The flight, 7 June
We flew Singapore Airlines flight SQ338, which left Melbourne at 10:25 am and landed in Singapore at 4:20 pm the same day. The flight was part of the river cruise package, although we were flying out much earlier to stop in Singapore and the UK before reaching Paris.
Changi Airport SIMs
We bought Starhub prepaid “Happy” SIMs for SG$50, which included $50 credit for voice, text and free data. (That $50 product isn’t on their website for some reason.) Given the amount of free wi-fi around, it was more than enough. There is also a SG$18 SIM that would suffice anyone who only wants data but no voice. In case you return to Singapore within six months, the number and credit will still be usable.
Swissotel Merchant Court
The Swissotel is at 20 Merchant Rd, Singapore 058281. It is on the banks of the Singapore River at Clarke Quay and is handy to many attractions and the MRT trains. I had spent over 20 nights at the Swissotel in Sydney, so I know the brand and like the product. I have reached the second (Eleva) tier of their loyalty program, so we had access to the Executive club and free wi-fi. This gives us access to free alcohol and finger food as well as breakfast.
Our room had a small view of the swimming pool and the river. It was comfortable. The underground Clarke Quay MRT station is in the building directly opposite.
We had canapes in the Exec Club and walked along Clarke Quay to get our bearings. Nothing too adventurous as it had been a long day so far.
Singapore River Explorer
We took the 24-hour pass for SG$28, which includes the wooden bumboat sightseeing cruise worth $22 separately. There is a recorded commentary on a TV monitor that tells you the history of the buildings we went past. The boat turns around at Marina Bay Sands hotel.
We paid the tourist rate of SG$33 per person for a “flight” in this ferris wheel. Great views to be had from the top in all directions.
Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Gardens by the Bay
The Gardens by the Bay attraction is across the river from the Flyer, so we walked across the “DNA inspired” Helix bridge to the Shoppes. This is a good path on a hot day, as it is air-conditioned. The tickets cost $26.17. We took a golf buggy ride for $2 to the cooled Flower Dome to see unique plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid subtropical regions such as Australia, South Africa, Mediterranean and parts of Europe.
We next went to the Cloud Forest and took a lift to the top of the man-made mountain to enjoy the plants from the Tropical Montane region, which are between 1,000 to 3,500 metres above sea level.
Johor Bahru Malaysia tour
We booked a half-day Johor Bahru tour with City Tours. It cost just SG$33 each, which is a good price, as it includes pickup at the hotel and drop-off in the afternoon. We had originally booked it for the 10th, but owing to a lack of numbers, we were asked if we would like a refund or take some other tour. We asked about the same tour on the 9th and we were able to take it.
It was annoying to be phoned by City Tours while we were out of our room and asked for our photos and passport details, when we could have done this when making the original booking. I have many email accounts but none could send these images, as the City Tours address was blocked by the servers. In the end, I had to host the images on an FTP site and asked them to click a download link in my email. Most tourists would not have known how to do this.
There were just 11 tourists on our large bus. It left from the Buddha Tooth Relic temple in Chinatown. One lady forgot to take along the white Immigration card we get when we enter Singapore, so she could not come. This card has to be surrendered when leaving Singapore at the Woodlands Checkpoint (before the causeway to Malaysia).
The Malaysian content of the bus tour was disappointing. It lasts about two hours in Johor Bahru, where most of it is at tourist traps with lightweight information/cultural acts and many opportunities to buy souvenirs. You will get the same souvenirs much cheaper in Singapore’s Chinatown. The only monument we saw (from the outside) was the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque.
The return journey not only had a traffic jam on the causeway, but the customs/immigration process in Singapore took more than 90 minutes waiting in the queue.
The Night Safari tour included hotel pickup and drop-off (from the travel agent near the Buddha Tooth Relic temple). It is a great evening for all ages. We took the 40 minute tram ride, which takes you past many animals, but did not try the four optional treks that give you a closer view of the animals. Photography is impossible from the moving tram, as flash is not permitted.
We spent the morning at the ACM (Asian Civilisations Museum), a short walk from our hotel. It is a great experience and highly recommended. Tourists pay SG$8 and Seniors SG$4.
National Museum of Singapore
Our checkout time was noon with a pre-midnight flight to Paris, so we spent the morning at the National Museum of Singapore, which had a free tour at 11 am. It lasted an hour and the volunteer guide was a local, so she was able to add a personal example in many of the exhibits. The story of Singapore begins much before the arrival of the British and includes the Japanese occupation and the modern post-independence nation.
We then walked to the nearby Dhoby Ghaut MRT station on Orchard Road and took a train to Chinatown to get the SG$10 refund on the three-day MRT Tourist Pass. Then back to the hotel to check out.
We went to Changi Airport around 2 pm to spend the day exploring its many attractions. We wandered all the three terminals and rented a room at the Transit Hotel for SG$90 for 6 hours. This is a great way to rest and have a shower before leaving on a long trip.
We left Singapore on SQ334 at 11:55 pm and landed at Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris the next morning at 7:20 am.