2015 Holiday Southeast Asia Cruise

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December 17th 2015
Published: December 21st 2015
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December 17, 2015

We all slept in this morning, even Todd, the early riser. I was up at 7:45 am and the rest were up by 8:30 am.

Earlier this morning when we first arrived at the flat, Michael and I visited the 24 hour grocery store to purchase breakfast items. Once everyone was up, we ate breakfast (cereal and wheat bread), were dressed and ready to set out for the day. We weren’t meeting Erv, Tim and Gayle until 11:00 am so we took advantage of this downtime to check email and stare that the water canals outside the flat.

Around 10:45 am we headed down to front of the condo complex where the flat is located (ironically it is called The Caribbean) to hail a taxi. The front of the complex looks like an upscale resort. The pool apparently is one of the best in Singapore and was full of families and residents just relaxing. We left the pool area and went into the roundabout in front of the condo complex. The stairs down to the roundabout had cascading water on a gentle slope following the stairs. The water flow was on top of permanently installed blackish rock. In the roundabout, there were there water features about ten foot tall with bubbling water being pushed upwards and then cascading down the sides of the feature. You can tell that when it is dark the water features are illuminated.

The weather here in Singapore is very warm and humid. Singapore is only 51 miles north of the equator. The weather is the same year round; however November through February is its rainy season.

Since this is a residential area, hailing a taxi was a little tricky. It took about 15 minutes to finally get a taxi to take us to the hotel that Erv, Tim and Gayle are staying at. The hotel, Marriott Tang Plaza, is located in a very upscale area with a ton of shopping and restaurants. The top of the hotel tower had an Asian theme to it. The entrance to the hotel lobby was exquisite and matched the surrounding area. The hotel lobby was grand with very high ceilings and beautifully arranged Christmas decorations. There was also a dining area and bar. We meet Erv, Tim and Gayle in the lobby and discussed what we wanted to do today. I spoke with the concierge (a former job of mine in college) and told what we wanted to do. We were told the night safari at the zoo in credibility interesting. They suggested that we do the night safari when we come back from our cruise, instead we should visit the Aquarium during the day and the Garden by the Bay this evening because there are Christmas lights and they will be gone on December 27. The concierge was super nice and gave each of us a bottle of water, much needed in this warm and humid environment.

We hailed two taxis to take us the Aquarium. The Aquarium was located on a small island right of the coast of Singapore mainland. The island is named Sentosa. This island is a resort area with a Universal Studios, lots of shopping, restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions. There are several ways to access the island. One way is by tunnel in a car or bus, MRT subway system, monorail, and cable car.

Once our taxi dropped us off in the garage area. We immediately took the escalators to the resort area level. Once entering this area, it was alive with tourist and locals. We were surrounding fun restaurants, and great shopping. There was a central area in the resort area. They had a large size Minion (this is a Universal Studios movie and there is a Universal Studio part here on the island). Since we all had watched it on the flight, we needed to take photos with our family posing in the front.

After photos we walked to the Aquarium. From the exterior of the Aquarium, it looked very impressive. We have visited Aquariums’ in the past; however this one felt different, in a good way. We entered in to the main area of the Aquarium; the hall area was super impressive and had mock ships that are presumed replicas of ships that sailed to Singapore of the years. To the left of the hall there were several display areas from the various countries and cultures and what items they transported to Singapore. They had sample of several of the items that would have been shipped to touch. We spent more than 30 minutes viewing this, incredibly organized.

At the back of the hall there was a movie you could watch (there were risks to watching it). The cost was a $2.00. Jenny, Tim and Gayle went to this movie. Once it was complete, they met the rest of use on a lower floor.

While we were waiting for Jenny, Tim and Gayle, Michael and I participated in this on a touch screen where you can draw a vase. Once you designed the vase, the computer program fired the vase and readied if for painting. Michael and both decorated them and both had a nice appeal them. Before you are done with the computer program you had the option to auction off the vase. Todd’s price at auction was $129 and Michael’s was $207.00. When Jenny was finished with the movie, she also participated in this fun activity, drawing a vase on the screen. She auctioned hers off and the selling price is $514. She had the highest bid price of all the screens, at the time of completion.

Once everyone was back together, we spent 2 hours touring the Aquarium. Like I mentioned early, although I have not visited a lot of Aquarium’s, this site was absolutely beautiful and well organized. One area the kids loved was petting the starfish. The gentleman supervising the petting was originally from Chicago, but living in Singapore for the last 11 years. He absolutely loves living here.

The Aquarium had a very nice write up and I wanted to share it with you. “Discover the awe-inspiring world of life in the ocean at the world’s largest aquarium. Step into S.E.A. Aquarium and immerse yourself in a magical marine world seen through our planet’s largest window to the ocean. With more than 800 species of marine animals, the aquarium ishome to majestic manta rays, enormous goliath grouper, napoleon wrasse, and other gentle giants of the sea. Come face-to-face with over 200 sharks and uncover the centuries of myths about these ocean predators. Sneak a peek at a moray eel in a rocky crevice or tour an underwater reef community. Discover and unfold the endless wonders of our blue planet at S.E.A. Aquarium.” (www.sentosa.com.sg)

Following our awesome trip to the Aquarium, it was lunch time. It was 3:00 pm and we were all so hungry. We found an excellent dumplings restaurant called Din Tai Fung. According the literature at this location, it was in the top 10 restaurants in the world according to the New York Times. The restaurant is known for its dumplings. Several of us ordered the recommend pork dumplings and the rest of our family order chicken. The order sizes came in 6 or 12. All of us order the 6 size. There was a fantastic dipping sauce. The sauce had the teriyaki consistency with a hint of curry. I enclosed a few photos of this restaurant and our meal presentation. The restaurant environment was very vibrant with locals and tourist, even late in the afternoon. When you first walk up to the front of the restaurant, the kitchen staff was hard at work making the variety of dumplings. Very interesting, all made by hand. The restaurants website provides a great summary of the restaurant includes its root and its existing today.

“The founder of Din Tai Fung was a man called Bingyi Yang. Born in 1927 in China's Shanxi Province, he moved to Taiwan as a young man in search of better prospects. His first job was as a deliveryman at a store called Heng Tai Fung, which sold cooking oil.Impressed with his hard work, the owner quickly put Bingyi in charge of the oil store’s accounts after just two years of service. But due to other business losses, the oil store was forced to shut down, leaving Bingyi unemployed. Bingyi decided to start up his own oil shop with wholesale oil purchased from Din Mei Oils. To show his appreciation to his first boss at Heng Tai Fung, he named his new store Din Tai Fung. However, when tinned oil went on sale around 1972, sales at Din Tai Fung plummeted. Taking advice of a friend, Bingyi and his wife turned half of their shop towards making and selling steamed dumplings. The quality and exceptional taste of Din Tai Fung’s steamed dumplings attracted many customers and the business took off thanks to its strong word-of-mouth. Spurred on, Din Tai Fung stopped selling oil and turned into the full-fledged restaurant it is today. This was the humble and inspiring beginning of an international brand – Din Tai Fung. (www.dintaifung.com.tw)

Following our great lunch, we heading back to the parking area, to catch a taxi, so we can head back to the flat for a little rest and relaxation. Once back at the flat, we all rested for about one hour. We needed to get to the Garden by the Bay before dark and our planned dinner for 9:00 pm.

After a welcomed rest, we headed to the lobby area and roundabout to hail a taxi to take us to Garden by the Bay. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the main entrance of the park. Garden by the Bay was a very popular destination for families and tourists. It was packed, part due to the Christmas lights and decorations. The cost was $28 for the two domes, or 16 for one dome. We purchased tickets for one dome because our time was limited. The Garden by the Bay and the Flower Dome was speculator but is very hard to see the floral and plant life inside the Flower Dome due to it being dark. The Christmas lights were beautiful and there was a lot of photos being taking. Our dome visit was enjoyable, however it was hard to enjoy it for the first time because we have our own domes in the Galveston, Texas, about one hour south of Houston. Here is a summary from the Garden by the Bay website explaining its history of the gardens and the flower dome.

“Gardens by the Bay brings to life the National Parks Board Singapore's vision of creating a City in a Garden. The Gardens captures the essence of Singapore as the premier tropical Garden City with the perfect environment in which to live and work - making Singapore a leading global city of the 21st century.

In January 2006, an international master plan design competition was launched to seek world-class design ideas for Gardens by the Bay. It drew more than 70 entries submitted by 170 firms, from over 24 countries, including 35 from Singapore.

An 11-member Jury comprising local and international experts shortlisted eight teams and two winners were announced in September 2006; namely Grant Associates for Bay South and Gustafson Porter for Bay East, both from the UK. A decision was made to develop Bay Central later.

A public exhibition of the master plan concepts and models of the winning teams was held in September 2006 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Over 10,000 people visited the exhibition and over 700 gave their feedback. An overwhelming majority 85% of those surveyed liked the features in the master plans and over 97% said they would visit the gardens.

Gardens by the Bay broke ground in November 2007, signalling the commencement of the Gardens’ development. Subsequently, development of Bay East Garden also commenced. It was developed as an interim garden to be used as a staging site for some of the rowing and canoeing events of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in August 2010. Following the YOG, Bay East underwent reinstatement works and was open to the public in October 2011.” (http://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/the-gardens/flower-dome/visitor-information.html) “Step into the Flower Dome and stand in awe. Speculator and innovative, it is the largest glass greenhouse in the world as listed in the 2015 Guinness World Records! Be amazed by the changing display of flower and plans from the Mediterranean and semi-arid regions.” One area I failed to describe was the Super Tree Grove. I have attached a photo to this blog; however we were not able to see the full perspective of the Super Trees. They were lite with changing colors. There are six tree, all which were powered by solar power. Here is a very good description of the trees. “Of the 18 Supertrees in Gardens by the Bay, 12 of them can be found here at Supertree Grove, with the tallest one measuring up to 16 storeys in height. Over 162,900 plants comprising more than 200 species and varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and tropical flowering climbers are planted on the Supertrees. 11 of the Supertrees are embedded with environmentally sustainable functions like photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy.” (http://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/the-gardens/supertree-grove/visitor-information.html)

We spent a little over an hour here at the Garden by the Bay. Once finished we started walking to the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Our walk was about 30 minutes. We navigated through a well lite, low pedestrian traffic flow, and beautiful tropical floral. Once at the hotel, Michael and I had to hail a taxi and take us back to the flat to put on dress slacks. The restaurant we were eating at required long pants for men not shorts.

Michael and I arrived back at the flat changed quickly and then went to the condo area roundabout to hail a taxi. This took about 15 minutes. Most of the taxis were hired; however we did manage to find a taxi to take us back to the hotel for dinner. Michael and I were about 30 minutes late due to having to go back and forth and then waiting for a taxi. When all of us left the flat, Cindy suggested we wear slacks because we were not sure what time of restaurant we were eating at. Lesson learned, listen to Cindy and be prepared. Before I tell you about our restaurant experience, the hotel provided a great description of the hotel. “Imagine yourself at the floor-to-ceiling windows of your 5-star hotel room, drinking in magnificent views of Singapore’s glittering city district or picture-perfect Gardens by the Bay.Or swimming in the world’s highest and longest infinity pool with its unrivalled panoramic views – a once-in-a-lifetime experience available exclusively to guests of Marina Bay Sands hotel.” (http://www.marinabaysands.com/hotel.html)

Let me talk about our restaurant experience and location. First and foremost, WOW. The atmosphere is luxurious and open aired setting. The restaurant is world renowned and located on the top floor (57th floor). To get to the restaurant, you must pass through a reception by the elevators. The elevator is a direct link to the restaurant. To our right was a view of the Garden by the Bay and to our left was the skyline of Singapore. What a relaxing area to dine, overlooking the beautiful city of Singapore. The service was good, however we have had better. The atmosphere and views far exceeded the expectation of the restaurant, more than the service. Between the five of us, we ate beef, chicken and seafood. The meal presentation was fantastic and maintained its heat while eating, despite the cool and strong breeze. The presentation of the dessert is depicted in a photo that is part of this blog. This restaurant is by far one of the top dining memory makers. Maybe I need to write about all the restaurants we have eaten of the years in different countries. The hotel website presented a great description of the restaurant.

It states “Tantalise your palate with award-winning, innovative Modern Asian cuisine at CÉ LA VI Restaurant and SkyBar. Elevated above the SkyPark Observation Deck of Marina Bay Sands, CÉ LA VI offers you breathtaking panoramic views of the city skyline and Singapore Strait to enhance your fine dining experience.

The multi-level CÉ LA VI Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily, providing à la carte menu options, as well as tasting menus that allow you to sample a selection of dishes created by our international chefs. Enjoy elegant indoor dining looking out from floor-to-ceiling windows, or choose an al fresco table adjacent to SkyBar on the terrace.

SkyBar is a vibrant circular bar where our talented bartenders shake, stir and serve up classic and signature CÉ LA VI cocktails for your drinking pleasure. Or find your favourite bottled tipple to complement your meal – our extensive drinks list of fine wines, sakes, beers, liqueurs and spirits is sure to have the perfect drink to please you.

Hailed internationally as the leading lifestyle destination in Asia, CÉ LA VI ventures into the Singapore's urban landscape, perched 200 metres on the pinnacle of the magnificent Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.

Besides serving up a menu of Modern Asian cuisine that is sure to excite any gourmand's palette, CÉ LA VI is also a feast for the senses as the venue offers patrons a 360-degree panoramic view of the city's skyline and Straits of Singapore.” (http://www.marinabaysands.com/restaurants/modern-asian/ce-la-vi.html#menus)

Following our fantastic dinner, we went to both sides of the restaurant to view the surrounding areas and take photos.

Once our memorable dinner experience concluded, Erv and the four of us hailed a taxi to return back to either our hotel or flat.

We realized today there is so much to do in Singapore, more days are needed. Tomorrow we board the ship to explore Southeast Asia for the next 11 days.

Stayed tuned for my next blog update.

Additional photos below
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