Three Days in Singapore.

 

Part 2 of 4:

 

During my one month Asia-Pacific study abroad trip overseas, I guess you could say Singapore was our main port. First we flew from Indianapolis to JFK in New York, from there on to Frankfurt, Germany, and finally landed in Singapore via Singapore Airlines on July 22, 2011. It was my first flight longer than 4 hours, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated. I’ve never been afraid to fly, but I was slightly nervous to be flying over the Atlantic and even more nervous that I didn’t really know anyone who would be on our flight. The flight from JFK to Frankfurt was amazing with pretty good food and lots of good movies to choose from, making the long flight much better than expected.

 

What’s the longest flight you’ve taken and where were you heading?

 

We landed at Changi airport and it was stunning, complete with a butterfly garden and full size movie theater. We took a bus to our hotel, Hotel Royal, where the staff greeted us with welcome drinks- some kind of specialty fruity beverage that had us all ecstatic to be on the ground at our first destination. My initial impression of this beautiful country was how incredibly clean it was. There was no litter anywhere, no one was walking a dog, the air was fresh and the streets were spotless. We later learned that it is illegal to litter throughout the entire country, a crime that warrants punishment of literally cutting off the hands or fingers of the offender. Some penalty, right!? I’d love for America to take a tip from them!

Changi Airport Singapore

On the first day, we took a riverboat scenic tour near Clarke Quay, allowing us to see the amazing architecture around the city. The best things I really recall were the Marina Sands Hotel and the famous Merlion statue. The Marina Sands Hotel has an infinity pool on top and we were all instantly mesmerized by how gorgeous that building truly was.

I don’t really know the full story behind the Merlion, so if anyone knows it, I would love to hear about it!

 

The first day included lots of walking and sightseeing, making it tough since none of us were able to adjust to the craziest jet lag we’d ever experienced. Even still, it was an amazing first day! We went to various markets and took in so much of the culture in just one day. No matter how excited we all were, we all slept like babies on the first night.

 

On day two, we went to the mall for breakfast to a coffee shop that was in a pet store. I’m still not even sure how that worked out but the coffee was good! We went to one of the greatest zoos in the world, where I was absolutely in heaven. There was so much space and so many awesome animals that I had never seen in a zoo before. The dugong was definitely my favorite and the restroom was outside in the middle of the jungle. We went to the Battle Box Museum, commemorating the events that lead up to Japan taking control of Singapore from the British. It’s always strange to me to learn about wars like this in other countries but it’s amazing to learn so much about unfamiliar places.
After the museum, we came across a festival in the quad outside of our hotel that threw us right into the culture. There was dancing and some shows that kept everyone entertained. It was similar to a small town fair, but so much more lively and colorful! We had dinner at the food court near our hotel before swimming in the pool and getting to know each other better.

singapore festival

We managed to go out to the bars at Clarke Quay that evening and we had a blast! I’ll never forget seeing a Burger King Bar, where they had every kind of beer you could imagine on the menu. Who knew!? I was amazed to learn English is one of the primary languages in Singapore, so communication was so much better than originally anticipated.

 

On the third and final day in Singapore, we slept in late, finally able to adjust to the time change. We took a bus to the airport, where we all split up and enjoyed the whole day exploring the most gigantic airport I’ve ever been in. I watched Despicable Me in the theater for the first time and visited the butterfly garden, seeing all different species of pretty butterflies before meeting back up with everyone where we had dinner at an Indian Restaurant.

changi airport

Just a few hours later we were off to Sydney!

 

Regardless of only spending a few days there, Singapore was absolutely beautiful and I can honestly say I enjoyed every moment. So many new relationships were formed, new cultures were experienced, and another country to check off my travel bucket list. I was absolutely in love with my life and couldn’t have been more thankful to be half way across the world, essentially on my own.

 

Anyone been to Singapore? Can you share some of your favorite experiences there? I wanna hear from all of you!

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Asia-Pacific Study Abroad- Australia

Part 1 of 4:

Australia Travels:

As part of my month long Asia-Pacific Study Abroad program as a student at Ball State University, I was lucky enough to go to Sydney, Australia. We spent 4 days there in 2011, and still to date, it’s easily one of the top 5 experiences of my life. During this trip, we didn’t have any classes or assignments until the very end, and as a result, we were able to be fully immersed in the cultures every day in each country we visited.
We left from Indianapolis late on July 20th, 2011 and landed in Singapore on July 22nd. I’ll share events from my Singapore visit in a different post, so be on the lookout! After spending a few days in Singapore, we flew to Sydney, arriving there on July 25th.
Everything about Australia was perfect. Absolutely perfect.
 Summer in Louisville is winter time in Sydney since it’s in the Southern Hemisphere. It was around 50 degrees the whole time we were there and we only needed a light jacket in the mornings and evenings. Coming from the humid and scorching Ohio Valley summer, this type of weather was too perfect.
We landed in Sydney and after getting over the panic of being separated from the rest of the students at the airport, we all caught the tram to check in at The Great Southern Hotel in downtown Sydney. Being lost in a foreign country by yourself is not pleasant but the hotel was beautiful!
As you could imagine, the days were packed with activities.
On the first day, we took the city bus to a ferry ride that would eventually take us to Manly Wharf. The ferry took us through the Sydney Harbor, giving us our first look at the Sydney Opera House. Once we got to Manly Wharf, I was able to take my shoes off and stand in the Pacific Ocean. How cool is it that my first time in the Pacific was in Australia? I’ve never even been to Cali! We visited several shops for souvenirs and got the best gelato I’ve ever had for lunch. There’s something about the chocolate in Australia- it’s SO much better than it is in America so we had to get plenty to bring home with us!
Before we even arrived, our instructor was raving over these delicious homemade noodles we had to get at this little restaurant two blocks from our hotel. We went for dinner on the first night and our group filled the restaurant. And it was absolutely delicious! Just simple noodles with veggies and a soy sauce based dressing made for the perfect end to our first day.
The second day was the winery day- my favorite! We visited two wineries and one pub after driving through true Australian countryside. Seeing kangaroos in the wild was incredible! I literally never thought I would ever be able to experience that in real life! We visited Tempus Two Cellars and Hunter Valley Winery, making sure to bring home a few bottles of wine from each place. Australian wineries are probably what got me started on my love of wine, to be honest. The grounds were so beautiful & the wine was even better. This was day five of being out of America and the day I made so many new friends. There were 20 people on the trip, 16 of us being girls, and to this day, these are still some of the best people I’ve ever known.
Once we got back to the hotel, our instructor went to bed and we all decided to go out for a night on the town. I will never forget using my passport to get my into a club! The drinking age was 18 in Sydney so we all went out and had the most fun! Let me tell you, this was awesome for a bunch of 20 year old kids. 
The next morning was an early one as we got up to hike through the Blue Mountains. We took a cable car up to the highest peaks to see the Three Sisters. It was foggy and cold on the way up, but worth every shiver. The Three Sisters are a strange mountain formation, named after three Aboriginal sisters, who were allegedly turned to stone in order to protect them from harm after falling in love with three men from a different Aboriginal tribe. Have any of you visited the Blue Mountains or Three Sisters? Is there more you can tell me behind the story about them?
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains
We took a steep train back down the mountains, where I felt like I had to hold on with both hands the whole way down. From the mountains, our group went to a wildlife center where we were able to feed kangaroos and pet koalas. This was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. Ever since my aunt visited Australia when I was very young, I always wanted to visit there and bring home memories of koalas like she had. I’ll never forget the little koala she brought home that she still keeps in the chair in her bedroom. Memories like she still has make me so thankful I was able to create my own.
Later that evening, we visited Olympic Stadium and the Opera House before calling it a night after an extremely long, but definitely fun filled day.
On our final full day in Sydney, we walked to the aquarium downtown from our hotel. This aquarium was my first experience with black tip and white tip reef sharks, which are still my favorite species. Ya’ll know how much I love sharks so being able to experience them up close & personal was a dream. We had lunch in Chinatown that day and spent the afternoon shopping at Paddy’s Market, where I found some pretty pearl earrings that I’m still in love with.
On the streets, you can find Aboriginal Australians, people indigenous to the area, who play music on their handmade instruments. We were lucky enough to talk to this man for a while and he was kind enough to play us a song from his tribe. He was extremely friendly and absolutely thrilled to teach us about his family.
Aboriginese. 
 We went out to the bars one last time before saying goodbye to Sydney and we made it well worth it. I have never met so many consistently kind and welcoming people. Everywhere we went, from the moment we landed to the second we took off back to Singapore, everyone welcomed us with open arms and warm smiles. I never wanted to leave!
If you haven’t been to Sydney or Australia in general, please put it on your list. It is stunning, the people are amazing, and the experience is one you’ll never forget.
How many of you guys have been to Australia, and what part did you visit? Help me decide where I should go when I go back!! I want to hear your stories!