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Exploring More of Singapore Feb 21 - Mar 22, 2015

Exploring More of Singapore

Location: Singapore

On a Shoestring
For the most part, my 30-day stay in Singapore was spent catching up on work to stay afloat. But when the mind starts drifting and I couldn't get anything done anymore, it's my mind telling me I should take a break and enjoy Singapore. With very little cash left and with Singapore Tourism turning my request down for logistical assistance for the marketing campaign I was doing for the city, I was left to explore the free stuff. So, the expensive tours (well, all tours in Singapore are expensive given the city's high cost of living), like Singapore Flyer (giant ferries wheel), the Night Safari, paid Sentosa attractions, etc. became off limits. It's all good. Singapore has a lot in store for the budget traveler.

Exploring More of Singapore

The Stadium (Singapore Sports Hub)
From a distance, it looked like an oversized UFO landing on a field. I thought it was just another sports arena where you see jocks run around the oval and that's it. I was in for a surprise! It was a big complex complete with a mall, a lake, kiddie swimming pool, rubber tire-raft pool, skateboard park, restaurants, cafe, recreational centers, chill zones, etc. You could spend a day just exploring the complex.

Arab Street
I haven't been to Marakesh, but from the lingering impression from what I've read and with what I experienced and saw at Arab Street, I somehow felt I made the trip to Marakesh. Arab Street isn't just a street, but more of a Middle Eastern neighborhood where you can experience the Islamic culture through its halal restaurants, mosques, cafes and shophouses lining up its streets. People looking for textiles and Persian carpets come here.

Sentosa
Sentosa is a huge 5km2 fantasy/adventure theme park located on its own island and accessible through a causeway, board walk, cable car or its in-house monorail system. It is so big you'll need a few days to fully explore it. There is a dollar entrance and you can roam around the island. The individual attractions however, are fee-based. It has a 2km beach, golf courses, a dozen hotels, Fort Siloso and its own lagoon. For attractions, you can find the Universal Studios, Tiger Sky Tower, Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom, Sentosa Merlion, MegaZip Adventure Park, etc. I was lucky to be given free tickets to watch the Wings of Time. It's a dazzling water show with lasers, pyrotechnics and visual projections resembling a hologram woven together together as a stage act with 2 actors. It's the first time I saw a water-wall used as a projection screen to animate a story.

Little India
Like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore has a Little India, predominantly occupied by Tamils. You can take a leisurely walk around the neighborhood and help yourself to its offering of Indian cuisine, spices, Indian groceries, music and culture. As a footnote, as late as Dec 2013, a riot broke out here after the death of an Indian construction worker who was ran over by a bus.

Chinatown
It would seem odd to have a Chinatown in a city-state where up to 75% of the population is Chinese. It's kinda like looking for Chinese food when you are in China. Like any Chinatown in the world, it's the best place to have Chinese food (hmmm...again, Singapore is an exception since you get very good Chinese food anywhere in Singapore) and get a sense of the traditional Chinese community. To most outsiders, Chinatown is Chinatown. But to the ethnic Chinese, Chinatown has its own quarters for the Hokkiens (Fukiens), the Teochew merchants and the ubiquitous Cantonese - they know where the demarcation lines are drawn. Chinatown has its own share of guilds, clans, trade unions, secret societies and associations which are collectively associated somehow to the Chinese mafia. The shophouses are an architectural mix of Baroque and Victorian, but you have to look at them from across the street to notice.

Orchard Street
While I was walking along the main drag in Orchard Street with Mat Schiller, an American traveler I met in Cambodia, he said, "Let's go back. I was hoping we just keep walking until the malls end and then we turn back. But I'm already tired and there's no end in sight." You would think that is unique about Orchard Street, but actually, I have the same observation about the mall system of Singapore. The malls are interconnected that it's hard to know at what mall you're already in. And yes, they extend from here to eternity. Alone, I would just keep walking and walking until I tire myself out - without covering the total extent of the mall complex. For starters, try Orchard Street. In New York, you'd be hard pressed to find a Louis Vuitton store. Here at Orchard, it won't be surprising to find two distinct stores from where you are standing.

Ending Thoughts
Yes, even though it's expensive in Singapore, you can still find interesting and animated places that won't cost you anything. All it takes is a lot of leg power to cover a lot of ground. With its efficient and modern transport system, it's a breeze to get to anyone of them. It doesn't have to be limited to tourist attractions. Like I said, you can take any direction and at some point, you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you find - just don't look for natural wonders. They're all man-made marvels.

--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
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Google Map Singapore

tourist attractions in Singapore tourist attractions
  • Little India Little India - Little India is the main tourism hub in Singapore. Friday and Saturday nights become animated with the night market
  • Chinatown Chinatown -colorful and animated with Chinese ware shopping, sumptuous street food and hawker-style eats, try Ah Balling Peanut Soup
  • Orchard Road Orchard Road - upscale shopping and glitzy night life
  • Arab Street Arab Street - backpacker dorms, shisha smoking with Middle Eastern atmosphere
  • Singapore Zoo Singapore Zoo - experience the night zoo, S$38
  • Fountain of Wealth Fountain of Wealth - at Suntec City, largest fountain in the world (Guinness Book of Records in 1998), shop-til-you-drop
  • The Southern Ridges The Southern Ridges - best trekking trails in Singapore extending 10kms through lush forest canopy. Bring water, sunscreen and a hat
  • Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery - biggest Buddhist temple in Singapore
  • Marina Bay Sands Marina Bay Sands - Singapore's most iconic building and most expensive at US$5.5B. Imagine a surf board on top of three skyscrapers
hotels in Singapore hotel


USEFUL INFORMATION

Singapore Tips
  1. always ascertain the price of a dish before making an order - the price of a dish and the humble appearance of a small eating place could vary significantly
  2. be familiar with the MRT (train) as it is the most efficient mode of transport - no traffic. Save this image
  3. negotiating for a 10% discount is acceptable in reputable places, but in places like Lucky Plaza or Sim Lim Tower, you can bargain as low as you want
  4. tipping is not part of the culture...you can skip this part and save yourself some cash
  5. most establishments (including taxis) accept credit cards, so no need to carry an insane amount of cash with you
  6. keep your receipts as you may be able to get a refund of the 7% GST before your departure
  7. MRT shuts down at 11pm. You may end up taking a cab at night which is expensive to begin with, but at night, there is even a 50% surcharge. And you pay an even higher rate if you take a Mercedes Benz cab
  8. carry coins in case you need to use a public toilet
  9. if you are stationary on the escalator, stay on the left side. The right side is for people who walk up or down
Things to do, Places to go in Singapore
  1. Little India - along Serangoon Road, try fish head soup, lively painted shophouses, saris, gold bangles, spices and incense
  2. Chinatown - colorful and animated with Chinese ware shopping, sumptuous street food and hawker-style eats, try Ah Balling Peanut Soup
  3. Orchard Road - upscale shopping and glitzy night life
  4. Arab Street - backpacker dorms, shisha smoking with Middle Eastern atmosphere
  5. Singapore Zoo - experience the night zoo, S$38
  6. Fountain of Wealth - at Suntec City, largest fountain in the world (Guinness Book of Records in 1998), shop-til-you-drop, http://www.sunteccity.com.sg/fountain_of_wealth.php
  7. The Southern Ridges - best trekking trails in Singapore extending 10kms through lush forest canopy. Bring water, sunscreen and a hat (nparks.gov.sg)
  8. Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery - biggest Buddhist temple in Singapore
  9. Marina Bay Sands - Singapore's most iconic building and most expensive at US$5.5B. Imagine a surf board on top of three skyscrappers
Singapore Etiquette (do's and dont's)
  1. remove shoes when entering someone's home or entering a mosque or temple
  2. to be on the safe side, address people as Mr. or Ms. and the surname. Don't adddress them by the first name, unless expressly permitted to
  3. when dealing with Malays, who are generally Muslim, do not offer alcohol and offer a gift when departing - not upon arrival
  4. when dealing with Chinese people, initially refuse a gift before finally accepting it. It shows you are not greedy
  5. do not immediately open a gift in front of the giver. Do not wrap a gift in white - white is for mourning
  6. when dealing with a Muslim, use your right hand to shake hands, to offer anything, to eat
  7. refrain from talking politics or religion. Singapore is multi-cultural and there's a thin line when you cross that divide
  8. do not touch the top of someone's head. The head is considered sacred
  9. don't show the bottom of your foot as it is considered dirty
  10. don't point with your index finger as it is deemed rude (use your thumb to point)
  11. if you see a packet of tissue paper on a table in a hawker-style eatery specially during peak hours, it means it's reserved - look for another table. Sometimes they use an umbrella
  12. if you're a backpacker and look the part, try to dress up more appropriately. Your beach wear and dreadlocks may be out of place in this cosmopolitan city
  13. don't litter, don't chew gum, don't vandalize, don't write grafitti, don't smoke in public where prohibited, don't do drugs as you can be fined by plain clothes policemen or caught on CCTV cameras which are all over the city. Even a direct plea by the president of the United States may not help you! (Michael Fay incident)
Singapore Freebies
  1. Baba House - restored house of a wealthy 1920s Singaporean family. Free tour by appointment - Mondays 2pm, Tuesdays 6:30pm, Thursdays 10am and Saturdays 11am. (babahouse@nus.edu.sg)
  2. Southern Ridges - free use of the best trekking trails in Singapore extending 10kms through lush forest canopy. Bring water, sunscreen and a hat (nparks.gov.sg)
  3. Haw Par Villa - a theme park of Chinese mythological creatures created by the guys who brought you Tiger Balm! 262 Pasir Panjang Rd, +65 6872 2780, Hours: 9am-7pm, Ten Courts of Hell exhibit 9am-6pm
  4. Casinos - if you are a non-Singapore passport holder (read: a foreigner), you get to enter the 2 casinos free - Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands. Inside, you also can get free water, tea or coffee
Recent History of Singapore

Singapore is a small city-state 707.1 km2 and one of the youngest countries in the world with no natural resources. After WWII, it suffered from decaying infrastructure, social unrest and sluggish economic growth. Now, barely 60 years later, it ranks #3 in global GDP per capita, outranked only by Qatar and Luxemburg (2013 data from International Monetary Fund and the World Bank). For the last 16 years, it is voted the most liveable city in the world by ECA International. What exactly took place to make this a reality? Below is a recent history...in a nutshell:

  • 1818 - British Governor General of India appointed Lieutenant General Sir Stamford Raffles to establish a port of call for the British East India Company on the tip of the Malay peninsula to provide logistical support to their merchant fleet in their expanding trade between India and China. Singapore became the logical choice
  • 1832 - Singapore became the center of government of the Straights Settlements, which included 2 earlier acquisitions, Penang and Malacca, after becoming an important commercial and military center of British India
  • 1942-45 WWII - the Japanese occupied Singapore after the British capitulated
  • 1945 - Japan was defeated and the British regained control of Singapore. There was economic unrest, slow economic growth, high unemployment rate, labor strikes and decaying infrastructure. Singaporeans faced a housing shortage which would continue for a decade. This became breeding ground to a nationalistic awareness of the people, specially after realizing the British were not that invincible after their capitulation in WWII
  • 1959 still within the British Empire, Singapore became autonomous with Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister.
  • 1963 - Singapore unilaterally declared independence from Britain and joined the Federation of Malaysia along with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak
  • 1964 - with simmering racial tension between the Chinese and the Malays, 2 race riots erupted in July and September killing 36 and injuring over 500. This was a wake-up call for Singapore to address racial issues. No one wanted a repeat of this. The peaceful co-existence of the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians of Singapore today stems from the hard lessons learned from this painful episode.
  • 1965 - Singapore left the federation after ideological conflict with member states. It gained full independence from the British with Lee Kuan Yew remaining Prime Minister
  • 1967 - Singapore becomes founding member of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)
  • 1968 - Britain pulls out of Singapore resulting in a 20% job-loss. This is aggravated by losing Malaya's economic support due to Singapore's departure from the federation. Economic prospect was bleak for Singapore. It was a trying episode in the country's history. With Lee Kuan Yew's strong leadership, Singapre took advantage of its strategic location and attracted foreign inverstors
  • 1960s - this decade saw the aggressive construction of public housing to address the long-standing housing crisis. High-rise low-cost housing complexes were built. Today (2015), up to 90% of Singaporeans live in these developments. New complexes are continuously being constructed in anticipation of population increase.
  • 1970s - USA and Japan made sizeable positions in Singapore's economy as the manufacturing sector continued its ascent with foreign-owned or joint-venture companies. Singapore's economic boom contunued unabated during the rest of the 1970s
  • 1980s - Singapore shifted its focus from labor-intensive manufacturing to high-tech high-value industries, becoming the leading producer of disk drives and parts, accounting up to 30% of its GDP from manufacturing. In the late 80s, it pushed its financial services sector as well to become top 3 as Asia's most important financial centers, together with Japan and Hong Kong. This shows how nimble Singapore is in adapting to emergent trends and technologies to keep its global competitive edge
  • 1990s - Singapore is now home to more than 650 multinational companies and a few thousand financial institutions. Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee Kuan Yew
  • 1994 - Michael Peter Fay, an 18 year old American is caned for theft and vandalism. His sentence was reduced to 4 instead of 6 as a way to give face to American president, Bill Clinton, who asked for leniency. Proceeding with the caning despite a personal plea by a US president sent a strong statement to the international community that Singapore is not one to buckle down under American pressure. It gained Singapore global respect for its political resolve.
  • 2003 - Singapore is hit with the SARS virus outbreak as it spreads across Asia and parts of North America and Europe
  • 2004 - Lee Hsien Loong became Singapore's third prime minister. He is Lee Kuan Yew's eldest son
  • 2008 - recession hits Singapore as the US-caused sub-prime market meltdown ripples through the global financial landscape resulting in bank failures worldwide
  • 2010 - Marina Bay Sands opens to the public as the 2nd most expensive building in the world at US$5.5 billion (land included). Its stunning and unique architecture gives Singapore a globally identifiable iconic signature landmark similar to the Eiffel Tower of Paris, the Petronas Twin Towers of Malaysia and the Empire State building of New York
  • 2013 - Singapore suffers its worst haze, reaching 401 PSI due to uncontrolled forest fire in Indonesia
  • 2015 - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong imposes tougher measures against corruption after a number of high-profile graft scandals rocks the political landscape
  • Mar 2015 - former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passes on, ending an era of transition from third world to first world
Cost Index

US$1 = S$1.38 (Singapore dollar) = Php 44.10, as of Mar 7, 2015

Discounted Tour Prices (provided by Ideal Backpackers, tel 6846 4741)

As a general rule, you get tickets cheaper if you buy them outside the venue. Purchase the tickets through your hotel or travel agencies. Chinatown has numerous travel/tour agencies where you can buy tickets cheaper.

  • S$ 72 Universal Studios Singapore
  • S$ 30 Singapore Flyer (big ferries wheel)
  • S$ 33 Night Safari
  • S$ 25 Singapore Zoo
  • S$ 23 Jurong Bird Park
  • S$ 15 Tiger Sky Tower
  • S$ 30 Duck Tour
  • S$ 35 SEA Aquarium
  • S$ 26 Underwater World Singapore / Dolphin Lagoon
  • S$ 35 Adventure Cove
  • S$ 25 Jewel Cable Car, 2-ways
  • S$ 31 Hippo City Sightseeing Tour
  • S$ 18 Singapore River Explorer
  • S$ 25 River Safari
  • S$ 8 Merlion Cove
  • S$ 5 National Orchard Garden

Singapore Cost Index at backpacker places

  • S$ 1.50 1.5 liter drinking water
  • S$ 3-4.00 noodle soup with meat or rice meal at food courts in housing developments, otherwise S$ 5 in regular eating places
  • S$ 1 tea
  • S$ 22 dorm bed
  • S$ 1.5 sugar cane juice
  • S$ 3.20 flagdown, 22 cents/400m taxi, surcharge of 50% at night, additional surcharge if M Benz taxi
  • S$ 5 per 11kg load coin operated laundry
  • S$ 1 per 5 mins coin operated laundry dryer
  • S$ 1-2 internet cafe, usually it's $1.80 with no membership
  • S$ 2/k banana
  • S$ 35/session yoga, non-member drop-in
  • S$ 3.50 nasi goreng
  • S$ 22 40-min river cruise on Marina Bay
  • S$ xxxxx ticket
  • S$ one hour massage
  • S$ one mug draft beer
  • S$ bicycle rental

Price Busters

The best deals are usually in the big national groceries/supermarkets like Giant, Seng Song and Fair Price . They always have promos that are price busters!

  • S$ 2.70 2 veggies + 1 meat viand + rice at Rice Garden (in food courts within a housing development)
  • S$ 1.20 three 1.5 liters of Alpha Water at Fair Price grocery with promo
  • S$ 2.00 Roti Prata + tea, at regular Malay eating places, best value breakfast meal

Singapore Blogs by TheLoneRider

  1. Mini-Life in Singapore August 8-22, 2016
  2. Peoplescape of Singapore Aug. 8-22, 2016
  3. Discovering the Neighborhood Cafes of Singapore Aug. 8-22, 2016
  4. Biological Cell Regulation (BCR) Therapy at Chang Wellness Aug 16, 2016
  5. Getting my Xiaomi Redmi Note3 Smart Phone Aug. 9, 2016
  6. A Roof Over my Head in Singapore Aug 8-22, 2016
  7. 2-Hour Detention at Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority August 8, 2016
  8. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew Mar 23, 2015
  9. Life Hacking in Singapore Mar 22, 2015
  10. Exploring More of Singapore Feb 21 - Mar 22, 2015
  11. Power Yoga Class at Yoga Inc., Singapore Mar 21, 2015
  12. Touring Marina Bay Sands Mar 17, 2015
  13. The Singapore Magic Mar 16, 2015
  14. Singapore Yoga at Yoga Inc. Mar 8, 2015
  15. Singapore on a Shoe String Feb 20, 2015
  16. Sex in Singapore? Oct 20, 2013
  17. Singapore Girl July 21, 2013
  18. Lee Kuan Yew and Ferdinand Marcos Jan 26, 2003
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