Hubby and I flew to Singapore last Friday for a short belated anniversary weekend trip. We’ve been loyal to Singapore Airlines but since their airfare rates went insanely expensive about two weeks before our flight, we had to look for another airline and we were fortunately saved by Airphil Express, a budget airline from Philippine Airlines. What’s good about it is that it arrives in Terminal 2 of Singapore’s Changi Airport, not in the Budget Terminal.
For those of you who are wondering about the common airlines that fly from Manila to Singapore, here’s a quick list for you:
Terminal in Manila
Terminal in Singapore
|Singapore Airlines (recently launched Scoot, its budget airline but has no flight to/from MNL yet)||Non-budget [but watch out for promos]||NAIA Terminal 1 (Old MIA)||Terminal 2, Changi Airport|
|Philippine Airlines||Non-budget [but watch out for promos]||NAIA Terminal 2 (Centennial)||Terminal 2, Changi Airport|
|Cebu Pacific||Budget||NAIA Terminal 3||Budget Terminal|
|Airphil Express (by PAL)||Budget||NAIA Terminal 3||Terminal 2, Changi Airport|
|JetStar (by Qantas)||Budget||NAIA Terminal 1 (Old MIA)||Terminal 2, Changi Airport|
|Tiger Airways||Budget||Clark, Pampanga||Budget Terminal|
Our flight to and from Singapore was in a new Airbus 320 and it was really clean inside. We didn’t have to pay extra for baggage because international flights booked with Airphil Express already includes a free 15-kilo baggage allowance. And unlike Cebu Pacific where boarding is a turn-off in that once the boarding call is made, everyone may just board the plane regardless of where they’re seated, with Airphil Express (and also with the other airlines we tried), it’s orderly in that the back rows are called to board first. It’s organized plus they have web check-in so it’s really convenient for us who flew there with only two hand-carried bags.
I’m not connected in any way with Airphil Express nor am I paid to blog about this but I just want to share with you that we liked our experience and assuming everything else remains un-changed, we will definitely book our future flights with them. Airphil Express currently flies to three international destinations, i.e., HongKong, Macau and Singapore. The downside though is that Airphil Express has only one flight going to Singapore and that is at 4:50PM Manila and with a 3-hour flight (more or less), that means you’ll be arriving there around 8:30PM and thus lose a precious one day of your 3/4-day stay in Singapore. But don’t worry, it’s not too bad if you’re able to work your itinerary around.
As with our previous visits to Singapore, the last of which was way back in 2007, we went there with my parents and because we traveled with family, we had to course all our arrangements through our travel agent, Bridges Travel and Tours. Since 2008 though, we started to build our own itinerary and it made traveling more exciting for me. I enjoy the task of booking tickets for my family and making the itinerary for them. And just to show how much I love traveling and making itineraries, I contemplated of opening my own travel agency and even enrolled in a travel and tours business start-up seminar hosted by Business Coach Manila 🙂
This trip is a first for hubby and myself because it’s the first time we’re going to Singapore by ourselves, no Brady Bunch, it’s just the two of us! I absolutely love hubby as a travel companion. He goes with the flow, he doesn’t need an itinerary, and he has great taste in food. What I just did was booked our tickets and presented him with a list of suggested hotels and places to visit. We just picked out where to go along the way except for two attractions that we had to book online.
Now on to the hotel, I have to say that I’m partial to Grand Park Orchard (previously Crowne Prince Hotel) because we used to stay there. It’s just right in front of my favorite mall, Takashimaya, and it’s beside another great mall, Paragon, and the hangout of Filipino OFWs, Lucky Plaza where the exchange rate for Philippine Peso to Singaporean Dollar is better than in other areas. However, we eventually decided to book Mandarin Orchard from Booking.com because Grand Park Orchard is more expensive by five thousand pesos for a 3-night stay 🙂
Mandarin Orchard is sooo near Grand Park Orchard because it’s just right in front of it and beside Takashimaya. It has a mall downstairs which is Mandarin Gallery, there’s a bus stop in front of it, and it is within a 5-minute walking distance to two MRT stations, i.e., Orchard Road Station at ION Orchard, and Somerset Station at 313 Somerset.
At the back of Mandarin Orchard are three great places to dine in whenever you’re in the Orchard Road area, i.e., Scape which is a good choice for breakfast because they have Svensen’s and Toastbox, or McDonald’s and Burger King if you’re into fastfood joints, the National Youth Park which has Kopi Tiam and Bench Burger and Fries, and the Pan Pacific Serviced Apartments which has Oriole Cafe that serves one heck of a great pasta dish, the beef cheek tagliatelle.
In Mandarin Orchard itself, you can find the best Hainanese chicken rice from Chatterbox which is quite comparable with the one served at Tian Tian in Maxwell Hawker Centre in Chinatown. There’s also a great café at the 5th floor grand lobby called Coffee and Crust and it’s a perfect hangout when you got nothing to do in your room. Mandarin Gallery is accessible via an elevator within the hotel and you can find Jones The Grocer there for a memorable brunch. There’s a 7-11 convenience store and a Mediterranean food stall called Shiraz nearby. You’ll definitely not go hungry when you’re in Mandarin Orchard 🙂
In case you arrived without any itinerary or you don’t know where to go, do not worry because from Mandarin Gallery, you just need to walk for about 2-3 minutes to reach Singapore Visitors Centre. There’s a local tour operator office beside it called Duck & Hippo and you can ask them to prepare an itinerary for you. It’s also something that you can do at the Airport because there’s a visitor’s centre at the arrival hall just before you make your turn to the SMRT station.
Going back to the hotel, the rooms are kinda outdated but they’re spacious. We got the Premiere Room and it has a couch, a study desk, in-room safe, ironing board, a bathtub, TV, coffee maker, etc. We didn’t have free breakfast which is a good thing because we don’t want to be stuck with eating breakfast there all the time, and we don’t wanna feel like we’re wasting a freebie if we decide to eat elsewhere. But we didn’t have free wi-fi as well. They’re charging S$5 for the first hour, or S$10 if you get the 4-hour package. The good thing though is that the hotel is connected to Mandarin Gallery which has a free wi-fi lounge at the 3rd and 4th floors. Mandarin Orchard guests go there to send emails and stuff. That’s where we booked our Universal Studios tickets and had them printed at the hotel’s Business Centre for S$2.14 a page.
Checking in and out was a breeze, and so was leaving our bags with the concierge. The staff speaks English well and it was really easy communicating with them.
I’m not sure, however, if we’ll stay in Mandarin Orchard again. This is not because we’re not happy with their service. In fact, service as expected from a Meritus chain was good. But, there are other things we want to experience in Singapore. So, for our next visit, we most probably will be staying at the Marina Bay Sands which is the sexiest hotel building for me, or in Resorts World Sentosa because we fell in love with the attractions and the relaxed atmosphere there.
In my next posts, I’ll be talking about what we did in Singapore in detail, the places we visited, and the stuff we nom-nom soooooo, please drop by again. See yahs! 🙂