Monday – Thursday, 1-4 August 2016 – Days 47 – 50 – Travelling Home from Porto/Lisbon via Heathrow, Singapore, Sydney to Canberra

Monday – Thursday, 1-4 August, 2016 – Days 47 – 50 – Travelling Home from Porto/Lisbon via Heathrow, Singapore, Sydney to Canberra 

Monday, 1 August 2016 – Day 47 – Porto to Lisbon and London

After breakfast, I caught a taxi from the Lusitana Hotel to the Porto Airport for my flight on TP1927 leaving at 9.30 arriving in Lisbon at 10.30.  I just stayed at the airport until it was time for me to get my flight from Lisbon to Luton, United Kingdom that departed at 3.50. It was a smooth flight and arrived at Luton Airport at about 6.30.

While I was waiting to collect my luggage, was talking to a woman who lived in London and said it was better to catch a train into St. Pancreas Station and she would help me with my luggage and transport arrangements. It was raining while we waited for a train but managed to get on before getting too wet. While we were on the train, the woman whose name escapes me, decided to have a drink that she had got duty free. Was a bit embarrassing, as her language was not the best. We eventually got to St Pancreas Station after about an hour and a half on the train. St Pancreas Station was quite deserted but there was a coffee shop open so went there for a coffee. By this time, the woman is getting quite loud and when I came back from the cloak room, she had been escorted away by some policemen. I believe the coffee shop people must have called the police as they were ready to close. Well, I had no idea how far my hotel was and it was getting quite late and no one else around the area so I found my way out and eventually got a taxi to my hotel.

It was very late when I finally arrived at the London Heathrow Airport Ibis as was quite a distance. Very exhausting day. Fell into bed.

Tuesday – Thursday, 2 – 4 August, 2016 – Days 48 – 50 -London, Singapore, Singapore, Sydney to Canberra 

On Tuesday, 2 August 2016  (Day 48) I booked out of the Ibis at 7.00 and caught the shuttle car to the nearby Heathrow Airport and went to book my case in only to be told my flight was not this morning but tonight. Imagine how I felt. Decided to go back to the hotel and they kindly let me back into my room until 2.00.  I was glad of some sleep as was very tired. After booking out once more, I went back to the Airport but it was a long wait until I was able to book in. Spent the time at the airport doing a lot of “people watching”, talking to different passengers, eating and some coffee.

The T5 Gallery is a unique cultural space within the Heathrow airport. The gallery is one of the few permanent commercial fine art galleries in the world to be situated in an airport and is in an ideal position to reach and introduce art to a wide international audience.  I spent quite a lot of time in the gallery admiring the magnificent sculptures. One of the artist who had her work on display was Marie Boyle who comes from Dublin, Ireland but has spent the last 24 years working in England.


It was finally time for me to go through Security and board my BA15 flight that took off at 9.45pm. This is the dreaded long haul – 13 hours 5 minutes!  After having the meal, I settled down and was able to get some sleep.  We arrived in Singapore – now 3 August due to the different time zone – at about 5.40pm.  There was only a short layover in Singapore.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016 – Day 49 – In flight to Sydney 

Back on BA15 that left Singapore at 7.20pm – Another 7 hr 45 minutes in the air. Was a smooth flight and arrived in Sydney about 5.05am.

Thursday, 4 August 2016 – Day 50 – Sydney to Canberra – Home

I had to collect my luggage and go through Customs before boarding the shuttle bus from International to Domestic terminal. I boarded QF1526 at 9.50a.m for Canberra but we were delayed. Finally took off at 10.45 and arrived in Canberra at 11.30am. Rob was there to collect me. Was terrific to see him. We collected my luggage and drove me home.

Lucky enough to have had another wonderful trip abroad. I was very fortunate with the weather and only had a little bit of rain while in England – typical I guess.

Is hard to say what one highlight of my trip is as saw so many wonderful sights in the countries I visited – England, Wales, Malta, Sicily (Italy) and Portugal.

While in England and Wales, caught up from past year’s meetings overseas, with dear Lucy, David, Louise, and Vanessa and also met her hubby, Neil and two of the sons, Tom and Will – Cynthia, and this time met her husband Mark and two children, Grace and Ally. Received great hospitality from Warren, Emily and Anthony while I stayed with them. Met up with Carson in Cardiff and had a long but enjoyable day.  Also had a nice day with Niamh and met her now fiancee Alan.  While in Malta, met David and Maddie from England.  It was great catching up with Terrie and Mark   – met them in 2013 at the Taj Mahal in India – while in Cascais, Portugal.  Thankyou to all who showed me such nice hospitality. It has been great keeping in touch with you since we first met and to new friends. Stay in touch in the future.

The four countries I visited were very diverse – England and Wales so very green, Malta very hot and dry and Portugal very mountainous and weather very warm.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tours I took and the several boat rides and visiting the wineries were excellent. I visited and saw lots of beautiful churches and castles – the architecture in all the countries are just magnificent and when you think how long ago some of these buildings were built is just amazing. Although I only had a very long day’s trip from Malta to Sicily it was worth it – visiting Taormina and Mt Etna was certainly high on the list and being able to visit Fatima was so different – a very calming atmosphere.

I give thanks to the many tour guides for their safe driving.  A huge thanks to the several pilots who flew me to and from the different destinations and anyone else who drove me places.

Now this trip has ended – once more a wonderful time and feel very fortunate that I was able to do it.  So now it is back to reality and hopefully do some more travelling in the future.













Start of overseas trip – 16 June 2016 – Days 1 and 2

 Thursday, 16 June 2016. –  Start of overseas trip – Days 1 and 2.

Rob picked me up at 10.00 and drove me to the Canberra airport for my flight at 12.10 on QF1474 to Sydney.

Was a smooth flight and arrived at 1.05.  Hopped on the shuttle bus to the international airport and through Security and to Gate 60 to board BA16 to London via Singapore.  We left at 3.00.  Didn’t seem as though we had been on board before we were served a meal of chicken, corn rice and a glass of Temprranillo La Mancha a product of Spain.  Was a good flight and arrived in Singapore at 9.15 local time Australia is 2 hours ahead.

Was a long walk to C20. Went through Security at 10.00 pm and boarded BA16. and we departed at 10.45 pm.  Settled in and at 2.00 am served a meal of fish, spinach, potatoes, carrots, a side dish of tuna, lettuce, capsicum and a dessert of a lemon square, strawberries and cranberries.  I then took my painkillers and a mild sleeping tablet and had a good sleep until I was woken up at 3.00 am with breakfast.  At this stage we had 2 hours to go before London.  When it was 11.00am in Singapore it was 4.00am in London and now we only had 45 minutes before our landing time was a little earlier than scheduled. We landed at 4.45am.

Friday, 17 June 2016 – London (Day 2)

Hopped straight onto the transit train and onto passport security. Took about an hour and then collected my luggage and my transport was waiting to drive me to Euston Station by 6.45.  I got my rail ticket and went in for some breakfast as train I wanted was leaving at 8.49. Arrived at Birmingham New Street Station where I had to change trains at 11.10am – go over the other platform and that train left at 11.25 for Telford Central, arriving at 12.00.  It was raining in London but was nice and sunny in Telford.  Got a cab to my accommodation but room wasn’t ready until 2.00 so went and had a croissant and coffee.

I settled into my room and had an early night.



Wednesday/Thursday, 14 and 15 August 2013 – 4th and Final day in Singapore – Flight Home to Canberra

Wednesday/Thursday, 14-15 August 2013 – 4th and final day in Singapore – Flight Home to Canberra

This morning we got up early and out in front of the hotel to get our 8.00 am pickup ride to the Singapore Eye stop where we then transferred onto a colourful bus to take us to the Singapore Zoo for Breakfast with the Orangutans. ”Breakfast with the Orangutans” lets visitors meet and interact closely with the orangutans in the zoo, which has included Ah Meng (died on 8 February 2008) who was an icon of the Singapore tourism industry. IMG_10432

The Singapore Zoo formerly known as the Singapore Zoological Gardens and commonly known locally as the Mandai Zoo, occupies 28 hectares (69 acres) on the margins of Upper Seletar Reservoir within Singapore’s heavily forested central catchment area.. The zoo was built at a cost of S$9m granted by the government of Singapore and opened on 27 June 1973. It is operated by Wildlife Reserves Singapore,who also manage the neighbouring Night Safari and the Jurong Bird Park. There are about 315 species of animal in the zoo, of which some 16% are considered threatened species and 2534 animals. The zoo attracts about 1.6 million visitors each year.

From the beginning, Singapore Zoo followed the modern trend of displaying animals in naturalistic, ‘open’ exhibits with hidden barriers,moats, and glass between the animals and visitors. It houses the largest captive colony of orangutans in the world. In 1977, primatologist, Dr Francine Neago lived inside a cage with eighteen orangutans for six months to study their behavior and communication.

On 27 June 1973, the Singapore Zoo opened its gates for the first time with a collection of 270 animals from over 72 species, and a staff of 130. By 1990, 1,600 animals from more than 160 species lived in social groups, housed in 65 landscaped exhibits with boundaries conceived to look as natural as possible.

Animals are kept in spacious, landscaped enclosures separated from the visitors by either dry or wet moats. The moats are concealed with vegetation or dropped below the line of vision. Dangerous animals that can climb well are housed in landscaped glass-fronted enclosures. The Singapore Zoo is the first zoo in the world to breed a polar bear in the tropics. Inuka was conceived on 26 December 1990.

The zoo also embarked on various rescue and conservation efforts to protect wildlife. Steve Irwin, the animal activist and conservationalist known as “The Crocodile Hunter”, admired the Singapore Zoo greatly, adopting it as the ‘sister zoo’ to the Australia Zoo. He was at the Singapore Zoo in 2006 to officiate the opening of the ustralian outback exhibit.

We travelled about 30kms through lush vegetation and arrived at the Zoo and went straight to the Ah Meng Restaurant for our Breakfast which was a great spread.

After our breakfast, we went and saw a group of orangutans and had our photos taken with them.

Chris and I with the orangutans

Chris and I with the orangutans

The orangutans were then taken back to their “homes” and we wandered into the polar bear enclosure and saw one perform. It was then onto the People Mover and did the circuit of the zoo and then decided to do a walk passed the various animals – lions, giraffes, monkies, zebras, elephants, penguins, flamingoes, leopards, rhinos and the Australian outback where there were kangaroos  and flower exhibits.

After watching the antics of some monkies (as if we hadn’t seen enough monkies on our trip – they somehow are fascinating – we headed to a bronzed statue of Ah Meng.

Ah Meng (circa 18 June 1960 – 8 February 2008) was a female Sumatran Orangutan and a tourism icon of Singapore. She was smuggled from Indonesia and kept illegally as a domestic pet before being recovered by a veterinarian in 1971. She was then eleven years old and was given a home at the Singapore Zoo. Ah Meng was the head of her small clan, which lives in a large enclosure with about twenty other orangutans. She had five children and became a grandmother in 1990.

She belonged to the Sumatran Orangutan species, a rarer breed of orangutan now critically endangered due to illegal logging and poaching. There are about only 7,500 Sumatran Orangutans left in the wild in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. Ah Meng died on 8 February 2008.

Ah Meng was the “poster” girl of the Singapore Zoo. Pictures of her have been used in Singapore’s tourism advertisements worldwide. She has also been featured in over 30 travel films and more than 300 articles. Some of the foreign dignitaries and celebrities that visited Ah Meng included Prince Philip and Michael Jackson.

Due to her early years being raised by a family, Ah Meng was more approachable by humans than other primates in her clan. Due to her interactive nature, she was the first to host the Zoo’s ‘Breakfast With Ah Meng’ programme, whereby visitors would eat their morning meal and then have a photograph taken with the orangutan. By allowing visitors to interact closely with Ah Meng and other orangutans, the Singapore Zoo aims to raise public awareness of the importance of preserving the orangutan’s natural habitat as well as of other environmental issues.

In 1992, the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board conferred Ah Meng a “Special Tourism Ambassador” award in recognition of her contribution to tourism in Singapore. She was the first non-human recipient of the award. She received a certificate and a stack of bananas. As she aged, her public appearances became less frequent for fear of subjecting her to stress.

In March 1982, during the shooting of a promotional video at MacRitchie Reservoir, Ah Meng climbed a tree and stayed there for two nights. On her way down, she fell seven stories and broke her right arm.  In March 1992, Ah Meng attacked a French female research student who was studying orangutan behaviour and spent much time with Ah Meng’s long-time keeper, Alagappasamy Chellaiyah, out of jealousy



Ah Meng died on 8 February 2008 due to old age. She was 48 years old, or 95 orangutan years, and is survived by two sons, Hsing Hsing and Satria, and three daughters, Medan, Hong Bao (Named for the red envelopes given to relatives during Chinese New Year, and the reddish hair orangutans have), and Sayang (a Malay word term similar to darling in English), as well as six grandchildren.

On 10 February 2008, a high-profile memorial service for Ah Meng was held before a crowd of 4000 visitors at the Singapore Zoo.

As a tribute to her, the next orangutan born at the Singapore Zoo will be named Ah Meng Junior. A durian tree will be planted at her grave because durian was her favourite fruit. A life-sized bronze statue forged in her image was also unveiled.  And all this for an orangutan!

.IMG_10561 IMG_10558Christine and I with Ah Meng RIP

It was now starting to rain quite heavily so we bought ourselves “lovely” green raincoats – nearly boiled in them – and about 5 minutes after we donned the raincoats, the rain stopped. We looked so glamorous though.

We now hurried to the busIMG_10571 that was leaving promptly at 11.45 but no, we waited for an inconsiderate couple who had decided to stay on and not advise the tour operator/bus driver so we were a 1/4 hr late getting back to our hotel. We had to then hurriedly finish our packing in order to be out by 1.00 (late checkout). We deposited our luggage in the holding bay and had a drink. Christine then went off to a “Cat” exhibition but I decided to give my ankle a rest so stayed at the Bar and did some emails and edited some of my hundreds of photos.

It was then time to leave and get a taxi at 5.00pm to go to the Singapore Airport. Our taxi driver drove quite fast so we were there by 5.30. We changed what little Singaporean money we had and wandered around the airport until it was time for me to say goodbye to Christine and board my plane – Flight VA5515.  It took off at 8.15pm.  Offered the hot towels and drinks and then it was dinner. I had a spare seat next to me and as it was going to be an 8+ hour flight to Sydney, I decided to take a sleeping tablet that Christine had given me. It did the trick as I had a good sleep and next I knew I was being woken up for a continental breakfast.

We arrived in Sydney at approximately 6.00am (Thursday 15 August) and cleared Customs quite quickly. Then it was onto the transit bus for Virgin- found lounge B1 and sat for only 10 minutes and we were able to board Flight VA632 to Canberra. It was a smooth flight and landed at 9.05am.  Peter and James were there to meet me and brought me home.  I was into my little pad at 10.00 after a wonderful, wonderful, full on trip.IMG_0794

It is so hard to say what THE highlight was as there were so many “highlights”.

Some of my memories will be – seeing the elephants and monkies in their natural surroundings, the hospitality and smiling faces of the Sri Lankan people, visiting the tea plantation, making the top of Sigiriya, having our high tea at Raffles, visiting the Supertrees in Singapore and up in the Singapore Flyer, our elephant ride and bullock ride. Seeing the lush vegetation and beautiful flowers throughout Sri Lanka and Singapore.  It was great travelling with Mary, Christine and Janice and sharing all the laughs we had. Meeting up with Jennifer in Singapore. Also, while in Sri Lanka, our tour guide, Neil who went beyond his call of duty and driving us safely throughout the tour.  Sure I have missed some, but will “go on” this trip again when I read my blog and get my many photos developed.

Thank you God and the pilots of our planes, for bringing us all home safely.

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Tuesday, 13 August 2013 – Day 3 in Singapore

Tuesday, 13 August 2013 – Day 3 in Singapore

Up and down to breakfast at “The Bar” restaurant and then Christine and I caught a taxi to Mt Faber to go over to Sentosa  by cable car which was built in 1974. From the cable car, you can see all over Singapore and down into Sentosa Park.


Christine and I on the Cable Car going over to Sentosa Island

The island was renamed “Sentosa” in 1972, which means “peace and tranquillity” in Malay from a suggestion by the public. The Sentosa Development Corporation was formed and incorporated on 1 September 1972 to oversee the development of the island. Since then, some S$420 million of private capital and another S$500 million of government funds have been invested to develop the island.  Sentosa  is a popular island resort in Singapore,  visited by some five million people a year.(seemed like there were one million people here today)

After getting off the Cable Car, we headed for the Aquarium. There were different exhibitions and it was interesting to see mention of Port of Galle and to see Pole fishermen as we had just been into Sri Lanka and visited Galle and saw pole fishermen .

S.E.A Aquarium, the world’s largest aquarium, contains a total of 45,000,000 litres (9,900,000 imp gal; 12,000,000 US gal) of water  – a lot of water – for more than 100,000 marine animals of over 800 species. The aquarium comprises 10 zones with 49 habitats. The centerpiece of the Aquarium is the Open Ocean tank with more than 18,000,000 l (4,000,000 imp gal; 4,800,000 US gal) and 50,000 animals. It has the world’s largest viewing panel, 36-metre (118 ft) wide and 8.3-metre (27 ft) tall, which is intended to give visitors the feeling of being on the ocean floor. The S.E.A Aquarium houses the world’s largest collection of manta rays, including the only giant oceanic manta ray in captivity. It also showcases 24 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, scalloped hammerhead sharks, the Japanese spider crab, stingrays, moray eels, turtles, sharks, and relatively uncommonly-exhibited species such as the guitarfish and the chambered nautilus and other fishes.
We, along with hundreds of other people, viewed so many different fish – all I could think of was – “I just hope one of these tanks don’t spring a leak”.

After we were “all fished out” we went and had lunch before we did some more sightseeing of this huge park. After acting like a couple of kids,

we caught the people mover down to Tanjong Beach where we once more put our feet in the water. Christine is like a magnet to water. We stayed for awhile down at the water just relaxing.

IMG_10379 IMG_10381

We then hopped onto the People Mover and passed Palawan Beach

before we alighted at Imbiah Lookout stop to see the Merlion Statue – a 37 metre tall gigantic replica which was completed in 1996  –  with Mouth Gallery Viewing Deck on the ninth storey, another viewing gallery on its head and a shop. We did not go into the statue, but admired it from afar. Just huge and we looked like dwarfs.IMG_10413

On our way out, we used the convenience and once again, couldn’t resist taking photos as they were just so different to the ones in Australia.


IMG_10416It was time to leave this magical place and head over to the Harbour Front Centre – a shopping mall. As soon as we got off the Free Tram, there was Jennifer to meet us and we went into the mall for a meal.IMG_10426AIMG_10426B
After that Christine and I made a purchase of a watch each and I got my favourite perfume. Jennifer also insisted she get me a firmer ankle support for my sprained ankle – did make an improvement as it was firmer.  We were then going to catch a taxi back to our hotel, but Jennifer insisted we try out the train system which we did and then it was just a short walk to our hotel.  We said goodbye to Jennifer and it was lovely seeing her again.
Christine and I chatted and laughed about different things before we retired to bed.  Was another great day and we enjoyed it immensely.




Monday, 12 August 2013 – Day 2 in Singapore

Monday, 12 August 2013 – Day 2 in Singapore

Today, there is just Christine and I in Singapore as Janice and Mary flew home – Janice to Adelaide, South Australia, Australia and Mary to Auckland, New Zealand. Christine and I got up and went down to the Bar in the Hotel for a delicious breakfast. We then wandered over the road to Saint Andrew’s Cathedral,  the country’s largest cathedral. It is located near City Hall  MRT Interchange in the Downtown Core,  within the Central Area in Singapore’s central business district. It is the Cathedral church of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore and the mother church of her 26 parishes and more than 55 congregations here. The logo of the Cathedral is the St Andrew’s Cross. The Year 2006 marks the 150th Anniversary of the St Andrew’s Church

The main Steeple of the Cathedral designed by George Drumgoole Coleman, the original Saint Andrew’s Church was built from 1835 to 1836. The second Church of Saint Andrew was designed by John Turnbull Thomson and built around 1842. Rumours of unhappy spirits and damage caused by two lightning strikes in 1845 and 1849 resulted in its closure in 1852 and subsequent demolition in 1855.

Colonel Ronald MacPherson, the Executive Engineer and Superintendent of convicts,  designed the new church. To cut costs, Indian convict labour was used, as it was for many buildings of the day. The Right Reverend Daniel Wilson, Lord Bishop of Calcutta, laid the foundation stone on 4 March 1856, and the first service was held on 1 October 1861. The Right Reverend G.E.L. Cotton, who succeeded Daniel Wilson, had the honour of consecrating the cathedral on 25 January 1862. In 1869, it was transferred from the jurisdiction of Calcutta to the Diocese of Labuan and Sarawak and, in 1870, Archdeacon John Alleyne Beckles consecrated it as the Cathedral Church of the United Diocese.

Saint Andrew’s Cathedral is owned by the Synod of the Diocese of Singapore, and is a centre for Singapore’s Anglican Mission. In 1856, Saint Andrew’s Mission launched the first Anglican evangelical outreach in Singapore. The first Anglican bishop, The Right Reverend J. Ferguson-Davie was appointed in 1909.

In 1942, shortly before the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, the cathedral served as an emergency hospital.

An archaeological excavation was held on its grounds in 2004 by the National University of Singapore. The Cathedral was gazetted as a national monument on 6 July 1973.

We then caught a taxi to People’s Park – Chinatown.

The People’s Park Complex was a commercial housing project undertaken by the newly formed Urban Renewal Department of the Housing and Development Board’s Sale of Sites programme. The project was the subject of the programme’s first sale in 1967.

Located at the foot of Pearl’s Hill,  the site where the People’s Park Complex currently stands was an open public park. It later became the People’s Market or Pearl’s Market with outdoor stalls which was destroyed by a fire in 1966.

With a height of 103 metres (338 feet), the 31-storey People’s Park Complex building was the first shopping centre of its kind in Southeast Asia and set the pattern for later retail developments in Singapore. The shopping centre was completed in October 1970, while the residential block, in 1973. Occupying 1.0 hectare in the heart of Chinatown, the People’s Park Complex was the largest shopping complex in the shopping commercial belt along Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road.

On 21 April 2010, a storeroom on the fifth floor caught fire, resulting in a huge blaze and with hunted corners and triggering a massive  evacuation. No one was hurt in the incident, but substantial damage was reported by tenants caused by soot and water leakage. The Singapore Civil Defence Force  subsequently found that the presence of such storerooms on that floor were not authorized; in breach of fire safety regulations.

The People’s Park shopping complex was extremely busy so we only stayed a short time and then went for a walk towards Clark Quay but we soon discovered we were walking the wrong way so had lunch at Bar Bar Black Sheep restaurant

Christine at Bar Bar Black Sheep Restaurant at Clark Quay

Christine at Bar Bar Black Sheep Restaurant at Clark Quay

Brenda at Bar Bar Black Sheep Restaurant at Clark Quay

Brenda at Bar Bar Black Sheep Restaurant at Clark Quay – enjoying the beer as was very hot.

and then caught a taxi to  Marina Sands Hotel – a magnificent structure.  There were hundreds of people booking in and lots of families with small children.

Marina Sands Hotel - magnificent structure

Marina Sands Hotel – magnificent structure

Marina Bay Sands is an Integrated Resort fronting Marina Bay in Singapore. Developed by Las Vegas Sands, it is billed as the world’s most expensive standalone casino property at S$8 billion, including cost of the prime land.

With the casino complete, the resort features a 2,561-room hotel, a 1,300,000-square-foot (120,000 m2) convention-exhibition centre, the 800,000-square-foot (74,000 m2) The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands mall, a museum, two large theatres, seven “celebrity chef” restaurants, two floating Crystal Pavilions, an ice skating rink, and the world’s largest atrium casino with almost 500 tables and over 2,500 slot machines. The complex is topped by a 340m-long SkyPark with a capacity of 3,900 people and a 150m infinity swimming pool, set on top of the world’s largest public cantilevered platform, which overhangs the north tower by 67m.

The grand opening of Marina Bay Sands was held on 17 February 2011. It also marked the opening of the seven celebrity chef restaurants. The highly anticipated Broadway musical The Lion King debuted on 3 March 2011. The last portion of the Marina Bay Sands, the floating pavilions, were finally opened to the public when the two tenants, Louis Vuitton and Pangaea Club, opened on 18 and 22 September 2011 respectively.

The resort is designed by Moshe Safdie, who says it was initially inspired by card decks.  The resort’s architecture and major design changes along the way were also approved by its feng shui consultants, the late Master Chong Swan Lek and Master Louisa Ong-Lee.

The Engineering for the project was headed by Arup and Parsons Brinkerhoff. Arup had originally worked on such prestigious projects such as the Beijing National Aquaaticsw Centre and the Sydney Opera House. In spite of their experience, they described the integration of the varied and advanced technologies as the ‘most difficult to carry out in the whole world’.

Marina Bay Sands features three 55-story hotel towers which were topped out in July 2009. The three towers are connected by a 1 hectare sky terrace on the roof, named Sands SkyPark.

We were heading over to the Gardens by the Bay – mainly to see the Supertrees and you needed to go into the Marina Sands Hotel to the sixth floor to gain access to the walkway that led to the Gardens.IMG_10094A

Gardens by the Bay is a park spanning 101 hectares (250 acres) of reclaimed land in central Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. The park consists of three waterfront gardens: Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden.

The overall concept of its master plan draws inspiration from an orchid as it is representative of the tropics and of Singapore, being the country’s national flower, the Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’. The orchid takes root at the waterfront (conservatories), while the leaves (landforms), shoots (paths, roads and linkways) and secondary roots (water, energy and communication lines) then form an integrated network with blooms (theme gardens and supertrees) at key intersections. This is just an amazing place. The Australian garden contains plants from warm temperate arid and semi-arid zones in Australia including the famous Wollemi Pine and some Eucalypts.

Supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens’ landscape with heights that range between 25 metres (82 ft) and 50 metres (160 ft). They are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens.

The Supertrees are home to enclaves of unique and exotic ferns, vines, orchids and also a vast collection of  bromeliads such as Tillandsia, amongst other plants. They are fitted with environmental technologies that mimic the ecological function of trees – photovoltaic cells that harness solar energy which can be used for some of the functions of the Supertrees, such as lighting, just like how trees photosynthesize; and collection of rainwater for use in irrigation and fountain displays, exactly like how trees absorb rainwater for growth. The Supertrees also serve air intake and exhaust functions as part of the conservatories’ cooling systems. We didn’t go into the conservatories as time didn’t permit.

Aerial view of Gardens by the Bay from Marina Bay Sands observation deck Singapore

There is an elevated walkway, the  OCBC Skyway, between two of the larger Supertrees for visitors to enjoy a breathtaking aerial view of the Gardens that we walked over.IMG_10141You had a fabulous view down into the park and over to the Marina Sands Hotel. Just an amazing amazing place. IMG_10150We then caught the people mover back to the Marina Sands hotel – used the conveniences and couldn’t help but take a photo. IMG_10154

It was time for us to go down to Chinatown to meet Jennifer, who I had met in Nepal earlier in the year. She took us to one of her favourite eating places and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal and it was great to see Jennifer again.


Jennifer, Brenda and Christine – eating AGAIN

After our meal, we wandered through Chinatown

and then it was time to catch a local bus back to our hotel with the assistance of Jennifer. She saw us safely back and then left to go home.

Christine and I then chatted about our day’s activities and went to bed, exhausted.

Saturday/Sunday – 10 and 11 August 2013 – Last day in Sri Lanka – Colombo and Flight To Singapore

Saturday/Sunday, 10 and 11 August 2013 – Last Day in Sri Lanka – Colombo – Flight to Singapore

Neil picked us up at 8.30pm (Saturday night) and drove us to the Colombo Airport. We did the formalities at the airport and wandered around for awhile until it was time to board our Flight VA5593 for Singapore.

Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian island city-state and the only city-state in the world that is also an island off the southern tip of the Malay Pensinsula, 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia’s Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to its south. The country is highly urbanised with very little primary rainforest remaining, although more land is being created for development through land reclamation.

Part of various local empires since being inhabited in the second century AD,modern Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the East India Company in 1819 with the permission from the Johor Sultanate. The British obtained sovereignty over the island in 1824 and Singapore became one of the British Straits Settlements in 1826.Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, Singapore declared independence from the United Kingdom, uniting with other former British territories to form Malaysia in 1963, although it was separated from Malaysia two years later. Since then, it has had a massive increase in wealth.

Singapore is the world’s fourth-leading financial centre, and its port is one of the five busiest ports in the world. The economy depends heavily on exports and refining imported goods, especially in manufacturing, which constituted 26% of Singapore’s GDP in 2005. In terms of purchasing power parity, Singapore has the third highest per capita income in the world.

We arrived in Singapore approximately 8.00am (Sunday morning) and caught a taxi to our hotel – The Grand Park City – and booked our luggage into the holding room as our room wasn’t available until later. While we were waiting for our taxi, it was all too much for Janice !!!!!  I was naughty  – couldn’t resist – No one was going to get her luggage though – note her right hand!!!!!

Dear Janice in dreamland for 5 minutes - our last sleep in a bed was Friday night and now Sunday morning!!!!!

Dear Janice in dreamland for 5 minutes – our last sleep in a bed was Friday night and now Sunday morning!!!!!

We probably all could have done the same, but our day was mapped out as Janice and Mary were leaving Singapore today.  So, after Janice had her 5 minute’s snooze, we caught a taxi  to Clarke Quay  –  a historical riverside quay in Singapore, located within the Singapore River Planning Area. The quay is situated upstream from the mouth of the Singapore River and Boat Quay.

Clarke Quay was named after Sir Andrew Clarke, Singapore’s second Governor and Governor of the Straits Settlements from 1873 to 1875, who played a key role in positioning Singapore as the main port for the Malay states of Perak, Selangor and Sungei Ujong.


Janice (rear), Brenda, Mary and Christine

We went on a very relaxing river cruise passing many hotels, restaurants and other icons along the way.


After I had a bite to eat we caught the Original Excursion Bus to go to the Singapore Flyer.IMG_9862A

The Singapore Flyer is a giant Ferris wheel in Singapore that was constructed between 2005 and 2008. Described by its operators as an observation wheel, it reaches 42 stories high, with a total height of 165 m (541 ft), making it the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, 5 m (16 ft) taller than the Star of Nanchang and 30 m (98 ft) taller than the London Eye that I went on in June 2013 and thought that was fabulous.

Situated on the southeast tip of the Marina Centre reclaimed land,  it comprises a 150 m (492 ft) diameter wheel, built over a three-story terminal building which houses shops, bars and restaurants, and offers broad views of the city centre and beyond to about 45 km (28 mi), including the Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan, as well as Johor, Malaysia.

The final capsule was installed on 2 October 2007, the wheel started rotating on 11 February 2008 and it officially opened to the public on 1 March 2008. Tickets for rides on the first 3 nights were sold out for S$8,888 (US$6,271), an auspicious number in Chinese culture.The grand opening for the Flyer was held on 15 April 2008.

Each of the 28 air-conditioned capsules is capable of holding 28 passengers, and a complete rotation of the wheel takes about 30 minutes.Initially rotating in a counter-clockwise direction when viewed from Marina Centre, its direction was changed on 4 August 2008 under the advice of Feng Shui  masters

IMG_9981After we had this fabulous relaxing ride, we came back to our hotel and booked into our Room 423, freshened up and caught a taxi to Raffles Hotel – played ladies –  for our 4.30pm High Tea.IMG_9982A

Raffles Hotel is a colonial-style hotel in Singapore. It was established by two Armenian brothers from Persia—Martin and Tigran Sarkies—in 1887. In later years they were joined by younger brothers Aviet and Arshak and kinsman Martyrose Arathoon. With their innovative cuisine and extensive modernisations, the firm built the hotel into Singapore’s best known icon. It was named after Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, whose statue had been unveiled in 1887. The hotel is currently managed by Fairmont Raffles hotels International and houses a tropical garden courtyard, museum, and Victorian style theatre.

The firm leased the hotel and land from two owners: Arab trader and philanthropist Syed Mohamed Alsagoff and Chinese entrepreneur, Seah Liang Siah. Sarkies Brothers developed and paid for the modernisations. The Sarkies were tenants on a favourable short-term lease. The original location was by the seaside, although continued reclamation means that the site is presently some 500 metres away from the shore. The hotel was noted for accepting guests of all races, which led some to belittle it.Designed by the architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren, the current main building of Raffles Hotel was completed in 1899. The hotel continued to expand over the years with the addition of wings, a verandah, a ballroom, a bar and a billiards room, and further buildings and rooms. The Great Depression spelled trouble for Raffles Hotel and, in 1931, the hotel went into receivership. In 1933, the financial troubles were resolved and a public company called Raffles Hotel Ltd. was established.

At the end of the WWI, the hotel was used as a transit camp for prisoners of war. In 1987, the Singapore government declared the hotel a National Monument.In 1989, the hotel closed for an extensive renovation, at a cost of S$160 million. It re-opened on 16 September 1991; while the hotel was restored to the grand style of its heyday in 1915, significant changes were made. All rooms were converted to suites with teak-wood floors, handmade carpets, and 14-foot ceilings. The storied Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling cocktail drink was invented, (recipe below)  and which was patronised over the decades by a host of literati, including Ernest Hemingway and Somerset Maugham, was relocated from the lobby to a new adjoining shopping arcade.

In announcing the 18 July 2005 sale of parent company Raffles Holdings, Colony Capital LLC chief executive Thomas J. Barrack said in part as the purchaser, “We deeply respect the historical significance of the Raffles Hotel Singapore and we consider it our responsibility to protect that legacy”.

On 8 April 2010, the Singapore newspaper The Straits Times reported that a Qatar sovereign wealth fund has bought Raffles Hotel for US$275 million (S$384 million). In addition to taking over Raffles Hotel, the Qatar Investment Authority will inject US$467 million into Fairmont Raffles in exchange for a 40% stake in the luxury hotel chain.

The hotel also houses the Raffles Hotel Museum, which displays the rich history of the hotel. The museum was created after a well-orchestrated heritage search by a public relations consultant. People from all over the world returned items and memorabilia of their stay at the ‘grand lady of the Far East’; photographs, silver and china items, postcards and menus as well as old and rare editions of the works of the famous writers who stayed there. These items are displayed in the museum along with photographs of its famous guests and visitors.

We had a look around and then had a refreshing drink while we waited to go into our High Tea sitting. At 4.30 we were seated at our table and had a lovely 3 tiered stand with sandwiches and petit faux. There was also a great array of sumptuous delights that we could return for replenishing if we needed to. We thoroughly enjoyed this part of our day. While we were eating we were entertained by a lady playing the harp beautifully. IMG_9983B After we had finished eating, we went and sat in a very plush chair and had our photos takenIMG_9983G – we then moved outside in the gardens, gift shop and then went and had our Singapore Sling drink.IMG_9983HHIMG_9983mIMG_9983R
The Singapore Sling was created at Raffles Hotel at the turn-of-the-century by Hainanese-Chinese bartender, Mr. Ngiam Tong Boon.
In the Hotel’s museum, visitors may view the safe in which Mr. Ngiam locked away his precious recipe books, as well as the Sling recipe hastily jotted on a bar-chit in 1936 by a visitor to the Hotel who asked the waiter for it.
Originally, the Singapore Sling was meant as a woman’s drink, hence the attractive pink colour. Today, it is very definitely a drink enjoyed by all, without which any visit to Raffles Hotel is incomplete.
Metric Measurements as printed on the original raffles Hotel menu.
30ml Gin.
15 ml Cherry Brandy.
120 ml Pineapple Juice.
15 ml Lime Juice.
7.5 ml Cointreau.
7.5 ml Dom Benedictine.
10 ml Grenadine.
A Dash of Angostura Bitters.

Garnish with a slice of Pineapple and Cherry

After a fantastic afternoon at Raffles, it was time we went back to the hotel as Mary and Janice had to finish their packing as sadly, they were leaving for the plane to Adelaide and then Mary was travelling back to her home in Auckland, New Zealand. Christine and I will miss them as we are having a couple of extra nights in Singapore.  At 8.00pm, Neil came and collected Mary and Janice and we said our goodbyes.

Christine and I then chatted and then it was time for bed.


Start of Singapore-Sri Lanka-Singapore trip – Singapore – Colombo – 31 July 2013

Wednesday – 31 July 2013 – Start of Singapore-Sri Lanka-Singapore trip – Singapore to Colombo

I got up at 5.15am and finished my packing. Peter picked me up at 7.30 to take me to the Canberra Airport.  Booked my case in – was 13Kgs – a record for me. Waited an hour and boarded my flight Virgin VA637 and took off at 9.05am. Arrived in Sydney at 10.00 and went to the transit bus to the International Airport. I set off an alarm as went through the wrong door. Boarded the bus and only had time to go through Immigration and onto flight Singapore Airlines VA5510 ready to leave at 11.15am.  We had to wait for clearance and was 8th in the queue. I had seat 79F which was on the upper deck! We got handed our hot towel, followed by drinks and then a meal at 12.00.  Had a little bit of sleep as it was an 8 hour+ flight.  We were served another meal before we arrived in Singapore on time at 17.40.  I cleared Immigration and was met by Christine, Janice and Mary who had arrived an hour earlier from Adelaide.  We went into the Ambassador Transit Lounge where we could eat and drink all we wanted. We had a look in the Butterfly Farm where we saw many butterflies.

Later in the evening we boarded the Skytrain, cleared Immigration once more and boarded flight Singapore Airlines VA5592 at 2230 for our flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Was due to leave at 2305 but finally took off at 2330. The flight took about 3 hours 25 minutes. We arrived at 0015 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

After clearing the usual formalities, we went to collect our luggage. We realised my case was not on the carousel. A lovely lady came and asked whether we needed help. Told her about my missing case. After a few minutes, she came out with my case that had been sent on as “expedite baggage” as was not put on the same plane as I was from Sydney. So that was 3/4 hour delay.

Our guide, Neil was there to meet us and took us to the 9 seater van and we had a 1/2 hour drive to Negombo.

Negombo is of interest due to its proximity to the Bandaranaike International Airport.  Tourists arriving after long haul flights generally stay in one of the many hotels along the beach at Negombo, much easier than trying to get into Colombo immediately.  The town itself is a few kilometers south of the beach area and offers an interesting introduction to coastal Sri Lankan life, with a lively pair of fish markets and old colonial buildings.  The Dutch made the town an important commercial centre, building a canal (and a fort to guard it) on which spices – particularly valuable cinnamon which grew profusely in the surrounding areas – were transported from the interior to the coast prior to being shipped abroad.  It is also one of the most important fishing ports with a huge variety of fish provided by the ocean and plentiful supplies of prawns, crabs and lobsters are caught in the Negombo Lagoon.  The colourful fishing boats (oruwas) are distinctive catamarans fashioned from a hollowed out trunk with an enormous sail attached.

Our accommodation was at the  Goldi Sands Hotel, Negombo.  Our room was on lst level and in Room 2 sharing with Christine.  Still quite hot and humid, but OK in our rooms.  Finally got to bed at 245.IMG_8020A