Singapore’s Sites and Sights

In my previous Singapore post, it was all about food. But aside from the gastronomic delights, Singapore is also remarkable for its fusion of traditional and modern architectural designs, shopping districts, and seamlessly clean streets.

Now, allow me to ramble about the different places that we visited in the city last January.

1 Altitude

Christian’s cousin, Korinna, took us to this place on our first night in the city. This gallery bar sits on the 63rd floor of One Raffles Place and boasts of a 360-degree top-view of Singapore. A friend told me that this is a fine-dining place during the day but transforms itself into a party place for both locals and foreigners at night.

The amazing view from the deck. You can practically see the major landmarks of the city. By row: (1) The Singapore Flyer; (2) The Esplanade; (3&4) Singapore’s CBD; (5) Marina Bay Sands Hotel

It was crowded when we got there; we practically have to maneuver our way to get around but the ambiance and view totally made up for it. The entrance fee will get you a free drink — in my case, a bottle of Hoegaarden. This was all Korinna’s treat, btw, so lucky us. 🙂

Me with Christian, Korinna, and her date, Daven.

The elevator rides was also fun, if you don’t have major vertigo problems that is. It’s not everyday that you get to go up and down 63 flights and see the city lights flash by right?

Merlion

The ever popular half-lion half-fish landmark of Singapore. Who wouldn’t want to have a picture taken here? I have to make some major cropping to all of our pictures here just to remove random stranger’s faces. Haha! There are just so many people lining up to get a snapshot! Based on my pre-SG trip research, there are several others located at random parts of the city, but this one in Merlion Park is the most popular.

They say it’s spit has magical healing powers…
I kid, I kid!

China Town

This part of Singapore reminded me of the older part of Manila, but way cleaner. This is where we tried to buy those delightfully tacky tourist stuff — key chains, chopsticks, friendship bands, and so on.

Let’s not wake the dragon, ok? 

I wanted to visit The Tintin Shop because someone told me that you can find it here. I just watched the Spielberg animated film a few weeks before so I was curious. Unfortunately, it was already closed. 😦

But mummy, I wanna take a peek!

This is also the place where we had our toned down budget dinner. We have wasted away for the past 2 days so everyone’s determined to have enough pocket money for the rest of the trip. And so, each one of us bought a meal that we can share with the others from the surrounding kiosks. The result: A fun, pseudo-potluck dinner with friends (which involved a bit of hoarding over the Chili Crab).

Pseudo-potluck dinner. Ultimate tipid moves!

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum

OK, this was just a side trip on our way to Chinatown, but we spent some time here taking pictures, clinging on the wrought iron door knobs, and trying to take a peek inside the heavy wooden doors, wishing that someone would not stare back from the other side. Dumdumdumdum.

Are there tooth fairies here, too?

Not only was the temple majestic, the garden was also decorated by beautiful lights. To me they looked like stationary fireflies perched on trees. It was a refreshing change from all the mall hopping that we did the whole day. Too bad we weren’t able to go inside the temple itself.

Lights…oh lights… ohhhhh lights…. oh lights…

Double Decker Bus

This is the first time that I saw a double-decker bus in action, and actually rode one. I developed an annoying habit of internally singing The Smith’s There Is A Light That Never Goes Out song whenever I see one. Every. Freaking. Time.

The first time that we rode on it was when we went to Changi City Point for dinner and some malling. Instead of hopping onto the usual MRT, we decided to take the bus instead.

♪♫♪ And if a double decker bus, crashes into us…. ♪♫♪

There’s not much of a difference, really, except that you will be on-level with the tall buildings instead of the pedestrians. I thought that I would have some byahilo issues, but there was none. It was a perfectly smooth ride. We rode another one on our third day as we were heading back to our hotel from Clarke Quay. We were the only passengers aboard so we trolled around and took some kulitan pictures.

Wala kase nito sa Pilipinas 😀

MRT

This will be your best transpo friend during your whole stay. What’s good about the EZ-Link MRT is it is literally connected to every major point and it is the cheapest way to get around. Same as the MRTs here in the Philippines, you get aboard the trains via an electronic ticket. The difference is that they do not have single ride tickets. You need to purchase those stored value cards. It was a major convenience for us since we boarded the train a lot. What’s awesome about this, too, is you can use them for other modes of transportation such as bus and cabs. You can even use this in 711 stores! Another plus is the card balance will only expire after 5 years of your purchase.

Eeezy, breezy, link

It is nowhere near the MRT that we have here; they don’t have women and children-men compartments but theirs are so much cleaner and the passengers are very organized. There are hardly ever a long line. And you will be rest assured that no one will ever push you on your way in or out.

See? We even found time to take some pictures during rush hour. And look at the vacant seat beside me. 

The stations was so unchaotic (very much unlike here) that we were able to take some levitation shots. Forgive me, but I’ve been dying to do this since Christian and I started our levitation project.

I believe I can fly! Woooh!

IKEA

I’ve read about this place in magazines and seen it in the movie 500 Days of Summer. There alone, I already have this notion that IKEA is a dreamy and wonderful place. And it is. The furniture, the interior designs… the quirky household stuff that they sell, created and manufactured in a way that only IKEA can.

By column: (1) Cool and unique hanging lamps; (2) A paper measuring tape free for all; a minimalist BW artwork; (3) Summer-perfect pitcher and glass set, star-shaped ice shapers, colorful mini-plushies, and stainless organizers. 

My favorite thing about this place is you can freely play around — you can lie on the bed, imaginary cook in the kitchen, and relax on the sofa as if they are yours. And picture-taking is very much allowed.  This is a treat for someone who comes from a place where department stores scream “No sitting” or “Do not touch!” on their upholstery.

IKEA is a playground for both young and old

Lucky Plaza

This is the Singapore equivalent of Greenhills, except that it’s rowdier. There was a time when I thought that we were being ushered into a movie premiere, a concert, or the Cubao Station of  MRT-3. I even caught a temporary buzz in my ears from all the noise. This place is good if you’re looking for cheap finds, not if you hate body bumping and has a slight closed-space anxiety.

One redeeming quality is the Choc Spot where you can find big discounts for pasalubong chocolates and sweets.

Willy Wonka, are you there?

This is where I bought one of my favorites, Ritter Sport Milk Chocolate with Yogurt Filling, which you can’t find anywhere here in the Philippines *sniff*. Another good find is the Ferrero Rond Noir. Jing bought a box and she was kind enough to give me a piece. It’s darker than the cliche Valentine Ferrero chocolates and tastes 50x better! Again, it’s not available in the country. If you’re going to SG anytime soon, please buy me a box of this darlings and ship it to me. I will love you forever! Haha!

ION Orchard / Orchard Road

For the shopaholics, this is your mecca! Rows of stores screaming designer labels….racks of clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories.. they’re all yours for the taking if you have cash. 😀

Endless rows of shops

There are a lot of stuff that caught my eye — like that men statement shirt from Uniqlo that show lyrics from random songs of The Beatles, those cute purple flats from thelittlethingsheneeds, and that acid washed mini skirt from Billabong which was on sale (my friend Jing bought one). But the cheapskate in me won. I tend to immediately look at the price tag and subconsciously convert the prices to peso so I ended up throwing them back to their racks. If you’re out of the country and have cash to spare, do not, and I repeat, do not do this!

To be fair to myself, I bought some sensible pieces. One is a red, hooded coat from Aeropostale which cost around 40 SGD. I was overanalyzing on whether to buy it or not but when everyone said that it looks cute on me, I gave in. It’s not bad at all considering that it was on sale (50% 0ff), and the style and quality is very good. I’m so bringing this to South Korea on November. 😀

Little Red Riding Hood and the big bad wolf

Another good find is the purple Uniqlo thermal jacket which I got for only 20 SGD. Here’s the best picture that I have of it so far. It is reversible, btw, and the reversed side is so soft and feels like a cat’s fur. Fuzzzzzzy! My friend, Jing, also bought one in a different color. I’ll try to get a picture of us wearing the same jacket together next time. 😀

With my pseudo-twin, Jing.

It was a seemingly endless day of walking, trudging in and out of various shops, and waiting for Jing and Pat to finish fitting the handful of clothes that they bought (yes, there are clearly the winners of the “Singapore Shopping Challenge”. Haha!). There are times when my feet and legs would be so tired, I’d just slump on the next available floor or corner that I see. Nonetheless, I enjoyed every minute of window shopping with my friends. 🙂

Clarke Quay

This is a commercial district by the riverside which, for me, vaguely resembles the Eastwood City Walk. This is most popular for gimmick nights, where you could enjoy blasting music, a good drink, and the fountain display at the center.

Fascinated by the light decors and fountains. And curious of the Singapore sling, too.

We were planning to meet some old office mates here for booze but they cancelled at the last minute. We just took a quick stroll around the area, took some pictures, talked by the riverside, and contemplated whether all waitresses in Hooters are hot.

Kame ang mga dakilang istambay

Reverse Bungee

Allow me to say that this is one of the reasons why I should go back to Singapore. We haven’t had the chance to try this! T_T

Christian’s friend, Tipoe, actually offered to treat us to this ride on our first night but we were a bit reluctant because one, it was expensive; and two, we just had a bellyful of soup and dumplings for dinner (thanks Din Tai Fung!). I had a clear idea on how scary and exciting this thing was based on the echoing screams of the people inside it. Yes, you can clearly hear them even from a distance. Reverse Bungee, I will conquer you next time!

Because something in reverse is much, more exciting?

That sums up my 3 days in Singapore. I would love to include our Universal Studio’s day but that place is so awesome, it deserves a separate post. Wait for it. 😉

Yes, it was tiring with all the brisk walking that we did but it was so much fun. This travel vacation was definitely a pumping year-starter for me. I would try to visit other parts of Sentosa for the beach and maybe even stay for a night in Marina Bay Sands Hotel next time. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

***I would like to thank my travel buddies Christian, Jing, Janine, Mils, Pat, Roan, and Rap to whom I grabbed some of the photos posted here. 

Singapura Gastronomica

OK, let’s be honest. You wouldn’t pick Singapore as your first international trip. Ever. Of course it will always be somewhere dreamy, and far, and Paris, and Egypt. One that would cost you your entire poor lifetime savings. I remember one co-worker asking me wide-eyed and bewildered, “It’s your first time in Singapore? But…why?!”, as if I told him that I have a third eye — one that is located in my navel and it can see through clothes and minds and stuff. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Because I’m jologs like that”. Imagine his mini heart attack if I’ve mentioned, “And oh, BTW, it’s my first out of the country trip. And I applied for a VISA just for this. Thankyouverymuch”. I spared him the trouble. He’s a friend, anyway.

But Singapore as my first isn’t that bad. I remember walking around its clean, busy-bee street, and uttering to myself: I can rock living in here. Yes, I have plans of flying over and work there for a decent couple of years to save up for my *sarcasm starts here* Wedding of the Century Themed Wedding *ba dum.. tsssss*. But it’s an entirely different topic so scratch that.

As I was saying, Singapore exceeded my expectations. There’s too much to say that I feel so overwhelmed just thinking about how I should describe my 5-day stay. But since travelling is mainly about food, attractions, and the people and their culture, I will divide it into such. Let me start with my favorite: Food.

Beware: I will not be detailing here the many first class restaurants that we visited. Whenever I go to a new place I make it a point not to be a food snob because (1) I am definitely not a food snob — I can practically eat anything except for strawberries, and (2) It’s always fun to experience the best of both worlds. Yes, it is fun to be classy and all from time to time but to me there’s nothing more exciting than to immerse yourself in a totally strange place.

So here goes:

Din Tai Fung (Xiao Long Bao )

I have a separate blog entry for this because it deserves one. Do check it out. If you’re in SG, make sure that you visit this place and be early. Trust me. Din Tai Fung is not only known for its Soup Dumplings but for its long, long line as well. Some other dish that I recommend are the Fried Rice with Pork Chop and the Braised Beef Noodles. Both are good for sharing. 🙂

Old Changkee

This is my first Singaporean food experience. Every MRT station has one so you will never miss this. If you’re looking for a quick tummy fix that doesn’t cost much, then this one’s for you. It has a wide variety of snacks, ones that we call in the Philippines ‘street food’ or tusuk-tusokbecause they are mostly cued by a wooden stick. My favorite is the breaded prawn which is only 1.50 SGD. It is so good, I could probably eat 3 sticks in one go.

Tusok here, tusok there

Hawker Centre

Another good place to go if you’re on a budget and is in dire need of a local dining place done al fresco style. After unpacking in our hotel, we headed over to Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre for a very late lunch. I can’t remember the exact name of the place where we ate but if you go to that part of Geylang, there are numerous stalls that sell identical delicacies. I would like to commend their pork dumplings. They are so tasty and full — you’ll feel that you’re eating so much more than what you paid for.

Dumplings Overload

Yeo’s Winter Melon Tea

I wish we have this in the Philippines. That way, I wouldn’t have to line up in Gong Cha, Serenitea, or whatever popular milk tea place right now. I also don’t need to shed a minimum of 90 bucks just to buy one. A can of this refreshing drink can be found in every grocery store for only 0.80 SGD. And a can of this drink is enough to make you giddy all day. Oh, Singapore. You are one lucky country.

I will smuggle you… >_<

IKEA

There’s just something magical about being in IKEA and the food is no exemption. The moment I stepped in, I knew I found a haven. I think everyone who’s ever dined in this place has nothing bad to say about their meatballs. The gravy and cranberry sauce and the potatoes are superb! I also got crazy over their salmon. Just look at the picture and you’ll know what I mean. One kick that worked well with this dish is the mustard sauce. Again, I’m not a fan but it just blended so well with the soft meat of the fish.

Mr. Bean

There’s something about soy that reminds us of our morning ritual as a kid: waiting for the taho (bean curd) vendor in our neighborhood. If you’re a 90’s kid in the Philippines, your childhood is not complete without this breakfast staple. This is what Mr. Bean reminded me of. Like Old Changkee, you can easily spot it in any MRT station. A friendly tip: If the ale ask you something that sounds like ‘Wa o Col?’, just say ‘col’. Warm soy milk are the most unappetizing thirst quenchers; my friend can attest to that! While enjoying your drink, get a piece of flavored pancakes too. They are fluffy and tasty; perfect for an afternoon snack while walking the busy streets of the city.

About a Soy

Ajisen Ramen

To start off, I’m not a big Ramen fan. To me they all taste the same and they fall into the made-me-bloated-but-not-satisfied  food category. But Ajisen Ramen is an exception. The noodles is perfectly cooked and the soup is so tasty, not at all pasty like the ones I have eaten (and learned to hate). There are also a lot of sahogin the soup, depending on the flavor that you ordered. The best I’ve tasted are the seafood and scallop ramen. If you have some spare cash and tummy space, you can opt to order another serving of the ramen soup. It is a bit steep when it comes to the price but I’m telling you, it’s all worth it! If you’re budget is really tight, you can always share. One order of ramen bowl is good enough for two. They also have set meals, ramen and a plate of side dish, sold at a lesser price. Some notable side dishes are the gyoza and the cuttlefish.

Itadakimasu!

Hawker’s Iced Coffee

It’s not comparable to Starbucks or CBTL, but it did kept me alert and awake for a whole day of shopping. Plus, it’s so much cheaper (0.50 – 1 SGD, i think) and the packaging is so cute. It kinda looks like a blood bag, right?

Roasted Duck

This reminded me of the Filipino’s lechon mainly because of the skin. It’s so crunchy and oily, never mind the fats and calories that goes along with it. The meat is tender and juicy. It doesn’t have a queer taste of some sort, not the one that I was expecting. It was just like eating a meat that is half chicken and half pork.

Dibs on the skin!

Ice Cream Sandwiches

We stumbled upon a stall selling these outside of ION Orchard. Apparently, this is one popular Singaporean street food. There are so many ice cream flavors to choose from. You can also choose between the traditional wheat bread or wafer for your sandwich. All these goodness for only 1 SGD.

Yum!

Chili Crab

My roomate has been raving about this special delicacy weeks before we arrived in Singapore. Everyone, this is definitely a no miss. What made this dish so special is the chili sauce. I don’t know why but there’s something about the taste that makes you go for more. And what’s more awesome about it is that it goes with everything. And I mean EVERYTHING — rice, squid balls, prawns, you name it. Even the bland pancit bijonthat we ordered became special when we poured the sauce over it.

Chili + Crab = ♥

There goes my superb foodie experience. Singapore is a melting pot of cultures and it doesn’t end with the food. From Taiwanese, to Japanese, western, down to the local delicacies, you can be sure that you’ll find something that may be the sole reason for you to come back.

The Xiao Long Bao-mb Experience

On our first night in Singapore, Christian and I met up with some of his friends for dinner. I was pretty excited when I learned that we’ll be dining in Din Tai Fung – a Taiwanese restaurant most popular for its Xiao Long Bao. I have heard and read great reviews about the place and their amazing Soup Dumplings but none of those could have ever prepared me for its awesome awesomeness!

I would like to describe the whole gastronomic experience to you but I can’t. Xiao Long Bao is one of those few delicacies that you need to taste first hand in order to truly appreciate it.

It’s the Xiao Long Bao-mb!

To add to its superb taste is the semi-complicated way of eating it. Being a Xiao Long Bao virgin, I was lucky to have very willing tutors who prevented me from making a mess out of myself. You see, Xiao Long Bao is not called Soup Dumplings for no reason. Aside from the usual ground meat, there’s actually a hot soup inside the bun. So you just don’t just pick it up and pop it into your mouth like your good ol’ dumpling.  You need to carefully chopstick your way into it and avoid punching holes into the bun to fully gain the Xiao Long Bao Experience.

I was told that the best way to eat it is to:

1. Pick it up by the tip using your chopstick (because that is the part where the bun is the thickest).

2. Dip it into the sauce and put it into your spoon. These dumplings are perfect with black vinegar and shredded garlic.

3. Bite a small hole in one of the bun’s side.

4. Sip the soup.

5. And eat the rest of the dumpling.

But if you want to be weird like I am and to complicate things further, skip the second step and go straight to 3 and 4. After that, get little pieces of shredded garlic and insert it into the hole that you nibbled, lather a bit of black vinegar on the bun’s surface, and pop the whole thing in your mouth.

If you’re picturing the goodness of it all in your head, then take a look a this:

Give me these and my soul is yours!!! I kid, I kid. 😀

I haven’t tried it but really? Truffles??? I’m drooling rainbows in my head just thinking about it. I’m not a fan of Valentine’s but give me these on the 14th and I’ll be yours forever. @_@

Sadly, there’s no Din Tai Fung in the Philippines yet.  But I’m crossing my fingers that one would open up soon. I’ll be tripping my way over.