Some of my snaps from Singapore. Find me on Instagram at @kristainchicago.
I stayed five nights (four-and-a-half, really, if you consider I arrived at 2 a.m.) at The Pan Pacific Hotel, Singapore and I really enjoyed my stay. It’s a huge conference hotel so it’s a bit soulless at times, but the never-ending wifi connectivity, the awesome pool and gym and the lovely lounge on the top floor with 360 views of Singapore made it a great place to stay for a few days. Here are my pros and cons:
- Attached to multiple shopping malls. At one point, I needed some passport photos. I was a little worried about where I was going to do this, but no worries, one of the malls had a photo booth.
- Multiple dining options: One afternoon, I had lunch at the Indian restaurant in the Pan Pacific — Rang Mahal — and loved it, even though it was a buffet. (As a rule, I hate buffets. They make me feel both a. gluttonous and b. like I haven’t had enough to eat.) I also ate at the bar one early evening. Really, I only scratched the surface of what they have on offer.
- Excellent gym, open 24 hours. Only three of the four treadmills were working while I was there though, which was a bit of a bummer during peak hours.
- The wifi was always connected. None of this signing in every 30 minutes or anything. No username, no password = AWESOME.
- For each day I stayed, I was allowed to get two pieces of laundry cleaned! If you know what hotel laundry pricing is like, this was a huge deal. This was included in my executive club rate, so it may not be included in other rates.
- I liked that the hotel doorman remembered me each day.
- Very slow lifts. You would hit the button and sit down because you knew it was going to take forever.
- I lost my Canon plastic fantastic lens here. (I knew I was going to lose something!) I know I had it in my room and I know it never left the room. I realized it wasn’t in my bag when I got to Vietnam and contacted the hotel immediately. This was roughly eight hours after I left the hotel. They were very sweet and responsive, but no lens. I’m still hopeful it’s somewhere in my suitcase, but it’s not looking good.
- I thought the Executive Club food in the evenings was only so-so. Not enough variety for me. But I suppose it’s meant for snacks and not for dinner, so there’s that.
- The bath tub seemed a bit beat up.
- The window blinds were on remote control. Sometimes I think we over-engineer things. It was hard to get the blinds to come down sometimes. Slightly annoying.
If you’re looking for a boutique design hotel, the Pan Pacific ain’t it. But if you’re looking for a hotel that you can easily live in for days on end without ever leaving, this is an excellent choice. When I was comparison shopping, the rate I got at the Pan Pacific got me much more than the rate at surrounding properties, so I was happy with my selection and I would gladly stay here again.
PS Cafe in Ann Saing Hill: My friend Josh took me up to the rooftop of this quaint colonial bar where they played classical music in the ladies’ loo and the office buildings of Singapore twinkled above us. I liked the vibe at this place. It felt intimate and romantic and old school and the rooftop deck was ace.
1 Altitude, Raffles Place, Boat Quay: I think Josh has a thing for heights because he also took me here — the highest rooftop bar in Singapore — where we had very expensive drinks on the 63rd floor rooftop deck. (I took the photo that opens this post from the the bar.) This place also had one of the best signs I saw during my time in Singapore. (Above.) Better not **accidentally** do anything, people!!! 1 Altitude is worth it for the view but the vibe is not my scene really. (A little too clubby for me.) And the wind! Yikes.
Manicurious, Beach Road: Total first world problem but I arrived in Singapore with the mankiest nails. Jordi recommended Manicurious to me and I was glad she did. I liked the vibe (cafe in front, nail salon in back) and the free wifi, although it did feel maybe a bit cluttered and surprisingly for Singapore, their English wasn’t the best. They did a great job on my hands and toes though.
Bath Culture Foot Therapy, Chinatown: While walking through Chinatown, I decided I needed a foot massage. A few Googles later and I realized I was standing 20 feet from a great one. A 20 minute rose footbath followed by a 40 minute foot massage, plus free wifi and a hot tea. I felt great afterwards. 50 Singapore Dollars for my 60 minutes. This place is maybe smaller than I expected, given the copious number of online reviews.
Chinese Heritage Center, Chinatown: This is a small museum that tells the story of Chinese immigrants in Singapore, particularly during the 1800s. Opium, sexually transmitted disease, love, loss and gambling. Sad but riveting. Worth dropping in because it is a super quick visit and you can get a foot massage after!
Gardens by The Bay: I’m not a huge nature person — you seen one tree, you’ve seen em all — but I couldn’t help but gasp when the doors to the Cloud Dome opened. A man-made waterfall! Beautiful. I skipped most of the Flower Dome but if you’re into flowers and nature and stuff, you should make a visit. People told me I’d need three hours here. I did it in like 15 minutes.
Singapore Walks: I under-estimated my jetlag and bought a three-tour package and then only went on one of them, a tour of Little India. This was a really enjoyable way to learn more about a little slice of Singapore. (I’ll post some pics soon, but those are some flower gardens being sold on the street above.) I wish I had done more of the Singapore Walks but I was more in “slow travel” mode.
So…those are some of my Singapore suggestions for now. I may update this post as I think of more things so stay tuned.
2. I expected everything to be spotlessly clean. It’s not. Maybe there’s not a lot of garbage around but things are dirty.
3. There are no homeless people. Or if there are, they are hidden very, very well.
4. It’s super-diverse. It reminds me of Dubai in that way. All colors, all languages, all religions. Taxi drivers routinely speak English, Chinese — all of Cantonese, Mandarin and Hokkien — and Malay.
5. The little kids speak English like Americans/Canadians. (I’ve seen a ton of school groups out and about, all in super-cute uniforms, chattering away.)
6. It’s EXPENSIVE. Taxis are cheap, and the tap water is drinkable. Hawker markets are cheap. But booze and everything else you need is PRICEY.
7. It’s HOT. Yesterday, the thermometer at the pool read 36 celsius. That’s really hot. Really. Although it’s also been cloudy, so there’s some mercy. (But there’s also been a huge drought, which is bad news.)
8. There are A LOT of container ships around in the water. Singapore has to import practically everything it needs, so this makes sense, I suppose.
9. The kids are carrying around really huge cell phones, many with book- cover like cases. Also, on the train, I see more people with iPads out than I do in Chicago.
10. Did I mention they like crab?
(Added after original posting…)
11. There are many hookers.
12. It is nigh impossible to get a taxi between 4 pm and 6 pm because many taxi drivers change shifts. You will see people standing on street corners everywhere, valiantly struggling to hail a cab. This seems like a gap in the market just waiting to be filled!
13. Every taxi driver (and I had many) knew that The Economist had just crowned Singapore the most expensive city in the world.
I am suffering from heavy jetlag. I hate it. I slept from 10:30 pm to 2:30 am last night and, thanks to a little boost from my friend Advil PM, I made it from 10:30 pm to 3:45 am this past night. (I can’t call this last night because it is indeed still THIS night. It’s 5 am as I write this. I’ve given up on sleep and have turned on my laptop.)
If you have a jetlag cure or tip, I am all ears!
I called yesterday “logistics and operations day.” After having a big day in Singapore on Monday, Tuesday was the day to get organized, to exercise, to acclimate and to get things done. Ah, and to say hi to my work colleagues in Singapore and also attempt a food tour. (“Attempt” being the operative word.)
This means I didn’t leave the hotel until 5:30 pm. Don’t judge! Plus, I got my taxes done! Also, I’m on vacation and trying to relax, read books, exercise and not over-schedule myself. It helps that my hotel is one of those cities within itself. I really don’t have to leave unless I want to be a tourist.
After having a quick drink with my local colleagues at a Belgian beer bar — of all places — in Far East Square, I headed over for my food tour, where I proceeded to fall asleep more than once at the table. You can’t take me anywhere. Indeed, I’m about to fall asleep on you now…sorry, back to bed I go. Wish me luck.
Up above is a statue I saw outside a temple we passed during my food tour last night. It was very beautiful.
It takes me a while to relax. Especially when traveling. It really won’t be until Day 3 that I will enter the “oasis of calm” and be able to go with the flow and forget about all the work waiting for me back in Chicago and elsewhere. I do this to myself, really. I make this huge list of things I haven’t had a chance to do and I convince myself that surely I’ll be able to take care of these items during the first few days of my vacation. You know…I’ll make time to do my taxes and then I’ll make time to spend an hour on the phone with Comcast, my cable company, explaining to them for the umpteenth time that I RETURNED THEIR STUPID EQUIPMENT IN NOVEMBER SO PLEASE STOP STALKING ME.
Right. Time for some Char Kway Teow from room service. I was hoping my hotel would have it! And they did. Happy dance. I don’t know what’s in this stuff, but I love it. It was especially good at 4 am while I was wide awake with jet lag. I had arrived at the hotel around 2:30 am.
After finishing Book #1 and then doing some puttering around — I call this “picking things up and putting things down” — it was time to get out of the hotel. I like things on water, so I took a “bumboat” ride (har har) and nearly lost my char kway teow with a sudden onslaught of jet lag combined with motion sickness. Sometimes it can take me 48 hours to share the feeling of being on a plane. Ugh. Singapore is cute though, isn’t it?
Cocktail time. Even though Anthony Bourdain kept saying in The Layaway Singapore to skip Singapore Slings at The Long Bar at The Raffles Hotel, I did it anyhow. And you know what? I loved it. Cool old colonial vibe, even if it is overrun with tourists.
Next, back to the hotel for nap time. Ah, and Book #2 time.
And then it was time to eat again. Chili crab at the “No Signboard Seafood” restaurant in Esplanade with my old friends, Sherry, Roman and Avi. I confirmed that I don’t really like crab. Also, I nearly fell asleep at the table. And despite an invite to see “Four Floors of Whores” for myself, (the band on the 2nd floor is supposed to be great) I went back to the hotel and straight into bed. “You should come out with us, Krista,” they said. “You know you’re going to be wide awake at 2:30 in the morning.”
They were exactly right.