This is a guestpost by our great friend Jeff Zeisler with whom we’ve traveled to Israel & Croatia – and apparently he isn’t done yet.
Singapore and Back in 72 Hours
Technically 74 hours…but I blame the delay on the way home, otherwise it would have been takeoff to touchdown in 72 hours. Pretty crazy, right? Okay, so before you say “What the hell?” or “You’re an idiot,” let me set this up for you to better understand why this was a fun, crazy, and dare I say, smart idea for me. I travel a lot for work, and for anyone who travels for work you know that status is KING. I am a strictly United airlines flyer (keep your thoughts to yourself we can argue that another day) and I was well on pace to keep my 1K status going into the last quarter of this year. Until…I was recently staffed on a local project which essentially sealed my fate. Big UGH. However, as an avid traveler I constantly scour the internet and blogs for the best travel deals and low and behold a $423 round trip from New York to Singapore on United popped up! I knew I had to do it, but when could I find the time to go to Singapore and back? Thanksgiving turned out the perfect timing for a handful of reasons.
1) My parents were going to Tokyo to visit friends so I had no obligation to go home.
2) Thanksgiving isn’t a thing in other countries so typically flights around those times are cheap. I found a flight out at 6pm Monday, Nov 20th and returning at 6am Friday, Nov 24th. You might say, “why not stay longer?” Well two more reasons; A) deals don’t consider my availability and if I tried to fly back Friday or later the price spiked. B) I was using hotel points for my one night and didn’t want to use more/wasn’t using this trip as a “vacation” but more of a business trip. Well, the business of keeping my status at least!
Begin the 74 Hours:
I started out leaving work at 3:30 on a Monday – a big deadline date for my company . . . oops? But, it was the Monday before Thanksgiving so to be fair, many people were either already out or heading out. Anyways, I got to the airport and was in the security line when a lady claimed she was going to miss her flight, so I chivalrously let her jump in front, I was in no hurry. Life lesson to travelers, try to minimize stress when traveling. But, also understand that others don’t function in that same mind frame so if you can, let others go, it’s good karma. I was 50 minutes early for boarding so I went to the United lounge where I do not have access as domestic airlines make you pay annual membership to clubs. Yet, I was on an international ticket so figured I would try my luck.
When I explained my situation to the receptionist she immediately turned me away. However, once I mentioned “I’m 1k”, she responded with, “Why didn’t you lead with that?” I was in, and with 50 min to kill no less. Now I will tell you, United Clubs are ass, Star Alliance lounges are way better, but I was at Newark and I work with what I got.
I had three red wines before I boarded all while checking the app the entire time since I was first on the upgrade list, with only 1 spot remaining. Right before I left the club the first class showed “full”…UGH. So I begrudgingly took my seat at 18a on the massive 777 from EWR to SFO. Yet to my surprise within 2 minutes of sitting I was upgraded to first class. SCORE! I immediately ordered a drink and started making friends with the high society that is first class fliers. Allow me to remind you, that it’s ‘lay flats’ on these transcontinental flights so, an excellent upgrade. When I told everyone about why I was on this flight they were immediately intrigued, but when I told them how much I paid for the round trip to Singapore they about lost it. That’s right, $423 round trip from NYC to Singapore and actually – I only paid 30k in Chase points for the flight. Word to the wise, you can use Chase, or other credit card points, for revenue generating tickets. Dinner menu looked excellent and I was ready to enjoy some drinks on this 5 hour flight to SFO!
Of course, the guy next to me ordered a double Titos on the rocks. . .
. . . so I had to follow suit! Dinner was decent, had the Salmon with bok choy and ramen. But, if this was actually United Polaris, the desert would be amazing. All and all this was actually one of my worse first class experiences. For all of you out there currently thinking “shut up” – honestly, sit in first class and tell me you shouldn’t have service at your beck and call. …Anyways, I still managed to get a solid amount of drinks in and enjoy myself. So, not too shabby on the heels of my 17 hour flight from SFO to Singapore.
I boarded the plane, popped a sleep aid and I was GONE. Except, sleeping for 8 hours only meant that I had 9 MORE HOURS TO GO. The rest of the flight I was in and out and really I can’t find anything interesting to tell you about that time.
We landed in Singapore at 7:30am Wednesday, Nov 22nd. So, if you’re keeping track that means I was flying for literally all of Tuesday, Nov 21st. Kind of crazy, right?
Fun fact for all you nerds out there, all flights in and out of Singapore are international as it is a city state! I forgot this until I was wondering where passport control was. Yet of course, it’s at the exit of the airport cause everything is international in and out of Singapore.
The clock had started ticking. . .
Now, I had 24 hours in Singapore. I snagged an Uber and got to my hotel around 9am – simultaneously realizing that it’s unbelievably hot and humid in Singapore so, pack accordingly. Once checked in I was upgraded to a suite to recharge (can you see a pattern emerging? Status pays!) I freshened up and did what I usually do and just started exploring the city. Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to have a friend of a friend who currently lives in Singapore hook it up with a full 24 hour guide of to-dos. Big shout out to Lisa, thanks again!
First things first, I was hungry so I hit up a food market in Chinatown recommended by aforementioned Lisa. I went to the Maxwell “Hawker Center” and got some late breakfast/ early lunch at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, with a side of Tiger beer made in Singapore!
After meal #1 I started walking towards the marina to see the iconic Singapore shot. Now, to get to the Marina from Chinatown you have to pass through downtown. It’s what I would assume was the financial district of Singapore, and seemed eerily similar to downtown LA. I say that because of the massive infrastructure, but with very few people walking around (and us New Yorkers are use to the masses). Once I got to the marina I first went to get my much needed Instagram shot in the books, so I walked over to the Merlion at Marina Bay and asked a fellow sightseer to snap my pic.
After fulfilling my Insta-quota I continued around the Marina and over the Marina Bay Sands. Side note, Singapore has some MASSIVE malls. The bar on top of the Sands wasn’t open until noon so I popped over to the “Gardens by the Bay,” of which I am certain many of you have seen pictures of. The main attraction being the Supertree Grove of giant metal trees, the tallest being 16 storeys high.
Cé La Vi is the name of the bar on top of the Marina Bay Sands tower which I had heard had an amazing view. FYI, it will cost you $20 to go up. But you get the $20 as credit towards your drink – which you’ll need cause my glass of rosé was $29! To their credit though, the view was, predictably, spectacular. As amazing as the view of the city skyline is, and the sprawling high rises and buildings to the north, I was also fascinated by the thousands of cargo ships sitting out in the bay to the south and the east.
Time for Meal #2
I decided to walk over to another hawker center, but this time in Little India called the Tekka Center. Upon arrival, I did a few laps to check out what places caught my eye (acting like I knew anything about what I actually wanted or knew was good). Landing on a Punjabee place, I ordered a modest plate of Chicken Tikka Masala, over white rice, with two naan….oh and a large beer of course.
After meal #2 I decided to head back to the hotel, maybe take a nap, freshen up and get ready to meet Lisa, my unofficial tour guide, for an 8pm dinner. All in all I had been out for about 6 hours and walked close to 15km! Plus it was hot and gross, I needed a break. I swung back to the hotel to recharge and ended up napping for about an hour. Lisa unfortunately remained mysterious and got stuck at work late, so I was on my own.
The night could have gone much worse
I found a delicious Chinese place about a 10 minute walk from my hotel, but when I arrived the restaurant was closed and under construction. There was another Chinese restaurant close by called Long Ji Zi Char, not as highly rated, but figured I would give it a shot. This was meal #3, and it turned out to be absolutely delicious! I had the Gong Bao Spicy Chicken over white rice.
After dinner I needed to walk off the third and last meal so I took a night stroll down to the river and made my way back up to hotel. To my delight, the city is very well lit, safe and couldn’t be easier to get around! A solo travelers dream.
Now began the voyage home
Always fly east, much faster! Although my first leg is 14 hours so it still is a trek. My flight leaves at 10am on Thanksgiving morning and arrives at 8am in San Francisco on Thanksgiving morning….wait, is that considered time travel?
International date line – look it up!
I arrived at the airport a little early to get some food and drinks in me at the Singapore airlines lounge before I took off. Not the best Star Alliance lounge in Asia, but it got the job done.
My plan for the flight was to stay up, read and watch some shows/movies for the first 6ish hours and then try and sleep the last 8, because the flight was essentially a red eye that landed in San Fran at 7am. You’ll all be glad to know I executed my plan flawlessly….until we hit some very bad turbulence over the Pacific. If you fly enough you experience turbulence and know it’s not much to worry about as it rarely damages planes. However, this was probably the worst I had ever felt. Thankfully, this crisis was averted, and we were safe. The flight even got into SFO 20 min early!
My original itinerary had me laying over in San Fran for 6 hours, flying to LA, killing time for another 6 hour layover and taking the red eye into NYC and landing at 6am on Friday. No way to spend Thanksgiving right? Since we landed a bit early, I quickly shuffled through customs and right over to the gate where the 9:45 direct from SFO to Newark was getting ready to board. (Again another thankful for status plug). I was able to get on standby for the flight where I jumped up to number 1 on the list and I was the last person to get a seat on the plane. I was going to get home by 6pm on Thanksgiving!
But wait….not so fast…
We ended up having an aborted takeoff. I have been on a plane for one of these before, but for those who haven’t it is not the most calming feeling. We ended up needing maintenance to fix a valve on our engine and were delayed for about 3 hours.
Finally, I landed at Newark around 8:30pm and was back to my apartment around 9:30pm. In total about 74 hours from takeoff to touchdown at Newark. All that happened in between was a quick day trip to Singapore! Oh and some delicious meals, of course some cool pics, and a funny story to tell.