Sweet Escape to Singapore

After a good 5 years, I accidentally got back in Singapore last August. It was not part of my travel plans since I still have other places to explore. However, given our situation, I am now required to visit Singapore, at least every other month (you’ll do anything for love, right?)

Singapore is the epitome of a modern, sophisticated, and chic city. No wonder why this city is one of the world’s most expensive city to live at. So what’s the difference now after 6 years? I used to stay in Choa Chu Kang, nearby Woodlands (your gateway to Malaysia), and this time, we’re staying in Telok Blangah, nearby Harbourfront (just a few thousand steps to Sentosa). Before, I came to visit for leisure, this time I come to visit for love. Before, I’d be taking trains and cabs more often, but now, I got to memorize which bus number should I be riding, and if it’s past midnight, we take the Grab (Hello South East Asia!) We got to explore more places, and even the less tourist-y side.

Arrival in Singapore

I remember, back then we didn’t arrive in Terminal 4, because terminal 4 is relatively new. I still consider Changi Airport as my best airport in the world (Yes, I got to see a bunch already, and Changi boasts world class!)

Transportation

6 years ago, Grab app was not an option. It’s either you take the bus, train or your regular taxi. Whenever I arrive, I choose to take the Grab for convenience. It’s too hassle to move around carrying 2 luggage and I need to transfer from train to bus. If I take the bus or train, I use the EZ-link MRT card. You can buy this at train stations for SGD 10, pre-loaded already. It’s a stored value MRT card, and I just reload it every time it gets below minimum. I also suggest that you download the Citymapper app. It helps you plan your travel, and the timings are very accurate. It also works offline. Just in case, you no longer have an internet connection, the app will remind you when you need to alight the bus or train, make sure to set point A to point B. However, if you are with senior citizens or babies, it’s best to take Grab.

Wi-fi Connection

Free wi-fi is almost everywhere, especially in tourist-y areas.

Attractions

  • Merlion Park– You’ll surely meet and greet with the symbol of Singapore. Just a few months back, the Merlion went to a restoration, but now it’s open again for public viewing. Aside from the Merlion, you get a view of Marina Bay Sands, ArtScience Museum, and the Singapore Flyer. (Free)
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    Merlion, Symbol of Singapore

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  • Haji Lane– Located in the Kampong Glam District, you’ll see a lane of artsy fartsy cafes filled with murals and graffiti. The area gives you a very chill atmosphere. (Free)20180901_173623-01[1]20180901_173823-01[1]20190208_150645-02[1]DSC01092-01[1]DSC01080-01[1]DSC01088-01[1]

 

  • Masjid Sultan– Also located in Kampong Glam, this mosque is an important focal point for Muslims in Singapore. You can enter inside the mosque, and their staff will lend you an abaya or a robe, if you’re non-Muslim. After visiting the mosque, you can stroll in nearby Arab St. and Baghdad, and you’ll find a bunch of Mediterranean restaurants, as well as stores that sell goodies from Middle East. (Free)20190208_152104-01[1]20190208_152116-01[1]20180901_174516-01[1]

 

  • Universal Studios Singapore– I’ve been here before, but I went back here around last week of September. Just in time for the opening of Halloween Horror Nights. They have set-up at least 5 horror/haunted houses, with different themes. For 2018, one of their houses featured a Netflix series, which is the Stranger Things. We were in the line for about 2 hours! For the rest of the houses, the line was pretty fast moving. The other haunted houses include Killuminati, The House of Oiwa, Pontianak, and Pagoda of Peril. Zombies were around too, especially in the areas of Apocalypse Earth and Cannibal Blood and Bones. Apart from the Halloween special at USS, we were able to ride also the Revenge of the Mummy and Transformers: The Ride 3D, without having to line up. (SGD 58- Gen. Ad. Non-Peak)
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  • S.E.A. Aquarium & Maritime Experiential Museum– The aquarium in Sentosa Island is home to various sea species. Surprisingly, the place was packed with tourists even if it was a weekday. For the museum, it featured the expeditions or explorations that passed through Singapore in the old days. (SGD 40) 20190207_150501-01[1]

 

  • Skyline Luge and Skyride– This is one of the thrilling  activities offered in Sentosa Island. We availed for the 2 luge and skyrides combo (SGD 24)LUSGAACD97H123043_1809271030564-pre-01[1]20180927_145900-01[1]

 

  • Singapore Cable Car– We took a one way ride from Merlion Station going to Harbourfront (SGD 15)20190207_192518-01[1]View from the cable car

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  • ArtScience Museum– This is the iconic landmark that you can see near Marina Bay Sands. It houses different exhibits. During our visit, we gaze upon Future World and Minimalism. (SGD 27- We got the local’s rate)20181129_162420-01[1]Screenshot_20190601-043619_Instagram-01[1]Screenshot_20190601-043628_Instagram-01[1]Screenshot_20190601-044202_Drive-01[1]

 

  • Garden’s by the Bay– If garden, plants and flowers are your thing, then this should not be missed. The place is beautifully curated. We got a chance to see the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. (SGD 18- We got the local’s rate)0101-2019-1029346117797925268244-01[1]20190206_171617-01[1]20190206_171801-01[1]20190206_175542-01[1]DSC01195-01[1]DSC01197-01[1]

 

  • National Museum of Singapore– We had a chance to visit during a holiday, and surprisingly, it’s free. It features different eras of Singapore which includes pop culture, religion, history, etc. (FREE- it was a holiday when we visited) DSC01174-01[1]DSC01178-01[1]DSC01175-01[1]DSC01179-01[1]20190206_131320-01[1]

 

  • Marina Bay Carnival– This carnival was up for a few months beside Marina Bay Mall. It’s your typical carnival wherein you have the game booths and ride or die kind of ride. (FREE  if you’ll just go around and not take any ride or play in the booths)20190213_184252-01[1]20190213_193915-01[1]20190213_194207-01[1]

 

  • Telok Blangah Hill Park– It has a nice trail wherein you can walk or jog at whatever time of the day. It leads all the way to Mt. Faber through a suspension bridge. (FREE) 20180927_113538-01[1]20180927_115445-01[1]20180927_121405-01[1]

 

  • Chinatown– Never miss a Chinatown in every country that you visit. The place is very festive, and colorful. You can bargain for the things that you wanna buy. (FREE) 20190208_104222-01[1]20190208_121535-01[1]20190208_121632-01[1]

 

MALLS, CAFES, RESTAURANTS

  • Jewel Changi– This is a newly opened mall just across Terminal 1. Apart from boutiques and stores, it has also a nice architecture, which includes an indoor waterfall.20190426_210659-02[1]

 

  • Selfie Coffee Cafe– Passed by this unique cafe along Haji Lane. Your selfie will be on top of your coffee.20180901_163826-01[1]20190208_142128-01[1]

 

  • Hawkers– Every corner seems to have a hawker. Price varies depending if it’s a touristy side or not. It serves all kinds of local favorites. My faves, however, are Newton ,Chinatown and the one in Geylang. 20190206_150315-01[1]20190206_150321-01[1]20190206_150511-01[1]20190208_112337-01[1]20190207_114146-02[1]

 

  • IMM Mall (in Jurong East), Changi Point– If you’re into outlets, don’t forget to pass by these malls. If you have spent a minimum SGD 100 in a single receipt, you are entitled for a tax refund (applies to tourists only)

 

  • Toastbox– I’ve been a Toastbox girl ever since. Never miss this one, for that Singaporean vibe without going to a hawker. 20190206_110917-01[1]

 

  • IKEA– Since we do not have this in Manila, it’s like a haven for our furniture and home shopping needs.

 

  • Central Perk Cafe– If you’ve been watching FRIENDS, then this is a must see. It recreated the set of the series. It’s located near Clarke Quay. Prices can be a little over than average.20180924_195229-01[1]20180924_200432-01[1]

 

  • Bugis Junction, Mustafa (Little India), Fire Sale Grocery– For your souvenirs and pasalubongs, you gotta give this a visit. It sells the cheapest yet quality items.

Since I will be frequent in Singapore, I’ll make another entry sometime soon to share another side of Singapore.

 

A Day in the East, Mt. Daraitan

“Salt water is the cure for anything- sweat, tears or even the sea.” I have always been the beach type of person. I could stay in the beach for as long as I want and enjoy the waves while I watch the sunrise or sunset. My country is so blessed with many pristine beaches, and I have a lifetime to visit them all. Aside from the beautiful beaches, we are also blessed with mountains that boast breath-taking views and home to many lives. I have visited a few, and would love to see more. However, my work schedule and physical fitness are giving me a hard time to conquer the mountains. I work on a shifting basis, and I do not have a permanent sleeping pattern. You definitely need a goodnight’s sleep before going up the mountains. Second, you need to be physically fit in order to get up and continue moving. Different mountains have different assaults, trails, and difficulties. If you have not prepared, you will likely have a hard time climbing up the mountains.

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I have visited several mountains before, some are volcanic in nature, others are home to breath-taking falls. There is always this enchanting experience whenever I go for a climb. It feels like I’m in a different world/dimension. There are still a lot to see, and I wish to visit all of them. I’m hoping and praying for strength and safety, so I could pay them a visit.

Last December, my friends, invited me for a climb. To be honest, I was not totally prepared for it, but I was game to do it. December weather is way better than the scorching heat of summer, just kept our fingers crossed that it will not rain. We were on a search on which mountain are we gonna climb. We selected it based on location, summit view, and difficulty. We ended up with Mt. Daraitan, in Tanay, Rizal. Just about 2 hours away from Manila. It offers an amazing view of the country’s east side and the Sierra Madre range. It also holds a difficulty of 4/9, which means that it’s a minor climb and beginner friendly.

12.08.18- Mt. Daraitan, Tinipak River in Tanay, Rizal/General Nakar, Quezon

A few days before our planned trip, we searched for “group tours”, on Facebook’s Buhay Bundok group. It’s not really a group tour, but rather, you’ll be all coming from Manila and taking a van going to Tanay, Rizal and back, and your group will be given a local tour guide. This is the best way to visit Mt. Daraitan, as their government is limiting the people going up to the mountain. It is also mandatory to get a local tour guide, because it’s for your own safety, and they know their mountains well, and you are helping their livelihood. The base of Mt. Daraitan is very countryside, and locals live through their tourism.

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Trivia: Mulawin, the series, was shot here

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Mt. Daraitan is partly Tanay, Rizal and partly General Nakar, Quezon

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Our local guide

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Our group met up in Mcdonald’s Shaw at 12 midnight, and we arrived in Daraitan, Tanay at around 2 in the morning. There was a cold breeze, and little drops of rain and we were welcomed by sellers of flashlight, gloves, warmers, etc. If you have forgotten to bring some of the essentials, worry not, it’s available in the area. It is very important that you know how to balance yourself as we stood on a bamboo raft to get us to the other side. Then a 10 min. ride trike, took us to the barangay hall for our briefing (the DO’s and DON’Ts), registration and introduced us to our guides. Before starting our trek, we were given an ample time to eat breakfast and do our bathroom breaks, so at exactly 4am, we started moving.

As we moved up, it’s getting muddier, slippery, and steeper. The rain wasn’t also stopping, so imagine the hassle. Thank God for flashlights, tree barks, and occasional man-made handles. We were literally grasping for every rock that we can reach. We were already near the 1st station, when I can loudly hear my heartbeat. We tried moving again, but this time, my friend’s shoes gave up. Since it wasn’t safe to carry on, we decided to go down, and instead, we trekked along the Tinipak River. The crowd along the river is opposite of the mountain. It was getting crowded as groups of people started hiking, while it was only the 4 of us (my 2 friends and I, plus our guide) who were trekking along the river. We enjoyed it more! The whole place was just to ourselves. It was so quiet that you can only hear the gushing of water and the chirping of birds. Tinipak River is one of the clearest waters I have ever seen and it was so clean. We enjoyed wading in the water.

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We had a hearty breakfast meal near the river, before we continued moving to the rock formations. Again, it was all to ourselves. According to our guide, they do not classify Mt. Daraitan as a beginner’s hike because of it’s 90 degrees assault, and 4/9 difficulty increases especially when it rains. For them, it is not a minor hike. Now, I’m wondering why it is classified under beginner’s hike, when according to locals it is not an easy hike.

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It has been a good day despite of not reaching the summit (but we’ll get there too), we were one with nature, and it’s just good to be with her.

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Budget:

PHP 850/pax for RT van transfer Manila-Daraitan, registration fee, guide fee, environmental fee

PHP 100 (up to you) my tip for our guide

PHP 20- use of shower rooms

PHP 200- total I spent on meals