Monday, April 25, 2011

Singapore, Where Worlds Meet

My family and I spent Holy Week in the land where worlds meet - Singapore.  

Singapore trip with the entire family has always been in our list because dad's brother, Tito Rene, and his family lives there and we've always wanted to visit.  Mom and dad were able to go there a few years ago, but without us the kids.  Now, it's a plan came true.

I've heard nothing but praises from friends who have been to Singapore.  It's very clean, people are fair and disciplined, etc.  A week spent there enabled me to gather my own 2 cents about this small but well-developed country.

Marina Bay

Our first stop as we arrived was at Marina Bay where we marveled at the sight of Singapore's high-rise infrastructures at night, and the Helix Bridge which Tito Rene's company designed and built.  You can reach this by getting off at the Esplanade station of MRT.

Marina Bay  (Helix Bridge on the left with bluish lights)

The world's largest giant observation wheel can be found in Singapore - the Singapore Flyer.  It will give you a bird's eye view of Singapore, you can also eat here while your eyes feast on the spectacular view at every turn of the flyer.   Click here for more info.

Singapore Flyer - largest in the world

We had dinner at Makansutra Gluttons Bay.  It is like Banchetto and Mercato Centrale in Manila where a variety of food stalls are waiting for you.

In front of Sands at Marina Bay, you can catch a Water and Light show. It's for free and it's really good.  Show times are 9PM and 11PM.

A taste of Little India 

The next day, Saturday, we we're supposed to visit Singapore Zoo but we woke up quite late so we changed plans and went to Little India instead.  Little India has its own MRT station, so just get off at Little India and you're good to go.  As we hopped out the train and entered one of the oldest parts of Singapore, I felt uncomfortable and weird.  It's different.  We ate at the food court where a wide variety of Indian delicacies are available.  We loved the Prata, and this Chendol drink got mom immediately.

Chocolate Prata
Butter Prata
As we made our way out on the streets, I was awed.  I felt transcended to a completely different land.  I'm used to Asian countries with Chinese culture and people, but not to a place where Indian culture rules.  I've never seen such sight, such rich and well-preserved culture.  The infrastructures were colorful.  There were a number of stalls which sell Indian products, clothings, food.  Indian music filled the air.  I was really happy I went here.

Seafood and Spa Day at Malaysia (side trip)

The next day was Palm Sunday so we went to St. Anthony of Padua Church for a mass celebration, and then hit the road to Johor Bahru, Malaysia where we feasted on seafood at Restoran Todak and had a taste of Bali in Rina Balinese Spa (view blog post about this trip).

Palm Sunday Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church in SG
Prawn Cereal at Restoran Todak in Malaysia
Massage at Rina Balinese Spa in Malaysia
The Malaysian trip took an entire day. It was tiring, yet wonderful.  We made it back to Singapore at around 11PM.

Animal interaction at Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park

The next day, our 4th in Singapore, our plan to visit Singapore Zoo pushed through .  We were able to reach the zoo via car.  I am not much of an animal lover, but this zoo was so interactive and you could get really close to the animals, not to mention most I have seen here live for the first time in my life, and I surely enjoyed it.  We paid SGD34 to enter SG Zoo and Jurong Bird Park. It's a 2-park hopper package which saves you SGD4.  These two zoos are on different locations, so we had to take another day to visit Jurong Bird Park.

You can also avail of the 3-in-1 park hopper which allows you to experience Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and Night Safari for SGD58 for adults.  Click here for detailed ticket prices.  Night Safari is located within the Singapore Zoo.

Singapore Zoo
White Tiger  :p
SEALed with a kiss
Aside from being able to view the animals up close, there were also shows to showcase the talents of these animals for the guests' entertainment.  We enjoyed Water Safari (where my photo with the seal  above was taken), Rainforest Fights Back and Elephants of Asia.

Water Safari
Rainforest Fights Back cast
Elephants of Asia

There were also feeding time schedules that you can catch to get to see or even try to feed the animals yourself.  Sometimes you have to pay SGD2-5  to feed the animals, sometimes you can do it for free. 

Manatee feeding
Arapaima feeding by mom

Having encountered these animals was such a wonderful experience that I would not trade for anything.  This zoo is just unlike any other.  Click here for more info.

At Australian Outback where Kangaroos roam freely.  You can also feed them for a minimal fee.
At Fragile Forest where animals are free to roam around and anyone can touch them.

The park-hopper package we got also includes a free Fish Spa or a Singapore Zoo towel. We chose 3 tickets to the spa, and 2 towels for souvenir.  Mom, Gianine and Ram went to experience the Fish Spa.  I was supposed to go, but when Mom started shouting frantically as she dipped her feet into the water, I backed out and Ram replaced me. :p
Fish Spa at Singapore Zoo
Ram's feet. eeewww

We visited Jurong Bird Park two days after the Singapore Zoo trip.  Do not forget to keep your ticket from the SG Zoo as this is the same pass you would need for the Jurong Bird Park.  Unfortunately, my sister left hers so we had to buy her a new ticket for SGD18.

To reach this bird park just get off the train at Boon Lay station and catch a bus on Lane 194 going to Jurong Bird Park.

I am not so keen in going to this bird park as I assumed it to be boring.  But to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed seeing those birds for the first time in my life, and taking photos of them.  Animals are great and very interesting photography subjects I have realized.



Like in Singapore Zoo, there are also schedules for feeding times and shows of the birds.  Again a donation is needed so you can feed the animals, but Gianine was able to feed the Pelicans for free because she was able to answer a question during the Pelican Chitchat.

Gianine feeding the Pelicans with fishes

There are 3 shows that you can catch: Birds and Buddies, Kings of the Skies and the Lunch with Parrots where you have to pay an extra SGD19 for adults and SGD15 for children for a buffet lunch while watching a parrot show and even interacting with these birds.  Birds and Buddies features different types of birds and their talents.  Kings of the Skies features birds of prey  like vulture, hawk, owls, etc.  They are enormous and I was really delighted to see them.  These birds were more difficult to handle compared to the birds from Birds and Buddies.

Gianine volunteered again to participate :D

An Australian volunteer at Kings of the Skies

I am glad that Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park bring these kinds of animals closer to people, but I have reservations in keeping them in fake habitats.  Some animals have very small places and I just couldn't imagine myself living my life in such a confined "home".  I pity them in a way.  I guess it is what we call sacrifice a few for the sake of many.  They are at the zoo so people can understand them more, their needs and pleas, so everyone could help and take part in taking care of them and their natural habitats.  The zoos in Singapore should definitely be on your list to visit, especially those who love animals and photography. Click here for more info.

Riding the movies at Universal Studios

The most awaited destination of all is up next - Universal Studios!  Universal Studios is located inside Resorts World Sentosa.  Just get off Harbor Front MRT station, and go inside Vivo City mall where the Sentosa Station is located at Level 3.  Hop on and you're good to go. The train stops at 4 different stations inside Sentosa.  The train ride costs SGD3, it is a bit more expensive than going to ordinary stations because the entrance fee to Sentosa is already included here.

Universal Studios was, as expected, more or less like Disneyland HK.  The rides and attractions are similar, though Universal Studios offers more rides for adults unlike in Disneyland HK where most of the rides are for kids.  The regular all-day pass to Universal Studios costs SGD66 on weekdays and SGD72 on weekends for adults.  You can avoid long queues on rides and attractions by getting the Universal Express pass for a more expensive price.  Click here for detailed ticket costs for adults, children and seniors.

Being a movie lover, I am thrilled by the fact that I can get to ride the movies!  There are several rides and attractions all over Universal Studios like Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure and Canopy Flyer at Jurassic Park, Shrek 4-D Adventure, Donkey Live, Enchanted Airways and Magic Potion Spin for kids at Far Far Away, King Julien's Beach Party-Go-Round for kids and  Crate Adventure to come soon (sad) at Madagascar, Revenge of the Mummy (should not miss!) and Treasure Hunters at Ancient Egypt, Battlestar Galactica Cylon and Battlestar Galactica Human for those who love speed and extreme adrenaline rush at Sci-Fi City, Pantages Hollywood Theater where you can watch the Monsters Live at Hollywood, Lights, Camera, Action! at New York and many more!

My favorite among the rides is The Revenge of the Mummy.  This is similar to the Galactica of Disneyland HK.  And I was really awed by Waterworld, my favorite among the attractions.  It's the first that we tried as we entered US and it was such a great attraction to kick off the Universal Studios experience.  It was my first time to watch such show. The stunts were great and seriously dangerous, I was on the edge of my seat.  Gianine and I sat on the splash zone, but luckily we did not get drenched unlike the others.

Get awestrucked at Underwater World

The next day we went back to Resorts World Sentosa to explore what there was to explore.  Of course, we would not miss Underwater World.  Ticket costs SGD25.90 for adults and SGD17.60 for children with ages 3-12, children below 3 are free of entrance.

I certainly loved the Touch Pool where you are free to dip your hands into the water and touch the fishes and manta rays.  Thanks to my Tough 3000 I got up close shots of the marine animals.

There are also feeding times that you can catch, and the one you should definitely not miss is the shark feeding which you can freely watch at the tunnel.  I was holding my breath while the keeper fed the sharks and other big fishes, and wondered if I will ever get the courage to swim with these creature someday.

There are also shows to catch like Fur Seals Live (which we sadly missed) and the Pink Dolphin Show located at the Dolphin Lagoon.  It was my first time to see Pink Dolphins.

Siloso Beach and Fort Siloso tours

Mom and dad were able to visit Underwater World already few years back (minus the shows) so they did not join us, instead they went to Siloso Beach and had a tour at Fort Siloso which dad surely enjoyed.

Siloso Beach
Mom and dad at Siloso Beach.
Fort Siloso

Riding the Luge

After these tours, we all got back together to try the Luge. We rode the Sky Luge and Luge.  It cost us SGD12 to ride both.  If you have time to ride more you can purchase the 3-ride ticket for SGD20.  This allows you to ride the Luge 3 three times.  You have to ride the Sky Luge to make it to the other end, which was a bit nerve-wracking by the way, and you get to ride the Luge, which was so much fun, to go back to where you came from.  I was wearing mini skirt, but I managed to ride both. :)  

Sky Luge

It's pretty high!
Luge, once is not enough!

The award-winning Songs of the Sea

After the fun ride at the Luge, we watched Songs of the Sea.  Ticket costs SGD10 each.  This attraction is a must-watch, the water, light and fire effects were so cool.  Children and adults alike will surely  enjoy this spectacle.  Few years ago this attraction can be watched by anyone for free, but now with paid tickets the show was surely improved and made more awesome.

Resorts World Sentosa is definitely a fun-filled entertainment haven for tourists and locals alike.  A day or even two is just never enough to explore all that Sentosa can offer.  There a handful of things to do and places to see.  If we only had more time, I'd  like to hang out on the beaches and visit the other attractions like Sentosa 4D Magix, and try other rides like Flying Trapeze and Tiger Sky Tower.  When I come back to Singapore next time, I'll surely find time to visit Sentosa again.

Merlion at RW Sentosa

In most of the places you'll visit, there are schedules of shows and attractions indicated on the brochures (which by the way most of the theme parks use to create origamis, this way they get to re-use and recycle the maps and brochures to beautify the park and as added activity for guests as well).  Be mindful of these schedules and make sure not to miss any as much as possible.  Most shows happen at least twice a day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Prioritize those with fixed schedules, and enjoy the attractions or rides without schedules in between fixed schedule times of shows.  This way you'll get to enjoy everything, if you have enough stamina to do so, and save time and money by doing the most that you can in a day.

The station map of MRT is pretty much the entire Singapore.  So it is relatively small and most parts can be reached via MRT.  The good thing about Singapore's MRT is it has connecting trips, so you'll just get off the train, walk a little without having to leave the MRT station, and hop on another one to get you to your place of destination.  So convenient!

Singapore is surely one of the most diversified countries you'll ever go to. People come from different races and yet they get to live harmoniously together.  Even food selections wherever you go are so diversified.  Food courts are standard with their offerings of dishes from different parts of the world.  I loved the drinks!  I always see to it to try different kinds of drinks every time.  Restaurants and food stalls offer so many kinds of drinks unlike in the Philippines where we only have sodas and fruit juices as the usual selection.  I loved Sugarcane with lemon and Honey Lemon, and mom fell in love with Chendol.  Freshly brewed lemon iced teas are a common sight in restaurants, like in HK where they usually do not serve iced tea powder mix.  Bubble teas can also be found almost everywhere.

On our last night, we had dinner at Al-Ameen in Jalan Jurong Kechil after having a mass and Stations of the Cross at St. Joseph Church.  There were, as usual, a wide variety of dishes to choose from.  We went Indian that night.
Aika and I had Naans, cheese for me and garlic for her, and Chicken Tikka Masala

Cheese Naan and Chicken Tikka Masala :))
Crime rates in Singapore are very low maybe because people are afraid to put a stain on the race they belong to by doing bad things in this country.  A lady can walk on the streets at night without the fear of being raped or abducted.  Children go to their schools by themselves.  Though it is sad that suicide cases are quite rampant due to pressure in school and work.  While we were there, a student committed suicide at a train station by jumping off the platform, and there was also an incident before where a zoo keeper intentionally taunted the white tiger  to eat him.  Singapore indeed has a highly-competitive atmosphere where people must keep up to survive and be well-accepted in the society.  It is also a known fact that every young man in Singapore is obliged to undergo army training.  I guess how the government manages its people is one of the reasons why Singapore is one of the  most developed countries in Asia.

As for a tourist destination, Singapore is much-loved because aside from being a gateway to many other countries, it is filled with so much tourist attractions to cater its visitors' wants and needs.  Singapore is a tourist-friendly country, I even got a 7% tax refund on the epilator I bought (happy)! I hope I can come back next year. ♥

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