Posted in Breaks and Jaunts, Singapore

Visiting Places of Worship in Singapore

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” ― Maya Angelou

I grew up hearing about Singapore being a melting pot of different cultures. Research would eventually tell me that there are debates about whether the country is truly a melting pot or not. I guess, there are different opinions on what a melting pot truly means. What I do know is that Singapore is a country made more beautiful by the combination of cultures of its people.

When discussing the topic of culture, one cannot help but tackle religion. To this day, I still do not know whether culture influences religion or if it’s the other way around. I need more reading and research to do on those topics to widen my understanding. All I know is that when I was planning my trip to Singapore, I couldn’t help but notice the number of places of worship for different kinds of religion on Google Maps. That is why I decided to spend half a day trying to visit as many places of worship as I could manage.

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple (Waterloo Street)

In March of this year, I went to Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong, where I had my fortune told and made a wish. That wish I made came true two months later. Because of that, I tried to look for a temple in Singapore where I could also get my fortune told. I came across Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple in my research.

From J8 Hotel, I walked to Aft. Allenby Road and took Bus 857 to Opp Nafa Campus 3. A short walk later, I arrived at the temple’s area, packed with worshipers, sellers, fortune-tellers.

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Dedicated to the Kuan Yin (also spelled Guanyin or Guan Yin), the Goddess of Mercy, this place of worship is said to be a bringer of good fortune to those who pray to the goddess. This Buddhist temple was built in 1884 and was reconstructed in 1895. Surely though, the place went through fixes and reconstruction over the years to maintain its structural integrity and safety.

Inside the temple is a wide area for those who wish to have their fortunes told through kau cim and jiao bei. It was exactly the same process as my fortune-telling experience in Hong Kong, so I did not have a difficult time figuring it out. I will share my fortune-telling experience in another post.

Sri Krishnan Temple (Waterloo Street)

Just beside Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple is Sri Krishnan Temple, the sole South Indian Hindu Temple in the country that is dedicated to Sri Krishna and Rukmini (Sri Krishna’s consort).

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Established in 1870, this temple has a rich history from its establishment to how it finally came to look like the beautiful temple it is today. People leave their shoes outside before going inside to pray.

While trying to take a glimpse from where I stood, I noticed a topless man with a white cloth around his waist (called dhoti). At first, I couldn’t understand why he was dressed that way because I grew up hearing people always being told to cover up before going to places of worship. In my research, I always come upon two types of answers. The first is related to the chakras and the ability to connect to the energies in the temple. The second is something about stripping off your social status and humbling yourself in the form of taking your shirt off.

I didn’t go inside anymore because I wasn’t sure I have dressed appropriately for a woman that day and because I am not sure if they allow tourists inside like in the Chinese temple beside it.

Church of Saints Peter and Paul (Queen Street)

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The Church of Saints Peter and Paul is a Roman Catholic Church that was built between the years 1869 to 1870. This makes the church much older than the first two temples I visited! It’s part of the rich history of the growth of Catholicism in Singapore.

I think there was a wedding going on, so I did not go inside the church anymore. I also noticed that some parts seem to still be undergoing reconstruction. Perhaps, I will be able to step inside when I visit Singapore again.

For some reason, I feel like Singapore is in the process of renovating or reconstructing their churches. You see, I was supposed to go to St. Joseph’s Church in Victoria Street, but it was closed for renovation too. I started feeling like I should have planned my church hopping itinerary better.

Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (Queen Street)

Oh, the history of Catholicism in Singapore just gets richer! This cathedral was founded in 1832! Can you believe it?! It started as a church and it was only in 1888 when it got elevated to cathedral status.

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The cathedral was closed when I visited, or the doors may have been closed but not locked. I did not check anymore. You see, I am used to open churches in the Philippines and I didn’t want to risk making a spectacle of myself by lurking around.

I also noticed that Catholic Churches in Singapore love their steeples. I am not sure I notice the same in the churches in my country. I know a lot of churches that have dome-shaped ceilings, but I never paid much attention to their external architectural design. I guess I should be more observant from now on.

CHIJMES/ Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School (Victoria Street)

Technically, this is no longer a place of worship. However, it used to be a convent that was founded in 1852. It eventually expanded to house a school for girls in 1933.

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In 1983, the school got moved to a new site because the government acquired the land that the convent and the school were on. Since 1996, it has housed establishments such as restaurants. Despite this, they preserved most of the original structure.

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There’s a nice garden in CHIJMES where I was able to sit and rest my legs, which were already starting to hurt. I loved how spacious the area was and how freeing it felt to sit where a lot of little girls probably used to run around and play.

I decided that CHIJMES was going to be my last stop for my church hopping on my second day in Singapore. I decided to go to the grocery, then go back to the hotel to have my lunch. My legs were truly killing me from all the walking since the day before and I needed them to work for when I go to the Axe Factor to experience axe throwing.

Church of Our Lady of Lourdes (Ophir Road)

I was born on the 11th of February which coincides with the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I remember that my aunt used to complain that I should have been named Lourdes because of my birthdate, just like how their aunt was named Lourdes for being born on February 11 too. While I did not have a particular liking for the name of Lourdes, I have always had a fondness for the story of the lady’s apparition in France.

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Opened in 1888, the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes became the first Tamil Catholic Church in Singapore. It was of no wonder then that when I visited, the place was full of Tamil people hearing mass. Feeling a little out of place, I slowly turned around and left. After all, I wouldn’t be able to understand a word being said during the mass. I felt sort of an intruder at that time.

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Before leaving Singapore, I made it a point to visit a church named after Our Lady of Lourdes. I felt compelled to talk to her in a church named after her. I was not disappointed because outside the church was a beautiful image of Our Lady of Lourdes. I went closed and found myself talking to her through the image, asking for her to pray for me and to always watch me and keep me from harm’s way.

To be honest, I am at this point in my life where I am trying to explore different faiths, hoping to find where I feel I belong. And while I still lean towards Christianity, I am glad to have seen and visited different places of worship where people are able to express and deepen their faiths. I can only hope that one day, I will find for myself the same strong connection to a specific religion or teaching and be able to express my faith as religiously as they do.

Posted in Breaks and Jaunts, Singapore, Travel Tips

Practicing My Throws at the Axe Factor Singapore

Throw your axe like you’re throwing away all the fears that reside in your heart.

I am finally back with another post about my adventures in Singapore last August! I can say that I terribly miss that place and I cannot wait to be back. While I would be trying out new adventures when I return, I am pretty sure I’d like a repeat of my axe throwing experience at the Axe Factor.

I came across the Axe Factor in Klook while I was looking for activities to do in Singapore. Because I wasn’t going to Universal Studios (I don’t like going to team parks, especially if I was going solo), I had more funds for activities I could do solo. I got my Klook voucher at a great deal, much cheaper than if I booked from Axe Factor’s website.

My biggest concern was how to get to the Axe Factor from my hotel. Google Maps options showed a great deal of walking and I was still tired from all my walking when I went to Gardens by the Bay the day before. This place can be a little far and Google maps does not help much in giving you options on how to get here. Thankfully, I visited Axe Factor’s site and learned that I could go there via the free shuttle buses that go to The Grandstand.

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I went to the website of The Grandstand to know how I could hop on their free shuttle buses. I was not disappointed and I learned that I only needed to get to any of the following stops:

Botanic Gardens Route
A. Botanic Gardens MRT (B41021)
B. Tan Kah Kee MRT (B41051)
C. Sixth Avenue MRT (B41081)
D. Sixth Avenue Centre (B42011)
E. The Tessarina (B42031)
F. Aft Swiss Club Road (B42029)
G. The Grandstand

Clementi Route
A. Clementi MRT (B17179)
B. Clementi Road, Blk 116 (B12071)
C. Opp King Albert Park MRT (B42059)
D. Opp The Nexus (B42039)
E. The Grandstand

Toa Payoh Route
A. Toa Payoh MRT (B52189)
B. Bukit Timah Road Bef Lewis Road (B40091)
C. Botanic Gardens MRT (B41021)
D. Tan Kah Kee MRT (B41051)
E. The Grandstand

You may visit The Grandstand’s website for the trip schedule.

To ensure that I was going to have a slot, I didn’t want to risk walking in. However, I could not book via the Axe Factor’s website because I was being asked to pay again. So, I sent them an e-mail a day or two before to let them know that I already bought a voucher via Klook and they reserved me a slot at my preferred time!

From J8 Hotel, where I was staying, I decided to commute to the Six Avenue MRT Station. I walked from the hotel to Aft Allenby Road where I took Bus 67 to Sixth Avenue MRT Station. The walk to the bus station was just 5 minutes I simply relied on Google Maps to tell me if I was near the Sixth Avenue MRT stop already, so I can ring the bell to signal that someone’s alighting at that stop.

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Once you get off the bus, don’t go anywhere anymore. In my cluelessness, I still went inside the MRT Station just to ask about the free shuttle going to The Grandstand. I was told to wait for it at the same bus stop where I alighted, so I had to walk all the way back.

You cannot miss the shuttle because it’s a colorful ride that bears the name of The Grandstand. It may be free, but it’s still fully air-conditioned and comfortable. The drivers were careful on the road but were not so slow that you’ll miss your reservation at the Axe Factor.

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Free shuttle to The Grandstand. I love how bright and lively it looks!

A few minutes after hopping on the shuttle bus, I got dropped off a few meters away from Axe Factor. I was so excited, but also scared I was going to injure myself. I can be clumsy from time to time, haha.

Registration was a breeze! After scanning my Klook voucher, I was asked to sign a waiver. The “Axepert” who assisted me was a nice guy who gave the safety briefing and taught me the basics of throwing the hatchet and the small, thin axes that looked like a ninja’s weapon. Once he saw that I knew how to throw properly, he left me on my own already.

Because I was on my own, I had the entire hour to myself to throw my weapons. If you think axe throwing is easy, it is! Hitting the target was the more difficult task because it required technique and precision. For that reason, I did not bother hitting a specific spot. I just threw and threw in hopes to land somewhere appropriate without hurting myself in the process.

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Even if there were other people playing beside my lane, I did not have to worry that their misses might cause me hard. There were protective barriers for each lane so people can throw without worrying about the other players’ safety.

I had so much fun and it truly was an awesome stress reliever! I managed to make a few good hits, but I also had several bloopers like when I almost chopped off a chunk of my hatchet’s handle! Sheesh! This is now my second favorite, next to archery!

Axe throwing is a great activity whether solo or with your friends. I highly recommend that you check this place out when you go to Singapore! You’ll get an arm workout from throwing and walking and squatting exercises from when you retrieve your weapons. Just remember to wear comfortable clothes and closed shoes. Heck, I went there in a dress and sneakers!

When my time was up, I rested for a bit before heading back to the shuttle bus terminal so I could travel to my next destination: Suntec City.

Stay tuned for more of my adventures in Singapore! In my next post, I’ll be writing about my fortune-telling experience. In the meantime, you may want to read about my other experiences in Singapore. Just click here to read posts under that category.

Posted in Breaks and Jaunts, Singapore

SG 2019: Gardens by the Bay and OCBC Skyway

“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.” ― Edna St. Vincent Millay

When I was still planning my first solo international trip and my first travel to Singapore, I knew that Universal Studios was out of the question. I am not a huge fan of theme parks (except for Disneyland) and rides aren’t really my thing. If I had a friend with me, I would probably be inclined to visit Universal Studios. However, I knew one place that I could appreciate even if I were going solo: Gardens by the Bay!

In my previous post, I already talked about how I got the voucher from Klook and redeemed my tickets from the Red Dot Design Museum. I really believe that my Klook voucher was a steal because it included Flower Dome, Cloud Forest, and OCBC Skyway! If you’re planning to visit these majestic places, I really recommend getting your vouchers from Klook.

From The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, there was a walkway that will lead you to the gardens. I preferred that than going back to the MRT Station because I was already feeling tired from all the walking and lack of proper sleep.

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According to the garden’s official website, I was only going to Bay South, You see, Gardens by the Bay is made up of Bay South (the largest), Bay East and Bay Central. The Bay South, opened in 2012, features the Supertree Grove that you can visit free of charge. That was my first stop.

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There are a total of eighteen of these majestic trees and twelve of them are at the Supergrove Trees! These are not real trees because these are made of concrete and steel that were built to a height of about a sixteen-storey building. All the plants they house were studied to ensure they are ideal of vertical planting. At night, these “trees” light up and offer an extraordinary view that you wouldn’t be able to appreciate during the day. The bridge that you can see is the OCBC Skyway that connects the twelve trees.

Because it was too hot that noon, I decided to go up the OCBC Skyway in the afternoon. After admiring the supertrees, I went to the Cloud Forest.

The heat I had to endure outside was immediately soothed by the cool temperature upon entering the Cloud Forest! Welcoming me to its mystical land was the world’s tallest indoor waterfall that a lot of people enjoyed getting wet from. I stayed a few minutes to cool down and admire the sight before me because this was the closest I have ever been to a waterfall, albeit man-made.

There are several sections inside Cloud Forest, all of which are jawdropping and magical in their own way.

The Lost World features carnivorous plants life the Venue Flytrap and pitcher plants. To be honest, I saw some people taking pictures of the pitcher plants, laughing, and glancing suggestively at their friends because it does look racy. I wonder if they knew that was a carnivorous plant. Thankfully, none of them attempted to touch it.

They also have the Crystal Mountain where you can see beautiful stalactites and stalagmites without having to go to a cave!

In Cloud Walk, you get to see up close, the epiphytes that are found in The Cavern!

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My favorite section of Cloud Forest was The Secret Garden. It’s a relatively new attraction inside Cloud Forest that features plants that thrive in limestone forests. Its mystical ambiance will truly make you feel that you are in a garden that must be kept a secret from the rest of the world.

After I have had my fill of Cloud Forest, I went to the Flower Dome. If I thought Cloud Forest was packed, Flower Dome was filled with more tourists! It was so difficult to get shots without people in the background. What I loved, however, was that everyone I encountered was courteous to the other visitors. There was no pushing or hitting just to get ahead.

Like Cloud Forest, the Flower Dome had so many sections that were filled with rows and rows of vibrant flowers. I believe it was the first time I saw most of the flowers there. I simply cannot imagine the amount of care that was put in just to make sure these flowers thrive.

I went crazy over the flowers that I was not able to keep track of the different sections anymore. However, I remember different types of gardens being exhibited like Californian, South African and Australian gardens.

My favorite part in Flower Dome was this display:

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I mean, seriously. Just look at that chicken! It was so cute!

Since my feet were already aching from all the walking since I arrived in Singapore, I decided to head back to Supergrove Trees and rest for a bit before going up the OCBC Skyway. While I was making plans in my head, I was startled by a bunch of very noisy, black birds.

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Smiling, but internally trying to calm myself. Oh look! You can see behind me three of the 18 supergrove trees that are either at the Silver Garden or the Golden Garden.

Because of the volume of tourists, the entry to the OCBC Skyway is controlled. They only allow a certain number of people to go in every 15 minutes or so. I guess it’s also to preserve the structural integrity by not overloading it so much. For that reason, don’t go straight to the queue with your ticket. Go to the counter first and get a card stating the time you can go in. It was already 5PM when went up the skyway.

I am not afraid of heights, but I am mightily scared of shaky vehicles, turbulent flights, hanging bridges, or anything unstable. It was so windy when I went up the OCBC Skyway and while it wasn’t swaying so bad, I could feel the movements from the wind and from the tourists who were with me on it. As beautiful as the sight was to behold, I had to go down right away.

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I truly enjoyed my visit to Gardens by the Bay. If only I were not so tired by the time I went down from the OCBC Skyway, I would have loved to stay and see the supergrove trees lit up with bright lights. My feet were killing me already, so I decided to head back to my hotel before people who went to the National Day Parade head home after the celebration.

There were so many sections of the gardens that I wasn’t able to visit yet. There’s Floral Fantasy (ticket sold separately), Serene Garden, Art Sculptures, and many more. That being said, I am pretty sure that I will be back to Singapore to visit these places, including Bay East and Bay Central. I cannot wait!

Visit my Instagram page for more pictures of my Gardens by the Bay trip.

Read up on my other posts about my SG Trip by clicking here.

 

 

Posted in Breaks and Jaunts, Singapore

SG 2019: Red Dot Design Museum

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

My first destination after checking in at J8 hotel was the Red Dot Design Museum. I bought a voucher from Klook for entrance to the Red Dot Design Museum, Gardens by the Bay, and the OCBC Skyway and I could only redeem the tickets to the garden from the museum. While I wasn’t keen on visiting the Red Dot Design Museum, I thought of getting the package that included it because I wasn’t going to pay extra. Perhaps they were promoting it so it’s probably worth a shot.

I took the MRT from Lavender Station (green line) and alighted at Bugis Station so I could transfer to the blue line. I then alighted at Bayfront Station.

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Image obtained from https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/public-transport/mrt-and-lrt-trains/train-system-map.html

From Bayfront MRT Station, I was pretty much lost already. My Google Map app wasn’t working well and I pretty much did not know which direction to take. So, I followed the signs around the stations (which was a huge one!) and ended up at Gardens by the Bay.

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However, I could only redeem my tickets from the Red Dot Design Museum. So, I had to go all the way back to the MRT Station, taking a different exit than I did the last time. Then, hoping that my Google Map was taking me in the right direction, I ended up in The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, where a kind man from the Customer Information Counter taught me how to get to Red Dot Design Museum.

The place was huge and had a lot of high-end shops with names I mostly couldn’t pronounce. However, I loved the ambiance of the place because it felt lively and not at all cramped.

On my way out, I first went to bask in the beauty of the bay in the very sunny weather of that day. It’s been raining a lot in Manila, so I badly missed the sunshine. It was also windy that day, but it felt very humid too. For that reason, I did not stay out long and went back inside the mall just to cool down a bit. Thank God for air conditioning!

Screen Shot 2019-09-01 at 1.44.36 AM.pngThe walk from The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands to Red Dot Design Museum was not a short one despite being 5 to 6 minutes away. The sun was at its peak and I was still exhausted from my flight and lack of sleep the previous night. Thankfully, Marina Bay was such a beautiful sight to behold, so I still enjoyed that walk.

I was so glad when I finally got to the museum. The first thing I noticed was that they had a cafe, so I decided to buy myself a bottle of water because I was already parched at that point. The man at the counter was very patient with me because I struggled a bit with getting my Klook voucher. You see, the app was on my iPhone and my SG SIM card with the internet connection was on a different phone (my iPhone’s locked in as part of my postpaid plan). Thankfully, there wasn’t a long queue of people behind me who would get impatient.

Aside from the card that I would use to enter the museum, I also got a discount voucher for their cafe and another discount voucher for their shop. I used the discount voucher right away when I bought my bottled water and I was glad that they allowed it inside the museum proper.

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The museum featured an array of masterfully designed works. I saw robots and gadgets like smartphones, fitness bands, and sports equipment. It’s a place where you can how far we’ve come in terms of technology and how much easier our lives have become because of it. But, if you’re not a fan of the works exhibited by the museum, you might get bored. That’s what happened to me, so I did not stay very long in the museum.

Will I recommend this place even if I got bored? If you’re someone whose line of study of career is around industrial engineering, robotics, or technology, you will love this place! I can already think of a few people who would surely love to go here. Since you’re not paying extra if you’re planning to go to the Gardens by the Bay and OCBC Skyway anyway, then getting the package from Klook is already a great deal. Besides, walking is good for your health, so you’ll benefit from having to go all the way to the museum to redeem your tickets.

Stay tuned for my next post about Gardens by the Bay.

Read my other posts about my first trip to Singapore!

Posted in Breaks and Jaunts, My Quirks, Singapore

Childhood Memories: White Rabbit Candy

There’s nothing as cozy as a piece of candy and a book.” –Betty MacDonald

Looking back at your childhood, how much did you enjoy candy? How tempted were you by their colorful packages and yummy scent? Did you enjoy Halloween trick or treats? Did the sugar rush keep you from sleeping well at night?

My recent travel to Singapore had me crossing paths again with White Rabbit candy and I was so excited to bring some back home. But what if I told you that there was a time when I absolutely abhorred this candy? Read on to find out why.

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The White Rabbit candy has quite a history. It started in 1943 and remains popular to this day. However, this chewy, creamy candy has had its share of scandals a decade ago, with the issue of formaldehyde contamination in 2007 and melamine contamination in 2008. There were also fake White Rabbit candies sold in some countries like the Philippines. I am willing to bet that the fake ones were the brown, toffee-flavored hard candies that were nowhere near as good as the original.

The first time I remember trying this candy was on a bus ride home from Batangas. I was probably three or four years old at that time and I was the type of kid who threw up in the bus. So, my nanny probably gave me candy to prevent that from happening. I was so excited because I could see my nanny and my sister enjoying the candy.

The moment I opened the wrapper, the scent sweet, milky scent of the candy was calling to me already. However, I noticed that there was yet another wrapper on the candy. It was thin, almost translucent, and was very much stuck to the candy. I spent a long time trying to remove the thin wrapper, to the point that my fingers were already sticky because the candy was starting to sort of melt from the warmth of my hands. I was more stressed than excited about it and I just badly wanted to eat the candy already.

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See that thin, almost translucent paper? I couldn’t, for the life of me, remove it from the candy!

I don’t remember being able to eat the candy. I think I dropped it and just got sick of trying to remove the thin wrapper that no one told me was actually edible because it was only rice paper. What I do remember is that I had a headache and a fever afterward that I attribute to the stress of unwrapping a White Rabbit candy.

It would take years before I would try to eat that candy again. I learned to love it, including the edible rice paper they used to wrap the candy before being wrapped in its outer, wax paper wrapping. Eventually, the candy became very scarce and was mostly available only in Aji Ichiban stores that weren’t too many when I was a kid. It was only in the last year that I managed to eat these treats again.

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These days, White Rabbit candies come in many flavors. I remember seeing chocolate and matcha flavors when I went to FairPrice to shop for treats to bring home. These candies weren’t cheap either, selling at SGD2.90 per 180 grams pack (roughly PHP 110). It has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the 1940s and I am so proud of it.

If I will ever have kids of my own, I’d probably let them try this candy and see whether or not they will notice the rice paper wrapping and stress themselves out by trying to remove it too. I will tell them that once upon a time, Mommy had a fever from trying to do the same thing. Then we’ll have a good laugh about it.

Posted in Breaks and Jaunts, Singapore, Travel Tips

Review: J8 Hotel and Shared Changi Airport Transfers (SIN) for Singapore Hotels

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” —Lao Tzu

In a previous post, I shared with you how my original hotel booking got cancelled a few weeks before my trip. Originally having booked Fragrance Hotel – Selegie, my accommodations were transferred to J8 hotel. Despite the stress, while waiting for J8 Hotel to confirm acceptance of my booking, I kept telling myself that perhaps God was trying to move me to a better place.

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While I read in some reviews that there are men who bring random women in Fragrance Hotel to spend a night with, in my head, I was thinking it can happen to any hotel. Little did I know that the Fragrance chain of hotels has had a reputation of being a “love” hotel despite efforts to try and change that image. I only read about it while writing this post. Perhaps, I was being kept away from places that might lead me to trouble. Now, I am more than thankful that my original booking had to be changed. I sincerely hope that the Fragrance chain of hotel manages to completely change their reputation soon.

Changi Terminal 4 to J8 Hotel

I booked a round trip transfer from the airport to my hotel and vice versa from Klook. The Ground Transport Services was just behind the Information Counter of the Arrivals Hall of Changi Airport Terminal 4.

Redeeming my voucher was easy! I just showed the staff my Klook voucher’s QR code and they gave me a receipt (don’t lose it!) and two stickers to put on my shirt. One was for my trip to the hotel and the other was for my trip back to the airport. That way, the shuttle driver will know I was supposed to be picked up.

I showed the driver my receipt before riding the shuttle. Please do not book this ride if you have more than one piece or large suitcase. Being a shared ride, other passengers will need space for their luggage too.

There weren’t many passengers with me on the shuttle, so it wasn’t a very long drive to my hotel. I loved how comfy the seats were and that there were seatbelts for safety! I also noticed the USB charging ports. However, after reading about how public USB charging ports can be risky, I personally prefer using my power bank.

While the ride was fast, it wasn’t a scary rollercoaster ride. I guess it was because there wasn’t heavy traffic that day, so the driver did not have to drive like a madman just to drop us off on time. I got to my hotel a few minutes past 11AM. When I got dropped off, that was the only time I noticed they had WiFi onboard. Oh well, my M1 Tourist SIM card made sure I had fast and reliable internet anyway.

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My Stay at J8 Hotel

img_1750The lobby was not a huge one. There was a reception counter and a small lobby that connect to the J8 Hotel Restaurant. There was also a restroom in the lobby with automatic sliding doors (too bad I was not able to take a picture).

Checking in was easy! I just presented my passport to them and that was it. Since my room was not yet ready, I decided to leave my luggage and have lunch before heading to my first destination in my itinerary. To my surprise, they did not give me a claim tab or a number tag to claim my luggage that evening. I did not argue anymore and off I went to lunch.

It was already 6PM when I got back to the hotel. My legs and feet were so sore from all the walking and I badly needed a shower to freshen up. I was going to see my hotel room for the first time. I was so excited! And yes, despite not being given a number tag for my luggage, nobody attempted to get my luggage or mistook it for theirs. I love the honesty and discipline in Singapore!

The elevator is the type where you need to tap your room card before you can select the floor where you’re going. The hallway to my room was dimly lit, but not dim enough to be spooky. At the end of the hallway was my room!

My initial thoughts? It was a cozy room! I had no need for a very huge and spacious hotel room. After all, I was only meant to rest there, not have a dance party! Plus, it was already way more spacious than our hotel in Hong Kong last March. I wasn’t going to complain anymore. As long as I had enough space to fully open my suitcase, I was good to go!

The bed was surprisingly comfortable to sleep in! The mattress was not a hard as those in Hong Kong. The pillows were fluffy enough and the sheets weren’t scratchy or rough against my skin. Beside my bed were rows of light switches, electric outlets, and the control panel for the room’s air conditioning unit.

I had a hanging flat-screen TV strategically placed where I could watch shows in the comfort of my bed. The TV allowed me to log on to my Youtube and Netflix accounts. I had so much fun watching local Singaporean shows and my favorite Brooklyn Nine-Nine show on Netflix.

The room had a balcony, which I pretty much did not use. I only got one chair and brought it inside to place my shopping bags on. Other than that, I basically kept the door locked and the automatic blinds/sun shield down.

Before I went up to my room, I was told that for my first day, everything inside the mini-fridge was free! After that, only bottled water would be complimentary. Just look what I had in my fridge on the first day!

I had an electric kettle, a teacup, and sachets of tea, coffee, and sugar. I also had a safebox that I found to have a tendency to get warm inside, possibly due to the mini-fridge below. All of these were underneath a writing desk that had a place to hang and keep my clothes above.

Here’s the part I was so anxious about. The bathroom. I am so picky with hotels to book because I am very particular about having a separate cubicle for the shower, away from the toilet. My reason? I need a safe and dry section to put my clothes for when I take a bath. That was the reason why I booked a room in Fragrance Hotel – Selegie in the first place. My heart dropped after seeing the bathroom in my J8 Hotel room.

Still, it had its redeeming factors like having a bidet and having refillable containers for hand soap, body wash, and shampoo. I find these more environmentally friendly compared to using wipes and tissue paper. Also, while I was a little sad not to have mini bath products to keep as souvenirs, theirs was the more environmentally friendly option.  I did have a free pack of toothbrush and toothpaste, and a pack containing a cotton pad, cotton buds, and a nail file!

I had a very pleasant experience at J8 Hotel. Everyone working there that I encountered was nice and friendly, especially the lady at the front desk during the day. The restaurant staff was patient with the guests getting their free breakfast in the morning (7AM to 10AM). I had no issues throughout my stay and had very peaceful nights of deep sleep. I felt safe and secure in the hotel, which was a comfort to me given that it was my first time in Singapore and I was by myself.

I also found the hotel’s location to be very strategic? There were three bus stops and 2 MRT stations close by.

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The hotel is also very near Mustafa Shopping Centre, a 24-hour shopping location that’s considered by many to be the best place to shop in Singapore!

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Please stay tuned for my review of my free breakfast from J8 Hotel when I write about my SG Food Trip!

J8 Hotel to Changi Terminal 4

IMG_2928My shuttle was supposed to pick me up exactly three hours before my flight at 6:50PM. I still had a lot of time during the day and I decided I was going for another walk around Bugis. I checked out at 10 AM and left my luggage, telling them I would be back after lunch.

I was back an hour before my intended pick-up time, so I just stayed at the lobby of the hotel. I put my sticker on my cellphone case hanging from my neck because it wouldn’t stick on my denim dress or my jacket. To be honest, I was already preparing for the possibility of not getting picked up on time. To my surprise, the shuttle bus came 10 minutes earlier than I expected!

This time, the driver was a lot more friendlier than the first driver! For one, this driver offered to load and unload my luggage for me, striking a mini conversation about my airline and the terminal where he was supposed to drop me off. I was the only passenger throughout the trip to the airport!

Just like the first driver, he was very careful in his driving, but not to the point of being very slow. I then understood why leaving three hours before the flight was okay. Traffic was smooth and checking in at Changi Terminal 4 was a breeze.

I highly recommend the Shared Changi Airport Hotel Transfers package from Klook and J8 Hotel for your next Singapore trip!

Posted in Breaks and Jaunts, Singapore, Travel Tips, Uncategorized

Arriving at Singapore: Getting My M1 SIM Card and Tourist Pass Plus Card

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” -Arthur Ashe

I was excited, yet anxious, about my first solo trip to Singapore because it was also my first time to go there. I did not know much about the place so I kept asking my colleagues who have gone to Singapore a couple of times already about the transport system, best restaurants to try, and the cheapest places to shop. They kept reassuring me that since I was very much used to Hong Kong, Singapore was not much different since the bus and train systems were pretty much the same in concept.

I was not reassured much, however. You see I tried to compare Singapore’s MRT and LRT Map to Hong Kong’s MTR Map. Singapore’s overwhelmed me a lot. I thought the country was only small, but why did it look like it had more train stops than Hong Kong? I was pretty sure I was going to get lost!

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Singapore’s MRT and LRT System Map. Image was obtained from https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltaweb/en/public-transport/mrt-and-lrt-trains/train-system-map.html
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Hong Kong’s MTR System Map. Image was obtained from http://www.mtr.com.hk/archive/en/services/routemap.pdf

Exploring Singapore with my Singapore Tourist Pass Plus Card

Truth to be told, I am so bad at reading maps and directions. Unless I’ve been there, do not expect me to know how to navigate!

In my lack of faith in my ability to navigate foreign lands, I searched for ways to not have to pay so much for train and bus rides, should I get lost and keep riding around to get to my destination. I came across an ad for Singapore Tourist Pass and Tourist Pass Plus cards from EZ-Link:

I was torn between getting the Singapore Tourist Pass or the Tourist Pass Plus. In the end, I opted to get the Tourist Pass Plus for SGD 38 for the following reasons:

  • 3-days unlimited bus and train rides
  • Complimentary Limited Edition Post Card Set worth $8
  • No rental deposits
  • I get to bring home the card
  • No need to worry about surrendering the card to get my refund

I got my Tourist Pass Plus Card from Changi Recommends at Changi Terminal 4. I also redeemed my free goodie bag from subscribing to Changi Recommend’s newsletter. The goodie bag contained lots of flyers, brochures, attraction maps, and a large foldable travel bag that I was already envisioning to use when I shopped for treats to bring home. So, I basically got two reusable bags from Changi Recommends.

Subscribe to news and promotions from Changi Recommends and claim your goodie bag upon arrival at Singapore. Just present the confirmation e-mail you will receive after subscribing that states you’re eligible for the free goodie bag. Note that supplies are limited so getting the goodie bag is not a hundred percent guaranteed.

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In hindsight, I should have probably just gone for the SG Tourist Pass. For only SGD 25, I could have gotten the mostly same essential perks such as the 3-day unlimited bus and train rides and the lack of surrendering the card because of rental deposit.

When I computed my fare spending, I only spent up to SGD 12. That SGD 25 would have been more worth it, shelling out SGD 13 for the physical card that I can consider as a souvenir. Nevertheless, I was so thankful for my card because I did not have to worry about falling in line, loading up an EZ-Link card, or having the exact change. I just tapped my card and I was on my way to my adventures.

For more information on the type of passes you can get, just visit The Singapore Tourist Pass website.

Want a more versatile card? Get the NETS FlashPay card! Paying only SGD 5 for the physical card, you can just load it up and tap your way through buses and trains. You can also use it to pay at most stores and restaurants. If you’re not going to reach at least SGD 20 on your fare throughout the trip, this is a much better card to get. You can reload it at several top-up locations, making it convenient for use. (Note: You can also get it from Klook).

I was so lucky that my colleague, Jenya, lent me her card. After my three days with my Singapore Tourist Pass Plus card was up, I was able to use her card to go around Singapore one last time before leaving for Manila.

Getting Connected Through M1 Tourist SIM Card

The first major difference I noticed about Hong Kong and Singapore was upon arrival at Changi Airport. You see, every time I stepped on HKIA, I could already connect to their WiFi, allowing me to inform my family in Manila that I already arrived. In Singapore, I could not connect to their WiFi because it was requiring me to give my mobile number, to which they will send my OTP. Unlike in Hong Kong where my phone gets connected to CSL’s network, allowing me to receive SMS from my country, I had no service at all in Singapore. As such, I was only able to contact my Mom after I claimed my M1 Tourist Sim Card from Cheers Convenience Store.

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I bought a voucher from Klook to get M1 Tourist SIM Card for Php 371, roughly SGD 10. In Singapore, it is sold at SGD 12, so the Klook promo was already a steal! The SIM card has 100GB of 4G mobile speed (which was hella fast in SG!), free 20 minutes of international calls, free 100 local SMS, and free 500 minutes for local calls for 7 days. It also comes in 3 SIM Card sizes to fit your mobile phone’s SIM slot.

Claiming the card was a breeze! I only had to show them my passport and voila! I had my SIM card already.