After a long hiatus, I got back to traveling with the Singapore Grand Prix. Admittedly, I am no F1 fan (or sports fan for that matter)… but this was an absolutely amazing weekend. Probably the best decision we made was staying at the Marina Bay Sands, with it’s rooftop pool deck view of the city and quick pedestrian bridge to the race track. We were able to watch some of the practice runs and secondary races from the comfort of the water, drink in hand.
But if you are going to be in town for a Grand Prix, you have to be down where you can feel the action. We got walkabout tickets for all four zones, which gave us access to both the starting line/pit area and the more crowded area where the bars and concerts were centered. We liked not being tied to the grandstand so we had the freedom to roam around the track and take it in from different angles. After a test run on Saturday, we determined though that the best place to watch the Grand Prix was from directly in front of the pits where we could see the screens and hear the announcers (even over the noise of the cars with our ear plugs in).
The headlining act on Saturday night was The Killers, who rocked the house with incredible energy. Rihanna was the headliner on Grand Prix night and she was completely disengaged, making for a pretty lackluster performance.
I guess Singapore can be pretty expensive at the best of times, but the clubs and restaurants were all at premium that weekend boasting guest DJs like Paris Hilton. There seems to be a lot of British colonial influence left in the food there, as there were countless pubs and “toast shops” to be found. Honestly, the food wasn’t great though. An ex-pat living there explained that the most affordable street food to get is in the Hawker Centers and even there it’s a poor representation of typically flavorful Malay and Indonesian cuisine. We didn’t make it to a Hawker Center on the trip, but we did decide to take the ferry to neighboring Bintan, Indonesia for a few days.
BEWARE: Indonesian customs agents are the most strict I’ve ever encountered. I was sent back to Singapore on my first attempt due to a disagreement over whether or not there was room in my passport for a visa. Make sure you have plenty of space in your passport and about $20 in American money doesn’t hurt either.
Almost all the resorts in Bintan are located at the north of the island with a fence surrounding the region. They are accessible through Bintan Resorts ferry line with several routes daily between Tanah Merah port next to the airport in Singapore and the main resort port in Bintan, Our resort, the Bintan Lagoon, has it’s own ferry that runs twice daily to the foot of the resort, but they also arranged bus service to the main port for those of us who chose to take later ferries. The resort itself reminded me very much of the all-inclusives common in Cancun and the touristy regions of Mexico (except for the all-inclusive part). I can’t say we got much of Indonesian culture there, but the resort was very well run, the food was great, and it made for an excellent cap on the week’s events. Highly recommended for a relaxing getaway, though not for trying to get a taste of Indonesian life.
While this was an incredible trip, it really broke the bank so I’ll probably lay low for awhile and build up some savings for the next big adventure. Stay tuned!