Thursday 18 March 2010

Take me around Singapore, Uncle

On March 11 to March 15, I visited Singapore - my first. It's more like a leisure trip really - I didn't prepare some kind of a long checklist of must-see or must-do and then spent all my energy running around ala Amazing Race. My goal was to take it easy, meet some friends and wander around this cute country like a local.

Marina Bay, Singapore
  • From now on I will travel with PAL for my Asia trips
Taking into consideration the free hot meals on board and 15 kilos baggage allowance with Econolight, it's cheaper than Cebu Pacific's Go Lite. On March 11, I took a PAL flight from Manila to Singapore. I also must commend the improvement in service. I had used to travel with PAL years ago for my CEB-JPN flights and I had always found the flight attendants snobbish, a bit discriminating. But with my flights on March 11 (MNL-SING) and March 15 (SING-MNL), I totally enjoyed flying with them. Even the staffs at the airport were very helpful. I almost forgot getting annoyed why on earth we have to pay airport tax (Php 750) and travel tax (Php 1620) when other airports abroad don't impose these. With thousands of passengers travelling everyday, it’s truly a wonder where does the money go? I could not see any upgrades at any of our airports at all!
  • Changi Airport is top class
PAL flights arrive at and depart from Changi airport Terminal 2. It is way better than Heathrow Terminals 1 to 4. It's very spacious and stylish. My good friend Janice picked me up from the airport and we had dinner at Crystal Jade, a Chinese restaurant at Terminal 1. Food there was a good preview of the delectable dining experiences possible in Singapore.
  • Getting around Singapore is a piece of cake!
Singapore is a well connected country. There are lots of reliable public transportations available - bus, taxi and train. My friend let me used her extra EZ-Link card for use on the MRT, LRT and public buses. It's similar to London's Oyster card.

If you don't have a friend who can lend you his/her extra EZ-link card, there's another option for tourists - the Singapore Tourist Pass, which can be purchased at the Changi airport. Using this pass you can enjoy unlimited train and bus rides at only S$8 a day.

Cabs are readily available everywhere in Singapore. You can even text or phone their trunk lines so Uncle (that's what they call the taxi drivers) can pick you up wherever you are.
  • Can and Cannot
They say Singapore is a fine city. And I couldn't agree more. It has developed the reputation for penalising even the smallest offences like dropping gum or litter and dancing in public.

As tourist, you should better take note what you can or cannot do if you don't want to kiss your pocket money goodbye.

Warnings inside the MRT

Can and Cannot - these are the most useful English words in Singapore. To be on the safe side, ask an Uncle or a local about something and he would just answer can (meaning it's okay, go ahead, you can do that or i don't care, just do it or as simple as yes) or cannot (meaning it's not okay, no, don't do it or you would get a private tour inside of the Changi Prison).

  • Merlion Park
Of course never miss the Merlion Park that fronts the Marina Bay. Nearest train station is the Marina Bay MRT.

There are two Merlions that you can find at Marina Bay. The original Merlion statue, which is male and right behind it is a Merlion cub.

From the Merlion Park you can see the Marina Bay Sands, which was still under construction. Though it still looked like a giant fancy ironing board, I have no doubt it would be magnificent once it's finished. It boasts of three 55-storeys towers with Casino, theatres, luxury shops and golf course (hence the ironing board look). It's set to open mid this year.
  • Singapore Flyer
Just a few kilometres from the Merlion Park is the Singapore Flyer (similar to the London Eye), gives you a breathtaking, panoramic view of the Marina Bay and the Singapore landmarks dotting the city skyline. Ticket price is S$29.50 per adult.
  • Shop and Dine at Chinatown
Don’t forget to shop for your souvenirs at Singapore's Chinatown. Here you would find buildings and shophouses with quaint architecture, dominantly in pastel colours.

Of course aside from cheap souvenir T-shirts and ref magnets, one could buy many interesting knick-knacks there.

Elderly locals like to hang around outside this temple while sipping coffee from a plastic bag using a straw (must be not that hot) or whiling away playing chess.

The stroll along the streets at Chinatown that time was more pleasurable with these fragrant cherry blossoms (Sakura) in full bloom.
My friends took me to Insomnia where two excellent Filipino bands play. I really had a great time especially since the bar imposes a no-smoking policy. Thank God I didn't have to go home stinking! Nakikitulog pa naman ako kay Janice, hehehe.

Of course there are many more things to do in Singapore that I did not try during my visit. I'm reserving for my next visit with Harley, namely the Night safari, Singapore Zoo (Harley goes gaga over animals) and the Universal Studios and Songs of the Sea at Sentosa.

  • Shopping!
I perfectly timed my Singapore visit for the IT show so I can buy a laptop for my sister at a discounted price. Not only was I able to buy a lovely red Fujitsu netbook at the IT show at Suntec City, I was lucky enough to experience not just one but two warehouse sales - Body Shop (also at Suntec City) and Charles & Keith (at Paya Lebar). Shopping is indeed the Singaporeans favourite past time.
  • Eat, eat and eat!

    Singapore, aside from its local cuisine, offers wide array of delightful dining experiences from humble hawker fare to gastronomic 5-star restaurants. Cuisines like Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Malay, Thai and Indian are available there. I love, love, love their spicy foods!

    Must Try
    1. Marché
    2. I super adore Marché at VivoCity, a Swiss restaurant chain that boasts European food prepared on the spot with meat and vegetables guaranteed fresh.
    3. Food Republic
    4. Food Republic is a food court chain that combines local hawker fare with small restaurants. There are currently 4 branches in Singapore, Wisma Atria, 313 @ Somerset, VivoCity and Suntec City.
    5. Makansutra Gluttons Bay
    6. The mouth-watering Chili Crab below is sold at Makansutra Gluttons Bay, plus I also ate a delicious Kaya toast, with very generous helping of Kaya, there.

    Am I willing to go back to Singapore solely for the food? Oh, definitely!


reane said...

ayy ayaw ko na maging photographer, wala ako sa picture! hehe

Nico C said...

Veryy nice blog you have here

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