Singapore Day 3 – Singapore Zoo and the Singapore Flyer

We got a later start that day, having lunch at the Bugis Junction mall before my brother Jay and I separated from the rest of the family to go to the Singapore Zoo. I was the only one who hadn’t been to the zoo – they went there during the Singapore leg of their Asian cruise last 2008 – but Jay went with me anyway because he wanted to see the animals again.

The Singapore Zoo is out of the way compared to the other must-visit places in Singapore, requiring a 30-minute MRT ride from Bugis to Ang Mo Kio station and another 30 minutes on the 138 bus. What the guides don’t tell you is where the bus stop for the 138 bus is – it’s the big bus terminal across the street from the MRT station. We ended up taking a taxi to the zoo from the station (S$9. 40) after not finding the right bus stop after 15 minutes of looking.

We got there are around 1:30pm, leaving us 4.5 hours to look around (the zoo closes at 6pm). Basic entrance is S$20 per adult, though you can opt to get the Zoo-per Saver pass (S$27 for adults), which gives you admission + unlimited boat and tram rides, or the Park Hopper pass (S$58), which gives you admission to the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, and Jurong Bird Park. If you’re going to be in the zoo for the entire day, I suggest getting the Zoo-per Saver pass. The tram saves you some walking time between exhibits and the boat ride takes you around the perimeter of the park (and it looked like a lot of fun too).

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Singapore Day 2 – Universal Studios Singapore

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We left the hotel at 8:30am and got to Universal Studios Singapore at around 9:30am. TIP: even though the park opens at 10am, be at the gates by 9:30 at the latest as the lines going in can and will get longer closer to opening time. Once inside, ride the attractions that will have the longest lines later in the day:

  • Battlestar Galactica – the world’s tallest dueling roller coasters at 42.5 meters tall! Choose either the Human or Cylon track: the Human track is a seated coaster that travels at 82.8 kph but with no inversions, while the Cyclon suspended coaster goes through five inversions, including a corkscrew and a cobra roll. My sister and I rode the Cylon track first, caught our breath for 5 minutes, then rode the Human track with our brothers. Have I mentioned how much I love roller coasters? 😀 Though looking back, I would recommend a 10-minute break between rides.

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  • Return of the Mummy – a roller coaster ride in the dark. Basically it’s Space Mountain but with physical effects like fire and great set design.
  • Shrek 4D theater – a 3D movie with special effects. Nothing unusual here. There are stationary seats inside the theater for people who’d prefer not to get shaken around. The host just outside the theater doors was highly amusing.
  • Jurassic Park Rapids – a water ride with a long plunge at the end. To be honest, the only exciting part of the ride was the flume at the end.

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Singapore Day 1 – getting to Singapore and the Budget Terminal

Well technically, we didn’t have a “Day 1” since we landed in Singapore at 1am on May 21 as were were on the last Cebu Pacific flight out from Manila. My mother thought that my brother Robbie would choose to work on Friday and only take the next Monday off so she booked the two of us for the 9pm flight. I got roped into taking the late flight so that my brother wouldn’t be alone. Had dinner in the Japanese place inside NAIA Terminal 3 (the food was so-so) before flying out. Reminder: just because you checked in online and don’t have baggage to check doesn’t mean that you don’t need to show yourself at the check-in counters.

I landed at 1am and experienced the Singapore Budget Terminal for the first time (my last two visits to Singapore involved Singapore Airlines so I passed through Changi Airport). Of course the Budget Terminal isn’t as awesome as Changi Airport (how do you compete with free WiFi, computer terminals, and city tours, floors of duty free shops and restaurants, lots of comfortable chairs, and a giant slide?) but it certainly wasn’t shabby. In fact, the Budget Terminal reminded me of NAIA Terminal 1 but better: better lit, better food, and better airconditioning.

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It’s very disheartening to know that the Philippines’ main international terminal is equivalent to the budget terminal of our neighbor.

We arrived at the Ibis Hotel on Bencoolen by 1:30am. Robbie was ecstatic when he found complimentary WiFi in the room. As my brother wasn’t going to let me use his precious MacBook, I was ecstatic to see free Internet terminals in the lobby. The room was just right for the two of us, though I wished for a little more space between the foot of the bed and the wall with the TV. The amenities were scarce – only shower cap, soap, shampoo/body wash, towels, coffee and tea service, and in-room safe – but the room was only US$125/night (no breakfast) via Agoda so I can’t complain. The hotel has a great location. It’s very hear a Hindu temple, a Buddhist temple, and Chinese traditional medicine stores if you want to soak up some culture. The Bugis MRT station is about three blocks away. Bugis Market, Singapore’s answer to our Divisoria, is only two blocks away. We zonked out after washing up but were rudely awakened at 7am by a too-loud telephone to go to Universal Studios.

How to shop in Sim Lin Square (Singapore) without getting f*cked over

Sim Lin Square in Singapore is a well-known gadget haven, boasting of six floors of stores selling nothing but the latest computers and consumer electronics, including laptops, tablets, mp3 players, mobile phones, audio equipment, and the like. While the vast array of shops leaves you spoilt for choice, this also leaves you open to unscrupulous sales personnel. Yes, even Singapore has its share of con artists. Based on my own shopping experience, here’s a short list of tips to avoid getting suckered in Sim Lin Square or any other shopping area in the world:

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Buddhist monks shopping in Sim Lin Square

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And I’m back!

GAH. More than two weeks without an update! Oh noes! But I do have a good excuse though. I spent 12 days in El Nido, Palawan for my thesis field work, another four days in Singapore right after, then another couple of days to fix the papers needed for my upcoming trip to Sanya, Hainan, China this June for a training workshop. But never fear! All this work and traveling gave me enough material for several articles, so expect new (and hopefully interesting and useful stuff) in the next few days. Thank you for sticking with me 🙂

 

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My Adventure Partner (a short essay)

This is an entry to Wanderlass Adventure Partner Contest.

I have two complimentary yet contrasting partners whenever I travel: my kickass research and organization skills and my ability to just go with things.

Even though I love to travel, my first no-parents-allowed trip as an adult happened just last April 2010. My friend and I ended up in Australia – our first time in Cairns but my second time in Sydney. As I’d been there before and my friend’s only stipulation was a budget cap, planning everything fell to me. I looked up all the places I went to and enjoyed, the best ways to get there, a good hostel located within walking distance from the attractions, and most important of all, possible ways to get discounted tickets. After all the research, I presented my friend with three possible itineraries complete with projected costs. Thanks to me (*pats myself on the back*), we made the most of our five days without breaking the bank. My only regret was being two weeks early for the John Mayer concert and not knowing “Wicked” was staging just blocks away from the hostel.

However, just letting go and going along with what other people want to do has its upsides too. During my latest trip to Antique, Guimaras, and Iloilo, my friends did all of the planning. All I did was buy my ticket and contribute towards group expenses. Thanks to them and friends-of-friends, we visited a hacienda, went diving, island hopped, celebrated someone’s birthday, and ate tons of seafood in just four days!

/end essay

Notes: yay I’m writing again! Yes the impetus was winning a kickass backpack but I really have been meaning to get writing again. I have lots of adventures to document, most especially the trip to Antique, Guimaras, and Iloilo. I want school to be over ASAP!