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Singapore and Java - Hanuman's Style!

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Apr 14th, 2011, 02:54 AM
  #1
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Singapore and Java - Hanuman's Style!

With just 5 nights available for our Thai New Year vacation I spent several hours on the net trying to decide where to take my family for a vacation abroad. Consulted with other regulars Fodorites, Kathie, Filmwill, Rhkkmk etc and finally ended up deciding on a combination of a 2 night stopover in Singapore and then 3 nights at Borobudur.
Singapore

We have been to Singapore several times over the years but have not been back for the past 5 years. Read and saw many documentaries about the new mega resort cities and casino built on the island and decided that it was time to visit again. At first I really wanted to try the brand new Marina Bay Sands, especially the roof top park/swimming pool. After talking to a friend they advised against staying at the hotel unless we wanted to gamble so I change our reservation at the last minute to a hotel on Orchard road instead.

This was the first time that I used Tripadvisor to check both the availabilities and rates for hotels. Quite simple and convenient, just choose the hotel and then input your dates and viola – 6 different windows pop-up with six different reservation sites such as Agoda, Venere etc and their rates. We used Venere as it had the best offer for 3 people with an extra bed and breakfast and we chose the Four Seasons.

The hotel was lovely and recently refurbished. On checking in we were informed of an upgrade to a theme one bedroom suite! How nice and further more they even sent up a nice birthday cake for my daughter along with a beautiful birthday card. The rooms, amenities and breakfast at this hotel were very good and the service was one of the best we had ever received from any hotel.

The location was also extremely convenient but the Four Seasons was not on Orchard road proper. However the hotel did have an A/C walkway connecting it to the Hilton which was situated on Orchard. We visited the brand new mall “Ion” and the top levels had all the usual high-end shops while the basement levels had several restaurants and a “Hawker Centre”. We ate all of our lunches at the Hawker Centre and greatly enjoyed the local fares from noodles with fish balls to the Hainanese Chicken Rice. Shopping was also to my ladies’ liking as well with several purchases from Chanel to Prada. At least I will get the points from my credit cards!

For dinners, we spent two nights in Singapore, we tried a couple of restaurants that was recommended to us by our private banker at Deutsche bank. Both specialize in crabs but sadly we did not enjoy the meals we had. The food was a bit tone down and bland but several other diners seem to have enjoyed their meals, most were foreign Europeans and Americans though. I feel bad to have recommended the restaurants on another thread at Fodors but maybe other might enjoy them – Jumbo Seafood and No Signboard restaurants.

We checked out of our hotel very early today and flew the 2 hour’s flight via Silk Air to Solo City, Indonesia. The flight was less than half full and not bad for a low cost airline. We landed at the new Solo airport, open last year and were greeted right outside the arrival gate by representative of the Amanjiwo hotel. The ride was interesting, climbing up and skirting by two volcanoes and one of them, Merapi, had erupted only months earlier. We were very sad when our driver informed us that over 300 people had died from the eruption! The eruption had caused a lot of damages to the roads, and spewed out ash and volcanic rocks everywhere covering the ancient Borobudur temple as well as the Amanjiwo. The Amanjiwo had to close down for 4 months to clean up the resort and took the opportunity to refurbish their property as well.

I’m off for a swim so to be continued…
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Apr 14th, 2011, 04:59 AM
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Good start, Pook. Nice to hear about Singapore since we'll be there in about 3 months. Looking forward to more...
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Apr 14th, 2011, 06:06 AM
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Looking forward to hearing more about Yogya.
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Apr 14th, 2011, 06:11 AM
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So did you ever get over to the Marina bay sands and check it out? It was just opening when we were there last year and you could only go in if you were staying there. I was very interested in it also.
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Apr 14th, 2011, 06:50 AM
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You know I've been waiting for this report! Great start!
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Apr 14th, 2011, 06:53 AM
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Very engaging start. Eager for more...
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Apr 14th, 2011, 07:33 AM
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I'm sorry we won't get to hear more about that Marina Bay Sands hotel! From our vantage point on the Singapore Flyer in January it looked amazing!! And we're not likely ever to fork over the big bucks to stay there. Was hoping for some vikies via others. . . oh well.

When we were in Yogyakarta in Jan. we saw some huge boulders deposited by Merapi along the road to Borabodur. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip to Java.
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Apr 14th, 2011, 10:37 AM
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Love the report Pook.
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Apr 14th, 2011, 11:02 AM
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Pook, sounds like you had a great time in Singapore. I'm hoping to get there during the last two weeks of this month! You have (had) email from me re: ahhem.... no luck!
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Apr 14th, 2011, 11:43 AM
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Great start Pook. Is Ken there in Bangkok at his second home yet? Said he wanted to work for you in a new career last we saw them,lol. Can't wait for Java.

ALoha!
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Apr 14th, 2011, 02:36 PM
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how was the swim?
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Apr 14th, 2011, 02:37 PM
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>>>The rooms, amenities and breakfast at this hotel were very good and the service was one of the best we had ever received from any hotel.<<<


Rise and shine, Pook and so glad you enjoyed my cherished Singapore business travel treasure, the Four Seasons! Wondrous staff, 'top to spa', indeed.

Enjoying your travel style, as always; keep it up. (And, yes, enquiring minds gently enquire : BKK-SIN, with those Girls?! If not, well, that 'other' Asian airline - and certain crew - will always hold a soft spot in my heart.)

Well, flying day for me (guess the airline), so sending safe travels to you and family and, as always, sweet and smooth (SQ) rides to all of you.

macintosh (robert)


... Thai -- Smooth as Silk ...
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Apr 14th, 2011, 07:36 PM
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Good morning from the beautiful Amanjiwo!

Karen,

Yes we went to the Marina Bay Sands but as we were arriving the sky looked pretty gloomy and by the time we walked into the adjoining mall it started to poor. So no roof top experience for us and the mall was only partially open, I would say 2/3 of the shops are open the rest were still in the process of construction or decorating.

Noticed several groups of mainland Chinese gambling tourist there and that is their main customers according to the people I talked with in the mall and hotel. IMO it look too big, crowded and not a good place to really relax. Did look at the menu from "Cut" a Wolfgang Puck restaurant and the prices were very high.

Robert,

Yes SQ 973 morning flight BUT with the old regional business class seats only! Service was good but the food was nothing to talk about - the food were from the Thai kitchen!
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Apr 14th, 2011, 09:45 PM
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Amanjiwo

Even though this resort is already over 13 years old it still looks great! Amanjiwo design is beautiful and it blended nicely with Borobudur temple and was inspired by it as well. We chose the second lowest room/villa type, a Borobudur Suite, and were not disappointed. Nice breathtaking view of Borobudur and the surrounding volcanoes from the outside courtyard and pavilion and inside was total luxury with great A/C. No TV but the sound system is pretty good with an Ipod/Iphone dock as well. I only wished that there are speakers outside by the outdoor terrazzo bath tub as well.

On arrival we were showered with Rose petals, felt a bit funny but my ladies loved it. You can hear gamelan music being played in the background and it took us a while to find the performers who were almost hidden from view. The main lobby, restaurant of the resort is shaped like Borobudur itself with a nice open air bar, restaurant, library, art gallery and gift shop all contained in the stupa shape building. The manager, Sean from Australia, came out to greet us and spent a long time talking to us about his resorts and the activities that are available from the Aman. We had booked the “Cultural Package” from the Aman which included three nights’ accommodation, airport transportation, breakfast and 3 choices out of about 20 on offer for excursions or activities. Some of the activities were rather strange like seeing a fortune teller but the other main activities were very good and well organized.

We had lunch by the pool which was a short walk from the main building and the water look so inviting that I took a dip and swam around while my wife and daughter had lunch nearby. The pool is surrounded on one side by paddy fields which gave it a nice atmosphere. After the swim we explored the property a bit, visiting the library and gift shops before the clouds started to move in and the daily afternoon rain began. The view from our villa was wonderful seeing big black thunderstorm clouds moving in closer and closer to Borobudur before the last of the sun light was snubbed out and the rain poured. We slept for about a couple of hours before dinner time and made use of the outdoor bath while it was still raining. My wife yelled out if my life insurance cover lighting strikes and I calmly said yes and then proceeded to enjoy my hot bath in the rain.

Dinner was much better than we expected. My wife chose Indonesian food even though she knew that Indonesian food is a bit sweet for our likings but after having talked to Sean the manager we found out that he used to cook with David Thompson(Nahm restaurant) at the Amanpuri in Phuket and he reassured us that the food at the Aman will be to our liking. Well the local menu was excellent with several dishes tasting like Thai food and the flavors were just right. I chose the Western menu and had an OK meal as I had brought along a nice bottle of Pauillac and wanted to compliment the wine with some meat dishes but sadly my main course was a bit off because the sauce was a bit sweet. The resort surprised us with another birthday cake for our daughter so no dessert. We retired to our villa as soon as we finished our dinner as the next morning, today, is our Borobudur sunrise excursion with a 4.00AM wakeup call.

We had prearranged with Sean that if the weather was bad and it was raining then don’t wake us up and we will find something else to do. To our delight the phone rang at 4.00AM sharp! We got up and went to the lobby for a light breakfast. There were 2 other couples who opted to do the same thing but we all had our own guide and car. Our driver and guide was the same man as the one who picked us up from Solo airport. He will be with us until we leave and he was a fun man to talk to.

We left the Aman at around 4.45AM and drove the short distant to the Manohara hotel which was the only hotel in the Borobudur park itself. Our driver had to stop at the lobby to pickup our park entrance tickets and while we were waiting for him we met a huge group of Thai tourists staying at the Manohara waiting to enter the temple as well. After a quick conversation we made our way up the temple with our driver/guide. As soon as we reached the second level of the temple the sun started to come up and we could see Bremo in its full form with smoke still coming out from the top. From our viewpoint the sun started to rise just to right of Bremo and the sky turned from black to red to a multitude of colors – beautiful! There were maybe around a dozen people at the temple, luckily the Thai group had not arrived yet and we almost had the place to ourselves.

We began touring the temple after the sun had came up and our guide did a great job explaining about the history and Buddhism even though he is Muslim. I noticed the very top of the temple was still closed but I could not see any reason why it was closed since they claimed to be repairing or cleaning the top levels after Bremo had erupted and everything look perfectly normal or not damaged to me. Our guide whisper to me that the real reason it is still closed up to now is because the company that manage the temple was having a conflict with another company who was managing the grounds of the temple over sharing the entrance fee! Oh well we still got to see everything but not from the perfect vantage point.

After a couple of hours watching the sunrise and exploring the wonderful wall engravings of Borobudur it was time for our picnic breakfast. Sean the manager had suggested that we take our breakfast at the temple ground and I thought that the Aman will only prepare some Danish and coffee in a picnic basket – WRONG! We were led up a nearby hill, Dagi hill, to the top by our guide and we were greeted by two Aman waiters with cold scented towels. They then led us to an area over looking Borobudur and on a grassy area there was a beautiful picnic table along with big cushions and all on a big bamboo mat. The food was prepared from the resort but it was superb and the drinks, fresh tangerine juice, coffee, teas etc were all placed on the table. We had mueslis, fresh fruits, egg benedicts with smoke salmon along with other pastries and all were delicious. We spent around an hour eating and my daughter had time to paint the temple with paint and papers provided by the Aman. We could see the whole complex from the picnic point and I took a lot of videos and pictres.

When we were ready our guide took us down to the Manohara parking lot where there were two horse drawn buggies waiting for us. In the past the Aman used to arrange for an elephant ride back to the hotel but the farmers around there complained about the animals eating all their crops so they had to changed that part of the tour. The ride back was fun, going through the villages around Borobudur on the horse carts but I imagine the elephant ride would be more exciting!
Great morning activities and view but now it’s time for lunch and then a visit to the Aman spa in the afternoon. Tomorrow I have arranged for a private car to take us around to Prambanan temple and some shopping around Yogyakarta. Will continue this report after that.
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Apr 14th, 2011, 11:08 PM
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Erata... the volcano mentioned above is not mount Bremo - it's mount Merapi! Sorry for the mistake.
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Apr 15th, 2011, 02:08 AM
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HT - Ken did say that he will be in BKK over Songkran but we have not heard from him. I will give him a call as soon as I return home.

Ken working for me? I cannot afford a playboy ninja at this moment but the last time we spoke he did offer to send my daughter to the college of her choice. Very generous man!
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Apr 15th, 2011, 03:54 AM
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Agent H, I like your travel style! Sounds like a great short trip with, I must add, a big jump in class from my own experience there years ago.

Happy shopping and happy swimming!
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Apr 15th, 2011, 06:11 AM
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I can just feel the warmth of that morning sun...as I sit here waiting for spring to come to the NE. Loving your report...food sounds great. Enjoy.
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Apr 15th, 2011, 06:21 AM
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Karen, I'm sitting here thinking the same thing about the warm morning sun! My little town is really quite chilly this morning and the wind is howling. Can't wait to get to BKK on Tuesday!

Pook, I believe Ken has just arrived in BKK yesterday (Thurs) evening. Maybe we can all get together sometime!
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Apr 15th, 2011, 07:23 AM
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fantastic reporting.... glad the girls are happy which of course makes you happy.... happy birthday to mony....
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