Watched WICKED, went to the BEST ZOO ever, killed my feet in UNIVERSAL STUDIOS and bought new clothes!
Before the first, I’d like to thank my mom, whose sheer awesomeness, God-given talents and hardworking skills made all of this possible, including my life.
First, yeah, I was the official hoarder of brochures and similar prints during the trip. I held our [printed] online tickets, reservations, stuff like that. I don’t know where to put all of these things now.
Second, this is a very confusing entry. I’m not really sure how to do this in an organized fashion. Also, skip everything that isn’t emboldened or underlined. The rest is all blab.
Third, a round of applause to my sister, whose patience and skills gave birth to the pictures here. I maintain that I took some pictures during the trip. She says my (and my brother/mother’s) contribution is positively puny compared to hers. She wrote on the trip as well on her blog.
Our tour through Singapore took four jam-packed days. As soon as we arrived early Saturday morning, we dropped our luggage in the hostel and proceeded to Suntec City to start a facilitated tour. After riding a boat through the river, exploring Chinatown and going on the Singapore Flyer, we ate dinner with the family of my godmother, who I haven’t seen for a very, very long time (they’re based in SG). The next day dawned with the promise of a trip to the famed Singapore Zoo. After several hours of posing with and learning about animals, we traveled back to the city. We took pictures beside the Merlion and surrounding areas. Walking through the city back to the hostel, we stopped by St. Andrew’s for a quick prayer. We then went to Marina Bay Sands Grand Theater to eat in Din Tai Fung and watch the musical Wicked. Several hours of our third day was spent in Universal Studios. We rode on almost all the rides, including the new 4D experience based on Transformers. We visited the Singapore Art Museum before going to Clarke Quay for our dinner. We took a shopping trip through Orchard Road for our last day, and finally went to the airport. (Where our flight was delayed for three hours.)
Singapore is one giant resort/park/tourist attraction that just happens to have native permanent residents. Given that, there are a LOT of things to do and visit (aside from eating and shopping!).
- Shopping Malls and Districts. Though they may not be heritage sites or amusement parks, the areas devoted to fashion and other accessories are still a must-see. With Suntec City (which we didn’t have much time to explore), Raffles, Orchard Road and more, there are seriously many places to choose from. Because we had limited time (and budget), we didn’t linger long in those places. However, I can assure you that those places can provide three things: (1) respite from heat, (2) good views [there are random pieces of artworks strewn about] and (3) a fun window shopping experience! On a side note, they’re all so pretty. :) They looked like Ayala Malls to me. I recommend extra days for shopping! I’m pretty sure we missed good deals in Cotton On and H&M because we didn’t have the time.
- Singapore River. We took the Wacky Duck tour into the river, which was pretty neat. The Wacky Duck tour bus is basically a duck. It awkwardly moved through the land from Suntec City then went gracefully floating on the river. Our tour guide talked about the landmarks seen from the river (and there are a lot; the river’s basically in the middle of it all). Singapore used to be a fishing country, before it underwent a 25-year unbelievable development that made it awesome and made fishing in the river illegal. The ride through the river is perfect if you’ve got time and cash to burn and if you are honestly interested in landscapes and weird tour guides; otherwise it’s a little bit boring (the trip was on this side of long, enough to make me sleepy). The HiPPo River Cruise alone costs S$18 for a 45 mins. cruise. The Wacky DUCK tour comes with a package.
- Singapore Flyer. This is (according to the brochure) the “Largest Giant Observation Wheel” in the world. It’s apparently very famous. What made it really special for me was the new Journey of Dreams Interactive Gallery. While I didn’t take the time to read through all of the displays, I was still very entertained by the visual effects. You pass through the gallery before reaching the boarding decks. The Flyer also offers lots of other treats inflight (which we didn’t avail of), like the “First Full Butler Sky Dining Flight” –apparently most popular, “Moet & Chandon Champagne Flight” and “Solemnisation Package” (use of a romantically-decorated private capsule and other benefits, which is pretty weird). The view was quite amazing, and the ride was conveniently dry, since it was raining when we took flight. If you’ve got S$30+ and time to spare, and a love for peace and good views, the Flyer is perfect (otherwise you’ll find the 30-minute slow ride dull).
- Chinatown is one of those constants in life. Because it was still raining at that time, we didn’t have such a comfy time shopping around. Ma bought some magnets, Kuya tried Laksa (that’s a signature Singaporean dish –I took a few spoonfuls, and it was a little bit spicy) and Ate some noodles. I ate siopao with Ma. We also posed around a Buddhist temple (that’s an assumption; I don’t know what religion it belongs to) and a Hindu one. For history and culture buffs who’d appreciate heritage sites, more time is needed! We didn’t even get to pass by “Little India” because of our schedule (and navigating skills).
- Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. This isn’t something you’d see in brochures and tourist guides. The Yacht Club is located far from the bustle of the center of the city –and by far I mean it takes 20 minutes of car ride to get there — and is exclusive to members only. Luckily my godmother and her family are members, so we got a chance to eat there and see the place (at least a bit of it). The view’s not as spectacular as from the other side of the city (it was full of yachts), but well… It’s probably worth visiting for the sake of yachting, sports and club behavior (I don’t even know what they do there, though there are swimming lessons, playrooms, a playground and more), though we didn’t do anything there except eat and look around. For us, it was all about the family gathering. Sites on the way to the Yacht Club are also worth visiting, though the places weren’t part of our itinerary: NUS, Insead, Science Parks (basically the KnowledgeHub district, according to google). A school near our hostel was Singapore Management University, which definitely trumps our own local campuses.
- Singapore Zoo. This is by far the best zoo I’ve ever been to, and according to the brochure it is the “World’s Best Rainforest Zoo”. GO THERE IF YOU CAN! I recommend getting the basic admission ticket only, no need for tram or boat rides (unless you’re into that sort of thing). We were there for around four-five hours or so, and we managed to tour the whole place (except for the Kids section) without the tram ride. There are shows (seals/sea lions in Splash Safari, rainforest animals in Rainforest Fights Back SHOW, et cetera) at certain intervals, though we weren’t able to watch any. I love the organization of the whole place, the well-built habitats, the services offered (tram, boat, strollers, elephant rides and so on) and the beauty of it all! Around S$25 to enjoy the zoo. FAVORITES: Fragile Forest! Timon and Pumba beside each other, the Orang Utans and all the majestic felines. There were other attractions near the zoo, such as the Night Safari, that we didn’t go to. The Night Safari had a bad review from a relative (so we didn’t go there), and as for the rest, I have no idea.
- Merlion. It’s one of those things you CAN NOT miss. While I don’t really understand its history (got to read up on that) and the intense sun did not do any favors in my opinion, it’s still the most iconic thing in Singapore. Best of all, it’s free!
- St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Drop by for a quick prayer! There are surprisingly many churches in the city –there were Filipino services too (which is cool, by the way). We passed by the Cathedral when we walked from Merlion to Raffles.
- Marina Bay Sands. The hotel, casino and shoppes were all very beautiful and expensive-looking. We walked through the hotel, tried to go up the Sky-whatever (we didn’t have time, though, since we had dinner and Wicked! waiting) and passed by the shops going to the restaurant. I suppose it’s another must-see, though I’m not sure what else can be done there except looking around, shopping and eating. Unless you’re of legal age, then you can go gambling. Marina Bay Sands Grand Theater was impressive, in the sense that it was big and had world-class sounds and light and whatever system.
- Universal Studios. I really looked forward to going to Universal Studios Singapore (I’v forgotten bits of our USA venture). Moving without the attraction-express-fast-pass-whatever was already great. Since there weren’t that many rides to enjoy anyway, waiting with a bunch of other tourists is a bearable experience (just visit on a non-peak day!). The amusement park was smaller than the original version, though there is still some fun to be had! Most of the rides were cool, though in my opinion the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure and Lights, Camera, Action! Hosted by Steven Spielberg paled in comparison to the US version (the former which, though I didn’t ride it in Cali, boasted death-defying heights in their promotions). The Shrek 4-D Adventure was similar, as well as The Revenge of the Mummy and WaterWorld Show. We didn’t try several other rides, since they didn’t seem so exciting. FAVORITES: Transformers The Ride (it’s new, surprising and absolutely fun) and Battlestar Galactica: CYLON (better and more heart-stopping than the HUMAN track, promise!). I’ve heard that the other resorts/parks in Sentosa are worth a visit, too. :)
- Singapore Art Museum. Lack of time and no real enthusiasm on behalf of my family meant that we didn’t get to explore many museums. SAM is very near our hostel, so we had some time to stop by. Most of the exhibits were closed (being remodeled or some such), and so we only saw the ‘Learning Galleries’ which featured contemporary art. The pieces were all interesting and aesthetically pleasing. There were even two photographs displayed that featured the ugly side of Manila. What was more interesting to visit would have been the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, which at that time (and up to now) featured “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” (for the first time in Southeast Asia) and “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal”.
- FoodRepublic! It is beautiful, clean, open and absolutely brilliant. Food Republic is a popular food court in SG, or at least that’s what I gathered. We’ve eaten in two branches, which looked different in design but still similar in services given. The great thing about it is that there are so many cuisines available with good prices!
- Clark Quay (stubbornly pronounced as “Clark Key”) is one of those commercial hubs that has 99% bar-restaurants. While that makes it VERY hard to choose (the directory overflowing with restaurant names wasn’t helping), the variety of establishments makes it easy to fill a craving for a certain cuisine. Because we can’t decide on whether we want Chinese, Malay, Mexican, American and so on, we settled on a family favorite: Thai (though in hindsight I didn’t notice Italian restaurants there). We ate dinner in RennThai which was expensive but worth it (we were so hungry we could eat for a legion). We had a riverside view and a Filipina server. :)
- Din Tai Fung surprised me. It was a Chinese restaurant with acceptable food and service that required some patience (there were many people), but apparently it was a very big deal. Yeah, its xiaolongbao were great, and watching an army of cooks make them was amazing –but the point is: it’s been awarded one Michelin star (some, if not all, of its other branches, too) and has ranked in the top ten list of New York Times. That’s just… wow. :) There’s another branch outside Universal Studios.
- Ice cream sandwich, street-style. Instead of ice cream cones and cups, we ate ice cream sandwiches sold by a street vendor in Clark Quay. Yeah, I know we have the Korean and Japanese versions sold in pretty wrappers here, but these were a level more unique. The vendor took out a loaf (or a block) of ice cream in the flavor of choice, cut out a slice as if it was Eden cheese, and slabbed on two biscuits (also of choice) on either side. It looked far from perfect, and tasted like any other ice cream sandwich, but the presentation and the process were definitely memorable.
- Garrett. This gourmet popcorn brand isn’t exclusive to SG, but that’s where I first tasted it. Ma bought the (most popular) flavor “Chicago Mix”. The flavors certainly taste and sound unique.
- YCafe (I honestly can’t be bothered to search the spelling) is the name of the dining service in the hostel we stayed in (we stayed in YMCA International House, which was pretty neat for a place to crash). It’s passable, but not anything special. I’m especially annoyed by the fact that they say that a “Continental Breakfast” is available. I don’t see how toast (the only type of bread they offer) can possibly constitute a continental breakfast (I wanted soft rolls and croissants!), though the eggs, coffee, cereal and sausages make it worthwhile.
The Best Things
- Getting around the city is so easy! To guide us in our trip we first took the Singapore Pass tour package from Duck & HiPPO tours –it costs S$60+, since the ticket for the Singapore Flyer and a lot of tours and a couple of museums were included. However, getting a one-day tour package would be better to just ground your senses, since the buses and trains are easily accessed anyways. I’m of the opinion that the Singapore public transportation system is the best I’ve ever seen, including those I’ve seen in Europe (I think). Everything’s digitalized and while not cheap (for the standard tickets, anyway), they are at least very efficient.
- Eye-pleasing and organized are things to describe Singapore. There’re no telephone/cable lines ruining the whole place (IF ONLY WE COULD HAVE THAT HERE), no overpasses (only underground passes, and even those rock more than necessary), the traffic lights and crossing-the-street signals are actually helpful… It’s like Europe, only warmer, Asian and with better English.
- No traffic, no hold-ups! Getting stuck in a jam in the city was very unlikely. Why? First, cars are apparently very expensive to both acquire and maintain, so the streets are significantly emptier than the bustle of Manila/Makati. Second, most people go for trains, buses and cabs, since they’re more efficient and cheaper in the long run (with an annual/monthly/whatever pass). Third, they don’t have toll gates! I think it’s very cool. Here in the Philippines they ALWAYS renovate those toll gates (and the roads). There, it’s all automated!
- Security. We walked along empty walkways during the night, while I had my phone out and my sister had her DSLR out in the open. It’s fine, though, since we feel very secure in SG. We even trust taxi drivers not to overcharge. Perhaps it’s the large punishment you get that makes criminal activity (at least of the theft and murder kind) very low –the same goes for Cleanliness. Air, water and land pollution is virtually non-existent.
- NO DURIANS.
- Tourist friendly. Singapore is one of the most tourist friendly countries I’ve ever been to. Mostly it’s the fact that almost everyone speaks English, and all signs have an English translation too, unlike in Europe, where everything’s put in one mostly incomprehensible language. Everyone is also very open to helping (as long as they’re approached first). It’s very cool.