We returned to our room at the Pan Pacific Singapore Singapore for the evening. I went out on the balcony to take these pictures in the early evening light.
View of Marina Bay and the Downtown Core looking past the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Singapore, with Marina Bay beyond.
The Singapore Aquarium with the Marina Bay Sands Hotel looming behind.
Supertree Grove in Gardens By the Bay.
The next day we would board the Sapphire Princess to start our 37 day, 3 part cruise to Dubai, Rome and Southampton. We were so exhausted that we then fell asleep, only to wake up at 4:00 am. Somehow, we had adapted to a timezone halfway around the world.
Leaving Little India behind, we headed southeast past the Raffles Hotel toward Singapore’s Chinatown. While the idea of having a place called Chinatown in a country where 76.2% of its citizens are ethnic Chinese seems incongruous, there actually is an historical rational. The area was a settlement area for ethnic Chinese from the early 1800s. Over time they began to relocate to other areas of the country. Since about the 1960s the building of high rise housing blocks and hotels have gradually replaced the slums, and the many of the classic buildings are undergoing historic preservation.
Skyscrapers dominate the sky in Singapore’s Central Core.
Tak Heng Co. Ltd., Sundry Goods Importers and Exporters, in the Fook Hai Building located at 150 South Bridge Road #05-01 Singapore 058727 .
Lanterns still hanging from the recent Lunar New Year Celebrations, South Bridge Road.
The gopuram of Sri Mariamman Temple., a monumental entrance tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of a Hindu temple, in the Dravidian architectural style of the Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, and Telangana states of Southern India.The view is crowded with New Year’s lanterns
Sri Mariamman Temple and many lanterns left over from the recent Lunar New Year Celebration.
The view down Temple Street past Sri Mariamman Temple from South Bridge Road.
The Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple on South Bridge Road in Singapore’s Chinatown is decorated with many cow statues.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, 288 South Bridge Rd, Singapore 058840. Operating Hours are 7 am-7pm daily. Admission is free. Museum Hours are 9 am-6 pm. Appropriate dress is required. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum Website.
The Pinnacle@Duxton soars above Chinatown and is Singapore’s tallest public housing estate. It is composed of seven towers joined together with skybridges, one at the top on the 50th floor and open to a maximum of 200 people per day (for a small fee), and the other on the 26th floor. Access to it is restricted to residents.They are the two longest skyparks in the world. For a tourist perspective, Click Here
Chinatown’s Fairfield Methodist Church.
The Oasia Hotel Downtown in Singapore’s Chinatown, is gradually being covered by greenery.
Colorful buildings on South Bridge Street in Chinatown.
The huge Pinnacle@Duxton housing block overlooks Chinatown.
Colorful Chinatown buildings.
In 2019, Chinese celebrated the Lunar New Year on February 5th, welcoming the Year of the Pig. The celebration runs for a week before the New Year Day, and extends for about two weeks thereafter, for a total of about 23 days.
Giant coins hang above the street, symbolizing wishes for wealth and good fortune.
A Piggy Party in the median between the northbound lanes of New Bridge Road and the southbound lanes of Eu Tong Sen Street.
Coming up on Pig number one and pig number two in the median between Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road.
An old Southern American expression warns to never buy a pig in a poke (sack or bag), because you can’t see him and properly value him. Well this critter celebrating the Year of the Pig seems to be emerging from a poke! The pig looks quite valuable! Happy New Year!
The PARKROYAL on Pickering Hotel might be mistaken for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but is actually one of the excellent hotels of the Pan Pacific Group.
The shaded main entrance area of the PARKROYAL on Pickering Hotel, 3 Upper Pickering St, Singapore 058289.
“Momentum”, a sculpture by the Israeli artist, David Gerstein, is located in the Raffles Quay area at 2 Finlayson Green (the shortest road in Singapore). It is Singapore’s tallest outdoor sculpture, unveiled on New Year’s Eve, 2007. The sculpture represents the “upward cycle of progress, symbolising the energy and momentum of the district, Singapore and its people”.
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
The Ritz Carlton Singapore with the Millennia Tower behind.
AECOM Singapore Building (on right). 300 Beach Rd, #03-00 The Concourse, Singapore 199555. AECOM is a premier fully integrated global infrastructure firm. They have been contracted to provide complete design for Singapore stretch of the Kuala Lumpur- Singapore High Speed Rail Infrastructure.
The Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City lets us know that we have arrived at the end of our tour.
After lunch we walked back across the sky bridge into the Suntec City Mall. It was Saturday afternoon, and apparently a common thing to do in the most densely populated country on earth is engaging in a competition to see how much of that population can be crammed into shopping malls. Remember it lies 1° north of the Equator, so high temperatures are the norm. Large air-conditioned gathering places are in great demand. Apparently , there was a major event being held in the Convention Center, and every restaurant now had lines of waiting diners stretching out the door and down the hall for hundreds of feet. And, don’t forget the tens of thousands of shoppers filling every nook and cranny of the place. Claustrophobia anyone? We actually watched as an “Up” escalator taking passengers between the main and second levels of the mall added so much weight that the motor overheated and the moving staircases stopped dead under the never-ending weight of humanity, once while we were on it. Not to be deterred, we all began walking up to the 2nd floor as one densely packed group.
We quickly made our way to the bus area outside the north side of the mall. Waiting for us there was a City Sightseeing Red Line Bus. We saw so much on this tour that we have split it up into two posts, the first featuring Little India, and the second Chinatown. We left Suntec City at 4:23 pm.
City Link, 1 Raffles Link, #B1-16, Singapore 039393, sits across Raffles Blvd. from Suntec City, and sits next to Marina Square Mall.
Marina Square Mall, with the Marina Mandarin Hotel rising above it.
Parking is in high demand in Singapore. Available parking space in the central area is posted on the electronic sign.
Suntec City’s Towers Three and Four soar high above us.
The Fountain of Wealth, with Towers Three and Four behind.
Raffles Hospital tower, 585 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188770.
A view toward the Bugis Street (pronounced “Boogie Street”) shopping area. The Bugis or Buginese people hail originally from the Indonesian province of South Sulawesi. From the 1950s to the 1980s, Bugis Street was an internationally known night time gathering place for transvestites and transsexuals.
The Sim Lim Tower, a quite colorful commercial building at 10 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208787.
Exotic signage on the facade next to the entrance to the Fu Lu Shou Complex at 149 Rochor Road, Singapore 188425, in the Bugis district. It was opened in 1983. Many Singapore malls appeal to specific markets, and this one is no exception, offering lucky stones and gems, ceramic religious icons, incense, etc.
We drove down Sochor Road which becomes Rochor Canal Road. The Rochor River has been bridged over for several blocks, allowing space for a grassy boulevard-like park between Rochor Canal Road and Sungei Road. When we reached Selegie Road, we saw beautiful statues with an Indian motif, marking the entrance to Little India. We turned right and entered Little India, where Selegie turns into Serangoon Road.
Giant peacocks and what appear to be fire breathing geese flank the entrance from Selegie Road into Singapore’s Little India. The Rochor River flows unseen beneath the grassy median parkway.
Welcoming peacocks and geese on the northwest side of Selegie Road
Matching statues on southeast side of Selegie Road.
The Little India Arcade on Serangoon Road.
Serangoon Road street scene. Hmm…what did I bring that I could have gold plated?
View down sidestreet from Serangoon Road.
Shops along Serangoon Road.
View of the 2nd story of shops along Serangoon Road.
Shops along Serangoon Road.
More shops on Serangoon Road.
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, fierce embodiment of Shakti (the primordial cosmic energy) and wife of the god Shiva, and one of many manifestations of the mother goddess, Parvati.
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is built in the style of the South Indian Tamil temples common in Tamil Nadu.
A tour bus appears to veer down the side of a building with the PARKROYAL Hotel on Kitchner rising up behind.
A Tandoori restaurant on Kitchner Road in Little India.
A Little India Kitchner Road street scene.
The AQUEEN Hotel on Jalan Besar and Kitchner Road.
This is Mun Chee Kee restaurant on Jalan Besar and Sam Leong Road. Their specialty is King of Pig’s Organ Soup.
A row of businesses on Jalan Besar between Rowell Road and Hindoo Road.
Beancurd City restaurant at 133 Jalan Besar, has a 4.5 of 5 rating on TripAdvisor.
Heng Moh Seng, 117 Jalan Besar, sells Buddhist religious goods.
Mural on the side of the Piedra Negra Restaurant (reportedly has the best guacamole in town) at the northwest intersection of Ophir Road and Beach Road. It sits between Ophir Road and the hip and trendy Haji Lane.
The front end of the mural and the front of Piedra Negra Mexican Restaurant, with the entrance to Haji Lane marked by a street sign.
City Gate is a high rise condominium project offering 99 year leasehold units.
Street view on North Bridge Road at Jalan Kledek.
The Sultan Mosque seen from North Bridge Road. The address of the Mosque is 18 Kandahar St, Singapore 198884, on a side street to the left
A dome and minaret of the Sultan Mosque.
Shops on North Bridge Road.
Skyscrapers seen from North Bridge Road.
Tall buildings with unique designs.
The National Library of Singapore.
Tropical foliage juxtaposed with modern buildings behind.
Jubilee Hall at the Raffles Hotel.
Our bus tour has taken us back to the Central Core, about a block from our hotel. However we are not stopping, but driving southwest toward Chinatown. We’ll cover that in the next post.
Singapore – Suntec City to Botanical Gardens and Back
We had purchased our City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour Tickets before we left our Florida home. We paid $48 for two people. We purchased the ticket through Isango!, a tour consolidator. At the kiosk by the Suntec City HOHO bus stop, it only took a minute to scan the voucher and give us our ear buds and maps. The Yellow Line bus was waiting, we hopped on and we were off.
Singapore is an affluent country in Southeast Asia located off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Its three largest ethnic groups are Chinese, Malay and Indian. These three groups make up 98.6% of the population. The four official languages are Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil. Malay is the National language, though English is the main working language. Singapore is an extremely multi-cultural place, with a lot of high rise housing. After Monaco, Singapore is the 2nd most densely populated sovereign state on the planet.
The Singapore Flyer, a large observation wheel a few blocks from our hotel.
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The architecture speaks for itself.
The Citibank building is Tower 1 of Asia Square, and home of the Citibank Marina View Branch.
A street sign in Singapore’s Central Core directs one down Stamford Rd. toward St. Andrews Rd. to these locations:
Victoria Concert Hall
Singapore Cricket Club
The Esplanade Concert Hall with its sister structure, the Esplanade Theater at left behind it. The Esplanade Mall is between the buildings.
This building looks like it has a protective exoskeleton.
A gnarly old Heritage Tree (rain tree) sits in front of the Singapore Recreation Club on Connaght Drive on the edge of the historic Pedang playing fields. It was founded on July 1, 1883, by a group of 30 Eurasian men. The Singapore Cricket Club sits on the opposite end of Pedang.
This building houses the Parliament of Singapore. The Parliament is Unicameral (one body which meets in one room). Together with the President of Singapore, it makes up the Legislature.
This building offers a variety of shapes and surfaces in its design. It really draws attention.
Each facade section of this building on River Valley Road has its own color theme for shutters and window frames. In this photo alone, we see blue, green,gold and red.
An artistic variant on looking at the world through rose colored glasses.
Riverside Point, 30 Merchant Rd, Singapore 058282. Shopping, dining and beautifully lit river frontage at night.
Manhattan House, 151 Chin Swee Road. This is a commercial building used for office space and retail sales.
The Four Points by Sheraton Hotel Singapore, River View, 382 Havelock Road, Singapore 169629 Singapore. On the edge of the iconic Singapore River in the Robertson Quay area.
Jade Emperor Temple (Geok Hong Tian) at Havelock Road. This is a Taoist Temple, built to honor the Jade Emperor. His birthday is the 9th day of the 1st lunar month. In the evening of the 8th day, many Taoists come to pay their respects. This temple used to be surrounded by attap houses and slums. Now it is in the shadows of high rise housing projects and hotels.
Jade Emperor Temple (Geok Hong Tian) at Havelock Road. This is a closer view.
Bright and colorful Singapore Housing and Development Board (HDB) housing blocks. People buy individual apartments from the government agency. Singapore has the world’s 2nd highest population density. They expand vertically.
Are these structures from this planet?
Heritage trees with at least six different architectural styles behind.
View of Camden Medical Center, 1 Orchard Blvd., Singapore with Heritage Trees in front.
The United States Embassy in Singapore. Notice the Great Seal of the United States of America, as well as Old Glory flying on the flagpole.
Colorful mixture of architectural styles on buildings surrounding the Hard Rock Cafe in Singapore.
Ion Orchard Shopping Mall. Tenants include Tiffany’s, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, etc. This is in the world famous Orchard Road Shopping District.
The Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel on Orchard Road features a distinctive pagoda roof.
Architectural detail on the facade of the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel.
Advertisement for Paradise Dynasty, Legend of Xiao Long Bao on the roof of a vehicle. Baos are my favorite Chinese delicacy. They are steamed dumplings stuffed with various meats, etc. Paradise Dynasty Restaurant reputedly serves the best.
Banners advertising an exhibit at the Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Feb to 28 Apr 2019, entitled “Revisiting the Scholar and Statesman – Raffles in Southeast Asia”
The Memorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation, usually called the Civilian War Memorial. It was erected to honor the thousands of Singapore civilians killed in World War II. The Japanese reported the death toll at 6,000, but official estimates set it at 25,000-50,000. The memorial sits about 1,000 feet from our hotel, in a beautiful park in central Singapore.
Our hotel, The Pan Pacific Hotel Singapore, next door to our “home base” at Suntec City.
The Fountain of Wealth sits in the center of Suntec City.
When the bus arrived back at Suntec City, we were hungry, so we went in search of lunch. I found a restaurant in the Paradise Dynasty group and had a wonderful lunch of those delicious bao dumplings. Then we left Suntec City on the sky bridge and turned right into Marina Square Mall The mall bridges Raffles Blvd. and gains a lower level across the street. There I found Collins Restaurant, where Karen had the best Argentine rib-eye steak outside of Buenos Aires! We were both happy. We were rejuvenated enough to return to the HOHO bus for our visits to Little India and Chinatown.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Singapore, with the Downtown Core in the background and Marina Square Mall on the right.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Singapore (center), The Keyaki Japanese Restaurant at the Pan Pacific Hotel (foreground), the Marina Bay Sands Hotel left rear with the ArtScience Museum and Marina Bay between them, and the Downtown Core (right rear).
From left to right, the Singapore Flyer Observation Wheel sits next to Marina Bay, the Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore (left foreground), The Marina Bay Sands Hotel sits in the background, the ArtScience Museum and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (right foreground).
The Marina Bay Sands Hotel sits on the other side of Marina Bay from the ArtScience Museum.
View past the Mandarin Oriental Hotel across Marina Bay to the Downtown Core. The roofs of the Esplanade Buildings are seen in the right foreground.
The OUE Tower at the north edge of Singapore’s Downtown Core.
As the morning sun rises it begins to illuminate the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.
Looking down from the balcony of our room on the 21st floor of the Pan Pacific Hotel, Singapore, the ponds around Marina Square Mall and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel are teeming with hundreds of Koi.
Koi pond closeup.
The Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City, Singapore, is likened to the palm of a hand. The surrounding towers are named ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR and FIVE. They are like the five fingers of a hand.
The Day Ahead
After a room service breakfast, we began the day by venturing past the hotel pool, across the sky bridge to the Suntec City Mall. It is a huge, multi-level shopper’s paradise, featuring a wide spectrum of international brand name retailers. We finally found the side exit which took us outside to the staging area for the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus. Our next posts will document our tours around Singapore.
Our first task at Narita Airport was to go to the ANA ticket counter and check our bags. The young man behind the counter asked us why we weren’t sitting together. You see, this flight was on a 787-9 and the middle section had 3 seats, so we chose seats 28D and 28G, both outside aisle seats in the middle section of row 28. We explained that we booked it that way in the hope that no one would sit in the seat between us. We also shared with him that we had been successful in this strategy on the previous flight from Los Angeles. He told us that someone was sitting in the seat between us, but said that since there were 22 empty seats on the flight, “I’ll just move him”. As long as no one else chose that seat in the several hours before takeoff time, our wish had been granted. Sure enough, wen we got on the plane, we had an empty seat between us.
Best Airport Lunch Ever!
Karen seldom eats breakfast; I do. Karen doesn’t eat sushi; I love it. Sometimes when we travel we’ll go to one restaurant while one of us eats lunch, and then go to another restaurant while the other eats lunch. This was Jim’s lunch.
A beautiful sushi bar in Terminal 1 at Narita Airport.
My combination sushi plate. Some of the supply of raw fish is displayed in the glass cabinet behind the counter.
My complete lunch presentation of miso soup, sushi and sake, with the oshibori hot moist towel on the left, used to clean one’s hands before the meal.
The sign at the shop “Kabuki Gate“. Kabuki Gate features a gallery of manikins wearing various Kabuki theater costumes, and a shop selling original goods and select products associated with Kabuki.
Manikin wearing a large tiara and a red kimono on display at Kabuki Gate, on 3rd floor of Terminal 1 of Narita Airport.
A white Kabuki costume with large sleeves is displayed at Kabuki Gate.
Manikin with big sleeves brandishes a fan in Kabuki Gate Gallery.
The next restaurant was closer to our gate. on their menu was a delicious Japanese Steak Salad, which is one of Karen’s favorites. It was delicious! I know, because she needed help in finishing it. Yummm.
We found a restaurant not far from our departure gate for Karen to have lunch. On their walls are displays of beautiful Japanese blue and white porcelain plates, which stand out against the rustic tan brick walls of the restaurant.
More plates on display.
Next Stop, Singapore!
We left Narita on ANA Flight NH803 at 4:50 pm. The aircraft is a Boeing 787-8. Its route takes it southwest past Taiwan and over the Philippines for 7 hours 35 minutes until it lands at Changi Airport in Singapore around 11:25 pm Singapore time. We were in seats 28D and 28G, with one empty seat between us. The time passed surprisingly easily, the food and service were excellent and there was no turbulence.
Our projected flight path from Tokyo to Singapore. Our actual route took us across the Philippines (passing near Cebu) and parallel to Borneo’s west coast.
Singapore is a small island nation off the southern tip of Malaysia, and across the Singapore Strait from Indonesia. Changi International Airport is located at the eastern tip of the island. The City of Singapore has contiguous borders with the nation, thus it is the only island-city-country in the world. The area which is usually considered the business, cultural and tourist center of Singapore is in the south central part of the island. Singapore is a 1st world country with high personal income and low taxes. Many multi-national firms have business operations there.
Because we had five pieces of luggage, we had to take a large taxi (7 passenger van) from the airport to our hotel. From the Changi Airport Website, here are the taxi prices as of August 20, 2019:
Taxis are available for hire at the taxi stands in the Arrival areas of each Terminal. A ride to the city takes about 30 minutes and costs between S$20 and S$40. All fares are metered.
There is an additional Airport Surcharge for all trips originating from the Airport:
Fri–Sun (5:00PM–12:00AM): S$5 Airport Surcharge
All other times: S$3 Airport Surcharge
Midnight surcharge (12:00 AM–6:00 AM): 50% of final metered fare
Peak-hour surcharge (6:00 AM–9:30 AM, Mon–Fri and 6:00 PM–12:00 AM, Mon–Sun): 25% of final metered fare
When we got to the 5 star (5 / 5) Pan Pacific Hotel in downtown Singapore, it was about 1:00 am. LuLu’s Lounge, the independently managed nightclub, was rocking out big time. And we thought we would arrive too late! We went to Reception and were cheerfully checked in. Our room #2115 was fabulous! It had remote controlled double drapes (sheer and blackout). The huge bathroom had a picture window in the shower facing the living room, with a remote controlled shade, which I call “The Electric Slide”.
The Pan Pacific Hotel Singapore has a huge internal atrium with balconies running completely around the perimeter of each floor. A bank of fast moving elevators quickly takes guests between the lobby and their rooms. It has a number of fine restaurants. The hotel is connected by a sky bridge to the Suntec City Mall, at 888,000 square feet, the 2nd largest shopping center in Singapore.
The nighttime view from the balcony of our room on the 21st floor of the Pan Pacific Hotel.
Tomorrow We Discover Singapore
We had booked tickets online for the Hop on Hop Off Bus for Saturday March 9th. The HOHO Bus home base is on the north side of Suntec City, next door to our hotel.
Indoor fountain in the reception area of the lobby, Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport Hotel. The open air central courtyard is surrounded by a large, circular lobby. Water from the fountain cascades under the wall and flows to the stone mountain-shaped fountain in the center of the courtyard.
View of the hotel’s circular lobby looking toward the reception desk. The hotel employees were very courteous and most helpful.
A reflective stone sculpture feature in the hotel lobby with a view of the courtyard behind.
This indoor water feature give the appearance of being joined to the pond outside, with the window in between.
On our way to the airport, we saw a lot of directional signs on the side of the road. I felt like a “Stranger in a Strange Land”. If I were driving, and looking for anything but the airport, I’d be lost.
Once we arrived at Narita Airport, a 10 minute drive, the shuttle bus stopped at Terminal 2 to drop off and pick up passengers. Then we were off to Terminal 1.
We arrived at Terminal 1. exited the shuttle bus, retrieved our luggage from underneath and proceeded into the Terminal.
In the next post we’ll check in and spend a fun afternoon at Narita Airport. We’ll then fly to Singapore, take a taxi to our hotel.
We checked out of the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel early on Wednesday March 6th, because our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:20 am. The hotel shuttle took us to the Tom Bradley International Terminal, where we dropped off our checked baggage. We had already printed out our boarding passes at the hotel. We stopped at the Border Grill Restaurant for breakfast, which was great. (5 / 5)
The central area of The Tom Bradley International Terminal is The Antonio R. Villaraigosa Pavillion (both men are former LA Mayors). What appears to be a tall building with people hanging out of the windows, is actually a video being projected on a screen, soon to be replaced by ads.
A shiny golden metal sculpture sits on a table in front of a shop in the Villaraigosa Pavillion. Reflected in the well polished orb is a reflection of Jim and Karen with their luggage standing perhaps 20 feet away while Jim takes this photo.
The Border Grill in The Villaraigosa Pavillion at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, We had a wonderful breakfast there.
ANA (All Nippon Airways) Flight NH175 sits at Gate 150 at Los Angeles International Airport on March 6, 2019. It was a rainy day, but the rain wasn’t heavy, and we saw no lightning.
A view of the shops in the Villaraigosa Pavillion in the International Terminal at LAX. The terminal is largely illuminated by the soaring skylight windows, although the clouds and rain have a dimming effect.
This is the projected flight path for our trip from Los Angeles to Tokyo. Estimated flight time is 11 hours 15 minutes.
The view from the Villaraigosa Pavillion looking past Starbucks toward the South Concourse. Our gate 150 was the first gate in the North Concourse on the east side of the terminal.
Karen settles into her seat 33G. I was sitting in 33D. We chose aisle seats on opposite sides of the middle row, hoping no one would want to sit between us. Guess what? No one did! Karen was able to lie down and sleep on our 11 hour 15 minute flight from LA to Tokyo.
Exit sign in Japanese and English on Flight NH175. The aircraft was a Boeing 777-300ER.
Finally, we’re in the air, time to check out the TV. It knows five languages: Japanese, English, French, German, Korean and Chinese!
Plenty of options to keep us occupied.
After a bit over 11 hours and a flight of 5,451 miles across the Pacific, we are almost there.
We’re on our final approach to Tokyo Narita International Airport.
“Welcome to Japan” sign at Tokyo Narita International Airport.
Airport Interview With Japanese TV Reporters
As we were about to leave Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport, we were pulled aside by a Japanese Television Crew. They saw that we were not Japanese, and wanted to interview us about our plans for our visit to Japan. We explained that we would only be in the country for 24 hours, because we were using Narita as a layover in transit to Singapore. A few more polite questions and answers ensued, and they bid us farewell, allowing us to proceed outside to find the shuttle.
A Rainy Night in Narita
When we arrived at the hotel it was raining. We wanted to see the town of Narita,and have an authentic Japanese dinner. We took a taxi to the center of town, and started walking in what we thought was the direction of the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. Most of the restaurants we saw were pretty empty. Few people ventured out in the rain that evening. We asked a young woman for directions. She took us to a shop where Karen bought an umbrella for $3. The shop owner told us where to find the place we were seeking. The very nice young woman led us there. We went in, chatted with some people from the US and Australia, and decided that we were in the wrong place. We walked outside, flagged down a taxi and returned to the Hilton, where we had a fine dinner in one of the hotel restaurants.
The Main Hall of Naritasan Shinshoji Temple in Narita, Chiba, Japan.
Cherry blossoms in tall slender vases and lotus blossom lamps decorate the restaurant at the Hilton Narita Hotel.
When we retired to our room for the night, we discovered a couple of specifically Japanese appliances. The one on the left looked a lot like a paper shredder, but closer examination revealed it to be a humidifier!
The second appliance was the storied Japanese toilet. It featured all sorts of controls and gizmos, but no instruction manual. Fortunately, the lever on the left looked familiar, and it handled the basics.
Tomorrow, Narita in the Daylight
Tomorrow we’ll take a quick tour of or hotel, and then take the shuttle back to the airport for our flight to Singapore.
Orlando International Airport, like its sister airport 92 driving miles across the Florida peninsula to the west in Tampa, features a hub and spoke design, with two large connected central terminals (A and B) with people mover trains running out to the four outlying terminals (1-4). The new $2.8 Billion South Terminal Complex is under construction, with a scheduled completion date in 2021. It will feature 19 gates and have room for 27 airplanes, including narrow body, jumbo and super-jumbo jets. Jet Blue is projected to be the main tenant. To download a map of the airport in PDF format, click on Wayfinding Map.
The Villages Airport Van arrived at our home five minutes before the designated pick up time of 9:15 am on March 5, 2019. They always allow enough time for travel, traffic and unexpected delays, to get us to Orlando International Airport at least two hours before our departure time. They pick us up and drop us off at our front door, and always take us to Ground Transportation space A 45. The cost is $40 per person each way. Due to the size of The Villages air travel market, Village Airport Van operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They leave space A 45 approximately every 30 minutes. We have used them dozens of times, generally if our trip is more than a 7-10 days in length. For shorter trips we park in the airport’s Economy Parking Lot ($10/day plus gas and tolls). Rating: (5 / 5)
An Airbus 320, similar to the plane on which we flew from Orlando to Los Angeles.
Rating: (5 / 5)
Photo: Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
At 12:10 pm EST, our JetBlue flight took off from Orlando and flew west about 200 miles, where, high above the Gulf of Mexico, we made a right-hand turn of approximately 45°, and headed on a long gently arcing path across southern Louisiana, Texas and the desert southwest. After a flight of 2,218 miles, we landed around 3:03 pm PST, a trip of approximately 5 hours. Our flight had little turbulence, and the free movies on the seat back TV screens helped pass the time. That, plus the 1/2 price we pay for on-board purchases using our JetBlue Card, makes for a happy trip. We got off the plane at Terminal 5, and made our way to Baggage Claim.
After we collected our luggage, we walked outside to meet the hotel shuttle, which arrived in about 15 minutes. The Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Airport Hotel is literally across the street from the airport. It is in the same neighborhood as the Hilton LAX and the Hyatt Regency LAX hotels, both of which we have stayed at in the past. Like its neighbors, the Crowne Plaza offers a free airport shuttle, a choice of food options, various other amenities and great customer service. We would stay there again. Rating: (4 / 5)
Aliki’s Greek Taverna
Because we had just traveled three time zones, we were really looking forward to dinner. Our pre-trip research led us to Aliki’s Greek Taverna, a family owned restaurant at 5862 Arbor Vitae St, Los Angeles, CA 90045, in the Westchester area north of LAX. We love Greek food! We would be visiting Athens later in the trip, but we couldn’t wait. Besides, on TripAdvisor, Aliki’s Greek Taverna is rated #35 out of 9,430 restaurants in Los Angeles. The cuisine is listed as Mediterranean, Greek and Vegetarian Friendly. The menu was extensive. It included Calimari, Dolmades, Falafel, Greek Salad, Gyros, Hummus, Mousaka, Olive Tapenade, Pastitsio, Souvlaki, Spanakopita, Tabouli, Tzatziki and dozens of other items. The owner is also an importer of Greek olives, olive oil and other Greek foodstuffs, so the food is truly authentic. Rating (5 / 5) Aliki’s Greek Taverna on Facebook.
This photo of Aliki’s Greek Taverna is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Wedged in between a car wash and a budget hotel about 1 mile north of LAX, it is at first incomprehensible that this is a dining destination for travelers from across the world as well as locals. The quality and authenticity of the food, as well as its reasonable pricing, explain its TripAdvisor #35 rating out of 9,430 restaurants in Los Angeles. Aliki’s Greek Taverna is only a 5 minute taxi ride from the Crowne Plaza LAX Hotel, and other neighboring hotels north of LAX.
Tomorrow We Fly to Tokyo
With our bodies still on East Coast time, we returned by taxi to our hotel, and retired early. Tomorrow we will fly across the Pacific Ocean to Japan. It will be our first visit there, although it will be a short one, about 24 hours.
Circumnavigation of the Earth was originally accomplished by the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, who organized the Spanish Expedition to the East Indies, which endured from 1519 to 1522, on a westward course around the globe. He was born Fernão de Magalhães in Sabrosa, Portugal. Magellan was killed in a battle in the Philippines on April 27, 1521. The Basque explorer, Juan Sebastián Elcano, took over command of the carrack Victoria, and completed the journey west across the Indian Ocean, Around the Cape of Good Hope and up the west coast of Africa to Spain. Contrary to what you may remember from your school days, Elcano is credited for the first complete single journey around the Earth. Because Magellan had reached the Malay Archipelago on a previous voyage 10-15 years earlier, he is credited with the first nearly complete personal global circumnavigation.
A Plan Takes Shape
For several years, a particular cruise route had caught our attention, in an area of the world where we had not cruised, specifically south and southeast Asia. The general “cruise route” was composed of several legs in various combinations, some the complete route and some the partial route. The cruise line was Princess Cruises. The biggest obstacle was finding affordable air fare and hotels for overnight stays. We actually booked and cancelled various permutations of the cruise, before we finally found “a deal we couldn’t refuse”.
The Cruise Options
London to Singapore
London to Rome
Rome to Dubai through Suez Canal
Dubai to Singapore
Rome to Singapore
or the Reverse
or 1, 2 or 3 segments in either direction
On December 25, 2018, Karen was doing her favorite thing, looking for super cruise deals on the internet. Princess Cruises sometimes offers abnormally low priced about 90 days out, around the time that final payment comes due. Karen quite excited, came into the office with a Princess Cruises Christmas Day special. They were offering a 37 day Indian Ocean and Europe cruise from March 10 – April 16, 2019, which consisted of three “back to backs”: Singapore to Dubai, Dubai to Rome and Rome to Southampton. The price was $!,715 per person plus $590 each in Taxes, Fees and Port Expenses. It was still a little more than I was comfortable with, and I was a bit anxious about spending 37 days in an inside cabin, so we agreed to put a 24 hour hold on the cruise and call Princess the next day. Imagine our surprise when on December 26th, we awoke to find that the price had dropped to $1,413 per person, a total additional savings of $604! We were sold! The inside cabin was sounding just fine! We called Princess and completed the booking at the lower price. We found out later that we paid less for the three legs than many passengers paid for only one leg. Once again we had found that moment in time when a cruise price becomes too low to resist. Topping it off, when we boarded the ship, they informed us that the Taxes, Fees and Port Expenses charge was reduced to $1,000. All this for almost five weeks of comfortable travel, gourmet food and excellent lodging.
The Ports of Call
Sunday Mar 10
Monday Mar 11
Tuesday Mar 12
Wednesday Mar 13
Thursday Mar 14
Friday Mar 15
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Saturday Mar 16
Sunday Mar 17
Cochin, Kerala, India
Monday Mar 18
Tuesday Mar 19
Wednesday Mar 20
Thursday Mar 21
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Friday Mar 22
Saturday Mar 23
Sunday Mar 24
Monday Mar 25
Tuesday Mar 26
Wednesday Mar 27
Thursday Mar 28
Aqaba, Jordan (Petra, Wadi Rum)
Friday Mar 29
Red Sea Cruising to Suez
Saturday Mar 30
Suez Canal Transit
Sunday Mar 31
Monday Apr 1
Athens (Pireus), Greece
Tuesday Apr 2
Wednesday Apr 3
Thursday Apr 4
Messina, Sicily, Italy
Friday Apr 5
Naples, Campania, Italy
Saturday Apr 6
Rome (Civitavecchiia), Lazio, Italy
Sunday Apr 7
Livorno (Pisa, Florence), Tuscany)
Monday Apr 8
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Tuesday Apr 9
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Wednesday Apr 10
Thursday Apr 11
Friday Apr 12
Saturday Apr 13
Sunday Apr 14
Monday Apr 15
Paris (Le Havre), Normandy, France
Tuesday Apr 16
London (Southampton), England
Arranging the Airfare
Unlike what we have found with other cruise lines, Princess Cruises airfare is generally very competitive. We have used it for flights home from Buenos Aires, and we booked it on this cruise as well, although that partially changed later.
First we booked a flight on JetBlue from MCO – Orlando to LAX – Los Angeles for $260.48 for both of us, plus $40 for the extra suitcase due to the length of our trip. We spent the night at the Crowne Plaza LAX for $175.27.
Then we booked flights on ANA (All Nippon Airways) through Princess from LAX to NRT (Tokyo Narita Airport), Tokyo, Japan, and from Narita to SIN (Singapore). In addition, we booked a British Airways flight from LGW (London Gatwick) to MCO – Orlando, to get home when the cruise ended. Karen soon realized that flying straight through from LAX to Singapore would be more than we could comfortably handle. She wished that we could have a layover night in Narita. A little research, and she found out that she could book the ANA flights with an overnight in Narita through Priceline.com for the same price.
So we switched the air booking from LAX to SIN to Priceline.com and booked a night at the Tokyo Narita Hilton. We got a deal on two nights at the Pan Pacific hotel in Singapore, and the whole trip around the world was complete, as far as transportation planning was concerned.
Shore Excursions in 19 Ports
It was easy to plan for tours in the various ports. We pre-booked Hop On Hop Off bus tours in most places. We booked a car and driver in Colombo, Sri Lanka and a Tuk Tuk and driver in Cochin, India. We booked a tour in Salalah, Oman, and found 8 people on Cruise Critic.com to join us and keep the cost down. We booked a van and driver through Princess, for a shore excursion to Petra and Wadi Rum in Jordan, and again found 5 people on Cruise Critic to share the expense and join us. We anticipated that we might not go ashore in a European port or two we had been to many times, and rest up instead. We also were prepared for a possible bad weather day forcing us to stay on the ship. But basically, we were committed to see as much as possible of every country we would be visiting on this Grand Adventure.
As Americans, we are used to being able to travel to many countries where it is not necessary for us to get a VISA. This was about to change. We had to obtain a Tourist E-Visa for Sri Lanka, which we obtained online at no cost. Also, we had to get Indian Tourist E-Visas for India at a cost of $100/person. Jordan required a Visa, but it was handled by the ship’s staff interacting with the local authorities. In fact we turned our passports into the ship’s staff on boarding in Singapore, and got them back in Athens. I was concerned that our passports were not stamped on entering the EU, as we had been forced to deal with a similar situation at the Oslo airport when we were flying home a few years ago. In this case, Guest Services on the Sapphire Princess took our passports into a back office, and shortly brought them back, complete with EU entrance stamps.
In Our Next Post
The journey begins.