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Published: November 25th 2019
The trip started in LA, where John and I stayed the night before our big flight. In the “biz” they call this a re-positioning flight. It allows you to find a good deal on a business class international flight from an airport that’s not near you. Fortunately, John has status with Marriott and a ton of points which we used for a free room, and it’s really easy to fly into and out of LAX. I was coming from work, so I got to LA around midnight – just enough time for a good night’s sleep and a quick workout in the morning. One of the other perks to John having status at Marriott is that we had free access to the very nice lounge for breakfast! I stocked up on some free Halloween candy in case the food on the flights was as bad as I’d read about.
I should backup and explain for anyone who doesn’t know, that John is a friend who flies a lot on Delta (and I mean A LOT) for work, and knows the ins and outs of the airline pretty well. With a recent change to Delta’s requirement for Diamond status, you either
Getting in the zone
Lounge food at LAX - they had sushi! Krab, but still. They also had ramen, which normally isn't found in a US airport lounge.
need to spend a LOT of money on tickets during the year, or find a hack to meet this requirement, as we did. The hack is that if you fly on a Delta partner airline, but fly through that partner’s branded ticket, your “dollars” are calculated by distance, not by the set amount that you paid for the flight. So, a ticket that would cost $1,000 but travels 8,000 miles, would earn 8,000 “dollars” towards Delta status. (it’s not quite that simplistic, but that’s the gist). So John and I are both in this situation of being close to Diamond status, but needing more “dollars” to make it for next year. There’s a very helpful forum called FlyterTalk which posts a lot of these hacks, and specific flights. With the help of a VERY cheap expert in the field, we found a great deal on a flight that would get us a ton of “dollars” by going from the US to Singapore. Thus our 48-hour trip to Singapore was born.
After a restful night in the very nice airport Marriott, we were headed back to LAX for our 12:30pm flight. The airline we were on was China Eastern –
Dog costume party in LAX!
The benefits of flying out on Halloween. Nice view from the lounge as we were waiting to board.
a partner of Delta. Check-in was very smooth, and with business class, you get a ticket to enter the business class lounge before departure (though we both have credit cards and memberships that give access to other airline lounges, I’m not sure they would have been better). The premium lounge at LAX had a little different flare from the regular lounge (ramen and krab sushi in addition to some regular stuff), but we weren’t there for long. Just long enough to see the doggie Halloween costume party going on in the terminal below us (we were flying on Halloween).
Boarding of the flight was very smooth – our own line for business class, and our own door to enter. The Boeing 777 has 2 jet bridges. (I’m learning a lot more about the specific planes during this trip). The configuration was a herringbone pattern, but John and I were sort of next to each other. I had the window, but there really is no bad seat. There are something like 50 business class seats on this flight! And I think around 6 first class seats. Just a little nicer than business class, but about 3-4 times the cost. There
Business Class is the way to go
Seriously the way to travel, especially if there is sleeping involved.
was a ton of room to store anything we wanted, and our own little cabin area. We had a couple of welcome drinks and settled in for the 12 hour flight. Now, the smart thing would be to sleep for most of this flight since this was the longest time that we were in one place. However, this was from noon to midnight, so not really when one would be normally sleeping for 8 hours. John got a nice nap, and I played about 10 hours of Candy Crush while binge watching stand-up comedy I had downloaded from Netflix. I can highly recommend both the Ali Wong specials (the second is better than the first) and both Trevor Noah specials. Literally laughing out loud. It’s a good thing the plane was loud.
Diagonally in front of my seat (diagonally behind was John) were the seats with built-in bassinets. What a way to travel with a baby! I’m glad it’s that easy, because that may be in my near future. I keep saying I want to wait to have kids until I settle down and am done traveling, but the more I travel the more I love it, and I’m
The plane has 2 bassinets built in! I guess it's not that bad to travel with a baby...
not sure I will really be “done”. Though I think a traveling au-pair might be a new requirement at that point. This flight had a LOT of babies, but because the plane was so loud, even when they were fussy it wasn’t an issue.
Our long flight came with pajamas, slippers, and a nice little amenity kit. We also had a couple of meals. I read online that the food on China Eastern can be questionable, so I put in a request for vegetarian meals (special meal requests usually means you get better food). It was all a gamble though. I think more important than the meal choice was the fact that we were coming from LA, which I think means that the food was catered by chefs in LA. Turned out pretty tasty though. No big bullets dodged – just duck and lamb that are not high on my like list. John enjoyed his duck with cherry sauce though. And there were a few courses! Warm nuts to start, salad course, entrée, then dessert. And a very nice hot towel beforehand (which I think might be a big part of Chinese culture because there were packaged wet-wipe like
things in the lounges, bathroom, and restaurants). Despite the language barrier when trying to ask the flight attendants for things (everyone is Chinese, which makes sense since it’s a Chinese airline), it was a great flight! At about hour 10 I finally started getting tired and laid the bed flat for a nap. I could’ve used about another 8 hours on that flight and that would have been perfect. And this airline (or all Chinese ones?) have this very annoying thing about making you get into landing position (seats up, stuff stowed) 45 minutes before landing. And you can't have headphones on! Well, until they finish their sweeps 45min in advance, then go sit back down and never come back out. Then it's the wild wild west, and you can do whatever you want in your little cubby. Except stand up. Oh my. They all lost their shit when someone stood up as we were taxiing on one of the flights. Screaming in Chinese in unison at the defiant passenger! We landed in Shanghai at 4pm local (midnight PST) and I was ready for a good night’s sleep. I can’t imagine a 12-hour flight in a regular economy seat. I
Very private! All it needs is a little wall there - which John says is a thing on the new Delta One cabin he flew in recently.
may have permanently spoiled myself for any long trips in the future! But seriously, there is no other way to do this trip. It’s so worth it.
When we landed in Shanghai, we had to go through security again. Part of this is a body scanner which apparently takes your temperature using heat guns! I’m not sure what the threshold is, but it looks like the kind of place that if your temp is too high, alarms go off and you go into quarantine. I wish we had a photo of it, but we were so grateful that John didn’t set it off because he was super hot that we were counting our blessings. After passing the temperature test and having our photos taken for customs, we headed to the lounge.
In Shanghai, we never left the airport. Even though we had a 6hr layover, you need 8+ in order to get immigration papers to leave the airport. Some people do that if they have enough time just to get a good meal in Shanghai. Maybe next time! The airport was surprisingly dead for an early evening on a Friday night. I think it was because it was
a satellite terminal. We had access to the lounge there as well. And the lounge was very big! Pretty nice with a big spread of food. A few bottles of the basics out for self-serve (wine, vodka, etc) along with coolers of beer and other drinks. There were showers we could use as well, which we did. Very nice, private, and clean! Though I’m not sure if I used shampoo or body wash since both were big bottles in Chinese. It was a 50/50 chance. Bidets are the norm in many countries, and the toilets there did not disappoint. It reminded me of the toilets in Japan that do everything up to wiping your butt for you. These had heated seats, a front bidet and a back one, and something called “oscillating” that we didn’t figure out what it did. You could also turn on the dryer after you bideted yourself and sanitize the bowl (I guess if you had a blowout). The lids were automatic as well. Very futuristic and fun.
We both felt very refreshed after a shower. We went for a walk around the terminal just to move around, but there really wasn’t much there. Small,
Not too crazy. I had pre-ordered vegetarian after reading some blogs. Seemed like the safest way to not end up with tendon, cartilage or something else crazy. For some of the meals regular was better, for some vegetarian was better. It was a toss up.
but the basics. There was a Chinese Papa John’s though! And a Chinese Starbucks. With so much free food in the lounge, we didn’t need to find food, though I’m curious what Chinese Papa John’s would have tasted like.
The lounge also had free wifi. But this is where we learned that there are so many blocked sites in China that it’s barely functional for what you would normally use the internet for! We had to Bing things haha. So no google (which means no gmail), no facebook, no Youtube, no Twitter, and a bunch of other things. There are ways around it (get a VPN to make it look like you’re in another country), but we weren’t there long enough to bother. Also, since I have T-Mobile on my phone, it’s just like using my phone in the states, with slightly slower data. No phone calls (EXPENSIVE I learned the hard way!), but data and texting is free and mostly just like home.
We slept for a couple of hours in the lounge, curled into chairs because they don’t have enough loungers (only 3, which is shocking for a huge lounge in an international terminal!). The next
Slippers! And a set of pajamas. We're still not really sure if these were for take home or not (slippers yes, pajamas ?)
flight was only 5 hours or so from Shanghai to Singapore. This time it was an Airbus 330, but it was an older Airbus. The service, food, and seats were not quite as good as the first flight. The seats were much bigger, but they didn’t work very well – lots of jiggling with the buttons to get it to move correctly. Overall it was still a great business class seat! Instead of the nice down comforter of the first flight though, we had thin wool blankets. At that point we were tired, and slept for most of the flight. This one was more like a red-eye though.
We arrived in Singapore at 5am on Sat. We felt pretty rested and had the whole day ahead of us! And we had showered the night before in Shanghai, so we were really ready to go. The Changi airport (the main airport in Singapore) was apparently voted one of the best in the world. And I think I know why. The customs was easier than TSA at a small US airport. Scan the passport, press the thumbprint, and a stamp. No lines, no fuss and we were on our way! Everything
A 4 course meal if you include the nuts and drinks first.
was insanely clean. And there are trees and flowers everywhere – including the mini forest inside the airport!
English is the main language, but there are a lot of signs and announcements in Chinese because that is the other main group of people around (though whether it’s to live or just visit, we couldn’t tell). A lot of the tourists are from Australia because it is so close, but England is popular as well.
We had briefly researched ways to get around. They don’t have Uber but have a local version called Grab. However, the train seemed pretty easy so we decided to give it a go. What a great choice! It was so easy and clean, and cheap! We got an unlimited pass for 2 days (which we thought would include our return trip) for S$16 (Singapore dollars – about US 75 cents to the Singapore dollar, so our passes were about $12 US). And we used the heck out of it the first day. It also got us a few discounts at places. The metro actually is very reminiscent of the DC metro – colored lines, simple, easy to read and figure out. And there are
This was the vegetarian option. Pretty good!
so many trains that I think the longest we waited was maybe about 5min once for a train. The odd thing is that all of the signs and announcements were in English only. This is mostly odd because, while most people can speak some broken English, we had huge language barriers with almost everyone we met. Chinese probably should be the main language, except that I think tourism might be their biggest industry (maybe after shipping. Which would have been my guess at bar trivia. But after a google fact check, it's manufacturing. Manufacturing is apparently their biggest industry. Which is why I always lose at bar trivia).
The airport is about 40min away from the main area of the city, but by train took about 30. Unfortunately most of it was underground, but it was still dark at that point anyway. Even in the dark at 6am, it was about 80 degrees and humid. Going to the equator is no joke, and Singapore is as close to the equator as I’ve ever been. The trains were so clean and air conditioned that they would be our respite during the hot weekend. Turns out we didn’t even need to
The nice thing about flying with someone is that you can each get something different then go halvsies
leave the air conditioned train station. Our stop let off in an area called “The Shoppes”, which is a very high end shopping mall connected to a Casino, our hotel, and the metro.
When we were planning this trip we learned that the Marina Bay Sands is a very famous hotel in Singapore, and rated as one of the top places to stay in the world (my new bucket list). It’s well-known for its iconic architecture of 3 sloping towers connected to a sky park and infinity pool on the roof. While you can pay for entrance to the sky park and enjoy a drink at one of the restaurants up there (or eat there – the food is amazing), you can only use the infinity pool if you are a guest. You can get a room on a lower floor for a little cheaper, but we splurged and got a room on the higher floor with better views of the city. And I was able to use credit card points for the whole thing, so it was kind of free! Even though we were there at 7am, we were able to almost check in. We stored our bags
Vegetarian sandwich because...
and they said they would email me when our room was ready.
Our first stop was to check out the famous rooftop infinity pool, since we now had keys that would get us access. They control the access to that thing like a high-security tech firm. Swipe in, swipe out, everyone with their own key card, person manning the gates at all times on both ends. The middle of these huge towers is a crazy long pool, with tons of awesome seating. The back side has 2 big infinity hot tubs, and a few other seating areas against the glass. That side overlooked the cloud forest (which I visited on day 2). The other side (infinity pool side) overlooked the bay and city proper. We plopped ourselves down in 2 open loungers and enjoyed the view. By this time it was around 7:30am. The pool was actually hopping even though it was that early. The chairs started filling up pretty quickly while we were there.
We ordered a couple of fru-fru drinks along with a breakfast to share. Fabulous start to the weekend! That egg sandwich was amazing – yolk running throughout, blending with some incredible flavors. I
Why hasn't this trend caught on in the US?? If I ever own my own practice, this might happen.
had the Singapore Sling to drink, and John got something without rum. We leisurely relaxed and ate, and enjoyed our cocktails with the amazing view and very comfortable weather – the sun wasn’t overhead yet, and there was a decent gentle breeze in the Jetson-height rooftop.
I realized that I forgot my sunglasses, so after breakfast and coming up with a rough outline for the morning, we decided to make our first stop somewhere I could buy some. The bellhop suggested a shopping area called Bugis for more *ahem* affordable sunglasses (I spent a lot of money on sunglasses once, and I’m not sure I would again. Turns out I really don’t take good care of sunglasses). A few stops on the nicely air-conditioned train and we were there. We walked around a few of the shops there, then found the market. It’s the kind of market where all of the “made in China” products are easily purchased at around those prices. I’m not sure if it’s correct, but I read somewhere that they don’t bargain in the markets. But even at full price, I snagged 2 nice pairs of sunglasses for me and 1 for John for S$35,
Looks like US Starbucks. But in Chinese.
or about $27 USD. John found one that was light enough to wear inside, to cover his eye mishap, which now was not only extremely puffy, but starting to migrate to the inner part of his eyelid and looking more red/purple. We wandered around a little more, and I found some funky flavored kit-kats. I have a slight obsession with tasting foreign candy. That was my only other purchase, but it was fun to look around.
We the left the market a bit sweatier than we started (holy mother those non-air-conditioned aisles of the market were nuts), and swung through McDonalds before getting back on the train. I love checking out what local flare the McDonalds has in different countries. This one had a Thai Milk Tea ice cream cone. OMG was that amazing. It tasted absolutely incredible. It was up there with top 5 favorite things I ate that weekend. I’m going to be dreaming about it. John was pretty excited about the Popeyes chicken sandwich, because apparently it sold out in the States. And I guess I’ve been living under a rock. It was a little early for a chicken sandwich though, so he took some pictures,
At least I think that's what the Chinese says on this sign
and we moved on.
From Bugis, we took the train to Orchard Road. We weren’t really sure why we were heading there, but thought it was where they have these cute little colorful row houses. Turns out no. It’s just a famous area for shopping. But we learned that after we got there. This was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of weekend. We went outside and walked around a little to get a feel for it. Yep. Big shopping area. Reminded me of Friendship Heights in Bethesda, or Southcenter Mall in Seattle. We did find a cool little old Chinese area, which apparently was where the first Chinese architect in Singapore had a house in the early 1900s, and it was restored to preserve the half-doors, which is a common architecture feature we saw in that area.
We headed back to the train and set out for our next destination: the cable cars. I had read about it and it sounded like it was worth adding to our list. I would agree – it’s a very nice view and a fun thing to do if you’re there. Not sure I would do it again when the alternative would be hanging
Never seen a family bathroom like this, but what a great idea! How cute is that kiddie toilet?!
out in the infinity pool. In fact, I think that’s my new comparison for everything we did and saw in Singapore. Orchard Street? No. Little cheap market? No. Chinatown….maybe but probably no. Hawker stalls? Definitely no, unless you’re really hungry. The worst part of the cable cars is that they’re glass enclosed but not air conditioned. There’s a fan, but it just blows hot air at you. There’s a tiny window that’s open, but mostly you’re just stewing in your juices. But it’s a nice view, and takes you over the water to a little island just south of the bottom of Singapore. And we got lucky and were the only ones in our tiny car, which I think technically has room for 6, which would be snug.
There’s a point down near the bottom of the island we were heading to on the cable car that’s been self-proclaimed the Southernmost point of Southeast Asia. Except that it’s not. There are other smaller islands farther south. And where the sign is located isn’t even the farthest south on that particular island. They plopped the sign where it is – in the middle of the island – because there are
Too cute too eat
In the lounge in Shanghai. OMG how cute
houses at the southernmost point (of that island, not really of all of Singapore and Southeast Asia). But when we stepped off the cable car, you could instantly see why they did it. Singapore is basically a made up place. It’s fairly recently developed, and they don’t have any natural wonders or anything to see, so all of their tourist destinations are created or invented. That doesn’t cheapen it, mind you (the infinity pool is worth that trip, and it was nice to see some of the other things). The island we were standing on was home to Universal Studios and a giant water park, along with many large tanks housing whales and dolphins, with tourists floating with the dolphins in their tank. Think of how commercial it is inside of a Disney park. That’s basically what we stepped off the cable car into. They should really make that car free for that reason. You had to walk through the gift shop to get out, though the AC was on full blast, so we lingered (a good marketing strategy. I think they just spend their advertising budget on air conditioning). There was a butterfly garden there that might have been
Here little piggy
The little piggy was a custard bun. So good!
a brief distraction, but at $25 each, it didn’t draw us in. I think we were too turned off by the commercialism. We briefly thought about making the 16min walk down to the "Southernmost point", which isn’t really the southernmost point, but couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. The thought of walking, outside, in the sun, at noon, at the equator, to a beach, in 90 degrees and 90% humidity. Noooope.
Instead we went back to the sweaty cable car and headed for our next/last adventure. We had one more stop in us: lunch. This trip has so many meals that I don’t think I was hungry the entire time, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the cuisine! I had heard about a Michelin-starred food truck, who was on Netflix. Some googling (glad it’s not China), and we found it down in Chinatown. Hawker Chan is known for chicken and rice (a very popular dish in Singapore), but it was a few years ago that he got recognized. It was a little tough to find, but once we found it, we were happy to be inside again, even if the air-conditioning was barely keeping up. I read that
Noodles in Shanghai
Nice make-your-own noodle dish in the lounge
we should expect about 2 hour lines, but either we got lucky because it was 2pm by that point, or they no longer have those kinds of crowds. I don’t know what it was like back in its day, but now it’s just some basic chicken and rice. Good for what it is I guess. Definitely not Michelin-star worthy. That is just some crazy talk. Chicken and rice is tasty, but so many bones that it’s not really that enjoyable. It was a very small taste by the end of picking around the tons and tons of bones. And not a food truck. I wouldn't even classify the Hawker Stalls as food trucks, really.
Our next stop was the Maxwell Hawker Center. We were pretty excited about trying it out since it’s recommended by just about everyone, and was the place in the movie Crazy Rich Asians where they made a b-line and had an awesome collection of food. When we went, half the places were closed because it was the weekend. It’s in an open air building (has a roof, but open at all the edges- like a pavilion). It was oppressively hot. No sun, but no air
Real or fake?
Inside Shanghai airport. All plastic. Eeeexxxcept the head/neck on the right. Ehhhhh Not a good place to be a duck.
flow. And definitely no outdoor air conditioning. We were hot, not that hungry, there was only 1 place with a long line, and it was for more chicken and rice full of bones. Instead we sat down at the one brewery stall I saw (tap room, really), and had a beer. I had the only beer they had made in Singapore. It was ok. Our crabby level started cranking up, and half a beer later, we started making our way back to the haven of the air-conditioned train.
On the way, we walked through Chinatown proper. I’m not sure if Singapore is “known” for architecture, but I’m assuming it is. There were so many interesting buildings there, it felt a little like they had a contest to see who could design the most interesting buildings, and all of the entries were turned into real buildings. We walked around in the heat a little more, and went to another outdoor shopping area of tiny stalls and shops with varied local goods. We also stumbled onto a Chinese temple, but I declined to enter because it was too hot to even think about wrapping the cloth around me that they have
Livin the life
Ready for second flight!
there for women to cover their knees (John thinks it was for everyone to cover their knees, but I mainly saw women wearing them). John explored a little and I stood outside in the air conditioning. Yep. Outside. In the air conditioning. For an insanely hot and humid place, they must spend an enormous amount of energy on air conditioning.
We made our way back to the train in the heat. By this time it was around 2:30pm, and we were devolving into a puddle. A cold drink in a pineapple shell in the infinity pool was calling us. We hadn’t been to the room yet by this point. Since we were out, we tried to knock out all of our farther away points of interest. We didn’t make it out to the botanical garden or orchid garden, but I think that’s a better stop if you have more time. Plus it was much farther. While we were out exploring, we got an email around 10:30am that our room was ready! I read that they charge an extra day to check in early, but there was no mention of extra fee. Very nice! So we basically could have had
Yet another meal
Another vegetarian meal. The vegetarian request threw the flight attendants off so much! I think this was actually my breakfast.
48 hours of infinity pool if we had wanted.
At the hotel, I had told them it was my birthday (it was recently, but that’s a good trick to use any time you travel to get freebies – birthday, anniversary, flag day, etc). In our room was a very cute cake waiting for us. The room and the view reminded me a lot of Vegas. Enormous. The only room we could get on a high floor had 1 king bed and a sofa bed for sleeping arrangement. But after seeing the size of the room, I’m really not sure why they didn’t put a second bed in there. It was more weird being so empty. The best part of the room, other than the amazing shower, was the view. We had almost the same view as from the edge of the infinity pool. And only 4 floors below. The windows were angled outward, so we could even see down to the street level. Another interesting thing about the hotel is that the entire hallway we were in has a door that can close. John thinks it is to accommodate rich oil emirates who might travel with a ton of
Stepped off the plane into a forest
Inside the Changi airport! Singapore does love their trees
wives, each of whom need their own room, and they rent out the entire floor. We were happy with just one room though.
After a quick change, we headed up to the pool. Being in the infinity pool was as cool as seeing the infinity pool. It was crowded, but not too crowded. When the sun started going down and it got cooler, we jumped over to the hot tub on the opposite side of the roof, with the opposite view. At night, the gardens have a light show. Actually, the water has a light show as well – with music. That night we saw the gardens light show from the hot tubs. We were intending to see it in person, but the trip was a little too short, and we were a little too hot. But seeing it from the pool was still cool (I’m sure not as cool though). We stayed until we got pruney, then headed back down to the room to change for dinner.
The hotel has something like 5 or 6 restaurants actually inside of it. Connected inside the Shoppes, are a ton more. We decided to eat at one of the restaurants
Look at all those ships!
From the back of our rooftop. It was like a giant ship parking lot. Crazy amount of ships.
inside the hotel. I was starting to fade and that was about all the energy I could muster. So around 8pm we headed to the Italian restaurant called Lavo on the rooftop. We had some amazing food and wine, and finished with seeing the light show and music again! This time on the bay side (same view as our room). It was a cool light show to watch! If we were there again/longer, I think we’d have been watching from one of the boats on the bay, which looked like a fun thing to do. But how convenient to be able to walk a few floors back down to our room and go to bed. I crashed. Hard. And that was day one in Singapore!
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