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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, 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. 

Jogurtz

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.


Jogurtz
Old Airport Food Centre
51 Old Airport Road
#01-129 

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.

Halia
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.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Old Street Bak Kut Teh (Kallang Wave Mall)

Old Street Bak Kut Teh is a prime example of how using technology can reduce the need for manpower. Orders are made using the iPad which is attached to your table. The menu is clear and easy to understand. 

This place is the Chinese equivalent of McDonalds- the food came within 5 minutes of placing our orders. 


We ordered Set A ($11.10) which consisted of bak kut teh, you tiao, rice and beancurd. The servers were friendly and kept coming by to refill our soup, which was light but I wished contained more flavour and pepper.

You might have thought, if the service was so fast, they had probably left the you tiao lying there for quite some time so that it can be delivered to the tables quickly. Contrary to that expectation, the generous portion of you tiao was crispy when it arrived. The tender pork tore off easily from the bone and tasted even better when it was dipped in the black sauce with chilli padi.

We ended off the very filling meal with a bowl of silky beancurd.


An affordable and filling option if you want to eat bak kut teh, although I would have preferred a more intense soup base.

Old Street Bak Kut Teh 
Kallang Wave
1 Stadium Place
Singapore 397628

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