Wednesday, March 30, 2011

10 Things You Should Know When Planning a Trip to Singapore

Merlion Park at Nightfall -- At the Esplanade
With the Esplanade Theater (aka Durian) at the rear left. This is near the Makansutra Gluttons Bay
Planning a trip to the Red Dot?

First, decide whether you will travel on Splurge or Steal (ie, budget) mode. It will make a big difference in terms of how much you need to shell out. In an ideal world, travelling is a reward for life's hard work so why not splurge and enjoy the moment right?

But in case you plan to travel on budget with Singapore as your destination, here are a few tips and information for first time travellers.

1. Book with a Budget Airline. Try Jetstar Airlines. They have the lowest fares and as a bonus, you still alight at Changi International Airport rather than land in the budget airlines' terminal. I booked a travel to home once and it was okay (I am generally low maintenance). Meals are not included in the fare but in case you get hungry, they sell basic meals on-board like cup noodles, coffee, nuts, chips etc. They have go-lite fares in case you are not planning to bring your entire house. Be prepared to travel close to midnight though. If you are travelling with kids, better to have some contingencies to shake the boredom off. Some families bring extra pillows for the young ones. I usually bring a book. Or ruminate for my next blog.

2. Travel-lite. You can dress casually in Singapore so there is no need to dress ala Vogue unless you are invited to cut the ribbon for an opening night Gala. Bring one sweater for the plane ride because it can get chilly. When touring around SG, bring a pair of comfy walking shoes or sneakers, hat and shades. Even at an unusual time of the year, it drizzles in Singapore.

3. Getting Around. Transportation is convenient. There are specific taxi cab stations and a trip would normally range from $6-12/trip max for nearby destinations for a family of 4-5 pax. Airport to Central/City is about $22-27. You can also travel via MRT. You can buy MRT cards for $12 and just add on (top up) value as needed. Bring those free maps that you can find at the airport as they will come handy.

4. Singapore is a gastronomic melting pot so be sure to enjoy the wide variety of cuisine that it has to offer. Meals for a family of 4 can range between $50-150. This depends on the food choice, quantity and location of course. If you are on budget, you can try Hawkers Food Center (see my blog on Makansutra Gluttons Bay) and spend much less for an equally sumptuous food fare. If you desire airconditioning, you can try Food Villages-- every Mall in Singapore has one and spend around $40-50 for a family of 4-5 pax. The Food Republic in Somerset 313 and in the malls along Orchard such as Takashimaya, Ion Orchard's Food Opera are splendid and spacious. Of course, you may want to treat the family to something special while in Singapore too.  You can check out  Be sure to try local Asian fares like Chili Crab, Laksa, Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice, Cereal Prawn, Bak-Kut-Teh, Carrot Cake (which is not a cake) and Satay. For kids, Chicken Rice is a safe bet. My top faves are the Chili Crab and Fried Buns in Jumbo, Chicken Satay, BBQ Wings, Hokkien Prawn Mee, Char Kway Teoh and Cereal Prawn.

5. Be sure to bring water bottles when you travel. Walking is inevitable so you may want to hydrate often. We always travel with a backpack-full of must-haves (water, map, wet ones, towels, hats, some snacks, MRT cards and folding umbrella). If the hotel comes with complimentary bottled water, bring them along and save at least $1.50 per bottle.

 6. Identify the major attractions you want to visit so you can plan around it. If you intend to see the triad of Jurong Bird Park-Night Safari-Singapore Zoo, better get the Park Saver deal. Aside from tickets, prepare to shell out for food, souvenirs and transportation. They have free transportation in key pick-up areas too.  Frankly, I was only interested on the Bird Park. The Universal Studio Singapore at Sentosa is also a popular tourist destination and you can easily spend 2 days to make the trip worthwhile. The Sentosa Island itself is an attraction of its own and you can also stay within the same area for Hotel Accomodations. We havent been there so can't tell you much today. Will update blog by end-April. This is also near Vivocity whose claim to fame is being the biggest Mall in SG. You can also try riding the Singapore Flyer ($30 for a 30-minute ride), stroll around and watch a play at the Esplanade or get a high at the Zip Line. Can also catch the Lion King Musical at Marina Bay Sands Theater (limited time) or the Singapore F1 racing in September. Landmark spots are Merlion, the new Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Raffles Monument.

7. For those who love nightlife, popular places are Clarke Quay, Robertson Quay, Chjimes and the Club Street (as in street-full of Clubs) as far as I can tell. Apart from that, can't tell you much. Sorry, wrong person to ask. Will refer you to friend Pepe.

8. Where to Stay? You can check out travel and tour packages where airfare and hotel accomodations are already covered. Hotels are still the most convenient place when travelling with family. No need to worry about breakfast (check), there are amenities to enjoy (like pool, gym-check) and these are located at convenient areas of the city (check). Serviced apartments are also a good choice for a minimum stay of one week and you need to book these in advance as well. They also serve breakfast and have the standard amenities. But it can also be quite expensive. There are budget Hostels but be sure to check out the location because these are generally located away from the "city", may have less than desirable accomodations and conditions (common bathrooms, no AC) and well, might be smack into the red-light district. These are usually frequented by back-packers or transients. As much as possible, target to stay within City/Central.

9. And oh... for digital and techie freaks, I would say Funan DigitaLife Mall is the go-to area. It is recommended to bring someone who knows the place and can help you around. Especially for haggling.

The Singapore Flyer
10. Singapore is a shopping haven for those those who adore international brands because you can find the latest designs here. Orchard Road is of course THE place to be. But if you are lucky, you will be able to chance upon great bargain finds too! I realized that Esprit, Gap, Zara and Mango are actually relatively reasonably priced branded stores here. You will surely not be able to resist the temptation to convert SGD to PHP and the price can be daunting so let me give you a perspective-- if you chance upon a $12 shirt in Mango or Esprit, or $50 denim pants in Mango, that's a great deal already. I once bought a $10 khaki pants in Giordano! By the way, keep your receipts so you can claim GST refund at the airport! For home stuff, IKEA at Alexandra Road is a joy to explore.

Even if you dont intend to shop, it is still a joy to stroll along the Orchard road. When I was new in SG and had nothing to do on a weekend, I walked endlessly along Christmassy Orchard road with my outdated iPod shuffle, watching people, taking in and enjoying the sights and sounds of this vibrant cosmopolitan city.

So, what are you waiting for? See you in Singapore!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

You are a Planner If...

My ultimate tryst with Planning came 7 years too late. I was actually offered the Ops Planning role way back in 2002 when I was about to complete my engineering assignment as Project Manager (or one-woman army, more like it). But then I chosed to go the technical path and many other challenging roles thereafter.  Of course, I have always worked with the Planners and the Supply Network team over the years until the inevitable came which made me an official part of this network.

This blog is dedicated to the Planners. With this article is my awe and respect to these extraordinary people - the planners I work with, behind the scenes. It is an honor for me to have now added planning as part of my journey.

You are a Planner If...
  • You are (or have at least been) the scapegoat for undershipment. Supply Issue.  Even if MTD is 33% vs 65% par and inventory is overflowing. Supply issue pa rin.
  • You are wearing glasses. Or candidate for wearing one.
  • You have mastered Excel and knew features no one ever thought of using. You might have even enrolled to the advance excel course. And everything has to be on an excel table.
  • You have 50 windows or more open all at the same time.
  • You have backache. Or ulcer. Or migraine. In my case, I now have all three of them.
  • If you work in an office, you probably eat lunch in front of your laptop/PC.
  • When natural disaster strikes, apart from worrying about your family and loved ones, you literally worry about the state of the nation and the plant. And the suppliers. And their suppliers. And the lists goes on....
  • You are glued to the computer 24 hrs a day you might as well be married to it. Even on weekends and holidays. And if you are off for a minute people wonder if you have been working.
  • You are a miracle worker. Like saving a hopeless CPS. All the time.
  • You have superpowers. Like reading minds. Even if they can't make up theirs.
  • You are the bearer of bad news or provide perspective of what could latter lead to more bad news. Supply issue. Delayed CPS. Ridiculous CPS. Less than believable forecast. Delayed equipment. Late delivery. Overflowing inventory. Remnants. etc etc.
  • As they say, "Dont shoot the messenger." Good thing we have nine lives.
  • You are the Historian Extraordinaire. You live to tell people why things are the way they are. And for that you need an exceptional memory. Or archive. Coz well, (some) people have either short term or selective memory.
  • You have probably mastered writing issue sheets. If you haven't, go flex that brain and write one!
  • You create RCCP for your team's capacity. I know, I made one years before I became a planner.
  • You have Safety Stocks for your fast moving items at home. I do.
  • You have monthly NPI clean up at home. I do too.
  • You implement contigency planning beyond work.
  • You have probably the most number of meetings in a week. We have pre-meetings for meetings.
  • Now I understand why during my Operations days, our planners need hours to answer a simple question. :-)
  • You have at least experienced working on a complex spreadsheet and forgot to save it before the PC hang! Bummer. BUT you can recreate it back from sheer memory.
  • You have a polarizing impact with Operations, Engineering and QA-- that is, they either love you or hate you. Well, perhaps the latter.  During my DLP days, we were one happy family for as long as people share the same vision!
And, you will never be right! Go figure!

Picture from my 1st SG Bday with CSP and friends

Winning the AGILE Category for VSM Lead Model.
SNO Tool with team work at its best.

My Team (MPD) Christmas Party circa 2005 with our Planning, MSM and QA friends.
I decided that our team will sponsor this party with people we work with most- we are the folks nobody invites. With Ed Macias sponsoring the venue.

Camphone shaking. The other half of CSP team.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Define Bravery

"Bravery is not the absence of Fear. It is the mastery of Fear." - anonymous

If there is one other thing in the world that I always instill to my little girl -- it's bravery. Life is complex and we have to be ready to face the twists and turns of fate. I also learned that we dont have to be the b*tch or the bully in order to survive "life." Old school values such as faith, inner strength, courage and bravery are the compasses that should guide us in trying times.

Before I left ahead of them for Singapore, I told her to be brave and strong and that day when I bid my temporary goodbye, I knew she was holding back tears. When I asked her what she must be, she replied, "I will be brave and strong. And take care of Kuya." I smiled inside that she has not forgotten.

I knew that those moments will someday define her.

 Forward to Today

My kids never had to go through tooth extraction with a dentist because the wayward tooth always fall off one way or another. Kevin would even pull his old tooth off! But Kyla's first molar emerged before the old one was ready to go so we had no choice but to go to the dentist. The thought simply terrified her but I assured her that I will stay beside her. When the dentist told her the old tooth must be extracted, she shook her head and motioned to refuse. So I had to come to the rescue, as usual, simply telling her to be brave and that I will hold her hand through out.

The short ordeal ended without fanfare and tearful bouts. She was calm and collected throughout the process.

Kyla's 1st ever dental check up when she was 3 yrs old.
Kyla's first molar tooth extraction yesterday. With cool shades to block the light. And everything else happening, I supppose.

So as a reward we went to her favorite Ice Cream Parlor (after 30 minutes).

I promised her a treat at her favorite ice cream parlor.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Food Trip: Marching to Marche

We instantly loved Marche at 313@Somerset.

Marche is dubbed as Swiss-Market style restaurant with a homey ambience that transports you to rural Switzerland. Their flagship mascot- the Swiss Cow-dressed up to the latest festival of the moment - greets you at the main entrance.

Main Entrance. Green Cow was obscured by the Menu Boards.
 After checking in to get your cash card (ie, you will receive a plastic card for cashless transaction), you are welcomed by the aroma of various culinary delights.

Marche is a cornucopia of food stations serving European fare.  Once you arrive at the Dining Hall, I suggest to first have a tour of the stations first before ordering. You can mix and match foods from the different Food Stations.

My staple favorite is the Grill Station that serves Roast Beef, Grilled Chicken, Grilled Seafood and Sausages. Kevin loved the Grilled Chicken. It comes with a very generous serving of mashed potatoes. We were able to ask for steamed rice-- was thinking it came from the Paella station. Alvin's favorite is the Paella and the Seafood Station where you can take your pick from the variety of seafoods on display. He was not a Salmon fan before but Marche made him a convert.

I also love the Salad station. You can make your own fresh salad and choose your dressing. I always opt to get the smallest bowl and mix and match the greens with the other ready made salad fares.

Kyla's favorite is the Pasta and Pizza station. I tried their Spinach and Cheese-filled Ravioli with Cream Sauce (sinful!) with generous accompaniments of brocolli and mushroom. Kyla loved fishing out the brocolli.

Spinach and Cheese Ravioli in Cream Sauce.
 It needs 15-minute cooking time.
By the time I started eating, they were done so this was the only dish I was able to take a picture of.

They also have Bread and Dessert Station - we once tried their Berry Tart - yummy! and had to hold out for the other sweet treats for another time.  I will have to try the Swiss Cross Buns in our next trip!

Lastly, they have a vast Beverage Station where you can find freshly squeezed fruit juices, colas, iced tea, lemonade, bottled water and alcoholic beverages (as early as 10am). Coffee is also served for your daily dose of caffeine fix.

The interiors are predominantly reminiscent of log cabin homes-- the chairs and tables are fashioned from wood and with generous splashes of checked and plaid curtains and country decors.

I noticed they have a mini playground for tots while their folks enjoy good food!

We have visited Marche for at least 3x now and sure-thing, we are hooked!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Girls' Day (and Night) Out

After a full week or work, I look forward to bonding with my daughter Kyla. At her age, and my busy schedule, maintaining that mother-daughter bond is crucial to assure hwe that she is important and that I carve a quality time for us to have meaningful chit-chats.

Our thing is nothing grand or posh really. On Friday nights, if Alvin and I dont have any dinner planned for ourselves, Kyla and I would head to the nearby mall after our family dinner at home. Our favorite part is to look for desserts that we can take home to share.

Stopping by at Ben and Jerry's
Sometimes we would also trek to the bookstore or the toy store, depending on our mood. We also like to do a bit of window shopping before deciding if something is worth buying. It is far easier to shop-hop or just plain mop around without the guys endlessly reminding you to hurry up before their boredom-meter hits maximum!

Our favorite destination is the Precious Tots store for our Kimmidoll collectibles.

We also go out on Saturdays if there are specific items that we need to buy somewhere in Orchard.
While we were in Ion Orchard, we encountered the Singapore Noise multi-media exhibit that caught our attention. Kyla loved looking at the photography exhibits.

Kyla was here. At the Graffiti Wall of Singapore Noise 2011.

I found that Kyla is game when it comes to roaming around the malls for hours for as long as you promise to stop by for a yummy snack of her choice. Of course the fun part is choosing where to head for our food trip tendencies.

More importantly, we have a regular bonding time where I can enjoy being my little girl's best friend before she starts her own girl bonding thing years from now with her BFFs!

Food Trip: Serenity @ Vivocity

We always look forward to Sunday Family Lunch.

A safe bet would be any quiet place that serves familiar fare that would get the kids' thumbs-up. So a choice of Spanish Bar and Restaurant is quite a risk, I'd say.

Serenity is located the 1st level of Vivocity and overlooks the Sentosa Boardwalk and Harbourfront for a relaxing culinary trip- probably that's why it's called Serenity.

Melon with Parma Ham Wrap Salad

Kyla favored the Salmon Steak and even ate her veggie-sides.
This is the effect of her exposure to home cooked pan-seared Salmon.

Grilled Boneless Chicken is the safe bet for Kevin. They dont serve this with rice but since we ordered Paella, there was rice in the kitchen that day.

Alvin and I shared the Paella Valenciana. This got the Two Thumbs-Up!
Churros con Chocolate. Or what's left of it before I was able to snap away.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Reason to Believe

"To everything there is a reason. And a season to every purpose, under Heaven."

And so that was exactly how it was written, in a stationery pad I owned many years ago. They were only words then. But now I know better.


Alvin aptly puts it in his facebook post: 

"We have always tried to get Kevin to express his needs and wants without prompting or asking. This morning he woke up very early. He was waiting at the living room and he approached me and said "I want to eat."  It was not too long ago when the Dev Ped told us that Kevin will not be able to talk. We refused and still refuse to believe this. We continued to hope (and pray; and do our part) that in His time Kevin will be able to talk.

Thank you Lord for giving us hope!"

As for me, I could not agree more. These are Little Miracles brought about by a boy who gave much meaning to our lives and from The One Above who sent Kevin.

This happened a few days after Kevin's pre-program assessment for his therapies that are to be continued here in SG. The therapists Ms. Hui Ling taught us the right techniques to help Kevin initiate speech. And it worked!! It has given us much hope that Kevin will continue to learn more and do more.

Kevin already feeling at home with his soon-to-be second home.

I also reflected that it gave us a reason to believe that we were brought into this country for a purpose beyond our understanding.

During challenging days, I asked myself have I really done the right thing for all of us? When faced with such doubt, my husband and I will always look back at that fateful day.

It has given us hope. It has given us a reason to believe.

Thank you Lord!

Nothing Lasts Forever

Last friday afternoon, huddled in the corner meeting room with one call after another, I was as clueless as can be on the catastrophe happening in Japan.

It wasn't until my husband sent me SMS about the earthquake that rocked Japan that jolted me into making urgent phone calls to our sister who happens to be in Tokyo that week. It was a relief to get SMS reply from her not a few hours after I left a recorded message, that she is safe in the outskirts of Tokyo. We continued correspondence via SMS to track her whereabouts until finally we were able to confirm that she is will be able to get a flight out back to Singapore. Thanks to facebook, we also knew our friends in Kobe are safe and well.

When I got home and watched the footages of the earthquake and tsunami aftermaths, the devastation and destruction was just too much to conjure.

Tsunami surging onto a village. Photo from The Telegraph.
Nothing Lasts Forever

More than ten years ago, Alvin and I lived in a flat in Makati as newly weds. Heavy rain and flooding hit Metro Manila and the area where we lived ended up in waist-high flood. Needless to say, some of our things at home which were stored on floor, literally went to the dumps after that. It included all the photo negatives from our wedding day and damaged our wedding album itself. You can say that we were better left with memories.

It was my first intimation that all things material, they don't last forever.

The earthquakes and the tsunami in Japan -- and in many other nations prior to that --  and no doubt, all else that could follow, is an intimation that everything in this world, can be swept and gone in one woosh. Nothing lasts forever. I can't help but think that all these natural disasters that has been happening one after another, is probably sending us a message.

Japan has endured many other catastrophes- we have seen the tenacity of spirit of this nation and know that they shall be able to rise and rebuild from the tragedy.

May God with with Japan. And be with us all.