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Thursday, April 6, 2017

[Travel Itinerary] Seoul to Singapore (5 days, 4 days)



Sometimes I need a break from Seoul, this was one of those times.
Even though Singapore is another huge city, it was a great change of pace!

I was in Singapore from 27 March to 31 March.

Singapore travel tips!
Be mindful of the left! This is especially important on escalators and sidewalks. If you are not going to walk on escalators, stay to the left! If you're walking on sidewalks, etc. stay to the left.
If you're crossing the street, make sure to look left first!
Bring cash! Even though this is a modern city, some places take only cash, which is to be expected, but just make sure you have enough!
Buy a SIM! It's a modern city! You will definitely find that having a local SIM will be useful so you can make reservations at restaurants, use Google Maps, etc. Having maps was the most useful thing for me! I am really bad with directions! (It was hard to change to using from Naver Maps to Google Maps, but that's a Korea problem).
Since I was traveling from Korea and have lived in Korea for a while, one of my first "culture shocks" was seeing women wearing sleeveless dresses and dresses with open backs. Again, that's a Korea problem, but it's probably notable if you're trying to figure out what to pack.
What to pack: Pack a cardigan! You're probably thinking I'm crazy saying this given the fact that the temperatures are about 35-38C year-round, but air conditioning is also a year-round phenomenon and most places I went in Singapore kept it at about 24C! It's definitely possible to get an AC cold from going in and out of the cold/heat, so you will definitely want to bring it.
Carry your passport! There are a lot of benefits for tourists - deals/coupon books at mall information desks, tax free shopping, etc. If you're a gambler, you can get free entry to casinos with your passport.
Bottled tea is cheaper than bottled water. In convenience stores, I noticed that bottled tea is cheaper than water, it's just always interesting to me to see what different countries price lower than bottled water. (For example, Korea sells bottles of soju for cheaper than a bottle of water in convenience stores).
When paying, make sure you pass the bills/card with two hands, very common in Asia. I am used to paying with one hand, while touching my other hand to my elbow, but I think that's not what they do in Singapore?
I awkwardly bowed at everyone, also probably a living in Korea/Japan problem.
You might want to buy a refillable MRT card, depending on how long you'll stay and how often you'll take the MRT. It saves you quite a bit of money and is much easier to refill than the paper cards.

If you're visiting from Korea and come from America, there are some things to note if you want to stock up!
It's very easy to buy American potato chips here! (I'm a huge potato chips fan, if you haven't already noticed from my snacks posts trend). You can get salt and vinegar chips, sour cream and onion chips, Hot Cheetos, etc. and, my personal favorite, Hint of Lime tortilla chips. You can also get tons of other tortilla chips. Since I usually pack an extra snack tote for my carry-on, I was definitely kicking myself for not bringing one.
Vitamins - You can buy GNC vitamins here (as well as many other vitamins) at prices much lower than in Korea.
Sephora and Victoria's Secret - Both of these stores are in Singapore and are able to be found in almost every mall.


Singapore Tourist SIM CARD:
I purchased a local SIM at the airport for 30SGD (I shopped around and M1 had the cheapest price). It had a ridiculous amount of data (100 GB), 3000 mins of local calls, 50 mins of international calls, and unlimited messaging. It's valid for 10 days.
(I needed to buy a SIM right away because of some telecommuting work I had to do, etc., but if you can wait until you get into the city and are staying only a few days, you may want to wait until you get to the city and find a Singtel store to buy one since it'll save you 15 SGD).

If you're flying Scoot, they offer a 15 SGD Singtel card on the plane that's not available at the shop in the airport, but is available at all of the stores outside the airport. It's valid for 5 days and provides you with 4GB of data, 500 mins of local calls, and 30 mins of international calls. I was definitely kicking myself for not buying it on the plane.


Day -1:
I decided to take the Scoot Airways flight from Incheon (Korea) to Changi Airport (Singapore) by way of Taipei.

This flight leaves at 10:40 PM and arrives in Singapore at about 6 AM.

Let me start this off by saying, this is the first trip I have taken without having any sort of itinerary, like even a rough sketch of one. I mean, I had some restaurants I wanted to check out, but that was about it.

Secondly, my Singaporean friends were warning me that the weather had been SUPER weird for the past few weeks...so I semi did not know what to expect, but I did know the temperature was around 35C and like 98% humidity.

Day 1: 
Since I arrived at 6AM, I really had an entire day for day 1. My friend took a different flight and wasn't due to arrive until about 11PM, so I had a solo tour day. I ended up meeting my friend from Columbia that is currently pursuing her PhD at the National University of Singapore for the afternoon. :)

I decided since it was such an early arrival, I would just take the MRT to my hostel in Clarke Quay/Boat Quay. (5 Footway Inn - Boat Quay). We reserved a private room (more on that later) because it was only slightly more expensive than two beds in a dorm...by slightly more expensive, I mean like 3SGD per night (1 SGD = about  1 USD).

My room was obviously not available at 7:30AM, but luckily the hostel holds guests' bags for them for free (as long as you pick it up within the day).

Breakfast: I found a place near our hostel called Friendzlink Cafeteria that is known for its generous portions for only about 2SGD per meal. Although, it's not like spectacular or the best example of any of the foods, it's definitely noteworthy because of its prices. I got laksa and it was definitely enough to sustain me until my lunch appointment.

I then decided to explore the area a little. I crossed the Singapore River and went to Fort Canning Park. Since I'm coming from Seoul, seeing a really, really at this time of year green park was quite exciting. I walked around and checked out the historical buildings like Raffles Terrace, Raffles House, Lighthouse, Archaeological Dig, Registry of Marriages, Spice Garden, and the Gothic Gate.


At that time, I was definitely feeling both the heat and needed to replenish my energy from being awake almost all night and from walking around since like 6AM.

I had planned to check out the National Museum of Singapore, but it didn't open until 10AM and I didn't want to loiter in the courtyard for like 30 minutes. So, instead, I checked out the architecture and just found a cafe to get a coffee, and plan my day.

Then, I went over to the NUS campus. We had planned to go to a restaurant there, but it is closed on Mondays, (Note: a lot of restaurants are closed on Mondays!, so make sure you check the hours)
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My friend and I then just headed to Raffles City Mall for lunch, just to be back more by downtown. In the basement of Raffles City, there's a dim sum restaurant, Treasures, that my friend and her husband really love. As in, they ate there religiously every week the entire year last year. She said this time was the first time she had been back in 2017.

Then, we decided to walk from Raffles City to Marina Bay, which is actually quite close. We checked out the Merlion Park, Esplanade (performing arts center that is shaped like a durian), we then made our way across the spiral bridge to the Marina Bay Sands area.

At the end of this trek, we wanted air conditioning, so we first went into The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. She told me a lot of facts about the mall. For example, the Louis Vuitton store is the largest LV store in Asia.

Then, we just went into the cafe at the ArtScience Museum and just chatted.

I went back to Clarke Quay for dinner. I decided I wanted either chicken rice or bah kut teh (meat bone tea), so I went to Xiao Chen Gu Shi, which has both. After looking at the menu, I realized that bah kut teh was kind of an undertaking for one person...because I would definitely want to eat some vegetables, too. Luckily, they also had a chicken rice meal set deal, so I got that instead.

After walking around the Clarke Quay area a bit, I decided it was probably time to go check into my hostel and do some relaxing and studying.

Day 2:
We had some coffee and teas at our hostel and then headed out.

We started out at Ya Kun Kaya Toast, which is a chain store that sells coffee and kaya toast.

We then headed out to Little India to take in the sights, including some of the temples. Unfortunately, that was about the time the skies decided to open up (remember the weird weather...day 1 was completely dry even though the forecast called for rain). We saw the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (Hindu temple), Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (one of the olest temples in Singapore), then went to check out the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple (Thai Buddhist Temple/Monastery), and the Leong San  See Temple (Buddhist temple).

Then, we decided to walk to Arab Street.

Along the way, we decided we needed a coffee break. We found The ARC Coffee near Sultan Gate. Then, we decided we needed a snack break and decided on Indonesian food. We found Minang, which is legitimately right by the Masijid Sultan (Sultan Mosque - Sunni Islam). Because of the timing of our snack, we couldn't enter the Sultan Mosque (it is only open to the public before 4PM), so we just admired the architecture from the outside. We were also there just as the call to worship started.

Then, we walked around the surrounding area a bit including Arab Street and Haji Street (hipster cafe and boutique area).

We headed to Chinatown to meet some Singaporean friends I met during my studies at Yonsei University. We realized during that meal that it had been almost 7 years since we saw each other last...where did the time go?

We went to the Chinatown Food Street, which has stalls for some of all the "greatest hits" of Singaporean food. It's definitely a tourist trap area, but...we were tourists after all, so that's to be expected. We had the BBQ Stingray, Hokkien Mee, Carrot Cake, Chicken Wings, Singaporean Shaved Ice, and Tiger Beer. 

After dinner, we did a short walking tour and saw the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the Sri Mariamman Temple (oldest HIndu temple in Singapore). Our day 2 of our trip actually coincided with a Hindu festival, I am not sure which festival it was, sorry I am ignorant about festivals! If you know what festival was taking place on 28 March 2017, please let me know! I am so interested to know about the festival I was able to witness.

Then we went back to our hostel to take in the Boat Quay night view on our last night at our hostel.


Day 3:
Started out the day at Food Anatomy, which is a cafe that serves "deconstructed" dishes in cubes of rice.
We then wandered around Tanjung Pagar area a while (see the first picture) and headed to the Group Therapy cafe for a coffee break.

We headed next to the Red Dot Design Museum and were able to see a lot of the 2016 award winners.

Then, we headed to the Amoy Street Food Centre. There, I had the Singapore Ramen at A Noodle Store, which is featured in the 2016 Michelin Guide on the Bib Gourmand List. It's $7 SGD and is definitely worth it. It's a little more expensive than other hawker stalls, but is worth it. I waited about 15-20 minutes, but I heard from those behind me in line that the line is usually much longer and moves much slower, so I lucked out. We were there right after the lunch rush, it was about 2:00PM. (I asked my friends and they said the lunch breaks are staggered in Singapore and are usually from about 11:30 to about 1:30 or so).

Then, we went to Suntec City to just do some relaxing and shopping. I headed to Tuk Tuk Cha for a Thai Milk Tea. I also went to the grocery store in the basement to pick up some Owl Brand Instant Coffee and Instant Teh Tarik.

Then, we walked over to Marina Bay Sands area to go to the Gardens at the Bay. On the way, we walked past the Singapore Flyer. We decided just wanted to go to the Cloud Forest (16SGD for one observatory for non-residents; 12SGD for residents; discounts available for going to more than 1 observatory). You DEFINITELY want a jacket or sweater if you're going to the Gardens at the Bay. They aren't kidding when it says they are air conditioned.

We walked back along the bay to the Bayfront Station and took it back to City Hall Station to meet my high school friend (and host for the last 2 nights) for dinner at Ninja Cut. We then went to Tess Bar and Kitchen for a after dinner drink before heading to my friend's house.

Day 4: 
This was our last full day in Singapore and also the day it rained the ENTIRE DAY (which is super weird for Singapore, apparently it usually rains for only a couple of hours at a time).

We started out our day at Orchard Road and did some window shopping, trying to wait out the rain (I almost called it eye shopping, since that's what Koreans call it in Konglish).

Then, we went back to Little India because we wanted Indian food for lunch and also hung out in a semi-newish small cafe for a while to read while waiting for the rain to stop.

After lunch, it was STILL raining, so we went back to Raffles City because it was near my friend's office. We stopped at Bonheur Pattisserie to buy some macarons! I was so excited because I was able to get the cute Cookie Monster macaron :)

Then, I did some shopping for gifts.

We then stopped off at The Coffee Academics, which is a cafe from Hong Kong. I had the March special beverage - the Coconut Sugar Macchiato. We stayed there a while doing some more reading.

Then, I headed across the street to Chijmes. This place was really interesting to me. It was once a Catholic covenant and has a Gothic chapel. Unfortunately, it has been converted into a restaurant/entertainment complex, but they did preserve parts of the chapel and you can enter it (and also rent it for an event).

I continued my tour of Catholic churches. Across the street from Chijmes is the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, which is the oldest Roman Catholic church in Singapore. When I entered, they were in the middle of practicing the organ music for mass, so it was nice to listen and enjoy the music for a while.

I continued my walking tour and walked past the Raffles Hotel (currently under exterior renovation) and the War Memorial Park.

Then, we met up with my friend after she finished work and headed to Tanjung Pagar for authentic Singapore chili crab. We went to Mellben Signature for chili crab. My friend said this place is super good the prices are not tourist prices. We ended up paying 44 SGD per person for tons of food. She said that at some of the tourist places like JUMBO, for example, people expect to easily pay at least 85 SGD per person.

We then went to Marina Bay Sands Hotel to celebrate our last night in Singapore at Ce La Vi. (TIP: Free cover charge for everyone on Thursday; Ladies' night on Wednesday - just make sure to check to see if it is reserved for a private party.) The views were great~!

Day 5: 
So, Scoot and Emirates got in a minor accident the day before we left, which left Scoot with one less plane, which meant we ended up being delayed by 4 hours (4PM vs. 12 noon) (nice for the Singapore end, but terrible for the Seoul arrival end - we ended up arriving in Incheon at 2AM - the difference between 9PM and 2AM is quite great). (News article)

It was fine for me because I wanted to meet up with my college friend who had just moved to Singapore. I wanted to hear about her expat life as a local hire and just basically catch up after like 6 years.

Then, I headed to the airport. :)
The airport is kind of strange, but it is nice.
Strange because of how the security is set up. Yes, it's kind of more efficient, but also less efficient at the same time. Security checks don't happen until you get to the gate, which I could see being efficient if people were prepared. Also, you can't bring any beverages purchased in the airport into the plane, just as a heads up.

I will be writing an overall negative review of Scoot for next week's post! Stay tuned.

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