I never went to Singapore. True. So, when the opportunity came, or more like the idea just came cross my mind, I immediately booked return tickets for a long weekend getaway.
It was during the Independence Day long weekend, 17-19 August 2018. Since Singapore is where the headquarter of a corporate I work with lies, I somehow expect that someday a project will take me there temporarily. But the project is not available at the moment, and I’m grateful anyway because I don’t need to go there under the premise of working. It means I can go there fully as a tourist, pack only the essential non-business clothes, and wander aimlessly like a backpacker does. Well, a backpacker has an itinerary, so did I. What I mean is more of a solo travelling hype, embracing the road and scenery and being honest with yourself.
So I went.
I rarely solo traveled. Last time I did it was in Beijing in 2015, and it was not totally solo because I had a company co-worker to accompany me there and she suggested what locals did and I followed through, with her occasionally in the picture. So, this time was special. Singapore is known as one of the safest country in the world where female solo traveler can wander around, out and about without no on in the middle of your business.
My outbound trip was by AirAsia on 17 August 2018. I initially planned to stay at my aunt’s apartment there, but due to some reasons she wouldn’t be available during my stay so I booked a hostel. Frankly, the accommodation cost in Singapore was too dear for me. For that same price, I could book 2 nights in Jakarta/Bali area. Anyway, a traveler must go so I booked the hostel.
The Day 1 itinerary is as follows.
I landed at Changi airport late in the afternoon at Terminal 4. From there, I took the shuttle bus to Terminal 2, because several flights of stairs down, the MRT station lies. From Changi, I took the MRT to Chinatown to put my baggage at the hostel: Beary Nice Pod Hostel. Luckily, the hostel is just opposite of the Chinatown MRT station exit.
The hostel was nice, packed with single pods of backpackers worldwide. The pod is basically a part of a bunkbed. I got the upper one with my locker at the bottom of the lower pod. The stairs were sturdy. My hands haven’t been accustomed to bunkbed stairs for a long time since my offshore days, so I got clumsy. I almost twisted my ankle when I landed on the floor due to unprepared landing. Anyway, after several times climbing up and down the stairs, I tried my best position not to fall. The bunkbed was without rim at the feet area, so don’t leave your belongings near the feet area or they would fall down hard to the floor. Rest assured, the left and right border were the room wall and a board separating from another pod so you’d be okay. There is a rolling curtain at the feet area to give you some privacy. Welcome back offshore life!
- My take on the hostel
My first evening was well-spent at Chinatown. I ate a lot of food and fell full so I came to a stop. Taking some pictures using my Instax 9 and bought some roasted macadamia to bring back to the hostel, which I didn’t end up eating because impatience of cracking the shell bothered me. Oh, I visited Tintin store, too. What a reminiscent of my childhood.
Before I ended my day, I wandered around aimlessly at Mosque street, a street behind my hostel. I caught a book café still lit at that time, and took a pic with my Instax. The flash surprised a lady sitting at the far end of the café on a chair and table. She rose and greeted me outside. I was once afraid if she wouldn’t like to have her café picture taken. After all, I was careful during my trip in SG due to its reputation of a “fine city”, where every mistake could get you fined.
Luckily, she was happy to pique my interest and she invited me in. The café was called The Moon SG and she was working late at night to prepare its soft launch. Yes, guys, the hipster café wasn’t open but I was invited randomly, just because of an Instax pic. I ended up giving her another shot of my Instax, capturing the miniature red telephone box. She became a peaceful quiet companion while she was working on her Mac and my eyes were fixated on one of her collection: Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi. We exchanged some talks, then I excused myself.
Day 1 ended, I drifted to sleep.
Day 2 itinerary is jam-packed with a lot of walking. You can expect I went to be with swollen calves that night. It was 100% true.
In the morning, I had breakfast at the hostel. It was a simple breakfast of either toasts or cereal with milk. You can choose both but I only had my cereal, since I expected to feast at Tiong Bahru hawker centre.
I spent the morning at Chinatown Point, a mall within a walking distance from my hostel. The only reason was to visit Sa Sa, a local drugstore point. I just wanted to see if anything caught my eyes, because what SG Watson or Guardian have are usually no newcomers in Jakarta Watson or Guardian.
After that, a Japanese patisserie, Chateraise, caught my eye and I had a scoop of matcha adzuki ice cream that morning. Ice cream finished, my feet took me to the Chinatown MRT station. To Tiong Bahru station we advanced.
I didn’t go straight to the hawker centre once I hopped off Tiong Bahru MRT station because there was Innisfree shop when I ascended. Jakarta also has Innisfree stores but hey, it’s the tourist vibe that called my name. I purchased some hair care products there, then moved on. I walked from the station to the hawker centre, asking some passersby. TB hawker centre is at the 2nd floor of TB market and it is located inside a housing compound, so the route there was quiet and not touristy. Super local, and I loved the walk. The scenery was multi-storeys housings but not modern apartments.
At TB hawker centre, I feasted. Enjoying some SG signature dishes, I found my stomach full and happy. SG foods are not that far from Indonesian cuisine as the assimilation and acculturation ingrained, so there was nothing too strange for me.
Having finished my Kopi O from a food stall there, I headed to the MRT station again to get off at Raffles’ Place station. A passersby told me to cross the road because the Merlion Park was somewhere nearby. I stopped at The Fullerton, an old building that amazed me. This must be something important, I thought, because of the grande atmosphere around it. I got in and was welcome by a lavish extravagant lobby and some guests dining at the restaurant – which I was totally sure the price of the food wasn’t something I would fancy. The Fullerton was apparently an important government office starting as a post office during the British era. It witnessed plenty of political moments defining future Singapore.
An exhibition area stopped my track in the hall, and the officers there greeted me. It was an exhibition of the handcrafts created by people with terminal illness mentored by a foundation. The officers, from that foundation, explained that the underlying theme of all of the crafts was the spirit and passion to make life meaningful. The patients were in severe illness but they conveyed their message to the world that life is something to be thankful for. I was struck. The crafts were displayed next to the creator’s profile, and believe me when I say it was a heart-wrenching journey to observe the craft one by one. The one that successfully cut onion near me was about a patient with a depression (plus some other phsyical illness). She created a jellyfish from the capsules of meds she had to take. Next to the jellyfish, a board displayed 12 images of depression symptoms she suffered through an animal cartoon depiction. You know what I instantly remembered? The Owl cartoon I followed in Pinterest, about an owl and his encouraging words. I broke into silent tears because I didn’t like to cry in front of a stranger. I occasionally replied his statement, and showed my agreement that the world still saw mental illness as a vague illness, unacknowledged compared to the physical illness.
Out of that emotion-wrecking journey, I descended the escalator to go to the tunnel connecting The Fullerton Hotel to Merlion Park. After a tunnel of historical photos, I ascended to the park, yeay. Finally, I saw the smaller Merlion (the big one is in Sentosa Island), and took some images of it by my phone and Instax.
From Merlion, I went to the Marina Bay just to see the area around the MRT station. My curiosity of how the Grab office looked like called me there, but I didn’t keep the address with me so I went back to the MRT station. From there, I proceeded to Orchard.
Orchard road is a heaven for shoppers, I quite agree. But I went to Orchard to buy some Lush products. I didn’t find the store, so I returned to the MRT station and got off at the supposed station as per my note before going offline, and found Lush store inside the Orchard Central, just above the Somerset station.
I enjoyed the free wifi there and took some pictures of the surrounding area. I spent half an hour inside The Orchard Library, situated at the 3rd (or 4th, cmiiw) of the mall. It hosted a vast collection of books and magazines and not long I found myself immensed in Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.
Having purchased Garrett as my souvenir for e-commerce team back home, I went back to Chinatown area and had my last dinner there.
Fun fact: I racked >20k of steps that day!! Marvelous! I only racked ~5k steps on my normal working days.
Sunday, 19 August 2018 came. At the dawn, I checked out and booked a GrabCar to the airport. I had my breakfast at Subway (this is always my favorite). The Scoot airline called the passengers to the boarding gate, and that concluded my weekend getaway.
Until next time Singapore.
Additional sections for those who are interested in solo travelling.
When I went to Changi MRT station after landing, I purchased the 2-days tourist pass, costed 26SGD. With that card, you can onboard any MRT/buses for 2 days. If you return the card to that Changi station within 7 days of expiration date, you will get the 10SGD refund. I didn’t, because I didn’t bother to go downstairs, queued in the early morning to return my card. I preferred Subway. Long live, Subway!
If you are a Jakartan and find yourself easily navigate through the Commuterline, you will find SG MRT is a piece of cake. I wasn’t lost at Paris metro jungle, so there was no reason I should be lost in SG.
If you’re a South East Asian citizen, you don’t need to worry as SG doesn’t require a visa. Every time I go aboard, I always prepare my inbound ticket and accommodation proof in case the immigration officer asks me.
Btw, I enjoyed the e-passport autogate immigration system twice, with the last year’s trip to Sepang, Malaysia. And in SG airport, once you checked in your fingerprints at the arrival gate, you can depart through the autogate. Less hassle for a trip.
Don’t forget to buy some baggage allowance for your trip if you buy LCC ticket, as they don’t provide additional baggage. I bought a baggage because I realized I brought >100ml of liquids outbound, and carried >100ml inbound. The outbound was unprepared because I didn’t bring my 100ml containers. The inbound was estimated because I bought skincare products in SG.
Next time, I’ll prepare my outbound baggage well.