Kickass Reasons to Visit Singapore This Year

When it comes to Southeast Asia, there is so much choice to pick from in terms of countries. Obviously, you want to visit every single country because Asia is, well, Asia is Asia! But, for some, that isn’t possible. Not everyone can swan off for a year and take in the sights, sounds and tastes you know. If you are apart of this unlucky category, don’t worry because there is always a solution. In this case, the solution is to choose one country and go back to do the rest later in life. So, which one do you choose and why? The answer is Singapore and the why is spelled out below.

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5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Sourtheast Asian Adventure

Ever since I got back from my month-long Southeast Asian trip last August 2014, some friends have expressed their interest of doing the same, but don’t know exactly where to start.  

The thing is, when people ask me for my itinerary, I’m a bit hesitant to just give them what I used because it is customized according to MY traveling style. 
I found that it has changed over the years. I no longer feel the need to pack as many attractions as I can in day, and would prefer to pay more for convenience rather than sacrifice comfort for the sake of sticking to my budget. 

I also traveled solo, so my expenses were inevitably bigger than usual. And the only tickets I had pre-booked on sale were my Manila to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and Bali to Manila flights. The rest of the flights, I booked when I was already on the road.

I actually traveled for 32 days

Continue reading “5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Sourtheast Asian Adventure”

5 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Vacation Rental

While planning for our week-long Hong Kong trip earlier this year, I was once again faced with the challenge of looking for lodging options that can accommodate our small group, and more importantly, will fit our budget. 
 
I’ve searched high and low for family rooms, but guesthouses were either already fully booked, rooms were not available for consecutive nights on our travel dates, hotel rates were waaay beyond our budget or the rooms available were not in accessible locations. 

I decided to check any available vacation rental instead and that’s how I discovered travelmob – an online marketplace where you can find and rent unique homes from local hosts across Asia Pacific.

After hours of going through their listings, here’s 5 reasons why I think you should consider booking a vacation rental on your next trip:
 
1.  Perfect for families or groups of friends 

 
Over a year ago, I went to Singapore with 6 other people, 3 senior citizens included. The country is already expensive to begin with so we ended up bunking in a backpackers’ hostel. 

It would’ve been okay, but because we were 7 in a 6-bedroom dorm, my mom and I had to share a single bed. While we saved on lodging cost, the setup wasn’t very comfortable. We had to use a communal bathroom, too.


Pictured above are Hong Kong apartments with at least 2 rooms that can comfortably fit 6 or more people. I found several Hong Kong apartments that has a room with at least one bunk bed and with a sleeper sofa/sofa bed in the living room, too. 

 
2.  Has amenities not available in most hotels

 
Most vacation rentals listed are equipped with a WiFi router, kitchen(ette) and/or laundry facilities – amenities that are either not offered or something that you need to pay for extra when staying in a hotel. 
 
I think it’s very practical if you’re staying for more than a week (or two) because you can cook your own food instead of eating out. You can also travel light and save on baggage fees because you can do the laundry anytime. 😉
3.  More space, privacy & personality

 
In first world, read relatively expensive, Asian countries where space is at a premium, it’s inevitable that you will find yourselves in matchbox-like rooms. I once saw a Hong Kong guesthouse offering a single room that literally looked like a toilet – with tiled walls and exhaust fan – only with a bed instead of a toilet bowl. And don’t get me started on the clinical-looking rooms.

Sure, you’ll be out most of the day and working on a budget, but it wouldn’t hurt to get yourself a decent place to sleep in after a long day. 

For the same price as a hotel, booking a vacation rental actually gives you more space, therefore, giving you better value for your money.
 
4.  Discover unique accommodations – boats, cottages, cabins, even treehouses!

 
Whether you’re an intrepid traveler who wants to sleep under the stars while perched 23 feet up in the air in Bangkok or just want to spend some quality time with your significant other away from the tourist crowd of Bali, you can find awesome and unique vacation rentals that’ll make your trip more memorable. 
 

5.  Get to know your host and live like a local!

 
Traveling solo? Aside from apartment rentals, you can also book shared or private rooms.
A shared room means you’ll be sharing space with other travelers while a private is a room of your own. In some cases, the host will also be at the location while you’re there. 

In travelmob, you can check the property owner’s profile, read previous guests’ reviews and/or references and contact him/her directly if you need more information about their listing. Through a few message exchanges, you can then gauge if he/she will be a good host.
The host can offer invaluable insider tips on where to find the best places to eat, best bargains and off-the-beaten sites. In some cases, hosts also offer more personal service like free use of their bicycle or a local SIM card – things you’ll never be able to experience in a hotel.
 
Remember, there’s really no better way to learn about a new culture and gain a richer travel experience than from living with a local.  
 
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And there you have it. I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to consider booking a vacation rental on your next trip. 

iPhone/iPad user? travelmob listings can be right at your fingertips. Click the image below to download their mobile app.

And just for you, my dear readers, for a minimum booking fee of USD150.00, you’ll get a USD35.00 discount by using the promo code below:
Excursionista35
 
Promo is valid until JUNE 15
K
 
For real time travel updates and more photos, please ‘Like’ my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram. Happy travels!
 
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Singapore Flyer at Night

It was already around 8:30 pm when we got back to Singapore from our LEGOLAND side trip. As I mentioned in that post, the pickup and drop-off point was in Singapore Flyer.
To be honest, I almost didn’t want to include this in our itinerary because I find the SGD33.00 rate steep for a 30-minute ride. But again, I was outnumbered because my companions were eager to try it.
Standing 165 meters tall, Singapore Flyer is the world’s largest Giant Observation Wheel. It has 28 capsules and each capsule can accommodate a total of 28 people. They say the 28 x 28 has something to do with auspiciousness.
Journey of Dreams
After buying our tickets, we went to the third floor (if I’m not mistaken) where we first entered the Journey of Dreams. It is a multimedia showcase about the Singapore story and Singapore Flyer.
There are 7 galleries in total, but since we only have about an hour or so left before the place closes, we skipped checking out these galleries in detail. Your group picture will also be taken before you can finally proceed to the gondola platform.
The Pandora-ish (Avatar) Gardens by the Bay
If you want to get an unobstructed 360° view of Singapore, it’s actually a very good idea to go here a few hours before closing time. Imagine our delight that we had a capsule all to ourselves! There were only 5 of us, by the way.
Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay at night
Blanc et noir
I kept walking inside the capsule taking pictures from all angles. The view was just amazing! There’s lights glistening everywhere. While the city looks kind of dull in the morning, it feels so alive at night.
ArtScience Museum, The Helix Bridge and Floating Stadium
I wish the ride was longer. I’m sure 30 minutes is not enough especially for photography enthusiasts. 🙁
We alighted, and as with any other tourist attraction, had to pass through the souvenir shop where they can plaster your picture on a plate, keychain, snow globe or anything imaginable — which will most likely end up in your mother’s rack of knickknacks gathering dust — then sell it to you at an exorbitant amount.
Other things worth checking out at Singapore Flyer are the ‘rainforest’ right at the atrium, Flight Experience – a flight simulator, a reflexology and fish spa, XD Theater – a cutting edge 6D (take that!) motion ride theater.
And if you ever get hungry, there are lots of food options. Most notable is the Singapore Food Trail which is a 1960s themed food street. Would have loved to try it, but Makansutra was also on the itinerary.
Merlion Park at night
Marina Bay Sands
Just an MRT station away is Makansutra – Gluttons by the Bay where you can have a smorgasbord of affordable Asian cuisine. Believe me, the place is packed even at midnight. It is also a nice vantage point to take pictures of Merlion Park, Marina Bay Sands, The ArtScience Museum and Helix Bridge.
Another option would be to catch the free Wonder Full – Light and Water Show after dinner at Makansutra before going to Singapore Flyer.
So on your (next) trip to Singapore, I would recommend you include these attractions in your itinerary, and if possible, visit it at night.
 

Singapore Flyer

30 Raffles Avenue, Singapore

 

Expensive Treats in Singapore

Singapore is the ultimate place to indulge your senses. Whether you’re unwinding with an upscale spa treatment or cozying up at a world-renowned restaurant, this Southeast Asian city-state lends an air of luxury to nearly every activity. Need a few inside tips? This guide will help you track down some of the most expensive treats in Singapore. Just don’t forget to bring your American Express credit card.

Marina Bay Sands

Known as the most spectacular structure to ever grace Singapore’s skyline, this first-class hotel offers luxury like you’ve never seen it. You’ll find three distinct hotel towers, a four-level exhibition center, nearly 60 clubs and restaurants, and two glittering casinos.
By far, the most stunning amenity at the Marina Bay Sands is its 1.2 hectare Sands SkyPark. Perched atop the resort’s 56th floor, this sky-high garden features an open-air observation deck and luxurious infinity pool. Plus, when you’re finished soaking up the stunning views, you can sample the rich delicacies at Waku Ghin, one of Singapore’s most expensive restaurants.
Pangaea
If you’re looking for an unforgettable cocktail experience, this ultra-prestigious nightclub is the place to be. As one of the highest earning clubs in the world, Pangaea provides expertly crafted drinks in an A-list atmosphere, and it always offers an array of top-shelf liquors. 

What’s more, Pangaea is home to Singapore’s most luxurious indulgence: The Jewel of Pangaea, an exclusive S$32,000 cocktail garnished with diamonds and comprised of Hennessy, champagne and edible gold.

Orchard Road
Nothing says luxury like a haute-fashion boutique, and you’ll find an exclusive range of expensive retailers dotted along Orchard Road. Meander through Miu Miu. Browse around Dior. Buy an iconic jacket from Chanel. When you’re in the mood to spend some money on couture-inspired items, this glamorous shopping district is the place to go.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental
Located in the renowned Mandarin Oriental Hotel, this VIP spa offers its guests a true celebrity experience. Indulge in a half-day of massages and facials with the S$1380 Oriental Escape for Two or try the two-hour Oriental Harmony treatment for S$580. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a getaway filled with expensive experiences.


~~ This is a guest post ~~

DISCLOSURE POLICY: This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact Kat Torres at katrina[dot]torres0517[at]gmail[dot]com.

This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.

This blog abides by word of mouth marketing standards. Even though the blogger receives complimentary products and/or services, the blogger will always give honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers’ own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.

Footprints Hostel Singapore

Finding budget accommodations in Singapore can be quite challenging. While there are plenty of options, expect that the term ‘budget’ means rates are still relatively higher compared to other ASEAN countries. It is, after all, a first world country. Add to that the challenge of traveling with a group. My mom and I traveled with our neighbors so we had a total headcount of 7 pax.

Luckily, I found Footprints Hostel. For only SGD20.00 per head per night, we got a family room. Originally, it can only accommodate 6 pax, so my mom and I just shared a bed. And by the way, the rate already includes breakfast. Sweet!We arrived on a red-eye flight (above photo was taken on our last day so ignore the time) so we just rented a 7-seater taxi from Changi for SGD60.00 – a Mercedes van, by the way!

The modest, but chic, common area.

After settling payment for the duration of our stay and a SGD20.00 deposit for the room key, Francis — the receptionist on duty who happens to be Filipino — handed us our linens and pillow cases; the code for the door access control; and WiFi password.
They don’t have a lift, so it was good that our room was just on the second floor. The elders didn’t have too much of a hard time going up-and-down. :p

Even though I’ve been traveling for years, and this being my third time in Singapore, it was the first time I stayed at a backpacker’s hostel so my expectations were not very high.

The room was not as bad as I thought. It doesn’t feel cramped. In fact, we had more than enough space to walk around without bumping into each other. :p

Of course it’s a no-frills room but what’s important is it’s clean. The A/C works well. There’s even a back-up wall fan in case you find the room temperature not cool enough.
 
The mattress’ firmness is also just right. My companions always had a good night’s sleep. I also like that each bed has its own power outlet, reading light, and a small ledge where you can put some of your stuff.
The lockers are also big enough to fit a backpack.
Just bring your own padlock.

Naturally, staying in a hostel means you will be using a shared or common bathroom. What’s good about this hostel is that while the bathrooms are shared, men and women’s are still separate.

Each bathroom has three cubicles for toilet (and with bidet, at that!) and three shower stalls. Showers are equipped with hot and cold water, and the water pressure’s very strong too. Girls need not bring their hair dryer because it is also provided.

I should say that the bathroom is well-maintained too. I’ve observed that they clean it at least twice a day.
Breakfast area’s wall with messages from previous guests
As I’ve mentioned, breakfast is included. Guests can choose from toast with butter and jam (at least three flavors) or cereal (at least two kinds). There’s also free coffee or tea. Hot water is also available for your instant noodles. Sometimes, there’s even fresh fruits too! Just don’t forget to clean as you go.
 
Yes, the breakfast is not much but filling nonetheless. In fact, it was enough to start the day. Saved us a meal! And come on, for SGD20.00 a night, how can you complain?

Other amenities include a ‘mini mart’ where you can buy chips, instant noodles, toiletries and whatnot. If you’re not feeling too lazy, you can walk a few minutes to the nearest 7/11. They also have four desktop computers that guests can use free of charge for 20 minutes. There’s coin-operated washing machines and dryers on every floor too.

The hostel is located in Little India and is not hard to find at all since it’s a huge building at the corners of Perak and Dickson Roads. It’s a few minutes walk to the nearest MRT station, though. It’s also worth mentioning that Sim Lim Square a.k.a. technophile’s heaven is just a few minutes away.
Just take note there were a couple of times when the cab refused to drop my companions right in front of the hostel. They had to walk a bit from the main road (Sungei Road).

Traveled with:

  • 6 adults; 5 females, 1 male
  • Age range: 4 adults in late 50s to 60s; 2 adults in early 20s

Footprints Backpacker Hostel Singapore
25A Perak* Road Singapore
Phone: +65 6295 5134
Click here to reserve a bed/room

K

*pronounced as ‘pera’

2012 Year in Travel: Of New Destinations and Familiar Places

In just a few days we’ll be saying goodbye to 2012, so here’s a roundup of my year in travel plus snippets of my un-blogged trips; four trips with two destinations each (you gotta maximize the travel tax and/or terminal fee, you know) with different travel buddies.  



The year started with a trip to the Philippines’ last frontier: Palawan. Together with my college BFF, we explored ‘hidden’ and ‘secret’ beaches (don’t ask what’s the difference), and visited the newly-proclaimed New 7 Wonders of Nature: Puerto Princesa Underground River

Aside from a missed van trip back to Puerto Princesa and some boo-boos along the way, I’d like to believe that the whole trip went well. :p El Nido remains at the top of the most beautiful places I’ve been to.

  


Second quarter of this year, another close friend and I explored Malaysia for a week. We started our journey in Kuala Lumpur, went north to the island of Penang, then headed south to Melaka before crossing the border to Singapore.

Our goal? To eat, pray, and shop our way through Malaysia (and Singapore) and boy did we do some damage. lol We sampled Penang’s dishes, visited temples/places of worship, and shopped ’til our bodies ache. No stall was spared in Berjaya Times Square as well as Jonker Street in Melaka. I swear, my bags were multiplying like gremlins. Mind you, I was able to sneak everything as ‘hand carry’ *evil laugh*


But if there’s one thing that will be forever etched on my mind about this trip, it’s got to be when we got bumped off the bus twice: from KL to Penang then from Penang to Melaka! Good thing the border crossing was uneventful.

Iloilo – Boracay 


Together with my cousin, three of my colleagues, and a fellow Girl Talker and her hubby, we went to Islas de Gigantes in Iloilo two days after my birthday.

We visited different islands, a sand bar, a saltwater lagoon — which could pass as a doppelganger of one of Palawan’s several lagoons/lakes — and did some climbing. And even though we had a traumatic caving experience, I know everyone still had a lot of fun.


But what I find amusing with this trip was that we took different flights (heck, my cousin and I weren’t even seated together on the plane), just met at the port the following day for island hopping, then went to different destinations on the third day. lol Two of my colleagues went to their respective homes in Iloilo, and my other colleague and the couple went to Bacolod. 


Me and my cousin? Well, we were actually torn whether we should stay and explore Iloilo, do a day trip to Guimaras, go to Bacolod for Masskara Festival, or just beach bum in Boracay. We eventually decided we’d go with the latter because our bodies were still aching from hiking and spelunking that we just wanted to lay on the beach and do nothing. Well, it took us three van rides (Iloilo to Roxas; Roxas to Kalibo; and Kalibo to Caticlan), a boat ride, and a tricycle ride (a total of 6 hours) to get there. So much for relaxation, huh?  

Singapore with LEGOLAND side trip 



And just this month, my mom and I, and — wait for it — our neighbors went to Singapore. Blame it on seat sales. So yes, within a span of four months, I was back in Singapore — and unexpectedly — in Malaysia too since we went on a side trip to LEGOLAND (which by the way was not part of the original plan).

Even though I wasn’t able to make as many trips as I wanted this year, I’m still thankful I got the chance to visit new destinations and familiar places. Always go for quality over quantity, right? 


So here’s hoping I’d be able to tick off more destinations on my (ever-growing) bucket list for 2013. Oh yes Laos and Myanmar, I have my eyes on you!



K


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This is my contribution to Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival’s yearender:

2012 Year in Travel  


Blog compilations will be co-hosted by:

Complete compilation of previous Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival here.