10 Things I Noticed in Singapore That Caught Me Offguard

I promised myself I wouldn’t go out of the country unless with a diplomatic passport. Not even the World Cup could make me break that vow.

But a FREE trip to Singapore was just too good to refuse. Heck, the keyword there isn’t even Singapore. Even if it was just a free trip to Binondo, I’d still take it. Free is all I need to forget everything else in the world.

So when Nuffnang sent me an email telling me I was a part of the Philippine delegation to the Asia Pacific Blog Awards in Singapore and that they would shoulder the fare, the accommodation and the tour, I was like “Screw the diplomatic dream, I’m going to Singapore!”

And so I went. Together with a bunch of bloggers from the Philippines, Malaysia, and Australia, we joined Singaporean bloggers to celebrate the best in Asia Pacific blogosphere. The next day, they took us on a tour around the city. It was one of the best experiences of my life. And it will surely be not forgotten. Thanks Nuffnang!

I’m sure you’re expecting me to narrate bit by bit what happened in Uniquely Singapore. I won’t be doing that. Not this time.

You might also be hoping I’d bombard this post with hundreds of pictures. Sorry to disappoint, I won’t be doing that, either. At least, not hundreds. Haha.

What I’m writing about in this blog post are the little things I noticed over the three days I spent in Singapore. Here they are:

10. Soap Bars

The first thing I did upon entering my Link Hotel room (along Tiong Bahru Road) was to check the bathroom. And the first thing I noticed was there was no soap bars. I’m not used to liquid body wash so I stormed out of the room to look for some. I first tried Cheers, a convenience store reminiscent of Mini-Stop near the hotel, but they didn’t have any. I walked an entire block to 7-11, where I finally found soap bars. There was only one brand of solid bath soap there and they were on a budget pack.

Later on, I found out that solid soap bars are an endangered species in Singapore. I was told people prefer liquid body wash over bath soap. Interesting.

9. Maya

There was a kind of bird that I see all over Singapore. I don’t know what it’s called but it’s black. It’s cute.

But while having lunch at a hawker center, Ramon Bautista (yes, THE Ramon Bautista. He’s a friend and a former college teacher), noticed something amusing on the floor. It’s a cute little brown bird — a tree sparrow, known in the Philippines as maya. I knew the Philippines and Singapore have so much in common since they both are ASEAN countries and are in the tropics. I expected I’d still see the flora and fauna we have here in Singapore. But seeing a maya was still something that blew me away. I know, I know, the tree sparrow is common in Asia and Europe but still, it felt good seeing a bird I see every day in my country.

It was the only maya I saw in Singapore in the three days I spent there.

8. Paper Table Napkins

Common food establishments don’t serve disposable paper table napkins. I learned about it when I asked for it and they told me it was for sale. At first, I was pissed but then I realized there was a good reason for it.

Why would I need disposable table napkins when I have a hankie handy? Why would I waste paper? I guess that’s the reason for it — they discourage people from using paper napkins for waste management. I appreciated that.

7. Plastic

Or the lack thereof. Paper was not the only thing that the Singaporean government might be discouraging people to use. Plastic, too.

Although plastic bags are still used in every place I visited, I noticed that there were a considerable lack of plastic materials in some places. Maybe it’s just me but magazines don’t have plastic covers. Also, at the Cheers convenience store, they don’t immediately pack what you bought. They only gave me a plastic bag when I asked for it. Somehow, I felt guilty coz I only bought a can of soda and a pack of chips — and I didn’t really need a plastic bag.

6. Cigarette Packs

Like in most other countries, there are warning labels on cigarette packs in Singapore, too. “Cigarette smoking is dangerous to you health.” But Singapore brought it to another level — a disgusting picture of the effects of smoking to the body. Almost half of the pack’s front cover is occupied by this graphic warning.

There was a picture of a black, rotten heart. And a “deteriorating” tongue. And a reddish black swollen foot.

I never smoked in Singapore.

5. Filipinos

Filipinos are everywhere in Singapore. One of Link Hotel’s receptionists was Filipino. When we requested for a flat iron and an ironing board, the guys who came over to our room were an Indian and a Filipino. While walking around Esplanade area, I heard a girl shouting “Dito! Dito sa kaliwa!” When I was looking for soap, I heard a woman talking on the phone saying “Call me back ‘pag malapit ka na.”

But it was Lucky Plaza where we found the most Filipinos in one place. Almost everyone there that morning was Filipino. And we spent some time having meaningful conversations with them, talking about their lives and their jobs. Pretty enlightening, really.

4. Chewing Gum

I knew chewing gum is banned in Singapore so I was expecting I would not see chewing gum there. I found one! The hard way.

While we were dining somewhere near Esplanade (I forgot what the place is called), I was moving my chair when a used chewing gum stuck to my fingers.

3. Taxi Rides

Although cab fare in Singapore is relatively expensive, I found taxi rides to be a fun experience. Taxi drivers were courteous, helpful, and they don’t ask for more than what was on their meter. That was quite refreshing!

There were monitors inside the cab that displayed the driver’s name, the plate number, and the flagdown rate. Cool.

2. Time

I remember the other bloggers-slash-photo enthusiasts I was with were all patiently waiting for the sun to give way to the moon for their sunset shots but the sun just won’t set! It was almost 7pm but the sun was still there.

The next morning, I woke up at around 6:30am and it was still so dark. I actually thought it was still 5am so I went back to bed. I almost missed the bus that morning.

1. Food

First thing I noticed: BIG servings. It was actually good for two to three people. But I had to finish it.

Second I noticed, their siomai was far, far, far better-tasting than our siomai. They actually call it “siew mai.” It tasted soooo good that now that I’m back in the Philippines, I buy siomai from any store hoping I could get something that tastes close to, if not as good as, those I tried in Singapore. No luck yet.

One noon, while we were at another Hawker center, an old woman who was cleaning up the tables approached us. She was upset. By the tone of her voice, I could say she was a little angry. She was saying something in Chinese and I couldn’t understand. She was pointing on a plate on our table she was about to collect. It was a friend’s plate and there were still some rice on it.

At first, we were wondering what she was saying. I was still eating at the time. (I told you the serving was big.)  She kept on saying something, pointing on the plate.

I was about to give her my plate when it dawned on me that she was upset because my friend did not eat everything on her plate. There were leftovers and that was what the old woman was ranting about. She was upset that some food would go straight to the trash bin.

I decided to eat everything on my plate.

There you go. Ten intesting things I noticed in Singapore.

And oh! My fellow Pinoy bloggers found a “taong-grasa” in Singapore! A rare sight! I thought they didn’t have homeless peeps there.

I’ll be writing about how my Singapore trip went with day-to-day details soon.


  1. Interesting. I think I could live in Singapore. They’re very environment-conscious.

    Do you think the #5 that stuck to your fingers is related to there being a lot of #4s in Singapore? LOL!

  2. I think my comment just disappeared…

    “Interesting. I think I could live in Singapore. They’re very environment-conscious.

    Do you think the #5 that stuck to your fingers is related to there being a lot of #4s in Singapore? LOL!”

  3. Lucky Plaza is like the place for most Filipino shoppers, has bargain shops and a Filipino restaurant upstairs. There is one establishment where I have been in there, the Singaporean can speak Tagalog! She told me “Try this perfume. mabango and very nice, right?”

    Cigarette packs in Singapore is also the same in Thailand. I have seen it 2 years ago.

    Singapore has late sunrise compared to Manila thats why I also wake up late when ever I am in Singapore.

    The Chinese value rice so much. My father woud also get angry if there is a left over of rice in our plate when were younger. He would say that a lot of hard work is required to plant and harvest rice. He also said that in the early times, life was so hard in Fujian (a rice producing province in China). Thats why most Chinese settlers in the Philippines are from Fujian.

  4. I forgot to tell that I also like the taxis in Singapore. They also accept credit card payment. When a taxi driver here in the Philippines will try to not to use the meter with me, I tell them that gas is far more expensive in Singapore and they always use the meter. I have been in other Asian countries but only here in the Philippines that taxi drivers are abusive.

    • hahaha, i didnt notice that they were accepting credit cards. COOL!

      Yeah, it’s sad that taxi drivers here are like this. Whenever I watch Amazing Race, i cant help comparing their taxi services to ours.

  5. Agree @Sophia. I also saw Thai cigarettes with those disgusting visual material. Yuck indeed. But AFAIK it’s part of a worldwide campaign to decrease cigarette smoking especially to teens. Notice our cigarette packs? It (the warning) used to be very little at the side, but now it’s quite very visible at the front and back sides of the pack. Un nga lang, walang picture. 😀

  6. Nakakatuwa naman 🙂
    We both experience the same thing when I was also in Singapore. I went there for a month long vacation and puro Filipino nga! Haha. Did you go to Sentosa? Haha. Ganda dun.:)

    a friend of yours from multiply 🙂

  7. the tree sparrow is not actually Maya, the Maya in the Philippines was once the national bird and is properly known as the Chestnut Munia. “Maya” is a common misnomer for the Eurasian Tree sparrow “Passer monatnus”.

    As for the black bird that’s what we call in the Philippines the “Martines” which is actually the Chinese Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus). It actually is also found around here but not nearly as tame as the ones you see in Singapore.

  8. wow. wish I could experience going to singapore too..
    in my dreams, maybe soon.
    but I have been wanting to try out those taxi cabs where you just state your destination and away you go.. not much of explaining directions like here in the phils. haha. peace.

    wish I could try that “siew mai”..but the BIG servings, I would have to make way for that when I’m NOT on a diet.. haha!

    • and ung mga cab dito, the screens are GPS-enabled so they really won’t get lost. they issue receipts too and may mga girls na cab drivers.. impressed pdn ako till now..

      and if you’re lucky, feeling mayaman pg nakasakay ka ng White MErcedes Benz cab or a black Chrysler..

      SG has lots to offer tlga.. but there’ll always be something missing.. kaya sarap umuwi ng Pinas parati.. nicepost Yoshke!

  9. sayang, sana na-meet kita. (yes, feeling close. haha) 🙂 willing akong maging tour guide. napansin mo rin ba kung gaano karaming matatanda ang nagtratrabaho pa rin? katulad sa mga fastfood stores. sa pilipinas kasi, parang rare na makakita ng taong above age 30 sa may counter. tsaka, parang wala silang binebentang red (pork) hotdog dito, halos lahat chicken hotdog. hahahaha.

    I’m excited to hear more about your adventure!

  10. Cigarettes are the same as the ones in Hong Kong and Macau. It makes you want to quit smoking altogether :p

    And yes, Lucky Plaza is full of Filipinos. Especially during Sundays 🙂

  11. oh yeah. taxi services in manila sucks.. 🙁 kasi most of the taxi’s there are privately own, whereas in singapore and here in jakarta, they’re own by corporations, so they’re trained, evaluated and they can get fired it they’re abusado or what. i like the taxi service in singapore too! although sometimes it’s hard to understand them coz their mandarin accent. i’m not discriminating or what. im just stating it as a fact. i know din naman na some foreigners find it difficult to understand the way we speak in english. so quits lang. 😉

    i like the taxi services here in jakarta too! i rarely take a cab in manila by myself coz im paranoid, but here in jakarta, keri ko mag-isa.

    yeah! daming pinoy sa SG! sa mrt, may maririnig kang pinoy. sa tindahan ng charles and keith, may pinoy din! hehe.. oh and i love the public transport in sg. dapat ganun ang mrts natin! connected lahat, di na lalabas at isang ticket lang! gawd.

    lucky plaza eh parang old greenhills.. 😀

    i heard na, geographically, dapat kaparehas ng Singapore and time in indonesia, 1 hr behind manila. pero for whatsoever reason na nakalimutan ko na, the govt opted to have singapore use the same time as hongkong. parang for business eklavu. i forgot na. so 7am na eh maliwanag pa kasi technically, 6pm pa lang tlaga. *sorry tamad mag google to clarify*

    have u seen the toilet bowl na sinasampahan? ung naka-squat ka? i didnt see it sa malls, but i saw it sa changi airport before. di ko keri un. dito sa indo, meron pa ding squat toilet bowls. di ko tlaga keri..

    u should visit jakarta/bali sooooonest na! tara na, dali!

  12. This is a good travel observation. I would be more than interested if they sent you to a more “exotic” location, oh say Europe. I would be interested what you would write then.

    Cool post!

  13. wooo i love singapore stayed there for abt 3 mos, and i love everything abt singapore =) have u tried hookien fried prawn mee? and the kaya toast! u should have! I sorta love the uncles there because they are so warm.. whenever i buy cigars, they always thought that ima local cuz i count mandarin with them. lol.. getting them fooled actually. Singapore is far beyond phils. so sad…

  14. Don’t be so hard on the Philippines. kaya lang naman maganda yung SG kasi maliit na country lang sila. Parang makati lang naman yan eh. The Philippines could have been better if we were that small.

    what i noticed about SG is that they love to copy the Brits, the same way we love to copy the Americans. Singapore Flyer => London Eye, MRT system => London Underground Tube Lines, Right-hand drive cars, etc.

  15. actually, madami dn mga mahihirap at homeless people d2 sa singapore..lalo na kpag gabi na, natutulog lng sila sa mga upuan, sa semento, sa ilalim ng mga hdb blocks..meron pa ngang video sa youtube ng mga matatanda at pamilyang mahihirap tlga at walang bahay..anyway, i received an email from you regarding this one last year, ewan ko ba ano ngyari.,.hahaha..cheers..=)

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