Days 1-4 of Our Trip to Singapore/ Australia/ Hong Kong
Day One April 11th 2011 Dublin to London
Great Airport Hotel - Premier Inn London Heathrow Airport (Bath Road)
We needed a one night stopover in Heathrow en-route from Dublin to Singapore. This hotel caught my eye on an internet search due to its very reasonable rate and its close proximity to both Terminal 1 (where we were flying in to) and Terminal 3 (where we were flying out from next morning). Taxi cost us £8 each way for two. Quick, friendly check-in with money back guarantee explained. On arrival we had a tasty snack in the Costa Coffee; again with friendly service.
The room was bright, clean and modern with a spotless bathroom. We slept well despite being so close to airport. We also liked the secure access to each floor with keycard needed for the elevator. We didn't use the restaurant or shuttle service so I can't comment on either but would have no hesitation in staying here again whenever we have a Heathrow stopover. But we headed back to the airport’s Terminal 3, excited to get going “Down Under”.
Road km: 45 Air km: 449
Day Two April 12th 2011 - We leave London...
Today was the day we would meet the group we would be spending the next month with. Most arrived at Heathrow in good time, though there were a couple of late runners because of a pile-up on the motorway. Still, no problems really and we were met by Sue, the airport representative, and by Alex, our tour manager. After checking in we made our way through to the ServisAir lounge and had a quick drink and snack before the long flight. The adventure was beginning!
The Qantas flight was fine, an Airbus 380 double decker. Good and comfortable, not totally full. Helped by a couple of meals, a snack, drinks and movies, the journey passed fairly easily. I had brought my book and my e-reader. And the neck pillow came in handy. I was so excited I was gazing out the plane window at the beginning....but for most of the flight it was dark...so sleep came easily.
Day Three April 13th 2011...and we arrive in Singapore
At 0830 we touched down safely in Singapore. Immigration and baggage collection were swift and painless, and we met Faridah, our local Singaporean guide. A short walk to the coach and off to our hotel the Swissôtel The Stamford, Singapore.
Amazing Hotel Swissotel The Stamford Singapore
So this hotel is twenty minutes from Changi airport, right in the heart of the city next to the famous Raffles. It is one of Southeast Asia’s tallest hotels with 16 restaurants and bars. It would be our home for the next two nights. It was my first time in Singapore but I was ready for the heat and humidity that hit us the minute we left the airport terminal. I had been warned by some friends who had been here before. And boy was it humid? On arrival at the hotel by coach early in the morning after our long flight, it was a real bonus that our room was ready.
First impressions of the hotel were great; especially when we saw the amazing view from our balcony over 40 stories up. The room was smart and spotless. We saw that the hotel had a gym, steam room and sauna in addition to the swimming pool. But we weren’t up for exercise. Instead, we ventured down to the fantastic shopping centre under the hotel.
Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel
Then, what I had been looking forward to in the heat; we popped over to Raffles for a cold Singapore Sling. Raffles is one of those legendary places that must be experienced first-hand.
A traditional feature of the Long Bar are the peanut shells that cover the floor. Boxes of monkey nuts are on each table and customers are encouraged to throw the empty shells on the bare floor. Just like Rudyard Kipling would have done in his day.
Of course we didn’t know this and had piled the shells neatly on the table. Only to have the waitress walk past and swipe them all onto the floor with a single swipe of her arm. Charlie’s mouth fell open. We thought our waitress had lost her marbles….until we noticed all the waitresses doing it!! To my knowledge, it’s the only place in Singapore that littering is not only legal but is encouraged!!
The rest of the morning and afternoon were free to relax, what a good idea! A few of our travel group ventured out, but no one did too much. An afternoon nap was probably a good use of our time. We awoke with a loud bang. It took us a while to realise we were experiencing one of Singapore’s notorious thunderstorms. The thrilling lightning dancing across the sky was amazing to watch from the safety of our hotel room vantage point. The storm went on for hours but added to the exciting tropical atmosphere. The rain downpour freshened the air somewhat.
Then at half past five in the evening we had our welcome meeting and drinks "do" organised by Alex, our guide. Well there were plenty of drinks and some nutty things. Alex talked us through many things, probably quite useful stuff but the alcoholic haze was beginning to descend on some... A very enjoyable little do, and a great way to get to know some of the others in the group in very convivial surroundings.
At the meeting with our guide we talked through some things we would be doing in Singapore. So, here are 8 things to do in Singapore:
Road km: 16 Air km: 10885
Day Four April 14th 2011 – Our exciting Singapore city tour
The following morning we received a friendly greeting from the girl at the hotel's SwissCafé where we had a tasty breakfast with lots of choice and good quality food. The hotel is ideally located for sightseeing and that morning we left at nine o'clock and headed first to the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
The idea of a national garden in Singapore started in 1822 when Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, developed the first “Botanical and Experimental Garden” at Fort Canning. However, it was only in 1859 that the Gardens at their present site were founded and laid out. Today the Gardens are managed by the National Parks Board, a statutory board of the Singapore government. The Gardens are deemed so important that in 2005 they were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Since 1859, The Gardens have been closely associated with orchids. I’ve always loved and been fascinated by orchids and couldn’t wait to see them. With over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids on display I was not disappointed! The blooms are a sight to behold and the scent is fabulous. We were bemused to see an orchid called after Bertie Ahern, our former Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister). Apparently Singapore’s “orchid diplomacy” honours all visiting heads of state, dignitaries and celebrities, by naming its finest hybrid orchids after them.
After an hour or so in the Gardens, we continued in the coach past Little India, one of the distinctive areas in Singapore. Next we went to the Merlion, Singapore's symbol. It is a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish. It is now located in front of The Fullerton Hotel. While we were there in 2011, the Merlion Park was turned into a single-unit hotel suite, as part of an artwork by Tatzu Nishi, for the duration of the 2011 Singapore Biennale!! Still, they had put another little Merlion up for people to take photos…..and sure we did just that!
From the little Merlion we could see some of the city's newest developments in Marina Bay…..particularly the amazing Sands Hotel with it's infinity pool. It really is a city on the move, changing and upgrading almost by the minute.
As a counterpoint to all the new developments the final stop on our exciting city tour was to one of the oldest buildings remaining in Singapore, Thian Hock Keng temple in Chinatown. The latter is another of the distinctive areas in Singapore. The Temple dates from 1839, when the Hokkien clan built the temple in Telok Ayer Street. It is was built in traditional southern Chinese style.
What’s fascinating is that the entire structure was assembled without nails!! It is an architectural masterpiece of stone, tiles and wood, carvings of dragons and phoenixes, intricate sculptures and imposing columns. I couldn’t help but think that my late father, who loved everything to do with buildings, would have loved this.
And so then we had a free afternoon. Charlie and I took the opportunity to have the Afternoon Tea at Raffles. It was served in the Tiffin Room that day but now is in the Grand Lobby. The service and food was impeccable. Finger sandwiches, cakes, scones, a wide range of teas and also a good selection of buffet items. It was all scrumptious. Definitely a must-do in Singapore!
Feeling stuffed we waddled back to the Swissotel Stamford where we had a drink at the New Asia bar on the 71st floor. It was a bit pricey but well worth it for the views of the amazing city as the lights came on (see second photo above in this blog post). We could even see the Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit below us. We had an early start the next morning but really enjoyed our stay here and would return in a heartbeat.
Road km: 19
Bucket List Items Ticked in the above Blog:
✔ Number 34 (1) Regional Drink - Singapore Sling
✔ Number 39 (1) Afternoon Tea - Raffles Hotel - Singapore
✔ Number 57 Continents - Asia
✔ Number 58 (1) Countries - Singapore
✔ Number 59 (1) & (2) Hotels - (1) Premiere Inn, Heathrow & (2) Swissotel The Stamford, SG
✔ Number 60 (1) Cities - Singapore
✔ Number 76 (1) World Heritage Sites - Singapore Botanic Gardens
Blog 5: Perth, Australia
Blog 6: Uluru, Australia
Have you been to Singapore? What did you do there?
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!