Singapore Air not only has to its advantage a great economy class section, but also Singapore itself. Even if your travel plans take you elsewhere in Asia, a long stopover in Singapore lends the perfect opportunity to stretch both body and mind.
Though Singapore is a (relatively) small city-state that's big on stuff to do, and you really cannot do it in a day, Singapore's sparkling airport amenities make it possible to do a 24-hour vacation-within-a-vacation day that's perfectly paced for anybody.
A well-planned schedule, sharp local tourism board staff and the excellent amenities of Singapore Changi Airport makes for one heck of a sample, which in our case, included an extended visit to the Maghaim Aboth Synagogue.
After 14 hours in the air, the Ambassador Transit Hotel in the heart of Terminal 2 was a welcome sight, with a low tarif buying us a good night's sleep.
During our consult at the CVB counter, my travel companion nixed suggestions of stops on Orchard road thoroughfare and Mustafa in favor of quaint ethnic neighborhoods.
I was just slightly chagrined, especially as a fellow traveler on our Singapore-bound flight raved about the jewelry treasures to be found at Mustafa. However, as the bus dropped off other travelers at the city's iconic Singapore Flier Ferris Wheel, my friend (who has done numerous stopovers in Singapore en route to India) assured me Orchard road was really just a larger version of Rodeo Drive.
A couple stops later, as we walked toward the candy-colored neighboring enclaves of Little India and Arab Street, I understood her wisdom.
Before venturing into the heart of Arab Street, dominated by fabric shops with a smattering of hippie-chic clothing stores and beauty/aromatherapy specialty shops, we enjoyed a late full breakfast at Zam Zam Singapore Halal and a chai tea at another local spot a few doors down. The ambiance could be described as an idealized Middle East — tidy, relaxed and friendly, lined with school kids and random people from different ethnic backgrounds.
After getting our fill, we grabbed a local bus that efficiently swept past the beginnings of Orchard road into Chinatown. It impressed me as perhaps the cleanest Chinatown I had ever encountered.
A few additional touches of Orchard road-style luxury found their way in — including a chopstick specialty store arranged like a Cartier Boutique.
My friend used the lure of lunch (and picking up a pair of basic chopsticks) to get me out of that store. After inspecting the various options, we selected a spot called the Organic Vegetable Eating House, where a small price bought us a healthy, heaping lunch.
By the time we finished eating, it was surprising how much time had swept by — and how right my friend was about steering past Orchard road and Mustafa. We had just enough time to grab another bus to Armenian Street.
Next, we made a beeline for Maghaim Aboth Synagogue, which was as beautifully landscaped as the famous Raffles Hotel and outfitted with a lively kosher market full of temple members getting ready for Shabbat.
After a quick pass through the legendary Raffles Hotel, with nary a moment available to order their famous Singapore Sling (the cocktail is rumored to have been invented there), we made our way to SunTec, a convention center and mall.
Though SunTec's adorable chain stores were visually appealing, I was already creating a "to do" list in my head for another stopover — or, perhaps, a longer stay in the not-so-distant future.
To learn more, log on to: www.yoursingapore.com .