By Diana Shirey
Singapore is beautiful and extremely safe to visit. The people are friendly and I’m so fortunate to have visited.
Some highlights include the 1820 Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown and the very modern, jaw-dropping biodomes such as the gorgeous Gardens by the Bay, which is home to the highest interior waterfall, flowers from around the world and an amazing light show set to music. If you love heights, don’t miss one of Singapore’s most iconic, luxury hotels, the Marina Sands, as it is home to the longest and highest infinity pool in the world!
We were fortunate to stay in the Valley Wing of the Shangri-La Hotel. The Valley Wing offers breakfast, high tea, appetizers, drinks and a cocktail hour. My faves during high tea were the Singapore Sling with the delicious scones and tea sandwiches.
The marvelous Shangri-La is located downtown and has so much to offer. The grounds feature an amazing orchid garden, a beautiful pool, and waterfalls throughout the property. The main lobby offers evening entertainment surrounded by beautiful sculptures, a garden wall, water ponds, and a gigantic, glimmering chandelier. For a relaxing treat, don’t forget to have the delicious tea at the spa. Truly an unforgettable experience.
When venturing out into the city, you’ll find that taxis are the most convenient. Note that you must queue up to a taxi stand, as hailing cabs in the greater city center is illegal. Don’t make my mistake and not purchase a multi-pass for the train. Without a multi-pass, you’ll be stuck and may need assistance from a policeman to exit. He thought it was funny, by the way. Taxis for us from now on!
Another fun way to see the city is by bike. There is no shortage of bikes for rent, so long as you have oBIKE app loaded onto your phone. This station-less bike-sharing platform allows you to grab any bike and drop off at any location when you’re done.
During our visit, a couple of adventures stood out. Be sure to add these to your itinerary, once all major sights have been checked off.
First off is a trip over to Pualau Ubin, an island with only 34 inhabitants during the week. The island comes to life during the weekend, when everyone visits. A 30-minute ferry ride will run you 3 Singapore dollars each way. We had a guide, which enhanced our experience. We saw monkeys, crocs, snakes, birds, mangroves, mud skippers, wild boars and an old British Medical outpost. Tom was our Viator tour guide and after our tour, directed us to a great little restaurant that offered homemade coconut ice cream with mangoes. The coconut water and Black Tiger beer were the most perfect, refreshing treat to end the day.
The second would be a visit to Sentosa Island. We stayed at the Le Meridian for one night after our Borneo adventure and found the island to be wonderful for families. Tons of things to see and do. We walked to the furthest south part of Asia and stuck our feet into the ocean. Please note that I have been spoiled and have seen some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Beaches here were not anything to write home about. But what Sentosa lacked in beaches, they made up in amusement parks, Universal being their biggest one. For the best coffee (seriously blows anything here in the US out of the water) and ice cream, don’t forget to take the monorail to the top of the island! The food mall located up there will not disappoint!
Flying into Pangkalan Bun and connecting in Jakarta is quite an adventure on its own. Quick note: Do not fly Nam Air. If you want to know why, you’ll have to call me!
Our wonderful tour operator, Fardi, owns Orangutan House Boat Tours, and I can’t say enough about his service and knowledge. He owns 5 of the best maintained houseboats available.
We sailed for 3 nights, 4 days with pickup and drop at the airport. This was one of the best highlights of my life (and I have seen a lot!) To sail the jungle with river crocs, pink dolphins, water snakes and all the different species of monkeys was nothing short of amazing. Once you sail out of the city, you’ll begin to see the very smart, treetop-dwelling orangutans.
One side of the river has been milled for Palm oil and this is where the orangutans that need feeding reside. They have set feeding times and platforms where you sit and wait for the feeders to bring the food and call the orangutans. Soon after the call, you’ll start to see the tree tops ‘fall’ and bend over—a sight almost out of the movie, Jurassic Park! But it isn’t T-Rex, thankfully. The adorable, agile, graceful orangutans—mostly mamas with their babies, are swooping in for their meal! It is mind-boggling, the range they have as they grasp at the branches and swing through the jungle. It was sweet, watching the mamas correct their naughty babies, who think they can swing the same distances as their moms. Watching the orangutan hold no less than 20 bananas in their mouths, while sitting on a tiny branch was very entertaining, to say the least.
Then, you’ll start to notice that they all take to the top of the trees. This is the sign that Big Daddy is on his way, and will come to take his place right next to you on the platform. Once he is seated on the platform, his family will come down and join him. The babies will poke and play with him while the moms keep an eye on the babies. But all is good, as he seems to know they all belong to him. Big Daddy tends to them and even hands food to them. While they are eating the wild pigs are on the ground below, grunting and eating the left overs. We hiked off the beaten path, through the jungle, since we had a guide, and came upon many a wonder; insect-eating flowers, more monkeys that seemed to like our belongings, huge tarantulas (the bird eating ones) and other species of insects that I have never seen before.
Once the feeding was over we headed over to the houseboat where we were treated like queens. We slept on the top deck under a mosquito net, which was put up every night. We cruised down the river and could sit on the deck and watch the jungle roll by with all its wonders. At night, fireflies and glowing mushrooms added to the spectacular sight, while the movement of the boat rocked us to sleep with the sounds of a jungle lullaby. On board, the meals were fresh and wonderful.
Our last morning, we were blessed with quite a funny experience. An orangutan the crew had named Mario, came and stayed right across the river from us. He gave us quite a show. He would climb up and away from the shore, sitting on top of a tree, and he would put these leaves in front of him, as if to hide. He was huge, but he really thought he was hiding and out of sight. Anyway, he would sit there and when he heard a houseboat coming, he would pick the exact precise time to swiftly swing to a tree that would overhang the river. Just when the houseboat would go by, he would swoop down and swipe whatever they had on their tables and run away with it. A couple of times, he actually boarded the houseboat and they had to chase the cute and clever orangutan off with a broom.
We came across a gibbon at one of the feedings that the guides said they had not seen before. He swooped down, stole a bunch of bananas from the moms, and ran up a tree and ate them. Once he had eaten the bananas he thought he could get a chance again, so he came down and just as he landed on the platform, the moms formed up on either side of him. They just sat there, ate and prevented him from scooping in and taking more. He waited patiently for another chance, which finally did come, and hit the trees like lightening–this time taking his haul away, and not coming back.
I had no idea how much I would enjoy Singapore and Borneo. I will definitely return to these beautiful countries and would love to talk to you more about them!
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