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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, August 30, 2014

Medan Town

On its website, Medan Town describes itself as a "quaint 50-seater restaurant". Not sure what's so quaint about this place. It's simply a no-frills restaurant with good food. The owners of these restaurant are from Medan. 

As starters, we ordered the Tahu Goreng ($4.50). This is the first time I'm having crackers on top of tahu goreng. An addictive appetiser, the crunchy peanuts, beansprouts and the fried tofu rested on a bed of sweet and spicy sauce.

I had the Kwetiauw Bebek Dry ($6.80). Duck is a difficult meat to handle- cook it for too long and it becomes very dry. This slow-cooked duck easily shredded and was a very comforting dish with the springy kwetiauw and the duck herbal soup. I am not usually a fan of herbal soups because the taste can be rather overwhelming. I ordered it dry so that I could decide how much soup to add to the noodles. Surprisingly, the soup was light with just a mild herbal taste.

If you are looking for cheap and good food in the East, this is for you!

Medan Town 
253 Tanjong Katong Road
Tel No: 6348 9227 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

National Orchid Garden

I last visited National Orchid Garden in 2011 (click here for blog entry). Classes had just ended then and I thought it will be nice to take a walk in the orchid garden. 3 years down the road, I am back again. 

Botanic Gardens is one of my favourite places in Singapore- it's not crowded, it's spacious, it's beautiful. 

No matter which part of the Orchid Garden you are in, there is an opportunity for good photographs and the explosion of colours will be a feast for your eyes.

The VIP Orchid Garden was styled as an English Backyard. Here, you will get to see the orchid hybrids of the Gardens' orchid programme. Many state visitors and VIPs have orchids named after them.

Besides this, there are also attractions such as the Tan Hoon Siang Mist House, the Cool House etc. The Cool House is meant to look like a tropical forest where there is cool air and mist. To imagine what the Cool House is like, it is something like the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay, but many times smaller.

One of my favourite orchids is the Golden Shower or the Dancing Lady Orchid. If you look closely at the orchid, it looks like a lady in a ballroom dress dancing.

Here are some of the photographs of the orchids that we saw in the garden.

Japan has beautiful lavender farms, the Netherlands has beautiful tulip farms. and Singapore has a beautiful orchid garden! At an inexpensive price of $5, you could probably spend 2 hours in there just enjoying the wonders of nature. Word of caution though- sunblock, cap and water are essential! 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Nam Nam Noodle Bar (Suntec City Mall)

This is the second time I tried Nam Nam. If you don't want to deal with crowds, come to this branch instead of the one at Raffles City. 

We first started off with Crispy Fried Vegetarian Rolls ($4.90) to fight off some hunger pangs.

Then we proceeded with Crispy Fried Black Pepper Soft-Shell Crab ($6.90). The batter was too thick such that you couldn't really taste the soft shell crab. The black pepper taste was also nearly non-existent.

The Pho Chicken ($7.90) remains the way I remembered it- average and light.

Even though it was a weekend, there were empty tables around. Average fare.

Nam Nam Noodle Bar 
Suntec City Mall
3 Temasek Boulevard

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Spuds & Aprons

The last time we went to Mount Faber, we tried the desserts at Spuds & Aprons which were rather disappointing. This time, we decided to try the mains instead. 

Years back, there was still a bus service going up to Mount Faber. However, we realised that the bus service was no longer in operation and being the kiam siap people we were, we walked up instead. 

We ordered a Chilli Crab in a Tux ($13). Top marks for novelty. The spice of the chilli doesn't hit right in your face initially. But as you progress into the meal, the spice starts to become more pronounced. The potato skin was also crispy and was a perfect combination with the chilli crab. Bonus points for not having to dirty your hands!

The Tobiko Crusted Cod Fillet ($30) is a good choice for those seeking a healthier option. I have never been a fan of cod because of its fishy taste. However, that fishy taste was muted in this dish, with the cod topped with tobiko and mentaiko sauce. This came with green tea soba noodles soaked in aged ponzu sauce with fermented yuzu. I couldn't taste the yuzu in the sauce and while the combination was refreshing at the start, it started to get a little boring as the meal progressed.

Great location to look at beautiful Singapore scenery at night. Service was friendly although the food took ages to come.

Spuds & Aprons
Faber Peak
109 Mount Faber Road

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Platypus Kitchen

I was looking for a restaurant that could fit a group of around 10 and this place was perfect. Comfortable chairs, not too noisy and serving food at affordable prices. Having gone to the Platypus Test Kitchen at Raffles Place a couple of times, I was pretty sure the standard had to be rather decent here as well. 

I ordered the Set Meal ($16.90 plus additional $1.90 for this main course) which came with a soup/salad and a drink. The Wild Mushroom Soup was pretty decent- little chunks of mushrooms in the soup but could have a stronger mushroom taste. 

For the mains, I got the Squid-Ink Scallop Ragout. Tossed in light garlic sauce, this dish was average. Despite it being light garlic sauce, the garlic taste got a little overwhelming after a while, making the seared scallops taste a little muted. The squid ink is apparently in the pasta so it won't stain your teeth.

Average fare here, but great ambience and place for meetups.

Platypus Kitchen
Bugis Junction
200 Victoria Street
Tel No: 6 333 4434 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Breakout Games

With many of these escape rooms featuring on Tripadvisor, it would be a shame if we didn't try it out ourselves! After much googling, we settled with Breakout Games because it was one of the cheapest and the reviews looked pretty good. At $22 per pax on a weekend, this was really one of the more affordable ones. 

We booked a slot online without having to pay first. When we arrived, the previous group hadn't left so the game masters explained to us what the whole concept behind this was. Typically, such games are suitable for around 6 people. But it didn't matter that it was just the 2 of us because we had fun all the same. 

The game lasted 60 minutes and we chose The Scientist. It required observational skills and putting our brains together to figure out some stuff. When we got stuck, we just pressed the help button and the game master would come in to assist by giving clues. It was fun that way because we didn't need to waste time getting stuck and yet manage to solve stuff on our own with some help. 

If you have some time to burn, why not try Breakout Games? The game masters were all very friendly and the whole concept of this is very refreshing if you haven't tried it before.

Breakout Games
31B Kreta Ayer Road
Singapore 088998
Tel No: 6 226 2688 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Li Xin Teochew Fishball Noodle

Not knowing what to get at Ion food court, I called my mum, "What should I eat at ION?" Without hesitating, she replied "Get the fishball noodles. Fishballs very big." Indeed, this recommendation could not have been better. The queue was long and only got longer.

I ordered the Fishball Soup ($5.50). I am not really a fishball persons and I absolutely refuse to eat fishballs that they sell in the supermarkets because they taste horrible. The fishballs here are handmade and are incredibly bouncy and delicious. Considering the number and size of the fishballs, I would gladly pay $5.50 for this. My only regret eating this bowl of fishball kway teow soup was when there was nothing left to eat. Pair this with the chilli and it makes a perfect meal.

Lixin Teochew Fishball Noodle
ION Orchard
2 Orchard Turn

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Concetto by Savuer

By the same folks who brought you Saveur, this time we have Concetto by Savuer, a place that serves Italian dishes. The idea behind is this place is to use cooking techniques usually found in higher end restaurants at affordable prices.

I always liked the idea of an open kitchen concept, as long as it doesn't make me smell like I walked through oily fumes. 

I ordered a Crab Risotto ($13.90). Those who ordered the same dish before me cautioned that the portion would be rather small. But when mine came, they said the portion actually looked larger than theirs. Not sure if it's an issue of consistency or an issue of their hallucination.

Tastefully plated, the colours of the ingredients make the otherwise plain looking risotto look appetising. The crispy rice crackers added another dimension to the otherwise mushy dish. Considering the price, the crab was also adequate. The cream of the risotto can get a little overwhelming after a while though.

Yet another example of exquisite plating- the beautiful Tiramisu ($10.90) was really a deconstruction of the good ol' tiramisu. It's almost like dissecting something during biology class and then leaving it in full sight for all. Nice to look at, but not my favourite. I prefer eating the Tiramisu with all the layers together, as opposed of eating a deconstructed version where you can't really enjoy the taste of everything coming together.

Service was polite, prices reasonable. Common complaint at our table was that portions were a little small.

Concetto by Savuer
The Cathay
2 Handy Road

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blanco Court Prawn Mee

As with some things in life, the more you want something, the more you won't get it. Yet, when you least expect it, something good drops into your lap. Without any intentions to eat here, we decided to have a meal here just because it looked like that was a sizeable crowd. 

A good bowl of Prawn Mee is very elusive- average bowls of prawn noodles always miss the oomph. I got a bowl of Prawn & Pork Ribs Noodle ($4.50) and it was nothing less than satisfying. The prawns were fresh, the stock was rich yet not too heavy on the tastebuds, the pork ribs were chewy and there was little chilli padi to give that extra kick to the final slurp of this delicious stock.

While waiting for our prawn noodles, we also bought some Ngor Hiang to munch on. In an ideal world, we could eat all the oil we want without being unhealthy and/or fat. Unfortunately, this isn't an ideal world and all we can do is to eat these fatty stuff in moderation. Special mention to the crispy prawn crackers- you could actually feel the oil seeping out, but it's so addictive, you stop hearing your arteries cry for a while.

Service was also friendly- one aunty was walking around giving plates of chilli padi because she said those at the counter was probably not enough.

Blanco Court Prawn Mee
243 Beach Road
Tel No: 6 396 8464 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Vira Bali Hotel (Bali)

Located at the South Kuta Beach area, I was expecting quite a bit from this place given its excellent reviews on Tripadvisor. 

1) Location 
Conveniently located opposite Lippo Mall (which was very empty and has a hypermart), this was a good location because it was at the quieter section of the road. There was plenty of food options in this area- Western, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian- they have it all. There was also Discovery Mall. Besides the hypermart where we got some snacks and water, the shopping malls didn't have anything that appealed to us. 

We walked to everywhere with the hotel as a base. Waterbom Bali, which is featured as a top attraction on Tripadvisor, is around a 10 minute walk away. Tuban Beach takes around the same amount of time- just ask the receptionists and they will tell you to take a shortcut. There weren't many people at Tuban beach when we were there, probably because it wasn't really one of the more "happening" beaches. It is also a 25-minute walk to Kuta Square, a shopping area with brands such as Ripcurl, Adidas etc. 

2) Room
The room was decent, although the bedsheets were a little stained. Cable channels available.

Toilet was clean, although dated. 

The rooms all had a swimming pool view.

3) Breakfast 
Breakfast was slightly below average to average- some local fare with Western food. Their local fare did better than the Western food here. The best food here? My travelling partner and I agreed- the omelette made to order. Variety was lacking.

4) Service 
Service is polite and accommodating.

5) How to get here
Free airport shuttle is provided to and fro the hotel. The hotel is about a 5-10 minutes drive to the Airport.

6) Miscellaneous 
If you are looking at taking a real break from work, this place is perfect. Connection to wifi is bad and you can just give up trying to connect to your work emails after a while.

The Vira Bali Hotel
Jalan Kartika Plaza No 127
Tuban, Bali

The Pelican Seafood Bar and Grill

I'm a fan of seafood done in any style, which was why I was attracted to the Pelican Platter ($128) here. However, we didn't have it in the end because we thought our budget was better spent on a variety of food. 

First up was the complimentary sour dough bread. It took us a while before we figured that the tiny bits embedded in the bread were seaweed. The seaweed had a strong "sea smell" and this was the beginning of a good meal.

We had the Old Fashioned Crab Cakes ($22). It's been a long time since I ordered crab cakes. The crab cakes here comprised of lots of crab meat, encrusted in a crispy coating and accompanied with tartar sauce.

The Baked Snapper Pie ($38) was visually pleasing to begin with. It's obviously shouting, "Hey! I contain fish!" After you reluctantly use your fork to pierce through the flaky crust (how can anyone destroy that beautiful fish motif), you reach a bed of creamy stew with boneless snapper. The key is that it is boneless. We finished every single drop of the stew because it was not too salty, and just a bowl of good stew.

While contemplating whether to order dessert, we gave in and got a Double Chocolate Whoopie Pie ($16). This is enough for two to share because it's incredibly rich. You will definitely like it if you are a chocolate lover.

The decor and ambience of this place was excellent. Service was attentive but not intrusive.

The Pelican Seafood Bar & Grill
One Fullerton
1 Fullerton Road
Tel No: 6 438 0400 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Bebek Bengil (Ubud, Bali)

Bebek Bengil means dirty duck. Why dirty duck? One morning, a bunch of ducks waddled into the restaurant, complete with muddy footprints. That was how they came up with the name. 

Once we reached the restaurant, we knew that this was a place that was raking in the tourist dollars- beautiful and spacious, a reception area etc. The prices were definitely tourist prices too. 

The Bebek Bengil (around Sin$12-Sin$13) came with half a duck which was steamed in Indonesian spices and then deep fried. You could choose whether to have the duck served with sauteed potatoes and side salad or rice and Balinese vegetables. Sure, the duck was crispy. However, there was very little meat and whatever spices that were used completely masked the taste of the duck. The duck meat was also dry. I initially liked the potatoes because they were soft and tasted of herbs. However, the oil that they sauteed the potatoes in started to get a little overwhelming after a while.

Anyone who goes to Ubud will definitely want to make a trip here, despite any negative reviews. It's a case of seeing is believing. Once of this is enough. Nice ambience, average service and overpriced / overrated food.

Bebek Bengil
Jalan Hanoman, Padang Tegal
Ubud, Bali
Tel No: + 62 361 975489 

Guide: Mount Batur (Bali Eco Cycling Tour)

I am not an adventurous person. But sometimes, the desire to take in some breathtaking moments just dominates the extremely rational side of me. Questions such as, what if the volcano erupts, what if I slip and fall over the edge etc take a backseat when I booked this tour- these questions come back when the actual trek starts though. 

1) Tour 
We signed up for a tour with Bali Eco Cycling Tour. We got picked up punctually at 2:30 a.m. and the group size was 7. After enduring a bumpy ride, we reached the car park at around 4 a.m. Each person was then given a torchlight and water. Test your torchlight because you would want your path to be lit well when trekking. I also suggest that you go to the toilet before leaving your accomodation because I heard that the toilets are real bad here.

I know some reviews say that this is a relatively easy trek. I don't trek at all but I have a decent level of fitness. I didn't find this an easy trek. It isn't the lack of stamina that you should be wary of but rather the steep slopes at some points and loose gravel that you have to be careful of. 

Our group consisted of young people and we reached the sunrise point in good time (5+ a.m.). There would be a few stops in between so that you can catch your breath for a couple of minutes. There was still some distance up to the summit but our tour guides didn't bring us there. One of our group members was not too pleased about that. 

2) What to wear
It may feel a little chilly before starting the trek such that you would want to start piling on your jacket. But trust me, this trek will get you perspiring in no time and there is not much point in putting on your sweater. It is only after you reach the sunrise point where it starts to get chilly and you should have a sweater with you. It can really be quite cold so be ready to wear several layers. 

3) Expectations 
Just to manage expectations a little, just because it's a sunrise trek, doesn't mean that you will definitely get to see the sunrise. We almost thought that we wouldn't be able to catch the sunrise because it suddenly became very foggy. Thankfully, the fog cleared and we were left with a beautiful sunrise. 

4) Breakfast
Breakfast was provided in this tour package as well- consisting for bread with banana in between, hot chocolate/coffee/tea, a packet of juice and a hard boiled egg. There was a little hut where they prepared breakfast. I would suggest hiding in the hut when having your breakfast because right after the sun rises, a whole bunch of monkeys start coming out and apparently, they can be pretty aggressive.

5) Crater 
After the sun had risen, we were led to see the crater. Some explanation was given about the volcano- when it last erupted etc. There were also a few vents where steam was coming out from. Some good photo opportunities here as well.

6) Descent 
The descent doesn't get any easier and it will be good to find some good grip on the rocks etc.

7) Safety 
Always remember, safety is the most important! One girl broke her ankle and had to be carried down on a stretcher. You can take your time when climbing, let the faster ones go first, steady yourself with every step- safety comes first! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Junjungan Ubud Hotel and Spa (Ubud, Bali)

One should never stay at Junjungan Hotel and Spa for this most obvious reason: Once you stay there, you will feel like the rest of the hotels that you stay at in future pale in comparison. Your conversations will always revolve around "Remember those days we spent at Junjungan..."

1) Location 
This place isn't located in Central Ubud. It's quite a distance from there. But no worries, because there is a free shuttle service anytime you want it (from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.). The shuttle service can drop you anywhere in Ubud- they provide a map and as long as the place you want to go to falls within that area, they can drop you there. Whatever time you want to get back, just let them know and they will pick you up at three convenient locations. The shuttle service takes around 10-15 minutes to reach central Ubud to the hotel, so it doesn't take much of your time away from exploring Ubud. 

2) Room 
There were only a few rooms located in this beautiful property.

The rooms were spacious, lighting was a little dark though. Bed was comfortable.

They have this area where you can use to enjoy your afternoon tea. Free afternoon tea from 3-6 p.m.

There was a big bathtub, towels etc. provided.

You wake up to rice fields- now that is something you can't find everywhere. We spent mornings watching some ducks waddle across the fields and spent the nights looking up at stars in the night sky and fireflies darting across the dark rice fields. Complete with the faint croaking of frogs as it accompanies you into dreamland.

Cable channels available. There was also a range of blu-rays for you to choose from- Eat, Pray, Love was there on the list given that Elizabeth Gilbert spent some time in Ubud.

3) Food 
The first day we arrived here, we were served free tea time which consisted of banana coated with a deep fried batter. It was then drizzled with chocolate sauce.

We spent our first night having dinner in the hotel restaurant because we were too tired to venture out. When we first arrived at the restaurant for dinner, we were the only diners and wondered, "Oops, is the food here bad such that no one's here?" Our worries were unfounded because the food here was decent. We had this entire place to ourself for quite some time and it felt like we had a private dining experience.

The Nasi Goreng Seafood (around Sin$4) was decent- distinct rice grains, not too oily with some prawns and fish.

For breakfast, you have to order a day in advance so that they can prepare it and serve it when you want it. Breakfast comes with a variety of fruits, hot chocolate/coffee/tea and a main course. 

Food was okay, they probably don't do their Western fare as well as their local fare. But it was good enough in any case.

4) Amenities
They have a small swimming pool, not big enough for you to swim but probably for you to spend your afternoon lazing around.

The thing I like about this place is that they provide bicycles for free and the bicycles are in pretty good condition. We took the bicycles to ride around the place in the morning and it was a good way to start the day. Some slopes around so it can be a little tiring to pedal up these slopes.

Only downside was that wifi was a little spotty.

5) Service
Finally, the part I want to rave about.

Their service has spoilt me rotten and I give full them full marks for their service. Everyone here is polite and friendly. They even remember your name and greet you when they see you. But above that, they go out of their way to make your stay a memorable one.

When we reached this place, it was past 6 p.m. That means that tea time was over. But in any case, one of them arranged for the banana fritters to be served to us even though they didn't need to.

When we were going to trek Mount Batur the next morning and told them we weren't having breakfast, they offered to pack breakfast consisting of assorted bread just so that we wouldn't be hungry. We had to leave the hotel at 2:30 a.m. Guess what they said, with a smile, "No problem." And indeed before we left, their staff were standing there, ready with our packed boxes.

Two thumbs up for the wonderful staff here!

6) Price
For all that wonderful things above, how much did we spend a night? Sin$130 a night. Now, how's that for a fantastic deal?

Junjungan Ubud Hotel and Spa 
Junjungan Ubud
Jl Tirta Tawar
Junjungan, Ubud, Bali