Highways and Hedonism: The Road to Ultra Singapore
When online writer Nioratra Benyasri and I landed in Kuala Lumpur, we knew we were in for one special trip. The destination? Ultra Singapore. We have heard tales about this electronic dance festival from seasoned party people and a quick glimpse at the international line-up was enough to sign us up. Even better was the fact that we’ll be on a road trip, driving from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore in the recently launched Mercedes-Benz A200. Talk about arriving in style.
The rally kicked off at the Mercedes-Benz Cycle & Carriage Bintang Berhad dealership with more than 130 cars in the pack. A six-hour journey was ahead of us, a reality, that to be completely honest, was a little unnerving having witnessed Nioratra’s driving skills beforehand. But, the A200 proved to be a trustworthy companion. Although a small model, it packs an impressive 1595 cc engine that allowed us to cruise along with the rest of the fleet, despite the downpour that had already started.
The first stop was in the city of Malacca, 148 kilometres southeast of Kuala Lumpur, where we refueled our empty stomachs before hitting the second leg of the rally. Tracing back its long history, the city, which is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was a main trading hub under the British Empire. A stark contrast to the high-rise and urban city sights of Kuala Lumpur, one can sense a certain nostalgia that continues to linger in the air in this sleepy town. It brought back a familiar feeling where time becomes less of a constant reminder, very much like visiting the bohemian capital of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
The historical remnants are still very much present in the old-time architecture and roads that curve through the former capital of Malaysia. As we make a turn towards our lunch spot, heritage sites intersect with buildings in bright colours, as colonial-era Chinese shop fronts lined the blocks of Jonker Street. Here art galleries, hip cafes, boutiques and newer haunts neighbour the mum and pop shops seamlessly; it feels like a natural progression has taken place.
Tucked behind a souvenir shop was The Daily Fix, a quaint cafe one might have missed at first glance if it wasn’t for the blackboard sign out front. As we walked past the rows of tourist keepsakes, an open-air garden area filled with antique furniture greeted us underneath the green bamboo awning that bears the cafe’s name. We settled down in a little corner upstairs, decorated with kitschy bric-a-brac reminiscent of an old friend’s living room. The coffee selection was quite impressive as we ordered our long blacks and a small plate of traditional Malaysian sweets to start off the meal. Up next was the lemak nanas pasta, a creamy yellow prawn curry pasta with a slight touch of spice.
Soon it was time to hit the road again. The rain continued as we sped down the northsouth expressway, enveloped in the tropical landscape on either side. After about three hours, we finally reached immigration at Johor Bahru, saying our goodbyes to the great state of Malaysia with the Lion City in sight. The landscape change came swiftly after moving past the “Welcome to Singapore” sign; soon skyscrapers were towering above the rush hour traffic. We finally made it to Marina Bay, where workers across the street were busy putting the final touches to what we had driven cross-country for: Ultra Singapore.
The next day, we steeled ourselves for our introduction to one of Asia’s biggest electronic music festivals. Young crowds gathered early, despite the blistering heat of Singapore’s afternoon sun. The bass was already resounding throughout the park, thumping to the beat of amped-up festival goers from across Asia, as we made our way to the Mercedes-Benz lounge. The two-level VIP play area next to the main stage, complete with giant ball pit, was the perfect spot for those of us who needed a break from the party chaos beneath.
After kicking off the evening with longtime legend Afrojack and DJ Snake, the EDM man of the hour, the night’s headliner, Deadmau5, took to the stage in his signature headgear. Not missing a beat, he lined up all the club hits and fan favourites, while also dropping a brand new track—nine minutes of pure progressive house bliss that had us all in a dancing frenzy. Against the backdrop of flashing lights and sweating bodies, we danced ourselves into the night until nothing but fireworks were keeping the sky alight.