When booking a promo fare ... look very closely ... hidden charges ( 15 kgs luggage? Add $10. Choose a seat? Add $10 ... and the long list follows ) Arriving at the NAIA , you have to pay 1620 (travel tax) and Terminal Fee of 750. For what? A toilet with “tabo” instead of a bidet, worn-out carpets that shouts Allergy!, water interruption announcements, brown outs and no seats available at the gates while waiting. Well, so much for the 750 terminal fee, I am paying so much taxes that I practically own a street in Makati.
I always loved the Bola-Bola Siopao in the Departure Area. Price is exorbitant at PhP190 @ Saint Cinnamon. A bottle of Coke amounts to Php70.00 But inside the plane, I don’t smell the familiar “PAL smell” ... the one that makes my tummy ache for a while, I think it is the deodorizer they use. Tiger doesn’t have that smell ... does it mean, they don’t deodorize their plane? Of course, the options continue ... meat, veggie, chicken for only 10 SGD. Blankets? 13 SGD. Drinks? 3 SGD. Arrival: Since you are in a budget plane ... land in a budget terminal. Yes! With no flowers and colored murals in the airport. No walkalator ... walk with your feet. Of course, who cannot forget the ladies who were detained because their reason for coming to SG is not to see Shrek.
Get a cab. Get every single centavo of change. By the way, prepare your SGD especially if you are arriving at odd hours when the money changers are closed. It is a must to have e-Link card: loadable card for transportation ( MRT or bus ). Saves you a lot of money for transportation. The public transportation in SG is superb. One thing though, Singaporeans are always in a hurry. Stay on the left side of the hall or escalator to avoid being trampled upon. Taxis are everywhere ... but have a number to call a cab as well for rush hours.
My typical 6-Day Recommended Itinerary: ( Not for the Senior Citizens and those with heart and feet problems )
Day 1 : Simei Plaza or any mall near your place of stay. When buying electronics canvass the price here in the Philippines, canvass in reputable stores like Challenger , Harvey Norman or Best then buy in Sim Lim Square. Remember: ask for freebies. When buying a camera: Free tripod, cleaning kit, 8G memory card, case, etc. When buying a laptop: free sleeves, free mouse, free keyboard protector, etc.
This restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes. Add 1 SGD for every choice . Total amount of would be 2.50 for 1 meat / 1 veggie. I don't like my choices of food here , most probably if I have chosen better , I would have liked it here. Long queue of patrons, must be good.
Afternoon Sunset Tour Sentosa -
Three ways to get there via
MTR and Monorail:
MTR & Bus
1. Home of the Skyline Luge
2. Images of Singapore – see SG history told in hologram.
3. Take the picture of the Merlion . The Merlion in Marina Bay is sometimes undergoing maintenance.
4. Cable Car
5. Tiger Sky Tower – Gently rising 131 meters above sea level, relax inside the air-conditioned cabin of the Tiger Sky Tower and enjoy panoramic views across Sentosa and Singapore's Southern Islands – as well as neighboring Malaysia and even Indonesia. (SGD 15)
6. Butterfly Park
7. Desperados/Sentosa 4D Magix/Sentosa Cineblast – SGD 30
Touch Pool is also a delight. Close encounter with manta rays and baby sharks.
3. Dolphin Lagoon – home of the pink dolphins. Shows in Subic are better. The pink river dolphin is a freshwater river dolphins who lives in the Amazon and Orinoco rivers in South America. They are also known as Boto. Although they are bright pink usually, sometimes they are also gray, brown or white. Usually, when they are excited or surprised they become pinker.
3. Songs of the Sea. SGD 10.00 My fave in Sentosa. Winner of Thea Awards for Outstanding Achievement for Event Spectacular and ASEANTA Award for Best Tourist Attraction. Be there 30-45 minutes before the show to get the best seat in the house ( the middle part ) Don’t stay too near the shore , you might get wet. This one amazing show. MUST SEE especially for the kids. It is a delight to the 5 senses.
4. Other Beach attractions.
Dinner at Vivo City’s Food Republic – if you are looking for ambience of the Old China , this is the place you should go to – street life appeal with the convenience of the air conditioning units.
Chicken Rice at Sergeant – good! Don’t forget the condiments. Choose roasted but steamed is good for health. But I always prefer taste for health – Life is Short! Chicken Rice for me is over rated – I’ve yet to taste something that it is so good that I will recommend. This is too bland for me. I’ve tasted 3 chicken rice in SG and the one in EDSA Shangri-La. Not for me.
Tutu Coconut Cake – It got its name from the sound of the bamboo device that makes a “too-too” sound when steam is coming out of it. It is rice cake w/ fillings of coconut or peanut (your choice) – 2 of my faves - w/ pandan leaves at the bottom to enhance the fragrance. 2 SGD for 4 pcs. Minimum price of .60 w/o fillings – who would want that anyway?
VIVO CITY Mall – where you can find National Geo Store. Try getting a Tourist Pass for a discount card and freebies.
Day 2: Enroute to Johor Bahru ( “New Jewel”) which is one of the three main urban centers of Malaysia. Bus Fare: 2.40 SGD.
Shop around the Central Shopping Mall ... again it is going to my fave shoe store that is making me come back to Malaysia ... Vincci ( aka VNC in the Philippines ) . 50% off the Philippine price. Is that heaven or what. And again ... I told myself, I think I have room for 2 more shoes.
LUNCH: FOOD JUNCTION
It is imperative for us to eat in Food Courts because of our different tastes in food –
Beef Rendang – my hubby’s fave ( because he doesn't have much choice ). It is spicy caldereta – Indonesian style. Best tasting rendang better than Marina Bay Sands’. It is made from beef slowly cooked in coconut milk, spices and sometimes kerisik (toasted coconut paste) for several hours until almost all the liquid is gone, allowing the meat to absorb the spicy condiments. Spices: ginger, galangal, turmeric leaf, lemon grass and chillies.
Nasi Lemak – national dish of Malaysia. This comes as a platter of food wrapped in banana leaf, with cucumber slices, small dried anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, hard boiled egg, and hot spicy sauce (sambal) at its core. Rice is soaked in coconut cream and steamed. My fave! Delish!
After lunch, we went to Sim Lim Square ( Ronchor Canal Road, SG – very near the bus station going to JB ) , the electronics hub of SG, lower prices but be very careful ... always remember , canvass 1st. Always, you get freebies for your cameras like cases, cleaning kits, memory cards, etc. For laptops, you can get a bag, sleeves, USB, mouse, mouse pad , etc. Avail ... avail ... avail. Opppss and don’t forget the GST Form . You get tax refund for every 100 SGD you spend ... anywhere in SG.
Visit the Bugis Night Market.
Dinner is Served at Bugis Junction:
BBQ Wings – a common sight in SG . Roasted wings in Dijon mustard, brown sugar and garlic powder. Ordinary.
Beef Satay – BBQ with hoisin sauce (which makes it different) and peanut sauce dipping ( chili paste, coconut milk, lemon juice, fish sauce, chunky peanut butter) Too small serving.
Curry Mixed Rice with either Fish or Chicken- standard fried rice mixed with curry powder for a spicier flavor. Usually comes with pork or chicken or beef with the sauce smothered all over the rice. This may sometimes come w/ potatoes. Not my cup of tea but my sister’s fave.
Popiah – spring rolls
HK Style Beancurd Salad
Chendol – their version of halo-halo for 2 SGD . For sharing – too sweet for my tooth . The dessert's basic ingredients consist of coconut milk, a worm-like jelly made from rice flour with green food coloring (usually derived from the pandan leaf), shaved ice and palm sugar. Next to these basic recipe, other ingredients such as red beans, glutinous rice, grass jelly, creamed corn, might also be included.
Of course, this is all best done with a very patient and generous friend to show you around and minimize the “lost world” stage. For this, we are forever grateful to Sandra, our host and new-found friend.
Marina Bay : “destination with endless opportunities for people to “explore new living and lifestyle options, exchange new ideas and information for business, and be entertained by rich leisure and cultural experiences”
Here are the sights to visit on foot:
1. Youth Olympic Park – see the paintings of children
2. The Helix Bridge , previously known as the Double Helix Bridge , is a pedestrian bridge linking Marina Centre with Marina South in the Marina Bay area in Singapore.
Try looking for the ice cream sandwich vendor here for only 1 SGD. Flavors: peppermint, mango, chocolate, vanilla, corn, etc. Yum-O!
3. Singapore Flyer - a giant Ferris wheel described by its operators as an observation wheel, it reaches 42 stories high making it the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, 5 m (16 ft) taller than the Star of Nanchang and 30 m (98 ft) taller than the London Eye.
4. Marina Bay Sands - an integrated resort fronting Marina Bay . Developed by Las Vegas Sands, it is billed as the world's most expensive stand alone casino property at S$8 billion, including cost of the prime land. It is also known for its infinity edge swimming pool but you have to pay 20 SGD to go to the top of this building.
My places of interest in MBS:
a. Louis Vuitton flagship store - reason why I came back to SG
b. Cut – restaurant owned by Wolfgang Puck - world renowned Food Network Star Chef, the caterer to Oscars Governor's Ball
c. Mozza – restaurant owned by Mario Batalli - Iron Chef - needs reservation to be accomodated during peak season:(
d. Larger than life pictures of the Master Chefs
Lunch can be eaten here at RASAPURA MASTERS but prepare to pay a higher price as compared to the usual restaurants in SG. This surrounds a synthetic ice skating rink. They have our very own, Gerry’s Grill here.
Pondok’s Curry laksa (in many places referred to simply as “laksa”) is a coconut-based curry soup. The main ingredients for most versions of curry laksa include tofu puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles. Laksa is commonly served with a spoonful of sambal chilli paste and garnished with Vietnamese coriander, or laksa leaf. Yum-O!
Nihon Mura’s Chicken Katsu Curry Rice – Jap breaded porkchop. Crunchy outside and tender inside with curry sauce. Very generous amount of rice. 6.90 SGD Delish!
Char Kway Teow – fried flat noodles dubbed as a poor labourers meal. Ingredients include: Oil, Garlic, Sambal oelek (chile paste) , Chinese sausages, Shrimp, Soy sauce , Brown sugar , Eggs, Mung bean sprouts , Scallions. Taste like charred to me.
5. ArtScience Museum - The architecture is said be a form reminiscent of a lotus flower. It is designed by the architect Moshe Safdie. Referred to as "The Welcoming Hand of Singapore" by Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson, it is anchored by a round base in the middle, with ten extensions referred to as "fingers". The design concept for each finger denotes various gallery spaces sporting skylights at the "fingertips" which are included as sustainable illumination for the dramatically curved interior walls.
6. 2011 FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX - The 5.073km-long Marina Bay Street Circuit offers a combination of long straights and fast and demanding turns, providing drivers with a gruelling challenge fit for a champion. We saw the race route and even saw Lamborghini Gallardo Murcielago R-GT in colors of black, red, green and orange practicing for the Prix.
7. Singapore River Harbor – see the MBS from the back as you walk towards the Esplanade
8. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay - a waterside building located on six hectares of waterfront land alongside Marina. Restaurants and curio shops are also located here.
I love a small specialty shop here which sells Parisian goods.
9. Merlion – unfortunately for us, it was being renovated. Just visit Sentosa to have a picture with the icon. Much bigger san the water coming out of its mouth. In the picture ... the blue tarpaulin covers the Merlion.
10. Fullerton Hotel – 7-star hotel. Can be seen as well in the Marina.
11. Swisotel The Stamford – the tallest in SG and used to be the tallest in Asia
12. Hershey's Store - On the way to MTR you can find one. Home of my new fave, Nutrageous by Reese
ORCHARD ROAD – shopping to the max : high end brands
My places of Interests:
1. Takashimaya – large Japanese Department store chain housing the famous brands LVuitton, Fendi, Chanel, Sephora, etc
2. AFC Studio – 181 Orchard Road, #07-02 Orchard Central - a must see for chefs and foodies. It has a studio for cooking demonstration.
Dinner : Food Fare at Simei Plaza
This food hall an ideal choice for an inexpensive but good meal. The second floor is air-conditioned, comprising more tables and chairs than the first floor. Diners are mainly families, office workers and shoppers. Stalls serve local cuisine such as fried noodles, curry and Indian rojak.
Roasted Peking Duck: served with rice and peanuts. This is the most inexpensive way to eat Peking Duck.
Noodles w/ Crispy Wanton - not exceptional
Jin Fook Dessert’s Ice kachang, a mound of grated ice on a base consisting of jelly, red beans, corn and attap seeds, and topped with various kinds of coloured sugar syrups such as gula melaka, rose syrup and evaporated milk. For sharing .
Day 4 : UNIVERSAL STUDIOS ( Separate Blog )
Budget Shopping bazaar style.
Dining: Erich's Wuerstelstand - home of quality grilled sausages - Austrian Style . I am not too keen on recommending this . We are used to salty sausages. This is authentic European taste.
" The Last Sausage Kiosk Before the Equator "
Day 5: Tampines Mall and Ikea
IKEA – it is my very own Universal Studios I love this place ever since I got hold of their catalogue a long long time ago. Neat stuff. Clean lines for the home. You can bring home the furniture because they are collapsible. Ending a fully loaded trip with a BANG.
Here you will be given tape measure, pencil and notepads. It is open from 10am - 11pm. Free shuttle at Tampines Mall. Free catalogue as well, just ask.
And if you are lucky , the King of Pop will drive you.
Shopping at IKEA:
1. You choose, compare and test all the things in the showroom.
2. Write down your choice.
3. You pick things yourself.
4. You take your products home yourself.
5. You assemble it at home.
6. If you change your mind – return!
You can eat at Ikea Restaurant . Try their sausage sandwich at 1 SGD. They have humongous condiments containers.
Make sure you equip yourself w/ a luggage scale to avoid excess baggage. They are pretty strict in SG but you can request for a group check-in.
Don't forget to claim the tax refund. For goods that you will check-in, you may claim it before you enter the pre-departure area. For goods that you will hand-carry, you may claim it inside the pre-departure area.
There are surprisingly good food finds inside the budget terminal.
Chicken Rice, again! Try the dried , fried onions. Superb. Top your soup, rice or noodles with this. Yum-O!
And there are affordable shops as well. Who would want to bring home SG coins ? Buy something than keep the coin as a souvenir .
1. Four Leaves – this is the leading bakery chain in SG. Mini World – wide range of mini pastries and buns – YUM-O! My favourite is their version of pigs in a blanket.
2. Horlick’s Malted – it is everywhere in SG but you can buy it in Cold Storage. Try it! Might be too sweet for you. Good alternative to your usual cereal drink.
3. Reese’s Nutrageous Candy Bar is made with chocolate and loaded with crunchy roasted peanuts, smooth rich caramel and the distinctive taste of REESE’S peanut butter. A Must!
But no matter how you plan the trip, there will always be blocks along the way. No matter how good the intentions are. Just enjoy it. Plan it. Without the itinerary, maybe we would have ended up spending time at the home we are staying in or missing on a lot of good things and sights. I wouldn't want my family and my friends to miss the things I saw there before but also wanted to enjoy new things with them. There is commitment in trips as well. Living with each others idiosyncracies and differences ... but we ended as good friends , still. There is too much walking but we won't get to see the real Singapore if we are riding the MTR or the bus. It lacks the cold weather that I always loved when I am out of the out of country but I cannot discount the fact that the warmth of Ashlee, Sandra and Don's hospitality can beat the weather factor hands down.
It is not only a trip ... it is a journey of discovery among family and friends. And if you will ask me ... I will do it again, and again.