On January 6th to 9th, Ronald, Icha, Icha’s mother and me went for a vacation in the island-city of Singapore. We had planned for it since early September 2006, so you can imagine our excitement when the date finally arrived. At first the idea was a sort of smalltalk between Ronald, Icha, and me. One thing led to another, and before we knew it we already booked roundtrip flight on a budget airline at a special promotion fare of about Rp 270,000 for each ticket.
We went to Singapore through Batam Island to avoid paying Indonesia’s overseas flight travel tax (notoriously known as “fiskal udara”). We opted to go by ferry from Batam which saved us about Rp 500,000. We took the earliest flight to Batam on January 6th. After about an hour and 20 minutes of flight, we arrived in Batam at around 10.30am. Icha’s family ex-neighbour picked us up at the airport. After a short stop at the local mall to get some provisions and SGD, we quickly went to Batam Center, one of Batam’s ports, to catch the earliest ferry.
The ferry ride took roughly an hour. We arrived at Singapore’s HarbourFront, catching a glimpse of Sentosa Island which made us quickly set it as a must-see destination. We took a cab down to our budget hotel (you’ll see the word “budget” often in this post, mind you), which located conveniently on Bencoolen Road. The cab driver surprised us (well, at least I am) by returning us the exact change for the fare. Something you can never expect from Jakarta’s taxi drivers.
We didn’t get our rooms immediately. The hotel was full apparently. They made us wait about half an hour before we got one of our two rooms we booked. After a lunch break inside the cigarette-reeking room, we quickly got on our feet and set Suntec City Mall as our first destination.
At first, we decided to go by bus, but at the bus stop we hesitated. It’s because we were unsure if the bus driver will accept exact change only or not (a stupid question, I have to admit). We asked a local about it and he explained (the answer was no, but the busdriver wouldn’t return your change), and then suggested that we take a “not very far” walk down to the Mall. Obliging to the kind suggestion (and the fact that we hadn’t got our small change for the bus fare) we took the healthier (albeit more sweat-inducing and leg-soring) path.
The mall was standard. We went there mainly for the electronics, but the prices there was such a disappointment. You can find the same stuff in Mangga Dua or Glodok in Jakarta for quite a lot less. We quickly browse through the mall. Visited (and did the ritual) the Fountain of Wealth in its basement. I entered several DVD shops and asked in vain for Blair Witch Project. Oh, in one of the cellphone stores, I found several coloured faceplates for O2 XDAII Mini, but at SGD 85.00 each, it just didn’t cut it.
Afterward, our destination was The Esplanade, which I lovingly called “gedung duren” or the durian building, still on foot. As if the walk would made the sore we had go away. We took a lot of pictures with the building as the background. At the bridge near The Esplanade, we took a rest. We even bought those a-dollar-a-piece ice cream cakes.
It was here at The Esplanade that I received a call from my lovely (but furious at the time) Miss D. She complained about having difficulties contacting me. I blame my newly bought prepaid GSM card which roamed with Singtel’s network but failed to send my SMS’es back home. I completely understand her being angry at me, but panicked nonetheless. I immediately borrowed Ronald’s cellphone (running on Matrix GSM card) to do the imperative damage control. I’m so glad that we were finally OK. Phew!
Next on our target was The Merlion Park, the symbol of the garden-state of Singapore. Not much to see here, just a merlion statue squirting water off its mouth. Oh, and don’t forget those buses for the duck tours, in which an amphibious bus full of tourists plunges to the bay to get a view of the Merlion from the seaside.
Chinatown was next. We went there by taxi whose driver was very helpful. He told us about the history of the place and dropped us at a shopping centre in the Chinatown district. We found a souvenir shop there and decided to get some souvenirs for the folks back home, something which we would regret later in the trip. We also stopped there for dinner at a hawker stall (I didn’t buy anything there but a glass of teh tarik, for fear of unkosher food). I bought a chicken sandwich instead at the nearest McDonald’s.
After that dinner, there was nothing else on our minds but to go back to the hotel to give our feet a well-deserved rest. We hailed a cab and went straight to the hotel. Off we went to a very good sleep.
The next morning, we set Mustafa Centre as the first destination of the day. We decided to gave the MRT a try. Here’s a tip how you can spot a group of tourists inside an MRT station: they’re the ones bunched together in front of the ticket machine, deeply observing the instructions on it. *grin* Anyway, we managed to get our hands on the ticket. I on the other hand, had to buy the ticket twice because I swiped the ticket on the gate but failed to pass through it in time. Darn. There went a good 90 cents. Hehehe.
We finally arrived at Mustafa Centre. This department store combined with a supermarket is located in the Little India district. Now this is a store that deserves the title “supermarket”. I bought some Corningware dining plates for my mother and my aunt (which, in terms of weight, are quite a burden, I must admit) Guess what Ronald bought? Several small bottles of balsam lotions and several other medicines. He said that their quality are better than the ones available in Indonesia. OK, have it your way then, Bro. Heheh.
Afterward, we went to the Bugis Junction, still by MRT. This street market resembles the ones you can find in Jakarta, but it’s much much cleaner and organised. Here we found street peddlers selling herbal medicines and jade necklaces, a chinese temple (a crowded one at that), and a hindu temple beside the chinese one (oddly, I saw an old chinese woman praying in front of it, a bit myopic, perhaps?). Because our hotel was located just around the corner, we decided to take a stop at the hotel to put the burgeoning amount of stuff we bought.
After some discussions at the hotel room, we were back marching (well, we hailed a cab, actually) to the famed Orchard Road to get some lunch. We quickly spotted Food republic, a food court at Wisma Atria. I bought Nasi Biryani for SGD 6.00 here, something that in Jakarta would be called Nasi Gule and cost just around SGD 1.50. Hey, Ronald finally saw a girl he thought was beautiful here, a chef in one of the food stalls in the food court. Well, who would’ve guessed that Ronald has a keen eye about this particular stuff?
Sentosa Island was our next destination, and what’s the better method to reach the recreation island other than its famed cable car? So up we went by taxi to Mt. Faber, the cable car station. After much explanation at the front office (delivered in Malay by the female attendant, perhaps after it became clear that our english wasn’t compatible with her colleague’s chinese-accented english.), we finally entered our glass-bottomed cable car (SGD 5.00 more expensive than the usual non-glass-bottomed car, thank you very much). The glass bottom was disappointment, really. It wasn’t very clear and didn’t add anything to the ride anyway. Oh, before we entered the car, the attendants there took a picture of us and tried to sell it for SGD 22.00 (what a rip-off!). A moment second before our car door was closed automatically, they magically went into a fire sale and offered the final product for just SGD 10.00 (and us, being cheapskate Indonesians as we are, said no thank you). The 20-something-minutes ride was quite pleasant. We dangled above the HarbourFront seaport & two large cruiseships, passed through the bowels of a building (another cable car station, apparently) before finally set our feet at the other end of the line.
Sentosa is quite a big (and costly) island. There, we went to Cinema 4D (SGD 18.00; basically a 3D movie theater added with some squirts of water and breezes of wind behind our necks), Cinemania (SGD 10.00; a standard cinema equipped with a modern-times rocking chair), Sentosa Luge (SGD 8.00 with the skylift ride back to the top included; aptly-named & quite thrilling, albeit being a trip too short, downhill ride). Between those rides, we strolled through a rather malnourished orchid gardens.
Icha wanted to visit the Underwater World, but looking at the long lines which formed on its front door, Ronald & I lost our appetites for it. As a substitution, Icha made us decide to see the Magic Fountain show, which at the earliest-scheduled 7.40pm show, was quite a long wait.
What do you do in Sentosa when you have an awful lot of time to waste and nearly none of the money you’re willing to spend? Well, enjoy the free (underline that particular word, set in in bold, resize it to 24pt, and colour it bright red) Sentosa bus ride, of course! There are four main bus lines in sentosa: blue, yellow, green, and red. We practically has took a ride on each of them. Some of them twice! At one point, we even got on the yellow line which took us to the Sentosa departure point. Imagine the horror!
At around 6.30pm, we FINALLY arrived at the amphitheatre. It looked like that there are less creative cheapskates already arrived ahead of us and took the best seats. We managed to get our seats about ten rows back and patiently waited. Patiently?! Never! We joked around, had our dinner (Subway subs, bought before we took the wild bus rides), massaged each other, and grabbed some photos. The show started at exactly 7.40 (talk about punctuality, people!). Nothing spectacular, but frankly it was a beautiful show. Computer controlled water fountains, lasers, music, and gas fire throwers made for a beautiful show.
We planned to went back to the city by the maglev monorail which whizzed overhead, alas, it wasn’t operational yet. Darn. So that was why the monorail looked so empty. So we hitched a ride on the bus that took us to the Visitors’ Departure Point. There, we expected to hop a ride on the bus that would take us to the nearest MRT station, but after seeing the ridiculously long queue (blame our Indonesian laziness), we opted for a walk instead on the Sentosa Island bridge to Vivo City, a new & posh shopping center on the other end of the bridge. The bridge was about a kilometre long. The wind was blowing gently, the weather was OK, and the view is beautiful (the lamps of the nearby shipping yard creates a nice backdrop for our photos) so the walk wasn’t much of a burden.
At Vivo City, we grabbed dinner at its food court. The food court was unique. It is divided into two separated coloured areas. The one on the right serves only kosher muslim food, and the one on the left is the opposite. Visitors are forbidden to bring the food from one area into the other. Anyway, after dinner we queued for taxi. The queue was unbearable long. I tried to go outside the building complex to hail a taxi, but those do-goody singaporean taxi drivers refused to stop for me (well, perhaps it’s because I hailed them at the corner of an intersection..). Finally we got our taxi and went straight to the hotel for a good rest.
The next day, January 8th, after we arrived on Orchard Road, our team disagreed over going to KL. Icha insisted on going there while Ronald & I insisted on not going (6 hours busride for the one way trip? Come on!). So, we parted ways. Icha & her mother went to KL while Ronald & I went on a guys-only shopping spree.
We arrived at Orchard Road a bit too early, I have to admit. The stores had yet to open. So, for about an hour and a half we just strolled up and down the famous street, taking the occasional rest at the benches on the sidewalk, windowshopped, anything to let the time goes by. When we waited at an intersection to cross the road, I saw a girl wearing a Krumpler bag. I always wanted a Krumpler back ever since my university years, so when I found a Krumpler store at the Paragon Mall, I was really turned on … just to be turned off again by its extravagant prices. *sigh*
Anyway, I was looking for something nice to bring as a gift for the folks back home. It was in one of the shopping malls of Orchard Road that I found Phil Collins’ Love Songs album for Miss D (which luckily she accepted gratitously. phew.) It was then I learned that The Blair Project DVD I was looking for all along was actually banned in Singapore. So that’s why everystore I asked about it hastily answered no. We grabbed lunch at FoodRepublic again afterward and had a quick look of the stores in Lucky Plaza.
After lunch, I bought a shirt for my sister at Takashimaya S.C. Ronald & I then decided to go to Mustafa Centre once again to look for chocolates & more gifts for folks back home. So off we went by MRT. At Mustafa Centre came the real suprise. Do you remember those souvenirs we have bought at the Chinatown? Well, Mustafa sells the same things for significantly cheaper prices! That darned golddigging store! After shopping for the chocolates & gifts (and a mouthful of curses for Chinatown souvenirs’ prices), we went back to our hotel.
Our visit to Lucky Plaza resulted in my interest in buying a Casio G-Cool watch. So, I asked Ronald to accompany my back to the plaza after we had our showers. He also had buying pork meat in mind, so he agreed. So there we were, back at Lucky plaza. Sadly, the store which sells the watch had a rather unfriendly owner. She quickly dismissed my asking her if I can bargain for the watch. So, there went my watch-buying appetite. The watch wasn’t exactly the one I wanted anyway, it just resembled it. So, the trip just yielded Ronald’s pork meat and our McDonald’s dinner.
After a good night sleep, we awoke the next morning. Fearing that we’d have difficulties finding a breakfast near the hotel (a kosher one, that is), Ronald bought a pack of chocolate chip loaf bread. We ate that for breakfast. Around 8am, we checked out and hailed a cab to HarbourFront. The cab driver was so friendly, that he asked Ronald a question in Mandarin. Too bad he’s just learning it, so he was at a lost for words.
Upon our arrival, we went straight to the Singapore Cruise Center. We booked our seats on the ferry that would take us back to Batam, paid the port fee (SGD 10.00 pax). We then entered the gate that led to the boarding waiting room, but got dismissed by the female security guard. She said that we wasn’t scheduled to enter to waiting room for another 10 minutes. What? We actually have to wait to enter the waiting room?!?
After 15 minutes (for good measure), we re-entered the gate, got screened by the security guards and entered the boarding waiting room. We waited there for about half an hour. I still got loose change, so I spent them all by buying hot teh tarik (it was raining since morning, so it was very cold) through a vending machine.
The ferry ride to Batam took longer than the one that took us to S’pore. It was about an hour and a half. Was it because it was raining We were picked up by the forementioned Icha’s mother’s friend. She took us to lunch at Sop Ikan Batam restaurant, and visited her business (a bottled water company), and dropped us at the airport.
It wasn’t long before the plane arrived on schedule. From there, it was all smooth ride to Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Jakarta. Upon arrival, we parted our ways to return to our own homes. With that, we concluded our Great Singaporean Adventure.
Hey, you can see more photos of the adventure here!