Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

James Taylor: Live in Singapore 2017


Not my video. I paid for the cheap seats.

I’m not sure how James Taylor found his way into my maelstrom of heavy metal and hard rock listening habits back in my younger days. But found his way, he did. To be honest it was a James Taylor “Best of” CD and I didn’t venture too far away from his “best ofs”. Funnily and mirroring my experience with his experience, during his concert at the Star Theatre this week James Taylor quipped many times about his new songs and how “they won’t take too long” to play and he would go back to his “best ofs” soon after each one.

I think, perhaps, I was in need of wistful and melodic vocals along with soothing and relaxing music to counter-point roaring electric guitars and ear-splitting drumming that heavy metal produced. I guess I still am as listening to James Taylor still has the same calming effect. The irony is not lost on me that I saw James Taylor in the middle of these concerts I am going to:

Metallica – James Taylor – Guns N Roses – Megadeth.

Mirrors my teenage years perfectly.

On the night, any doubts that Taylor’s voice or guitar playing has weakened with age disappears with his first song “Wandering”. His voice still has the caramel essence that permeates throughout this discography. Backing up Taylor on his current tour is a plethora of esteemed musicians in their own right and it shows with each note; there is musical mastery with every trumpet note and guitar strum.

Each of Taylor’s “best ofs” are present as expected with each one holding its own unique melancholic story at it’s core. “Walking Man” centred on Taylor’s absent father throughout childhood, “Fire and Rain” about his depression and drug addiction, and “Carolina on my Mind” and “Copper Line” expressing Taylor’s longing and pining for his rural home life. “Copper Line” had passed me by and it really stuck with me during the concert and I’ve been hitting it up on Spotify a lot the past few days.

If another voice sung those songs they wouldn’t work nearly as well. Taylor’s voice and song composition adds meaning that many many musicians have tried and failed to muster since we started enjoying the sound that banging stones together made.

So musically the concert was excellent. Taylor has a 20 minute interlude which he seemed to question why light heartedly beforehand. He spent the time signing a never-ending autograph/selfie line from the stage (which over-ran the said 20 minutes and got everyone a little impatient).

The Star Theatre is a fine venue for concerts and I’ve seen quite a few there; sound always seems to be excellent. The never-ending escalator journey up from ground level can be a little vexing though.

Next up on the concert to-do list…Guns N Roses…a little different.

James Taylor Setlist The Star Theatre, Singapore, Singapore 2017, 2017 World Tour

Day Trips From Zurich by Train

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On top of Rigi Klum

December. What do you want? Sunshine and beaches to not think about the festive season or cold and snow and mulled wine to soak it all up? If it’s the latter then you can do a lot worse than travelling to Switzerland for the festive season.

We had 5 nights based in Zurich over the Christmas period and took full advantage of the amazing train network they have in Switzerland to explore some of the surrounding areas.

Train Details

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No problem to have a few beers on the train. There is an amazing beer shop in Zurich Bf called “Drinks of the World”

Although convenient they are expensive so do the math and explore purchasing a Travel Pass for the amount of days you need it. We got it at Zurich HB (central train station) and you need to have a valid photo ID with you. Our Singapore work passes were good enough. We opted for the 3 day pass as we would do the bulk of our travelling in the middle three days of our stay. I used the Swiss Rail website to predict how much our train journeys would total without the pass and it was financially worth it to buy the pass. Do it if you will save money.

Zurich

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Zurichsee

Zurich has a reputation for nothing much going for it. True that it is a business city but it’s certainly worth a night or two to see the sights. Perhaps, without the delightful Christmas markets, there may not be much of a vibe apparent but we enjoyed our time wandering around. Looking at how we travelled over the 3 days it probably makes more sense to base yourself in Lucerne. We stayed in the Central Plaza Hotel which was a couple minutes walk from the train station and across the road from a Starbucks (if that floats your caffeine boat).

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Fraumunster Church

So, in retrospect, we didn’t really do much in Zurich apart from walk the old town areas and visit the few churches they have there, wandered down Bahnhofstrasse (the main shopping street), and took in all the festivities at the various Christmas markets. There is a National Museum and a few other museums but time wasn’t on our side with all the day trips we took.

Rheinfalls

A quick 50 minute train trip out on the S9 regional train to Neuhausen Rheinfalls station then a brisk walk over the Rheinfallweg bridge and you get to the Schlosslaufen (Castle overlooking the Rheinfalls). The entrance fee is 5CHF per person which you tap on an entrance gate before descending to the falls.
The falls are a must-see if you’re in the region and the vantage point you get viewing them is very unique. You make your way down right to the falls where you can touch the thunderous water flowing down the falls at a break neck speed. Worth the entrance fee.
There is a train stop right at the castle if you can’t walk back to the Neuhausen stop but there didn’t seem to be a ticket machine there and you can’t buy on the train. So be fore-warned on that.

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Winterthur

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Winterthur is not prominent on the tourist trail but it was another 40 minute short hop on the train from Rheinfalls so we went. Winthertur’s art gallery wasn’t open when we went so we just spent time wandering down towards their Christmas market then looped back towards the train station. Moving on.

Stein am Rhein

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Again, another spur of the moment trip but I heard this place was quaint and worth the trip. 40 minutes on the train from Winterthur wasn’t going to kill us. It IS a quaint and cool little town. Little. And nothing was open for the Christmas period apart from one bar/restaurant where we killed some time downing a Swiss beer before making our way back to the train station. The buildings are cool and walking around the silent streets we could have been in the 16th century.
I would imagine it’s quite a nice place to visit in the Summer with bustling restaurants, a beautiful river-side vantage point, and perhaps some markets in the town square.

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Rigi Klum

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We got up early on one of our days to reach the heady heights of Rigi Klum. No cable cars for us so this was a perfect option due to its cog-wheel train that runs up every hour from Arth-Goldau. So that was our route: Zurich HB-Arth Goldau-Rigi Klum. We then descended the other cog-wheel train to Vitznau and got a boat (boat tickets included in the 3 day travel pass too!) back to Lucerne.
The ascent to Rigi Klum was misty until we got above it then you start to see the breath-taking mountains surrounding the area. It was misty every day in Switzerland in December so I feel we missed out on some lovely scenery while travelling around.

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Being at the summit of Rigi Klum takes your breath away. Literally. Icy blasts pummel you into near submission but the views from the top sate the urge to run for shelter. Something about looking over landscapes from great heights rustle up some primal feelings of power and awareness of life. We had a mulled wine in the small cafe up there before heading back down to…..mull….over existential ponderings.

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Vitznau after the descent on cog-wheel train isn’t worth it’s own little section here. We had to wait for the boat so we had a beer and something to eat in a cafe. Nothing much else to see but, again, I’m sure it’s a lovely place to stroll along the water front in the Summer time.

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Lucerne

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When in Lucerne, you must see “the Lion statue”

Lucerne feels a little more lively than Zurich. It seems to be a hub for tourists rather than business. One of the main highlights is the “dying lion” statue which on paper doesn’t really seem to justify so much attention. In my opinion, it’s well worth the attention. It’s one of the most powerful statues I’ve seen. Somehow it’s much much bigger than you can expect from photos. The facial expression, the body position, and the lion’s place embedded into the rock face all culminate in a truly powerful work of art. Venus de Milo? Pffttt in a very distant second place.

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Lucerne also has areas for just wondering around taking in the architecture. Chapel Bridge cuts an interesting slice down the middle of the city. Built in the 14th Century (what?!?!) it provides an interesting angle on the city from the river’s vantage point and adds a unique flavour to Lucerne’s appeal as a tourist destination.
We actually visited Lucerne twice in our travels. On the second visit we spent time at their Christmas market/ice rink beside the Lucerne HB and then popped into see the Art Museum. The Swiss Travel pass guarantees you free access to some museums and art galleries around Switzerland and this museum is part of that package. This art museum was okay, nothing special.

Basel

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This ferry uses the river currents to get across.

Again another hour or so away from Zurich we popped along to Basel. Another plethora of Christmas markets to distract us. Got in from the cold to visit their Museum of Fine Arts (another free admission with the Swiss Travel Pass) which was quite good and they had a Jackson Pollack exhibition on which was interesting to see. Like other towns we wandered around, taking in the architecture and finding a vantage point over the Rhine from a Christmas market.

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Bern

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Finally, our last stop of this whirlwind trip to Switzerland we stopped off in Bern (1 hour train journey from Basel). It was bloody freezing. We needed warmth and food but we settled for more mulled wine at one of their biggest Christmas markets.

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Bern, through my frozen eyelashes, felt older and more historical than any other city. It felt like nothing had changed apart from cars and electricity. The buildings all looked unchanged. Not feeling like any museum visits we took in Bern by walking around and eyeballing the different sights that Google told us we had to (Zytglogge, Käfigturm, Kindlifresserbrunnen, Bern Minster). No, I didn’t just make all those names up.

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Child-eater statue…gulp..

Ende. It was great to see all these areas of Switzerland (and remember my fading German) and left me wanting to see other areas in more affable weather. I contemplated the long trip to Jungfraujoch but maybe next time….

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Bis bald Schweiz!

Thaipusam Festival 2017

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Religious fervour has had its fair share of bonkers moments throughout history. Sadly, most of it involving killing/torturing non-believers or other people that an old book told you to…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Thaipusam, thankfully, restricts the torture to its very friendly and devote Hindu followers. Not that torture should play a part anywhere in life but there you go. Here’s where Thaipusam originates from:

This festival was created during one of the battles between the Asuras (or to be more specific Soorapadman) and the Devas. At one point, the latter were defeated several times by the former. The Devas were unable to resist the onslaught of the Asura forces. In despair, they approached Shiva and entreated to give them an able leader under whose heroic leadership they might obtain victory over the Asuras. They surrendered themselves completely and prayed to Shiva. Shiva granted their request by creating the mighty warrior, Skanda, out of his own power or Achintya Shakti. He at once assumed leadership of the celestial forces, inspired them and defeated the Asura forces and to recognise that day the people created the festival, Thaipusam.

According to Skanda Puranam, the legend of Murugan, and Thirupugal which are divine verses on Murugan, adhere to Shaivam principles. Murugan is the embodiment of Shiva’s light and wisdom and devotees pray to him to overcome the obstacles they face, as He is the divine vanquisher of evil. The motive of Thaipusam festival is to pray to God to receive his grace so that bad traits are destroyed.

Today, Thaipusam centres around the Kavadi Attam or the “burden dance” where Hindu followers ask for help through physical burden. This can be as little as carrying a jug of milk on your head to piercing yourself like a human-porcupine hybrid.

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Thaispusam in Singapore

This was my second time experiencing Thaipusam in Singapore. On the second day of festivities devotees get all prepped up (and poked up) at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (SSPT) and take the 4km trek to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (STT).
SSPT is where it’s at as an observer/weirdo taking photos of people getting impaled and/or possessed. I spent nearly 3 hours there taking it all in. Smoke, skull shaking drumming, incense, crushed squeezed limes under feet, sweat, throngs of devotees and observers clambering over each other to experience…something, and every sense under siege with every turn of your head.
When I stood still allowing the drumming to wallop over me and the smoke to fling itself around me I got a vague semblance of how these environments could elevate the stirrings of devotion you may have inside you to something more….tangible. When you have so much attacking your senses you get to lose a lot of sense. I was physically and mentally exhausted after it. I can only imagine how the people who actually took part in it felt. I loved it.

If you find yourself in Singapore for Thaipusam you need to experience it for yourself. Here’s some photos.

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What I felt like after it all…

Metallica: Live in Singapore 2017

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Metallica. The smell of leather jackets, blue denim, and wet green self-graffitied parka jackets. The pointy fonted logo that nobody could replicate or emanate to express HEAVY METAL ever again. The Black Album. Playing air guitar to “Sad But True” and “Where Ever I May Roam“. The confusing negativity from old die-hard fans baying for a return to ..And Justice For All and Master Of Puppets type slash and burn metal. The meandering and depressing direction after the Black Album. The return (somewhat) to form and roots on 2016’s Hardwired…To Self Destruct.

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It’s the morning after and my hearing is not good. I SAID MY HEARING IS NOT GOOD.
I saw Metallica the last time they played Singapore in a desolate parking lot at Changi Exhibition Centre in 2013. Heavy metal should not be expressed outdoors. It’s best savoured indoors where the sound can envelop you, bounce off the walls and into your ear canals; making your ears ring for a week after. The Indoor Stadium is a much much better venue for concerts. Having said that, the sound last night was a little muddled at times, especially for the first song of Metallica’s setlist: Hardwired. But they seemed to get on top of it after that.

Metallica Setlist Singapore Indoor Stadium, Singapore, Singapore 2017, WorldWired Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It says a lot about a band that include 6 songs from their latest album in a set-list of 18. They do fit in well into their set-list and the crowd were receptive yet reserved to them. It’s the classics that stand out though and are instant pleasers, which in a way is a bit of a shame that we have such overpowering fond memories of their “classic” days that you can’t help but wait for them to be played. And play them they do.

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Metallica have aged well and musically are near perfect on the night. It’s worth noting that Lars Ulrich now looks like a garden gnome.

Stand outs of the night have to be Master of Puppets, For Whom The Bell TollsSad But True, and Seek and Destroy. There were some minor flat notes, with James’ vocals and Kirk’s lead guitar on The Unforgiven sounding a little out of out of odds with each other during the verses. That’s nit-picking though.
One thing about the new album songs is that they’re not short. Average song length is about 6 or so minutes so they can get a little plodding.

Mention must be made about the stunning light and visual show that Metallica have on this tour. The screens give amazing close-ups of the band throughout which is very welcoming in a venue the size of the Indoor Stadium. The back-drops and lights that accompanied each song were top notch too.

Overall, a very good show indeed. Wonder will I get to see them again for the fourth time…? And where…?

Singapore Indoor Stadium as a concert venue standing on it’s own? Not bad. I arrived at 19:45 for what was stated as a 20:00 start. I walked straight into Pen B through the West Premier entrance without queues. I have a big problem with not knowing if there’s a support band or not. I was dreading having to stand through some guys biting their guitars for 30 minutes or so. Thankfully Metallica appeared on stage around 20:30.

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Queues for merchandise were horrendous. Sadly.

It didn’t look like there were enough food and beverage stalls. The lines were horrendous even a few minutes before the show started (at what point do you say “meh, didn’t need a beer anyway?”). The lines for merchandise outside before the gig were also huge and put me off buying anything. Something that needs to be looked at for future gigs methinks.

Ok, I took a few photos. I admit it. Then when I moved to the back of the venue for a quick getaway I filmed a little bit of Nothing Else Matters. Nobody was behind me, okay!
I swear, there was a guy in front of me for the first 6 or 7 songs live streaming the whole thing. He wasn’t the only one. There were people there who held up their cameras for the majority of the show. At times I would have had a good view of the stage if not for the stance of a new generation….hand in the air grasping a device.
When I went to the back there were more people taking selfies with the concert going on behind them than there were people actually watching and listening to the joy and magic that is LIVE MUSIC going on RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!

7 Ways to Survive Airports


I love travel. I hate traveling. Well, maybe dislike is the word. No, actually, it’s hate.

Airports and flying are the irritants at the start and the end of the most amazing adventures you can experience. I’ve talked about the airplane part of that here in a previous post.

So I’ve started trying to make my time in airports at least a little less painful. Here’s how.

1. Get a Priority Pass Card

If you’re not Richy McRich and fly First Class everywhere this might be an option for you. When my bank said to me last year I needed to get a new credit card I looked at their options and saw one that accrued air miles and also gave you a one year membership to something called Priority Pass, I read on. Priority Pass allows you to access certain airport lounges for a fee that would not be usually open to your everyday scumbag economy class traveler like me. I didn’t know about this. This could be a game changer. The membership my bank was offering was one where you get your first two visits to a lounge for free and then you pay $27 for each visit (charged automatically to my credit card) after and you can bring up to one guest. Sold. Whatever.
I have now used it every time I am flying and the relaxation, comfort, somewhat edible buffet food, and free booze makes the start of travel that little bit more manageable. If I can put away a couple of plates of food, a couple of beers, and stretch out and relax I think $27 is a steal.
There are different levels to membership I will look at when my first year is up. The more you pay the more free visits you get. You just have to estimate the amount of times you may be flying in a year and choose the right one for you.
One bummer I found recently with my trip to Australia was the lack of participating lounges in Australian airports (ie. only Cairns had a lounge when I was visiting although now Brisbane and Darwin have participating lounges). From a little investigating this is down to Virgin Australia removing itself from the Priority Pass network in 2011. Also in 2015, United Airlines pulled their lounges from the Priority Pass network greatly reducing Priority Pass’s presence worldwide.

2. Gate Awareness

Scope out your gate then scope out other gates within reasonable walking distance that are emptier and don’t have any flights leaving before yours. These are usually emptier and more relaxing meaning you can stretch out and prepare yourself mentally for the flight ahead. This is my main tactic. Sometimes it’s just not feasible but I try this every time.

3. Fuel for the Flight

Eat a snack or two (chips/sandwich and water); don’t gorge on fast food or heavy meals before flying. If it’s an hour long flight do whatever the hell you want but anything longer you don’t want to be bloated or want any unwanted reaction. Eat them in a quiet area (see above) and chill. Don’t forget you also have that healthy and hearty airplane food to look forward to!

4. Keep Informed

Check apps like FlightAware or FlightRadar24 to keep tabs on any delays or gate changes. I also download the actual airport app too just in case. If there is one.

5. Read light

Get some magazines that you would never in a million years read on any other normal day. For me, that’s movie magazines. For others, that might be Fly Fishing Monthly.

6. Chillaxe Yo!

Day dream. Meditate. Whatever you call it. Zone the hell out. Forget about what is happening around you. Airports are full of people who are stressing the hell out. Put in the earbuds and listen to some music that will help with this. Find a quiet place both physically and mentally.

7. Avoid The Rush

Finally, no need to join the mad scramble for the plane. You have a seat number right (well, maybe…)? Wait for the zone number or whatever. Although, this ties in with my method of just putting my backpack under the seat front; I don’t need to fight for overhead space. The longer you wait in the lounge the less time you sit in the opposite of a throne that they call airplane seats.

These barely make airports..bearable for me but every little bit helps. See you at Gate 34. My flight will be leaving from Gate 20.

7 Ways To Cope With Flying

Here’s how I barely survive the hell that is flying in the “cheap” seats in airplanes.

1. PLANNING

My plan of survival starts with planning my travel months beforehand. Fact: some airlines have better planes, seats, and in-flight entertainment than others. I pay more for a better plane and a better airline and start from there. If it’s a route I haven’t taken before I check out a number of third party websites (Zuji, Expedia, Google Flights) to see which airlines travel there. I usually never book on these websites and always go through the airline’s own website. Just a little simpler and there never really is any difference in price and probably slightly cheaper this way. If I know that budget airlines fly in that area and they’re not appearing on the third party websites I will go to their website and check it out.

Tip: If you type in to Google “flights singapore-hong kong” Google will give you a quick summary of what airlines fly that route which will give you a good summary:
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If you have connections, you need to scope out how long it might take you to transfer ( Do you need to pick up the bags from the carousel and place them in a transfer area? Do you have to travel 20 miles between terminals *cough Heathrow* ?) Having a longer connection sometimes is less stressful. I find 3 hours in between international flights is usually a comfortable timeframe.

2. SEATS

You’ve booked the flights. Seats time. I’m an economy guy unless I find an amazing business class deal (Air India Business Class is sometimes cheaper than Singapore Airlines Economy to Mumbai on 787 and KLM Singapore-Bali sometimes has some good Business Class deals). Does the airline offer Premium Economy? You may as well take it if it’s within your budget. What type of plane is it? You must check out SeatGuru.
Travelling as a couple?
On an Airbus 330/340? Choose the two seats on the side option.
Travelling on a Boeing 777/747/ or Airbus 380/350? Choose two seats in the middle three/four as nobody will be clambering over you then or vice versa on the side three seats.
Travelling on a narrow body? Choose two aisle seats across from each other. That way you each have at least some space on one side of you with the chance that the middle seat is empty.
Travelling alone?
On long haul wide body airplane flights choose the aisle seat in middle seating. That way only one person can bother you getting up to the toilet. When choosing your seat online look for empty seats in the middle of the middle section and empty seats in front of you. Maybe, just maybe, nobody will take them up and you wont have a seat in your lap and somebody fighting for elbow room beside you. On short hop flights on narrow body airplanes, choose the window seat if you think you can make it without toilet breaks.

Avoid seats near toilets (bulk row seats are commonly near toilets); the line of people is annoying. And the smell sometimes…well…

Bothered by turbulence? Center seats over the wings are preferable. Seats at the back of the plane tend to move side to side and have a different, more unsettling feeling in turbulence. Let’s face it though, turbulence happens and even though the B787/A350 is said to have a turbulence detection and dampening system, you’ll still ride through it more often than not no matter where you sit.

On a related note; KEEP YOUR SEATBELT ON! It beggars belief that there are still injuries occurring in those cases of severe turbulence because people are smashing their heads on the roof because they’re not strapped in.

3. STAY ALERT

Plane looking a bit empty and boarding is well under way? Always ask the flight attendant about the load and about moving to a more spacious area. I’ve often won the race to get 3 side seats to myself by asking early. Sit on the aisle/middle seat until after cruising so nobody gets an idea to share the three seats with you!

4. NOT DYING OF BOREDOM

I can’t sleep on planes. So I watch a lot of in flight entertainment. Start with short episodes, then move on to movies, then end with short episodes. Your brain won’t want to invest too much energy in Gone With The Wind near the end of a long haul flight. Short and snappy episodes are better. If you have a tablet/laptop load it up with your favourite movies/TV shows; you never know when the in-flight movie/TV choices will be pretty lame. Netflix now allows you to download shows so get to it!

I can’t sleep on planes so sometimes I drink alcohol. Yeah, that’s right. Everybody says don’t do it. I say I’ll handle my own dilemmas thanks very much.A couple of wines/beers puts you in to a more sedate mode; you might even nod off for a bit. If you are a violent and miscreant drunk then please skip over this paragraph. I find that I never lose any sense of common sense with alcohol on planes no matter how much I drink; I’ve tried. Believe me. Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa to Bangkok; I may have depleted their weekly allowance of Heineken. There was no in-flight entertainment…I had to do something…
Anyway, it works for me but it might not work for you and I tend not to drink on narrow bodies as access to toilets is less..accessible.

5. FOOD

Bring snacks on board. If at all possible put a carry-on under the seat in front of you for easy access. You will never know how inedible the food they serve you will be.

6. COMFORT

Economy Comfort/Premium Economy I’ll pay for within economic reason. Extra leg room like bulkhead row or emergency exit? I don’t go for it. More often than not at the bulkhead it’s beside a family with newly borns (not their fault etc.). Bulkheads usually go hand in hand with being beside the toilets too. With the evolution of in-flight entertainment being available the minute you get on board with some airlines (eg. Singapore Airlines or Emirates) you will be stuck until cruising altitude until you can take the screen out of the armrest.

Person in front has reclined in to your knee caps? Nothing much you can do about it unless you buy this which might just end up with you in a 40,000 feet fist fight. You can make a big deal about forcefully changing the angle of your TV and making sure you let the flight attendant know to tell them to push it forward when meals are served. When you are getting out to go to the bathroom make sure you bump as much as you can in to their seat; it actually will probably happen naturally anyway due to your confined space.
I just get really irked if they aren’t sleeping and are just watching TV. How much more comfortable are you right now? You are now reclined a few inches back. Congratulations.

7. LOSE TRACK OF TIME

A watched pot never boils. I always try and ignore flight maps and flight time left. Just pile on the TV shows and movies and embrace the inner couch potato you have inside you. You’ll know when you’re getting closer when they either a) start serving the final meal or b) the captain comes on and mumbles on about descending soon, thanking you for flying with us and hoping to see you soon mumble mumble mumble.

That’s about it. There’s not a lot you can do to actually immensely enjoy economy class flying. Especially on long haul flights. See you in 45D. Weeping.

Flying Premium Economy on Singapore Airlines A380


Fate and circumstance led me to recently purchase Premium Economy seats on Singapore Airlines’ A380 from Singapore to Zurich return. Fate and circumstance being that I was booking stuff last minute.

I’m a bit anal about airplane seats. I know what I want. I want First Class. But I can’t. It’s all about the Benjamins.
So I have Economy or Premium Economy (or whatever the airline is calling it) to choose from. Flying is hell, especially long haul. So any sense of added comfort or service can be very welcome. I will choose different airlines based on what seats and seat configurations are available. Yeah, that’s right.

Singapore Airlines’ Premium Economy is pretty expensive. Take for example, a flight in June 2017 to London below:

I would estimate you probably will be paying double-ish the price of Economy seats on any of the airlines (obviously that will go up as the months go on towards flight date). If you’re lucky. Seatguru has made a comparison list of all Premium Economy seats available on airlines worldwide which I have embedded at the end of this document. It’s an interesting read.

So what do you get with the extra (EXTRA) money spent on your seat? Inches yo, inches.
38″ inches seat recline instead of 32″ in Economy.
19.5″ instead of 19″ seat width in Economy. Now that may not read as much but the armrests in between seats in Premium Economy are huge and puts an end to the great elbow wars of the 21st century.
You also get two USB ports instead of one! Along with the standard power port too. Food wise, the only advantage is you can pre-book a set meal before you fly. Still the same airline food quality. Although I got a good piece of beef tenderloin on one of the legs.
The in-flight entertainment, naturally, is the same but the screen is 13.3 inches as opposed to 10.6/11.1 inches in Economy and they also give you over-ear noise cancelling headphones.
There is also a small amenity kit handed out with socks, toothbrush and toothpaste.

Boarding wise, you can avail of priority boarding and separate check-in counters (at least in Zurich we walked straight up to Premium Economy Check-In whilst guffawing at the throngs of Economy class passengers queuing up, I didn’t see a specific Premium Economy check-in at Singapore but it was quick anyways).

Specific experiences on these flights?

It was fine. On the way over SIN-ZRH the screens would flake out once in a while and on the way back we saw some passengers’ screens never work at all. So I think they have an issue there. I would not have been happy if my screen didn’t work at all!
I’m in two minds about non touchscreen displays which Singapore Airlines A380 has. On the one hand it stops people from banging your head with their excellent film choices from the seat behind you but on the other hand it’s cumbersome to twist your hand down to the remote every time to adjust volume or change what you’re watching.
The headphone sockets are pretty inconveniently located (behind and in between seats) and every time you take your tray out of the armrest your headphone cable gets caught up. Bad design in my opinion.
I didn’t find the leg rest and the foot rest added any comfort to my 5’11” skeleton, if I was a little shorter, maybe. Stretching out without them in place was good.
It also seems that the aisle seats C and D (not sure about H on the other side) have an inconvenient seat support from the seat in front that greatly restricts on foot space (see above video).
I guess the feeling of the small Premium Economy cabin space is nice, it doesn’t feel as mooooo cattle cart-esque as the seats behind. Although you have to walk all the way back to the Economy toilets so there’s that traipse through all that humanity has to offer.

Is it all worth it?

The A380 is a spacious plane as it is. It’s probably the best Economy seat experience you will get anyway so you really have to figure out what you want and what you can handle. Are you traveling as a couple? The two seat format by the window in Premium Economy can be nice (not having to deal with anybody else in your “area”) and the 28 seat cabin area can feel a little more spacious than the rest of Economy. When the person in front reclines fully it really does invade your space quite a bit though.
Service wise, there’s no real difference. Singapore Airlines is always going to have a very attentive and high level of service throughout. Don’t expect anything on the level of First Class Suites!

Would I choose Premium Economy again? Yes, of course, anything to alleviate the torture of long haul economy class flying will be entertained. IF it’s within economical boundaries ie. would it be cheaper to pay my way through flight school, rent a plane, and fly myself?

Here’s Seatguru’s Premium Economy Seating comparison which is pretty informative:

England v Germany Old Bloke Football Match

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And so it was, on the 12th night of November in the year of our lord, two armies summoned forth the power of Tiger Balm and vigorous muscle rubbing to face each other on the battle field that is Singapore National Stadium.

Mightier men have shown their unbridled enthusiasm and prowess on Singapore National Stadium’s hallowed turf than these aged stalwarths of the 90s football scene but none can question their bravery or track record as they suffered the humidity and absolute silence and emptiness of a very tiny crowd indeed. It was the equivalent of one man and his dog.

Hark, is that Heskey taking a tumble like the donkey of old? Tis, tis.
Behold, is that James fumbling an easy dribbler? Indeed.

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Click for video.

Alright. Ok. Let’s drop the reverie here. This was never going to be a normal event. A 55,000 seater stadium holding a masters football event? Whose amazing idea was that? I’ve seen reports that 10,000 people were there?! Drop a zero yo…they were giving away tickets in stores in the run up to this.

The game? It ended up 4-2. There were goals. There were tackles. The atmosphere sucked. The music was overbearingly loud and played every time there was a goal kick or throw in or free kick!! What is this?!  Baseball?! The PA announcer was woeful.

The English team was way way younger than the Alte deutsche Männer.

The fact that the biggest name, Paul Scholes, pulled out before the game says it all. The ticket I bought was $45 or so. I could have bought…something else…
They should have played smaller team indoor footy in the adjoining indoor stadium. Would have suited better.

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Here’s who was in each team:

England Masters: David James, Luke Young, Steve Howey, Des Walker, Michael Gray, Darius Vassell, Carlton Palmer, Darren Anderton, Steve McManaman, Teddy Sheringham, Emile Heskey

Substitutes: Paul Parker, Lee Hendrie, Danny Murphy, Michael Thomas

Germany Masters: Perry Brautigam, Marko Rehmer, Guido Buchwald, Jens Nowotny, Jorg Albertz, Dietmar Hamann, Carsten Ramelow, Lothar Matthaus, Mario Basler, Oliver Neuville, Alexander Zickler

Substitutes: Fredi Bobic, Karl-Heinz Riedle, Jorg Heinrich, Patrick Owomoyela

Staycation: Marina Bay Sands

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After spending two nights in relative solitude at Sofitel Sentosa Resort and Spa we targeted Marina Bay Sands for the next hit on our life savings and senses. Marina Bay Sands is always busy. 24/7.

The day before while basking by the pool at the Sofitel I got an SMS from MBS asking for time of arrival etc. etc. “to expedite check in”. No worries. Off I sent the SMS with a cheeky upgrade request.

Arriving by taxi to MBS at Tower 1 you are faced with a permanent Pokemon Go gathering. Seems that there is some good stuff in the lobby to be caught. While I waited in the queue to check in a staff member came up to me and asked for my details. Ok. So I said them again. And off he walks. No reason given. No advantages apparent. Worse was to come. Room wasn’t ready. SO WHAT WERE THE SMS AND ALSO THE DUDE IN THE SUIT ASKING FOR MY INFO FOR?!
Ok, I know check-in around the world is 3pm but it was around 12:30 we were there and the MBS has plenty of rooms to spare.

To cut a boring long story short, we went back at 3pm and got an upgrade to a suite with access to the Club55 lounge for drinks and nibbles from 7-9pm. Which was nice.

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Spacious suite

The suite was big and fine. We were greeted by window washers trying their best to wash the windows without peering in at the pseudo-rich peeps in the la-de-dah suite. The room smelled of stale smoke like a lounge bar in the 80s. I double checked the “No Smoking” sign on the wall again just in case I had imagined it. There was some sort of stain on the sliding door. I didn’t smell it to find out.

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Comfy bed

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Sit. Watch TV. If you want.

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The stain.

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Spacious balcony to go with the spacious suite.

The infinity pool is a must visit. You zap your card to gain access. The left side was the quietest, if you ever go and if you’ve read this far. The feeling of falling off the edge of the world slowly dissipates as you get near the edge and realise there are many platforms underneath you as you peer over.

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View from the infinity pool

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Night life in the infinity pool.

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Looking down on Singapore

Anyway, we won’t go back unless they read this and want to make it up to me as they messed us around with check-in and even though we got the upgrade (I believe they do this with every first visitor) the suite had seen many cigarettes-a-smokin’ and I still can’t forget about that stain….

Staycation: Sofitel Resort and Spa

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Sometimes even taking a one hour flight from Singapore can be too much energy to recharge the batteries. So you spend as much money as you would with flights and hotel and you spend a few nights in a hotel right here in Singapore. The hotel options on Sentosa are not cheap.

We decided to spend two nights at the Sofitel Sentosa Resort and Spa on Sentosa Island. Sentosa Island is like Alcatraz Island but with a theme park, hotels and a casino. Sometimes people try to escape after a bad night at the casino.

The Down-Low on the Sofitel
The Sofitel is quite a relaxing hotel. There’s not too much noise and chaos from tourists. It seems like it’s an airport stop-over half way house and is filled with weary middle aged travelers in need of some non-airplane existence for a while.

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Bed was large and comfortable. As was the room.

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TV remote was weird.

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Room had bath and shower.

There are peacocks. If you don’t like peacocks wandering around your sun lounger then go somewhere else. I’ll take peacocks over monkeys any day. The peacocks were not aggressive and went about their business but they do call out every now and then ruining the 0 dB atmosphere.

When I booked the room I somehow bought one which included 2 hours of free booze from 7-9pm and free soft drinks all day from Le Bar (everything has “Le” in front of it). It’s because of Le French. The drinks were welcomed and the service was prompt.

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Pool was quiet and relaxing.

We lounged by the pool for the majority of our time there. We walked into the main area of Sentosa is (Starbucks, Din Tai Fung, Universal Studios) and it takes about 25 minutes. The hotel has a shuttle but we like to walk.

Food…oh food. We were disappointed with both dinners.

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The Garden. With Peacock.

Dinner numéro un. The Garden. No “Le” here. Maybe it’s not good enough for that…
It’s a few minutes walk from the main hotel building, across the road, and housed in their spa complex. It’s open all day and we arrived around 5pm. There was a peacock waiting for us. Passed the peacock in to an empty dining room. One waitress folding napkins. Refuses to talk to us, ushers another waitress into proceedings.
Me: “Hello, are you actually open?”
Her: “Yes, we are very busy as we have a party outside”
Me: “Ok…”
Her:”…..”
Me: “Can we have a table?”
Her: “Sure!”
It went downhill from there. I ordered the chicken breast from the dinner menu and got a chicken wrap from the lunch menu. Our vegetarian ordered the Grilled Vegetables and Tofu Tian. She got a microwavable vegetable lasagne thing. Disappointed!

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The “very busy” empty dining room.

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Now what I ordered. Wasn’t even good.

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Slop.

We drank their wine, got the check, bid adieu to the peacock, and left. No à bientôt to them!

Dinner numéro deux. Kwee Zeen. Get it?

We opted for something from the de-light menu expecting a tasty but low in calories extravaganza. I probably got the most boring chicken breast (I like chicken) I have ever had the displeasure of eating. This chicken collected stamps, took note of train numbers, and read technical manuals for enjoyment during its sad pathetic life. And if he didn’t the chef is le jerk and did the poor chicken a terrible dis-service. Dull. Dull. Dull.

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I’ve never experienced eating a dinner and just wishing it was over so I could find something else to tackle my taste buds.

The vegetarian option “Portobello and Vegetables” was just that. Barely.
Both our tongues registered very little taste experiences in the 30 minutes we were there. I had to stick a fork in my tongue just to make sure it hadn’t cut off all blood circulation in protest.

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Tiny portion. Bunch of mushrooms under a few sprigs of arugula.

Now I will say, both nights we had to get some bar food at Le Bar to keep us going and the sushi and satay were good. Merci. Mercy.

Anyway. Le verdict?

Sofitel Resort as a whole? Relaxing. Refreshing.
The dinners at Sofitel Resort? Dull. Pointless.

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