Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Singapore Challenge


(Editor's Note: The Singapore Challenge was won! Read the full story here.)

The first stop in my six-month Asian backpacking trip is Singapore, the center of just about everything in Southeast Asia. I personally know a lot of people who have gone to Singapore on vacation and some who are now living and working in Singapore. Unsurprising, really. Manila is a mere three-hour flight away. Plus, ever since laws on immigrant workers were relaxed, and given that Singapore's demand for labor grows by the minute, Singapore-based companies have increasingly been hiring talented English-speaking individuals from nearby countries. Even I got a call from a company there a few months back.

SG Skyline
Photo by williamcho | CC BY-SA

Still, the sad fact remains. I have never been to Singapore. I have said this again and again. It just doesn't attract me. See, I was born and bred in an Asian city. So the thought to traveling to another Asian city isn't all that appealing. That doesn't mean, however, that I will not enjoy it. I've learned that about myself when I traveled to Saigon in Vietnam and Shanghai in China. Both big bustling cities which I did not really care for before getting there. Surprisingly, I found that they have crept inside my cheesy traveler heart. Singapore deserves the same openness. So, I booked a flight.

Now, the challenge.

Being the center of just about everything and being a fast-moving prosperous city, Singapore can be very expensive. One night in a hostel dorm bed (read: hostel, dorm, bed) starts at 20 SGD. That's 15 freaking US dollars! That's very steep by Southeast Asia standards. The same bed would cost half, maybe even lesser, in Vietnam, Cambodia or Thailand.

And don't even get me started on Singapore's main tourist attractions. A one-day pass to Universal Studios Singapore costs around 72 SGD (55 USD). Tickets to the Singapore Zoo can cost as much as 58 SGD (44 USD). I'm thinking those figures will only increase when you spend the day in those places what with food, water, and all other amusement park expenses, which, we all know, are usually double their cost outside.

Singaporean Dollars
My precious Singaporean dollars

So as much as I would like to experience what the Singapore Tourism Board wants me to experience, my Pinoy backpacker budget just cannot afford it. Besides, I would rather forge my own path and find my own Singapore. I am even going as far as limiting myself to a budget: 38 SGD (or 29 USD) per day all in for food, transport, attractions and activities. Lucky for me, accommodation has been taken care of. A friend living there and who is considering long-term travel has offered me a place to crash for a couple of nights. I'll make sure to fan the flames of her backpacking dreams while there. ;)

Still, why the strict budget? First, have I mentioned that Singapore is my first stop in a six-month backpacking trip around Asia? I shudder at the thought of blowing a big chunk of my travel money away in my first city. Second, I want to prove to myself, and maybe convince others, too, that to enjoy Singapore need not be an expensive undertaking.

So I need your recommendations.

I pose the question to the many people who have gone to Singapore, whether on vacation, for work, or as a stop on their backpacking RTW adventure.

Where can I go when I only have 38 SGD (29 USD) to spend in one day? What activities can I do? What sights can I see? Where can I eat? What kinds of food can I eat? I'm open to all kinds of suggestions (just the legal ones, of course). But surely, you have some ideas, right?


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