ICN-SIN, Korean Air 777 First Class
Well, we lucked out a bit on this flight. After a close to full first class cabin on our first flight, this one was empty. We were a bit worried going into this flight that English could be an issue seeing as how it was a bit tough on our flight across the Pacific, but it quickly became obvious that one of the flight attendants spoke about perfect English. As typical Americans who can barely speak one language, this was a welcome relief.
The flight itself was short, less than 6 hours and arriving early. It was still plenty of time to try another new champagne, eat some more caviar, as well as try a few new dishes. We had heard before we left about how great the bibimbap was, and it was on the menu this time. While I thought it was amazing( even if not spicy enough despite using the whole tube of chili paste), Courtney found it rather uninteresting as she isn’t a huge fan of the spicy chili and that is where all of the flavor in the dish comes from. Looking back, I should have stolen her chili paste, but I was too busy trying to get more champagne refills. There was just enough time after dinner for a quick nap and before we knew it we were landing.
I would like to point out the in flight entertainment selection of Korean Air. Thankfully, being in first class this isn’t such an issue, and on any other vacation I would have just loaded up the Kindle before heading out, but the IFE selection is horrible. It was almost a joke. I pretty much never watch movies on the ground, but I had seen all but 1 of their western options. Also, if given the option, the Korean A380 in business wins hands down over the 777. There is just so much more room. First class was almost identical, though, maybe even a slight preference to the 777 thanks to how private the flight felt.
Korean Air doesn’t give out fast track immigration, though being the first off the plane there was no need for anything like that, nor am I even sure Singapore had something like that.
A quick walk through quarantine check (still no MERS for us!), immigration, and customs, and we were on our way. Then we got turned around about five times trying to find the airport shuttle. There are “shared” shuttles for around $9, but by the time we found them, there was a 45 minute wait. I hate, hate, hate (hate, hate, hate…) waiting in any form of lines, so this just wasn’t going to happen, especially at 1 am. So, we grabbed a taxi. Unfortunately, taxis in Singapore have a 50% surcharge between midnight- 6 AM. Fortunately, the ride to the Grand Hyatt only cost us around $30 USD. The taxi ride to the hotel was quick, and was a solid introduction to the lights of the city. When we go back, we are absolutely going to make it downtime at night to stand on tall things in the dark 🙂
The Grand Hyatt was right in the middle of the main part of the city, a half block off the fanciest shops on Orchard Road. While we do not shop at places like that, it’s always funny to people-watch those who do. The hotel looks and feels new, and as we were arriving around 12:30 AM was very busy outside. There is a nightclub under the hotel if that is your thing, though according to the reviews is better known as a hangout for single businessmen… not our kind of place. Anyway, check-in was quick and efficient, and we were upgraded to a junior suite (go Hyatt Diamond!!!). The suite was modern, if in no way exceptional, and the extra space was unnecessary for a night, but welcome all the same. The bed was comfy, that’s what counts in the end.
For breakfast in the morning we were given an option of eating in the Grand Club or at their breakfast buffet, StraitsKitchen, in the hotel for free. Well, the buffet was amazing, and not your typical American breakfast buffet. While they had the standard omelette station, they also had about 10 tables of various Asian cuisines, encompassing a noodle bar, dumplings, congee, curries, and the list goes. It was the best breakfast spread I have had the pleasure of eating my way through, and I barely tasted a fraction of it. It was about $40 USD each, and even if it hadn’t been free, I know I’d pay for it. As a side note, on check-out, they tried to charge us for this breakfast, so check your bill carefully if something is promised, ours was even spelled-out on a written sheet of paper explaining our free benefits. The check out agent still gave us a bit of unwelcome sass. I was polite but firm and they removed the charge, and followed up later via email.
It rained through most of the night, then all through breakfast. Weather forecast called for rain all day, but by the time we stepped out the door, it turned to hot and muggy, not cool and rainy (I see weather forecasting is no better halfway around the world…). After a quick stop by the local 7-11 (yes, we are addicted), we were checked out and were on our way into the city via taxi.
First stop: Cat Cafe.
Well, why not travel halfway around the world to pay to have cats ignore us? Our own cats ignore us, so it sure felt just like home… though admittedly, these kitties were super cute, and my iced latte was well executed. This was a Courtney “must-do,” so we spent a little less than an hour here before moving on (stay tuned for a post specifically about the cat cafe!). We made a mental note that we need to come back to Singapore, as all along the river there were restaurants and bars, which if it wasn’t 11 am, would likely have been a great place for a couple drinks.
However, we had to go to my “must-do”, Singapore Slings at Raffles.
They are supposedly the inventor of the drink, and now serve them up in real style. The bar is awesome, some sort of mix of SE Asia, Key West, and a British Colonial Mansion. I would live in that bar if they would let me, though I’m not sure I could afford to, with drinks running around $25 USD, come here for the novelty unless you are actually rich, not just play-pretend rich. The Slings are delicious however, it would be very easy to sit here all day and drink them. Being a peanut lover, I appreciated they had peanuts and could throw the shells on the floor, feeling a bit naughty as littering in Singapore is otherwise a giant no-no (meaning, all the parts of the city were very clean, so maybe they are on to something.)
After Raffles, we began what we though was a short walk down to the Singapore Flyer. It might be a short walk, but it was hot, humid, and we somehow wound up in the middle of a giant parade that was taking place. When I first saw signs advertising a parade on July 4th, I was a bit confused, being as we were in Singapore. I wish I’d taken a picture of the sign, as now I can’t remember or find what the parade was actually celebrating. However, we could hear a band playing some happy marching song, and despite having to walk blocks out of the way, we were actually a little excited to see what a parade would look like here. Well, it looked like this:
No bands (that we saw, though I swear we heard them…). No floats. No children getting candy and waving happily. Just tanks. Lots of tanks.
So, we continued our walk, hoping it was actually a parade and not a military coup (the thought of which made me fear missing our next flight). No, I did not worry about the fate of their nation… this first class life was getting to us!
Eventually, we found the Singapore Flyer, sweaty, grumpy, and afraid there would be a line.
However, no lines! Sweet! We quickly bought our tickets and away we went.
Maybe it was because it wasn’t busy, but they did a good job of not overloading the car. Plenty of room to walk around, take selfies, and not have people jostling for space.
And the views were great! The full rotation of the wheel took about 45 minutes and it was definitely time well-spent!
Ironically, once we got to the top, we noticed them setting up for a marathon taking place that evening! Had we known this, we would have finagled to spend an extra day in town to run it. Oh well! As if we need an excuse to come back next year… (looking at you running buddies… start hoarding those miles!!!)
Now, the Singapore Flyer is far from the tallest landmark in Singapore. So, we had to find something taller, and as luck would have it, next door at the Marina Bay Sands, there is a bar on the top of the hotel. If standing on tall things is great, drinking on tall things is better! To get between the two attractions is just a quick walk, plus you get to cross through the really cool Helix Bridge.
I don’t know if we are directionally challenged, dumb, or just too American, but it took us forever to find the entrance to C’est La Vie (the restaurant/bar located on top of the Marina Bay Sands). It is located inside the hotel, not across the street in the mall/casino, and there is not an easy way to get between the two that we could find. So, more hot and sweaty walking, and almost getting lured into the casino…(I DON’T CARE, I AM GOING NEXT TIME, COURTNEY!)
Well, the view here was a bit better and I am kicking myself for not having a picture to prove that. I will also note that the cost of a drink at the bar is the same price as going to the little observation deck below, so it was well worth it in our minds. However, take note that after 6 PM there is a dress code (and I don’t think sweaty travelers carrying all their belongings fits that bill…).
After that, it was time to explore the Gardens by the Bay! The ‘gardens’ are an interesting place; a sort of mismash of a French Garden, but in a world where man rules nature and nature has overtaken. It’s cool in a Las Vegas sort of way: “Nature, new and improved, now in 7D!!!!!!”. We didn’t go inside either of the greenhouses (the Cloud Forest or Flower Dome) as we were running short on time (and not to mention we were getting a bit hot, tired, and hungry by this point), but if given a few more days, these would definitely be on the list!
Bummer, we had such a gloomy day! But it sure helped with the heat!
From the gardens, we caught a taxi and headed towards the Old Airport Hawker Market. Hawker markets in Singapore are basically giant food courts full of very small specialty food stands (basically food trucks without the wheels). We came here for the “unofficial” national dish of Singapore: chili crab. Even here, in the cheapest of cheap food, chili crab was an expensive $40 USD for 2.. so in decent restaurants expect to pay a small fortune.
The verdict? Flavor: amazing, out-of-this-world tender, moist, and delicious. The bad? Bits of shell everywhere. Every. Single. Bite. No way to find out before sticking it in your mouth due to thickness of the sauce. It was too frustrating to eat, though we did finish it. Courtney found the sauce a bit too spicy for her taste, but still champed through because the freshness and flavor of the crab was SO worth it. Pro Tip: no napkins at hawker markets. BYON. These suckers are so MESSY to eat, I couldn’t even get money out of my wallet to pay the lady walking around selling wet wipes. Lesson learned.
We then grabbed a few dumplings that we spotted on the way to the crabby place, ate those with another miniature soda, and then spent a good 30 minutes trying to flag down a cab. We had read online beforehand that cabs could be tough, though in all the tourist spots we had no trouble. This hawker market, however, we were the only tourists at, so to get a cab we had to be a bit more aggressive.
Our day in Singapore was coming to an end. We made it to the airport, made it quickly through immigration, checked in a few shops for any last minute Singapore snacks, and headed up to the Emirates lounge…
This is where the fun really started!!