Adventure Time

~ by Marla

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Adventure Time

Our adventure began as we eagerly waited for Antonio, our driver to the airport. Antonio is a young energetic millennial type that was not only punctual to the minute, but also a resourceful computer geek. Perfect! This gave us about 45 mins to interrogate him regarding a much needed MAC upgrade before arriving likatysplit to LAX.

We were flying All Nipon airways or ANA with a round trip purchase of $565 a piece, which was right in line with our nomadic budget. Admittedly though we were unfamiliar with this carrier and it took a bit of searching to find ANA’s counter.

The check in was smooth with very little wait except for the security line. I failed to remove my passport from my back pocket, which resulted in a full pat down. The security gal was nice and offered to check me in a more private location. I laughed and said no. It’s funny that with all our travels we’ve seen so many variations in the rules. Shoes on shoes off? Jacket on jacket off? Pockets empty? Hands empty? Electronics? Fluids?….. and so on.

Time flys

~ by Allan

Time Flys

Los Angeles to Tokyo and onward to Singapore is a lot of time in the air.

It was 11 hours to Tokyo with a 3 hour layover and then 7 hours to Singapore. We left one day and arrived yesterday, or something like that. After multiple time zones, cheesy movies on the planes, lack of sleep and stiff bodies we arrived at the Hotel Jen Orchardgateway in Singapore exhausted.

We woke up around 6:00 am after 3 hours of sleep, then stumbled down to breakfast in a brain fog. I noticed my cognitive and motor skills were delayed.

Two double espressos later the fog lifted and we felt alive and ready to take on Singapore.

The hotel is located on Orchard Road which is a major shopping area. Name a designer and they have a shop here or two; Herme, Prada, Jimmy Choo and Rolex. We have the taste and the budget for Costco and Casio, so onward we went.

Watch This! Now you see it, and now you don’t.

A spring bar is the little bar on a watch case that the strap passes through. As we approached Singapore on the plane I was putting my wallet into my back pocket when my watch clipped the arm rest, pulling the spring bar off. The tiny bar was still in the strap as I maneuvered my free hand to catch it and it disappeared before my eyes. Poof! It had to have slipped out onto the floor, yet without getting down on all fours with a flashlight I couldn’t find it. I routinely buy Nato styled nylon straps for my watches because they are so comfortable. The strap companies always include two extra spring bars and the little tool to slip them in. At home I have about one dozen extra spring bars. But I was in Singapore now.

Certainly a watch store would have it, so we popped into the shopping mall next to the hotel and walked into the Watch Shop. Nope. Two more watch stores emphatically said no. Really? It is a Seiko watch and we found a Seiko store, perfect! Nope.

The sales clerk did direct us to the Lucky Plaza which had about a hundred of the small booth vendors (our kind of people ). The first watch store easily put on a new spring bar for 8 Singapore bucks, about the same as US dollars. However we did get to tour a few high end shopping malls in the process. One store was the flagship Rolex store where you could see several watch makers servicing watches of the rich and shameless. The waiting room, yes they had a waiting room, was on the other side of the service area. The clerks looked down their noses at us hillbilly nomads and didn’t even bother to ask us if we needed help. I asked where the Casios where, the nice ones.

After the watch was firmly back on my wrist we continued our walkabout and ended up at the Marriott hotel to take a needed break in their lobby. Our feet were killing us and jet lag was setting in like an ocean fog.

Marla had read about a multi media show at the top of the Ion Orchard Mall, which was across the street. We crossed the street via another underpass and walked into another mall. The tickets were $20.00 each or free for every $20.00 spent in the mall. We were hungry and hit a restaurant to eat $24.00 club sandwiches and double espressos. Or does that make them $2.00 sandwiches?

The Ion in the Sky exhibit was on the 56th floor which offered a 360 degree view of the city. It was spectacular. Then the curtains lowered over the windows allowing the computer animated show to project the history of Singapore.

Well done Singapore. 

Afterwards we limped back to the hotel not realizing how far we had really walked and took a nap.

Our hotel had a special lounge for the high rollers and Marla’s savvy room purchase at the top floor qualified us for entry. They had various snacks 24 hours a day which became our dinner. The Club Louge also had our own conseairge and waiters who would snatch your plate away at the slightest hint of you being through.

Hotel Jen Orchardgateway

We then hit the swimming pool as the sun set. It was an infinity pool that could give you the heebee jeebees at 20 stories up, which was part of the fun. The jacuzzi helped our sore feet and knocked us out for the night.

Singapore’s Underground

~ by Marla

Singapore’s underground

Many things are fascinating about Singapore. It’s a wealthy sovereign nation that is beautifully lush and clean as well as quite small and densely populated resulting in a transformed vertical landscape.

This was particularly apparent as we viewed the spectacular city view from our hotel with 20 floors; which was short in comparison to the other skyscrapers.

Also intriguing is Singapore’s on going development of its “Underground ”. Currently most of the Islands existing pipes and power grids, as well as subway systems are already subterranean. But other things such as water reclamation plants, which typically require a good chunk of land, may soon be well below the surface.

In addition there are creative master plans for large underground shopping malls, residential units and expressways. Even the possibility of subterranean farming may be a thing in the “not so far” future.

It’s Hip to Hop on and off

~ by Allan

It’s hip to hop on and off.

Today we had breakfast and I discovered a new fruit. It looks like a speckled watermelon with a hint of strawberry. It’s quite good and was set up on an auxiliary fruit bar with these chilled sunken stainless steal canisters holding ice cream. To keep with the fruit theme I scooped up some mango ice cream. I’m on vacation not a diet. I will ask the name of the new fruit tomorrow but fear I won’t be able to pronounce or spell it. For now, it’s speckled watermelon.

The hop on hop off bus was right across the street from our hotel inside the visitor center. We picked out our combo ticket and hopped on the bus. After a short ride we hopped off at the icon of the Singapore skyline, the Marina Sands Hotel.

The hotel has three vertical towers topped by a horizontal deck spanning all three towers. It is said that the design was to look like the Chinese symbol for good luck.

We then walked through the atrium interior and out through the back into the Singapore gardens. The landscape design was fantastic with many different species of plants. Many of the trees were hundreds of years old, transplanted and lovingly cared for here.

Our path eventually took us through the Chinese and Indian gardens to get us to the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.

The Cloud Forest is a rain forest of various plants and featured a artificial mountain to show the plants that grow in “different elevations”. It was about fives times bigger and more detailed than I expected. All of this is kept in a glass dome structure. We climbed our way up the mountain via the flying walkways suspended around and through the mountain. After walking down the mountain there was a short movie showing how we are screwing up the planet. Spoiler alert, humans are idiots.

For a break we had a quick lunch of fruit bowls, eating them with a toothpick while people watching from a bench on a jogging trail. Many schools kids were visiting on field trips learning about the environment and climate changes. They were cute.

With our feet rested we headed to the Flower Dome, which was exactly what it sounded like, again with impressive examples of plants and trees. I was awestruck at the age of the trees. Some were hundreds of years old, big thick and probably chosen for their aesthetics . Even the rocks were cool. Very feng shway .

Side note, many of you know about my foot problems and now a blister was slowing me down. Marla was having a plantar fasciitis issue which was keeping her at my pace. We were a matched couple. Marla’s fancy new running shoes were helping her, but I was fighting these cursed feet and losing.

We made it back to the bus stop and after a few minutes wait we hopped on. We noticed that the traffic was very light and flowed smoothly before I said something about how easy the driving looked for a major downtown city. This was partially due to the traffic signals which are computer run with input from each car’s transponder, then charges you for traveling on every major road. Surprisingly unlike Rome, Paris or Madrid there were hardly any motorcycles or scooters buzzing about.

The bus now toured the financial district and informed us about car buying in Singapore. Our audio guide said that to own a car in Singapore you must pay for a permit which is roughly the price of the car and it’s only good for ten years. This explained why every car seemed less than ten years old. This may also be why Singapore exports more used cars than any other Asian nation.

We then rode downtown where our audio guide now talked about the apartments going for around 3 million for a basic three bedroom unit. Eventually we made our way uptown near the National Orchid Garden and where those apartments by contrast are about 6 million. Fortunately most Singaporeans live in more affordable high rise buildings that are government subsidized.

After a long day of hopping we made our way to a massive food court located in the mall that we would use to cut through to the hotel’s street. We both ordered clay pots of chicken and rice. The meal had that burning clay pot smell and was still sizzling on the tray. None of the food vendors had drinks, you purchased them from the lady at the drink kiosk.

With our bellies full and on our way back to the hotel we bought this magnet that read, “Singapore is a fine city” you are fined for littering, spitting, chewing gum, etc. So true. Singapore is beautiful, clean and quiet.

Somethings Fishy

~ by Marla

Something’s Fishy

I awoke at 3:00am and stared at the ceiling. Hmmm…. So I decided to glare at my iPad instead, carefully shielding the light so as not to awake my slumbering mate. But that didn’t work and now we were both sleepless in Singapore.

Quite a pair we were with Allan’s stiff back and my sore foot. So after a few laughs we popped some Tylenol and went back to sleep while looking forward to our day.

I had purchased tickets for the S.E.A aquarium. Allan’s not so favorite thing to do, but I like fish so…..

The aquarium is located on Sentosa Island.  Actually it’s part of Sentosa’s Resort World which includes Universal Studios, Adventure Cove Waterpark, The Maritime Experimental Museum and something else called the Albatross.  All these attractions are connected together by a “Disney Walk” kind of thing.  We had no idea it was such a big deal.  Amazingly the park wasn’t crowded which was probably due to it being off season,  monsoon season to be more specific.  We were lucky, the weather was great!

One of the first things we encountered, after entering the S.E.A. aquarium, was a shark tank with a cool glass tunnel that you walk through and where Allan and I took a bunch of selfies.

The aquarium is really well designed with huge tanks and a large variety of fish throughout. The stingray exhibit was pretty amazing too. Toward the end of the aquarium were smaller tanks with jellyfish and various corals and some adorable seahorses. Yah I really like the fish…..

Hmmm….. and what is this? Shameless? Perhaps. But before heading back, we partook in a few delightful morsels at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Let there be light …

~ by Marla

Let there be Light…

One of the most iconic sites of Singapore are the Supertrees located in the Gardens by the Bay. We visited these during the day but were told not to miss them at night. So after a short respite at the hotel we made our way back to watch the first of two nightly light shows where the trees came alive to lights and music.

There are about 18 of these large looming tree like structures ranging in height from 82 to 160 ft. They’re covered in vines and quite beautiful during the day, but at night with the twinkling lights and music are even more amazing.

We weren’t sure where to stand in this forested grove and even joked that we were probably on the wrong side, which was confirmed as the show began. We then hustled and followed the throngs of people toward the sound of music.

Once there it was hard for us to walk around or even get an ideal viewing spot due to the crowd, but it was still pretty cool.

Between the Supertrees there’s also something called the Skywalk. It’s basically a walkway between the trees and allows you to view the gardens below. Unfortunately, due to the limited number of tickets, we weren’t able to climb the trees either. Maybe next time!

Taxi Cab Confessions

~ by Marla

Taxi Cab Confessions

We’ve found the taxi queues to be a bit confusing here. For instance there is the usual designated taxi line where you stand and wait for your taxi. At the front of the line you’ll hop in a taxi or not….. depending on whether the driver is going in your direction. Then there is the …. let’s call them the “gypsy drivers” who slowly pull up to the back of the queue and offer you a ride…. or not….. depending on where you want to go. Ug! I also down loaded the “Grab” app which is an Asian equivalent to Uber or Lift but haven’t used it yet. Frankly I had a hard time distinguishing who were the Grab app cars and who were the regular taxis.

Tonight after the light show we took a taxi… I think…. back to our hotel. The driver, who we initially thought was an younger chap, confessed his love of the U.S. As it turned out his alma mater is Oregon State as he proudly showed off his “Go Beaver” tattoo on his forearm! He was very enthusiastic about his travels through Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Utah and even up through Vancouver. He said he would love to live in the states if it wasn’t for his parents.

Our conversation soon ventured into politics as he pointed out places we hadn’t had time to visit such as Little India, China Town, The Clark Quays as well as affordable places to eat and what foods to try.

He spoke about how safe Singapore is and how you can walk around here at night and feel secure. This may be in due in part to the country’s strict laws. Murder of course but also kidnapping and drug trafficking are all punishable by death….. and caning is still a thing here as well. Allan brought up the American kid who was sentenced to six strokes for graffiti and theft 1994.

After arriving at our hotel the driver mentioned that he was 58 years old. Wow! He had spoke with such youthful fervor.

Allan paid the man in cash. We felt fortunate for the good company and impromptu locals guide to this amazing place. Tomorrow we bid a-due as we travel onward…..

From Sing Town to Thai Town

~ by Allan

From Sing Town to Thai Town

It was time to leave Singapore and fly to Thailand and leave this amazing top floor corner room. After four nights, we still hadn’t figured out the light switches. It was counter intuitive causing me to leave Marla in a darken bathroom many times and giving a bolt of lightning to the eyes at bedtime. I would hit a switch labeled “night stand” and nothing happened, I thought, until the next night I notice a small light around the base of the night stand would turn on and give a glow for the nightly visits. The “reading” light was a small over head spot light mounted 12’ high in the ceiling.

Enough first world problems, on to Thailand. The Singapore airport is two years old and is the nicest and most high tech airport us vagabonds have ever been in. There was self check in and self checking in of luggage. The luggage machine informed me that the suitcase was in the wrong position, to adjust the strap and that I clearly was not my stated weight on my passport. There was self emigration via scanning our passports and smiling into the camera to compare. So far so good.

* An occupational hazard for nurses is that you wash your hands about one hundred times a day and that is a good thing, except when it’s time to take your fingerprints. Marla has had this problem renewing her nursing license, she doesn’t have any fingerprints. Was she a Russian spy? Apparently they had to rule that out by having them scanned and then rescanned, and a little water boarding.

Raise your hands if you can guess where this is going?

Check in done, luggage done, emigration, not so fast Russian spy! Eh comrade?

Nyet! I scanned my passport , smiled to the camera, one gate opened, scanned my thumbprint and the next gate opened. Easy as getting on the subway.

My Russian spy of a wife was cock blocked at the thumb print. I thought maybe she was using her finger and not her thumb and took three steps back towards the gate causing an international incident. A customs lady scolded me in an unknown language, (probably Russian), and told me to step back (or be caned).


* caning involves stripping naked, bending over a wooden trestle and getting your butt whacked with a rattan cane by a doctor no less. They will count how many whacks to go as a curtesy.


In a moment of manly overprotective stupid husbandness, I told her to “ chill out, that’s my wife”. Later she laughed covering her mouth with her hand, but Marla had to go aside to the Bad Fingerprint counter for some ad hock water boarding.

 

She passed, we passed and entered the nicest damn carpeted airport terminal we’ve ever seen. High end shopping and fancy artsy chairs and a 3 D movie that appeared out of a wall.

We had about two hours to kill so I restarted my David Silva novel that I hadn’t picked up in weeks and we used their free WiFi allowing Singaporean hackers access to our computers as a return curtesy.

Our Villa Awaits

~ by Marla

Our Villa Awaits

We flew AirAsia airlines from Singapore to Phuket without a hitch, except that my luggage had been thrashed and was now missing a wheel. C’est la vie! My suitcase had been well-worn and the short flight cost only $74. I decided to suck it up for now.

After a little searching we found our prearranged driver holding a placard with our name. We hadn’t used this service before and were pleasantly pleased with the car as we settled in for our transport to the hotel, all the while soaking up local culture.

Our hotel, Wyndham Grand, is a huge resort that is built on a terrace and located on Kalim Bay. Reaching our accommodations required being dropped off at the lower level, then shuttled up to the upper lobby. Then after arranging a few field trips we settled into our “villa”.

Yep! For the next 5 nights these budget nomads will call this villa home. I was going to surprise for Allan, but instead blurted out that our 1200 sq foot luxury retreat also came with a private pool. The space was amazing with a view directly overlooking Kalim Bay.

However our room did have a few quirks. For example, we were once again in light switch hell. I mean how hard could it be to flick on a switch? There were switches for everything and everywhere. Some worked for the fan outside while others worked for different areas of the villa with no rhyme or reason. At one point we were awoken ….. twice ….with all the lights popping on. It wasn’t until we were checking out that we found this master switch that reset everything!