Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Travels | Exploring SG on a Budget: Where to Go, Where to Eat, and Where to Shop! Part 2

Singapore's famous Roasted Chicken Rice

So the post where I wrote about the places I liked the most in Singapore was a lot longer than I expected (Well, there are certainly more which aren't included in my blog!). So I cut my post into two parts.

Where to go when you're hungry? Read on!

Get A Taste Of The Singaporean Cuisine

Why pay for expensive meals at restaurants when you can taste local food for S$2.50 or S$3.00 per meal? You can find cafeteria-like eating houses popularly known as 'hawkers' or 'coffee shops' anywhere in Singapore and they offer cheap but good food. Most are found near train stations or in the void decks of residential buildings, locally called as 'HDB'. 

Most malls have food courts such as Food Junction or Kopitiam, and they are found mostly at the top levels. They will cost a bit more because they are air-conditioned but the food almost tastes the same.

But if you want to be more adventurous, here are some famous hawker areas you can try:

1) Lau Pa Sat

Lau Pa Sat offers a wide varieties of food and a must-try is the satay, which is like kebabs. Lau Pa Sat is ideal for big groups because of the big space.

Nearest train station will be Telok Ayer along the Downtown Line.  Take Exit A and walk about 273 meters.

2) MakanSutra
The priciest option among those listed here but you pay for the view and the ambience.
Makansutra is open from 5pm until 2am every Mondays until Thursday. The place is open until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sundays, the place closes 1 hour early at 1am.

The nearest MRT station is City Hall station and take the Esplanade link-way route.

3) Newton Food Centre

I haven't been here, honestly, so I can't say much about the food. But if you are near the area, go and try!

The nearest train station to Newton Food Centre would be Newton MRT. Take Exit B and walk for about 163 meters.
Wherever you eat, don't forget to try the famous chicken rice (steamed or roasted chicken) or the chicken biryani, which is an Indian recipe, or the nasi lemak, which is rice cooked with coconut and served with chicken and fried anchovies.

For noodle-lovers, I recommend the Char Kway Teow, white/black carrot cake, oyster cake, seafood crispy noodles and Pontian noodles. Try the Pontian noodles with chilli but if you don't like spicy food, order it with black sauce instead.

Crispy noodles in a small wok. Yum! Served at a food center near Lavender MRT.

Roti Prata. Having evolved from an Indian dish, it is served plain, or with egg, or with onion, or with cheese.

Laksa, a spicy noodle soup which combines Chinese and Malay cuisine.

Rojak, a fruit and vegetable salad dish which originated from Indonesia.

* Food in Singapore is usually served with chilli but if you don't like spicy food, INFORM the server immediately. Or, you can have the chilli separated (especially with the biryani) so you can control the spiciness.

Where To Buy The Essentials

Singapore can be a good place to shop, if you know when and where to look. Singapore is known for the IT shows (happens three times a year) where you can buy gadgets at a cheaper price, if not, with lots of freebies. There's also the 'Great Singapore Sale', which happens during the months of May until July (National Day sale).

Keeping track of warehouse sales is also a good way of purchasing items by the bulk, and I used to subscribe to promotions blogs but the items offered are off-season and sizes can be difficult to find in cases of clothes and shoes sales.

What about chocolates for pasalubongs? What about toiletries? What about other kikay stuffs that a girl needs?

Well, panic no more! I have found some shops that offer cheaper products than those found in the supermarket though you need to search for them carefully, because they are found near residential areas and not near hotels or tourist spots.

1) Valu$  

OMG as in ohmygulay! These shops are sprouting like mushrooms nowadays and they are mostly found near MRT stations, if not on the topmost floors or basements in malls. They offer cheap chocolates, biscuits and other stuffs that are pasalubong-worthy (is there such a word?) that I go crazy whenever I shop at one. The biggest branch I have seen is in Toa Payoh, found near the entrance/exit to the MRT station but there is one inside West Mall (third floor, if I remember right) at Bukit Batok, and at the basement of Causeway Point Mall in Woodlands.
Hubby's having a hard time choosing which to buy :)

If you are staying anywhere but near these places, fret not. You can search for the nearest branch near you online :)

Make sure to check the expiry date, though, because cheap price comes with a price (what?).

2)  Pink Beauty, Venus Beauty and Beauté Spring

Forgot to pack in your toothbrush or toothpaste? Your monthly visitor came in a bit early? Toiletries at supermarkets like Fairprice (locals call it NTUC) and Giant are quite expensive and you'll need that extra cash to buy souvenirs for your family, friends and co-workers. If you don't mind walking a bit, try to look around at the shops outside MRT stations for the above-mentioned shops for they sell toiletries at a cheaper price. Sometimes, they even have promos and sell hand wash for S$1.00 per refill pack (Yes, I did gave hand wash away as pasalubong before :D).

3) Daiso

What can go wrong with anything for only S$2.00? The items found at Daiso may not be made in Singapore but finding unique products like a banana-holder or an apple-slicer can be useful and exciting :)
Daiso branch at Simei mall.

Daiso also offers food and drinks and you can find them in some shopping malls like Plaza Singapura and Vivo City.

4) Uncle Shops
          I don't know why a friend call them as such because some shops are manned by an Aunty (he-he) but these are the shops found outside MRT stations or below HDBs. HDBs have vacant ground floors, called void decks, and some HDBs have converted these void decks into shops and they offer stuffs you might need for a lower price.

5) SKP

If  you ever decide you need cheap party bags to put your pasalubongs into or your stuffs won't fit in your luggage anymore and you need to secure the balikbayan box you bought with packaging tape, SKP is the place to be.

SKP offers inexpensive gift wrappers, party bags, microwavables and other plastic containers. The downside? SKP shops lurk among the establishments near the MRT stations, almost hidden but there is one at the third floor of Lucky Plaza.

6) Guardian and Watsons

These establishments are everywhere, you can easily find even with eyes closed! And the biggest plus, they put some products in promotions as cheap as S$2.00 per piece all-year round! Some chocolates and goodies are also marked-down compared to the supermarkets so just be patient in scouting for what you need.

7) Lucky Chinatown

Yes, this is a shopping haven for souvenirs- key chains, can openers, ref magnets and other what-have-yous. The bonus part? You can explore the temples in the area and the shopping complex in Chinatown is nicely lit during Chinese New Year. 
Lucky Chinatown is very easy to find. It's right outside the train station!

And there's my mom who got so excited with all the abubots she found.

The style of the buildings in Chinatown gives you that rustic feeling that will make you return again!

Inside the Chinese temple in Chinatown.

Chinatown at night during Chinese New Year.

These lanterns really gave me that nostalgic feeling.

* Wear comfortable shoes. It is easier to shop around when your feet are not hurting.

* Be careful in taking photos inside some shops.

* Don't be shy to ask for directions. Especially when it's a kabayan

There. But again, this list is not exhaustive of all choices and options. Stay tuned for more posts :D

Disclaimer: Some routes may have changed from the time I have written this. Singapore's transportation improves rapidly so better check gothere.sg to find your way in case my suggestions become inapplicable.

Travels | Exploring SG on a Budget: Where to Go, Where to Eat, and Where to Shop! Part 1

I used to work in Singapore. For three years, I juggled between saving up and splurging. Thus started the hunt for more affordable choices for recreation, food and shopping!

Armed with an online map and loads of pictures, let me help you find your way in Singapore should you decide to visit the Lion City!

Places To Visit

Indeed, a trip to Singapore is not complete if the itinerary does not include a day of fun at the famous Universal Studios Singapore or the acclaimed Singapore Zoo; but Singapore has a lot more to offer besides these expensive parks such as photo sessions with the  Merlion at One Fullerton or the one in Sentosa and leisure parks which come with cheap entrance fee, if not free.

1) Sentosa

Sentosa island offers a lot of things to do for any tourist. After all, Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom, Underwater World Singapore, Dolphin Lagoon, S.E.A Aquarium™ and Resorts World are in Sentosa among many other attractions as well as beaches and waterparks. Visit their website for more details of the places you can see while at the island.
The fish spa pool looks so inviting!

                                                                                                                                                It is wise to check the places you'd want to go online first as these tourist attractions might offer promos on their websites. And Sentosa is no exception! We wanted to see the dolphin show in 2012 but by adding around ten Singapore dollars, we get to see the Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom plus a ten-minute fish spa, too.
Beautiful butterflies await you at Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom.

Graceful dolphins will surely amaze you at the Dolphin Lagoon.
To get there, take the monorail on the fifth floor of VivoCity, which is accessible by taking the NE (North-East) or the CC (Circle line) and alight at Harbourfront Station.

Sentosa Express also offers a ride to the island from the bus stop in front of Vivo City. Once inside Sentosa, shuttles can take you anywhere in the island, but take the monorail for faster travel. For more photo opportunities or a walk by the sea, take the Sentosa Boardwalk.

Found inside Sentosa island, USS can be costly at S$74 for adults and S$54 for children with ages 4 - 12. But the rides are spectacular and the theme park offers photo opportunities with various movie characters such as Shrek and Princess Fiona, the O'Connells from the Mummy, Betty Boop, Marilyn Monroe and many more!
The iconic USS globe tells you that you have found what you were looking for.

The adult rides can be quite exhilarating but there are several kiddie rides for entertaining young ones, as well. Souvenir shops also abound the theme park but in case you have left the premises already, a theme store is found outside the gates of USS as well.

To get to USS, you can take a monorail train from VivoCity. VivoCity is accessible via bus or train, NE line, and alight at Harbourfront Station.

A cheaper alternative for you is to walk from VivoCity to Sentosa via a covered walkway. For only S$1.00 (price may change in time), you can enjoy more photo opportunities by the sea! And don't worry about getting tired, the entire walkway features a walk-a-lator!

3) Singapore Zoo

If you have the time, go visit all of Singapore's four main zoos: Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Bird Park at a discounted price (Park Hopper)!

Personally, I prefer Singapore Zoo alone and you'll need one day to enjoy the whole zoo with the scheduled feeding times and animals shows scheduled all throughout the day. The zoo prides itself in providing an environment similar to the animals' natural habitat.

The Zoo is worth visiting!
Whichever your choice is, check out their website for promotions and better deals. After all, you'll miss the long queues, too, if you buy your tickets online.
Should you decide to get the Park Hopper package, Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari are found in one place, Mandai Road. A shuttle from there can take you to the Bird Park in Jurong.
A Bengal tiger takes a dip in the pool. The pool separates the tiger's home from the spectators.
The baboons enjoy a huge space for playing with caves to protect them from the harsh weather.
Ibexes, in the meantime, walk around freely atop the boulders. 


Tired? Hungry? Sit back and rest while you watch animal shows.
Ask a staff or get a copy of the Zoo's program for timings.
4) Night Safari

You can visit Night Safari after your time in Singapore Zoo, provided you're not yet tired. The entire zoo is 28 hectares big while Night Safari is 40 hectares!
The Night Safari is the world's first nocturnal zoo.

                   5) River Safari

The River Safari features a river cruise for a small fee exclusive of the entrance fee, but you need to sign up for a time slot early at the park's entrance. We had to return another day because the cruise' schedule was already full!

Book your cruise upon arrival at the River Safari!

The easiest way to get to the Singapore Zoo, Night and River Safari is taking bus 138 at the Ang Mo Kio bus interchange. AMK station is along the NS line. But for those staying at the West side of Singapore (Jurong, Boon Lay among others), take the train along NS line as well, but alight at Choa Chu Kang. Bus 927 also takes tourists to Mandai Road.
Bus 138 in Berth B1 at AMK interchange.

6) Merlion

The Merlion represents Singapore's humble beginnings as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, meaning 'sea town' in Old Javanese.

The Merlion in Sentosa.

The Merlion head symbolizes Singapore’s original name, Singapura, or ‘lion city’ in Malay.

Reach the Merlion in Sentosa by taking the monorail from VivoCity and alight at Imbiah Station.

If you would like to visit the Merlion near One Fullerton, you can either take the NS mrt line and alight at Raffles Place Station and cross Collyer Quay to get to the hotel.

This Merlion was originally found at the mouth of Singapore river to welcome tourists. A boat ride from gives chances to snap a photo with the Merlion behind you. But it was moved in 2002 to its location today and one can enjoy watching the lights coming from MBS at night.

Marvel at Singapore's flora and fauna for free! This park also cultivates Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim.

Its Bukit Timah Gate is located just outside the train station Botanic Garden (circle line), and this park attract joggers and shutterbugs with its lovely surroundings and beautiful landscape.

The other entrance which is also accessible by public transportation is Tanglin Gate, which is nearer to Orchard road, Singapore's premier shopping district.

Just make to wear comfortable shoes as the park is extremely HUGE. But benches, water fountains and restrooms are everywhere in the park so one can take rest or refresh after a long walk.

A map marks your location and other interesting places in SBG.

Covering a whopping land area of 74-hectares, the Singapore Botanic Gardens spans from Tanglin to Bukit Timah.

Each area boasts of different attractions. At the Tanglin core, find various gardens such as the Bonsai garden and the Sun garden as well as the Swan Lake and Botany Centre.

Kids will surely delight at the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden in the Bukit Timah core for a small fee.

Animal lovers will surely enjoy seeing animals roaming freely in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Enjoy performances at the Symphony Lake while feeding carps and turtles.
Fish food are available at vending machines in the area.

A concrete pavement gives joggers and visitors a comfortable walk inside SBG.

Find interesting spots to have your pictures taken!


SBG has become a popular venue for photo-shoots.

8) East Coast Park

The East Coast Park offers a lot of activities for families and friends. They have bike rental shops, catching-prawns houses and tables for picnics. Barbecue pits and spaces for pitching tents  are available as well, though a permit has to be acquired.

If you suddenly have the urge to take a dip in the beach or just want to refresh after a day of fun under the sun, shower amenities are available at the park, too, so pack in an extra set of clothes.

For those staying in the West, you can visit West Coast Park instead.

The nearest MRT to East Coast Park is Tanah Merah station along EW line (East-West), then take bus 14 or 45 and alight 5 bus stops later.

You can also alight at Bedok station and take bus 14 from the Bedok Interchange. The park is only 13 bus stops away.

10) The malls!

Singapore's premiere shopping district, Orchard Road, has several malls all clustered together which offers branded shops, some of which aren't available anywhere in the Philippines. These malls lit up wonderfully at night and their Christmas decorations are a sight to behold during the holiday season.
Tang Plaza on the left and ION Orchard on the right.


And the list can go on and on. Perhaps I will write another entry. But, where can you go when you get hungry? Check these out!
*Did I mention that travelling around Singapore is as easy as 1-2-3? You can check gothere.sg for directions to a place where you want to go. Gothere.sg will even give you an estimated time of your whole journey.

*Don't forget to get a copy of the SMRT map at the control station in any SMRT train station. The SMRT map will show you all train stations and which ones will overlap so you can plan ahead.

 *Get your own Singapore Tourist Pass (STP) at selected train stations. If you are staying longer, opt for an EZ link card though you will be charged of the normal fares. Having an STP or EZ link will save you time from lining up to get one-way tickets every time you travel by train. And you can also use them for travelling via buses! What fun!

EZ links may come in different colors. This one's one of my faves!

                                                                                        *Most tourists take the MRT as it is the fastest and easiest way to travel. But taking the bus is the cheapest  way to travel around Singapore. There may be traffic jams during rush hour, but it is just because of the traffic lights and nothing comparable to the, uhm, nightmarish Manila jams (excuse me for the term). Just make sure to press the buzzer to signal the driver that you are alighting at the next bus stop early. I had to walk back before because the driver won't stop (for safety reasons) when I buzzed a bit late (Geez, imagine this discipline in Manila. The people will GO crazy.).

Disclaimer: Some routes may have changed from the time I have written this. Singapore's transportation improves rapidly so better check gothere.sg to find your way in case my suggestions become inapplicable.