Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Singapore

        Though "trip to singapore" was a long pending agenda , catalyst to this trip was a random internet advertisement in which Tiger Airways promised* (yes the * was intended) to and fro to Singapore at a very low cost (some thing around 5K INR). This concept was readily accepted by Venkat , Bharathi and Karthi and we booked tickets within couple of weeks. Final travel cost then was around 10K for a single passenger including all charges.Later Bharathi dropped out as Balu's marriage was in the same weekend that we have booked tickets. There was no provision to reschedule these low cost tickets and hence others planed to stick to the initial plan.Later one day during breakfast when i was mentioning this plan to Hari , he offered to joined in. Luckily his ticket was even cheaper , 7K INR.  The departure was scheduled on 3 March at 11:45 PM from chennai. Three of us ( Myself , Venkat & Hari ) started by Brindavan Express from Bangalore and reached Chennai at 8 PM. We reached airport at around 9 PM where Karthi was waiting. We had sufficient time  before checkin and hence decided to have dinner in airport. It ironic that there was only one hotel ( 20 seater) in the entire International airport.

  There was a couple of new camera and camcorder we were carrying. If we didnt show these and get receipts from the customs ,it would added to our customs limit on return.So we approached a customs official to do the necessary paperwork.You need a spectacular negotiating ability to get a work done from a Indian Government official. After lot of cajoling he accepted to do his duty. At least 25 minutes was wasted by this useless fellow. We had only 3:30 hours to sleep that night.I couldn't sleep during the journey. Next day we landed right on time at around 6:30 AM PST.
    First was immigration. Myself and Hari came through the same counter and i preceded him. The agent at our counter was very stubborn.She was having a detailed look through the passport and questioning people for more time , whereas other agents were relaxed and finished the process quickly. She even reported two passengers to her higher authority.They were taken to a separate room for questioning. When Hari finished immigration ,he mentioned that when they scanned his passport my photo was showing up there !!!!. Ooops how could it be possible ??..Okay .On rewinding the past events we got the reason for this confusion.We both applied Visa simultaneously and have given applications without pasting/fixing the photo in it .The agent processing the application has switched the photos and finally as per government of singapore we had a different face. If we can do this why not others, whose aim to forge a entry. I have read somewhere [The Day of the Jackal] that when some sees your identiy cards and verifies against your face , he looks for similarities between both of them and mostly let away even if few things are similar. Very true .Even a strict agent cannot identify difference between these two photos and the orginal faces. Its hightime that We should get away from photo based identification and resort to more foolproof methods such fingerprint , retina etc .Lucily we were saved :) Else we would have made headlines in nextday's newspapers for trying to enter singapore with false visa.
       Our hotel booking was in littleIndia at 12PM. We thought of reaching there , deposit the luggage and wander around that area till 12 PM. Arriving at the airport we were clueless on how to travel to the hotel . Our poor planning was already showing its effects. We didnt even have a map of the city , no bus/train routes info , no local mobile phones. There was a cab stand it was mentioned that cost would be around 45$ . oops .. There was bus taking passengers freely to some train station. Since it was free , and since many people boarding it , we too got into it :) . Inside the bus we were discussing how to proceed next . On hearing our confused speeches couple of people offered to help us. One passenger told us the route in MRT (local train service there ) and also mentioned that he will be accompanying us until 2 junctions and one stretch we had to travel on our own. There were prepaid cards to pay for train journey . It costs 10$ with a 5$ travel value. This card can be used for buses too. We bought 4 such cards.For reasons not known to us the person who was guiding us didnt have a card and bought a ticket , even though he was long staying resident. With this card the travel was hassle free . No queues to get tickets . Jus swipe the card on the entry and exit and automatically the ticket charges are calculated and deducted.[ Recently read that same methodology is planned for Bangalore metro too . Lets see how they implement it ]. This is a must in chennai too. Mostly the wait time for tickets in chennai metro used to be 15-20 mins in peak time . MRT in singapore was archtectural marvel.Its completly underground and runs in 2 / 3 layers in intersecting points. Stations were not only clean but very apealing , inline with 3 star hotels in India. Official mean of communication is English , Tamil and Chinese. All public sign boards and public announcements are carried out in these three languages.

       We reached the hotel around 10 AM and we were tired.Checked into a room earlier and took rest.On the first day we planned to visit zoo.Still we didn't have a map and we had no idea of how to proceed . Since we were running out of time we decided to get a taxi. But none of the taxi stopped when we showed our hands.Intriguingly we observed what has happening .Opps there was a stand to get the taxi. There was queue here too and whenever a empty taxi passes by this stand , first person or group got into it and proceeded. No Negotiations . Accurate Meters .. Interesing !!!. Finally we got to the taxi after a long drive (20-30 mins) . Cost was 18$ .Zoo was pretty much good.

From SingaporeTrip

Got a couple of maps and found out that the entire city and all its tourists attractions were very well connected by bus and MRT. We never took a taxi after this. That night we visited Marina bay and Singapore flyer , a huuugee the gaint wheel was a attraction there. Per head cost was 29$ ( Rs 1000 ) for one trip .It was spectacular to get a bird's view of this concrete jungle in glittering night lights .
       We had the idea of tasting authentic Chinese dishes and got down at China Town MRT station. All the dishes were priced around 10$ . We ordered Spring onion , a chicken dish , a prawn dish , a plate of meat ball and a cup of rice . All through the process of ordering we couldn't communicate with them in English .Sign language and marking the menu card were communicating methodology used. Good that Chinese didnt know English that well , so that we could maintain our dominance in IT and ITES industry. Each dish we ordered were too huge.For instance the meat ball dish had 4 meat balls each of the size of a tennis ball. 
       Every day we used to reach our hotel around 12 PM and the street used to have traffic as if it was 8 PM. We would shop around at the Mustafa center .Every day we would shop around till 2-3 AM and got up late in the morning. We bought a local sim card .Process was pretty simple . Shopkeeper scaned my passport and thats all . No paper work,, Nothing . In minutes i had a local phone . Cost was 8$ for 10$ worth of talk time. International calls to India was dead cheap. We made almost a hour worth of local and international call and still few SG$ were there.Couple of my friends were staying here . Initially i had contacted them earlier through mail and phone to get some details but scedule was so tight that i couldnt meet them.3 days were very short time :( Should have been atleast 5 days to call it a trip .Atleast now i could call them up and ask for some suggestions .

       Next day went to Sentosa Island. Universal Studios also lies here and i have booked tickets for this ( S$ 72 per head). Our idea was to cover the entire island in one day. There was three ways to reach the island from the mainland . Landroute , cable car and Mono rail . We decided to try the cable car and spent lot of time to locate the starting point of the cable car. It costs around 25$ for to and fro and view was awesome from it.

From SingaporeTrip

From SingaporeTrip


we reached very late at around 1 PM here and that day was not enough to cover the Universal studios itself. Attractions here were the 4D show , water world set and live climax stunt , rides in Egyptian set and Jurasic park.We were pretty much occupied till 7 PM , the closing time of the studio.

From SingaporeTrip

From SingaporeTrip


We didnt visit few items in Sentosa Island. It was already 7:30 PM. Just picked up few brochures at the Information desk and found that there was a music fountain show at one part of the island. We decided to check this out. It was some 30 mins show. A story was depicted with laser shows , fountains and lights at a beach.Pretty much nice.It was almost 10 PM and we called off for the day.We reached Orchard Road and we were damn tired to roam around and returned after spending some time there.

From SingaporeTrip

Considering previous days experience @ China Town , we didnt want to take risk with dinner and had it at authentic chettinad restaurant itself at little India . Then asusual shopping ..  If you are traveling from India , definitely LCD TV is a must buy here. it almost 30-40% cheap here ,but International warranty is not provided . Initially i had planed to buy a 32inch LCD TV (LG/Sony) for a budget of 20K  . But there was 42 inch LG Plasma at the same cost and so i went for it. Indian price was around 45K and i got it for 600 SG$(22K INR)  . In this amount we can claim a refund of tax at the airport of some 50$. Customs officer here was opposite of what i have seen in chennai. He sealed my application immediately and politely mentioned where to drop it . Within 10 days i received my refund.

    Final day we decided to stick to Sentosa Island itself as there were lot of tourist attractions still there. We used the famous underwater tunnel , seal show , dolphin show , and finally spent some time at the beach there and started .

From SingaporeTrip

There were lot of adventure sports which we couldnt try out due to lack of time. One among them was the traveling by hanging in a rope at some 500 feet higher for a distance of say 500 meters over the beach.Today our visit was very short. We had to return and packup for the airport. We returned at around 5 PM bought some souveniers and started towards the airport.
    
   My 42 inch TV was weighing around 28 Kg and we had only 15Kg baggage ( as initial plan was for a 32 inch one ). Tiger Airways was charging around 200 US$ for this baggage . It was more than to and fro ticket. Luckily my friend Sangeetha who was a resident in Singapore was there to send us off. Gave here the TV and made arrangements so that my other friend Mani who was also resident will bring this during his travel ( scheduled in 2 weeks time after that ). Had these people were not there to save the day i would have lost almost 7-8K INR.

      The airport was very spacious , clutter free even though it was the budget terminal. Only place where there was any crowd here was at the duty free shop selling liquor. Venkat bought few for his friend . I was in no mood to purchase anything here after the chaos with TV .But later picked a premium scotch (Chivas Regal 12 years ) at the duty free shop at chennai. It costs around Rs1500 here whereas in Bangalore it is retailed at Rs4500. Should be around 5000 in Chennai .We are allowed to take 2 bottles each. i could recoup all the travel expense just buying and reselling 2 bottles :)

From SingaporeTrip

Final Cost of the trip came to around 26K INR per head including travel ,lodging , food and sightseeing.


Few learning 
    3 days was too short for us. Around 5 days is needed . 
    Plan accurately even before starting to avoid wasting time on planning 
    For purchase decide the items/models to buy before hand , dont waste time evaluating models here
    If you are buying TV make sure you ticket has sufficient baggage and price of TV is within custom limits .
    Make sure you get the GST refund forms at the shop and get them validated at the airport