Brewed Thoughts: The Singapore overview from a first time noob

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Singapore overview from a first time noob

Hello, Changi.
Singapore is awesome.

That just about sums up my very first impression when I landed in Changi Airport last week. This was my second trip abroad and needless to say, it was probably the best experience I ever had.

The trip was long since booked November of 2009---a product of my frustration when our supposed business trip to HK was re-scheduled and inevitably canceled. In a bout of peevishness, I checked out the rates at Jetstar, contacted my sister and planned the whole shebang. It was a stroke of good thinking because I was already feeling the tell-tale signs of burn out.

I stayed with my sister for the entire six day duration of my trip. Within those days, I pigged out, walked around, went to the famous local haunts, pigged out and walked some more. It's a long story to tell, so I'm going to write several blog posts about it. I'm just going to get this overview post over and done with.

What I'm going to enumerate / blabber about are my personal rants and raves about Singapore. As a first time visitor, I've been overwhelmed by a lot of observations and insights about the place, so let's get started.

1. Transportation system. I'm a total noob when it comes to navigating in unknown places. In fact, I almost got lost in Changi Airport when I went about looking for my luggage. I was overwhelmed by the fact that SG's transportation system was somewhat convoluted (that's coming from a person who can't understand SG's bus routing system), and I was almost apprehensive to go around the city on my own.

Then there was the MRT. Thank the gods! The train map was easy enough to follow since the entire thing just went around SG, plus I had this nifty map where all the interesting places were noted down. It became easy for me to follow the map and go places because the train stations were strategically placed. I didn't dare try riding a bus on my own, though. Getting lost in a foreign country got the better of my so-called adventurous streak.

The MRT station

2. The MRT. Air-conditioned. Walkalators. That and the fact that people weren't crammed inside the train like a bunch of sardines. What else can I say? The MRT is a gift from God.

3. Public restrooms. Remember the paid restrooms in malls in the Philippines? That's what SG public restrooms look like. Unbelievable. All the faucets are working, there's always soap, toilet paper and hand dryers. They smell pleasant, too. No wonder it's a normal thing for people to do their private business in public restrooms without breaking a sweat.

4. No security peepz checking your bags. At first, I was looking for signs of security guards all over the place because I was so used to bag inspection here in the Philippines. None of that shit is implemented because everyone, not just law enforcers, are always on the lookout. I didn't have to worry about keeping my bag close to me. Heck, I totally looked like a dumb tourist, but no one took advantage! It was a big relief as I was mostly going around by myself.

Hawker center

5. Food. This is probably why I love SG most of all: you can eat almost any kind of food at a reasonable price (if you know where to look). My favorite place to eat are at hawker centers because the food is as cheap as it gets, not to mention you get to eat local cuisine at its best. You can also get local coffee and tea there for less than a dollar. 

I'm still wondering what's that glass triangle doing there?

6. Buildings & other structures. I'm no architect or designer, but I really liked SG's buildings. I figured SG had an eye for beautiful shapes because the buildings seemed like works of architectural art to me. The ArtScience Museum, helix bridge and the Henderson wave were just some of the amazing structures that took my breath away. Except of course for the Marina Sands which looked like a huge boat on stilts. 

I don't think these guys are here to get in shape.

7. Parks. It's very easy to keep in shape when you're in SG because the place is teeming with well-kept parks and nature trails that are great for hiking. If you don't want to go out of your way to visit parks, you can walk around almost anywhere without fear of being mugged. The streets are spacious, well lit, and cars don't emit clouds of smoke. Community centers are also strategically placed so it's very easy to rent a court for a game of squash or badminton, or for any kind of sport for that matter. 

One badass huge mall. I didn't get to buy anything here, though.

8. Malls. They are just everywhere. Seriously. I'm not exactly a mall rat, but the place comes in handy when you want to shop for stuff. What's great about the malls in SG is that they don't look anything like the ugly edifices of SM malls.

Great souvenirs can be bought at Chinatown.

Little India brightens up at night.

9. Ethnic centers. With a large concentration of Chinese & Indians in the country, SG's Chinatown and Little India are the best places to shop for knick-knacks and sample the authentic Chinese and Indian cuisine. SG is very much a multi-racial country, so it's not just the Chinese & the Indians---you get to see a little bit of the entire world in just one country.

10. Post offices. I like mailing postcards to friends while I'm traveling & having post offices in strategic places is a godsend.

Now that I got the good parts out of the way, it's time to get a low down on the ugly ones.

1. Language barrier. I cannot understand Singaporeans when they speak. What's worse is that some of the old people who you happen to have the bad luck to ask a question, would either frown or look at you like you've sprouted antlers or something. It's funny because SG gets a lot of foreigners on a daily basis and yet their English is deplorable as shit.

2. Spoiled curry-smelling armpits. I think I don't have to elaborate on this.

We were expecting real VG paintings, but what the hell...

3. Museums. SG museums may be as high-tech as ever, but it totally sucks that most of their exhibitions are replicas or just mere audio-visual presentations. I personally like our National Museum because we have the authentic artifacts in display, and that our exhibitions are a lot more rich and detailed simply because we have the exact artifacts of our history.

I was really frustrated with this because I paid serious money in the hope that I'd be seeing the real thing. I have an entire story to tell, particularly when we saw the Van Gogh exhibit at the ArtScience Museum in Marina Sands Bay. 

Books Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City Mall

4. Bookstores. For all the malls scattered all over the country, I find it hard to believe that SG has a small number of book stores. My best bet was Kinokuniya, but I wasn't able to buy anything because the books were expensive shit.

I think I ran out of stuff to rant about. Haha. I guess it shows that SG is more on the plus points to me. I'm still reeling from the trip hangover, and I'll take advantage of it so I can write the succeeding posts with a lot more enthusiasm.


  1. *nods in agreement with everything you said especially rant #2* Hehe!

  2. Naku, if you're that sensitive to smell, you wouldn't like going to Hongkong, Beijing and especially India. Also, that's what you get from walking around a lot. Ang ginagawa ko na lang ay dinadaan ko na lang sa paglilibang ng sarili - in my case, a book/magazine/portable music/videogame player/companion helps divert the attention from BO. Just don't make the mistake of ranting out loud because you never know if anyone who looks non-Filipino on the train can understand, or even speak, Filipino!

    This March marked my nth trip to SG, and you're right - they don't have much by way of a native culture. SG used to be part of Malaysia, but with the way the country is today it cannot claim all Malaysian and Malayan culture for itself, though at least it still has pockets of Chinese, Nonya and Indian culture inside. That's why, if you're observant, you'll notice they are so aggressive in attracting other ethnicities who bring along their own streams of culture into SG shores.

    Glad you're able to see more of the world. Keep exploring because it's fun! dXDb

  3. agree on ligaya's comment on the not ranting out loud. my brother has a non-filipino friend and they have been teaching each other their native languages.

    i've also been to sg recently, my third visit. can you please post about henderson wave? will so look forward to that. been meaning to go there but we always seem to run out of time.

  4. I'm aware not to say those comments out loud. Meron at merong makakaintindi, especially in public places. Pinoys blend well with Malays so it's hard to distinguish who's who in the crowd.

    Thanks for commenting, guys. Isusulat ko na yung susunod na's still fresh in my mind na para bang kagagaling ko lang dun. I miss SG terribly haha!

    Hello to Salmoncat! I encountered the Henderson Wave when I went with my sister on a hike. Nakakatuwa kasi you'd always find pockets of places that have amazing architectural designs. Sino ba namang mag-aakala na makaka-encounter ako ng ganun sa isang nature trail?

  5. Natawa ako doon sa #2 sa ugly ones. Hahaha. Well so far in HK, I had a fairly wonderful experience during my stay there. (I still need to write about it pala!) As for BOs buti naman wala akong masyadong na-encounter---none that I can remember except going to market places. But if I compare HK to the Philippines, ang layo pa rin natin sa kanila. I always look forward to visit HK again.

  6. parang US pala ang dating sa #3, 4 & 7.. pero wala akong masabi kasi i've never been to SG, im looking forward to your next post nalang hehe

  7. Considering rant # 2,di ko pala kakayanin diyan! Hahaha!