Jackie has recently returned from a holiday to Asia.
I have just had a fabulous 3 centre holiday in Asia. We flew to Singapore with Emirates Airlines from Manchester and were lucky enough to travel Business Class which, if you can stretch to it – is money well spent! It’s a long journey which is made all the easier if you can lay down and sleep (or drink champagne all the way – whichever you prefer!) However, economy class on Emirates is a fantastic service too with one of the best on screen entertainment system in the air to keep you occupied. You can also fly with Singapore Airlines from Manchester without having to change planes. We spent 2 nights at the Marina Mandarin hotel in Marina Bay and our room had a view of the Bay which was superb. The hotel itself is in a great position and has a pool to relax in after long days sightseeing.
Singapore is located in the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula and is known as a shopping & culinary paradise, attracting visitors from around the world. The average temperature all year round ranges between 22 & 35 degrees Celsius with high humidity & abundant rainfall. Temperatures tend to be highest in April & May and the monsoon season occurs between November & January. Whilst we were there, the temperature was around 30 degrees and VERY humid indeed with rain most afternoons and several thunder storms. It does not spoil your visit though as the rain is actually a welcome break from the heat/humidity and doesn’t usually last too long.
The food is lovely, healthy with fresh ingredients and mostly Asian. You can find western choices and strangely they seem to have Fish & Chips on a lot of menus! There are the likes of McDonalds & Starbucks if you want them but not many. I would recommend a visit to Chinatown where a fabulous meal will cost a few pounds and the atmosphere is great! The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a must see on any trip to Chinatown.
There is so much to do that you must plan your days but a few suggestions are –
Marina Bay area – dramatic & iconic skyline. A must see at night time. Segway Tours & river taxis. Home of the first ever F1 Grand Prix to be held during the night.
Mount Faber – best for a panoramic view of the city. Cable car to Sentosa Island. Much cooler than the city therefore a nice place to walk and visit the Henderson Wave Bridge.
Night Safari – opened in 1994, the world’s first zoo/park dedicated to nocturnal animals. Now an award winning institution with over a million visitors each year.
Orchard Road – 1.5 mile stretch in the heart of the city. A shopaholic heaven but be warned, Singapore is not the cheapest place in the world to shop! You could easily spend a day here and get lost in the 800,000 square meters of shops & restaurants.
Singapore Zoo – approx. 20 mins in a taxi (approx. £10) from the city centre, a great day out which the kids will love. (approx. £18pp)
Botanical Gardens –a tranquil natural haven. 74 hectares of gardens. The National Orchid Garden is probably the most impressive part (entrance fee), home to over 1000 species of orchids.
Gardens by the Bay – Lots of different attractions within the gardens inc the Cloud Forest, Supertree Grove, Flower Dome, World of Plants & Dragonfly Lake. The Supertree Grove comprises 12 unique vertical gardens measuring anything from 25 to 50 meters tall. Designed to provide shade & shelter during day but at night they are lit up and come alive with sound. (approx. £14 pp)
Merlion Park – home to the impressive statue of Merlion. One of the most iconic symbols of Singapore, the legendary creature has a head of a lion & the body of a fish. It represents the noble origins as a humble fishing village and its transformation into a strong & important economy.
Raffles Hotel – A visit to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without having a Singapore Sling in Raffles Hotel!
Sentosa Island – reached by cable car, travellator walk way or road bridge from Singapore, this island is host to just about any attraction you could wish for and is bizarrely very quiet indeed. From Universal Studios to Adventure Cove waterpark where you can swim with Dolphins and feed Rays to zip wires, dancing cranes, skyline Luge, animal encounters and much more. Of course you could just relax on the beach too!
After 2 busy days sightseeing, we joined Royal Caribbean Cruises Mariner of the Seas for a week’s cruise to Malaysia & Thailand. The port is in central Singapore so very quick & easy to do and in no time we were waving goodbye to Singapore from our balcony.
Mariner of the Seas is a mid-size ship with a capacity of 3807 guests. The majority of guests on this cruise were Australian, followed by Chinese, Thai and Brits. Our Balcony cabin was spacious and comfortable and all the staff were extremely helpful & courteous. You couldn’t get bored as there is so much to do if you wanted it – ice skating rink, climbing wall, gym, Spa, basketball court, mini golf, golf simulator, jogging track, video arcade, 3 pools, whirlpools, casino and kids clubs. There were plenty of sunbeds and quiet places if you wanted them too. The food was fine (nothing too special but perfectly acceptable) and the entertainment was mixed ie some nights were very good, others not so. Overall we enjoyed it and it was good value for money. Tips; Take your own coffee…it was awful. We pre-paid the gratuities but be aware, this does not cover bar services as 18% will be added to all drinks for tax & service.
Our first stop was Port Klang (for Kuala Lumpur). It’s about an hour & half drive into KL and we visited the National Monument, the Palace and the famous Petronas Towers where we spent a few hours shopping. I loved Kuala Lumpur and would definitely like to go back. It easily rivals Singapore in my opinion and is pristine and beautiful with a colonial feel.
The next day we arrived in Penang and as the ship docked in Georgetown we decided not to do an excursion choosing instead to discover this historic town for ourselves. Here you’ll find streets lined with British Victorian buildings and Art Deco shop houses, colourful Little India with one of the biggest Indian Temples in Penang.
The cruise also stopped at Langkawi before its final destination of Phuket in Thailand. Here it stopped overnight giving the opportunity to sample the nightlife of Patong Beach which is certainly lively! It also meant there was the opportunity to go on longer excursions as we had 2 full days there. We chose Island Hopping & Snorkelling at Phi Phi Island which was $179 through RCCL. Sadly the weather was extremely windy that day and it completely ruined the day. The sea crossing was very rough indeed and the snorkelling very poor. I would advise not to bother going to Phi Phi Island although I’m guilty of not listening to that particular piece of advice myself! I was warned how overpopulated it is with day trippers but I wasn’t prepared for quite how bad it is! You can barely see the beach as the boat fights for a space to drop you off before having to leave straight away to allow others in. Famous for the location of the Leonardo Di Caprio film ‘The Beach’ – you cannot get a photo of the iconic beach or view from the beach because of the sheer number of visitors & boats! My advice, don’t waste your money. There are plenty of other beautiful islands and places to visit that won’t disappoint.
It was nice to be able to go back ashore that evening to buy souvenirs, experience the nightlife and have a Thai massage! The following day was a day at sea before arriving back in Singapore the nest morning. Even that day when everyone was on board there was no fight for sunbeds or queues for drinks.
After a busy week on the cruise we were looking forward to 4 nights back in Singapore but on Sentosa Island this time. We stayed at the 5* Sofitel Sentosa Hotel which was beautiful and such a calm tranquil place. The room was large, beautifully decorated with a gorgeous bathroom – I couldn’t fault it. The breakfast was very good indeed with everything you could wish for but you had to be watchful that the resident peacocks didn’t steal a pastry from your table!
Sentosa Island is a strange (but nice) place – almost like a giant theme park. The busses and monorail services are all free and it is so safe and clean. There is so much to do on this island that you could easily spend your whole holiday here! It’s a lush tropical island with wild monkeys, reptiles and exotic birds and pure white sandy beaches. Even though the view from the beach is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with huge container ships in the distance, it doesn’t spoil it at all weirdly and the water is crystal clear.
We were exhausted after spending a few days here! We tired ourselves out with the many attractions and loved every minute of it.
Overall, it was a lovely holiday – a very busy holiday with not a lot of relaxing but when you are in such a beautiful and cultural part of the world, you don’t want to miss anything!
I’ve had such a good time, but now I’m ready for a holiday to get over that holiday!