Thursday, July 26, 2012

Singapore for Amy's Birthday (Part One)

Let's see.  I have now "been to Singapore" three times.  The first time was just for two-hours while I had a layover at Changi International Airport - a place I consider to be the BEST airport on the planet...plenty of food choices, a Starbucks, luxury shopping, free Internet kiosks, clean, indoor gardens and koi ponds...and a Business Class Lounge that has the feel of a "nice restaurant" or club (not to mention, free-use of Apple laptop computers in their "office area"!)  What's not to love!!  The second time I went "to Singapore", I actually left the airport!  Coming home from this year's "home visit" to Los Angeles in June, I had scheduled a really-long layover (on purpose - I thought I'd spend the day seeing the sights!) - but I had gotten sick in L.A. and it was all I could do to find a cheap hotel-room and sleep for 12-hours!  I know - - these hardly count as "trips to Singapore"... so I was really glad when Amy said that she wanted to get away for her birthday on 7/11 - but that she thought we should go to Singapore!

We're such "seasoned travelers" now (Ha!!) - that I figured I would just go ahead plan and book the entire trip by myself ... and that all would be just great!!  Regular readers of the "At Home in Hyderabad" blog know that, when we travel, we book everything through our friend Eve Wertsch at Fugazi Travel in San Francisco. Although I am glad we did it this way, this time...I really learned a lesson - there is great value in using a professional travel agent like Eve. With a professional booking your journey, things rarely go wrong, and when they do, they can be immediately rectified!

Anyway, so we booked Business Class on Silk Air (Singapore Airlines local Asia carrier) and left on Thursday night, the day after Amy's birthday.  It's an "overnight" flight, so - we did out best to sleep the whole way. We arrived early in the morning on Friday and our plan was to have a coffee and hit the MRT (the Singapore subway/train systerm) and take it to the Orchard Road area where our hotel was.  What an easy experience this MRT is!!  The train from the Changi Airport station was about 10%-filled.  After the first main terminal (Tanah Merah) ...the warning I had read in the Lonely Planet Guide to Singapore turned out to be true! "Avoid the morning rush-hour on the MRT" -- This is NOT a train-ride for the claustrophobic!! Nobody seemed to get off the train - and every stop seemed to add 10 more people to our car!! The ride after the transfer at the "City Hall" station was much less-crowded.

We got off at the "Orchard" station and found a cab.  Probably the worst cab in the city, it was running on 3-cylinders - - and that's better than I could say for the driver!!  Poor guy!!  Singaporean accents (a sort of a fast patois known as "Singlish"...) are hard enough to understand....but this guy had a terrible cough and sounded like he was dying of tuberculosis! He took us to the St. Regis Hotel, which was to be our home for the weekend.  The check-in staff was most accommodating and got us into our room with no charge, even though is was a full six-hours until official check-in time.  Our room (the "Lady Astor" variety with two queen-sized beds!) was really, really nice!  The beds were so, comfy...well...we just had to check them out, right??  We did....and napped the morning away.  We took time to make an appointment with a local salon in the area (interestingly enough, called THE Salon...) - and took a much needed sleep!

We took a cab to THE Salon at Wheelock Place...while Amy was getting her hair styled, I took some time to nose-around in the mall shops.  It was here that I first realized that Singapore is not really the place to go if you are looking for bargains!!  I ducked into a golf store and lasted about 30-seconds after I saw my first price-tag.  Even though the prices were in Singapore Dollars (SD) - about 20% less value than the U.S. variety...the prices on clubs and equipment...even golf balls - were ridiculously high!!

Her hair-do was actually a good price by American standards...she had a whole team working on different parts of the procedure...and I think she looked great!  We found our way across the street and went into a "Harry's Bar" - sort of an Asian chain of upscale pubs - and had a few beers/glasses of wine...and walked back to the taxi-area and waited with about 25 other folks for a cab to show up.  It took about a half-hour!  Thoughts of "we shoulda booked with Eve!" started creeping into our minds!

And here was the embarrassing part: When we finally caught a cab, it turns out that the St. Regis Hotel is probably only one-kilometer away!!  We could have walked back and forth to the hotel during the time we spent waiting for a taxi!! Oh, well...live and lean, they say!

Tomorrow, we begin to see the sights....tune in for Part Two!

In the meantime...here are a few photos from our Facebook albums:

Our Arrival in Singapore...

Amy Suzanne's "New Do"...

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