Saturday, November 24, 2007

a feast at newton

before flying off to singapore, i swore to myself that i would eat nothing but hawker fare. unfortunately, my stomach wasn't very cooperative; it wouldn't go hungry at the right moment, and i always had to just make do with whatever's there rather than seeking out a hawker centre for my meals.

but pats made my dream come true by bring me to newton circus hawker centre. the place reminds me of that activity center in blue wave, only it's larger, and with more food options. we were joined by aslinda, pon, stina (pon's friend who flew in from bangkok), chrissy, and chester.

i was surprised by the feast that we had. they ordered crispy squid, cereal prawns, stingray, kang kong, and some satay. the servings were huge, and we all had a hard time finishing it all. i also fell in love with their cold rose tea, even though it was pink.

of the dishes, my favorite was the crispy squid, which i just couldn't stop munching on. i was also enamored by the cereal prawns. the prawns were gigantic, and the crunchy oatmeal that covered it didn't help the stomach any. the meal was very filling, and i wish i had more space in my tummy for more.

this set the mood for a night of talking and semi-drinking over at emerald hill, possibly the only place in singapore where people are allowed to litter. emerald hill serves complimentary peanuts to everyone, and you can throw your peanut peelings on the floor. it was such a shock to enter an establishment with a floor covered with peanut shells. we had a blast having peanut shell fights while catching up on goings on in manila and singapore.

we called it a night (or a morning) at 4am, after having yet another meal at a hong kong cafe called xin wang in cathay. we ordered milo dinosaurs and a meal that i can't remember. it was a blast staying out late with friends i haven't seen for a long time. and it was really great to see that they're all enjoying their lives despite being away from us manila folk. maybe i should go out there and join them. hmm?

more photos of newton hawker centre, emerald hill drinking, and what-not here.

newton food centre
along clemenceau avenue north
nearest mrt station: newton

still in singapore: two museums and a river

after finishing my refreshing karkade from altazzag along haji lane, i got up and walked along north bridge road to look for the bugis mrt station. my next stop: the singapore art museum. before i finally got there, though, i just had to cross the street and mistake a simple underpass for the mrt station. there was a man sitting by the stairs of the underpass who saw me go down the escalator. he greeted me again when i was making my way up: "mrt? over there," he said, pointing to another direction.

i thanked him and made my way to the direction he pointed. crossed a parking lot, and saw the bugis station. i got off at city hall station, and followed the exit that said singapore art museum. i was expecting the museum to greet me when i step out, but i actually had to walk a little more to get there.

on the way, i passed chijmes and took a few photos. and then i reached it. singapore art museum. and i was lucky to catch their lunchtime promotion--free entrance every friday from 12nn to 2pm. what's more, i also got to go on a free guided tour at 2pm, with varuni, a friend of the museum.

we started with a history of the museum. turns out it was a lasallian school as well (lasallians reprezent!), which was turned into a hospital during the war, and then was reverted back to a school. today, it holds galleries of paintings and other exhibits. varuni then moved on to the pieces of the museum's personal collections. we touched on chinese art, modern abstract paintings, filipino sculptures, and some works by affandi, whose works were on the display in the museum at the time.

i swear by these guided tours, because it really helps a lot if a painting is explained to you. you know more about the motives of the artist and the background of the piece. took a few photos around the museum after that, then walked along and took the mrt to orchard to do some necessary shopping.

i was asked by the folks to buy some stuff, and fortunately, i found the ones on the list. i stopped by mos burger to have a late lunch, then headed off to the river to have some quiet time.

by the river, i met philippe, a french comedian who was out exploring asia for four weeks. he asked me to take his picture, and we talked for a bit til he had to leave for his flight. that's one of the things i love about traveling alone. you never know who you're gonna meet.

after taking some more photos by the river, i decided to tackle the ancient civilisations museum, which was standing by the river. it's a pity i didn't have much time to explore it, the stuff on display are really interesting. i learned about the history of the river, and some ancient information on southeast asian countries as well. i met drew, an australian backpacker, while trying to figure out the interactive gizmos they have there. i vow to go back and finish out all the exhibits.

and after that, we were off to have dinner at newton. my first hawker centre meal! stay tuned for photos of the feast we had.

more photos of singapore art museum, asian civilisations museum, and the river here.

museum information:
singapore art museum
opening hours: 10am to 7pm, 10am to 9pm on fridays

admission: sgd 8.00

address: 71 bras basah road

nearest mrt station: city hall

asian civilisations museum

opening hours: mondays: 1pm to 7pm; tues-sun: 9am to 7pm; fri: 9am to 9pm
admission: sgd 10.00
address: 1 empress place
nearest mrt station: raffles place

Friday, November 23, 2007

early start in little india and kampong glam

friday morning, pats and i were out the door at 8am. we took the green line towards boon lay, but i got off at raffles place for the red line interchange, then changed trains at dhoby ghaut for the purple line.

in a matter of minutes, i found myself walking out of the little india mrt station, taking out my little india walking tour guide, and checking where i should be headed. i was to start at serangoon road, which was a short walk away.

i can no longer trace how i strolled around little india, but i was amazed at how well they have maintained the shophouses of old, which are still in use today. i was attracted to a certain, colorful shophouse, which, i soon found out, was the residence of a chinese confectionery merchant called tan teng niah. he was one of the few chinese residents of little india. i guess his chocolate must be really good.

after strolling further through little india's arts belt, i decided to have breakfast at a vegetarian restaurant called ananda bhavan, where i ordered a simple roti prata with warm horlicks. i really really missed horlicks, and took every chance i got to have it. i was surprised to find that roti was really heavy in the tummy, and it kept me going til way after lunch.

around little india, i spied flower garland sellers, shops selling figurines, and a number of hostels. but what made my little india walk memorable is definitely my first trip to a mosque. i saw the masjid abdul gafoor mosque, which was a highly photogenic place of worship. i took my shoes off by the yellow line and gaped at the yellow, white, and green wonder in front of me.

after that, i decided to just walk through serangoon road, where i spotted the sri veeramakaliamman (whew! i was able to type that without checking travel sites!) temple. it was pretty busy, which meant it must have been time for worship when i walked by.

i walked a little further until i reached syed alwi road, where the famous mustafa centre is located. i exchanged a few dollars for singapore dollars and decided to check out the legendary shopping centre, which is said to have EVERYTHING. from my stroll, the darned place did contain a lot of stuff--DVDs, women's bags, luggage, baby products, gadgets, toys, clothes, curtains, linen--i can believe that it does have everything. and what's more, the mustafa centre is open 24 hours!

a bit pooped, i decided to pamper myself a bit and took a cab to arab street in kampong glam, another quaint little area of singapore. its landmark is the sultan mosque, which i got to take a few photos of. quite majestic, but pretty hard to take pictures of if you're on the street.

i walked down arab street, where you can find store after store of fabrics. apparently, it's where you go if you need to find cloth or textile for a dress. and as in chinatown and little india, kampong glam has made use of the old shophouses too.

as pats recommended, i turned onto bussorah street, a brick-lined street dotted with shops, mostly of souvenirs and some cloth. sleepy sam's, a backpacker's hostel, is also on this street. the place is quite cozy, and they serve some food and drinks as well. i decided to just some souvenirs for some folks back home.

i walked further and found myself on haji lane. tired and thirsty, i stopped by altazzag, an egyptian restaurant, for a drink. i decided to have a karkade, a cool, tea-like drink made from petals of hibiscus (gumamela to us pinoys). it was refreshing, and tasted like sweet, sweet wine, and it really refreshed an exhausted soul.

that break marked the end of my trip in little india and kampong glam. the rest of my day was spent in the singapore art museum and the river, which you can read about next.

more photos of my little india and kampong glam adventure here.

ananda bhavan vegetarian restaurant
address: 58 serangoon road, little india

altazzag egyptian restaurant
address: 24 haji lane, arab street

Thursday, November 22, 2007

with friends at clarke quay

i got to meet up with my friend chester, who has been working in singapore for five months now, on my first night. he chose to have dinner at swensen's at chinatown point, a stone's throw from where i was having a drink of canned barley.

i walked over to chinatown point and spotted him waiting. it was great fun to see him again after five months. we sat down and actually ordered a baked macaroni and cheese and a pizza. i know, it's funny to have those meals in singapore, but chester's the boss.

ting, another friend, joined us momentarily. he ordered pasta and chicken, and we got to talking about their lives in singapore, and how life is back home.

after dinner, we headed over to clarke quay, which is the place to go if you want to have some drinks, dance, and listen to music. we were supposed to have drinks at cafe iguana with pats and her friends, but the three of us decided to sit down and have coffee so we can continue our talk.

it was great have people show you around. i didn't have to plan my nights, or do touristy things. i was shown around to places they would normally go to, which gives me a peek at how their lives are over there. i got to see the river and the lit up riverside point, which looked great at night.

food was not as expensive as i expected it to be, mainly because servings are large (except in swensen's!). alcoholic drinks will really burn a hole in your pocket, so you really have to abandon your love for alcohol if you want to save up in singapore, or have some money left over for shopping. the bars over at clarke are interesting, though. every bar was so different from the next. it was evident that the bar owners clearly thought out their concept and executed it beautifully.

it was a relaxing, steady night, spend with good friends over coffee and tea and a muddy mud pie at the coffee club. it was really great to have people to talk to after going around by myself in the city. while i greatly enjoy solo traveling, spending time with friends after a tiring day sure helps ease the body a bit.

getting the hang of singapore

my first day was pretty much spent trying to get the hang of public transportation in singapore.

i arrived on time, despite the plane leaving 40 minutes late. the flight was quite turbulent, due to the rains in manila, but i still managed to squeeze in an hour's worth of sleep during the flight.

changi airport was huge and state-of-the-art. everything looked so clean and sparkly. immigration was a breeze, and baggage claim even easier. tourist maps and other brochures are readily available all over the airport. signs were posted at every possible junction, to make sure that you are not lost.

that's why i found my way easily to the MRT station, so i can finally get to the city and meet up with my friend pats, who will be hosting me for my entire stay. even though it was my first time in the country, i didn't have any reservations about traveling to her office building by myself. i usually arm myself with information about the place i'll be visiting, and i'm a big fan of public transportation. it delighted me that i'll be doing this by myself.

i bought my ezlink card at the ticket office. it's quite convenient to have one if you're planning to go around singapore. you can use the card to pay for your train and bus fare just by tapping it on the sensors at the mrt turnstiles or at the entrance of the bus. a card costs SGD15. 5 dollars for the card, and the remaining 10 will be your transportation credit. if you need more credit, just go to any station and "top up" your card.

on the train, i immediately recognized how different things were from manila and there. for one thing, trains were clean and spacious. people, even though they would hurry to get inside, didn't feel like they were pushing you. nobody squeezed themselves into the seats; they won't force themselves to occupy a seat if there's no more room. unlike here, where people will try to finagle their way into sitting at a sliver of a portion of the bench.

i met up with pats near international plaza at tanjong pagar. we had a quick lunch at a restaurant near her place at tanjong katong, where i ordered kaya toast and a cup of horlicks (i missed it!), and pats had a cheese prata. both meals were very very good.

after dropping my bags off at my friend's place at tanjong katong, i dropped off some tapes for an errand for a friend, then took off to tampines mrt station, where the bus interchange to changi village can be found. i was instructed to take the sbs bus 292 from the interchange, but being overexcited, i took bus 29 just because it said changi village. the bus crawled so slowly and stopped at every single bus stop along the way. i started to get impatient and longed for the inefficiencies of our transportation system back home.

i ended up in a place with buildings and a hawker centre, which obviously was not changi village. since it was already getting late, i opted to just go and check out changi chapel and museum, which used to be a prison during the war. it gave off an eerie feel, but the exhibits were interesting. there was a diagram on the floor, outlining the size of a prison cell, with an 18-inch high slab of cement, which served as the bed. that was particularly striking for me.

the chapel was small and charming, made of wood. on its walls and altar were letters and notes remembering those who perished during the war.

i made my way back to tanjong pagar after that, and decided to explore chinatown. i got to see the buddha tooth relic temple and museum, but only from the outside. it's a large temple, between sago street and sago lane, which used to have death houses where people went to die.

i must have come at the right time, because the stalls and booths were already up all over chinatown. the usual wares--chopsticks, pendants, amulets, and souvenirs--were being sold everywhere you turn. there are even electronics shops every now and again.

i decided to quench my thirst and rest my weary feet at a restaurant right across the chinatown heritage centre on pagoda street. since they only served "normal" drinks, i decided to order the most unusual one, which was a can of cold barley. it was okay, i suppose.

when night fell, i met up with a friend for dinner, but that will be for the next entry. :)

singapore changi airport


ez link card
cost: SGD 15.00

changi chapel and museum
address: 1000 upper changi road north, singapore
admission: free
opening hours: 930am to 5pm daily

chinatown heritage centre
address: 48 pagoda street, chinatown, singapore
admission: SGD 9.80 for adults, SGD 6.30 for children
opening hours: 9am to 8pm daily

airport woes

after four days, i finally find time to write about my singapore adventures. but before i get to my experiences, let me start with my PAL centennial terminal experience.

i never completely understood the need for arriving two hours before your flight until my experience last thursday. my flight was at 720am, and i arrived at around 530am. checking in was a breeze, but it was the other processes that came after that were real hassles.

as much as i love how the centennial terminal looks, it was obvious that they did very little planning on its layout. they provided more than a dozen check-in counters, but only two booths for terminal fee payment. imagine the line that wormed around from the terminal fee counters.

after that, you're up at the immigration booth, which had even longer lines. about five or six booths were provided, at the corner of the airport, so that people were squeezed in such a small space by the wall. what's more, there were no airport officials to facilitate the lines. the booths closer to the wall had less people and shorter lines, but nobody was telling the other people that there were other booths available. the number of people were so much so that you won't be able to see the other lines. thank god i was traveling alone, and easily wound my way around crowds.

another hassle was that after having your passport stamped at the booth, you will have to fight your way back through the crowd just so you could get to the boarding gates. unlike in hong kong or singapore (or probably other countries), where you can then walk past the immigration booth to baggage claim or the boarding gates, here, you will have to walk back and go to another section of the airport.

on my way back through the crowd, i told the other people to line up at the booths closer to the wall, just so the volume of people wouldn't be concentrated by the tiny entrance to the immigration area. i swear, if only they used a little more brain power to construct a more efficient flow to the process, things would be so much better.

i finished with the entire process at 7am. a few days later, at singapore's changi airport, i arrive 45 minutes before my flight. check-in and immigration took all of 10 minutes. now why can't that happen here?

Monday, November 19, 2007

singapore: not enough time

not enough time indeed. that was the prevailing theme of every single day of my singapore trip. i admit, i highly underestimated the country. everyone kept telling me how tiny it is, so i assumed i had time to go around and see a little bit of everything.

boy, was i so wrong. as tiny as they say it is, singapore offers a whole lot, and you really have to stay for a long time if you want to see them all. another setback was that commuting, as efficient as it is, still takes up a lot of time. on the upside, the place is spotless, the sights are interesting, and the people are so so so friendly!

but what really made my singapore trip so much fun was the fact that i got to see my friends again! it was so great to see them all doing so well out there. they also showed me around and had me experience stuff that other tourists wouldn't get to try out. they are the bestest. :)

i'll be writing about the entire trip soon. stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

off to singapore!

in two days, i'll be flying off to singapore to explore the tiny, bubble gum-free island. i'll be traveling on a very tiny budget, which means mostly hawker centre fare and long walks. i'll also be visiting quite a number of museums. the night safari and sentosa attractions will be left for another visit. :)

i can't wait to see what singapura has in store for me. i'll mostly be by myself for the first two days of my trip, leaving me to drink everything in and be all touristy. the weekend will be spent with friends who work over there.

from my research, singapore has quite a number of parks, and i will surely enjoy my time there. they have rollerblades for rent, too, which is getting me all excited for the trip!

here's hoping i get home safely, even with a tiny amount of moolah in my pocket. :)

Friday, November 9, 2007

pls. vote! susie is a finalist!

remember our boracay trip a few months back? susie and i thought it would be fun to try out for the picatoo-seair flying smiles photo contest.

and guess what? he's a finalist! for this silly picture:

o, di ba, mukha akong psycho? but i don't care. :D 'sus will win a 45-day fly-all-you-can pass for all seair destinations if he bags first prize!

to vote, please send

FlySEAIR 7 Surprised
your name


contact information


awarding is on nov. 16, so please vote now! :)


Thursday, November 8, 2007

couchsurfing: making the world a friendlier place

when traveling to a new, foreign place, i often find myself wishing that there was someone, a local, who can take me to places that aren't written of in travel guides. while some guided tours are helpful, these usually further drive the point that you're a stranger in a strange place.

thankfully, i found couchsurfing (cs), a network of travelers from all over the world who offer their couches, their time, and their travel expertise to each other.

i registered for an account sometime in may, but forgot all about it until i was contacted by another member who was then living in london. he was asking if i could offer a couch (accommodation in cs terms), or be able to take him around manila when he arrives here some time this month. that's when i realized that i haven't done much to let people know who i am in the cs community.

much like a resume, your cs profile says a lot about you, and can be another traveler's basis for contacting you for a "couchsurfing experience." aside from the usual personal description, you will be asked to write a little something about your "couch," or what you can offer other cs members.

don't worry, you're not required to offer anyone sleeping space in your house. you can opt to meet up with someone for coffee or a drink, so you can show them around some of the places that you hold dear in your own town.

if you're worried about your security, couchsurfing has varying degrees of access so you can choose just how much information others can view about you. you can also choose to search for members who have been verified, to make sure that you're corresponding with someone who's checked out to some degree.

couchsurfing also focuses on your travel experiences, and will ask you to enumerate the places you've been to, places you have lived in, and places you'll be going to in the near future, so that other couchsurfers who want to contact you will know where you are.

already, i've met a number of couchsurfers who were asking for help about their trip to the philippines. there were also some who were willing to just chat and exchange opinions about my country and theirs. and next week, i'll be meeting up with some CSers when i arrive in singapore. for the moment, i am satisfied with meeting up for coffee or a drink, and haven't completely plunged into asking for anyone's couch.

thanks to couchsurfing and the world wide web, traveling today doesn't only open your eyes to new places and sights, but to new people, relationships, and experiences as well. if you want to meet people from all over the world and get travel tips from those who've been there, couchsurfing is a great way to start. you can also join some of the groups and communities for specific interests, so you can share your views with like-minded people.

if you're interested to register for a couchsurfing account, just go to registration is free and easy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

reliving childhood at the global fun carnival

my last "carnival" visit was perhaps my trip to hong kong disneyland. but that theme park had very few rides, and i was mostly amused by the characters that i had to chase around to have my photo taken with them. i'm a big fan of amusement park rides, because i'm willing to try anything just for the heck of it.

that's why when my friend jo asked me if i wanted to join them at the
global fun carnival, i just couldn't resist. i decided to drag along three other girl friends, to make the evening even more fun. true to our crazy form, we were already screaming in the car when we saw the ranger ride--we imagined how our stomachs would be turning when we try it out.

we were lucky to get discounted entrance fees, for it was the first day of the carnival. we only paid P210 each for a ride-all-you-can band. food inside the carnival were simple treats such as hotdogs and fishballs, which cost P25 to P35 pesos.

aside from the rides, game booths were also scattered all over the park. you get a stuffed toy if you manage to win a game. you can opt to knock out three dice from a round platform with a soft, pillow-like "ball," or knock out six tiny milk bottles from the platform. there are other games that you can choose from, and each can earn you a furry stuffed animal to take home. we tried our luck, but managed to come home with zero animals, much to my friend des's dismay.

our favorite ride is most definitely the roller coaster, which, to our surprise, had to be pushed by the carnival attendants to get started. the ride was hilarious, with the coaster speed changing at different points on the track. it will just lurch forward for no reason, then speed up and send you careening down to the drop. it wasn't scary nor extremely exciting at all, but we just found the inconsistent speeds and the pushing of the attendants rather funny. we left the ride with aching stomachs from too much laughing.

other rides we tried were the swing, much like the flying fiesta of enchanted kingdom; the ranger; a ride that i actually enjoyed, even though i was really uncomfortable hanging upside down up there; the bumper cars, which is always a lot of fun; and the carousel, which actually gave me and des extreme dizzy fits.

the cherry on top of our carnival sundae was the flipper. it features eight round disks with seats mounted on top of a bigger disk (discworld and the great a'tuin comes to mind). when the ride starts, the small disk spins you back and forth, rocking your innards and your head, while the bigger disk rotates and tilts the smaller disks up. that's why it came as no surprise that i was ready to hurl after the ride. the right was such a trip, sure, but i wished i didn't eat those fishballs right before i dared to try the flipper out.

still, though, even with that, i would recommend the carnival to anyone who wants a simple, fun night with friends. what better way to enjoy each other's company than by bullying each other to try the different rides around the carnival? no matter how old you are, these rides never get old.

more photos of my carnival adventure here.

global fun carnival

outside sm mall of asia


opening hours:
monday to friday: 4pm onwards;
saturday, sunday, and holidays: 1pm onwards.

admission fees:

entrance only: P100

ride-all-you-can, mondays to thursdays: P250
ride-all-you-can, saturdays, sundays, holidays, and whole month of december: P300