02
Nov 13

Philippines 2013: Leaving Boracay; Kalibo to Angeles City

Date: 23rd May, 2013

I had some fun in Boracay these past three days, but I was kind of happy to leave the island. The humidity, the lack of proper sleep because of the same, and the sand… ugh, my body yearned for a proper shower and a thorough shampoo rinse. It was time to head back to ‘the city’.

I checked out from Frendz Resort, and made my way to boat jetty. I took a tricycle taxi, and for once paid the local fare of 25 pesos for the ride.

Boracay boat jetty

After paying ₱100 terminal fee + ₱25 boat ticket, I was finally leaving Boracay island

Boracay Aklan boat ride

And heading back to Caticlan jetty

Caticlan boat jetty Philippines

Back at Caticlan

Although I flew into Caticlan airport when coming to Boracay, my Air Asia flight to Clark was going to be from Kalibo airport, located in the north of Aklan province — which is an hour plus drive from Caticlan. Not to worry as there are several van taxis just outside Caticlan jetty. Most of them charge the same ₱175 for the journey.

Kalibo bakery Aklan Philippines

Even though the van is supposed to be air-conditioned, it was still kinda hot inside

Kalibo hospital Aklan Philippines

The journey took more than an hour

Still, we arrived at Kalibo airport with enough time to check in. I didn’t feel like going in just yet, so I had my lunch from a restaurant right across from the airport. Continue reading “Philippines 2013: Leaving Boracay; Kalibo to Angeles City” »


27
Jul 12

Hong Kong 2012: Getting there

After a span of 9 months, and after writing about all my past travels, I had the itch to see the world again. I had to. I had nothing else to write about for this website besides the usual K-pop reviews! The past few months I contemplated where to go next. I really wanted to be in Europe for the Euro Cup and the Olympics, but with the Indian Rupee getting clobbered in value against the British Pound and the Euro, I soon let go of that dream.

I then thought about Vietnam. I would fly to Singapore as my visa is yet to expire, then take Tiger Airways to Ho Chi Minh, ride all the way up to Hanoi and fly back to Singapore. But upon researching, I realized whatever I would see in Vietnam would not have been that much more ‘new’ having already been to Thailand and Philippines. Also, the truth about Halong Bay is that it looks amazing when you get an aerial view — which is not how most tourists see it when they get there.

So then I thought about China, a country I have wanted to explore for years. Just like India, China has an ancient and much revered history. It’s also a large country, with lots to see and amazing geography. But China also has a government hell bent on restricting your freedom within its boundaries. So when I read foreigners wouldn’t be allowed to visit Tibet unless they went with a guide, I changed my mind. Taking the Lhasa express ranked highly in my list of “to-do” things in China. And the way I travel, I don’t want someone telling me I can’t go there or don’t take photographs the government doesn’t want you taking.

I initially thought of using Hong Kong as an entry point to China, but in the end I decided to just visit Hong Kong and Macau for now. After all, I got a pretty sweet deal on the flight ticket from Cleartrip. For around Rs. 27k ($505/€407), I would be flying Thai Airways via Bangkok to Hong Kong. My return journey had a 22-hour layover in Bangkok too, meaning I had a day to spend in Bangkok as well.

I left Bangalore on June 27th and arrived at Suvarnabhumi around 6am.

Suvarnabhumi airport travelator Bangkok

Hello Suvarnabhumi! Haven’t seen you since 2010 :)

Suvarnabhumi airport terminal

It was a bit of a ‘trek’ (as always with Suvarnabhumi) but I eventually found my transfer gate

Thai Airways plane to Hong Kong

My connecting flight to Hong Kong was scheduled to leave at 8:35am

Continue reading “Hong Kong 2012: Getting there” »


09
Dec 11

Singapore 2011: Day 1 – Landing a second time; walking around CBD

Date: 19th September, 2011

By landing a second time I meant, this was my second visit to Singapore. Not that the plane failed in its first attempt to land successfully. After all, I wasn’t going to be flying Tiger Airways this time.

I first visited Singapore last year, along with two of my friends. We assumed 3 days & 2 nights would have been ‘okay’ for such a small city-state, and though we did manage to see a lot, there were still many popular attractions left unvisited. Plus, we underestimated just how expensive Singapore is! It was a learning experience, but we all told ourselves we would go back a second time. Unfortunately… due to the circumstances at work (hint: the lack of it), plans changed. Only one of us booked a flight to Singapore this time — me.

I told myself if at all I planned on visiting Singapore again, it would be during the F1 week, and the decision to book early was easy when the organizers announced Linkin Park was going to headline this year! I saw them perform at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last November but being the fan that I am, I made no hesitation to see them perform again.

When it came time to make a decision on which flight to take, it wasn’t an easy one. As much as I derided Tiger Airways, the fact they had temporarily stopped flying from Bangalore was a bit of a downer. Because the only option left to fly direct to Singapore from Bangalore was Singapore Airlines — and there’s obviously quite a price difference! I considered other premium carriers such Sri Lankan Airlines, Jet Airways and Air India — but all of them had stop-overs in excess of 2 hours.

I also wanted to try Singapore Airlines, just to see for myself why it’s rated as one of the best airlines in the world. Despite the fact SIA cost more than Sri Lankan Airlines, Jet Airways, Air India and Malaysia Airlines, I still went ahead and booked a direct flight via Cleartrip.com. Using a voucher I had, I got my ticket for Rs. 19k.

Inside Singapore Airlines Boeing plane Bangalore flight

On 18th night, I boarded my Singapore Airlines flight from Bangalore

Bangalore city lights from night sky

The flight left at 11:05pm

Singapore Airlines food menu card inflight service

The first time I ever got a menu in an economy class flight

Singapore Airlines inflight service bar menu

Pretty impressive beverages list

Singapore sling inflight drink Singapore airlines

I had a few of these -- the Singapore Sling

Non-veg meal Singapore airlines bangalore flight

The food was good too

I know I can’t even start to compare a budget carrier to Singapore Airlines, but compared to all the legacy carriers I’ve flown so far, I must say I really like the in-flight service in SIA more than Emirates. I don’t know if it’s attributed to the training the stewards receive, but the air hostesses were really good at the whole ‘service with a smile’. They looked upbeat and happy to serve you (at least me), and overall do a good job of embodying the image of the ‘Singapore Girl’ — a concept the airline has been using in it’s marketing campaign for decades.

Krisworld menu inflight entertainment Singapore Airlines

Their in-flight entertainment service, called KrisWorld, though not as exhaustive as Emirates, was still alright

Krisworld inflight movies Singapore Airlines

Quality over quantity I guess

Flying over Singapore night lights

Four and half hours later...

Malasyia Singapore night flight

Landing at Changi airport Singapore

Landing at Changi airport at 6:05am

Overall, I had a good first impression of Singapore Airlines. The airplane wasn’t old, the service was very good, and quality was seen in just about every other aspect of the airline.

Another reason why I wanted to fly a legacy carrier (and not budget) was because I wanted to see Changi Airport. Last year I landed at Changi Airport too, but I wouldn’t call the budget terminal a worthy addition to the ‘Changi’ repute.

Changi airport terminal 2 gates Singapore

But first impressions when I entered Terminal 2 were "Hmm, this doesn't look that new"

Changi Airport terminal 2 walkalator Singapore

It didn't look any fancier than, say, Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi or KLIA

Singapore Airport Changi Terminal 2 arrivals

I made my way to immigration

Singapore Changi Terminal 2 escalator to immigration counters

I wasn't WOW-ed by the airport or anything

Singapore Changi airport terminal 2 immigration counters

Changi Airport way to MRT station Singapore

Immigration took a couple of minutes, collected my bag and then made my way to the MRT station

I still had my MRT (metro) card from last year, which still had SG$6 on it, but I bought an additional SGD20 (Rs. 800/$15/€11) worth of credit anyway. I boarded the train and made my way to Aljunied.

I had booked a dorm bed for four nights at WoW Hostel, which after much deliberation, seemed like one of the best hostels right next to an MRT station — which was of absolute importance to me. Last year I stayed at ABC Hostel, though nice, was a bit of a walk to get to a MRT station. But after stepping out of Aljunied MRT station, finding WoW Hostel proved a bit of a challenge.

I first walked into a building which had ‘WOW’ written on it assuming that’s where the hostel was. But I went upstairs to a grumpy woman who woke  up on the wrong side of bed, slamming the door on me after she asked me to look at the address once again.

I did. And tried looking across the road and noticed another sign, this time, saying ‘WoW Hostel’. (As you’ll see below, it’s not easy to notice that sign). I climbed four flights of stairs to finally reach a door. I rang the bell, got in and sat on the couch, tired from all the climbing early morning.

WoW hostel interiors Geylang Singapore

Like many hostels, this was another one of those houses-turned-hostel. I sat on the couch in the living room/reception. They have a big screen TV and a computer for use to the right.

I had to wait nearly half-an-hour for somebody to come and help me ‘check-in’… because everybody was asleep. After the guy in charge of the flat finally woke, I paid up and he showed me to my room.

Wow hostel dorm bed Singapore

Like a lot of hostels, most of the furniture was IKEA

Wow hostel mixed dorm room Singapore

This room had two split A/Cs and included in the price were lockers in the room

The beds were really comfy and you get two fluffy pillows per bed, which was nice. The place was quite clean and I feel like I made the right choice booking a room here.

I stepped out soon after checking in to get a local SIM card (there’s a 7-11 in the same block). After informing my parents about my safe arrival, I then freshened up and caught some sleep. I barely slept on the flight.

I woke up around noon. It had drizzled it a bit in the morning and I was hoping rain wouldn’t ruin my day as I had two important things to do today. First, I had to collect my F1 ticket. Second, I had to buy a camera bag.

Mixed dorm room Wow hostel Aljunied Singapore

Took out the Canon 7D. The lockers are to the right where I was standing.

Aljunied MRT station from WoW hostel Singapore

That's Aljunied MRT station

Wow hostel hallway rooms Singapore

The hallway just outside my room

Inside the Swissotel The Stamford Singapore

The ticket collection center was located inside the Swissotel The Stamford

Stamford Raffles mall interiors Singapore

Collecting my Zone 4 passes didn't take much time

Cafe Swiss at Swissotel Singapore

I left the Swissotel. Next up, Funan IT Mall.

Singapore GP preparations work

As I stepped out, work was on-going for this weekend's Singapore F1

They had cordoned off many roads and diverted traffic as the unique thing about the Singapore Grand Prix is that the race happens on the city streets! The roads were barricaded, meaning I had to walk all along the F1 track.

Esplanade theatres by the bay cbd Singapore

Which meant passing by The Esplanade theatres by the bay

The Esplanade theatres entrance Singapore

'Richard III' starring Kevin Spacey and directed by his 'American Beauty' director, Sam Mendes, was playing here

The Esplanade theatre domes Singapore panorama

Panorama comprised of 9 shots

Singapore cbd Marina bay bridge buildings

Esplanade Marina Bay panorama view Singapore

Panorama comprised of 7 shots

Esplanade theatres by the bay Marina flyer Singapore

The race track starts all the way there

Marina Bay Sands casino hotel Singapore

Last year, because of rains, the sky deck at the Marina Bay Sands was closed. But I planned to go again.

Fullerton Hotel Maybank building financial centre Singapore

The financial centre looks even better at night

Merlion Park Marina Bay Sands Singapore

I decided to check out the Merlion Park, since I couldn't go up close due to lack of time last year

Merlion Park statue fountain Singapore

This is the mini-Merlion

Merlion park fountain statue Singapore

This is the big one, the symbol of Singapore

Merlion fountain statue Marina Bay Sands Singapore

Though, now there are newer and more sophisticated symbols in Singapore

Looking around, you could see the bus loads of Korean, Chinese and other tourists from across the globe. Everyone that is, except a local Singaporean! :)

Merlion park near Marina bay bridge Singapore

I moved on

Under marina bridge Starbucks Singapore

Walked under the bridge

Marina bay river bridge pillar design Singapore

Marina river bridge F1 track Singapore

The bridge is also a part of the F1 circuit

Singapore river Marina park stepsEsplanade park canopy wooden boards SingaporeEsplanade theatre singapore river quayOverbridge pedestrian walkway SingaporeEsplanade park Singapore

Underpass tunnel Esplanade Park Singapore

See, not everyone follows the rules in Singapore

Singapore financial centre buildings skyscrapers

The murky skies weren't helping with today's photography

Old supreme court building Singapore

This is the Old Supreme Court building

Old Supreme Court building dome Singapore

It's getting refurbished to be turned into the National Art Gallery in a few years time

Singapore Cricket Club ground

The Singapore Cricket Club (Do any Singaporeans besides the Indians even play cricket?)

Singapore GP zone 4 seats track

This is the Zone 4 grandstand seating, right in front of the Old Supreme Court building

Way to Funan IT mall Singapore

The pink building is Funan IT mall

Funan IT mall inside Nokia Samsung Singapore

When I came here last year, I barely got much time to visit all the stores I wanted to. It may be slightly pricier than say, Sim Lim Square, but there's little of the grey market dealing here.

Since it was nearing 3pm, I had lunch from McDonalds before going upstairs.

Gears of War 3 launch Singapore

Microsoft held a Gears of War 3 launch event. Singaporeans could get their hands on the game a few hours ahead of their Western counterparts.

Gears of War 3 Singapore release Funan IT hall

It may look like a joke to the mainstream, to see young folks sit and wait for a videogame to be launched, but in the world of gaming, being the few to go online first is quite the bragging right! :)

Even though I knew which store stocked the bag I had in my mind, I still went to pretty much all the other photography and electronics stores to have a look at the other models before finally picking up a bag.

I saw a lot of camera backpacks, but none of the other stores stocked the bag I had strongly considered – the Kata Owl 272. So I went to John 3:16, and lo and behold, he had it in stock. At SGD185 (Rs. 7k+), it cost Rs. 2000 lesser than it did in India. I checked it out and after feeling quite satisfied with its features, abused my credit card and bought it.

With backpack in tow, I left Funan IT mall after chatting with the sales staff at John 3:16 for a while. I was happy. I finally had a good camera backpack of my own for all my camera equipment.

Gears of War 3 launch party shot from up Funan IT mall Singapore

Still a few hours left

I left Funan IT mall and walked right next door to Peninsula Plaza, an old but famous shopping complex, which also houses quite a few photography stores. But once inside, the place looked more like ‘Little Myanmar’.

Peninsula Plaza interior floors Singapore

(I kept the Canon 7D inside and just shot using the lighter 450D from here on)

A lot of the businesses here were owned by and cater to the Burmese population in Singapore. Restaurants, Myanmar clothing and plenty of money transfer shops. With all the troubles back in their homeland, I’m not surprised to see thousands of them in Singapore, seeking a better life. There was a distinct stench in the air too… I don’t know what it was, but it was like being reminded of the fish sauce stench in Bangkok.

I left Peninsula Plaza because I couldn’t take the smell anymore.

St. Andrews cathedral Singapore art effect

When I was working on this photograph of St. Andrews cathedral, I was playing around with the Levels tool in Photoshop. Accidentally went to the extremes, and then paused when I saw the result. I liked how the right side looked like a painting, while the left looked like an etching.

Suntec city building lights interior Singapore

I walked through Suntec City

Suntec City giant water wheel fountain Singapore

Saw this giant wheel fountain at Suntec

Marina Square mall Suntec building Singapore

Air Asia Lotus F1 car display Suntec City Singapore

Air Asia had their sponsored Team Lotus car on display in another building at Suntec

Suntec city mall stores Singapore

Suntec City is one massive commercial complex: malls, offices, exhibition centres -- all right in the central business district

Suntec City mall coffee club Singapore Marina Mandarin hotel cbd SingaporePedestrian walkway into Suntec city mall SingaporeMarina Square mall Singapore

Suntec City expo center lobby Singapore

This is the Convention Hall building

Suntec City library food court Singapore

I love the looks of this food court

Pedestrian bridge Suntec City Singapore

It was past 6pm

Suntec city atrium Singapore

You can spend a lot of time in Suntec City

Suntec City beauty stores mall Singapore

Walked to Raffles MRT

Aljunied MRT station Singapore

This is Aljunied MRT station, and now I'm going to show you how to get to WoW Hostel from here

Hostel building outside Aljunied MRT station

Once you exit the station, to your left is this building. Plenty of restaurants, a 7-11 and other stores on that block as well.

98SG hostel building near Aljunied mrt station

Walking straight up will lead you to this road which is in between two blocks. In the morning, when I came here, I saw the WOW written below the 98SG and assumed this is the right building. It's not.

Jas Medical WoW hostel building Singapore

Turn around and look for the store named Jas Medical. Walk up closer to those steps you see beside it.

Wow hostel Urban hostel building Singapore

This is how you will arrive at the right entrance to WoW Hostel (and another hostel)

WoW hostel level 3 entrance Singapore

Climb up past Urban Hostel and you arrive at WoW Hostel

Once back in my room, I dumped my bag and decided to roam free while checking out my surroundings.

Chinese procession Geylang evening prayers Singapore

This was happening nearby (Took this photo earlier)

Chinese procession prayers Geylang Singapore

I don't know what it was about, but the stage looked nice

Geylang road Singapore market evening

There are markets and plenty of restaurants around. Down this road is the Geylang Serai Market & Food Centre -- a hawker centre I planned to check out.

I stopped by a supermarket to pick up some water. One lesson learnt from last year’s trip was not to waste money buying small bottles, that too from 7-Eleven, who price their goods higher than most convenience stores. While a small bottle of water at 7-Eleven costs more than SG$1 (Rs.38/$0.77/€0.58), I picked up a 1.5 litre of water from this supermarket for SGD1 and a 500ml bottle for just SGD0.60. You may think I’m just penny-pinching, but trust me, it all adds up in Singapore. The humidity here will see you drinking so much water, you’ll be spending a lot more on water than you think!

Geylang road nightlife Singapore

I was near the bustling Geylang area, famed for its street food and nightlife (This and the below were all taken on my phone)

Khadijah Mosque Aljunied Geylang Singapore

This area has a significant Malay population too

Lor 28 Geylang apartment night Singapore

I kept walking around in the hopes of finding the Geyalng Serai hawker centre, but it looked like it was much further down the road than I earlier presumed it would be

Geylang road night Singapore

This looked like a decent residential area not to far from the CBD

Shell fuel station Singapore

No Signboard seafood Geylang Singapore

Nice name :)

Sims Avenue Geylang road Aljunied Singapore

I eventually walked back to my block

I sat down at a Malay-Indian restaurant to have some piping hot prata with some not-so-piping hot chicken curry.

Pokka carrot juice can Singapore

For drink, I chose canned carrot juice

The satisfying dinner cost me SGD5.60 (Rs. 223/$4.3/€3.2), which cost less than the SGD7.40 (Rs. 295) my McDs Quarter Pounder meal cost in the afternoon. (I know you can’t always compare prices in Singapore but, man, nearly Rs. 300 for a McDonalds meal! :-/)

I was satisfied after a productive first day in Singapore. Tomorrow, Jurong Bird Park.

Nest posts in this series:

Singapore 2011: Day 1 – Landing a second time; walking around CBD

Singapore 2011: Day 2 – Jurong Bird Park and… *ouch!*

Singapore 2011: Day 3 – Bukit Timah and Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore 2011: Day 4 – Marina Bay Sands Casino and views from the SkyPark observation deck

Singapore 2011: Day 5 – Chinatown, F1 Friday (Charice, Seungri and GD&TOP concerts)

Singapore 2011: Day 6 – F1 Saturday (Rick Astley, Shakira and Shaggy concerts)

Singapore 2011: Day 7 – Little India, F1 Sunday race, Linkin Park concert and Avalon Club

Leaving Singapore, and discovering certain truths about this famous city state

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