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Singapore

    An Iconic Luxury Hotel Review: Raffles, Singapore

    A raffia fan slowly spun as motes fell through the heavy sunshine. Seated in the gorgeous foyer, I was welcomed to the Raffles Hotel first by the immaculately liveried Sikh doorman and then checked in smoothly with a Singapore Sling in hand.

    Raffles Luxury Hotel Review Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Raffles Luxury Hotel Review Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Disclaimer: As a guest of Raffles Hotel I paid a press rate for my suite, but my swooning prose is very much original and unaffected.

    After sitting for less than 5 minutes, I was welcomed by Li – my personal butler for the duration of my stay – who ushered me through the marble corridors to my very own suite. She smiled from ear to ear,  welcoming me effusively to her home of Singapore.

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    A luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

    When I had planned a few days in Singapore, I knew there were only two hotels that I wanted to stay in. They couldn’t be more different in almost every way, and both of them fascinated me.

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    For my first night, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel called my name. The striking three tower edifice has 2,561 hotel rooms, a 120,000-square-metre (1,300,000 sq ft) convention-exhibition centre, the 74,000 m2 (800,000 sq ft) The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands mall, a museum, two large theatres, “celebrity chef” restaurants, two floating Crystal Pavilions, a skating rink, and the world’s largest atrium. Crazy, no?

    But honestly, I booked it for the infamous infinity pool on the 57th floor.

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I rolled into the enormous lobby at 9am, straight off my red-eye flight from Auckland (I’d enjoyed the spa facilities of Changi airport to freshen up first) and simply gazed up at the sky-high internal atrium. Relieved of my hefty suitcase straight away by the concierge team, I strolled straight up to the check-in desk, knowing full well that my check-in wasn’t until 3pm, and though my room wasn’t ready yet (until 10am she thought) I was given access keys to take me up to the 57th floor for a swim if I’d wanted to – but I decided a taste of breakfast was in order instead.

    I strolled into RISE Restaurant only to be surrounded by a lavish buffet spread. There was an eye-wateringly wide variety of international cuisines (apparently all made from sustainable ingredients sourced from responsible farmers locally and in the region).

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Around about 10am as promised I received an email (as asked) to let me know that my room was ready and that my suitcase was already waiting for me on the 34th floor.

    My bedroom view doesn’t look real, does it?

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The decor was a bit fusty, which I know is not a proper piece of design jargon, but the look they went for definitely doesn’t go with the rest of the building or even the general vibe of the city.

    That said, everything was immaculate; everything you could possibly need was in the generously sized room (bloggers business desk for posing working, widescreen TV, plush robes, terrace for breakfasting), my bed was divinely comfortable (especially after that flight)

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    One of my favourite holiday moments was seeing Sarah (The Wanderblogger’s) enormous smile float up the escalator and our running start to an enormous and very overdue hug. We spent much of my 48 hours in Singapore seeing the highlights of her new home city and trying to fit in a whole year of news and gossip.

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    After a day of exploration and excitedly watching the sky for signs of sunset, we skipped back to the hotel and made our way to the 57th floor. The infinity pool, observation deck and a few restaurants/bars make up the top deck of the hotel, and spans across all three of the towers.

     

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We paddled around the adults-only pool (there are 3 that stretch along the building’s length) and whilst it was busy, it wasn’t uncomfortably so which I suspect is pure luck. As the night wore on, the pool cleared out even more as normal people went to dinner – but we just floated and tried to get our fill of the view.

    And a couple of selfies without dropping our phones into the pool…

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Check out my sunburn ^^.

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    And the view as the sun set and we ordered a cocktail from the pool side bartenders was ok I guess…

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Wrapping ourselves in freshly warmed towels we wandered back down to my terrace, from which we could see the nightly light show set to a pulsing soundtrack, the Supertree Grove alight with vibrant hues. Alas after nearly 15 hours of walking through the tropical heat of Singapore, our eyelids were drooping. Sarah made her way home, and I was practically asleep before the door closed behind her.

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Setting my alarm for early the next morning (the BEST thing about jet lag) I threw my swimsuit and robe on and made my way back up to the 57th floor. Watching the sun break over the horizon from a hot tub was pure bliss. There was a soft warm breeze before the day really heated up, so I made my way over to the pool for a few lazy laps – to be greeted with this pastel perfect city skyline.

    An utterly priceless moment.

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Cannily, I had pre-ordered room service breakfast to arrive as I finished up my swim, and spent a leisurely hour warming up on my terrace in the morning sunshine.

    Leaving this vista of my Marina Bay Sands hotel room (and the tempting button that opened the curtains) was hard, but I did have another little mini-adventure planned before I boarded my flight back to the UK…

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A Luxury stay at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Infinity Pool Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Have you ever booked a hotel simply based on one of the facilities?

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    Hotel in Singapore Marina Bay Sands Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    How To Move To The Other Side Of The World: A Retrospective

    I honestly can’t pinpoint exactly when I actually decided to move 18,764 km away from the only home I’d ever known, all on my own.

    I was the ripe old age of 19, and not really enjoying my architecture degree. My grades were pretty good, but I remember being frustrated at only learning from books and idealistically thinking ‘how on earth am I supposed to create these amazing spaces if I’ve never actually experienced them?’ 

    I guess looking back that it was just something in my soul that felt right, so right that I announced to all and sundry that I’d be packing my bags, letting my tenancy agreement expire, moving back in with my family and working as hard as I could for year, or until I’d saved up enough to book my flights (and qualify for the visa) – which ever came first. That way, I’d be able to see more of the world, experience some of the most amazing buildings in the world and perhaps get experience working with ancient buildings. 

    Perfecting the blogger pose a decade before it was a thing…

    Visas

    Running a gamut of research, I soon realised that as I missed out on an ancestry visa by a generation (my parents Grandparents were British) and I didn’t have the right qualifications to apply for a sponsored visa, I had to select a Working Holidaymakers visa – although at that time you were only allowed to work for one year of the two years you were allowed in the country*.

    Saving Up

    I interviewed for a pretty basic job in a sleepy town where everyone knew my family, somewhat surprising the interviewer by replying to her query of ‘what are your career aspirations within the company’ with “oh, I just want as many hours as you can give me for about a year – I’m disappearing off to England.” She was surprised, but luckily for me simply nodded and said ‘Huh, fair play to you. When can you start?’

    Getting Inspiration

    Somehow managing to get a 45+ hour roster, and then working a day and a half a week in a second job in a nearby restaurant, with my first pay check I bought a beautiful map of the world, hung it on my wall and measured the distance from New Zealand to London on a long piece of wood. I calculated how much I’d need to save, how long I thought it would take to me to save that up, and marked out the same number of sections on my piece of wood, keeping a marker nearby to colour in every time I caught up to a goal. The name of the game was keep an eye on the prize from the moment I woke up in the morning, to falling asleep at the end of the day.

    Researching

    I can’t tell you how many lunchtime hours I poured over travel guides, devoured tales and daydreamed about balmy evenings on European balconies, a glass of wine in hand. If anyone even mentioned travelling, I would stop them in their tracks, insisting that they tell me every single detail, right down to the sunburns they would end up with and what tacky souvenirs they would bring home. The best advice I was given was to stop in Singapore – as a first time solo female it’s a nice taster of Asia without being too ‘authentic’ whilst on my own.

    Booking Flights & A Hostel

    Eventually I hit my savings target – almost – and began painstakingly researching flights. I plunked myself down in a travel agent’s chair, and we nutted out the best return fare I could get, and I slid out my debit card with an excited shake of the hand. We booked a popular antipodean hostel for the first week I was in London, assuming (wrongly) that I’d be able to find a flat pretty quickly.

    Telling Your Family

    This is quite an important step. They obviously all knew what my end goal was, but somehow I managed to forget to tell my nearest and dearest the date that I’d be flying the nest, or even that I’d booked the flights. I remember standing one late afternoon in my Dad’s kitchen, right next to his calendar, when the subject of travelling came up. ‘Um, Em, are you saving enough to go to England then?’ I turned to him in surprise, and exclaim ‘erm, I’ve actually booked the flights. Did I not tell you?’



    Celebrating

    Planning to fly out just after my 20th birthday, we threw a triple party – a joint birthday for my sister and I (the first in over a decade) and a going away shebang that left us with high spirits and surprisingly mild hangovers. Many of my nearest and dearest attended, new friends, old friends and those self same people that I had been terrorising for travel tales for nearly a year.

    Packing

    This was almost the hardest step. How on earth do you condense your life into 76cm (30 inches) by 48cm (19 inches), and a soft carry-on bag? Having never done it before, I must have repacked a thousand times, got rid of a fair amount to charity, second guessed every remaining item and then sat on it to finally do the zip up.

    Backing Up

    Not changing my mind – that was never going to happen – but literally leaving copies of all my important documents offline with family, and online in secure email accounts, as well as a paper copy that folded into my carry on bag.

    Checking In

    This was it. The moment I’d been waiting for – and I managed to mix up the take off time. Somehow I misread the (copied in triplicate) airplane tickets that said my flight left at 23:00, not 11:00, and we rocked up at Auckland airport, only to be laughed at (fairly) by the airline staff. We wandered off, had lunch, saw friends who worked nearby and then re-queued for the most exciting journey of my life.

    10 days exploring Singapore was a revelation – and hilariously turned out to be the home of one of my many cousins, settling into life in England definitely had highs and lows, but a decade on I still love it as much as I ever did. I might do another post at some point, with a few musings on settling into life in London. Perhaps. What it did teach me was that anything is possible with a little hard work, and a lot of luck (I landed a job within a week of landing, and sub-let a flat within a couple of months.)

    And that is my tale, of how I decided to change my life. And what not to do when moving to the other side of the world…

    * So most people just worked cash in hand for a year, entirely bypassing HMRC and a host of laws in favour of having enough money to survive the full two years allowed in the UK.

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    48 Hours Sashaying Around Singapore

    When I planned my round the world trip (the New Zealand one – don’t worry, I’ll get to my recent US/Canada trip sometime soon, maybe) I plotted my journey around a few of the brilliant people I’ve met over the years.

    Hopping through Doha, Australia and New Zealand, my last stop was Singapore. And, in only 48 hours I managed to take 983 photos.

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Arriving into Changi Airport at 7am, I freshened up in the spa and then shot to my home for the first night – the horizon dominating Marina Bay Sands. With only two nights to spend in Singapore I made sure to make every moment count, and dropping my bags off with the concierge, I took the 57 floor lift and enjoyed a breakfast with an incredible view.

    I shan’t blather on too long about this hotel (well, this time, I’ll save that for a separate tome) because more excitingly…

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …I got to spend a load of time with two gorgeous bloggers – Sarah from the Wanderblogger and Dee at A Deecoded Life.

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Showing me around her new/old home of Singapore, she guided me around all of the classic tourist moments;

    Admiring the Supertree grove, planted with 25-50 metre tall metals ‘trees’, structures threaded with real plants waving in the breeze.

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    From both near & afar!

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We stopped in for a coffee, and wondered at one of the more magnificent mall decorations I’ve ever seen and the surprising addition of a Venetian canal.

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We wandered around the bay, stopped by the MerLion (a “well-known marketing icon of Singapore depicted as a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish”) and enjoyed a sundowner cocktail at the Lantern bar in the Fullerton Bay Hotel overlooking the calm waters.

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We stopped in for dinner at a local food hall and then ran back to Marina Bay Sands for a sunset swim.

    The next morning (after an early night fighting off jet lag) I checked in the iconic Raffles hotel, a longtime dream of mine, and stopped in with Sarah for a Singapore Sling complete with peanut shells strewn on the restaurant floor.

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    She took me on a another mini-tour; nipping around the infinitely instagrammable Chimes Church and stopping for a shoefie.

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I wandered into the original Singapore Cat Cafe (called Neko no Niwa) but it wasn’t my favourite that I’ve ever been into – it was lacking a little soul that we’ve been treated to in the past.

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Searching for another coffee, we wandered into the magnificent Fullerton Hotel. It sounds like we spent a fair amount of time drinking and chatting, and quite honestly that was the absolute pleasure of  our time together. We could have rampaged all over the island, but spending time with her Tennessee smile made my expat heart happy.

    As the sun began setting on my last day, I met up with Dee – who took me to Platform 1094, a Harry Potter themed cafe. The food was excellent, the company delectable and my actual flaming Goblet Of Fire cocktail was brilliant.

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I feel like our grins say it all…

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But before my eyes became heavy lidded and I made my way back to Raffles…

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …Dee and I took in a evening cruise covering Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Marina Bay. Seated on our bumboat, we taken back in time to when they were used as a means of transporting goods and cargo back in the early days of Singapore history.

    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Have you visited Singapore yet? It’s a fantastic stopover destination – especially with the Butterfly Gardens in Changi Airport.

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    What to do on a 48 hour stopover to Singapore Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    My travel journey – beginning in Singapore #travellinkup

    My first ever taste of travel was probably the craziest if I’m honest. I had decided – despite only ever taking 2 internal NZ flights in my life – to pack up my life and move to the UK. On my own. Only knowing one person on the other side of the world. At twenty years old. So, so many things could have gone wrong.

    My travel journey - beginning in Singapore #travellinkup Adventures of a London Kiwi

    To temper things slightly, I booked a week layover in Singapore between the long haul flights crossing the planet.

    I arrived after a 12 hour flight into Changi airport at 3am, not knowing a soul, never having experienced jet lag or been confronted with security guards wearing scary guns strapped across their chests. (I wasn’t confronted by them I hasten to add!)

    My travel journey - beginning in Singapore #travellinkup Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I didn’t own a smart phone – so checking in with my worries parents was by text message on one of those amazing Nokia phones (one that still works today, and I suspect is hardy enough to survive the apocalypse.)


    Having decided that getting into a taxi in a strange company in the middle of the night was too crazily adventurous for even my blood, I booked into an airport hotel and languorously (it’s possible in your twenties) stretched out the kinks of my economy cricked back.

    Waking up the next morning, and trying to open a window only to realise just where I was, I raced through getting dressed to head out into a tropical island city I had only ever dreamed about.

    My travel journey - beginning in Singapore #travellinkup Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Armed only with my carry on, having trusted my most precious stuff in all the world to customs officials, I meandered through passport control to, well, nothing.

    As far as the eye could see there was no massive red suitcase anywhere. Freaking out slightly and grabbing the nearest friendly looking airport official, she smiled at my predicament and goes “oh no, don’t worry, it will be with lost and found. Just go over there…”

    My travel journey - beginning in Singapore #travellinkup Adventures of a London Kiwi


    After a touch of gesticulating, I was thankfully reunited with my worldly goods, and strode out into the Singaporean humidity. Making friends with my cab driver (I ended up partying with him and his friends at a club that night) and discovering that one of my (many, many) cousins was living in the island – and amazingly running into him on Orchard Road, I learned that some times truth is stranger than fiction…

    10 years on I visited as a 48 hour stopover, and the city has undergone a complete metamorphosis.

    My travel journey - beginning in Singapore #travellinkup Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Some things though have never changed…

    My travel journey - beginning in Singapore #travellinkup Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What is your travel story?


    An InLinkz Link-up


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