Singapore Botanic Gardens:
Open from 5am to Midnight, daily. Admission is free except for the National Orchid Garden, which I think is worth the $5.00 fee. Click here for more information including how to get there.
Memory of the Lion City: Singapore
Singapore is everything that I imagined it to be: Modern. Multicultural. Multi-faceted. Except for one thing: I had the idea that everyone in Singapore followed all the rules, even the most minor ones. After all, Singapore is known for banning the chewing gum. However, I noticed right away that people often jaywalked and my sister actually stepped on a chewed gum on the street. I guess it is the people’s small way of rebelling against the strict rules of the state (Or maybe it is mostly the tourists? I couldn’t tell). Still, Singapore is absolutely impressive. Tall, modern and unique buildings dominate the skyline. The diverse history of the state is definitely recognizable from the architecture to the food scene. Singapore offers a truly multi-faceted experience, from casinos to safaris. There is so much I can write about Singapore but to summarize, I’ll give you three things I love about city (besides the airport, that’s another entry).
1) Singapore Botanic Gardens: Walking around the botanical garden, you would not think that you are in the middle of the city. I recommend going early in the morning before it gets too hot. The National Orchid Garden is not to be missed; for me it is the highlight of the botanical gardens.
2) Hawker centres: open-air food courts are not unique to Singapore, but it is one of things you must do when visiting the city. They say eating is a national obsession in Singapore. Going to a hawker centre for the first time can be overwhelming and intimidating, but do not let that ruin your experience. Here is handy guide to help you: A Beginner’s Guide to the Singapore Hawker Center
3) Transportation: Singapore’s transit system is considered one of the most modern in the world. It is easy to navigate and can take you everywhere. Do not rely on the subway system alone; sometimes taking the bus is the better option.
As I have mentioned before, Bangkok was one of the most photographed cities on Instagram last year. As a matter of fact, more photos were shared at Suvarnabhumi Airport than anywhere else in the world. As you can see in my pictures, that is not surprising. The airport was designed by Helmut Jahn of the Chicago-based Murphy / Jahn Architects and was opened in 2006. A lot of organizations such as the Harvard University Graduate School of Design have praised the innovative, environmental and integrated design elements of Suvarnabhumi Airport. The airport may not have all the amenities that other top airports like Changi in Singapore and Incheon in Seoul have, but its architectural features is one of the most impressive I have seen. Check out this e-architect article to learn more about the unique architectural and design features of Suvarnabhumi Airport.
I would also like to point out that it turns out, friendly border agents actually do exist. I don’t know if it was just my experience but the border agents at Suvarnabhumi Airport were very friendly and actually smiled. I had always thought that it was an unwritten rule for border agents to always be condescending (humor alert).
NEXT STOP: SINGAPORE!
Hotel Review: Aloft Bangkok
I love trendy hotels that offer a good value, and Aloft Bangkok offers not just a good value but also a great location. Aloft is W Hotels’ cheaper cousin so the design aesthetic of the hotel is unmistakable. Here are 3 main reasons why I recommend this hotel:
1.) Value – this hotel is cheap. And with that price, the hotel offers great amenities. First, the Wi-Fi is fast and free; you can even connect your laptop to the big TV in the room (great for looking at pictures after a day of adventure). The amenities in the hotel are also superb. They have a nice outdoor pool, an adequate fitness centre and a good restaurant (the lunch buffet offers a great selection for a good price). There is also a lounge and a snack bar in the lobby. The hotel also has a popular bar but I did not get to check it out.
2.) Location – One of the best things about this hotel is the location. Nana BTS Skytrain station is just a five-minute walk. The hotel also offers complimentary tuktuk rides to take you to the station or the surrounding area. Great dining and entertainment options are also nearby. I had one of the best dinners in Bangkok at a nearby restaurant (Apologies, I don’t remember the name of the place). Several trendy clubs are just a walking distance. In fact, Bed Supperclub, supposedly one of the most popular clubs in the city, is just across the hotel (the hotel offers complimentary tickets to the club).
3.) Service – I must say, throughout my Asian trip, I was very lucky that I did not encounter any horrible hospitality service. Also, Thais are generally known to be friendly so it is not really a surprise that the service at this hotel is excellent but it is still worth mentioning.
As I have mentioned before, the hotel is in the entertainment area; although it is quiet inside the hotel, the neighbourhood can be noisy at night. It was not a problem for me but it might not be for everyone.
More Chao Phraya
Memory of the River of Kings: Chao Phraya
Also known as Mae Nam Chao Phraya, the river is considered the backbone of Bangkok. The Chao Phraya is a major transportation channel in the city. The murky river is alive with ferries and water taxis cruising up and down the river carrying locals and tourists alike. In fact, taking a water taxi or ferry is a good alternative for the traffic-laden streets of Bangkok. Barges bearing cargos are also a common sight.
Chao Phraya’s significance to the city is also evidenced by the fact that majestic temples such as the Wat Arun were built by the river. Together with the temples, imposing buildings and luxurious hotels now occupy the riverside. Of course, many ordinary people still live by the river with houses lining up the waterways.
Check these blogs for pictures of the Royal Barge Procession that travels down the Chao Phraya: