Categories
Day Trips in the City Living in Singapore

Beer & Cigarettes in Singapore

Differences in prices between locations is nothing new to me, but I was shocked to see the price of alcohol and tobacco products in Singapore.

I spent most of the years I lived in the US in the southern states, where prices are more reasonable, due to lower taxes. I won’t go into the “when I was younger” stuff, but when I left the US in 2008 you could get a pack of cigarettes for about 3 dollars in Texas. It was about the same in Georgia. When I would visit my mother in New York City I would typically bring cigarettes with me, because they’re about 7 dollars a pack there, which I thought was ridiculously expensive. Beer is about 5 to 6 bucks a pack regardless of where you are in the States.

So, like I said, I was used to seeing different prices for these items. Still, I was shocked when I saw that in Singapore the average price for a pack of cigarettes is 11 Singapore dollars and the average price for a six pack is about 15 to 18 Singapore dollars. I had to wonder why the prices were so high, and after having spent some time here, I think I’ve found the reason. Singapore is a country that prides itself on cleanliness and that carries over into a push by the government to promote healthy living.

That’s not all bad, of course. I’ve never seen a place with so many parks, free work-out areas, and playgrounds, all of which are kept in near pristine condition. On top of that, each regional area has a gym and pool, which have very low entrance fees. If you’re a swimmer or you like to work out in a gym then you’ll definitely appreciate the Singapore government’s health initiatives.

On the other hand, the Singapore government has also put steep taxes on the alcohol and tobacco, to influence people to use them less, if not quit entirely. Again, that’s not exactly a bad thing. However, for foreigners who come to Singapore to live, it requires a slight lifestyle modification.

I never really drank much anyways, so cutting alcohol almost completely out of my life didn’t phase me. The cost of the cigarettes, though, makes my wallet cry. It’s hard to go from carefree smoking to counting your cigarettes and counting your puffs. I remember tossing half smoked cigarettes into butt cans on my way into buildings, but now I stop to finish the cigarette before continuing.

So, if you move to Singapore and like to drink and smoke, expect the amount of time you spend partying to get cut down. On the bright side, you can take advantage of the convenience of the gyms and pools to get back into shape, so you can look good when you take vacations to the numerous, gorgeous beaches in the Southeast Asia area.

Categories
Living in Singapore Travel

Changi and Budget Terminals

We flew out of Changi International Airport in Singapore to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Somehow, airport experiences never change. There’s always something that happens that really works your nerves. It wasn’t anything serious though. Well, not too serious. After the horrible experience we had at NAIA in Manila, nothing will ever seem that bad.

When we first walked into the airport we went straight to the check in line. We thought about relaxing for a while first, after running all over Singapore taking care of our cats and not getting much sleep the night before. We decided we could do that after we checked in though. That way we wouldn’t have anything to worry about. We made the right choice too! About ten minutes later a flood of people showed up and got in line behind us. So, we were good and happy with ourselves.

Unfortunately, the girl servicing our line was either new or bad at her job, because by the time we finished checking in, twice as many people 2nd line had gone through. Also, just before we got to the counter, a third line was opened and people that came in at least 30 minutes after us rushed to the front and were checked in ahead of us. On the upside, we were given the seats we selected when we booked the flight. A few months ago, on our last trip to the Philippines, we flew Cebu Pacific and when we got to the counter they refused to give us our seats. We wound up flying at opposite ends of the airplane. It was a really aggravating experience, and is the reason why we chose Tiger Airways over Cebu. In fact, we won’t be flying Cebu anymore, unless there’s just absolutely no other choice.

That’s right! We flew Tiger Airways out of the “Budget Terminal” at Changi. Every time I walk in there I feel like I’ve just walked into a Super Walmart or a Sam’s Club, but it’s very clean and the check-in process actually seems shorter there. There are a few downsides to flying out of the Budget Terminal, like a smaller selection of shops, no seats in the departure gate area, and having to walk across the tarmac and up a flight of stairs to get on the plane, but when it saves you 600 SGD, is it really that bad? On a flight that’s only 3 hours long, does it really matter how comfortable the airplane is? I’d rather have the extra money to spend. I wanted to take a few photos of the Budget Terminal but taking pictures at an airport seems to be one of those unspoken “no-no”s.

Our flight was fairly uneventful. We did have a group of idiots sitting in front of us though. In the row in front of us there were 3 guys. There were two more sitting to our right. They were all part of the same group and during the entire 3 hour flight they were laughing and giggling like a group of 10 year old boys that had just caught their first glimpse of boobs. At least one of them was drinking, and they were passing around a bag of free peanuts like it was a rare delicacy. I wonder if these guys had ever been on a plane before? They had to have been right? How else would they have gotten to Singapore? These guys were partying it up like they were flying first class on the best airline available. Oh well. At least they didn’t smell bad.

The noise they were making made it hard to get any rest during the flight so we were relieved when the plane finally started its descent at Clark Air Base.

Categories
Geeky Stuff Living in Singapore

“D” for what?

My wife related an interesting story to me the other day that I thought I’d share.

We’ve all had conversations on the phone where we’ve been asked to spell something out so the other person can make sure they’re copying it correctly. We say things like, “A as in Apple,” “B as in Boy,” and “C as in Cat.” Now… maybe it’s different where you’re from but I’ve always said “D as in Dog.” That’s what’s normal right?

Well, often times when you’re in another country you come across things that may be normal for that country, but they just sound odd, or even hilarious to you. This is one of those things.

My wife was on the phone with a local man, and the man was spelling something for her. Just to make sure she had heard correctly, she asked the man, “Is that ‘D’ as in Dog, sir?”

So….

So, what do they say in Singapore?

“No, ‘D’! D, for…

Donkey!”

Maybe Shrek wasn’t such a big film here, but in the US it’s well known to the point that almost everyone associates the word Donkey with the film. Apparently that’s the case in the Philippines as well, but not here! When my wife told me this story, I just couldn’t help but hear the phrase in my head, but with Shrek’s voice. “D for Donkey!”

Categories
Food Living in Singapore

Shokudo

This sign wasn’t thought through to well was it? I took this photo last night while my wife and I were walking up and down Orchard Road looking at the Christmas decorations and taking pictures. We were coming out of one of the malls where we’d stopped to have dinner at Subway. When we saw the sign we both cracked up laughing!

Apparently there’s a new Shokudo establishment that has just opened, but what exactly is on the menu? Judging by where the illustrated guy’s hand is, do I really want to know? Shall we have one serving or two?

My wife told me I should write about it. Shokudo definitely serves… interesting… food. A couple of months ago a new Shokudo Japanese Pasta restaurant opened at a mall downtown near Orchard Road. I think it’s called Cineliesure Orchard. When I had first come here in March for a few weeks we saw that it was being built. It looked like it was going to be a well set up restaurant and we were excited to see what it was going to be. So, a few months ago when it was finally open we went to check it out. The name of the place kind of put us off. Who associates Japan with fine pasta? There was a long line of people waiting to eat there though, so we thought it must be great! We were disappointed, unfortunately.

The service there was great. I’ll give them that. The employees are friendly, attentive, and our food was brought to us without much of a wait. Plus, it’s in a great location. Depending on where you sit you can look out onto the street below, which is usually bustling with people, or you can look out on the mall. The mall is designed so that the center is open from top to bottom, with stores around the outside edge of the building. You can see quite a bit from the railings, and from the tables in Shokudo. The prices were a bit steep, but from what we’d seen of the restaurant we took it in stride. Most good restaurants have high prices here. The food itself was the let down. I can’t comment on what my wife ate, except that she said it wasn’t very good. She didn’t even finish half of the dish. My dish had a bland, homogeneous taste. The whole thing tasted the same, from the sauce and what was in it to the pasta. It all had an overbearing, unpleasant fishy taste to it. I didn’t finish my meal either.

So, that was the first and last time we went to Shokudo. Now, for all of our pasta needs, we stick with Pastamania. It’s cheaper by half, and twice as good. Not to mention that there’s a Pastamania in sight of this Shokudo restaurant. The Cathay Cineleisure has a great movie theater in it. It’s the one we go to the most. It advertises that it has the only fully THX certified sound system in Singapore. Plus, it’s comfortable and shows all the new movies. So, when we want to eat pasta before we watch our movie, Pastamania is where we go.

Categories
Living in Singapore

Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila, Philippines

NAIA has to be the worst airport I’ve ever been in and I’ll tell you why.

The physical appearance of the airport itself is a joke. From my experience, the airport is the first impression a traveler gets of the place he’s going, and if Manila wants to promote the image of a modernizing, world-class city, it’s doing a poor job of it. The paint on and in the building is faded and stained. The carpets are worn, and in some places the flooring is actually concrete slabs. My first impression was that it appeared to be a cross between a Sam’s Club and a well used, worn out car insurance office. The whole place seemed to be dirty too, to varying degrees. I was definitely not impressed.

The airport is very crowded. The airport itself is small, considering that it’s an international airport and the hub of air travel in the Philippines. This over-crowding is apparent as soon as you approach the building. The taxi drop off area is a mess of traffic and pedestrians that seems much more dangerous than it should be. The exterior standing area of the airport has a small sidewalk that is typically packed with waiting travelers. In addition there was a mob of Filipinos waiting for processing at the Overseas Foreign Worker office adjacent to the front entrance. This crowd of people seemed to spill out onto the street more often than not and consumed the majority of the waiting area. That brings me to another point. There is only ONE entrance! ONE door! All passengers are required to pass through a metal detector and have their baggage scanned at this entry point. That in itself is an admirable effort to keep the airport safe, but why is there only one? Why not two or three? Wouldn’t that make more sense, considering the amount of traffic the airport receives? Wouldn’t that improve travel time and customer satisfaction?

The employees in this airport are incompetent. Outside the airport there is an employee walking around demanding that people move closer to the entrance, even though there is nowhere to move to, since the area is packed full. It’s as if he doens’t bother to look or think about it before asking people to move. At the scanner by the door there is no form of baggage control. One of my wife’s bags was stolen from the scanner area before she was even able to make it through the metal detector. In Singapore, at Changi International, baggage is put in a numbered tray and you’re given a numbered placard to turn in for your baggage after being scanned. This ensures that the correct person gets the correct baggage. No such luck or system at NAIA. My wife’s stolen bag led us to the discovery of further incompetence on the part of airport staff. We proceeded to the information desk and asked if anyone had turned in a backpack. We didn’t expect that anyone would of course, but they made an announcement over the intercom. We didn’t have time to wait around so my wife asked if she could have the phone number for the information desk so she could call back at a later time to see if the bag had turned up. The airport personnel at the information desk DID NOT KNOW THE NUMBER FOR THEIR OWN DESK! How can someone who works at an information desk not even know their own phone number? It seems ironic, and blatantly stupid. It also displays a lack of training and customer care. I suppose the problem with that is that for most travelers there isn’t really a choice when it comes to using that airport. That shouldn’t create an atmosphere where employees don’t care about the customers though. It’s a poor reflection of the airport, the city and the country.

There is a terminal usage fee that must be paid prior to entering the departure gate areas. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t fees of that sort normally included in the price of a plane ticket? Aren’t the airlines that utilize NAIA paying fees already to do business at that terminal? Why is there an additional fee travelers are required to pay prior to being able to leave the country? I’ve never seen anything like this at another airport. I got the impression that it was just another way for NAIA to dig into people’s wallets. Also, where are these extra fees going? If it’s a terminal usage fee, shouldn’t the fees collected be used to improve the terminal? Then why does it look like crap? The terminal usage fee is 18 USD and while that may not seem like a lot to some travelers, I feel that it’s an unnecessary waste of my hard earned cash.

If I had a choice, I wouldn’t use NAIA again. Unfortunately, there aren’t multiple terminals to choose from, which is the case in most areas. My wife submitted a complaint letter to the airport but never heard back from them. I wasn’t really surprised. It would be nice if those in charge of NAIA would take an active interest in the quality of their facilities and the quality of customer service their employees are providing.

Oh, and one other thing to note… NAIA doesn’t even have its own homepage. In this day and age that’s surprising and sad. The hyperlink at the top sends you to the NAIA wiki page.