The next morning we played pickleball! Sharon had made some arrangements with Janet Lye from Singapore who picked us up from our hotel and took us over to a community center where they played pickleball. Across the street was a market where we first had a little coffee/treats and was shown what they like to eat for breakfast in Singapore. The pickleball play was indoors but NOT air conditioned. They had a huge fan on the ceiling that was at least 16 feet in diameter which provided some air movement. They had two courts set up. The nets were a little flimsy but the lines were actually tiled into the floor. The floors were hard tile and they played with an outdoor ball. They hit the ball hard and it was very different to play on these courts but very fun. We met some new friends and played pickleball for a few hours. Janet and her husband, David, took us to lunch (rice and chicken and yummy desserts) and then back to the hotel. It wasn’t until after she picked us up we found out her daughter was getting married the next day! She spent all this time with us and had to go decorate the hotel and last minute preparations for the wedding on the next day. We felt really bad but had a great time playing and meeting them. Thanks so much Janet and David for the hospitality, meeting your club and playing pickleball.
After we got back to the hotel and changed, we went out to explore Singapore. We had been there several times previously, most recently 5 years ago after a cruise. We walked around looking at some of the hotels and checking out the Merlion which overlooks the harbor. We stopped in one of the shopping malls and had a refreshing smoothie before going over to Gardens by the Bay. This is a very unique area where the city has created over two dozen artificial trees (called Supertrees) that reach up to 90 feet in height. These trees are actually made up of mesh of structural steel that has literally 100’s of different species of plants stuffed all the way up the trunks of these trees. The trees are totally self-sufficient and collect water when it rains that gets pumped to the plants via pumps operated by solar power. They really are quite fascinating and we had first seen them on our last trip to Singapore. We didn’t get an opportunity on our last trip to go into the two glass enclosed structures called the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. The Flower Dome was a large greenhouse with 1000’s of different species of plants. It was extremely well put together and maintained. Throughout the plants there were various carved or shaped figures that were very interesting. We happened to be there while they were having their Japanese garden event where you could see some beautiful Cherry Blossom Trees and other Japanese plants. It was amazing how many people came to take pictures of themselves with some of these beautiful flowers. The Cloud Forest was also a huge greenhouse with many different plants and it included a 100 foot mountain with a waterfall on display. You took an elevator to the top and took a casual walk down enjoying the views and the plants as you got down to the bottom. After visiting these two greenhouses we went over to the Supertree Grove and bought some tickets to walk on the Skyway that is 70 feet above ground and connects several of these Supertrees. You get some great views of the city from there. After going down from the Skyway we waited for the daily light show that happens twice each evening. We had never seen it before and it was very impressive. Many Disney songs were played while some of the huge Supertrees danced in flashing and strobing lights. We then took a night stroll through other areas of the gardens seeing some of the unique sculptures like 100 foot baby and the 15 foot dragonflies. We walked through the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and admired its opulence. After that we took a leisurely stroll around the harbor admiring the views and night until we got back to our hotel.
The next day we headed out for the cruise port and our home for the next month and a half – the Celebrity Constellation. We got situated on this ship and headed off for Phuket, Thailand our first port of call. We had originally planned a boat trip to Phuket but decided to cancel that and try out the beaches there. There was a beach just off where the tender dropped us of and we spent the day enjoying the sand, sun and water. It was a beautiful island off the coast of Thailand. Towards the end of the afternoon we took a walk and Sharon found a place to get a mani and pedi. While she was busy, Greg tried out one of the Thai massages where they walked all over his back and beat him to a pulp. After our fun day in Phuket we headed back to the ship on the tender.
Our next stop was Colombo, Sri Lanka. We had found a private tour company that would take us to the Elephant Orphanage for one third what the ship was charging. We weren’t sure how it would work out but it was great and we would highly recommend Gemini Travels if you ever need a tour in Sri Lanka. Our driver met us at the port entrance and we had a nice air conditioned car and a personal driver who spoke English (highly accented English but we could communicate OK). While we were driving to the Elephant Orphanage, if we wanted to stop for pictures, he would pull over the car. It is very nice when it is just you and your guide. Before going to the orphanage we stopped at a Tea Factory and learned how tea was made. It was very educational to see how it was dried, fermented, sorted and packed. They even had a 120 year old machine from Belfast, Ireland that they still used to make their tea. We sampled some tea and we bought a little tea before we left. We also stopped at a Gem store and learned about how gems were mined in Sri Lanka. It is a very manual process where they had dig very small mine shafts with just two people working at a time.
We then went to the Elephant Orphanage and were impressed to see all the elephants running loose. You could get pretty close to them and take some good pictures. We had lunch there while overlooking the elephants in the river. It was great Indian food with a little wine and beer. When we left the orphanage, our driver asked us if we wanted to ride or bath the elephants. We said why not and he took us to another nearby place that had about 12 elephants. There we took an elephant ride while our guide took pictures. We then went to a stream where there was an elephant that we were able to scrub it down with a coconut shell. They then asked if we wanted to have the elephant spray water on us. Sharon said sure while Greg got out. Sharon said just one little squirt while the elephant doused her with three long squirts of water from his trunk. It was really a great time and this little side adventure only cost us $14.
After Sharon’s bath we went to a “Spice Market” which really turned out to be a spice garden where they primarily grew the spice as herbal remedies for many things. We were told how various oils removed hair while others promoted hair growth. They had herbs to stop snoring, lower your cholesterol, promote weight loss, control diabetes, eliminate headaches/allergies, etc. You name it and they had an herb to fix it. Sharon bought several herbal remedies and we will see how well they do.
That was the end of our tour except for getting back to our ship which was quite exciting with all the traffic that had built up because of the torrential rain that began just after we arrived at the spice garden. Much of the traffic might also have been caused by Sri Lanka’s New Year’s which was to occur the day after we left. Driving in Sri Lanka is like driving in India – unpredictable and dangerous. At least it appears dangerous to us watching vehicles come down the road in no particular lane, moving from side to side to avoid other vehicles. The drivers seem to know what each other is doing but it is quite a sight watching motorcycles and tuk tuks be pushed out of the way by car, truck and buses. Everyone honks away as they are flying down the road passing vehicles slower than them. We made it back safe and sound!
Our next three stops will be in India where we hopefully will have some more good food to eat!
Sharon & Greg