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Archive for the ‘Singapore’ Category

Another early morning marked with the sound of an alarm but today we where heading home and that’s always a good thing after an extremely tiring holiday. We met up with some of the business clients early as they took us to try some local delicacies, sweetbread satays’ sticks (organs of cows) and stingray. Now the sweetbreads are definitely not my thing, but the succulent but weird taste of the stingray definitely merits a try if you ever get the chance. After a quick lunch we headed off to meet with the main clients whom kindly sponsored the majority of this trip.

Again Singaporean’s love to eat and we were yet again whisked away to another famous Chinese restaurant for more seafood delights and other strange assortments of which I had never heard of until that day. And until this day I still don’t find tofu that tasty but yet I mustered up enough courage to give it a go again’ Professional courtesy so they say. So after talking and saying thank you for their hospitality over the last few days, we went back to the hotel to pick up our bags prior to heading to the massive Changi International Airport Terminal 2.

Now generally when you look up the weather for Singapore it will usually say Thunderstorms etcetera, Now during our stay in Singapore it barely rained as it normally rains towards the catchments areas of central Singapore but unlucky for us on the way to the airport it bucketed heavy. Which led me to notice that Singapore highways don’t even have drainage systems. What’s with that? So after a few aquaplanes the Changi International Airport came into view. We said our final thanks and went to check in.

Even at the airport shopping and eating doesn’t end, once you hit this airport Terminal 2 is jam packed with restaurants and so many duty free shops one couldn’t possibly have enough money to spend at all of them. As we spent most of our money shopping in the actually city itself we didn’t have any time to buy duty free. I did however buy a nice little bottle of vodka, which the girl said would be fine to bring to Australia but yeah that didn’t work out. Apparently you can’t bring it if you have a stop over of which we did. So my poor bottle of vodka got apprehended. The journey home was once again long and tedious but all in all we were going home and that’s all that mattered, maybe to catch up on some sleep.

To end this five-day Singapore blog, I should say that Singapore became one of my most favourite cities so far visited. This is mainly due to its access ability, the food, the safety, and the shopping. It is definitely worth many future visits even if all you want to do is try some of the local cuisine. As stated earlier food, the people, and the culture are all pros for what makes this city so great. If it had a con it would be that it doesn’t have that many touristy things but it is a perfect stepping stone to the rest of Asia. 

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Day five marked the last day of our booked tours, here’s some advice if your going to Singapore book one tour and do the rest on your own. It’s easy to do, it’s safe and everything is easily accessible via the wonderful public transport network. Off to the bird park, which was a first for me but then again it’s kind of like a zoo just with only birds. If your into the largest and the biggest of things in the world. The Jurong Bird Park is home to the largest man made waterfall inside one of their aviaries. The trio of natural parks that reside in Singapore go all out on these enclosures. It’s definitely worth visiting one to see the effort they put into these animal habitats in making them look like the animals are literally in the wild, many with the absence of cages. Not much I can remember about this place as nothing really comes to mind. The Birds of Prey show was quite good, seeing these giant birds gliding through the sky catching meat as quite amazing. We ditched the tour yet again as we wanted to spend longer at this place before going back to the markets to do some more shopping.

A quick bus ride followed by the MRT got us back to Chinatown were we had a look at the fish market which sells an assortment of items from eels, frogs, turtles. All still alive of course. We came across an interesting sign saying “no durians”, now a durian is a really pungent smelling and tasting tropical fruit; definitely not pleasant. Something to try if you hold your nose. Our noses lead us to a hawker centre were it was on our list to try the famous Singapore Chilli Crab. It was delicious but incredibly difficult to eat. Quite the experience. One last tour at the Night Safari before meeting back with the business clients the next morning.

The awesomeness of the Night Safari is great, it’s like being in Africa at nighttime except the animals are mostly sleeping here as they get fed and don’t need to hunt. But it’s still one of a kind if you can’t afford to go on a real safari. A tip though would be to not go on Halloween as we did and there was literally tens of thousands of people here. Take the time to look around the exhibits, as all the animals are good to see at nighttime. We took in a quick show before heading to Clarke Quay for a late night Italian dinner before retiring
for the night.

 

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So just like the day before we waited at our hotel but to our frustration no one showed to pick us up so after a heated conversation on the phone with the tour operator they insisted we weren’t at the hotel. So instead of our free coach ride to the meeting point we had to catch a taxi there. Luckily they waited for us before heading to Sentosa. Now Sentosa Island will be the site of a unique to Singapore Universal Studios opening at the end of 2010 but at the time of this holiday Sentosa was more or less a resort island. After the island formalities of paying for entry we where off to the Underwater world. To be honest it’s nothing special and if on a time constraining holiday don’t even bother going. If you’ve been to the ones like Underwater World in the Sunshine coast Australia or the massive Aquariums of Japan (Kaiyukan etc) this one probably wouldn’t even get a mention in the top 10. But none the less it was part of the tour so we had a quick look around before heading to the main attractions of this island.

Imbiah lookout, the Tiger Sky Tower and the New Zealand inspired Luge are probably the most notable attractions here, they also have some 4D rides, a butterfly garden with some macaws which if your lucky you can hold one if your in the right place at the right time. Luckily for us we stumbled in on a tour group and just joined in and held the birds. Best free tour ever. Well it was raining so we didn’t see many butterflies but the Sky tower offered some impressive views and the Luge is definitely a bundle of fun. As we wanted to spend more time in this area to look at the museum here we abandoned the tour early (another reason why one shouldn’t take so many tours in an easy to navigate city like Singapore) and then we headed to the final stop” Dolphin Lagoon to see the Dolphin show with the Pink Dolphins. The show was quite amazing and seeing these rare animals is always worth the effort of going to Sentosa. All in all Sentosa has some nice places to relax and enjoy yourself if you have enough time in Singapore. Otherwise it’s not that great of an area. With the coming of Universal Studios my opinion could change in the near future.

Getting off Sentosa was another scenic experience with the cable car ride from Sentosa to Vivo City taking about 10 minutes or so offering some pretty spectacular views. For its price it’s way better than taking the monorail or even going by bus. We spent a lot of time on Sentosa so after quickly grabbing a bite to eat at McDonalds we were ready to be picked up for our next tour: A Night Out in Chinatown or otherwise known to us as the most embarrassing tour we took in Singapore. Just a quick note on McDonalds if you’re their try the Spicy chicken burger it literally is spicy and your body remembers it for the next couple days. Just make sure you get a few cokes to wash down the chilli.

So off onto the tour bus again we started to head to Chinatown and after a quick look through the Chinese History Museum, which showcased a family of 10 living in a standard 4×4 bedroom we were on our way to do some bargain shopping in the Chinatown Night Markets. You’ll always get a good bargain in a place like this and we picked up a couple imitation paintings before heading to our meeting point at a local Chinese restaurant for our included dinner. At the table we were surrounded by mostly British holiday goers on a stop over to Australia. Strangely enough we were the only ones who could use chopsticks on our table..? After discussing stories of how we ended up in Singapore we whisked away to the embarrassing part of this tour. Basically we were to ride a Trishaw to Clarke Quay for our Bumboat ride down the Singapore River. Sounds simple enough so we got on our Trishaw and were on our way.

So all of a sudden loud music starts blasting from the first car and flashing neon’s from the rear and I realized this would be one embarrassing Trishaw ride. Then the whole trishaw caravan drives dead through the centre of Chinatown, needless to say everyone starts clapping and moving aside while we could do nothing but sit there and say to ourselves “were tourists this is perfectly normal” The Thousands of people that actually moved aside for us was quite amazing or more so embarrassing. After about 5 kilometres we reached Clarke Quay and got off for our romantic ride on a traditional bumboat down the river. The river is lit up by the lights of the surrounding buildings and is a nice ride to go on with your girlfriend. Upon returning we called it a night, ready for one more the next day. Rest is for the weak and waking up for yet another tour is for the strong apparently.

Imbiah lookout, the Tiger Sky Tower and the New Zealand inspired Luge are probably the most notable attractions here, they also have some 4D rides, a butterfly garden with some macaws which if your lucky you can hold one if your in the right place at the right time. Luckily for us we stumbled in on a tour group and just joined in and held the birds. Best free tour ever. Well it was raining so we didn’t see many butterflies but the Sky tower offered some impressive views and the Luge is definitely a bundle of fun. As we wanted to spend more time in this area to look at the museum here we abandoned the tour early (another reason why one shouldn’t take so many tours in an easy to navigate city like Singapore) and then we headed to the final stop” Dolphin Lagoon to see the Dolphin show with the Pink Dolphins. The show was quite amazing and seeing these rare animals is always worth the effort of going to Sentosa. All in all Sentosa has some nice places to relax and enjoy yourself if you have enough time in Singapore. Otherwise it’s not that great of an area. With the coming of Universal Studios my opinion could change in the near future.

Getting off Sentosa was another scenic experience with the cable car ride from Sentosa to Vivo City taking about 10 minutes or so offering some pretty spectacular views. For its price it’s way better than taking the monorail or even going by bus. We spent a lot of time on Sentosa so after quickly grabbing a bite to eat at McDonalds we were ready to be picked up for our next tour: A Night Out in Chinatown or otherwise known to us as the most embarrassing tour we took in Singapore. Just a quick note on McDonalds if you’re their try the Spicy chicken burger it literally is spicy and your body remembers it for the next couple days. Just make sure you get a few cokes to wash down the chilli.

So off onto the tour bus again we started to head to Chinatown and after a quick look through the Chinese History Museum, which showcased a family of 10 living in a standard 4×4 bedroom we were on our way to do some bargain shopping in the Chinatown Night Markets. You’ll always get a good bargain in a place like this and we picked up a couple imitation paintings before heading to our meeting point at a local Chinese restaurant for our included dinner. At the table we were surrounded by mostly British holiday goers on a stop over to Australia. Strangely enough we were the only ones who could use chopsticks on our table..? After discussing stories of how we ended up in Singapore we whisked away to the embarrassing part of this tour. Basically we were to ride a Trishaw to Clarke Quay for our Bumboat ride down the Singapore River. Sounds simple enough so we got on our Trishaw and were on our way.

So all of a sudden loud music starts blasting from the first car and flashing neon’s from the rear and I realized this would be one embarrassing Trishaw ride. Then the whole trishaw caravan drives dead through the centre of Chinatown, needless to say everyone starts clapping and moving aside while we could do nothing but sit there and say to ourselves “were tourists this is perfectly normal” The Thousands of people that actually moved aside for us was quite amazing or more so embarrassing. After about 5 kilometres we reached Clarke Quay and got off for our romantic ride on a traditional bumboat down the river. The river is lit up by the lights of the surrounding buildings and is a nice ride to go on with your girlfriend. Upon returning we called it a night, ready for one more the next day. Rest is for the weak and waking up for yet another tour is for the strong apparently.

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 The start of day 3 was kind of like any other morning except we were always more tired than the last. Today we decided to jump on the MRT to get to Orchard road to be picked up by our first tour bus on our first tour of Singapore. Tour East whom were our tour company picked us up bright and early at 8 am, which meant an even earlier wake up time. The first tour of the day was a Singapore City tour of which I highly recommend to those whom are going to Singapore because of its deep background insights. The usual meeting point for this tour group was under the Singapore flyer and after all the formalities we were given a sticker to wear to identify us before heading off to the famous Merlion. This beast became a legend of Singapore and the main Merlion sits proudly on Sentosa Island. As we got off the bus for the usual photos and a bit of commentary the guide said, “If you are late we will leave you” Funnily enough a couple people didn’t make it back on this tour. None the wiser we kept moving.

As the tour continued we stopped several times at places of interest but none more interesting that the gem factory, which made paintings made entirely out of gems. These paintings ranged from 50 dollars like the small Merlion I bought to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nice to hand on the wall if you’ve got the money to buy it. I after leaving this gem factory more background was given on the housing schemes that the government gives to Singapore citizens. Basically a citizen can buy an apartment and pay it back over 20-30 years at a fraction of its cost. This enables all citizens to have somewhere to stay. If you’ve wondered why there is a huge deck somewhat resembling a car park underneath these giant apartments its because there is no space for people to have their parties. This space more commonly known as a void deck can be booked for events of the tenants. Next stop was the botanical gardens of Singapore and the national Orchid garden followed by the final stop of the tour Little India.

The national orchid garden and the huge acreage that made up the botanical gardens is a definite must see for plant lovers and tourists alike. If you’re on a budget this place is a good place to go for a picnic with some home made sandwiches. There are thousands of different types of orchids on display, some even with famous names. For the small fee you pay to get in you can literally spend days in this area. Being on tour we didn’t get much time to look around and we will definitely be going back to check it out next time we are here. Last stop was a quick look around Little India. We decided to not take our tour up on their free return transfer but instead look around one of Singapore’s unique ethic quarters (there are four). If you love your butter chicken there is no better place to get it than here. (Some might say what about India) – at least in Singapore you have a really low chance of getting sick. The streets are lined with gold shops and Indian fabrics sort of like Mustafa’s. After enjoying some great Indian cuisine we stumbled upon a rare gem called Sim Lim Tower very close to the Bugis Street Markets. This massive complex was six floors of just tech gear from computers to cameras there is plenty to buy for a fathers day gift. Unfortunately buying this stuff was definitely not in our budget so window-shopping had to suffice.

Leaving Little India was a little sad knowing that the Indian Holiday where they light up the streets (Deepvali – most likely the incorrect spelling) was drawing near but we knew there probably wouldn’t be enough time to come back and take a look. On the brighter side we did pass by this festival driving past one night and to say the least the lights were quite amazing. We headed back to Orchard Road for some lunch before our next tour “A night at Clarke Quay with Singapore Sling”.

Again we waited at our nominated hotel for them to pick us up to begin the tour.  Getting off the bus and heading down the side staircase of the bridge we made it to our restaurant for dinner. Now for those who have been to Clarke Quay it is absolutely massive literally 3 kilometres worth of bars, nightclubs, restaurants and pubs. Why we were right at the beginning? Probably because the tour guides are too lazy to walk down the riverside to other restaurants. Most likely a time constraint. Anyway before we knew it we were told to choose between chicken, salmon or steak. I chose chicken, as chicken is normally a safe choice. UNTIL… they started bringing out these hot stones and told us that we had to cook our own dinner. Suddenly chicken was not a safe bet. About 30 minutes later with sizzling oil bursting onto my face and smoke in my eyes, I finally got to taste this chicken. Anyway point of the matter was I prefer to go to a restaurant so others can cook for me not cook for myself. Ratings: Food 5/10, Experience 10/10 Would I go again: Probably not.

The final stop of the night was the infamous Raffles hotel the oldest hotel in Singapore.  If you can afford to pay the 700.00 SGD per night you can stay in one of their cheaper rooms, for the rest of us all we can afford is a 25 SGD cocktail in the Long Bar. Apparently the birthplace of the Singapore Sling. Lucky for us this drink came with the tour. The atmosphere alone in this bar alone warrants a visit. From a city with heavy penalties for littering, it’s perfectly ok to throw the shells of your nuts on the ground here. The sling however wasn’t anything special but I guess it is just one of those must do’s when you visit the Long Bar. For me it’s just one less than to tick off my list. Exhausted from the day’s events we headed home. Ang mo Kio Station here we come!!!

 

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With the annoying sound of the alarm going off at 8 am and the opening of hate curtains to a Singapore that we could not see at night time, we set off on our new day. As side note golf in Singapore is apparently one of the most expensive places to play this sport with the shortage of land only the wealthy can afford to be seen on the green.

After catching a cab into orchard road I decided that I wanted to go to hate Tiger LIVE beer tour!! Which was one of the more amusing tours that I have been on. Might have something to do with the free beers they keep supplying you. After finding out that we had two hours to kill before the next tour started we headed over to Vivo city, which was just across the street. Was still a little early considering most of the shops don’t open till 10 am in Singapore so we just walked around looking for something to do. There was a particular book that I was after called the Makansutra by KF Seeto of which I had seen on a travel guide. It’s more or less a hawker centre guide but it’s definitely a Singapore unique needless to say I did end up finding it in a bookstore. Time for our tour was approaching.

Tiger LIVE is definitely a tour worth going on its cheap, entertaining and of course Tiger Beer is one of the best on the planet in my opinion. The tour contained the usual aspects of how the beer was made etcetera and the hall of fame for Tiger Breweries, but what really made it fun were the staff that went out of there way to entertain and provide Tiger poured from an original ice beer tap. There’s nothing better than a beer from a beer tap served in a chilled glass not to mention Tiger. Well to say the least I was a weeee bit tipsy after this tour so we decided to just walk in general before heading to the Singapore Flyer.

Upon arriving at the largest observation wheel in the world we were already lost in finding how to get up to the ticket purchasing deck. We made our way up with the instructions from the ticketing officers ready to begin our journey sky high for the better part of the hour. Met by audio commentary and a nice foldable circle brochure the wheel slowly made its way to the top revealing great views of Singapore. It was a weekday so we had the entire cabin to ourselves to enjoy the view. At the end of the flyer ride we decided to set off to visit Marina Square the usual site for Singapore National Day. Other than this event the main reason for coming here would most definitely be the Durian buildings. Several pictures later there was something I really needed to see. Again a travel DVD pointed out that Singapore has got some of the cleanest public toilets in the world of which awards are given. There were some in particular residing in the New World City shopping centre that I just had to see.

Eight differently themed toilets from a tulip field in Amsterdam to going for a pee into a lion’s mouth on safari. The creativity of these toilets was amazing and nothing I had ever seen before even comes close. What the best part of this toilet adventure was the fact that upon entering they didn’t smell like pee? Now if that’s not a plus I don’t know what is.

Final stop for the day: Singapore’s fountain of wealth located in Suntec City or the Five Finger shopping centres. Cabs being cheap in Singapore we were there in no time. The ten laps around the fountain sounded pretty stupid at first but its tradition and a traveller should always follow the tradition of the local customs. Apparently if we did this we would obtain great wealth. 10 Laps later we already felt more wealthy than we started.

Much more sober than a few hours earlier we headed for some food inside Suntec, a sushi restaurant serving a la cart sushi and sides. These prawns shown in the picture were some of the largest I had eaten in my short seafood career but they were worth every penny. About $10 AUD for one. Heading home for an early night considering we were extremely sleep deprived we looked back on what we had done and agreed that it was a very fulfilling day. 

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“Ladies and gentlemen the captain has switched on the fasten seatbelt sign in preparation for landing, please take your seats and ensure that your tray tables are locked in and your seats in the upright position”.

A speech that becomes more amusing each time you hear it. As we flew over Singapore the sky was lit up by what seems to be the lights of Orchard roads mega shopping complexes? Or not. It didn’t seem like there was actually any space to land this jumbo jet considering how small Singapore actually is. But sure enough the wheels touched the ground and I had yet another city to explore.

Getting out of customs was as easy as pie with a stamp in my passport (got to love being an Australian citizen) we quickly exited through customs and waited for our bags at the carousel. Just so this blog actually makes sense the actual reason I was in Singapore was mainly on business to meet some clients of which I took my girlfriend along. So as we got our bags and went through what seemed liked laxed border control compared to our Australian counterparts we saw our pickup of which she conveniently held up a sign saying “Mr Mitterstoger”. Feel special enough So we were on our way through the bustling city of Singapore.

After the usual first time meeting etiquette we headed to our accommodation at the Singapore Golf Club arranged by our hosts. Our bedroom was a nice double bed with aircon (beats those cheap non a/c’d hostels) with a great view of part of the golf course. As you can imagine waking up at 7 am that morning we were exhausted; but to the two unknowing guests Singaporean’s don’t actually sleep but rather they eat. And eat is what we did.

So after a quick phone call at approximately 11pm we were on our way to a feast of different meals. We didn’t have to wait long as our hosts were already waiting for us with their Mercedes. Now most of you are thinking its just a Mercedes, yes its just a Mercedes however Singapore has from memory a 270% car tax imposed not to mention huge yearly registration fees so now imagine a $140,000 Mercedes with 270% car tax on top. Now that’s an expensive car………. After the usual pleasantries and a short drive away we made our first stop at the golf clubs seafood restaurant. Giant crayfish and oven baked fish were on the menu and although tired we polished them off in the usual Singapore manner of good food.

To say the least we were extremely belly stuffed and exhausted from our flights, however sleep is for the weak apparently??? Our host kindly took us for a tour of Orchard and the major sights of Singapore stopping every now and again to take in the sights. Driving through Orchard at night is definitely an experience every one should have if you don’t have a car go by taxi. The hotels and large department stores put Brisbane’s largest to shame. One could easily spend their life savings on a visit if they were keen. Insider information tells us that Singaporean’s don’t really shop there unless they’re on their big Singapore end of year sale in July. Point to note next time I’m there in July.

Making a quick stop at the Singapore Performing Arts centre (shown above) more commonly known as the durian buildings we were yet again on our way for more Singapore highlights. Driving by the hostess bars on Singapore we made our way up to Mt Faber one of the highest points in Singapore. Unfortunately I had yet to acquire a decent camera/tripod so I was unable to take any decent photos of the view of Singapore. The time approaching on 1 am an initial D session down the mountain began. I always wondered what made him drive his expensive car down the mountain this fast without a care in the world. I asked him this a couple years later of which he quickly replied that if there was a scratch its just a car nothing more. Wise words? Still unsure at this point.  

What time is it? Time to eat again… and of such we were introduced to our first encounter with a hawker centre, verdict: AMAZING and one of the major reasons I travel back to Singapore year after year. Current time at hawker centre approaching 2 am… It was late and I’m pretty sure our hosts could sense that we were getting tired so we made our final stop at the only 24-hour shopping complex in Singapore Mustafa’s. Well what can I say about Mustafa’s it’s just immense. They say one can find anything and everything inside this complex from watches to clothes to chocolate to souvenirs everything is available for the keen shoppers.

About to collapse from sheer exhaustion we were driven back to our room to get some sleep for another busy day exploring the sights for ourselves.

 

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A five-day journey to Singapore with a flight of only supposedly 5.5 hour takes much longer when trying to preserve money and making a stop over in Brunei. To start with the service of Royal Brunei is top class and the planes are as new as they can be. Possibly something to do with the fact that the Sultan has extremely deep pockets? Although the journey took an extra few hours, we got a nice view of the country of Brunei.

From the sky it’s a lush rainforest with stick houses on water with people farming. Obviously not the trademarks of a rich and bustling city. But with the natural resources at the sultan’s disposal, the country is indeed extremely wealthy with immigration to this tropical land being almost impossible. From what the Filipino staff at the airport told me; as to why all the staff that work here are form the Philippines, was that the Sultan hires these staff so that the residents of the country do not actual have to work. This coupled with their other included benefits of free healthcare and schooling the people of this rainforest have things pretty nicely set up for themselves.

So as our short stay of about one hour at this airport ended we again boarded our Royal Brunei Flight to Singapore. Considering we got fed two meals on the way to Brunei and another meal on our leg to S’pore our $750.00 AUD tickets were quite the value for money. As the plane taxied to the runway and took off we yet again said goodbye to another country of which we might return to one day.

 

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