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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

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mouth Restaurant 地茂馆 (China Square Central)

We decided to head down to Mouth Restaurant 地茂馆 a couple of weeks ago. If you look at the picture carefully, you will see that the restaurant is located at the shophouse with light blue paint. Don't you just love how colourful some of the shophouses in Singapore can be? 

We claimed some offer from Facebook for a free peking duck with minimum spending of $128. On their website, they also state that there's a OCBC coupon with the same deal. For example, the $128 that we spent does not include the price of desserts or the price of the duck meat. So note the terms and conditions and call them up to make them tell you all the restrictions before going.

We ordered the usual dimsum. We ordered Egg Tarts ($4) which unfortunately ran out quickly. They were delicious. We also ordered Steamed Har Gao ($4.50) and Siew Mai ($4.50), which were very ordinary. I didn't eat the Deep Fried Prawn Dumpling ($4.80 for 4) so I can't comment!

The Porridge with Century Egg/Shredded Pork ($4.50) is enough for 2 to share if you want to preserve some stomach space.

This is what they are well-known for: Cream of Salted Egg Yolk Bun ($8). I didn't eat it because I'm not a fan of salted egg yolk to begin with. But those who ate it found that it was overrated.

One of the waitresses highly recommended this Abalone Gold Packet ($14.80). The texture of the abalone was good and chewy but that was about it. Didn't particularly fancy something in there, but I'm not very sure what seafood that was.

We came here for the Peking Duck (normally $68). I can't really put a finger to it but I don't find it as good as other peking ducks I've tried.

This was Duck fried with Kobe Sauce ($10 if you ordered the Peking Duck skin). I liked the flavours of this dish, not too salty and the duck had a smokey taste.

Together with some other dishes such as Steamed Spicy Chicken Claw ($3.50), Steamed Spare Ribs ($4.20), Steamed Prawn Rice Roll ($5), Fried Broccoli with Prawn and Scallop ($25) and a Beancurd Claypot with Mixed Seafood ($16), it cost us $199.10.

We obviously didn't intend to order so much but due to various restrictions when ordering ($128 spending does not include dessert or the price of frying the duck meat etc), the amount just snowballed. I think more transparency is needed in this area and you should be aware of this before ordering if you are using your OCBC coupon and credit card. As a result, I was stuffed to the brim because we had to order so much food in order to get a free peking duck- not worth it.

No fun or joy when you're eating just because you have to meet a price quota. Perhaps due to this, we weren't particularly impressed by the food!

Service was very enthusiastic though, with the waitress who served us having good knowledge of the dishes in the menu. She also offered to make an immediate order of the salted egg yolk bun so that we didn't have to wait too long for it!

Mouth Restaurant 地茂馆
China Square Central
22 Cross Street
Tel: +65 6438 5798

Mei Heong Yuen Dessert 味香园 (Temple Street)

Chinatown has a whole truckload of food gems. You could probably eat there for a few years without any repetition. After dinner, we went for dessert at Mei Heong Yuen 味香园. It was awarded the Best Food Awards 2009/2010 by "The Green Book", and featured in many newspapers etc. 

There was plenty of space in the shophouse, spanning 3 shop spaces. Check out this CNN article on the oldest shops in Chinatown that remain till this day, of course including Mei Heong Yuen. By the way, another restaurant featured in that article, Moi Lum restaurant, offers great food. (Click here for review) 

Same name, not by coincidence! According to its website, the dessert place has its roots connected to the Farmer Brand groundnuts- yes the peanuts you eat during Chinese New Year. 
(photo credit: cnngo)

Here's the menu, featuring the healthier desserts, special desserts and what they are apparently well known for- mango sago with pomelo. It's also well known for its pastes (walnut, sesame, almond and peanut). Peanut paste is obviously the star- remember Farmer Brand peanuts? 

On the flipside of the menu is a selection of shaved ice.

We settled for a Mango Shaved Ice ($5) after much deliberation. Two of us shared it because we were too full after dinner. The shaved ice was fluffy and there was a lot of mango scattered around the shaved ice. Mango syrup (or whatever you call it) on the ice was not too sweet and that's good. But after a while, it tasted too bland as the mango taste did not seep into the ice. There was a milky taste that started to overpower the mango taste after a while. So it's good to share otherwise it becomes a chore to eat if you eat it alone.

This place didn't impress me very much. It's not bad, but not as stunning as many make it sound. I might give this place a second chance another time though, to try the pastes! 

Mei Heong Yuen Dessert 
65-67 Temple Street
Tel: +65 6221 1156

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Durian History

While walking along Chinatown, I saw a Caucasian, by the roadside, eat a whole box of durians on his own. That look of bliss was priceless. I was surprised because I know a lot of Caucasians get turned off by the smell supposedly because it smells like baby poo. To me (and I'm sure many other Singaporeans share my sentiments), durians deserve the accolade of the King of Fruits, whether because of its smell or its taste.

That said, I was glad I chanced upon Durian History. It's easy to spot because of the super long queue at the money changer next to it. They sell an assortment of durian desserts, such as durian pancake, durian puff, durian tapioca cake etc.

I was only interested in the Durian Pancake (regular size) ($1.50) though. Jumbo size comes at $2.50. They do it on the spot so you can be assured it's crispy! First bite- never knew that durian pancakes could be crispy! Normally, they are just soft and pancake like. Second bite- warm skin coupled with cold durian filling. Good D24 durian. Lethal combination. While they do not heap enormous amounts of durian into the pancake, I think it's a suitable amount of filling. 

Warning: Eat it on the spot and don't attempt to buy some back home to enjoy. I bought some home and it became soggy. Comes in a box if you buy 6.

Durian History 
People's Park Complex
1 Park Road

Monday, June 25, 2012

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Ever since I watched Madagascar 3, I have been annoying those around me and potentially bursting their ear drums by singing Circus Afro.

I didn't watch the first two installments but I don't think I missed out much because they did some recap here and there to provide the context.

There is a unspoken cardinal rule when watching cartoons: Don't laugh louder than the children. But then again, the cinema is so dark, you probably won't be judged for it later because the other adults wouldn't know where the laughter came from. 

I found the movie rather entertaining. Plot: The animals wanted to get back to New York but stopped at Monte Carlo first so that they could ask the penguins to fly them back to NYC. Because they were spotted in the casino at Monte Carlo, Captain Chantel DuBois was called to deal with the animals and she, ever so zealous, wanted to catch the lion to add to her trophy collection. Through their escapades, they met a bunch of animals from a failing circus. The lion later managed to revive the circus and as usual, a happy ending ensues.

Here's a trailer.

My friend found the movie lame, in the sense that different things are pulled together in a haphazard way then infused with vibrant colours and laughable moments. While it may be quite lame, I didn't get the feeling that I wasted my money at the theatre (it's a feeling I often get by the way). The exaggerated prowess of DuBois was hilarious and even the big bear which didn't speak at all was portrayed in a rather endearing manner. 

I watched it in 2D, because 3D movies give me a headache. But this show is obviously geared towards 3D, especially where the  circus performance starts bursting with a million colours. The soundtracks of this movie are also star studded, with Katy Perry, Edith Piaf and Hans Zimmer. 

Worth a watch I think!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Free Rice

Sometimes, you reach a point in time where you don't know which websites to surf anymore. Sometimes, you feel like you haven't been doing any good recently. Free Rice comes to the rescue! I went on this website quite often in the past when I was bored but forgot about it. Recently, I can't remember what I was reading, but I chanced upon this again. Well, learn some English words and do some good today! Every click counts!

Click on the picture below to get to the website.

Online game to end hunger

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sin Swee Kee Restaurant

We dropped by Sin Swee Kee one day to try its famous chicken rice. That was after a round of contemplating whether to enter the slightly more crowded Swee Kee a few stores down. 

Plenty of space even on weekend lunch!

For $6.50, we got a plate of rice, xiao bai cai, roasted chicken and home made barley. I didn't see what's so fantastic about this stall. The chicken rice was normal (not dry), the vegetables were mixed with some oyster sauce and the barley was home-made. Chilli was quite spicy though. 

For the set, you could choose between chicken breast or the back part of the chicken. Add an additional dollar if you want the chicken drumstick. It's obviously better than some stores which sell super dry chicken but I think it doesn't deserve its hype. One thing good about this place is that they give quite a lot of chicken.

My friend, while eating this, was reminiscing about some chicken rice stall in Thomson. And I was thinking of some other chicken rice stall in Katong. It's such betrayal, ain't it? To be fair, I think the price is okay for the set but really, I think there are better stores out there.

Sin Swee Kee Restaurant
35 Seah Street
Tel: +65 6337 7180

The Cartel Bistro

112 Katong has turned out to be a favourite haunt everytime we can't decide where to eat.  Just like how moths are attracted to lights, we walked into The Cartel Bistro because of the vibrant decor. And yes, in case you are wondering, The Cartel Bistro is a new concept store by Cafe Cartel. 

There is a weekday promotion going on and we happened to chance upon the 1-for-1 Chef Recommends Complete Meal (Wednesday). Click here for the promotion (differs every day). This means that you just have to add $3.90 to your set meal and you get another set meal free! (lower price of course) Promotion ends 31st July, applicable for lunch and dinner. 

The soup was served in some cool metal structure. Soup was a little too salty for me but I liked the crunchy bread in it.

The baguette would have been better if it were crispy. Nothing great about it.

We ordered the St Louis Pork Rib ($15.60) with honey glaze. Incredibly huge portion, heaped with fries. I liked the honey sauce and the meat was very tender and succulent.

We also ordered the Grilled Tender Chicken ($15.60). Compared to the Pork Ribs, this was of course a lot smaller. But nonetheless, still grilled well, along with hot piping wedges.

Since it was one for one, our total bill came up to $22.95, after taxes and service charge. Now, how good a deal is that? In addition to all those, you get a drink (coke/coffee/tea/ice green tea etc).

The food was not fantastic, but decent for the price. But couple that with the excellent service, I think this is a good spot if you are are really hungry and looking for something not too expensive! Note that there are different 1-for-1 deals from Monday to Friday though! So if you are picky about your food, you should decide whether you want a seafood meal, pasta meal, steak meal etc. before making your way here!

The Cartel Bistro
112 Katong
112 East Coast Road
Tel: +65 6636 3327

Monday, June 18, 2012

Out of the Pan

If you are looking for a review on the main courses at Out of the Pan, please click here. When we went, there was a one-for-one for the main course (crepes) as well as desserts (DBS/POSB card). But for the desserts, you can enjoy a 1-for-1 only if you order from the same category.For example, if you  order a sweet crepe, you can only get another crepe and not a waffle.

We got a Banana Split Waffle ($14). This was the preferred dessert compared to the next one we ordered. The waffles were fluffy and the banana was covered with custard. A scoop of chocolate ice cream and a scoop of raspberry sorbet- wasn't impressed at all by the quality of the ice cream and sorbet. It sure looks impressive but only if it tasted as good as it looked.

We also got a Pear Helene Waffle ($14). Honestly, all four of us felt that the stuff on the waffle tasted too weird. The poached pears were too sweet and we couldn't figure out what ice cream it was.

I would go for the main courses anytime compared to the waffles again. Even for the main courses, I think it was a consensus that the Peking Duck Crepe was still the best amongst the rest! 

Out of The Pan 
Raffles City Shopping Centre
252 North Bridge Road
Tel: +65 6431 6103

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Trail #2: City Hall (Part II)

Continuing from Part I of the City Hall Trail, this trail will highlight a trail where you can catch some great views of Singapore's city skyline at night while still being able to see some iconic attractions.

City Hall Trail

View Larger Map

A. City Hall MRT Station
Start from City Hall MRT Station. You may want to have dinner at Raffles City Shopping Centre before starting your trail, or to have a late dinner at Lau Pa Sat Market.

B. War Memorial Park 
Known as the "Chopsticks" memorial, the four pillars symbolise the four main races of people living in Singapore. It serves as a memorial to civilians who died in Singapore during World War Two. It's a peaceful place where you can take a stroll at night.

If you are interested in some shopping or eating, you can get over to Suntec City opposite this monument.

C. The Esplanade 
Honestly, from the map, I can't really tell the route taken. But from the War Memorial, you should be able to find an underground somewhere and this leads to the Esplanade.

On your way, you will find some exhibits. These exhibits change all the time and the day we were there, the exhibition was Mix: Re/Tape by Neo Kim Seng. A mixtape is played by snipping segments from selected casettes, resulting in a mish mash of songs.

Okay I cheated with this shot. I took this photo last year during National Day. You can see Esplanade, the two "durians", somewhat in the centre of this shot. At Esplanade, you can catch free performances at night at the Concourse, attend a concert, shop for musical instruments or scores, have a quick bite, go up to the roof terrace for a nice view etc.

D. Merlion
From Esplanade, you will need to cross a bridge to get to the Merlion. You will not regret crossing the bridge because there are things to look at, on both sides of the bridge. On the right hand side, you will see the Fullerton Hotel which was originally known as The Fullerton Building and the General Post Office Building. You will also see the major office buildings in the CBD area. On the left hand side, you will see the Marina Bay Sands, the Esplanade etc.

Find your way around a little more and you will find the Merlion, which has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. There are many eating places in the area and the place is very vibrant and happening, even on weekday nights.

E. Lau Pa Sat Festival Market 
After a long walk, it's time to reward your tummy! You can head down to the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market and order some local food!

F. Marina Bay Sands
Time permitting, you may also get to the Marina Bay Sands, whether it is to gamble, to shop (high end stuff) or to catch the laser show (8pm/930pm).

The duration of this trail will vary quite a bit, depending on the activities you ultimately choose to take part in at the location. One night isn't enough to get all the beautiful pictures of the city skyline. Time permitting, I might post another part to the trail which will involve the Singapore Flyer and the Helix Bridge. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Trail #2: City Hall (Part I)

City Hall has lots of interesting things to see and quite a bit of shopping to do. Therefore, the City Hall Trail will be separated into several parts so that it's more manageable. 

City Hall Trail 
I did a City Hall Trail yesterday and here, I've marked the places on Google Map. If you are interested in retracing my footsteps, all you need to do is to print out the map and to follow it accordingly. Why I did this was because sometimes when I was travelling, I was often bothered by which sequence I should take in order to maximise my sightseeing.

View Larger Map

A. City Hall MRT Station
Start from City Hall MRT Station. If you haven't shopped in days and have an urge to shop, you may want to go to Raffles City Shopping Centre via the escalator located in the MRT Station. A mix of mid priced and high end goods. Lots of eateries there.

As you proceed, you will see the Capitol Building on your right at the junction of North Bridge Road and Stamford Road. This building was completed in 1933 and was one of the very few air-conditioned theatres when it was built. Walk further and you will see the St Andrew's Cathedral on your left. It is the largest cathedral in Singapore.

B. Peninsula Plaza 
I seldom go to Peninsula Plaza. But I was surprised to know that there were so many Myanmar shops in the shopping centre! If you are craving some Myanmar food but don't want to take a plane there, this should be your best bet.

C. Civil Defence Heritage Gallery
Click here to read the post about this gallery. Admission is free. If you are interested in gadgets, you might want to cross the road to go to Funan Digitallife Mall although many people go to Sim Lim Square at Bugis for cheap deals.

D. Armenian Church
The Armenian Church is the oldest Christian church in Singapore. The building was completed in 1835 and modelled after St Gregory's Church in Echmiadzin, the mother church in northern Armenia. You can take a walk in the gardens and admire the architecture. Famous Armenians in Singapore include the Sarkies brothers who built and managed the Raffles Hotel and Agnes Joaquim who hybridised Singapore's national flower.

If you look across the road, you will see an interesting oriental structure which has a blend of both Chinese and Western architectural styles. That is the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

E. Singapore Philatelic Museum
Click here to read more about the Museum.

Next to it is the Masonic Hall which is undergoing what looks like some conservation process. I thought the window panels were quite interesting. Completed in 1886, the locals once called the building rumah hantu (haunted house) because few knew what happened in this exclusive clubhouse. 

If you are feeling in a mood for a walk amongst lush greeneries, you can proceed to the Fort Canning Park instead of going to the Peranakan Museum. Just continue walking down the stretch and follow the signs. Or, if you are in a mood to get married, you may proceed to the Registries of Marriages too! 

F. Peranakan Museum 
Click here for the review.

This walk took me about 3 hours, including all the time spent in the galleries. From here, you can either venture into the Bras Basah/Dhoby Ghaut area where more shopping and eating awaits (or the National Museum of Singapore if you haven't had enough of museums) or you can take the route shown in this trail to get back to City Hall MRT Station to embark on the second part of the trail which will allow you to see the beautiful skyline of Singapore at night. 

The Handburger (Raffles City Shopping Centre)

The first time I went to The Handburger, it was at the 313 branch. (Click here for the review.) After that dinner, we bought another Groupon and decided to visit the Raffles City branch. 

Since I was deciding between the Duck Confit and Battered Dory the last time (and Duck Confit won), I decided to get the Battered Dory this time.

I chose the mushroom soup (other choices include salad and fries) to go with the Battered Dory Burger ($15.80) because I liked the mushroom soup the last time I drank it. Large portion, chunky mushrooms and lots of flavour.

I'm glad I chose the Battered Dory burger. Two large pieces of dory fish topped with spicy tartare. There were also lotus root crisps, lettuce and tomato, served on a toasted honey wholewheat multigrain bun. The fish was deep fried nicely and not too oily. I didn't find the tartare spicy at all though. It was my first time eating lotus root crisps and I suppose it's no secret that anything deep fried can taste great!

Unlike me, my friend who ordered the NZ Kiwi Burger ($13.80) didn't like the beef because of the meat quality. He said that there were even some hard unknown stuff in the beef.

Well, I suppose the mantra here is then to Choose your Food Wisely.

Service was average, nothing fantastic. There was surprisingly no queue though, I suppose the Groupon frenzy is now over!

The Handburger 
Raffles City Shopping Centre
252 North Bridge Road
Tel: +65 6334 4577

Singapore Philatelic Museum

If you think a museum full of stamps are only for stamp collectors or for kids, you can't be further away from the truth. As long as you still have an inner child or simply love to see new and/or colourful things, you need to go to the Singapore Philatelic Museum. Yesterday was the second time I was there and the exhibits still amaze me. 

The red post box situated outside the Museum can be commonly seen in the United Kingdom. And yes, you can actually post letters in it!

This is located in the Heritage Room where you get to learn the history of Singapore, while looking at some stamps. You get to know the different cultural festivals, traditional costumes etc in this room.

Current exhibitions include The Adventures of Tintin (5 November 2011- June 2012). I really liked this exhibit because it just felt like you were transported back to your childhood days again. You get to discover the inspiration behind some of the characters in the book and look at interesting objects, such as miniature Tintin books. It's almost a mini toy museum here.

Another exhibition is The Story of Dr Sun Yat Sen (28 May 2011- June 2012) although it's a pretty small corner.  Nonetheless, you get to see his English letters describing his revolutionary work and his favourite tropical fruits.

The picture of the dragon is part of another current exhibition titled Imagine Dragons (23 January 2012- December 2012). This is due to the fact that this is the Dragon Year. This is more for children to visit (which is probably why a parent stared at me when I walked in.) The rest of the pictures are part of the permanent galleries, where you can find out about the world's first stamp, or discover the process of how stamps are birthed from their theme collection etc.

I'm not sure if I've convinced you that this is a suitable place for you to go as an adult, even if you are not an avid stamp collector. Oh, and if you enjoy trivia, I think you will enjoy this place!

Singapore Philatelic Museum
23B Coleman Street
Singapore 179807
Tel: 6 337 3888

Opening Hours
Monday: 1pm- 7pm
Tuesday- Sunday: 9am- 7pm

Admission charges
Free admission for students and senior citizens who are Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.
Adult $6
Child (3-12 years) $4

Peranakan Museum

If someone ever asked me, "What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say 'Peranakan'?" I might say, "Uh, the kuehs? Or the nonya kebaya? " Since that answer clearly sounds far too superficial, I decided to head down to the Peranakan Museum to hunt for a slightly smarter answer. 

Located in an old primary school, Tao Nan School, the construction of this building was completed in 1912. 

On the first floor, there is only one gallery, which talks about what it means to be Peranakan- the definition of Peranakan and what it means to be one. You can see the faces of many Peranakans and what kind of Peranakans they are (e.g. Peranakan Chinese, Jawi Peranakan, Chitty Melaka etc.)

On the second floor, Galleries 2-5 are about the traditions for Pernakan weddings. You get to see the rituals and the things that the bride and bridegroom's families have to give each other to prepare for the wedding. There is also the Museum's famous collection of beadwork.

On the third floor, the galleries were about being a Nonya, religion, public life, food and feasting and conversations. I was sorely disappointed to realise that there weren't any models of food in the Food and Feasting gallery. For the Religion Gallery, there is a warning on the pamphlet: "Please note that young children and sensitive persons may be disturbed by the display on death and mourning".

I really liked the idea of the stamp ever since I saw it for the first time at the Terracotta Exhibition at ACM. These stamps are scattered around the museum. Kids will be enthralled by the different motifs, such as dragon, phoenix, ang ku kueh etc. 

Admission is free for visitors age 6 and below, all Singaporean + PR residents aged 60 and above, all Singaporean and Singapore PR students, teachers and full-time NSMen. For all others, please click the link below for admission charges.

Overall, I think it was an informative visit because I finally realised the exact definition of "Peranakan". Not only that, I also learnt about some famous Peranakans in Singapore, and saw for myself the intricate beadwork by Nonyas. If you are Singaporean and caught the The Little Nyonya on Channel 8, maybe you should go down to see the real thing.

Peranakan Museum 
39 Armenian Street
Singapore 179941
Tel: +65 6336 2983, or +65 6332 3284

Opening Hours 
Monday: 1pm to 7pm
Tuesday to Sunday: 9am – 7pm (to 9 pm on Fridays)

Admission Charges
Click here