A Travellerspoint blog

Final Observations

Some practical information for those who is going to Singapore

Here are some observations we made during our stay in Singapore:

1. Unique modes of transportation within the country

Singapore’s public transportation system is comprehensive, efficient and cheap.

Trains. The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system started in 1988 and has grown to 131 air-conditioned trains serving 63 stations along three lines. There is also a Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system that serves a couple of neighboring towns. Depending on the station, the first train rolls out at about 5:15am, last trains run until around 12:50am. The system is easy to use; fares are easy to figure out and collection is automatic. Cost for a single trip is between 80 cents and $1.80.

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Buses. Around 11,000 buses operate on 256 routes covering practically every corner of the island. Buses run from around 6am to 11.40pm. Fares are cheap: minimum 70 cents on non-airconditioned; maximum $1.70 on air-conditioned buses). Bus drivers are generally helpful and will tell you the exact fare when boarding.
Taxis. More than 18,000 taxis ply the roads and are a popular mode of transport. However, be warned that during morning and evening rush hours, as well as rain falls, it is almost impossible to get one if you haven’t book ahead. Singapore’s taxis are clean and generally in good condition. Most drivers speak or understand some English. Tipping is not necessary. Most taxi stands are found just outside shopping centers, hotels, and other public buildings.
Trishaws. The quaint trishaw, a bicycle with a side car, has virtually disappeared from Singapore’s streets. Today it exists only for tourists who want to experience something of the old days. For the information on trishaw tours, ask your hotel concierge or tour desk. A tour around town, including China town, Arab Street and Little India for around 30 to 45 minutes should cost about S$25

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2. Unique types of accommodation

• In terms of accommodation, amenities and service standards, Singapore’s top-end hotels easily compare with the best in the world. Deluxe, first-class and business-oriented hotels have all modern technological facilities as elsewhere.

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• If you intend to stay longer, you might want to consider checking into a serviced apartment. Singapore’s serviced apartments generally offer all the amenities of 4- to 5-star hotels, but come with the added facilities of a fully-equipped kitchen and dining area, for significantly lower rates than a hotel room.
• The number of backpacker hostels has decreased with the recent demolition of old buildings on Bencoolen Street, the once traditional backpacker haunt. What’s left is rather dismal, and for the price you pay in some, you’re probably better off in a good budget hotel – it costs only marginally more, but in return you get much cleaner beds and greater security.

3. Local etiquette and customs

• If you are invited to the home of a local, it is customary to take a small gift along – whether some cakes or pastries, fruit, chocolates or flowers. Never bring alcohol, wine or beer to a home of a Muslim though;
• Most Singaporeans remove their shoes at the door so as not to bring dirt into the house. No host would insist that visitors do the same, but it is only polite to follow this custom;
• Asian meals are usually served family-style in large bowls or plates placed in the centre of the table, with diners helping themselves to a little from each bowl or plate. Piling up your plate with food is impolite.

4. Regional food and beverages

The combination which really has its own identity and provides Singapore with its most indigenous cuisine is Peranakan food. Peranakan are descendants of early migrants from China who settled in Singapore and married the locals. The product of this union is the unique Peranakan culture and a cuisine which deftly blends Chinese ingredients with Malay spices and herbs – resulting in a cuisine that is both imaginative and tasty. Look out for dishes such Otak Otak, a blend of fish, coconut milk, chilli paste, galangal and herbs wrapped in banana leaf. Another is Spicy Fish Head Curry. Despite the somewhat unappealing site of a giant fish head floating in a thick sea of gravy, the succulent flesh and the accompanying hot and sour gravy flavored with curry powder and tamarind juice is a delicious and satisfying taste sensation.

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As for the beverages, Tea is somewhat traditional. There is the Indian Te Tarik which is very strong and sweet with lots of condensed milk and made to froth by pouring the mixture from one pot into another from a great (arms length) distance. There are also many Chinese teas available, and you can indulge in a leisurely ‘tea ceremony’ at several of the shops. Be warned that the ‘heavier’ black teas are nothing like what you normally find in a bag.

5. Souvenirs

Jade. Chinatown and Tanglin Shopping Center offer a wide selection of sculptures, amulets, bracelets and rings in auspicious jade.

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Antiques and Crafts. Regional and Oriental antiques and crafts can be found at Tanglin Shopping Center, Holland Road Shopping Center, Chinatown Point and nearby shophouses, and Arab Street.
Gold. Little India and Chinatown are the best locations for cheap gold. Gold is sold by weight, workmanship adding relatively little to the price.
Oriental Outfits. Different versions of the Oriental outfit are available. A happy coat is a great for lounging at home.

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Carpets. Among the dealers in antiques and craft items at Dempsey Road are several specializing in carpets. The prices are very competitive by international standards.

Videp http://www.lonelyplanet.tv/Clip.aspx?key=F5A014EF41E3CA39

Posted by 3ingapore 11:11

Shopping in Singapore

Orchard Road

Shopping in Singapore is endless, it is considered to be one of the best shopping spots in Asia, with huge variety of world-known labels, exquisite foods and unique ethnic crafts available. Orchard Road is actually at the epicenter of Singapore's shopping and entertainment industries, which means this place never sleeps. Other than being a shopper’s heaven, I have noticed that it is also a great haunt for fabulous fine-dining and lots of swanky restaurants. The greatest thing about Orchard Rd is that it is walkable, and once you go down the street, shops and malls amaze you with luxury and diversity. One thing to keep in mind is to take plenty of water breaks.

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Sim Lin Square

When I was in Singapore, my camera fell so many times; I was badly in need of one. I was so worried that I would not be able to make more pictures. I looked everywhere for an electronic store and finally found Sim Lin Square. It was one of the largest electronics and computer store in Singapore, with more than 500 retail outlets. You will not miss this 24 hour store. The greatest thing about Sim Lin Square is that it is a short walk from Little India or Bugis. The main reason why I like this store is that it is always busy, with bustling loud music. But, make sure you take lots of cash because some gadgets are highly competitive, so you can take advantage of some of the great deals.

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Little India

Little India is one of my favorite shopping centers. Whenever you come, you will be greeted by the strong, heady scent of spices and jasmine garlands. Make sure to take enough money as there are lots of treasure-troves such as silverware, brassware, wood carvings and colorful silk saris, dazzling to behold. Pick up a walking guide and start your exploration of this vibrant ethnic quarter. Today, Little India is the focal point of Singapore's Indian community. From the large Tekka Centre and Little India Arcade to the small provision shops, Little India is packed with interesting things to discover.

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Here is a couple of things to consider when shopping in Singapore:
• Business hours. Most shopping centres and retail stores are open from 9:30-10:30 am till 8:30-9:30 pm, staying open longer on weekends. Though there are plenty of options for night shopping (like Night Market or Mustafa Mall open 24 hours a day)
• Payment options. SGD (Singapore dollars) are national currency, and all prices are listed in SGD. Cash and Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, and there shouldn’t be any surcharges on credit cards. Travelers cheques in major currencies will be accepted by larger department stores, and you need to have passport for verification.
• Taxes. In Singapore you will feel like back home in Alberta, with 5% GST added to most goods and services.

Posted by 3ingapore 17:59

Singapore Botanic Garden

Oasis of peace and tranquility in the big city...

20 °C

Today we spent the whole day in Singapore Botanic Garden. It’s one of the most scenic places we have ever seen. This place is a ‘must see’ for every visitor to Singapore. We would recommend it to all people who find plants attractive, who enjoy moments of silence amidst nature, and those who find it romantic to sneak away in beautiful flowers.

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Singapore’s oldest national park was set up in 1859 and is known worldwide today as a living museum of tropical plants, with over 2,000 species of trees and shrub, and a centre for botanical research. Spacious and beautifully landscaped, with walkways winding around the expansive greenery, the gardens cover a sprawling 130 acres. The garden can be explored in three sections. The main Tanglin Core features lush rainforest, Swan lake, a bandstand and bronze sculptures. The Central Core has the National Orchid Garden, where over 700 species of orchids are displayed, and also Palm Valley, where there are regular open-air musical concerts and performances. The Bukit Timah Core features the Ecolake and gardens of herbs, spices and medical plants. We met a great number of different birds there as well as squirrels and green crested lizards. Swans, ducks and turtles inhabit the lakes. The park is really excellent for strolling! Finally, we bought nice souvenirs in the gift shop and took refreshment in the nearest open-air Café Les Amis.

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• Admission to the Gardens is free though there is a fee to enter certain parts (eg: Orchid Garden - $5/adult)
• Opening hours: daily 5am midnight

http://www.sbg.org.sg/

Posted by 3ingapore 11:03

Nightlife in Singapore….

City that never sleeps

20 °C

Seems like Singapore never goes to sleep! One of the most amazing discoveries was the huge amount of activities and entertainment after the sun goes down, and we are not just talking restaurants and clubs… There are always tons of events going on in the city, so that night owls can find something special to see and do.

Night dining… Dinners are normally served quite late, at 8-9 pm, and many restaurants stay open past midnight, and the great thing about Singapore is that many restaurants and coffee shops are open 24 hours. So even travelers can savor various cuisines after long pub crawl (not just leftover burgers and fries) or get a refreshing cup of coffee at 2 am!

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Night Attractions… Singapore has incredible amount of tourist activities for late evening hours. There are 5 museums open late at night (such as Asian Civilizations Museum and Singapore Art Museum) and also various activities like Traditional bumboat rides, Night Safari, Sentosa 4-D Magix just to name a few. The city is great for truly all-day sightseeing, not just early afternoon!

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Night Spots… Singapore is city that barely sleeps with all the clubs, pubs, bars and concerts going on every night! Here is a really good directory to nightlife, where all entertainment is broken down by location:
http://www.visitsingapore.com/publish/stbportal/en/home/what_to_do/nightlife_in_singapore/nightspot.html

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Night Shopping... We’ll tell more about shopping some other time, but let’s just say Singaporecan satisfy your shopping cravings 24/7! Don’t you just hate that malls back home are closing at 9, and even at 6 on Sundays? It’s just ridiculous! This is why we had to go to the Mustafa Centre, a 24 hour mall in the Little India. Other malls are mostly open till 11 pm (including food courts) to accommodate customers wanting to do some shopping in the evening.

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Posted by 3ingapore 10:16

Sentosa Island

Come to Sentosa and experience the island life which is a contrast to the bustling pace of the city. Sentosa is home to many exciting attractions, stunning manmade beach, breathtaking view from Sky Tower and exciting ride on the cable car. You can take Sentosa Bus from the World Trade Centre Bus Terminal or Tiong Bahru MRT. You can take it From Mt Faber, Harbor Front and Cable Car Plaza on Sentosa. But first be sure to inquire the admission ticket package for the attractions that you would like to visit. There is a $2 admission charge.

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Sentosa Island is home to Underwater World (that we visited earlier), Butterfly Park, a beautiful home to 1500 butterflies and also Orchid Garden, where you can dine in a restaurant with a view of a pond surrounded by exotic flowers. To get to the Underwater World we had to pass the Dragon Trail, a gorgeous walk through lush tropical jungles. In the evening we were enjoying a Musical Fountain, a 122-feet fountain featuring fiery flames, lasers and music.

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Fort Siloso

Fort Siloso is a reminder of the Second World War years in Singapore with life sized wax replicas of the cast of characters involved in the Japanese surrender and other authentic exhibits. Visitors can browse through many old photographs, documents and film clips that are on display and also to go and explore the old tunnels.

Sky Tower

The Sky Tower is Singapore’s tallest public viewing tower which offers panoramic views across Singapore, Sentosa and the Southern Islands. The Carlsberg Sky Tower has a capacity of 72 people in its enclosed, air-conditioned cabin. It is Asia's tallest observatory tower at 135m above sea level. Each revolving ride takes about seven minutes. Day or night, views from the tower promise to be both scenic and breathtaking.

• Admission Fee to the Sky Tower: S$10 Adult / S$6 Child
• Opening Hours: 9am to 9pm

Posted by 3ingapore 11:42

Ethnic Areas

Multicaltural way of living...

China town

China town is one of the most famous ethnic areas in Singapore. One of the places I visited was Chinatown Heritage Centre. The streets surrounding the centre are packed with all sorts of souvenir shops with lots of curious finds, plus some beautiful art and antique galleries. Spend some time at Yue Hwa, a Chiness Emporium Thati, this is practically a museum of Chinese handicrafts, filled with floor after floor of fabulous shopping. There are lots of readymade silk clothing, embroidered handbags, carved jade, pottery and cloisonné.

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Little India

Little India, one of my favorite, is the heart of Singapore’s Indian community. It is a long strip where the locals come to buy spices, flowers, Bollywood DVDs, scarves and all kinds of ceremonial items. Sri Veeramakaliamman is one of the most popular Hindu temples in Singapore. It is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Kali. Here you can find lots of fierce embodiment of Shakti and the God Shiva’s wife, Parvati. Images of Kali within the temple show her wearing a garland of skulls and ripping out the insides of her victims, and Kali sharing more peaceful family moments.

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• Deepavali, the Indian Festival of Lights, is usually held between October and November. During this time Little India is transformed into a fairyland of gaily decorated, brightly lit streets bustling with shoppers.
• The Faith of Devotees during the colorful and ritualistic Thaipusam is held in January - February each year.

Posted by 3ingapore 11:38

Asia Civilization Museum

Explore Asia in depth...

20 °C

Today we visited Asian Civilization Museum. Housed in the neo-classical Empress Place Building, this is one of the oldest structures in Singapore.

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If you wonder how the multi-ethnic culture of Singapore originated, this museum holds the key. Even the visitors who are not history buffs (like we are) will find the interactive zones, innovative virtual hosts and in-gallery videos highly entertaining, With 11 galleries spread out over three floors, you can easily spend half-a-day at this excellent museum.

Our tour started with the Southeast Asia collection on level two. From prehistoric agricultural tools to fabric displays and artifacts, the exhibits revealed the diversity of Southeast Asia. On the same level we visited the China gallery, where we learned about the Middle Kingdom and the West Asia gallery with its Koran-inspired calligraphic art. On level three we found more Southeast and West Asia Galleries, after which we proceeded to level one, to South Asia galleries dominated by religious statuary and architectural motifs. It was a good place to learn firsthand about the culture of the different nations that have made the small city-state of Singapore big.

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The building we visited is easy to find. It is situated in one of the old colonial buildings on the banks of the Singapore River, right next to the famous statue of Sir Stamford Raffles. We took the guided tour, however we could simply walk the whole museum with a map that was given to us for free when we purchased the tickets. The gift shop was also worthy to note, being much larger than the average size.

• The admission fee is $5 / Adult.
• Opening hours: Mon 1pm – 7pm, Tue – Sun 9am – 7pm.

Guided tours in English, Japanese and Mandarin are available daily. Check the schedule at:
http://www.acm.org.sg/home/home.asp

Posted by 3ingapore 10:57

Raffles Hotel

An island of colonial history...

Today we dropped in at the Raffles Hotel, Singapore’s most famous and most photographed landmark. If you are looking for quality, as well as history and authentic charm, go for this property. It has a great location and is within walking distance from the subway and a lot of other things, which makes it really easy to get around. Even if you are not a resident of the hotel, you still can enjoy the cool, calm refuges of its courtyards, gardens, and covered walkways.

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Legendary since its establishment in 1887 the Sarkies brothers and named after Singapore's first British colonial administrator, Sir Stamford Raffles, this posh hotel is one of the most recognizable names in Southeast Asian hospitality. Originally it was a bungalow, but by the 1920s and 1930s it had expanded to become a mecca for celebrities like Charlie Chaplin, Somerset Maugham and various kings, sultans, and politicians. Always at the center of Singapore's colonial high life, the Raffles hosted balls, tea dances, and jazz functions, and during World War II was the last rallying point for the British in the face of Japanese occupation and the first place for refugee prisoners of war released from concentration camps. In 1987, the hotel was declared a national monument and restored to its early-20th-century splendor, with grand arches, molded ceilings with spinning fans, tiled teak and marble floors, Oriental carpets, and period furnishings.

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Today the hotel also houses the Raffles Hotel Museum where we saw a lot of historical artifacts and archival documents, which are telling the story of the hotel. It also houses a shopping arcade and the Jubilee Hall Theatre. We especially liked Seah Street Deli that specializes in New York-style delicatessen food. The portions are authentic, large, and reasonably priced.

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• The admission to the Raffles Hotel and its Museum is free; Museum is open daily 10am – 6pm.
• Hotel room prices start from S$1,000 (US$640/£330) per suite.

http://www.raffleshotel.com/

Posted by 3ingapore 10:50

Animal Kingdom

The nature-lovers’ paradise!

Singapore has several spots that attract nature-lovers such as myself, they are commonly called Animal Kingdom; Animal Kingdom includes Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Underwater World, Dolphin Lagoon, Juron bird Park and butterfly Park & Insects Kingdom. I actually convinced gals to spend a day and a half watching flora and fauna! Unbelievable! Though in the end they did not complain at all…

First, we spent the whole morning and half afternoon in the Singapore Zoo, and that was pretty amazing experience for everybody! With 3600 species (16% of them are endangered) spread over 28 hectares of beautiful land 1,5 million visitors a year, no wonder it is considered to be one of the best zoos in the world! The highlights of the exhibit are orangutans and white tigers. Aren’t they adorable?!

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After walking around the Zoo we crawled for a good nap in the hotel to get reenergized before the Night Safari. For just 22 SGD we got to see animals that are active at night from 8 zones (like South Asian rainforest, African Savanna or South American pampas). The tour lasts from 7:30 pm till midnight, and the last tickets are available at 11 pm, which gave us plenty of time to have dinner and freshen up. That trip was unforgettable!

The next morning we went on to see Underwater World and dolphin Lagoon. It is the best oceanarium anyone of us has ever been to, with wide range of species, beautiful tropical fishes, dangerous sharks and amazing sea cow that makes acrobatic moves. The whole tour took us just 2 hours, so we had almost all day in front of us to further discover this magnificent city…

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If you decide to visit Animal Kingdom:
• Most of the Parks are open 9 am to 6 pm (except for the Night Safari, which is open from 6 pm till midnight)
• Admission fees: 45 SGD for package for Jurong Bird Park, Singapore Zoo and Night Safari; 17.50 SGD for Underwater World with Dolphin Lagoon, 22 SGD for Night Safari.

Posted by 3ingapore 10:08

Essentials about Singapore…

Useful Information for those going to Singapore

20 °C

We decided to gather some general info about Singapore that will help us to avoid unpleasant surprises during the trip.

• Singapore is one of 4 city states in the world
• It is located just 85 miles from the equator, so the weather is much the same all year round
• Singapore has 4 official languages: Malay (national), English (Main), Chinese and Tamil
Currency is Singapore Dollar; 1 SGD = 0.83 CAD

Canadians entering Singapore require following documentation:

• Valid Canadian passport, the expiry date must be at least 6 months after arriving to Singapore; local law is very strict about this rule
• Tourist visa is not required prior to arrival to Singapore; a 30-day tourist visa is purchased in the airport plus the visa can be extended up to 90 days if necessary
• All tourists must have an onward (in our case return) tickets and may be asked to show proof of sufficient funds for the stay in the country

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For more info about Singapore from trusted source go to http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/report_rapport-eng.asp?id=265000#4

Posted by 3ingapore 09:31

Before we get started...

Departing Calgary

OK, after long arguments we’ve decided to spend our vacation in Singapore. Yey!!! So first things first, how do we get there? After spending quite some time browsing, we found out that there are so many airlines with regular schedule to Singapore (like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Malaysian Airlines, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa even Air Canada) that we’ll just have to hunt for the best price. Eventually, we booked with Singapore Airlines, the total price per person came up to about 1600 CAD including taxes, and we were flying from Calgary via Vancouver and Hong Kong to Singapore. The flight with all the stopovers is going to be quite long, 23 hours, so we’ll need to get to the hotel right away to rest a bit.

Posted by 3ingapore 09:28

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