Thursday, November 22, 2012

MY SMALLEST ROOM EVER - SINGAPORE

Booking the Santa Grand Chinatown Hotel in Singapore was a last minute option and I had initially imagined it to be in a totally different street. The location turned out to be even better, though the taxi driver did not know the name of the street, which is listed as Trengganu Street. It is actually Temple Street where the hotel and the entrance of it is located. 

Check-in was swift and no thrills. All the rooms are on the third floor which looks a bit unusual to the "western" eye - it is all decorated and furnished in a wine red satin design. Very unusual indeed and it gives us western customers an immediate strange feeling in the back of our heads! 

The room itself was the smallest room I have had in all my years of traveling around the world. Even smaller than rooms I have had in London and Madrid. My suite case only fit in if I moved around it and I struggled to close the door since the space between the bed and the door was the only option to store it. Mind you, that was the same space I needed to enter the bathroom and to get in and out of the room. It was not possible for me to open it on the floor though. 

The bed is filling the entire room. No chairs, no desk, no couch. Very practical because you can reach everything from the bed and you won't even bother to unpack. You basically live out of the suite case. 

I booked a room with a window which was kind of useless since all other rooms would have looked right into my bed if the curtains were opened. 

The bathroom was not really a room but a shower with a toilet and a sink. It was so tiny that you could not sit straight on the toilet without hitting the sink. 

The carpet of the room was not very clean. No wonder since the cleaning lady can't really get into the room with a vacuum cleaner unless she would move my luggage outside. The wall to the bathroom had mold and all kinds of stains on it. I stayed away from it! There is a small TV with a good selection of English channels on the wall and WiFi is free, though not a very good reception in my room. There are also a couple of monitors with free Internet access located at the public seating area, but you have to stand at the wall in order to use them. 

The already mentioned public area in red satin design had a bunch of couches available to use, but most of the time it was used by other guests who obviously also had no space in their rooms as they sat there for hours.  I was even offered a massage by two ladies including their room number while walking back to my room :-)

The hotel offers breakfast at another Santa Grand Hotel down the street. Just a few minutes away and located in their Hotel Bar/Cafe. The breakfast was included in the room price and was basic but good. Again, very crowded here too. By the time I came back with my toast, the friendly staff had already cleared my unused plates, silverware and full coffee cup and assigned the table to another guest .....:-)

I am looking for positives here...so give me a minute! 

Yes! The price is good for Singapore. Compared to Bangkok or K.L. it is outrageous though. It buys you two or three nights in those locations in a room 4 times the size! 

And location! That is actually really good. In the heart of Singapore's Chinatown. Minutes away from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the Chinatown Subway station. 

The Santa Grand Chinatown is frequently confused with the Santa Grand Hotel Lai Chun Yuen, where the breakfast is served. I was told that the rooms at the Lai Chun Yuen Hotel are even smaller and I will test it in a few weeks!!

So, location rocks. Price is acceptable. The room is not really my thing!













Thursday, November 8, 2012

MY SUPERTREES - SINGAPORE

After visiting the wonderful world of flowers and plants inside the domes of the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, we went out to check out the Supertree Grove. While we had our S$ 28 ticket, the Supertree Grove can be visited for free. 

As I mentioned before, we missed the best light for a sunset and thus waited until it was completely dark. What we also missed because we had not properly planned our visit, was the OCBC Skywalk, which lets you walk 128 meters between two of the trees. We tried to get in, but ticket sales stops 30 minutes before they actually close for the day. So, another good reason to come back here. The only thing I missed was my professional DSLR camera, so I had to live with the somewhat mediocre quality of my compact camera.

It is still a great place to enjoy an evening out. The views are just awesome from every angle and with the backdrop of the city, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and all the other highrises of Singapore it provides a great photographic project. The OCBC Garden Rhapsody show was nice, but I think I expected too much, after having been awed all afternoon and evening by the Gardens. But it gave a nice and relaxing touch to an already great visit.

The walk back to the MRT station was longer than anticipated, but offered more great views of the Gardens and the city. Getting a taxi back to the city was an impossible task, so we decided to go for the walk & MRT option.











Friday, November 2, 2012

MY GARDEN BY THE BAY - SINGAPORE

View from MBS
Every time I come back to Singapore, there is something new...a new building, a new mall, a new...something! And it is always exciting and awesome! 

For the Gardens by the Bay, I had to wait for a while...my friend there told me it would open soon, but I had to come back 3 times before it was actually open. I am not saying "finished" here, but "open" because it was still not totally finished and I am not even sure if it will ever be finished. It seems that it will be a constantly changing world in there. 
Flower Dome

I will for sure be back here many times because of it's changing exhibitions and because I am far from having seen everything on my first visit. We stayed for 5 hours during our first visit and in the end we hurried through it  because we were several people who all wanted to go their own ways.

The S$ 28 ticket was well invested and in order to avoid the long lines we had heard about, we reserved the tickets online. In the end, there was no line at all. Probably totally depends on the day and season. 
Flower Dome

The "Flower Dome" was the first place we visited inside the huge Gardens and I was a bit overwhelmed. I had not expected it to be so big and so spectacular. For photographers this means "bring lots of battery power with you"! 

The design, layout, and the plants/flowers of this cool-dry conservatory justifies even a visit by it's own. But nevertheless did we move on to the "Cloud Forest" when my first battery was already indicating that it was just about to die. 

Flower Dome
From outside the Cloud Forest, I imagined it to be hot and steamy for some reason. But since this is the cool-moist conservatory, it was actually much colder inside. By the end of our tour, I was freezing. So, it is a good idea to bring long pants and a sweater next time. Going all the way "up" inside the Could Forest was completely different from "coming down". Not only because there are different plants to see, but because the sun started to set and the lights went on inside the Cloud Forest Dome, which gave it a totally different atmosphere.

Cloud Forest
We visited the gardens at around 4pm and like they say on their web site, it is a good idea to plan your visit. We did miss the best light for the "Supertree Grove" outside because we were all cold and wanted dinner. By the time that was finished all the good photo opportunities for the setting sunlight were gone. Next time!! :-)

But we did stick around until it was completely dark and enjoyed the Supertree Grove nevertheless, which will be covered in a separate post. 

Cloud Forest
All in all, it is an awesome experience to visit the Gardens by the Bay and I am counting the weeks to my next opportunity to go back there.  Not only is it a beautiful place to visit, but it is also educational and shows you the impact the climate change will have to our planet. Mind you, most visitors I saw did just pass through that theater at the end of the visit, but it is worth to stay and watch. I also particularly liked all the information on the sustainability efforts of the Gardens and the energetics of the conservatories.




Flower Dome overview



+ 5 degree theater

Sustainability and Energetics