Thursday, June 18, 2009

Singapore June Return Trip '09 – Getting There and the First Day

Our second trip to Singapore in 2009 was planned in conjunction with the Singapore Arts Festival which ran from 15th May – 14th June. A mutual friend of ours was able to get us fairly good deals on a few of the shows as we were booking them as an early-bird package booking. We were supposed to go with the person who helped us get the ticket but she had to opt out of the tip at the last minute and had a replacement person to come with us on the trip. For a change, we decided to travel down to Singapore via bus instead of the previous method of taking an Air Asia flight. After shopping around for reasonable offers, we decided on taking the FirstCoach bus to Singapore on the 6th of June.

Since my travelling companion had to work on Saturday, we decided to take FirstCoach’s last bus of the day to Singapore. The bus ticket cost us RM110 for a return ticket which I thought was fairly reasonable considering how much more we had to pay if we were to take a flight with Air Asia. The last bus departed their office, which was located around the corner from the Bangsar LRT station, sharp at 8:30pm heading south through the PLUS highway. Having not had travelled with the company before, I was duly impressed by the condition of the seats and the onboard movie service. The somewhat recent selection of movies helped me pass the time as we travel down to Singapore with only one 20 minute stop at the Pagoh R&R stop at around 10:30pm.

After the stop at Pagoh, the bus travelled on to the Malaysia side of the Second Link that links Malaysia and Singapore at Tanjung Kupang. Upon arriving, we had to disembark with our passport to go through Malaysian passport control before getting back on the bus which continued on to the Singapore side of the link at Tuas. The journey across the Second Link was smooth and it took us only 20 minutes before we reached the Singaporean Immigration and Customs complex there. We had to disembark again with our luggage this time to have our passports stamped for Singapore entry as well as to pass Customs before getting back on the bus. Once everyone had returned to the bus, we continued on our journey to the final destination at Novena Square.

We reached Novena Square at around 1am in the morning. Since the MRT service had already stopped for the night, we had to get a cab to get to our hotel which was located at Bencoolen St. The taxi driver didn’t know where exactly our hotel was located as it was a recently opened hotel on the street but thankfully I remembered to bring a print out of the address. It turned out that the hotel (Ibis Hotel at Bencoolen St) was not difficult to spot once we drove into Bencoolen St. Since we already had prior reservation at the hotel, we were able to check in fairly quickly and settle in our rooms for the remaining of the night.

The first show that we had tickets for was scheduled at 11:00am on the following morning. We still had to wait for another friend who was coming in from KL on the morning train to Singapore before going to the show. Since we had some time to kill that morning, we decided on having breakfast at Burger King at Burlington Square which was located just across the street from where the hotel was. After breakfast, we ran into the remaining members of our travelling troupe walking down the road to the hotel. After they have checked in, we took a taxi to the Marina Square mall where we were going to participate in the “Etiquette” performance.

We were shown to a pre selected table when we arrived at the Dome Café at Marina Square and given a brief explanation of what was about to happen. In “Etiquette”, we became the actually actors in the public performance. We were given headsets through which we were given instructions of what to say and do. On hearing the cues, we also had an array of items laid out and labeled on the table for which we suppose to interact with. Since each person had only half of the story in this two person performance, we would also need to listen and interact with the person sitting opposite us as directed. It was definitely a new experience for me as not only was I’m actually participating in a performance but it was also in a public place with a small and somewhat disinterested audience.

After the performance at Marina Square, we hung out for a bit to check out the shops there before proceeding via MRT to the Orchard St station where we planned to meet up with some friends who were in town. I have to honestly say that I have yet to really understand the system before being confident of being able to take the MRT in Singapore by myself. I think that with a few more trips on them, I would eventually figure out which lines to take especially in stations with line exchanges. We did eventually reached the Orchard St MRT station and met up with our friends there before proceeding to the nearby Wisma Atria Food Republic for some lunch and to catch up on the latest happenings.

After lunch, we proceeded to do a little bargain hunting starting with the Borders bookstore at Wheelock. Unlike my last visit, there wasn’t anything new for me to pickup there as I guess it was just a few months since my last visit there. After the bookstore, we hit the nearby Toys’R’us store at The Paragon for some board games that I had planned to look for. Didn’t really find any worth buying but I did pick up some travel editions of the games that I thought would be a nice addition to a games night with the gang. We later then ended up at The Heeran Shops for some CD browsing at the large HMV store they have there before calling it a day as far as shopping was concerned. We thought of using the public bus system to get back to our hotel but got on the wrong bus by mistake and ended up in Chinatown Point instead where we decided to be less adventurous and take a taxi back instead.

After a short nap and shower to refresh ourselves, we took a taxi from the hotel to head out to the Victoria Theater for the evening performance of “Electra” by the renowned Suzuki Company of Toga from Japan. A strange combination of Greek story with Japanese traditional Kabuki and Noh performance style, “Electra” was definitely not something that I could have prepared for. Even with the often delayed and, what I think was, paraphrased subtitling, it was a bit hard to follow what was happening on stage. I guess that it was a bit too high brow for my theater tastes which I believe that more than a few members of the audience shared with me. Case in point was the person sitting next to me who was actually sleeping through the show up to the point when they started pounding the drum finale. I’m sure that some people would know who to appreciate this performance but I was fairly certain that it was not something that I was overly impressed with.

We left Victoria Theater close to about 9:30pm to head out to the Esplanade for a late night supper since we had skipped dinner to get to the show. On the way, I got to try one of the ice cream cut from a block and sold sandwiched between thin wafers. I’ve seen them around the city and never had a chance to actually get one. It reminded me of the type that I used to have as a kid but sadly I see less of nowadays in KL. Having the ice cream on the balmy night walk heading to the Esplanade was actually quite fun while the ice cream lasted. Once we reached the Esplanade Mall, we decided to eat at the Thai Express restaurant there before calling it a night and take a cab back to the hotel to end our first full day of the trip.

(Having some problem with my external HDDs where all my pictures have been transferred so will have to wait to get that fixed before I can put the travel pics for this entry)

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