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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, October 10, 2015

Cafe Melba

Whenever I pass by Cafe Melba, the area outside is always filled with children bouncing on bouncy castles. However, due to the haze, everybody decided that it was better to move in and enjoy the air-conditioning instead. 

No doubt, this place is very child-friendly. Grass for children to run, bouncy castles, colouring pencils and drawing material for children to occupy themselves while their parents enjoy a few moments of peace. Couple that with a kids menu. 

I ordered a Half and Half - Forest Mushrooms and Roasted Duck. The first time I had roasted duck pizza was at Timbre and I fell in love with this combination ever since. They were generous with the ingredients. The combination of shiitake, swiss brown, oyster mushrooms and yes, truffle oil, lent a earthy taste to this pizza with a whiff of the truffle oil with every bite. The roasted duck pizza was decent as well.

The rest in the group ordered different breakfast items found these rather ordinary. Service here was nothing to shout about, with one of them being particularly rude.

Cafe Melba 
90 Goodman Road
Goodman Arts Centre
Block N #01-56 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Telunas Private Island (Indonesia)

It was some time since I took a break from work and we decided to go somewhere over one weekend. We were looking for somewhere near, not too expensive and somewhere special. After looking through many options, we decided to go Telunas Private Island

Expectations were high, but I am glad to say that it didn't disappoint. 

1) How to get there 

We had booked a ferry with Batam Fast in advance ($48 for return trip). From Harbour Front, we took a 11:10 a.m. ferry to Sekupang. There are only two options for you to choose from- either the 11:10 a.m. ride or the 3:10 p.m. ride. Click here for the ferry timings. The ride there was comfortable and took around 1 hour. 

Upon reaching Sekupang, Telunas staff wearing blue shirts would be there to lead you to the boat that will take you to Telunas. We went there on traditional wooden longboats. A round trip cost S$75++ per person. Before we got onto the boat, we were warned by the staff that the people sitting in front would get wet and the people sitting behind would be near the engines. As we waited for the others to board, we were left with front row seats. The seawater left us soaked but the strong winds dried us quickly too.

The boat ride took around 1+ hour and because it was lunch time, we were each given a lunch box. I decided to have a late lunch instead of having it on the boat, because I was busy shielding my face from the seawater that was splashing in.

Upon arrival, we were each given a wet towel and a cool refreshing drink made with cucumber and lime. I am not a fan of cucumber but it was a perk-me-up after a rough ride on the boat. Telunas' staff then took time to explain to us the features of the private island before we were brought to our rooms.

We had two plates of fruits waiting for us when we entered the room. I appreciated the gesture but one of the fruits had turned bad by the time we ate it- it's probably the heat of the place. 

2) Room

The room was beautiful and nothing like I have stayed in before. There is something about how some of the best places I have stayed in are in Indonesia, take for example, Junjungan in Ubud. 

The place was clean, the staff made your bed twice a day while you are having your meals, and it is always nice to come back to a nicely made room. The king size bed was comfortable and made for a good night's rest.

What struck me in particular was the interesting furniture that they had around the place. These furniture are made from repurposed wooden boats by the locals and are a unifying theme around the private island.

It was also great that they had a water dispenser which had both cold and hot water. The water from the tap is not portable, so instead, they provide a water dispenser- you save money on buying water, and they help you to contribute less waste to the environment.

A ladder also leads up to two single beds.

This is ideal especially for families travelling with children. I am sure the children would love the idea of climbing the ladder and enjoy some time off from their parents too!

I am very particular when it comes to toilets, and the toilet here hit the mark. It was well-lit (can I just say how much I hate dimly lit toilets), there were adequate toiletries and the shower pressure was strong. However, when I was brushing my teeth, I couldn't help but think how the water was not portable- but nothing can be done about this anyway.

When I was in Ubud, I saw the rice fields when I woke up. When I am at Telunas, not only do I see the ocean I wake up, I heard the sounds of the ocean all day long. Here, you do not get woken up by your alarm clock, but the sounds of the waves crashing. It is therapeutic to be this close to nature.

3) Food 

Meals were at the Grand Lodge and we could choose from a daily menu which changes what we wanted for our meals. We found ourselves looking forward to every meal time. There is a mandatory charge of IDR 750k +++ per adult per night.

Every villa had a table number allocated to them. Again, look at the interesting furniture.

I would say that the food was average and not impressive (desserts are clearly not their forte). The service we had during our meals more than made up for it though.

For breakfast, we had a choice of pancakes, waffles, eggs etc. and with a selection of juices, cereal and bread. I found the eggs way too buttery.

On the second day, we opted for an Asian breakfast and this was much better than the scrambled eggs I had. One of the staff told us that this is the equivalent of our nasi lemak. Not quite but it was well executed. The chilli, especially, was addictive and I could eat it alone with the rice. 

For lunch, it is a 2 course meal where you get a main course and a dessert. The sotong in this dish was spicy and appetising. The vegetables didn't look particularly fresh though. 

Dinner was a 3 course meal, with appetiser, main course and dessert. The first night, I had Thailand Style Spicy Seafood Paella and the second night I got this Teriyaki Fish with Bak Choy. Both main courses were pretty good although their desserts failed to impress. 

If you brought drinks, you can store them in the refrigerator located in the Grand Lodge. They also provide a selection of drinks and you can simply record in the book what you have taken and this will be included in your bill when you check out. 

4) Activities

By now, you would know that there is no wifi here. While there are 3G cards for sale, the connection is still bad so you might as well ditch the idea if you have no urgent emails that you need to clear. 

We spent time reading and talking to each other. After dinner, because there was nothing to do, we played chess (by the way, there are 3 missing pieces, time to replace the chess set). There were also other games available. 

There was a swimming pool which overlooks the ocean but we didn't use it. 

You can also rent a kayak or try stand up paddling for free. I have never tried kayaking so we just stayed close to shore. For those trying stand up paddling for the first time, please do not use it close the shore because there is coral and my friend injured his foot when he fell while trying to balance. 

We had intended to go to Telunas Beach Resort that afternoon but our plans were foiled because of the busted foot. 

The beach didn't look good for swimming, so don't come expecting turquoise waters. There are certain months where the water is clear so keep a lookout for these dates on their website. 

5) Service 

The staff here are hospitable and always went the extra mile for us. Not only were they friendly, they helped my friend when he required medical attention after stepping on the coral and had a deep cut. They were fast to get him to Moro (a 20 minute boat ride away) to see a doctor, acted as translator, lent him a shoulder to lean on and even offered to deliver lunch to villa. Special mention to Yogi and two others (unfortunately, didn't get their names) who went out of their way to help us. 

Despite the minor mishap that happened on this island, we left this island well-rested and ready to deal with a busy life again! Click here for the rates.

Telunas Private Island 
Riau Islands Province 29442

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Saboten (313 Somerset)

It has been nearly 3 years since I last went to Saboten. Due to the recent reports about bacterial outbreak from eating raw fish, we decided to skip the raw fish and went for some cooked Japanese food instead. 

The interesting thing about this place is that the booths are rather high which gives you more privacy than other restaurants. This reminded me of a television program I watched recently where in Japan, there are these restaurants with individual booths and everybody would just eat their ramen without having to see the person in the next cubicle- see an article here

I ordered a Salmon Seafood Gozen ($24) which came with Half Salmon Katsu, Fried Shrimp and Crab Cream Croquette. The set also came with Japanese rice, miso soup, chawanmushi, cabbage and dessert.

I can never have enough of those thinly shredded fresh cabbage drizzled with sesame sauce which is a good accompaniment to the deep fried food. The deep fried items were not greasy and despite the seemingly small portion, made a rather a substantial dinner. Saboten has obviously mastered the art of deep frying.

Eating Crab Cream Croquettes  reminded me of the Crab Rangoons that they serve in Chinese restaurants in America. It was a strangely familiar yet unfamiliar taste- the sense of deja vu which hits once in a while.

The dessert to round off the meal was mango ice cream. I was hoping for some yuzu ice cream or black sesame ice cream. Rather ordinary, the otherwise good dinner failed to end with a bang.

Service was pleasant and the waiters came by to refill our green tea often. Come early to avoid the crowd.

313 Somerset
313 Orchard Road
Tel No: 6333 3432 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Simplicite Cafe

I have been to Simplicite Cafe twice, once after eating at the nearby Al Forno, and the other after a meal at Beach Road Prawn Mee. Both times, the place was relatively empty with only a table or two being occupied. 

Clean with minimalist decor, this place is an ideal location to spend your afternoon just talking about life. You should check their facebook page for their opening hours though- it seems that their opening hours change frequently.

We ordered a Waffle with 1 scoop of ice cream ($8.50). The passion fruit ice cream was not too sweet and contained the little bits of passion fruit seeds. To up the fun factor, they have a mysterious flavour for you to guess- no prizes even if you guess correctly though! This waffle is definitely one of the better ones- my benchmark is Gelare's waffle. Rewind more than 10 years ago when cafes were not selling waffles, Gelare's waffles was a rare treat then. This waffle is comparable to Gelare's.

Service here was warm and sincere. I only hope that they last long enough because the foot traffic here seems pretty low.

Simplicite Cafe 
425 East Coast Road
Singapore 429012
Tel No: 6440 9148 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Beach Road Prawn Mee Eating House

Prawn Mee is something that few stalls can do right. Ever so often, a prawn noodle craving hits and off we go hunting for a good bowl of slurp-worthy prawn noodles. 

According to The Business Times, the boss is one of the highest-earning hawkers, reportedly earning up to $139,200 a month. The popularity of this place was evident on a Sunday afternoon where the place had hardly an empty seat. 

I got the Prawn Noodles with Pork Ribs ($5.80). I always enjoy a good robust stock like this, and the only place where we tried a stock as good was at Blanco Court Prawn Mee. Prawn mees often leave me disappointed for the lack in depth of flavour.

The prawn mee served at Beach Road Prawn Mee and Blanco Court Prawn Mee were equally good and I was hard pressed to decide which was better. Served with one fresh prawn sliced into two, the pork ribs were tender although my friend found some pieces a little too tough.

If you get irritated with houseflies, this is not the place to be. There were a lot of flies hovering while we were eating. Service was also lacking. When I was standing in the queue, instead of asking me to move one side, the waiter simply nudged me with a tray to move aside. For service, Blanco Court anytime.

There was a ngoh hiang stall within the compounds and we decided to get some to round the meal off. 

Beach Road Prawn Mee Eating House
370 East Coast Road
Tel No: 6345 7196 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Little Red Brick (Past Forward: Hearts & Craft Exhibition)

I belong to a generation where there were no iPhones or iPads when we were growing up. Play time sometimes consisted of stacking lego bricks in various colours. It is therefore always amazing how lego enthusiasts can build beautiful structures out of these bricks. 

Until 28 August 2015, you can catch this exhibition (The Little Red Brick Show) at the National Library. 

There are depictions of scenes which are beyond my time. Take for example, the samsui women. Samsui women are the group of Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore between 1920s and 1940s to search for construction and industrial jobs.

There is also this scene of the new enlistees being sent off at the old Central Manpower Base at Dempsey Hill, Tanglin Barracks. Nowadays, the sending off is at Pulau Tekong. The venue might have changed but the tearful farewells remain. 

We used to have these funky orange and white striped bus stops. Didn't seem that long ago though! I also remember that some buses did not have air-con (and were thus cheaper) and you had to calculate your fare before pressing the button on the machine and holding on to that precious piece of paper dispensed from the machine until you alighted.

Singapore has a lot of interesting architecture if you bother to look around. This is at Koon Seng Road, where there is a row of colourful houses.

These hello kitties were particularly memorable. These were the millennium hello kitties 15 years ago which caused lines to snake around the McDonald's in Singapore. There may have been many other designs since then but these astronaut hello kitties left the deepest impression.

For a walk down memory lane, this is an interesting exhibition which highlights tidbits of information relating to Singapore in an easy to understand fashion. 


It is no secret that Old Airport Road Food Centre is my favourite hawker centre in Singapore. Besides the popular stalls selling the traditional hawker food like char kway teow, hokkien mee etc, we now see more food stalls catering to the younger crowd. There is now a coconut ice cream stall and a frozen yoghurt bar. 

The yoghurt served here looks like that of llao llao's. 

We chose a large ($5), which entitles us to 1 topping, 2 fruits and 2 fruits/toppings. The selection was limited compared to what you would see at llao llao but it was still a decent selection. For the fruits, we got lychee and blueberries. For toppings, we got some Maple Pecan granola and Cranberry Almond Crunch. The yoghurt was then drizzled with chocolate sauce. For $5, it is a good option to get your yoghurt fix if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.

Old Airport Food Centre
51 Old Airport Road

Monday, August 10, 2015

Halia (Botanic Gardens)

We had passed by Halia on many occasions when visiting Botanic Gardens but only decided to have a meal there recently to celebrate an occasion. 

We ordered the Broken Baguette Bruschetta ($10) to nibble on while waiting for our main course. Usually, bruschetta is served as grilled bread topped with garlic and ingredients such as tomato. Here, they separate the garlic, the tomato and the bread. What you get is a very fragrant garlic confit and a chilled tomato compote to spread on the little pieces of baguette. 

As mains, I ordered Halia's Singapore-style chilli crab Spaghettini ($26). Spicy and tangy, the generous portion of crab meat and pasta was satisfying.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Die Die Must Have Chocolate ($12). This was a nice portion for two to share. Chocolate-orange, chocolate-raspberry, basically chocolate-anything makes for a heavenly combination.

The two main ingredients in the dessert are chocolate and raspberry. The interplay between the contrasting flavours resulted in a delectable dessert- think sour and sweet versus rich and slightly bitter.

Besides the flavour, the texture of the ingredients were well thought out as well. Crispy pieces of cocoa nib tuiles, and raspberry and chocolate bits, were put against the pillowy chocolate marshmallows and smooth raspberry ice cream.

Service here was warm and helpful.

If there was one thing that stood out (besides the quality of food and great service), it was the ambience of sitting in the midst of lush greenery, while enjoying the live music by their resident band. I enjoyed myself so much listening to the live band rendering well-executed jazz classics.

Singapore Botanic Gardens
1 Cluny Road
Tel No: 6 476 6711 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Pulau Ubin

It has probably been more than a decade since I last visited Pulau Ubin.

Even though I stay in the east, reaching Changi Point Ferry Terminal (not to be mistaken with Changi Ferry Terminal) took me more than an hour by public transport. Once we reached the terminal, we were quickly herded onto the boat to fill the boat's capacity of 12. 

The ride only cost Sin$2.50 one way and within 10 minutes, we reached Pualu Ubin. Pulau Ubin means "Granite Island" in Malay, and indeed, you will get to see a few abandoned quarries.

The first thing we needed to do upon arrival was to rent a bicycle from one of the friendly stallholders. We each rented a bicycle for $8 (for the entire day), which is very cheap compared to what you have at for example, East Coast Park. The shop that we went to also operated on the basis of trust- no identification cards needed. Granted, the quality of the bicycles weren't great and were in fact rather worn. However, it served our purpose that day and that was all that mattered.

I do not usually cycle on roads but it is relatively safe cycling on the island- there isn't much traffic on the roads (minus the police land rover that is constantly driving around the island).

As usual, being the lazy planners that we are, the strategy that we usually adopt (whether in Singapore or overseas) is to reach the place, get a map and start exploring from there, without any inkling of what we should be looking out for.

One of our first stops was the Butterfly Hill. A sanctuary for over 80 species of butterflies, it was my first time seeing such big butterflies and butterflies were just dancing from one flower to the next.

The signs around Pulau Ubin were clear and you did not need to worry that you would get lost. 3G signal was non-existent at some parts of the island. 

As we cycled around the island, it was as though we had stepped back in time and saw how Singaporeans used to live. 

Getting to Chek Jawa Wetlands by bicycle wasn't the easiest thing for a recreational cyclist like me. To get there, we had to cycle through mud trails. As there were plenty of slopes (steep ones at that), I decided to dismount and push my bicycle up and down the slopes.

Public service announcement: If you are not used to riding on steep slopes, please do yourself a favour and do not ride recklessly down these slopes. There have been many accidents due to cyclists riding down these slopes and you do not want a fun day out to end up as a tragedy.

Bicycles were not allowed in Chek Jawa, so we left our bicycles at the bicycle rack outside. Upon entering Chek Jawa, we saw a small crowd and noticed that they were all looking in the same direction- wild boars! Parading down the tracks like divas, the wild boars were not concerned about the people standing around. Wild boars will only attack if they are cornered or if they feel threatened.

We ventured further in and ended at House No. 1. Built in the 1930s as a holiday retreat, the architecture of the building is in Tudor-style.

Later, we venture onto the boardwalk. It was high tide by then and we did not get to see much of the wildlife. If you want to walk on the shore and not the boardwalk, you have to sign up for the special guided walks by NParks. This measure is necessary to minimise impact on the biodiversity system.

As we left Chek Jawa and cycled back to our starting point (we were famished by then), we came across this beautiful quarry. Of all the quarries that we came across, this particular quarry had waters in a beautiful shade of blue-turquoise, unlike anything we had seen previously. This might be the Balai Quarry, although I can't be sure.

Nearly reaching the starting point, we saw the Ubin Sensory Trail. This trail was developed in 1995 to allow the visually handicapped a chance to experience Pulau Ubin using their sense of touch and smell.

We then saw a lotus pond against a background of coconut trees- the cloudy skies had given way to blue skies and it was a good closing to a morning exploring this island (while burning calories).

It is easy to get caught up with city life where the comforts of modern life are easily available. However, it's nice to enjoy a slice of kampong life once in a while and immerse yourself in the raw, untouched beauty of nature.