Sunday, April 24, 2016

SINGAPORE 2016: 03.21.16 - Orchard, Singapore Flyer, Helix Bridge, Marina Bay

My brother and I, Cholo, spent three days in Singapore last March 21-23. It was our second time to visit, our first was 12 years ago. I was 12 and he was 8. We were excited to see the changes in the Little Red Dot!

Upon arriving at Changi Airport, we immediately got all the maps that we could find, then we asked for directions to the MRT so we could get to our hotel. We saw the ticket office after going down from the escalator. My brother was ordering our tickets in English when the cashier suddenly cut him off and said “Tagalog po.” (Speak in Tagalog.) Turned out she’s a Filipino like us! We were wondering how she knew that we were Filipinos though, and then I realized that she probably heard me and Cholo conversing in Tagalog right before my brother spoke to her. Cholo and I didn’t know that there’s a very good promo for tourists called the Singapore Tourist Pass (STP). It’s a card for both MRT and bus which is priced at SGD30. Cardholders are entitled to unlimited MRT and bus rides until their last day in Singapore. The cashier asked us when our last day would be and she would input the information on the card’s system and whenever you tap the card, the expiry date would show on the ticket terminals in MRT stations and buses.  The card comes with a small map of the MRT lines in the entire country and a list of the top attractions and how you could get there by MRT and bus. The map greatly helped us navigate our way in Singapore. And another awesome thing about the STP is that you get SGD10 refund when you return the card to the ticketing office.
The cashier also helped us how to get to our hotel, Hotel 81 Selegie. She told us to get off at Little India MRT station as it was the closest station to the hotel. 

What I really noticed during our MRT ride to our hotel was that there were no people on the streets at all. The ride was around 10-15 minutes and I didn’t see anyone on the streets! It was shocking for me because here in the Philippines, there are always a lot of people everywhere. The streets were wide and clean and it gave me the feeling that most likely, the people living in those houses and apartments were leading a quiet and simple life. Everything I saw during that ride was calming, except for the construction sites of course.

When we arrived at Little India MRT station, we were lost for a few minutes. I realized that there were no people on the streets because they were all in the stations trying to get to their schools or offices, there were a lot of people but not to the point of bumping into one another. We could still move and walk freely. MRT stations here in the Philippines are not huge so no one really gets lost here. But the MRT stations in Singapore are really big. We found it kind of hard to get out of the station. But thanks to the help of the staff, we got out eventually. But once we were out, we had a hard time again. This time, it’s finding Selegie road, the street where our hotel was. The maps were not helpful so we asked one of the Indian women on the street. It was such a pleasant surprise to know that Hotel 81 Selegie was just a walking distance from the station! Our check-in time was at 2:00pm, but we arrived at 12nn. So I thought we could only leave our bags at the hotel then go somewhere for 2 hours then come back later to check-in, but the clerk said that we could check-in early. That was good news because we were so tired and our feet were so painful already at that time, and it was just 12nn! We had the rest of the day ahead of us and we had to recharge. 

Our room was cute! It was small but had everything we need. It had the basics of a hotel room such as TV, hair dryer, dresser with a mirror, bathroom with all the toiletries, and the two beds (duh). On the dresser were two teacups, two water bottles, and some sachets of tea and coffee. There’s a water boiler as well so we could make our own coffee and tea. We checked out the channels on the TV but nothing interested us, so we just rested for around an hour.

When we got up, we headed to Orchard for a late lunch. We got off the Orchard MRT station and had Hainanese Curry Rice at ION’s food court. Cholo had Hainanese Chicken Curry Rice while I had Hainanese Pork Curry Rice. It was SGD5.00 each. It was my first time to encounter a fusion of Hainanese meat and curry. The meal was very filling and savory. The meats were tender, there were lots of curry sauce, and a side dish of sour cabbage.

After eating, we went around ION and the shops we saw were the same with the ones we have in the Philippines: UNIQLO and The Face Shop just to name some. I stumbled upon KOI, a milk tea store. I heard from an online friend that KOI’s milk teas are good so I gave it a try. I had Caramel milk tea with Vanilla ice cream. It was really creamy but not too sweet, which I really liked. 

My brother wanted to check out some anime stuff so we asked one of the sales person where the nearest anime shop is. He said that there’s no such store in ION and suggested for us to move to Plaza Singapura, another mall in Orchard. Plaza Singapura was very large, spanning 7 floors. I was happy to see a familiar store there, Etude House, where I bought facial and nail masks for my friends. 

The anime stores were at the 7th floor. Some of them offered various types of merchandise like: comics, keychains, accessories, stuffed toys, shirts, computer mouse. While others specialized on a certain merchandise, there were a lot of figurine stores. We spent quite a lot of time in those stores because my brother wanted to check out each of them and see which items he would buy for himself and for his friends. He ended up buying an anime shirt and keychains.

We left Plaza Singapura and headed to Singapore Flyer. I was so excited for this because I really love Ferris wheels! And experiencing a ride in a different country thrilled me. Right after arriving at Singapore Flyer, we relaxed and had a drink in Singapore Food Trail, the food court under the Ferris wheel. 

A short pathway to the Singapore Food Trail and Singapore Flyer
Singapore Food Trail

We strolled around and saw a beautiful botanical garden with mini waterfalls right under where people alight and ride the capsules of the Singapore Flyer. 

Took some pictures with the beautiful surroundings before boarding the Ferris wheel:

After more strolling, we bought tickets and ate some dumplings. Their tofu tastes different from the ones we have here in the Philippines. It's softer and tastier. I really love it.

After presenting our tickets, we entered into an exhibit meant to educate the tourists about the Singapore Flyer. An interactive video showed all the stages of construction the Ferris wheel went through. 

We wanted to take the ride at dusk so the view would be even more beautiful and breathtaking. And it was. Riding the Singapore Flyer was a perfect way to see the city lights and night view of Singapore. From up high, we saw Marina Bay Sands hotel, The Shoppes at Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay’s Cloud Forest, Flower Dome, and the Supertrees with their dancing lights, Esplanade, ArtScience Museum with its dancing lights as well, Helix Bridge, and other buildings such as DBS and Pan Pacific. Looking over the city, seeing the night lights, and watching the cars moving smoothly, we saw the proof that Singapore is indeed a prosperous country. And this made me realize even more how much I want a better life for myself and that there’s a lot I have yet to see in this world.

The Helix Bridge

Some pictures after going down from the ride:

After going down from the Singapore Flyer, we walked to The Shoppes at Marina Bay via the Helix Bridge. The whole walk was an amazing experience. It was the particular moment that I felt like I belonged to the city. Both tourists and citizens were having a fun time walking on the bridge with their loved ones.

While walking on the bridge, we noticed that there was a long line of people in a specific spot. When we checked it out, we saw an old man selling handmade ice cream sandwich! I had Blueberry and my brother got Peppermint Choco. It was really good! Watching the old man make the ice cream sandwich was like watching art. He would ask for your selected flavor and then he would get a block of the ice cream from his mini freezer. The ice cream block was around 6 inches wide and 1.5 inches tall. He would slice around 1 inch of the ice cream and sandwich it between two wafers. Voila! Handmade ice cream sandwich.

After that, we started walking again towards The Shoppes. Having a good ice cream while walking on the very bright and uniquely-designed Helix Bridge felt awesome.
The moment we entered The Shoppes at Marina Bay, I knew that it was a world-class shopping mall, without a doubt. The architecture was different from any mall I’ve seen in the Philippines. It was spacious, the ceiling was up high, and I really loved that they used some yellow lights which gave off this classy vibe.  

We roamed around for a long time then I suddenly saw a familiar restaurant, Toast Box! Toast Box is a Singaporean restaurant that has been in the Philippines for a few years now. I just discovered it last year and I’m a big fan of their sandwiches, Hainanese Chicken meal, and Horlicks drink, which I've been missing because it’s been a long time since the last time I had it. I grabbed a Horlicks then we proceeded to the Bayfront MRT station to go back to our hotel and call it a day.

Along the way to the station, we saw this enormous indoor whirlpool. It was my first time to see something like it, let alone inside a mall! I found it a bit scary though because the water was moving around rapidly and it made a loud noise as it fell down into the canal.

From there, the indoor canal went on. It was also a first for me to see such thing inside a mall. Unfortunately, there was no boat at that time so we weren’t able to experience the ride.

We got to our hotel and were very exhausted. But it was totally worth it because it was just our first day but we already saw so much of Singapore’s beauty and uniqueness.