I’m still in the process of filtering out the pictures that I took during my 4-day vacation there. I promise to be back with more snapshots and words. Annyeong haseyo!
Today, I had dinner with my friend, Val, who just came back from his vacation in South Korea. I enjoyed looking through his pictures and listening to his stories and experiences in the country. I am pretty much stoked! In less than a week, I’ll be freezing my ass off 1600 miles away from here and experience my first autumn or winter, whichever is the case.
One of the most important discussion that we had, of course, was the budget. Whenever I travel, I see to it that I don’t get too hyped up with the place that I lose control of my expenses. I know that there’s this ongoing YOLO fever and “never convert because you’ll never be able to buy anything!” thing going on in the travelling world, but I believe the opposite. In times of travel, it is still best to be frugal. I always convert not only because I’m a cheapskate but also because I want to make sure that I get the most out of everything. I mean why buy something that you’re not really in love with? Why stuff yourself with expensive food that’s not really worth it? Pardon me, but I believe in the magic of cheap thrills. And cultural immersion, of course.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not particularly uptight about these things. If the price is right and the thing is really worth the spending, why not?
Anyway, he told me that 20K PHP is enough for 5 days. This is a big whoop considering that I’ve been saving 30 – 40k for our trip. I don’t fully believe that this is possible for me (Sorry, Val! Haha!) but I can take it as a challenge. No harm in trying, right?
Speaking of another tight-budget getaway is our weekend trip to Pampanga. Christian’s friend, Chinee, invited us to her provincial house for their housewarming and some post-bday celebrations. For this, I’d like to do a 2K PHP-challenge. My friend, Maryann, originally challenged me to do the 1K PHP-challenge saying she did that before in one of her Laguna trips and she survived. But I don’t think I can do that in my case given the more expensive gas, toll fees, and food and booze share. So yeah, I increased it to 2K PHP.
This, actually, came up because Maryann and I were discussing our itinerary for the SK trip and I told her that I have another trip to spend on. She told me about her Laguna budget-challenge and I bit into it.
So there goes. Wish me luck! Lots of it! 😀
I did it! I’ve gone scuba diving with Christian in Lemlunay Diving Resort in Saranggani. This happened during our Gen San vacation last May. This 5-day vacation is currently on top of my favorite out-of-town trips for this year. One, because it’s my first solo trip with Christian and meeting his extended family has been wonderful. And two, I’ve done so many things that I wouldn’t have done in my waking hours here in Manila.
It was scary since it was my first time and I really don’t know how to swim. But it’s true what they say — being underwater for several feet is just surreal. After a minute or two of heavily breathing through my scuba gear, I was able to relax and enjoy it more. I wasn’t able to contain my excitement when I saw the interesting species underwater. I was pointing here and there and my instructor was kind and game enough to take me where I wanted to go. I had fun playing around with the clown fishes thinking that they were Nemo’s relatives. There was also this sea anemone-looking plant that I loved. It was so velvety to the touch I wanted to pluck one and take it home with me. 😀
The only downside was the crew’s underwater camera is not working properly so we weren’t able to take some pictures. But I, still, am thankful because I was able to concentrate more on exploring the diverse marine life that Saranggani has to offer. In my next dive, I will make sure to bring one and concentrate then on capturing the amazing view from down under.
Based on my instructor’s diver’s watch, I was able to go at around 32 feet underwater but Christian prolly has been around 40-ft or more. I will try to act braver next time and maybe do the flip-from-the-boat thing (if you know what I mean).
I used to be so excited about summer because it means beach trips, outdoor adventures, and plain fun under the sun. Never mind the heat. As long as I have a good bottle of sunblock and a lip balm, I’m game to do anything.
For the past 3 years, my summer has been jam packed with out of town trips. Because I don’t have any concrete plans this summer and my previous self-pity post (haha!), I will just reminisce on my best summer memories. Here are some of those:
Summer of 2012, it’s already late April. What do you have in store for me?
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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?
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.
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.
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. 😦
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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. 😀
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. 😀
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. 😀
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.