Friday, April 03, 2009

Singapore Trip '09 – Day 01: Getting There and the Night Out

This trip came about early last year when we heard that “The Winter’s Tale” was coming to Singapore as part of The Bridge Project world tour. With the help of a friend in Singapore, we were able to get really good seats for the March show and with that we started to make flight and accommodation plans to attend the show. It was later that we also found out that Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” was being staged by the Wild Rice theater group during the same weekend that we were there. Having not seen a production of the play before, I agreed to include a matinee performance of it in our trip itinerary and got tickets for the show too. In the end, the Singapore trip turned out to be more of a cultural excursion than my usual type of trips abroad.

Since my travelling companion was working on the Saturday that we suppose to travel, we decided to take an afternoon flight into Singapore. We departed from Sunway at around 2pm and reached KL Sentral just in time to catch the Air Asia Skybus to go to LCCT. We were cutting it close since the bus was scheduled to arrive at LCCT around an hour before boarding. As luck had it, the bus that we were on experienced a mechanical failure and we had to switch buses on the way to LCCT. Fortunately we did not have to wait long by the roadside before the replacement bus came but it was sufficient for us to be anxious about missing the flight. We eventually arrived 15 minutes later than scheduled at LCCT and were able to check in 10 minutes before the flight boarded.

Due to the current renovation work, LCCT was bit of a mess. The new international departure terminal was not opened yet the last time I was at the airport coming back from my Langkawi trip last December. It has been now and we were directed to go to the departure gate at the international departure terminal. To get there, we had to go out of the checking area and walk around the building, go up a set of escalators before clearing immigration at the immigration area. It was then another walk down a set of escalators before reaching the departure gates. On the plus sides, there are more shops at the departure area but getting there is a bit of a walk until they finish the renovation work in the area that connected the international departure with the flight check in area.

Our flight took off late due to problems with the power unit that ran the internal air conditioning system. Suffice to say that all of us were happy to finally be in the air after sweating it out for at least 10 minutes while the got the problem resolved. The remainder of the flight passed without incident and eventually we touched down at Terminal 1 of Changi Airport in Singapore. The airport seemed smaller than I remembered it but I quickly realized that the last time I was in Singapore, I came through Terminal 2 via a MAS flight which was much larger. After almost an hour to clear immigrations, thanks to the long queues from several flights coming in at the same time as ours, we made our way to the MRT station at Terminal 2 to catch a train to town.

We got of the Bugis MRT station and walked down the road to look for Middle Road where our hotel was located. It turned out that it was not far from where the station we got off and soon enough we arrived at our hotel. Just as we were checking in, our friends who we already made plans to go out with that night arrived to pick us up. We asked them to wait while we went up for a quick shower and to stow our bags away. Once we came back down, the four of us hailed down a cab right in front of the hotel to go to Clarke Quay for dinner.

Clarke Quay was an interesting place to walk around at night. Consisting of 5 blocks of refurbished warehouses, Clarke Quay offers a variety of dining and entertainment options for visitors and locals alike. I loved the way that the original warehouse facades were retained and incorporated into the modern architecture design of the area. Even with the giggle inducing canopy support struts (look at them from the opposite sides to understand why), it was a nice place to spend the evening at and I hope to get back to again since I didn’t really get to spend much time there during our evening walk which eventually led us to the Japanese themed Central shopping mall. We proceeded down to the food court below it to have dinner at a recommended eatery which served dishes at a fraction of the price that one would have to pay for a similar item in a normal restaurant. Once dinner was done, we took a cab just outside of the food court to go to Kreta Ayer Road in Chinatown.

We started our walking tour of the area at DMYK for drinks. Since we arrived very early in the night, around 9pm or so, the place was totally empty with the exception of us and the staff. We stayed there for just the first rounds of drinks before we decided to move on to the next place just as people started to come in. We walked around the corner towards Tantric and unsuccessfully tried to find a place to sit at the outdoor seating area. We didn’t really want to hang around inside Tantric as the place was filling up fast and they didn’t really have a lot of seating inside that we can go to. After the cursory round inside Tantric, we decide to walk down Neil Street towards Duxton Plain Park to head into Tanjong Pagar.

We ended up at a friend’s drinking establishment near Duxton Hill where we spent most of the night with good drinks and bar food. Since we had an early day the following morning, we decided to call it a night at around 1 am and return to our hotel. We walked down a bit near the area where the Thian Hock Keng temple was located. Like most of the shophouses that we saw during our walk that night, it was beautifully preserved in its original state surrounded by the more modern establishments. I wished that I had more time to walk in the area and enjoy the preserved architecture but we were there to get a taxi back to our hotel at Bugis Street. We finally arrived at the hotel around 1:30am tired but thoroughly enjoyed our night out in Singapore.

I did bring my camera along in this trip but somehow other than the very few pictures that I took of the hotel room, I didn’t take any pictures at all of the places that we went to. I guess it was due to a combination of not wanting to hold people up while I took pictures and the whirlwind pace of our itinerary there that prevented me from taking the usual travel pictures to accompany my travel blog entries.

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