Friday, September 27, 2013

36 Hours in Singapore - The first 12 hours

13 November 2012

Unlike the last trip back to Port Moresby, I decided to take the first flight out of Sibu to Kuching this time. From there, I would be able to fly to Singapore and arrive by mid-day. My intention was to give myself time to explore more of Singapore before my flight to Port Moresby at about mid-night the same day.

On the flight from Sibu, I met a friend from JTH who was travelling with two friends to Singapore. During the conversation, I mentioned to her that I would be exploring Singapore but my mobility was quite restricted as I would be carrying my notebook PC, camera and a small bag. She suggested to me that I kept my bags at the left luggage. Though I was aware of the facility at the airport, I have read that it would be expensive. Anyway, on arrival at Changi Airport, the first thing I did was to find the left luggage office.

I felt so light without my hand-carry luggage and PC. I would only be carrying my DSLR camera. Then, I was off to the MRT ticket office to buy my MRT Tourist Pass for unlimited use for a day.

After getting the pass, I was soon on my way to my first destination of Bugis Station. Bugis Station was where I took the wrong exit and got myself lost finding my hostel the first time I ventured into Singapore City on my own nine months back. This time, I came more prepared.

On the way up to the street level from the underground MRT Bugis Station, I was really surprised that there were so many food stalls at the first basement level. I was spoiled for choice, walking from stall to stall to see what were on offer. In the end, I bought nothing and ended up having my first meal at Tong Seng Coffee Shop, which was situated at the corner of North Bridge Road and Liang Seah Street opposite Bugis Junction.

There was nothing of interest to me, so I strolled out of Bugis Junction and walked around the five-foot way. Then, I saw Bugis Street and decided to check it out. It was very crowded and there were many food stalls too!

After about 45 minutes at Bugis Street, I walked back to Bugis Junction. This time, I explored the floors above the street, including Food Junction. Food Junction was so crowded with diners. I did not want to order food at a counter and finding myself without a seat later on. So, I decided to go back to Liang Seah Street for my dinner. This time, I went to Yu Kee Duck Rice, which I later found out was a very famous duck rice franchise in Singapore.

At about 5:50 p.m., I decided to return to the airport. My Tourist Pass was redeemed at the same MRT office at the airport. Later that evening, I found myself queuing alone at the Air Niugini check-in counter. There was no flight that evening, and I did not know that. The flight was on the following day and I was in deep trouble. I had to act fast, to book a place to sleep for the night and to get a new ticket for the flight the next evening.

Fortunately, there was a reservation counter at the airport offering budget hostels and shuttle bus service for people in my situation. I booked myself into the cheapest room available in Singapore from Hotel Reservations (S) Ptd Ltd and took a shuttle bus to the hostel.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Maps and Software for Garmin eTrex 20

In the few months after coming back from Chengdu, I continued to learn new things about Garmin eTrex 20 and BaseCamp, the accompanying software for the PC.

I have also continued to find more resources on the internet, such as maps and software for the eTrex 20 and BaseCamp. For new users, the following would be very useful:
This was the first website which I know provides free maps of Malaysia and Singapore. I came across this website five or six years back when I got interested in Garmin GPS. That was when my ex-employer bought GPS units for its mapping project.

The original free maps created by a community of Malaysians and Singaporeans
The MFM map covers the whole of Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak and Singapore and parts of of southern Thailand in detail. However, coverage of waypoints of our ASEAN neighbours is not as extensive. Like MSM, MFM is free.

Another provider of free Malaysian maps, this time with maps of ASEAN countries included

If you need maps, say for Myanmar or the various provinces in China, you are going to have a hard time finding good free img maps. There is one great source I know, and that is OpenStreet Map. It has an extensive database of img maps covering all countries.

The free img maps of all countries on Planet Earth
Besides downloading the img maps directly from the website, users can also request for customised maps. There are four different configurations of the maps that are generated and users can download them from links sent to the users' emails.

JOSM - Java Open Street Editor
Before going on a holiday, I would usually try to find out some details about the places I would be going. For examples, I wanted to know the hostels located near Xinnanmen Bus Station in Chengdu and where the boats were berthed in Nyaungshwe town (near Inle Lake). Google Map was useless in these instances because it neither has the detail nor the waypoints I was looking for. Fortunately, we have JOSM. JOSM will connect you to the OSM website where you can download the waypoints and tracks of the locations you are interested in gpx format. These waypoints could then easily be opened in BaseCamp and transferred to eTrex 20, where they can be used for your navigation during your stay there.

Garmin BaseCamp
The problem with BaseCamp is it opens gpx waypoints, tracks and routes saved in the PC but not the img maps. Img maps can only be opened when the gps unit is connected to the PC USB port.

In order to see the maps on BaseCamp, I have to plug my eTrex 20 to my PC USB port every time I used BaseCamp. This was very troublesome. I later read from a forum a way around this is to store those maps on SD or flash drive and then inserting it to the USB port. BaseCamp will read the maps from the USB drive and display them on its window.

A better way is to request for the customised maps with installers for Garmin BaseCamp from OSM website. The installers will install the img maps on the PC and enable the maps to be opened from BaseCamp without having to connect to the gps unit or SD card or flash drive.