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07 March 2011

Sing...Singapore...Day 1

I love traveling, seeing new places, finding my way around (or getting lost, hehe) a different place, and learning about the culture of other people. But I always suffer a withdrawal syndrome. I end up missing the place and wanting to relocate there. Hehe.

Anyway, the Singapore trip was planned and paid for by my brother. He called me one afternoon asking if my husband and I wanted to go to Singapore with my family. I wanted to but was hesitant. With all the bills we need to pay, I don't think we can afford it. But he told me he'll take care of the plane fare and hotel bills. Who was I to say no? And it was to coincide with our first wedding anniversary. Yey!

I tried to help my brother plan but he did everything by himself. He booked the hotel, prepared the itinerary, etc. Basically, we just had to get on the plane and enjoy ourselves. :)

We took Cebu Pacific's 6:25 a.m. flight on March 4, Friday. We parked the car in the airport. Good deal because they only charge Php50.00 per night.

My husband and I met my family in the parking lot and we went inside the airport together. We checked in some of the bags and paid the airport fees. While waiting for boarding time, we munched on some food from McDonald's.

The flight was on time (if I recall correctly). We were all too sleepy so we dozed off as soon as we were settled in the plane. The entire trip took a little more than 3 hours. We landed at the Changi Budget Terminal in Singapore at around 10 a.m.

We picked up our bags and successfully passed through the immigration people. We were lucky because our immigration officers were not strict. One fellow passenger was asked to present his return ticket. Taking of pictures in the airport is not allowed. Another fellow passenger was asked to delete photos he took of the airport. Tsktsk.

There's a money changer in the airport but the line was quite long. Good thing my brother thought of withdrawing money from the local ATM. Note, however, that they charge Php175.00 per transaction.

Afterwards, we waited for the free shuttle to Terminal 2 of the Changi Airport. The trip from the Budget Terminal to Terminal 2 made me fall in love with Singapore. Everything appeared so orderly, clean, and green. The drivers and everyone else seemed so disciplined.

Upon arriving at Terminal 2, we proceeded to the MRT Station. We bought tickets for the train. We made a mistake though. We were taking the train to the Tanah Merah station then take another train to the Lavender station. We bought tickets which were only enough to take us to the Tanah Merah station. We had no time to ask around when we got to Tanah Merah because the other train was already there and we were pressured to get on that train because everyone seemed to be looking at us. Hehe.

When we got off at the Lavender station, we tried to pass through the exit. As expected, the exits didn't open. Hehe. We went to the passenger assistance center. The person there didn't seem too friendly. But at least she didn't scold us. Hehe. She simply asked us to pay the difference and she gave back our cards. Finally, we were able to go out. We had to return the cards to get our Sing $1.00 (henceforth, $ shall refer to Singapore dollars) refund per card.

From the Lavender station, we went to Bus Stop No. 2. Can't remember the number of the bus we took (Bus 130?). I can only recall that we got off at the Balestier Towers bus stop.

When commuting in Singapore, make sure that you get an EZ Link Card (similar to our MRT stored value card). It enables you to ride the buses and trains by simply tapping the card on the tapping device (hehe, sorry, I don't know what it's called). It's too difficult to look for coins for fare everytime you commute. And I think they automatically charge you $1.00 for every bus ride if you don't have the card (which may be more than the actual bus fare). You can get this card from the MRT stations or at 7-11 shops. We bought ours at 7-11. They sell 2 types of cards. One has a $5.00 load but you need to pay $10.00 for the card. So total cash out would be $15.00. The only advantage is that you can load up this card at any authorized loading station. The other card (Nets Flash Pay Card) costs only $12.00 and you can consume every cent for your fare. Meaning, you don't need to pay for the card. The only disadvantage is there are only selected top up (loading) stations. We were lucky that the cashier at the 7-11 store where we bought our cards was a Filipina so she recommended the second type of card which sufficed for our needs.

When we got off at the Balestier Towers stop, we crossed the street to our hotel, Value Hotel. We checked in and we were directed to our rooms. Tatay and Nanay stayed at Room 313, Rhuel and I at Room 310, Toto of galapinoyredux.com, Barney, and Trish of manilaandbeyond.com stayed at Room 237. The room was okay because it had all the basics - TV, aircon, CR, and some amenities (blower, water heater, coffee, tea, shampoo, bath gel, toothbrush, and toothpaste). The CR was quite small and it was a joint toilet and bath. But who cares? We barely used the room. Hehe. Barney's room had a bath tub. The view was well, not that much. Unless you enjoy looking at ladders, laundry on the clothesline, and some condo. Our TV only had 17 channels, 2 of which were radios which only played music. And they had a lot of sports channels. Around 3-4 channels were showing football matches.

After resting for a few minutes, it was time to go. Hooray! I think we took 2 bus rides. I can't recall the names of the bus stops or the bus numbers. Basta we got off at the Novena Ville where we were having lunch.

Lunch was at Wee Nam Kee. I think it's popular for its Hainanese chicken but the roasted chicken looked so tempting. So we had that instead and we loved it. We also ordered the Hong Kong fried noodles, sweet and sour fish, and the Wee Nam Kee rice. We had lime juice for drinks. Everything tasted good. Or maybe we were just hungry? Hehe. Rhuel had the barley drink which didn't taste so good according to him. They also give you soup for free. The restaurant looked like a big carenderia to me. The place and the food servers didn't look that clean. But they were serving yummy food. And there were a lot of customers. So I think they're doing something good. :)

After the yummy lunch, it was time to hit Orchard Road for some shopping. I think we only took one bus to the Tang Plaza located at Orchard. We went to Lucky Plaza first to have some money changed. Most, if not all, of the money changers were Indians. You have to be careful when you have your money changed. The Indian guy tried to pull a fast one on my sister. My sister gave him US$300.00. He asked my sister regarding the amount of money she gave him. My mother was also asking my sister if she was going to change all of her US$ to $. My sister replied to my mother that she will only change US$200.00. Indian guy interpreted this as my sister's reply to his question so he only gave her $ worth US$200.00. Good thing Nanay was there to argue with him. He agreed to pay the entire US$300.00 while warning my sister to be careful because money changers kinda take your word re the amount of money you give them. Whatever! Ever heard of counting money first before changing it, Mister? In any case, you have to be on your toes around these guys. Better be safe than sorry.

We agreed to go our separate ways and meet at Lucky Plaza (allegedly the hang out of Pinoys according to my brother's friend) at 6 p.m. Tatay & Nanay left and the rest of us kids left together. We went out to Orchard to look for the shop Cotton On. It's supposed to be situated along Orchard. However, we already reached one end of Orchard and we have not yet found the place. We decided to ask (surprise, surprise, concierge person of one mall was also a Pinay. We're everywhere!) for directions. We were pointed to the Ion Orchard and the Wisma Atria. No more Cotton On at the Ion Orchard. So we headed to the Wisma Atria.

First shop we saw was Charles and Keith (a Singapore brand). Trish was able to buy a pair of shoes. We then proceeded to Cotton On, Forever 21, and other nearby shops. Trish and Barney were able to buy some stuff. Kuripot me didn't get anything. Hehe. We window shopped afterwards.

We headed back to Lucky Plaza to meet the parents who already retired at McDonald's. Hehe. Rhuel and I got a magnet first. It's our goal to buy magnets from all places that we visit for souvenir. :)

Then it was time to head to the Esplanade. We took a bus and got off near the Merlion. I was awed when I saw the Marina Bay Sands from afar. It's exquisite. Much to our dismay, however, the big Merlion was now caged. They're converting it into a hotel. Boo. We had to make do with the little Merlion. :(

After strolling, resting, and taking pictures at the park, we headed to the Esplanade for dinner.

We took some more pictures of the Esplanade.

Coolness because it only started getting dark at around 7 p.m. We proceeded to the Esplanade Mall. Dinner was at the Makansutra Glutton's Bay. It's similar to Dampa in the Philippines but they sell different kinds of food, not limited to seafoods. It was fun to see one stall named Mang Kiko's Lechon. Hehe. We ended up ordering some pork, chicken, and prawn satay. Not yummy. I was teasing my sister that it tasted like her favorite kebab. Not our type. The drinks were also disappointing. My sister and I ordered some lime juice, hoping that it would replicate Wee Nam Kee's lime juice. It did not. Blech. Rhuel had the rose syrup juice which according to him tasted like the satay too. Hehe. But we were too exhausted to complain.

My brother was meeting a former bandmate so we decided to return to the hotel ahead. He told us to go to the Victoria Concert Hall bus stop to take Bus No. 130. We couldn't find it. We were told to cross 2 streets to get to the Victoria bus stop. Some of the directions were confusing. A police or security guard even called our attention for walking in a parking lot. Bawal daw. Thank God we were not arrested. We finally found a way to cross the first street through an underpass. We found ourselves in a dark and almost deserted football field. Brr. Singapore looks safe but we're not familiar with the place so it was kinda scary. We crossed the football field and we couldn't find a bus stop. So we crossed another street. The street was well lit this time.

Whew. Rhuel decided to proceed to a bus stop to check if that was our stop. While he was asking around, we saw Bus No. 130. Hooray. But Rhuel was not there yet so we were not able to take the bus. I called him and we waited for the next bus. Thank God we were able to get seats because we were too tired by then.

We took a bath as soon as we arrived and it was time to sleep afterwards. We were dead tired and we had to recharge for the next day. :)

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