Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Singapore 2014- Day 1 (May 9, 2014)

We have always wanted and talked about going to Singapore, Asia’s cleanest and most efficient city. And so when the time came to bite the bullet and finally get things going, we could not be more excited. The flight was around 10:30 in the morning on a Friday via JetStar Asia. This meant that I had to be absent from work for 2 days but at least for us, it meant a quality weekend in a city that we wasted no time in discovering upon our arrival there.

As soon as we touched down and saw the massive arrival area, my camera was ready to take everything in visually and remind ourselves how airports really should be. Airports are the first thing that a foreigner sees upon visiting a country and if Changi Airport is anything to go by, Singapore definitely gives out a good and strong first impression. The arrival area was large, modern and you can almost feel the air of efficiency coming from each and every immigration official as we queued up. Certainly it was no surprise why a fellow passenger in the next lane beside us loudly commented, “Your city is beautiful and efficient”. See? And just like Malaysia and China, each counter where an official sat, had a mini screen where tourists can rate their experience with the officer checking their documents as they enter the country. Needless to say, the officer got a 5 star rating from us. In addition to that, there was also a bowl of candy where incoming tourists can help themselves to. I got a pocketful.

 After getting our bags from the carousel, we quickly grabbed a cab, which was efficiently (that word, again) deployed by the guard at the exit and soon we were off zooming through the zero traffic-laden streets of Singapore. First thing we noticed that the streets were clean and there were a lot of trees and shrubs planted along the stretch of the highway. The cabbie was conversive enough to answer questions we asked regarding the city. As it is, Singapore itself is really small and a lozenge-shaped island with 60 significantly smaller islets surrounding it. People, we were told, are quite disciplined and the cabbie was quick to point out that discipline comes naturally to them for it was instilled in them during their childhood years. To discipline an adult is so much harder than disciplining a child. Well, no argument there.

Coursing through the streets we saw the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to our left and the large Ferris wheel which was reminiscent of the London Eye itself and our very own MOA Eye at the Mall of Asia. The cars are all right hand driven and so for us left-hand drivers in Manila, driving in Singapore will certainly take some getting used to. Finally we arrived at the Bugis district where our hotel was located. The Fragrance Hotel, located along Beach Road is enough for non-picky travellers to be amply settled in while they take in the sights of the city during the day and rest securely and comfortably by nightfall. Ours was a regular small room that looked big because of a full mirror attached to the wall. It may be cramped for those wanting a bigger room but I know that there are other ones available for guests with bigger needs. We were thinking of taking a nap first before heading out but decided to explore the area in order to get acquainted more with the city. And in exploring new terrain, there was no better way to go about doing it, than by foot. We turned right as we got out of the hotel and was surprised to see that the previous hotel that we initially thought of booking into, called Hotel 81, was just right beside it. I thought that they must be sister or partner hotels to be close to each other. But later, we learned from the front desk personnel, who was actually Filipino, that Hotel 81 was like Jollibee to McDonald’s. Wherever there was a Fragrance Hotel, one can be sure that the rival hotel will just be nearby.

Walking further, I noticed the beautiful architecture on some of their buildings. It quickly reminded me of New Orleans (which I would love to visit one day). With their wooden shutters and oval shaped windows and as well arches, I felt I was in the Bourbon district of the Big Easy and that some of these buildings wouldn’t look too much out of place there. Of course, add more iron latticed railings with elaborate designs and curliques and it’s a match. We were soon surprised to find out, as we walked further away from Purvis street and Beach that the famed 5 starred Raffles Hotel was just behind us. Established in 1887 by two Armenian brothers from Persia, the colonial styled hotel which later became a Singaporian icon was eventually named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the British statesman who founded the city of Singapore in 1818.

A quick snapshot here and there at the lobby and we were off to walk further and make a left to reach Nicholl Hiway where to our right was a tall white obelisk that reminded me of the George Washington monument in Washington DC. But the top however had a resemblance to the tower of Orthanc, the granite looking fortress of Saruman the White in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But I know I’m digressing. Allow me to get to the matter at hand before my geekiness goes out of hand. Now, all these selfies in front of hotels and buildings would’ve been easier with the help of a monopod. But I wasn’t able to get one before leaving for this trip. So I will just have to get one for our next trip. We crossed the highway, being mindful and obeying traffic laws and reached the Suntech building on our left which housed different shops that we had back in Manila and still to have like H&M, Kiehl’s UniQlo among others. Across us and to our right was the Marina Mandarin. Another hotel to be reckoned with, that’s for sure.

We then opted to check the mall that loomed in front of us called the Marina Square and discovered that it was a two-leveled mall which once more wouldn’t look too out of place in our own Ayala and Makati district. On the way there, there was a curious art piece on the sidewalk that we couldn't resist but just goof around with. Upon stepping in Marina Square, we were instantly greeted by the smell of coffee as we stepped in. Of course, the lobby housed The Coffee Club and to my right, which I would later be deprived of visiting for lack of time, was my favorite music store, HMV.

We then decided that all these selfies and walking around made us hungry and we decided to try something local via the fast food chain, Long John Silver. It looked like a partner chain of our own Fish and Co back home and so our first meal in the city of cleanliness and efficiency (not to mention, discipline) was Fish and Chips. And I just had to ring the bell right after we left, to let them know that we were happy with their service as well as food.

More walking brought us to the food court upstairs where we were treated with an awesome view of the lake and the Marina Bay Sands hotel itself! It was the hotel that looked like it had a ship on top of it. (Say what again?) Architecturally it seems an impossible feat to even construct something like that. But to see it with your own eyes, it really is a wonder and a testament to the brilliance of architecture and engineering. And knowing that we would be visiting that very same hotel and area tomorrow, my excitement doubled at the thought.

 Soon we’ve managed to cover most of the mall and it was time to head back home and grab some dinner within the vicinity. We traced our steps back and came back to Purvis street and saw a restaurant called SINSWEEKEE that was open aired and served the most tempting looking Hainanese Chicken Rice. Tempting for others, but not for me.

Hainanese Chicken Rice
Now, I find that dish too pale and so I decided to order roasted chicken instead along with some fried fish dumplings. It was good and gave both of us a sample of how tasty Singaporian cooking really is.

Roasted Chicken Rice
Fried Shrimp Rolls

I should've studied better in school in order to read this. Hehe.

I also loved the Chinese inscription on our table. As my Mandarin is quite rusty, I could only marvel at it and take a snapshot and have my Mom translate it for me. LOL!

Along with dinner, the obligatory selfies and food pics were once more practiced. After being energized and fed to our hearts content we decided to go to the opposite direction from our hotel as our mall trek was the result of walking right from the hotel, so we decided to go left. This brought us to the Bugis mall, after passing the Hotel Intercon and the National Library Building just along Middle Road. Much to our surprise, there was a street there that’s named after our own city. I know I must research on it upon reaching home. Who would have thought of finding a street named after our own. As this is a testament to the rich history between our two nations. I wonder if there was ever a move to return the favor and grant Singapore a street of its own back in Manila. (attention politicians!!!)

 The Bugis Mall was much bigger than Marina Square and  felt reminiscent of the internal layout of our own humongous and uniquely crafted mall of Sm Davao. That one you should go see if you’re in the South. We walked, window shopped and explored each and every floor and kinda did a quick overview of the mall as we knew that we would have to come back to it during the day.

All this after dinner walk was sort of a reconissance thing and knowing-your-terrain kind of walk. Soon we reached the top that housed the food courts that ranged from Western to Japanese food before deciding to call it a night and end it aptly with Singaporean milk tea at Koi Café just outside the mall. Now, I personally wasn't a fan of the traditional milk tea as I felt the drink reflects one's indecision to either have milk or tea. Since I cannot decide, why not have them all in one drink. That was how I initially felt about milk tea. But after tasting Koi Cafe's specialty, I find myself warming up to its taste and even found myself looking for it as the days progressed.

                      All in all, it was good and productive first day. Here’s to our second.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Casey! Great post! We love Singapore and going back there in a few months. How awesome would it be if we meet up there? :-) Love your photos too :-) You're just like me, I also love taking photos of food lol :-)