Again I am combining 3 days worth of travel into one blog post, as for us the "South East Asia Adventure" part of the trip ended on Day 39 in Siem Reap, and we were not planning to do a lot on these 3 days, except attend the Grand Prix practice in Singapore. So we planned to do very little and not take a lot of photos.
Wednesday 13 September, fine, thunderstorm 34°
We had a bit of a sleep in ( compared to the previous 3 mornings ) and got up at 7:30am. In another first we managed to make use of the breakfast that was included in our room rate at the hotel, and it was nice. We went up to our room, packed and checked out at 9:30am.
Dom arrived and took us to the airport, via the western suburbs of Siem Reap; there is a lot of new building work going on in Siem Reap and the area between the old town and the airport is no exception.
We arrived at the airport at 10am, and because our check in wasn't open we grabbed a Starbucks drink in their outdoor seating area, then checked in at about 10:15am and through to the waiting lounge. Siem Reap airport is a single level affair with no airbridges but is new and very cool. We walked out and got on our AirAsia plane at 11:15am and took off at 11:45am ( early again ). The flight was a little bumpy but not too bad, and we landed at Don Mueng Airport in Bangkok at 12:45pm.
During the flight their was an announcement that someone had stolen a headrest cover and if it wasn't returned then the security would be called when we landed and everyone would be searched. So when the headrest was still missing when we landed ( apparently airlines ' lose ' lots of items off planes, including lifejackets, pieces of uniforms, and even the handsets that they use to make cabin announcements! ) the security arrived and we were allowed to leave the plane one row at a time, and had our bags searched on the way out. We were near the front of the plane so I don't know if they found the thief or not.
Anyway we walked through to immigration and cleared through quite quickly ( compared to our first experience of Thai Immigration 5 weeks ago ), grabbed our bags and then went to arrange a taxi to our hotel ( a private car hire B700 / NZ$28 +we had to pay the driver for the toll road ( B70 )) . We drew some Thai Baht from the money machine, and due to confusion over the currency conversion rate we managed to draw B20,000 / NZ$800, which was a bit more than we needed. We grabbed some packaged sandwiches for our lunch, and ate them on the ride to the hotel.
It seemed a bit surreal to be back in land of motorways, tall buildings and noise after the last few days spent in the quiet, green jungle of Cambodia, but it is a necessary change.
Our car screamed down the motorway, battled the traffic, and eventually found the street / alley that our hotel was on, but by this stage our driver was in no mood to fight the traffic anymore, and effectively told us to get out and walk the last 100 metres to our hotel ( Pratunam Pavilion ) which was located near the end of a very narrow ally with market stalls on either side. We checked in at 2pm and went up to our room. The hotel and room were nothing flash, we had booked it more for it's location within walking distance of Ratchaparop Station, on the line to the Suvarnabhumi Airport, than for it's quality. But as usual it had wifi, airconditioning and included breakfast and was only NZ$50.
We went out for a walk through the alleys around the hotel, and sorted out the route to the train station ( the street our hotel was on got narrow near the train line, then appeared to be a corridor through someones house, but popped out on a road next to the train tracks which led directly to the station.
We headed back to the main road ( Phetchaburi Road ) then went into a mall, which was mainly tech shops, but Liz managed to find a pharmacy with a sale on lipsticks, so she was happy while I wandered the 4 floors of camera and computer shops.
As we were thinking about leaving the heavens opened and there was another thunderstorm passing through, so we grabbed a drink and watched the rain out the window. After about 45 minutes the rain eased off and we walked to the neighbouring mall, then we ventured out onto the street in the rain and walked around the corner, and across the canal to Central World ( we had visited here on our first pass through Bangkok, which felt like a lifetime ago, but was only 5 weeks ).
We walked around the mall, again it felt strange to be in a big western style mall, but it also felt normal. We left after buying a few bits and pieces at 5pm and walked back to the hotel in the sunshine. We chilled out in the room, then went downstairs to the hotel restaurant for tea, then back to the room.
Wednesday 14 September, fine, 32°
We surfaced at 7:30am, after both not having great sleeps. The hotel seems to be full of people that like to wander the corridors late at night talking, and slamming doors. This is the first time we have suffered from having a noisy hotel ( another bonus of travelling in the off season I guess ). We headed up to the top floor for breakfast which again was quite busy, then back down to our room to pack.
We left the hotel at 9:15am, walked through to the train station and caught the airport train. We arrived at the airport at 10am. We headed up to the check in hall and checked in with Singapore Airlines, through immigration and customs, and then into the shopping mall that is the departures area. We grabbed a drink then headed downstairs to our gate, and in another change to the norm our tickets were scanned as we went into the gate lounge, so they didn't need to be scanned as we got onto the plane.
We boarded at 11:45am and took off at 12:30pm for Singapore, again it was a bumpy flight with thunderstorms around and we landed at 3:30pm local time ( Bangkok time + 1hr ), off the plane, did immigration etc then down to the MRT station. We bought a 3 day tourist pass ( S$30 ea (including a S$10 deposit for the card ) / NZ$30 ), jumped on the MRT, changed at Tanah Merah and then got off at Lavendar, and walked the couple of hundred metres to our hotel ( Hotel Boss, a/c, wifi but no breakfast ) at 5pm. Checked in and up to our very modern room with a view out to the north.
We went for a walk around the area, walked through a little outlier of Little India (or Little, Little India as I call it ), passed the Masjid Sultan mosque then down through the little streets with colourful murals, and then headed west to Bugis MRT station. Caught the train to Bayfront at the Marina Bay Sands, and walked through to Gardens by the Bay and to the Supertrees. Then we waited for the sunset and for the lights in the trees at 7pm. We stayed unti about 7:45pm then walked back across the bridge through the MBS and then down to the Casino at 8pm. We made the usual donation to the tax coffers of Singapore, then headed to the basement of the MBS Shoppes for tea at the foodcourt. Walked the length of the Shoppes to the MRT and then back to Lavendar to our Hotel at 9pm.
Friday 15th September, cloudy, rain, fine, 30°
We got up at 7:30am to the sound of thunder rolling around, then went out to a cafe ( Tolidos Espresso Nook ) near our hotel for breakfast. then back to the hotel at 10am. Grabbed our gear for watching the Grand Prix then walked to the Suntec Centre where there was a ticket collection place for our GP tickets, but when we got there we were told we had to pick them up at the main collection venue at the Raffles Centre. So we walked through the streets, skirting the GP track and barricades. As we got near the Raffles Centre the heavens opened and the rain started. We managed to get inside the building and up to the conference centre to pick up our tickets.
We walked to the Raffles Hotel for a look around ( most of it is closed for renovations ) and then headed downstairs to the foodcourt in the Raffles Centre to grab some lunch. Back upstairs and out to the GP entry gates ( still raining, and the first time we have actually used our jackets that we have been carrying for 6 weeks ) and into the GP track at 2pm. We walked through the middle of the track, bought a cap and a programme, and went to our seats in the Esplanade Waterfront Grandstand ( S$128ea ) next to Marina Bay. We grabbed some drinks and settled in to watch the practice day; Ferrari's, Porshe's then the F1 cars. Thankfully the rain stopped and the sun came out.
We grabbed some dinner at the nearby tent foodcourt at 6pm ( S$8 for a beer! ), then back to our seats to watch the Ferrari qualifying and the F1 Free Practice 2. Lots of fun to watch. We left the grandstand at 10pm, walked back through the main part of the infield, watched a bit of One Republic on the Pedang Stage then headed to the City Hall MRT and back to Lavendar Station and our hotel at 11pm.
Saturday 16 Sept, cloudy, thunderstorms, fine, 31°
Slept in until 8:30am, walked down to the local McDonalds for breakfast at 9:30am then back to the hotel to pack for the last time. We checked out at 10:45am and left our bags at the hotel. We walked to Lavendar station and caught the train to Somerset Station on Orchard Road, went to Starbucks for a drink, then I stayed there to catch up on admin and blogs ( using the free wifi ) and Liz went off shopping.
After a couple of hours we walked up behind Orchard Road, through Emerald Place, with it's 2 storey terraced housing, then back to Somerset Station. We jumped on the MRT and headed out to Bashan then the circle line to Marina Bay Sands, and then back to the hotel at 4:30pm
We grabbed a coffee in the hotel lobby and then grabbed our bags at 5:45pm, walked to Lavendar and MRT to Changi Airport, arrived at 6:30pm. We checked in etc then through immigration ( no customs / bag searches until the gate lounge ). We walked around the departure mall, tea at Burger King then through to our gate at 8:00pm, onto the plane at 8:45pm. We managed to score seats immediately behind the bulkhead in the middle of the plane, with loads of legroom. We took off late at 9:55pm and had a slightly bumpy flight back to Auckland, arrived at 10:30am.
Through customs etc and then we grabbed the bus to the domestic terminal, got a drink, got on our plane to Napier at 1:15pm, landed at 2:15pm, and then a taxi home.
So that is it 6 weeks, 6 countries, 6 flights, 8 buses, 3 trains, 2 boats, and many miles walked.
The lasting memory is of the people we met along the way; so happy and helpful. And overall we were surprised how easy the trip was, given that we had not booked anything between our stays in Bangkok until we landed in Asia.
Time to start saving to go back again...