Friday, 28 October 2016

TNL Takes a Trip: Singapore

singapore, travel, tnl takes a trip
The iconic Raffles Hotel in Singapore...and no, I didn't stay there.
A multi-cultural city & country rolled into one. A food lover’s paradise.  A shopaholic’s paradise too, come to think of it. A place where I feel safe, no matter what time of the day or night it is. A country with an awesome airline that always makes me feel special, despite slumming it in economy. All of these things represent Singapore to me.

When I began planning this trip I knew I wanted to go back, mostly to see what had changed in the 11 years since my previous visit and to do things I didn’t quite get to do last time…and because girlfriend needed another satay fix (I’ll talk more about that further on).

My first 24-30 hours in Singapore mostly involved getting acclimatised to the searing humidity that Singapore is known for, plus getting my bearings and figuring out how to get around. Although taxis are cheap in Singapore (it cost me $20SG to get to my hotel from the airport), it’s also cheap enough to travel on the MRT, Singapore’s subway train & bus system. I purchased a 3-day Singapore Tourist Pass for $30SG ($10 of that is refunded if you return your pass within 5 days post-use to an appropriate MRT station), which entitled me to unlimited public transport. If you’re going to stay longer in Singapore, then you’ll need an alternative; but if you’re only staying a day or 2 extra like I did (I was there 5 nights/4 days in total), then you can purchase a 1 or 2-day pass (which I did on my final day).

Need a way of communicating whilst over there? Sing-tel has tourist pre-paid SIM cards available for purchase from their stores & other outlets. I didn’t get one because by the time I discovered this it was too late; but there’s a $15SG SIM with 4GB data that will cover you for 5 days, as well as a $30SG SIM with 14GB covering you for 10 days - more information can be found here. Cheaper than global roaming!

As mentioned, Singapore is definitely a foodie paradise, especially if you love your Asian cuisine. I ended up doing the touristy thing on my 2nd night in Singapore & went to Chinatown, since it was close to Lau Pa Sat (my intended stop for dinner – unfortunately the satay stallholders were setting up when I arrived & I was starving & couldn’t wait). I remember being vaguely disappointed the last time I went to Chinatown & this time around was no different. Still, I was satiated & that was the most important thing...plus I found this unintentionally hilarious sign:

singapore, travel, tnl takes a trip
A new way to cook rabbit?
2nd day
I had a whole stack of “trip tips” courtesy of bloggers & the like typed out before I left & on my list for Singapore was completing the Southern Ridges Tree Top Walk up at Mt Faber Park, which you can access by cab like I did (only cost $10SG from my hotel) or cable car if you’re staying over on Sentosa Island. At 10km, the walk is pretty punishing if you’re not used to it; but considering I’ve completed the entire 28km 7 Bridges Walk course 3 times, I figured this would be a good workout if anything else….and it definitely was.

singapore, travel, tnl takes a trip
A view from one of the lookouts

singapore, travel, tnl takes a trip
A green wall along the walk
If you’re looking to do the walk, here are a few tips for you:
  • Do it either early in the morning (the park opens at 6am) or late afternoon/early evening. As mentioned, Singapore’s climate is humid and you will melt/sweat bullets if you do it around midday. Even when I started at around 9:15am it was already quite hot & humid. By the time I did the round trip, having walked right to the end & then back (in between taking a left turn at Albuquerque - aka Telok Blangah Way - & getting lost before walking back into the park again), it was around 1:30pm. To say that I was absolutely shattered & sweating from head to toenail is an understatement!
  • Pack plenty of water, wear good walking shoes (I wore my FRANKiE4’s) & take a spare pair of socks with you as your feet will get sweaty. Mine did and I kicked myself for not packing a spare pair with me.
  • If you can’t do stairs for whatever reason, then avoid the trek as there are stairs at several stages along the walk. 
southern ridges tree top walk, singapore, travel
Henderson Waves @ Southern Ridges Tree Top Walk
With my energy drained post-walk, I decided to hop on the aforementioned cable cars & head over to Sentosa, if only to sit down & get some air con onto my skin. Truth be told, it is a total tourist trap & really not worth going to at all, unless you’re into that kind of thing. I enjoyed the peacefulness & serenity of the walk + the return cable car ride to & from Sentosa more than the brief time I spent there.

3rd day
Since my time in Singapore was partly about doing things I didn’t get to do at my previous visit, I decided to head to the zoo. Despite visiting there last time & having breakfast with the orangutans (as well as holding a diamond python – not as scary as that sounds), I didn’t get to spend a full day checking out the park. Although my lower legs & feet were stiff & aching from the day before, I tried not to let that deter me from seeing all the animals. Interestingly, they had a small Australiana exhibit there, with a tree kangaroo + some other animals, like my friend Daniel’s favourite, the cassowary.
singapore, tnl takes a trip, travel
Just kidding - Daniel's fucking petrified of cassowaries!
singapore, tnl takes a trip, travel
travel, tnl takes a trip, singapore

I’ll also note that you’ll save money if you decide to do 2 or more parks within the one day (like the zoo + the River Safari), or all 4 that are on offer (the other 2 being the Night Safari, which I did last time, plus the Jurong Bird Park). I chose to do the River Safari & it was kinda cool, but I didn’t stay for too long due to exhaustion and a massive thunderstorm that was rolling in, suspending both the Amazon boat ride + the River Safari cruise, the latter of which is included in the price of admission. I’ll be honest & say that I only went to the River Safari just so I could see some manatees – I think they’re adorable!

singapore, tnl takes a trip, travel

Looking to go to the zoo independently? There’s cabs of course, or you can catch the North-South MRT to either Ang Mo Kio or Choa Chu Kang (I did the latter), then hop on either of these buses - the 13 from Ang Mo Kio or 927 from Choa Chu Kang – to get there.

As I mentioned above, I was in need of a satay fix & if you’re a fiend for it like I am, then a trip to the nightly stalls at the famous Lau Pa Sat market (closest MRT: Telok Ayer on the Downtown line + a short walk) is well worth it. The satay stalls themselves are out on the street, which gets blocked off every night for patrons. The last time I was in Singapore, my Mum & I ate at stall 3/4 each time we visited the market (which was thrice, from memory), so for the sake of nostalgia I just had to eat there again. I’m not sure if was hazy rose-coloured memories or my own high expectations, but I didn’t exactly enjoy my meal there. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t inedible or unpalatable – it could’ve been a bit…fresher I suppose. That + I shouldn’t have been railroaded into eating the beef satays, which were on the tough side. The satays I ate the next night from stall 6 at Satay by the Bay were far superior (they’re also next door to 3/4 at Lau Pa Sat too)….and delicious…I forgot to photograph them, so here's my Lau Pa Sat meal:

singapore, food, tnl takes a trip, travel

Final day
Another thing I didn’t get to do during my previous visit was go to the Changi Museum. Having studied WWII in high school (specifically the Asia-Pacific part of the war) & having had relatives who served during WWII (my great grand-uncle/great-grandfather’s brother died as a POW building the Thai-Burma Railway, aka the Death Railway), I felt I had to visit the museum. Although I knew a little about Singapore’s involvement in the war, having been captured by the Japanese, I didn’t know the full extent of what they went through & how they suffered whilst under occupation. It was enlightening & confronting all at once & it made me ponder yet again what my great grand-uncle went through leading up to what was no doubt a slow & painful death.

After the poignant trip to Changi, the late afternoon involved some light relief in the form of a trip to Gardens by the Bay, which is right near the Marina Bay Sands complex. Along with the Southern Ridges Tree Top Walk, Gardens by the Bay was another recommendation courtesy of the Hand Luggage Only boys & it sure didn’t disappoint! If you’re a gardening/horticultural geek or you just simply appreciate flora & greenery like I do, then make sure you check it out.

gardens by the bay, singapore, travel

Whilst the majority of the Gardens are free to walk around, the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest & OCBC Skyway will cost some coin (about $28SG for both the dome + the forest, then a further $8SG to do the Skyway), but are well worth doing if you can afford it (although I wouldn't recommend the Skyway if you have a fear of heights or a fear of heights on seemingly unstable things, like I do). I did all 3 & totally geeked out in the Flower Dome, putting my Galaxy S7’s camera to good use by taking a zillion tricked-up shots inside the spectacular orchid section of the dome & of all the flowers in general. Pro + Vivid settings FTW.

gardens by the bay, singapore, travel
gardens by the bay, singapore, travel

If you decide to go to Gardens by the Bay in the late afternoon, hang around in time to see the first Garden Rhapsody light & sound show at Supertree Grove, which happens at 7:45pm every night (the 2nd one occurs an hour later, so don’t sweat it if you miss the first one). The show is set to a different music theme every couple of months & it just so happens the night I went was “Retro Revival”, featuring a whole bunch of hits & disco tunes from the 70’s.

gardens by the bay, singapore, travel

The light & sound shows at Supertree Grove were a great way to cap off my stay in Singapore & as I bopped my way out of the park to tunes like Boogie Wonderland, I bid a silent goodbye to Singapore, knowing that at some stage I will be back.

I’ll just mention quickly that I stayed at Swissotel the Stamford, which is conveniently located right near City Hall MRT & right above Raffles City shopping complex. Underneath the hotel there is a food court where I ate every morning for breakfast at Tiong Bahru bakery, plus there’s a supermarket where you can pick up supplies. The hotel itself is quite nice, although it may need a little lightening & brightening throughout. That said, I can’t fault the service I received from start to finish – they gave me a room with 2 double beds!

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Have you ever been to Singapore & if not, is it on your travel bucket list?

4 comments:

  1. I really want to visit Singapore! My Grandma always rated it and she'd travelled extensively. Definitely on my bucket list and I also appreciated your wrong turn at Alberquerque comment. I actually have been to Pismo Beach though!!

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    1. You should! It's definitely a great place to visit. I have to confess I had to look up Pismo Beach...I've never been there, although I have been to California itself several times now.

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  2. We love Singapore, we last went in May.
    It's one of those places I'm comfortable getting around by myself or with the kiddies.
    Great shopping and Customer Service too!

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    Replies
    1. I think it's safe for everyone, no matter what age you are, which is a great thing. I didn't shop as I knew I'd be doing all of that later on, plus I had a 20kg luggage limit for 2 of my flights. Next time I go it might be a different story!

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