First of all, before I forget, I just want to make sure that everyone knows (in case you haven't already figured it out) that you can click on any of the pictures I post and they will get a little bigger. Just FYI! And I am so glad to hear your comments - we are glad that you are enjoying following our blog and seeing what we are up to!
So today we covered a LOT of ground in Singapore and kept ourselves VERY busy! Before I start telling you about what we did today, I first wanted to share an interesting aspect of our hotel room with you, that I haven't previously mentioned. In the picture below you will see what is right inside the door when you step into the hotel room. You have to insert your room key in order for there to be electricity in the room. Once the room key is in, you can turn any and all lights on. I think this is common in some other Asian countries as well, and seems like a brilliant way to save electricity!
So this morning I went for a short workout before Derren got up. Then we got ready, and as usual, I was able to talk to family on skype. It was Easter still for them (monday morning for us) so I was able to talk to a bunch of the Einck family since they were all over at my dad's celebrating. After saying our hello's, Derren and I again headed to the morning buffet in the hotel (and in case I didn't emphasize this yesterday, this is WAY more than just a hotel continental breakfast. It is a full on buffet with a TON of hot food, including a lot of asian food - as you can see from Derren's breakfast choices!) And again, yes, this is free for us due to his "platinum" status. Here is his first round this morning (fried noodle, two types of vegetarian curry with white rice, a pork bun, and some bacon.) He also had another bowl of noodle soup this morning. (I didn't include my breakfast because it wasn't as exciting to look at - fruit, cereal, museli, egg, roll).
After breakfast, we headed out to the nearest bus stop, and jumped on a bus toward the Singapore Botanical Gardens (with some help planning from the hotel concierge). Singapore really encourages its citizens to use public transportation (driving is EXTREMELY expensive for people who live here), so they have AWESOME buses and subway systems. We've already taken the MRT (subway) a few times, and today was the first time we rode on their nice buses. You can see from this picture how NICE they are (or maybe its not as obvious from the picture - but believe me, they are really nice!) Oh, and you might be able to see this, but there are stairs in the picture which lead up to the second floor of the bus! And the trip we took was about 15 minutes and cost only about $1 each.
With some help from the bus driver to tell us exactly when we arrived at the correct stop, we found the Botanical Gardens! And our day of a TON of walking had begun...
I don't even think this map really gives you an idea of how HUGE this place was. We basically walked straight from one end to the other and it took a little more than an hour. It was absolutely huge, and very beautiful and well maintained. A gorgeous morning walk (although it was already really muggy.) Towards the end of our walk it started pouring on us, which was a welcome treat to our hot, sweaty bodies!
I feel like the pictures I took while walking through the Botanical Garden can't even begin to really show you how gorgeous this place was. Very different from the Botanical Gardens I've been to in the US - the flora and fauna is much more tropical. But here is one of the pictures I took - you can see how nice it is.
Here is a short video I took while walking through one part of the Botanical Gardens:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFy0P9Oya5M&feature=youtu.be
And I took this one specifically for you Amber. This is a walkway that went underneath the waterfall - what does this remind you of, sis? :)
And you can see how unique some of the plants were. This is just one of many examples of flowers/bushes/plants that were so different from anything I've ever seen!
After we reached the other end of the Botanical Gardens, we found that there was an MRT station there, so instead of walking back to the bus on the other end of the park (mind you, it had just started pouring!), we jumped on the MRT and took it to the Marina bay, which was about a 30 minute ride away (still only cost about $2 each though!) Once at the Marina, we decided to first walk over to the Marina Bay Sands. This is a hotel/casino/shopping mall that is pretty famous. It consists of three hotel towers basically right on the ocean, and has a ship built across the top of the three towers, with an infinity pool on the top. It basically is the destination for rich people heading to Singapore (costs maybe about $350 to stay there per night!). Here's a picture of the sweaty two of us, walking to the Marina Bay Sands:
It was neat to look at this place, but the real reason for the excursion was so that Derren could check out their casino! It is free for foreigners to enter the casino, but residents of Singapore have to pay $100 per day (this is how the government discourages their residents from gambling!). In many ways the casino was similar to US casinos, but it was also slightly different. They mostly play baccarat and a game called Sic Bo (which according to Derren has pretty much the worst odds he's ever seen in a table game). They also didn't serve any alcohol in this casino (another effort by the Singapore government to keep its citizens "tame" I guess).
Then, after we explored the two floors of the casino (and after Derren blew $10 in craps), we walked through the shops/mall attached to the casino and hotel in the Marina Bay Sands. It was just more expensive shops and TONS of jewelry stores. They also had an indoor ice rink which was not made of ice. It was like tile or something - we have no idea. It was just so weird - you can see in the picture.
After leaving the Marina Bay Sands, we headed back to the other side of the river and walked toward a shopping center where Derren had read there was some good food that we could get for lunch. The walk had some AMAZING views, as you can see in the picture. Unfortunately, the eating area he had read about is only open 5pm to 2am, so we could only find more expensive chain/sit-down restaurants, which we were so not in the mood to pay for! :) By the way, the weird looking white building behind us is the Singapore Art & Science Museum - very cool architecture. And you can also get another good view of the Marina Bay Sands.
So after the failed attempt at lunch, we walked back toward our next destination, which we knew had a food court that would have more local (and cheaper) food. As a late lunch, we just shared some fried carrot cakes ($3; see yesterday's post for description of what this is!) and Derren had some Popeyes fried chicken (he wanted to compare it to the US - he said it was probably the exact same).
After lunch, it was time for our next tourist stop of the day. We bought tickets - Wait, I know, you are shocked that we actually paid for something?!!!. Anyway, we bought tickets to go on the Singapore Flyer, which is the famous Singapore revolving observation tower, and it's supposedly like the highest ferris wheel in the world (540 feet; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_Flyer).
Even though we did pay $55 to do this, we did find a special tourist deal, where we got a buy one get one free "special tourist trip". Basically instead of just sitting and riding the thing, we got to go in a special "themed" booth and got to have a "singapore sling", which is the famous Singapore cocktail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_Sling). Here is a picture of Derren and I shortly after take-off in our themed booth (with accompanied music!).
It's about a 30 minute ride once around - it moves VERY slowly. Here is a couple of pictures I took from the top of the ride. It offered incredible 360 degree views of all of Singapore, even despite the fact that it was getting hazy and getting ready to rain again.
And here is a short video I took while we were up at the very top of the Singapore Flyer:
And here's a shot of our themed "booth" that we rode in. There was only four other people in this with us (I think they can hold up to like 25 people.) P.S. They also had advertisements to get married in one of these - only $3000. Seriously, who would do that?
And here's a shot from the very top - 540 feet in the air. The downtown Singapore financial district is behind us.
After our trip on the Singapore Flyer, we headed back to the MRT and took it to our next stop, Little India. This was an absolutely CRAZY part of Singapore - similar to Chinatown, but, obviously, Indian. There were TONS of little stores and even another hawker center, this time with more Indian and Muslim food rather than all Chinese food. I didn't take many pictures here, but here's one of one of the streets - very crowded and dirty (and quite smelly in places if I might add!)
We walked through aisle after aisle of dress shops - TONS of Indian clothes for sale!!!!!
And since we were travelling to Little India, we obviously wanted to have some Indian food to eat. We had only eaten a very small lunch, so we decided to have an early dinner and then planned to eat some snacks at the nightly cocktail hour at the hotel. So Derren again found the hawker station with the longest line, and here's what he ended up with. This is biryani chicken curry ($3.50):
After exploring Little India for a while, we then went to a huge electronics shopping supercenter that Derren wanted to check out. This place is called Sim Lim Square, and is a six floor HUGE mall with ALL electronics stores. Seriously, who thinks of doing this? There was hundreds of small shops filled with TVs, cell phones, gaming systems, computer parts, etc. Derren was in heaven. I was so confused - how could someone possibly decide where to shop when you have more than a hundred stores that sell the exact same things?
After Derren nerded out in this place for a while, we headed back towards the hotel (another 20 minute walk). On our way back, we passed like three of four LAN centers (places where people pay to use the internet and play games). He was SO excited and wanted to check them all out and see what games everyone was playing. Here he is posing in front of one of the places:
Then we finally made it back to our hotel at about 6pm. We took some much needed showers, and headed to the Holiday Inn executive lounge for cocktail hour. Derren drank a bunch of Tiger beer (the Singapore beer) and I drank some wine, while we had our "second" dinner of hors d'oeuvres. Derren did try this Irish beer as well, but didn't like it as much as the Tiger beers.
Thanks again for your comments - we look forward to hearing from you all!
Ashley & Derren