Lori Guretzki

Article Summary:

Recounting a Singapore vacation, including recommendations and tips for travelling there.

Singapore Vacation

What do you do when you ask your husband where he would like to go for his birthday and he replies "Singapore". You go to Singapore. I was actually asking what restaurant he would like to go to. He had just finished reading an article in our newspaper, placed there by the Singapore Tourism Board, advertising that vacationing in Singapore was affordable to Canadians. We were about to find out.

We flew with Singapore Airlines from Vancouver, B.C., stopping in Seoul, Korea and approximately 20 hours later, arrived at the Singapore Changi Airport. The friendly and very efficient Asian Stewardesses looked like fashion models in their elegant sarongs, perfectly made up faces and not a hair out of place. The service was exceptional and the meals resembled an up scale restaurant. Singapore Airlines is one of the best airlines we have ever flown with.

I overheard two passengers talking on the plane. The eldest man of the two had visited Singapore several times before and was saying that "if you don't chew gum, smoke or try to import drugs into Singapore, you will have a great holiday". The penalty for illegal importation of Heroin or Morphine is death. I would think that would be a real deterrent for criminals.

The Republic of Singapore is an island located between Malaysia and Indonesia. The official languages are English and Chinese and their currency is the Singapore Dollar (SGD). Singapore is described as "an Island at the end of a peninsula" and is known as a "Sea Town". It boasts the busiest port in the world and is the world's major oil refining and distribution centers. Singapore has more than 130 banks so don't worry about exchanging your money or finding an ATM machine.

We hired a taxi to take us to our hotel. The Carlton Singapore Hotel was an Asian style, business class hotel, centrally located amongst the busiest financial and shopping districts of Singapore.

When we entered the lobby of The Carlton, I felt like we had stepped into a tropical paradise. The massive Reception area was breathtaking with its two story high walls, beautiful marble floors and giant Palm trees. Elegant and classy are the only words to describe the hotel.

Our large double room had a spectacular view of the city through floor to ceiling and wall to wall windows. The décor was definitely Asian, highly polished black lacquered furniture, curtains, chairs and bedspread in rich red's and beautiful gold's and the black and gold marble bathroom with sunken tub, double sinks, wall to wall mirrors and marble floor. A large bouquet of local fresh flowers sat on a table in the corner of the room. This was pure luxury.

If we left our room during the day, our towels would be changed and every evening while we were out for dinner, our room would be prepared for the night by changing the towels yet again and removing the bedspread, folding it into a perfect square bundle and placing it on end in the corner of the room. The pristine white sheets would be turned down without a wrinkle and a wrapped candy set on a white, round, sculptured paper napkin was placed in the center of each pillow. A small white mat was placed on the floor on either side of the bed. Such perfection!

Every day a buffet breakfast was offered in the Café Vic. A bountiful selection of breakfast items greeted us each morning; freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs, pancakes, waffles, rice, vegetables, the list goes on and on. After breakfast it was necessary to keep moving so as to avoid going back to sleep instead of enjoying what Singapore had to offer.

We had no trouble finding many interesting places to visit each day like the Singapore Zoological Gardens, one of the world's most spectacular zoos. There were no fences only natural barriers like streams and rock walls to keep more than 3600 mammals, birds and reptiles from the public. The Singapore Art Museum, housed in a Roman classical building was built in the 1800's, now a Historic Site, is home to both modern and contemporary paintings as well as many Asian sculptures. If you visit on a Friday evening, admission is free.

The Lau Pa Sat Festival Market (old market) is an octagonal shaped building built in the late 1800's. The large structure houses a maze of food stands offering fresh and cooked foods as well as many kiosks offering trinkets and souvenirs. This was an excellent opportunity to see and sample local produce.

We were impressed with Merlion, a mythical beast that is a cross between a fish and a lion standing approximately 80 feet high, guarding the entrance to the Singapore River. He spouts water from his mouth. You won't see a sight like that in many places. The Raffles Hotel is a Singapore icon where only the rich can afford to stay in one of their lavishly furnished suites. We enjoyed sitting on the verandah of this beautiful, large, very famous hotel, sipping on an infamous Singapore Sling and watching the horse drawn carriages transporting the guests to and from the hotel. The carriages were decked out in all their finery, white and gold exterior with rich red leather upholstery. The drivers were equally decked out in white suites, black top hats and white gloves.

We took a 3 ½ hour bus tour that took us up to Mount Faber where Singapore's cable car was located. The panoramic view of Singapore and its very busy Harbour was breathtaking. We were able to get off the bus for a picture taking opportunity and wander through the Gift Shop. Besides the view, there was a snake charmer standing off in the corner surrounded by many curious tourists. The turbaned young man played his flute made from a coconut shell and bamboo stems while the king cobra danced its way out of its wicker basket, in time to the music. Although entertaining, it wasn't exactly my favorite tourist attraction. Just keep playing that flute until we get back on the bus!

Our tour continued past Parliament House, the Supreme Court and City Hall, all very impressive buildings, and on to the Marina Square, an elegant, up scale shopping center with some 200 shops. In Singapore shopping is second only to eating and is considered part of an evening's entertainment. The shops were open from 10:00 A.M. until 9:00 P.M. everyday. Don't go to Singapore looking for a bargain because they are hard to find. We found the most exclusive jewelry and many international clothing labels like Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. We were just browsing of course. Our tour continued to the Sultan's Mosque, the largest mosque in Singapore, built in 1928 with its gold topped dome and base made from glass bottles. We were returned to our hotel in time for a nap before the evening meal.

We had dinner reservations at the Wah Lok Cantonese Restaurant in our hotel. The dining room was massive with its floor to ceiling glass windows. Every table was draped with a white linen tablecloth, and on each table was the finest china, crystal glasses and the best of silverware. This was a dining experience not to be missed.

We ordered a "set" dinner which was a six course meal and while we waited for the first course, looking around the room, it was definitely a business atmosphere. Men dressed in suits and ties and women in their finest. Only a few tables had adults and children, the ones with children had a Nanny sitting with them. The children were on their best behavior.

As each course of our dinner was brought to the table, we became more and more impressed with how beautiful they looked. Each item on the plate looked like it had been placed with great care and attention. I couldn't recognize even one item that I ate but everything tasted delicious. After almost two hours of personalized service, dinner was finished and we were more than satisfied.

We didn't always eat our meals in the hotel, there were many restaurants, gourmet delis and food courts where we were able to sample a wide variety of international cuisine, everything from a bowl of noodles to a steak dinner, we were never disappointed and we never came away hungry.

We were very impressed with how clean the streets of Singapore were. We never found wrappers, drink containers, or food anywhere and graffiti was no where to be seen. I was impressed with the people; the majority of them looked like they were dressed for success, very business like, and everyone seemed to smell of very expensive perfume or after shave. It appeared to me that the women who wore shorts or pants and men who wore jeans were the tourists and not the locals.

Traffic in the streets of Singapore was a nightmare. At any time of the day or night, we would think we were in rush hour traffic consequently people travel everywhere in a taxi. There were actual spots along the street where people would line up to wait for the next taxi, everyone waiting their turn. There was never any fear of being out after dark since Singapore is one of the safest cities in the world.

Our time in Singapore ended far too soon. What we saw we were impressed with, the people were friendly but professional and we felt very safe walking the streets day or night.

Final Thoughts:

You will need a Passport with an expiry date at least six months after your exit date. Upon arriving in Singapore, you will be given a Disembarkation/Embarkation Card that you must keep with your Passport and will return to Customs when you leave.

Lori Guretzki lives in Abbotsford, B.C. with her husband of 23 years. By day, she is an Administrative Assistant in a large high school in Abbotsford, by night she has a home based business called Lori's Canine Creations and in her off times, she shares her love of traveling to all corners of the world with her husband. Lori's latest accomplishment is her book, soon to be published, The Reluctant Traveller, about holidaying in Peru, South America.

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