It has been a long time since I have done an update, but a lot has happened since then. My last post was about our time in Philippines but we left there on February 4, 2020 and it is now March 28, 2020 and we are currently in isolation in Naramata, British Columbia, Canada. To make this manageable I will break down the last two months into three posts: Singapore, Australia, and our South Pacific Cruise. This is the first of those three and I hope to have them all done during the next 10 days of our isolation.
When we left Philippines we were heading towards Australia. All of the flights seem to have a layover somewhere so we chose to go through Singapore. At the time, COVID 19 (Coronavirus) was still mostly a problem in China. Philippines had cancelled all visas for Chinese tourists as had most countries in the world. Screening of travellers in airports was only asking if you had been to mainland China. We had not been through China at all so we saw no reason to change our plans.
We planned only four days in Singapore. It is pretty expensive and so we booked space pods in a hostel. You can get a double pod but we figured that would be quite crammed for us so we booked two single pods. Essentially you enter the pod and close the door behind you. There is a television in each pod and power ports to charge up your devices. It was pretty tight for me mostly because of my length, I could not stretch out. And when I flipped over my knees banged the walls. Nic was in the pod below me and so if I farted she could hear it… oops. The Galaxy Pods were in Chinatown. It was Chinese new year so it was quite alive although with a lack of Chinese tourists.
Singapore is a sovereign city-state and an island nation in Southeast Asia. It has a population of approximately 5.7 million people. The economy of Singapore is one of the strongest in the world with no foreign debt, high government revenues and consistent annual surpluses. It is one of the busiest seaports in the world and has some of the most traffic of all international airports because it is a large hub for Asian travel. Its economy is one of the most pro-business and lease corrupt in the world. Salaries are high and prices are high as well.
Singapore is one of the cleanest places I have ever visited. You will not find gum on the ground or graffiti on the walls. There are strict laws against chewing gum and spitting. Anyone caught bringing drugs into the country face the death penalty. They have gone to great lengths to ensure that Singapore is beautiful, clean and healthy. In many ways it is unlike anywhere else I have ever been in Asia.
On our first day in Singapore we met with a basketball friend of my sister, David Crocker, who works for FIBA. We met him at his office and he took us for lunch. He is originally from Australia but has been working in Singapore for a few years now. He gave us lots of good suggestions on what to see and do in Singapore.
We went to the Gardens on the Bay where there is a nightly light show. It is free and you just sit on the grass or a bench somewhere and watch the light show amid these dazzling man-made super-trees to an amazing musical soundtrack. The show lasts about 15 minutes and there are one or two shows per night depending on the season. Before the show we wandered through the Gardens on the Bay to enjoy the park and the statues and ponds it is home to. I even found a geocache in the park allowing me to get my Singapore travel badge.
On two of nights we were there we went to watch the Spectra – Marina Bay Light Show. It is on waterfront by the Marina Bay Mall. Water fountains spray mist into the air and lights are reflected off the mist to create amazing effects and images. It reminds me of the water fountain shows that we have seen in Las Vegas and in Dubai. Again it is free so just pick a spot on the waterfront and enjoy. There are two shows per night and they are each a little different. So, we wanted to make sure we saw them both.
Inside the mall there is also a cool floor that you could watch for a long time. Go up to the second or third level and look down on the big open foyer on the ground level. There is a wall around it and there is a video projection on the floor. You can pay $5 SGD to go onto the floor and the video trails follow where you go. We watched a family with a little kid run around on the floor for a while. Also, at the mall go up to the roof and enjoy the panoramic views of the city from up high. You can see the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel and watch the show at Gardens on the Bay (without the music though) from up above. Then we wandered over and went through the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and back into the Gardens on the Bay.
One day we went to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It was not close to where we were staying so we bought a one-day metro pass for $10 SGD. This allowed us to go anywhere on the system for one day. I would say that I am not a huge fan of botanic gardens (I may slightly be understating this) but Nic loves them. We wandered around the gardens which were quite lovely (I may not be a big fan but I can appreciate them). Going in the gardens is free but there is an orchid garden that you have to pay $5 SGD to go in. I decided to sit outside and let Nic enjoy the orchids on her own. It was not about the cost, mostly about allowing myself to rest and not trying to rush her through something she really enjoys.
After the Botanic Gardens we walked back most of the way. We just explored the areas we found along the way. For example we walked through Little India and passed by the historic Raffles Hotel. We found a place along a canal that had a happy hour special for beer. That was probably the only way we would choose to have a beer. Even at happy hour it was still $8 SGD.
A great way to have some great food in Singapore at reasonable prices is to go to hawker markets. We checked out a couple of different ones during our stay. The nice thing about them is that they are all inspected and are required to post their rating on the outside. An A means the food vendor has the highest rating of cleanliness. B is still quite good and C is okay but not great. You can pick different dishes from different vendors and make up your own custom buffet. Or do as we did and get a couple different dishes to share. You can find many different international vendors and dishes and all are subject to the same rules. I can honestly say we enjoyed every meal we had from the hawker markets. Thanks to David for the recommendation, that is our style of experiencing culture and food. There was also a satay market that we saw but did not eat at that we would want to try next time.
One of the most spectacular things to see in Singapore is actually the international airport. It is perhaps the most amazing airport in the world, certainly the most fantastic one that I have seen. There is an indoor waterfall that goes over three levels of the airport. We did not have enough time to explore the whole airport but apparently you could spend days in there. We found out when we went to check in for our flight to Australia that we had neglected to get an eVisa. So, they would not let us board until we got it done. Luckily there is a booth in the airport that will do it for you in ten minutes but it costs a lot more than if you do it yourself. That ate up our airport time and prevented us from experiencing more of what it has to offer.
My next post will be about our three weeks in Australia before our cruise. Cheers.