Here we go, my F1 weekend begins! Oh wait… I had to shift hostels first.
I really enjoyed my stay at WoW hostel, and today I had second thoughts of checking out and moving to the other location I had chosen (to be much closer to the F1 circuit). But since it was too late to cancel the other reservation, I collected my deposit and they wished me well. I told them I would definitely stay at WoW Hostel again, if I were to return to Singapore. (I seriously would, I really liked the place!)
I was tired! The staff at River City Inn greeted me with a glass of water (I’m sure it’s a common gesture now, with each guest appearing tired upon first arrival). Footwear must be kept outside, which I did, and I then entered the hostel to check in. First impressions? Very nice! Looked new, clean and well maintained. I had reserved a single bed in the 24-bed mixed dorm room, which cost SG$32 (Rs. 1,261/$25/€19) a night.Yes, it cost way more than WoW Hostel, but you’re paying the location.
Other than that, the hostel looked nice and it was the usual facilities. Complimentary breakfast and wi-fi, two desktop machines in the ‘living room,’ a decent kitchen with all the requisite quick-meal facilities, a large screen TV, XBOX 360 — and pretty much all the furniture is IKEA! 🙂
I would have shown you photographs of the interiors but the staff told me they didn’t allow anyone to take photos of the hostel. Oh well.
At 3pm, the gates opened and people were slowly allowed in. First a security check. They saw my bag full of camera equipment and the staff asked me whether I was ‘Press’ — I said ‘no’. They still requested that I go up to the Press registration counter and sign a declaration saying I will not sell these photographs, to which I replied “sure”.
Once past the security check, I quickened my pace of walking. So did everybody else. Then as soon as I reached the Padang grounds, I ran — and so did the others!
It’s expected food and beverages inside such events were going to be pricey but what to do, I was hungry. So I paid the SG$10 (Rs. 390/$7/€6) for the roll — the most I ever paid for a shawarma in my life, ha ha! (I grew up in the Middle East, so I’m used to having paid only a tenth of that)
Aimee and I took the bus back to Central mall, as I wanted to reduce the weight of my camera bag by offloading equipment I didn’t need.
After giving our feet some rest at the hostel, we headed towards Boat Quay.
Aimee and I said our goodbyes as she had to go meet her fiance and I had to head back to the Padang grounds.
Past 11pm, the lights dimmed and the DJ introduced the first BIG BANG member to hit the stage…
And when those two other boys from BIG BANG hit the stage — oh man, the screams!
Oh well, in some ways I was glad it was over — I was completely drenched in sweat! I was so hot, and my arms were aching as I struggled to hold my heavy Canon 7D with the even heavier 70-200mm lens mounted. I took photos the best I could.
I also managed to record some video but if you plan on watching it, I suggest you turn down the volume…
The bass was just too damn loud! I wasn’t even that close to the stage or the speakers, but even from where I was standing, my rib cage was trembling with every thump! I looked up YouTube for other fancams and most of them weren’t any better.
I initially thought about reading a fan account of the K-pop concert but my body was just so damn tired after the long walks today and the heat at the concert. I had dinner, took a nice bath and just laid in bed.
And to think this was just the first day of the F1 weekend!
*VIPs are what BIG BANG fans call themselves
**YG Entertainment is the company BIG BANG is under
I shared my table with a local who began chatting with me after he asked me why I was taking photos of what I was going to eat. I told him about my website, and why I was taking many photos. He asked me whether I worked here, and I told him ‘no’. I gave him my brief life story and in the end, he complimented my English. He suggested I could try for a job in Singapore but all this while, my food was getting cold.
Sucks. The only reason I ordered the biriyani was because it looked piping hot as they served it. Most of the food served at these kind of stalls restaurants are rarely ever hot. They’re usually pre-cooked and served out of buffet trays as per order.
The local sat with me long after he finished his meal as he continued to make conversation with me. The only thing I asked him was “what other good hawker centres are there?” He told me a few, and I noted them down. I gave him the link to my website and we parted ways.
Post lunch, I headed straight to Funan IT mall to pick up my 70-200mm lens from John 3:16.
They told me the Canon service center had to drill two holes on the filter and break the filter carefully so as not to touch the main lens glass. The lens was checked thoroughly and re-calibrated. Sadly, I had now lost my rather pricey HD filter, to which they said it’s not even required that I use those expensive filters, as even a standard UV filters would suffice. All said and done, the damage wasn’t over. The cost of all this repair: $130 (Rs. 5100!). I had no choice but to pay up. I was just glad to see my most expensive lens back in my bag in perfect working condition.
But when you’re unemployed and trying be very careful with your spending, losing $130 plus the $50 I spent day before yesterday at the clinic simply felt like unnecessary waste of money. Sigh…
I walked to towards the entrance, past the security and straight to the baggage counter. Last year when I came to Marina Bay Sands, I couldn’t enter the casino because I got wet in the rain and I was wearing shorts. There was a dress code and the casino was only open to foreign tourists. This time around, I came dressed in formal wear and now Singaporeans could enter — after paying a $100 entry fee (which is ridiculous!).
No bags are allowed, and more strictly – no photography… at all… not even using your mobile. Which sucked, because you should have seen how the casino looked! Man, the chandelier inside was huuuge! Hundreds of slot machines, and other games with each one with scores of people playing.
I had never been to a casino before this, and had only seen them in Hollywood movies, so this was quite a revelation for me. I came with the intention of gambling a little bit, because hey, I didn’t have a job — so I thought I’d try my luck at winning some money! I even set aside a $100 just for this, but obviously I wasn’t going plonk it all down in one easy shot. Since I had never gambled before, I didn’t even know how to play most of the games. Slots was easy, pull a lever and hope you get match. Or at least that’s what I thought, because now, slot machines have gone digital — and they had way more buttons than a single lever.
You can play for as little as $1 and that made it easy for everyone to get in and begin. I converted $30 into chips/tokens and started with the Wheel of Fortune. Waged $10, placed my bets on a ‘x 10’ multiplier and a number. The lady spun the wheel and the needle stopped… at a number three stops after mine. Damn, there goes my first $10. The lady smiled and asked if I would want to try again. I thought, “Yeah, why not?” and put down another $10. She spun the wheel again, it stopped and she smiled again. I walked away after losing another $10. Sigh.
I then moved on to the slot machines and sat down at Queen slot machine. I played for $10, and ended up winning $17! I could have played for more but I decided to cash in my winnings and printed the receipt. Besides cards and tokens, the machines can use the same receipts to begin play. I had $17 with me and I started to wonder if my luck was improving. I walked past the roulette table and asked the attendant how the game worked. After he told how the game worked, I had to go and buy some more tokens as I obviously couldn’t place a receipt print on the table. So I got chips for $30 more.
I placed $10 as that was the minimum bet for this table (there were tables with $20 and $30 minimum bets too, larger payouts obviously). He spun the wheel in one direction and then the ball in the opposite direction. As the ball slowly lost momentum, it did the bounce – just as in the movies. But in my present real world scenario, it finally dropped into a number I didn’t select. So I tried again, and believe it or not, the ball stopped at a number just one spot away from mine.
So another $20 lost. So much for my hopes of being on a winning streak. I just played the slots after that. I won, wagered my winnings and then lost it all. At the end of it all, I had spent $60 and not really won anything big. I decided to stop.
I had no regrets though. It was an experience I smiled through. Looking around, it’s amazing how many people (most of whom were Chinese tourists) were spending so much money and I could only imagine how much money the casino was making — daily! You would think playing for as little as $1 is simple, harmless fun. But as I experienced it myself, human greed is what makes gambling harmful. And it’s as though the casinos have figured how a gambler’s mind works. There is a science to gambling and it’s a good bet to assume, very few ever make it out of a casino with more than what they spent in the hopes of winning big. It’s fair to see why gambling, to this day, remains controversial and banned in many places. Just because I stopped after losing $60, doesn’t mean others will. I even saw labourers from the sub-continent playing, and imagine how much they make in a month here in Singapore.
That said, there were the high rollers too. Some Korean guy came to the roulette table I was playing at and just dumped chips worth $1000. $1000, just like that! And to think above the two floors I could walk around on, were private rooms meant for even bigger players. Now think of the kind of money they’re playing for!
In the end, this place was not for a middle-class guy who spent the last eight years working and trying to save up as much as possible. I left the casino and collected my camera bag from the counter.
If you’re a foreign passport holder in Singapore, I still recommend visiting the casino at the Marina Bay Sands, the place is really well done up. The chandelier alone is worth seeing, it’s one of the world’s largest and it really is impressive.
When I came here last year, I made it all the way to the ticket counter, but only told be told that the SkyPark was closed due to rains that day. It rained earlier today as well, but fortunately the observation deck was open! I bought my ticket, which cost SG$20 (Rs. 800/$15/€12).
I don’t mind checking out the Singapore Flyer now… but I decided to keep it for next time. If you had to choose between the two, I’d recommend the Sands SkyPark over the Flyer any day.
I walked to Raffles Place MRT and boarded the train from there. Got down at Bugis, simply because I felt like walking through the area I first saw when I visited Singapore last year.
Had a shrimp burger meal from Wendy’s, one of my favourites from the chain. Also picked up some donuts from a local bakery in the same block and then took the MRT back to Aljunied.
Today was a good day. I was really happy with the photographs I clicked, though I do wish I got a bit of sunshine, which seems to be something of a rarity in Singapore.
Tomorrow begins the first of my three day F1 weekend.
After a depressing yesterday, I got up knowing there was little I could do today. With my right hand slightly injured, enjoying the rides at Universal Studios Sentosa was ruled out. I couldn’t go to Marina Bay Sands either because I needed my 70-200mm lens, which I had to give for repair.
After freshening up, I sat at the dining table to have a cup of coffee. I picked up a newspaper and decided to actually read about what goes on in this tiny city state. I couldn’t help but notice the real estate property ads, not because of how good the properties looked, but mainly because just about every condominium advertised cost over a million dollars! And I thought to myself: “How on earth do the locals even afford to buy property here?”
Surely not everybody lives in the posh condos being advertised. That’s when I decided on what to do today – take the bus and see inner Singapore. Now, I didn’t know where exactly to go, but today I didn’t have anything else planned until I got the call from John 3:16 to come pick up my lens from their store.
I laid open my map of Singapore and just pointed to the centre of the island. My finger landed on some area called Bukit Timah. So Bukit Timah it was. Off to the nearest bus stop I went (the MRT doesn’t cover every nook and cranny of Singapore, thus the decision to ride the bus)
I didn’t really know where to get down, so when I saw a sign pointing to Bukit Timah Shopping Center, I got down at the next stop.
Just then my friend Aimee called, saying she might be coming to Orchard Road and that we could meet in the evening. But since I still had a few more hours to kill, I wondered how to spend it.
The bus drove around and as it neared Orchard road, it passed by the Singapore Botanical Gardens. In a split second, I decided to get down at the very next bus stop.
But this exit didn’t have a bus stop anywhere nearby, so I hailed a taxi and made it to ION Orchard mall.
After checking out a few stores, we stepped out on to Orchard Road. I promised Aimee I would make her look good this time, as neither of us were happy with the photos I took of her in Manila.
I felt better knowing, despite my injury, I wasn’t going to leave Singapore without some great photos. I wasn’t going to give up. Tomorrow, I visit the Marina Bay Sands Casino – my first time gambling!