21
Dec
09

Singapore Special: Southward Bound (Day 01)

After nine months finally I get to travel outside the Philippines and for my first ASEAN destination, Singapore!  It would be my first time to be a “sports tourist” and was very excited to have my first marathon outside the country.  Of course I am not alone with this “addiction” as I have my close friends with me doing the same.  Yeah, I guess you may call it that if you decide to go to Singapore for four days just to run a marathon.  You may also call it “crazy!”

Just before 4AM at the Centennial Terminal (Terminal 2), Manila, Philippines

Singapore is about a three-hour flight from Manila which isn’t that particularly long, but isn’t exactly short either.  There’s not much things you can do in a plane so after eating there’s still time to catch up on some sleep.

In-flight meal

Before 10AM we landed at Singapore’s Changi Terminal 2, a terminal that is more like a shopping mall and since computer terminals with internet access were offered for free at the terminal itself we were able to briefly check our e-mails and of course post updates to our social networking sites.

Free internet access at Changi Airport

What I love about this airport was its extremely tourist-friendly atmosphere.  As a first timer in Singapore I had no idea what to expect or do and for that the terminal offers a lot of free brochures and maps with special focus by interests like shopping, electronics and gadgets, night outs, night safari, and Sentosa.  Even the airport in itself had so much to offer that it needs to have its own brochure!

We have arrived!

Travel Tip: Philippine Peso (Php) along with other major currencies are readily exchangeable for Singapore Dollars (Sgd) at the terminal itself so you need not hassle yourself to buy US Dollar from home.  In fact it is much better to directly exchange your Php to Sgd that you incur the least amount of conversion value loss.

As an epitome of a city with an efficient public transportation system, their MRT is an excellent way to get around Singapore.  The organizers of Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) utilized this fact and placed their distribution center for race packet distribution at the Expo—just a station away from the airport station of the MRT.

Still at Changi Airport bound for the MRT station

Travel Tip: bus and MRT bus fares are more expensive via cash than ez-link card, but regular MRT tickets can be returned at the General Ticketing Machine (GTM) for a S$1 refund.  You may also keep it as a cheapo souvenir!

A typical Singapore MRT General Ticketing Machine (GTM) to buy and return MRT tickets

First stop: The Expo.  If race kit distribution in Manila spells trouble for runners, for SCSM it’s the other way around as the entire process of claiming your kit won’t take you five minutes!  Aside from claiming your kit you also have a chance to see and buy a lot of running-related products a lot of which are not available in the local market.  A lot of items were also on sale including shoes and apparel from this year’s SCSM shirt provider, New Balance.  For me I settled with window shopping and a can of liniment spray.

Expo Station

Meeting fellow Pinoy runners at the Expo

At the expo

Huge banners mark where runners should queue for their kit

Kit claiming area at the Expo

Race bibs are packed in clear zip-lock bags. Race kits also include an SCSM event shirt and product samples and flyers from sponsors and are distributed inside bags

Travel Tip: Shoulder bags (regardless of the weight) are not the best choice when travelling.

At the expo we were joined by more of our friends, some Singapore-based, who would be running the SCSM, and by time everyone was done with their shopping it was time for lunch.  Conveniently there was also a food court at the expo but unfortunately it rained!  Most of the seats were located semi-al fresco so we had some issues with rain.  I thought that we left the rains back in Manila but it’s not exactly Sunny Singapore that greeted us.  Apparently it had been raining the past few days in the afternoon, and consistently for the last several years, days before SCSM, but according to our Singapore-based friends it had always been rainless at the day of the SCSM itself.  Will it rain during SCSM?

Strong rains aren’t enough to dampen our spirits!

After lunch it’s time for most of us to settle down on our hotels and of course it’s back to the MRT station.  It was like the pre-mobile phone era for us when we agreed to meet again for dinner as even the cost of sending an SMS was restrictive (most of us were carrying our Philippine SIM on roaming).  We had to do things the “old-school” way by agreeing to meet at a certain place at a certain time—makes you appreciate more the convenience of being at home.

Tourists finding their way “home”

Singapore’s MRT

For me and three of my friends our destination was Bugis—a popular tourist destination in itself.  We picked our hostel in this area because of its proximity to the Starting line of the SCSM near Fullerton Hotel which was only about a kilometer away.

How to spot a tourist in Singapore

Later that afternoon despite having less than ample rest Carina and I were off for some walking tours of the area.  With that tour we found out how close everything was—being from the Philippines where the scale of a typical map is in kilometers we were used to walking long before reaching a spot in the map.  In Singapore maps normally have scales of about a hundred meters making locations appear farther than they actually are—making the lives of some gutsy Pinoy tourists with hardly any orienteering skills roaming the streets of Singapore to have a very difficult time.

Expressways in Singapore uses non-disruptive RFID to collect tolls

Are pedestrians allowed here?

We were originally heading towards the Merlion that afternoon but we ended up in front of the Singapore Flyer and eventually in Suntek City.  With sunlight gradually fading we had no choice but to return to our hostel via a bus, which proved to be a not-so-easy task, but picking one was very “educational.”

The Singapore Flyer

We had another bonding moment with friends through dinner at Funan Digitalife Mall, a small building much like Gilmore IT Center in Quezon City.  Here we had our first taste of a mall-style food court.

Having fun with my selection of dinner

Excited tourists as we were, we refused to end the night with dinner and instead headed off to Clarke Quay, which was more like Riverbanks in Marikina meet Eastwood City.  Here I found my favorite “Ice cream slab sandwiched in wafer” which was only S$1.  The famous G-Max reverse bungy ride is also found here.  And from here most of us are just an MRT away, but for me and my “housemates” it was still walking distance away from home.  Some quick tour to cap our first day in Singapore.

Christmas tree in front of Central Promenade at Clarke Quay

G-Max

Special thanks to Carina for some of the pictures that appeared here.

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