Singapore, Singapore – February 4, 2017
On my way to training in Ching Mai, Thailand, I opted for a rest stop in Singapore. The airport code for Singapore is SIN.
I departed from Wellington on the evening of February 3, on Singapore Airlines. My international travels typically leave from Auckland. This trip was different. My route was Wellington to Canberra, Australia and then on to Singapore.
The Boeing 777 landed in Canberra at about 00:50 local time. That equates to 02:50 New Zealand time. I was tired. I did not understand the stop. The 777 aircraft is more than capable of flying non-stop to Singapore. The plane taxied to the gate, and all the passengers disembarked. Airport employees directed all Singapore passengers to a transit lounge. So, while I technically was in Australia, I never touched Australian soil.
The transit lounge was nice. It appeared fairly new. There was a refreshment bar available. One could buy something to drink or eat while waiting. We waited in the lounge for nearly one and one-half hours before we boarded the aircraft again. I went back to the same seat, on the same plane, with the same crew that was with us when we departed Wellington. We backed away from the gate at 02:20. I wish I knew the reason for the stop.
I dozed a bit on the plane until we began the descent into the Singapore airport. It was cloudy with light rain. When the plane dropped below the clouds, I could not believe the number of ships I saw moored in the Singapore Strait. There were dozens and dozens of boats. At one point, I saw a green laser coming from the ground. When I saw the laser, I hoped the idiot on the other end of the laser did not point it at the pilot.
It was about 05:00 local time when we landed. The airport terminal is massive. I do not know that I have ever seen a terminal as large. By the time I made it through passport control, retrieved my luggage, and rode to the hotel, it was nearly 06:00.
My hotel of choice was the Marriott Singapore South Beach Hotel. I had not been at a Marriott for a long time. When the registration clerk greeted me, he said he saw I was a Platinum member. It surprised me that I still had that membership level. Because of that, he said he could give me a room right away. He also said he would upgrade my room. I thanked him for his kindness.
The elevator was an interesting ride. The LED lights smoothly changed colors many times during the ride. I got off on the 10th floor.
Sliding my key card, I opened the door and stood in amazement. I was standing in a large entry. It was large enough to include a chair and a floor lamp. Even still, there was ample space. Off to one side of the entrance, there was a vast powder room. Just before the powder room was a large coat closet.
I caught my breath and walked into the salon that was impressive in its size and appointments. There were three sofas, numerous chairs, several side tables, a flat-screen tv, and a desk. The wall opposite the television had mirror panels from the floor to the ceiling. The ceiling had to be 12 feet high throughout. Depending on the panel, one could either push, and it would spring open or pull a small handle to open a panel. Hidden behind the various panels were a bar with a sink, a microwave, a fully stocked refrigerator, bottles of hard liquor, multiple snacks, and a full closet.
Leaving the salon, I walked into the bedroom. It was impressive too. There was a king bed in the center of the room. All around the bed, there were at least six feet of space between the bed and the wall. Two of the walls of the room were floor to ceiling windows. One wall had mirror panels like those in the salon apart from a large opening to the bathroom. Behind the mirrored panels were large built-in closets. In the closets were plush robes, slippers, extra pillows, and extra bedding.
Walking from the bedroom into the bathroom, one immediately sees an over-sized bathtub with jets. Off to the right of the tub was the walk-in shower. It was huge. I estimate it was about six feet by eight feet. I have never seen one so large. Across from the bathtub, on either side of the entry, there were two sinks. The finishes included mirrors, multiple glass shelves, and several drawers and doors beneath the sinks. Lastly, on the left side of the bathtub, was the star of the show, the toilet room. As soon as one opens the door to the toilet room, the toilet lid raises, LED lights in the toilet come on, the seat heater turns on, and cleansing water washes the inside of the bowl. Sitting on top of the toilet paper dispenser was a remote control (yes, you read that correctly – a remote control). The toilet remote control could store the favorite settings for two people. The buttons included stop; rear water spray, either pulsating or oscillating; front water spray with adjustable position and pressure; and last, but certainly not least, a dryer. This toilet had to cost more than the used 1983 VW Rabbit I bought when I lived in Greeley, Colorado. Even if the Rabbit was more expensive, it did not come with a remote control!
After exploring my accommodation, I freshened up and went downstairs for breakfast; included in the price. In the breakfast lounge, they offered everything one could want to eat or drink.
Finished with breakfast, I returned to my room(s) to grab my camera and went out to explore the town. My first stop was a shopping mall in which I thought I could find a tourist shop so I could buy a refrigerator magnet. Unfortunately, all the stores were very high-end. There was not a refrigerator magnet to be seen, let alone a store that might carry such a mundane item.
I walked to the Marina Bay area. I wanted to see the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. That is the iconic building that has a swimming pool and observation deck balanced above three-building towers. I took several photographs in the area. One of the photos was the famous Merlion. The Merlion is a well-known symbol of Singapore. It is a sculpture of a lion head with a fish body that usually has a stream of water shooting out of its mouth.
My next stop was the National Art Gallery. I left the Merlion area by walking under Esplanade Drive, near the water’s edge. Just as I cleared the overpass, much to my amazement, I saw a lone tourist shop. I bought my refrigerator magnet.
I continued to the National Art Gallery. It consists of two older buildings joined by a soaring atrium entrance. One of the buildings is the old Supreme Court building. The other is the old Singapore City Hall building. The two buildings combined house various art pieces on a total of 11 floors. The modern and the old blend very well.
Two paintings struck me as ironic; A Maori Chieftainess and Te Aho-o-te Rangi Wharepu. Both are works by Charles F. Goldie, a New Zealand artist that specialized in portraits of Maori dignitaries. The irony was the distance I had to travel from New Zealand to see the paintings. Leslie and I saw dozens of pictures by Goldie when we visited the Auckland Art Gallery during a previous trip. The detail and style shown by Goldie are exquisite.
The top level of the old City Hall building has an outdoor viewing area. The panorama offers some beautiful views of Singapore. One level down, but still outside, one finds the Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery. From that garden, one can see the upper floors of the new Supreme Court building. It reminds one of a flying saucer that landed on a modern building. The reflecting pool was calming because of the sound of gently flowing water.
Also in the old City Hall building is the City Hall Chamber. As soon as one enters, it is easy to tell history happened here. To quote from the plaque on the wall, “…signing of the Japanese surrender document on 12 September, 1945 and the swearing-in of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, on 5 June, 1959.”
It was nearing lunchtime when I left the gallery. Near the high-end mall I wrote about earlier, I found an Italian restaurant, Del Prago. I was hungry, but I did not want a large lunch. I opted for a bowl of minestrone. The bowl was nearly a pot; it was huge. The soup was delicious, especially when accompanied with bread dipped in olive oil.
Just across the street from the restaurant is the Raffles Hotel. The hotel houses the Long Bar, the birthplace of the drink, Singapore Sling in 1915. Raffles Hotel dates from the late 19th Century. In the bar, one can throw peanut shells on the floor. According to the hotel, this is the only place in Singapore where “littering” is allowed.
The Long Bar is on the upper level of the shopping arcade of the hotel. To get in, one must stand in a queue to wait for a seat. When I arrived, I was about fourth in line. It did not take long for the line behind me to grow down the stairs to the first landing. Several people gave up and left while I was standing there. When I got to the first spot in line, I could see into the bar. I took a few photos and departed. Since I had just had lunch, I was not hungry, nor did I want a drink. I saw the bar, that was good enough for me.
I went back to my hotel room and took a nap. I got up in time to go down to the Executive Lounge for cocktails. The word “cocktails” is a misnomer. In addition to anything one wanted to drink, there was an endless supply of hor’s d’ oeuvres. A chef was available to cook individual Asian soups. One selected from about ten ingredients, the chef heated those and transferred them to a broth. I had never had a soup like that, but it was great. After a couple of drinks and trying nearly every hor’s d’ oeuvre, I decided to go back to the room for the night.
The next morning, I checked out and took a taxi to the airport to catch my flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand. The taxi driver was very talkative. He offered up that a new Toyota Prius, like his cab, cost about US$100,000 in Singapore. That is because the government puts a lot of tariffs on the import of vehicles. I had to wonder how much the Maseratis and Lamborghinis I saw in town must cost! He also said most apartments in Singapore averaged US$1,000 per square foot. That means a small, 950 square foot apartment, sells for about US$1,000,000.
The driver dropped me at the airport. I went inside to check-in for my flight.