How.Can.I.Watch A Movie.On My.Phone.During.A.Flighr Slices of Singapore Life

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Slices of Singapore Life

It was a spur of the moment urge to just get out of Bangkok for a few days.

I had never been to Singapore, but I have friends that were born there and moved to the states when they were young.

I guess I was just curious and looking for a backup to living in Bangkok, Thailand.

Visa laws can change quickly and they have in Thailand, so I used that excuse to check out Singapore.

They’re country motto translates to; Onward, Singapore.

Singapore is an island that’s only about 270 square miles, which qualifies it as being the smallest country in Southeast Asia and it only has existed as an independent republic since 1965.

I chose to fly Cathay Pacific airlines, which is a Hong Kong based airline, not that it matters, but I thought I’d just mention it.

It’s a short flight, so no matter which air carrier you choose, you can put up with any inconvenience or discomfort for a couple of hours.

Including all the taxes and fees, my coach ticket cost 20,835 Thai baht, which translates to about $675.

The first thing I noticed once I stepped outside the airport terminal was how clean the city was, I mean, it’s very clean. No litter, no gum, no cigarette butts. Clean, with a capital “C” and you get the sense that the people are proud of that fact.

If you need a phone card, Green is a big name there (it’s a local prepaid SIM card company) and it’s cheap and easy to slip into your phone.

Arriving in a city that has a mass transit system in place that can get you around quickly is always a plus. I boarded the green line (the other two are the red and purple lines) at the Singapore Changi Airport and it was just about 30 minutes or so (about 20 minutes by car) and I was checking into the Marina Mandarin hotel.

The Marina Mandarin hotel is a 5 star hotel that just underwent a major renovation. It has a great lobby with live entertainment that is quite eloquent.

The hotel is located across the street from the Suntec Convention & Exhibition Centre and the Esplanade. The Esplanade is the new Performing Arts Centre in Singapore.

It’s difficult to imagine that this metropolis was once just a sleepy little fishing village that grew to be a seaport and what it is today; a great city to visit.

You get a clear view of the high-rise buildings that define Singapore’s financial and business district. From the hotel, you could walk to the heart of the financial district in about 10 minutes.

I almost felt like I was on a movie set, because there was not a lot of activity on the streets. It was sort of an episode of the Twilight Zone, where the characters enter a city, but there’s no activity.

Think of the city as having a relaxed elegance. You know there’s money there, but it is low key. I came to call the city, Singa-rich, rather than Singapore because unlike Bangkok, it wasn’t a cheap place to stay, eat, or shop.

Thirty-five dollars for a haircut trim seemed a little high for me, and I did go to 4 different salons. Common items were high-priced, but the norm for Singapore.

You can get a good grasp of the city and country, which both bare the same name, by picking up a copy of the English language newspaper; International Herald Tribune.

I passed on eating at the AquaMarine restaurant at the hotel and was disappointed at the Peach Blossoms (Chinese) restaurant, because I like great service and I felt like I was bothering the staff by being there, but I really enjoyed the food, atmosphere, and service at the Italian restaurant on the 5th level of the hotel, called Ristorante Bologna.

If you’re a jogger, the Marina Mandarin Singapore hotel is on Raffles Boulevard and a very short distance from the War Memorial Park. It’s a very clean park and safe.

There are lots of hotels, but one thing that I have learned in my travels is to talk to as many locals as you can and get the scoop on the best places to go, eat, shop, and drink.

I took my own advice and found a fountain of knowledge from lots of friendly people.

I discovered from more than one person that the best sushi restaurant in the city was Tatsu. Tatsu is a simple and small sushi and Japanese restaurant, but it’s a great place for lunch or dinner.

Maggie, the Managress (and I just love the word Managress for a woman) was so happy to answer my dozen questions and all the time wearing a smile.

Tatsu is at 30 Victoria Street and would not be considered to be a modest priced place to eat. You’ll spend money, but the quality is worth it. Again, it’s not a fancy place, but worth investigating.

If you’re not the sushi type of patron, don’t worry, there’s a Morton’s of Chicago Steakhouse at the Oriental hotel on Raffles Avenue.

If you favor Indian food, take the purple MRT line to Little India and do some shopping while you’re there. There’s a Sikh Temple and a very large central market with all kinds of interesting foods and spices. It will wake your nose up.

You have to try the Lassi. It’s a yogurt-based drink that is flavored with fruit and very refreshing and I kinda had an addiction to the strawberry flavored Lassi.

The scents of Little India can be charming too, like the fragrance of jasmine and marigolds from Campbell lane. You can spend a whole day in Little India just walking around shopping, eating, and taking photos.

Across the canal from Little India, is an area called Kampong Glam and for the shopaholics, some of the bargain areas are open until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. It’s best to go during the week.

The area is named after the trees that once dominated the area; the gelam trees.

What was really fascinating about Kampong Glam was what I would call, the ideal world.

All in the same neighborhood, there’s a Christian church, a Chinese temple, a Hindu temple, and an Islamic mosque and all of them in harmony along with the people who worship there respectively.

It just made me think that we really can all get along on this planet, if we want to.

Many of the streets are named after Middle Eastern cities.

I met a couple of young ladies at an open air shopping center and after the usual chit-chat, I asked about working in Singapore and the reply was, “Good jobs not easy to find.”

What she meant by that statement is that, you can find work, but it’s difficult to find a high-paying job with a good company.

If you’re making a visa run, there are dozens of hotels weaved around the many consulates in Singapore. The Thai consulate is almost directly across the street (Orchard Road) from the Hilton hotel.

There’s definitely no shortage of hotels in Singapore, but like most major cities, the big names, get the big prices. My room at the Marina Mandarin was $300. per night all in and the mini-bar, which is really a cabinet, was very tempting.

Tax on most items is 7 percent and they round figures off, which a receipt will reflect as; ROUNDED AMT.

English is spoken all around the city, so it’s easy to communicate your needs and your destinations.

Something that really caught my eye was the huge Ferris wheel in the Marina Bay area. It has been named the Singapore Flyer.

When I say the Singapore Flyer is huge, I mean it’s really, really tall. It is 165 metres in height. It might be easier to imagine if I tell you it’s about the height of a 45 story building.

It’s already a landmark. There are 28 capsules that travel this circle of awe and each capsule is capable of holding 28 passengers.

The capsules are air conditioned and it takes 30 minutes to make the complete circle, giving the photo-buffs plenty of time to snap pictures of the landscape of not only Singapore, but of Malaysia and Indonesia in the distance.

This would be a great way to cap off a day with that special someone or a group of friends. Hire an in-capsule host and enjoy a glass of wine while taking in a sunset. It will give you a new perspective on the world.

There are group rates and corporate rates, along with special event rates. You could get married on the Singapore Flyer for a real memorable day.

Two other Ferris wheels are due to begin spinning soon. One will be in Dubai and the biggest one ever to be built, called the Beijing Great Wheel will take its turn in 2009.

On one of my MRT rides, I had a lengthy conversation with a middle-aged family man who painted a clear picture of what living in Singapore is like. He seemed a bit bitter about the government and after doing a little web surfing, I now fully understand his point of view.

He said that, “the government is like your father. He wants to do everything for you. He wants to make your decisions about what is right for you. He will give you enough so that you will not starve, but never enough so that you can save and breakaway someday.”

After the man told me this, he asked if I understood what he meant and I acknowledged that I did. He wished that he could leave Singapore, but he said that just wasn’t a possibility anytime soon.

I found it to be an interesting point of view.

My conclusion was that the country is made up of two parts; Singapore and Singa-rich.

Singapore has been scratched off my list of backups to Bangkok, Thailand, but it’s a very nice country to visit and spend money.

If you haven’t traveled outside of your native country, I would strongly suggest that you do. The rewards of culture, food, architecture, and people help to make you appreciate how complex this spinning rock in space really is.

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