A whirlwind excursion in Singapore
To get a cheaper flight to Vietnam we traveled to Singapore to catch a cheaper option. I also wanted to visit this place that my parents had been to so many times over the decades as it holds a place of mystery and reverence for me.
My Dad did a lot of business in Asia in the 1970s to the end of his life. At least once a year my parents would travel to Asia often for about a three-week period when they would visit Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan among other places. In the 1990s, I worked for a short time in Hong Kong for a colleague of my Dad’s. It was an interesting time and experience.
Singapore always invokes a mix of west and east for me. Amazingly, I never got to travel in Asia with my mom and did go to Hong Kong once with my Dad. Being here now, I so ache for an experience of walking around with them if only for a day or a couple of hours. Both of my parents have passed and this trip is often a tip of a hat in their direction as they instilled the love to travel in me partly due to their extensive travel while my brothers and sister were growing up.
I do know, we have very different travel styles. My family and I are decidedly budget oriented. My Dad’s businesses had him ‘smoozing’ folks so, I think there were a lot more high-end hotels, banquet dinners and glasses of cognac.
For a decade, my mom built a part-time career writing about her travels and food. Her muse in her food column, frequently came from her travels with my Dad. She would travel around Asian cities on her own while my Dad was in meetings. I look back and think it had to be rather lonely at times. It is sometimes lonely being with your family in a place where you are the stranger in a strange land.
Strong memories stir as we wander around Singapore. I know my mom thought the world of the Raffles Hotel. We decided to go there for a Singapore Sling and look around. While most of it is under re-construction, it held an air of prestige with high ceilings, white columns, giant billiard tables and support staff dressed as Raj royalty. It felt a little rich for my blood but, I did love being there and smiling up at my mom.
The Singapore Sling was tasty but, SO EXPENSIVE! We have had accommodations that were cheaper than that drink. Let me put it this way, two Singpore Slings, one mocktail the kids shared and to appetizers cost the same as four nights in our place in Da Nang, Vietnam. I am glad we did it even though we are committed to noodles made at home for several nights to make up our budget!
The food areas in Chinatown and the Golden Mile were well worth a visit. Sumptuous food for really fraction of that cocktail! Such a wide array of foods; Indian, Malay, Chinese, Thai, even Italian, English and American among others.
The journey from Malaysia – leaving Johor to Singapore was a bit of a struggle. Our boys are struggling with their backpacks and this border crossing you have to walk a lot. You have to walk through several areas to leave Malaysia, then ride a bus across the bridge to then go through another series of rooms and passport checkins to then end up without an access to an ATM, a phone with a SIM card that didn’t work anymore and no free WiFi which is frequently available at other ports of entry. We were able to get a taxicab which we have rarely taken as the cost is less predictable.
We have taken a fair amount of Ubers and Grab Cars during our travels. Grab cars (or motor scooters) is like an Uber and you can pay in cash. You can also order food to be delivered or even a masseur to be sent to you. We haven’t tried that option yet although it is tempting!
The people were very, very friendly and of course, with a 1% crime rate we felt pretty safe. In fact, I went to buy a SIM card and the salesman loaded it in my phone and then informed me that they take cash only. I grimaced and slightly panicked. I didn’t have any cash on me. He directed towards an ATM several blocks away.
Trusting me to come back and pay him. On my way back I got a little lost in a sudden downpour and finally found the shop again. He seemed nonplussed that it took me awhile. No big deal, he shrugged.
I was told there are cameras everywhere so, you may not see police but, they are watching. If you do something you will get seen and visited within 24 hours. This includes chewing gum. Yep, not legal. And don’t even think about selling it!
Singpore Flyer – View of the World
The Singapore Flyer was a treat. My husband kept calling the Portland Flyer – a nod to our hometown hockey team. It was sweet. The ride is a half hour-long and is like a giant ferris wheel.
It was spendy but, worth the view especially since we got to have the entire capsule to ourselves. It is reportedly, the largest ferris wheel in the world.
The view was incredible especially when you’re told that on a clear day you can see into three countries and 45 kilometers. It was amazing to see all the ships in the harbor, just outside the Singapore border. We were told that the waters are calmer there and that ships often hang out in the international waters waiting to port.
I think all of Singapore feels expensive, especially the accommodations. I cashed in some Chase miles to get a room that was somewhat more reasonable.
It is amazing as just across the border the same place would be about 80% cheaper.
We were told that road to the airport has potted greenery in the median in order to create an emergency runway if needed. Singapore is a tiny, island country with a lot of personality, grace and grit.
We purposely spent just a couple of days there so, we could gather ourselves for our trip to Vietnam. All in all a good, brief visit.
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More from Vietnam soon.