Friday, May 05, 2006

Singapore on the Cheap

I'd like to share this article I got from PAL's Mabuhay magazine, Feb 2006 ish. It's about Singapore and where to find it's hidden bargain spots. Given that I haven't been to Singapore, this article will be one of the things i'll be keeping handy on my first trip there (kelan kaya yun???). And until i'm able to write to you about my OWN Singapore experience...here's a quick rundown on what to do and where to go when frolicking around the Lion City <*ROAR!* haha!>.

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Singapore on the Cheap (by Lester V. Ledesma)

No doubt you've heard what people have said about Singapore being an expensive city. Indeed, a fancy dinner here may cost a day's wage in the Philippines, and an hour-long taxi ride may induce a headache. But don't let this keep you from enjoying one of Southeast Asia's richest nations. With the right information, a budget-conscious tourist need not break the wallet to have that authentic Singapore experience. Here's the lowdown on the Lion City's best -- and most affordable -- sights, sounds and flavors.


WHERE TO SHOP:

Glitzy Orchard Road is, of course, Singapore's premier shopping district, but just because it's a goods acquisition specialist's haven doesn't mean you can just charge into its stores blindly with your credit card in tow. Like any good hunting expedition, you should keep an eye out for signs of your quarry -- that is, the word "SALE." Malls like Lucky Plaza or Centrepoint often have sales at the center of their ground floors, with weekly themes ranging from books to clothes, textiles or shoes. This also applies to the basement atrium of Ngee Ann City, where much-bigger expos offer everything from toys to houseware and even quality leather goods. Should you desire a real shopping adventure, leave these chic confines and make your way to the This Fashion store (10 Eunos Road, B1-12 Singapore Post Centre) -- that's 22,000 square feet of bliss for the shopping addict. You can also check out the other This Fashion outlets scattered around town (there's one near the Dhoby Ghaut and Chinatown MRT stations), but this one by far hosts the largest collection of quality budget clothes and accessories.

Perfumes? You'll find cheap, original designer brands at Mustafa Centre (145 Syed Alwi Road), a cavernous 24-hour mall inside colorful Little India district. A favorite hangout of Indian migrant workers, this place sells pretty much everything from groceries to clothes, hardware and even electronics. Best of all, they've got a whole VCD/DVD/CD department dedicated to the best Bollywood hits.

If gadgets are your thing, we recommend heading for Sim Lim Square (1 Rochor Canal Road) -- that's where everything electronic is, especially those concerning computers and digital photography. It would be better if you knew exactly what you wish to buy, as bargaining for these products can be a rather tricky exercise even in Singapore.

There's also that one item that makes up a big chunk of every Filipino traveller's must-buy list: pasalubong (presents for people back home). These you can get at Chinatown's Temple Street, host to an open-air flea market that seems to be the country's knick-knack central. You'll know you've arrived here when you start seeing those "3 for $5" signs, which apply to a great array of mostly Chinese-made stuff like traditional oriental paintings, wooden table ornaments, Merlion keychains, silk pillowcases and that ubiquitous Singapore ref magnet. Better bring ample cash.


WHERE TO EAT:

Here's the rule of thumb when it omes to finding the cheapest food in the Land of the 'Lah: head for the hawker centers. These al fresco dining centers offer some of the best eating experiences around. Their highly informal surroundings and varied menus ensure a thorough introduction to everyday Singaporean cuisine. Best of all, they're practically everywhere -- just look for the round plastic tables and the nearby food stalls with big, backlit pictures of the menu offerings. Hawker centres like tha Lau Pa Sat Food Market (near Raffle Place MRT) and the Maxwell Food Centre (near Chinatown MRT) do brisk business all day, their seasoned cooks serving up classic local favorites like Hainanese Chicken Rice, Malay Nasi Lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk and served with peanuts, fish and sambal chili sauce) or Indian Biryani (rice cooked with spices and chunks of meat) with chicken curry. You can gorge on these for as little as S$4 (Php130), drinks included. Alternatively, you may choose to eat at the food courts instead -- the indoor equivalent of the hawker centre -- which are often found at the top or bottom floors of most malls. You'll have to pay a bit more, of course, but that's in exchange for the cleaner surroundings and the air-conditioning.

Another dining option would be to seek out any of the traditional kopitiam ("coffee store" in the vernacular). These are small family-run cafés which offer their own specialty dish. Killiney Kopitiam (67 Killiney Road;
www.killiney-kopitiam.com) is one of the more popular establishments. It is so popular that its owners already have a handful of branches around Singapore -- boasting time-honored Peranakan (Malay-Chinese) fare like Mee Siam (sweet, spicy rice noodles with eggs) and Popiah (vegetables and chili in a flour wrap), aside from good, strong traditional coffee.

Over at the Esplanade, you can also check out the latest branch of No Signboard Seafood (#01-14/15 The Espalanade;
www.nosignboardseafood.com), the crab dishes are so good that the owners found no need to even name their joint. Despite the swanky surroundings, their prices remain true to their humble beginnings as a hawker stall.

Last but not least, there's good value dim sum to be had at Chinatown's Tak Po Restaurant (42 Smith Street), where guests order steaming baskets of Har Gao, Crystal Chives Ball or Prawn and Banana in Dragon's Beard (among a great many others) via a neat little checklist that displays the cheap, S$.70 - 3.00 (Php25-100) price range.


WHERE TO STAY:

If you're the type of person who doesn't mind sleeping in a dorm bed and likes to hang out with ang mohs (Westerners) over beer and chips, take your backpack to Little India's Dunlop Street. Amidst the colorful environs of this ethnic enclave is a veritable budget travellers' community, complete with the de rigeur internet café's, pubs and provision shops. Around here it is possible to get a bed with breakfast for around S$15/night (that's Php100), thanks to cheerful hideouts like the Prince of Wales Backpacker Hostel (101 Dunlop St.) and The Inn Crowd hostel (35 Campbell Lane;
www.the-inncrowd.com). A bit higher up the price ladder is the nearby Madras Hotel (#28-32 Madras St.; www.madrassingapore.com), which offers the standard-type hotel rooms starting at S$65/night (2,150 pesos).

If you find this neighborhood a bit too grungy, check out the area around Chinatown's Keong Saik Road instead, where a handful of decidedly classier boutique hotels stand. Of these, the least expensive would be the Royal Peacock (55 Keong Saik Road;
www.royalpeacockhotel.com) with nicely-designed ensuite rooms that start at S$85 (Php2800). Also in the same area is a Hotel 81 (181 New Bridge Road; www.hotel81.com.sg), belonging to a local chain with several branches throughout Singapore. On the other hand, those wishing to lodge near the Orchard Road area may check in at Lloyd's Inn (#2 Lloyd Road; www.lloydinn.com), an independent traveler's favorite with room rates starting at S$70 (2300 pesos).


ODDS AND ENDS:

Forget that guided city tour if you're on a tight budget. The Singapore Tourism Board station at Changi Airport hosts a wealth of information about the Lion City's many attractions, most of them arranged according to subject and location. Highly recommended are the self-guided tour itineraries for the ethnic enclaves of Little India and Chinatown. These pocket-sized pamphlets come complete with a map and a walking route that traverses the neighborhood's highlights. In Chinatown, be sure to drop by the Chinatown Heritage Center (Temple Street, there's an S$8 entrance fee), a museum inside a beautifully-restored shophouse that recreates the lifestyle of bygone days. Visitors to Little India, on the other hand, should check out one of the many Indian temples along Serangoon Road -- come during poojai time (that's the daily Hindi prayer ceremony -- schedules are posted ont he main door) for a free and genuine cultural experience. And while you're there, look out for those fortune-tellers along the sidewalk. For S$5 (Php150), watch as a parrot picks out a card with your future on it -- whether this is real or not, it's still cool to watch.

Getting around, too, doesn't have to be expensive. An Ezlink card (which you can buy at the nearest MRT station for S$5+prepaid fares) gives you easy access to the extensive bus and MRT network. There's also the Citybuzz line, which passes the city's most popular dstinations -- log on to
http://www.citybuzz.com.sg/ for a complete listing of the stops -- for a flat rate of S$1. Alternatively, you can alsto take the traditional bumboats that glide down the Singapore River. They're a bit more expensive at S$5, but the scenery is well worth the fare.

Originally posted on 05 May 2006 @ http://cdsaint.blogs.friendster.com/cnd/

1 comment:

Maris said...

Singapore tayo! :) kelan kaya?