Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Singapore 2011: Where to Stay & How To Get Around

To real all posts about our  Singapore Trip, click here

We stayed at two hotels during our recent trip to Singapore.  Our first stop was at the Swissotel@The Stamford.  The I.M Pei designed hotel was recently featured in Conde Nast Traveler Magazine (USA) Gold List 2011. South-East Asia's tallest hotel has 71 floors, with the rooms and suites outfitted with stunning picture-window views of the Singapore skyline. 

In the mornings, the girls and I head down to the pool, while my boys are left still sleeping in the room.
Our accomodations came with breakfast, which we always enjoyed luxuriously (read: we took time to eat everything!) The buffet spread is typical of any hotel, but they do highlight Chinese, Malay and Indian influences, as well as the typical continental breakfast fare.  I always start mine with a small bowl of congee to warm my tummy.  I was a daily visitor to the cheese platter, and always coming back for seconds.  And it was such a delight to eat it slathered with honey fresh from the comb.  A real joy to eat honey this pure, untouched by human hands.
The kids are creatures of habit, as well.  Everyday, B, my li'l gourmand, brings to me a plate full of salmon, pastrami, bread, and cream cheese
patiently waiting as I turn it into a filling sandwich. 

Our room is decorated with comforting colors of brown and amber.  The sheets that came with the double-sized beds were of a high percale count and feels velvety to the skin.  The only problem I had with the room were the lights.  You see, when the kids are sleeping, C and I turn on the accent lights to relax a bit before actually going to sleep.  C looks at the map and prepare for the next day's itinerary, and we both read the papers before finally calling it a night. I felt that the accent lighting of the room was not enough to make relaxation pleasurable.    (Yeah I am a lighting snob like that :) ) 
The room came with its own Nespresso machine with a variety of coffee pods for selection.  I am not really a coffee drinker so I did not enjoy this complimentary facility.  But I have friends who are coffee aficionados, and from them I have learned that Nespresso is marketed as an exclusive luxury coffee.
What C and I really love about this hotel is that it is conveniently located right in the heart of the city so everything is almost within walking distance.  Everything is so near... there's a taxi stop as soon as we step out the hotel; a few steps away and we are in the City Hall subway station.  We took the cab to go anywhere and everywhere.  There is a taxi stand just right outside the hotel with taxis waiting for passengers to hop on, so that's what we did everyday.   The kids would do a lot more walking when we actually get to our destination, so energy conservation was what we had in mind. :) It was also more economical for our big family to just take a cab.  

The hotel also just sits above a modern and spacious food court, which is just perfect for my kids who are always hungry; a big grocery is also just nearby; and the Raffles City Mall is also in the same complex.
We just love the selection that can be found in the nearby grocery.

When our friends and relatives found out that we were planning a Singapore vacation, most of them immediately advised to book a room at the Marina Bay Sands.  December being a super peak season for travel, rooms were fully booked already.  Fortunately, C got a confirmation one week before our departure.

The kids loved our stay at Marina Bay Sands that it was so hard to get them out of the room...you will understand why when you see our room.
Sorry for the personal belongings already scattered across the room; the kids were all oohs and aahs as soon as they stepped in.  Had to remind them to let me take some photos first before they jumped in on the bed.

To the right of the entry is a walk-in closet, it was as big as a small room in a condo.  We placed all our luggage and shopping bags in this room.
To the right is the spacious bathroom.  I love that we have a walk-in shower and NOT a bathtub.  Much more convenient for the kids and I do not have to worry about anyone slipping while getting in the tub.
 Here's the rest of the photos of the room

The couch can be drawn out as a queen-sized bed
High-speed internet access is complimentary.  The executive desk in our room also has a flap which opens up to a charging station for all our gadgets.  The room also has a remote control for the motorized drapes, which amused the kids. 

Hotel guests have exclusive use of the 150 meter Sands Skypark infinity swimming pool, the world’s largest outdoor pool at 200 meters above ground level. At this height, guests can enjoy the best view of the Singapore skyline.  

If your are not a hotel guest, you can still have the chance to see the SkyPark and enjoy the best view of the Singapore panorama by purchasing a ticket.  However the access is limited to the Public Obsevation Deck, and it only offers a limited view of the infinity pool.

Unfortunately for us, Singapore was experiencing rainy weather during our visit.  The cloudy skies did not really make for nice photos.  I was hoping to enjoy the sunset on the pool deck, but unfortuntely my view was limited to gray skies and the occasional drizzle of rain. But if I were lucky enough, the glorious view should have looked something like this..
image source
And in the mornings, the spectacular view should have resembled this
image source
But I did not raise a bunch of complainers...   so the fun goes on - freezing water and gray skies notwithstanding! haha! :)  It is important to share with you one importand detail:  the water is freezingly cold.  Even J who is used to early morning training and training with heavy rains found the pool temperature unsettling.  
As soon as they jump in, everyone goes into a huddle, as if staying together will make the water warmer.  As for me, I wasn't really that brave... I need about an hour or so for my body to acclimatise. :)

Since we were traveling during the super peak season, there is a throng of crowd everywhere we go, and that includes checking-in. But the kids and the hubby did not notice the long wait since they were escorted to a waiting lounge where they have unlimited access to drinks.

The hotel also offers complimentary use of its business center and its facilities so we confirmed our return flight, checked-in online and printed our boarding passes.  There are also airport shuttle buses available free of charge.

Getting Around in Singapore:  
As with any travel experience, expect to do a lot of walking in Singapore.  
For most, the MRT is primary choice of getting around, because it goes just about everywhere, it is clean, fast and safe. The route maps are color coded making it easy to understand. 

The buses are numerous and efficient, you just have to be willing to wait for one since they stop at timed intervals.

For visitors, there is the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, but it is for tourists who are short of time and would like to pack their day with a long list of places to visit.  Not for those who would like to linger and enjoy the place.
For my family, clearly, the best way to get around is Singapore is by taxi. It is the most comfortable and hassle-free way to get us to our destination.  It is also the most economical for us since there are 2 adults and 3 kids, the maximum number of passengers allowed.  Any more than that and you have to split the company in 2 cabs.   

There was one time that C and the two younger kids went back home earlier as J and I had decided to do some late-night shopping at Orchard Road.  They took a cab home and paid around $8, while J and I took the MRT from Orchard and got off two stops away and paid a similar amount.  Imagine if all 5 of us took the MRT, we would have paid a total of $20 for the train, against just $8 for the cab.  

Not only are the taxis cheaper, many times the drivers often give us good advice about where to shop, what to do or where to go.  C oftentimes engage them in small talk, and the drivers would talk away, telling us about their country in the same manner that a tour guide would.  Plus, there is a line of taxis standing by just right outside our hotel so there is hardly any waiting time. 

If you are going to plan your visit around the December break, it is best if you pack along a foldable umbrella, a hat and a water-proof raincoat while you go around the city.