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.
On 18th night, I boarded my Singapore Airlines flight from Bangalore
The flight left at 11:05pm
The first time I ever got a menu in an economy class flight
Pretty impressive beverages list
I had a few of these -- the Singapore Sling
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.
Their in-flight entertainment service, called KrisWorld, though not as exhaustive as Emirates, was still alright
Quality over quantity I guess
Four and half hours later...
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.
But first impressions when I entered Terminal 2 were "Hmm, this doesn't look that new"
It didn't look any fancier than, say, Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi or KLIA
I made my way to immigration
I wasn't WOW-ed by the airport or anything
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.
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.
Like a lot of hostels, most of the furniture was IKEA
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.
Took out the Canon 7D. The lockers are to the right where I was standing.
That's Aljunied MRT station
The hallway just outside my room
The ticket collection center was located inside the Swissotel The Stamford
Collecting my Zone 4 passes didn't take much time
I left the Swissotel. Next up, Funan IT Mall.
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.
Which meant passing by The Esplanade theatres by the bay
'Richard III' starring Kevin Spacey and directed by his 'American Beauty' director, Sam Mendes, was playing here
Panorama comprised of 9 shots
Panorama comprised of 7 shots
The race track starts all the way there
Last year, because of rains, the sky deck at the Marina Bay Sands was closed. But I planned to go again.
The financial centre looks even better at night
I decided to check out the Merlion Park, since I couldn't go up close due to lack of time last year
This is the mini-Merlion
This is the big one, the symbol of 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!
I moved on
Walked under the bridge
The bridge is also a part of the F1 circuit
See, not everyone follows the rules in Singapore
The murky skies weren't helping with today's photography
This is the Old Supreme Court building
It's getting refurbished to be turned into the National Art Gallery in a few years time
The Singapore Cricket Club (Do any Singaporeans besides the Indians even play cricket?)
This is the Zone 4 grandstand seating, right in front of the Old Supreme Court building
The pink building is Funan IT mall
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.
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.
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.
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’.
(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.
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.
I walked through Suntec City
Saw this giant wheel fountain at Suntec
Air Asia had their sponsored Team Lotus car on display in another building at Suntec
Suntec City is one massive commercial complex: malls, offices, exhibition centres -- all right in the central business district
This is the Convention Hall building
I love the looks of this food court
It was past 6pm
You can spend a lot of time in Suntec City
Walked to Raffles MRT
This is Aljunied MRT station, and now I'm going to show you how to get to WoW Hostel from here
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.
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.
Turn around and look for the store named Jas Medical. Walk up closer to those steps you see beside it.
This is how you will arrive at the right entrance to WoW Hostel (and another hostel)
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.
This was happening nearby (Took this photo earlier)
I don't know what it was about, but the stage looked nice
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!
I was near the bustling Geylang area, famed for its street food and nightlife (This and the below were all taken on my phone)
This area has a significant Malay population too
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
This looked like a decent residential area not to far from the CBD
Nice name :)
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.
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