A Travellerspoint blog

July 2015

Off to Bali

Tuesday 28th July

sunny 30 °C

We were up early yesterday morning in order to catch our 7:30am flight to Bali. No time for breakfast in the hotel, but checkout was dealt with as efficiently as ever by the staff at the Ritz Carlton Millenia and they double checked we had our passports (without being aware of my troubles in Poland) and they organised a taxi for us. The transfer to the airport was quick and the driver friendly. We arrived in time for coffee and a quick bite to eat, but sadly not really enough time to explore some of the features that make Changi Airport so popular. These include a butterfly garden in terminal 3, an orchid garden and the sunflower garden where we were in terminal 2. The flight to Bali was uneventful and short and within about two and a half hours we were in Bali. We had arranged a transfer with the hotel and our driver was waiting for us as we came through immigration and customs. My name seems to cause confusion and most people have presumed that this is a man's name. Hopefully I won't have this problem when we get to Australia!

When we arrived at our hotel it was every bit as good as it had looked on the Internet.

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We quickly settled in and spent a little bit of time by then pool before going to take a look at the beach. This was a little disappointing as it shelved very gently so the water was very shallow and had a lot of seaweed all of which made swimming quite difficult. After a while we walked along the beach and then stopped at one of the many bars and had a Mojito (well two actually). There was a religious procession taking place with lots of ringing of bells and beating of gongs.

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As the sun started to go down we returned to the Kejora Suites and the neighbouring Glasshouse restaurant for a lovely meal which included a portion of lemon meringue pie for dessert.

In the morning it was back to the Glasshouse for breakfast. We spent a few hours on the beach with another halfhearted attempt at swimming. There were a number of brightly painted Balinese boats pulled up on the sand.

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It had been suggested to us by Liz, the Australian owner of the Glasshouse, that we could get a local to take us out on one but in the end we decided against this. A little way off the beach there seemed to be a small coral reef and quite a few people were standing in the shallow waters fishing with rod and lines. We also noticed that there was a lot of dead coral on the beach, and wondered whether this was normal, or an indication of more serious damage. The beach was followed by lunch which consisted of a wonderful chicken salad for me and a wrap for Nigel. The afternoon was mostly spent by the pool, but later we had a short wander around the town with its numerous bars, restaurants and tourist shops. Rather predictably we ate again in the Glasshouse and both agreed that it was the connection with this restaurant that really made the hotel extra special.

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For more photos take a look at my Singapore album at https://www.flickr.com/people/gillharvey/

Posted by Gill's Travels 04:07 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Thoughts of Singapore

Monday 27th July

storm 31 °C

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Swipe left to see the full panorama

We are now relaxing comfortably in Bali but for now my thoughts are lingering back to Singapore. Our second day in the city was even more enjoyable than the first. Early morning brought stormy weather. After a relaxing breakfast in the club lounge (so worth paying for a club room if you can, for all of the extras that come free of charge) we relaxed in our room for a while watching the lightening and storm clouds approaching. We had pre-booked tickets for the Singapore Flyer (like the London Eye but nearly a 100 foot higher) so were a bit concerned when it seemed to have stopped running. I guess having a bathroom window with a direct view meant we could check this out without having to brave the rain. We asked reception whether the closure was due to the inclement weather and a quick phone call confirmed that it was. Given that the worst of the storm seemed to be passing over we decided to take our chances, and luckily for us it reopened just as we arrived. The 'flight' was very much as it's London counterpart but it gave us yet another opportunity to take photographs of the sights of Singapore including the Marina Bay Sands, the Gardens by the Bay and our hotel.

After a light lunch/ afternoon tea back at the hotel we walked over the Helix footbridge and then on to the Gardens by the Bay. They look pretty amazing from a distance but exceeded all expectations once there.

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There are two bio domes both larger than at the Eden Project in the UK. The most spectacular by far is the Cloud Forest. Just inside, a waterfall (the largest indoor water cascade in the world) gives a hint of what is to come. A central pillar is planted with hundreds of thousands of exotic plants including numerous varieties of orchids. A lift takes you to the top of the dome and suspended walkways take you past plants and the waterfall and give you the sense of being in a rain forest. An rather salutary and scary educational video near the exit describes what the planet might be like at the end of the century if we don't do something about global warming.

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The flower dome is less spectacular but gives the opportunity to see some of the smaller species of the baobab (one tree that holds a particular fascination for me). It also houses a large display of flowers, although a little unnaturally and rather gaudy for my taste. By the time we finished looking round the bio domes it was starting to get dark and our intention was to go and look at the 'super trees' at close quarters having previously seen then lit up from the distance of our hotel. They did not disappoint; combining the appearance of a modern art installation with that of the natural form of flowers and climbing plants as you might see elsewhere in the tropics. What we hadn't appreciated is that they have a light and sound show twice every evening. We wanted to go up onto the walkway that links some of the trees and although we had to queue to get up there we were able to see part of the show from ground level and the rest from the walkway. Best of both worlds and a thoroughly amazing experience.

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So specular was it that it nearly made me cry (how soppy) and good enough that we decided to have something to eat nearby in the gardens so that we could watch the second viewing! We then made the short walk back along the river admiring the view of the Flyer illuminated against the night sky, and with our hotel ever in view back across the Helix footbridge to the Ritz Carlton Millenia for another much needed nights sleep.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 02:41 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

Singapore ~ The Lion City

Sunday 26th July

sunny

It now really feels as though we are on our way. So far Singapore has certainly exceeded my expectations. We arrived early in the day (our flight landed just after 7am) so getting through immigration at a speed that would be a mere dream in the UK was appreciated. We took a few minutes to have a cup of tea and get our bearings. We then easily sorted out getting tickets and boarding the shuttle bus which was amazingly good value at only S$9 (about £4.50) each. As we drove towards the city centre we were really surprised at how green everywhere looked. It is clear that a huge amount of money has been spent planting trees and shrubs such as Bougainvillea at the roadways. Whilst we were en-route we chatted to an Australian couple about our trip and their holiday in Europe which had included a visit to Scotland and a cruise down the Danube.

Once we arrived at our hotel they were amazingly welcoming and apologised for not having our room ready. We had expected this given in was still early morning so after a coffee we went and made use of the hotel pool. We were just hoping that we would be able to check in in time to get changed before we needed to leave for an excursion to Raffles Hotel for tea followed by a trip on the river. Fortunately when we went back to reception not only was our room ready but they had upgraded us to a suite which meant that we had even more amazing views of the Marina Bay.

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We went on our Footsteps of Raffles Tour which was perhaps a little disappointing. A lot of the roads were closed or if not, very busy because they were holding another rehearsal that evening for the celebrations of 50 years of independence for Singapore which are taking place on the 9th of August. Nevertheless we got to find out a bit more about the history of Singapore and about the role of the British. Tea at Raffles was delicious, a combination of English high tea and Chinese Dim Sum. We sat with a very nice couple from America, one of whom came originally from Vietnam and the other was currently working primarily in Indonesia.

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We then had a bit of time in which we could take a few photos before we went off on our boat trip. This was a great way to see the city although we were left feeling that perhaps we could have arranged both elements of the tour ourselves for less money. Given how tired we both were after our flight, perhaps that wouldn't have happened if we had bee left to our own devices.

We returned to our hotel for a while before taking the shortish walk to the SkyPark at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Whilst we were walking there we were able to see some of the Independence Day rehearsals with tank processions seen in the distance and some spectacular military fly pasts. The hotel was designed by Moshe Safdie, and comprises of three 55 storey hotel towers topped by the SkyPark which is home to bars, restaurants and an infinity pool for hotel residents. It was very busy when we got there partly because a lot of people had decided to use the SkyPark as a vantage point to watch the fireworks, yet another rehearsal for the forthcoming celebrations.

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The building and the pyrotechnics were amazing although the massively long queue to get down was a bit challenging as both Nigel and I were getting really tired by this point. Once back at the hotel we decided to eat in our room, this had the double advantage of allowing us to just relax without having to make any further effort and was also a good value option in an expensive hotel as we have found that this is often cheaper than eating in the restaurant. Once we had eaten we just relaxed for a while, took the opportunity to take some night shots of the city from our room, before having a much needed good nights sleep.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 09:16 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Ready and Waiting ...here we come

Last minute trials and tribulations

semi-overcast

After months and months of planning we are now at a Heathrow Airport hotel ready to depart on our flight to Singapore tomorrow. It has been a bit stressful during the last two or three weeks what with last minute arrangements and a fair degree of panicking about the potential for delays due to the eruption of Mount Raung in Java, which has been delaying flights in and out of Bali for the last few weeks. In the end, mindful of the fact that we didn't want to get stuck there, we have shortened our time in Bali from 7 days to 4. This might sound like a strange thing to do, there are worse places to be stranded after all. However for us, with a trip of The Ghan already booked only two days after we were meant to be arriving in Darwin, we were concerned this might be cutting things a bit fine. We did toy with the idea of just not going to Bali at all but in the end we compromised and have just given ourselves a five day window instead. Hopefully we won't live to regret this decision! The added bonus is that we have upgraded from a really beautiful room for the second half of our Bali stay, to an even swankier one which has its own private pool. Watch this space for the photos.

We also had a slight panic when we got to our Heathrow Hotel as we had decided not to bring with us the credit card we had booked some of our hotels on. This was because research had shown us that it is worth getting specific cards that offer good deals on overseas transactions. The hotel insisted in crediting the original card and we had to pay again. Not a problem unless it happens with dozens of hotels, leaving us in credit by £1000's on one card and with a cash flow problem in terms of the new one A phone call or two and a trawl through our bookings reassured us that this might not be an ongoing problem. Panic over and calmness combined with excitement has returned.

Saying goodbye to family and friends has been hard, not so much for the time away but the miles there will be between us. Will particularly miss seeing the first few months of my newly arrived grandson Oliver's life. Thank goodness for FaceTime. Am going to go and explore the Sheraton skyline where we are staying tonight and then get ready to meet with my brother and his wife who are driving over to have a meal with us this evening. Happy days!

Posted by Gill's Travels 08:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged heathrow Comments (0)

The Packing List

For the 'more mature' traveller

I did a lot of research on what to pack for our round the world trip and much of the advice was aimed at gap year back packers, but I feel way beyond the 3 t-shirts (one to wear, one for the wash and one to spare) approach. We are not taking tents or sleeping bags, will not be running for a bus, or travelling by tuc tuc. Most of the time we will be on planes or driving in a hire car, so whilst I didn't want to overpack I wanted to have a variety of nice clothes to wear, and some dressier bits for when we are in smarter hotels. In the end this is what I have decided on:

  • 5 t-shirts
  • 4 sleeveless vests (for hot days and layering)
  • 3 tunics
  • 3 dresses (including one long)
  • 4 pairs of trousers (including 1pair of zip offs) and a pair of leggings
  • 2 skirts (1 long and one short)
  • 3 lightweight fleeces
  • A cashmere cardigan and a chunky cotton jumper
  • 2 swimming costumes and 2 coordinating cover ups & a sarong
  • Walking boots, my Birkentocks (to travel in and because I love them), walking sandals, very light weight dressier sandals, converse trainers & flip flops
  • A wind proof walking jacket and a kagoule
  • underwear and socks.

I am using packing cubes to keep things tidy and have gone for a very narrow colour palate so I can mix and match. I have weighed the items and rucksack and they come to 35lbs which is well under our 50lb baggage limit. Many will think this is an excessive list, time will tell . . . .

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Posted by Gill's Travels 16:29 Comments (0)

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