Saturday, April 13, 2019

Lost in Singapore 2019, part 1

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Last week, I was in Singapore with family. This is the fourth country outside the Philippines I went to (after Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia). Before a couple of relatives expressed interest in going to Singapore, I already wanted it to be my next destination to go alone. I was planning to go around December, but then my grand-aunt and another aunt decided to bring along me and my mom. It's also the first time my mother went to another country (problems with getting a passport). Our other two companions are both senior citizens, so they brought me along because I'm the millennial techie and they might need someone to use Google Maps or other stuff they're not really familiar with.

The four of us shared something in common: our love for the Crazy Rich Asians books and the movie! I'm a fan of the book and even watched the film the very first day it came out in the Philippines. I wrote a review of the movie [click for link]. The story is mostly set in Singapore, and it's exciting for me to go to places where most parts of the movie were set.

We stayed for four days and three nights, which I think is enough to go to the highlights of the small city-state. Though I do plan to go back in the future because I was so amazed by the place! From Iloilo, we took a connecting flight to Manila, then headed to Singapore from there. It was my first time to ride the larger Boeing 777 Philippine Airlines plane, and it featured those entertainment touch-screen devices with movies, tv, music, and games. It was pretty big and comfortable even for Economy class, and the four-hour flight passed by like a breeze. The airline food was good, I should say.

Arrival
Since three of my companions were older, we decided to book a package tour from a travel agency. If I'm alone, I'd rather not go through that route, I prefer exploring a place alone. But they also didn't want to stress over transportation. The packaged tour though a bit more expensive also has advantages: the plane, accommodation, transportation, and guided tour are all included. I liked this tour more than my first trip abroad since we also had plenty of time to go around the place by ourselves.

First, Changi Airport. Singapore is probably the only place with an airport I look forward to going, since Changi Airport has consistently been called "the best airport in the world." I agree! The design, the ambiance, and space are like works of art. It's the only airport I don't mind waiting in.

"City in a Garden"
I was amazed because on the way to our hotel, the street was lined with plants and the air feels very clean. Flowers and trees lined the way and after a long flight, the sight is relaxing and beautiful. Even in a modern city, they still try to preserve nature.

Transportation in Singapore is pretty easy. The train system is very efficient and it's not too complicated. The trains are maintained well and with the many trains available, you won't experience the worst of the Manila MRT life. I also notice that there are signs saying that eating, smoking, and drinking in public transportation is prohibited and there is a $500 dollar fine for violators. Even with strict rules, I appreciated how it was followed and you can really see the results.

Marina Bay Sands
Our first stop was the iconic Marina Bay Sands of Singapore. It is one of the most recognizable symbols of Singapore aside from the Merlion. It is an 'Integrated resort' with a mall, casino, and other cool stuff. There are high-end shops inside, and there is also a great food court with good food.

View from the Esplanade
Inside the mall
On our last night in Singapore, we also went up the building itself to the topmost floor called the Skypark with a good view of the whole city. It was on the 57th floor, and while I was the one who suggested this first, my fear of heights kicked in. It was worth it, though. I think that if it's your first time in a city, one should go somewhere with a good view of the whole place.


Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is one big complex with curated gardens. There are two large greenhouses, the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, which has plants inside them. They use a certain technology to keep the inside of the domes cool. There are different plants, flowers, and trees inside. It's like a big living museum of plant life and it's a great place to visit. My companions who love gardening and flowers really enjoyed it there.

It is one of the notable locations in the movie Crazy Rich Asians. You might recall this place from the Colin/Amarinta wedding reception scene.

The 'Supertrees' structures with real plants growing




Plants and flowers in the Flower Dome
A man-made waterfall inside the Cloud Forest Dome. 
 Old Chinatown
While Singapore is known for its high rise buildings and breathtaking architecture, they still preserve the old parts of the city. In our guided tour, we also went to the part of the city where the old low-rise buildings are still preserved.



Other City Stops
As part of the guided tour, we also went to several short city stops. We stopped by a Chinese Buddhist temple, Mount Faber, the Esplanade, and some stores.

On the way to Mount Faber, 340+ feet hill with a view of Singapore
View from the top of Mount Faber

This ends part 1 of my Singpore trip. Next is part 2, about Sentosa Island, Universal Studios, and Little India. I will also write about my thoughts about the country.
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