Singapore – more than just shopping!

A few days in Singapore are very easy to fill in. We went for an easy option. We bought a pass on the Hop On Hop Off bus with Hippotours in conjunction with a Tourist Rewards Card. For two days we could go to any of the places on their seven lines, spend as long as we liked at the attractions we chose, then return to our hotel which was on one of their bus routes. Very convenient and cool too in the 30 degree heat. We went to Gardens by the Bay which is 101 hectares of gardens including stunning man made trees up to 16 storeys high with walkways high up between some of them. They were amazing in the day but we returned one night to see the light show (incredibly this is free) where lights dance on the trees to popular music. Spectacular. 

There was a commentary on the bus which was pretty interesting. One thing we learnt was the reason the roads are not too busy and most people use public transport. Only a certain number of cars are allowed to be registered at a time. You can only register a car for 10 years. When this time is up you relinquish your paper permit (as it is known). An auction is held regularly and those who want to buy a car at that time bid. You could  pay S$130,000 for the paper permit, this is before you even purchase the car! You are able to bid and keep the same car, so there are a few cars older than 10 years, but we didn’t see many.

We also did a Night Safari where you travel on a tram through the wildlife night park for an hour. This is next to the Singapore Zoo. Chinatown and Little India were not as busy as when we were there many years ago, everything is clean and the locals friendly. We had a lunch  with a difference one day.  A Gourmet Bus Lunch Tour. We travelled on a bus for two hours looking at various sights while we were served a tasty local lunch – dim sims etc. Most enjoyable. There were many other places we could have visited in Singapore, but we had a great balance of time both in Singapore and on Sentosa Island, shopping, walking (have to keep the exercise up), swimming, enjoying the local food ($3 – $10 for a meal), visiting attractions and relaxing.

Our last hotel in Singapore was a bonus. We were ,on arrival, moved to the hotel next door. The one our travel agent had booked is a little tired apparently so they put a group of us next door. This one, on the hotel booking sites, is twice the price. As well as a lovely buffet breakfast they offer a free mini bar in the room  – only one beer, plenty of juices and water replenished daily – snacks all afternoon in the restaurant and more than snacks at night – salmon, chicken, salad. Amazing. No need to go out to dinner. Free cocktails, wine etc too. All inclusive. Never had that before. Weird how you don’t eat or drink too much when it is free! Only two drinks and we were done. Who would believe it! The Quincy is fabulous. Quirky too. And great staff who always recognise you and greet you. Really nice place.


Sentosa Island, Singapore.

When we came to Sentosa Island nearly thirty years ago it really was an island. You could only get here by cable car or boat. It had to be boat for me as I was afraid of heights in those days. A few years later I learnt to snow ski (was already a water skier), had to get over my fear so I could go up on the chair lifts. Still not keen on heights, but I cope! Getting back to Sentosa, time and progress means huge changes. Over the years land was reclaimed so now you can drive onto the island. This means it is no longer a quiet little place where you wander around the nature walks and visit the Butterfly Park. There are beautiful resorts, a skywalk along the treetops high above the ground, lovely beaches, Madam Tussauds, Universal Studios and many other attractions. 

We had lunch one day in the Malaysian Food Street by Universal Studios. This has been developed to be like a food street in Malaysia with numerous little shops just selling a couple of choices of their specialty meals, but it is indoors and cool away from the beating heat outside. Dishes included Hokkien Prawn Mee, Nasi Lemak and Claypot Chicken Rice. At S$6-10 this was a well priced meal – might go back for dinner!

Another place to go is up the Tiger Sky Tower. This gives 360-degree views across Sentosa’s beaches, attractions and Singapore city. At S $18 this is good value.

Universal studios had huge queues at opening time. Looked fabulous – maybe we’ll go another time! 

We stayed at the Siloso Beach Resort. This is an Eco Resort. Sustainability is part of everything they do. Surrounded by dense greenery, but looking out to the beach and sunset (between the trees), it has a pool with natural spring water, a really high waterfall and water slides – great for the children and adults alike! They recycle much of the food waste on site through worm composting (just as we do at our home) and organic roof-top farming. Nice! An interesting place to stay on Sentosa close to all the action. There are free buses and a tram that continually travel around the island to save walking in the heat!  It is just across the road from the beach too, so that is a bonus! The lukewarm water is just my style! It’s never this warm in NZ.

Siloso beach , our room looked out to this
waterfall and pool at the Siloso Beach Resort

Bali: beautiful people, busy and exciting.

We have had a fabulous time in Bali. Our fourth time here- the first was nearly twenty years ago! How it has changed since then. This year we spent time in Seminyak, very busy with tourists, great beach and shopping, and Ubud, which is known as the art and cultural centre of Bali. It is a little cooler than the beach areas, we appreciated that! Each day was up to 30 degrees. One day in Seminyak it felt more like 40. Thank goodness for the pools in each place we stayed in. 

This time we stayed in a great hotel in Ubud, near the rear entrance of the monkey forest, so that was really convenient with a walkway beside the monkey forest to get to the shopping area. Those cheeky monkeys – doesn’t pay to have bananas or other fruit in your bag. They are liable to jump on you and take them out! Can be a little scary – one jumped on my back, and another on our little one’s side! Lucky it didn’t pull her down, but it did leave a bruise. One time when we were in Malaysia a monkey took my friends ice cream out of her hand. Cheeky!

A new experience for us this time was staying in Airbnb’s. In Bali these range in price for a whole house from NZ $50 to $1000 a night. Our first night in one was in a fairly typical Balinese house which had bedrooms you could lock but an open kitchen, dining, lounge area. It was surrounded by a high fence with a gate with a padlock. The bedrooms didn’t have ensuites so so you had to leave your secure room and go through the open area if you wished to go to the bathroom during the night. Noisy too with the path outside being a shortcut for motorbikes and dogs barking  and cats fighting. Not much sleep to be had! The fence wasn’t that high that it couldn’t be climbed over so we weren’t very comfortable with it – especially as someone was banging on the gate late that evening! Probably drunk Australian’s our host said!  

We decided to leave the next day, and what a fantastic place we stayed in that night. It was brand new, $240 for 4 of us, . beautiful and also secure. We loved it. Absolutely amazing. $240 a night for 4 of us, our own pool, and everything else we could desire. Lots of fruit, eggs etc there for us to make our own breakfast. That worked well, a couple of other places we stayed they came in and prepared breakfast in front of us. That was a new experience too, a little strange with us there in our jamas, but that was okay.

All up Bali was fabulous, we loved it. We had a great regular driver – NZ $50 a day. Good value, not only a good driver but also terrific when translation was required. He also had GPS (not all drivers do) and sometimes it can be very difficult finding places. Lots of experiences and things to learn for us. Great food too.​