Flying (again) during the pandemic

Having flown to Taipei earlier in August on China Airlines, here’s a short update on my flight back to Singapore on Scoot just last week.

The journey back on Scoot was a fairly smooth one. I booked the flight a month before my date of travel and was delighted to find out that Scoot resumed flights between Taipei and Singapore (previously, only China Airlines, EVA, Singapore Airlines, and Jetstar provided flights). The addition of Scoot flights gave me the option to fly back to Singapore on a Monday while the rest of the airlines flew later in the week.

Online check-in was as per usual, with me filling in my personal information and declaring if I had check-in baggage. However, I was also informed by the airline to fill in the Singapore Arrival Card, a travel requirement where all travelers to Singapore had to submit our arrival details to the ICA for immigration clearance within three days before our arrival.

Besides, Scoot also had their health declaration form which had to be submitted 24 hours before the flight.

Counter check-in at Taoyuan International Airport was also very smooth, and I was informed that there were around 20 passengers on the same flight as me from Taipei to Singapore. As we waited to board the plane at the gate, the ground staff constantly reminded passengers to keep their masks on at all times via the PA system.

On-board the flight, our seats had a ‘care-pack’ consisting of a bottle of hand sanitizer, a mask, and alcohol wipes which we could use during our flight. It was very thoughtful, considering that it’s a budget airline. Compared to China Airlines, I’ve to admit that Scoot’s care pack was a better one.

The return flight to Singapore was an uneventful one, with most passengers choosing to stay in their seats and barely anyone used the washroom or moved around during the flight.

Upon landing, all the passengers had to proceed to the immigration area where we took our COVID-19 test before clearing immigration. I pre-paid for my COVID-19 test earlier and only had to wait a short while before the test was administered (I got my test results back within eight hours!).

Immigration clearance and luggage clearance were also a breeze, which I was thankful for!

All in all, the flight back was an uneventful one. It is indeed sad to see airports so empty but I could get used to the empty seats around me on the plane!

If you’re flying in/out/through Singapore Changi International Airport, I highly suggest checking the Changi Airport website for the latest updates – it really helped me as I planned my journey back.

Changi Airport: A tourist attraction

Singaporeans normally view Changi Airport as a place to board a plane for exotic tourist destinations. But, with travel curbs in place, the airport has itself become a tourist attraction.

Kudos to the folks running the airport for the immense efforts to draw people to the airport for reasons other than travelling. Well, if you stay at the other end of the island, it may feel like you’re heading to another town, another place.

Opened slightly more than a year ago, Jewel is a delightful mall to spend time a day in. It’s got everything — from food to shops, and hairstyling saloons to hotel. For this season, the gardens around the centrepiece Rain Vortex has been decked in Christmas glory, making for great sight seeing and photo opportunities.

Families who want something a little different can consider spending a night glamping at Cloud9 Piazza at Level 5.

While Terminal 3 may not be as crowded as before, it has also been given a Christmas makeover with dinosaurs, in line with the theme of Jurassic Mile. The fact that there’s less of a crowd is great because you can take your time to delight in the exhibits and take photos without having loads of photo bombers.

For the F1 wannabes, a go kart circuit — with separate tracks for children and adults — has been set up at the taxi rank outside Terminal 4.

A little round the corner is Jurassic Mile, which has also been decorated with lights to make it a sight to behold at night. Whether you’re a cyclist, walker or jogger, this stretch is worth exploring. But do note that you need to book a slot if you’re planning to be there on Fridays to Sundays.

So, if you’re looking for a place to go to during the holiday, consider Changi Airport — and you don’t have to worry about forgetting to bring your passport.

Google Nest: Good sound, great price

When Google announced the Google Home speaker in 2016, I was excited and wanted to get one. Unfortunately, the product wasn’t available in Singapore then.

During my next trip to the US in 2017, I stayed in San Jose and scouted for the nearest outlet selling the device. I was so delighted to find it at a nearby Walmart and bought two — one to give as a gift.

From then on, it’s a love affair that has expanded to the Google Home Mini, which I installed in another room. The smart speakers produce acceptable sound quality (for my ears) and are so easy to set up.

The introduction of Google Nest Audio this year got me all worked up again. But, this time, I need not (and could not anyway) fly to the US to get my fix. My discerning daughter gifted me one as soon as it was available.

It doesn’t look like the first two iterations but everything else was so intuitive.

After more than a month with the Google Nest, here are my thoughts:

  1. Easy setup. One of the biggest frustrations of getting a new device is the setting up. But, Google has made it so easy that my Nest was up and running in a minute.
  2. Good sound. Under its larger form factor are a pair of speakers that produce good sounds. The Google Nest Audio sports a 75mm woofer and a 19mm tweeter, which delivers more oomph compared to the sole 50mm speaker on the first Home.
  3. Inconspicuous look. Some may say that the design looks too simple but I feel that it is just what a speaker should look like. Speakers are meant to be heard, not seen, so the simple look can fit in anywhere without drawing attention.
  4. Privacy mode. With so much concern over whether wireless speakers are recording conversations, Google has added a microphone switch to turn it off when greater privacy is desired.
  5. Great price. At S$139, the price in Singapore is similar to the US pricing. Plus, local shipping is free so there’s no need to pay for overseas shipping and that long wait.

The Google Nest Audio can be paired with another to provide a stereo effect. I only have one so cannot comment on how good that would be. But my imagination tells me that if one is already good, two would make the audio experience much better. If you like, you can get the Google Nest Audio from Google Singapore.

Verdict

Price: 👍👍👍👍👍

Performance: 👍👍👍👍