In my eagerness to go to Singapore for the first time, I allowed myself to book two roundtrip tickets dated two weeks apart this 2011 – one for mid-June (4 days) and another for early July (6 days).
I was with a different set of friends and experienced different living conditions. Trying on new things just made me want to go back there and experience the thrill all over again. Whoever said there was nothing to do in Singapore? Here’s my First 10 Things To Do in Singapore List.
It was a quick 4-hour ride to Singapore via Cebu Pacific. Don’t be turned off with the unusual strictness for passengers arriving from the Philippines (note: there’s a final security check for hand-carried luggage when you land if you take this flight vs. those from other flights that were allowed to go straight to the immigration.)
Spending half an hour lining up for the immigration felt normal with the bulk of people arriving. As soon as you’re through with your baggage, get ready to be enchanted with the aroma of Roasted Chicken coming from the only restaurant we saw inside the terminal. I was ready for Singapore. The first thing we did was get to that Free Shuttle to Terminal 2.
Here's the list of airlines and their corresponding terminal landing locations for future reference.
Things to Eat in Singapore: A Platter of Halal Food
I was almost tempted to buy that expensive cup noodle treat aboard our Cebu Pacific flight. If I gave in or took Singapore Airlines like my friends (who had an onboard meal), I wouldn’t have room to put this plateful of North Indian food (ate at Ananda Bhavan in Terminal 2).
Stare and you’ll be full of thought too. The GST (Goods and Services Tax) is at 7%, which made this meal amount to a staggering $15 SGD. It was hard to resist doing a x (times) Php 35 conversion in my head. It was a good mix and more than enough for 2.
Things to Eat in Singapore: Cheese Prata!
My friend ordered this at the Ananda Bhavan while we were eating.
Picture stringy cheese in the middle of a pancake. It would suffice to say that I couldn’t stop sampling it until it was time to leave. The cheese prata from Lau Pa Sat I tried didn’t taste this good.
Things to Do in Singapore: Take the Metro to Tampines, Buy an EZ-Link, On Transport
There’s an Airport Express to go to the city and it just so happened that we were going to an HBD flat in Tampines, which was conveniently located near the Tampines station.
(Note: HBD [Home and Development Board] towns are all over Singapore and it is an effort on housing and community formation undertaken by the government. Tampines is like a self-sufficient village with its own mall and a very big IKEA.) For your convenience riding the MRT, LRT and buses, buy an EZ-Link ($5 SGD non-refundable, $7 SGD consumable, rates are cheaper than a single-journey ticket) and start tapping away. If you're wondering what ERP means in the card, it stands for Electronic Road Pricing (jokingly referred to as "Every Road Pay"). They have CBD streets they want to decongest so there is a price for passing there, much like a toll fee. The charge depends on the location and time, higher during peak hours. (Note: The taxi drivers ask you what roads you want to pass to get to your location. If not, ask for a recommendation. Just an observation, taxi start rates also vary depending on condition and model of the car.)
The Singapore Metro is a bit slower than those in other countries but the train arrives on time as what is indicated on the boards.
Things to Do in Singapore: Take the Metro to Esplanade
The Esplanade is like our CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines); it’s a venue for the performing arts by the bay. It resembles the shape of the Durian. I would like to watch a performance here next time.
Things to Do in Singapore: Sit by the Bay, Marvel at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS)
There’s an outdoor theater in the Esplanade where you can catch the Marina Bay Sands Singapore from a distance.
The MBS top that connects the three parts of the hotel seemed more like a plane without wings than a ship to me at first.
It’s hard to imagine that all of what is here today was reclaimed land and was non-existent a few years back. The night air is also not as cold and the wind not as strong as in Hong Kong and just like Manila.
Things to Do in Singapore: Walk to the 2 Merlions
From the outdoor theater, my friend pointed out the bigger Merlion to me. I have seen it in pictures and I didn’t know there were 5 in Singapore. Merlion = Half Fish, Half Lion. Singapore was a fishing community in the early days and was named Singapura (The Lion City). I found this poem from a Singaporean poet there.
“…People settled here
Brought to this island
The bounty of the seas.
Built towers topless as Ilium’s.
They make, they serve
They buy, they sell.
Despite unequal ways,
Together they mutate.
Explore the edges of harmony,
Searched for a centre;
Having changed their gods;
Kept some memory of their past
In prayer, laughter, the way
Their women dress and greet,
They hold the bright, the beautiful,
Good ancestral dreams
Within new visions,
So shining, urgent,
Full of what is new.
Perhaps having dealt in things.
Surfeited in them.
Their split yearn again for images.
Adding to the dragon, phoenix,
Garuda, naga, those horses of the sur,
This lion of the sea.
This image of themselves.”
-from Ulysses by the Merlion by Edwin Thumboo, Singaporean Poet, February 1977
Things to Do in Singapore: Have a Midnight Snack at Lau Pa Sat
24 hours, that’s what it read at the entrance of the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market. It seemed out of place in the middle of the Singapore CBD.
What’s nice about going here at night is that you get to eat peacefully while people in Singapore are either asleep or still working or partying elsewhere. Some say it’s overrated. I like it with the night ambiance and the magnificent structure that reminds me of my idea of Aladdin markets when you look up.
Things to Eat in Singapore: Sticks of Satay!
The next thing I knew as we sat down, my friend had ordered a plate of satay for us from a roving busboy carrying a menu in the Lau Pa Sat. I thought I knew what satay tasted like from the numerous hotpot sessions we have in Manila. Boy was I glad for the sweet peanut sauce that accompanied the sticks of grilled beef, chicken and lamb.
I could see myself back in Beijing for those lamb chuanrs 羊肉串, only this time the sauce was so Pinoy and light. It fit right into my taste buds and I do crave for these even now. And then, there's not one but two cups of peanut sauce yumminess..
Things to Eat in Singapore: Have Some Teh-C Bing!
I had to ask my friend what the letters meant. They have Teh. Teh Si (or Teh-C) and Teh-O among the many beverage selections in the middle of Lau Pa Sat. I couldn’t find the Teh Tarik that my other friend asked me to try out when I go to Singapore. Teh is with milk and sugar, Teh-C is with evaporated milk (think Carnation) and Teh-O is with sugar only. Teh-O-Kosong is plain tea only without milk or sugar. I went with Teh-C-Bing/Ice and I never thought I would be content to have my milk tea without bubbles. Good thing they could understand Mandarin too. It’s as simple as saying DongNaiCha 凍奶茶 or BingNaiChai 冰奶茶.
The Teh-Si-Bing was rich and smooth, perfect to quench the thirst that was building up since I got here just a few hours back. You would see a pattern in my next few posts. I don’t know if it’s the weather or the walking but I was always thirsty in Singapore.
Things to Eat in Singapore: The Carrot Cake!
My friend excused herself to buy some carrot cake to let us try again. I thought I was getting a slice of my favorite cake and thought that Singapore hawker centers are pretty "sosyal" to have this (and cheap too) in their menu. I got the laugh of my life when it turned out to be yellow and omelette-like.
No carrots there. I did bite into a spoonful of hot chewy goodness. Again, I was surprised. I said I would be back for more of the same in July. Lau Pa Sat was so near the Raffles MRT Stop. What started floating in my head was the incessant food tasting that had already started.
Retiring for the Night
I remember having a thought that there were not as many skyscrapers in Singapore according to the Esplanade view and the idea of Singapore in my head was starting to look like a big question mark. It was a quiet and relaxing start, this time with no expectations on how Singapore should be.
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