Singapore was our family’s first trip abroad.  It was May 28 last year when all six of us left NAIA3 past eight in the evening aboard Cebu Pacific’s A320.  We arrived at Changi Airport’s budget terminal just before midnight.  Singapore’s old budget terminal (a new one is on the drawing board) looks cramped and spartan but is clean and efficiently designed.  It’s also free of hustlers and ambulant vendors; enabling you to exit fast after clearing their Immigration.  In our case, we simply headed to and registered with the officer-in-charge posted near the exit doors, stated our vehicle preference and waited for our ride.  It didn’t take long and we were on our way to this bustling city-state and ASEAN’s undisputed financial hub.  For S$ 50.00, we got ourselves a maxi-cab (a wagon-type family taxi) which, after loading all our checked-in bags and carry-overs, still had ample room to spare.

It was drizzling when we left the airport.  It took awhile before our Chinese-looking driver figured out where our hotel was.  Apparently, there were several inns with the same sounding name as Park View Hotel.  It’s along an inappropriately named street – the Beach Road – near Buguis Junction.  Make no mistake though:  There’s no beach there.  It’s actually decked with buildings left and right.

The three clean and comfortable rooms we booked online served as our base for the next four days.  Everyday after having our complimentary breakfast, we hurry out to exit  – always heading to our left, passing by Liang Seah Street on our way to Buguis MRT station – our default jump off point.  It was such a routine that, once we stepped out of the hotel, we never bothered going right.  It’s kinda funny now just thinking about it.  But it’s true.  The thought, perhaps, of getting lost in this urban jungle clouded our collective psyche and straight-jacketed our feet.

Singapore is a vibrant modern metropolis that can feel distant and aloof.  It’s glass, concrete and aluminum structures punctuate its cold amenity. And a seemingly unwelcoming buzz.  But there are also pockets of green and leafy shades that offer refuge to tired and weary strangers.  The Esplanade Park easily comes to mind:

Nestled near the mouth of the Singapore river, the park is a cheap place to stroll around and spend lazy afternoons with friends and loved ones.  If you’re pressed for time but want to explore it nonetheless, there are bikes and skates for rent in strategic locations.