Thursday, 24 March 2011

Singapore City Guide?

Its years since I was in Singapore, and its got bigger! The Marina Bay area is all new.

Prior to my visit I purchased the 2009 Singapore City Guide by Lonely Planet. Unfortunately, I have to report that this book was of little use. I found it hard to use, the maps small and difficult to read and feel that the book was a waste of money, I do not recommend that you get it. Rather, find a Singapore Visitors Centre, Look for the large ‘’ logo. They are located all over the city, starting at Changi Airport, Bugis Street, Orchard Road and ION Orchard (opposite Traders Hotel), the information they provide is all that is needed, and its free. The brochures and maps provided by The Singapore Visitors Centre are of very high quality and easy to use.

The public bus and MRT system in Singapore are world class and very easy to use, but being in full tourist mode, I got a 3 day pass on the ‘Citysightseeing’ (also called Hippo) hop on hop off bus tour. This is also referred to as ‘The Singapore Sightseeing Pass’. This cost $63.00 for 3 days, prices start at $ 23 for the one day pass. It included the use of all three bus routes that wiz round the city, covering all the major sites, plus a boat trip on Clarke Quay and the Duck trip that does a tour of both land and water. The Singapore Flyer, River Taxi, A trip to Sentosa, Various Museums, Orchid Garden and well as walking tours are included. The tour buses operate from 10am to 10 pm.

We went round the red, Heritage Route, the yellow Circle Route and the Original Route to get our bearings and work out what landmarks we wanted to hop off to see. Then, after taking in the sights and smells of Little India, and got off at the Singapore Flyer.

The Singapore Flyer is the world largest giant observation wheel, it is in the area called Marina Bay. It rises to a height of 165m at a very leisurely pace, you can’t feel it moving. It gives you a bird’s eye view of the city. It is open day and night. The Flyer is located on the Formula 1 Circuit, next to the Formula 1 Pit Buliding. It costs $29.50, but it was part of our package with Hippo. It was worth the ride, but take care who gets in your 28 seater pod we were cooped up with a screaming child for our revolution of 30 minutes!

Next we crossed the fascinating Helix Bridge, walked passed the Float @Marina Bay; the worlds largest floating stage and headed for Singapore City’s latest attraction, Marina Bay Sands complex. This new complex is in the Marina Bay Area. This massive complex has a Casino, A 2,561-room Hotel, The hotel is three 55 story towers. A Convention-exhibition centre. There is a large Shopping Mall, an Art and Science Museum, Theatres. But best of all, the complex is topped by a 340m-long SkyPark, or The Sands Sky Park as it is known. This is 200 meters in the sky, the gardens are landscaped and have a 150m infinity swimming pool, this is the world’s largest elevated swimming pool. It looked really very scary and I don’t think I would like to be in it! It cost $ 20.00 to get up to the Sky Garden.

In the shopping centre there is a skating rink, nothing odd about that! The difference is that this rink is not ice, it is a synthetic surface. I did not have a go, but the skaters who were on the ice appeared to be falling over a lot, the surface looked very slippy, at least you don’t get wet and cold when you fall over!

Having tired of watching skaters attempt to skate, we made our way to Clarke Quay to get the river boat. Clark Quay was an odd mix of painted shophouses and strange large plastic umbrellas. Along the river bank there are many restaurants and bars, as well as a G Max Reverse Bungee, shooting victims up into the air at high speed.

I had tickets for the Singapore Night Safari, this is advertised as "the world's first wildlife park built for visits at night". It is open daily from 7:30pm to midnight. It is basically a Zoo that's open at night.
The first stop was at ‘The Creatures of the Night Show’. This show lasts 30 minutes and has Otters, Racoon's, a Wolf, a Hyena as well as a few other night creatures. It takes place at 07.30pm, 8.30pm or 9.30pm.
Then it was on to The Night Safari Tram, this was a large, electrical tram that took us to the animals with minimal effort. The tram has a guide in front narrating the various exhibits.
If you have any time or energy left you can undertake a Walking trails. there are three walking trails ;the Leopard Trail, the Fishing Cat Trail and the Forest Giants Trail. As we left the park the Thumbuakar Performance was in full swing. This was an incredible show, with the art of fire-eating taken to a new height. The performers were turning themselves into human torches. This show was my favourite part of the evening andwhilst I did enjoy the Zoo at Night, and I had nothing else planned for that evening, I don’t really think I would rate it as a No 1 attraction in Singapore.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Winter Sun in Singapore.

The problem with finding ‘Winter Sun’ from the UK, is that you have to go on a long haul flight to find it, a flight of at least 4 hours really. As I was fixed to the routes Emirates fly, I narrowed down my choice to Goa, Sri Lanka or Singapore. After a little research, Goa was the first to be deleted. This was due to the requirement of a tourist visa to visit India. The visa has to be issued prior to travel, I was struggling to find out the cost, but it appears to be around the fifty pound mark and feel that that was a bit too expensive as I may not get on a flight! Also, with only a week’s leave, I didn’t really have the time to relax enjoy Mumbai then take the slow train to Goa.
Sri Lanka was a strong contender for a few days, but talk of TukTuks taking you to destinations you have no desire to see were rife on web sites such as Thorn Tree and blogs, I wanted to relax so decided this was not destination for me at the moment.
Singapore, the home of the Singapore Sling, Raffles and the new Universal Studios, and you can drink the tap water, ummm, not really a place to relax but so what, decision made, Singapore it was.
This evening the journey began, a taxi to our local station then the train into Manchester Airport. It’s always nerve racking checking in to the Emirates counter, when you’re not on a ‘firm’ ticket, but lady luck was smiling and we were issued our boarding passes and were on our way.

Termial One Manchester
Manchester Airports terminal one has been renovated, I think it was partly due to the A380 coming to MAN. Anyway the renovations are now complete and it looks great. Loads of shopping, cars to win, bars, coffee shops and eating establishments to help you while away your time whilst waiting for your Flight

Step one for me Manchester to Dubai, the connection in Dubai is tight, 120 mins, but this has already been cut short as the flight will be late out tonight, 30 mins at the moment. I will report back as to how I get on at DXB.
We took off about 60 minutes late. Our seats were a window and a middle, and i would like to say a very big ‘Thank You’ to the bloke on the aisle seat, who moved to give us a bit more room. This was really appreciated as its a night flight and we could both stretch out a bit and get some sleep. Under the 'stary sky'.
The crew were quick getting on with the service. I have been asked what Emirates have on the Menu, so here goes:

On the Menu for EK20, MAN to DXB;

Tuna Nicoise,

Lamb Casserole, Arabic style lamb served with biryani rice, beans & tomato coulis.

OR, Roasted Chicken Breast, topped with creamy mushroom sauce, gnocchi, carrots & peas.

Mango & Coconut cream.

Cheese & Biscuits.

Tea /Coffee, and a Chocolate.

Then just prior to landing Tea /Coffee & a cake, mine was Lemon.

We got to Dubai on time despite the late departure time, and the connection onto the Singapore flight was very smooth.

This flight was far more uncomfortable than the MAN-DXB leg, due to the seat allocation, an asile and the next one in the middle. I was sat next to a very large German girl. She took up all the space with no regard for sharing the arm rest or foot space. (sharing the arm rests is always an issue....whose is it!!) I was bumped and jostled by her for 7 hours. But worse than that, she assumed that because I was English, I would have no understanding of German. I do appriciate that as a nation we are really not good / very lazy at languages, but some of us older ones were made to study a language at school and as an Army Brat, I lived in Germany for many years.....I can follow German very well. And she was a BITCH and a rude one at that! The things she said about myself and Saz were dreadful. She was part of a large group of Christian Youth who were going to Singapore! ironic.

Once again we were fed, a Lunch , Hay what happened to Breakfast? It consisted of ;

German style Potato Salad, it looked and tasted like Sauerkraut.

Black Bean Chicken, stir fried served with coconut rice & veg.

OR BBQ Beef, with potato wedges and veg.

I don’t know what either of these were like as it had all run out by the time they got to me at the back.

Triple Chocolate Surprise. Cheese & biscuits, Tea/Coffee.

Then, about 1 ½ hours before landing an ‘As you like it service’, this was a bit chaotic! I think the idea is that you choose one of the following;

Vegetable Jalfrezi Wrap. Chicken & Sweet Onion Wrap, Fresh Fruit, Assorted Chocolate Bars. But none of the passengers just had one item. They took two or in some cases piles of each. So once again, nothing left for the folks at the back. I felt like I had been fed and watered across so many time zones that I was not bothered about the lack of food on this flight, but some passengers were more than a little pissed off about not getting anything.

Once in Changi airport, i followed the advice in the Lonely Planet’s City Guide regarding Airport Transfer and got a shuttle bus to Traders Hotel. This cost SIN $ 9.00per person, and took ages. We waited over ½ hour before we got going, then it took well over 60mins from Changi to Traders Hotel on Orchard Road as we were the last to be dropped off. When we did the journey in reverse upon departure, I got a taxi, this was cheaper at 15 SIN $,more convenient and considerably faster, taking only 25 minutes. My advice is to get a Taxi! 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Emirates to Fly 3 Flights A Day to Manchester.

Last week Emirates Airline announced that it was boosting its route to Manchester, with the introduction of a third daily non-stop flight. The new service, which starts on May 1, will increase Emirates' capacity by 25 percent.
The new service will be operated by an Airbus A330-200 aircraft offering 12 First Class seats, 42 Business Class seats and 183 Economy Class seats. So now you have the choice of ;
EK 21 Dep DXB 0300 Arr MAN 0755, Airbus A330-200.

EK 22 Dep MAN 0940 Arr DXB 2000, Airbus A330-200.

EK 17 Dep DXB 07.55 Arr MAN 11.45, Airbus A380.

EK 18 Dep MAN 13.30 Arr DXB 00.25, Airbus A380.

EK19 Dep DXB 14.35 Arr MAN 18.25, B 777-300ER.

EK20 Dep MAN 20.10 Arr DXB 07.05, B 777-300ER.

Wow! there is a rumour that the original plan was to start the third service later in the year using the Boeing 777, but the flight is starting earlier due to QR and EY expansion (both going double daily; 1st June and 1st Aug respectively.)
Officially Andrew Harrison, managing director of Manchester Airport states that"Since bringing the A380 to Manchester last September the route to Dubai has been one of Emirates' strongest performers and we saw a full compliment of 517 in November so we know the traffic is there and the third daily service underlines the strength of this route and the importance of the Middle East to our longer term ambitions as an airport".

So, well done to the management at Manchester for looking for new routes for the folk up North, British Airways pulled out it long haul direct from Manchester a while ago. They did not think the routes were 'viable'??               I suppose they expected us all to trail to London to get on our long haul flights? Well I won’t, and it look like lots of other passengers feel the same way. BA really should change its name to ‘London Airways’!

As it is, I am happy as it means I will get to see my daughter more often, and also stand more chance of getting on a standby flight, and that is what I am about to do now. Going to Manchester to try to get to Singapore...wish me luck! I will be blogging live from the Far East, flights willing.