Singapore via Zurich

Zurich, Switzerland – 4 April 2018
Singapore – 5 & 6 April 2018

Arrived at SFO easily enough despite rush hour traffic. There was a bit of a line for business class check-in at SWISS (#outrage) but I was soon past security and seated in the not-especially-glamorous temp United lounge. It’s currently the only Star Alliance lounge open at SFO Terminal G, due to ongoing construction of what is supposed to be a really nice new Polaris lounge. Eh, it was fine – I had a seat and got myself plenty hydrated with sparkling water for the 10 ½ hour flight to Zurich.

Flying with me on this first leg was my friend Nicolas, an FA for SWISS. He kept my champagne topped up and made sure I had a great flight – though honestly, every passenger seemed to receive really lovely service from the very attentive crew.
SWISS’ 777 seating layout in C alternates 1-2-2 and 2-2-1. The single seats are nicknamed “Throne Seats” (#apropos #thisqueen) and are reserved for SWISS premium members or those willing to cough up $200 per segment for the privilege of getting these very private seats. Given that I’d used miles to purchase this ticket, I decided to go for it. And boy was I glad that I did!

Besides all the privacy, this seat has way more storage space in an around the seat. Plus, I was in 4A, one of only two bulkhead thrones (the other being 7A) – and they provide substantially more foot room when in bed mode. 4A is also in the front mini-cabin of the 777 with only two rows, so it feels very quiet and private.

Dinner was great and I got a decent amount of semi-fitful sleep after a tasty dinner. Once I was fully awake, it was only an hour-and-a-half until arrival at Zurich.

My layover before transiting onward to Singapore was seven hours. The train from the airport to central Zurich takes about 15 minutes, so it was my plan to spend a few hours in town. I’d gone back-and-forth on this plan, since the weather forecast was cold and rainy – but what the hell, why not!

Made it into town just as easily as it had been portrayed. It was chilly and the rain was steady. As I walked toward the Fraumünster, I was having second thoughts – my shoes were wet and I was simultaneously sweaty and cold. But I plodded on.

And I’m so glad I did! Fraumünster is home to a series of stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. They were breathtaking and the visit would have been so worth it just to see them. But there was also what I believe was rehearsal going on upstairs for a performance by violin and the church’s massive pipe organ. So, I was treated to music filling the church while I sat and looked at the beautiful stained glass windows.

I’ll confess I got a little misty-eyed – not just because it was a wonderful experience but it was one of those moments where I kind of can’t believe that I’ve been so fortunate in my life to travel and to visit places like this. So happy I didn’t let the rain interfere with my visit.

Next stop was Sternen Grill for a bratwurst and a glass of wine – it was great! Then back to the station, a quick trip back to the airport and then off to the gorgeous SWISS lounge in Terminal E. I had a nice long shower, put on some fresh panties and got that spring back in my step. Boarded my next flight after relaxing a bit more in the lounge.

My visit to Singapore started off rather less auspiciously than one might hope. The 11 hour flight from Zurich was AOK, as I was once again ensconced in seat 4A on a SWISS 777. I slept for only about three hours in an attempt to get myself adjusted to local time, so I watched a few movies (and liked Thor: Ragnorok substantially better than Call Me by Your Name, a film which made my eyes roll into the back of my head more than once. But I digress…)

Made it through Immigration quickly and collected my bags with the intention of buying a local SIM card at the airport. The only ones I found were for SG$38, which seemed substantially higher than I recalled, so I skipped it and headed by taxi to my home for the next five nights, the Sheraton Four Points River View.

The place is nice enough, though perhaps a bit more touristy than I’d like, especially considering how much I enjoyed the more boutique-y WANGZ Hotel I stayed in on my last visit (which had the additional plus of being named WANGZ) – but there was a substantial difference in price and Singapore is not exactly a bargain when it comes to lodging.

Anyway, after unpacking and getting a status update from Ak, who was flying in from BKK this same evening, I headed out in search of a 7-Eleven from which to purchase a SIM card. Google Maps showed two nearby, so off I went with a screenshot of the location.

Across the river from the hotel are plenty of other hotels and condos and tons of restaurants, all of which seemed vaguely questionable, thanks to their photo-based menus, too-broad offerings (burgers, pizza and North Indian cuisine in one place for example) and more-than-fair share of boisterous Western tourists. Again, a bit of a let-down from the charming Tiong Bahru neighborhood I’d stayed in last time – but at this point I just needed a 7-Eleven.

My map failed me, pointing me to a street devoid of any establishments whatsoever, let alone a convenience store, so I wandered semi-aimlessly in the direction of a ramen place I knew was close by. And lo and behold, I stumbled across a different 7-Eleven – only to have the clerk tell me that her SIM registration machine was not working, which was frustrating enough, but she also used a tone that I felt was unnecessarily surly.

I did find the ramen place, Ippudo, and had a decent bowl along with some sake – which sort of took the edge off their lack of Wi-Fi (#srsly?). But all in all, I was not really feeling it my first night in Singapore – though this was no doubt exacerbated by the nearly thirty hours I’d spent in transit.

Back to hotel and awaited Ak’s arrival, while intermittently dozing. He arrived from the airport quickly, we had a brief happy reunion before we both had to hit the hay.

Friday morning we woke up early and went back out in search of SIM card, this time with directions from the front desk clerk and found the place immediately – only to be advised that I needed to present my passport and no, a copy wasn’t good enough. Ugh, y tho? Back to hotel for passport, back again and I was finally back online, thank heavens.

And I swung into action by ordering us a Grab (the SE Asian version of Uber) to take us to Maxwell Food Centre, one of Singapore’s many, many hawker centers. Due to the early hour, lots of stalls still closed, but I had a really tasty stir-fried noodles with shrimp and Ak had chicken congee and then we shared a kaya bun, “kaya” being a local coconut jam that’s a breakfast favorite here.

Next stop the National Gallery, where we looked at paintings before visiting an installation on the rooftop, a bamboo maze with a tiny teahouse at the center. Back downstairs, we ended our visit at a really entertaining video installation that also proved to be irresistible IG bait for the both of us.

Wandered around the bay until it was time for our afternoon tea at L’Eclair by Sarah Michelle. It was pretty tasty – though the eclairs, while the flavors were excellent, were done in by rather soggy pastry. Quel dommage!

Walked back to the hotel for a lie-down, then a swim, then another lie-down and then dinner in the neighborhood (preceded by a stop at the front desk to share my hope that our room would be made up prior to 4PM as had occurred today. But I digress…) at Wine Connection Cheese Bar. Ak isn’t really familiar with cheese, so we shared a plate of Brie, Tomme de Savoie and some pastrami. I was quite surprised at the high quality of all the offerings – along with a decent bottle of rose at a reasonable-for-Singapore price. As it turned out, neither Brie nor Tomme de Savoie were big hits with Ak – he didn’t hate them, but also didn’t love them. In a surprise twist, when we ordered a refill, he loved the Tête de Moine – authentically prepared with a girolle – and the Serrano ham! So, perhaps not the most traditionally Singaporean meal, but given its proximity to the hotel, reasonable price and excellent quality, it turned out to be a great pick for dinner.

Had a leisurely walk back and checked the forecast for Saturday’s weather. Rain predicted, so we’ve postponed our visit to the Botanic Gardens to Sunday and tomorrow we’ll head back to Tiong Bahru to visit the market and hawker center which was closed for renovations when we stayed nearby last time. Here’s hoping I can finally eat some char siu there!

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