Back in Cape Town: Beating Jet Lag

April 1, 2007

After being in Sydney for just over 5 months, it was time to make a trip to Cape Town to say “Hi” to the family.

Tamara (my sister) was flying with me so we were taxi-ed to the airport by her hubby Richard who lit up our faces with the yummy goody bags he packed specially for us – filled with an assortment of Lindt biscuits, choccies and dried fruit.

We were flying Singapore Airlines and let me tell you, checking in online 48 hours before the flight is the only way to go. We missed out the loooong queue and skipped up to the internet check-in counter to give in our luggage.

Unfortunately Tam and I could only get seats on the other ends of the aircraft – she was 30-something and I was in row 60. To make it worse, this humungous man sits next to me, practically sprawls all over me and within 2 minutes of us taking off, has flung his head back and started to snore. This was the makings of a nightmarish flight.

Thank goodness Tam came to the rescue and convinced the girl next to her that she should move to the back of the plane as she could get an aisle seat. So I escaped what would have potentially been a horrific experience and came to sit next to my sister. What a pleasure.

And so began our movie marathon….I watched Notes of a Scandal (good but slightly disturbing), some Aussie movie (I can’t remember what it was called), The Office and Kath and Kim (a typical Aussie sitcome about typical Aussie middle-class – hilarious – I need to get hold of the rest of the series).

We were served a snack and then dinner (cous cous and vege curry – pretty good) and then we landed in Singapore airport.

We had a 4 hour stop over so Tam and I decided to check into the Rainforest Lounge (in terminal one) and had a wonderful shower and used the internet – all for $8. What a pleasure! We then walked through the airport – which is really more of a city than anything else and I got some Haagen Dasz (there was no Ben and Jerry’s) ice-cream.

We then boarded the plane again for the long-haul 12 hour flight to CT. The air stewards were active throughout the night – as opposed to British Airways where they serve dinner and disappear until brekkie. Here, these friendly hostesses were passing out drinks and snacks at all hours. I managed to get a little bit of sleep but it’s never that comfy.

We arrived in Cape Town just after 7am and mom came to collect us. We were pretty exhausted but decided that in order to beat our jet lag we wouldn’t sleep until that night. We knew if we took a nap, that would be it for our sleeping pattern. So we tried to keep busy with a trip to Constantia Village and lunch at Newport Deli.

Mom had friends for dinner so we helped to set up and almost succumbed to sleep in front of the soapies. But we resisted and after dinner, we excused ourselves and passed out.

What a great sleep that was and since then, our bodies have adjusted pretty well and we are well intp SA time. Definitely the way to beat jet lag!!!


Sentosa Fun

October 24, 2006

Carlsberg Tower
From Clarke Quay, I took the Singapore bus to Sentosa Island – a ride of only 15 minutes. Sentosa is an entertainment resort with a number of activities and restaurants that will keep the whole family busy for a good couple of hours.

It’s very easy to get around – buses travel to the main attractions throughout the day. I started off going up the Carlsberg Tower – which is the highest point in Singapore at something like 120 metres. The lift rotates so that you get a 360 degree view of the country. It was a tad hazy so I didn’t get to see Malaysia or Indonesia.

The Sentosa Luge

I then went on the Sentosa Luge which is like a go-kart – it was an awesome ride down followed by a ski-lift back to the top.

Not satisfied with the heights I had reached, I decided to take the cable car ride across the bay to Mount Faber and back again (all these above attractions were discounted using the StopOver package vouchers). There was nothing really to do at Mount Faber so I didn’t linger for very long on the other side.

Sentosa Beach

I bussed to Silosa Beach where I treated myself to a Ben and Jerry’s and went to savour the sweetness on the yellow sands. It was a little odd to have a real beach adjoining a entertainment resort but there it was complete with palm trees, a sea and a volley ball net.

Sentosa Musical Fountain

I continued onto the Ferry Terminal where I visited the Musical Fountain. I watched the 5:30pm show of the fountains dancing to music. The real spectacle of the music and light show only started at 7:40pm and I decided I didn’t feel like hanging around.

So I took a Sentosa bus to Harbourside MRT and from there a train to Raffles Place. My last stop was Lau Pa Sat festival market which was hundreds of food stalls in an airconditioned tent. While I love the idea of eating authentic Asian food, I seem to lose my appetite the minute I step into these food halls. It must have something to do with the spatchcocked chickens hanging from their necks or the unfamiliar smells or the sensation that things aren’t that clean. So even though I willed myself to be hungry, I couldn’t muster up an appetite and returned to my hotel room.

Singapore Slim

October 24, 2006

I would say that the majority of Singapore women are slim – they’re small boned and very dainty. My theory is that the Asian way of eating has traditionally been very healthy – lots of seafood and stirfries. Now, however, Singapore is clogged with all kinds of evil carb outlets – Mackers, Burger King, Bread Baskets, Sweet Heavens and many many more Western Eateries.

Singapore Mackers

I noticed that many of these restaurants were packed with not-so skinny Singaporians. Hmmm…I reckon clothes shops are stocking much bigger sizes than they did before the calories attacked.

Not Another Mall….

October 24, 2006

I started out on Wednesday morning at 9am after a refreshing sleep and headed for Little India. I had heard that there was a non-touristy mall called Mustafa in the area. I had to brave quite a dodgy area and even more dodgy characters (I think it was the blonde hair that encouraged the leering looks) to reach the 24-hour Mustafa. It felt as if I was in the middle of the Indian market in Durban – even though I wouldn’t really know as I never felt safe enough to actually go there.

Mustafa is a huge 5 level store with everything you could imagine all under one roof. I had a look at the electronics – I was keen on buying a camera. But discovered that the prices really weren’t that cheap and it probably would be a better idea to buy it in Oz where I can get a better guarantee. I looked around for an hour or so and came out with a touristy T-shirt.

I then walked to the nearest MRT station and took a train to the one end of Orchard Road, which is known as the most prestigious avenue in Singapore. I walked in and out of malls but by the end of the street, all the shops were merging into one and the humidity was driving me insane. The shops were really magnificent and the variety was eye-boggling but none of it was cheap and there is only so much window shopping you can do. I was pretty much all malled out.

Funan Digital Mall

There was only one more to visit – the Funan Digital Mall – which boasts about 5 floors of electronic shops. A techhy paradise. I ambled around and idley compared some prices but nothing jumped out at me.

I landed up at MacDonalds trying the Chicken Fantastic which is a chicken burger with rice patties rather than bread rolls. It was OK until I happened to glance at the nutritional info – it tallied the highest of all burgers – a whopping 2000 KJ!!! I decided it wasn’t that tasty after all.

Shops, shops and more shops in Singapore

October 24, 2006

I checked into the hotel – which turned out to be pretty decent even if the reception staff are not exactly the most friendly or helpful. My room would only be ready at about 11:30am (it was now 8:30am), so I decided to leave my bags at the concierge and start my exploring.

I took an easy walk to the largest mall in Singapore – Suntec City Mall – with over 300 outlets. I passed the Raffles Hotel on the home – which is famous for the Singapore Sling Cocktail (the stopover package gives you 50% off the drink). Since it was early, most of the shops were closed so I just wandered around a bit. I went to a SoyaBean shop and bought a pancake filled with peanut paste (yum!!!).

I then caught the 10am Singapore Airlines Hop on Hop off bus (it’s free for package holders). I stayed on the bus for the entire route – which took about an hour and a half. It was a worthwhile trip as it put things in perspective and also helped me to identify the places I want to visit. We stopped for 20 minutes at the Singapore Botanical Gardens which was a lush tropical landscape. Nothing on Kirstenbosch though 🙂

We drove through the prestigious Orchard Road which seemed to have 10 trillion shopping  centres – how these malls are supported, I have no clue.Ben and Jerry’s Shop

I got off at the last stop near the Raffles City Mall, where I got my dose of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream (chocolate chip cookie dough for $4.50 in a cup with one scoop – pricey, but yum!). I also visited a gourmet supermarket and had fun looking at the different products. It appears that there are many imports from Oz – so no need to buy those.

From here, I walked about to the hotel and checked in to my room. It’s a pretty decent place with 2 beds, bathroom with all necessary amenities and a TV with a handful of English channels. By the way most people speak English – which makes things much easier.

Raffles Shopping Mall

After a welcome shower, I walked back to Raffles City Mall where the City Hall MRT station was. I got a single ticket for $1.20 and took a train to Harbourfront to see the new VivoCity Centre which opened about a week ago. It was pretty busy, I guess because it’s new. I didn’t buy much at all – except some dried mango from the supermarket.

I then wandered through the food hall. Way too much of a decision so I decided to have a quick meal at a restaurant called Chicken and Rice. I bet you can guess what I ate! That’s right honey BBQ chicken and noodles. It came with wontons with dubious filling (I left it) as well as a clear broth.

I took a walk around the mall and went up to the rooftop to get a good look at the docks. It took me a while to find my way back to the MRT station…I kept on getting lost in the maze of levels and shops. It probably had to do with the fact that by now I was pretty exhausted with jetlag.

I took a train back to City Hall and dragged my tired body back to the hotel where I dropped into bed at about 6pm.

First Impressions of Singapore

October 24, 2006

The bus ride to the Allson took about 45 minutes. The first thing that struck me about Singapore is that it feels like a tropical rain forest – with palm trees, a rainbow of flowers and humidity that would cause even a camel to pant from thirst. I thought Durban was bad – believe me, Durbs is like antarctica in comparison. It’s even made worse as all buildings and buses are airconditioned so when you have tog go out into the open, it is as if you’re hit with this oppressive wall of damp heat. Maybe it just takes some getting used to.

Singapore Smog

Another thing that occurred to me was that the country was now where close as clinical as I expected. I always imagined Singapore to be this spotless, characterless place where everyone moved in robotish unison. Not so. Singapore has a lot of colour – there are some dilapidated areas and ones that are gaudy and bustling, juxtaposed with the lavish shopping centres and high-rise hotels and modern sky-scrapers.

And I can’t not mention the haze. I read the Singapore Sunday Times on the plane and I noticed that the weather report includes a haze factor. I can understand why – it really does feel as if the country is drenched in a fog. I was looking up in the sky when I suddenly noticed a round ball which looked very much like the moon. But now, it was actually the fiery sun which was so covered by the smog that you could actually look straight into its eye without being blinded.

The Singapore Stopover

October 24, 2006

 The first thing I did when I entered the arrival hall is check-in at the Singapore Stopover Desk. It amazes me that not more people know about this fantastic offer. If you stay in Singapore for a short stopover (I think it’s more than 24 hours and less than 7 days), Singapore airlines offers a package which includes subsidised accommodation at a variety of hotels, plus transfers from the airport, plus free entrance to some must-see tourist attractions and other discount. What a deal!!!

Allson Hotel, Singapore

I chose the Allson hotel as it was in the lowest-price category – something like $50 a night for a single room. It was also the closest hotel in that category to Orchard Road, which seemed like a good place to stay. Before catching the transfer bus, I left my luggage at the airport (it cost 16 USD to do so but I would have paid much more to avoid shlepping the 40 kg of luggage into town). The only negative thing of this action is that I had no clothes other than what I had on. I figured it was a good excuse to buy some new clothes.