Far from crazy rich, poor Asian me lives it up in SG

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    SINGAPORE – No, I did not get to see Crazy Rich Asians. The wife yet to fully forgive me for missing that movie date with her.

    Nowhere near crazy rich but all-too-economically-ordinary, this Asian did sense and savor – for real, not reel – if only in snatches, that ambience of elegance, of opulence the film celebrated. And more.

    All it took was so-smooth a Cebu Pacific Air flight from the Clark airport, arriving 30 minutes ahead of ETA at Changi. The world’s best airport’s awesomeness enough to make it a premier destination in itself.

    And the most gracious Singapore Tourism Board made sure we had only the best feel, and fill, of the city-state packed in a weekend.

    Starting off with Concorde Hotel for that perfect home-away-from-home feel with its friendly staff, and at 100 Orchard Road, the ideal start- and end-point to any adventure in the city, with the easiest accessibility by bus, MRT or good old two-legs mobility.

    By bus, after a sumptuous take of local culinary delights at Simply Peranakan,  post-prandial perambulation around Merlion Park right on our first night, fitting courtesy call, a homage to Singapore’s national icon – half-fish, half-lion, swimming in prosperity, roaring as one of the world’s best economies. Medium becoming message, there amply delivered.

    Across the eponymous bay, the new icon that is Marina Bay Sands, its magnificence splendored by the interplay of lights and sounds dazzlingly reflected on the waters. A mug of café americano at Starbucks made a fitting cap to a wonderful night.

    Marina Bay Sands

    Took the CRA – Crazy Rich Asian, as if you still didn’t know – package on the first day.

    SkyPark, Marina Bay Sands where the guy proposed to the girl in the movie daw. From the deck, the city spread of skyscrapersgreen mountains behind them on one side. The bay, vessels of all bulk and fancy moored and in transit, on the other side. Edifices of various calls, invariably interspersed with greens, in between. On top of the best of all worlds, aye, what better place to make the greatest profession of one’s love than here?

    This is where they wed! Some romantic in our group of travelling mediamen exclaimed at the white steepled church of the once-Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle English School (CHIJMES) – per info of Charles Lim of Selrahco – that is now an enclave of restaurants, bars and events space.

    Unfortunately, we were not allowed into the church as there was a private event – a wedding, what else? – ongoing.

    Chili crab – Singapore’s signature dish – featured in the movie too daw, we had to have, else our trip here would be much wanting. And New Uban Seafood lived up to its claim of “Truly Singaporean Experience at Chijmes” with the chili crab for main entrée and pulut hitamfor dessert. STB area director Lael Loh upped the gastronomic delight even more with her briefer on each of the dishes served, duly noted by CebPac corporate communications director Charo L. Lagamon.

    Post-lunch, at the Gardens by the Bay where nature takes you in its cool, refreshing embrace. First stop: Cloud Forest, a veritable immersion in a lush rainforest centered around a tall waterfall. Second: Flower Dome, a virtual one-stop display of the gardens of the world.

    Newton Circus – where the lovers took their first repast upon arrival in Singapore. Much like the food parks in good old PHL, but for the satay and peanut sauces, the nasi goreng, nasi lemak, nasi ayam, and the laksa to live for. Burrrppp!

    Not in the movie daw, but as good an experience as it can get – Art Science Museum Future World, its interactive environment-themed light-and-sound show catering best to the future of the planet – young girls and boys.

    Then, there’s the de rigueur in every trip to Singapore – Bugis Street bargain shopping! The $1 stores the hardest to beat.

    Revisiting the CRA scenes gloriously done, more of the usual Singapore came to the fore. Oops, did I just say the usual?

    Resorts World Sentosa

    There’s something always new to find here, said Julia Jalandoon of STB Philippines, and made good on her word on our second day.

    Sentosa – been there, done that. But not Resorts World Sentosa.

    So, I’ve done Madame Tussaud’s in Bangkok and Hongkong – did all those selfies with Mao, Deng, Picasso, Gandhi, et al; got a kick out of Bruce Lee and sparred with Ali; sat with the Queen, tried Obama’s chair for size; basked in the glamour of Hollywood stars. Still, the thrill of posing for photos with the wax images for FB upload has not the least waned.

    And what else did I find in the house of Madame here? Aside from Ironman and Thor, one hero of my lost youth, long fallen from grace among his own – the Indonesian nationalist and first president Sukarno. Yeah, if only for the reverential “Bung” before his name so close to my own.

    One thing though that keeps me going to Tussaud’s: Doing Paul Varjak to Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. How I love Audrey Hepburn, be it in Sabrina, Roman Holiday, Two for the Road…

    The romanticist turns juvenile at the Trick Eye Museum. Whether in Phuket where I first experienced it, or in Marquee Mall and SM City Pampanga where I had a surfeit of it, the optical illusion in 3-D art never fails to bring out the playful child even in this senior citizen.

    And with the added AR – augmented reality – here, art comes to virtual life! Wow!

    New and glorious find at RW-Sentosa is Sessions at Hard Rock Hotel. Beyond chili crabs, the Louisiana seafood gumbo, steamed fillet in superior soy sauce, poached fresh prawns, and Cajun dishes – all cooked before your very eyes – needless to say, are a gourmet’s delight.

    Suffice to say Universal Studios, arguably the best this side of the world far removed from LA.

    Forest of the night

    Farthest from that world of make-believe was the last of part of this Singapore journey – to that side of life in the wild. But only after a sumptuous dinner at the Ulu-Ulu Asian Buffet Night in the Night Safari area of Singapore Zoo.

    Pitch darkness broken only by moonlight, tram ride through forest primeval replication of the Himalayan foothills, the Indian sub-continent and the Southeast Asian rainforest and marvel at the wildlife – elephants, tapirs, leopards, white lions, striped hyenas, mouse deer, flamingos, etc. – in their nocturnal elements.

    “Tyger, Tyger burning bright, in the forest of the night…” William Blake’s paean to the big cat comes all too real at the Malaysian tiger by the end of the safari ride. What beauty in the beast, even in the dark!

    Lights – sparkling, showering, twinkling, blazing – put the drama in the trees, the rocks, the plants, the shrubs in a walk through the 2.5-kilometer meandering path at Rainforest Lumina, adjacent to the Night Safari area. The beauty of creation, of life, amid the darkness of night makes the very call for conservation, to which the traveler commits himself at the end of the walk.

    Changi

    The theme of forests follows even at Changi, where trees and shrubs abound, where all sorts of flowers bloom in green oases widely distributed along the duty-free shops and the lounges right inside the airport.

    A refreshing environment even past midnight, as we waited for our 3:45 a.m. Monday Cebu Pacific flight to Manila, breezing through the counters, check-in .

    On one wall of T-4, a new attraction – a micro-mini operetta in 3-D on the eternal theme of young love, not of the crazy rich but the middleclass Asians though.

    So, ended this short swing to Singapore as it began.

    (Cebu Pacific flies Clark-Singapore-Clark Tuesdays and Fridays) 

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