to go through another traffic barrier. We get stuck in the traffic for almost two hours although most of the immigration counters are open. Surprisingly, we don’t feel stressed as everybody is queuing up.
When we finally reach the Singapore Immigration, the first thing is the custom check. The driver must step out of the car to assist the officer in opening the boot. This is where we hand over our passports, including the Disembarkation/Embarkation Forms (Forms are available free at the checkpoints, travel agencies and hotels in Johor Baru).
The tricky part is the VEP Autopass card which you need for tolls and parking in Singapore. Each car entering Singapore must have its own VEP card and it’s non-transferrable. This means that if the card is lost or stolen, one must lodge a police report in order to make a new card.
Since this is the first time our SUV is entering Singapore, we have to buy a new card at the VEP/Toll Pass office. It cost S$14 (RM42). You need valid car insurance and registration details, so don’t forget to bring along a copy of the documents.
You can top up the card at any convenient store. There is also auto-pay at the various attractions that uses credit card payment. Make sure you have sufficient credit to pay the exiting tolls when heading out of Singapore.
After slightly over two hours on the road, we finally cross the border and it’s truly as easy as I remember it.
It then takes another 40 minutes’ drive to Resorts World Sentosa.
We have planned to visit plenty of awesome attractions in Resorts World Sentosa including visiting the Universal Studios Singapore, The Maritime Experiential Museum and S.E.A Aquarium, where we have pre-booked the tickets online. But the highlight of our visit here is dine at one of the Celebrity Chef Restaurant.
Tonight, we are going to dine at the exclusive French-Japanese fusion restaurant, Teppan by Chef Yonemura.
Chef Yonemura is a popular Michelin-starred Kyoto-born chef that is renowned as a pioneer of innovative French-Japanese cuisine. Those who have flown with All Nippon Airways (ANA) on business class may recognised his name, as he has also collaborated with ANA to develop its exquisite sky-menu.
He helms two restaurants in Kyoto and Tokyo, well-known for their contemporary dishes, and this his first restaurant beyond the shores of Japan. Here at Teppan, he is combining the showmanship of hotplate grilling with nouvelle Japanese kaiseki, infused with his own distinctive form of French influences.
The interior feels very exclusive but traditional. It houses three dining spaces that can fit six, seven and eight diners in front of the Teppan grill. Diners get to witness the teppan chefs treating you to an immersive showcase of food preparation, cocktail mixing and dessert flambe as they serve you an exclusive menu utilising the finest ingredients flown from Japan daily.
Tonight we will be having a nine-Course Menu cooked in front of us.
We start with a classy mocktail of blue Butterfly Pea Flower Tea mix with citrussy Yuzu juice. It’s quite fascinating how it is prepared and presented.
Then we continue with two mouthful of Amuse Bouche ― Abalaone Canapes as well as Konbu Seaweed flavoured Flounder and Persimmon Spring Roll ― savoury and sweet openers for our gastronomic experience.
For appetiser, there’s the Prawn Salad with Yuzu Vinegar sauce, Steamed Crab Meat with Rice and the soupy French Oyster and Rock Fish Bouillabaisse. Everything is served in small portions, but surprisingly satisfying!
The star dish of the night is basically the Teppanyaki and tonight, we are having the Grilled Lobster with Pumpkin Sauce. Just looking at how the lobster is prepared is alluring, but to get to savour it is so much better. It’s fresh and flavourful. It continues with a heavier meal of garlic rice and pasta and desserts of Crepe Suzette and the chef’s favourites ― cheesecake, springroll and more.
The restaurant which is located at The Forum is open from Tuesday to Saturday only for lunch (12pm-2.30pm) and dinner (6pm-10.30pm)
Price for the four-course menu lunch is S$78++ and for the five-course menu is S$88++. For dinner, the six-course menu costs S$188++ while the nine-course menu is S$228++.
Besides Teppan, RWS also boasts a few other Celebrity Chef Restaurants including Fratelli ―Trattoria, Joel Robuchon Restaurant, Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora and many more.
If you love retail therapy, there are some good outlets which are mostly high end brands including Bally, Chopard, Coach and Kate Spade. Others include Candylicios, Hard Rock, Hersheys Choclate World, Lego and more.
But it’s not all pay-attractions here in RWS. It’s actually a perfect weekend-getaway destination for the family.
For some great night entertainment, guests can head to the Waterfront at 8pm. Every night, there will be a magical Crane Dance show which you can enjoy for free.
The show is a beautiful love story between two cranes. Cranes are a universal symbol of longevity, abundance and good luck. Their relationship has blessed the world with love and good fortune and is portrayed through the awe-inspiring dance moves.
The concept of mechanical cranes dancing was inspired by the fact that all species of cranes have a ritual mating dance.
The dancing mechanical cranes mimic these movements in a jubilant dance.
Standing at 30 metres high (that is about nine-storey height), the crane mechanism is the world’s largest dancing animatronics. With the addition of large-scale LED screens incorporated with lighting, water and pyrotechnic effects, the shows are truly enchanting!
The best with
Mercedes-Benz GLC 200
Combustion Engine 4 in line, 4 valves per cylinder
Displacement (cc) 1991
Rated output 135kW/184hp at 5500
Torque 300 Nm at 1200-4000
Transmission 9G-Tronic 9-Speed Automatic Transmission
Maximum speed 210 km/h
Fuel consumption (1/100km) 6.5-7.2
Price (OTR without Insurance) inclusive of GST RM288,888