My Favourite Things About Phuket and Singapore

In mid-November, I was invited by my lovely fellow engineeress, Taren, to attend her wedding to her favourite Swede (and mine too actually), Marcus, at Cape Sienna in Phuket.  On the way home, I also booked us a few days in Singapore just to undo the tranquility of the resort with a little hustle and bustle.

This was a very lazy holiday for me so instead of recounting things in order with a lot of “then, I lay around looking at the view” and “then, I had another nap”, I’ve split my travel adventures into my favourite things about the trip.

P.S. I know this is a long post but do stick with it, especially if you were on this trip or at the wedding, because it actually builds up and saves the best for last.

 


The Shopping

While trying to find some rash shirts for snorkling at the Patong town centre, I got some great bargains at the Jungceylon Mall.  I think that I am now well and truly suffering a sarong and pashmina surplus.  There is also an awesome food court at the bottom of the mall, where we had a three course dinner for two for about $40AUD.

While were were trying to escape the heat and the hoarde of American baby boomer cruise ship tourists who’d landed in Singapore, we spent a bit of time in the Suntec City shopping centre.  I managed to find a beautiful wabusabi-ish art gallery/cafe which had minimalist furniture, inspiring art and cool drinks.

I went a little beserk with shopping in Singapore’s China Town.  Luckily, for my wallet, we hadn’t come shopping early enough for me to have anything tailored.  I did, however, buy some very Chinese looking garments, being flattered by the old Malay shopkeeper who told me I looked like I was 19.  The atmosphere was also brilliant, except for when we accidentally walked into a funeral, mistaking it for an outdoor food court…

 


The Hens

During the day on Saturday, the bridesmaids hosted a bridal shower soirée poolside.  We had cocktails, Thai food and bridal games (which I actually found to be quite challenging).  We also recieved a very cleverly put together goodie bag full of useful things.

In the evening, donning our polka dot dresses, we went to a Cactus Jacks-esque Mexican restaurant in Patong.  Even moustached Nick got into the spirit being the token “cock amongst the hens”.  I had a stomach-related incident and went home early.  But apparently the hens continued to party, seeing some things in Patong which cannot be unseen.

 


The Urban Jungle

Singapore, our tour guide told us, is all city and consequently there are no animals to see in their natural habitats.  The is why the Singaporeans have built some pretty impressive zoos.  We visited the night zoo.  The tour was a little confusing, although that may have been due to us wandering off to avoid obnoxious tourists.  It was actually quite a relief to walk around outside without feeling the sun burning on the back of your neck.  And it was pretty exciting to see nocturnal animals. My absolute favourite were the otters.  They just made the cutest noises.  A little like an elf or a minion saying “Yipee” and “Woohoo”.  Listen to the following video:

It was also beautiful to see the elephants, although they looked a bit anxious, rocking from side to side.

Adam took some wonderful photos with my camera under very difficult circumstances (that is, no light, crippling humidity and chatter from other tourists disturbing the animals).

 


The Beverages

The signature cocktails at Cape Sienna Resort contain dry ice so they smoke and bubble as they are served to the table like some sort of magic potion.  This never got old!  We ordered some most nights.

Having got to the second last day of our trip, Adam and I had developed a blatant disregard for the appropriateness of breakfast foods to such an extent that we had beer and burgers for breakfast at the famous brewery, Brewerkz. But at least there was food involved…

 

I love green tea flavoured food items and have since I was a child.  (I recall being the only one of our grade six Japanese class who would finish their green tea during a tea ceremony, my crass contemporaries complaining it tasted of grass.)  So, I was quite pleased to find whole shops dedicated to the dispensing of green tea flavoured confectionery.

 

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The Trains

The MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) in Singapore was easy, clean, cool and driverless.  I love a good colour-coded metro run on tiny headway.  However, my one complaint is that they shut at midnight!  Crazy!

 


The Architecture

If you’ve ever read an article on this site before, you will probably know that I have a bit of a thing for old buildings.  For the majority of places I go, I will have taken several up-angled, heavily-instagram-filtered photos of architecture.  In Singapore, I was in for a treat because no only are there heaps of colonial buildings, but they have been painted in gorgeous pastel colours.  I just loved it!

The temple architecture in Singapore’s Little India was amazedly detailed and gorgeously coloured.  So very different from the demure and depressing Christian equivalents.


The Prevalence of Hello Kitty

In both Phuket and Singapore, there was a very high concentration of Hello Kitty per square metre.  Adam was in his element.


The Lights

Despite Adam being the type of pre-ghost-intervention Scrooge who refuses to decorate his house, listen to Christmas carols or allow anyone to fill his stocking, Adam insisted that we walk along the Singaporean shopping district of Orchard Road to see the Christmas lights.  The decorations were unbelievable!  We walked along 1.7km of shop frontage absolutely dripping with lights.  True to form, I got a bit posey with my favourite set ups.


The Tranquility

I had the forethought to pack my yoga mat with me.  The balcony view from our room in Cape Sienna in the mornings was so peaceful that I was compelled to yoga there on several mornings.

The resort had a spa with some reasonably priced treatments, these became even more reasonably priced when I found that they were offering two for one treatments .  I signed up for a coconut bliss massage, an aromatherapy massage and an aromatic milk bath, and dragged Adam along for free.  The spa also served the most delicious lemongrass tea before and after your treatment.  And they had towel elephants!

 


The Wedding

Taren and Marcus’s wedding was in the afternoon on the Tuesday.  I spent most of the day preparing by relaxing and primping.  I was so pleased with how my outfit turned out.  Taz actually said it was perfect for the theme of the wedding.  Lace, green, flowers!

We were served cocktails as we arrived on the pool deck.  It was beautifully decorated with while rose petals, photos of the happy couple, and bird cages, and the sunset just provided the best lighting.  Taren looked stunning.  The dress was perfect and she had exquisite blue earrings.

The ceremony was short but meaningful.  We took some more photos and had drinks on the terrace while the professional photos were taken.

We then sat down to a dinner of endless Thai food.  Taren and Marcus gave us each cards to fill out and/or draw on.  My envelope was particularly Toby related and had a sticker of him on the back.  I drew some cute drawings and Adam actually gave some very useful relationship advice.

My stomach went a bit strange after dinner but I still got to hear some of the speeches.  The most touching were from Taren and Marcus themselves.  It was a little bit emotionally triggering to see Taren get her happily ever after given the year that I have had but I was so pleased too.

Adam gave me a brooch to wear during the wedding which had an Australian and Swedish flag.  Both Taren and Marcus were quite jealous.

The first dance was beautiful; the song sung by Nick.  And the cake cutting was epic, the knife actually being a sword!

Despite hoping to make this wedding my bouquet-catching trifector, I didn’t manage to be victorious.  The odds were stacked against me this time.  All women were allowed to catch and not just those who were unmarried, and all of the Swedes were about twice as tall as me!

In Swedish tradition, whenever the bride or groom were absent from the table, the guests of the opposite sex would kiss the remaining spouse.  It was such cute, chaotic fun.

After the reception, I went to sleep for a few hours and was then woken by Adam who was getting changed to go to drinking on the beach with the Swedes.  So I joined them and was welcomed to the party by a massive hug from Marcus for waking up again.  We walked down to the beach, went swimming, drank, ate chips and made a friend with a dog/dingo?

 


The Food

The breakfast buffet at Cape Sienna was glorious, containing a mix of hot and cold; Asian and western; sweet and savoury delicacies!  I never tired of it.

On our last night in Thailand, we sampled a Northern Thai banquet.  Like all of the other thai food we encountered on our trip, it was amazing!

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On the night we arrived in Singapore, Adam and I wandered around Clarke Quay looking for dinner and were ushered upstairs into Hai Di Lao Huo Guo, a Chinese hot pot restaurant.  We, quite confused, were seated in the waiting area where movies played, free manicures were offered and lychee and other nibblies were served.  After a short wait, we were ushered to our table where we struggled with the poorly translated iPad ordering app.  We really didn’t go too badly, except for neglecting to order any soup to cook all of our raw meet and vegetables in.  Minor oversight…  The food was delicious and the atmosphere so bustling and exciting.  There were waiters singing, doing aerobatics with noodle dough and, as always, people to watch.

Our travel agent, Siobhan, had given us a list of hot tips for Singapore and top on the list was Khansama Tandoori Restaurant in Little India.  It seems that the owners weren’t as confident about their fare as Siobhan was claiming “probably the best north Indian restaurant in Singapore”.  We started with salty lime juice; then as Siobhan recommended, masala papad and butter chicken; lamb korma; garlic and cheese naan; and iced milo. Little India = Big Lunch!

 

As a result of my Singaporean stopover, I have developed a dumpling addiction.  I was able to get them at the airport, at the breakfast buffet, anywhere, everywhere and anytime.

Halfway through our Orchard Road trek, I got hungry because it was about midnight and I hadn’t been fed dinner.  We happened across a place called Bao Today (possibly better named, Bao Tonight).  We had an amazing spread – char sui bao, peanut filled bao, pork n prawn dim sims, spicy potato bao, sesame chicken bao (where the bao was made of sesame).  It was so great, we had to ask for seconds…


The Water

Cape Sienna Resort had two beautiful pools.  My favourite was called Sienna Rocks.  It was an infinity pool with a view of the bay.  It was incredibly peaceful.  The only noise was the turning of pages of the reading sunbakers.  I also discovered that one could have lunch delivered to eat in the pool.

On the day before the wedding, Taren organised for all of us to go on a dive trip.  That was the best day of my trip.  It was just perfect.

I had a lightish breakfast, stole some towels and then got ready to meet the others in the foyer for our trip.  I had gotten sick of actually wearing clothes so I was only wearing one of my new sarongs over my togs.

I took my sea sickness tablets while waiting for Adam to turn up.  He was actually running late because he was getting my rash shirt which we had spent hours trying to buy the previous day which I had somehow forgotten to bring on the day I actually needed it.

We got in the back of a sort of troupe carrier driven by a blonde, tanned german with dreadlocks.  Such a dude.  We made it to the dive place, which was sort of up a hill somewhere random.  I felt a bit ill while I was picking up my gear, but it turns out this seems to be how the seasickness tablets work.  We changed vehicles a few times but made it to the pier, which was largely covered in garbage.  But the boat was great, two storeys and really sturdy.  We took seats upstairs and started applying sunscreen while getting inductions.  It was lovely to chat, lying in patches of sunlight as we watched the water and sky.

Our first stop was at Ko Kaeo Yai.  There were a lot of other tourists and we kept getting a bit lost.  But it was lovely to be in the water.  We almost got left behind so there was a bit of swimming involved in getting back.    Adam seemed to be quite proficient at snorkling and encouraged me to take off my life jacket so I could dive and he could take photos of me.  Between dives Adam had a beer and we all snacked and gossiped.

The second stop of the day was my favourite.  We were at ko kaeo noi and there were goats and crabs and an abundance of colourful fish.  I made a game of stalking fish like a paparazzi.  It was so much ridiculous fun.  Adam also took some more photos of me, including a particularly flattering one of my butt.  There was duller coral as well but it was amazing to watch blue and purple clams open and close.  We also got swarmed by fish a few times.  I was so disappointed when we were called back in.

We had a delicious Thai lunch on the boat.  It was rice and stir fry chicken and pork, so filling and not super spicy.  It was starting to get hot, so I went out to the bow and sat with Adam. Out of nowhere, an orca jumped in front of us.  We were the only ones to see it but then the captain turned the boat around so everyone could. This also meant that I had time to get a photo.

The last dive of the day was a bit scary for me.  Casey and I kept getting stung by jellyfish so we got out.  I couldn’t stand the thought of getting stung on the face.  In the end I only got stung on the leg and arms and shoulders (through my rash shirt).  Casey also had the sense to get out.  We sat on the bow of the boat and watched the others brave the jellies.

After the divers resurfaced, we had some more delicious Thai food for early “dinner”.  The ride back (and indeed the whole day) was just so calm.  I hung my legs over the side and enjoyed the sunset and the breeze.  I recall feeling just so peaceful as I took in the scenery. This was an incredible day and I was so glad have spent it with friends.

On the Thursday after the wedding, Adam and I went on a speedboat tour of Phi Phi Island and its surroundings.  After fortifying myself with some Quells, I was able to stick my head out of the side of the boat and enjoy the view, have my hair ruffled by the breeze and my face stung by the occasional salt spray.  The snorkelling was my favourite part of the day.  (I still think I preferred the dive trip on Monday though but mostly because I hate other tourists, who just seem to be so obnoxious and inconsiderate.)  We got two snorkeling opportunities which weren’t nearly enough.  On both occasions, there were yellow, black and white fish which would nibble at us if we were still enough.  They seemed to prefer Adam more, and continued to photo bomb any of my attempts to take a picture of him.  We went for a few beach and lagoon swims too.  It was so soothing to float around in the turquoise water, with the vegetation-covered cliffs towering above on all sides.


The Company

While in Singapore, Adam had a 15 year reunion with his family’s Japanese exchange student, Yukie.  Yukie has spent most of her adult years working and studying abroad and attributes her willingness to travel to the Joneses’ Australian hospitality!

We met up for chicken rice, a Singaporean traditional dish and also had some deep fried tofu.  We took photos of this for my Grandma, who is very anti-tofu.  Later in the evening, we had drinks overlooking Clarke Quay.  It was so lovely to meet Yukie and her Danish partner, Jesper, and they are one of the reasons I’d be really keen to return to Singapore soon.

It was wonderful to see Taren and Marcus since they had left a hole in my friendship doughnut by leaving Brisbane earlier in the year.  It was also brilliant to catch up with Taren’s mates from North and South East Queensland, whom I don’t see nearly enough.

I am also incredibly grateful to Adam who dropped everything less than a fortnight before we left to chaperone me around South East Asia after Davey had to pull out of the trip unexpectedly.  He put up with a great deal of my annoyingness – taking photos of me in ridiculous poses, comforting me when I had travel anxiety and being dragged around shops/museums/other locations he didn’t care about.  I couldn’t have asked for a better travel buddy!

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