Bugis and Kampong Glam: A One-Kilometer-Radius Exploration

Having one of the busiest MRT, Bugis offers various shopping and eating locations. For those fashionable but affordable clothing and accessories, it is definitely a must-go. But since shopping isn’t my reason for travelling, I had to break away from the calls of persistent store clerks. I crossed Victoria Street and explored the nearby places within the Kampong Glam area. I also went to the opposite side, heading to Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple at Waterloo Street. img_3633img_3635

Captivating Haji Lane. There are independent fashion boutiques and shops selling handmade products and mostly locally designed and produced crafts. Since the shops are small and easy to miss, I walked leisurely with eyes wide open, intently surveying every sign I pass by. Even without buying anything, the murals were definitely satisfying for a sight-seer like me. Well, I lied. There’s no way I could have left without buying anything from the enticing shops around.

Don’t you wish it’s always Mondays OffThis shop sells handmade cycling caps! (I’m not a cyclist. I just think they would be cute if I do so.) They have quirky cards, stylish bags,lovely accessories, and even rustic decors perfect for that minimalistic shelf at home. 76 Haji Lane, Singapore 189269
A sign board at Craft Assembly. This shop is full of cute handmade crafts that would make great gifts. There are wooden necklaces, hand-crafted earrings, candles, and fairy tale books in Singlish! There were so many people at the time I visited that I missed to take photos of the interior. 61 Haji Lane, Singapore 189254
The Children Little Museum for the not-so-little children. Just around the corner of Bussorah St., the admission fee here is measly S$2. The owner and collector, Mr. Ann, was very kind and offered to take photos of me among his memorabilia. There were toys from as far back as 1950s – wind-up robots, DIY toys like chapteh and kites, tin toys, rocking horses, play carts, etc. On the second floor of the museum, an old public school serves as a backdrop. It was built by the owner himself. Aside from that, the museum exhibits an old barber shop station, a local stall selling drinks, and a toy store that was famous to children years back. It definitely reflected the times when children were often out and playing among friends rather than fixated on the screens of phones and tablets.
The majestic Masjid Sultan. As a focal point of the Muslim Community, it is considered as one of the most significant landmarks in Singapore. The mosque is surrounded by Halal restaurants and shops selling Islamic clothing. I went around the mosque and found a flock of doves at the back of the shophouses.

At the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple. Worshippers come to pray for blessings from Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy. On my way to the temple, there were shops selling religious paraphernalia, plants, homewares, and even some were offering services such as fortune telling and massages.

Despite the variations in religion, one thing that the people in Singapore have in common is their sincere devotion.

Since the day had been tiring, I opted to have lunch at I Am Cafe. I ordered the charcoal-grilled beef burger and a glass of orange juice. The burger was served with fries and the beef was thick and savory. It was filling for me that I had to scratch off the other restaurants and cafes I had on the list for that day. On my way back to Bugis MRT, I only stopped by at Peaches Juice Bar for a Scarlett Dream – juice made of watermelon, strawberry, and mint.



On Foot Around Chinatown and Duxton Road

Having booked a room at Beary Best Hostel, the first thing I did was roam around Chinatown up to Duxton Road.

Chinese ethnicity.  The colorful shophouses, decorative lanterns, and the murals fully represent the Singaporean Chinese which comprises about 70% of the population in Singapore. img_4649


A reflection of devotion. Singapore is religiously diverse. Thirty-three percent of the population are devotees of Buddhism while Hinduism is at 5%. Thus, there are temples proudly located in Chinatown where locals flock to worship and express their sincerest commitment.

Sri Mariamman Temple. Goddess Mariamman is the Hindu goddess of rain. Her worhip mainly focuses on bringing rains and curing diseases like cholera, smallpox, and chicken pox. As the oldest Hindu temple, the temple provided shelter to Hindu immigrants until they were able to find work and accommodation in Singapore. At present, the temple is home to religious functions and promotes various cultural and educational activities.img_4667Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. It is claimed that the relic of Buddha, which is a left canine tooth retrieved by his disciple Kehma from his funeral pyre and from which the temple gained its name, was found in 1980 in a collapsed stupa in Myanmar. The relic can be viewed by the public at the 4th floor of the temple. During one of their religious services, the tourist may enter and it is astonishing how worshippers can focus amidst the clicking of cameras and foreign eyes watching.img_4424

Other than religion. Souvenir shopping is a great itinerary when going around Chinatown. There are locally-made tote bags which are priced at 3 for S$10 and would be nice to give to friends. Aside from that, you can buy Singapore-themed souvenirs or Chinese medicine. Either because you believe in divine predictions or just for fun, you can also consult a fortune-teller. img_3387img_4623

Satiated. Along Maxwell Road lies the Maxwell Hawker Centre where the famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall is located. The hainanese chicken rice here has a balanced seasoning and the chilli is better than the other stalls. However, I think there are other satisfying dishes to try around this hawker like porridge from Zhen Zhen Porridge and noodles from Huang Ji. You can also just stay at Chinatown Food Street.img_3345img_4229
Chinatown Food Street.

Enticing Duxton Road and Duxton Hill. The old-fashioned houses are a great view for a leisurely day-time stroll. Many of these are converted shophouses and restaurants that would serve cuisine from the West. There are also conserved shops turned into redlight district bars. For the wandering bookworm, Littered with Books is a must-visit charming two-storey bookstore. I probably spent two hours before I decided to ask the store clerk if they have The Little Prince and Oh, The Places You’ll Go which I would love to read to my nieces. Unfortunately, they only had The Little Prince. No matter, I also bought Sula’s Voyage written by Catherine Torres, a diplomat and writer from the Philippines. I am a happy kid! (There’s a sign inside that photos are not allowed anymore so I only took a shot of the signboard. There are tons of photos if you search google images, though.)

From a peek at Buddhism to modern hangout, Chinatown and Duxton Road are definitely itinerary-worthy. I headed back to the hostel with a satisfied smile for a day well-spent.


Singapore: The Little Red Dot in the Pacific

Why would anyone want to travel alone? It’s more expensive and a bit lonely… or so people would say. I went to Singapore alone.

Why did I? I did it because I hope to live a little more. I made an itinerary which included cafe hopping and roaming around shops at Haji Lane. I love old architecture and colorful buildings. I get easily engrossed with other people’s stories, too. I like reminding myself how small I am and that there’s more out there to see and experience. More than all that, travelling solo allows me to get in contact with myself; reminding me of how brave I could be.

I booked a room at Beary Best Hotel in Chinatown. Duxton Hill Road is just a few minutes walk from there and the website was cute. Of course, I also read reviews and blogs to make sure I’ll be staying at a safe place.

With a borrowed camera (because I didn’t think I would need to buy one until I’m really good at photography), I walked around Chinatown clicking away at Sri Mariamman Temple and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. I took photos of colorful walls and all the food I ate. Somehow, I was conscious about people staring at me as I take photos of my food. I had to tell myself that they don’t know me so I should stop caring. That was the first thing my solo travel reminded me of – who cares? I should do the things that make me happy. I should stop overly caring about what others think or say.

On the second day, I decided I’ll go see the shops at Haji Lane and take a souvenir photo of Masjid Sultan. Because I’ve been to Singapore twice before, I knew I have to get off Bugis Station and my destination would be around the area. However, I did not have internet connection to check google maps. I asked but I still got lost down Waterloo Street instead of Victoria. I walked down a flea market until I reached Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple where people pray to Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy. My second lesson was to be prepared. I should have brought a printed map. Or I should have studied the surroundings more instead of haughtily walking around like I was very sure of where to go. Overconfidence got me lost. The third one was to be grateful even when I got lost. There was a man in a wheelchair outside the temple. His faced was carved out and he did not have a nose. Was he scary? Maybe, only because I could imagine that happening to me and it seemed painful. He told me about the time he spent in the Philippines and how he much he likes the people. I told him about how interesting Singapore is for me and that I would love to see more given the time. After our short discussion on culture and religion, I walked back to Bugis Station and started again. My fourth lesson – never be scared of starting over again. I didn’t think of going back early. I decided to go somewhere and I did that. I found my way to Haji Lane and had fun taking photos of the creative shops and murals. I bought souvenirs from Mondays Off and Craft Assembly.  After that, I took photos of Masjid Sultan as creative as my amateur photography skills allowed.

Sometimes, what I’m looking for is right in front of me – my fifth realization. I walked around and asked five people but failed to find The Children Little Museum for about an hour. I was about to give up and head to I AM Cafe when I noticed the big robot oddly standing outside a building. It was just around the corner of Bussorah St. The admission fee was S$2. The owner and collector, Mr. Ann, was very kind and offered to take photos of me among his memorabilia. It was fun to see toys similar to that of my childhood in the Philippines. My sixth – I find myself in odd places and that isn’t a bad thing.

I only stayed for four days and three nights. I only spent two days roaming around because I met with friends and we had a great time catching up. Next time, I’ll visit Little India and the old railway station at Bukit Timah. I would also want to work in a hawker stall for at least three days and write a feature about it. I want to join some of the various workshops offered by the shops I visited like toy-making from the Children Little Museum or a calligraphy class at Shop Wonderland in Haji Lane. I would definitely come back to see and experience more of Singapore. It would be nice to travel with a friend but I wouldn’t mind going alone again. It’s fun!


Random Thoughts on Work and Retirement

A very nice Auntie approached me while I was finishing my iced lemon tea at the Chinatown Food Centre. She thinks I’m still young to travel by myself. I asked her how old she was and she replied, “I am a senior citizen. Still working lah.”

Exactly. I thought she was too old to be clearing tables.

Apparently, Auntie has a daughter who is still living with her and working somewhere in Singapore. She emphasized that her working is not caused by her daughter’s refusal to take care of her. She reiterated that the cost of living is quite expensive and that is why even at her age, she still prefers to earn her keep. Also, she is never quite used to doing nothing. That, to me, is admirable.

In the Philippines, the current population is approximately 102,000,000 and ages 65-over would be 5% of that. The compulsory retirement age is sixty-five (65) and it is seldom for the elderly to be employed during their senior years. Even the SSS retirement program isn’t a reliable source of funding. Although, currently, there is a P2,000-hike in SSS pension request being processed at the House of the Representatives, that would still not be enough to cover the basic needs. Once that has become a law, the lowest monthly pension of P1,200 will be P3,200. Other than that, it is common for the elderly to not have retirement benefits or savings as the country still has a long way to go in promoting financial security. Therefore, it is a norm for employed children to take care of their ageing parents’ basic needs instead.

Like many, my parents have not saved for their retirement. I understand that there are pros if my old folks would be working. They can spend their money however they want. They would keep on learning and they would probably be more social. However, imagining them exhausted and weary is disturbing. It would also break my heart if they go home complaining about rude clients or customers.

I admire the elderly in Singapore as they can fend for themselves and like that there are many programs catering to their needs. Regardless, I personally would not want my parents to be working at their age. Life for them has been challenging enough and I would rather they ride comfortably while I drive the carriage. I could only hope that my country would work progressively in improving the lives of the aged and would be a better place for when I reach my retirement.

So for now, I would rather let my tatay and nanay watch the news and be political analysts while having merienda.