Pit Stop: Singapore

A frantic trepidation filled me up while concluding this because: 1. My heart speaks of Singapore as second home and, 2. I should be able to sleepwalk around town by now and still find my bed before the crack of dawn. In a little over 30 days I will be hitting my 1st year mark of living & working here, and in my blogger-wannabe life it should mean coming up with the most detailed, informative & functional piece of digital time-squanderer.

Before finally settling in, it was 2007 when a 3-day fling first blossomed between me & Singapura followed by a week-long mischievous tryst in 2011. The limited experience I had back then was just the prelude of our unexpected affaire de coeur. It was a relatively yet transcendentally surprising decision in my profile and I find it paramount to shell out.

Snippets of what you should know. . .

 

Point of Compass

This 714.3 sq. km city-state in Southeast Asia is at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula and is being separated by the Singapore Strait from the Indonesian Island, Riau. As of 2012, the population is estimated to be around 5 million. Expatriates all over the world are numerous in this country but their people consist mostly of Malays, Chinese and Indians.

 

 

Local Tongue

English (locally called Singlish — English with Malay accent)

Malay

Chinese ( Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese)

Currency 

Singapore Dollar (SG $)

1 SG $ = approximately 0.81 US $
1 SG $ = approximately 32.40 Php
1 SG $ = approximately 2.49 MYR

Getting there

 

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Changi International Airport has 4 major terminals for International flights 24/7. Located on the north-east side of Changi commercial centre,  it is the major connecting point to 220 cities across the globe and a favorite stop-over of giant Middle-Eastern airlines. The three terminals are interconnected by free Skytrain services and are accessible to all passengers.

This huge airport contains shopping stalls and restaurants for travelers who are waiting for their flights.

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What you need to get in

Citizens from United States, Canada, United Kingdom and most Asian countries like the Philippines are not required to pre-apply for Visa when traveling to Singapore. A 30-day stay is automatically given at Immigration points and another 30-day extension could be sought online via e-Extend on their ICA Portal.

Countries from Middle East like Saudi Arabia, Iraq & Iran are however required to apply for travel Visas. The requirement includes an Invitation from a relative or friend staying in Singapore.

  For more information about Singapore Visa, please click this site:

Singapore Visa Requirements

 

Gastronomic Gratification

 

Chicken Rice

The single most prominent set meal in any hawker center, Chicken Rice is an all time fave to locals especially to yuppies during lunch break.  It is made up of steamed chicken with ginger flavored rice and chilli dips for extra flavor.

Cereal Prawn

Never underestimate the dry & dull looking appearance of this dish because once you taste it, you’ll come back for more! It is my super favorite Singapore food that is available in almost all hawker centers across the island. The tiger prawns are stir fried with crispy cereals and flavored with basil.

 

 

Grilled Sting-Ray

An appetizingly good dish that is spicy enough to heighten your hunger. Only in Singapore have I tasted this type of seafood and I must say that it was worth the try! Try the Malay variety with sambal, and highly recommended is the one in Makan Sutra Gluttons Bay.

 

 

Kaya Buttered Toast 

Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, this is a simple yet heavy meal that could fight-off hunger. Traditionally served with soft-boiled egg & kopi (coffee) or teh (tea), kaya toast is a loaf bread with kaya (spread made of egg, sugar, coconut milk & pandan flavor). My recommended restaurants that serve the best Kaya toast are Toast Box & Ya Kun.

Bak Kut Teh

Best served steaming hot with a bowl of rice, Bak Kut Teh is made up of pork ribs boiled to tenderness drenched into a bowl of soup that is so rich in pepper flavor. Although almost food stalls offer this dish, the best I have tasted so far is from Founder Bak Kut Teh located along Balestier Road and Song Fa Bak Kut Teh that has branches in Clarke Quay and Chinatown.

  

 

 

Spots never dare to miss. . .


 

Sentosa Island & Universal Studios

This man-made island is located on Harbour Front and offers exciting and wonderful tourist attractions like Universal Studios and the newly opened Marine Life Park.

From Vivo City, there are numerous ways to hop into the island and my recommendation is through the cable car ride (around $28). But you can always use the train ($3 fare), bus ($2) or stroll along Sentosa Boardwalk ($1 entrance fee) .

Sentosa Boardwalk is a great way to stretch those legs while enjoying the view.

Who would not know this famous and giant globe bearing the Universal Studios logo? Almost every first-timer I know has got to have a shot on this very distinct attraction located at the entrance of the theme park.

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The Mummy is just one of the thrilling rides inside Universal Studios.

 

The Water World is one extravagant production that you shouldn’t miss! Bring an extra shirt or a towel though, the artists really do spray water on the audience during the entire show.

In Sentosa, never miss trying out The Luge which is so relaxing and then head your way back with the Sky Ride.


A replica of the Merlion can also be found inside Sentosa.



 

 

 

 

Orchard Road

 

Hailed as one of the most beautiful boulevard in the world, Orchard road is a food and shopping haven rolled into one. For most tourists that visit Singapore, Orchard has the biggest malls stretching from the Orchard MRT station up to Dhoby Ghaut Interchange (board the North West train also known as Red Line).

Ngee Ann City is just one of the biggest mall you can find along Orchard Road. Designer and high-end brands are located in almost every corner of this avenue.

Ion Orchard also offers a world of shopping needs for everyone. I think this is the most gorgeous & elegant mall you can find in this area.

Marina Bay & Gardens by the Bay

A newly developed area at the heart of Singapore is Marina Bay where the popular Marina Bay Sands Hotel could be found. At night, the entire building is illuminated by dazzling lights. A shopping mall is also located at the basement of the hotel with endless line of shops and a casino for all your gambling needs.

A fountain show with hologram could be seen every night that will be enjoyed by kids.

 

The Merlion is a symbolic tourist spot in Singapore. This can also be seen along the Marina Bay area, just brace yourself for some 10-15 minute walk.

 

Makansutra Gluttons Bay

 

Makansutra Gluttons Bay is not your ordinary hawker center. This is where most famous food are served but still falls within your budget. Different cuisine could be tasted in this food bay ranging from Malay, Chinese, Filipino, Thai & even Indian.

 

 

Singapore Zoo & Jurong Bird Park

The Singapore Zoo located at Mandai Lake Road has 28 hectares land area and features around 315 animal species.

The Jurong Bird Park located in Boon Lay is one of the largest avian  sanctuary in Asia, with almost 5,000 birds inhabiting. The whole area is around 50 acres and was recently reconstructed and improved with a budget of 10 million dollars.

 

 

Globetrotter Tips

Understanding Singlish as you try to communicate with Singapore locals might spark a bit of a problem in the beginning. But as you expose yourself and learn to interact more on their people, you will soon realize that their accent isn’t entirely difficult to be familiar with.  Instantly, you’ll notice that “CAN” is a widely used word, and almost every sentence ends with “LAH”. Being a former part of Malaysia, it is believed that this kind of local English originated from the Malays. Signage on the subways, buses and major establishments are available in English, Chinese, Malay and sometimes Indian, a sign that they recognize the city’s multi-cultural diversity.

 

 

The Singapore MRT (subway) is one of most organized and efficient transport system you’ll ever experience. Just like HK’s MTR, each train line has designated color (Red, Green, Purple & Yellow) for easy understanding. So when you are a tourist and it’s your first time to utilize the subway, never ever fret because each train car has informative guide as to where exactly are you in your journey.

If you’re planning to stay for more than 5 days, make sure to purchase the EZ Link card for easy access on their train and buses. Just tap the card on the fare meter upon entering the MRT station or upon hopping on a bus, then tap again once you alight. Each card costs about $15, pre-loaded with $12 that you can use to pay your fare. Top up machines can be seen in all MRT stations just in case you need to load some more dollars. Foreigners could return their cards to any MRT outlet and could receive a $1 refund.

 

 

Getting around the city and going from one point to another compels one to walk. In fact, even after staying here for 12 months, I still haven’t gotten used to the long walks I need to endure if I want to shop along Orchard or if I need to go somewhere else. Singaporeans are known for their discipline, so one tip that you should remember is to always stay on the left when walking along corridors, subway link and when ascending or descending in an escalator. You can see that the right side is considered as the fast lane especially on escalators, so unless you don’t want people to give you the eye, or scold at you at some point, stay glued on the left and just move along.

 

I can only think of 3 unique places across the island for our favorite spending activity that are surely pocket friendly: Bugis, Mustafa & China Town. As Singapore is one of the cities with the highest cost of living, you will find these places truly God-given. Bugis is easily accesible because you can always board the Green Line train and alight exactly on the area. Clothings, shoes, accessories and other fashionable good finds could be bought in Bugis. There are also numerous souvenir shops that sell memorabilia, from shirts to keychains. Mustafa is located at the heart of Little India. It is a shopping centre where you can find anything that your mind conceives, from grocery, chocolates and toys, while Chinatown is the typical business district where you can  also enjoy affordable shopping. Both Mustafa and Chinatown are within the Purple Line of the MRT.

 

 

Globetrotter Rating

I haven’t slept for days, slowly contemplating what rate should I give to this wonderful city that has embraced me as their own. Since I get to experience living here, a rate of 9 would be fair enough. Singapore will always be a green pasture for foreign workers like me who seek for a competitive but conducive working environment. 

Being one of the countries in Asia that has the strongest economy, I have always wondered how they maintain that stature considering they have limited natural resources. So I came to the conclusion that the backbone of a truly rich nation relies on a spotless  and dedicated government who genuinely recognizes its most valuable asset, the citizens. 

All the experiences I have gained during my past travels in SG even after I started living here were all inimitable. Just a mere 3 and a half hours away from Manila, it will forever be an oasis of opportunity and a splendid destination exhibiting opulent go-to spots and promising a lucrative stay.

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