After spending Christmas with the family in Hong Kong, we flew out early the next morning to Singapore! Our flight was at 8 a.m. so I had to wake up at 5 a.m. after a long Christmas party the night before. I think this was the first time where I literally “threw” my items in my luggage 30 min before we headed to the airport. I was also doing my make up in the taxi…
Our flight costs us $2,140 HKD (approx. $360 CAD) which is a pretty good deal given that we flew with Cathay Pacific. The flight was around 3.5 hours and breakfast was served. After a slight delay, we finally arrived in Singapore at 11:30 a.m!
As we were traveling with an elder, our only means of transportation was taxi. Their MRT system is pretty convenient (most attractions are close to one) and less expensive than taxis in general. However, taxis are readily accessible in Singapore and are much cheaper than other countries (each ride was only about $7.50 SGD for 4 people). If you are feeling tired after walking for a long day or if you want to enjoy A/C on a hot day, I would highly recommend taking the taxi.
Be warned, however, that the calculation of taxi fare is SUPER complicated in Singapore. Calling a taxi in advance costs you an additional $2.50-$3.50. There is a 35% surcharge on metered fare weekdays from 07:00-9:30 and 17:00-20:00 plus 17:00-20:00 on Saturdays. Taxi trips from Singapore’s central business district (CBD) incur a S$3 surcharge from 17:00-00:00 Monday to Saturday. This surcharge is only applicable to taxi trips originating in the CBD, not if that’s your final destination.
Therefore…do NOT try to figure out how your taxi fare is calculated. Even as an accountant, I could not figure it out. There is some assurance on the calculation as I believe the formulas are already pre-set into their meters. Detailed breakdown is also provided on the receipts.
Another tip that we learned from one of our taxi drivers is, do not take the private taxis! They do not have the sign displayed in red at the top of the taxi. You may be approached by these drivers who will offer you a flat rate for going to/from the airport, especially large groups. These drivers are usually hotel staff who have some down time in between breaks and trying to earn some extra income. Their rate may be double of what you would pay with a metered taxi! Therefore, always ask your taxi drivers to turn on their meters.
And the most useful tip I learned on taxi 101 is to book your taxis on a rainny day! Trust me! Spending that extra $2.50-$3.50 could save you at least an hour of waiting in line. When we were at Sentosa Island and the Zoo, there were sudden downpours. We quickly scrambled to the taxi stand, only to find that there was already a huge queue (at least 100 people).
If you book your taxi, they will send you a text message notifying you your driver’s license plate, name, phone number and estimated arrival time. Reserved taxis stop at a different location at the taxi stand. You just need to confirm your name with the driver and off you go! Make sure you have the taxi reservation number handy!
The first thing we did after picking up our luggage was to get our local sim cards. There is a small Singtel booth located at the airport. We bought one that was $30 which includes local airtime minutes (applied against your $30 balance) and data. Make sure your phone is unlocked to use their sim card.
We stayed 3 nights at the Carlton Hotel Singapore (76 Bras Basah Road). The hotel was $193 CAD per night (2 people per room) which is on the pricey side. However, I think it was well worth it because the rooms were very comfortable and spacious. Also, it is a 2 min walk from Raffle City (a large shopping mall) and walking distance to the MRT station. It is one of the older hotels in the downtown area so the rooms are bigger. We had a small issue with the front desk however. They had promised to put us in three rooms side by side but that did not end up happening. Also, our rooms were not ready for us, even when we went back at 4 p.m. (check in time is 2 p.m.). Other than that, the stay was fantastic.
Lobby and swimming pool:
As our flight was delayed and we were very tired from getting up so early in the morning, we only got through 50% of our itinerary on the first day.
Our first meal in Singapore was at the Chatterbox restaurant inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. It was recommended as one of the best Hainanese chicken restaurants in Singapore on Tripadvisor. The chicken rice was good but frankly I do not think it was worth the price. A set costs $25 SGD. You could probably get something just as good at the local hawker centers for 1/5 of the price.
By the time we got to the Singapore Botanic Garden, the National Orchid Garden had already closed. The last entry is at 5:30 p.m. and keep in mind that the Orchid Garden is a 10 min walk from the entrance of the Botanic Garden. Despite being bummed about missing out on the Orchid Garden, we did enjoy our stroll in the Botanic Garden. It is a very nice park in the middle of the city where people can look at flowers, take a stroll or play ball.
I would highly recommend coming here after sunsets as I can imagine it being very hot here during the day. We made a reservation at Corner House after reading good reviews on Tripadvisor (done online on their website). I must say, the signs and maps in the park are not that great. It took us some time to locate the restaurant. The restaurant is about a 30 min walk from the entrance.
The restaurant is situated in a heritage house and the decor is very nice. Service is superb. We were greeted by every single server as we were taken to our table. No one on Tripadvisor had mentioned that they only serve set menus. I felt bad because the restaurant was quite expensive and not everyone in my travel group appreciate fine dining. Nonetheless, I must say the experience was well worth the price.
Corner House serves gastro-botanica cuisine. The head chef here is Jason Tan who had worked at a 3 star Michelin restaurant and represented Asia at the Bocuse d’Or world cuisine contest.
We each ordered the 4 course meal ($108 SGD) which came with two free courses (salmon roe served on chips and a citrus mousse).
Appetizers: Salmon roe served on chips, Japanese buri-oh and carabinero prawn (extra $22)
Starters: Oignon doux des cevennes (62 degree egg) and cuttlefish.
Main course: Citrus mousse, Japanese A4 Toriyama beef (extra $42) and New Zealand cod “crispy scales”
Dessert: Chocolat “Early Grey yin Zhen” (extra $8), My kaya toast and artisan cheese platter (extra $12)
From the taste to the presentation of each dish, everything was perfect! There was also unlimited supply of free bread (3 types) so you were guaranteed to be full after the meal!
After our fancy dinner, we headed back to our hotel. It was still early so we walked around the area briefly before we went back to our rooms.