Posts Tagged With: Singapore

Trip Accomplice 2017 Year In Review

Shoshone Point

Enjoying a railing-free view at Shoshone Point

Well, it’s January again, which means it’s time to take a quick look in the rear view mirror before moving on to the year ahead. Below is a recap of the articles that have appeared here on the Trip Accomplice blog – I invite you to take a look in case there was something you missed. I’ll even refrain from mocking you for it.

The Facts

This year I’ve led my readers on a tour through destinations in 7 foreign countries and 2 famous spots in the U.S.A. Along the way I’ve recounted some amazing experiences available at said destinations, as well as practical advice, points of interest, and even a few tips.

Destinations Abroad

The subjects of my posts this past year were overwhelmingly slanted toward Asia-to the tune of seven out of seven. Considering that most of the world’s population and landmass resides there, this should come as no surprise. Add to that the fact that my past two journeys abroad were a whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia and a few weeks in Sri Lanka via a stop in the Middle East, and the implications are clear.

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Me and the Manta, Nusa Penida

The first post was on the amazing opportunity visitors to Bali are afforded in: Mantas Need Showers Too-Diving Nusa Penida. If you ever wanted to float among giants, then this post is worth checking out. Even if you don’t have the guts, but are curious to see a maniac like myself doing so, it’s still worth a look. Next I focused my attention to the next archipelago over in Touring Manila Without Pushing The Envelope – an overview of what to do and see in the Philippine capital. Spoiler Alert: there isn’t much, but if you happen to be there, I’ve got some suggestions for you.

Hoi An

Time to party in Hoi An, Vietnam

The next stop on our Asian tour focused on another awesome experience, this time outside of the city of Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo. As the title would suggest Rafting with the Wild Man of Borneo, this is a destination piece that not only details the perils of whitewater rafting in the primordial rain forests of Borneo, but the incredible nature of the setting. Even if you’ve never picked up a paddle (or ever intend to) it’s still a fun read. From there I crossed the South China Sea for two posts about the underrated destination of Vietnam. In Good Morning Vietnam/Goodnight Saigon I recounted the sights to see in Vietnam’s most vibrant city through the lens of an American who grew up in an era where that was the war featured in pop culture’s attention. Next I shared some practical details about two out of three of the top sights of Central Vietnam in Da Nang, Vietnam – Where Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad. For the record, this area could have easily occupied several weeks of activity, instead of the single day I had at my disposal. If you’re looking for some tropical/historic vacation ideas, you’ll definitely want to take a peek at what you missed.

Sigiriya

View from the top at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Shifting to Central Asia, I posted my longest piece of the year-a rundown of not only the best destinations to see in Sri Lanka, but everything a potential traveler would need to know before going in the post India Lite: An Overview of Sri Lanka. The nearly three weeks I spent there in June/July of 2017 gave me a great view of both the highlights and the challenges. If I had to sum it up in a few words: the good outweighed the bad. The next post touched on a little jitney I took on my way there, entitled Day Trip to Musandam, Oman. Since I had over 24 hours to spend in Dubai, UAE, naturally I had to venture further afield. This post tells you the practicalities and pros and cons of doing so.

Supertrees2

Take a stroll on the aerial walkway for a scene out of Myst

Lastly, I once again wrote about Southeast Asia in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay – Where Myst Meets Pandora, which tells about the biggest difference in the city/state since the last time I had visited in 2003. Filled with references from my younger years, it’s a good place to start for anyone considering a trip to Singapore.

Destinations At Home

Aquinnah

Stop and smell the flowers in Aquinnah

2017 saw me visiting two famous American destinations – one for the first time, the other for the first time as an adult.

In The Best-Kept Secret Spot in the Grand Canyon (Don’t Tell Them I Told You) I shared specific details on finding this special place away from the crowds in arguably the most majestic site of natural beauty anywhere. Not only is the Grand Canyon an absolute must for any serious traveler, but the “secret spot” is a must for those who wish to enjoy it in relative privacy.

The other popular U.S. destination I featured was in the post A Day in the Vineyard (Wine Optional), which was a rundown of the sights and logistics of visiting the New England gem of Martha’s Vineyard. Though not terribly different geologically than my birthplace of Long Island, this staple of summer fun was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

What’s Next in 2018?

The only concrete travel plans I have in 2018 are on a Western Caribbean cruise beginning in February which will take me back to three places I have visited previously – Mexico, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. The last time I visited the former and the latter was over 17 years ago, so I’m sure I’ll have some updated information to share. Besides that I have some ideas in the works, but won’t speculate too much until they firm up.

Speaking of what’s next, if you, dear reader have a destination you’d like me to speak about, or speak more about, please leave a comment below and perhaps you just might get your wish before the 2018 Year in Review. And as always, thanks for being a loyal reader and accompanying me around the world. It wouldn’t be the same trip without you.

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Categories: Destinations, Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay – Where Myst Meets Pandora

Supertrees1

Welcome to Pandora at Gardens by the Bay

Back in 2003, the first time I visited Singapore, the main attractions were the Merlion, the shops along Orchard Road, and the marvelous Night Safari (which are all still there and still worth visiting, I might add). When I arrived in November 2017 there was a new show in town, a massive land reclamation project called the Gardens by the Bay that is easily the tiny island-nation’s showpiece.

Located along the southern shore near the cruise ship port, this public plaza with a dose of sci-fi is a great place to wander. I myself did my wanderings late at night, when the humidity was down .3% from during the day going from 1,000% to a mere 997%. There were few tourists and the lighting was surreal, though for dining and photography, I’d also recommend coming during the day. But in the glow of the nighttime, the analogies of the title came clearly into focus.

Some of my favorite computer games growing up were the MYST series, where players must explore multi-tiered worlds of unique structures and mazes. Gardens by the Bay specifically reminded me of Riven, where you have to navigate a jungle of passages and walkways (some over the top of others). The other sci-fi analogy prompted by the scene were the jungles of the fictional planet of Pandora from the movie Avatar – particularly the phosphorescent colors at night, which are resplendent in the Gardens’ premier attraction – the Supertrees.

Supertrees2

Take a stroll on the aerial walkway for a scene out of Myst

These futuristic marvels of varying heights (25 to 50 meters tall) house many plants along with environmentally-friendly solar cells, but mostly they just look really cool – especially when lit up at night. There’s a free light and sound show among the trees at 7:45PM and 8:45PM, and if you get there before 9PM you can take a stroll on a 128 meter long aerial walkway (for about $8) for a closer look and an out-of-this-world experience. With the massive (and very chic) Marina Bay Sands hotel looming in the background, this is arguably one of the best views in the city.

Marina Bay Sands

The Mighty Marina Bay Sands Hotel – an impressive backdrop

There’s a ton of other attractions not only contained within the Gardens, but also nearby, including a rather cool helix-shaped bridge and water views of the famous Merlion. For more information, check out the official website here.

I’ve previously mentioned that Singapore is a great place to visit (See the post A Boring Place to Visit But A Great Place to Live?). With the addition of Gardens by the Bay, that conclusion has doubled, and I heartily recommend a visit here to anyone considering a trip to Southeast Asia.

Have you been to Gardens by the Bay? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

Categories: Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Boring Place to Visit But A Great Place to Live?

The Merlion--Singapore's iconic mascot

The Merlion–Singapore’s iconic mascot

Before arriving in Singapore, I met a British man on a dive live aboard in the Andaman Sea who summed it up as: A boring place to visit but a great place to live. This struck me as odd, as I’d always assumed that the things that make a place a nice place to live would also be fun to visit. Yet when I got there, I could see what he meant by that, even if I didn’t find this island city/state anywhere near as boring as he let on.

 

First, Singapore is orderly. As anyone who has traveled through central or southeastern Asia can attest, this is not the norm. Roadways are clean, public transportation is dependable and the culture truly understands the importance of air conditioning (sitting nearly at the equator this is not a surprise). The city and skyline are modern (with the exception of the venerable Raffles Hotel) with all the conveniences and trappings of modern consumer culture. Crime is extremely low, no doubt in part to the stringent (many would say excessive) penalties for offenders, many of which carry the death sentence. So I guess I can see what he meant by it being a nice place to live–safe environment, easy commutes via the ring-shaped metro line, and all the chain restaurants one could ever need.

 

Skyline, Singapore

Skyline, Singapore

What I wasn’t so convinced about was his claim of it being boring. I mean, sure it doesn’t have the same chaos as India or Thailand, nor the world-class attractions of either, but this doesn’t mean this is a dull place at all. Orchard Road—the swanky part of town offers plenty of shopping opportunities. There are amusement parks and lots of water all around, with all the entertainment opportunities such venues present. There’s an awesome botanical garden showcasing native flora and original rain forest. And best of all they’ve got the Night Safari—a zoo that opens in the evenings when the animals are more active. Housed in discreetly-lit habitats, this nighttime adventure is both a great idea and star attraction.

 

So to sum up my own take on Singapore: Boring? Not at all! Up there with New York, Paris or Hong Kong? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A nice place to live? Possibly. So long as you can give up certain freedoms like conscientious objection or chewing gum and don’t mind a living in a constant state of 1000000% humidity then yeah, I imagine it’s a great place to live.

Categories: Destinations | Tags: , , , , ,

If You’re Going to India, Turn Right at Finland (And Other Stopover Ideas)

Many experienced travelers are familiar with the art of the stopover—that bonus destination on the way to your intended destination. For the novice, this is when your flight passes through another city on the way to your final destination, and you’ve arranged to stop over, and spend some time there before moving on. For many, any unnecessary stops are a nuisance, but if you play your cards right, you can use such stopovers to maximize your trip’s experience.

 

I’ll get into my “maximizing” concept in another post, but for now I’ll just say that those pesky stops on your way there or back can offer the chance to sample a destination you may not have initially targeted. And if you’re already in the neighborhood, why not take the time to stop over and smell the roses?

 

A Day in Helsinki Was A Free Bonus On My Trip To India

A Day in Helsinki Was A Free Bonus On My Trip To India

As a case in point, on my way to New Dehli, our flight (on Finnair) stopped in Helsinki, arriving at 8 in the morning and not continuing on until 8 that evening. What to do with that long layover? Why, head out into the city and explore, of course! Our group had coffee downtown, toured the sprawling World Heritage Site at the Suomenlinna Fortress, and navigated the subway system before returning for our onward flight. Did we see everything? No. Did we see enough? I think so. And in this case, the gray, Scandinavian orderliness served as a tremendous contrast for the colorful chaos of India. The best part? There was no extra charge for seeing firsthand another world capital and gaining some insight on another culture—albeit it one with far too many vowels.

 

Sometimes airlines will charge a fee for a stopover, but usually this isn’t much (less than a hundred dollars). Almost always it’s worth the price. Traveling on Iberia Airlines, my wife and I enjoyed a few days in Madrid on our return from Rome—for only about $45 apiece. Definitely worth it to see some original paintings by Dali and Picasso in the capital of a former empire. Not to be forgotten too is arranging stopovers on award travel. So long as the space is there, often airlines will be willing to oblige at least one stopover on your itinerary. And again, if you’re not paying for it, why not?

 

When in the neighborhood, why not stop in Hong Kong?

When in the neighborhood, why not stop in Hong Kong?

A key factor in effective stopovers is your choice of airline. Most national carriers have their hubs in key cities. So if you’re heading out to Bangkok and always wanted to see Hong Kong, try Cathay Pacific. If you wanted to see Singapore, use Singapore Airlines. I think you get the point. Your routing makes all the difference as to which stopover options are available.

 

So instead of selecting the nonstop only button when choosing your flights, why not expand your horizons and see where that stopover might take you? The bonus experience will be the icing on your trip’s cake, and allow you the chance to explore yet another small piece of the big wide world.

 

Have you ever deliberately arranged a trip to take advantage of a stopover? Leave a comment for us all to discuss.

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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