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Lake Toya, Japan

Spot of Tranquility.

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Little India, Singapore

Spices, gold and splashes of colour!

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Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay

Garden City, City in a Garden.

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Bryce Canyon, USA

Thor's Hammer

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Chocolate Test, Singapore

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." -Charles M Schulz

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Fatty Cheong

I love looking at IKEA catalogues. They make living spaces look so comfortable yet simple. But I never really felt the urge to head down to IKEA because it's rather far from where I stay. However, my friend's friend had been telling him how wonderful the food at ABC Brickworks was. 

With the mentality of one stone kill two birds, we decided to go to ABC Brickworks and IKEA. 

We went to Fatty Cheong and ordered a plate of Char Siew and Roasted Pork ($13- for 2 people's portion). 


This place is known for its Bu Jian Tian (the armpit cut) where the meat is more tender and there is a thin layer of fats. Sometimes when I eat the char siew rice from my favourite stall along Tanjong Katong, I decide whether I like it based on how many pieces of fatty meat there are- the more fatty pieces, the better. The roasted pork here would also crackle on each bite, with the belachan chilli being a welcome dip to the meat.


Fatty Cheong serves good char siew and roasted pork, but I'm not sure if it's worth queuing more than 10 minutes for this.

Fatty Cheong
ABC Brickworks Market & Food Centre
6 Jalan Bukit Merah
#01-120

Sunday, April 26, 2015

53rd Jinhae Gunhangje (Jinhae, Korea)

The sole purpose of going to Korea this time was to view cherry blossoms. And if we were going Korea to see cherry blossoms, we might as well go to the most popular festival- the one at Jinhae.

We took the 1 a.m. bus from Express Bus Terminal to Masan (64,000 won for round trip, price depends on timing.) Barely recovering from the red eye flight the previous night, here we were taking the train at ungodly hours, hoping that we might fight the crowds expected at the festival. The seats on the bus were very spacious and comfortable (more comfortable than the economy class flight seats in any event).


We reached Masan bus terminal at 4+ a.m.

I was admittedly in a bad mood due to a multitude of factors. I hadn't slept well on the bus (despite the comfortable seats). I hadn't recovered from the bad sleep the previous night on the flight. It was raining and cold.

Soldiering on (after getting lost by public transport), we reached the stream at 6+ a.m. Except for a few avid photographers and joggers, we were the only ones around. The city was slowly rousing from its sleep, while the pink cherry blossoms fluttered gently to the ground after a heavy rain.


The first stop was Yeojwa Stream. This, alone, was enough to convince me that my decision to visit Korea in April was correct. The thing with cherry blossoms is that you require a fair amount of fate to view them. These delicate blossoms usually last no more than 2 weeks. The stars were aligned and my cherry blossom dreams have come true.


It was a peaceful walk along the streams, a drastic contrast to the scene when the crowds started flooding in after 9 a.m. 

After walking along the streams, we proceeded to Jinhae Inland Water Eco Park. There were no signs of colour in the park yet as spring has just begun to make its entrance. Instead, what we saw was this rather dream-like image.


We then walked to Jehwangsan Park. There was the option of a monorail or you could just walk the 365 steps up.


While deciding whether to take the monorail or walk up the steps, we saw this. 


My friend and I are now at a stage of life where we are no longer blessed by this wonderful thing called high metabolic rate. To slow down the process of transforming from the person on the right into the person on the left, we decided to take the steps up.

It was a leisurely and quick walk up the 365 steps.

There were interesting sights on the way up, including cartoon characters made of what seems like tracing paper material. We then took the lift from Jinhae Tower (which symbolises a Korean naval warship) to the top floor where we had a bird eye's view of the city- for free. 



Aside from seeing the cherry blossoms, we went to the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy is only open during the festival and we had to pay a fee to enter. There was a long queue to get onto the ship but alas, it was a rather patronising walk around the ship. If you asked me, I would say don't waste your time here.


By the time we got back to the main activity ground, the tents were all set up and the area was bustling with life.


Our last stop before heading back to the terminal was Gyeonghwa Station. Apparently, that's where photographers would take pictures of cherry blossoms being swept up when the train slowly chugs in. We didn't see the train in the end but we saw hordes of people where the train will supposedly come through. Instead, it was the journey to Gyeonghwa Station that was more interesting- it's like walking on the Rail Corridor, with cherry blossoms to accompany you along the way. 


One lesson I took away from visiting the festival is,  the early bird gets the worm. Wherever we went (minus the Gyeonghwa Station), we were one of the few people around because it was still early.  In exchange, you get moments of peace and more opportunities to soak in the charm of the cherry blossoms. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

73 Naesu-dong, Jongno-gu (Seoul)

Once upon a time, when we were poor students and didn't have much money to spend on accommodation, we looked at all the hostel websites for the best deals. Now that we are working and still don't want to spend so much money on accommodation, we resort to airbnb. And our experience has been pretty good so far. 

Click here for the link to this listing on Airbnb. $85 a night. 

(1) Location 

10 minutes away from Gyeongbokgung. 5 minutes away from Gyeongbokgung station. 1 hour away from Incheon Airport (where there is a bus that will drop you 5 minutes away from the apartment- 10,000.00 won) Around 7 minutes away to the famous Tosokchon. 7-11 right next door. Down the road, there is a bakery. Lots of food options along the street. Venture 5-8 minutes away and you have even more food options. Located in a business district. 

Here's a map of the subway. 

To get to the popular areas like Myeongdong, you need to change train and the journey is around 15-20 minutes. Around half an hour to Seoul Station (that's where Lotte Mart is- the place where people stock their trolleys with mountains of food.)


(2) Room 

The thing I like about apartments listed on Airbnbs is that these are places where actual people live. There are things in the room which are deemed unnecessary or unsightly in hotels, but which will appear in our everyday lives by virtue of their functionality. For example, a rack to dry our clothes. 


Cooking area and a washing machine are available as well. Fast and free internet access. No worries if you are coming in winter because the floor is heated. No worries if you are coming in summer because there is air con.


The toilet is clean and your basic bathing needs provided for. No trashy hotel-brand shampoo and conditioner that makes your hair entangle.


(3) Host 
We didn't get to meet the host but he was very prompt in responding to any queries. Prior to your arrival, he would also send you an online guide on how to use certain equipment in the house, how to get from the airport to his place etc.

(4) Conclusion 
We liked everything about this place (save that there was no television for the tv addict in me). Location wise, it is in a safe and peaceful area, though pretty far from the action in town. Value for money! 

Dojo

It is my second time here even though I'm not a burgers person. You won't find your usual chicken or beef burgers here. This place is a specialised pork burger restaurant. 

We asked the guy at the counter what was good and he said that the Stevo was good. Apple sauce on roasted port belly slices. Mmmmmm! BUT it was sold out! We will be back for it. 


We settled for a Kaiju ($12), pork patty with mushrooms, with sauce made from a combination of shiitake, champignon and paddy straw mushrooms. I love mushrooms and this place didn't disappoint at all with its thick pork patty with a generous portion of mushrooms. Considering that the price includes fries and a drink, (and that the food is pretty good too), it is rather value for money.


Service was excellent. I seldom say that about a place, simply because there aren't many places with excellent service. But here, the people know what they are talking about, they are friendly, they are helpful- everything that will draw us back to this place.

Dojo 
72 Circular Road
Tel No: 6438 4410 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Anti:dote

This is definitely one of the more exciting dining experiences I have had so far. 


Reservations for the high tea ($45++) are a must here.


The afternoon tea menu is here.

There were two different menus. You could choose between the Anti:dote tea or the Oriental tea. The only difference is the starters. For the Anti:dote tea menu, there is the Anti:dote black truffle scrambled eggs whereas for the oriental tea menu there is a selection of steamed and fried Hong Kong dim sum.

For me, it was a no brainer to go for the Anti:dote black truffle scrambled eggs because I love the taste of anything with truffle (whether truffle or truffle oil which is essentially a chemical compound).

In any genre of music, the introduction matters a lot because it sets the stage for the entire piece. Make sure it's something original, refreshing and endearing and this will be the winning recipe for the piece. The Anti:dote black truffle scrambled egg was precisely this important introduction. Besides the fragrant smell of the truffle which hits you instantly, the deep fried breadsticks were a perfect accompaniment to the runny texture of the scrambled eggs. I scrapped every bit of the egg clean.


Next up was the drawer of food. Top layer contained the desserts, first drawer contained sandwiches, second drawer contained scones and the last drawers contained biscuits, together with the accompaniment to the scones.


Everything about this was picture perfect. Taste wise, I preferred the sandwiches more than the desserts. We decided that we needed a strategy when eating these beautiful dainty little things- alternating between sweet and savoury so that we won't get a sudden sugar rush.


The sandwiches were really the star of the show. While the waitress explained to us what these were individually, we didn't really listen attentively because we couldn't start feasting away. We started off the with Smoked salmon, lemon and dill cream cheese and ikura roe because it was probably considered the most conventional of the lot. Then we moved on to the Boston lobster roll with confit lemon and chervil.  Prior to trying this, I didn't know what chervil was. Chervil is a herb related to parseley which might have ruined my experience of eating this roll since I do not like parsley at all. But the juicy lobster served as a good distraction.

This was followed by the Iberico ham quiche, with mozarella and black truffle. I am partial towards anything with mozarella. The ham and mozarella was scented with truffle and laid onto a puff pastry. Then the Confit duck rillette with foie gras terrine with pickled onion- unfortunately, this tasted more like tuna to me. Of all the sandwiches, this appealed the least to me. We ended with the Coronation curried chicken with apple. This was a very interesting combination where even the pastry had curry powder added to it. However, the apple taste was non-existent.


The scones (raising and candied ginger) came together with your choice of strawberry jam, Devonshire clotted cream, lemon curd. If I didn't realise how much fats each scone contained, I wouldn't mind eating them all day long. Leaving aside the fat content of scones, every bite of the scone brings you a little closer to England. Imagine having scones on your patio on a lovely spring day.


If you are looking for high tea and somewhere refreshing, look no further!

Fairmont Singapore
80 Bras Basah Road
Tel No: 6431 5315 

Tosokchon

We came to the unanimous decision that this was the best meal we had in Seoul. Don't be mistaken though, we found every meal in Seoul great, just that this was the best. 

Don't be intimidated by the queues because this place works like a well-oiled machine. The turnover of the diners is high and we got a seat within 15 minutes of queuing. 


The compound here is pretty big. Servers can also speak Korea, English and Mandarin although it's not even necessary to speak because all you need is a finger to point at the picture.


We ordered the most basic on the menu which was the Samgyetang (W15,000). Before digging into the ginseng chicken soup, we happily feasted on the addictive kimchi, which in my mind tasted superior to any of the kimchi I've had in Singapore.

A few sips of the chicken broth will steal your heart. Intense yet light on the palate. Once you tear the tender chicken apart, the strong ginseng flavours will seep into the soup. Enveloped in the free range chicken are glutinous rice, a huge piece of ginseng, chestnut, red dates etc. Essentially, this is what you call a nourishing meal and best enjoyed in cold weather.


This should definitely be included in your itinerary to Seoul!

Tosokchon 
5 Jahamun-ro 5-gil
Jonno-gu
Seoul 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Euphoria. 

His arrival at what would be his final National Day Parade. 

Grief. 

His departure.

Heart.

Singapore and family.

*****

Back in university, we once had to do an assignment on this topic "Constitutional amendments in Singapore- To ensure good men or a tool of good men?" My opening statement in the essay quotes Mr Lee Kuan Yew, "To get a good government, you need good men in charge." A seemingly simple ideology but one which has served us well. 

It is clear that Mr Lee Kuan Yew was not a solo ranger, not one who thought he could change the world by himself. He knew that he needed a successful team under him to transform Singapore from a third world country to a first world country. In recognising this and while paying tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, let us not forget those who came before us, who have contributed to making this little red dot so prominent on the world map. 

*****

I have always been a fervent admirer of Mr Lee- his insights, his ideologies and his love for Singapore. His policies have shaped the way I have grown up in this country. I am effectively bilingual. I grew up knowing that as long as I work hard for what I want, there will be no barriers to hinder me, be it gender or race or religion. I take a pragmatic approach to life- if there's a problem, solve it.

Of all his policies, one that has impacted many Singaporeans is how Mr Lee had the vision to turn Singapore into a garden city. Everywhere we go, we see rain trees and angsana trees. When I walk along the roads, I sometimes walk on the side with more trees because of the shade. These trees could be a manifestation of his policy making- to provide shade for all Singaporeans. 

Taking the ECP to Changi Airport is always a very precious experience. Time and time again, despite the many times I have been to and returned from the airport, I always stop whatever I am doing to marvel at the pruned bougainvillaea by the roadside whenever I pass through that pretty stretch of the expressway.

My favourite flower is not the rose, lily nor the sunflower. These are beautiful flowers. But the flower that holds a special place in my heart is the orchid- it stands for love, strength and beauty. 

Credit: Mr Lee Hsien Loong's facebook

The best place to view orchids is at the Orchid Gardens located at Botanic Gardens. Singapore has submitted its bid for Botanic Gardens to be Singapore's first UNESCO site. While Mr Lee was not the person who sprang the idea of Botanic Gardens, he brought in people to redevelop the Botanic Gardens. This place holds many fond memories for me. I came here when I was in primary school - my first foray into the flora and fauna of Singapore. I came here during my dating days. I came here with my family to enjoy the immensely popular outdoor concerts. 

*****

Many tributes have flowed in the past few days. 

The tributes that struck me the most were not those about his policies, but rather those about his relationship with his wife. 

If there's anything we can learn from him, learn that in this time and age where everything is disposable, a married couple can last through thick and thin and still be in love at the very end. 

Credit: Mr Lee Hsien Loong's facebook

*****

A great man has passed. But Singapore will continue to progress. 

Somebody built a sand sculpture of Mr Lee at East Coast Park. 

Credit: Nparks
Water is what binds the sand together. But it is also water that will make the sand sculpture crumble. Whether or not the sand sculpture remains there, the world continues to spin and the waves continue to crash. 

Mr Lee made Singapore united. But Singapore will not become loose sand after his departure. 后浪推前浪-that must be what Mr Lee would have wanted. 

Majulah Singapura! 


Friday, March 20, 2015

Gurney Drive (Changi Airport)

We were looking for somewhere to satisfy our bellies before my friend flew off. For those who have been to Penang, you will definitely have heard of / visited Gurney Drive, located by a seaside promenade, with lots of stalls (and even more tourists). 


The place was surprisingly empty during lunchtime and we thought, "Is it because the food is bad?" Luckily, our fears were unfounded.


We decided to get the Premium Crab Meat Fried Koay Teow ($12.65). I was expecting a few shreds of crab meat. It was surprising that they were rather generous with the crab meat which added an interesting flavour to this otherwise generic dish. The Fried Koay Teow was not oily and had wok hei. The waiter also cautioned us prior to ordering the dish that it was spicy. Sure it was, but that just increased the shiokness of this dish!


The Gurney Nasi Lemak ($7.65) was pretty good as well. Distinctly separate and fragrant rice, coupled with the cannot-go-wrong deep fried chicken and the addictive ikan bilis landed my friend and I into a dilemma as to who should have which dish. As with all good things, share and you shall have the best of both worlds.


Value for money food.

Gurney Drive (various locations)
Terminal 3 Departure
Departure/Check-in Hall
Level 3 Mezz South #03-21
Tel No: 6441 1690 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Salted Caramel

I seldom go to Thomson area and since I went there to try the meepok at Meng Kitchen (which my friend swears is one of the best meepok around- he seldom resorts to superlatives), I decided to try Salted Caramel.


It is no secret that ice cream shops like to hire good-looking and friendly people to scoop ice cream. Everytime we are in the Bukit Timah area, some guy will always say, "Let's go to Island Creamery."

Some time back, a friend and I walked past a shop which had a notice pasted on its door seeking friendly and cheerful servers. I asked my friend if he thinks they will hire me. All he could offer was a hearty laughter coupled with a mildly apologetic look and that ended the conversation.


I had the Waffle with Raspberry Sorbet + Chocolate ($9.10). This is one of the better tasting waffles I have tried so far- not burnt, crispy sides with a fluffy interior. The ice cream was also delightful- especially the combination we picked- bitter, sweet and sour all at once. They also have a whole assortment of interesting flavours like Yuzu Ginger, Peanut Butter etc.


Seating was a little tight here but the waffle will be worth the wait.

Salted Caramel
246G Upper Thomson Road
Tel No: 6753 1718 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bunny and Pony

Here's an IQ question: 1, 2, 4, 8- what comes after that? 

Good. Now that you have got it, here's another IQ question. Dinner- what comes after that? Bingo! Dessert, of course! 

After dinner in the vicinity, we decided to get some dessert and chanced about this interesting cafe Bunny & Pony. 


Cosy interior with friendly servers.


The Waffle with a Scoop of Ice Cream ($8.40) was an utter disappointment. There is a thin line between creating a waffle with a crispy exterior and creating a burnt one. This was a case of the latter. Crispy, yes. But burnt, yes too. I didn't enjoy eating the waffles with a slightly burnt taste. The saving grace was the Coffee Oreo Ice Cream- rich and generous with chunks of Oreo.


Bunny & Pony 
Blk 1 Changi Village Road
#01-2000

The Tiramisu Hero

The Tiramisu Hero scores full marks for its novelty factor and instagrammable decor. Look at that sprightly artificial turf! 


Adorable pictures of Sir Antonio adorn the walls of the cafe. Who's Sir Antonio? A Roman street cat by birth. Went on a trip to Venice. Stumbled upon tiramisu. I was especially captivated by those gold lights- they add such a whimsical note to everything!


We got the Mommahero ($7.50). You can pick your flavours- Original, Strawberry, Lemon, Lemon Lavender, Cinnamon, Chocolate and Milo Horlicks Ovaltine. Being the boring people we were, we opted for the Original. Anything that is put in a mason jar just looks so pretty. However, I think the issue with having tiramisu in a jar is that you don't get even scoops of the soaked lady fingers due to the curvature of the mason jar. While it was decent, I think the one at L'Atelier Tiramisu was a lot more memorable. The coffee taste in this jar was slightly lacking.


121 Tyrwhitt Road 
Tel No: 6292 5271 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Windowsill Pies

I wanted to go to Windowsill Pies for the longest time but kept procrastinating because it was a little out of the way. Finally, we decided to cover a few eateries at Jalan Besar and needless to say, this was one of the stops. 


Whimsical interior with a dash of fairy tale elements. I wish I could move that Christmas tree home because it looked like it came right from a children story book! Their website is also incredibly simple with beautiful hand-drawn pictures of their pies.


We ordered the Strawberry Lemon Pie ($7). The lemon curd which was sour with a tinge of sweetness jolted me wide awake.  Just imagine yourself on a beach holiday overlooking the Pacific Ocean- a book in a hand and a fork in the other just to wipe up this tart which tastes like summer.


We seldom go back to a place unless we really like it. This, is one of those that we will revisit for its ambience and delicious tarts. Friendly service as well.

Windowsill Pies 
78 Horne Road
Tel: 9004 7827 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Noodle Place Restaurant

On a Friday night, Noodle Place Restaurant was packed. 


I can never resist Shrimp Wanton Noodle Soup ($8). The noodles were reminiscent of those at Mak's Noodles in Hong Kong (which I really like despite the puny portion)- Thin, eggy and springy. Only later did I found out that the executive chef was a former chef at Mak's. Prawn dumplings weren't exactly super fresh but good enough.


I actually preferred the Noodle Place Special Congee ($12.50) over the noodles, which was basically a bowl of smooth congee with a lot of ingredients- duck, cuttlefish, jellyfish, pig's liver, minced pork ball, and prawn etc. It's the kind of congee where you get some ingredient on your spoon with every scoop. Get this if you are feeling hungry.


The Roast Duck ($15) was tender and executed well.


Value for money, although service may be unable to keep up with the crowd.

Noodle Place Restaurant
277 Orchard Road
#01-17
Orchard Gateway
Tel No: 6733 3171