Saturday, April 9, 2016

Alone in Singapore - A Trip of Many Firsts

It was my first payout from my first work out of college. Wow, I was finally earning my own money and I just turned 20 then so I was still feeling giddy and just excited to reach a new milestone in my life. 2010 was a good year for me, so I decided to treat my family by booking a trip to Cebu, and also treat myself with a trip to Singapore. I really didn’t think this through because I thought I would be able to have a friend tag along, after all it would only be my second time abroad after Hong Kong (which was organized by a travel agency), so I was still clueless when it comes to planning a DIY trip. My plan was to arrive at Singapore right after Christmas and leave after New Year, and with Filipinos wanting to spend the holidays with the family, it was inevitable to hear them say no, so this trip turned out to be my first ever solo trip!

P.S. Might be a long post since I am writing everything in one bulky entry, bear with me :)


I booked my flights out of a whim. I was just eager to finally get to book my first promo fares and did not realize that my travel dates will fall on the most important holidays for every Filipino family! It was a good thing my parents were okay with this. Next off was planning were to stay for five days. Prior to the trip, I had no idea prices in Singapore were that high, so a colleague advised me to try out staying at hostels, which was something new to the ears.

I also needed to plan out an itinerary, but then it was really CONFUSING and I did not know where to start. Back then, I had no idea of the existence of travel blogs so I had to rely to forums and recommendations from my office mates. I was all over the place. Eventually, I tried listing out places that I wanted to see, not knowing how to go there. I wished there was a job-aid for this.

Learning #1: Allot some time to research about prices, may it be for flights, accommodations etc, especially if  you aim not to spend too much money.

my hostel room, cramped but has everything I need

Aside from booking my plane ticket and accommodations, I set aside 10,000 pesos (around 220 USD/ 320 SGD at the time) as my pocket money for the trip. On my last day, I have spent every single cent of it and I am just thankful that I didn’t have any additional expenses after I arrived at the airport because I have no idea how I would have been able to pay for that.

Learning #2: Prepare an emergency fund. Bring at least one ATM/Credit Card in case funds ran out.

"hometown" for a couple of days

Day 1: Unprepared at Singapore
I arrived at Changi Airport Friday afternoon. It is true what they say, Changi Airport is indeed magnificent. It was totally different from the airport back in Manila. I was also surprised to know that there is a subway service from the airport to city proper, I had no troubles getting to my hostel located at Little India. My first meal was Chicken Mutton, an Indian dish. I rested for a while at my hostel dorm, having no idea what to do next.

chicken mutton

When I woke up, it was almost 6 in the evening. I remember asking the hostel staff directions to a certain attraction, which they said was only a walking distance, so I walked and walked and ended up getting lost! My hostel was at Little India and I somehow ended up at the red light district then to some apartment complex. @_@ It was around 9pm when I was finally able to see a train station. All that time I was lost, not once did I ask for directions. I have this mentality that I can solve problems like this by myself, so yeah, I was able to go home but it took me three hours, and I didn’t even get to that place I was hoping to see.

Learning #3: Do not be afraid to ask questions, no matter how silly it may be.

Day 2: Finally Getting Somewhere in Singapore
Because it was my first time to travel alone, I was not aware that time is also important when you’re on a trip. I stayed in a hostel where they have free breakfast buffets and because I was so lazy getting up early every morning, I missed all the good breads, spreads and treats available. :) I always set my alarm to 9AM but I am not just a morning person. Anyway, I guess this was also a good thing because I finally met some travelers from my hostel, it was my first time having this kind of interaction because we only talked about travel! A guy who traveled to Middle East for more than a year, a girl who did a working holiday, and more. I had basically nothing to contribute but I just listened to them and that was enough. I was just so marveled with their stories that it was probably one of the things that got me inspired to travel more.

Since my hostel was located at Little India, I decided to walk around the different areas around it since I don’t really have any plans for that day yet. Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, a Hindu temple that is said to be one of the oldest in the country. Everything there was new to me, the feeling was like receiving a coolest toy for Christmas. I guess ever since then I have been curious about the Indian culture. I also went to Mustafa Center, where I also had some money changed, and also got to see cool items being sold at this mall. Amazing that this mall is open 24 hours, nobody can be that shopaholic, right?! The nearby Sim Lim Square had awesome hawker food stalls and gadgets for sale. By afternoon, I met with my cousin who worked as an intern in one of the hotels nearby Orchard Road. The area was so high-end, modern and a bit expensive for my taste though. haha On the other hand, I was really surprised to see lots of Filipinos, it’s like I didn’t even leave Manila!!!

Learning #4: Always be open to meeting new people!
Christmas decor at Orchard Road

Day 3: A Jam-packed day in Singapore
I finally did some research and mapped out a plan of things I can do for my third day, since I was mostly slacking off. I woke up a bit earlier to go to Kranji Botanical Garden, but somehow ended up getting lost… again! Haha People who have traveled with me know that I like to figure things on my own and I tend to not ask locals for directions and instead look for signs that will eventually lead me to my destination (want another example, read here). Because of this, I wasn’t able to see the garden and but got to observe how locals live and did some food tripping along the way.

It started to rain and even without any umbrella, I still got to see Clarke Quay, a popular area for its bars, clubs and restaurants. There wasn’t any happenings during the day so I just took my time and strolled along the riverside. Some areas of interest nearby are The Central and architectural buildings of historical importance such as The Parliament and The Supreme Court. I may have looked like a local because there were two instances wherein people were asking me for directions (to think that I have actually got lost twice already)! Haha and since then, I have been asked by locals and tourists for directions in every new country/province I have been to even though I don’t really own a map. Weird.

I finally got to see The Merlion! Though I was super shy to ask somebody to take my picture with it in the background, I was able to accomplish this on my second trip to SG last 2013. Haha I was also able to see architectural feats such as The Marina Bay, Esplanade and Raffles Hotel. I was basically roaming around after this and I guess I was lucky enough to discover Lau Pa Sat Village (also called as Telok Ayer Market) because it started to drizzle again. The design of the building itself was lovely but the food is what I am glad to see the most here. Hawker food stalls are the best blessing for any budget backpacker in Singapore because it is dirt cheap and yummy at the same time. I guess for less than 25 SGD, I was able to eat dishes from India, Singapore and even had a tasty dessert!

my only photo of The Merlion and there's a photobomber. i still suck at taking pictures, but I think I improved now, yes?

I can’t remember how but I somehow ended up at Chinatown. I didn’t really come there to shop but just look around and eat (again). There are actually some attractions that will help tourists learn about Malay and Chinese culture in Singapore such as The Chinatown Heritage Center wherein I got to see an overview of Singapore’s history. Aside from that, there is also the Jamae Chulia Mosque and another Hindu temple called Sri Mariamman Temple that was took some of my time because I was so amused by the elaborate design and statues.

And my day doesn’t stop here! Some travelers that I met the previous day invited me to join them, I actually had no idea what they would do, I thought we would just go drinking. Anyway, from Little India we walked our way to Clarke Quay. By night, it has transformed into this colorful and vibrant commercial area. I would have been okay to just hangout by the benches and drink beer but one of our companions invited us to try GMAX, which is a reverse bungy. Price was quite steep but I remember getting a discount because I still had my student ID. :P Anyway, here is the video, I surely look stupid here but I don’t really care because I enjoyed the ride even though it lasted for only a couple of seconds.

G-Max Reverse Bungee Jumping @ Clarke Quay
So we were like...Kyoujirou: SayounaraMariane: Jya n (wasn't even able to finish the sentence)then we were thrown up in the air hahahaha

A night at Clarke Quay will not end without having booze and some dancing. I have been to some clubs in Manila before but usually with friends, but this was also a first going with people I just met, and there really is no difference! I eventually got separated from my companions and this group of friends “adopted” me into their circle. So this was how it feels like hanging out with strangers. Needless to say, it was a hell of a time.

Learning #5: Be open to new experiences.

Day 4: New Year Salubong in Singapore
My hostel had a Filipino staff, he reminded me of a friend who would consistently give tips and share weird experiences. He gave some recommendations where to go and they were quite close from my hostel so I decided to walk, thank goodness I didn’t get lost again. I wandered around the Kampong Glam area and was able to see Sultan Mosque and The Malay Heritage Center. For lunch, a filling meal of Chicken and Beef Kebab at Deli Moroccan. I met Filipinos again who were working at the said restaurant, it’s really nice to see friendly faces whenever I am abroad, especially since I was traveling alone. The moments that happened afterwards was quite a blur. I remember doing some souvenir shopping at Bugis Street but mostly trying out some street food and cheap eats at some hawker stalls in the area. Bugis reminded me of Divisoria because of the cheap prices and almost similar stock of items for sale. I tried to find Fort Canning Park but got lost again and somehow ended at The National Museum of Singapore! I shall be named ‘The Girl who gets lost but too shy to ask for directions.’

traditional Malay kitchen

I wanted to see the modern and fun side of Singapore so I went to Vivo City, which is a big shopping mall filled with brands I couldn’t afford then, and Sentosa, an island resort developed by Resorts World offering tons of attractions such as theme parks like Universal Studios, casinos, etc. But since I was not with friends and had only few dollars left, I was contented with people watching and just waited for the free water show.

I went back to my hostel and bonded with some travelers since it was my last night in SG, shared some stories and laughs over beer. A couple of hours and it will be a start of 2011! I was expecting to go to another bar or club again but most of the travelers I was with wanted to see the fireworks display at Marina Bay and it was quite spectacular, good thing the MTR was still operating until past midnight or it would have been hard to go back to the hostel with all the traffic. The rest of the night, I celebrated New Year with some backpackers and staff of the hostel, I couldn’t remember how, but I got some meat and booze for free, so all was good :)

Learning #6: Going on a trip solo doesn’t mean you will be lonely. Don’t be afraid to make new friends.

Day 5: Goodbye Singapore… for now.
I still had few hours before my flight so I went for a quick walk around Little India. Oh how I will miss authentic Indian food. Said my goodbyes to my new friends, promising to keep in touch. I couldn’t believe my friends were so worried that I chose a backpackers hostel for the entire duration of my stay in Singapore, it was probably one of the best decision I did for this trip. It was a bittersweet day, sad that I am going back so soon to Manila and returning to my normal life, but happier since it was a really awesome experience despite going alone.

i am now craving for some laksa

So will I travel solo again?
In fact I actually did a couple of times, hopefully more in the future. (want to know if I did and know if I finally learned how to ask people for directions, read one of my solo trips here) The thought of going alone was definitely nerve wracking. Before my flight to SG, I was contemplating of cancelling but meh, already paid for everything. What will I do? What if I get lost? How do I eat by alone? Will I have fun? Some of the questions I ask my brain every time I go on trips by myself, but I somehow manage to “survive” and enjoy the whole experience.

Learning #7: Just do it.

How about you? Have you ever traveled solo? How was it?

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