Aerial View of San Francisco

Traveling to Singapore during COVID

We had not been to an airport since the COVID pandemic started, so as we pulled up to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) we were amazed to see no cars, no lines and almost no people anywhere. We were remarking on it, when a security guard overheard us and mentioned that the airport was even more deserted in the early days of our shutdown. It’s hard to imagine!

We connected through Los Angeles which was significantly busier than either SFO or Changi airports, still very few of the kiosks or food courts were open. After walking through 3 terminals and seeing only two restaurants open – the first was three terminals away, the second was everyone’s favorite pseudo-Asian chain, Panda Express. If you know me, you’ll know I don’t like most American Chinese food (neither does my husband for that matter) so he’s always jokingly suggesting that we eat there whenever we see it. The joke was on me this time when the only thing open in LAX’s International Terminal was Panda Express! If you want to know, we had the orange chicken.

Deserted Changi Aiport
A very quiet Changi Airport

In the weeks leading up to our move, we prepared our children to be met with full PPE (masks, face shields, disposable clothing) on our flight or upon arrival in Singapore. We had seen pictures of the response to COVID in China and didn’t know exactly what to expect in Singapore. We were all relieved to see the flight crew in their standard uniforms with only the addition of face masks and safety glasses. We were similarly greeted at Singapore’s Changi Airport and with friendly faces.

We entered Singapore as a family of four, my husband and two daughters as returning Singapore citizens, I came in as a foreigner. Because I am not a Singapore citizen, I was required to get a letter of approval from the Singaporean government allowing me to travel with the family. My status as a foreigner created uncertainty as to whether I might be required to quarantine in a separate location. With this in mind, we packed our bags with duplicate sets of toiletries and chargers just in case. Thankfully, we were emphatically ensured that we would not be separated by the immigration authorities and the issue never came up after that.

After collecting our luggage, we entered the queue for our quarantine placement. We were sorted into lines but I think only to make it look orderly. People were pulled at random and asked to board different shuttles. As far as I can tell, you are picked to go wherever there is room in the hotel. When you are called, you are directed to a shuttle, have your temperature taken and off you go. The shuttle gives you no indication as to where you are going so as we drove, we tried guessing our destination based on the various landmarks we passed. Were we going downtown to Orchard Rd? Marina Bay Sands? After passing the typical destinations, we determined we were going to Sentosa Island, a small resort island off the mainland known for its theme parks and resorts.

The hotel is surrounded by trees, lots of birds, some troublesome monkeys (which we have not seen despite our watchful eyes) and views of the water. We were assigned two adjoining rooms with balconies and for that I am so thankful. It could be worse.

In my next post, I’ll be taking you through life in quarantine. Let me know what you are curious about!

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  • Poppy

    Someone I know had an unfortunate incident with monkeys in a wildlife park in South Africa. She was with a tour group. They had paid for chefs to cook their meals. Somehow, the monkeys there got into and stole ALL their food. The chefs with nothing left to cook abandoned the group. The group was left to fend for themselves which fortunately did not include fighting the monkeys for food. Unfortunately, the group was left to eat at the only place they could get food while staying there, which was a fast food place, like a Burger King, for all their meals. ☹️

    • Julia

      Monkeys are no joke! I, too, was introduced to them in Africa (Zimbabwe) and saw them just grab food out of people’s hands. I have seen them in Singapore before but not in this location. I was hoping to see them though for entertainment but I don’t know that it will happen. 🙁

  • Joyce M Nicholas

    I’m so excited about your blog. I’ve been to Japan and China, Singapore is on my travel list. I’m a bit of a geek. I love history, geography, and sociology. I know you will provide me with a lot of first hand information about your new home. I want to know the history, is migration from a different part of Asia a theme? What are the demographics, the main occupations and the economic focus there? I want to know about the art scene ? Also maybe you can direct me to some of country’s literature. Singapore is a intriguing mystery to most Americans. I look forward to your posts and learning more.

    • Julia

      Thanks for stopping by Joyce. I’ll try to address some of these things as they come up. It is a little bit of a mystery even as to where it is to a lot of people and I will be adding some of these things in as they come up. The majority population is Chinese but with large Indian and Malay (the indigenous group). Keep the comments coming! I love it.

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