Around Singapore: Sentosa, Chinatown, Vivo City, Raffles Hotel, Merlion, Makansutra

Singapore is not Sentosa. Many tourists, however, think a visit to Singapore is not complete without a visit to Sentosa Island, and we are one of those tourists. So our first stop on our first day in Singapore was the island resort. Singapore though has more to offer than its modern city scape, although it’s not so bad at all, especially at night. In this post, I’ll share some photographs of Singapore from my tourist eyes. Many of these photographs will include the usual Singapore tourist attractions.

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Sentosa Island

Sentosa is a resort island. There are many activities for the whole family, but all of these are not for free. There are only three free things in Sentosa: 1. walking, 2. sitting, 3. using the comfort rooms. There are even some photography opportunities that were not for free, including the colorful birds managed by a group of people. Entrance is also not free. There is a SG$4 charge if you enter the island by foot. We entered the island via cable car and the entrance was already included.

Universal Studios is in Sentosa, and so are other smaller recreational places, such as the wax museum. There are many things to do in Sentosa but be prepared to spend. As for us, we opted not to go to Universal Studios to save the P2,300 entrance fee for other things (such as food), and just decided to enjoy the sights where the cable car would take us.

One thing to remember that Sentosa is an island resort. So it is always full of tourists even on a Tuesday. The island could also be hot especially near Universal Studios where there are not many shady trees. We took comfort under the shade of trees at the back of the Sentosa Merlion (which also charges a fee for entrance).

If you’re not fond of rides and modern museums, I suggest you do not book tickets ahead. You just decide when you’re there to see if checking it would be worth the money.

Total expense: SG$17.1 (lunch + snacks + coconut ice cream). Please also note that Sentosa is not where you can find cheap eats. The restaurants there are mostly foreign-owned restaurants and fine-dining so they are more expensive than hawker food. We had lunch at the Malaysian Food Centre near Universal Studios but I was not ecstatic of the nasi lemak (SG5.00) I bought.

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Nasi lemak (SG$5)

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Coconut ice cream (SG$5.00), not bad but not superb either

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Vivo City

I thought Vivo City was bibo. 😛 But it was still almost deserted when we arrived at almost 11am. Vivo City, I realized, was one of the malls that serve the alighting and departing passengers at the Harbourfront MRT station. There were some shops but none interested me so much as most brands are already here in Cebu. The outside of the Vivo City mall, however, gave us a good view of the harbor and Sentosa Island, and because there was not many people there when we arrived, provided us with good backdrop for go-pro moments.

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Chinatown

They say Singapore is an expensive city. I say it’s just really an ok city in terms of prices. Chinatown prices are typical prices. I bought 3 fans for SG20, which converts to P226 per fan. That is not an expensive price for a fan especially if the fan is a good Orientalia design. There were some things I wanted to buy in Chinatown but didn’t have a budget, including the gem + tassel sets, wicker bags, and kaftans. All the other products for sale at the area were priced reasonably.

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If you cannot get to Orchard, there is also an ice cream sandwich vendor at Chinatown, behind the temple.

Raffles Hotel + Merlion Park

From Chinatown, our next destination was Raffles Hotel. We wanted to just walk to the hotel but thankfully a local told us it was still far and advised us to ride a bus that will take us there. Singaporeans may be busy people but the 6 days that we were there I noticed they took the time to help us with directions. We only stopped at the front of Raffles Hotel to admire its architecture because we were too tire from our walk to explore the insides.

After Raffles Hotel, we walked to Merlion Park via Nicoll Highway and through the Esplanade. Upon sighting the merlion from park, we expressed surprise. We didn’t expect it to be that small. I was glad Merlion Park was near our designated eating place for that day, Makansutra, as we were already too tired of walking.

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Raffles Hotel
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War Memorial along Nicoll Highway.

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The big merlion
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The small merlion
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The durian-shaped dome of the Esplanade
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The architectural genuis — Marina Bay Sands Hotel

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Makansutra (Gluttons Bay) is just a walk from the Merlion Park. Be prepared to pay a little premium.

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Here are some things I learned from the Singapore trip:

  1. Get tickets to a hop-on, hop-off tour bus. We were trying to save money by making a DIY tour. Wrong idea. If it’s your first time and you do not have a reliable map, get tickets for a hop-on, hop-off tour bus. This way, you will get to see all the things a first-time tourist must see without crippling yourself.
  2. Book accommodation near the city center or the places you would be visiting. We saved probably SG$200 for accommodation but we spent 2 hours each day on buses and trains going to and from the tourist attractions. This worked for us because we actually enjoyed walking around the neighborhood but this may not work for senior people or young children.
  3. Start your sightseeing early. Then have a kopi or kopi-o break or snacks in an airconditioned place midday, and get back to sightseeing before sunset and into the night. I found the Singaporean sun to be energy draining so we had to buy drinks all the time. Water costs around SG1.70 and other beverages may cost more.
  4. Book a river cruise. This was one of our original plans but we did not push through with it for reasons I did not know why. The Singapore river is lovely, both during the day and at night so I’m sure a cruise along the river would have been nice. Also, you won’t be walking.
  5. Don’t eat at malls. This was just an observation but the meals we ate at malls cost more (triple) than the meals we ate outside of malls. If you can find hawker centers, best to eat there although there would be many people. It is best to let one or two persons of the group find a table while the rest order the food.
  6. Sunset is 7PM. There is no time difference between the Philippines and Singapore, but sunrise in Singapore is later, 7AM, and sunset is 7PM. Do not be surprised to see yourself waking up at 5AM and it is still pitch dark outside, and the sun still high at 6PM.
  7. Get connected or go together. You can get lost in Singapore because of the many people. It’s best to buy a local sim card and bring your phones or tablets all the time. Or, just go together.
  8. Singapore is safe. But we did not see any policemen. The locals though are helpful and we have experienced this many times during our stay. They would gladly bring you to the next station and point you to the right directions. I noticed they are not very expressive though so don’t be surprised if your thank you will not get a you’re welcome in response.
  9. Get lost and enjoy. I know this is almost contrary to Nos. 1 and 4, but try to do an aimless walking tour and you’ll be amazed at how beautiful Singapore is outside of the many tourism brochures you have seen.

Other posts on Singapore:

https://thriftingadventures.com/2016/08/23/singapore-melaka-budget-itinerary/

https://thriftingadventures.com/2016/08/24/singapores-cable-car/

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7 thoughts on “Around Singapore: Sentosa, Chinatown, Vivo City, Raffles Hotel, Merlion, Makansutra

  1. your photos remind me of the time my sister and i visited singapore. it was a long, long time ago. before universal studios so my memory of sentosa is now quite limited. i do remember they already had that “siloso” sculpture back then.

  2. Hello! 🙂 Saw your Singapore guide just now – and yeah, I agree with you that Sentosa doesn’t have affordable food. We had lunch at the Toast Box branch there and we shelled out S$10; other branches outside (e.g. Vivo City) have it at around S$7. And yes, the nasi lemak looked dismal. 😦

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