Thursday, June 22, 2017

A 2D1N Trip To Singapore On June 20-21, 2017

Map of Tanjong Pagar area
I am on self-imposed retirement for the 3rd time since last Saturday, 17/06/2017.  As my wife has gone for a 4D3N Star Cruise vacation (Penang-Phuket-Krabi-Penang) from 18/06/2017 till 21/06/2017, I decided to travel by bus to Singapore for a 2D1N trip on 20/06/2017 to pay a visit to my younger brother Thomas Lau whom I haven’t met since 2008.  For companionship, I invited my cousin brother Pan Mok Weng and paid for his return bus fare to join me as he also had not met Thomas for more than a decade.   

My last visit to Singapore was 9 years ago in 2008. (Refer:

I have earlier on 04/06/2017 booked online bus tickets with The One Travel & Tour (Five Stars Tour) for a journey from TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, Bandar Tasik Selatan) to Woodland (Singapore) departing at 9.00am, 20/06/2017 for a fare of RM 51.50 per pax and with JB Transliner (Kwong Ping Travel & Tour) from J.B. Larkin Terminal to TBS departing at 5.45pm, 21/06/2017 for a fare of RM 33.25 per pax.  The journey was respectively scheduled to take 4 hr. 37 min. from KL to Woodland, and 4 hr. 27 min. from JB to KL.

On Tuesday 20/06/2017, I called a GrabCar at 6.35am from home to fetch me to TBS bus terminal. The traffic of Jalan Balakong was quite heavy and it took one hour to reach the terminal.  GrabCar fare was RM 29 + toll RM 2.30.

Upon arrival at 7.35am, I collected from the terminal counter the boarding tickets using the online booking slip.  I bought a piece of curry chicken pau and bread (RM 3.70) for breakfast.  Pan arrived and met me at 8.30am.

The bus took off at 9.15am and stopped twice for washroom-going.  We reached JB Immigration Checkpoint at about 1.15pm and crossed Woodland Immigration Checkpoint at about 1.45pm.  I received WhatsApp message from Thomas to take a SBS Transit Bus No. 170 from Woodland checkpoint to Kranji MRT Station for rendezvous.

The one-man-operation SBS Transit bus fare was S$ 1.40 per pax but I didn’t carry any coins.  I had to pay S$ 4 for Pan and me.  We reached Kranji at about 2.40pm, but we searched the station inside out and could not find Thomas.

Our mobile phones were not functional as soon as we set foot on Singapore soil as there was neither roaming service nor wi-fi connection.  Finally, a Malay woman staff helped me use a public phone to dial (10 cent) and contact Thomas.    He waited at Kranji Station from 1.30pm and as our arrival was delayed, he left Kranji and took a bus to Woodland Checkpoint to look for us. 

We met one another at last at Kranji MRT Station at about 3.30pm and went for lunch at a chicken rice stall at the station.  The chicken rice was priced at S$ 2.00 to S$ 2.50 only.

Later we took MRT from Kranji (NS7 – red line) to Jurong East (NS1/EW24) and interchanged to Tanjong Pagar (EW12 – green line).  Thomas gave us NETS FlashPay Cards for use in riding MRT.

Thomas provided us lodging at a well-furnished home-stay style apartment unit at Block 1, #22-52, Tanjong Pagar Plaza while he and his wife Jessie stay at the adjacent Block 2.  After checking into the apartment at about 4.45pm, Pan and I took a shower and a rest while Thomas went back to his dwelling place.
At 5.30pm, Thomas returned and gave me 3 invitation cards for his eldest son Cam Wyn's upcoming wedding in Melbourne, Australia on 22/09/2017, one each to our youngest brother Patrick and youngest sister Winnie and myself.  Thomas’ eldest son Cam Wyn and 2nd daughter Jer Shyn are now residing in London, UK while his two younger daughters Jen Shyn and Jel Shyn are residing in Melbourne.  He also brought 3 cans of Guinness Stout beer for our consumption later. 

He then led us to roam the nearby China Town area.  I  was particularly excited to walk to Tras St. (parallel to Tanjong Pagar Rd) as this is the place I rented a room for one whole year from mid 1976 to mid 1977 during my 1st year of study in the University of Singapore as the Engineering Faculty was then housed at Singapore Polytechnic campus at the nearby Prince Edward Rd.  The façade of old Tras St. buildings is preserved and remains the same as in the past.  But I couldn’t remember the exact address of the house I stayed before. This revisit after 4 decades was indeed very nostalgic to me.  I couldn’t help snapping some photos and intend to share with my roommate cum university course-mate Ir. Jeffrey Tan Tiong Ann later.

We took our dinner at the “Cheapest Michelin-Starred Meal In The World” Hawker Chan’s Liao Fan (了凡) HK Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle (Chinatown) at 78, Smith St

Incidentally, I received not long ago a video via WhatsApp showing people queuing up for hours to order the above Hong Kong soya sauce chicken dishes (priced at S$ 2.00 a plate at the hawker centre and S$ 3.80 a plate at the air-conditioned eatery) which was awarded one Michelin star in the Singapore Michelin Guide 2016. 

Thomas ordered Char Siew Noodle (叉烧面, S$ 5.00), Pan took Soya Sauce Chicken Rice (油鸡饭, S$ 3.80) and I took Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle (油鸡面, S$ 4.80).  The total cost including 3 cups of Roselle Tea (洛神花茶, S$ 6.00) amounted to S$ 19.60.

I found the chicken meat very tender, smooth and slippery, but the char siew meat was only so-so.

After dinner, we strolled around Kreta Ayer Rd., People’s Park at New Bridge Rd., Chinatown Point and etc.  We also took some refreshment, i.e. yam cream with black glutinous rice (芋头露黑糯米 S$ 3.20) for Pan and I, black glutinous rice (黑糯米 S$ 2.20) for Thomas at a food court.

We returned to Block 1 of Tanjong Pagar Plaza at 8.45pm, drank beer and chit-chatted to catch up on old times till 9.55pm.  I went to bed at 11.30pm.   
Arrived at TBS bus terminal

Our bus boarding tickets

Entrance to departure platform

A pose with Pan Mok Weng 

Our bus from TBS to Woodland, Singapore

Malaysia-Singapore Causeway

Kranji MRT Station

A pose with my brother Thomas Lau (pic right)

Thomas and Pan at Kranji MRT Station

A pose with Pan on the MRT train

A pose with Thomas

Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Our apartment at Level 22 of Block 1, Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Main bedroom

A pose in front of Tras St., parallel to Tanjong Pagar Rd.

Tras St., a nostalgic place I stayed for 1 year exactly 4 decades ago

Tras St. old building facade 

Another pose on Tras St.

Nostalgic Tras St.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (佛牙寺)

A pose with Thomas in Kreta Ayer Plaza

Liao Fan Hawker stall closed for business

Liao Fan air-cond. eatery was packed with customers

Michelin-starred publicity

HK soya sauce chicken noodle (S$ 4.80 / plate) with a few pieces of char siew shared by Thomas

HK soya sauce chicken rice (S$ 3.80 / plate) 

People's Park

Kreta Ayer Rd. night market

Yam cream with black glutinous rice (S$ 3.20 per bowl)

Night scene of New Bridge Rd.

Library @ Chinatown 

Inside the library

Chinatown Point, New Bridge Rd.
On Wednesday, 21/06/2017, I woke up at 7.30am.  Pan and I went to see Thomas at Block 2 of Tanjong Pagar Plaza at 8.30am, half an earlier than our prior appointment at 9.00am.  Thomas and his wife Jessie were apparently taken by surprise of our impromptu visit although they had both already waken up.  I noticed Thomas walked with a pronounced limp.  According to  him, his leg was swollen and painful to walk due to the side-effect of the heart medicine he took.  I figured it must also be due to his excessive walking to meet us and bring us around on the day before, for which I felt apologetic.  He just had his heart pace-maker replaced on 08/06/2017 and was supposed to rest for 2 weeks after operation.

I took this opportunity to hand over a congratulatory gift (ang-pau) sealed in an envelope containing RM 500 to Thomas to pass to Cam Wyn when he flies to Melbourne this September to attend Cam Wyn’s wedding.  I don’t plan to travel to Australia due to the high cost of airfare and accommodation especially now that I am unemployed.

Pan and I decided to travel on our own (without the need for Thomas to accompany and guide) to Marina Bay area in the morning after breakfast.  Thomas still joined us for breakfast at the food court at Level 3 of Block 2 while Jessie went to work without taking breakfast.  I had dumpling noodle, while Thomas took dumpling soup and Pan wantan noodle (S$ 3 each plate).

After breakfast at about 9.00am, Pan and I took MRT from Tanjong Pagar Station to Raffles Place Station.  We walked along Fullerton Rd., passed by The Fullerton Bay Hotel, and visited Merlion Park, viewed from afar the Singapore Flyer (giant Ferris wheel), Helux bridge, ArtScience Museum (with roofs looking like Sydney’s Opera House), Marina Bay Sands twin towers & etc.  We also went near the durian-esque Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay.  It was a sunny day and the weather was pretty hot.  There were many tourists and we could tell they were mostly from China.

We took MRT from Raffles Place Station back to Tanjong Pagar Station, reaching the latter at 11.10pm.  I was so thirsty that on the way back to our apartment, I bought a bottle of almond drink (S$ 2.00) from Jin Tai Mart at ground floor of Tanjong Pagar Plaza.

We checked out from the apartment at about 12.00pm and proceeded to see Thomas.  As he was not very well with his swollen leg, we decided to go downstairs to buy lunch for him.  I was not hungry and didn’t take any food while Pan ate chicken rice.  I kept Pan company by drinking hot coffee (S$ 1 per cup).  Pan bought a packet of mixed meat-vege rice for Thomas (S$ 4.00), and I went downstairs to the NTUC FairPrice supermarket at the ground floor to buy Kaya Bun and Red Bean Bun (each S$ 1.10) for Thomas to take if hungry in the evening before Jessie returns from work.

At 1.20pm, we bid farewell to Thomas.  It was a sad moment for me as we hugged each other because I am not sure when I would see my brother again after this separation.

We took MRT from Tanjong Pagar Station to Jurong East Station from 1.35pm to 2.00pm (9 stations apart), from Jurong East Station to Kranji Station from 2.05pm to 2.20pm (5 stations apart).  This time I took note of the total MRT fare being S$ 1.87.

From Kranji MRT Station, we walked across the road to take SBS Transit Bus no. 170 to Woodland Checkpoint at 2.30pm.  The bus fare was S$ 1.60 inclusive of a short journey from Woodland Checkpoint to JB Checkpoint.  The traffic was very heavy then with many lorries jamming the road. We reached Woodland checkpoint at 2.55pm.

After passing through Woodland checkpoint at 3.05pm, we jumped into a bus no. 160 to bring us across the causeway to JB Checkpoint.

After getting past the checkpoint, we went to the adjacent JB Sentral shopping mall at 4.15pm for some refreshment before trying to look for a bus ride to Larkin Terminal.  After waiting at the bus station for 25 minutes in vain, I decided to take a taxi from the nearby JB Kupon Tambang Teksi Bandaraya (taxi coupon fare RM 14) as time was running tight.  The bus fare would otherwise cost us only RM 1.70 each.  The journey took 15 minutes amidst heavy traffic on the road.

We reached Larkin Terminal at 4.55pm.  I collected the bus tickets from the counter in a building currently under renovation behind the terminal.  Pan treated me with hotdog sandwich and hot coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant at 5.20pm.

The Kwok Ping bus started its journey at 5.55pm and reached TBS, KL at 11.05pm.  I went to the LRT entrance to call GrabCar but the first attempt failed because the GrabCar driver couldn’t locate me (as he went to the KLIA entrance).  I got another GrabCar (fare RM 18 + toll RM 1.30) and reached home at 12.15am midnight.
In front of #22-52, Block 1, Tg. Pagar Plaza

Food court at Level 3 of Block 2, Tg. Pagar Plaza

Coffee priced at S$ 1.00 to 1.70

My dumpling noodle (S$ 3.00 per plate)

Char siew noodle (left) and dumpling soup (right), each S$ 3.00

At MRT Station platform

A pose with Pan

Fullerton Rd.

A pose with The Thinker

Marina Bay Sands

A lot of bank skyscrapers 

At Merlion Park

At Marina Bay

Many tourists flocked to Merlion Park

Panoramic view over Marina Bay

Esplanade -  Theatres on the Bay (with durian-esque roof)

Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system on the road

Raffles Place

One Raffles Place

Raffles Place MRT Station entrance

Inside Raffles Place MRT Station

Inside MRT train

Seng Wong Beo Temple (Du Cheng Huang Miao) is a City God temple located in Peck Seah St., next to Tanjong Pagar MRT Station

Another pose in front of Tras St. road signage

Tanjong Pagar Plaza

Level 3 food court of Block 2, Tg Pagar Plaza

Crowded during lunch time

In front of Level 16, Block 2 of Tg Pagar Plaza

A pose with Pan on an elevated MRT Station platform

JB Sentral after passing JB checkpoint

Having refreshment at JB Sentral food court

The road between JB Sentral and JB Checkpoint

Restaurant at Larkin Terminal

Platform for bus going back to KL

Kwong Ping bus that took us to TBS
I have only spent S$37.00 in total in Singapore and another RM 173.41 (return bus fare) + RM 52.00 (GrabCar fare) + RM 14.00 (taxi fare) + RM 15.00 (F&B charges) = RM 254.41.  The current currency exchange rate is S$ 1 = RM 3.095.  Hence, my overall expenditure for this trip is RM 368.90.

In the nutshell, it was a gratifying trip as it rekindled and strengthened the ties of brotherhood between Thomas and me.  I am delighted to have made this trip immediately after my 3rd self-imposed retirement!