Do a simple exercise over the next week: Without using GPS for your device to navigate, find your way to some place new. How do you do it and what happens along the way?
Initial Destination: Bugis
After talking/deciding with my friends to go to Bugis for the Singapore Night Festival, we arranged our plans separately. They went to the event venue beforehand as I didn’t want to tag along to anyone. That way I could be all on my own and figure out how we could meet there without me using GPS. I only asked them for the name of the street and place they would be at close to 6:00 pm.
I initially took the bus 199 from the campus around 5:00 pm. I have used 199 before as it passes in front of my hall, Hall 13. Throughout the ride I was familiar with the surroundings and stops. I got off the bus at last stop, Jurong Point Mall so that I could get to the MRT (Boon Lay Station).
The entrance to the MRT station was easy to find as I have been using the MRT from this station for the past 3 weeks. Still I looked around for a system map to check which line I had to take to get to Bugis before passing the automatic payment machines. I couldn’t find one so I thought I would probably be able to find one after going inside. After passing payment machines I looked around again at upstairs to find a system map. Yet there weren’t any to be seen around. I got a little stressed at this point as I did not know how to get to Bugis from Boon Lay.
To my luck the green line passes from Bugis so jumped in around 5:30 pm. At this point my friends wrote me that they were in the Armenian Street at Bugis. Yet while I was still on the train, a critical change of plans occurred. Just 2 stations before Bugis they informed me that they were sitting in a café at Riverside close to Clarke Quay so that I should come by there. As I didn’t know how to get there through MRT (and didn’t want to suffer another possibly 30 min train ride), I chose to walk there from Bugis.
Next Destination: Clarke Quay
After I got off from the train around 6:05 pm from Bugis, I immediately looked for any kind of maps around. I guess because it is a more central station, it was easy to find a locality map and system map. Yet the locality map was small in the sense that I did not understand which way to go for Clarke Quay. I searched around for a grander map of Singapore yet there were none. I looked at the System map as well to superimpose the two maps in my mind to figure out which exit I had to take and which direction I had to walk for Clarke Quay (orientation-wise). After struggling to figure out the answer, I approached the service desk. The attendant at the service desk told me it was not logical to walk from here, Bugis, to Clarke Quay. He said it would take around 30 minutes and that I should take MRT purple line. After insisting on walking he told me that I should go to Victoria Street. Listening to him I took the exit for Victoria Street around 6:15 pm.
Directly at the exit I saw a grander map of the area. I figured following the Victoria Street would lead me to Clarke Quay but the uncertainty of the direction (north or south) made me stressed out again. Remembering Esplanade was near the river and it was located at north-west of this map, I chose to go north. At this point my friends were getting a little anxious as we promised to meet at 6:00 pm but the time was close to 6:20 pm. If I had used a GPS and SG MRT app earlier, probably none of this would have happened.
As I was walking ahead along Victoria Street, I saw a bus stop close to the MRT station exit. Looking for Clarke Quay, I saw that the bus passing Clarke Quay was following this road sequence:
Victoria St. – Hill St. – New Bridge Rd
According to this detailed bus fares poster, the Clarke Quay bus stop was on the New Bridge Road and all I had to do was to follow the above street sequences. Thus, I started walking with a better mindset; meaning I was a lot more stress-free at this moment. It was also at this moment that my friends texted me saying they would be at the entrance of Clarke Quay in 5 min, waiting for me.
As I was walking along Victoria St., I saw a directional sign for cars. It showed Hill Street was ahead, meaning I was in the correct route. Before coming to Clarke Quay I saw lots of identification signs of streets and roads as well.
I could actually navigate myself better after checking out the bus routes and figuring out the route. In addition, it didn’t take me 30 minutes to get to the Clarke Quay by walking as I met with my friends around 6:40 pm.
I think MRT stations need additional orientational maps that show not only the locality but a bigger domain. Although it is possible to use MRT to get anywhere in Singapore, walking and exploring can still be an option for some people. I believe my frustrations inside the station could have been solved even with a small map of Singapore that indicates viewers orientation in accordance. While there was a change in my final destination during my journey, I believe this change helped me realize the surrounding orientation, directional and identification signs more. Walking in the last part also made me realize the great transportation infrastructure of Singapore (that bus stop poster helped me a lot!).