In November 2010, I spent 2 weeks travelling around Singapore and Malaysia. As this was my first visit to Southeast Asia, my camera and my trigger finger became well acquainted as I sought to capture the area's beauty and diversity on film.
|First impressions: Singapore|
My first glimpse of Singapore lived up to the stereotypical image of a high-rise financial paradise. This vista of the Central Business District, Singapore's financial core, shows the city's modern, commercial side, with a tourist boat hinting at another source of revenue for the island state.
|Another side of the island: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve|
And here's an image I didn't expect to see: monkeys roaming free in the rainforest at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Singapore certainly isn't all skyscrapers are shopping malls; protected pockets such as Bukit Timah and the MacRitchie Reservoir offer oases of escape from city life. The 7am wake-up call may have been a struggle on a Saturday morning, but arriving early meant that we were able to beat the worst of the heat. The nature reserve offers a number of signposted trails, suitable even for the unfit (well, if C and I could do it...), but we found the smaller ones which cut through the rainforest itself, rather than following a concreted path, to be the best, as they were less choked with human traffic and gave us a closer glimpse of nature. A bit too close for some though: one Singaporean couple had to fend off a monkey attack with their hiking stick, but C and I had no such trouble with our simian friends.
|The very picture of tranquility, pre-attack|
|Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore|
Religiously diverse Singapore is speckled with Buddhist and Hindu temples, mosques and even the odd church, making for a varied landscape. In the heart of Chinatown, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple opened in 2008 and has almost as many features as one of the island's beloved malls: the aforementioned tooth said to belong to Buddha, encased in gold-and-glass splendour, prayer spaces aplenty, a museum, a tea room, a roof terrace and even an underground car park. What more could a worshipper want?
|The Singapore Flyer at sunset|
Whether it will live up to its marketing team's hype of becoming 'Asia's premier tourist attraction' remains to be seen, but as the world's largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer certainly gives an unrivalled view over the city and out to sea.
|Jonker Walk, Melaka|
With its Portuguese, Dutch and British heritage, Melaka is culturally diverse even by Malaysian standards. A relaxed riverside town in the south of the country, it comes to life at the weekends when the Jonker Walk Night Market hits town.
|Trishaw ride, Melaka|
It may be as tacky as a night out in Blackpool, but a ride on a trishaw is a quintessential Melaka experience and a surprisingly good way to get up close to the sights - if you can stomach the embarrassment of your parade through the streets being accompanied by Shaggy's Greatest Hits booming on the trishaw's sound system. Unique to Melaka, these cycle rickshaws are decked out as garishly as possible, featuring fairy lights, tinsel, fake flowers and even Barbie dolls. Mock it or embrace it and let someone else do the leg work while you tour the town; it's your choice.
|Petronas Towers, KL|
As KL's most distinctive landmark, the twin Petronas Towers feature highly on most visitors' itineraries. But the best view of these 451.9 metre high beauties sometimes comes when you least expect it. Up close, trying to see the spires topping the towers gives you a definite crick in the neck, but when wandering around the city, sudden glimpses of the skyline-dominating skyscrapers suddenly appear around corners, like this view from Little India.
|Getting a henna tattoo, Little India|
Searching for a fitting souvenir from my trip on the last day, I decided on a henna tattoo drawn by this artist in Little India. For the equivalent of £1, I gave her free rein to draw 'something small' on my left arm. Twenty minutes later, my hand and arm were transformed by the addition of an intricate pattern of swirling leaves and flowers. I almost wished it was permanent, although I'm sure my dad will be glad it wasn't...