Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Singapore - Day One

Finally! A gob of the Singapore pix are still on my camera :( and I can't find my media-card-reader-adapter-thingy to get them on to my computer. I have the ones that I loaded while we were still in Sing, so here's just a small part of the trip.
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We arrived at Paya Lebar Air Base (Singapore Air Force base with a small U.S. Navy/Air Force detachment) at 3p local time, cleared customs pretty quickly (there were only 15 of us after all) and went downstairs to call a taxi. The taxi co has some kind of phone location system that gave them our exact location via the phone we were calling from, so I didn't have to tell them anything! How cool is that? After confirming the info, I was connected to an automated voice that told me our taxi would arrive in 7 - 9 min, and gave me an order number to give the cab driver to confirm we were the intended customer. I don't have a lot of experience ordering a cab, I've always just hailed them from the street, so I don't know if other cities have a similar system or not, but I thought it was really cool. It took us longer than 9 min to schlep the kids and luggage out the gate to the street, so we missed our cab and ended up just hailing one from the street anyway. Oh well, it was still neat.
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Our cabbie was super friendly and very informative, giving us the low down on all kinds of Singapore stuff, briefing us on some of their very strict laws (no chewing gum anywhere in the city, they don't even sell it, no tossing cigarette butts on the street, speeding fines are unbelievable) and pointing out areas of interest, etc. Tipping is not allowed at the Singapore Int'l airport, and is highly discouraged in all other places, so I'm pretty sure he wasn't chatting us up for a better tip, he was just a really nice guy.
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We crossed the bridge on to Sentosa Island and we were completely stunned. It was a lush, green tropical island, literally steps from the bustling city! It was so beautiful, it was easy to forget that we weren't in the middle of the Caribbean! We really loved it.
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Arrived at our hotel, the Rasa Sentosa Beach Resort, in about 25 min, our cab ride costing a whopping $10!!!!!! Can you believe that? I pay $10 for a 10 min ride in Tokyo! There was a huge waterfall right in front of the hotel (I never got a picture!!!) and we stepped out the cab into the huge open air lobby, it was really nice, and a true testament to how temperate Singapore weather is, they don't ever need walls or doors for the lobby!
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After dumping our luggage, we headed to the bus stop located right at the bottom of our hotel's driveway. All the busses on Sentosa Island, including the one that takes you back into Singapore, are completely FREE! I'm still amazed at how cheap everything was!
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View from our front door, at low tide

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The first place we went was the Skyride & Luge. You take a chairlift to the top of a huge hill, then ride back down on a gravity scooter (powered only by gravity, equipped with just handle bars for steering and a brake) it was sooooo much fun!
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Ethan and Otis coming up on the chair lift

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View from the chairlift
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Our hotel from the chairlift
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E waiting to hop on the luge, he rode with O
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Gabi made the mistake of stopping on a flat area, so it took a little scooting to get the scooter going! Meanwhile, I breezed on past, trying to catch up with O and E.
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Next, we took the free (there's that word again!) monorail into Singapore, getting off at VivoCity mall, in search of some dinner. This mall was seriously HUGE, with at least 4 different levels. We got lost more times than I can count, even with all the signs and maps in English!!!! There were at least two massive food courts, plus tons of restaurants.
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We finally decided to eat in the basement food court. This was our first introduction to Halal. Halal is basically the Muslim version of kosher. The food court was divided into two parts: the halal side, and the non-halal side. On the halal side, there was no pork, no pork products, no machines or utensils that had ever touched pork, etc. and there were signs at the entrances of both sides telling you not to take food from the non-halal side, or any outside food or drinks, in to the halal side. We saw lots of restaurants all around Singapore with signs reading "No pork, no lard" or "Halal menu" and with Halal certificates hanging in their windows.
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For dinner, I had Chicken Rice, a very traditional and popular Singapore dish, O had a Singapore version of ramen (what else is new?) and the kids had some kind of yummy, coconut chicken nuggets with noodles.
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At most food courts in Japan, you bus your own table when you're finished eating, dividing your trash (pouring your drink/ice down a special drain in the garbage bin, paper in one side, plastic in the other) then returning your tray to the place you bought your food (all the stalls have their own tray return window), even in the U.S. you usually bus your own table, dumping your trash and stacking the tray on top of the bin, but in Singapore they bus the tables for you! You just get up and walk away, like in a regular restaurant, leaving your stuff on the table. That felt really strange to me and I made O ask one of the workers if that's really what we were supposed to do.

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My first meal in Singapore
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On top of the mall is a big play area and wading pools! So cool! A great place to go at the end of a long day of sightseeing, soak your aching feet, relax, and let the kids run of the last bits of energy before heading back to the hotel. (Off in the distance you can see the cable cars going out to the island)

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We were finally ready to head back to the hotel about 9:45p, the last monorail left at 10:00, we were sure we had plenty of time. But we couldn't find our way back to the entrance of the monorail! We knew where the monorail was, we were walking directly above it, and below it, but we couldn't figure out what level it was on, or where the gate was! We ran around and around in circles, up and down the stairs and escalators for a full 20 min, until we ended up missing the last one. Grrrr! No worries, we'll just catch a taxi, it wouldn't cost more than $3 - $4. We walked all the way around the mall, looking for a place to stop a cab, finally came to the taxi pick-up/drop-off area, and the queue was a mile long! Everybody and their brother was there waiting for a cab! We just wandered around after that, trying to decide how we'd get back to the island. We thought we might take a bus, but we couldn't find one that went to Sentosa. We finally decided to take the cable car back, as is ran until 11:00, but it was a little pricey, and we had hoped to take in during the day when we could actually enjoy the view, but it seemed to be our only option, so up we went!

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We got back to the island at 10:25, and then had to figure out how to get to the hotel. There were no taxis, and we weren't sure how far away we were (plus we were all sooooo exhausted) so we really didn't want to try walking. We found our way to the bus stop, hoping we hadn't missed the last one; we walked up at 10:28, and the last bus came at 10:30. Whew! We made it back to the hotel in record time, the bus driver was obviously very ready to end his shift! We watched a little TV (all in English!!!!) and went to bed. It was an awesome first day, we all loved everything about Singapore! I seriously couldn't pick a favorite part, but I love that everyone and everything is English and that there were so many American stores and restaurants, it's like the perfect blend of Asia and America!

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6 comments:

Alisa said...

omg omg!!!
sounds amazing.
i wanna go i wanna go (throwing a 2 yr old fit!)... haha!!!
we almost got orders to sing before we got these japan orders.
i hope one day, we will be able to go there. it looks amazing!!! :)

Oh and i think, when i was @ yokota this past week... i saw your oldest in the BX, w/ 2 friends.
she was wearing a Red T shirt, and some converse style shoes... and a backpack.
anyways........ im sorry we did not get to meet up.
I did not get your e-mail in time.
dont worry!!! Yokota is my new Fav Base, and we will be up there more often.!!!! :)

Slime said...

LOL, yep, that was Gabi!

Wow! You almost got to live in Singapore?!?!?! That would have been sooooo awesome! We have friends stationed there, they love it! Because it's such a tiny U.S. force there, with almost no stuff for families, the kids get to go to a VERY expensive, private international school, paid for by Uncle Sam! You've definitely got to go while you're here!

Between your trips to Yokota, and my trips to Yokosuka (my fave base!), we're bound to work it out sometime!

thefukases said...

Wow. I love Singapore too- the food courts are amazing aren't they? And I love the big wedges of fruit on a kebab skewer they sell.

You are all quite adventurous- I would have been freaking out if I was lost at night time in a foreign country!

http://gigihawaii.wordpress.com said...

Fantastic trip, Brenda! What an adventure!

illahee said...

looks like you have and awesome first day in singapore!!

Gina said...

It looks like so much fun!!! A very awesome trip! : )