Thursday, November 22, 2007

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

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