Date: 25th September 2010
Since our flight was at 11:35pm (24/09/2010), we decided to leave directly from office and being a Friday evening, we had plans to leave earlier than usual. We checked the timings for the Vaayu Vajra airport shuttle buses & planned on taking bus number 8 or 8A in front of our offices on Sarjapur Road.
After just missing BIAL 8, we got BIAL 8A at around 5:35pm and made our way to Devanahalli. The ticket cost Rs. 180 (per person) and the journey took 2 hours. Once we reached Bangalore International Airport, it began to drizzle. We made our way in and then sat waiting for the Tiger Airways terminal to open.
Once the terminal did open, we were kind of surprised to see our boarding passes to be ones from Air India! Puzzled whether we were on the right flight or not, we did joke about how cheap an airline Tiger Airways was that they used leftover Air India boarding passes.
Since we were early, we had plenty of time to kill at the airport. We checked out the duty free, had a snack from the expensive options at BIAL and then tried going online using the free wi-fi… which didn’t work. Thankfully, I had my TATA Indicom Photon thumb drive and so I went online to do some more research on places we planned on seeing in Singapore, where to eat and what not.
It was also raining heavily outside but our flight wasn’t delayed by much nor was it cancelled, which was good news. By 11:35pm, we were in our seats. Now, we knew Tiger Airways was a budget carrier and wasn’t expecting much.
And it wasn’t much.
Seats were quite old and looked untidy, some push-back buttons wouldn’t work but hey… we reminded ourselves that we only paid around Rs. 4,500 ($100/€74) for this one way direct flight to Singapore. So we smiled to ourselves and sat back.
We were also quite hungry by this time and waited for the (paid) meals to be served. Though they had a menu with a few notable hot meal options, by the time the air hostesses arrived at our row we were only left with 2 options. In vegetarian – chana (chick peas) curry and rice and in non-veg – beef stew and bun. Since we were quite famished, we asked for both.
We avoided eating a complete meal at the Kingfisher Lounge at the airport because of how expensive it is but after having shelled out Rs. 500+ for the above food, it made better sense to eat from the airport itself before boarding the flight.
Anyway, our flight would land in 2 hours time and we thought about grabbing a bite at Changi Airport.
Yeah, about that.
When we landed, we did land at ‘Changi,’ but just like being told you would arrive at the pearly gates of heaven — and then take a swift left turn into hell, we actually disembarked at the budget terminal of Changi Airport. Okay it wasn’t hell or anything but it wasn’t much to write about either.
Basically a big warehouse turned airport terminal, the budget terminal at Changi had just about enough counters to cater to us “cheap” travellers. I was disappointed I couldn’t see one of the best airports in Asia but once again: Rs. 4,500… direct… we reached Singapore, safe and on-time.
We made our way out of the budget terminal and headed for the free shuttle bus to the main terminal to avail the MRT into the city.
We boarded the bus and got down at Terminal 2…
We bought our MRT cards which cost SGD12 (Rs. 400/US$9) — SGD5 for the card and the remaining is credit — which is SGD7 (if you are that bad at math).
We knew we had to switch trains at Tanah Merah station which is an interchange (we studied the MRT map during our research).
We got down at Victoria station and walked straight towards the Bugis station (our hostel was in between the two). After asking a few passersby for directions, we walked past a blue mosque (which was a given landmark) and arrived at Jalan Kubor (‘jalan’ means ‘road’).
We were staying at ABC Backpackers Hostel, a conveniently located and affordable hostel serving the essentials as far as we were concerned – great location, breakfast, internet, clean beds and clean bathrooms.
How much did it cost us? We booked in May, and for the F1 weekend it cost us Rs. 5200 ($116/€84). That’s for 3 people in a private room for 3 days and 2 nights in the heart of the city (pretty much) — around Rs. 1700 ($38/€27) per person for 2 nights at ABC Hostel.
We couldn’t check in to our room as it wasn’t available yet. So we kept our bags on the shelf rack, freshened up, had breakfast and then stepped out so as not to waste any time.
After getting our prepaid SIMs, we tried finding Sim Lim Square — Singapore’s famous electronics mall.
We did find it but given it was still 10am, most shops were yet to open. So we made our way to Little India instead.
We stopped by the famous Mustafa Centre shopping complex (which is open 24 hours) to see what they had on offer. Mustafa sells just about everything, from electronics to clothing and also houses a supermarket and a pharmacy. But we did find quite a lot of fake goods — mostly shoes — being sold at exorbitantly high prices. The Nikes were all wrapped in plastic and sorted based on size, and one look at them gave away their faux pas. Appalling how this “famous” store was getting away with fooling their customers.
After half-an-hour or so, and after checking from basement to the top floors, we left without buying anything.
I wasn’t very happy with the photos I took. Granted the skies were grey but I never really had a chance to wait and click, it was all hurried. A lot of times I had to play catch-up as my friends would be ahead of me.
But we had to move on. Ramesh had to go pick up his F1 pass and we still had things to buy.
So we headed to the Farrer Park MRT station which is one of the two MRT stations that connect Little India.
We got down at City Hall MRT, and walked to Raffles City Complex.
The ticket collection point was the Swissotel The Stamford hotel which is attached to the mall.
Ramesh bought the Premier Walkabout ticket which cost him around Rs. 10,000. The ‘ticket’ is actually three badges (one for each day) and comes in a nice framed box, just so you can remind yourself how expensive it is to witness a Formula 1 event live.
After collecting the ticket, we stepped out.
We checked out the official merchandise store, which had apparel from all the major racing teams — all of which was very, very expensive. Like Rs. 3000-plus for a Ferrari t-shirt and such.
We also noticed Funan IT Mall, the other major electronics shopping destination, right ahead of us. So we went there next.
Unlike Sim Lim Square, Funan is newer and lot more posh. That is not to say everything is a lot more expensive here, look around and you’re sure to find a lot good deals.
We had noted down a few good stores in Funan IT Mall, so we first went to TK Photo. I was in the market for a good tripod, an intervelometer and Ramesh wanted to pick up a Kata camera bag. Ramesh found what he wanted but I was spoilt by choice and realized I needed to do a bit more research before I could decide which model to go in for.
After TK Photo, we checked out a few more stores before heading up to the food court for lunch.
The first thing that caught my eye was a window full of Totoro plush toys!
I spoke to the owner who told me he has his sources in Japan for the goods and makes the pilgrimage to nerd-heaven quite often.
If you love anime and video games, you’ll find a lot of stores catering to your geekdom on the top most floors of Funan IT mall.
I then went down to John 3:16 Photo Supplies, a photography store I heard was one of the best in Singapore. It was quite busy and the guy running the place seemed like a really cool guy to talk to. He had a lot of the things I was planning on buying. But, my friends call and said they were done.
So I left, disappointed I couldn’t spend more time there. Actually, I was disappointed I could spend lot more time in Funan which seemed a lot better than Sim Lim Square.
Yes, Funan DigitalLife mall is a newer compared to Sim Lim Square but don’t assume it’s more expensive. It’s also managed by Capital Land, the Singapore-based real estate major that owns pretty much all the biggest malls in Singapore and other venues like Clarke Quay. So you’re not going to find a whole lot of grey market dealers like you would in Sim Lim Square.
After I caught up with my friends, we made our way back. We had yet to check in to our rooms.
Once we got back to ABC Hostel, we checked in to our private room which was cosy and clean enough for us to crash and trash with our luggage.
While we rested, Ramesh got ready to begin his F1 experience. Me & Loi didn’t have a lot of day left so we made our way out again.
This time, I suggested we just walk and check out our surroundings.
We took a left off the main road after we asked a traffic policeman how to get to the marina, and walked across the bridge just to see where it would take us.
Ultimately we hit a dead end… and the whole section was blocked off for F1 events. So we walked back.
After walking by some impressive office buildings (which we were later asked not to photograph by the security personnel) we headed towards Suntec City.
Though not new, Suntec City is a major real estate venture comprising of one of Singapore’s biggest malls (even today), several high-rise office towers and a huge convention and exhibition centre.
We walked out of Suntec City by this point still in search of the MRT station.
Realizing we were nowhere near the MRT, we headed back into Suntec City Mall.
We sat down for evening tea at this awesome-looking food court.
Once we did find City Hall MRT, we got down at Clarke Quay station to head to Singapore river where we planned to take the river cruise by boat.
The race was happening in the distance and one could hear the deafening sound of the engines. They were so loud (and so good) that I had to call up my friend back in India to give him the experience! (video coming soon)
It’s only after getting on this boat did I realize how much there was to Clarke Quay. I know the photos may not show much (video coming later) but the number of restaurants, bars, pubs, and clubs are just too many to mention. It’s no wonder Clarke Quay area is the night hotspot in Singapore.
The boat then took a turn and made its way back towards the marina.
I had the look of sheer disappointment at this point. Not that the building was ugly or anything. Just 2 nights ago, my favourite trance outfit Above & Beyond performed here, more specifically at the Avalon club — on top of those three towers — and I missed it because I only heard about it that prior weekend. I seriously considered preponing my flight to arrive in Singapore earlier just to see them at such an awesome venue! But the pains of cancelling and re-scheduling a flight at such short notice, that too with Tiger Airways’ non-existent customer support in India made me drop it. It wasn’t just Above & Beyond. Flo Rida, Steve Aoki, The Chemical Brothers, with many more and the ticket for one night was just Rs. 3k.
Anyway, back to the photos…
There are three pick-up points (& ticket counters) for the river cruise along Singapore river and you can take mine and Loi’s word for it — taking the cruise at night is a must-do when in Singapore!
Back on land, it was time to head to Chinatown for dinner.
I wasn’t thoroughly pleased with all the photos I took today. A lot of them came out blurry which made me want to pick up a good tripod all the more a bigger priority.
Regardless, this was day 1. 155 images (used out of 360 taken), slightly over 3000 words and more than a week to finish. Trying to complete this was as tiring as the day itself.
Now only 9 more days and 3600 more photos to go through.
I’ll upload the videos later.
I’m too tired…
P.S: If anyone is interested in what Ramesh saw at the F1 track on day 1, check out this post.
Other posts in this series: