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Travel guide to The Lion City: Singapore

Singapore, oh Singapore! Marina Bay Sands, the Merlion, and Universal Studios: these are the things that come to mind when one says Singapore. But apart from these iconic tourist spots and being known as The Lion City, Singapore is also well-known for strict rules, humongous fines, and very disciplined people (no spitting, no littering, no jaywalking, no durian?).

If there are two countries in South East Asia that Filipinos love to visit and spend their vacations in, that would be Singapore and Hong Kong. I’ve visited both countries twice already and I would say that, with regards to theme parks, I prefer Hong Kong. But when it comes to cleanliness, orderliness, and tourist-friendly people, I’d say Singapore. And hey, Changi International Airport is voted as the world’s best airport for four consecutive years. Beat that!

Recently, a local airline company launched a direct Davao-to-Singapore flight/route, making the trip much shorter and less expensive. This made my mom and sister, who are both in Davao (I’m in Cebu), decide that they want to re-visit Singapore and they tagged me and dad along. Of course, I obliged. After all, family time is the best time, right?

My sister planned the entire thing: from our hotel booking to our itinerary to our theme park tickets. My role? Well, audience impact, I guess?

Day 1

Arrival

We had different flights (obviously), since they’ll be coming from Davao and I from Cebu. They arrived some time 10PM while I arrived 3AM the following day. There are no buses and trains already and I didn’t want to take the cab because it’s so friggin expensive so I had to sleep at the airport. The first bus going to the city from the airport leaves at 6AM.

We stayed at G4 Station. It’s a backpacker’s hostel in the middle of the city and is just a few minutes walk from the Little India MRT station and one bus-ride away from Mustafa. The place isn’t that posh/luxurious but it’s more than what you would expect from a backpacker’s hostel. Our room had two bed bunks and four individual lockers. The WiFi is good, their hot showers (shared/common) are good, and their breakfast is just fine. I totally recommend the place.

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Legoland Malaysia

For our first day, we decided to head to Legoland Malaysia since it’s the one that’s farthest. It’s just across the Malaysia-Singapore border but it takes an hour of bus ride to get there and the queuing in immigration almost takes forever. Getting there is pretty easy though. Head over to Singapore Flyer early in the morning to catch the first (or one of the first) bus tour to Legoland and look for the office that provides tours/bus rides to Hello Kitty and Legoland. The touring office will organize everything for you including pick-up. You just have to tell them the time you wish to be picked up from Legoland.

To our delight, there weren’t that many tourists when we got there. However, there isn’t much to see in the theme park either and to be honest, we were a bit disappointed. The place is hellishly hot and some (or most?) of the displays, especially the little cities at the center of the park, weren’t well-maintained. We arrived at around 11AM and left at 5:15PM, even though our schedule for pick-up was 6:45PM.

We arrived back at the hotel a little past 7PM.

legoland-malaysia

Day 2

Singapore Zoo and River Safari

When I first visited Singapore in 2012, I thought I saw everything there is to see in Singapore. After all, it’s not such a big city. But upon arriving home after that trip, one friend asked me if we were able to check out the Singapore Zoo. Back then, I didn’t know there was such a place. So for this trip, I insisted that we include it in our itinerary.

The zoo is more than an hour commute from our hotel and includes two train rides and an almost-60-minute bus ride. My sister already booked our tickets online so we didn’t have to queue up. I suggest you do this as well. The park has three “sections”: Singapore Zoo, River Safari, and Night Safari. We chose the first two because, according to a friend who’s been to all three, the Night Safari is just the same as the Singapore Zoo, except that it’s night time. Plus, we didn’t have the luxury of time anyway.

The place is awesome and the commute to and from was totally worth it. We enjoyed seeing free hanging and semi-wild orangutans dangling from treetop to treetop, identifying various animals along the Amazon River Quest, watching the white tigers being fed, and many more. We spent the morning in River Safari and Singapore Zoo itself in the afternoon. For rides, ticket prices, and what-nots, I suggest you check out their website HERE. And oh, don’t forget to pick up park maps and show schedules once you get there.

After the zoo, we went back to the city and headed straight to the Merlion.

singapore-zoo-urangutans

Merlion and Gardens by the Bay

If there’s one thing I like about Singapore, it’s that their MRT lines are so easy to take and self-explanatory. You only need to know two things: where you currently are and where you intend to go. Also, most speak English so it’s not that hard to ask around if you get lost. From our bus stop from the zoo, it was only one MRT ride heading to the Merlion. Here you will see a lot of tourists, mostly Indians and some Filipinos.

After taking photos and enjoying the view, we decided to head over to Gardens by the Bay. It’s just across the Merlion and going there shouldn’t be that hard. Here’s how.

If you’re facing the Marina Bay Sands, walk to your left going to Esplanade. Once you get past that, cross the Helix Bridge. You are now just in front of the MBS. Next, go to your left towards where the Flower Dome and Cloud Dome are. You are now at Gardens by the Bay. Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, we were all exhausted from the zoo and we didn’t want to do more walking so we took a cab. I totally advise you AGAINST getting a cab though because IT’S FREAKING EXPENSIVE! But we had to take it anyway, otherwise we’ll miss the free light show.

Once we were at the Gardens, we headed straight to where the Supertree’s are to witness the free light show. The show happens every night at 7:45PM and  8:45PM and lasts for around 15 minutes.

After the light show, we met up with our cousins, had dinner, and went to Mustafa to buy some pasalubong.

Mustafa

If you’re looking for a place where you can buy groceries, electronics, keychains, apparel, and basically almost anything you need, Mustafa is the place to be. It has two buildings and you can literally find anything and everything you’re looking for in this place. I actually don’t know what to call it. Is it a mall? A shop? I don’t know, really. It is open 24 hours for you so you don’t have to worry about rushing. The only thing you need to worry is the MRT lines closing at 11PM.

Day 3

Universal Studios

First and foremost, I’d choose Hong Kong Disneyland over Universal Studios Singapore anytime.

That being said, Universal Studios is on top of everyone’s places-to-visit-in-Singapore list. Heck, people would even go as far as saying that “you haven’t been to Singapore if you haven’t been to Universal Studios”. So for our last and final theme park stop, it’s Resorts World Sentosa and Universal Studios Singapore. There are two ways to get there: one is the Sentosa Express via ViVo City and the other is the Cable Car via Harbourfront. Among the two however, Sentosa Express is the less expensive one.

As far as I can remember, there weren’t that many new attractions in Universal Studios. It’s the same place and same rides and shows that I’ve seen four years ago. There may be slight changes, but I just can’t remember. There are rides and shows though that I totally totally recommend. These are:

  • Battlestar Galactica (Sci-Fi City)
  • Revenge of the Mummy (Ancient Egypt)
  • Transformers: The ride (Sci-Fi City)
  • Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure (The Lost World).
  • WaterWorld (The Lost World) *show
  • The Rockafellas (New York) *show
  • Lake Hollywood Spectactular (Hollywood) *happens only on weekends
  • Lights, Camera, Action (New York) *show

Make sure to check the schedule of the shows as most happen two to three times a day only.

After we had our fun at Universal Studios, we wanted to see the Wings of Time light show at Sentosa. It’s a combination of laser lights, water spray, and pyrotechnics set by the sea to create a wonderful and breath-taking show. It takes place at 7:40PM and 8:40PM daily. However, we decided to cancel it since we were all too exhausted. We then took Sentosa Express and went to ViVo City to meet my college friend and have dinner.

Day 4

Tulipmania at Flower Dome

Our last day in Singapore practically meant slacking and just relaxing. Our flights were scheduled late in the evening which means we had a whole day of free time for ourselves. We weren’t really scheduled to go anywhere but our cousin insisted that we visit Tulipmania at the Flower Dome. And so, we went back to Gardens by the Bay to check it out.

There are two domes: the Flower Dome and Cloud Dome. Tulipmania, however, takes place only at the Flower Dome. The dome is temperature-controlled and maintained at a cool and refreshing 21-24degC. Various flowers and plants from all over the world are planted inside the dome and, at the center, are the tulips. Tulips in red, white, yellow, and pink are all over and it’s such a wonderful sight.

The tulips don’t remain there for the entire year though. Each season, new set of flowers are planted.

After enjoying the tulips, we met up with our cousin and had lunch.

Before heading to the airport, we dropped by at Funan to check some electronics/gadgets. While the place is packed with camera equipment and lenses, I couldn’t find what I was looking for: a dive computer or anything related to GoPro. But, make sure to check the place if you have some spare time.

After spending less than an hour there, we headed back to the hotel, picked up our stuff, and headed to the airport.

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Itinerary and expenses:

ETD: MAY 8, 17:35
ETA: MAY 8, 21:10

MAY 8   AIRPORT TO HOTEL (1hr to G4) -4nights – P4200

MAY  9  MONDAY LEGO LAND (1hr from Flyer)     – P1750

  • Walk to Rochor aboard train DT
  • Alight @ Promenade walk towards Singapore flyer

SINGAPORE FLYER – JURONG (two way)   – P700

Weekdays (Mon-Fri) Depart  SG: 8:30am, 9:00am, 9:30am, 10:30am
Weekdays (Mon-Fri) Depart ML: 4:15pm, 5:15pm, 6:15pm, 6:45pm

  • Exit Singapore Flyer to Bef Tamesk Ave
  • aboard Bus #56 Bishan Int
  • Alight @ Selegie Center towards Mckenzie Rd

or

  • Merlion to G4 backpackers
  • Go to Fullerton Sq. aboard bus #131 St. Michael’s Terrace
  • Alight @ Selegie Ctr walk towards Mckenzie Rd.

MAY  10 TUESDAY DAY TOUR

  1. Singapore Zoo w/ tram 8:30 – 5:30 (1.16hrs from G4) – P1225
  • Walk to Little India Stn aboard #980 Sembawang Int
  • Alight @ Opp Thong Soon Rd, aboard #138 Ang Mo Kio Int alight @ Singapore Zoo
  1. Singapore Botanical Gardens (1.5hrs from zoo)
  • Exit Zoo walk towards entrance aboard #927 Choa Chu Kang Int, alight @ Opp Yew Tee Ind Est Blk 1
  • Aboard #961 CLor 1 Geylang Ter, alight @ Opp Lutheran Twrs
  • Exit zoo walk to Bef Mandai Lake Rd aboard #171 Pan Pacific Hotel
  • Alight @ Art Dairy Farm Rd walk towards Hillview Stn
  • Aboard DT LINE (Chinatown) alight @ Botanic Gardens
  1. Downtown Tour
  • Singapore Parliament (40mins from Botanical Gardens)
  • Exit garden walk towards Bef Tyersall Ave, aboard #174 New Bridge Rd Ter
  • Alight @ Opp the Treasury walk towards Parliament

MAY  11 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS (40min from G4) – P2240

  • Walk towards Little India Stn, aboard NE LINE (Harbour Front) alight

@ Harbour Front

  • Walk to Harbour front station thru harbour front tower 1 for – P455
  • Cable car ride (two way)       9:15pm last ride
  • SEA Aquarium optional (if time permits) (P1120)
  • Aboard bus #131 harbour front stn alight @ selegie center walk towards mckenzie

MAY 12 HOME BOUND

  • 17:00 AIRPORT BOUND (55min)
  • Walk to Little India Stn aboard DT Line to promenade stn
  • Walk towards opp millenia tower stn
  • Alight @ promenade, aboard bus #36 changi airport ptb2 alight @ airport

ETD: MAY 12, 21:55
ETA : MAY 13, 01:40

 

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