By Anthony Dylan
I have not been to Singapore for a long while. The Malaysian currency weakening against the Singapore currency made it an even more difficult decision to make especially when the exchange rate is similar to that going to Australia. It is even worse when the exchange rate for 1 AUD is about 10 sen cheaper than 1SGD.
Nevertheless, the thought of a quick short haul break to the land of the Merlion was worth it. I flew in via AirAsia and had a return ticket using Scoot; which is Singapore’s answer to Malaysia’s AirAsia. The early morning flight was good as it allowed me to head to Beach Road where my hotel was located. Choosing the location was easy as I had never been to that area before to look see. I heard so much of the surrounding sights that I thought it would be a great place to be in for the short visit. The Bugis and Kampung Glam area was a must see.
The arrival at Terminal 4 for AirAsia was on schedule and the airport itself was looking great. This new terminal boasted the use of technology to ease the immigration process. You would need to place 2 thumbs for fingerprinting. This is quite new to me. I also thought that it was a good idea as it would improve border security. We would still need to fill up the immigration white form though. A section of the slip was also given back.
There is no MRT in Terminal 4 and as such, you would need to take the free inter-terminal shuttle bus to Terminal 2. It is easy to locate and located to the right side after passing Customs in the public area. It is also located close to the public toilets. If you need to go to Terminal 1 or Terminal 3, you would still need to take the free shuttle bus. Then, you would need to take the skytrain to these terminals if you would not like to walk These are quite frequent and each would be about 10 minutes in between unless it is after midnight till early morning where the wait would be 20 minutes.
The MRT is easily walked to from Terminal 2. You would just need to follow the way finding which are well placed. Changi Airport is indeed one of the most comfortable and easy place to get around. Getting an MRT ticket is easy as there is some smiling staff working eagerly coming to your aid if the self service machine seems daunting. I took my ride to Bugis as it was about 800 meters or about 10-15 minutes walk to the hotel.
The whole new Kampung Glam area looks well managed and restored. The five foot ways are all placed after the road shoulder which is well landscaped. These are also very clean. I found the road signs pretty cool. The roads are named as Sultan Gate, Kandahar Street, Baghdad Street, Pahang Street, Arab Street, Muscat Street, Haji Lane, Aliwal Street and Jalan Sultan. Many of these streets have been restored and the effective use of culture and adaptive use made the whole area a place to take interesting shots.
The Bugis area though is a bit more modern and would not have the same attraction as the whole Kampung Glam area. When night time comes, the whole area again bursts into life with eateries and pedestrian activities. Haji Lane is the most colourful. The street leading to the Sultan Mosque is flanked by Middle Eastern restaurants especially those from Turkey. This pedestrian only street is located between Muscat Street and Baghdad Street and has a good photo shot of the Sultan Mosque. The Haji Lane is also home to many cool restaurants from Mexican to Singaporean to Italian. It is truly an international colourful street.
I headed to Orchard Road to walk the famed shopping road which made Singapore so famous in the 1980s and 1990s. The place looked the same and with must lesser human traffic. Many buildings and shopping centres here seem to have suffered. Only Lucky Plaza and Ion Orchard seemed to hold strong. Lucky Plaza as always and till today remains the focal point of the Filipino community. The whole shopping road began at Plaza Singapura until Tangs. The only bright spark is the first Apple store in South East Asia. The interior design is really worth your while to visit.
The Gardens by the Bay is also an interesting place I went to have a look at. You do not need to buy a ticket unless you want to head up to the special decks and special tree walks, cloud forest, flower dome and such cooling environments. The outdoor gardens with some cool sculptures and nice photo opportunities of the iconic ‘trees’ and the Marina Bay Sands unique architecture in the background would suffice. It is also open till 2 am in the morning. The others would close at 9pm. The whole place is fairylike. There is musical fountain show called the Spectra in front of the Marina Bay Sands.
After a great two days of discovery of both Kampung Glam and the Marina Bay area along with the must have Ya Kun Kaya Toast. This is an institution. It is interesting as always to see the coffee maker use the traditional Hainanese pot and raise it high to create that great tasting local coffee. Their eggs before being served would go through their own checks as they would crack open each before serving you.
Returning back would lead you to another must visit place. The Jewel. This is Singapore’s latest attraction. The Rain Vortex is a must see much like the Rain Oculus at the Marina Bay Sands. The breathtaking view of this fall and the surrounding gardens made the whole area look like a scene from Avatar. There is also a temperature controlled enclosed glass section on the roof where the blue skies turn to a beautiful night of stars later on in the day. This area really makes your shopping day even better. The whole Jewel shopping centre is located close to Terminal 1 and can easily be walked to from Terminal 2 and 3.
Before I left, I did manage to see how Singaporeans love to queue. They seem to queue even for A&W and Shake Shack. I also saw that even a Swiss roll cake shop called the ‘Rich and Good Cake Shop’ from Kandahar Street in Kampung Glam could open in The Jewel and sells out by noon. They could not close their shop I am told and have to man it till 10pm though they have nothing to sell and would not add till the next day. I found this interesting.
Singapore has managed to move on with their tourist attractions and have come back strongly in creating a unique shopping centre in the Jewel. Shops like ‘Ya Kun Kaya Toast’ and the ‘Rich and Good Cake’ shop and even ‘Tong Garden’ nut shop are testament of local entrepreneurs making big against the international brands. Singapore is just not about clean toilets and the zoo and bird park. It is also no longer about Orchard Road. There is so much more in Singapore to see and experience. What they did right were connectivity and appreciation of the arts, culture and historical heritage whilst promoting new interpretations and welcoming new cultures.
Travelling really opens up one’s mind.