@Singapore Zoological Gardens: 80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826
Opening hours: 8.30am-6pm daily
It had been years since I last visited the zoo. Each time I go, there is always something new to discover and learn as the zoo holds seasonal exhibits, such as the the "Land of Giants" on featuring oversized creatures like spiders and ants - I was reminded of the movie "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" I watched growing up. Lol~
Home to 2800 moving creatures over 300 species, there's a whole lot to explore and learn. Just on monkeys alone, there are the chimpanzees, orang utans, proboscis, gibbons....... If you are bringing your kids along, you could set aside a good 5 hours to tour the zoo. I would recommend the walking the trails over the tram ride as there are many animals you would miss on the tram route.
My favourite experience has got to be the Fragile Forest, which is a large dome enclosure with a trial that allow you to be an inch close to the animals, including mousedeer, flying foxes and bats. For the dangerous animals like cheetahs and leopards, you would be lucky if they are resting just behind the observatory thick glass in their enclosures for you to get a close look at them.
The zoo also holds animal shows with intelligent seals, elephants and monkeys being the stars. There are also animal feeding times for various animals you would want to catch. Some exhibits allow you to purchase some food items to feed the animals with, like the elephants and giraffes - you must try feeding the giraffes! :)
There is a kids zone in the zoo with a water playground as well, and some eateries so you do not have to worry about bringing food along if it would be a hassle. Just make sure to be equipped water, sunblock, a cap and a brolly, because you never know when it rains on this island!
@ Tampines Hub: 1 Tampines Walk, Singapore 528523 (nearest MRT: Tampines station)
With some relatives from out of town visiting Singapore, we decided to take to laser tag! The newly opened Tampines Hub housed Laser Quest, which takes up to 20 players per round in a dark room. The play area was not too big, but large enough to get me panting after a mere 5 minutes into the game.
Before we began, the staff gave a short briefing session with the play instructions. Players wear a (pretty heavy) vest with a laser gun attached - my 9 year old niece was thoroughly enjoying herself except her energy clearly waned from the heavy vest by the time we were on our 3rd game. 2 teams are formed and players attempt to shoot at lighted points on the vests. Each time you get hit, the vest vibrates and you are ‘stunned’ briefly, before you are allowed to start making shots again. Points are accumulated and shown at a screen by the entrance at the end of each round.
The room has makeshift walls and mini ramps for players to hide behind and maneuver. Just a note that the room is pretty dark and may not be suitable for some!
Each round (aka mission) lasts 10 minutes. Each mission is priced at $14/person (for non-members). The price per mission lowers if you purchase more missions. Laser Ops is another indoor laser tag facility to check out!
The newest indoor shooting game on the block would be virtual reality shooting with Zero Latency at Suntec City. Can't wait to check that out!
Travelling can be a pain sometimes, especially when the essentials (SIM Card or transportation information) are far out of reach, or that you aren't too sure where to find them. Fret not, Soak in Singapore brings to you a comprehensive video of what to expect when you touch down at Singapore's very own Changi Airport!
From the basic communication tools to local restaurants you can patronise just to fuel up for your next adventure, all found at Changi Airport! You don't even have to travel out to get them, it is so easy!
There are various methods for transportation out of Changi Airport: The bus, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), and the taxi.
The MRT station (Changi Airport) is located at the basement level of Terminal 2 and 3.
Cost: Tickets can be bought at the automated machines located just outside the gantry (watch the video for a comprehensive guide on how to buy the MRT tickets). They cost around $2.40 for a single trip to the city area (City Hall).
Duration: The duration of a train ride from Changi Airport to City Hall is 40 minutes. To find out the durations from Changi Airport to other places, there is a comprehensive board in the station itself providing the information. Alternatively, you can always find the information online. Click here for the local subway map.
The MRT is the most comprehensive and fool-proof mode of transport, Soak in Singapore recommends this mode of transport out of the airport!
Watch and learn how to take the MRT in Singapore!
The bus stations are located at the basement level of every terminal.
Cost: Bus tickets can be purchased on the bus itself, but do try to bring the exact amount (coins are preferred) as there is no change provided. The maximum fare for a bus ride costs $3, but it depends on the distance traveled. Approach the bus drivers for the exact cost of your bus fare.
Duration: Duration for buses are generally longer than the MRT, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour and a half to the city center. Bus number 36 goes to Orchard Road with duration of about an hour.
Watch and learn how to take buses in Singapore!
Taxi stands are located on the levels of both the Arrival Halls and Departure Halls in every terminal. The estimated cost for a normal taxi to Orchard (city area) is about SGD 25.
Uber and Grab are also possible options, download their mobile applications and follow the instructions. They cost slightly lesser than taxi.
Singapore is an interconnected city and free wifi services are provided to the public! Just log in via the 'Free Wifi' booths or approach the information desks for assistance.
Portable Wifi devices are also available at the airport with a small fee. This can bring a huge convenince while travelling but Singapore has free wifi areas throughout the country and thus, this isn't completely necessary.
There is such a spread of cuisines to choose from just at Changi Airport, (this really represents the characteristic of Singapore; a mix pot of cultures). Fancy some local cuisine? Local eateries such as Wang Cafe and YaKun Toast are conveniently located in each terminal!
Goods and Service Tax (GST) Refund:
There are many perks of being a tourist in Singapore, the GST refund is just one of the many! Refer to this article for a detailed description on how to get your GST refund.
Crowne Plaza Singapore is located right in Changi Airport, it is accessible via Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. This accommodation is convenient for those who have a late night or early morning flight.
Friendly staffs are stationed at information desks planted throughout the airport if you require further assistance.
Wait! What do you mean you're just laying over Singapore? Don't worry, Soak in Singapore can help you make the best out of your few hours in this city. Singapore spans over a tiny geographical area and this makes traveling to the attractions from the airport a breeze. Refer to this page for recommendations on a day's walkabout in Singapore.
There are counters in the airport as well for tourists to get help from for travellers who haven't planned an itinerary!
These are some and the most important tips we can provide for you! Be sure to check out Changi Airport's website for interesting events or exhibitions you can attend or view while at the airport too! Have a great time venturing in this concrete city!
@ National Gallery Singapore: 1 St. Andrew's Road, Singapore 178957
How to get to the National Gallery Singapore: Take the MRT and alight at City Hall station. Take Exit C.
If you've watched the video of us at the National Gallery Singapore, clearly, art appreciation is probably secondary to our past time, eating. Lol. Nonetheless, the gallery boasts thousands of works from Singapore and South East Asian artists.
Friends who enjoy architecture and history would be keen to visit the Gallery too. The Gallery comprises two buildings - the former Supreme Court and City Hall situated side by side to each other, constructed in the 1930s and 1920s respectively. The iconic structures were inspired from classical architecture. If you are into architectural photography, this site is a must-visit.
The former Supreme Court and City Hall being venues where landmark events occurred, Singapore’s history comes alive as well through the multimedia commentaries.
As any modern attraction would offer, guided tours and an audio guide are available. Entrance is free of charge for citizens and permanent residents. Otherwise, tickets are available at $20 per person.
Other great visits:
Going down the Singapore River in a Bumboat
Dim Sum on Trolleys at Red Star Restaurant
Botanic Gardens, Singapore's Nature Hotspot
Lush, green trees and wide spaces; colourful flowers and the first and only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Singapore. The Singapore Botanic Gardens boasts of its 60,000 species of flora and fauna, including Singapore’s most famous tree, the Tembusu tree, which spreads out up to 40m in height and thrives for more than 100 years.
Botanic Gardens is a park spanning 82 hectares from the outskirts of Orchard all the way to Bukit Timah. The Gardens is a popular place for large groups of people to have outings and play games on its vast, wide fields. It is a great place to exercise, have a picnic, do photoshoots and to enjoy soothing classical music played live by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO).
I went to the Gardens several times last year to conduct garden-themed photoshoots and filming for an event. It was a beautiful place to be alone with your thoughts as it was peaceful and relaxing. I enjoyed listening to the rustle of the trees and the occasional light chatter while walking around. However, it was sweltering hot with no shade out in the fields, so laying out a picnic mat and sitting in the middle of the wide fields was out of the question.
Admission to the Gardens is free of charge, with the exception of the National Orchid Garden, which charges an entry fee of SGD $5 for adults, $1 for students and senior citizens above 60 years old, and is free of charge for children below 12 years of age. Orchids are Singapore’s national flower and thus the National Orchid Garden is not to be missed, housing more than 1000 species and 2000 hybrids of flowers and plants.
However, if you prefer open spaces like I do, you may choose to skip the Orchid Garden as it is a rather cramped garden with narrow paths snaking through the layers of flowers and greenery. There is still a wide variety of species of flora outside the Orchid Garden which will still provide you with the fresh air and the tropical landscape not found in highly-urbanised Singapore.
The Botanic Gardens becomes a tranquil hotspot for Singaporeans to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Opening Hours: 5am to midnight daily
National Orchid Garden Opening Hours: 8.30am to 7pm daily (last entry at 6pm)
Address: 1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569
Note that the Botanic Gardens has three gates: Bukit Timah Gate, Tanglin Gate and Nassim Gate.
Singapore's urbanised, but there are pockets of nature to discover. Coney Island is located at the north-eastern tip of Singapore, just about 100 metres off the main island. There are 2 entrances to the island - West and East, 2.4 kilometres apart.
From the West entrance, you would have to head in from Punggol Settlement, which is at the end of Punggol Road. There, you would find yourself standing at the edge of Singapore, with Malaysia in the distance across the water body. If you plan to travel on wheels, there's a bicycle rental shop (Jomando Adventure and Recreation #01-13) at Punggol Settlement. From there, follow the cycling path (in green below) and you will find the huge gate which says "Coney Island" in about 500 metres.
From the East entrance, you would need to enter from Tebing Lane (where there are food establishments like Popeye's, Whisk & Paddle and Uncle Leong Seafood) and follow the cycling path (in purple on the map). Turn right when you see a beautiful reddish-brown bridge (Halus Bridge) about 400 metres onward and cross it. Once you get onto the other side, turn left and tread upon the dirt path all the way straight, and you would see a huge gate as well which says "Coney Island" on your left.
Beyond the first signage you see at the entrance which tells you the opening hours of the island (7am to 7pm), the next sign you will see when you step onto Coney Island tells you not to feed the monkeys. As some of us might have experience in our course of zoo/park visiting, monkeys are highly capable of disengaging your bag from you to rummage for food. Avoid bringing bags to keep monkeys away.
The main dirt path which takes you from one end of the island to the other is an open path. (I visited Coney Island with my brother-in-law and he commented that it reminded him of his army stint. Lol.) You can choose to venture into the small inroads which lead you to bird watching spots and small beach areas. These inroads are also more uneven than the main path – if you are cycling it might be more fun to take these bumpier paths.
There is a good diversity of birds and fauna on the island. If you are into nature photography, going early in the morning to catch a picturesque shot of the sunrise might be worth it (pray for clear skies!). You might spot a couple or 2 doing a wedding shoot on Coney Island because of the nature setting.
With a bike, you might want to consider riding a little longer. Beyond the East entrance, you can try following the route in red on the map above that takes you around Punggol Waterway, and then back to Punggol Settlement where you can return your bikes.
Just remember to get off of Coney Island by 7pm!
@ Liang Seah Street: Alight at Bugis MRT station and take Exit D
We frequent Liang Seah Street for meals on weekends! Eateries line most of the street. From steamboat buffets to Thai food and authentic Chinese cuisine from various parts of China, such as the super spicy grilled fish which you can get from Chong Qing Grilled Fish (totally numbs your tongue).
This video was taken on a Saturday so it was a first for us to see that they closed up the street for more pedestrian space and some eateries lined more tables along the roads too. (If you're driving, take note that the Liang Seah Street is closed to vehicles from 7pm to midnight from Fridays to Sundays.)
It was really crowded and getting a restaurant was tough we had a group of about 15 people to seat. Fat Bird accommodated us by setting up tables along the road - yahoo! Fat Bird basically serves chicken stew. You can then choose to add sides like mushrooms, vegetables and noodles to your order, and throw them into the stew to cook. What was amazing, or astounding, was that duck tongue was on the menu (yup, we can hear the gasps already.) Duck tongue is mostly an appetizer in Chinese cuisine and as Cynthia described the texture, very crunchy.
If there is one thing that Liang Seah Street is remembered for, it's got to be dessert! There are 3 main shops which own the dessert scene and all 3 serve up a mean dessert. There is Ah Chew Desserts which serves mainly local sweet soups like almond paste, black sesame paste, green bean soup and steamed curd. Eating here on a rainy day would warm any stomach. The other 2 dessert stalls, Dessert First and Ji De Chi are known more for their mountain shaved ice desserts, especially the mango and durian flavours. (Click here to watch Johnson lose his bet against Elyn and Jessica in a dessert challenge at Dessert First.)
Expect a short wait to get a seat at any of these dessert outlets especially after dinner hours between 8 to 10pm on weekends.
On a side note, we often pay a visit to Chong Qing Hotpot (87 Beach Road, located at the end of Liang Seah Street). For $22 a person, the hotpot buffet allows you to pick 2 soup types of soup base, or 1 soup base, with the option of grill as well.
We also love the Bak Chor Mee (minced pork noodles) from Seng Huat, which is a coffee shop at the other end of Liang Seah Street (492 North Bridge Road, just across from Bugis Junction). What's more, they are open 24 hours everyday!
@ Gardens by the Bay - Christmas Wonderland 2015: 18 Marina Gardens Dr, 018953
How to get there: Take the MRT and alight at Bayfront MRT station. Follow the signs pointing to the Gardens by the Bay and voila!
We've heard so much about Christmas Wonderland (26 Nov 2015 to 3 Jan 2016) so it was exciting to experience it first hand this year! The atmosphere was really Christmasy and awesome. Put the cottages (occupied by food and gift stall vendors), bright lights, snow (who cares if its fake?!) and happy people together, this is the probably closest you will get to how Christmas is like in the West. There are also a couple of rides for kids and also a small skating rink.
From sfar, honestly the Supertrees look alien, literally. But up close, the Supertrees would leave you in awe with their magnificence. The Supertrees 'perform' at the Garden Rhapsody show (7.45pm and 8.45pm daily) to familiar tunes carrying the mood with a play on lighting. Some of the trees are also connected by the Skywalk, which is 22-metres above ground. To get up on the Skywalk would cost $5 per entry for adults, and $3 for kids. Entry to the outdoor area of Gardens by the Bay is free or charge (opens 5am to 2am).
More about Gardens by the Bay
There are 2 conservatories - the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, which replicate different climate conditions to house countless species of flora. For tourists, tickets to both conservatories are at $28 for adults and $15 for kids. For local residents, it's $20 for adults and $12 for kids. Opening hours are from 9am to 9pm. For kids, there's also a play area for children with water sprinklers (closed on Mondays, or Tuesdays if Monday is a public holiday).
There are a number of dining options too. Indochine for instance, sits on the top of a Supertree, giving you a beautiful view of the park and even Marina Bay Sands. Apart from the indoor restaurant, there is also a rooftop bar above it. and With the park spanning 250 acres of land, you could plan to stay a full day in this beautiful park in the city!
Oh, and Merry Christmas! :)
*A shoutout of thanks for our good friends at Slake (www.slake.sg) for the awesome beef wrap. While the others have beers and sodas, Slake's the only place where you can get a healthy cold-pressed juice (www.juixup.sg)!*
How other festivals are celebrated in Singapore:
Here are some tips to help you save while on a trip here.
1. Save on getting around
Singapore's got a great well-connected transportation system so you can get to almost anywhere by the MRT (subway) or public buses. If you are travelling round the island extensively, you can get a 1, 2 or 3-day Singapore Tourist Pass for $10, $16 and $20 respectively (there's a refundable $10 deposit on the card in addition, which must be claimed within 5 days from the date of the pass purchase). It allows you take unlimited rides on the buses (except for special services like the express and night owl buses). It might be worth it, since there is a non-refundable $5 fee on the alternative ez-link card (which the locals use and pay as they go).
A regular MRT ride would cost about $0.80 to $1.80 depending on the distance between stations. (To calculate fares between stations, click here.) The ride between each station takes between 2 to 3 minutes. If you won't be moving from place to place that much, getting the regular ez-link card might be more worth it. If you have additional funds in the card, you may use it to pay for items when you shop at places like 7-eleven.
- Present your passport at participating "Tax Free" stores when you are making payment for your purchases. The store's staff will issue you an Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) ticket. Do note that you will need to spend S$100 or more a day (accumulated from a maximum of 3 receipts per day).
- While at the airport before you check-in, you will need to head to the GST refund kiosks at the departure area to scan your eTRS tickets. Your bags may be checked for the purchased items at these kiosks.
- After checking in, proceed to the GST Cash Refund Counter located at the departure lounge. Please note that the refund amount will be slightly lower due to handling fees.
For details, visit the Tourist Refund Scheme website.
4. Tipping is not a standard practice... but you may do so if you wish to
The bill at most restaurants include a 10% service charge. You will find a tip box at the counter when you leave so you may leave a tip if you wish to. If you take a taxi, tipping is entirely up to you too, though the rationale that most locals justify not tipping by is that there are already surcharges on taxis fares. Nobody gives a tip if they eat at coffeeshops or hawker centres.
5. Get better deals on food and more attractions
Group buying coupon offers are common and legitimate here. You can visit Groupon.sg or Deal.com.sg and find many deals ranging from Sentosa attraction tickets to restaurant deals (including those serving chilli crabs) to short getaways to neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia. Just take note of the fine print when you purchase and you will be able to save a great deal.
6. Prepaid SIM card
There are 3 main telcos in Singapore - Singtel, Starhub and M1. Check out the prepaid SIM card deals for each of them.
7. Local vacation periods
School vacation gets everything going on a high, especially prices and human traffic. There are 2 main vacation periods - entire month of June and mid-November to end of December. There's also the 1-week vacation period in the second week of March and September. Expect tourist attractions such as Sentosa to be packed. Prices of air tickets escalate during these periods. Unless you are in town to celebrate certain festivities with Singapore and soak in the human traffic, it'd be good to avoid the queues and crowd. Check out the calendar of events in Singapore.
8. Tourists' shopping discounts
Some shopping malls in Singapore offer tourist discounts on shopping. No harm heading to the reception/information counter to ask if they're having any tourist promotions going on.
@ Wheeler's Yard: 28 Lorong Ampas, 328781 It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and we just headed down to Wheeler's Yard to chill out. It's a cool cafe in Singapore built in a warehouse. Once you are done with coffee, you can rent a bicycle and ride along the park connector!
Also check out Spruce and Foxhole café,