A Travellerspoint blog

Botanical Bliss

Singapore

sunny 35 °C

8th October 2013

We set the alarm for 830am so that we could get started before it got too hot. First stop this morning, after breaksfast, was our hop on bus. We decided to look around the much acclaimed Botanical Gardens. It was very close, only the second stop on the bus. It was already hot when we got there. It is amazing how quickly it heats up here.

The garden entrance is inviting, with a huge waterfall, the horizontal type,rather than really tall. There was so much to see but we picked the Ginger Garden and the Orchid Garden. The Ginger Garden was situated after a lakeside walk and started with tree covered paths, nice and shady. There was a huge school group coming the other way, and while we waiting for it to pass we saw a big water dragon next to one of the ponds. Of course we then showed all of the kids and moved on. Through this pathway were lovely sections of waterfalls and caves where you could walk behind them. Most of the plants surrounding us were huge leaved and sprouting beautiful big flowers .

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We wandered over to the Orchid Garden, we didn't realise we had to pay but for $5 thought we would give it a go. We were greeted by a lovely fountain, this time with statues and beds of orchids. All through the winding paths were scattered with orchids of all colours. Half way through were special collections of orchids, including exotic and hybrid. During this part of the garden we saw squirrels jumping through the trees frequently and a few birds up close.

After a walk around the lake and back to the start, our two hours were done and it was time for the next place on our list. This time we were going to a shopping mall for lunch and then to Arab Street for a look. Lunch was in a huge mall cafeteria, plenty of options but not all of them appetising. A short walk from there to Arab St and we were sweltering. We saw a brilliant mosque, and many stores of carpets, silks and lanterns. It was not very entertaining so we left there and headed to the bus for our river cruise stop.

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The river cruise was at Clarke Wharf and was on a traditional Singaporean boat. It was complimentary with a our two day bus pass so we thought we would try it. I had done this same cruise 24 years ago, and it was very different. It took us upriver and into the new Marina Sands area. Still out to the Merlion and then back. It was great to relax for an hour.

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When we returned to the hotel we had another swim and then got ready for an early dinner. We headed into the mall and went to a place called Chilis - a mexican place. It was very good. I had crispy chicken tacos, Ethan the chilli con carne a and David had a BBQ chicken salad. All of our meal were fabulous. We were sorry that this could be our last meal here, and went back to start packing our cases for tomorrows check out.

Posted by JenMF 03:41 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Gardens Under Glass

Singapore

sunny 35 °C

7th OCtober 2013

We woke up at about 930am, we needed the sleep. The breakfast at the hotel was $30 so we thought we could find better value in the mall. Brunetti did breakfast so we went there. They make the most magnificent muesli - it has cashews and mixed peel in it (two of my favourite things), we coupled that with some fresh fruit juice and it was fabulous.

We had chatted last night about what we might do today, and we agreed on Gardens ByThe Bay first up. We went to the bus stop and bought a Hop On Hop Off ticket that would allow us to take four different routes around Singapore and interchange all of them. We got on and sat up the top for this first trip. It was very hot already and soon we were sitting under the canopy - still up top.

The Gardens By The Bay are near the Marina Sands area of Singapore and what a sight to see. It is like something from the future. From a distance we saw two giant domes made of glass with some space age looking metal trees towering into the sky. Amazing. As we got off the bus we needed to take a lift to the sixth floor of a 100 floor building. A quick walk through this grand hotel, and we were outside on a tree lined terrace. At the end of the terrace were signs to the Gardens.

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A short walk and we were staring very closely at the two domes we had seen so far away. It was exciting and all I wanted to do was see what was inside. We bought the tickets to both domes, sold separately,and entered the first one - Flower Dome which was breathtaking from the first step. The scent of flowers enveloped you and a sight of beautifully landscaped plants in every direction. The temperature dropped by about 10 degrees as well, making it a pleasant experience to explore.
First on the left was the Australian one so we thought we should check that out! It was perfect - all in order and of course we recognised all of the shrubs and bushes. Following through the rest of this dome were California, Malay, South America, A cactus garden and a bromeliad garden. The fabulous centrepiece was a bed of beautiful flowers in every colour, adorned by some sculptured dragonflies.

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From here it was onto the second dome - Cloud Walk. As soon as we opened the doors a huge indoor waterfall fell before us. Spray hit our faces and our eyes could not take in all of the gorgeous flowers and plants tumbling from the walls 6 stories up. After a quick stop in front of the falls to cool down, we started up a series of ramps that took us all over the dome, as if waking through the air surrounding the waterfall. The ramps were made of metal but the edges were see through grates. This did not go well for me in the beginning and I felt like I had to hang on for the first couple! After a while though the nerves evaporated and the experience took over. At some points along the walk you were looking out from behind the waterfall, another part was a crystal cave and then once you descend there is the hidden garden which is a lovely surprise to end on.

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This experience was one of the best for our entire holiday. It was time to visit the myriad of outdoor gardens, needless to say the domes were cooled, and going outside the heat hit us full on. We stopped for a drink and something to snack on and then headed to the sky walk. This is a walk between huge constructed metal trees - see photos to understand. The boys did this but I thought I would give it a miss as it cost extra. I sat at the bottom and watched them go through it.

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We were extremely hot by this time and just needed to get on the bus again and get to our next destination. We were off to Chinatown, and sat below in the bus the entire trip to keep cool in the air conditioning. We walked through most of china town looking through their street markets for a while and then a temple. The atmosphere was just like I thought. Colourful lanterns swaying, stalls selling dragons, dresses, silks and cats. The Asian food vendors were selling their wares, and all of them trying to get your business.

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We realised that we had missed the last bus and had to walk for a couple of kilometres quite quickly to get the final bus on the Yellow route to take us back to the hotel. We made it , we were a pool of sweat by the time we returned to the hotel and all went a for a swim and it felt great. It was very late when we had dinner, 9pm and we decided to go to eat in the hotel buffet. They said it would be $50 adults and Ethan $29 we thought that was ok. After one plate of dinner and two of desserts, which were all amazing, our bill came and was $197. After we closed our jaws with the shock, we looked at the fine print at the bottom and over $35 of that was a service fee and then they added GST. The price they quoted did not include any of those things. Ahhh, we did it and learned a lesson.

This was the first hotel with a laundry so we had put a load on before dinner. It is a lot easier than washing in the hand basins everywhere. So we folded our washing and tried to squeeze it all into our cases. Now it was off to bed. Tomorrow we plan on doing even more, so we need a good night sleep.

Posted by JenMF 15:32 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Hello Heat & Humidity

Singapore

sunny 34 °C

6th October 2013

We arrived safely in Singapore, after a very turbulent flight. I did not handle it quite as well as I hoped but I got there in one piece! I am also very tired from 4 nights of no sleep in Barcelona so I think was quite exhausted. In Singapore there was an immediate feeling of humidity and heat. We caught a taxi to our hotel - Traders Hotel and were really surprised by how lovely it was. Really quite a flash place. After a little mix up with no bed in the room for Ethan, we were moved into a triple room. The first good thing I can say is that the air conditioning works! Finally a hotel with a thermostat. The beds were so comfortable and the pillows! It was a big hotel attached to a small shopping mall.

I was in Singapore last, 24 years ago and the ride from the airport has changed so much. Not in cleanliness, in that it is the same - immaculate. But the skyline is now filled with buildings, there are more people just walking all over the city. Bus after bus arriving at the bus stops and many people at the waiting. The scaffolding has changed from bamboo and unstable to huge metal structures many stories high. The entire marina area has been shaped into a tourist zone instead of an old harbour with wrecks lining the river mouth. I don't remember it being this hot, but I was younger then so it's probably just tolerance!

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We thought we would not waste a day by doing nothing so we looked around the area - the mall adjoining the hotel. First up we saw Brunetti - I was in heaven. It was just outside the hotel door. A smorgasbord of Adriano Zumbo like creations. Macarons, gateaux , Lemon meringue. The mall behind Brunetti had quite a few cafes, a small supermarket and then clothing/toy & gift shops. We spent an hour or so looking around and then headed back. As soon as we got back I felt so tired that I had a little kip on the bed. The boys ordered room service but it just didn't taste right. I finished my fries and the boys finished the club sandwich for me. The boys went for a swim and then we had an early night.

Posted by JenMF 14:22 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Last Day At La Rambla

Barcelona to Dubai

sunny 26 °C

5th October 2013

We have had a fabulous last day in Barcelona. We made sure we woke up at 830am and went for a stroll down La Rambla to find some breakfast. We found a place that we hadn't been to and had some pastries with a cuppa. Ethan wanted one last serve of croquets, so he had those. I think I would have liked a little more time here and perhaps a guided tour - something we thought we didn't need, but in hindsight I think a half day tour would have made a real difference.

There were a few items we have been wanting to buy so we went down to the marina shopping centre and spent an hour or so there. We went back and packed up all of cases because we had to check out t 1130am. They happily kept our luggage for us, as we handed them a bottle of French sparkling wine. We wandered the streets again for 2 hours until our taxi came. In that 2 hours we came across streets we had not encountered before. Some great shops, but not much money left to buy things with. David was a bit perturbed that they didn't have his she size in any of the shoes he wanted. He started asking in every shoe shop before he had even selected designs! All of them said no.

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Even though Barcelona really grew on me it still is not my favourite place. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it. I think I was spoilt with the French coastline. Barcelona has charms. The barber where Ethan got his hair done - he was just a great guy. The food is great in most places and the buildings are brilliant. Most things are inexpensive and readily available here, and most people are friendly. However for 4 nights now I have not slept due to noise outside my window for the entire night, right through to morning. Barcelona is in your face and loud. I didn't like the dirtiness of the streets, the dark element - people hounding me for money all of the time; and the humidity. Today was much better - dry heat and really sunny with a cool breeze. We gave money to some buskers who we thought were quite good, but I refused to give money to one person who was quite threatening. I guess I didn't feel really safe. Even in Peru and Nepal I felt safer than here.

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So we went in the taxi going to the airport, it is about a 25 minute drive. We were in the air for just over 6 hours and for the most part is was good. There was quite a bit of turbulence in the early stages, but it smoothed out towards the end. This time I watched Man Of Steel and The Heat. Both good movies. I was laughing out loud at The Heat - there were some hilarious parts in that, or perhaps I was overtired??

We are at Dubai airport waiting for our connection to Singapore. Going to be very happy when this is all over and we can have 3 lovely days there.

Posted by JenMF 04:10 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Mayhem at Montjuic

Barcelona - Montjuic

storm 24 °C

4th October 2013 Ethan's 14th Birthday.

I did have a lot of special things planned for today, unfortunately the stars did not align and it was not the top notch celebration I had in mind. We still had fun though, just the unexpected kind! Our day started out with breakfast in the room. David went to the market and bought us fruit salads, yoghurt and smoothies - it was great. We gathered all of our cameras, snacks and bits and pieces and headed off for the day.

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We had plans to go to Montjuic and the Fontana Magica later today, so we stayed local for the morning. We followed the lonely planet Barri Gotic Walking Tour. It took us past many special sights beginning with the Roman Tombs - Placa de la Vila Madrid, a sunken garden with various Roman tombs. Next, and perhaps the highlight of the walk for me, was a small church Esglesia De Santa Maria. The church itself is from the 12th century. It is very dark but the artwork in the church is beautiful. There is a Gothic cloister which was peaceful, with a well and a garden. There are hardly any tourists here, it is peaceful. The walk took us next to Palace Walls of Guifre El Pelos. I must confess that we could not find this place! But we were very close to a shopping complex and needed to use the bathrooms, so we went in. It was a shop similar to Myer, multi levels of one department store. We found the rest rooms but just decided to stay and have a look around. David & I bought a birthday card and put 50 Euro in it for Ethan to spend. He didn't find anything he liked.

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The map was scrutinised, then we found our way back on to the tour and stopped to gaze at La Cathedral. It is impressive so we walk around her and then continue on. Bullet holes on a wall get our attention and it is the next stop, Esglesia De Sant Felip Neri. It is machine gun fire and it is assumed that some executions happened here by pro-Franco troops. There are a couple of mansions along the next part of the route and then we are at the end.

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By this time it is lunchtime and we spot a souvlaki/gyros shop. David gets one, and it is only after we see his being made that Ethan & I quickly jump on the band wagon and have one too. Shaved chicken from the spit, lettuce, tomato, tabouli, yogurt sauce and flat bread. There's nothing like sitting on steps, watching the pigeons while you eat your lunch.

Ethan wanted to go to the wax museum so we found our way back to La Rambla and walked down the lane way - it was closed. He was fine when we said that we would come back tomorrow. Our afternoon plans were to go to Montjuic so we hopped on the Metro and off we went. We caught the Funicular to a station nearby and tried, with much frustration, to find where we needed to go. We could see many people heading for a castle at the top of the hill so we joined them to see Castle Montjuic. It is very high and there are views of the docks, cruise ships and cargo, and all of Barcelona. There are several cannons still on the parapets which David & Ethan delighted in having a close inspection of. It had been drizzling on and of now for about an hour. The views were not brilliant and it was a day where you would much prefer to be having a coffee somewhere while it passed.

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We wanted to follow another of the Lonely Planet walks, this time around Jardin Montjuic. We were getting rather mad trying to find the first stop on the walk. After trying to get help off several people, and it now being 5pm, we decided we would just head to where the fountain was for tonight, and maybe get a drink. We found our way there eventually. One thing I have found amazing here is the outdoor escalators! There were 6 at the fountain, 3 up and 3 down. It is very good when your legs are tired. There were people all gathering to try and get the best spot to watch the show. It was now 645pm and we had 15 minutes to go. We got a great position right up the top, and could see everything. We heard a gurgle and the pool in front of us sprouted out 3 sprays of water and drenched us! I wondered why it was so easy to get a position up close. We thought the show was in the pools down the bottom, apparently it uses all of the ponds!! So we, and about 50 other people are quite wet and scrambling for another spot as the show is about to start.

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I look to the skies and say to David, "That sky looks a bit ominous, do you think there is a storm coming?" At 7pm on the dot the show starts, we don't have excellent position but I manage to get a few shots, then the heavens open. Rain, huge drops of rain, fall from the sky. Thunder rumbles and lightening shoots through the sky. Hundreds of people are running around crazy trying to find a small amount of shelter. There are two covered areas that can fit about 20 people each. We run and squeeze into one of those. We are on the edge and water is running off the roof down the back of our shirts. We decide to just get out the umbrellas and go and watch the show from close up, it has eased slightly. We are now the only people watching the fountain show from in front of the fountain. Most people have left and others do not want to get hit by lightening. A flash lands about 200 metres away from us and then we think it may be time to go. I shoot another couple of photos, the show is just warming up! We go to leave and the stairs have created another water feature - water cascading over them so deep we have to use the escalators. We walk through ankle deep water to the Metro and go back to our hotel. What a night!

It is still warm so our clothes dry quite quickly. It is Ethan's birthday so we let him choose where he would like dinner. He said he would like to go back to where we went last night and so we do. It is a great night and we laughed about how ridiculous it was to stand out in a storm. We agree it was a birthday he would never forget.

Posted by JenMF 03:36 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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