Patintera and I have been planning this Singapore trip since forever. It’s been six years since we stepped off the plane that brought us back home from the little red dot. Having lived in the city-state for a year then, I felt like I was leaving behind my second home.
So, this trip back to Temasek was a homecoming of sorts for me. I planned to revisit my favorite places and grab a bite of my favorite Singaporean eats.
But the real highlight of the trip was our surprise for our friend, Franz, who had been asking us to visit him since we came back to Manila. This fine city may not be known for affordability but the look on Franz’s face as we show up outside his office would be simply irresistible.
We booked as soon as another seat sale went up. It was a six-week wait to the actual trip and I almost slipped to Franz a number of times, nearly ending chat convos with “see you soon”. Good thing my fingers aren’t as quick as my mouth. LOL
D’ day came and we were ecstatic. We almost missed our flight, though, no thanks to someone’s tardiness *cough* Patintera *cough*. As soon as the cab pulled up at NAIA Terminal 3, we ran like crazy people looking for the Cebu Pacific counter for flights bound for Singapore. As expected, it was the one making its last call.
It was a good thing Patintera checked us in online and that we didn’t have check-in luggage. That saved us a good deal of time.
I had to run across the terminal to pay our travel tax and run back to the Cebu Pacific counter only to be greeted with a troubling “Ma’am, best effort po tayo, ha?” which meant they couldn’t guarantee that we’d actually get on the flight. Yikes!
So, as soon as ground staff gave us clearance, we ran to immigration. The Cebu Pacific staff doing the last-call rounds was there and as we queued to be grilled by the immigration officer, I kept signaling him to wait for us. I didn’t want a repeat of our 2009 Kuala Lumpur trip where we were shocked to find that our Air Asia flight to Singapore had left without us. Needless to say, that was a costly mistake.
It was a little frustrating to find that our boarding gate was a loooong walk away from the immigration counter. This time, I did not have the strength to run so it was up to Patintera to get our feet in the gate. (Note to Manila International Airport Authority: walkalators please.)
People in the back seats were already boarding the plane when we finally reached our gate. Good thing ours were in the middle so we had time to catch our breath.
All the running around in panic paid off as we finally settled down in our seats. After an hour in the tarmac, we were off.
Just as I was asking Patintera if Cebu Pacific didn’t have in-flight games anymore, they announced one. Yay!
And guess who won? 😀
The rest of the flight was relatively uneventful. But since it was delayed, catching Franz outside his office was out of the question. So, we needed to think of another way to surprise him. But first, we had to check into our hotel.
One more thing I love about Singapore is the ease of coming and going from the airport through public transportation, there’s a bus stop, the MRT, and a taxi lane. We hopped onto the train and made our way to Outram Interchange. A hotel shuttle was supposed to be available from the Outram bus stop until 8 PM. We got there at 7:30 and waited until past 8 but no shuttle came.
Travel Tip: Taking the MRT is the quickest way to get around Singapore but the cheapest way is the bus. If it’s your first time in the country, taking the cab will be the least complicated way to get around. But if you don’t have any problem reading maps and following signs, I suggest you make the most of their efficient public transport system.
We decided to walk from Outram since we knew that Hotel Re! was near. Or so we thought. We took a lot of wrong turns before we finally found Chin Swee Road. And, boy, was I in for a big surprise. Hotel Re! is on top of a hill. Fun!
I was beginning to regret agreeing to book Hotel Re! until we reached the reception and was greeted by a friendly Filipina. She gave us a discount for ala carte lunch or dinner and explained that it was the driver’s day off so there was no shuttle for that day.
Travel Tip: Hotel Re! is relatively cheap and near the city but shuttle service is inconsistent since they only have one driver.
When we finally got into our room, I was so exhausted all I could do was take a hot shower and collapse on the nice, soft, comfy, bed. Surprising Franz took a backseat to sleep but before I completely passed out, I managed to viber him a photo of Patintera looking lost on Keong Saik Road.
I woke up the next day to Patintera giggling in her bed. Turns out, she sent Franz a photo of MediaCorp drama on our hotel room’s flatscreen the night before and all Franz said was “Bakit ka nanonood nyan?” He still didn’t have a clue. Lol
Franz hadn’t been online for five hours and it was the weekend so we presumed that he was sleeping in. We decided to check Hotel Re!’s breakfast buffet but we were unimpressed so we opted to take a bus and walk around Orchard to get breakfast and wait for Franz to wake up.
Travel Tip: Not all hawkers are created equal. You can get the exact same dish of chicken rice for SGD 2.50 in one hawker and SGD 5 in another. The closer to the business district, the more expensive hawker food is.
Patintera was craving for hokkien mee and, as always, I wanted hot milo in the morning. Hotel Re! only offered complementary coffee and tea. So, we walked along Orchard Road headed for a hawker. But before we got there, we were distracted by the delicious smell of freshly baked goodies wafting from a side street. We followed our noses and found ourselves at a French artisanal bakery. They were offering these amazing authentic croissants for a dollar apiece. I got us four, planning on bringing the rest back to the hotel.
We finally reached the hawker and I immediately picked a table and left our bag of croissants there. I headed to the stall selling drinks while Patintera went straight for hokkien mee.
Travel Tip: Stalls in a hawker have a monopoly on their food. Only one stall sells drinks, only one sells chicken rice, only one sells Laksa. You get the picture.
This hokkien mee didn’t come cheap since we were in the central business district. The same plate would sell for far less in the suburbs.
We were having a hard time finding wifi outside the hotel so we decided it was time to get a Singtel sim. We found ourselves a 711, Patintera bought a sim and we decided to give Franz a call.
Travel Tip: You can only buy a sim in Singapore if you show identification. If you’re a tourist, they will ask for your passport.
Franz wasn’t feeling particularly friendly to strangers that morning so he rejected the call from our unknown number. Patintera sent him a photo of Orchard Road on Facebook to which he replied, “Miss mo na, Singapore?” We were hysterical.
He finally saw my viber message and asked, “San to?”, to which I replied, “Keong Saik Road”. He finally roused completely from his sleep and said, “Teka, teka, nasa Singapore ba kayo?”
Patintera’s phone rang and Franz was surprised, to say the least. We made plans to meet up later that day while Patintera and I did some more strolling down memory lane.
To be continued…