Category Archives: Singapore

The Top 3 Best Airports in the World in 2013

I admit it…when we first began traveling internationally a few years ago, I was extremely green behind the ears.  I didn’t really know that airports had personalities or that they were made for more than passing through.  After all I lived a few miles from IAD so I would exit and come home.  Over the course of the past few years I have been fortunate to fly to and through about 10 different international airports.  I was curious to see how the airports that I visited stacked up against other airports throughout the world.

I turned to Airport Awards to see which airport was voted number one in the world.  It’s an airport that I have visited.  Not to keep you in suspense but it was Changi Airport in Singapore.  You may wonder what it has that makes it number one.  For children it has an indoor playground, a beautiful butterfly garden, an interactive Enchanted Garden, a Family Zone with diaper changing areas, MTV booth and gaming area.  If you have a layonver, there are free tours of Singapore with a choice of a Colonial or Cultural Tour.  There is also a movie theatre, koi pond, interactive art for the children, horticulture center, orchid garden, a swimming pool (yes, inside the airport is a swimming pool), a sunflower and light garden and so much more.

Butterfly Garden

Second on the list is Incheon Airport in Seoul, Korea.  Incheon was number one last year and it shows why it is in the top ten of airports around the world.  This spacious airport that is built to let in a lot of natural sun boasts 7 gardens within the airport.  There is a .0001% rate of baggage mishandling so you can rest assured that your bags with transit through without any problems.  The airport has free wifi, computers for you to use that are free, showers for you to quickly feel refreshed after a long flight, a playroom for children, dry cleaning in case your seat mate spills something on you, a sauna and spa area, 2 movie theaters, an area where you can make traditional Korean crafts.  They, like Singapore, also have free transit trips into Seoul for either shopping or visiting historical sites.

one of the 7 gardens at the Incheon

A newcomer to the top three airports is Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.  It has the world’s first permanent library. It also has an annex of the world famous Rijk Museum in the Museum Annex part of the airport.  If you feel like gambling, there is also a casino.  Children need to run after being on a plane for a long time so the Dutch built a Childrens Park/Playground just for that purpose.  Of course, it has a slower shop where you can buy the famous Dutch Bulbs but if you are planning on bringing them back to the US, make sure that they are of the type that can be imported.  The employees at the flower shop will know and most likely they will be in a separate section.

Childrens Park and Playground at Schiphol

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Fun Things to Do in Singapore – The Zoo

Singapore is such a modern, vibrant city and there is actually quite a bit to do.  We had a difficult time narrowing our list of what to see and do.

Top on our list was the world renown Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Sentosa Island and all that it had to offer, the Singapore Eye,  a riverboat ride, The Botanical Gardens, Gardens by the Bay, Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.  Additionally there were museums like the Asian Civilization Museum,  the Singapore Museum and the ArtScience Museum.

To help us determine what to see we looked to Trip Advisor for reviews of what others liked.  Although they all sounded interesting, we did need to make choices.  We decided to visit the Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, Gardens by the Bay with the Supergrove of Trees, Cloud Forest , Flower Dome, Singapore Museum and the riverboat ride.

The Singapore Zoo is one of the top two in the world.  We took the subway (MRT) and a bus directly to the front entrance of the zoo.  This was a very easy way and inexpensive to get to the zoo.  We paid our entrance fee, got a map of the zoo and began our exploration.  We were amazed at how green and lush this

walking along the paths in the zoo to the exhibits
walking along the paths in the zoo

zoo was.  The Singapore Zoo prides itself on not having any cages; instead through the use of moats, fences covered in greenery and glass partitions you get the feeling of seeing the animals in the wild.  I was amazed at how close we got to the fruit bats, who by the way are HUGE!  We could reach out and touch them, which by the way,  I didn’t.  I saw my first Komodo dragon in this zoo!  A tram goes around the zoo and there are many stops that you can embark and disembark.  This is a great way to rest your feet.  One of our favorite areas was the Great Rift Valley as this is a place we are thinking of going to next year.

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If you have children, you may not know to bring their swimsuits with you – there is a great splash area for them to cool down and play at the Water Play area.  There is also a wild animal carousel ride, a horse and carriage ride and for a fee you can ride on an elephant.

photo: travelingape.com
photo: travelingape.com

If you need another break, you can take a boat ride in the reservoir from one section of the park to another.  While you are on the boat you are always looking in the water for crocs or in the surrounding land for monitor lizards and eagles soaring above.

photo:  zoo.com.sg
photo: zoo.com.sg

Since Singapore is only about 112 miles from the equator you do need to take precautions when you are outside, particularly all afternoon at the zoo.  Wear a hat, put on sunscreen, bring water with you and stay hydrated.  For this trip I bought CamelPak and had it with me all the time and was constantly refilling it whenever I could.  I also carried in my pack a towel that I would wet and wear around the back of my neck to help cool me down.

 

Random pictures of Singapore’s Chinatown

If you haven’t had a chance to read my post on Singapore’s Chinatown, please go to the previous post.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChinatown all decked out for Chinese New Year celebrations.  The streets were so colorful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooks like a dragon to me although it was the Year of the Snake

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It was so colorful walking around while seeing the sights in Chinatown.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ate some delicious food here.  Difficult to choose with all the stalls.  This is a good way to save some money.  We also had fresh squeezed juices.  Not sure what I drank but it was refreshing and good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFresh and dried food, seasonings and spices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALots of little squares with statues around.  This is a traditional Chinese procession.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost of the apartments are in high rise buildings since Singapore is an island country.  This is their version of a clothes line.

The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore

When you mention that you are going to Singapore, one of the first questions you tend to get asked is whether you are going to stay at the famed Raffles Hotel, one of Singapore’s best known icons.  It was named after Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern day Singapore.  The Singapore Sling drink was developed at this hotel and many tourists will stop in and have a Singapore Sling.

raffles

Instead we chose to stay at the Fullerton Hotel.  I spoke a little about it in this post.  I mentioned that we had Club Access, which was on the same floor as our room.  The Club was manned by two Fullerton Hotel employees whose sole job it was to make our stay memorable.  If we had any questions about how to get somewhere, what to see, where to eat – we would ask them.

Every morning we would go to the Club for the gratis breakfast that was provided us.  Always fresh juices, teas, coffee, pastries, fruit and eggs cooked to your order.  Newspapers were there for us to read.

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As we walked through the lobby we felt like we were in a dream.  Grand central staircases in the center of the lobby, lots of intimate seatings, a bakery shop with the most delicious looking and tasting French Macarons were there for purchase.  Afternoon tea was also being served in this area.  In one of the corners of the lobby was a mini museum telling the history of the building and the renovation.  Since we were there during Chinese New Year, the areas inside and outside were all decorated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATheir grand central staircase was a sweeping staircase straight out of Gone With The Wind.  Everything in this hotel was tastefully decadent and so worth every cent you would pay or points you would use.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn either side of this staircase was two medium size indoor ponds with koi and Chinese New Year’s decorations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI highly recommend this hotel.  If you find that you are in Singapore and want to get off the main shopping drag for a great hotel on the river and within walking distance to the bay, stay at the Fullerton – you won’t regret it.

Singapore’s Chinatown – The Wet Market

Singapore has three distinct neighborhoods – Chinatown, Little India and the Muslim .  We didn’t have time to visit all three so we chose to visit Chinatown.  We found a walking tour of Chinatown on the web and decided to follow it.  This is the tour we followed although there are others on the web including one from National Geographic.

Before you begin your tour, make sure you have your MRT pass, which is the rail Singapore-MRTand bus transportation system throughout Singapore.  There are three rail lines; east-west, north-south, and the circle line.  It is very easy to navigate and there are manned booths to help you if you should have any questions. Our hotel was a 5 minute walk from the Raffles stop which made it very easy to get almost anywhere.

First, a little history of Chinatown.  In 1821  the first Chinese junks arrived from China. The passengers, set up home around the south of the Singapore River which is known today as Telok Ayer. Chinatown’s local name – Niu Che Shui (Bullock Cart Water) arose from the fact each household at that time had to collect fresh water from the wells in Ann Siang Hill and Spring Street, using bullock-drawn carts. Also in Chinatown you’ll find the Al Abrar Mosque,  the Jamae Mosque and Sri Mariamman Temple.  There is much harmonious racial and religious diversity and acceptance in Singapore. The heart of activity in Chinatown is in the Terengganu/Smith Streets area.

Our favorite spot on the walking tour was the Wet Market in the Chinatown Complex at 335 Smith Street.  The street level part of the complex has lots of souvenirs but we passed that by and went down the stairs to where all the action was in the Wet Market.  This is where the locals buy their fresh food for cooking and eating.  Warning:  do not wear OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgood shoes or even open sandals here – it is wet and somewhat yucky.   What you will find here are many varieties of the freshest  products for sale from live seafood to the freshest vegetables from usual cabbages, carrots and cucumbers to bitter gourd, lotus root which are often used in Chinese cooking. Most are imported from Malaysia, the rest are supplied locally.  You’ll also find seasonal and exotic fruits, and fish heads for the one of  Singaporean’s famous dish – fish head curry. Butchers will also be selling different cuts of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmeat.  There are separate sections for shellfish like clams, shrimp, snails, and tiger prawns. The bigger critters like crabs and lobsters are kept in plastic crates.  Also in the wet market you’ll find live turtles, frogs and eels, and large squid.  You’ll also find a variety of different eggs  and whole preserved duck.  Of course during the holidays they will have some specialty items.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis certainly was an experience we won’t forget because it was so visually stimulating.  So many sights and sounds awaited us throughout the wet market.  I would highly recommend that you go if you are in Singapore.