Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Love You, Singapore... With Love, Philippines (Days 3 and 4)

So, what's next?

I had heard from some little bird that there existed a chic mall called Millenia Walk, which is located at Raffles Boulevard. Tita, meanwhile, was mooning over the Singapore Flyer. Without any distinct plan in mind, we traveled to Temasek Avenue, stopping at Promenade MRT. 

I had no expectations as to what the premises along Raffles Boulevard and Temasek Avenue actually were, but if you mean business district, I think it really is. All the men there were wearing coat and tie, and the women were looking chic with their semi-formal or formal office attire. I don't know if I can compare this place to Makati because I had only passed that way once (and I am not residing in NCR), but nevertheless, I can feel the corporate vibe of the people around me. 

Indeed, from that spot, we spied on the Flyer from afar. We wondered how far it really was because one can just walk around and reach the destination without intending to. Because we were on vacation, we did not feel it was already time for lunch, as our stomachs were not grumbling. Because time was too honest, I saw on my watch it was eleven in the morning, so we checked around the premises for some affordable restaurants. We came to a restaurant, and I forgot the name, but we ordered noodles. If I could remember mine, the noodles had chicken and tofu in curry-and-coconut-milk soup. Trust me, it's delicious and affordable. 

Next stop was the Millenia Walk. There were less people walking around, maybe because it was a Monday. I am not sure of the Singaporeans' lunch time habits, so I could not really say anything other than what I had actually observed. Anyway, the mall was so chic it reminded me of our Ayala mall here (in my own honest opinion). After cruising this Walk, we literally walked out of the building to start looking for a way to the Flyer. Anyway, we passed by the architecture (uhm, the quadrupod?) that is near Suntec City Mall, and I could say, can I congratulate the genius behind that concept?

Next was the walk under the sun. Though the day was not as hot as I thought it would be, I still brought my umbrella, as I always do. Too bad, my umbrella got broken because of the strong wind, so we had to walk under the heat of the sun. We walked along Bayfront Avenue all the way to Marina Bay Sands, but the three-towered edifice was not our destination. It was the Gardens By The Bay. We paid tickets for the shuttle tour, and it was that magical shuttle ride that brought us inside the vicinity. It was Tita who still had some energy left to stroll around, while I stayed at the benches to relax my tired feet. I was able to get to know a family from Indonesia, and it was the mother whom I had talked with. They were in Singapore for a slight vacation, but they would be traveling back to Malaysia that evening. Later on, they went out ahead of us, and I strolled only a bit to look for the basic structures like the stores (where I can buy water) and the restroom. I only got to read the must-sees in the Gardens from the flyer that I had. Two days of intense walking was never enough, so if I will be going back to Singapore, I'll go tour the Gardens. After an hour or so (I guess), Tita went back to the benches, so we went out of the Gardens and walked all the way out. Too bad, we were never able to get to the Flyer.

As we walked on, we realized we were able to reach the Art Science Museum, a building that looks like a giant lotus. Indeed, the building itself is a work of art. Outside the building, there was this man-made "pond" filled with lotus. It was my first time to see real lotus flowers in my entire life! No kidding! Anyway, because walking was all we had been doing, Tita pointed at the Merlion from afar. I thought the Merlion was at Sentosa Island, so we went to the thingamajig (I forgot the term, it was some kind of a mini port) where one can go cruising by boat. We asked for a way to go across to the Merlion, and the personnel told us of the $20 trip. Later on, a Filipino staff also told us of the $3 cruise (it's on him, he said) where we just cross up to the Merlion. The $20 trip was going across to Merlion Park and more cruising. We just wanted the way to Merlion Park, so we chose the cheaper alternative.

Finally, we were able to behold the great Merlion at the Merlion Park. Behind the giant statue was a lesser version. There were crowds of people taking pictures here and there, and to our surprise, the Indonesian family was there! It was a happy reunion! We talked a bit before resuming to taking pictures of Merlion.

Anyway, after the Merlion escapade, we traversed Raffles Place and took the MRT to Outram MRT to Harbourfront MRT. Tita and I strolled around the Harbourfront Mall to look for something to eat or drink, and to look for a way to get to Sentosa. While walking, I found the Etude House kiosk. How happy I was! Etude House is my favorite Korean beauty shop. Though there are three Etude House shops here in the city where I live in, it is still exciting to see the shop in Singapore. And though I am never a fan of SHINee or any SM Entertainment artists (because I am a YG Entertainment and FNC Entertainment fan), I was still able to recognize Choi Min Ho. We inquired about the monorail ride and the cable car ride at the information counter, but because we were on a shoestring budget (even if we can afford it), we decided to walk all the way to Sentosa Island for just a dollar.

Well, well, well. So started our journey. While the escalators at Changi airport and at the MRT stations were extremely fast, the escalator to Sentosa Island was extremely--to the millionth power-- slow. I think this is because this would allow visitors to enjoy the sights and take pictures all they want. If we had the energy, we could have walked without using the escalator, for there were also cool places at the seaside where we can stop and take pictures.

Finally, we were able to enter Sentosa Island. I had seen pictures of people posing in front of the Universal Studio globe, and it was one of my dreams to see the globe for myself. Finally! I was able to get a picture of it! Aside from the Merlion at Sentosa Island, it was also an evidence that I had actually been there. Even with the little spark of energy left, Tita went around to look for the Merlion, but I was in no mood to go further because I was already thirsty and tired, so I just hung out at the vicinity near the Universal Studio globe. Far ahead, I saw the Hershey's Chocolate World. Though I know there are lots of stores here in the Philippines selling Hershey's chocolates, being in a Hershey store is a must-have experience.

Need I say more? ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

Hershey's Chocolate World... a paradise for a chocolate lover like me.

After the Sentosa field trip, Tita and I crawled--joke, walked out and went back to Harbourfront, were we rode the MRT to Outram, and rode another one to Lavender MRT. Good thing, there was a 24-hour food court near the Lavender MRT station, so Tita and I ate in silence. Afterwards, our tired bodies walked all the way back to the hostel to rest.

While winding down for sleep, we were able to meet Anika (I am not sure if this is the spelling), a girl from Germany. We were in awe because she dared to travel to Singapore all by herself. It was her plan to travel around Southeast Asia because of the book that she brought along. But I am not sure if she will be visiting the Philippines, but if she will, I will really want to meet her and ask her regarding her expeditions. By the way, Singapore was her first Southeast Asian destination.


Day 4 was our final day in Singapore.

Tita went back to Raffles Place because of an errand, and she went back to the Merlion Park to get a good shot of the Merlion. Because I was tired, I decided to stay at the hostel and enjoy the free Internet.

Finally, at ten-thirty in the morning, we said our goodbyes to the staff. I remembered it was Nesty and another Filipino staff at the counter. Like the other guests who left their "footprints," Tita and I also left a note, and had our pictures taken, Nesty with us. (Sorry, I will not post the pic with Nesty because I want to hide my face ^_^).

We walked all the way to Lavender MRT on to Changi Airport. Unlike the first day, we were able to get a glimpse of the other places going to the airport because the railway was out in the open. The sights were spellbinding, and it took my breath away. 대박!

Anyway, our good times in Singapore were coming to an end, so we savored our last hours there taking pictures at the other sights at Changi Airport that we had not seen in the first day. We took our chow at McDonald's, and I did some final shopping in one chocolate store, where I found another Filipino staff. Heart happy!

I thought, it was time to get back to reality, but I know that someday, I will be going back to Singapore. Who knows? I might go there to stroll or even to watch another CN Blue concert! I will put South Korea's Jeju Island in my bucket list, but Singapore is where I want to go back.

To go back to stroll more and to meet friends. And if I will go back, I want to go visit/stay at Green Kiwi Backpackers Hostel.

This walking diary ends her blog entry here, so, see you soon!

좋은 하루 되세요!

Monday, February 3, 2014

I Love You, Singapore... With Love, Philippines (Days 1 and 2)


That was the first word that came out of my mouth when I saw the night lights at Changi Airport in Singapore when my friend Tita (real name hidden to protect identity ^_*) and I arrived past twelve that Saturday dawn, January 25, 2014. Why were we in Singapore, by the way? It was part of our plans to go sightseeing out of the country, and Singapore was our first out-of-country destination. 

Changi Airport is extremely organized. Despite the extensive land area, there are signs placed strategically for tourists to go around with ease. In fact, it is very organized all around Singapore. There are signs here and there to give one the right directions. I am one for an organized setup because I tend to get lost so easily. And an efficient setup like Singapore suits me a lot.

We went to the information counter to inquire about the MRT, but because we arrived past midnight and the station was closed for the night, we had to wait for it to open in the morning. We stayed and half-slept a bit in the airport for almost six hours. Next was getting the standard ticket (it is a card). Because we don't have that mode of payment from where we live (we simply pay money for fare), we struggled with the ticket machine. Good thing, it was easy to use, and there was instruction provided for. The coolest thing about this standard ticket is that it can be used six times. You just have to pay money via the automated ticket booth and use the ticket until your sixth time is utilized. Tita also acquired a map at the airport. The map was very handy when traveling around.

Tourist map we got at Changi Airport

To make the long story short, from Changi Airport MRT, we got down at Tanah Merah and boarded on a train to Joo Koon. Why? Because that train will pass by Lavender MRT. When we got there, we had to ask for directions to our destination, the Green Kiwi Backpacker Hostel. It was a long walk, but we were able to get there, thanks to citizens who answered our questions and gave us directions.

When we arrived there, Tita confirmed the reservation, and I can remember well it was Miss Suki who welcomed us at the reception counter. Meanwhile, a lovely older woman, Ma'am Doris, was the one going to and fro preparing breakfast consisting of two slices of dragon fruit, two slices of orange, two slices of watermelon, and two pieces of toast. Miss Suki informed us of the regulations in the hostel. Check-in would be at two o'clock in the afternoon (so we cannot use the bedrooms yet, and no breakfast yet), but we can already utilize some of the facilities such as the restrooms, the computers, free internet, the seats in the reception area, the free WiFi, and the rooftop.

Because we did not have breakfast yet, it was best to survey the area. The location of Green Kiwi Backpacker Hostel at Lavender Street is very strategic for it has a food court nearby. Meanwhile, at the food court, we searched for familiar food and settled for rice porridge. I forgot the price, maybe it was $3, and I forgot the exact name. All I remembered was that it had meat, peanuts, and chopped scallion. The peanuts in it were really tasty and fresh, and it reminded me of boiled peanuts sold in public markets here in our own country. Now, I'm not going to stop writing this just because I am looking for boiled peanuts.

After breakfast, we went to the rooftop to rest. I don't care what other people say about the rooftop in reviews in TripAdvisor, but I like the comfort and the hospitality of the rooftop. It was like Lee Gak-wangjanim finding solace in Park Ha's rooftop house in the Korean drama "Rooftop Prince." We stayed there until almost twelve. And finally, at twelve, we killed time by surfing the net at the reception area while waiting for two in the afternoon. And it was only on this day that I got to read about the mauling incident that happened to Ferdinand Hipolito Navarro, popularly known as Vhong Navarro. Hmmm... And it was also during this time that Miss Carol, one of the staff at the hostel, asked us in Tagalog what on earth the gossip was about, and we learned that she is Filipino. ^_^

Finally, at two, we checked in and were given keys to Room 3. We refreshed ourselves and slept, promising to go out and roam around when we wake up. But damn! I woke up at almost eight at night, and it was too late to go sightseeing. The only thing I could do was to head out of the room to eat. I went to the food court and tried to purchase something to eat that was worth only a dollar, and all I got was sponge cake. The Scrooge is taking over me, as usual. Nevertheless, it was still all right because digestion slows down at night, and it is not good to eat a heavy meal before bedtime. Sponge cake plus two glasses of water was more than just fine. It was satisfying. Tita, meanwhile, woke up later than I did, and headed out to look for food. It took her some expedition to find out that there is a convenient store nearby. "Cheers" to that!


Day 2 was a Sunday, and according to my research, there was the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd where we can hear mass at 8:30 AM. In the counter, we met another staff, Nesty by name (we got to know she's Filipino when we darted out of the door and she bid us goodbye in our dialect). Tita and I finally had our first breakfast, and when Ma'am Doris asked me whether I like coffee or tea, I settled for tea. I had to find a store where I can buy Yakult, but because it was out of reach just yet, a healthy drink like tea was all I needed. We asked for directions by bus, but I totally had forgotten to ask them regarding the fare, so the realization hit me when the bus actually stopped in front of us. Can you spell "bloopers?" Anyway, it was a very embarrassing moment for us because I forgot where we should take off, and good thing, Tita remembered "City Hall." Despite the miscommunication, the bus driver assisted us and told us that the fare to City Hall from Lavender Street was $1.30. 

Finally, on to our destination. We walked to Victoria Street, thinking that the edifice with the cross on top was already the church. It turned out, it is CHIJMES. I will not elaborate what the building is because I am not Wikipedia. Anyway, using the GPS in Tita's phone, we walked around trying to find the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, only to find out it was undergoing major restoration. We walked on to find the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. By the time we got there, the mass was already in the middle and it was in Chinese. We found a list of schedule and saw that an English mass would be at eleven in the morning. A kindhearted Singaporean approached us and informed us that along Victoria Street, there is the Saint Joseph's Church, with the mass at 10:30 AM. Maybe she took pity on us after seeing our confused facial expressions. And off we went.

Inside Saint Joseph's Church, we were 45 minutes early for the next mass, and we listened to the choir practicing English songs with Chinese tunes. It turned out that the choir was from the renovated Cathedral, and that Saint Joseph's Church had taken the Cathedral under its wings for the meantime. The choir was practicing the songs that they will be singing for the nine o'clock morning mass on Chinese New Year. After minutes of waiting, we were finally able to attend our first out-of-the-country mass.

After the mass, Tita and I walked trying to look for food because it was already lunch time. Finally, we reached Bugis+, a stylish mall with an architecture design that took my breath away. Who designed the building? It is totally daebak ^_^ ! Anyway, we went to their food court and bought our lunch. After lunch, we strolled around, admiring all the cute stuff such as Rilakkuma and Hello Kitty, gaping in wonder at the stylish clothes, getting ourselves mesmerized at the books and the mangas, and me squealing in fangirling mode to see a magazine with CN Blue in front! "외톨이야, 외톨이야, daradirdaradu~~~~"

After our Bugis+ escapade, we went back to the hostel to refresh ourselves and to recharge our cellphone batteries before heading out for Little India. We forgot about the Boon Keng MRT, so we walked from Lavender Street all the way to Little India. Hey, I'm definitely not complaining because of the beautiful view and the friendly weather. On the way to Little India, we passed by Serangoon Road, and hey, Serangoon Road is not just a title of a movie. Little India is definitely a cool place to be, with colorful establishments and stores to purchase good deals. Filipinos are fond of pasalubongs, so, why not? Let me just keep to myself what I bought for my parents and for my relatives. Anyhow, we spent most of the afternoon around Little India, even going to two of their malls there.

Next stop was Orchard. If my memory served me right, there's this place in Orchard Road where Filipinos linger, according to a news magazine program on the television. I have to know where it is, I thought. When we got out of the Orchard MRT, we exited a dome-like structure in the ION Orchard. ION Orchard is a ritzy shopping mall that houses some of the world's famous brands. You name it: Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, and Dior. The place was really high-end and sparkling! I saw Shaw House across the street and Marriott Hotel on the other side. It was almost six, but it was still bright, so I caught a glimpse of people who looked like Filipinos. My feet were killing me, so I went to where these people sat and took a rest. Of course, the people were talking in Tagalog, so when the one sitting beside me finished her talk with the one at the back, I began to ask her if she's Pinay, and she affirmed. How happy I was! Anyway, to  make the long story short, Tita and I got to know the Pinay that we call Ate Mira. I will not divulge what her work is because I did not ask permission, and I think it is not my right to tell it here. We were talking about home and jobs and current events that occurred in the country the past year, such as the infamous typhoon Yolanda. Later on, when I asked about the Pinoys who loitered around Orchard Road, she told us about Lucky Plaza. She told us how Filipinos spent their Sunday afternoons in Singapore. When I asked about Jollibee, she told us that it can also be found at Lucky Plaza. Hmmm, if my fave girl group 2NE1 should visit Singapore (again), Sandara Park should go eat at Jollibee and make her Filipino fans happy with her krung-krung ways. Anyway, we exchanged Facebook profiles, and Ate Mira also offered to take our pictures. She's so kind! She made our stay in Singapore very memorable. If I will be going back to Singapore, I will definitely meet up with her again.

Tita and I, the hungry walking diaries, walked along Orchard Road trying to find a way to cross the street, for Lucky Plaza was some distance away across ION Orchard. When we saw the edifice of Lucky Plaza, I was thrilled! I saw my favorite bank (Philippine National Bank) and some other Filipino stores. While trying to find a way to cross the street properly, we met several different and interesting people. There was this cool chinky-eyed street performer with dreadlocks, and he was balancing a crystal ball while dancing to some cool music. A few meters away were Indians dancing to some Latin beat. And going further, there were Filipinos with matching t-shirts dancing to some ballroom music. Because there was no way to go across, we retraced our steps, got back inside ION, and found the underpass going to Tang Plaza. Thank goodness we made it! Our tired feet sacrificed happily for us, until we finally stepped inside Lucky Plaza. I found a Globe Telecom store, and another one for Smart. There were many other Filipino stores that we were not able to go and visit. Anyway, inside the elevator, I heard some kids talking about Mang Inasal. I didn't know it was also there because the only thing I knew was Jollibee. Anyhow, we were out of luck when we reached the floor to Jollibee, for the store was closed for the night, and the staff were just waiting for the customers to finish. 헐~~~ 짜증나! The only thing I was able to do was to take a shot of the happy bee mascot. Anyway, there's lots of Jollibee here in the country... The other only thing we got to do was to eat at McDonald's, for the store is open for 24 hours. After our late dinner, Tita continued to buy more pasalubongs, consisting mostly of Merlion-shaped chocolates.

After our trip, we went back to our home sweet home, Green Kiwi Backpacker Hostel. After all our walk, walk, walk, the hostel always waited for us with warm and open arms. A good night's rest awaited us, and good days ahead in our Singapore vacation were also waiting to be explored.

Anyway, please stay tuned for Days 3 and 4 in the next entry.

좋은 하루 되세요!