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Thursday, November 1, 2012

October 28 – 31, 2012 – Visit to Singapore

Taking the ferry from Indonesia to Singapore is a pleasant journey, but once arriving at the terminal in Singapore if one does not pre-book a taxi then one pays a hefty price. We did not know to pre-book, and so on arrival the taxi driver told frank the minimum fare for the 2 of us starts at S$40! Frank nearly choked and asked if there was bus service. We purchased our bus ticket for S$1.50, but then had to transfer to the SMRT line to get into Singapore. Although the journey took ages longer (because we did not study the subway map first and had to change trains a couple of times), we managed to arrive at the Marina Mandarin Hotel for less than S$3.00 each. Not the preferred method if one is travel weary but it sure beat the much more expensive alternative.
View from our room (one side)

Frank had booked us on the Club Level, where we enjoyed concierge service and the club lounge: unlimited cocktails and various other drinks and food that was out of this world. We hardly needed to go out for meals because the breakfast spread alone was immense and more varied than any we had - seriously – ever seen, even rivaling Vegas. Evening cocktail hour provided more food than was even reasonable for a happy hour and closely resembled a 5-course dinner, including desserts. Anyone who knows us also knows our love of good food so it took great effort to tear ourselves away from the lounge, but alas we did want to see more of Singapore than the inside of our hotel. The view from our room on the 20th floor was spectacular! Our balcony window faced strait out at the Marina Sands Hotel, Singapore's newest and proudest icon. Frank had tried to book us into it but it was full, so we are quite happy with our present arrangement, plus we could watch the nightly laser light show from the comfort of our hotel balcony. Nice.
view from the other side of our room

Our primary purpose for coming to Singapore was for me to get pages added to my passport, which has but one left. My appointment with the US Consulate was scheduled for 9:00 AM on Monday, Sept 29th. Our other objectives are to pick up the boat parts and supplies that have been difficult to find in Indonesia. We also intend to each purchase an iPhone while here. So much to do we hope we get some time for sightseeing.

After unpacking we hit the streets. There is a shopping mall on nearly every block, and most are connected to the major hotels so you probably never have to see the outside if you want to avoid the heat and the sun, which can drop you to your knees in sweltering agony within a few minutes of exposure. No wonder the locals stay so fair and never appear to sweat. They must stay in tunnels most of the time! We hit famous Orchard Road, which can best be described as the top end retail district. There are no Apple stores in Singapore but there are a few authorized resellers. They were all completely sold out of iPhone 5's. They offered to order us one that would arrive in 5 – 6 weeks. After several more such inquiries, we realized an iPhone is not in our immediate future. Apple clearly underestimated their Asian market demand. We returned to the hotel in time for happy hour in our lounge and then hit the streets again afterward (stuffed like Thanksgiving turkeys) to walk off the food and to see the city at night. It is an unreal world here that offers everything. I mean if there is anything (from home) you need or want (other than the latest iPhone) you can get it here - for a price of course.

Monday morning we hit the US Embassy, surrendered my passport and then spent the entire day shopping for items on our list. The problem for us was in knowing where to go and how to ask for what we wanted. By the end of our second day our feet and legs ached so, I hardly had the energy to shower and dress for dinner. We managed to knock several items off the list and then realized we had to get all of this back with us. So the non-essential stuff will have to wait. I of course HAD to stop at Bata to pick up 3 more pairs of sandals because the prices were so good.

We did not sign up for any of the organized tours, rather we "tubed" it, taking SMRT or walking the streets into Little India and skirting China town. You'd need a month to really see the place.  After picking up my passport with 48 new blank pages sewn into it we went to the Marina Sands, intending to sit at the top and have a drink. The entire complex is an incredible architectural feat, and the shopping unsurpassed. I mentioned to Frank that the shopping mall underneath is like Denver's Cherry Creek or Houston Galleria on steroids! We browsed the high-end shops and stopped at a delicious Chinese restaurant for dumplings. Then we continued to the top of Tower 1. If you are not a guest of the hotel you can't even bribe your way into the pool area at the top of Marina Sands. We walked over to the bar, were seated outside with a fabulous view over the bay and when I glanced at the drinks menu I stifled a gasp! In bold letters at the bottom of the menu we these words: Minimum purchase S$30++ per person required. The ++ equals service charge and tax, totaling 17%. So just to sit there and enjoy the view we were required to pay a minimum of S$70.20. We snapped a couple of photos and quickly left. Back at the lobby lounge, Frank ordered a beer and I enjoyed a cappuccino while we relaxed and people watched resting our tired feet. This was a little better, costing a bit less than the PP charge upstairs.
view from the Sands roof

view from the Marina Sands rooftop bar

That night we walked over to Prego, an Italian restaurant between the Swiss Hotel and the Fairmont where for no reason in particular, the manger Sasi, took an immediate liking to us and decided to send us on a tasting journey as he brought out pizzas and other delights for us to savor. He stopped by occasionally to chat and then in the end sent us limoncellos to clean our pallets. What a lovely man! We only paid for one pizza and Frank's two beers. We rolled out of there, moaning about how much we ate and surfing our inability to "just say NO". We walked the long route back to Marina Mandarin.

Our last day in Singapore was to be our touristy day, but it absolutely poured rain all day. We spent it indoors, enjoying a leisurely breakfast, then a stroll in the Marina Bay mall. I went for a nice long spa pedicure while Frank waited for me in the bar. Finally realizing the rain was not going to let up we decided to try to catch the 4:20 ferry.

As fate would have it, when it rains in Singapore there is not a cab to be found! It took 30 minutes for the hotel to get us a taxi. We arrived at the ferry terminal at 4:00 PM, just minutes too late. We found a tiny little café where we pulled out our deck of cards, ordered soft drinks and played Baja Rummy until boarding call for the 6:30 ferry to Nongsapura.

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