Singapore: Crazy Rich African
I might be crazy, definitely an African, but nowhere near rich – yet! So, I am doing what they say you should do; write it out and manifest it blah blah blah. In a few years, I will be able to fully step into my #RichAuntieSammie role. Until then, we grind!
Anyway, I was not planning on doing a blog post for my recent travels; however, people have been asking so I figured it would be a good way for me to return to my usual blog posts so here we go!
For my upcoming 25th birthday, I decided to plan a trip to Southeast Asia with a good friend of mine, Oumou, who is also turning 25. I have known Oumou since I moved to the United States over 13 years ago and we attended middle & high school together. For our Southeast Asia trip, we decided to visit three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. After several weeks of planning, I am glad the trip is now in progress.
Since I have been on a project in San Francisco for work, I was trying to figure out an entry point to Southeast Asia with a direct flight from SFO. As luck will have it, there is a SFO —> SIN route on United that is extremely popular. This worked out for me because I was able to book a one-way flight to Singapore for 90k miles + $5.60 in United Economy. Although 90k might not seem like a lot, this was not a good use of my miles as 90k can easily give me one roundtrip ticket + another one-way ticket somewhere in the US, including Hawaii. However, because cash value tickets were around $3,000 for a direct flight to Singapore, I decided to suck it up and used part of my miles from United. Originally, I wanted to book a business class ticket but it was 200k miles for United Polaris and I have never been impressed with their Polaris offering due to the 2-2-2 model on my route.
The flight from San Francisco to Singapore was LONG. My goodness! If you are not a big fan of flying like me, it will feel like an eternity. To give you some context, the flight was close to 18 hours; that is almost a full day. Luckily for me, I ended up getting a whole row to myself in United Economy and all of the FAs were pretty surprised I got so lucky, LOL. Almost every row was full, there might have been a few middle seats open here and there but I was the only one on the flight with an entire row to myself. Since I had the entire row to myself, ladies and gentlemen, guess what I did? I SLEPT. I have never slept for such a long period of time on a flight before. Throughout the 17+ hour journey, I was able to watch just one movie and that movie was about 2 hours long. I tried to watch another but I was so sleepy and my eyes would literally not stay open. Anyway, this was good for me as for several months now I had not been able to sleep properly.
Once I landed in Singapore, I made my way through customs (super easy!) and got in a taxi to head to my hotel. For lodging, I decided to use part of my Marriott points and stayed at The Westin Singapore (40,000 PTS/night) as again, I did not want to use my personal cash. Typically, check-in is not till 3 pm but thanks to my Ambassador Elite status with Marriott, I was able to speak with my Ambassador and she was able to request an extra early check-in for me and a 4 pm late check out the following day as well. Amazing, right? Initially, I booked a regular King room because I figured I would not be in the room much but I was upgraded to a Grand Premier King room and I absolutely loved the views. On the one side you could see the Singapore Flyer and on the other side you could see the sea – it was really incredible.
When I landed in Singapore it was raining and so I immediately thought my trip would be not very fruitful. However, the rain cleared up a bit and I was able to explore town. I sat down with one of the staff members from The Westin Singapore (after he took some amazing pictures of me btw!) and he showed me how to maximize my time. He told me to head to Chinatown first, then make my way to Little India for lunch (since I love Indian food), then head to Gardens by the Bay in the evening for the Christmas Light Show. Once I got the rundown from him (unfortunately I did not get his name, which is weird because I’m usually really good with getting names) on what to do, I took a cab and went to Chinatown; which was just a few minutes drive from my hotel. I explored Chinatown for a bit, went over to the food stalls and looked at hundreds of meals being prepared, grabbed an umbrella as it was still raining in one of the shops, and got in another taxi to head to Little India. In Little India, I went to almost all of the fabric and jewelry shops and just wished I had a lot of luggage space. Some of the stores had amazing fabrics and I was just wondering what magic my sister would make with them. Knowing that this was not going to be my last time in Singapore, I decided not to purchase any items and went to have lunch. As I was walking around, I asked some of the store owners where they would recommend for food and most people recommended Banana Leaf so I decided to give it a try. I ordered one Butter Naan, a small portion of Rice, Goat Masala, and of course – a chilled bottle of Orange Fanta. I can’t come and kill myself (this phrase means life is to be enjoyed).
After Little India, I walked around for a bit and as I was walking around, I noticed that everyone was staring at me. As I was thinking this, I thought about my dad and how if I told him that later on, he would say, ‘Which part of your body did you use to see that they were staring at you? Were you not also looking at them? If you were not, how did you know that they were looking at you?” LOL. Which basically means, mind your business and live your life. The entire time I was walking around I was also thinking, “WOW – did you not learn not to stare at people?!” It was really uncomfortable but I was not going to let that deter me from having a great time in Singapore. After Little India, I decided to head to Gardens by the Bay for the Christmas Light Show. From Gardens by the Bay, you can see the famous Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and it was just like I imagined. Initially, I was planning on staying there but I was told it can be extremely crowded during the holiday season and since I am not a fan of huge crowds, I decided to avoid. The Christmas Light Show at Gardens by the Bay was spectacular – PHEWWWW. I will try to include a video but if you ever get a chance to watch it live, do it. Apparently, they change the theme of the park at least four times a year so depending on the season, you can experience events like Chinese New Year, Japanese Cherry Blossom, etc. at the Garden. Once the show was over, I started to make my way to the taxi queue but the line was extremely long. I started walking towards the entrance/street and found a taxi after waiting for about 10 minutes. This was before I knew about Grab (Grab bought out Uber in most countries in Southeast Asia) so I struggled a bit to get a taxi from Gardens by the Bay.
Pro Tip: If you do go to Gardens by the Bay for a specific show, order a Grab/Taxi a few minutes before the show ends. It’s hard to tell when exactly the show will end but just order at least 15 minutes prior to when you actually want to leave. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!
The following day, I went to Singapore Botanic Garden and made a quick stop at Arab Street (to add to my mum & I’s Pashmina collection) before heading to the airport for my flight to Bali. The Singapore Botanic Garden is MASSIVE so if you are really into flowers, greenery, and nature in general, give yourself a lot of time at the Garden. I had about 3 hours to split between the Botanic Garden and Arab Street so I did not get a chance to explore the entire garden. The parts that I did get to visit, I really enjoyed and it is the perfect spot for a photo shoot, as you can imagine.
The second time I went to Singapore, it was for a layover for my flight to the Maldives so I ended up using my Priority Pass privileges (thanks to my Chase Sapphire Reserve) plus my Star Alliance Gold Status/United 1K Premier Status to access different airport lounges. The third time I was in Singapore, I stayed at The Vagabond Club, Singapore, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel and it was just okay. Compared to the Westin, the rooms were a lot smaller, however, the bartender and receptionist were extremely friendly and gave me tips on places to eat. On my last visit to Singapore, I was meant to visit Sentosa (an island in Singapore) but I was extremely exhausted after the week I had in the Maldives so I spent most of my day just sleeping. I was extremely disappointed in myself but guys sometimes the body just wants to rest LOL. I couldn’t even get up but I managed to leave my bed and walked to Piedra Negra to have dinner. I personally did not enjoy the food but afterwards, I walked around for a little bit to take in the scenes one last time then went back to my hotel and knocked out till my early morning flight to PARIS!
Overall, I definitely recommend Singapore. It is extremely safe to get around, you do not need to convert money if you do not want to as every place that I went to accepted cards, even the parks. Initially, I thought you only need one full day in Singapore but I was wrong. There is quite a lot to do in Singapore and having visited three times in a span of a few weeks, if you do not want to feel rushed, I would recommend a solid three to four days to enjoy the main downtown areas plus the popular island, Sentosa. You can view my full 4-week itinerary to Southeast Asia here.
Total cost of Singapore trip:
Airfare from SFO to SIN: 90,000 miles (United Airlines) + $5.60 for processing fees
40,000 Marriott points for The Westin Singapore
$0/0 points for the second trip to Singapore (Layover)
35,000 Marriott points for The Vagabond Club (last visit to Singapore)
Money converted at The Westin Singapore: $100 (first trip)
Breakfast: Free, thanks to my Marriott Ambassador status
Other Food: N/A – I don’t keep receipts, unfortunately.
Stay adventurous, dear friends, and always remember to stay golden.
Rich Auntie Sammie