Things to Do in Singapore

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Singapore is a tiny city and many of its inhabitants (at least the ones I talk to) say there’s not much to do here. However, I find that it’s definitely a unique cityscape to walk through and explore when you have the time.

BooksActually

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I love exploring bookstores. And this place is small but quaint and charming. It’s filled with a wide variety of books, mostly falling under the quirky side. If you go in through to the back room, there’s an even larger amount of quirky books and goods to rummage through. If you have time after, definitely explore the surrounding Tiong Bahru area, as there are other cafes, shops, etc. with an equally hipstery vibe.

Ann Siang Road and Surrounding Areas

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This area is more known for bars and restaurants that serve food and drinks targeted more towards the expat community. But more importantly, the area is designed both in landscape and architecture in a way that makes for great photo spots. My amateur photography skills of course doesn’t do the area justice, but just trust me.

Chinatown

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Chinatown here, as in other cities/countries, is certainly a tourist trap. However, it’s definitely a place to walk through and check out, especially if you’re looking for those quintessential souvenirs, like a Singapore themed shot glass. Be sure to go into the Maxwell Hawker Centre here nearby as well as the Chinatown Food Court for some cheap hawker fare.

Chijmes

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Chijmes is a super beautiful place. People even hold weddings here. Basically, this place used to be a church/chapel, but ironically enough got redesigned to hold lots of classy bars inside instead.

Clarke Quay

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Clarke Quay is another one of those places in Singapore that you have to check out. Not only does the area have buildings and bridges gorgeously lit, like in the photo above, but it’s a classy little waterfront that’s perfect for walking by. It’s also the classic location for grabbing a meal and some drinks. Definitely come check out this place at night.

Haji Lane

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Haji Lane reminds me of the Mission area in San Francisco. It’s a cluster of alleyways with beautiful buildings and murals throughout it. There’s also a bunch of hipstery bars, cafes, restaurants, art galleries and shops to check out.

Esplanade, Merlion Statue, and that entire Area

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This is the tourist location that screams out Singapore to the world. There’s the classic merlion statue that everyone takes photos. But don’t forget to also check out the view of Marina Bay (the hotel building that looks like a boat on top of three columns) the Esplanade (a building in the shape of a durian, the national fruit of Singapore), and the other classic buildings on this Singapore cityscape view.

Marina Bay 

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The Marina Bay area is known for a couple things. First, the Gardens by the Bay, which…Google it…the Internet will tell you more about than I could ever tell you. But basically, Singapore is pretty proud of it. Second, Marina Bay Sands. It’s a hotel, but under it is a mall and a casino. The mall is pretty outlandish. As you can see above, there’s a freaking canal running through it that you can ride boats on.

Singapore Art Museum

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The Singapore Art Museum, is definitely nothing like the MOMA or the MET. However, it’s worth checking out if you have interest in modern art.

Other Places to Check Out for Which I Have No Photos

  1. Orchard Lane: It’s a strip of several malls all together, which consists of food courts, ice cream vendors, and everything else imaginable. There’s also a Laduree, and my favorite, a large Kinokuniya bookstore, where you can sit and read absolutely anything.
  2. Singapore Botanical Garden: It’s your classic botanical garden. To be honest, I only went because it was a world heritage site.
  3. Little India: Definitely an interesting stop to see the great cultural differences and an almost too palpable racial divide between the Chinese and Indian populations within the country. On another more superficial note, it’s also a good place to get your eyebrows done perfectly for a cheap price.
  4. Red Dot Museum: If you have time, and are interested in art/design (both industrial and print), check out this small museum. It’s actually pretty cool, and I’m not super design/art minded.
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Travels in Boracay: On being lonely and independent

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Imagine smelling nothing in the air but the almost sweet spray of the ocean waves. The mainstream club music sounds from a distance. Somehow, it is fitting to the moment. And all you have is water, sand, and moonlight all around you. This is Boracay.

It certainly is a very touristy island, with almost all of the natives here working in some industry or other that goes solely towards serving the natives. However, the clear waters and lack of real civilization (no pesky cityscapes to ruin those glorious ocean views) makes it a worthwhile island to venture out to at least once in a lifetime.

Boracay, for those who don’t know, is a small island, about 4 miles by 2 miles in its entirety. It’s a pretty underdeveloped tourist destination as there’s only 1 McDonalds on the island. As you travel around, you will also notice several plots of land roped off to construct fancy hotels. It’s definitely getting there though. It’s also an island that has been ranked in the top 10 go-to beaches around the world.

After a draining but definitely interesting month of running around after children and with my deep love for beaches, I did much research and decided to travel to Boracay. Three things inspired me to choose Boracay.

  1. Famous for beautiful beaches
  2. Considered a cheaper option since it was in the Philippines, an underdeveloped tourist destination, and was during off-season
  3. Touted as the Asian cheaper version of Cancun

My Boracay trip lasted for 4 days. For 3 of those days, I stayed in a very cheap hostel, Jeepney, which cost only about $18 for 3 nights. It was what you’d expect of a hostel with very friendly staff. However, my complaints would be that there’s poor ventilation/air conditioning, leading to pretty warm nights, and the existence of mosquitoes. Though honestly, these complaints are probably more related to Southeast Asia in general, and so something you should come to expect.

For my last day, I booked a night at a 5 star hotel. Not quite the Shangri-La, but at the Monaco Suites de Boracay. Because it was off-season, I only paid about $175 (I also got a discount through Orbitz). This is probably cheaper than the nightly price for a 3 star hotel in the States. I also received an Ocean View Suite, which consisted of a bedroom, two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, living room, and a patio that overlooked the ocean. It was heavenly and the perfect end to my travels on the island. The service you receive from beginning to end is also great, from the glass of apple lemonade and the cool towel you receive upon check in to the golf cart ride from the entrance to the reception area to your suite and to the shuttle rides to the airport/D*Mall, makes you feel pampered. If you get the chance to stay here, be sure to also check out the infinity pool and jacuzzi.

The downsides to this hotel was that while Monaco Suites surpassed my every expectation in the way of what a 5 star hotel provides, the small details surprised me, and were of course, almost insignificant elements, but did create breaks in the illusion that you had arrived in paradise. For example, the room service menu had broken pages, the television didn’t have any working channels, etc. And while the breakfast buffet was pretty decent, the room service meal (I got a pesto sandwich) was dry and tasteless. That being said though, I have yet to get a room service meal that was actually tasty at any hotel.

That night at Monaco Suites, I took a swim out in the infinity pool. Upon walking there and seeing the lighted pool in the moonlight, My first thought was that this was the best thing ever. My second thought was, ‘Oh shoot…There’s exactly one honeymooning couple here…and they’re honeymooning away…You know what…whatever. This is a public pool.’ So I just strode in and took a dip in the pool. The couple waited a bit for me to leave, but upon seeing I wasn’t going to leave anytime soon, they left. And you know what? I don’t regret chasing away this one couple with my presence.

It made me contemplate not only this trip but also my previous trips as a solo female backpacker.

The independence you feel on landing in a completely foreign country, one where you may not even speak the language, completely by yourself is a rush that I can’t even begin to describe. Being able to walk around, seeing what you want to see, eating what you want to eat, and doing what you want to do, without a care in the world for other people, is thrilling. It provides you with a sense of freedom. No more holding yourself back just because you know your friend or your mother wouldn’t want to do that. A shady but cool looking alleyway over there? Just go. No one is there to yell at or chastise you.

And when people ask you, from shady men to families to couples, “Are you here alone,” and you respond yes, depending on the situation” the look of astonishment they get is the icing on the cake. It’s a look that mixes the two thoughts of “Wow!” and “You crazy bitch!” and it’s great. As I lay on my back in that infinity pool that night, I watched a thunder/lightning storm not quite far from me and really relished my independence.

However, this independence also lends its way to feelings of loneliness and it’s inevitable. Most of the time, it’s overcome by feelings of awe and glee at traveling alone and seeing/experiencing new things. However, this feeling of loneliness sometimes creeps up on you unknowingly. In Boracay for example, 75% of the people there were couples (This number is my own hyperbolic estimate of course) and walking around, doing the activities meant for couple by myself, from “commonplace” things like eating to the more exciting things like sailing, inevitably makes you feel alone. Hearing another honeymooning having a late night dinner to songs like John Legend’s “All of Me” in the restaurant patio above the pool  only accentuates the feeling.

It sort of feels like a pang in your heart and you start wishing for a boyfriend, a friend, anyone. You start looking at the male tourists and thinking that maybe we could have a thing in your twisted fantasy land. You feel envious of the couples.

You feel alone.

In the end though, I believe that you come to engulf the loneliness within you and become stronger for it.

Things to Do in Boracay

Boracay is a small island, but there’s tons to do on here. Below is the list of things that I did during my short vacation there. However, there are definitely a lot more things that you can do.

Activities:

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  • Explore the Beaches: I particularly loved White Beach. It is such a nice beach that I want to cut out a plot of it and bring the piece back home with me. Remember to also stop by Willy’s Rock, a small rock jutting out of the sand that’s interesting to check out. Other notable beaches include Puka Beach, Diniwid Beach, and Illig-Illigan Beach. Just know that the beaches facing out to Sulu Sea are quite nice and clean, in fact one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever been to. However, the ones facing the opposite side, towards the Sibuyan Sea, although also clear looking, are actually known to be quite polluted with sewage. But for the cleaner side, enjoy activities like sailing, swimming, sun-bathing, parasailing, kitesailing, and any other water based sport you can think of! Try to haggle for these kinds of activities with the natives rather than purchasing deals online. You can frequently get a much better price. Just watch out so that you’re not paying out the cash until you’re 100% sure you will receive the service you’re paying for.
  • Shopping/Restaurants/Clubs/Bars: Go to D*Mall. And then exit the D*Mall by heading out towards White Beach. All along the sand, from Station 1 to Station 3, there are all sorts of bars, shops, and restaurants to go to. They’re mostly all sort of the same level so go ahead and explore. You can get everything from dried mangos, to swimwear, to henna tattoos and massages, among others.
  • Spas: There’s tons of nice and affordable spas in the area, so this is where to get your cheap massages and pedicures. I went to the Bella Isa Spa, ranked as the number 1 spa on the island. I paid out a small chunk of money for the full “I Deserve It” package. However, there’s smaller packages and services as well. The package I got consisted of a full body massage, a facial, a pedicure, and a hair spa treatment. It was my first time trying out a spa (I love trying new experiences) so I don’t know much of what to expect. But everything was delightful and I would totally recommend it for anyone even remotely interested.

Restaurants/Bars/Clubs:

  • Boracay Beach Pub – Station 4: I tried the Kangkung Tofu and the Mojito. The Kangkung Tofu (a dish with stirfried tofu and spinach) was quite mediocre. However, the mojito was very good. I would recommend coming here for just the mojitos, the best on the island in my opinion. The Pub also has a great buy one get one free deal for these. They also come in different flavors, like watermelon, lychee, and calamansi (a sort of baby lime that I think is native to the Philippines). I came once more during my trip and tried the watermelon mojito. Definitely give them a try! If you also have the time, sign up for the Pub Crawl. I haven’t tried it but I’ve heard some great stuff about it.
  • Lemoni Cafe: I ate here pretty frequently for lunch, and that’s not because the food was particularly amazing. The food was decent, both in taste and price but I really liked the atmosphere of it. It’s an open air establishment with calming decor, which gives you a great tropical vacation vibe along with the ability to people watch. However, there’s a roof and a nice fan system, so it keeps you quite cool and comfortable. I tried the egg white omelette, the shrimp and pomelo salad, and the shrimp pasta. The omelette and the salad were find but the pasta was too salty. If you want to go for food here, I definitely recommend going for the simpler dishes. More importantly, the drinks here were particularly good. In particular, I’ve had the Watermelon Crush and the Mint and Pineapple Crush (sort of fruit slushie drinks made with real fruit). I highly recommend the mint and pineapple crush, especially if you’re a mint lover like me.
  • Tres Amigas: Philippines is known for having decent Spanish/Mexican food because of its history. It also had a TripAdvisor recommended sticker, something I don’t usually rely on. However, it is a good gauge of if food is at least decent or not. Therefore, I went and had the beef chimichanga, supposedly the best seller. It was very good, and this is coming from someone who lived almost her entire life in San Diego, a city known for fusion style Mexican food. I actually went again during my trip, so highly recommend.
  • Ice Monster: Ice Monster has a variety of food that it sells. And out of a whim, I tried the deep fried seaweed rolls, a Korean dish. However, it was far too oily to stomach. Instead stick with what it’s supposed to specialize in, a Philippine style shaved ice dish. It comes in a variety of flavors but it’s basically shaved ice with condensed milk poured on it along with toppings. These toppings are the flavors you choose, and they come in a variety, from lychee to watermelon to Oreo. I’ve tried both lychee and watermelon and highly recommend the lychee one.
  • Epic: Epic is apparently THE club to go to in Boracay. It’s a high end bar until about 12am, when they move the tables and creates a dance floor. I however, only went for the drinks. Originally, I wanted to try it’s mojitos but they had run out of mint leaves. I instead got the mango daiquiri on a buy one get one 50% off deal. The daiquiri was alright but definitely a bit too sweet for my taste. I definitely missed the mojitos from Boracay Beach Pub.
  • Sea Breeze: This is a high end all you can eat buffet connected to a hotel. I went because from the outside, the place looked pretty fancy and there was quite a crowd and I wanted to treat myself. It was about $16 USD for AYCE, which is pretty high end for Boracay. However, as expected of hotel food, the food was quite mediocre. They had everything from sushi to grilled fish to pasta. However, I wouldn’t say it was anything special. Only go for the experience of a “fancy” AYCE buffet at Boracay.
  • OM Bar: I went here because it, like every other bar on Boracay, had outdoor beach side seating. What made it particularly stand out to me compared to the others were the bean bag chairs and cool looking lights. However, their drinks (I got the mojito) was only OK and definitely not worth price. There was no special deal. And the actual sitting experience was only OK.

My Favorite Subway Stops in Shanghai

I’ve left Shanghai recently and as a last blog farewell to Shanghai, I wanted to talk about my favorite subway stops in no particular order.

  1. West Nanjing Road: Lots of shopping and malls. All the Korean makeup brands are here, along with Shanghai’s flagship Old Navy store.
  2. Dashijie: This area has lots of restaurants and food stalls all around. Definitely go and taste everything till your stomach’s content.
  3. Lujiazui: This area has the Oriental Pearl Tower along with all the other famous tall buildings of Shanghai.
  4. East Nanjing Road: The area is known for shopping and for restaurants as well. It’s one of the go to tourist stops.
  5. Dapuqiao: This stop is near Tianzifang, along with a bunch of small hipstery stores and cafes.
  6. South Shaanxi Road: Another road stop with a bunch of restaurants. The famous Din Tai Fung is also here.

Things to Do in Nanjing

These are the things I did in Nanjing. Of course, I only had 1 day so this is a pretty limited list.

Fuzimiao

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The photo quality is bad but Fuzimiao is beautiful, especially at night. In fact, I would recommend going only at night. Fuzimiao is known especially for the Confucian temple, where Confucius’ disciples were supposed to have gathered. However, the night view on the river and the buildings around are beautiful and definitely worth noticing.

Avant-Garde Bookstore

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This isn’t really your conventional bookstore. However, it’s a great place to go and buy postcards or other such souvenirs and take artsy photos. The bookstore also has a cafe and some uniquely designed rooms that you should definitely check out.

Mausoleum for Sun Yat-sen

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The mausoleum for Sun Yat-sen is considered a must go place by my friend, a true Nanjing native. Fair warning though, it’s a pretty steep hike, and in the hot Shanghai summer sun, you will get very sweaty. However, it’s interesting to see the place that many Nanjing natives deem the place to go to in the city. It’s also a huge area with lots of pretty scenic places.

Music Hall

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The music hall is within the area with the Mausoleum for Sun Yat-Sen. It’s a good side visit. It’s pretty if you have time to stop by for a time. There are also supposed to be live performances depending on the day.

Nanjing Museum

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The Nanjing Museum, according to my friend, is considered one of the top four museums in China. The place has exhibits from every time period in Chinese history, along with a digital exhibition (more interesting for kids), mock set up of Shanghai in the 1930’s, and a room full of dinosaur skeletons. Depending on what you’re interested, from art to calligraphy, this museum has something for everyone. You will get numb trying to go to every exhibit hall, so just shoot for the ones you’re actually interested in.

Nanjing Massacre Memorial

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The Nanjing Massacre is basically what Nanjing is known for. So I had a morbid interest in going to the memorial. It is certainly a very well designed memorial in my opinion and very educational for those interested in it. However, there are two things to keep in mind. Firstly, of course Japan did wrong China during this massacre. However, there’s a lot of negative bias that also occurs making some events in the war seem far worse than it was. Also, the amount of information and stories can be overwhelming to the point of becoming numbing. I do understand however, that this is the point of the memorial in that it wants to drill in its point.

Lanyuan Theatre

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A friend of my friend is very much into theatre. So she got us cheap tickets for the Lanyuan Theatre, which has Chinese opera performances. Supposedly, the Lanyuan Theatre has performances that surpass even that of the Shanghai Opera. And indeed, once you get over the high wheedling voices, the stories do become interesting. The Theatre also has English subtitles, so I recommend coming at least once.

Xuanwu Lake

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This lake sits right across from the Nanjing railway station. It’s a peaceful view and there’s a very nice scenic lookout at downtown Nanjing. I’d definitely suggest taking a look!

Things to Do in Shanghai

Here is a list of the things that I enjoyed doing in Shanghai!

MUST SEE:

Lujiazui

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This is a great area for seeing the classic high rise towers in Shanghai, like the Oriental Pearl Tower.

East Nanjing Road

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East Nanjing Road is another classic tourist place with a bunch of stores and restaurants. It’s a pretty decent street to walk through.

Xintiandi

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Xintiandi is also a shopping and upscale restaurant area. However, what’s really appealing is the architecture of the buildings in the area. Just walking through and seeing the modern buildings and its architecture was a really cool experience. There’s also a cool cafe/store, called Momi Cafe, within the Hubindao mall (which also has really nice bathroom…actual toilet seat covers) that has a cafe and allows you to send letters to yourself in the future. A park with a fountain is also right across from Hubindao mall, which is pretty nice. And within the Xintiandi walkway area, there are some cool galleries. One of them is Nancy’s Gallery on No. 2 Lane, 123 Xingye Road.

Yu Gardens

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A popular tourist place. It’s interesting to walk around and see the architecture and touristy souvenir shops. The highlight here is the actual Yu Garden, but because of the fact that there was too many people and the price a bit expensive, I decided to skip it. Nevertheless, interesting toursity walk through. Don’t buy food here. It won’t be worth it.

The Bund

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Another touristy site, I recommend coming by and doing a walk through. There are lots of photo points and you can see across the river onto Lujiazui. Good scenic point.

Tianzifang

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Tianzifang is a cool network of little alleyways filled with bars, galleries, food places, and stores, most full of souvenirs but a few with good quality goods (100% leather bound journals anyone?). It’s super interesting to walk through, and I’d highly recommend it.

50 Moganshan Lu

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I highly recommend this, especially for art lovers. There are so many interesting galleries here that I could probably spend half a day just hopping in and out of galleries. I especially recommend Island 6. It has a competition and shows exhibits of only the most interesting artists. There’s also artistic graffiti throughout the walls around here. Some of the graffitti was pretty trashy when I went there but a few were very nice.

SEE IF YOU HAVE TIME:

Shanghai Sculpture Garden

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Only do this is if you’re bored or have lots of time. It’s an interesting space to walk through, to see the various art galleries. The sculptures are not all that unique or interesting but the space makes for great photos.

People’s Park

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Right by People’s Square is People’s Park. It’s a huge park, again, interesting to walk through. The entrance right by People’s Square subway station opens up into the Marriage Market, which is a place where older parents/grandparents will set up resumes on umbrellas or anything else to try and marry off their children. A bit of a culture shock but very interesting to walk through.

Madame Soong Ching Ling’s Former Residence

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Madame Soong Ching Ling was the wife of Sun Yat Sen. And while Sun Yat Sen’s former residence is quite expensive to visit, Madame Soong Ching Ling’s was only 10 RMB for students. I recommend for anyone interested in history during this time. It’s not a particularly great exhibit here, but it’s pretty decent for 10 RMB.

Qibao Old Street

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Qibao Old Street is a pretty touristy area as well. But it makes for some decent night views and easy street food access.

 

Shanghai Library

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I recommend checking this out if you have the extra time. It’s probably the biggest library in Shanghai and is simply interesting to see what it looks like. The library also possesses a lot of old Chinese documents and texts if you’re interested in that.

Fuxing Park

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I would also recommend this only if you have the time. It’s a nice park that was designed with the Parisian parks of France in mind. Also check out the large statue of Karl Marx along with the hordes of old people dancing.