Singapore harbor is busy. We are at the Marine Bay cruise terminal with a large Chinese cruise ship for the next two days. Immigration is crisp and efficient but there are a lot of people to process. Not much shopping at the terminal , just a money changer, electronic phone accessories and a small convenience store. Viking has a shuttle over to Marine Bay mall with all high end stores. Marine Bay is also where the Marina Bay Sands Sky park is. The Sky park spans three skyscraper towers 57 floors high.
Skies are threatening as we board the bus for our tour of Singapore. First stop is Mt Faber (really a hill at 320ft tall) for an overview of Singapore. What a contrast to all the other Asian countries. Beautiful landscaping, nice buildings, not a scrap of litter in sight. Our guide, Peter says there are big fines and community service time if you get caught, which he has twice. It is drizzly as we walk to top of Mt Faber but the rain feels nice. When we get to the Botanical Gardens, the rain begins to pour as we enter the grounds. Mel and I break out the umbrellas for the 15-minute downpour. The Botanical gardens are gorgeous! The landscaping is a riot of colors and textures from the different plants, grasses, trees and flowers. The garden has been here since colonial times. When the Japanese occupied Singapore in WWII they kept their promise to the take of it, and they did. The highlight is the Orchid Garden with hundreds of different orchids in all different shapes and sizes. The VIP garden displays orchids that have been given celebrity names, such as Prince Harry and Brad Pitt. We have to leave too soon to head to Chinatown. Chinese are the major ethic group but also many Brits, Malays and Indians. Our guide buys us a tea or coffee which comes with milk and sugar standard. It gets complicated if you want it a different way so Peter orders for us. The Chinese Buddha Tooth Buddhist temple is next door, so I peak my head in. Like much of Singapore, it too is beautiful and very organized. Sunday morning service is in progress with the monk leading chanting and the congregation following along in their prayer books.
We are eager for the afternoon so we can catch up with our friend Audrey Ho. Audrey and I worked together at Disney in both Burbank and Tokyo. She left Disney about 5 years ago to work and live in Singapore. Mel and I are really looking forward to spending time with her. We had planned to be there around 3 but our tour is running late and we have to go back through the whole immigration process to get back to the ship. Fortunately, Audrey is running late too and finally meet up at her apartment at 4:30. She has cold champagne on ice and truffle potato chips waiting for us! It was sooo wonderful sitting on the couch in her garden apartment just catching up and chatting. Just the three of us, no sharing with 700 other passengers. Audrey is as active as ever, off on diving trips every chance she gets. Aside from a few gray hairs (very few) she looks the same and commented that Mel and I are good examples of the relaxed retiree look. Audrey had the whole evening planned with seafood waterfront dinning in Clark Quay and a boat ride around the harbor. We Ubered over to Jumbo Seafood restaurant in 10 mins. No cars needed in Singapore, everything is no more than 20 minutes away, taxis and Uber everywhere. She had reserved waterfront table, but it had begun to sprinkle and those tables were not available. Going with Audrey’s recommendation we had a wonderful dinner. Chili crab, scallops wrapped in yams, Salt and Pepper shrimp (Audrey asked them to take the head and shell off), and fried rice were all scrumptious. There were finger bowls as the Chili crab is messy, finger licking good! Great choice.
A short walk down the quay to the boat dock for the harbor cruise. The waterfront is all aglow with colonial buildings, restaurants, clubs and hotels. One of the hotels has a water light show like at the Bellagio in Vegas. Back at the dock, Audrey led us through the Clark Quay night life with techno music blaring under 50 ft high umbrellas which give coverage from the tropical rain. Said goodbye too soon as we taxied back to the ship. Exhausted but content.
We did not book excursions for Monday as we needed a break from buses. Had a leisurely breakfast and took a taxi to the Vivo City mall on Audrey’s recommendation of having stores in our price range. I wanted a pair of nice black sandals since I had forgotten my dress shoes in LA. Vickie confirmed, they are sitting in my closet in Glendale. Glad we haven’t had many formal dining nights, so have been getting by so far. Also, Mel’s iPhone battery has been going down fast on long tours, so wanted a power pack from the long Jordan and Egypt tours coming up.
Our friends Nora and Patty went with us to the mall just to see more of Singapore. Nora’s mobility is still limited from her fall so a taxi and short walks is good for her. I found my shoes (Crocs with bling) and we picked up a power pack. Lunch was at McDonalds. Yes Big Mac’s and Fillet-o-Fish taste the same as at home. They have a few more things on the menu than we do. I cruised the food court stalls at the mall but couldn’t quite figure out all the “build your own soup bowl” options to order something. Mel, Patty and Nora are not the food adventurous type, so I was on my own. I did get them to try some egg custard tarts that you see in most Asian areas. They did enjoy those. Walked around the mall a bit more as it felt a lot like home.
I had asked Audrey about secure internet since I hadn’t been able to file our IRS tax extension with the internet as bad as it was. Audrey had offered that we could jump on hers. Miraculously, the day before Singapore, the ship’s internet was upgraded and we were able to process the IRS extension. Also upgraded and back up our iPhone and iPads which wasn’t possible since getting on the ship. Yay for good internet. YouTube is still blocked as a bandwidth hog, but much more is working now.
Yes, we are starting to get a bit homesick. It was very nice to have some time with Audrey and chit chat about people in LA. Singapore is much like LA or Honolulu. Clean, organized, efficient, safe. We enjoyed relaxing and putting our guard down for a bit. Helps to give us a second wind for the ongoing voyage. Thanks Audrey for all the hospitality. We really appreciated it.