I used to be a very reluctant traveler. There are so many places I wanted to go but there were also so many things I was scared of.
When I started taking long bus rides to different provinces in the north of the Philippines and plane rides to beautiful places in the south, my wanderlust won over the fears. That’s when I decided to take things up a notch and added solo backpacking in Asia to my to-do list for 2017.
One of the countries I’ve always been interested in visiting is Singapore. It’s relatively near, doesn’t have an extreme weather, and I’m sure to bump into a former classmate or colleague, which would be great. Obviously, I needed to plan it wisely: find affordable airfare, pick the best time to visit, plan an itinerary, and the usual stuff.
The last thing I want to happen is to arrive there and have absolutely no idea what to do or (gasp) run short on cash.
Which is why I was so happy to have been part of Air Asia Philippines’ first quiz night for—guess what—their Cebu-Singapore direct flight launch.
It was a great night (and an educational one for me) that put me in a room with some of Cebu’s bloggers. It’s always nice to meet new people. But my takeaway that night was the fun things I learned about Singapore. It pretty much laid out the foundation of my future Singapore trip.
So for fellow first-timers, here are some of the things you should know about our neighboring country:
9. It’s one of only three city-states in the world
A city-state located one degree north of the equator (which explains the hot weather), Singapore shares the distinction of being one of only three city-states in the world, the other being Monaco and Vatican City. It also doesn’t have a capital.
8. Lion City sans the lions
Singapore got its moniker when an Indonesian King thought he saw a lion in the country and called it “Singapura” which translates to “Lion City” in Sanskrit. But they say it’s very unlikely that lions walked this part of Southeast Asia.
7. It has 63 islands
Singapore only measures 278 sq. mi. but it is composed of 63 islands. However, most of these islands are unoccupied and used mainly for military and industrial purposes.
6. It underwent an impressive transformation
When Sir Raffles Stamford arrived at the banks of the Singapore River in the 1800s, there were only about a thousand Malays. After establishing it as a British trading post, the city-state experienced an admirable growth. Now, its population is almost 6 million and it’s one of the most progressive countries in the world.
5. It has an award-winning airport
Changi Airport is one of the biggest transportation hubs in Southeast Asia. It’s also one of the busiest in terms of international passenger traffic. It provides links to other major cities in the world as it serves more than 100 airlines that fly to 80 countries and territories.
4. Singaporeans are the fastest walkers
A zombie outbreak may not matter too much here because Singaporeans walk fast! A study by the British Council found that on the average, a Singaporean walks a distance of 18 metres in 10.55 seconds. That’s 6.15 km per hour!
3. Impressively massive MRT system
At times when you can’t walk, maybe you’d consider riding their MRT. I would love to experience this only because I know it’s a totally different experience from the one we have here. Interestingly, it’s the second oldest metro system in Southeast Asia (its initial section opened in November 1987) next to our very own LRT.
It has 102 stations, so I guess it’s important to really do some research unless you want to get lost. But from what they say, it’ll definitely be an experience I would enjoy because it’s spotless and safe. Its stations are also within walking distance from the various tourist attractions.
2. Activities to keep you busy from sunrise to sundown
You won’t run out of things to do here. You can start by going to the Botanic Garden. It opens at 5 AM, which is perfect if you want to squeeze as many activities in your day. It’s 150 years old and home to numerous horticultural attractions.
Sentosa Island offers tons of excitement especially to kids. Check out the Underwater World, Dolphin Lagoon, Butterfly Park, Palawan Beach, and Insect Kingdom. And don’t forget to visit Universal Studios!
A cruise down the Singapore River should also be on your list. Marvel at the city skyline during sundown and soak in all the day’s activities.
You can also visit wildlife parks like the Night Safari. This opens only at night and showcases 120 different species where 30% belongs to the endangered list.
1. The impressive shopping experience
A trip to Singapore would not be complete unless you go shopping and you’d want to do that in Asia’s most famous shopping street: Orchard Road. It’s every shopaholic’s paradise with its wide variety of choices from fashion to specialist stores and other lifestyle choices.
I won’t be embarrassed to say that I have yet to visit this country and that our team failed to break the top 3 during the Air Asia Philippines Cebu Quiz Night (LOL). However, it fueled my desire to push through with my Singapore trip.
And you know what? I’m certain it’s going to happen sooner than I expected now that Air Asia has added another Singapore route to its roster of flights. Started November 25th, Air Asia now flies directly from Cebu to Singapore four times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
Now, everyone can really fly.
Including this not-so-reluctant-traveler.