Slinging in Singapore 

Singapore was our original (and first) destination of our holiday. The first thing that strikes you once you’re out of the airport is the heat and humidity, it’s overpowering. Air conditioning is an absolute must but even that barely touches the heat at times, everywhere you go you’re looking forward to the next air conditioned area just for a brief respite. My nicely coiffed hair went from sleek and shiny to a frizzy mess within hours, no amount of hair conditioner or coconut oil could tame the suddenly wild locks, any attempt to look chic and sophisticated disappeared immediately. But enough of my hair issues what is Singapore like?

It’s clean, bright, full of modern architectural wonders and busy, very busy. It’s a place that awakens and overpowers your senses, there isn’t a journey that doesn’t involve constant head turning and exclamations of ‘look at that’. We were only there a week but I cannot imagine that you’d ever get blasé about the sights. The incredible Marina Bay Sands complex Singapore - Marina Bay Sandswith a giant surfboard atop which has an elegant and expensive bar, as well as an infinity pool and goodness knows what else was the first place we visited and even on a hot and very rainy day (note photo is not of the rainy day) it didn’t fail to impress.

I didn’t mention the rain did I? Oh my goodness can it rain. It was like standing with someone pouring bucket after bucket of water over you for up to an hour and longer. One day when we decided to go out on our own exploring we rejected the offer of an umbrella. Big mistake. On our way back our 10 minute walk left us wetter than if we’d just jumped in the river fully clothed.

Aside from all the glitz of the gleaming new buildings there is some character, Chinatown was especially exciting, full of shops and stalls, brightly coloured and selling everything you could imagine and crucially at a fraction of the cost elsewhere. As a bargain lover I was in my element. Yes of course there’s tat but there’s also plenty of beautiful things to buy too, plus I got my supply of Tiger Balm (the best thing for all aches and pains, coughs and snuffles).

Yes Singapore is expensive, there’s no denying it. Alcohol is almost(!) prohibitively expensive. One of the exceptions to this is public transport, that is good value and as you would expect very efficient. The other exception is the Hawker stalls selling glorious food at silly prices. As lovers of good food we went to the only Michelin recognised hawker stall for lunch, we queued for nearly an hour (this was the only stall where there was a queue) and watched as the food was freshly cooked, then expertly chopped up to be served on paper plates when you finally got to the front of the queue. Some customers waved their arms in celebration as they finally got served their meal that they had been patiently waiting for. Was it Michelin quality food? I’m not sure, it was excellent that is certain, it was fresh, full of flavour and beautifully cooked so if that’s the criteria that Michelin looks for then yes it is. We loved our meal, that was what was important and we can certainly tick off that as one of the Michelin restaurants we’ve visited and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone. And best of all the total cost for both our meals….$4.50 the equivalent of about £2.50.

Of course no visit to Singapore is complete without a trip to Raffles Hotel for cocktails. We loved it. It’s a beautiful colonial building, with friendly and efficient staff and it delivers what you expect, a tasty drink, in classy surroundings with a touch of authenticity.

Aside from the food and of course the joy of spending time with the family other things that were amazing were the Gardens by the Bay and the Botanical Gardens, both these places were stunning. Filled with plants, animals, sculptures and of course lots of people. We took the most photos in these places, everywhere we looked there was something exciting to see and the grandchildren clearly loved visiting them even though it was probably the umpteenth time they’d done so in the short time they’ve lived there.

Would we visit Singapore again? Whilst we’ve got family there definitely yes, otherwise no. It’s a striking place and we’re glad we’ve been but it lacks a soul. It is a large business district essentially that has areas, beautifully designed and executed areas, for pleasure but it isn’t a holiday destination in my view.

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Where was Wendy?

 

For at least the past 25 years I’ve been terrified of flying. I’ve been on planes in that time but very infrequently and always absolutely rigid with fear, any movement due to turbulence had me practically weeping.

When my step-daughter, son-in-law and our 3 youngest grandchildren moved to Singapore last summer we felt that we should visit them in their new home.

Cue anxiety.

Then I thought I could get help with this fear in the form of medication from my GP and at that point we decided if we were going to travel as far as Singapore then why not continue on and visit a few other places? Where to was the next decision.

I’ve had a bit of an interest in seeing a bit of Australia and Mr D has an interest in New Zealand, so it seemed that perhaps we could try to fit those in to the trip.

A visit to my GP to confirm he could prescribe medication to get me through the anxiety and at Christmas the research of routes and fares began.

Now I’m pretty damned good at looking for bargains, within a short time of moving to France I’d already sussed best (cheapest) places to buy petrol, best supermarkets and restaurants so I was confident in my abilities of scouring the internet for air fares.

First piece of research was best online travel companies. I chose Kayak initially as I liked their search engine, I could create ‘trips’ and save routes. I ended up creating at least nine different trips with various dates, cities and lengths of stays.

Second research was best way to get to New Zealand, was it via Singapore or Australia or was it best to ‘do’ NZ first? So many options. Then of course which part(s) of Australia to see.

My head hurt with all the possible configurations.

The final route we decided on was Singapore, Sydney, Christchurch, Melbourne, Singapore then home. Best prices for flights was the next headache. It may be the holiday of a lifetime but I had no intention of paying over the odds for flights. Daily monitoring of prices became the thing.  I was driving everyone crazy and was persuaded to just go for it and book, there were no guarantees the prices were going to drop further so I went ahead and bought the return flights to Singapore for a very good price with Emirates, however only for a couple of days later a different airline was offering flights at £100 less per person. I wasn’t happy but our flight times were better and shorter in duration so I consoled myself with that. (The decision to go with Emirates actually was an excellent choice, they were amazing, we cannot fault them at all. Courteous staff, great food, comfortable seats and on our return flight they even took a photo of me and Mr D and presented it to us as a memento of our flight).

The flights from Singapore to Australia and New Zealand were far more complex, there were so many options and by this time I wanted to be able to do the entire booking process in one go. I found that Opodo offered multi-trip bookings, which meant I could choose the flights but essentially make one booking, it was also going to be easier to track and manage whilst we were en-route. After a couple of false starts I finally got the flights we wanted with the times that suited us and paid the money.

All good so far.

The headache really began then. Accommodation. Hotels in Australia ended up being the best option and we chose well, the delightful Simpsons Hotel in Sydney served up delicious breakfasts to set us up well on our days out exploring. Then in Melbourne we plumped for the ParkView Hotel another lovely hotel with those all important excellent breakfasts.

Accommodation in New Zealand involved us deciding on a route to drive around with accurate timings for lengths of stay in each area. Luckily a Christmas present from my daughter of the Lonely Planet guide for New Zealand was a godsend, they gave recommended routes plus full info on towns and attractions. Once we decided on route I then scoured Airbnb and BookaBach for suitable places that met certain important needs for us (wifi, own bathroom etc). Some places we stayed were amazing some not quite so but we had a great time (more on that in next blog).

Finally and most importantly a trip back to the GP who provided me with enough tranquilising medication to soothe an angry elephant and we were ready for the off, a month of travel which involved 9 flights.

Pics and more information on that holiday of a lifetime to follow.

Please note all recommendations are entirely my own and I have not been given anything for mentioning the companies within this article.