Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our Last Day in Singapore (#4 of 4)

Our last day got off to a slow start, but we had pretty much seen all we had come to see....except for the Harry Potter Experience which was (and still is, until 30 September!!) at the Marina Bay Sands ArtScience Museum.  The St. Regis where we were staying is fairly far away from that end of the city...so we decided to use the last-day of our Duck and Hippo Tour Bus passes to get over there.  It was well after-noon when we finally got it together enough to hit the road.

I do have one complaint about the St. Regis.  They severely over-sell their breakfast package...the restaurant  is so packed in the morning that there's a half-hour wait for the buffet.  I actually asked to see the food and beverage manager to tell him that I was displeased...except for the one morning where they sat me outside by the pool on a steamy and rainy Saturday morning...neither of us could wait for the buffet and didn't partake, although it was "included" in the rate we paid.

I must say that the manager made a "nice save" when he seated me at a table in an adjoining dining area and bought me breakfast "off the menu" - anything I wanted.  That was fair...but they really ought to warn people about the size of their restaurant...it's awfully small for a hotel of that size and prestige!!

We made our way to the "Starbucks across the street from the other Starbucks" (it's not just a cliche - it's real here...literally right across the street from one another!) and enjoyed a couple of vanilla lattes...and walked across the street to the Hippo double-decker bus stop.  It was pretty muggy again, but - we still sat topside with a bunch of other people.  We made it to the Hippo office and changed bus-lines to get over toward the Marina Sands Hotel area and the Harry Potter exhibit.

We walked around the area where the casino, the museum, the HUGE convention center (probably the best place I've ever seen to hold a convention of any kind, any size! It is amazing!!_I wanted to check out the casino, but they require a passport and background-check (on site) to enter. Glad Las Vegas doesn't have any such rule! All I wanted to do was have a look inside, but - according to the large man in the shiny suit, "no dice". (Pardon the pun)

The Harry Potter exhibit was actually all I expected it to be, and more.  Unfortunately, there was a strictly enforced "no photography rule" - - Amy managed to take two quick snapshots just outside of the entrance...the photos are included in the Facebook Album below.  I think Amy actually enjoyed it, too - although she's not nearly the Potterhead that I am.  It was mostly original costumes and props from the movies...with an interactive Quidditch quaffle-toss and an area where you could pluck-up a screaming Mandrake root!

After the exhibit...we decided that we really should go to the top of the observation deck at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel called the SkyPark. Like just about everything else in Singapore...this was going to be a costly adventure.  It was $20.00 per person (!!) to ride the elevator to the top...where we were severely limited as to where we could go.  The view from up top was spectacular!! However: the beautiful pool...off limits.  The bar and restaurant - off-limits unless you have made a reservation...probably a month in advance.  There was a standing-bar...where we ordered one Cosmopolitan and one Tiger Beer...the cost almost floored me!!  $53.00, not including tip!! Needless to say, we didn't stick around for a second drink...opting instead to take a taxi back to the St. Regis and hit the Astor Bar one last time.

We killed some time the next day (best told in pictures, included below)...had some coffee, some lunch and a few beers...and then headed for the Changi Airport for the flight home.  Overall - it was a trip I am glad we took...I don't know if I'd go back unless there was a very good reason.  I would certainly recommend the trip for a 2-3 day excursion...but - there really wasn't much else we needed to see by the time we left...

Marina Bay Sands and Harry Potter Experience

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Singapore Part Three!!

To kill some time before we went off to see the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo....we took and interesting tram-ride with a live-guide that took us into Chinatown, Little India, over by the Sands Casino and back to the Duck and Hippo headquarters.  It helped us get the lay-of-the-land for a different part of the city for future reference.  This would come in handy tomorrow...our last full day in Singapore.  We finished the tour just in time to hit the loo at the mall and board the bus.  The bus that took us to the Night Safari was pretty luxurious...seemed more like the interior of an airplane!

Now....everybody we ever talked to about going to Singapore said "you must go see the Night Safari!!" Every tour-book, every website just raved about how this was the must-see attraction.  My overall reaction: "Meh!"

First of all...it's a bit of a haul by bus to get out to the zoo.  When you arrive, the first thing you notice is the crowds.  We were given about four-hours by our bus-driver to see the place...but once you see the crowd that arrives at the same time (the "show" starts after dark...thus the "Night Safari"!) - you begin to wonder it you'll make it back to the bus in time...and - more importantly - is this all going to be worth it.

Then....(although we are not proud of ourselves) - we ended up doing a very "Indian" thing just after we arrived.  We cut in line! Ahhh - the useful things you learn from other cultures!! There was a pretty wild "fire dance" being performed by these incredible Singaporean male dancers...but - since there was no place to sit, we went into the gift store. It so happens that there was a huge line already formed to see the "Creatures of the Night" show...and the gift store was near the front of this line.  When the line began to move, we simply sauntered right into it and got prime seats for the show.  Now - some people might think that "prime seats" are right in the front.  Not for us....we decided that sitting in the very top/back row was more what we wanted...that way we wouldn't be crushed when the show ended and the people stampeded toward the lines for the Night Safari trams.

The show was cute...nothing spectacular....although the raccoon that knew how to recycle plastic and aluminum was pretty cool. On cue, when the show let out - we walked as fast as we could out to the line for the tram.  For my friends in Southern California or for anybody who has ever been to Disneyland - the line looked an awful lot like the old lines for the Matterhorn Bobsleds on the Fantasyland side of the mountain!! The only thing that was missing was the yodelers singing in the background!  Back and forth, back and forth.  After about ten full switchbacks, we both looked at each other and said that we hoped the wait would be worth it.

It was then that I spoke the words which were to become the catch-phrase for our visit to the zoo.  I said that "there better be a tiger in a top-hat and a cane dancing the ol' soft-shoe" at the front of this line for this to be worth the wait!!  Se the photo above for Amy's rendition of what that scene would have been like!  BTW, there was no dancing tiger...but the tram ride was restful and the animals were definitely visible in all of their "open" enclosures.  It was nice.  Not the best thing I've ever seen...but - yeah - I guess it was worth the wait!

After the tram let us off - we realized that the last thing we had eaten was the chicken pho at the mall! We found a place to sit down and ordered two beers and two glasses of wine (I think it was over $100.00!!) - and we ordered one burger to split (I think it was over $30.00 with fries!)...by the time we finished eating, it was time to go back to the gift store and buy a few souvenirs...and then make our way back to the bus.

The coolest thing was that the bus took us right around the corner from the St. Regis hotel.  The Astor bar was still open for business...so we had a few cocktails before calling it a night. I had stopped trying to compute how much we were spending on food and beverages...it didn't really matter by then.  Overall it was a very good day!  Below are links to our Facebook Photo Albums from our day in Singapore and the Night Safari!  Enjoy!

Next edition: The Harry Potter Experience and the Marina Bay Sands!!

The Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo

More Singapore Sights...