So Singapore!

One of my friends is now working in Singapore. Three months after her transfer, another friend and I decided to visit her and spend a few days for vacation. The four-day trip was exhausting, but it was really worth my aching muscles and numbing feet.

Pre-departure:

We’re flying Tiger Airways so we had to travel from Manila to Clark airport. Our original plan was to go to Clark the night before our flight and rent a hotel nearby, so we could be in time for our 6:00am flight. But one of my projects got approved and I had to fly to Cebu and Davao for a week-long fieldwork. The night we were supposed to leave for Clark was also the night I arrived from Cebu. I arrived in Manila at 10:00pm, headed straight to our house to pack AND unpack, and next thing I knew I was on a bus to Clark at 1:00am. We arrived at Dau station after almost three hours of travel. Since it was too early to find a regular FX or jeepney that will bring us to Clark airport gate, we hired our own jeepney for Php250. We waited for another hour before we were allowed to check-in. The airport was small and not as busy as NAIA. Going through the immigration was also hassle-free. It was my friend’s first time to travel abroad so, I let her have my window seat. While she was enjoyed all sights from her window, I comfortably and deeply slept from exhaustion.

Day 1: Chinatown, Mustafa, Clarke Quay

We spent our first day in Singapore buying “pasalubong” at Chinatown and Mustafa. There were different stalls of “pasalubong” of every kind in Chinatown – key chains, ref magnets, chopsticks, shirts, etc. The place is similar to Divisoria and Binondo. In Mustafa, we found cheap watches, perfume, goodies and chocolates, gold accessories, etc. It was raining that day, so we couldn’t take as many pictures as we want. After our “pasalubong” hunt, we went to Clarke Quay to stroll around and get a few drinks. The place was bursting with booze, food, and music. It was also a Friday night, so most were out there to party. We also saw a group of Filipino photographers taking pictures around the area.

I personally enjoyed our entire Clarke Quay experience. If ever I’d go back to SG, I will definitely go back there to try G-Max. But what I appreciated most during our first day was Singapore’s transport system. I just love their trains; they were very first-world. The EZ link pass system was very efficient. How I wish MRTs here in the Philippines were the same as their SMRTs.

Klark-Ki experience

Day 2: Universal Studios, Sentosa, MerlionMarina Bay

Our second day in SG was perhaps the most tiring one. It was a whole-day walking and standing-in-line experience. We did not anticipate the massive crowd that flocked Universal Studios. Oh well, it was a Saturday and what should we expect? Anyway, all our efforts paid off when we finally got inside the theme park. It was my first time to ride in a roller coaster and I thought I’ll throw up afterwards. But I did not and in fact, I enjoyed it. If it were not for the very long line in Battlestar Galactica, I would have been up there for another round. Speaking of roller coasters,  the Revenge of the Mummy ride was the most unforgettable. We seated at the front row, so imagine how hilarious we looked when we saw our faces captured by the camera – hair flying everywhere, mouths wide open and screaming “Aaaahhhh”, eyes closed.

Bringing out the kid in us

Yummy Hershey’s chocolates

The Boardwalk

The entire day was devoted solely to Universal Studios and then, we headed straight to Marina Bay after we had dinner. We endlessly took pictures everywhere and I think I captured the Merlion in all possible angles.

Day 3: Singapore Zoo, Kinokuniya, Harvey Norman

Last day. Last hurrah. We woke up late, so we had to rush to complete the itinerary we set that day. After breakfast, my friend called a cab to fetch us at their flat. The bus ride will take almost an hour because of several stops, so we opted for a cab. I appreciated the fact that we were fetched on-time and the car itself was in very good condition with comfy soft seats and complete seat belts . We also took a cab from Merlion to home the other night and the car was new and smelled fresh. Well, I was just frustrated that cabs here in the Philippines were not always like that.

After 10 minutes, we were already at Singapore Zoo. We took a map of the zoo so we could mark the sights we’ve seen. Our feet were up for another day of walking in the very huge place. Most striking and memorable animals we saw were pygmy hippo, kangaroo, panda, baboon, bear, elephant, and the entire feline bunch. Of course, we had a few inside jokes about them but I’ll probably keep them to myself.

Find the “makopa”

My Singapore trip will not be complete without visiting Kinokuniya. I was swarmed with all those books and manga. As my friend put it, the place was heaven. We stayed there for a few minutes and then, looked out for the nearest Harvey Norman outlet. I had to buy a digital voice recorder. Good thing, we found one which was still open and I got a Sony recorder for SGD190.

If there was something I missed during the trip, it was probably the museums – Red Dot Museum, ArtScience Museum, and the National Museum of Singapore. It was part of our itinerary but we did not have enough time to go to there. And also more food. I’d like to have that authentic Singaporean chili crab.

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Davao Adventure

One of the perks I get from my work is being able to travel, especially when there are nationwide studies. I was recently tasked to go to Davao for six days to launch a major project. It is an important account and everyone in the team has taken the extra long mile to ensure that the project runs smoothly. But the pressure I felt was overridden by excitement. I was excited because I get to travel in Mindanao for the first time and enjoy one of its cities for free. The trip also meant that I will get some time off from the hustle-bustle life in Manila, albeit only for a few days. So now I would like to share my stolen moments in Davao after a hard day’s work.

First day (May 28)
At the Airport
My flight was at 2:30pm and I arrived at the airport at 2pm! I wouldn’t know what to do if not for the airport supervisor who still let me checked-in. I arrived late only for one reason: I underestimated my time. Then, more mishaps happened. I was charged excess baggage and I nearly left the receipt at the counter. Perhaps the stupidest of all was forgetting to pay the terminal fee. I was at the gate and the airport official noticed my ticket did not have any stamp. So, I paid right then and there at the gate. But still no sticker which led another airport official to check up on me when I was on the plane already. I was relieved everything was quickly settled. After an almost 2 hour flight, our plane finally landed.

Welcome to Davao!
It took me around 20 minutes from the airport to the hotel via taxi. We made reservations at Tower Inn Hotel located along Quirino Avenue. There was a problem regarding the reservation so I had to call Ate Ophel, field supervisor in Davao, to sort things out. After settling everything, I met-up with Danilo for dinner. We ate at Zakoya, a Japanese restaurant along Torres St., which offers buffet Japanese dishes. We ended the night with a taste of durian. Since there was no native durian at the time, we settled for another variant called arancillo. I found the fruit’s smell fragrant contrary to others who find it “too strong.” As for the taste, well, let’s say I haven’t appreciated it yet. I ate the other half of the fruit and Danilo got the other, but he finished eating his part. I did not. He said I needed to get used to the taste (which means eating lots and lots of them) until I can say it’s delicious. I almost vomited in my first try! I later learned from Ate Ophel that durian is better paired with Coke. So, that’s why almost everyone else at the other tables had Coke! I should have figured that out. Coke might have saved me.

Second Day (May 29)
I had to prepare early for the day’s activity. I was meeting the client and our field manager, Ms. Mona, who were coming from Cebu. The meeting took us the entire day yet Ms. Mona, Ate Ophel, and I were still up for an evening adventure. We went to the ukay-ukay hub near Rizal Park and I must say, you’ll find bags which are really cheap yet in good, usable condition. I bought myself one – a black backpack for only P100.

Third Day (May 30)

Shopping for Pasalubong

This was our free day. We woke up late and had to drag ourselves out of the bed. We Went to SM Davao and I bought a new digital camera. It was a purple Samsung ST60. Pretty, eh?

Afterwards, we went to Aldevinco to shop for pasalubong. I bought t-shirts and wallets. The t-shirts were sold at P95 each, while the wallets were P200 per dozen. We strolled around the shopping center hoping to find cheap pearl earrings for pasalubong, but we went back at the inn disappointed. A pair cost P100-P200 and it was very pricey to buy  a dozen, huh? You can also find colorful sarongs, native bags, key chains, local delicacies, etc. in Aldevinco.

The Food Trip Continues

At night, we were fetched by Ate Ophel at Tower Inn. She promised the other night that she will treat us with durian coffee. We headed to Matina Town Square, also another of Davao’s dining hubs. We settled at Blugre. Ate Ophel and I ordered hot durian coffee, while Ms. Mona got a frappe. There were actually durian bits in the coffee and the smell was so good. Their banana streusel was also really yummy!

Fourth Day (May 31)

We were back to work on Monday. It was another whole day activity which ended around 7pm already. Though we were tired, we still had energy to roam around Davao. We then decided to have dinner at Jack’s Ridge. It boasts of wonderful scenery and great food selections. It houses several restaurants, inns, a souvenir shop, and a bar where you can dine, sing, and dance all night. We satisfied our hunger in Taklobo Restaurant where we ordered kinilaw na mangga with bagoong, and grilled pla-pla and squid. We were so full we could barely stand-up and do the next best thing – photo ops (of course!).

Fifth Day (June 1)

The entire day was devoted to fieldwork. Good thing was I was assigned in a barangay only 30 minutes away from the city proper. It was also a productive day for us because we had two complete interviews. We left the area around 5:30pm. I took a quick shower when I arrived at Tower Inn and waited for Ms. Mona. I wanted to try Coco’s since it was my last night in Davao and asked Ms. Mona if she wanted to go with me, but she was too tired to go out. I do not want to go alone, so I thought I can reserve that for my next trip (whenever that will be, but I will definitely go back there again). We ordered food from Tower Inn and bought desserts in a nearby bakeshop.

Sixth Day (June 2)

My flight was at 9:55pm. I booked for the last flight because I thought the day’s activity will take almost an entire day. Lo and behold! We finished at around 1pm. After lunch, I sent emails, called my boss for updates, fixed my things, and took a nap. I woke up around 5pm and prepared to go to Dizon’s. I bought more pasalubong – durian candies, mangosteen candies, and suha. I do not want to go through all the hassle I had when I was going to Davao. I have learned my lesson, so I went to the airport exactly 2 hours before my flight. Since I was early, I get to choose my seat. I bade my goodbye enjoying Davao’s glittering city lights as I looked through my window. I will definitely come back to enjoy the city’s offerings to the fullest.

See you again, Davao!