Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Singapore: Sunny island set in the sea

I had been travelling for over four hours by now but it was still a long way to Singapore. It was a one hour and a half bus ride from the new KLIA LCC-T (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) to Kuala Lumpur. I reached KL Sentral Station at about 10:15 p.m. and took another bus from there to the Pudu Raya Bus Station. From there, I took a bus to Singapore which was about six hours. For dinner, I had nasi lemak on the plane and mee rebus at the stopover midway between KL and Singapore. This is the second time I've done this border crossing to Singapore so it wasn't much of a hassle. I got there at 4 a.m. after 12 hours of non-stop travel!

As soon as I got down, I gave my SSEAYP friend Leon Ong a ring. Hehe! He had thought I was arriving the next day but he went straight
to fetch me at the Golden Mile Food Centre where the bus dropped us off. And of course, since we were in Singapore, we went straight for food. Hehe!

Breakfast was soya... tau huay and soya milk. I hope I got the spelling right but that is taho to us Filipinos, although the Singapore version does not have syrup or sago, just boiled peanuts. After breakfast, we went straight to Leon's flat and it was off to bed for me.

Obviously, I slept the whole morning. I had been to Singapore several times before so I've seen most of the sights. Things you shouldn't miss include walking tours around the colonial district or even better, a boat ride on the Singapore River which comes complete with a narrated recording of the history of the former British colony and the buildings you pass by; and trips to Sentosa Island, Clarke Quay and Boat Quay and of course, Chinatown and Little India. In the evenings, there is the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo.

Anyway, I had breakfast take two when I woke up prepared by Leon's mom since he was at work. After lunch, we bought my bus ticket back to KL. Driving around Singapore is indeed refreshing. It's an urban jungle. Not the concrete one but literally, the island is very green with trees! You have modern buildings right beside virgin forests. I hope Mayor Atienza learns to follow the Singapore example. He should stop cutting trees at the Arroceros Forest Park and should even start planting trees all over Manila! I also wonder where Bayani Fernando got this idea that trees cause slow traffic. I still remember that Katipunan incident where he wanted to get rid of all those big trees. I heard Singapore even imports big trees for their downtown areas.

Check out the photo of the East Coast Parkway (ECP). In the middle island, you have trees and bougainvillea shrubs in full bloom. At the sides, you also have trees and flowering shrubs. All pedestrian overpasses and flyovers have hanging bougainvillea shrubs on either side and ivy crawling up the concrete posts. It saves up on paint since the green ivy does the trick of covering the concrete. I laud Bayani for the cadena de amor but I think he should first make ivy crawl up the MRT posts then let the cadena vines to grow over them so that even if the cadena vines dry out which happens quite often, it's still green underneath. Maybe the NLEX and SLEX could also learn a lesson or two from the ECP.

Another thing is the urban planning is nothing but excellent! You feel there is so much space despite the fact that land is scarce in Singapore. In the Philippines, it's the opposite. We have so much land but everything feels so cramped up. Sigh! Can our mayors please create forest parks in their jurisdictions. We need trees to breathe! At the same time, Singapore was able to eradicate its slums thanks to the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Maybe Gawad Kalinga and the HUDCC could learn a thing or two from the HDB.

And all over Singapore, you had centuries old buildings and shop houses freshly painted. Hello again Mayor Atienza, please see how Singapore does it. They don't go around demolishing old buildings like the Jai Alai, YMCA and San Lazaro or plan trashing the Army Navy Club and Elks Buildings. In fact doing that in both Singapore and Malaysia is a crime. The trend in most old cities all over the globe today is urban renewal and renaissance or "re" which stands for restoring, regenerating, rebuilding, reviving, resurrecting these old urban centers, not demolishing old buildings like Mayor Atienza does.

Later in the afternoon, we met up with Dawn Pereira, another SSEAYP batchmate and went for some kaya roti at the Ya Kun Kaya Toast along China Street. Yummy! Hehe! I had a Horlicks drink to go with it. I wonder why those Horlicks candies are no longer available in the Philippines. I used to love them as a kid.

After that snack, it was off for early dinner. I really consider Singapore and Malaysia as food havens since there is so much to eat thanks to the mixture of many cultures which includes Chinese, Malay and Indian. The photo of the hawker centre above is in Ang Mo Kio. It is however a regular Singapore scene which you can find almost everywhere. I definitely had to have some char kuey teow which is a fried noodle dish with scallops. But aside from that, we also ordered oh-luak which was oyster omellette with wansuy and green onions, and chendol for dessert.

Then is was off to somewhere I haven't been to before. The best place to take a photo of the Singapore skyline is a bridge which is rarely visited by tourists. You park at Suntec City and it's a short walk from there. Wow! Great view!

And we weren't done eating yet since we met up with Singapore PYs Vincent and Francis. I had satay which is the Malay version of our barbecue, ice-cold sugar cane juice, chai tow kway the Chinese version of carrot cake and roti john. We were done eating at 10:30 p.m. since I had to catch my bus back to KL which was the last bus for the night. The first one in the morning was at 7:30 a.m. and I would be late for my flight if I took that one. So it was less than 24 hours in Singapore but it was most worth it.

I arrived in KL at 4 a.m. Tired from all that travelling, I got myself a room at a backpackers place for less than US$10 which was good enough for a few hours of sleep and a shower before I left for the airport. Zzzzzzzz!
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