Good morning Singapore

After a 13 hours flight from London we stumble out of the airport terminal into the manicured madness that is Singapore.

“Stumble” sums it up nicely. The terminal is air-conditioned to within an inch of its life, as cool as a winter igloo. But as we pass through the sliding doors Singapore slaps us round the face. The air is steaming hot, so thick with moisture you could cut it with a butter knife. Within seconds our glasses are coated with a thick layer of condensation, and we blunder around blindly for a minute or two, waiting for the fog to clear.

At last we catch a glimpse of the Singapore we know and love: colourful, efficient and welcoming. And we spot the cameras too, watching me, watching you, watching everyone and everything.

singapore-peranakan-place-1-2016

Singapore is the cleanest, safest city I’ve ever visited, and also one of the most characterful. I’m pleased to be back. But it’s also a bit of a basket case, where the most apparently innocent of activities – like eating certain tropical fruits in public places – can get you arrested.

However this place is an economic miracle, and I guess a ban on eating durian fruit in public is a small price to pay for Singapore’s prosperity. Fifty years ago it was all but invisible on the world stage, Asia’s mad woman locked in the attic.

But today Singapore is a financial and trading superstar, the poster boy for Asian capitalism. This place may have been a bit of a joke in the years immediately after World War 2, but nobody’s laughing now. And, on top of all its other successes, Singapore has transformed itself into a must-see stop-off point for visitors to south-east Asia and Australasia.

Our plan of campaign for this visit is to pick up some of the key sights that we missed out on last time. That will have to wait for another post, but for now it’s worth saying that Mrs P has taken 426 photos in her first 36 hours here!

Walking on the wild side

We’re beginning to get our heads around the itinerary for our New Zealand adventure. And what a big, impressive beast it is!

We’ll drive down to Heathrow, where our first novel experience awaits us: the priority check-in and all-round pampering that is – I sincerely hope – the lot of the business class traveller.

PHOTO CREDIT: From Pixabay via Pexels

We’ve never flown business before, and probably never will again, so we plan to make the most of it. I hope they load plenty of champagne to keep us suitably mellow during the flight to Singapore, where we’ll spend a couple of nights before flying on to Auckland.

Sultan Mosque, Singapore (2016)

Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest metropolitan centre, being home to around a third of the country’s entire population of a little under five million. After spending four nights in and around the city, acclimatizing and recovering from the inevitable jet lag, we’ll pick up a rental car and spend a further ten nights visiting some of the highlights of North Island.

Then it’s a short internal flight from Palmerston North, across the Cook Strait to Christchurch where a second rental car awaits us. We’ll spend the next 32 nights touring the length and breadth of South Island, before returning to Christchurch for the flight back to the UK.

Embed from Getty Images

That’s if we make it to South Island, of course. Before we get there, we’re due to visit White Island on the east coast of the North Island, in the Bay of Plenty. It’s New Zealand’s most active cone volcano, and has been built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 years. Active it surely is, as our itinerary advises us that we’ll be issued with hard hats and gas masks before we arrive.

White Island, New Zealand - 2 of 16

PHOTO CREDIT: “White Island, New Zealand – 2 of 16” by Phillip Wong – http://phw.co.nz is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

GAS MASKS! For heaven’s sake, what sort of trip is this going to be? I’m feeling my age a bit these days and was rather hoping New Zealand would be a walk in the park. But instead it looks like we’ll be walking on the wild side.

White Island, New Zealand - 4 of 16

PHOTO CREDIT: “White Island, New Zealand – 4 of 16” by Phillip Wong – http://phw.co.nz is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

On the other hand, why not? After all, you only live once. It could even be fun, and if the volcano blows its top while we’re there at least I’ll leave this life with an impressive bang.

Hard hats, gas masks, random unpredictable volcanic eruptions and accompanying earth tremors? Bring ’em on I say, bring ’em on!