Our first day in Singapore literally started at around 3:00 am of September 10 when we started deplaning our flight at Changi Airport Terminal 2. After being cleared by Singapore Immigration and Customs, we stepped out of the CIQ (Customs-Immigration-Quarantine) Area and went to find the Ground Transport Desk in the Arrival Hall. Since MRT and buses are no longer available for transport to the city at dawn, the Airport Shuttle is our cheapest choice to get to our hotel. For SGD 9 (fixed rate), the Airport shuttle dropped us off at our accommodation somewhere at Jalan Besar Road.
Waking up the next sunrise in a completely new country was something of a ‘too good to be true’ experience for me. Knowing that the last few days before our flight were really the stressing ones due to work constraints, travel documents to prepare and finalizing our schedules, the thought of finally making this Singapore trip possible just made me very happy.
To start our day, we ate our breakfast at a fast food chain in a nearby mall, then hurriedly took off to the adjacent Farrer Park MRT station to start our walking tour for the day. But before setting foot on the train, we had to buy our tickets first at the station’s automated ticket machines. Farrer Park to Chinatown one-way ticket cost SGD 1.80 per person.
For our first day in the so-called “Garden City”, we opted to explore the historic side of Singapore first. This then brought us to both the Chinatown and the Civic districts. Chinatown could have been scheduled on our last day since it’s one of the best places to shop for souvenirs in Singapore. Yet, we had to buy our Singapore Tourist Passes first before we get too touristy. Upon learning that the TransitLink office in Chinatown MRT Station is the earliest to open among others, we decided to purchase our STPs from there, and just proceed touring around Chinatown district after.
FYI: A Singapore Tourist Pass, is a travel card that offers tourists ride-all-you-can travel on basic bus services and trains. You can check my Singapore Travel Guide post for more information about Singapore Tourist Pass.
After purchasing our STPs, as I’ve mentioned earlier, we immediately stepped out of the crowded MRT station and went to see Chinatown.
As vibrant as its name suggests, Chinatown is a bustling domain in downtown Singapore where modern architecture meets those of the rich past of the Chinese culture in this country. This place is a mix of five foot ways, grimy lanes and street hawkers. While many see this particular district as one of the best budget shopping zones in Singapore, Chinatown is more of a home to beautiful temples. Here’s how we maximized half of our day exploring this neighbourhood:
BUDDHA TOOTH RELIC TEMPLE AND MUSEUM – With rich interior designs and some in-depth exhibits, Buddha Tooth Relic is a Tang-styled Chinese Buddhist temple that got it’s name from what Buddhists regards as the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic. (Open daily 7:00 am – 7:00 pm; Free admission)
SINGAPORE CITY GALLERY – is the best place to visit if you want to learn the physical transformation of Singapore for the past 51 years. With over 50 audiovisual and interactive exhibits in this three-floored gallery, there’s no better place to learn Singapore’s development than here. (Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:00am – 5:00pm; Free Admission)
You may have deduced right now that I’m a ‘temple/museum addict’. Hahaha. But I really am not. I just wanted to prove in this trip that Singapore isn’t just about the Merlion, Marina Bay Sands, Orchard Road or the Universal Studios. There’s more to see and learn in this country if you just know where to go.
So, in continuation… Because of the ‘history hype’ that I am, we decided to visit next the Civic/Colonial district of Singapore. How we got there? Very easy. We walked to Telok Ayer MRT Station (just a bit of walk from Thian Hock Keng Temple, passing by Telok Ayer Green and Indian Museum Heritage Centre) and using our Singapore Tourist Passes, traveled to Chinatown using the MRT Downtown Line (DT18-DT19). From Chinatown, we transferred a train in the North East Line and traveled to Dhoby Ghaut (NE4-NE6). And from Dhoby Ghaut, we transferred to another train in the North South Line and traveled to City Hall Station (NS24-NS25). Please refer to below map of Singapore’s MRT/LRT system to better understand the above-mentioned directions.
‘A walk down the past’ is the exact description of a tour around Singapore’s Civic district. This is the place where Singapore’s historical, architectural and cultural heritage began. Virtually walk with us on Singapore’s ‘memory lane’ as I’ll share to you how we tripped the historic structures of this city.
Cross the Cavenagh Bridge and you’re in front of one of the most renowned hotels in Singapore – the Fullerton Hotel. If there’s one thing worth tagging along this hotel’s name, it’s the unusual sculpture of five bronze boys jumping into the river in front of it – the First Generation. Created by local sculptor Chong Fat Cheong, this oddity represents the important role that the Singapore River have played on the lives of Singapore’s first immigrants.
Talking about how lucky we have been on our first day, we fairly thought that we still need to embark on another bus or train to get to the Merlion Park. Fortunately, we decided to explore more ahead of the First Generation. And right there, in front of me is a signage that says “This way to Merlion Park.” Oh yeah, talking about convenience! Hahaha.
Compared to the previous areas of Singapore we’ve explored earlier, the Marina Bay district is quite the contrary to all of them. Teeming with modern structures, state-of-the-art buildings and a panoramic scenery, Marina Bay is the perfect place to relax for a bit and just be awed by the fantastic views of the Singapore River and the surrounding skyscrapers.In here, you can get a 360-degrees view of about everything that Singapore can brag about in terms of modern architecture:
MERLION PARK – Half-fish, half-lion, this body symbolizes Singapore as a ‘fishing village’ then. Facing east, the head of the Merlion statue represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura, or ‘lion city’ in Malay.
MARINA BAY SANDS – Undeniably, among the best of Singapore’s skyline. Completed with the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, this luxurious resort offers an incredible vista of Singapore through a giant observation deck which houses a garden, first-class restaurants and of course, the famous infinity swimming pool. SkyPark Observation Deck Opening Hours: Mon-Thu (9:30am-10:00pm), Fri-Sun (9:30am-11:00pm). Ticket Prices: S$23 (adults), S$17 (children 2-12 y/o), S$2o (senior citizens).
After our Marina Bay ‘invasion’, we decided to go back to our hotel to catch some needed breath. It wasn’t part of our pre-planned itinerary but we felt like we really needed to rest even just for a couple of minutes before finding the best spot to view our first sunset in Singapore. And talking about that, we chose to tick-off Gardens by the Bay in our list and admire up-close the whopping Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
If you (my dear readers) intend to follow this itinerary, however, the nearest MRT Station to Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Gardens by the Bay is just two stops away from the Merlion Park. Here’s how to do it:
From the Merlion Park, walk to One Raffles Place and proceed to Raffles Place MRT Station (NS26) (please ask for directions to be certain). From there, take the North South Line going to Marina Bay (NS27), then change train. Take the Circle Line Train (CE2) and disembark at the first stop which is at the Bayfront MRT Station (CE1). Once you’re already there, it will be very easy for you to find your way as the station is full of signages directing you either to the Hotel or to the Gardens.
Gardens by the Bay is a nature park in the midst of central Singapore that spans up to 101 hectares of land. Undoubtedly one of the most visited spots in Singapore, Gardens by the Bay offers breath-taking attractions and views. (For more information about Gardens by the Bay, you can visit their website at www. gardensbythebay.com.sg)
Since its already late afternoon by the time we got there, we haven’t covered so much but nonetheless, we toured the ones we want to experience the most – to get up-close with the Supertrees while witnessing the sunset at OCBC Skyway. As the sun prepares to go down, we proceeded right away to the area where we can purchase our tickets for the OCBC Skyway. For S$8.00 apiece, we we’re able to finally spend our first sunset out of the Philippines in a skyway hanging 22 meters above the ground, exactly as planned.
It’s one of the best experiences I had in Singapore and I won’t mind going over the long queues once again to experience this aerial walkway for the second time.
So there you go! I know we kind of overwhelmed our first day with all the sights we’ve been. But really, we have no choice as our days in Singapore are very much numbered. I’m just so glad this whole time that our plans turned out to be fine and that every minute of our first day we’re put to good use. Hahaha 😀 😀 See you in my next entry brothers and sisters in passion. 😉