Flying The Singapore Airlines Suites

Flying The Singapore Airlines Suites in my opinion is the best way to fly. I’ve flown with them numerous times so I am hoping my reviews may be valid. This trip, I flew from Singapore to Zurich with their A380 suites.

The check in is always seamless at Changi international airport. A special porter will meet you in front of the airport to grab your luggage and a Singapore Airline staff will greet you and escort you to their special designated lounge to check in.

If I have time, I always  head up to their lounge, The Private Room, which is especially dedicated to the Singapore Airlines First Class and Suites passengers. No other partner airline passengers are allowed in this section so this lounge is always very tranquil.

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My trip from Singapore to Zurich happened to be on a day where Singapore was drenched in a heavy thunderstorm that caused delays all over, so the lounge wasn’t as quiet but this doesn’t happen often.

Usually when you board a Suite, a flight attendant greets you half way in the aero-bridge but I boarded a bit late on this flight and it was full so no such greeting this time around. I was greeted at the door and escorted to my seat.

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You are immediately offered a drink (champagne or whatever) before take off and are given pajamas and amenity kits for your flight. It is sponsored by Salvatore Ferragamo and the contents look like this.

7585929312_IMG_0012.jpgI always bring it back with me and give it away as gifts since there is a generous sized Salvatore Ferragamo perfume bottle inside. Also essential for the flight, hand cream and lip balm.

My flight took off a little after midnight so I passed on dinner and asked that my bed be made as soon as possible after take off.

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So that’s my little bed for the night. The beds are spacious and comfortable although I’ve always thought that their pillows could be better. But I still slept like a baby, right through the turbulence, and woke  up a few hours before landing. Just in time for a little breakfast. Here’s a peek at their menu.

I chose their congee. Being half Asian, congee or chicken porridge is always comfort food. Food is always aplenty on Singapore Airline flights with lots of snacks if you get hungry throughout.

 

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What I find best about Singapore Airlines is the service of their crew. Every crew member seems to move about the cabin with grace and elegance not found in other airline crews. They have the ability to seamlessly prepare your meals with a minimum amount of clatter or chatter. There is always a soothing calm in the cabin. No loud noises or crew chatting away about the latest gossip.

Spacious seats, privacy, good food, excellent crew service. That is why I believe they are the best way to fly.

 

EGYPT. THEN AND NOW.

I think I may have been Egyptian in a previous life. No other ancient culture fascinates me more than the Egyptians. Tales of pharaohs, great pyramids, secret tombs, mummies and curses have always mesmerized me since I was old enough to read or watch TV.  For awhile there I was determined to be an Archeologist so I could uncover more secrets hidden underneath the dusty dunes.

I was 27 when I finally made my first trip to Egypt in 2000 (pre digital cameras). It is still one of the most memorable trip I have ever made. Tears of joy were shed when I finally came face to face with the Great Pyramids of Giza. I was just so happy and grateful to be there, it was a profoundly spiritual experience. Amidst the dust and chaos that is Egypt, I just felt like I belonged.

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The Great Pyramids Of Giza

Back then, my trip to Egypt was a spontaneous one.. No research, no planning. One day, my husband just decided that we should go to Egypt before Christmas. The next day we went to get our visa done, got our plane tickets and booked The Four Seasons Hotel in Giza (the one on the Nile wasn’t open then). One week later we were in Egypt with no itinerary whatsoever. The concierge at The Four Seasons took care of everything else. They planned our trips to Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel in a matter of hours.

Back then, Egypt was swarming with tourists. There were flights out of Cairo to Luxor and Aswan by the hour. You had to wake up at wee hours of the morning to get into tombs that had visitor limits and you still might not get in. There was a vibrant enthusiasm engulfing the country. Although Terrorism has always been a part of Egypt tourism (there were numerous attacks on tourist throughout the 90s, The Luxor Massacre in 1997 where an Islamic terrorist group  massacred 62 tourists at Deil el-Bahri is one of the more well-known incident) I did not feel at all cautious. Yes, security was tight, but I somehow felt safe.

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Old Cairo

Fast forward 17 years later to March 2017, I felt the calling to return to Egypt  (with my digital camera).  However with everything that has been going on in the world, I felt more cautious this time around. This time I decided that some planning had to be involved and that we should book our trip with a tour agency who knows their way around Egypt. After much research, we settled on Abercrombie and Kent. Our trip would be 10 days long and would include stops in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. They took care of all the logistics, transfer, tickets, itinerary and I am glad we took this option. I would suggest that if you plan to visit Egypt at this time you do the same. They had representatives for everything even representatives to help glide you through the chaos of security on the way out of Cairo. Believe me, you will need that. I have never seen such chaos at baggage checks before. Hundreds of people pushing their luggage through the x-ray machine. There was no line.

When we landed, The new Cairo International Airport greeted us. It was vast and modern but eerily quiet. We were the only airline to land at the time and the lack of people compared to the space gave the airport a ghostly feeling. Tourism went into a plunge while this airport was built so it is definitely larger than needed at this point in time. A representative from A&K greeted us and helped us through customs and immigration without any problems. We were then whisked away to the Four Seasons Hotel on the Nile. Beautiful hotel with an amazing view.

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View from our room at The Four Seasons Nile Plaza

Cairo was somewhat still the old Cairo I remember. A bit of a frenzy but charming nonetheless. I did find it to be more chaotic and dirty this time around but found the chaos amusing.

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Chaotic Streets of Cairo

My heart did beat a little bit faster when we walked through the streets of Cairo during our walking tour. Tourists were scarce and questions such as “Am I safe?” did enter my mind a lot. But I had a tour guide with me and I felt safe with her. Locals would stare a little bit too long for comfort but that’s all they did. I began to relax after a while and allowed myself to once again be entranced by the magic of Egypt.

Conversations with my tour guide revealed a dismal reality of the Egyptian tourism industry.  For years since the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, the tour guides had to get by with only working once or twice a year when they previously could work twice a day. People working in the industry had to resort to other means to get by. A driver told me he had to open a jewelry store to keep the money coming, another lived off his parents who were farmers. Souvenir shops were scarce and the ones by the monuments did not have much to offer. I was hoping to visit the museum shop at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, only to find that such a shop no longer exists. The shell was still there, but there was nothing but a run-down counter selling dusty old books and reprinted postcards. My guide explained that the store had been looted during the revolution and they never really got around to rebuilding it. I also heard that the museum will be moving very soon to a much larger venue near Giza, so maybe that’s why they did not bother.

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The Sofitel Winter Palace

When you move inland towards Luxor and Aswan, you will notice things deteriorating even more. Beautiful hotels like the Sofitel Winter Palace in Luxor or the Old Cataract in Aswan remain charmingly elegant and luxurious. Outside, things look very different. Souvenir shops lack visitors. The owners are forced to lure you in aggressively to the point that they become pests. My guide advised me to ignore them and not acknowledge them at all even if they are in your face, unless you really want to buy something. Sometimes I would buy things just because I feel bad for them.

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Temple of Esna

On our road trip from Luxor to Aswan, we stopped by the temple of Esna. A temple hidden below street level in a dense residential area.  Remnants of empty old souvenir stores paved the deserted dirt road leading towards the temple now sitting in decay. The inside was filled with bird poo and we were the only visitors there. My guide explained that since the number of ships cruising the Nile deteriorated significantly in numbers over the years, the ships no longer stop in Esna but choose to dock at the more famous temple of Edfu leaving Esna empty except for visitors like me who chose travel on the road instead of the river. Even though exploring an ancient temple all by your self is definitely exhilarating, I could not help but feel sad.

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Temple of Hapshetsut near the Valley of the Kings

The more famous sights like the Valley of the Kings and Queens still have their fair share of visitors although it was dominated by local tourist (mostly local school outings) during my visit. If you are Asian, prepare to feel like a celebrity because the students will definitely ask you for selfies. Asians seem to be rare sight for their eyes. Although it is kind of cute, my advice would be to say no from the beginning, because once you agree to a picture, they will never stop.

Some things have changed in the Valley of  the Kings and Queens since my last visit. In the Valley of the Kings you now have to ride a ‘train’ from the visitor center to get to the tombs and no pictures are allowed even outside the tombs where it is practically just rocks. I found this somewhat strange.

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Inside the tomb of Nefertari

I failed to visit the tomb of Nefertari during my visit in 2000 because they limited the number of visitors to 50 a day. I remember waking up at 3 am to secure a place in front of the ticket line only to find 100 people ahead of me. In 2017, you just need to pay. Entry to the Nefertari tomb is now about 100 USD but well worth it in my opinion. You will most likely be the only one in the tomb as most tourists are reluctant to spend such an amount. Tip the guard and you will be able to take non flash pictures of the most amazingly preserved tomb in the world. The colors will startle you.

It was a somewhat different experience, visiting Egypt in 2017.  But just like Albert Einstein’s famous quote says, the only thing in life that is constant is change. Change is inevitable. Egypt may well be at the bottom of the wheel right now but the wheel is slowly turning.  One thing is for sure, Egypt will always..always have my heart.