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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂
Since it was nearing 3pm, I had lunch from McDonalds before going upstairs.
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.
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’.
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.
Once back in my room, I dumped my bag and decided to roam free while checking out my surroundings.
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 sat down at a Malay-Indian restaurant to have some piping hot prata with some not-so-piping hot chicken curry.
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.