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Tim Foolery

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Tag Archives: International

Separate Vacation From Your Spouse?

Do you ever take a separate vacation from your spouse?  I’ve only taken one proper vacation without my spouse.  My job doesn’t afford me much travel options between Thanksgiving and March, but there is a sweet spot in January that I can get away for a long weekend.  Years ago, my spouse had to be in Brazil during this sweet spot – and the airfare to Brazil was prohibitively expensive.  I’m talking $5,000USD in economy for a long weekend.  No way.  That year, I decided to take a long weekend and visit Stockholm.  I struggled on that trip.

Other than my quasi-bachelor party to Hong Kong, I have not taken another proper vacation without him.  2019 leads us to an opportunity where we will both be vacationing separately.  He has always wanted to raft the Grand Canyon – the whole thing.  This trip is more than two weeks long and is nearly one of the farthest from something I’d want to do.  The idea of two weeks of camping, hiking and rafting just doesn’t appeal to me.  I wouldn’t ever stop him from going, but wild dogs couldn’t drag me to this trip.

Thai Airways First Class

Mike and I taking a break from the movie we were watching to pose for photos during caviar service.

He booked his trip and now that means I’ve got a couple weeks of vacation that I need use without him.  I’ve got a couple of ideas in mind, but wanted to see what you do?  Do you regularly take vacations without your significant other?  I’m not talking about work trips either – let’s keep it to proper vacations.  Do you take a separate vacation from them? How do you decide where to go?  Why do you not travel together?  Is it a regular thing?

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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?

M Hotel Singapore

Have you even heard of the M Hotel Singapore?  I hadn’t either, before my stay.  Located a short walk from the Tanjong Pagar Metro Station, the M Hotel really does cater to business travelers.  Found in the central business district and surrounded by densely packed skyscrapers.  This hotel was where Mike stayed for the week while in Singapore. His office is just around the corner.

Check-In

I arrived around 13h00.  My name had been put on our reservation and it was made clear that I would just need to show up, present a photo ID and grab my key.  Not so much.  When I arrived, the four people working reception were chatting amongst themselves and watching something on their phones.  After a couple “Excuse mes” and “Pardons”, one lady tore herself away to help me.  She said Mike didn’t have a reservation, despite the fact that he’d been there for four days already.  She eventually found it, but said I wasn’t listed and he’d have to come back and vouch for me.  Fine…I’d just leave my suitcase and head out to explore.  Since I had taken a shower in Taipei just a few hours earlier, that wasn’t a big deal.  She wouldn’t let me check my luggage – it was only for registered guests.

“MayI speak to the front desk manager please?”

A couple minutes later, the manager arrives, I explain my situation and he immediately says “Ah, yes, Mr. Timothy. Mr. Mike told me of your arrival.  You are in room X on the 24th floor.”  Then he started speaking Mandarin to the woman previously helping me.  He was pointing vigorously at the monitor and appeared to be scolding her.  I don’t speak Mandarin in the slightest, but I know when someone is getting a dressing down.  He delivered my keys with way too many apologies.

The Room

The elevators were a little slow, so once one arrived, it was a bit like Lord of the Flies trying to board.  I had forgotten about pushy Chinese Tourists.  I didn’t make it on the first elevator.  The second one was mine – I barreled through the crowd and made it to my room in short order.

Equipped with a queen sized bed, this room was meant for a business traveler.  The room was a decent size and served our most basic needs well.

Full queen room view

The compact and efficient room.

The minibar was stocked.

TV and minibar flanked one wall.

The work space

This rooms work space was large with lots of power outlets.

Lounge Chair

Lounge chair with a view

While a relatively nice hotel, it didn’t have a relaxed vacation feel to it. We decided to move after just one night.  The hotel did have a pool, but it looked pretty rough and I really wanted to spend at least an hour poolside.  We decided to move to the SO Sofitel for the last two nights of our stay.

Other than the issues at check-in and the hordes of loud Chinese tourists commandeering the elevators, we had one other interesting experience.  While grabbing breakfast one morning, I was enjoying some noodles and dumplings (I hate traditional breakfasts) and a man just sits down with me at the two-top table.  85% of the other tables were completely free, but he chose to dine with me.  He didn’t say a word. He read his news paper and slurped his noodles.  It was so strange – I have never seen anything like this before.

Have you stayed at the M Hotel Singapore before?  What did you think of the property?  Did you hang out at the pool at all?  How many random Chinese people sat down with you at breakfast?

Duration versus Frequency of Travel

As an American working at an American firm, I get a very limited amount of vacation time. After being at my current employer for more than a decade I get just 15 vacation days each year. That’s three weeks total. That’s not enough to go and do what I want to do, so I have to really plan my trips.  People often ask me if the frequency of travel is “worth it.”  Why go away for such a short period, they ask? For only three full days in Europe is it worth the expense of the airfare, the jet lag and everything else. To that, I say a resounding YES!  If I didn’t love short, frequent trips, I wouldn’t have flown to Singapore for 68 hours last month!

Singapore Gardens by the Bay

Singapore by night

You don’t have to have a month long sabbatical to disconnect and recharge your batteries. Taking a few days can help you reset and re-energize. You just need to be in the right mindset.

Frequency of Travel

Last year, my best friend got married. We had a couple of quick trips to associated with the wedding, but each time we added just a single day to the festivities and made a proper vacation out of the time. Weddings are always busy, but we came into the weekends knowing that we had a single day for a proper vacation and we fully used that day.

For example, the ceremony was in Palm Springs. The wedding events were from Friday through Sunday (not all day though). We arrived on Thursday morning and spent that day and most of Friday properly vacationing. With only two days away, we planned and we executed. Our offices knew we completely out of pocket. We didn’t do any work once we landed in Palm Springs – we disconnected; not even email. We ate; we drank; we didn’t really DO, we just were. It was fabulous.

One of my favorite podcasts, Happier, with Gretchen Rubin, focused on Duration versus Frequency this week. Gretchen and Liz talked about their trips to see each other, their parents their friends and even trips just with their spouses. They posited, and I agreed, more frequent vacations or contact is much better than long duration and much less frequent.

I’ve been a firm believer of this for years and have even written about it here before. If I felt I had to take a two-to-three week vacation each year, I would take just a single trip – and that would kill me.

What do you think? Do you prefer frequency or duration? I know, I’d rather have frequent, long trips, too, but that’s not really an option for most of us. What has been your favorite small duration trip you’ve taken this year?

EVA Air Royal Laurel Class (Business Class) TPE-SIN

Walking down the gate, I take the first left turn and board our Boeing 777-300 through door 1L. Like my last flight, from Chicago, I was seated in a window seat in the second cabin on EVA Air Business Class. This time I was on the right (starboard) side of the plane – I like to mix it up from, time to time, ya know.

The Flight

I neared my seat, a stew approached me, welcoming me on board.  As I got settled she immediately took my drink order. She returned with my drink and took my briefcase from me to stow in the overhead. Such different service than United, huh? I sit down and was handed a warm, moist towel and a glass of champagne. This shorter, non-flagship service, served Delamotte Blanc de Blanc 2007, and not Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame. It was good, but you could definitely tell the difference in their long-haul vs medium/short routes.

Champagne in EVA Air Business Class

Pre-departure champagne

EVA Air Welcome Message

Welcome Aboard

This flight was also quite empty, with only 12 of 38 seats occupied. The four and a half hour schlep to Singapore was pretty damn efficient. I really am not a breakfast guy in general and don’t like congee.  When I saw the beef noodle soup as a breakfast option, I knew that was my selection! It had been 20 hours since I left home, I wasn’t in the breakfast mood.

Beef Noodle Soup

Beef Noodle Soup with all the Accouterments

Beef Noodle Soup

Beef Noodle Soup for Breakfast

A simple fruit dessert

A simple fruit dessert

The beef noodle soup was amazing. I did pull out the 4 inch piece of giggly beef fat immediately though. The soup was a bit bland at first, but after mixing in the condiments (or as the menu says traditional delicatessens), it was great. I usually steer clear of soups on a plane, the turbulence and spilling or burn issues, but I am so happy I didn’t here.

Pajamas are not provided on such a short flight( which is really a no brainer, why would you need them?) We were not provided an amenity kit, which was disappointing. Since I didn’t get the Rimowa kit out of Chicago, I was hoping I’d get one on this leg. A bit disappointing.

After the meal was cleared, I ordered another glass of champagne and a water. Dropping the seat into a bed I decided to get some more rest.  I knew I’d have a long day ahead of me (landing at noon meant I had at least 10 hours of activity ahead of me).

I snoozed off and on over the remaining three hours of flight time. We approached Changi Airport and unlike the last leg, the stews were calm and gracious, closing out their pre-arrival duties about eight minutes before the wheels touched down.

Since we deplaned from door 2L I was the third person off the plane and quickly made my way through immigration, customs and to the airport’s train station.

Changi Airport

Changi Airport

In Conclusion

I was really looking forward to experiencing and comparing EVA 777-300 service on both long and short haul flights. The hard product was the same, which I love. The service and food was really top notch as well. The real differences were the PJs, amenity kits and the really awful entrees on the long-haul.

The only other time I’ve flown a regional Business Class product in Asia before was between Bangkok and Hanoi, Taipei and Bangkok, Bangkok and Rangoon and Bangkok to Soeul all on Thai Airways. Those Thai products differed greatly and of them all, I’d prefer to stick with EVA. I’m flying Singapore to Bangkok later this trip and can’t wait to compare that product.

What do you think about EVA’s Regional service? Does it seem crazy to you that an airline would fly an internationally configured long-haul aircraft in a short 4.5 hour hop? I wish United would fly Polaris Business Class flights from Chicago to the west coast!