Tim Foolery

Home » 2018 » September

Monthly Archives: September 2018

Let’s Go Singapore Bike Tour

When visiting a new city, I love to hop on a bike tour.  Seeing a city by bike is seeing it like a local. Living life like a local.  You feel the pulse of the city and can truly experience the vibrancy.  With only 68 hours on the ground a Singapore Bike Tour was in order.  First off, I had to find a knowledgeable, local guide and jump on a bike.  It was clear, after just a few searches, that Let’s Go Singapore was the right company to lead me around this City.

After sharing an awkward breakfast at the M Hotel, I hopped on the train and made my way to the Let’s Go Singapore offices.  Arriving 30 minutes early for the tour, I sat outside and organized plan for the post tour afternoon.  The tour was small, just me and two young German tourists.  It can make for an amazing trip when you have a small group of fit tourees.  I’ve had some overcrowded bike tours with people who haven’t ridden a bike in years (like our tour in Barcelona) and it just kills me.

Singapore Bike Tour

Let’s Go Singapore – Fully Stocked for a Bike Tour

Singapore Bike Tour

Let’s Go Singapore is opening a cooking school too. After your bike ride, you can make traditional Singapore cuisine!

The Tour

After adjusting our bikes and getting a brief rundown of the plan, we headed out.  Our guide was really excellent.  First off, he told us the rules of the road in Singapore.  Who has the right of way and how to interpret his directions throughout the ride.  And we’re off.

We moved quickly throughout the City, visiting some major sites, plus places that normal tourists likely wouldn’t see.  We visited places that tourists wouldn’t find on their own either.

Singapore Bike Tour

The Formula One Track in Singapore – Used by the citizens when not racing season

Singapore Bike Tour

Our tour group, posing on the F1 Track

Singapore Bike Tour

Marina Bay Sands from the Singapore Bike Tour

Singapore Bike Tour

Three bike tourees in front of the three towers of Marina Bay Sands

Singapore Bike Tour

Riding away, early in the tour. Singapore’s National Stadium looms ominously in the background.

Singapore Bike Tour

The Gardens by the Bay Arboretum

Singapore Bike Tour

The Singapore Flyer Ferris Wheel

Singapore Bike Tour

Love the greenery built into the architecture all throughout Singapore

Singapore Bike Tour

Closing out the tour near the Mosque

Singapore Bike Tour

I’m really not upset, despite the angry look on my face!

Singapore Bike Tour

Riding away, early in the tour. Singapore’s National Stadium looms ominously in the background.

Singapore Bike Tour

Singapore Bike Tour

The vibrant dining area near the mosque.

Singapore Bike Tour

Colorful Haji Street in Singapore

The day we toured was a little overcast, with a constant threat of thunderstorms.  You can see the cloudiness in the photos, they are not as crisp and clear as I’d like them to be.  Midway through our tour, we had to stop and take refuge in a shopping mall.  Shopping malls are ubiquitous in Singapore and we were thankful for that when it started to rain.

The tour lasted about four hours, plus a bit more because of the rain delay.  This was an active tour, but not a strenuous effort.  I really enjoyed every part of this tour and can’t recommend it enough.  For S$80 ($58USD), I defy you to find a more knowledgeable guide and more fun tour.

No matter how much time you’ve got to spend in Singapore – but especially if it is only 68 hours – seek out Let’s Go Singapore and get to know the city.  While I’m sure all the guides are great, Alfie was really phenomenal.

Do you take cycle tours when on vacation?  What better ways do you have of getting to know a new city in such short order?  What other tour would you recommend in Singapore?  Have you used Let’s Go for a Singapore Bike Tour?

United Premier 1K Status Just Got Harder to Achieve

Changes to the MileagePlus program, most notably the United Premier 1K Status have been announced.  MileagePlus offers six levels of status to frequent flyers: General Member, Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K and Global Services.  Basically, the more you fly the higher your status.  I’ve been a Premier Platinum member for a few years now.  To earn this status I must fly at least 75,000 miles annually, plus spend $9,000 with United.

Historically, United Premier 1K Status has been awarded to members who fly 100,000 miles annually and spend $12,000 with United.  I’ve never flown enough paid miles (miles flown on award tickets don’t count in this tally) in a given year to earn 1K Status.  I’m pretty content with my simple Premier Platinum too.  Each year, I do the math and see if it makes sense to accelerate travel to earn 1K status. I never has, for me.

United just announced a change in the earning requirements for Premier 1K Status.  In addition to flying 100,000 miles annually, you’ll have to spend $15,000 with United.  That’s a 25% jump year over year.  Now this is effective for status starting in 2020.   Therefore, you’ll have to fly the same number of miles, but spend quite a bit more money just to keep (or earn) your Premier 1K Status.

United BusinessFirst Amenity Kit

United BusinessFirst Amenity Kit

United has been making some other changes recently too.  In addition to the changes to their boarding process, they are also changing the earning bonus on one of their premium fares.  You can check out their dedicated website for all the details.

Are you currently a Premier 1K?  How does this change impact your travel plans for 2019?  How easy will it be for you to requalify for this lucrative status.

Singapore Sling at Raffles

The Raffles Hotel is colonial Singapore. Opened 1887, it has been the mainstay of imperial stature and architecture in the region. I love visiting classic hotels while traveling; especially when these hotels have famous cocktails like the Singapore Sling. I find the colonial hotels in southeast Asia really pique my interest. While the ideal of oppressive imperialism turns my stomach, the romanticized notion really gets me going. Living in relative luxury, overseeing your “enterprise” – and in this scenario, “your enterprise” is the pillaging of the land and the enslavement of the people. But I digress.

A major renovation has closed the Raffles Hotel. It is slated to reopen again in the first half of 2019. Obviously that didn’t work for me. I was fortunate enough that the fine Raffles folks opened a PopUp Shop next to their hotel. Of course I had to stop by.

Raffles Bar PopUp Singapore Sling

The Long Bar PopUp in Singapore

The PopUp

The PopUp has a limited menu, consisting of only five items, two of which are alcohol-free. The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel is known for the Singapore Sling, which they invented. This cocktail cost 31SGD or 22USD, which is outrageously expensive for this cocktail. I still ordered it, but I didn’t order a water as the tiny bottles were 14SGD OR $10USD. I’m usually not a cheapskate, but these prices are extreme.

Cocktail Menu

Limited menu at the Long Bar PopUp in Singapore

Singapore Sling

A refreshing Singapore Sling. Expensive but amazing.

The Original Singapore Sling was phenomenal, despite the crippling price. I debated on ordering a second but, after working all day on Tuesday, traveling 23.5 hours, sleeping a bit and having a full first night ahead of me, I decided to stick to just one Original Singapore Sling.

Singapore Sling Advertisement

Singapore Sling Advertisement

I enjoyed the cocktail and when / if I am back in Singapore, I will grab another one at the proper bar in the renovated hotel.

Do you like hitting up classic hotels and trying their famous cocktails? Have you visited Raffles before? Aren’t these prices nuts?

SO Sofitel Singapore

The SO Sofitel Singapore was our second hotel on our stay.  We moved out of the M Hotel because we wanted a nicer property and a great pool.  The price was identical too.  We collected our bags, that we left on Friday morning at the M and made our way just a couple blocks away to the SO Sofitel.

The Brand

I’m sure we are all familiar with the Sofitel brand, a part of the Accor Hotel Chain.  Accor includes other less exciting brands like Ibis, Red Roof Inn and Motel 6 (they also have the Swissôtel and the Fairmont names too).  The SO Sofitel brand is part of Accor’s Luxury line.  With only four properties currently open, it’ll be tough for the average traveler to experience the great spaces.  Each of the four hotels were designed by a different fashion designer.  Karl Lagerfeld designed the Singapore outpost, and I just loved it.  The designer put their touch on the fabrics, the furniture design and and the accessories.

In addition to Singapore, you can find an SO Sofitel property in Mauritius (designed by Kenzo Takada), Bangkok (Christian Lacroix) and Hua Hin (Polpat Asavaprapha).  I didn’t know where Hua Hin was (did you?) – it’s south west of Bangkok.  SO Sofitel plans to open additional properties in Berlin, Auckland, Kuala Lampur, Samui, Jakarta and of course, Paris.

SO Sofitel Singapore

Checking into the SO Sofitel was a delight, especially compared to the gauntlet that was the M Hotel.  A slim, sleek desk, staffed by two eager employees welcomed us in immediately.  The lobby was bustling with guests and staff flitting between the high design furniture and expertly curated displays.  While the back office check-in work was done, we were given a quick rundown of the hotel.  A long drawn out welcome process is a major pet peeve of mine.  The one thing we weren’t told about was the pool and we didn’t think of it until we were actually on our way to the pool a little later that day.

After declining the assistance with our luggage, we made our way to the elevators across the lobby, passing beautifully appointed sitting areas.  These areas were being used by guests enjoying a coffee or reading a magazine.  People wanted to spend time in the lobby – who wouldn’t? It was beautiful.

High Contrast Lobby Seating Area

The high gloss and high contrast seating area in the Lobby made me want to sit and order a drink.

Club Chairs in the Lobby

Two club chairs in the lobby. A little colonial, a little steam punk, a lot fabulous.

Mirrored Hall in Lobby

The mirrored hall in the lobby added openness to this beautiful space.

Karl Lagerfeld Designs

The Lagerfeld styled lobby

We make it to our room, on the sixth floor.  The beauty continued from the common spaces into the private areas.  Bright white walls and colorful accents brought so much energy into the space.

King Room Designed by Karl Lagerfeld

The main room. Comfortable bed and on point design.

Glass box bathroom at the SO Sofitel Singapore.

The room looking into the glass walled bathroom. I prefer more privacy than just a curtain.

Coffee and tea bar in room at the SO Sofitel Singapore.

The coffee/tea station had everyone you’d need to make yourself a cuppa.

The stylized minibar.

Complimentary minibar, with limited but flavorful snacks. Replaced daily.

The layout was a little funky as you were met with a large double sided closet right when you walked in.  I assume that was a functional issue as it is likely hiding some building mechanicals too.

The SO Sofitel was unlike the M Hotel in almost every way.  Not always positive though.  The desk was a proper writing desk, with limited real estate. Since I wasn’t here to work, I wasn’t frustrated by the lack of space.

The work space at the SO Sofitel Singapore ws a bit limited.

How is a raven like a writing desk? Neither have enough space for me to work properly. Beautifully styled though.

The Bathroom

The bathroom was large, and was great for a single traveler.  I do not dig the large glass bathrooms, when traveling with others.  I want bathroom privacy, no matter who I’m traveling with.  The toiletries and other bathroom accessories were well appointed and you could even see that Lagerfeld had his hand on this part of the design too.  The small storage boxes were fun and functional – although, you can see they didn’t quite fit in their designated spaces.

Glass box bathroom at the SO Sofitel Singapore.

The room looking into the glass walled bathroom. I prefer more privacy than just a curtain.

Bathroom at SO Sofitel Singapore.

The efficient bathroom. Notice the toiletry box, above the toilet.

His and her toiletries.

His and her toiletries. The box was too big for it’s home. I was afraid it would fall into the toilet!

His and hers toiletries at the SO Sofitel Singapore.

His and hers toiletries at the SO Sofitel Singapore.

Lagerfeld designed bathroom accessories.

Even the soap and tissue dispenser had Lagerfeld written all over them!

The Pool

When one thinks of Singapore and hotel pools, I’m sure the Infinity Pool at Maria Bay Sands is the first thing that comes to mind. It sure was with me.  Unfortunately, there is no way to access that pool without being a paying guest and I had no intention of spending $600USD per night for access to a pool.  The SO Sofitel Singapore has a rooftop pool with a fully staffed bar.

Surrounded by downtown high rises, the pool felt like an urban oasis.  The infinity edge isn’t as grand as the Marina Bay Sands, but it is a fun spot to hang out.

Obligatory, relaxing by the pool leg shot

Obligatory, relaxing by the pool leg shot

Infinity Pool at SO Sofitel Singapore

The infinity pool with in water loungers and adjacent bar.

The bar at the pool is limited, but the cocktail offerings are truly on point.

Cocktail from the Pool Bar

An equatorial cocktail bar must serve SOMETHING in a coconut, right?

Poolside drinks served in shatterproof drinware - a huge step above plastic.

A refreshing colonial cocktail served in bamboo, poolside.

Poolside cocktails

A beautiful pair

Our time at the pool was late in the day when it had started to cool off a bit.  We were one of only three groups spending time at this oasis too.  I could easily spend half a day lounging, reading, swimming and drinking here.  Unfortunately, the city of Singapore was calling and we had to continue our exploration.

Have you experienced the luxury that is the SO Sofitel Singapore?  What about the other SO properties throughout the world?  I am excited to see the other urban offerings as the come online.

Beagle 2.0 an American Express Gift

I recently signed up for the new Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card by American Express.  Two days later I received my card and have been using it diligently ever since.  I chose to sign up for this card because of the sign up bonus – after spending $5,000 in three months you earn 100,000 Marriott Points.  Today, I received a surprise gift from AmEx – the Beagle 2.0.

Beagle 2.0 from American Express

Beagle 2.0 seems like an odd gift from American Express.

What is the Beagle 2.0

What is it exactly?  Well, it’s a bluetooth tracking device, like Tile, Protag or TrackR.  If you aren’t familiar with these devices, you attach them to your keys, your wallet, your dog or anything else that could get lost and you’d want to find in quick order.  You connect the device to your mobile phone and when you lose it, you can find it with your phone.  These ubiquitous devices are given away quite frequently; I get them at conferences all the time.

Now, it’s not necessarily strange to get these from a credit card company, but what I do think is strange is that it arrived with no warning.  Usually credit card companies like to tout the additional benefits they are giving their members.  There wasn’t even a welcome letter or real instruction on how to use the device.  The only thing in the box was a card with the app name – other than the disclosures.  The first of which, says that AmEx will not be tracking me with this new tracking device they’ve gifted me.  Well, isn’t that nice of them?

Who else received Beagle 2.0 from American Express?  Is it just me, or does this seem like a strange gift?  Do you find any value in these bluetooth trackers?