Around Singapore for First-timers

Traveling is no doubt on top of my chain of priorities that sometimes even my family questions my choices. When my elder sister, Maine, let her guard down and allowed herself to get bitten by the travel bug, i was all around pushing her to go farther and as frequent as possible. This post is her tale on her first solo travel out of the country.. and i couldn’t be any more of a nagger asking her to write about it for GreenPastours as an inspiration to first-time travelers in Singapore and travel-beginners in general. Read on 🙂

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Singapore’s The Esplanade landscape at night.

My sister has been bugging me for the longest time to contribute in her blog via writing about my Singapore and almost a year after the said trip, I am going to finally write about it. I hope this still matters despite being long overdue.

It all started with the desire of making my passport useful once and for all. Although I like seeing places and experiencing new things with friends and family, I am not a big travel junkie unlike some people I know (read: my sister). Back in 2015, I was at a point in my life where I just wanted to break free. My three-year old newspaper job was getting toxic. I needed a breather. So, one day, I booked a flight somewhere and then handed my resignation letter. You could call it impulse but thinking about it now, a year later, it was the right thing to do.

South Korea was my first option. However, because I was jobless and I did not have sufficient funds, I would not be honored a visa. My next best route was Singapore. 

With only my courage and a cup of coffee, I hopped on a 5am flight on a Thursday. It was my first time traveling alone and overseas. I had no idea what to expect, and quite honestly, it was all rushed and guts. As cliché as it sounds, the only thing that kept me hopeful was the idea of adventure and self-discovery.

The original five-day trip got extended to twelve days. Singapore got me captivated the moment I set foot on their world-class airport. A clean city and hot weather welcomed me when I got out of the hotel-like Changi Airport. As expected, it was not hard to navigate around since signs and directions were everywhere. From the airport, I acquired a map, familiarized myself with it and then bought myself a tap-up card to use to pay for my fare in all the train stations and buses. The MRT was accessible as it had a station in the airport and all stations were connected to one another.

After almost an hour, I found my cousin’s place where I would be staying. It’s located near Mountbatten station of MRT yellow line. I was walking down the streets pulling my luggage, looking lost but I was able to found my way.  My cousin was at work so I was welcomed by her housemate. She let me get settled and then after an hour map, I went straight to Sentosa to meet my Singaporean friend who would take me to a tour to the island.

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Singapore’s famous landmark, the Merlion. The original statue can be found in Marina Bay.

Our first stop was in the Sentosa Skyline Luge. The luge is similar to a go-cart, only it does not have an engine and you control it by pulling and pushing the handlebars back and forth. My friend and I took the only available trail which was the Dragon Trail. While we rode down the hill, I felt like I was a five year-old who finds bump cars exciting. The drive down was really fun but the ride up was the most thrilling part. To go back to where we started, we had to take a chairlift. It was similar to a ski lift, taking us up a few hundred feet above the ground so that we could see the harbor front and the beach nearby. Albeit my slight fear of height, the view was breathtaking.

Immediately when we got down, we took the bus to take us out to Singapore’s version of beaches. They have three artificial beaches: Palawan, Siloso, and Tanjong. There are hotels and clubs located in the area too. It somehow reminded me of Boracay scene, only it was less crowded, and well, nothing beats Boracay’s natural white sand.

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Artificial beach in Sentosa, Palawan Beach.

Second day in Singapore was spent in Universal Studios. The famous theme park opens at ten in the morning and closes at around midnight. We were lucky that the place was not so crowded that day. I had the pleasure to experience all the rides multiple times throughout the day. One piece of advice, though:  do not ride The Mummy if you are a wimp.

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The food inside the park was really expensive and you have no choice but to purchase. Drinks were quite pricey, too. However, you could take a water tumbler with you and have it refilled on the water stations around for free. If you have extra money with you and you plan to splurge, you could buy a giant drink tumbler for 30SGD and get it replenished in all food stalls for 10SGD with a drink of your choice (Coke, iced tea, or Fanta).

For my third day, I just walked wherever my feet took me. The Singapore Stadium was just a station away from my cousin’s place (I could actually walk going there) and there was a mall beside it, Kallang Wave, so I went there to eat and shop.

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Hanging gardens in Garden by the Bay.

Of course, as a tourist, I did not pass the chance to see the famous Merlion statue in Marina Bay. It was lovelier to take photos of the Esplanade (Singapore’s performing arts theater), Marina Bay Sands Hotel, and the Singapore skyline in the evening. One factor was the painful heat during the day and another was the lights of the establishments were more picturesque at night. Aside from these establishments’ social significance, the remarkable architecture made them a tourist attraction. While in the area, watch the light show along the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade for free.

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SG’s famous skyline at night.

The following days, I have found myself going to cultural places such as the China Town and Little India. China Town was similar to a Divisoria where you could find the cheapest buys from souvenirs to gadgets. There were a lot of shops in Little India as well but what caught my attention was the number of Hindu Temples in the area. They allowed visitors inside but you have to comply with their strict rules.

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While I was looking for another place to go to, I reached The Marina Barrage via bus from Marina Bay MRT station. People usually go there to jog or go biking as it offers a great view of the harbor and another angle of Marina Bay Sands. It was also a place where family could have picnics.

For those who want to experience the Singapore night life, you can go to Clark Quay. Located along the Singapore River, Clark Quay is known for its active party scene and various specialty restaurants. Also in the area, you can access river taxis and boats. One of the more popular attraction in the place amongst adventurous folks are the GX-5 Extreme Swing and G-Max Reverse Bungee. You can go to Youtube to find out how insane these rides are.

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Singapore’s nightlife center, Clark Quay.

When travelling, one must not forget to try the local food. Singapore is known for their Chicken Rice and I bet you it is such a good dish. Other a-must-try are Kway Teow, Prata, Tom Yum, Oyster Omelette, Ice Kachang, and their fresh sugar cane juice.

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Local delicacies. From left to right: Oyster Omelette, Chili Chicken Wings, and Kway Teow. Best eaten in Hawker places!

Singaporeans value their parks. It serves as one of the major places where people can exercise and hold recreational activities. The biggest of them is the Singapore Botanical Gardens. It is free of admission and is open from morning until midnight. The 74 hectare park houses different kinds of flowers and trees including Singapore’s national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim. Inside, there is a Swan Lake, an Orchidarium, Rainforest Garden, and a spacious Palm Valley where outdoor concerts and picnics are conducted.

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Swan Lake in Singapore Botanical Garden.

During my stay, I was able to witness a historical turn of event for the country. The Singaporean leader and first Prime Minister, Lee Kwan Yu died. He is considered as the father of the nation as he was responsible for the Independence of the country. He led the formation of the government and brought the country to what it is today.

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A tribute to Lee Kuan Yew posted in Suntec City Convention Center.

On March 23, Lee Kuan Yu died at the age of 91 after being hospitalized for a month because of severe pneumonia. They announced a week-long public mourning until his cremation on March 29. Citizens were encouraged to wear black or white, flags were half mast, and tributes for the late prime minister were all over the city. I had a chance to pass by the burial venue on the first day of viewing. There was a long line of people waiting to be accommodated. Flowers and well wishes poured both in the area and in social media. It was evident that Lee Kwan Yu was loved. Singaporeans did not fail at showing their gratitude to him.

I was hoping for adventure and self-discovery. I was lucky that I was able to achieve them in this trip. I discovered that travelling alone is a good way to test my independence. I did not only learn that I could manage on my own. I also learned about different cultures and traditions, to be more open minded. As what Henry Miller had said “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Now, I cannot wait go to another place to see the world in another perspective.

To more travels,

Maine

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