Singapore is one of my favorite places to visit. I have been fortunate to visit this tiny gem on multiple occasions, as a stopover using United miles. I find that usually for a stopover, 2 to 3 days is enough to cover this tiny island nation. There are multiple ways to get to Singapore, but my favorite airline to fly into Changi Airport is, of course, Singapore Airlines. If you have not flown Singapore Airlines, then I suggest you add it to your bucket list, because it is truly an experience.
Thanks to three American Express card sign up bonuses, we were both able to collect enough points to throw into Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program to redeem for the tickets. The routing was PDX-SFO-SIN-KUL-SIN-LAX-PDX. We used Singapore as a stop-over, and Kuala Lumpur was our final destination. The first part of the flight was booked on United Airlines domestic first class to SFO. Nothing to rave about, just a standard domestic first class seat. Although taking off from PDX, we did get to use the faster security line, which was easier because the standard line was worse than the line at DMV.
The SFO-SIN flight was scheduled for 1:30AM, and after clearing security at the international departures terminal, we went straight to the Kris Lounge. The lounge wasn’t as great as other lounges I have been to, but it was alright. Most of the folks in there were scheduled for our flight, and they appeared weary and tired….After all, it was almost midnight!
I noticed there was a shower there and went to check it out. It resembled a high school gym shower more than anything else. After each use, it wasn’t cleaned out or wiped down. Skip that–just the thought of acquiring mystery fungi before a vacation made me squirm. It would’ve been nice to shower before that flight, as I had a busy day.
The wife was no help in keeping me awake, as she found a comfy orange chair and just crashed. Being that it was really late, they didn’t have the usual assortment of food goodies out. Some packaged noodles, browned fruit, a few celery sticks and some ranch dressing. I grabbed a bowl of pretzel sticks and mixed nuts to complement a Coke with lime, followed by a decaf cappuccino. The Givenchy cups was nice touch. Way to go SQ.
Traveling for 15+ hours doesn’t make sense in coach, so you should fly in first or business class. The airline prides itself on customer service, and has won numerous travel industry awards for service. You don’t get an extra pack of peanuts on this flight…you get the WHOLE JAR!!! Are you listening Delta??? The food is amazing. Before take-off, you can go online and “book the cook” – pick what you want from a menu. The seat was the best business class seat i have been on so far. It is a full 180 degrees lie- flat seat. The pitch and width was awesome, and with ample legroom, you still had room for a laptop bag and/or purse. Singapore flight attendants are some of the friendliest, classiest, and prettiest. They actually make flying enjoyable. I started chit chatting with a couple of them on board, and they were telling me how the airline takes care of them. Great bennies, and perks, even for their families. I think it’s safe to assume they get more than tuna sandwiches at their company picnics.
One of the best aspects of SQ’s is their in-flight catering service. The onboard meals are actually impressive, and quality oriented. The domestics can definately learn a thing or two (or three..or four) from SQ. The meals are served and presented to you hot, fresh, and various choices. It will change your opinion about airline food, for sure.
Okay enough ranting…..let’s get back to the trip report. Flying into Changi Airport itself is a treat. One of the best airports in the world, this state of the art facility has great food offerings, easy access to passport control, and transportation to and from the city that is efficient and easy to navigate to. Oh, and did I mention clean? I mean sparkling clean! There is also free Wifi in the airport, so you can update Facebook and let your friends know you made the 18+ hour flight in one piece!
There is an excellent amount of eateries inside the terminal, and no shortage of good eatin’…..but I wasn’t about to eat at the airport and skip out on one of the best things Singapore is known for—the street food!
We couldn’t decide on whether to stay at the Conrad Singapore, or the Hilton on Orchard Street. We stayed at the latter before, and while its location is good, the Conrad is better! Easily accessible to all the harbor and an adjacent shopping district, the Conrad was an amazing bargain at 50,000 points a night. Also, being a Hilton HHonors Gold member, the upgrade to the room came with no problems, and that gave us access to the executive lounge.. The room had a very nice view of the bay, and it was big enough. By the way, you can get Hilton HHonors Gold simply by applying and getting approved for the American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass card. More on this later….
The Conrad Singapore has great staff,and they are willing to do whatever it takes to make yout stay comfortable. While I was checking in, I struck a conversation with the front desk clerk, who was stocking some envelopes in the next counter, and told her my story about how one hotel forgot to address my anniversary back in the U.S., and a few hours later, we heard a knock at the door, and lo and behold! A cake…for moi??? You shouldn’t have! ….Now, that is service!! I thought that was very nice of them to do that.
Since being Hilton HHonors Gold included free breakfast for me, the nice man at the front desk who checked us in also applied the free breakfast option for the wifey. After all, it would’ve been awkward for her to just watch me enjoy an omelet, a latte and plenty of fresh tropical fruit. The upgrade was a nice treat because, in the afternoon, they hosted a very nice afternoon high tea in the upper floors lounge. While I am all against observing rituals of the old colonial masters, I will let this one slide, on the grounds of reconciliation. The spread of sandwiches mini-samosas, scones and clotted cream, and various beverages was nice, and even somewhat filling. But I did limit myself because the evening was just getting started, and my seafood laksa was waiting for me…somewhere!
So Whats It Like There?
The weather is very humid, and on occasions can get really hot and sticky. Be prepared for a quick shower, or two…or three. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, this is a nice change of weather from the damp and cold….to the damp and warm. I’ll take the latter any day, which doesn’t require gloves. We found walking everywhere, was the best way to get to attractions, especially around the business district. Makes it easier to visit the many hawker stalls for a delish quick bite. The harbor was not far from The Conrad, and the relative safety of the place made it even more inviting to take an evening stroll, after a nice dinner of curry, crab, and laksa. Everyone speaks English and public transportation is affordable and easy to navigate. However, I had the fortunate luck of having my good friend play tour guide for us, and drove us around to the some of the sights that were not within walking distance from The Conrad Singapore. The local currency is the Singapore Dollar (SGD) and don’t count on getting any good deals on electronics. We found those to be more expensive than going to even the local Best Buy here. Although you might have good luck in finding quality jade products, if you know where to go. Singapore screams expensive, and it was very evident there are some rich a$$ people that live in this city. I lost count of the number of Ferraris that zoomed by us, just driving from around.
The intrigue of this tiny place is the mix of people you will find. A true melting pot of Indian, Malay, and Chinese cultures, all fused into what the tourism office calls- Uniquely Singapore. This yields an amazing experience for you in terms of food, language, and cultural customs you will find in Singapore. The place is so efficient, clean, and sophisticated, you will be wanting to return there. Fortunately, there are enough credit card offers out there, that the dream of returning to Singapore for that second bowl of laksa, is within reach.
Here are my tips for a visit to Singapore.
- Avoid Chinese Holidays, as it will get crowded and even more expensive
- Try to stay on hotel points, as rates are high for good hotels.
- Credit cards are safe to use at merchants and ALWAYS use cards that have no foreign exchange fees, such as Chase® or Capital One®.
- Fly to Singapore as a stop-over when flying Singapore Airlines en route to your final destination, it will be free.
- Change your money at one of the money changers at the mall, where the rates are competitive ; avoid the airport.
If you have been to Singapore and have something to share, please comment below.