We managed to stay awake and boarded the plane around 11:30 pm. The Business Class section was almost empty! I think there were about seven of us in this area. We have seats 14 J & K which is the second row of Business. Singapore Airlines is famous for their service and the late departure time made little difference. The crew were fantastic and very professional. If you got up to do anything two people immediately came over to see if they could assist.
|Our Seats in Row 14 J & K|
|A few others joined the flight after this photo was taken|
They announced they would be serving supper and not dinner. I was not that hungry but had to sample the food to get the full SQ experience! I asked to skip the appetizer of scallops but they brought it anyway. I also had a cocktail with some of Singapore Sling mixture but also with lychee. It was great!
|The screen seemed a little far away|
The Changi Airport is one of the world's best but we hardly got to experience it. Probably better for a departing flight. We had a short transit through immigration and then went to collect our luggage. We exchanged some US dollars for Singapore currency and then exited to get a taxi to the Central Business District (CBD) which will cost about S$25.
The sun will not rise until 6:45 am today so it is still dark outside. Singapore welcomed us to slightly overcast skies and drenching humidity. The two seasons in Singapore are wet and wetter. We are in the wetter season with December being the month with the greatest amount of rainfall.
Singapore is a nation of 5 million people. The island is 683 sq miles long with 120 miles of shoreline. Stamford Raffles arrived on these shores in 1819 looking for trading sites for the East India Company. Like Shanghai it has both an Eastern and European heritage. Singapore became a British Crown colony in 1867. In addition to a colonial past, Singapore was occupied by the Japanese Army. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 the Japanese bombed Singapore. The occupation lasted three years until 1945 and the Japanese surrender.
Singapore Economic Development
Singapore is one of the original Four Asian Tigers. The others being Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong. The 2011 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Singapore as the second freest economy in the world after Hong Kong. It also has the highest percentage of millionaires in the world. Singapore is ranked as the world's fourth leading financial center, the second biggest casino gambling market, one of the top three oil refining centers, the world's largest oil-rig producer and a major ship repairer. The port is the fifth busiest in the world. To top it off the World Bank named Singapore as the easiest place in the world to do business.
|Singapore Leader Lee Kuan Yew|
We exited the airport and grabbed a cab for the relatively short 20 minute drive to our hotel.
Although we can check in to the cruise ship around 2:00 pm today and sleep in our stateroom, due to our very early arrival this morning we will stay at a hotel in the financial district. The taxi drove up to the beautiful Fullerton Hotel where we thought we would be sleeping. More on that later. We deposited our bags with the concierge until check in.
At times the Fullerton also served as a hospital for wounded soldiers during World War II. In February 1942 Singapore surrendered and the Fullerton became the headquarters of the Japanese Military Administration until the end of the war. After the war the Fullerton reverted to serving its primary function as the general post office.
After admiring the hotel and visiting the lobby, shops and a small museum we departed by taxi around 8:30 am. Our first stop today is the Singapore Zoo and breakfast with the Orangutans. As very little would be open this early it seemed like a good choice to visit the zoo and see these amazing creatures.
The cost of the breakfast is S$29 plus the zoo admission of S$18.
Public transportation to the zoo is not very convenient requiring buses so the taxi is much easier. Taxi fare was S$25. I reserved the Orangutans Breakfast online in advance. The zoo opens at 8:30 am. The shopping malls don't open until 11:00 am so it was an easy choice.
The Singapore Zoo is home to 3,200 animals who live in enclosures designed to represent a natural habitat. There are wet and dry moats which separate them.
At the Zoo we got in line to pay the entrance fee. A visitor started talking to us and said we had to see the new Panda exhibit. He works for Goldman Sachs and has been living in Singapore for the last 14 years. He appeared to be around 40 years old. When we purchased the tickets it was just $5 more each for the pandas so we added that on. The charge for breakfast would be processed at the restaurant.
We made our way along the path and passed some flamingos along the way.
The Ah Meng Restaurant was just a short walk from here. The breakfast buffet consists of western dishes and some local fare to enjoy before the primates arrive.
I was hoping to try laska which is noodles in a prawn and fish cake sauce. They did not have that. They did have Kaya toast which is a sweet jam from coconut milk and eggs spread on toast. Sort of a cholesterol nightmare. I also had the Roti Prata which is an Indian fried bread stuffed with onions, potato and egg. I also had noodles and a two types of dumpling.
The dining area is named for Ah Meng, a Sumatran orangutan who passed away in 2008. She lived to be 48 years old. She was kept illegally as a pet until she was eleven when she came to live at the Singapore Zoo. Prince Philip and Michael Jackson were among the celebrities who visited her. In 1992, the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board conferred Ah Meng a "Special Tourism Ambassador" award in recognition to her contribution to tourism in Singapore. She was the first non-human recipient of the award. She received a certificate and a stack of bananas.
|They appear very well behaved|
It was fascinating watching them. They appear so gentle but I would not want to encounter the larger ones alone in the wild.
|Salome in the center and her mother is on the far right|
|New Panda Exhibit|
Kampong Glam and Little India
Kampong Glam got its name from the gelam tree that used to grow here. Kampong in Malay means village. Bark from gelam trees used to build boats. I had read in advance that Haji Lane has some great boutiques and restaurants. However, when we arrived the taxi driver pointed to the little street, Haji Lane which didn't seem very interesting.
The taxi driver told us that the fabrics they sell on Arab Street are expensive and not many people know how to sew anymore. It is easier just to go to the shopping mall!
In the early days this area was used for ranching and cattle raising. It was a nice transition from the modern Singapore we will tour this afternoon and this evening. I did get out of the car to take a photo of the Sultan Mosque.
|It is closed on Sundays. Perhaps she doesn't know?|
I considered asking to stop at the Bussuroh Mall which is the home for antiques and crafts but we decided to pass on it.
I asked the taxi driver to take us to Serangoon Road where there are goldsmiths and two beautiful Hindu temples. We only saw a very small section. The main part of the street is pedestrianized and very busy on Sunday.
We passed by the Sri Veermankalimamman Temple (to fast for a photo) which is statue of Hindu gods built in 1881. Before entering the temple they smash coconuts to shatter obstacles to spiritual concentration.
We drove along Beach Road and past the park with the Civilian War Memorial. It is known as "Chopsticks" due to the four pillars representing Chinese, Malay, Indian and other races that suffered under Japanese occupation. Unidentified remains are buried at the base.
|Civilian War Memorial|
It was now getting time for lunch so we had the driver leave us at Raffles Hotel.
We arrived around 11:30 am at the iconic Raffles Hotel. In 1887 a bungalow was built on this site which eventually evolved into the elegant three story hotel. Raffles underwent a two year major renovation in 1989. The famous Long Bar was moved to an outdoor arcade and the hotel rooms were spruced up. The new shopping arcade has over 40 brand name and specialty stores. The current nightly rates confirm the exclusivity. The hotel is a tourist attraction which might be somewhat irritating for overnight guests. Many famous writers have been guests of the hotel including, Joseph Conrad (1888), Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward (1931) Rudyard Kipling and James Michener.
|Raffles decorated for Christmas|
|Biryani in the right back|
|Two types of Naan|
|My selections and a blueberry Lassi|
For dessert they had Kheer (rice pudding) and Sewai (vermicelli in milk) which tasted better than it sounds! The pistachio ice cream was also fabulous.
|Dessert. Pistachio ice cream in the silver bucket on the right|
|Raffles Hotel Arcade|
|Two story arcade building|
|I took the stairs but my mother found the elevator|
Perhaps because we are getting tired we didn't make any purchases. We left the arcade and make a final stop before going back to the hotel. The Peranakan Museum is located on Armenian Street and is just around the corner from Raffles Hotel.
Peranakan is also the name for "Straits Chinese". The term Pernakan is for a person born in Colonial Southeast Asia to a Chinese father and a non-Chinese mother. The museum was very interesting but we only spent about 10 minutes. They had a section on Food and Feasting, Religion and Weddings.
Our jet lag was starting to catch up with us so we took a taxi back to The Fullerton Hotel. We arrived back and were checked into our room. Our bags were brought up and we changed into our swimsuits. One of the reasons for booking the Fullerton is the pool. We walked down the hall to look for the pool but were told that it is closed! They started renovations in November and the pool will be closed for several months. This was so disappointing. We went downstairs to speak with someone at the desk. I noticed who I thought was the manager walking by. I explained our disappointment to him about the pool closure. I said that was my main reason for booking this specific hotel was for the pool. I also added that we are joining a cruise and could actually check in today. I am well aware that any major renovations need to be communicated to guests when making a hotel reservation and this was not done.
The manager was very helpful and responded that he would like to have us move to their sister hotel, The Fullerton Bay. This hotel is only a few years old and has a great pool on the roof. He said we would pay the same rate we currently have. I am aware that the Fullerton Bay rooms cost a lot more so this was an excellent compromise. The two hotels are connected underground through a walkway but with our luggage it made more sense to drive us over. We went upstairs and got our luggage and loaded it into the Fullerton Hotel car and in 2 minutes we were across the street at our new hotel.
Fullerton Bay Hotel
While I would not want to go through what we did with changing rooms and the pool fiasco, the change in hotels was worth it! The Fullerton Bay is even more beautiful and spectacular than its older sibling.
|Fullerton Bay Reception|
|Fullerton Bay Hotel Room|
|Pool on the roof|
After a second swim we went back to the room to relax for a couple of hours. I took a nice hot shower which helped tremendously. With only 36 hours in Singapore I felt like we covered quite a bit in our first day. However the day was not quite over yet and we still had a lot to see. While we will be passing on Sentosa Island and the zip line, flight simulator and indoor parachuting, I do plan to visit Orchard Road for some retail therapy.
My mother was still tired but I convinced her that we should go the the Marina Bay Cruise Center and check in for the cruise and then after that she might enjoy seeing one of Singapore's newest attractions, Gardens By the Bay.
Marina Bay Cruise Center
We got in a taxi and had to explain to the driver which cruise center we wanted to go to. Most of the taxi drivers are still used to the old Harbourfront center and not the new one. We could have waited to check in tomorrow but I primarily wanted to find out what the cut off time was to be on board the ship tomorrow before departure. We arrived at the beautiful Marina Bay Cruise Center which still has a lot of construction going on along the road.
There is an MRT stop there but it is not directly connected to the cruise center building yet. It will be completed in 2014. The check in line was not long. They had a dedicated line for Aquaclass, Concierge and Suites. The local staff were excellent and we were very impressed with their efficiency. They even made a copy of our photo page in our passports without even asking. We were processed in 15 minutes and decided to take a quick look at our stateroom on deck 11. This may have been a bit of a mistake as the hotels we have been staying in are so much nicer than our rather sparse and drab looking cabin. We have been in Aquaclass on the Solstice but the new Aquaclass rooms on the Millennium were not as nice. The red sofa in the corner and the orange drape certainly didn't help. We quickly left the ship and headed to Gardens By the Bay.
Gardens By the Bay
This attraction opened in June 2012 and has been very popular with both locals and tourists.
|Super Trees which are lit at night|
We walked over to the Cloud Forest Dome and stepped inside. Our visit was memorable as much for its brevity as for the damp air that greeted us.
|Inside the Cloud Forest|
Christmas in Singapore
Singapore has a long tradition of showcasing fantastic Christmas light displays along Orchard Road. They actually have a competition each year where they award the best decorations. I was thinking of taking the Hippo open air bus if I could find it but decided to go inside the Ngee Ann City Mall where the taxi dropped me.
|Ngee Ann City Mall|
Takashimaya & Ngee Ann City Mall
Takashimaya is the anchor tenant located at Ngee Ann City shopping mall. This mall is one of the nicest in Singapore and has an Oriental exterior and a very western modern interior. There are a total of 7 levels in the granite and marble building. The Ngee Ann City mall officially opened in 1993 and now has over 130 specialty stores that range from Zara to Cartier and Christian Dior. There are over 30 food outlets serving cuisines from Western to Cantonese to Indonesian and Thai. Kinokuniya has a very large bookstore here too. I am familiar with Takashimaya in Tokyo and also the one in New York City. The store in Tokyo has the reputation of being historic and is targeted to an older customer. The one in NYC which no longer exists was very trendy. I took a quick look around Takashimaya and the food court. I ended up purchasing a few things in L'Occitane and Zara stores.
Map of one of the floors:
|Ngee Ann Shopping Mall & Takashimaya|
|Xmas Lights on Orchard Road|
|Beautiful Christmas Lights|
On my way to find the hotel I could see the Singapore Flyer in the distance. It is the largest observation wheel in the world. It rises to 541 feet has has 28 air-conditioned capsules which each hold 28 people. I knew the general direction I need to go but had no idea how far it was.
I spotted a taxi and asked him to take me the rest of the way. In 5 minutes I was back at the hotel and were happy to be "home".
|A view of the Marina Bay Sands across the water|
|Fullerton bay Hotel|
|Fullerton Bay Hotel Hallway|
After being admonished for about 10 minutes due to my tardiness, she calmed down. I was not hungry so we decided to call it a night. I took some photos of the hotel view of Marina Bay before going to bed.
Tomorrow we will have just few hours to explore the Colonial Historic District before boarding the cruise ship.