Friday, April 05, 2013
Singapore is one of my favorite Asian cities. I like the orderliness, the modern cradling the old, the architecture and the public art breaking the monotony of highways and corporate structures. Despite being a vibrant commercial hub, the island at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula embraces arts and culture. Even with the urban bustle, one can find many quiet spaces.
Something is constantly happening in Singapore. There are always new developments. For a very small state, this is amazing. There are always new things to discover about Singapore.
Because of these and the country’s aggressive marketing, Singapore has become a major tourist destination. Over the past 10 years, tourist arrivals steadily increased. In 2011, Singapore counted 13.2 million visitors, a 13 percent increase from the previous year. Of these, 678,000 are Filipinos. Many Filipinos are enticed by Singapore. According to Cebu Pacific, the Singapore route is one of their busiest. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) reveals that more and more Filipinos are visiting Singapore. The 2011 tally shows a 24 percent increase compared to 544,000 in 2010, making the Philippines the sixth country with the most visitors, behind Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Australia and India. But in terms of growth, the Philippines ranks third.
For this summer, a traditional time for travel, Singapore has many new things to offer Filipino excursionists.
“Summer in Singapore is always a treat for travelers, as well as the locals. Week after week, there’s always something new that the city offers. This year, to kick off what promises to be an amazing summer, Singapore is going full force in keeping everyone in the city busy and entertained. With concerts from chart-topping artists, award-winning Broadway musicals, outdoor runways shows, food expos, mind-blowing shopping sales and highly anticipated theme park openings, this summer of 2013 at Singapore looks to be an experience that no traveler should dare miss,” said Sherina Chan, STB area director for Philippines and Brunei.
One attraction to look forward to is the 101-hectare Gardens by the Bay (ticket price at P924) at the Marina Bay. Winner of the World Building of the Year Award at the prestigious World Architecture Festival Awards 2012, Gardens by the Bay has the largest climate-controlled glasshouses and conservatories with interesting flora and fauna displays. Go to the Bay South Garden, which consists of Flower Dome and Cloud Forest cooled conservatories; 18 Supertrees; and other signature features. Additionally, there are outdoor and indoor spaces where different events are held, and numerous dining outlets.
Universal Studios Singapore has a new ride, the Sesame Spaghetti Space Chase, the first Sesame Street ride in Southeast Asia which has a special rise-and-shine breakfast programme where one can have a fun dining experience with Sesame Street characters while feasting on a breakfast buffet spread at Loui’s Pizza.
One can visit the world’s largest oceanarium, the Marine Life Park (ticket price at P957), which opened on Dec. 7, 2012. The marine park boasts of 100,000 marine animals from over 800 species. Kids will enjoy its Adventure Cove, which has towering slides, wave pools, tropical jungle gardens and grottos inhabited by whimsical sea creatures.
This year, Asia’s first river-themed park, which boasts of the largest collection of freshwater wildlife, will open. The River Safari (ticket price at P891) recreates the environment of the world’s great rivers — the Mississippi, Congo, Nile, Ganges, Murray, Mekong and Yangtze. It also has the region’s largest panda exhibit.
Where to stay
There are many choices for accommodations in Singapore — from backpackers’ lodge and budget hotels to luxury resorts — catering to different types of persuasions as well as budget. If you want to try out new ones, there are a number that have just opened. The price range for the four to six-star hotels is from P6,050 to P13,200, while the two to three-star hotels is from P1,925 to P5,500. Budget hotels cost from P1,925 to P5,500.
For nature lovers, the six-star Equarius Hotel is set in a tropical rainforest with rooms that overlook the Marine Life Park. An exclusive 24-hour personal butler service is provided for guests staying in suite rooms.
The five-star W Hotel is located in the new upscale lifestyle precinct of Sentosa, the Sentosa Cove. It features rainwater harvesting and collection of condensate from its air conditioning system, as well as a smart room air-conditioning system that automatically switches off when balcony doors are open.
The multi-awarded, four-star Parkroyal on Pickering is near the Raffles Place financial district and Chinatown with 15,000 square metres of sky gardens, reflecting pools, waterfalls, planter terraces and green walls to show its “hotel-in-a-garden” concept.
The Capri by Frasers is near Expo and Changi Airport with 313 studios with kitchenettes and Spa Suite with Ofuro-style private baths and TVs.
The three-star Days Hotel is in the cultural enclave of Balestier Road, 15 minutes away from Orchard Road.
Set to open this year are Sofitel So, Westin Singapore Marina Bay, Holiday Inn Express, The Amoy, Ramada Hotel Singapore at Zhongshan Park and One Farrer Hotel and Spa. It is estimated that by 2015, Singapore will have nearly 63,000 rooms from 53,895 rooms in 2012.
Shopping is a popular activity of Filipinos in Singapore. Orchard Road remains to be Singapore’s iconic shopping district. There are also shopping precincts in Holland Village, Haji Lane, Ann Siang Hill, Raffles City and Bugis Street.
Additionally, there are new family-friendly malls that just opened to delight shopaholics.
JCube in Jurong East features Singapore’s first Olympic-size ice rink with a 460-seat gallery, designed to host international events and competitions for sports such as ice hockey, curling and speed skating.
Located in the heart of Changi Business Park, directly opposite the Singapore Expo MRT station, the Changi City Point has a landscaped garden with interactive art installations, playground and a tree-house trail for children.
On the other hand, Bugis+ is along Victoria Street, opposite Bugis MRT station, boasting of more than 30 new and established brands, and over 90 outlets, including the largest Uniqlo store in Singapore. The 38-year-old mall Plaza Singapura has undergone a 21-month makeover and is now nearly the size of Ion Orchard, all linked to Dhoby Ghaut MRT station. The mall front now stretches 170 meters along Orchard Road. The new wing has about 80 shops, including several brands that are new to Singapore.
Scotts Square is a new luxury mall located between the Grand Hyatt and Marriott hotels in Orchard Road, featuring international luxury brands and designer labels.
For techies, go to Funan DigitaLife Mall and Mustafa Centre.
Shoppers must anticipate the Great Singapore Sale, happening from May 31 to July 28, where one can get big discounts on almost everything.
Dining and more dining
Singapore has an exciting culinary landscape, offering a multitude of dining options. In fact, celebrity chefs such as Mario Batali, Susur Lee, Wolfgang Puck and Joel Robuchon have opened their restaurants here. New restaurants are opening every year.
The Satay by the Bay is a new waterfront eatery at Gardens by the Bay offering satay, chicken rice and grilled seafood.
The Marche, which has two branches in Somerset and Vivo City, offers different kinds of cuisines. An interesting feature is the “cashless” system where the diner is given a card to buy food.
Also called the Food Republic, the St. James Beer Garden at 3 Sentosa Gateway serves local fare such as satay, rojak, chicken wing and fried oysters. It also features live bands.
Buffet lovers can troop to Buffet Town, Sakae Sushi, Coleman’s Café, Peninsula Excelsior, Seoul Garden, Carousel @ Royal Plaza on Scotts, Sakura International Buffet, Hanabi Japanese Restaurant, Zhou’s Kitchen Gourmet Buffet, and Kuishin Bo Japanese Buffet.
For a truly gastronomic adventure, foodies can go to the World Street Food Jamboree, from May 31 to June 9, at the F1 Pit Building and Paddock. It promises 40 of the world’s best street-food masters who will offer everything from Indonesian kaki limas to American food trucks and Chinese food inns. Famous foodies such as Anthony Bourdain and Jean-Georges Vongerichten are expected to grace this affair. This is definitely one culinary experience any food lover shouldn’t miss!
Singapore hosts over 30,000 art and entertainment events in a year. When one goes there this summer, there is bound to be a major event. Currently happening is Samsung Fashion Steps Out from March 28 to May 12, showcasing the latest fashion trends with outdoor runway shows and a fashion bazaar. Then, there is the Asia Fashion Exchange 2013 featuring new local and Asian talents, latest fashion insights from fashion thought leaders at Asia Fashion Summit, fashion concerts, after-parties and runway shows. The trade show will be from May 16 to 17, while the emporium will be from May 18 to 19.
Loving the nightlife
Party lovers will love Singapore as it has a very vibrant nightlife. Hip bars nowadays are the Pangea, Avalon, St James Power Station and Zouk. Currently rooftop bars is becoming trendy. Check out the Lantern, Ku D‚ Ta, Orgo, 1-Altitude, Loof and Helipad.
With the rise budget airlines, going to Singapore has been convenient and affordable for Filipinos. The Philippines’ largest carrier, Cebu Pacific (CEB), boasts of the most flight options and schedules to Singapore with up to 52 weekly direct flights from Manila, Clark, Cebu and Iloilo. It also offers the lowest year-round fares starting at P1,599.
“Singapore has always been one of our guests’ favorite destinations. Now, not only can they fly direct to this city-state from four major Philippine cities, they can also make the most of their travel budgets with these special summer discounts,” revealed Cebu Pacific vice president for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog.
Cebu Pacific is partnering with the Singapore Tourism Board to offer deals and discounts to its passengers to Singapore from March 28 to July 31. They can avail of special deals by presenting their Cebu Pacific Singapore boarding passes.
CEB passengers has a 15 percent discount on the Singapore Flyer, said to be the world’s largest giant observation wheel, which can take you as high as 165 meters. Here, they can have a spectacular dinner through the Singapore Flyer-Sky Dining Flight package. It is available at 15 percent off by using the Cebu2013 booking code on the Singapore Flyer Web site, and this includes a four-course fine dining menu served by a dedicated butler, plus free entry to Journey of Dreams Interactive Gallery.
At the Marine Life Park in Resorts World Sentosa, passengers can get 10 percent off on one-day S.E.A. Aquarium or Adventure Cove Waterpark passes. They can get up to six tickets at a discounted rate per Cebu Pacific boarding pass.
There is also a one-for-one promo at the Jurong Bird Park. Those looking for an authentic taste of Singapore can also book the Original Singapore Walks and get 20 percent off on The Tipple Exchange Walk to discover a different side of the Lion City.
For more information on the Cebu Pacific and Singapore Tourism Board promo, visit http://www.cebupacificair.com/HTML/hot-deals.html. For more information on seat sales and events happening in Singapore, visit www.cebupacificair.com and www.yoursingapore.com/ph.