day 1 (April 28, 2012): Singapore
We decided to divide the planning load for the trip and I was assigned to do our Singapore leg. Planning shouldn’t be much of a burden since there are lots of references about places to go in Singapore. But this becomes a task when you have to make an itinerary for 1 day. How are we supposed to see everything Singapore has to offer in just a day?! But time isn’t something we could compromise. We decided to allot time for each place based on personal preference. So I took up the challenge and tried to squeeze in as much of Singapore as I can in a day. The control-freak in me took over and I had almost everything planned to the littlest details (although not as well planned as our shanghai trip where i had maps printed along with the schedules and bound in a folder). I love walking during travels. It gives me more chance to feel the vibe of the place. So our day 1 was filled with lots of walking.
Since we do not have much time, I opted to defer the touristy attractions for next time. That meant Universal Studios and the whole of Sentosa have to wait. Wicked would’ve made it in my list but M and I have already seen it in Broadway so we had to forego seeing Elphaba and Glinda belting it out. (I don’t think the boys were interested so it wasn’t much of a loss for them. Or was it just me being a dictator?). After weeding out a few places here and there, my plan was complete.
But of course, not all plans are followed to the minutest detail. Our setback started early. M and I arrived at the Budget Terminal. We thought one can go directly from the budget terminal to the other 3 terminals without passing by immigration. big mistake. All hopes of having a nap in the sleeping stations inside the airport vanished in thin air. It will be a long 4 hours. We took the free shuttle to Terminal 2 (free shuttle runs for 24 hours at ~10mins interval) and from terminal 2 almost missed the last train going to Terminal 3 (last train for all trains connecting the terminals is at 2 am) where we’re supposed to meet B and E. With very little sleep, we met the boys at around 2 in the morning and claimed some of the chairs there to get a few minutes of rest. The first train to the city leaves at 5:32 am so we had to wait. We exchanged about 100USD each as our budget for the day.
By 5:30, we headed to terminal 1 (basement 1) to have our luggages stored for the day (1.5SGD/piece/24hrs). We packed a change of clothes to bring with us and left the big backpacks. Then we headed to the subway. It is not diffcult to get around singapore by subway as there are only a few lines (unlike the crazy complex tokyo train system). As we had no change, we had difficulty buying subway tickets since the machines only accept 10SGD bills and coins. There were no coin changing stations and the information desk opens at 7 am so we had no choice but to ask people around to change our bills into coins. Luckily, we saw a group of japanese guys who were kind enough to change our bills. By then, we had already missed our target time by 1 hour. We boarded the next train and headed to our first destination- Bugis.
Bugis is one of the main shopping districts. We decided to have our breakfast there but this proved to be the wrong choice when we found that most of the placed is yet to open since we got there a bit too early. We were starving and didn’t have the will power to walk around even for a bit. So we had breakfast at the first open place we saw- Burger king! Bad start for our asian travel. But you have to excuse us, we barely had sleep and were dying of starvation. We were also a little rusty in the backpacking field since it’s been a while since we parted from the comforts of tokyo life.
breakfast cost around 5SGD. By 8:30 we were done eating. We walked around Bugis and looked for Sultan Mosque which wasn’t so difficult to find. What we had difficulty finding though was the entrance to the mosque because there was ongoing construction beside the place. Good thing some passerby was kind enough to tell us where to go.
Our luck was still AWOL though because the place is still not open. We decided to take a few snaps and head to our next destination-Arab street.
We walked around and took some photos. Then the sky began to dim and soon enough rain was pouring dang hard. We took shelter in a hospital because we were unlucky enough to reach the subway before it started raining. After about 30 minutes of waiting, finally the sky started to brighten and we kept on with our SG adventure.
Next stop, Henderson wave bridge. We took the subway from Bugis to Red Hill station. According to Mr. Google, the bridge is 23 minutes away from Red Hill. But the walk felt like forever that we had to ask a couple of times to make sure we weren’t getting lost. Then finally, we saw the bridge. But lo, we still have to take a few flights of stairs. By then, the sun was already becoming unbearable (and that’s just a few hours after the downpour!). I sat down in one of the benches to rest which turned ot to be another bad idea! there were large freakin’ ants and i got bit. So there I was sleepy, sweaty, tired, and itching. My first day couldn’t have gotten worse.
After taking our rest for a couple of minutes, we were again ready to roll. The boys had fun doing their jumpshots in the bridge.
Going down was another difficult task. There were parts of the area which is now inaccesible due to fallen trees. So we had to ask around for the nearest bus stop. Everyone is accomodating and was very willing to help though.
We headed next to chinatown to visit some temples and have our lunch. Chinatown is not so difficult to find since the place is very distinct and you could very well see the roofs of shops and temples with their very distinct chinatown look (i don’t know how to call the roof design!).
We were starving by the time we got there so we looked for Maxwell Centre to have our first deal with SG hawkers. The place was big and crowded but it did not deter us (more like our hungry stomachs). There was a long line in one of the shops selling hainanese chicken. When in doubt, follow the line! and so we did. and man, it didn’t disappoint. For 14SGD we had a meal of hainanese chicken for 4! We also tried a few other things with names i no longer recall.
After lunch, we visited the Buddha Tooth Relic temple just across Maxwell Centre. Shorts/mini skirts are not allowed inside but they have saris that visitors can borrow.
After the temple, we decided to go next to Little India to visit some Hindu temples then have our afternoon snack there. I would have to be honest and say that the Hindu temples there were not really as impressive (having been to India where they have all these really grand and old old temples).
Little India had lots of places to eat from budget-friendly to pocket-heavy. We wanted to try having Indian dessert for snack but couldn’t decide where. Instead we ended up having snack at 7/11. (i would like to argue that the heat was frying our brains but i couldnt. yes i also opted to go for 7/11. i haven’t had slurpee in years and it seemed like a good time to have one with the heat and all).
after i’ve had my fill of brainfreeze, the group took the subway to Marina bay to see the more cosmopolitan side of SG.
I must say the architecture is quite impressive though the area is small. Marina bay sands was a gem indeed. We had our proper snack in the foodcourt. I’ve been itching to try the kopi and kaya toast combo so what to eat for snack was a no-brainer for me. the kaya toast was a definite treat. yu-um. it’s a real must-try.
after snack and a few minutes of rest in an air-conditioned place, we set off to battle the heat again. next in our itinerary was the river cruise.
We went to the boat station just beside the mall. The cruise cost 17SGD/ person for 30 minutes. We were told to wait for the boat by the dock for a few minutes. But a few minutes turned into 30 minutes and still no boat.
The other passengers were starting to get pissed and kept asking the operators. They were telling us that the boat is on it’s way but couldn’t give a definite time. Since we were running late for our dinner appointment, we decided to ask the company to just give us a refund. With some prodding and a bit of an attitude, they let up and gave us our money back.
We were supposed to have dinner at Jumbo seafood in clark quaye but it seemed that the place gets full really fast. J, M’s friend, tried reserving for us days before but it was already full. So instead, we reserved for seats in Jumbo seafood near stadium station.
When we got there, the place was already packed and buzzing. We had to wait for 30 minutes to get seated. It’s a bit of a turn off how disorganized their seating and reservation system was. But the food was blockbuster! We had the must-try chili crabs which was awesome. But the biggest winner of the night for me was the cereal prawns. good god those were amazing prawns! (though E might argue in favor of the bread). The meal was pricier than usual in SG but it was well worth the money (~30SGD/person). Besides, Tokyo has set the bar pretty high for ‘pricy’.
After dinner, we headed to the merlion park which was a good 20 minutes away.