Category Archives: World Travel

Singapore Hotels and Hostels

Singapore is just one of those places that you have to visit at least once in your life. In terms of travel, nothing could be easier. Everyone speaks English, it’s modern, and it’s easy to get around. You can fly there from all over the world or if you are in Malaysia you can take an easy bus ride for about $30 U.S.

singapore hotelsI went with First Coach out of KL and enjoyed the ride. Comfortable, air con bus with a stop for food at a big roadside plaza.

Once you arrive you will realize that there are literally hundreds of hostels and hotels in Singapore to choose from.
As you know, one of my odd hobbies is wandering in and out of hotels and here are a few that are worth taking note of. The 1929 Hotel was right in the heart of Chinatown and at first looked like a classic Victorian style hotel, which I like – but when walking in I found that there was something ultra-modern about 1929. I toured the rooms and was blown away by the glass walled bathrooms and the iPod docks in the rooms equipped with Wi-Fi, a Jacuzzi on the roof and a nice garden. The restaurants smelled delicious though I was full on street food so didn’t stop to sample.

Another amazing boutique hotel in Singapore is Wanderlust. Wanderlust is clearly a hipster concept hotel and it is a place for 29-50 year old people who have some money (that’s not me by the way, but I still admired the concept) For those who don’t know wanderlust is a noun that means an irresistibly strong desire or an impulse to travel far away and explore different places. I felt like this hotel was worthy of the name.
boutique hotel room
From their site:

Wanderlust is a left-field and totally experimental boutique hotel set to draw madcap voyagers and curious travellers to its doorstep. Located in Little India – a bustling cultural enclave where Indian immigrants once settled, and the building was originally an old school built it 1920s.

With four thematic levels of 29 rooms by award winning Singapore design agencies, each group was given full creative freedom.
– Lobby Level – Industrial Glam by Asylum – A juxtaposition of the surrounding’s setting and contemporary design.
– Level 2 – Eccentricity by :phunk Studio – Colours everything from the walls to the neon lights and the rainbow corridor leads to a outdoor deck with a customised mosaic-tiled jacuzzi.
– Level 3 – Is it just Black and White by DP Architects – Walk across the black corridor and enter into the contrasting white rooms to discover Origami and Pop-Art works.
– Level 4 – Creature Comforts by Furious – Get cosy with friendly monsters in each room that presents a different vibe and be assured of a fantasy-filled experience.

Those looking for a less eclectic high end experience can simply head to the iconic Marina Bay Sands where they can swim in the pool that pours over the edge of the odd spaceship thing docked on top of the three towers. This is an integrated resort like nothing else you’ve ever seen and even if you aren’t staying there, it’s worthwhile as a tourist stop.

Skypark pool at Marina Bay Sands

Now, I’ve gotta admit, I’m a sucker for names and when I heard the name of the Celestial Resort Pulau Ubin Singapore, I just needed to check it out. Then I looked online and said….eh…not so much. Reviews included the words bloodstained, worst service ever, mosquitos, and hell. I decided to pass since it was a bit out of the way. If you check it out, let me know.

Singapore lion cityOn the budget end of the scale there are a lot of options. Most of them I saw were on the level of Backpackers Inn – Chinatown. Not that clean, not that fun, not that interesting. I can’t particularly recommend any of them since River City Inn offered me a free nights stay but when I was delayed by a day sent me an invoice and Ark 259 was cheap and had rooms but was perhaps the loudest hostel I’ve stayed in. Here is a list of all the hostels in Singapore.

And for those looking for something more enjoyable,here is a fairly complete list of hotels in Singapore.

What hotels do you recommend in Singapore?

Modern Wonders of Singapore

My grandmother used to tell us about how wonderful Singapore was. She would rest and relax there for months on end while my geologist grandfather opened oil wells in Sumatra. My grandparents in Singapore about 1965We never did figure out why they weren’t rich, but maybe it was their mutual love for Singapore hotels and casinos. In any event, one thing is certain, my grandmother loved Singapore. If anyone knows where the bridge above is located in Singapore or the history of it, I would love to know. The people on it in the picture are my grandparents. The year was 1974.

That’s partly why I chose to visit the Lion City in mid March. The other reason was simply that I happened to be nearby. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the budget to stay in the many fancy boutique hotels the city offers to the jetset, nor did I have the inclination to indulge in the many touristic opportunities the city offers. What I did have was a desire to wander around this magnificent city-state and get a sense for what it has to to offer. My conclusion in brief: my grandmother was right, Singapore is a wonderland.

Singapore Resources
Singapore Eyewitness Guide
Singapore Travel Insurance
Singapore Hostels
Singapore History

Each day it seems, Singapore offers something new and innovative to those who are looking to have a unique, adventurous, or just relaxing holiday. As a city it is ultra-modern, easy to get around, exotic, and (here’s a big bonus) nearly everyone speaks English. Singapore is safe for families and solo travelers and it offers plenty to do whether you want to take thrill rides, soak in history or culture, or get pampered and spoiled in the many spas and boutiques.

From Sentosa Island to the Skyline Luge there is something for everyone in Singapore and the weather is almost always perfect for a holiday. For those looking for thrills, the Skyline Luge offers some serious adrenaline. Essentially, it’s taking a bobsled down a concrete track through the jungle. It’s up to you how fast you go down the 650 meter track. On the way down you can watch for monkeys or just check out the views of Sentosa Island and the newly revamped Harbour Walk.

Singapore SkyparkIn my grandmother’s time it was the gardens and the sea that drew the most attention, but these days the architecture of Singapore is equally as exotic. The incredible Marina Bay Sands is composed of three 55 story towers with a huge banana spaceship perched on the top. Since 2009, this modern wonder has been captivating visitors. Especially when they go to the amazing Skypark which fills the banana.

Singapore SkyparkWith the theatre, the casinos, the innovative Art Science Museum, and the many flowers in the city, you will be forgiven if you didn’t happen to look up and see the Skypark, but just in case you did, here is the lowdown. Completed in 2009, the Skypark holds a 146 meter long pool that sits just about 190 meters in the air. Nearly 400,000 gallons of water surrounded by restaurants, botanical gardens, and nightclubs.

The whole complex sits on movable joints connected to the three hotel towers so that if the ground shakes or the wind shifts the buildings, the Skypark will adjust and flex. If you take a swim in the infinity pool, you will no doubt note that the water seems to be falling off the edge of the park…Getting in isn’t cheap (not much in Singapore is) but $20 Singapore dollars is a small price to pay to experience this modern wonder of the world.

Singapore MerlionOf course you are going to head to Sentosa Island while you are in Singapore for the restaurants and more. Sentosa is also called Pulau Belaking Mati, or Death Island. Ohhh…scary. But in fact, Sentosa (the name since the 1970’s) is anything but scary except to your wallet. To get there you take a ten minute cable car ride. After that you can play in the water at the Wave House, visit Universal Studios, or take a walk through some carefully managed rainforest. Of course, if you prefer to zip through the jungle, there is a fun looking adventure park too.

While some people turn up their nose at it, the Singapore Flyer is a must see and must ride for many travelers. The Singapore Flyer is the world’s largest observation wheel and while it may not look like it is moving from a distance, that is because the thing is just really really big (and it moves pretty slow).

world's largest observation towerThe ride takes 30 minutes and passengers sit inside one of twenty eight air con capsules. Each capsule holds twenty people so that means that the Singapore Flyer holds a whopping 784 people. Wow. It was built by Japanese architect Dr. Kisho Kurokawa. It took more than two year to complete and stands 165 meters high. On the ground it takes up more space than not one but two football stadiums. From the top when the weather permits it is easy to see both Indonesia and Malaysia.

A Guide to Christmas Markets in and around Germany

The origins and history of the German Christmas Markets

Nowadays, it is easy to keep warm during the winter. Thanks to heaters of all kinds, you can survive the winter months without shivering. However, this was not always the case. Not too long ago, inhabitants of cold countries had to find other ways to keep warm. Setting up fires was one option. But a significantly more celebratory one was Christmas markets.

European Christmas Markets
Christmas market in Cologne, Germany cc Image courtesy of Swiv on Flickr

Many people might think that Christmas markets came about to celebrate Christmas. However, if you really read the history, this was only a secondary purpose. The markets didn’t come about as Christmas markets as such. Instead, they were winter markets in more general terms, specifically serving the purpose of combatting the cold.

In Germany, inhabitants would come together to huddle around fires and sip “Glühwein,” literally meaning “glow-wine.” Already in the 14th century, the markets served as a place to purchase goods that would keep them warm during the long winters. From furs and hats to coats and gloves, just about any item that would protect you from the wind and snow was sold. In addition, the outdoor markets were a place where you could find handicrafts, such as woven baskets or artisan toys. To keep energized, people would stock up on baked goods, such as the typical German gingerbread (“Lebkuchen”). If you wanted something savory, simple hot meals, such as sausages and soups, could be eaten at the stands as well.


The 21st century version

German Christmas Markets
Lebkuchen,” the typical German gingerbread cc Image Courtesy of Patrick Ciebilski on Flickr

As time went by, the markets became an important event approaching Christmas Eve. Today, thousands of tourists flock not only to Germany, but also to Austria and Poland to visit these kinds of markets. In fact, sometimes it may be that more English, Spanish or Japanese is being spoken at the markets than German.

Over time, the markets have also become more commercialized. Glowing lights have been added, as have more modern cooking tools and heaters. But that doesn’t mean that the traditions have been overtaken completely.

It is worth noting that there are hundreds of different markets in and around Germany. Clearly, some are more well-known than others, and they also vary in size. In fact, there are even significant differences in their names. While some are explicit Christmas markets (“Weihnachtsmarkt”), others are called “Christkindlmarkt,” which refers to the angel that provides children with presents on Christmas Eve. Others, in turn, go by the name of “Adventmarkt,” meaning advent market.

Planning your trip

German Christmas Markets
Glass decoration on sale at the German Christmas markets. cc Image Courtesy of Nanand81 on Flickr

Due to the popularity of travel during the Christmas season, which includes visiting the markets, it is advantageous to plan ahead.

As mentioned above, there are a plethora of Christmas markets in and around Germany, so you might be asking yourself “where do I get started?” Here are some of the most famous Christmas markets to choose from:

Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt in Nürnberg. This market is one of the most well-known versions, especially since it includes the figure of a “Christkind,” represented each year by a young girl.

Christkindlmarkt in Munich at the Marienplatz. This market originated in the 14th century, when it was called the “Nikolausmarkt,” meaning “Santa Claus market.” With the influence of Protestantism in the 19th Century came the transition from the Nikolaus to the Christkind as the one who brings the gifts. In Munich thus happened what had already occurred in the 16th century in cities such as Nürnberg and Straßburg: the Nikolausmarkt became the Christkindlmarkt.

Kölner Weihnachtsmarkt in Cologne.

These are the most well-known markets in Nürnberg, Munich and Cologne. However, each city is also home to numerous other versions. In Munich, for example, you can head to the Wittelsbacherplatz square to go to the Mittelaltermarkt, which literally means “medieval market.” Here, you can revel in traditional goods, sold at reconstructions of medieval stands. All the vendors are even dressed in medieval clothes!

Outside of Germany, famous markets include the versions in Salzburg and Vienna in Austria, and Bremgarten as well as Lucerne in Switzerland.

If possible, come visit on a weekday, as weekends are particularly crowded. Moreover, the closer you get to Christmas, the more hectic it becomes as everyone is rushing to buy last-minute presents. If you can, buy your presents early so you won’t have to be in a hurry.

Once you are there

Visiting a Christmas market has, as already mentioned above, become more and more of a commercial event. However, you can still relish the old traditions.

Be sure to try the local foods, such as the Lebkuchen (typical baked goods) and Rostbratwürstchen (grilled sausages) from Nürnberg and the typical Maroni (chestnuts) offered almost at all German, Austrian and Swiss markets. At the latter, a Raclette (bread dipped in cheese) will surely warm you up as well.

As for drinks, adults should try sipping Glühwein and Eierlikör (egg-nogg liquor) and the children should head for Kinderpunsch (children’s fruity “glühwein” without alcohol) – there’s something for everyone! Most of all, the idea is to have a good time with friends and family.

Last but not least, dress warm. Wearing ski pants has even become an option for some, especially little kids.

All in all, the goal is to forget the Christmas stress and relax!