Singapore Spring 2015

For my wife Crystal and I this has been the holiday we’ve been waiting months to get to.

We planned to leave at separate times with my wife going to Thailand a week before me then us both meeting together at our hotel in Singapore on the 25th of September. This is just after our third wedding anniversary so this was our “Third Honeymoon” treat.

I managed to pick up a super cheap flight with Scoot flying in their business class section for about $380. The plane was an almost new Boeing 787 Dreamliner so it was an experience on it’s own being on a new plane. The ScootBiz section is well catered for by the crew and the seats are quite comfortable but don’t expect anything like QANTAS first class, it’s about what you’d find in premium economy with a full service airline.
2015-09-26 11.41.00

Day 1

The flying time is just under 8 hours from Sydney to Singapore and I slept most of the trip and watched some Netflix the rest of the time thanks to the onboard wifi.

On arrival at Chengi Airport it took me a while to find my bearings and make it out through immigration and customs. Once free of the government red tape I found an area to have a smoke break and went back inside in search of a sim card. I found a small information booth that sold me a Singtel sim and even put it in my phone for me.

Heading off in a taxi to our hotel in Chinatown I was amazed at how the driver zoomed through the city to our destination. It wasn’t long before we were pulling up out front of Parkroyal on Pickering and the friendly concierge was grabbing my bags from the taxi. During check in staff brought me a drink and made me feel very welcomed.

The hotel is amazingly modern with water features everywhere. The room, while small was very well set out and had a lot of modern conveniences you’d expect to find in a 5 star hotel.

Room 1030 at Parkroyal on Pickering

Room 1030 at Parkroyal on Pickering

After settling in we headed next door to Chinatown Point shopping center. I found my calling with a KFC and 7-Eleven next to each other. My wife indulged in some more traditional Chinese inspired food.

This night was the closing night for the Chinese Moon Festival and the streets were crowded with people out to see the decorated streets and watch the performances.

Day 2

The whole idea of this holiday was to see Singapore but more importantly to have some R&R time together.

Day 2 we spent exploring the local shops and when we’d had enough of that we got a taxi to another area to visit another shopping center.

The spirit of the Chinese Moon Festival was everywhere with the Ngee Ann Cityshopping center having hundreds of stalls selling moon cake and other delicacies.

Crystal bought herself some swimmers and we headed back to the hotel to check out the pool area. I should mention that Singapore is quite hot and humid and the idea of a swimming pool was heaven by this point of the day.

The pool at Parkroyal on Pickering is awesome. It is located on the 5th floor with some views over the local area. There are large “cage” pods setup with lounges inside to sit back and enjoy the pool area while being out of the sun. I ended up falling asleep in one for an hour or so and had to trek to the front desk in my swimmers to get a new room key to get back upstairs.

Parkroyal Pool Pods

Parkroyal Pool Pods

Later in the night we decided to grab a taxi to explore. We told the driver to take us somewhere interesting and after a little bit of driving he dropped us off at the Mustafa Center in Little India.

Little India was abuzz with thousands of people. The streets are lit up with decorations and everyone is in good spirits. The taxi driver tells us they are celebrating Deepavali which is celebrated by Hindus across the world to mark the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.

The Mustafa Center is a 24 hour shopping mecca with everything from make up and clothes to high end electronics. You can barely move in there and everyone is trying to haggle. It didn’t take long to be overwhelmed and head for the street.

Little India was alive with thousands of people

Little India was alive with thousands of people

Outside is not much different, there are shops everywhere spilling onto the road with clothes, mobile phones, fruit and so much more. The people are milling about everywhere, so much so they were spilling onto the road with cars beeping the horn to get people to move if they didn’t want to get out of the lane and away from the pedestrians.

It was amazing to see how hard some of the shopkeepers work. One clothing store had 2 employees on the street with sewing machines to make alterations to any of the clothes you wanted to buy. And when they were priced at $10 for 3 shirts and the like it was crazy to think how hard these people really work for their living.

After Little India we jumped in another taxi who took us back to the hotel, but not before sharing with us some local knowledge and stories of the past and present.

Here’s some photos from Day 1 and 2

Day 3

After such a big night walking around we slept in to enjoy our room for the last time. Checkout is late, 12pm so we had a good sleep in. After heading downstairs and checking out we jumped in a taxi to our next hotel. The Hard Rock Hotel at Resort World at Sentosa.

Sentosa is an island which is pretty much a giant collection of resorts and other activities.

Getting to the island was tricky, you have to stop at a checkpoint and provide evidence of your itinerary before entering otherwise you have to pay a toll.

It wasn’t long and we were stopped outside the Hard Rock Hotel. We were about 3 hours early for check in the staff found us a room and had us settled in no time.

Hard Rock Hotel Lobby Ceiling Decor

Hard Rock Hotel Lobby Ceiling Decor

The island features a large Aquarium and after some fussing around we made our way to the Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora inside the Aquarium. This is one of those extremely upmarket restaurants with small food on a huge plate. The highlight however is a massive wall overlooking a man made mini-ocean. Filled with rays, sharks and fish there was a hive of activity floating past the window the whole time. It was hard to decide when to stop taking photos and enjoy the food.


After lunch I decided I was still quite hungry so we got a taxi back to Chinatown Point. The driver was very proud of Singapore and at our request drove us around Chinatown explaining the history and future for the area. He told us all about the 50th anniversary of Singapore and what it meant to him to have lived that long in his country.

After a quick snack at Chinatown Point we jumped in another taxi to head to Geylang. This is a primarily Chinese area and Crystal wanted to try to local Durian. For anyone who doesn’t know Durians are a large fruit that is extremely spikey and smells horrible.

Durian Fruit Stall on Geylang Road

Durian Fruit Stall in Geylang

As we arrived at the stall the rain started, it was heavy for quite a while. The street was lined with fruit stalls and the one we jumped into to avoid the rain was set on a street corner with tables and chairs under large awnings. After haggling with the stall operators Crystal picked up an expensive Durian which they cut up for her and we sat there while she ate it watching the people running up and down the street to avoid the rain. It was crazy how so many people had umbrellas given the rain come from no where. There were even people riding past on motorbikes holding up umbrellas.

I was quite shocked when I went to the bathroom and experienced my first “Squat Toilet” moment. Crystal assured me these are popular with the Chinese. Not for me i’m afraid.

It took us over an hour after leaving the stall to find a taxi. The streets were so busy with them but they were all hired or stopped just before us to pickup other drenched people in a hurry to get home.

We went back to the hotel and I ordered a Hard Rock Burger to the room. I haven’t had one of these since I was a kid back when the Hard Rock Cafe was still in Surry Hills in Sydney.

Here’s some photos from day 3:

Day 4

After our one night at Sentosa and the Hard Rock Hotel we checked out and jumped in a taxi.  Destination; Marina Bay Sands.

This is the place you see on Facebook and Twitter every now and then.  It is 3 huge towers with a boat shaped area mounted on the top of them forming a viewing area and massive pool.

On arrival the check in line is huge, despite it being a few hours before check in time.  At the end of the line a man come over and ushered us and a few others off to another area to the VIP Check In room.  This moves up from a Front Desk area to a private room with staff to get you sorted.  Bottled water is compliments of the house.

After check in we headed upstairs to level 42 to our massive room overlooking Marina Bay and the city.

I haven’t mentioned yet but Singapore at this time is covered with a thick haze as a result of fires burning in Indonesia.  This hampered the view quite significantly so it was a little disappointing.

After checking the adjacent shopping center out I decided to leave Crystal and head to a nearby shopping center to partake in some more western food (aka KFC).  The view back to Marina Bay Sands was extremely hazy and a lot of people were wearing masks at this stage to protect themselves.

Marina Bay Sands Through the Haze

Marina Bay Sands Through the Haze

A while later I headed back to the hotel to find Crystal sitting on the end of the bed eating room service.  We decided to head to the roof to check out the pool.  There is no photo that can give away to awe of the infinity pool on level 57 of the hotel.  It is surrounded by restaurants and viewing areas and is just amazing.  There are service staff to hand out towels, serve food and drinks, take photos and service your every need.  The pool is actually divided into 3, which is a design feature of owing to the boat shaped building on top of the 3 towers to cater for their movement in the wind.

After drying off and ordering some more room service we headed downstairs and flagged a taxi to visit The Singapore Zoo for their Night Safari.

Arriving at the zoo I was surprised at how many people were there.

We were quickly ushered off to a large amphitheater to watch a show on the Animals of the Night which went for about 20 minutes and featured some of the local and not so local night creatures.

Creatures of the Night show at Singapore Zoo

Creatures of the Night show at Singapore Zoo

After this we walked back up the path and jumped onto a “tram” which drove around the zoo’s path for about an hour with a recorded tour guide explaining everything about the animals and their habitats.  It is a very upclose experience with the tram cars being opened (no windows or doors) and the animals being right next to you.  The tigers gave us a growl as we stopped by them.  The zoo seems to try and mimic a natural environment for the animals rather than concrete enclosures.  It was a great experience seeing some of these creatures in the night, and sometimes a little scary.

Night Safari - Lions

Night Safari – Lions

After the zoo we jumped on a bus back into Clarke Quay but arriving here after midnight we found it to be quite dead and after grabbing a drink at a convenience store headed back to the hotel.

Some more room service snacks later it was time for our last sleep.

Some photos of day 4:

Day 5

Our last day.  Most of the day was spent in bed and in the pool with a quick outing for lunch.  Crystal ventured out to do some shopping around Chinatown while I spent the afternoon relaxing in the pool at Marina Bay Sands.

We found a camera bag to “zip lock” her phone up so we could take some photos in the pool without damaging her phone.

Crystal in Pool at Marina Bay Sands

Crystal in Pool at Marina Bay Sands

Around 9pm we packed up shop and checked out before heading to Changi Airport to check in for our 1am flight back to Sydney.

I was unable to book ScootBiz for our return flight so we ended up in the back of the plane in economy.  I had a small mishap with the airline prior to leaving.  The seatbelt was rather tight so I asked for a seatbelt extension.  A few minutes later I had an operations manager standing over me telling me I was to be removed from the flight if I couldn’t fit in the seat belt as they would not offer me an extension.  Needless to say panic set in fast and I managed to do the seat belt up as tight as it was.

8 hours later we landed back in Sydney to cooler weather and more traffic.

Some photos from the last day:

Closing Off

We both had a great time in Singapore as short as our trip was.  Most of the people you meet are very friendly and talkative and it is great to see so many cultures that co-mingle everyday.  The atmosphere is nothing like home in Sydney where people tend to stay in their own cultural safety nets.

The food was all great and cheap (except the room service) and getting around by taxi was very cheap too.

There’s so much to explore here with different things around every corner to see, do and eat.  I guess we’ll have to go back sometime and see some more of this fantastic country.

I am still waiting to hear back from Scoot after making a complaint about their handling of the tight seatbelt.  I’ll add a comment later if I do hear anything.  Update: Scoot replied here.

To the lady at immigration on the way out of the country, thank you so much for your hospitality.  You handed me a handful of sweets after you stamped my passport and refused to let me leave without them.  Your friendly nature is part of what makes me recommend Singapore to anyone looking for a great Asian holiday.

For anyone thinking about going, be sure to give yourself enough time to see more than we did.  Oh and besides so many people having thick accents, everyone speaks english and it’s very easy to get people talking about their lives.


Fun fact: I did a Speedtest on the plane over the wifi, the speeds are quite impressive for a satellite connection.

Scoot Speedtest

Scoot Speedtest

Comments

comments

Posted in Travel.