Happy Third Year in Singapore

Singapore (2011 - 2014)

November 2012 The Merlion, the symbol of Singapore

I was supposed to move to Singapore on 2010 (after Dubai) had I not been offered a job in Hong Kong. So when I was living in Hong Kong, I flew to Singapore a couple of times mostly to visit my brother and friends (who were already living here by that time) and also to get a glimpse of what it is like. Of course, these short trips were not (and will never be) enough to judge a city. As I have mentioned on my Hong Kong blog, visiting and living in a city are entirely very different. I was still uncertain if I can even make it to live here. After deciding to leave Hong Kong, I flew here and just tried to push my luck in hopes of landing a job and three years after up until  this date that I have published this blog, I am still blessed to be living and working in this beautiful city.


Singapore consists only of one main island and 63 other tiny islands. Most of these islands are uninhabited.

The people of Singapore are largely descendants of immigrants from the Malay Peninsula, China and the Indian sub-continent.

* It is among the 20 smallest countries in the world, with a total land area of only 682.7 square kilometres. The USA is about 15,000 times bigger.

Singapore at night as seen from Marina Bay Sands Skypark

* Apart from Monaco, Singapore is the most densely populated country in the world, with 6,430 people per square kilometre.

* The Merlion, a half-fish, half-lion beast, is a fitting symbol of Singapore. The “Singa” or lion represents the animal that a Sumatran prince saw which resembled a lion, and the fish is a tribute to Singapore’s history as “Temasek”, the ancient sea town.

* Chewing gum is banned in Singapore.

First Impression

If I can describe Singapore in one word, it would have to be CLEAN. First thing that caught my eye and that impressed me a lot is how tidy and organised this city state is and is also surrounded by a lot of trees, which makes it even more pleasant-looking. I am still in awe how they maintain its cleanliness, that every time I travel elsewhere, I can't help but to compare it to the cleanliness of Singapore. I believe the credit has to go to its people, who are very disciplined too. 

What I also noticed about the residential areas here (HDB) is how similar-looking everything is. For instance, there will be playgrounds, exercise areas, running tracks, groceries on every (if not most) residential area. So everything actually looks so uniform that it lacks variety and uniqueness. 

Typical HDB buildings in Singapore

Playground areas are common on HDB areas

Adjusting to the New Environment

I would say I didn't have much difficulty in settling here. I have my brother and a lot of friends from high school and college that helped me a lot. I immediately felt at home in Singapore, like I have lived here before and that I was only going back to it. I like to believe that when you are surrounded by familiar faces and family, you are comforted by a little piece of home which makes it effortless in a way to fit in a foreign land.

Singapore reminds me of Dubai in a way that it has a multicultural environment, so it is easier to blend in and find your place in the society. 

A few minor things that I had to get used to in Singapore: (1) The train is called MRT (MTR for HongKong), (2) They always keep left (i.e. escalators) while in HongKong they keep right. (3) You have to tap in and tap out when riding the public buses, in Hong Kong you only need to tap in.

Weather in Singapore is quite difficult to predict. Although, they only have sunny and rainy days, you would think it is a very huge city, when it will rain on the west side while it will be all sunny on the east side! (yes, at the same time). So you always have to carry an umbrella with you. I can't rely that much on its weather forecast because the actual weather can just change within the day and might won't be the same for all the areas. 

The People, Lifestyle, Culture, Cost of Living, Etc.

Singapore is densely populated like Hong Kong, but you can see a great diversity of culture residing here, like in Dubai. Unlike in Hong Kong, a foreigner would highly stand out in the crowd. 

It is easier to communicate here in English as it is widely spoken by almost everyone. 'Singlish' (Singaporean English) is how the locals speak. It is their daily conversational language and hearing it for the first time might be a little confusing. I don't know how to describe it, but when I heard it for the first time, it really sounded like they were singing, like there is a certain tone on how they say things.

Typical Singlish 
(Photo Credit: Aussie Pete)

Photo Credit: Mangledmanglish.blogspot.com

They have different term for some of the phrases that I was surprised to hear for the first time. Like for instance, my boss asked me once if I was "Going back". I was perplexed and asked where am I going back to? What he actually meant to ask is if I was "going home" ; "spoilt" means "broken" like "My computer is spoilt"; "revert back" means "to reply", etc. You will also hear a lot of "can" (means ok, yes) and "lah" (an expression they add at the end of a sentence or a phrase) when conversing. It is somehow contagious that sometimes I can hear myself speaking it too! 

Transportation. Singapore has a very good and convenient transportation system. They have MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), LRT (Light Railway Transit), buses and cabs that are very clean and most of the time, efficient and reliable. 

East West Line. Singapore has one of the cleanest metro stations in the world.

Singapore's LRT which has no operator/driver and is on monorail.

The next bus arrival displayed on a bus stop at Bugis
In between the next train, you only have to wait on an average of 2-3 minutes (maximum would be 5 mins) for the next one to arrive. Usually, they have accurate timings and calculations for the wait time for the next bus too, which are displayed on most of the bus stops.

All the public buses are operated by SMRT. They have double decker buses, longer types, and even wheelchair-accessible buses to accommodate more passengers. Some of the buses have LED displays inside that will tell you what the next stop is. 

SG Next Bus Iphone App

Like any other city, Singapore's MRT stations can be really crowded especially during rush hours. But what I really admire about the discipline of the people here is they actually queue and wait for their turn to get onto the train. I don't think this will happen ever in Manila. Talk about Discipline.

The MRT covers almost all the major areas and are still continuing to expand. This is why I think I will never learn to drive a car! It's just really so easy and convenient to get around here even without a car. 

Bugis MRT Station

Cost of Living. It is very expensive in Singapore and it is in fact ranked as the most expensive city to live at as of 2014. I don't even have my own room here and have to opt for sharing (that's how impractical I think it is to pay for a solo room.) Unlike in Dubai and HK wherein I have my own room. I have to allot at least SGD 550 (USD 400+, Php 20,000) every month for my rent and utility bills, and that's sharing a flat with 5 other people (imagine living on your own). That doesn't even include what I pay for food, transportation, etc. Grocery products are so expensive too and I think it's because they are mostly reliant on overseas imports. 

Housing. The most common residential structures here are called HDB (Housing & Development Board). The flats here are almost 3x the size of the flats compared to Dubai and Hong Kong which is better as it feels more homey and gives you much more room to move around the house.

Typical HDB Building in Singapore

Food. Singapore has a wide variety of food and food places to eat at. The most common place to eat at is called a hawker centre, which is an open-air complex that sells cooked meals. These are cheaper too if compared to eating at food courts or restaurants. 

Makansutra Gluttons Bay
You can't visit Singapore without eating its kaya toast for breakfast, chilli crabs and chicken rice for lunch or dinner and an ice cream sandwich for dessert. 

Kaya Toast: Kaya (Coconut Jam), toasted bread with butter or margarine and dipped into soft boiled egg. Best eaten with a cup of coffee

Chilli Crab at Newton Circus Food Centre

Ice Cream Sandwich for SGD 1.00

Chicken Rice

Safety. One of the things I like about living in Singapore is how safe the city is, especially for a young lady like me. There are CCTVs on most of the public areas, even inside their public buses and MRT. I actually feel safer here than in the Philippines. I am so comfortable and feel secure all the time that when I travel elsewhere, I need to be reminded that I am not in Singapore and have to be always alert. 

Touristy Things to Do/See

There are a lot of things to see in Singapore but I have only listed down the four of my favourite spots here. I would have to write on a separate blog for those I have seen that didn't make it on this list.

1. Merlion, One Fullerton Promenade and River Cruise

Standing tall amidst the One Fullerton promenade, no one could ever miss to see the Merlion.

This iconic symbol is an imaginary creature with a head of a lion and a body of the fish. The lion head represents the lion spotted by Prince Sang Nila Utama when he re-discovered Singapura in 11 AD, as recorded in the "Malay Annals", and the fish tail of the Merlion symbolises the ancient city of Temasek (meaning “sea” in Javanese) by which Singapore was known before the Prince named it “Singapura” (meaning “lion city” in Sanskrit).  

The One Fullerton promenade, which holds the Merlion statue, has a very good view of Marina Bay Sands Hotel and The Singapore Flyer, perfect for a cup of coffee or even for just a stroll. I prefer to go here at night, when it is cooler to walk around plus you can catch a light show performance too.

Light Show Performance

The Helix Bridge and Marina Bay Sands at night

Helix Bridge connecting to Marina Bay Sands Shoppes

Or if you are too lazy to walk around, you can take the river cruise/taxi too. Some of the tour operators use the wooden boats, which in Singapore's history, used to carry cargo into the city from the ships anchored on the harbour. 

The wooden boats

The modern river taxi

It is about a 40-60 minute ride on Singapore River that will cruise along Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay with a narrative story of some of the history of Singapore and the buildings and bridges around the area.

2. Gardens by the Bay

The Super Tree Grove at Gardens by the Bay
This award-winning masterpiece houses over 380 thousand plants in huge domed conservatories. It just opened on 2012 but has been, without a doubt, named as one of the country's yet another pride and symbolic icon.

This beautiful and massive garden is set upon the middle of the city's sky scrappers and could take at least a day of strolling. There is a huge open area which is free to the public, while the cooled conservatories Cloud Forest and Flower Dome have entrance fees.

The Supertrees grove are vertical gardens that dominate the Gardens' landscape

Cloud Forest 

It replicates the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions between of South-East Asia, Middle- and South America. It features a 42-metre (138 ft) "Cloud Mountain", accessible by an elevator, and visitors will be able to descend the mountain via a circular path where a waterfall provides visitors with refreshing cool air. (Source: Wikipedia)

Cloud Forest currently holds the record for world's tallest indoor waterfall at 35 metre (115 ft)


Flower Dome

Featuring seven different gardens, it replicates a mild, dry climate and houses plants found in the Mediterranean and other semi-arid tropical regions (e.g. parts of Australia, South America, South Africa). (Source:Wikipedia)

3. Resorts World Sentosa

Perhaps Singapore's own version of Disneyland, Sentosa Island is a one stop and most visited attraction in Singapore. It is divided into three stations: Waterfront, Imbiah and Beach Station. You can take the Sentosa Express monorail, ride a cable car or just walk as they are not really that far from each other.

Take the Sentosa Express from Vivo City (Sentosa Station)

Take the Cable Car from HarbourFront

Waterfront Station

Universal Studios Singapore

Everything you need to expect from a theme park is here. I am a sucker for theme parks and I have visited USS 4 times, mostly with friends or family visiting. I like the rides here compared to Disneyland but I'll always be a Disney kid I guess. 

Best Roller Coaster Ride Ever! Too bad they have shut this down.

Transformers Ride. I can ride this all day

Revenge of the Mummy Ride with the Family. I can't caption this ride any better. 

Adventure Cove

This water theme park just opened on 2013 and I recommend it to be a great place to take family and friends to have fun. I really enjoyed the water slides and they even have a snorkelling area.

I visited this last year with friends a few months after it was opened to the public, so some of the areas were still under construction. It was really packed too so the queues for the rides took ages! But it was all worth the wait! 

On our tubes cruising around the 'Adventure River'

There are aquariums on the side as we cruised along the Adventure River

Beach Station

If there's something I dislike in Singapore it would have to be the beaches. They are man-made and you can even see some of the cargo ships from afar. I can't really blame the geographical location of the country but the closest beach experience you will ever have will be at Sentosa. 

I used to go to the beaches all the time back when I was in Hong Kong. But when I moved here, I don't do it as much as I did and I miss it. It's not that bad though, I still go once in a while but I just miss hearing the actual waves of the beach when I'm lying on the sand. 

Siloso Beach

Siloso Beach is a party beach area. There are a lot of beach bars around so if you want to party and drink, this is the place to be at. I celebrated New Year's Day party here back in 2010 and it was crazy cool!

If you want to relax and be on a quieter area, go to Palawan Beach. I often go here to sunbathe and read a book.

Palawan Beach

The Southern Most Point of Continental Asia can be found on Palawan Beach

There are still a lot of things to do and see in Sentosa that I myself haven't explored yet. I think when you are already living in a city, you become lazier (thinking you have all the time) to go to touristy areas and would rather go there when you'll have friends visiting. That's how I feel about Sentosa. Maybe it would be better to write a separate blog for Sentosa alone.

4. Marina Bay Sands

Currently holding the title as the most expensive building in the world, Marina Bay Sands has 
a hotel, convention and exhibition facilities, theatres, entertainment venues, retailers, restaurants and a casino.

Marina Bay Sands or also known as MBS
The Marina Bay Sands Shoppes reminds me of The Venetian Macao wherein it has a man-made canal with boats too set up in the middle of the shopping mall.

The Sampan Ride at SGD 10 per ride (Photo Credit: http://singaporegirl.wordpress.com/)

Inside the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

View from one of the hotel rooms of MBS

Perhaps its most popular attraction is the infinity pool set up on the top of the building. It is not that huge and could really be crowded but it gives you a very impressive view of Singapore's skyline.

With Singapore's skyline at the backdrop.

View from the infinity pool

You can still manage to get to the top without checking in the hotel via the Sands Skypark, which is an observation deck,  for SGD 23 but it has no access to the pool. Or you can dine and have drinks at the rooftop bars.

Having drinks with my good friend Dja at Ku De Ta

The stunning view at night from the Sands SkyPark is something worth checking out too.

I will always be grateful to Singapore for welcoming me and giving me an opportunity to live in this vibrant city. People have been asking me where would I go next and to be honest, I don't know yet. Right now, I don't see any reasons to leave Singapore, unless there will be better opportunities somewhere else. 

Cavenagh Bridge at Singapore River

*Photo Credits to my friends April Anne Loayon, Emman Simbahan and Cecille Liwanag

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