One of the memorable things that happened to me during my first relationship was traveling to Singapore in 2017 (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3) – my first time overseas. Returning there was the last thing on my mind after breaking up a year after that trip. However, it came to a point when everything piled up: the stress from work, the post-breakup frustration, and a lot more. Getting up and going to work everyday was a chore.
However, life surprises you in the most unexpected manner. My mother told me that as a graduation gift for my younger brother, she will sponsor a trip to Singapore for both of us. I was to join him as I already knew the ins and outs of the country — essentially, I was a tour guide. It was timely, too; my manager advised me to take a break from work.
We did some additional preparations for this trip, finalized our plane tickets and accommodations, and prepared sufficient clothes. My younger brother and I stayed there for four days — from July 24 to 27 — a day longer than that of my 2017 trip. We visited places I was before during my 2017 trip, alongside new ones I never discovered before. You might notice that I focused more on the sights here rather than the food.
Singapore has changed ever since I visited there last time, but some things remain the same. Without further ado, permit me to chronicle my four-day 2019 Singapore trip!
24 July, 01:00-02:15
Since my younger brother and I have a 6:00 am boarding time, we both “slept” early (more like napped for a short while.) I went home early the day before, buying canvas pouches for our travel documents and helping my brother with last-minute preparations. Good thing my dad was willing to bring us to NAIA Terminal 2 — saving us the hassle of booking a cab after midnight.
The travel time from Caloocan to Parañaque lasted short of an hour, and he dropped us off at the international departures gate. We went inside after having airport security check our bags, and then waited for the check-in counters to open.
24 July, 03:00-05:40
We lined up at the check-in counters as soon as the Philippine Airlines (PAL) staff took their places. The check-in process was a breeze, and then we proceeded to the immigration counters after that. Aside from a minor mishap — the immigration officer saw my passport was unsigned, and made me affix my signature on it — it was smooth sailing.
I wasn’t feeling drowsy this time, unlike in 2017. I didn’t eat a lot, but I made sure to empty my bowels and kidneys before boarding. The free 3-hour Wi-Fi at the terminal also helped keep me up, as my younger brother got some shut-eye. Boarding time came a few hours later.
24 July, 06:00-09:50
The plane took off at 6:00, and breakfast service came an hour later. I requested veal sausage with hash browns for breakfast, alongside the corned beef sandwich my mom gave us before leaving. Meanwhile, my younger brother got the beef tapa (fried beef jerky) for breakfast.
We stepped at the arrival area of Changi Airport Terminal 1 almost three hours later, passed by the security checks, and encountered no hitches at the immigration counter. Singapore Changi Airport hasn’t changed a bit…or has it?
24 July, 10:30-13:00
It took us some time to get our luggage from the carousel. Since the check-in time for our hostel was at 2:00 pm, we had a lot of time on our hands. We made use of that time to explore the newest attraction at Changi Airport – Jewel@Changi. The mall’s centerpiece, the Rain Vortex fountain, had a lot of tourists having photo ops there.
Some of the establishments present in the newly-built complex include a new Pokemon Center, Shake Shack, A&W, Starbucks Reserve, MUJI, Tim Ho Wan, Din Tai Fung, Uniqlo, Marks & Spencer, and more. The lower basement level of Jewel houses a food court for budget-friendly bites.
We had lunch at O’TAH, which specialized in otak-otak (mashed fish or seafood mixed with spices and wrapped in banana leaves, then grilled.) Both of us ordered nasi lemak — the full monty, mind you — with chicken, otak-otak, chilies, sambal, peanuts, and anchovies. We also had additional salmon and shrimp otak-otak ala carte. I loved the texture of the otak-otak; it still had bits of the actual fish used, instead of being a smooth paste entirely. Not bad for a first meal.
24 July, 13:30-15:00
With full bellies, we left Jewel@Changi to head to our hostel via the tube. Singapore’s public transport system remained efficient as always. We bought a reloadable ticket at Changi Airport station (CG2), then rode the East West Line (green) to Tanah Merah station (CG / EW4). It took another ticket purchase at Tanah Merah station and another ride to Bugis (EW12 / DT14) before we bought a 3-day tourist pass. Once we purchased the tourist pass, we transferred to the Downtown Line (blue). The reloadable ticket will definitely come in handy once the tourist pass expires.
From Bugis (EW12 / DT14) junction, we then rode the train and disembarked at Little India (DT12 / NE7). We reached G4 Station after another crosswalk and a short stroll, checked in, and dropped off our luggage. A moment of rest before our next adventure.
24 July, 16:00-17:00
We then freshened up and prepared to visit our first itinerary: Marina Bay Sands and its surrounding structures. Little India Station was a short walk from G4 Hostel, and Bayfront Station (DT16 / CE1) on the Downtown Line (blue) was incidentally on the same line two stops away. Before entering Marina Bay Sands, we stopped by 7-Eleven to buy an adaptor for electric plugs. Apparently, electric outlets in Singapore use the three-pin plug compared to the Philippines that uses the two-pin variant.
A photo op at the Rain Oculus installation started out our Marina Bay visit. The 4:00 pm sun in Singapore is akin to a 2:00 pm sun in Manila. We had clear daytime views of most sights such as the ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, and the business district at the Downtown Core.
We then crossed the Helix Bridge and took a short rest at the benches near The Esplanade – before deciding to check out the actual Merlion.
24 July, 17:20-19:20
Having a picture at the Merlion was difficult at first with all the East Asian tourists jostling for a good position. Creative shots with the Little Red Dot’s national icon posed a greater challenge, but we managed to pull it off. We then left Merlion Park to explore the city’s downtown core. This was the centre of the city during the colonial period — with people congregating here for business, leisure, and what-have-you.
The downtown core is home to a lot of historical and cultural monuments. During our visit, some sections of the Padang field were sequestered as logistics facilities for the upcoming National Day Parade. Some points of interest include the Dalhousie Obelisk, Cavenagh Bridge, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, Lim Bo Seng Memorial, Tan Kim Seng Fountain, the Cenotaph, and the Civilian War Memorial.
It was a hot day and one of the ambulant ah kongs (uncles) selling ice cream sandwiches was there, so we bought from him. It was my younger brother’s first time to try out the S$1 ice cream sandwiches tourists rave about.
Incidentally, Suntec City was also accessible via foot from the Civilian War Memorial! We stopped by to check out its shops, and I even scored a bath towel from Bed Bath ‘N Table. It was almost the mall’s closing time when I last visited here. The Gudetama Cafe at the lower level was still open, but the Lush Cosmetics branch beside it was already boarded up.
We then returned to the bayfront area to check out Gardens by the Bay — which was still beautiful and still frequented by tourists from all over. Our trip was timed perfectly as the nightly light and sound show was about to start. Spectators of different nationalities were amazed at the different-colored lights of the Cloud Forest. We didn’t stay for long, however; it was half past seven and it meant dinner time for us.
24 July, 20:00-21:00
Things got frustrating around this time mainly due to my fault. From Gardens by the Bay, we decided to walk along Marina Boulevard to have dinner at Makansutra Gluttons Bay. We then turned right at Esplanade Drive and traversed that stretch by foot. Little did we know that our destination was way off from the path we were traversing. Entering the buildings along Fullerton Avenue to find a shortcut didn’t pay off either. My younger brother was already frustrated, so we just settled at a 7-Eleven under the Esplanade Bridge branch for dinner.
Interestingly, my younger brother noticed that the cashier at the branch was Filipino – after she told him doon mo na lang initin (just heat your food over there), whilst pointing at the microwave oven. Apparently, 7-Eleven stores here are self-service. We then walked back to Bayfront MRT station — this time, via the other side of the river.
It was only then that I realized my mistake; we should have simply crossed the Helix Bridge again, as Makansutra Gluttons Bay was more accessible from there! Although the final part of our first day turned out rather uneventful, it was a productive one nonetheless. We took the train back to Little India, returned to our hostel, and called it a day for now.