(Part of the Singapore/Malaysia swing)
With budget airlines flying in to Clark that year, we decided to try this route. Expected to encounter a lot of hassles but fortunately met just a few.
*Booking through the web was a breeze. No long queues here. Got our Manila-Singapore (www.tigerairways.com) and Kuala Lumpur-Manila (www.airasia.com) tickets in less than an hour and very cheap at that.
*We took the Philtranco bus from Pasay to Clark and it took us a little more than an hour to reach DMIA. Going back, was even better. As soon as we landed, there was a bus to Manila waiting for us. That was good coordination there.
*This is where we encountered a bit of hassle. The queue to the check-in counter was long and very slow. Apparently not all passengers were aware of the luggage allowance. Most of them were charged extra for excess weight.
* Being a newly opened airport operation back then, it was obvious there were still a lot of things to improve on. It felt like an airport undergoing maintenance.
*If you happen to take these budget flights, be prepared to not be issued a seat number. Yes, dear, when they open the doors and announce boarding, be ready to sprint ahead of everyone if you want to get the best seats. I was lucky because I was with a child, so we were asked to board first.
*Lastly, no free food onboard. If you are hungry, they have a list of food items for sale.
|street of Singapore|
After checking in, we explored Orchard Road decked in festive decor because it was around an Indian holiday when we were there. Explored Tang's and Paragon. Dinner was at Asian Food Mall at Lucky Plaza (thank you to my Lonely Planet guide) for our very first Chicken Rice (Hainanese Chicken).
Sentosa Island has become Singapore's mega theme-park on an island. The island once a tropical forest and rugged coast, has been redeveloped into a sprawling amusement park. Went to Sentosa on our own. Took the MRT and alighted at World Trade Center Station. Took the cable car to the island where we had a bird's eye view of the Singapore Harbour and Mount Faber. Free buses are available around the island, so you can hop on, hop off to the various attractions.
Because of the limited time, we explored only the major attractions: (this is pre-Universal Studios)
|Images of Singapore|
* Songs of the Sea - a nightly 25-minute light show with hi-tech and dramatic effects. A not to be missed attraction when in Sentosa
* Images of Singapore at Imbiah Look-out -- a historical museum featuring an audio-visual presentation of Singapore's history and culture
Going back to the hotel, we passed by Bugis area and check out the place at night. Vibrant!
Day 3 (Oct 29) - full day exploring Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari.
|Jurong Bird Park|
* Singapore Zoo - houses more than 2,500 animals from 315 species in a large rainforest environment. Kangaroos, wallabies, elephants, jaguars, baboons, various monkey species, polar bears and many more. You will see and learn about different species in this one big place. A cheaper alternative to going on a Safari.
|First encounter with Kangaroos|
Day 4 (Oct 30) - spent our last day in Singapore shopping and further exploring the City. Spent the whole morning at Sim Lim to buy a new digital camera + u/w case and my very first underwater strobe.
Then spent the rest of the day, exploring Marina Bay, Arab St. (Kampong Glam), Suntec, Chinatown, Lau Pa Sat, Harbourfront/Vivo City and Esplanade area via the most affordable S$1 bus ride. You just pay S$1 per ride. You can stop at every point or just choose. Buses are on time and arrives every 15 minutes so no need to rush.
Lunch was at this famous Hainanese Chicken Rice place (as per Lonely Planet) that we have to really walk around with a handy map to look for ---- Yet Con at Purvis St. near Raffles Hotel. They say it serves the authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice. It's like one of the food outlets in Binondo. Old feel serving simple food.
After the tour around the City, our last stop was at the Esplanade area where we chance upon food stalls selling various Singapore and Malaysian food. Of course, for our last day, decided that we should try the Singapore Chili crab. If only my stomach can still accommodate more, would have tried the very tempting oyster cake, too.
What impressed us:
* Unbelievably clean, even the small, narrow streets in the not so "rich" areas we have been to
* Everything seems so systematic. Even the buses arrive on the dot!
* Very impressive and very efficient transportation system
* Did not feel like it is a crowded city despite it being a major tourist and business hub
* Shopping! Electronics are really cheaper. But as is true in any other countries, be wary of scammers.
* ahhh FOOD! I can eat Hainanese chicken rice and Kaya toast , everyday!
* If you are a first time tourist, relax! everything seems so orderly that you won't get lost i.e directional signages, maps, bus routes are easily understood.
* and the people! helpful and tourist friendly -- from the airport and hotel personnel, bus drivers, ticket tellers, taxi drivers and any Tom, Dick and Harry we hailed on the street to ask or confirm directions.