Ask actress, TV host Kris Aquino why Singapore is one of her favorite destinations when traveling with sons Josh and Bimby and she has a very short answer: "Theme parks."
Wearing a printed, wrap dress from Diane Von Furstenberg that she got 40 percent off from the Great Singapore Sale, the actress graced the press conference of Singapore Tourism Board (STB) for a special week-long presentation of the Lion City in her morning show "Kris TV."
"Now that I have Josh and Bimby, I choose our vacations based on theme parks," Kris enthused.
"Two years ago, when we first went to Universal Studios, Madagascar was not yet open and Bimby was still too small to ride the daring roller coasters so I promised them we'll go back. So when we went back a week and a half ago, they got to try everything. They were so happy they can literally live in Universal Studios. So I think for parents like me, a major factor why we would choose Singapore is Universal Studios," she continued.
The number of Filipino families scattered around the theme park during their visit was a testament to Kris' travel tip. "I felt like I was one of the mascots sa dami ng nagpa-picture na Filipino tourists; that's when I realized Filipinos are really getting more prosperous because they can really afford to travel in big groups of families. That's good news for all of us," she shared.
Aside from spending the whole day in theme parks, Kris, together with her sons, and the whole "Kris TV" crew discovered that there are so much more to see in Singapore than just Universal Studios, Adventure Cove Waterpark, and Sentosa.
"Gardens by the Bay was really something else, you have to see that. I think as we get older, that's when we get to appreciate plants and flowers. Beautiful!" she quipped. "What's nice about the garden was that even if it was hot and humid outside, when you go there, it's enclosed cool because they maintain the temperature at 22 degrees Celsius."
The gang also rode the Singapore Flyer, the world's largest Giant Observer, tried the Singapore Cable Car Ride, and experienced the Duck Tour, a land and water adventure tour to see the best of Singapore.
Hawker food haven
According to Kris, while her kids couldn't get enough of the theme parks, she, on the other hand, couldn't get enough of the food. "The foodie in me really, really enjoyed Singapore," Kris expressed.
The STB team, headed by area director for the Philippines and Brunei, Sherina Chan, took Kris and her team to Tiong Bahru Market, a wet market that houses some of Singapore's best hawkers, to experience Singapore local life and sample the local food Singaporeans normally eat every day.
"Tiong Bahru Market is a food paradise," Kris said. "The food was so delicious yet affordable. We spent SGD 4.00 for a whole meal per person. So that's only R140.00 and you can have Hainanese Chicken Rice and Prawn Noodles already. Super busog ka na with that. Another Tiong Bahru must-try is the Kaya Toast (coconut egg jam on toast) and it's only R40.00 when you convert."
Kris opined that some Filipinos have this impression that dining in Singapore is very expensive. She said if tourists eat in restaurants, hotels and theme parks, it is really pricey. But if they go to the hawker food stalls, their money will go a long way.
"Too bad Josh was on a diet and Bimby just eats chicken and rice," she joked.
Shop, shop, shop
If there's only one place that Kris could visit in Singapore over and over again it would be Kinokuniya Bookstore in Ngee Ann City, Takashimaya.
"It's an entire floor filled with books. It was so heavenly. The books are arranged in such a way that it's so easy to find what you're looking for and they have a complete selection. I can spend a whole day there. I even told them, 'Iwan niyo na lang ako dito maligaya na 'ko."' she mused.
At the presscon, Kris showed the press some of the things she bought during the trip. She got a handful of travel books from the Lonely Planet Special Collector's Edition and a non-fiction book entitled 'Crazy Rich Asians'. She also hoarded the Singapore Black Pepper Crab Spice that they tried at the Jumbo Seafood Gallery restaurant in Clark Quay. And lastly, a Chanel perfume.
"To be clear, I paid for everything I bought," she said laughing. When asked how much she was charged for excess baggage, Kris candidly retorted, "Next question!"
To sum up their trip to Singapore, the actress said the experience lived up to all her expectations. "I really, really enjoyed the vacation. I think we can call it a working vacation because at least everybody gets to see what we got to experience. And the kids were really happy. When my kids are happy, I'm happy," she ended.
The Kris TV week-long Singapore special airs on Monday, June 24 on ABS-CBN.