Singapore: Beyond Bugis

Bugis Street. Crowded laneways with clothes on the cheap and street food on sticks.

That was my clearest memory of Singapore.

I’d only ever visited the neighbouring city-state with family and for some reason, we always headed down to Bugis.

This time round, as a little getaway over the Labour Day weekend, I had the privilege of going by my own agenda. With recommendations from friends, a little Googling and the intention of getting lost, I discovered much more to Singapore than its bright city lights and clean toilets.

DAY ONE 

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Walk By The Waters At The Esplanade

More like ‘Night One’. I arrived around 10 PM on Friday, thanks to AirAsia for the delay. Fighting tired eyes, I was set on getting supper and seeing the much ‘Instagrammed’ Marina Bay Sands. From Douby Ghaut, I met up with my godbrother and we took the MRT down to Raffles City station. There on, it was aimless strolling. From Boat Quay, we walked along the Singapore River, past the grand Fullerton Hotel, to the Jubilee Bridge, and across to a food court by the Esplanade Theatre for some good old fresh coconut and oyster omelette. The Jubilee Bridge, facing MBS, is quite possibly one of my favourite parts of Singapore now, as touristy as it might be. It reminded me of the Yarra River in Melbourne, being right by the waters with the wide, open sky above and pedestrians and cyclists wandering about. I thought of MBS as the Crown equivalent and in that moment, I imagined Singapore as a more humid, summer-reigned Melbourne.

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On our way back, we walked past the bustling Clarke Quay, where I caught a glimpse of Zouk, and along the way, we stumbled upon heritage centres, from the Asian Civilisations Museum to the National Gallery of Singapore, which pulled me right off track, running towards its beautiful architecture lit by the yellow lights. I even stumbled upon the MICA Building, which I had planned to check out on Monday. All in all, a good walk on a good first night.

DAY TWO

Cycle By The Waters At Punggol Promenade and Coney Island

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I love being by the waters.

Rivers, oceans, whatever flows. It’s calming.

My godbrother had his day off so he took me to the Punngol Promenade, knowing I wanted to cycle.

Getting there was an easy MRT ride on the North East line to the last station (Punggol), and a short ride on Bus 84 to the final stop, right by the Punggol Promenade. There, we rented a bike for $8/hour (the cheapest option) and cycled around the well-laid paths. We were free to cycle as our hearts led, taking as many detours as we liked. With construction of a new pathway going on, we even got a little taste of trail biking on uneven soil. Safe to say, I got soil stains on my white shorts.

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Through two gates, we were connected to Coney Island, which felt nothing like what I knew of Singapore. Simple, and untouched for the most part, we found ourselves cycling through tree-lined pathways of dirt, and stopping by a beach, where the land meets the sea (not safe for swimming, though). I’d say we could have spent at least 2 hours there, but we were running short on time, leaving much of the island unexplored. Perhaps that’s reason for another trip.

Find Colour In Haji Lane

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Located in the Muslim quarter of Singapore, expect to meander through colourful streets, brightly painted, with old-school shop houses converted into hipster-y stores targeted towards the younger crowd. There’s even a café called The Juice Clinic. If that doesn’t say hipster, I don’t know what does.

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Influenced by a post I saw on The Smart Local’s Instagram of a beautiful purple Taro Hokkaido Ice-cream Puff, I decided to fit in a little dessert into my Saturday. The puff really wasn’t that impressive, lacking both in taste and texture. The ice-cream, while good, was alike to the RM 1 flavours you find from the ‘Paddle Pop’ ice-cream man on his motorcycle (Later found out this treat’s from Malaysia so essentially, I paid 3x the price for it). Oh well, at least I got this pretty shot.

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Breathe In The Sea At East Coast Park

I remember coming by here and cycling with my cousin a few years back. How time flies. I was still in high school back then and was in Singapore on transit to Adelaide.

This time round, we came by East Coast Park before dinner, with the intention of doing some in-line skating (or at least, attempt to) but from the cycling and walking earlier in the day, I figured I had worked the legs out enough. So we strolled, with the wind in hair and the smell of the sea awakening our senses.

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There, I found these rocky platforms and sure enough, I ran to it, eager to climb up. Just a little taste of rock climbing, but it was fun, and at the top, I was rewarded with a clear straight on view of where the sky meets the sea. Of course, with Singapore’s signature ships scattered about.

Walking back along the beach to the bus station, we could seeing Dads teaching their kids how to ride bikes, big families enjoying a BBQ (and taking forever to get in form for a group photo), couples skating side by side, and friends, young and old, chatting over a jog. What a way to spend the weekend.

Take In The City Lights From The MBS Observation Deck

I love that the deck was shaped like that of a ship. Standing at the bow gave me a bit of that Jack-Rose Titanic feel. The view was, as expected, nothing short of beautiful. Lights played with each other to create what was almost like art, from the Gardens By The Bay, to the Singapore Flyer, to the network of roads, the waters and the city’s big, commercial buildings. One thing that bugged me, though, was the wire fencing the area. I’m not there to see through lines and plastic panes, thank you.

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There is an entrance fee to the Observation Deck (23SGD for adults), and if I were to be honest, it’s not worth the money unless you’re really, really into city views from above. Surely, with a little research and adventure, you can find an accessible rooftop for much cheaper, or even free? Just a thought.

Feel Like You’re In The Future At Gardens By The Bay

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Is it just me? I was honestly a little ‘starstruck’ here, walking through the Supertrees. My neck was sore from looking up and imagining what life would be like in the future with cyborgs,  LED stars and steel trees abound.

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DAY THREE 

Explore The Southern Ridges From Mount Faber Park To Kent Ridge Park

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I made it a point to do some solo hiking this trip (though this was more a walk than a hike). Taking advantage of Singapore’s easy transport and safety, I decided on the Southern Ridges, which is in whole, a 9 km walk from Mount Faber Park to West Coast Park, if you start from East to West. Of course, you can start and stop at any point along the trail.

Struggling to get out of bed till 12 noon, I started at Harbourfront MRT under the burning afternoon sun. Not exactly the best idea, but at least I got the tan I wanted.

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First stop: The Henderson Waves, Singapore’s highest pedestrian bridge. With curves and edges reminding me of an overgrown caterpillar, it whirled its way from Mount Faber Park across to Telok Blangah Hill Park. I walked across this bridge four times, unsure of where to go and trying to find the best angle for a photo.

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There, I took a little break lying down under one of the ‘waves’, which had wooden structures serving as seats. How cool is that? Lying on a bridge, with the view of the clear, blue sky right in front of you, eating some two-bite brownies you packed as snacks.

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Side note: The brownies are pretty good as a snack. They really are moist and fudgy like the packaging claims! But really, you can eat it in one bite, not two.

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While the Henderson Waves is the most talked about part of the trail, my personal favourite is the Forest Walk, a 1.3 km elevated walkway meandering through the trees. This is where man-made development’s danced through nature, I’d say.

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Other points of note are:

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The Alexandra Arch, which is meant to look like an open leaf, but I thought of it as just any other bridge. Probably would look cooler with the lights at night.

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HortPark, a 9-hectare park which I believe serves to promote horticulture (I had to google this word), in teaching us about trees, flowers and fruits. Not my thing, though look, playground!

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Kent Ridge Park, where I ended my little walk (leaving West Coast for another trip).

Random Fact: Ran into my ex-housemate from way back in first year at UniMelb here. Like, how small is Singapore really? Of all places, I see you in the woods?

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After taking in the view and resting my legs at the Kent Ridge Park lookout point, I decided it was time to get dinner before catching the sunset at Macritchie Reservoir Park. Finding Google’s directions unhelpful, I went down a main road where cars were coming up from, thinking there would be a bus stop at the end. I landed on South Buona Vista Road, and of course, just a few steps further down, there was a bus stop! Bus 200 came by not long after and seeing that it was the only bus that goes by that stop, I got on. I had no idea where I was and where I was heading but I figured it’d just somehow lead me to food.

Just a couple stops later, I saw an MRT station. Whew. I got off straight away at the Haw Par Villa station and found this.

IMG_3231Apparently, it’s considered a tourist attraction so wow, guess I’m crossing this off the list. There, I googled the nearest MRT station to the Macritchie Reservoir and lucky me, it’s on the same line! From Haw Par Villa, I headed down to Marymount, all the while hoping there’d be food nearby. I hadn’t eaten a proper meal all day, surviving only on the two-bite brownies (not a good move, Crystal).

Coming up from the Marymount MRT station, I saw nothing but roads, apartments and a school with kids who had just finished lacrosse practice. I walked around, trying to find food but there were no restaurants around until at last, I found a neighbourhood food centre, where I ordered some good old $3.50 chicken rice (think I paid $5 cause I added egg) and a refreshing glass of Limau Ais.

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Oh, simple pleasures! All fuelled and ready to go, I walked to Macritchie Reservoir Park.

Catch The Sunset At Macritchie Reservoir Park (Well, I tried)

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Yes, I made it! I even found the deck area that yet again, reminded me of Albert Park Lake in Melbourne (I’m sorry that everything reminds me of Melbourne).

Sadly, it was too cloudy for a good sunset but I’m still glad I went and waited.

Expectations vs Reality. Oh, the difference.
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Chill In My Super Comfy King Sized Bed (With 4 Pillows, All To Meself)

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Just a little note of appreciation for this hotel bed. I’m so thankful I had this cocoon to nestle in and recharge after my day out and about.

DAY FOUR

Admire Singapore’s Architecture

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Yes, I woke up extra early on my last day to get this shot because I didn’t want it overcrowded with passers-by. Also yes, I saw it on TSL’s Instagram and thought it was cool.

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I had planned to wander along the Jubilee Walk, around the Civic District, but, it was way, way too hot. So I escaped into the National Gallery of Singapore, admiring the blend of old meets new architecture but mostly, for the aircon and free wifi.

Kill Time At Random MRT Stations

Deciding I might as well see a bit more of Singapore before I met up with a friend, and with the extra money I had on my NETS FlashPay card (I thought it was supposed to be EZ-Link but that’s not what it says on my card), I got on the MRT and stopped at random stations. Not keen on stepping out into the sun (as much as I liked it and wanted to get a tan), I stayed within the connected plazas and malls. Wrong move as I found out later I was so close to a new area by Tiong Bahru where they had cool, new restaurants. Oh well.

Get Messy With The Salted Egg Yolk Lava Croissant

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Not sorry I couldn’t get a better photo. Time cannot be wasted with this in my face!

I can’t remember why I associated Singapore with salted egg yolk. Possibly because of the Facebook videos I saw of The Bakery Club’s Salted Egg Yolk Lava Toast and the salted egg yolk fish skin snacks my workmates would bring back. I was set to try the salted egg yolk croissant this trip. I had done my research and according to Daniel’s Diary, Antoinette has the best. My friend and I made it all the way there at around 3.30 PM but damn, it was all sold out.

Adamant on getting my Singaporean salted egg yolk fix (though we most definitely have it in KL), we went onto Boulangerie Asanoya, as recommended by my friend.

My verdict? It was not bad, not bad at all. Though, I would have preferred it warmer. If you’re ever there, ask them to heat it up properly. The lava is real lava-like, oozing out as soon as I took a bite. Eating this without making a mess requires serious skills.

I’m glad to have ended my Singapore adventures on such a sweet note before heading off to the airport.

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I am thankful to have seen another side of Singapore and this time, through my own eyes. It’s different from what I remembered and I would definitely make it a point to return, seeing that it’s so near I can pretty much go down any weekend. I like that I can feel safe here, that I have the freedom to walk where I want and that the waters are so easily accessible. The only thing? The heat. Ahh.

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