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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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Chinese Gardens

I hate to admit this, but it is only after more than 2 decades of my life that I am finally visiting the Chinese Gardens

It was a public holiday and we decided to explore a part of Singapore that we have never been to. 

What greeted us that day after we exited from the Chinese Gardens Mrt was light blue skies with fluffy white clouds- beautiful but it often means that it is going to be a very hot day. 

The walk from Chinese Gardens MRT to Chinese Gardens first led us to open fields on both sides of the walking path where people were playing cricket, while others were just chilling under these barren trees. 


Built in 1975 and designed by an architect from Taiwan, the Chinese Gardens is modelled after the northern Chinese imperial style of architecture and landscaping.


Everything was just picture perfect at the Chinese Gardens. This is the "Bai Hong Qiao"  (white rainbow) which follows the style of the 17-Arch Bridge at the Summer Palace in Beijing.


It was easy to believe that you were not in Singapore- if not for the sweltering heat and the HDB buildings that formed a backdrop to the gardens. The Chinese Gardens has been described as a tranquil place by many, but it was not so on the particular public holiday. People were celebrating the festive occasion and it was a joy to busk in the singing which was accompanied by drums and a guitar.


For some reason, when I saw these manicured bushes, the first thing that came to my mind was computer games. Those computer games that I played when I was young seemed to have these little shrubs- was I just imagining things?


At every turn you took, there would be something that you will be attracted by. These include little stone bridges, bamboo (scant as they may be), and lotus ponds.


We did not manage to explore these tea houses because they were in the midst of refurbishment works.


We then climbed seven stories of the pagoda and were treated with this view. The pagoda design follows the design of the Ling Ku Temple Pagoda at Nanjing.

I am always grateful for greenery in Singapore, where I quickly scoot to the nearest tree and seek shelter under its shade everytime the Sun shines mercilessly (which is basically a good 70% of the year).


It was a nice soaking in the greenery and interesting architecture. More information on the Chinese Gardens would have been welcome! 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Centara Grand (Bangkok)

I have been going to Bangkok more often than I expect to. Not that I am complaining since the hotel expenses were paid for this time. 

Everything about Centara Grand hit the mark. 

1) Hotel 

The check-in counters are located on the 23rd floor  and all the rooms are located above that. This can only mean that you get some pretty good views from your room. 


The room had free and fast working wifi. The only issue was that you had to log in again after a period of inactivity. Cable channels were available on the TV as well.

Bed was comfortable - the pillows felt too soft though, probably time to upgrade those pillows!


There is something with modern hotels and their preference for glass screens separating the sleeping area and the toilet. Don't worry though, there is a white screen as well as curtains for those who rather not have the glass screen.



2) Amenities 

This hotel has a tennis court, swimming pool and gym- everything that you require to keep fit on a trip (assuming that you are not fulfilling your exercise quota by going to the shopping malls nearby instead). I only used the gym and it was well equipped- the moment I stepped in, I was given a towel and a bottle of water. Now that's service for you!


3) Breakfast 

The breakfast selection was wide ranging- a whole selection of bread and muffins, some resemblance of Chinese food, and the usual baked beans and potatoes. Pity though, their Thai food did not look exactly appetising. One popular counter was the Thai tea counter where Thai iced tea was made on the spot.


4) Location

The location here is amazing. A fully air-conditioned short cut to Central World, 5 minutes walk to Siam Paragon, 5-10 minutes walk to Platinum mall. At night, there were many night stalls set up near the Central area and I did a fair bit of cheap shopping at the night market.

Centara Grand
999/99 Rama 1 Road
Pathumwan
Bangkok, Thailand 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sawadee

My friend was craving for spicy food and the cuisines that popped up immediately in my head were Sichuan or Thai food. We opted for the latter. 

Sawadee, established in 2000, used to be located in Sembawang. It then shifted to its current location in 2013. 


We had Olive Rice ($13) which was served with chicken strips and fried dried shrimps. The chicken strips were sweet and were a perfect combination with the fragrant olive rice. Maybe it's time to depart from my usual staple of pineapple rice and opt for this everytime I go to a Thai restaurant!


What would be a Thai meal without some Tom Yam? We ordered a Tom Yum Talay ($10). I am used to eating the mild versions of tom yam in Singapore and the spiciness in this gave me a jolt. Generous on the seafood, this was a clear indication of the quality of the food served here.


We were very attracted by the Thai Style Otah ($15). Cooked on a traditional clay plate, this is not the usual otah that we eat and is instead fish mousse with a strong taste of coconut milk and herbs.


We also had a Hearty Duck Curry ($15).  The lychee and pineapple lent some sweetness to this dish, which was otherwise a little heavy on the coconut milk. The duck was executed well and was not tough.


This is a pretty good option if we want to depart from our usual options of value-for-money Thai meals at Jai Thai, Nakhon etc.

Sawadee 
9 Tan Quee Lan Street
#01-01
Tel No: 6 884 6884 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Geylang Claypot Rice

When I clicked on Geylang Claypot Rice's website, I was a little stunned (yes, perhaps stunned like vegetable- inside joke only for Singaporeans) when I heard some chinese orchestra music playing in the background. For a cze char place, the website was surprisingly sleek. 


It was a Saturday afternoon and I was a little hesitant as to whether the shop was open because the shop was empty at noon. Customers started streaming in from 1 p.m. onwards. I didn't know that you could call to make your reservation for claypot rice and was told by the server that if you didn't do so, you will just have to wait around half an hour for your food to arrive.


While waiting for our claypot rice to arrive, we started munching on the crunchy Stir-fried French Beans with Shrimps ($8).  It was no surprise that the other customers sitting at other tables ordered this too because it was the only vegetable dish on the menu.


After a half an hour wait, we proceeded to tuck into the Claypot Rice for two ($14). Using charcoal to cook the rice, the portion for two was enough for 3 to share. Stuffed with ingredients such as chicken, chinese sausages, salted fish, the fragrance hit us the moment the lid of the claypot was lifted. The aunty then offered to help us drizzle the dark soy sauce on the rice.  I always think that the best part of Claypot Rice is the bottom with those crispy pieces of hard rice. Miraculously, while these pieces were not charred, they still contained the smoky taste. 


For a cheap and good eating option at Geylang, I will say this place serves this purpose pretty well. Just remember to call before ordering your claypot rice, otherwise you might have to wait quite a while, particularly during their peak period!

Geylang Claypot Rice 
639 Geylang Road
Singapore 389570
Tel No: 6744 4574 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bondi to Coogee Beach Walk (Sydney)

If there is anywhere you should not miss in Sydney, I would say it is the top-rated Bondi to Coogee Beach Walk

You don't have to be a surfer to enjoy Bondi Beach. If you enjoy looking at spectacular ocean views, in different shades of blue, this is a perfect place to have a leisurely walk. 


Bondi (pronounced as bon-dye) is an Aboriginal word meaning water breaking over rocks or noise of water breaking over rocks.

From Bondi to Coogee, it is about a 6 km walk. However, there are certain points during this walk where you can exit and catch public transport if you are feeling tired. Stalls selling ice cream are also a hit when the sun is scorching.


No steep slopes (some steps though) or tough terrain. You just need to have a reasonable level of fitness to get through the walk. The views will be worth it.


Interesting rock formations and flora and fauna along the way. The vast ocean that makes all other things look so insignificant.


Remember to apply sunblock, especially in summer when it can get blazing hot! Of course, bring along your swimwear if you intend to have a dip in the water! 

Rakuichi Japanese Restaurant (Oasia Hotel)

I was searching for a Japanese restaurant that was good enough for a treat yet not too expensive. I walked into Rakuichi with high expectations and was glad that their food met expectations. 


At lunchtime on a Saturday, the place was rather empty except for three tables. The lady next to me was having a leisurely lunch while reading a book. Strangely enough, they were playing what sounded like old cantopop songs.


I got myself a Set C ($38).


I was bowled over by the thick slabs of sashimi. Fresh and a light bounce to every bite.


I know this may seem like a portion for 2 to share, but I tend to have a good appetite so this was good!

I started off with the exceptional Aburi Sushi. Each piece of fish melted effortlessly in my mouth and the light smoky taste together with the different sauces made this a winner. The tempura was lightly deep fried and was not greasy.

To balance the otherwise heavy (but very delicious) meal, there were some edamame, corn, mini fish and prawns (anyone know what these are called?). This is the first time I am trying the deep fried prawns and fish and they were pretty addictive! Compared to the other dishes, the skewers were less impressive and pretty ordinary.


We ended the meal off with a scoop of sesame ice cream. I am not usually fascinated with sesame ice cream but this was light, not too sweet, and had a strong sesame flavour. 


Considering the amount and quality of food here, I definitely recommend this place if you are looking for value-for-money Japanese food for less than $50. 

Rakuichi Japanese Restaurant
Oasia Hotel
8 Sinaran Drive
#01-05
Tel No: 6 659 6683 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

49 Seats (Orchard Central)

The first time I visited the branch at Kreta Ayer, it was full and didn't accept any walk-ins. The second time I visited that branch again, I realised it was not opened for lunch. Finally, when I visited the branch at Orchard Central, we managed to get a seat! 


We went ahead with the popular Tom Yum Seafood Pasta ($14.90).  There was once I ran out of ingredients and all I had was Tom Yum paste, linguine and prawns and I must say, the combination of these ingredients is really a match in heaven.

Creamy and mildly spicy, this Tom Yum Seafood Pasta came with fresh prawns, clams and a mussel. My only gripe was that I found the sauce a little too salty. Bite into the chilli seeds and that might make you scramble for water.


It was packed at 8 pm on a Friday night but the turnover of customers was fast.

49 Seats
Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road
#08-08
Singapore 238896 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Seoul Yummy

Seoul had so much great food that we decided to have some Korean food since we were walking aimlessly around in Marina Square. It was spacious and we were surrounded by K-pop related pictures, videos and music the moment we stepped in. 


The banchan were unfortunately a far cry from those that we had in Seoul. Miserable in quantity and didn't taste fantastic either- look at the miserly and pathetic looking vegetables. The ikan bilis were also too salty.


I had the Special One Combo ($15.90). This combo came with a choice of your main (kimchi ramyon, korean fishcake udon, korean jajang rice or seoulyummy bibimbab) and side (fish pancake, fried pork dumplings, fried kimchi dumplings, fried prawns, fried assorted mushrooms or fried wings and drumlets).

I opted for the fried prawns where they surprisingly gave more pieces than I had expected. It was deep fried to a golden crisp and accompanied by a sweet mayonnaise like dip.


As for the mains, I went with the Kimchi Ramyon. While it was definitely spicy, it was not overwhelmingly so. The ingredients were a little sparse and I wish they had given more mushrooms to give the soup a more robust flavour.


This is what I would call the Pastamania of Korean food- affordable, fast and average. Service was pleasant and friendly.

Seoul Yummy
6 Raffles Boulevard
$02-202
Tel No: 6337 3730 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Wangbijib Restaurant (Seoul)

When I was young, I used to play a computer game where I would barbecue meat and try not to char it. It was a game that I could play, day in day out. I probably enjoyed playing the game because in my era, a lot of my friends enjoyed Seoul Garden and playing the game was probably a substitute for not eating it often. 

Wangbijib is like a well-oiled korean BBQ factory where everything is done efficiently. Their staff can also speak many languages. 


Although we were looking forward to a BBQ experience, we didn't do the barbecuing by ourselves in the end (not necessarily a bad thing) because the set we wanted was grilled before it was served.

I could eat all these Korean appetisers forever. The Grilled Pork (13,000 won per person) was sweet, well marinated and juicy. I am not sure whether it was because it tastes so good because I'm in Seoul, or whether, well because it's really that good! It also comes with rice, noodles and a soup and we were so full by the end of the meal.


Despite the rushed affair here, service was surprisingly decent. For that amount of food we are eating, I would pay this amount any time.

When we left the restaurant at around 7 p.m., there was already a long queue. Do yourself a favour by going earlier so that you can use the time to shop / sight see instead of being in the queue!

Wangbijib Restaurant
26 Meyonedong 8ga-gil
Jung-gu, Seoul

Mad About Sucre

I have not read a single bad review on Mad About Sucre and decided to head down to check what the hype was about. 

The moment you step in, you feel the passion and pride that the owners have in their cakes. Eric will take the time to explain to you the characteristics of each cake and how you are supposed to eat them to enjoy them. 


There was a corner displaying the owner's creations. Intricate, classy and elegant - the unifying theme behind the crafting of these cakes. No premixes used, only organic flour and unprocessed raw sugar.


We started off with the Coco Citron ($10.80). Before sinking our forks into the Coco Citron, Eric told us that this was not meant to be the overly sour kind of lemon tart. For those who like your lemon tart sour, this isn't for you. There was a seamless blend between the coconut mousse and the smooth and light lemon curd. What was really interesting and brought this dessert to one level up was the use of the crystal drops (sugar)- not only were these visually appealing, they provided a nice crunch to the otherwise smooth dessert.


As a fan of dark chocolate, there was no way I was going to give the San Domingue ($12.80) a miss. The presentation of this dessert was an art on its own. A chocolate jewel box with rum in it, coupled with a chocolate ball consisting of 70% dark chocolate mousse and plantain, sitting on a brittany base. This was simply rich and decadent.


The desserts here are not something that I will splurge on on a regular basis. Yet, if you want to splurge on art camouflaged as desserts, this is a good choice.

Mad About Sucre 
27 Teo Hong Road
Singapore 088334
Tel No: 6221 3969

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Herbal Oasis

We wanted to go to 49 Hands, only to realise that it was closed for lunch on a Saturday. We then decided to go to Herbal Oasis nearby. 


Herbal Oasis is situated above Renhai Clinic and the food served here is developed by TCM practitioners together with the chefs. There is a zen feel to this place, where soothing classical music plays softly in the background. Human traffic was low on weekend and you can take a break from the noisy world out there.


We got an Economy Express Meal ($9.90) which consists of a rice and soup. We got the yam rice and Qi Tonic Chicken Soup. The Qi Tonic Chicken Soup is supposed to be beneficial for the digestive system and suitable for growing youth. The yam rice was flavourful with chunks of yam in it. The herbal flavour in the soup was present but not overpowering and was light on the palette.


We also ordered a Walnut Brown Rice ($4) and Poached Spinach with Braised Mushrooms ($7). This is my first time trying Walnut Brown Rice- slightly sweet tinge to the rice with little chunks of walnuts and raisins added to the rice. After eating the rice, I felt so healthy- all the beneficial ingredients in this small little bowl! The bright coloured greens were also crunchy and they definitely didn't stinge on the mushrooms!


The meals here are simple and healthy, a break from the usual unhealthy food that we consume a lot nowadays.

Herbal Oasis 
27A Neil Road
Singapore 088817
Tel No: 6221 8798 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Churros Factory

When we were in Seoul, we saw shops selling churros at every corner. While this snack has not invaded Singapore as quickly as the Korean bingsoos, it is getting more common to see shops selling churros.


Set up by former S-League star Jeremy Chiang, the shop was packed on a weekend evening.


We decided to get 3 churros ($4). Tasting like you tiao (deep fried dough fritters) with ridges, the churros coated in chocolate sauce and lightly sprinkled with cinnamon sugar were piping hot when served. Before the churros were served, I asked my friend to take 2 so that I consume less fats. In the end, I took 1.5 pieces because they were pretty addictive snacks.


It felt a little sinful to consume these churros because they are deep fried and drizzled with chocolate sauce- we washed down the guilt with some honey lemon tea from gong cha after that.

Churros Factory 
112 Katong Mall
#B1-26