Heading down south to Singapore

It’s one of those things. You’re finally done with your undergraduate degree, you say goodbye to some great people, some great influences, some great friends. And then you look forward to the next, exciting phase of your life, whatever that may be. A hint that they forgot to mention: it doesn’t necessarily begin the moment you leave the university.

So, stuck with absolutely nothing to do and uninspired and unfazed by my apparent lack of employment (and plans for the future in general), I decided, after almost a year since my last vacation, to take a short trip to the land of our (Malaysians’) strikingly similar neighbours, Singapore.

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Now, it wasn’t my first trip there, it was my second. Technically, anyway. You see, the first time I was in Singapore, it was due to a delay and a mishap of flight arrangements which left me and my family stranded overnight in Singapore. Not exactly what you’d consider a luxurious road trip.

So, I guess you could say, this was like a personal vendetta. As always, I decided to go guerrilla (I am hoping this doesn’t have any untoward or obscene meaning) and explore the city on foot. One thing that I had uncharacteristically forgotten was that Singaporean weather mimicked Malaysian weather in every sense of the word. I’d actually lost a bit of weight when I returned!

Of course, Singapore is still a beautiful city, and I found no shortage of silly (and perhaps slightly mental) tourists like me who bathed in their own sweat as they walked around the lovely city. Singapore is quite obviously a modern city with state-of-the-art technology and architecture, but it still holds on to the rich culture of its historical roots and that is best reflected in the food and the people there, especially in places like Chinatown and Little India.

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Of course, there are many of the mainstream attractions like Universal Studios and Marina Bay. And of course, who could forget the iconic Merlion statue AT the Marina Bay? I won’t deny it, I enjoyed being at Marina Bay a lot. It’s one of those places which are highly comercialised with countless shopping malls, made-for-tourists attractions, fine dining and it even boasts the biggest casino in the country (which, technically, isn’t really much considering that Singapore only has two [legal] casinos). But somehow, I managed to find peace and relaxation in the hustle and bustle of the Marina Bay area.

You should:

Definitely dedicate at least half a day each to check out Marina Bay and Universal Studios. As cliche and mainstream as it is, one must not go to Singapore and not pay a visit to either of these two attractions. I pretty much covered the Marina Bay area in the previous paragraph but as a further hint which you should highly consider: the view at the Marina Bay is majestic at night. Walk along the bay and you’ll be dazzled by beautiful but not over-the-top lights as you allow yourself to be serenaded by a handful of local musicians plying their trade and showcasing their talent.

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As for Universal Studios, well, if you have a friend who’ve been to Singapore, most likely you would have seen a picture like this:

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Indeed, located on Sentosa Island, Universal Studios Singapore is a fun-filled theme park with thrilling rides and great entertainment. While I can’t recommend any ride in particular as every reader has his or her own cup of tea, one of the more…interesting attractions I stumbled upon in Universal Studios is this little gem called (paraphrased because I can’t remember the actual name) Movie Effects by Steven Spielberg in the Hollywood Section.

What it offers is a unique experience where you get to experience the special effects which give movies like 2012 and San Andreas that extra kick. The entire experience is hosted by Steven Spielberg (no introductions needed, I hope) and I was lucky enough (I suppose) to be thrown into the middle of and to experience a full on level 5 warning typhoon. No pictures allowed but I somehow managed to snuck in this shot of the studio where the attraction takes place:

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As for food, I don’t really have as much to say about it than I did for my other travelogues because it would feel like I was reviewing Malaysian food (Singaporean and Malaysian food are, for lack of better words, mimics of each other). However, I do have a few restaurants to recommend…

You Should:

No, actually, you MUST have a meal at one of the seafood restaurants at Clarke Quay, which, I suppose is more or less a bay area with a lot of good bars and hangout spots. It offers good food and a lovely view.CQ1

Now, personally I didn’t feel like seafood as it was only my first day in Singapore when I went to Clarke Quay, as I was walking I stumbled upon a bar (which apparently has chain outlets all over the city) called Brewerkz, which serves burgers and beers. Now, as burger places come and go, the food was pretty decent although I have to admit, it didn’t exactly blow my away. What I liked though, was the selection of beers it offered on tap. Here’s the kicker: the beers are (according to the bartender [and possibly owner of the place]) all home-brewed. And I would gladly vouch for the goodness of the beers on offer. Nothing like what I’ve tasted before.

 

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Also, though I might be completely off with the address, I found this Spanish Tapas bar near the Raffles area. Of course, don’t expect an extensive selection of Spanish tapas (to find out what tapas are, check out the Barcelona travelogue) here, it is after all, only a Spanish concept bar in Singapore. Despite this, it still offered good Spanish cuisine which left me satisfied.

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Moving on,

One thing I personally recommend is:

Haji Lane. On the way to the airport in Malaysia, my dad had referred to Singapore as the ‘Little Europe of Asia’ (If there are any readers from Macau who would like to dispute that, feel free to do so). To understand what my dad meant by that, one should take a stroll down Haji Lane during tea time. It’s technically a slightly narrow lorong (back alley) filled with many interesting shops, bars and trinkets. You’ll find many tourists and foreign expats there enjoying a good pint or a good coffee, which all makes for a good atmosphere and exudes a relaxing charm about the place.

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In terms of accommodation:

Hotels in Singapore are generally pricey for Malaysians. And with the dwindling of the Ringgit in value, it’s slightly more difficult to find a good, affordable place to stay in Singapore. Luckily for me, I managed to sneak a relatively fair deal for my hotel, aptly called BIG Hotel (located near Bugis). It cost about 100++SGD per night including breakfast and was a comfortable, classy hotel for price in comparison with other hotels. It’s not exactly BIG (ironically), but it’s cozy and the rooms are comfortable.

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Now this is a classy gesture

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For an even more comprehensive list of things to do in Singapore, check out this guide by local, Bryan Choo: http://www.thesmartlocal.com/read/52-things-to-do-in-singapore

Darren

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