A little party never killed nobody has always been my mother’s perfect excuse to gather family members and friends to celebrate any special occasions. So celebrating my birthday every year has becoming this last hooray before the new school year. I will forever cherish the chaos of kids relentlessly running around the house, the loud music playing the latest tunes, the thousands photographs that captured every moment, oh and the expected school related birthday presents! The lady does love to host a good party but when I turned 22 as I was starting to get over this same annual routine, I decided it was time to take over the birthday planning.
Prior to last year, I decided to do again a birthday trip but this time on another continent. I fell in love with Singapore through vlogs and blog posts so I decided to take the plunge. For months I did a throughout research and planned everything until the day to actually book the hotel and flight, I started to second-guess myself. Flying across the world all by myself, but I’ve never done a solo trip before. Is it really safe for a woman to take such risks? I mean staying at a hotel all alone does not seem wise to me… The question marks wouldn’t stopped and maybe two times I decided to look for another destination closer to America.
Exactly one month before my birthday, wine in hand I said to myself what do I have to lose. Everything was already saved on my computer so all I had to do was book! I announced it to my parents maybe two weeks before my departure. Well, I did tell them about my plans before booking anything but they thought I was joking so when they realized I was being serious, that lecture was unbearable! “Asia, why Asia?” “Yanha it’s more than 10 hours away. You will be all by yourself, what if something happens to you?.” “We always celebrate your birthday together, why do you want to be alone this year?” “I won’t stand in your way to travel for your birthday, pick somewhere else. Go spend some time in France with your siblings for instance but Singapore is too far.” I was determined and no one could talk me out of it.
Hotel and Flight
As soon as I board a plane, I always try to fall asleep as soon as possible because I hate flying. The thought of spending 14 hours on a plane scared the crap out of me but I had to overcome my fears for a greater good. Cathay Pacific airlines was the perfect choice for my trip! Comfort, great customer service, succulent meal options were all met as my personal requirements. I would definitely fly with them again. I brought books and magazines along so I wouldn’t be bored out of my mind during the flight, fortunately their movies recommendations were so interesting that it made time go by faster.
Who hears Singapore thinks instantly of the Marina Bay Sands hotel for an unforgettable and over the top experience. Not only because of The shoppes, Ce la vi restaurant, the skypark, and the other interesting attractions, but because of this freaking insanely gorgeous view you get of the city from the infinity pool! It was my birthday, so I deserved this royal treatment. Marina Bay Sands hotel was my first pick for the trip until I checked out the hotel rooms. The rooms looked so outdated that spending that much money per night didn’t sit right with me. And unfortunately the only way to get into the infinity pool was to actually be a guest at the hotel. I spent days going over this and finally decided it wasn’t worth it! So I decided to grab lunch instead at Ce la vie restaurant where you get to sit literally next to the pool area and share the same view of the city as the guests at the hotel.
As I was going through the St-Regis hotel website, I couldn’t stop gushing about the decor and the amenities. I directly booked my stay from the website so I didn’t go through any third parties. I personally believe that your hotel experience makes your trip ten times more agreable so it was a must for me to find the perfect hotel! The staff was so nice that at some point it made me uncomfortable (I’m from NY, we’re known to be very grumpy) Everyone seemed to genuinely care about your well-being, from the front desk to the waiters. On the day of my birthday, I found my designated butler decorating my room, a cake and a little note were also awaiting on the table. I decided to stay in to dine at Brasserie Les Saveurs, one of the restaurants at the hotel. I was attended with the undivided attention of two waiters whom in between of my tree-course meal, would politely propose to take pictures of me. Oh and the pianist playing those romantic tunes made me realize how much I am in love with my life.
Unfortunately Uber no longer operates in singapore however there’s something similar called Grubhub. All you have to do is download the app and you’re good to go. It isn’t required to enter your card information because you have the option to pay with cash at the end of your trip. However, if you cancel a trip more than three times, you will be asked to enter your card information and get charged a cancel fee if this occurred a fourth time. Compared to the taxis over there, it’s very cheap because the meters don’t set the price. Although public transportation runs frequently and costs even less than Grubhub, I didn’t have the patience to get to my destination in over an hour when it’s only 15 minutes away in car ride. I once took the train and seriously I am now even more disgusted with the MTA in NY.
Communication and safety
Communication wasn’t a challenge for me at all since English is one of their official languages. It is humid and rains very often, which is a bummer for outdoors activities such as the beach that I had to give up. I would leave the hotel as early as 12 (hey that’s a big deal for me, I love to sleep in) and try to do things before it pours. As a young black woman, safety was my number one priority! I did a throughout research on racism and the measures of precaution overall for women (this is a man’s world!) Turns out Singapore is the fifth safest country in the world last time I checked. I was still a bit skeptical on what to expect however everyone was very sweet and would even give cuisines, attractions recommendations. And also people STARE a lot! I would even caught them pointing at me, taking pictures, staring because they’re not used to African-American in Singapore. All were executed in a respectful manner so no offense was taken.
From high end brands to affordable street fashion, Singapore offers it all! For cheaper souvenirs and cultural fashion from different countries in Asia, I recommend Chinatown, Little India, and Arab Street. If you’re looking to splurge, definitely The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and Ion Orchard mall. I firmly believe that God was so fair to the Asians because he gave them style and poise! Which is why I was very excited to shop in Singapore because I knew for a fact that the style selections would be very distinctive from the ones that are offered in America, and I was right. Although I was a little disappointed by the seasonal fashion on the high end brands side since I was determined to splurge, I’ve had in fact the opportunity of discovering luxurious Asians brands that are unknown in America! Even H&M left me speechless…
I would suggest an estimated sum of at least $1000 as a budget for Singapore (flight and hotel not included) where transportation, food, activities and attractions would all be covered for about two weeks of vacation. When it comes to booking flights, the year is divided into three periods: Peak season (June-August), Shoulder season (September-October), and Off season (January-March). Off season is when you might want to book for very cheap flights since it’s off-peak season and not a lot of people are traveling. You could also get away with a great deal during Shoulder season depending on the airline. Hopper is a great app that compare all fares from every airline taking your desire route and even gives you the option to turn on notifications when prices drop. Remember, the shorter the flight, the higher the price! For great hotels deals, I’d recommend Expedia and Kayak.
I am a control freak, I hate spontaneity! I like to be in the known so I could have a clear idea of how I want things to play out. It’s both a blessing and a curse, but from time to time I try to break free from this obsession. I’ve written down ahead of the trip a list of what I wanted to do and visit based on my interests. Although there is a lot to do in Singapore, I narrowed it down to what I could’ve realistically done in the time frame of eight days. Due to the time difference, I found it really hard to stay up past 9PM so I would drink a cup of coffee every morning in order to stay awake. However things took an unexpected turn when I found myself lacking of energy to do anything other than staying in my room, watching netflix. Because of that I unfortunately didn’t get the time to visit the Botanical Garden. Here’s a list of all the places that I’ve visited…
Gardens By The Bay
Marina Bay Sands Promenade
As a picky eater I find it quite difficult to partake in the gastronomic world carefree. I relied on snacks, McDonald’s fries, and fruits during my whole trip. I really had a hard time trying any cuisine, so I wasn’t as adventurous as I wanted to. But if you’re a foodie unlike me, you’ll have a feast! I strongly recommend the Hawker centre, Chinatown Food Street, and Katong.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
1- Bring your passport with you everywhere if you plan to make any purchase over a large amount of money. You are eligible for a tax refund at the airport because of the Global tax free law.
2- You can literally exhange money almost everywhere in Singapore if you worry on getting short.
3-Bring an umbrella because 9 chance out 10 it will rain.
4- For cautions reasons, NEVER say you’re traveling alone if you’re by yourself. Come up with excuses as an you’re meeting up with friends or family members. You never know people’s intentions.
5- Singapore outlet is very different from America’s. You can either purchase the adaptor on Amazon or in Singapore at every drug stores.
6- If you’re a student, do bring your student ID cause few places give student discounts.
7- it is illegal to chew gum in Singapore unless you have an authorized doctor’s prescription.
8- Keep in mind that the time zone is 24hrs ahead of America. I had to rely on coffee to stay awake majority of the time.
9-If your telephone network does not cover your data abroad you can always purchase a tourist sim card at the airport for the length of the time desired.
10- The best time to book your flight would be during off season (january-march)
11- if you can, do take a day off just to do nothing! I know you’re trying to visit as many places as possible during your stay, but trust me when your body shuts down due to the jet lag you’ll have a hard time enjoying yourself.
12- Do bring some tylenol or ibuprofen just in case of headaches.