I’m a big fan of all things Disney. As a child I used to watch all the Disney films, (still do.) I vividly remember how I felt when I saw The Little Mermaid (my favourite) for the first time. My Mum made me a mermaid costume so I could pretend to be Ariel, although we only had orange material for the tail, so I actually ended up looking like a giant goldfish. But who cares when you are 8 years old, parading around the living room singing “Part of your world” at the top of your lungs (my poor neighbours!)
So, naturally I was beside myself with excitement when my first job out of drama school was working for Disney Cruise Line. I was 19 years old, I’d just graduated and I had to get on a plane over to Toronto Canada, on my own. I’d never left the UK before and I was apprehensive about going by myself.
Toronto was amazing! I got to see Niagara Falls, I went to the top of the CN tower, I completely fell in love with the city. We rehearsed in Toronto and then flew to Florida and boarded the Disney Wonder, my new home for the next 9 months. Including the cast there were over 900 crew members on board, all from different parts of the world, and we were one big floating family, I will never forget the experience. I have to put it up there as one of my favourite jobs.
At first on board, I remember getting terribly homesick. I felt guilty about that because I was doing what I loved and trained so hard for, whilst seeing the most beautiful places around the Bahamas and Caribbean that I had only ever dreamed of seeing. At the time my Mum gave me a great piece of advice, she said, you must enjoy and cherish this experience because one day you will be at home washing the dishes and you’ll look back and think, that was amazing, I really made the most of that. She was absolutely right…There were many times over the subsequent years that I washed the dishes and thought about how incredible that time of my life was. I’ve mentioned before in my previous blog (From Crunchem To Shiz) how difficult the acting industry can be. I thought, chances are, I won’t get an opportunity like that again. I never expected to be given another opportuntiy to work in a show that I love and get to travel on this scale…. I feel very lucky.
Over the last two weeks I’ve experienced two beautiful Islands off Singapore. Sibu Island, Malaysia and Bintan Island, Indonesia. Both were so easy to get to and I felt so refreshed and rested (maybe too much!) How lucky that people who live here in Singapore have these paradise Islands practically on their doorstep.
One of our extremely lovely cast members, Alex organised our entire trip to Sibu Island. We stayed at The Rimba Resort who organised all our transfers to and from the Island, this was all included in the price. It took about 3 to 4 hours to get to Sibu, we had a mini bus take us to Malaysia and through customs and then on to the port where we got a speedboat to the Island. It was all very smooth, which made the trip feel shorter. Once on the Island we were met by really friendly staff who showed us to our huts.
My first impression was how stunning the Island was…like a postcard. Our huts were complete with a bathroom and shower, only cold water (there is one villa with hot water if you want a bit more luxury) and our beds were covered with mosquito nets that you had to slide into. There were no doors just heavy sheets to flap over the windows and entrance at night. It did have a camping (or should I say glamping) feel to it, which I found quite exciting. I have to say I didn’t get much sleep because I was scared to death I was going to get bitten alive during the night and I could hear every little noise outside…my imagination was running wild! However I eventually fell asleep and woke up bite free. I cannot believe I stayed there on my own- but I was so pleased I did it.
We were so fortunate because we had excellent weather when we arrived, and then later on in the day there was a terrific thunderstorm, which totally added to the charm of our stay. I really liked it here… I’d be hard pushed to think of anyone who wouldn’t.
My top tips for Sibu Island…
•Insect repellent (and plenty of it) especially at night, there are lots of little midges wanting to have a little nibble on your pins! The resort recommended an oil based suncream to prevent sand flies from joining in the feast (apparently the oil makes your skin too slippery for them to get on you) It worked for me as I came away bite free.
•Pack light. Everything is right there. Sun, sea, sand, a bar, delicious food, snorkelling equipment, towels. The reception team does have a safe if you want to lock your money/passport away but it is very secure and private here so you shouldn’t have any worries.
•Jelly shoes or sea shoes. I wish I’d packed some shoes to wear in the sea. It’s gorgeous water but a bit rocky by the shore. Needless to say I was less than glamorous coming out of the water (and I am clumsy at the best of times) … I definitely didn’t give Daniel Craig a run for his money!
The resort offers diving, snorkelling and there is also a spa for ultimate relaxation. I went snorkelling, which was fun and I’d recommend it if you have time. I felt like I was in finding Nemo ☺️ and incidentally I did see Nemo’s home -an Anemone, (which was a bit special). But sadly, no orange tailed mermaids.
In total, including transfers, food, drinks, snorkelling and staying for one night it cost me around $300 SGD (£174) which I thought was excellent value for a little getaway. The resort was beautiful, the staff were helpful and friendly, the food was tasty (I mean, they had marmite and everything!) and the whole experience gets a big thumbs up from me 👍 Thank you Alex for organising it.
These last two weeks I’ve had to pinch myself about a billion times, I may as well have been bitten by the midges. We had a few days off at the beginning of this week and a friend of mine back in the UK had recommended Bintan Island, as it’s only a 5o minute ferry ride from Singapore. I had a little research on line and found the Bintan Spa Villa and Beach Resort I was drawn to this resort because it looked so peaceful and relaxing, the Spa had great reviews on Trip Advisor and they offered a few excursions that I was interested in. I found a great deal on Agoda
To get to Bintan Island you can take the ferry from Tanah Merah, they are very frequent. I booked with Bintan Resort Ferries It worked out at $58 SGD (£34) return. You need to let the resort know 24 hours in advance which Ferry you are taking and they will meet you from the ferry port in Bintan (BBT) and provide a complimentary shuttle service to the resort (about an hours drive.)
On arrival we were met by such friendly staff and a welcome drink (which was delicious!) I felt instantly relaxed. On our first night a few of us went on the Firefly and Mangrove boat tour. I have to say, it was magical. The tour guide was incredibly knowledgable, friendly and we got to see so many Fireflies, they looked like Christmas lights in the trees.
My top tips for Bintan SpaVilla…
•Change your currency over before you arrive in Bintan. Spavilla accept MasterCard and Visa but only take cash in Indonesian Rupee.
• Book a Jacuzzi Villa. It’s not much more expensive and is really worth it, the views in the morning are breathtaking and the Jacuzzi on your balcony over looking the water is a lovely treat.
• Get a fresh coconut for only $3.70/£2.15 (for a little extra you could add some rum 🍹)
• The Beef Rendang was delicious. Lizzie tried the Seafood BBQ and gave it the thumbs up 👍
•Get up for the sunrise…it’s worth it
•I highly recommend booking a treatment in the spa, the full body massage was just heavenly! I have never felt so pampered…
There are many resorts in Bintan to choose from, I think it’s worth researching to get the best out of your trip. There were quite few members of our Wicked team staying at the SpaVilla and every one of us thoroughly enjoyed it.
Meanwhile back in Singapore…A couple of people recommended that I gave Tiong Bahru a visit. A quirky street with a lovely bakery, one off shops, restaurants and a beautiful bookshop…They had me at bakery.
Kim and I (of course, who else when cakes are involved!) decided to go to Plain Vanilla Bakery for lunch. Because Kim and I have been so obsessed with the recent series of The Great British Bake Off, we went for shortcrust pastry tartlets. (I can only speak for myself, but I’ve definitely been craving it since Pastry Week) Just delicious…
The star bake was definitely our salted caramel and honeycomb tarts for dessert … (Sorry in advance, maybe grab yourself a biscuit before you look at this next photo- which doesn’t do them justice by the way!) We were a bit greedy really, we didn’t need one each but well… We won’t tell if you won’t!
I adored the bookstore in Tiong Bahru, Books Actually Lots of classics in here, and if you like cats there were a few padding about. It reminded me of perhaps your Grandma’s attic, (an incredibly trendy Grandma) with lots of little trinkets and things to look at. I loved their vending machine outside the store which was full of surprise books wrapped up in white paper. For $10 you could get a book. I thought this was such a great idea!
There are lots of free things to do in Singapore and one of the best days I’ve had here was when I visited the beautiful Botanical Gardens. It costs nothing to enter the park and only $5 to go into the Orchid Garden (which is breathtaking.) I’m actually going to have to go back a fair few times because it’s impossible to see everything in one day. It reminds me a bit of Kew Gardens back in London (minus the Lizards- which are really cute by the way!) I’m finding it somewhat difficult to be descriptive… it’s one of those places you just have to see.
I cannot believe I have been in Singapore for six weeks already and I can’t believe that in two weeks time I will be sat at home with my family, maybe eating my Mum’s roast dinner with all the trimmings…Yorkshire pudding and gravy…my Aunty Gill’s Red Leicester cheese rolls…doughnuts from the Market Square Bakery…. I’m going off topic!
Two weeks left and I’ve saved a few things to do until last (in case I enjoyed them too much and wanted to do them every week!)
Until next time…
Love Emily xxx
“The whole world is a series of miracles …but we’re so used to them we call them ordinary things”
~ Hans Christian Andersen