It was a long trip, but I arrived in Singapore yesterday afternoon, after enduring a 45 minute car ride, 1 hour train, 1 hour BART, 18.5 hour flight plus 2 hour layover in Hong Kong. That big jumbo A-380 Singapore Airlines whale delivered several hundred tired passengers to this beautiful city. I had the pleasure of being able to sit in the upper deck of the plane, in a premium economy seat, with about 5 feet of legroom. That was awesome. Sadly, the seat itself was harder than old cement. The nice thing about sitting on the upper deck of a plane, however, is that the floor is warm! None of that cold air that seems to seep in on most flights when you're near a window. That always freaks me out, a little. I mean, how is it that, in a sealed, pressurized steel tube that they call an airplane, cold air can snake its way in, rendering your ankles positively frigid in a matter of minutes after take-off? It is one of life's greatest mysteries.
My seat mate was a nice young man (ack! Did I just say that?) who was traveling back to his temporary home in Indonesia from spending the holidays with his family in Boston. I had really counted on being able to whine about how tired I was going to be after the long flight, but he had me beat before we even left the ground, having just flown to San Francisco from Boston. So I turned my attention to across the aisle and chatted up a brother/sister duo for awhile, Jim and Linda. Jim used to live in nearby Cameron Park, but retired to San Bernardino (one might ask why anyone would retire there, but I won't bore you with the details) and Linda lives in Monterey! They were a hoot and we all stuck together throughout the flight and while we layed (laid?) over in Hong Kong. They were heading to join a Celebrity cruise that would be visiting Thailand's islands, Komodo island, Bali and some other Indonesian locales. We said our goodbyes at the baggage carousel, and I hopped into a taxi and off to the Fairmont.
I got some decent rest and sleep during my flights, so I felt pretty good. I have less than 24 hours in Singapore before we set sail tonight, and I felt that, to maximize my opportunity to see the city, I opted for the always-fun Hop On, Hop Off bus. I spent about 4 hours, riding around the city and seeing the highlights and stopping off at a few places. Several items of note: Singapore is really clean and pretty, with lots of green spaces and streets virtually litter-free; the skyline is full of building cranes, and they apparently are in action seven days a week; Singapore most likely has the greatest concentration of shopping malls in the world. Orchard Road is always touted as "the place for shopping whilst in Singapore", but don't let that fool you. Virtually every six blocks there is another mall, filled with boutiques, cafes, local stores, high-end name stores, department stores, you name it.
The city also boasts a beautiful Botanic Garden, and I stopped off there for a little while. I meandered through various mini gardens and saw some pretty orchids, before I realized I was fast approaching "the wall". By that, I mean that suddenly, I felt very tired and worn out, but I still needed to visit Merlion Park, the place where Singapore's iconic statue of a merlion sits.
A merlion is a mythical creature with a lion's head and a fish body. It represents Singapore's history as a fishing port.
I also still wanted to take a ride on the Singapore Flyer, a very imposing ferris wheel, 15 meters higher than London's Eye. A complete round trip on the Flyer takes 30 minutes. Well, perhaps tomorrow morning.
I left the hop on bus at the Raffles Hotel stop, which was also conveniently across the street from my hotel and gathered a bit of energy so that I could do a very touristy thing - sit at the Long Bar in Raffles, and enjoy a famous Singapore Sling cocktail.
$26 later (yes, that damn drink cost that much) I walked back across the street and up to my room. By this time, all I wanted to do was take a long hot shower and go to bed, but I was hungry and needed to eat dinner. I usually like to go out to a cafe somewhere and enjoy the local cuisine at an outside patio table, but the idea of walking anywhere at that point was simply too much for me to consider.
I opted instead for the hotel concierge's suggestion of the Asia Market Cafe, conveniently located upstairs in the hotel's selection of dining spots. Boy, what a great decision! The place was packed with a combination of locals and hotel guests, most of whom were of some Asian persuasion. I stuck out like an Easter parade in Tel Aviv.
The cafe offered a buffet of local cuisines and the wait staff hovered over me like mama bears, giving me a tour of each station, explaining the various foods, bringing me two newspapers to read should I feel so inclined, asking me every few minutes if they could bring me anything, etc. Normally this kind of attention would annoy the crap out of me, but this time, I felt very pampered and well looked after. And the food was AMAZING! I tried all sorts of new dishes, the names of which I do not remember, but everything was delicious! There were lots of seafood, curries, noodles and vegetables.
I finally returned to my room about 8 pm. I had been told that there was a laser light show at Merlion park, put on nightly by the Marina Bay Sands hotel across the little quay from the park, at 9:30. Since the view from my hotel room looked smack dab across to the venue, I decided to try to stay up long enough to see the show. I showered and puttered around and was not disappointed.
The show started promptly at 9:30 and lasted for 15 minutes. My non professional camera captured a little bit of the show, but I enjoyed being able to stand on my balcony from the 20th floor and see the show in my jammies.
Good night Singapore!