Day 1.  Manchester to Doha with Qatar Airways

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On board the aircraft
We caught the 9.53 am train to Manchester Airport and arrived in Terminal 2  just as check in opened for our flight so there was no queue.  Passing through security was busy as it was the first day of the school holidays but it still left plenty of time to enjoy an airside coffee before our flight.

Boarding for our flight at Gate 202 was swift and we were soon on board the A330-200 aircraft which had recently been refurbished.  Our chosen seats, 17A and 17B were in the front left of the plane and the configuration of 2 4 2 meant that we were seated on our own which was a bonus.

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Meal served in Economy on Qatar Airways flight
Service from the Qatar flight attendants was attentive and we were even served complimentary champagne in economy class before and during our dinner.

The In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) was easy to use and during the flight I watched two films, “The Theory of Everything” and “The Imitation Game” which passed the time.   Around 90 minutes before landing into Doha snack boxes were distributed containing sweet and savoury snacks whilst hot drinks were being offered, these tasted so no car that I could easily have managed a second one.  It was just before midnight local time when we arrived in our transit hub, Doha.

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Qatar Airways snack before landing

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Sweet & Savoury snack box served on Qatar Airways flight

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Day 2.  Arriving in Singapore

After a short time in transit we boarded the 787 Dreamliner to Singapore, it was our first time on this airliner.  Our chosen seats were in Row 17 again but this time the configuration was 3 3 3 so we had another passenger sitting with us.  Again, good, attentive service throughout the flight.  We managed a few hours sleep but I did manage to watch another good film, “The Railway Man” starring Colin Firth.

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Dinner on board our Qatar Airways flight to Singapore
We landed in Singapore’s Changi Airport just after 2.00 pm and both immigration and baggage reclaim were quick.  It had been our intention to take the hotel shuttle bus but we were told that one had just left so we would have to wait awhile for the next.
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Holiday Inn Clarke Quay, Singapore
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Our room
We wanted to be on our way, so we decided to take the MRT (Metro) instead so we obtained EZ-Link cards (similar to UK’s Oyster card), and added some value to them.  It was necessary to change twice to reach Clarke Quay and I was a bit apprehensive how it would be with heavy luggage, but like everything else in Singapore, it worked well and there was step free access at each station.

It was only a short walk from the MRT station to the Holiday Inn Express, Clarke Quay our home for the next seven nights.

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Hotel lounge
First impressions were good, an ultra modern hotel with polite receptionists and speedy check in.  Our room was on the top floor and had far reaching views over to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.  The room had floor to ceiling windows making it very light and was very stylish being open for only one year so everything looked very new and of a much higher standard than if Holiday Inn Express hotels found in Europe.  Up one floor we found a rooftop lap pool and jacuzzi with an attractive sun terrace, fluffy pool towels were even provided .Also on this floor was a small, well equipped gym – facilities usually only found in full service Holiday Inn’s.

Day 2. Exploring Singapore

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Marina Bay
After quickly showering and unpacking we headed back out into town taking the MRT to City Hall station.  From here we walked to the iconic Raffles Hotel, named after Sir Stamford Raffles who founded Singapore and established the East India Company in 1819.

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Marina Bay
Whilst there, we looked in the famous Long Bar where Singapore Sling cocktails set you back $29 each.   I loved the colonial style of Raffles with its tall palms and large rattan cooling fans.

Next it was time to eat,  so we studied our map and walked along to the Esplanade where we found Makansutra/ Gluttons Bay Hawker Stall.

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Raffles Hotel
This is an outdoor food court seating 550 people with 12 food stalls offering a large range of street food from chilli crabs to noodles.  In one corner there is a kiosk selling drinks to accompany the food.  As it was a Saturday evening it was really crowded but eventually we managed to find two seats.  Tables are large, shared ones but everyone we met was very friendly and it was fun sharing experiences with locals and fellow travellers.  In fact, we struck up a conversation with two off duty BA flight attendants who told us that they always tried to eat at Gluttons Bay on their stopovers.   I went to order some food,  we kept it simple on our first night with dishes of  Chicken Fried Rice and Nasi Goreng, two Roti Canai (delicious flatbread) and a bottle of Tiger beer each.

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Raffles Hotel

The food was very cheap, $14 and the beers $5.90 each.  It’s a really atmospheric place and it felt lovely being able to sit out, late at night without even a jumper, so unlike home.
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Makunsatra / Gluttons Bay, Singapore

imageWe walked along the waterfront to view the iconic Merlion statue, the emblem of Singapore and also to admire the waterfront cityscape of Marina Bay.   Soon afterwards tiredness caught up with us and we returned to Clarke Quay by MRT.  Shortly afterwards we were tucked up in bed asleep after an amazing first look at Singapore.

Day 3. Chinatown and Shopping on Orchard Road

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Hotel breakfast area
We woke early this morning as a result of jet lag, so we went down to breakfast at 7.30 am.  We sat out on the covered terrace which was kept cool with large ceiling fans.  The breakfast spread was a good selection of Western and Asian dishes, fruit, pastries, noodles, etc. and much more choice than one would expect from a Holiday Inn Express.  After a leisurely breakfast and a look at our iPads we set off exploring.

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Chinatown
Chinatown was a short walk from the hotel so we spent the morning looking round the lantern decorated streets.  We arrived at about 10.00 am which was a little too early as most of the shops and stalls were not yet open.  Still, we enjoyed our tour of the area and as its so close to the hotel we can pop back later in the week.  We returned to the hotel for a coffee and then took the MRT to Orchard Road for an afternoon of window shopping in the huge, air conditioned malls.   The shops were crowded as it was Sunday afternoon but it was pleasant to escape the afternoon heat for awhile.  I was slightly disappointed with Orchard Road as virtually all the stores were tucked inside malls leaving the famous shopping road rather lacking in character.
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Chinatown, Singapore

We returned to the hotel and relaxed in the rooftop pool area, the jacuzzi was refreshingly cooling in the tropical heat.   As we enjoyed our meal at Gluttons Bay  last night we decided to eat there again, we chose duck and prawn dishes tonight and they tasted just as nice as last night’s offerings.

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The Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Afterwards, we walked back to the hotel along the Esplanade, past the Merlion statue , the Fullerton Hotel, which was originally Singapore’s General Post Office and as well as being a five star hotel is also a national monument.  It was then a stroll along the riverside, stopping for ice creams on the way.

Day 4. Mt. Faber and Sentosa Island

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Sentosa Cable Car

Jet lag now over as we both woke later this morning.  After another leisurely breakfast sitting out on the hotel terrace it was off to Clarke Quay MRT station for the metro to HarbourCity.  From here, we took the lift to the 15th floor of the Vivo City Mall and bought return tickets for the Sentosa Cable Car.  These cost $29 each.

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View from cable car

We were fortunate to find that there wasn’t a queue and we even managed to get a gondola to ourselves.  Firstly, we headed upwards to Mt. Faber station and from there we followed a trail over the Henderson Waves bridge to the Tree Canopy Walk where we spotted our first monkeys of the holiday.  There were few people about, but if you like boardwalk trails high above the trees, this is an excellent side trip with good views of the port area below.  We returned to the cable car station, again managing to get a cabin to ourselves for the ride over to Sentosa Island.

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Siloso Beach, Sentosa

On arrival at Sentosa, we looked in the adjacent Cable Car museum which was really interesting and free of charge.  Next,  it was time for a drink so we took the path to Siloso Beach and found a beach bar there for drinks, it was in such an idyllic spot I could have stayed all day.  From here we could see also see many container ships waiting to enter the harbour.

All transport on Sentosa Island is free and so we took the minibus to Palawan Beach.

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Sentosa

The sea here was an emerald green colour and the beach a creamy white, it looked very inviting.  This was my favourite part of the island, it really is exotic with its rope bridge connecting the islands and was very peaceful.

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Siloso Beach, Sentosa Island

It was time for some excitement next, a ride on the Skyline Luge (a Go Kart circuit) for adults and children alike.  It cost $26 for three rides and to return to the top,  a chair lift ride is included.

After this we headed back to the hotel at Clarke Quay for a rest.

Day 4. Clarke Quay, Singapore

After a refreshing dip in the hotel’s infinity pool and a shower, we were ready to head out again.  This evening we decided to stay local and eat at Clarke Quay, just over the road from our hotel.  This district by the Singapore River has been transformed in recent years,  with bars and restaurants along the waterfront making it a lively destination.

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Dinner at Clarke Quay Central

We had dinner in the indoor food court at Clarke Quay Central, the food tasted good, was cheap but it lacked the atmosphere of Gluttons Bay.  We made up for this though by walking along the riverside,  where there’s plenty of atmosphere to be soaked up.  There is a  reverse Bungee Jump on one side and it was fun watching people taking this ride.  We found an ice cream shop with a lengthy queue, and lots of mouthwatering flavours to choose from, so we thought it must be good.

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Clark Quay waterfront at night

We selected salted caramel ice cream ones and took these to the water’s edge where we sat on the wall (like everyone else) watching the small tour boats with their twinkling lights pass by.  One tip,  try to eat the ice cream quickly, as in this heat it melts very fast, ours dripped and we had to mop up with some tissues.

Day 5. Walking the MacRitchie Trail in Singapore

After yet another leisurely breakfast it was time to start exploring again, this time on a forest trail.  We caught Bus No.166 from outside Clarke Quay MRT station to the MacRitchie Trail and Reserve.  The nearest stop being at Venus Drive, we used the GPS on our phone to find out where it was.  The trail starts nearby and is well signposted.  It takes around two hours to get round and its 4.5 km in length.

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The MacRitchie Trail
There isn’t anywhere to buy drinks, so I suggest taking bottles of water with you.  The trail is mostly along well maintained boardwalks through mangrove swamps and dense jungle, so a good insect repellant is recommended.  It’s quite easy, yet  a very pleasant hike.   I have never seen so many monkeys, they were scampering around everywhere and seemed to take a great delight in stealing water bottles from people’s backpacks.  The highlight of the trail is the tree canopy bridge.  As it is narrow, it’s a one way circuit so it’s well organised.  After we’d completed the trail we returned to the main road and were then able to catch any bus returning to the city centre.  We stopped off at the hotel for a rest and to freshen up before deciding how to spend the rest of the day.image

Day 5. The Singapore Flyer

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The Singapore Flyer

During the afternoon we decided to take the MRT to Promenade station and take a ride on the Singapore Flyer.  It stands165m tall and is the largest big wheel outside of the U.S.  It costs $33 each for the 30 minute ride.

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View of Supertree Grove from The Singapore Flyer

When we arrived there was no queue to buy tickets and we were able to board without delay.  Surprisingly, we had one of the spacious pods all to ourselves.  It was 2.30 pm so I don’t know if we were just fortunate to pick a quiet time or whether it’s no longer so popular.  Nevertheless, we found the 30 minute ride enthralling with amazing views of Marina Bay and the cityscape below.  It was particularly fun to be able to see part of the F1 motor racing circuit,  and the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.  As is often the case in Singapore, it was slightly overcast, but there were still fine views to be had.

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The Singapore F1 Circuit

We had just returned to the hotel a few minutes before thundery rain started.  It was the first rain of our holiday so we’d been very lucky.  The storm lasted a couple of hours so we had to miss out on using the rooftop pool this evening.

It was still quite dark and gloomy when we went out for dinner but it had at least stopped raining.   We took the MRT to Lau Pa Sat and dined in the hawker food centre there.  Lau Pa Sat translated means Old Market Hall.

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Inside The Flyer pod

It’s a beautiful, old colonial building that’s recently been tastefully refurbished.  There’s a huge, old clock in the centre, and the food stalls are attractively laid out in the hall.  Eating is at plastic tables which are kept very clean.  As is the norm in hawker centres serviettes are not provided so it’s a good idea to take a packet of tissues with you.  As well as chopsticks, forks and spoons are generally available.  The quality of the food here is excellent and it’s probably less expensive than Gluttons Bay down at the Esplanade.

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Lau Pa Sat

Outside,  the adjoining road is closed during the evenings and street vendors take over the area selling delicious satay sticks which are irresistible and cost very little.

The end of another fantastic day in Singapore.

 

 

 

Day 6. Little India and the Arab District

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Little India

Breakfast on the terrace again and I sampled fried carrot cake, this neither contains carrots nor is it acake – it’s actually a type of omelette with fried radish.   It’s a popular dish in Singapore and it definitely tastes better than it sounds!

Next, it was time to resume sightseeing and first on our list this morning was Little India.  It was easy to get there as there is an MRT station of that name.  On leaving the metro, we were transformed into the sights and sounds of India itself with the pungent aroma of spices drifting past, and small shops selling their wares out on the pavements, with colourful displays of fruit, vegetables and red chillis.

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Little India

People were carrying large sacks of rice on their shoulders whilst others were eating curries at small street stalls.   We glanced in the huge Tekka Centre, where the locals shop for almost everything.  It’s a wet market, general store,  fruit and vegetable market and food court.

We visited the Sri  Srunivos Perumal temple which was very ornate.  It’s necessary to leave shoes outside, sometimes in racks, or just on the floor.  Ladies are required to cover bare arms with shawls, and are provided with long dressing gown type wraps if their legs are uncovered.   These are available free of charge to borrow.

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Kampong Glam

From Little India, we walked the short distance to the Arab district Kampong Glam.  Despite this district being relatively small, I liked it very much with its palm lined streets and tiled walkways.  At one end of the square lies the Sultan Masjid Mosque which was unfortunately closed for refurbishment during our visit.   We returned to our hotel at Clarke Quay from Bugis MRT.

Day 6. The Botanical Gardens and Gluttons Bay

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National Orchid Garden, Singapore

After lunch we hopped on the MRT again, this time to the Botanical Gardens which, conveniently, has its own stop just outside the park gates.

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Singapore Botanical Gardens

Admission to the Gardens and lake area is free but there is a small charge of $5 to enter the National Orchid Garden.

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Orchid Gardens

This small entrance fee was definitely worthwhile as the orchid gardens are extensive, featuring  zones covering differing climatic conditions.  The flowers were exquisite and very fragrant and I feel certain that even non gardeners would enjoy them.   After wandering around other sections of the main gardens it was time for afternoon tea.  The cafe / restaurant in the gardens is called The Halia Tea Rooms, Halia being the Malay word for ginger.  The majority of the seating is under hibiscus covered terraces with large, colonial style rattan fans.  The tables have starched white cloths with little vases of fragrant orchids and best of all it’s actually great value.

We returned to the hotel for an early evening swim on our hotel’s rooftop then it was back to the Esplanade for dinner at Makansatra / Gluttons Bay hawker centre again.  It wasn’t quite so busy this evening and we shared a large circular  table with a group of locals who were all very friendly.  The food is delicious, cooked to order and amazingly cheap.

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Botanical Gardens

Tonight we opted for Chicken Rice which,  although simple is absolutely delicious, the chicken steamed in a delicately flavoured broth,  Satay sticks and large glasses of the local Tiger beer.  Interestingly,  these glasses with handles are referred to as ‘mugs’ over here, they are what in the UK we used to call tankards.  We walked back along the river to our hotel in Clarke Quay stopping for our obligatory ice creams on the way.