Farewell 2017 & Hello 2018!

Work, Travel, Save, Repeat

Hi Folks

So it’s been some time since I’ve posted a blog post…….life was pretty excitedly frenetic late last year with good stuff happening in my personal life.

After everything has settled down and with my awesome Christmas/New Year holidays now a distant memory, I finally have the time to sit down to reflect and write about my adventures for 2017 and look forward to my personal and travel goals in 2018.

This blog post will more than makes up for my hiatus.

Here’s what I modestly clocked up in 2017:

  • Road trips: #2 (Caloundra and Mooloolaba, Queensland)
  • Destinations: #5  (Japan, Hong Kong, Koh Samui Thailand, Singapore and New Zealand)
  • Airlines: #5  (Qantas, JAL, Singapore Airlines x 2, Silk Air and Emirates)
  • Accommodation: #8 (Rumba Resort, Hilton Tokyo Odaiba, Novotel Hong Kong Citygate Hotel, The Hansar Samui Resort & Spa, The Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Hotel x 2, The Westin Singapore Hotel, Sudima Auckland Airport Hotel)

Christmas 2017 – Singapore

After a busy year, there was nothing more exhilarating that welcoming my four weeks of leave, which included a trip to Singapore in December and also a holiday back home to the Motherland of New Zealand.It had been about 18 months since we (my better half and I) had a brief stopover in Singapore, so I was genuinely excited to be going back again.

You know there are some destinations that just always have a special place in your heart, well for me, Singapore is one of those places. It has been a regular choice of travel for us since 2011.

Singapore is a fusion of different cultures and cuisines that offers its own unique charm and appeal.

In this travel bloggers humble opinion it is a safe and diverse country and although small in land mass – it is mighty when it comes to the country’s architectural successes, their infrastructure services, a solid economy balanced by a progressive and forward thinking mind-set.

I have always had a deep affinity for Singapore, sadly perhaps because of a relinquished job opportunity to live and work there in my youth and the nostalgia of “what might have been?”

Oh well, I have long ago learned and accepted that figuratively speaking when “life gives you lemons, make lemonade” because for “everything in life there is a season”. I have finally reached a good place in my life where I am both happy and thankful for my seasons. Life is good.

However, on this occasion it was the season to seriously tick off some bucket list items!

“The OCBC Skyway” – At Gardens by the Bay

My adrenalin was pumping, I was so excited to be doing this as the last time I had tried to give it a go it had been raining and closed off to the public. Second chances can be such a beautiful thing.

You can gain access to Gardens by the Bay simply by catching the MTR to the iconic Marina Bay Sands Complex/Mall then walking along a well sign posted and delightfully mirrored walkway to the Gardens, where you can catch a lift to the entrance.

We chose to walk around the gardens (which is free) and across the bridge where we took some fabulous photos of Gardens by the Bay, the Supergrove and the imposing and boat-shaped Marina Bay Sands Hotel in the background.

After navigating our way around the gardens we eventually found the ticket booth for the “Skyway” and surprisingly it only cost $8 Singapore per adult for 15 minutes on the walkway! Wow, now that is a great value for money activity to do.

So, we ascended the elevator to the top and when the doors opened I was greeted by an absolutely amazing view! It was a visual feast of the Singapore skyline in all directions, notwithstanding the superb view of the Super trees in all their glorious flora beauty.

To me it was truly magnificent and definitely worth the wait.

I was quickly surrounded by an energy of controlled excitement and quiet awe as everyone lingered to admire the breath-taking views and posed for the perfect photo.

Now, that was the best $8 I had every spent!!

I cannot recommend more highly not only a visit to Gardens by the Bay but also the “Skywalk” as it will literally take your breath away.

The Chinatown Heritage Centre

When in Singapore we always made the customary visit to the Chinatown Markets. It’s a great place to try your bargaining skills with the added bonus that you get to take home bags and bags of lovely souvenirs.

This time around we decided to do something different and pay a visit to the Chinatown Heritage Centre.

So we paid our entrance fee and then headed over to the Guest representative where we were given audio devices and some instructions on how to use them – then we were off.

There are 3 floors as part of the tour and with the help of our audio devices, we were given detailed and guided commentary that we could play and replay at our leisure.

1st Floor – Tailors Store

It was like we had travelled back in time as the ground floor resembled a Tailors store from the 1950’s, with the front of store and the back of store. It was an interesting and authentic collection of materials, clothes, the small apprentice living quarters and a communal kitchen, bathroom and laundry area.

2nd Floor – Living Arrangements

Now this was a real eye opener! The 2nd level was dedicated to the way people and families lived in their rented accommodation back in the 1950’s (in this scenario the lodgings were above the Tailors store).

There rooms (7-8) were tiny and compact, but each had personalised living quarters that reflected the hardships and lives of their residents.

It was an eye-opening experience and it made me even more appreciative of the small luxuries that I have and enjoy today.

3rd Floor – The Story of Singapore

The third story is an optional floor to visit. I thought the display was very moving and evocative as it told the story of Singapore.

I saw pictures of the faces of the early pioneers and read about their stories and their journey in search of new beginnings.

It was raw, it was poignant and yet an honest reflection about the foundations upon which Singapore was born and built.

Although simple in its delivery, this tour was very insightful and I would recommend a visit if you have some spare time while in Chinatown.

The Singapore Tourist Pass (1, 2 & 3 Day)

We purchased a 3-Day pass for $20 Singapore (along with a $10 rental deposit) for unlimited travel on public bus and train services (that had to be used consecutively).

This pass is another value-for-money resource for those travel seekers keen to explore Singapore, especially when using the MRT. Not only does it save you money but also time and convenience.

The Westin Singapore Hotel

On this holiday to Singapore we had opted to stay at The Westin Singapore Hotel located in the Financial District.

This luxury accommodation was a treat and we had paid more for the breakfast and club room inclusions as part of our booking.

As we walked into the entrance area we were greeted by a lovely decorated Café and welcoming Guest Services representative who summoned the lift for us to go to Level 32 and Reception.

We received a warm welcome, refreshing drink and a room-upgrade to the 45th floor (with great features, a very large and spacious room and spectacular views of the Singapore skyline).

I casually and mischievously dropped the hint that I was a travel blogger in the hope it may get some extras. In some small ways it surprisingly did.

Breakfasts at the “Seasonal Tastes” restaurant everyday was always a lovely affair with a broad selection of food for different tastes and appetites.

One morning I had the Manager (on shift that morning) come over to me and ask if I was enjoying my stay and where was I from. We had a nice little chat and it was a really lovely way to start the day.

Then on I my final day, I was approached by the Head Chef on Duty – Mr Kit Chong (which unfortunately I didn’t realise at the time). Anyway, he came up to me and politely presented me with a beautifully wrapped cookie with the hotel compliments. I was so surprised by this thoughtful gesture.

We talked about New Zealand and his aspirations to travel there for a holiday one day, so I offered him some suggestions. I just felt very honoured that he would take the time out of his busy day to come and have a chat to little old me – Wow!

To be honest, I’m not sure if it was the Kiwi connection (our countries shared history and bond) or the travel blogger connection but whichever one it was, I felt like a VIP for a day.

Now, being the budget conscious person that I am, we always finished every evening enjoying a refreshingly cool drink and a deliciously light meal and snacks at the Executive Club room located on the 35th floor.

We were well cared for by Mr Patrick and the charming and very funny Mr Roslee and both remembered us from our very first night there (so I’m not sure if that was a good or bad thing – lol).

If you are ever on the hunt for excellent hospitality, great customer service and complemented by chic facilities in a neat location then look no further than the Westin Singapore Hotel.

At the Westin you are conveniently located next to the “Food Garden” which offers a good selection of dining options, including the national dish of “Chicken rice” of which I am now a devoted fan.

The MRT is also a 5 minute walk away from the Westin, so you have transport options right at your door step.

We also discovered that through some adjoining doors right inside but next to the MRT station was the “Link Mall”.

The Link Mall is like an underground city, where locals gather amongst a plethora of restaurants, retail stores and even a gourmet grocery store on offer. The Link Mall also serves, as it name suggests as a walkway that links you to the Marina Bay Sands area and its surrounds – very ingenious really.

I am always confounded but at the same time bemused that we seem to stumble across these hidden local gems on our very last day in a city.

Anyway, Singapore as usual lived up to my expectations and more….. I’m already planning my next holiday back there….again……

New Year 2018 – New Zealand

Nau mai haere mai! (Welcome in Maori).

It was so good to return home via Auckland after 12 months away and to finally catch up with family – it’s just the best feeling ever!

Just being in NZ tops up my depleted spirit and I have come to the realisation that the older I get, the more value I place on spending quality time with my loved ones.

Not only is New Zealand my birthplace but it is also my spiritual home. It is the one place where I can go and have a genuine sense of connection and belonging.

The country has changed dramatically in the 12 nearly 13 years that I have been away, but as I look forward to the future I am filled with hope and a quiet optimism.

In 2018, I have made it my goal and a priority in my everyday life to be grateful for all of my good fortune and blessings – great or small.

I believe it is only when I am in a state of complete acceptance and gratefulness, can I truly appreciate the abundance of good and that is waiting to come into my life.

So whatever your journey is for 2018, be it personal, professional or of course travel related, I wish you a bucket-list load of success and good fortune and thank you for sharing my journey.

#begrateful

Cheers Del

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