Finally! I Write About Our Singapore Trip!

Finally! I can’t believe I’ll actually get this done! I’m usually bad about blogging about my trips and there is no better example of that than my last trip to Hong Kong earlier this year. It’s almost the end of the year and I’ve yet to write a blog entry on it, so this is awesome progress!

Last week, from October 26 to 30, we were at Singapore. It was a special trip for a couple of reasons: 1) Noel was finally with us for an overseas trip. 2) It was also my first time in Singapore. 3) We were going to Universal Studios. And 4) We’ve got family showing us around! Look at some of our pictures from the trip at the very top of this entry. We had a lot fun, really. Singapore’s a great place to go on vacation. Here are just some of my thoughts concerning the trip and Singapore itself:

  1. Tiger Airways. They can probably give you the best budget rates for Singapore but also at a price. We discovered this just a few days before our trip. They emailed us that they were rescheduling our return trip to Manila as the flight we scheduled was canceled. Because of the rescheduling, we lost a whole day in Singapore which could have been spent going to more places or resting. Plus, our new flight schedule back to Manila was at sometime past 1am! Crazy! You could say that this is typical for budget fares but come on! Our original return trip schedule was a cushy 5pm! We tried to get a hold of their to call center service to see if it’s possible to make other arrangements, but it’s practically impossible to get a hold of them! It was awful. And on top of that the plane was cramped and the food was so expensive and wasn’t even that good. It was really unfortunate.
  2. Our Tour Guides.  We had relatives in Singapore and we couldn’t be luckier. Kuya Josh, one of our older cousins, currently lives and works there so he showed us around. He was so accommodating the whole time we were there and the trip wouldn’t be the same without him. The first day, he toured us around exhaustively all around Singapore and guided us through the sometimes confusing paths and systems of the MRT and buses which we grew to enjoy. The next three days he wasn’t as present, but he was still just a text or call away if we needed anything. We also met more of our cousins who were younger there and their parents, Tito Alan and Tita Eeme. They also showed us around and even brought us to Malaysia for a bit to go shopping at Johor Premium Outlets. They were also very warm and accommodating, even having us rest and have dinner at their home. And our younger cousins were just fun and adorable. Kuya Josh, Tito Alan and Tita Eeme also shared some useful insights about living and working in Singapore which I think are quite valuable to Noel and I who may or may not find ourselves with an opportunity to find work there in the future.
  3. The Hot Weather. It’s incredibly hot in Singapore! I don’t think I was very prepared for the heat, but thank goodness I decided to bring two pairs of shorts with me. I don’t think I would have survived if I had nothing to wear but pants the whole time I was there. So for people planning to go, sun block, water and an umbrella are must-haves.
  4. Public Transportation and Getting Around. I love the public transportation systems in Singapore. Everything is just so clean and efficient. You can practically take the MRT everywhere you want to go and buses are easy enough to keep track of if you know how. I guess it’s a good way of compensating since owning cars in Singapore is pretty pricey. Having an EZ LINK card is a good idea if you’re going to be staying for a while or if you plan on going around a lot as it would help pay for your fares easily. Just give it a tap on the gates to trains or the designated place on buses and you’re good to go. I certainly found it very convenient as we went around using the MRT. Definitely better than buying tickets or whatever at each station or dropping notes for buses. And can I just say how I love how easy it is to get around using the online navigation systems? No wonder everyone has smart phones.
  5. Customer Service. Singaporeans are quite nice. They greet you with a smile and politely assist you when you ask for help. It’s great. I was kind of wary about customer service in Singapore since in Hong Kong people aren’t as warm. So it was a nice surprise to be greeted with a warm smile and a cheerful greeting when you approach shops and stalls to buy or inquire about things. Plus they speak English so even better.
  6. Filipinos! As expected, there were Filipinos most everywhere! A Filipina helped us buy coffee, another one served us our pizza and drinks in the hotel restaurant and two others assisted us with buying souvenirs! A Chinese sales lady even spoke to me in Tagalog when I was buying an umbrella! Filipinos are really everywhere and it’s kind of amusing. You’re sitting in the MRT and suddenly someone’s chatting away on their cellphone in Tagalog across from you. It’s kind of jarring but in a good way. Home is not that far away, it seems.
  7. Malls. Singaporeans also seem to be fond of malling and shopping if the sheer number of malls and outlets are any indication. I read somewhere that shopping is the second favorite pastime to eating so I guess the numbers make sense. They probably also love malls because of the air conditioning, haha. But then there are also the genuine merchandise from famous brands there. I actually found two designer bags from Kate Spade and Burberry and they were on sale but they both separately cost my salary for one month anyways. It’s nice to dream. 😀
  8. FOOD! You knew this was coming. 😀 Singaporean food is delicious and I love how the food scene in Singapore is also quite cosmopolitan. I love the local favorites, though, like chicken rice, cereal crabs, roti prata and kaya toast. S$1 ice cream eaten while walking down Orchard Road was one foodie experience I would always remember fondly. I would do a lot to get myself another cup or glass of kopi, cold or hot.  I also love how it’s so easy to have access to Singaporean, Indian, Thai, Korean, Chinese and Malaysian food all at once if you go to food courts or hawker centers. A big bowl of noodles with dumplings, raw egg, greens and anchovies was my favorite breakfast there. Cold wintermelon lime juice was kind of weird but was kind of delicious after a while. And please, if you can, drop by Din Tai Fung for their signature (LEGENDARY) xiao long bao. You won’t regret it.
  9. Universal Studios. I think I may be disappointing you by saying that the best time I had in Singapore, after eating most everything I could get my hands on, was being in Universal Studios. Sure, I wasn’t really into riding the rides and I was definitely not into wandering around under the heat of the Singaporean sun but ANCIENT EGYPT. I love The Mummy movies and so I really enjoyed being in the Ancient Egypt zone of Universal Studios. I took pictures with Rick O’ Connell and the structures they had there. I even saw the Scorpion King and other Egyptians walking around. I didn’t ride the Revenge of the Mummy because I wasn’t really keen on roller coasters, haha. And I bought a souvenir, The Mummy notebook! I also enjoyed Far, Far Away. Too bad I didn’t get to take a picture with Puss. That would have been cute. We got pictures with Oscar, Bert and Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, though. I also got to watch the Streetboys perform which was a treat. 😀
  10. Changi Airport. It was huge. And unfortunately our check in was so early in the morning, we weren’t allowed an early check in so we can see most everything inside. The fun stuff are beyond the Immigration lines and that just sucked. Maybe next time.

Obviously, I would love to come back to Singapore someday, whether it be for work or vacation. I love how progressive it is and really has so much to offer, if only you get started well in terms of looking for work. Also, I was really happy that Noel was able to come along to an overseas trip with us because I really wanted him to see how different it is in other countries. We hoped that he would gain more insight about a lot of things from the trip and I think he did which was good. Here’s to hoping we have more international trips together in the future. 😀

Baguio June 22-25, 2012 [Day 4 and the Aftermath]

Look at that face!

The last day was sad, man. I always felt like that when I leave somewhere I really enjoyed. I felt the same way when I was leaving Hong Kong the last two times I went. After a while of getting used to everything, I didn’t want to leave. And why would I want to? I was living in a hotel with an awesome breakfast buffet and the climate was so niiiiiice. Seriously, I didn’t want to leave.

Our spot!

I already miss the sights! The climate that was so perfect I wanted to take it back home with me! The biscuits and mushroom gravy! I got those feelings where I wanted to stay there and actually live and work there. Manila is just so polluted. Manila is just so hot! I didn’t want to go home, okay?!

Ah, but it must be done. I had to come home and experience going back to the daily grind. My days in Baguio will be well remembered and I already am looking forward to going back hopefully sometime soon. I hope Le Monet has promos again, haha.

One more Twilight scenery pic for the FEELS!

Baguio June 22-25, 2012 [Day 3]

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– We didn’t wake up early today. We decided to sleep in for a bit before heading down to breakfast. I think I ate too much for breakfast, but I guess it couldn’t be helped. Breakfast buffets tended to do that to people who are helpless in avoiding their lure.

– Le Monet has a beautiful garden to the side. It has a stone path, ponds and gazebo-like spaces where you can sit and just take in the peacefulness of the place. I wanted to take the time to sit there and read, but alas, it was open air and the sun and I were not friends. I took the time to take some pictures and after a while of capturing the scenery, I felt that was something was missing. Sometimes, places like this needed to be photographed with people, so after a while, I got Mama to come down and take pictures with me. The pictures came out better after that.

– Some of the morning and afternoon were spent watching one of Mama’s Korean dramas, The Rooftop Prince. It’s about a Prince who gets sent to modern day Korea along with his retainers. They have to solve a mystery before they are able to get back to their time. And of course a Korean drama won’t be complete if it doesn’t have a romance on the side. It’s cute, hahaha. I like it better than my favorite Korean actor, Jan Geun Seuk’s, Love Rain. It’s just more fun.

– At around 3pm, we set off to Mile High to find pasalubong for Kuya Arnel and Yla, Noel’s girlfriend, but to no avail. Nothing just seems right to give to them. In the end, we left with nothing.

– We headed back into the city proper to go to the Cafe By the Ruins. It’s a well-known cafe built around the remains of the old Civil Governor’s home. It has become a hotspot for the local arts scene and live performances and exhibits are often scheduled for viewing there. I read somewhere that the place offered the best native hot chocolate so of course we ordered one of their chocolate drinks, Rizal’s Tsokolate-e. Cafe By the Ruins was also known for the bread that they make in-house, so of course we ordered one of the breads: Ernie’s Camote Bread which came with a small tab of liver pate. Mama has been craving vegetable soup so she ordered this soup with spinach and mushrooms. I loved the rustic feel of the restaurant and I enjoyed being there, feeling like I have become a part of something historical, artsy and awesome. The camote bread was delicious, very soft and chewy and it went well with the pate. Mama’s soup was perfect for the rainy afternoon that we were having. The vegetables were very fresh and the soup was flavorful without being salty. As for the chocolate, I was a bit underwhelmed. It was made of native tablea as they said, but maybe the carabao’s milk robbed it of the thickness that I came to associat with my native hot chocolate. I felt like I had better hot chocolate back in Calaca, Batangas, hometown of my father, and it was definitely cheaper than that one I had in Cafe By the Ruins. Despite that disappointment, I thought the trip was well worth it. The ambiance was perfect for a rainy day and so was the soup and bread. Plus the table beside us had Angel Aquino. It made for a pretty different experience than I expected.

– We went home after that for a good night’s rest for tomorrow’s 6-hour trip back home to Manila. We watched more of The Rooftop Prince. I didn’t want to go home tomorrow. I’ve fallen in love with Baguio and what it had to offer. Alas, but we must. This was just a vacation and unfortunately it must come to an end. At least I have memories of my visit and the possibility that I could come back sometime in the future.

Baguio June 22-25, 2012 [Day 2]

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– We woke up early to take a walk around. We finally hied ourselves out of the hotel at around 6:30am and by then, the sun was already out. Still, it was cool and it was wonderful to be able to walk around even if it was so early. Walking around Camp John Hay can be quite exhausting, though. I guess it comes with the fact that most of the time, you’re walking up and not on a flat road like I’m used to. The scenery was worth it, however. It was green everywhere and the trees were really, really tall. I couldn’t help the Twilight flashbacks because of the scenery, but that was okay. It made it much more memorable, also funny in a way.

– We were finally able to find Mile High, which is just a stone’s throw away from The Manor. Mile High is the place to go within Camp John Hay to go shopping. The shops weren’t open yet, but you’d probably be impressed at the selection of shops. A lot of brand names are there, including Mango, which probably says something. The only shops open were this souvenir store where we got Noel’s requested pasalubong of a necklace and this restaurant called …Everything Nice.

– Going back to the hotel meant it was time for breakfast. I love a hotel that has a “free” breakfast buffet. Le Monet has a good breakfast buffet and my favorite part of it was the biscuits with mushroom gravy. I don’t think I’ve had biscuits and gravy anywhere else, so I think that’s really a highlight and a plus of this hotel. If possible, I’d love to come back and stay here again.

– We ended up stuffing ourselves so much we had to take a while to rest. It was probably a bad idea to rest too long as I really felt lazy about going out again. I got over it eventually though and we headed down to the city proper to have mass at the Baguio Cathedral. I was so disappointed about the look of the Cathedral. It’s… Pink. I just don’t like the look of it. I like seeing the churches in places I visit and Baguio Cathedral is a letdown.

– The stairs leading down from the Cathedral was so high, I was really scared of slipping. Eventually, there weren’t any accidents and I managed to get down safely. Getting down from the stairs revealed Session Road, the place to be when you’re looking for places to eat or buy all sorts of things. Walking down Session Road with the crowd reminded me of Hong Kong, especially given the cool temperature. I kept expecting to hear people speak Chinese and was surprised every time when they spoke Filipino, haha. We passed by Star Rice, a classic Chinese restaurant that was very well known for its authentic Chinese offerings. Too bad we were still full, so we didn’t stop to eat. We did stop by a stall where they were selling DVDs, though. PFFFT.

– It’s really polluted in the city proper and so it didn’t take long for Mama to hail a taxi so we could go back to Camp John Hay. She found out that there was a way to see Wright Park and The Mansion while going back to the hotel. On the way, we were also able to see a bit of the Teacher’s Camp. I mentioned before that in the hotel, an AC isn’t used. It’s the same thing in taxis. A window was open as we were being driven around and it was enough to keep us cool through the whole scenic ride. Wright Park reminded me of Intramuros, with the long manmade “river”in the middle. The Mansion was the Baguio residence of the President, so obviously it was grand and stately. We were also fortunate that we got to pass the exclusive Baguio Country Club, the first ever country club in the Philippines. As we rode the taxi home through these sites, we were also able to see old American Colonial-style houses. When the Philippines was colonized by the United States, the Americans discovered Baguio and fell in love with it, probably because of the weather and the environment. A lot of them built houses there and so their legacy remained in the old Colonial houses seen most everywhere in Baguio.

 (Unfortunately, we didn’t get to take pictures along Session Road, Wright Park, The Mansion and the Baguio Country Club. Session Road had too many people walking around and we only passed by everything else very quickly. Our picture of Mile High didn’t really appeal to me. It had my face right smack on the side, lol. Too bad, really.)

Baguio – June 22-25, 2012 [Day 1]

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(Just came back from Baguio yesterday. I like to write diaries of my thoughts and experiences whenever I go somewhere for vacation, etc. so these entries were written while I was still there.)

– I hate waking up so early, but it seemed I don’t have a choice. Mom decided to take the regular bus to Baguio since it left earlier than the bus that didn’t make stops. I had to get up at 4am. That wasn’t fun, but it had to be done.

– I had an inner debate with the Steve Rogers in my head about bringing my laptop along. He was all, “You’re going on vacation. What would you need that computer for? Go out and take a walk–/old man nagging forever~” I think a Tony Stark appeared there for a minute to agree with him. He even had a martini glass. SO CLASSY. To then demand why I didn’t have a tablet LIKE A PERSON WHO’S NOT A CAPSICLE. He even flashed me the latest Stark tablet. If only Stark tablets actually existed. .__. Of course I ended up bringing my laptop along.

– We were able to get on the bus with time to spare despite leaving the house very late. That’s Filipino Time for you, haha.

– Watched John Carter on the bus. It was pretty cool what they did about Mars, I mean Barsoom, and everything. Not bad for a sci-fi flick. Plus the heroine’s hot, lol. The second movie, The Wrath of the Titans, didn’t interest me much so I took a nap.

– The view from the bus once we got on the last leg of the trip (6 hours on a bus…) was amazing. Who knew mountains could be so awe-inspiring?

– The weather in Baguio is niiiiice. Despite the fact that it’s sunny, it’s not blistering hot unlike in Manila. It’s even better at night where I actually had to wear a jacket and a scarf, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

– Had lunch at one of the publicized food places as a must-eat at Baguio: Te Quiero Tapas Bar and Restaurant. I think they only wrote about it in that write up because they were promoting Victory Liner, whose drop off station is just across it. I had a Spanish Tortilla with a glass of wine. Saucy, haha. It was yummy! Mama had chocolate mousse and coffee because she ate in the bus. The place itself had a nice ambience. It could be an ideal place for a date. I found it funny that I had to go to Baguio to have tapas when there’s Barcino in Makati. But then again, Barcino is probably pricier. We didn’t spend as much as we could have, but it’s probably due to the fact that the restaurant didn’t use an AC. I observed later on that not a lot of establishments in Baguio used an AC.

– We stayed at the new Le Monet hotel in Camp John Hay. The rooms are pretty. The beds are big and comfy.The design reminded me so much of Novotel back in Hong Kong for some reason. The Internet kind of sucks, but I guess you can’t complain about that when it’s complimentary. I’ll tell you about the buffet breakfast tomorrow.

– We still had some time before dinner so Mama dragged me off to The Manor, the hotel which people actually think of when they think of Camp John Hay. I love the place. The grounds are so well maintained. Again, the place doesn’t seem to be using any ACs. We had dinner there (Brocolli soup with cream, Manor Club Sandwich and Blueberry Cheesecake) and enjoyed the place. We took a lot of pictures because really, the place is just so beautiful. We especially enjoyed it when the fog started to come down and it was starting to get really cold. We actually rushed out to take pictures with the fog. People probably thought we were crazy, lol.

– It was already dark by the time we headed home. We were supposed to go to the Filling Station, this place where you can buy souvenirs and more food, but the way was too dark. For some reason, they don’t have any lights along the road. We decided not to continue. It didn’t seem to be a good idea to wander around in the dark like that. It’s really cold by then, though, but I loved it. Why can’t the weather in Manila be like this?