Hari's Corner

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Our Singapore visit

Filed under: Life and Leisure by Hari
Posted on Mon, Aug 20, 2007 at 14:25 IST (last updated: Wed, Oct 29, 2008 @ 21:40 IST)

I got back from a short holiday to Singapore on the 18th. I will try and put down my thoughts on Singapore from my limited perspective as well as tidbits from my experience before memory fades away as it inevitably does over a period of time and blurs away the details. So read on (and beware of long rants ahead ;) )

The flight from Chennai

First things first: I hate flying, I hate aircrafts, I hate airports. I haven't travelled a whole lot, but what I've seen of airports is enough for me. I pity those who are forced to travel a lot due to the nature of their jobs, but I guess they get used to it. As for me, I prefer to remain free of all the hassles of flying: the check-in, immigration queues, baggage checks, security checks, boarding procedures: the whole thing already makes me sick and I've travelled only twice abroad and flown very rarely.

We boarded the Jet Airways flight 9W016 (a Boeing 737) to Singapore from Chennai on the 13th. I don't care for Economy class as the seats are too cramped for comfort, but luckily the flight was short and we got seats at the very front row which was a bit of luck. The take-off was delayed by half an hour due to air-traffic control problems but we reached Singapore at around 6 pm local time. There was a bit of turbulence during the journey but the flight, on the whole was excellent. The landing was even better. The lunch served was not particularly good, but it was enough to still the pangs of hunger (which is all you should aim to achieve when you're around 30,000 feet in the air and hurtling at 800+ kilometres/hour. Overindulgence can be disastrous to people with a sensitive stomach).

One thing I must mention: the iPod is an excellent travelling companion as the in-flight entertainment is usually crappy. I was glad I took it along as I've loaded some of my favourite videos on it.

Getting around

Singapore roads

Singapore gives the impression of being a polite, well-marketed tourist-friendly place to visit. Most taxi drivers are polite and friendly. Roads are well-laid out and orderly and the traffic is moderately disciplined. Road-taxes (ERP - Electronic Road Pricing) are collected at different parts of the country electronically through smart cards installed on all vehicles. Taxi drivers pass on this extra to customers. However, taxis are the most convenient form of transport in Singapore for a tourist on a short holiday. While the MRT and the bus services are quite efficient and favoured by most locals, it does take a bit of time and effort to find one's way around these transportation systems. Taxi drivers will take you almost anywhere in Singapore and they know their way around. For a group of 4 or more people, taxis probably work out cheaper. Taxi drivers are supposed to accept credit cards, but you'll find that a majority of them prefer cash because they get the money faster that way. Unlike in India, no taxi driver asks for "extra" and all of them return the exact change without a murmur.

There are "hop-on" buses meant for tourists which go around the city. Each ticket costs around S$12 of which S$2 is refunded if you stay on the bus through a round trip. This bus takes you to all the hotels, shopping malls and other tourist attractions within the city and a full round-trip takes around 1 hour 20 minutes. It is a good way to get some idea of the city.

Boat ride on the Singapore River

The hotel where we stayed (Novotel, Clarke Quay) also gave us complimentary tickets for a boat ride on the Singapore River which lasted around 45 minutes. You can see some of the famous bridges and sights along this river and it also provides some excellent photo-opportunities.

On the whole, transportation will not be a problem in Singapore since it is a small island and well-connected by road and rail. However, be careful of staying out too late since taxis might not stop at certain areas after office hours. You will have no problem finding taxis elsewhere.

Food and drink

The smell of Singapore is predominantly the smell of food and cooking. Every street in Singapore is littered with eateries and restaurants, mostly small ones. Shopping malls have plenty of food stalls and you will definitely have no problem finding the kind of food you like. Since I'm not particularly interested in food for its own sake, I rarely ventured beyond a known circle of restaurants. Vegetarian food is not hard to find, particularly if you're Indian, because Singapore has a large community of Indians. Little India is a great place to find good Indian food (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian) at reasonable prices.

One piece of advice: avoid the in-house restaurants in the big hotels. Not only are they expensive, you might also not get the range of choices available outside. The quality of food might not exactly be up to par either.


The concrete jungle of Singapore

I don't like shopping except when I need to buy something. Naturally, I didn't find anything different or impressive about Singapore's famed shopping malls. However, for those whose idea of wholesome entertainment is window shopping, there are plenty of places in Singapore where you can spend ages just walking around and looking at stuff on store windows and display cases. Funan DigitaLife Mall is chock full of stops selling computer accessories, laptops, digital cameras, MP3 players and other assorted electronic goodies. There are other less up-market shopping malls like Sim Lim Square and Mustafa Centre, but you might have to be careful to avoid fake goods in some places. Other upmarket shopping malls include Central and CityLink Mall. If you come to Singapore for shopping, there are plenty of places to buy stuff. Bargains are best had in the smaller shops in the lower-end markets. Personally I think it's better to buy in reputed shops because you're at least assured that the product is genuine.

The range of electronic products is impressive, but by no means comprehensive. My brother, who was looking for an obscure portable media player called Archos, spent a lot of time looking for it and most of the shopkeepers hadn't even heard of the brand. However, he did find it in a shop called South Asia Computers at Funan, after a long search. Those looking for more popular brands will have no such problems.

If you don't want to get overwhelmed with the shopping scenario, just list down the items you want to buy on a piece of paper and look for the best deals. Don't wander around aimlessly in shopping malls. Most of them are huge. At least in my view, that's a waste of precious time if your visit is short and there are other items on your agenda.

Sightseeing and outdoor entertainment

Upper Seletar Reservoir

If (and when) you've had your fill of shopping, you might care to look beyond the concrete jungle of Singapore city. Once you leave the main city, Singapore is actually quite green and picturesque. The major attractions are the Singapore Zoo (which we visited) and the Botanic gardens. If you're lucky, you can see the famous Orang Utan feeding at the Zoo and there's also the Night Safari (which we had to miss because of time constraints). If you prefer some excitement outside the city, there's Sentosa Island. Again, we couldn't quite make it to Sentosa, which was a bit of a disappointment.

Orang Utans at feeding time at the Zoo

The zoo is a great place to spend around half a day. In my opinion, the major attractions are the white tigers, the orang utans and the polar bears. While it was drizzling at the time we got there, there is a shop selling umbrellas and ponchos there. If you don't like walking around, you can also buy tickets for unlimited tram rides inside the zoo. It will take you from point to point and you can see most of the zoo in that manner. There are restrooms and refreshment centres in places where you can take a breather and a meal. You can also buy souvenirs in the shop near the main entrance.

White tigers

Overall impressions

Singapore is an extremely well-marketed country. For such a small island nation, it squeezes in a lot for casual tourists and business visitors alike. I suppose shopping will always remain the mainstay of Singapore, but if you look beyond the glitzy malls and plazas, there are actually a lot of things you can do here.

However, unless you have a reliable local guide, you will be a little short of ideas. If you're planning to stay for just a few days, you need to know exactly what you want to do in Singapore, otherwise you might end up doing nothing. If your main aim is shopping, be focussed on that. If, on the other hand, you want to explore the natural beauty of this island, you need to go outside the city and explore the countryside. If you want entertainment, there are places where you can get just that. If you are a food fanatic, there are plenty of places to look for ethnic food - particularly Indian, Malay and Chinese.

Singaporeans seem naturally friendly and courteous. Most of them speak English (although with an accent) so language is not a problem. There are plenty of hotels to stay in, so getting good accommodation should also not be a problem. Hotels also have all the tourist information you need, so enquire at the reception desk. There are also plenty of "package tours" available if you are time-constrained and just want to experience as much of Singapore as you can in the shortest possible time. They are expensive though and I would not recommend them if you are worried about budget.

Singapore has almost everything for everybody. The weather is fairly warm but comfortable, the culture is a mix of South and South-East Asian, high-tech is a way of life and the living standard seems to be fairly high. No wonder, Singapore attracts a lot of immigrants and tourists.

Back home

We returned to Chennai on Jet Airways flight 9W015 on Saturday (the 18th) morning. Our return journey was livened up by an old gentlemen who kept shouting and complaining about everything. At the Changi airport he was very upset and threw a fuss because we had been taken to the front of the check-in queue (my mother is a privilege card holder of the airline and was entitled to a separate check-in) and when we arrived at the Chennai airport he got upset because the baggage collection was slightly delayed. We had a bit of fun at his expense later on our taxi ride back home.

On the whole, the trip was excellent and we enjoyed it thoroughly.

15 comment(s)

  1. This was a holiday? For who? Your mother? You sound like it a bit of a bother.

    Comment by RT Cunningham (visitor) on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 @ 00:19 IST #
  2. You have a very nice blog as well. I would like to the link exchange. You will be my first one...mmhhh that sounds weird.

    Comment by GEM (visitor) on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 @ 03:56 IST #
  3. RT, No. My mother went on an official visit and we accompanied her on a holiday...Bother? I was the official guide on this trip :lol:GEM, thanks. :smile:

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 @ 07:55 IST #
  4. It seems like you had a reasonably carefree trip, which is usually the best goal to strive for. I'm glad that you had a chance to travel, my friend. Its always nice to me other people who have a different experience to share.

    Comment by MrCorey (visitor) on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 @ 08:33 IST #
  5. I was in Singapore in 1983 and I swear I don't remember anything about it. My memories confuse it with Hong Kong.

    Comment by RT Cunningham (visitor) on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 @ 10:23 IST #
  6. MrCorey, yes, we weren't really too hassled about visiting all the tourist spots. We just relaxed and went out whenever we felt like it.RT, Singapore and Hong Kong should be pretty similar, but I've never visited Hong Kong myself. By the way, I found that Singapore's Time Zone is the same as the Philippines. :smile:

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 @ 11:50 IST #
  7. I've been planning on visiting Singapore for some time now. Maybe the Formula 1 race would finally spur me on ;)Glad you enjoyed your trip and loved the details.Cheers!

    Comment by Shashank Sharma (visitor) on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 @ 20:40 IST #
  8. Welcome back, Shashank. I'm glad to see a post on your blog after a long break. :smile:

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Tue, Aug 21, 2007 @ 21:48 IST #
  9. Hari.. enna uttutu poita paatiyaaa :sad:

    Comment by Logesh TamilSelvan (visitor) on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 @ 16:08 IST #
  10. Enna thala ippudi solliputte? Onna laa Singapore kootikine poka koodathu... un rangeukku Switzerlandu thaan correctu... :lol:

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 @ 16:17 IST #
  11. seri appo angayaavathu kootittu poo :lol: swiss paathu romba naal aaguthu

    Comment by Logesh TamilSelvan (visitor) on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 @ 20:46 IST #
  12. As long as you are the financier, Logesh, I will take you anywhere in the world. Just ask :razz:

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 @ 21:07 IST #
  13. I love everything about planes and flying - I'm the person who gets to the airport 7 hours before the flight. ;) In order to watch planes, and get excited about flying.I really love your blog, and have added you to my new blogs I read list. ;) Sorry it took so long, it's been a crazy few days.Thanks for dropping past my place! ;)Snoskredhttp://www.snoskred.org/

    Comment by Snoskred (visitor) on Fri, Aug 24, 2007 @ 08:08 IST #
  14. Thanks for the comment, Sonskred. In many airports in our country, they don't allow passengers into the airport so long before the flight. :lol:

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Fri, Aug 24, 2007 @ 10:44 IST #
  15. If you are looking for electronic goods, it is best to know your
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    Shopcite even has a mobile phone version www.shopcite.mobi so you can
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    Comment by Alan McCarthy (visitor) on Fri, Sep 4, 2009 @ 12:18 IST #

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