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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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tiong Bahru Lee Hong Kee

I asked a friend who stays in Tiong Bahru what the best thing to eat at the Tiong Bahru Market was. Without hesitating, he answered "Lee Hong Kee la!" The resolve of the answer coupled with the queue made it beyond doubt that I had to queue at Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted

I opted for the Char Siew and Sio Bak ($3). After having one mouth of meat and rice, my first thought was, "Did I just get conned by my friend?" It's not that it's not nice, just that I think it's overhyped. It's my fault that the roasted pork's skin is no longer crispy because I asked for the sauce. But the char siew was not as sweet as I liked it to be, and perhaps was too fatless. For some people, you may like this combination of char siew- fatless and not so sweet. 

The abundance of gravy went well with the rice and the roasted pork was quite lean as well. They also serve a special concoction of chilli sauce (not your normal chicken rice chilli sauce). 

While the portion and taste is worth $3, there's this stall in Tanjong Katong, Nan Xiang Chicken Rice, where I really like the char siew- slightly charred, slightly fatty, and coated with sweet char siew sauce.

Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted
Tiong Bahru Market
30 Seng Poh Road

National Day: Our Flag

With news of a 13-year-old girl burning the Singapore flag, and of a woman who hung a China flag over the parapet at a Hougang HDB, I think the folks at Tiong Bahru deserve a prize.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Zaffron Kitchen

When we first passed by Zaffron Kitchen, we thought it served European cuisine based on its looks. Upon closer inspection, we realised that we couldn't have been more mistaken- Indian food! 

A restaurant that exudes warmness, as you can see from the decor and lighting. Judging by their aprons, you also know that this place is unpretentious and just want their customers to be happy and full. Different wordings were spooted on their aprons such as "The Devil Wears Prata". Now, how much more witty can it get?

We first got a Chicken Chettinad ($14.50) which was spicy. My friend felt that the pepper overpowered the curry taste but I felt it was fine. It was also a perfect dip for the nann we ordered. The chicken was also cooked just right and the meat tore apart easily.

The Tandoori Malai Chicken Tikka ($14.50) had a nice grilled flavour to it. The meat inside was juicy and while I didn't try the green stuff, probably Mint Chutney, my friend took an instant liking to the pairing.

Together with the sauce for the Chicken Chetinad, I could eat Plain Nann ($3.50) forever. The outside of the skin was crispy and the inside was chewy. If only it weren't baked till some bits at the bottom were charred though. I remembered buying a packet of frozen Nann and basically lived a whole week eating Nann, with canned tomato soup, mushroom soup etc. Epitome of laziness but those were good comfort food.

I was curious what the Lachha Paratha ($4) was because it said "Special layered flatbread made with whole wheat flour". Didn't like this too much because it was gleaming with grease. So what exactly is the difference between Prata and Paratha? According to a Google Search, none! One is what it is called in Singapore and the other is what it is called in India.

Because we were still not yet full, we decided to get the Fish Masala ($15.50). Marinated in tumeric, chillies and lemon juice, then sauteed in an onion-tomato masala, it was a pretty sweet dish.

In total we spent $61.20 for two after service charge and GST. Probably a lot more than what I would like to spend on a meal, but it was good to eat Indian food. Make a reservation because the place is pretty small and gets filled up quite quickly. Also, this place is kids friendly.

Zaffron Kitchen
135/137 East Coast Road
Tel No: 6 440 6786 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Awfully Chocolate (East Coast)

Awfully Chocolate has always occupied a special place in my heart. Once upon a time, whenever we celebrated anyone's birthday in the tutorial group, someone would always drive to Awfully Chocolate and get a cake. We have tried All Chocolate ($25.80 for 6"), Chocolate Banana ($28.20 for 6") and Chocolate Rum & Cherry ($29.60 for 6"). Till today, I'm not sure whether it's because of the joyous celebrations that made me love the cakes here. 

Oh but the annoying thing is that they don't sell slices of these cakes separately. 

So, we settled with the Super Stacked Chocolate Cake ($6.50) together with single scoop of Hei Ice Cream ($3.80) as recommended by one of the servers. Layers of warm dark chocolate fudge together with dark chocolate ice cream. Wouldn't have minded a stronger chocolate flavour in the cake though.

On their website, they state that it's "perhaps the darkest chocolate ice cream around" although I'm not sure how that true is. This is precisely the kind of thing you would classify as comfort food. However, I wished for something that matched its look- If I were going to see layers, I wished I could taste all that layers too, like a kueh lapis! Not sure if it's feasible for moist cakes though.

While it may be slightly overpriced, the excellent service makes up for it. The moment we stepped into the shop, we were asked whether they could help us with anything. When we took a seat, this guy came over and recommended the above together with some other desserts we could choose if we weren't looking for chocolate desserts. It was as though he knew the menu at the back of his hand. And then, came the girl who gave us the cake who was extremely friendly as well. While the cake may be above average but not the best chocolate cake around, the service has to be one of the best I've experienced so far.

Awfully Chocolate
131 East Coast Road
Tel No: 6345 2190 

Mr Bean at Olympics

Friday, July 27, 2012

Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal

"In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes."

We were greeted by this particular interview the moment we stepped foot into the exhibition. You've got to give it to Andy Warhol who has an endearing eccentricity about him.

I found this an exhibition quite informative without being boring. You get to see the works of Andy Warhol, an American artist who was a leading figure in an art movement known as pop art. In his native city, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there is The Andy Warhol Museum which holds a permanent collection of his works.

Here are a few aspects I found interesting at the exhibition.

1) Silk screening- Campbell Soup to Marilyn Monroe 
The process of silk screening can be viewed at the free gallery. Over here, you get to see the process of silkscreening from a programme screened on the TV. The famous Campbell's Soup cans and portraits of Marilyn Monroe were among Warhol's first silkscreen productions.

Different colours make her expression appear different.

2) Time Capsule 
Whatever pre-conceived ideas you may have of how a time capsule looks like, here are Warhol's time capsules. To understand it and know what's contained in it, here's a useful article.

photo credit: warhol.org

3) Silver Clouds
Little dreamy inflated balloons over your head. These silver clouds were part of Warhol's collaboration with a scientist. The story goes that Warhol asked Billy Kluver if he could make a floating light bulb for him and they decided to use a material called Scotchpak by 3M which is apparently used by the army to wrap sandwiches. There's a photobooth here where you can take some props provided and take pictures in there but I found it a little redundant.

4) Free exhibition
There are lots of things that I haven't mentioned, but in any case, I think I should mention that you should visit the free exhibition on the other floor as well! It's more child-friendly (and for the child in all of us) because there are activities like making your own Warhol's glasses!

If you are bringing along a child, the free gallery might actually suit your needs better because it's more contained and has some activities to occupy your children. However, if your interest is piqued as to what exactly Warhol has done, go for the exhibition! Click here for the admission rates.

Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal 
17 March 2012 to 21 October 2012
Art Science Museum
10 Bayfront Avenue
Tel: +65 6688 8826

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh is a place I pass by pretty often, but never entered. Finally, I got to try this award-winning bak kut teh. There are two shops along the same road but we chose the one nearer the junction because it seemed like there were more seats. Lunch crowd can be quite a horror but there was either no wait or a very short wait because of the efficient staff. 

Set up since 1969, the shop is currently under the helm of the founder's son. You can see the chefs at work and there's a old feel about it, which doesn't feel out of place in the row of shophouses.

Here's the star of the show. You can choose either the small Pork Ribs Soup ($6.50) or the large one ($8). We were feeling kind of poor so we asked the server whether the large one was enough for two to share. She replied that there were about 4-5 pork ribs in the soup. 

The meat was tender and the soup was suitably peppery. However, unless you need to scrimp and save, maybe get the single portion and eat 3 pieces of pork ribs on your own. Since the meat was quite little, it wasn't satisfying to eat just two pieces (we were sharing a large bowl). But by all means, drink the soup- it's very good! Free refill of soup as well. 

We also ordered a small plate of Xiao Bai Cai in Oyster Sauce ($3.50).

For two people, we spent around $14.60 including one drink. Worth it? Depends. The bak kut teh is good but the price of it is slightly on the high side. Service was very efficient and food came very quickly. Unlike some establishments which have rude servers shouting at you during rush hours, this certainly didn't happen here.

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh 
11 New Bridge Road #01-01
Tel No: 6533 6128
(Closed on Monday)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Manhattan Fish Market (The Central)

One of the things my friend must eat whenever he comes back to Singapore is Manhattan Fish Market. Because it's good, filling and cheap (at least cheaper than Fish & Co). But upon checking Fish & Co's website, I realised that their pricing is more competitive than in the past. Maybe I should give it a try some other time.

MFM is having some kind of promotion for groups of 2 and 4, where you pay the same amount for a flaming platter but get a free salad and soup. It didn't apply to us because we used the Groupon. 

We bought the Groupon ($20 for $40) because we knew we weren't going to fork out money without a Groupon to try the Manhattan Flaming Seafood Platter ($35.90). Yes, it's that dish that gathers stares everytime it's served because of the aromatic grilled smell and just because, it looks pretty dramatic.

The Garlic Herb rice actually tasted somewhat like Hainanese Chicken Rice which should come as no surprise given that lots of garlic is added into chicken rice. The herb taste didn't stand out. It was also not warm when served. The four Flaming Prawns were coated with mayo and while the flaming process was interesting, had nothing special about it, except maybe the BBQ taste. The grilled fish was good, and the calamari was decent. Pity the amount of vegetables were quite sad- Two broccolis and carrot for each person. 

The food is decent but I definitely wouldn't pay $18++ (the total bill came to $42.24 for 2 people without a Groupon) per person for this. The guy who served us was friendly, although it took many mega waves before we attracted their attention for the menus. Water was also not refilled throughout the meal.

The Manhattan Fish Market (The Central)
The Central @ Clarke Quay
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
Te Nol: +65 6534 7903

Monday, July 23, 2012

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

I was in primary school when I picked up my first Harry Potter book. That coincided with the first time I visited Borders, which is sadly now closed for good. More than a decade since my first Harry Potter book, I was excited when I heard that Harry Potter: The Exhibition was coming to Singapore.

Summing the exhibition up in one sentence: Watching a book or watching a movie is better than looking at inanimate objects. 


Before entering the exhibition, you have to line up to take a picture with a scarf on, and you may choose to purchase the photographs later on at the souvenir shop.

As usual, photographs and videos are strictly prohibited, so the next few images are taken off their website.

It started off, looking promising, where a very articulate girl invited people to try the sorting hat. She also asked the volunteer what he/she wanted to be sorted into. Honestly, will anybody say anything other than Gryffindor? After this, you get guided into a room with multiple screens and watch several excerpts of the Harry Potter movies. The curtain rises and you will end up at the main exhibition.

The more interesting things in the museum were probably the Baby Mandrakes and the Quidditch section. Here, you can uproot the mandrakes and they will start screaming. Another is the Quidditch section where you throw the Quaffles into hoops. Being the extreme sports-idiot that I am, I was dwarfed in skills by the 5-year-old-looking kid next to me. 
Courtesy of Warner Bros

Other stuff included the costumes and sets used on the movie. One example is that of Hagrid's Hut where you can sit on his big chair but that's about it.

Courtesy of Warner Bros

The general feel I got from this exhibition is that it is very flat, in the sense that it lacks motion. Compared to the Titanic exhibition, I spent considerably lesser time here. Also, the exhibition sorely lacks information (e.g. trivia that Harry Potter fans will be interested in). The souvenir shop was interesting, but overpriced.

Click here for the ticket prices. We wanted to pay $24 for the all-access pass which comprised of a ticket to both the Harry Potter Exhibition and 15 Minutes Eternal at the ticketing counter. Strange enough, we got directed to the Coke counter where we were told that if we bought 6 cans of coke ($4 each), we would get a free access-pass to the exhibitions. I'm not sure when the promotion lasts till though.

If you are having two minds of whether to go for the exhibition, the following video might help you. It's precisely what you will see in the exhibition! 4 minutes of video time and you can decide whether to go for the exhibition!

If you really want to catch the Harry Potter exhibition, just pay $4 more to get access to Andy Warhol's exhibition because we actually felt that it was more worth it this way!

Harry Potter: The Exhibition
2 June to 30 September 2012
Art Science Museum 
10 Bayfront Avenue 
Tel: +65 6688 8826

Ice Edge Cafe (Kovan)

Whenever I think of waffles and ice cream, I think of Gelare. Where else would they have such thick waffles and yummy ice cream? Seems like I have found a worthy contender.

You might have thought they serve only desserts at Ice Edge Cafe. Far from that, they serve main dishes such as pasta, pizza and other Western food. Currently, they have a 1 for 1 Lunch Treats on weekdays, from 12 pm to 3 pm.

We went there at 1030 pm and it was still bustling with people, from youngsters to a old grandma. From the gleeful look of the grandma, you can tell that this place indeed has some special edge to it. We ordered a Waffle with three scoops of ice cream ($17). The flavours we tried were Green AppleBelgium Dark Chocolate and Mao Shan Wang. Amongst them, Belgium Dark Chocolate and Mao Shan Wang are amongst the top five popular ice cream flavours.

The Mao Shan Wang was choke full of durian goodness and not too sweet. The Belgium Dark Chocolate was also very rich and chocolatey. Everybody liked these two flavours. As for the apple, some found it too sour, so it really depends on whether you like sour ice cream!

Sure, there are other places that serve equally good ice cream at lower prices. But if you are looking for Western food and desserts all under one roof at along the North-East line, maybe this is for you! (Disclaimer: I haven't tried their main dishes.)

Ice Edge Cafe 
Simon Plaza
2 Kovan Road
Tel No: 6 858 5729 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Free admission to NHB Museums in August

Ever wanted to go to a museum, but didn't want to part with a few dollars? August is the month you can have your cake and eat it too.

For the whole month of August, admission to the permanent galleries and selected exhibitions at the NHB museums will be free for Singaporeans and PRs. On National Day (9 August 2012) and Hari Raya Puasa (19 August 2012), all visitors will enjoy free admission to all exhibitions and galleries.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

National Day: National Day Roadshow (Marina Square)

National Day is approaching and it's always been one my favourite events in the year- the fireworks display which can be caught from different parts of the island, the many activities that are being held to celebrate this occasion, and generally, Singaporeans from all walks of life coming together to celebrate our nation's birthday.

One of the more interesting activities I encountered was at Marina Square. If you want to be part of the efforts in celebrating the nation's birthday, if you like playing with lego and if you want to do something good for needy children, you need to get down to Marina Square by 22 July!

The "Building a LovingSG" structure will span an area of 12 by 9 metres, about the size of a volleyball court.

For donating as little as $5, you can customise your own LEGO mini figures. One will be placed on the seating gallery on the platform, while the other is for you to keep! You can choose the body, the colour of the pants, the headgear, and even the expression on the face! And then, as one parent commented to her daughter, "It's free seating!" Put your lego figure anywhere on the platform as you please. The picture below is the two lego mini figures we made. (For posing purposes only, we subsequently brought them to the platform.)

Not only will you enjoy making the Lego mini figures (no one said that lego is only for children), all proceeds will go to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund which provides resources for children in schools.

After you are done customising your mini figures, taking pictures of them and putting them on the platform, you can also walk around the photo exhibition next to it by Nikon. It shows the different sides of Singapore and while it's a mini exhibition, displays many heartwarming and well-taken photographs. After that, you can also pen some well wishes for Singapore.

The roadshow is only until 22 July (9 pm) at Marina Square, so go there if you can afford the time! 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Gardens by the Bay (Cloud Forest)

Occupying 101 hectares, Gardens by the Bay is part of the Government's efforts in transforming Singapore from a "Garden City" to a "City in a Garden". 

At 745 pm or 845 pm every night, you will be able to catch the OCBC Garden Rhapsody. Suffice to say, my friend cannot stand the sight of these trees of up to 16 stories in height because he insists that they are ugly structures. I don't find them as much an eyesore, but as they say, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. That said, it's amazing how more than 200 species of plants can be found on the Supertrees. 

Supertree Grove
The main focus of this post is the Cloud Forest. Although it was economically more sensible for us to get a ticket for both conservatories, both of us were glad that we didn't because we would not have had enough time to tour the other conservatory as last admission was at 830 pm.

This is one of the first attractions that will captivate you when you enter the cloud forest. The Waterfall is the tallest indoor waterfall- yet another attempt by Singapore to use a superlative! It's rather impressive, although be careful that the floor might be slightly slippery!

I haven't gone to the Cloud Forest in the morning/afternoon but my suspicion is that I might have preferred going when there's light penetrating the dome. At night, you can't really see the little boards with the plant names and many vegetation are just hiding in the dark. 

Of course, this is to be expected because this is supposed to be a night experience and I can't expect it to be fully lit. Nonetheless, I think the best solution would be to go there around 6 pm so that you can witness the Cloud Forest both when there's daylight and when night falls. 

There are seven levels in the Cloud Forest and you can take the lift, escalator or the walkways to visit each level. This is the Crystal Mountain where there are various explanations on how crystals are formed and the places you can spot different kinds of crystals/minerals.

This is the Secret Garden, so enigmatic, as though waiting for stories to unfold. 

Honestly, the Earth Check was quite anti-climatic. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for conserving resources and protecting the environment. But my logic is that if someone doesn't care about protecting the environment, putting this extra exhibit wouldn't make him switch that air con off when he's not in the room. Nonetheless, for parents or teachers seeking opportunities to educate our future generation, the various screens will capture the attention of the young ones.

This conservatory took us around 1.5h but I think it's deserving of more attention. I'll definitely be back to visit the other conservatory and to visit the rest of the Gardens. This place is beautiful, but as I remarked to my friend, it lacks the rustic, old colonial charm that Singapore Botanic Gardens possesses. In any case, our manmade parks, no matter how beautiful they may be, will never measure to the raw beauty of natural habitats of flora and fauna. But I'm not neglecting the fact that we should be grateful that we can enjoy so many green spaces in our concrete jungle. 

That said, here are the admission rates, which are also available on the website.

18 Marina Gardens Drive 
Singapore 018953 
Tel No: 6420 6848 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Return to a Sexy Island

I first met Neil Humphreys in person at my junior college quite a few years ago. Sadly, I can't remember what he was there for because I don't think it was purely a book signing session. As I had lessons, I asked my friend to help me get his signature in my book. He wrote, "Dear (my name), you have a great friend!" Typically him.

I have read every single book of his relating to Singapore and it was purely by chance that I bought his newest book when I was browsing in Kinokuniya. I was actually pretty sad when he left Singapore for Australia 5 years ago because I enjoyed reading his columns in ST. (Now, John Lui is my favourite columnist in ST because his articles are hilarious.)

If you cannot entertain the thought of profanities staring at you or suggestive material peppered throughout the book, Return to a Sexy Island is not the book for you. But if you have the ability to look past that, I think it's a great book for Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans alike. He does a pretty good tour of places in Singapore you wouldn't have seen on the map five years ago and the funny incidents that happen because he is an angmoh. Admittedly, I think his previous books were slightly more entertaining but this does not remove the shine of this book in any significant way.

On a more serious note, I think his stories over the years, starting from his shift to Singapore to his shift to Australia and back to Singapore again, are really fascinating. They speak volumes about a foreigner who manages to assimilate himself well into the society, someone who appreciates a country which prides itself on her people and lastly, someone who doesn't complain "Eh Singapore got nothing to do lah. Only watch movie and shop."

For fear of sounding like National Education, I'm going to quote his book anyway because I think many of us can identify with it. (Disclaimer: This is not representative of the style of his book which has lots of humourous anecdotes.) But here's it:
Australia is known affectionately as the "lucky country", but there is nothing lucky about Singapore, nothing at all. Its success derives wholly from human endeavour, resoucefulness, productivity and knowledge with an overwhelming, almost disturbing, emphasis on education and filial piety." 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jumbo Seafood (Indoor Stadium)

You can never go too wrong with seafood, especially if you have slogged it out and competed at the East Coast stretch for more than 10 years. All the discerning tastebuds will ensure that only quality seafood is served at East Coast by eliminating those that do not deserve a spot there.

With its first restaurant established in 1987 at East Coast Seafood Centre, Jumbo now has 6 restaurants. We have tried most of the longstanding seafood restaurants in East Coast, and decided to go to the one at Indoor Stadium.

The Donut with Seafood Paste ($12) was different from the you tiao with seafood paste that we always order. Firstly, this is considerably bigger. Secondly, the accompanying dip is a sweet peanut prawn paste which basically tastes like rojak sauce. This is as opposed to the mayonnaise that normally comes with the you tiao.

We should have ordered 300g instead of 500g of Prawns ($30) because the prawns were huge. Very juicy and fresh. (Allergy alert!) 

This was the Fei Cui Tofu ($21) which had heaps of different mushrooms on it. The tofu (not reflected in the picture) had a layer of mashed vegetables on it and this was probably the healthiest dish we had during the meal.

We also had Broccoli with Scallop ($33). I felt that the broccoli was rather crunchy but another found that it was too hard.

The star of the show has to be the crabs. Who goes to a seafood restaurant in Singapore without ordering crabs? The Chilli Crab ($52) was spicy and had a lot of meat. We ordered some Deep Fried Mini Buns ($7 for 14) to mop up the chilli goodness.

The Black Pepper Crab ($46.80) paled a little in comparison to the chilli crab. The buttery taste was overwhelming and killed the peppery taste. The crab was not evenly coated with the black pepper which resulted in half the table saying that it was super peppery (and coughing in between) while the other half proclaiming that the chilli crab was much more cough worthy.

Together with some Ee-Fu Noodles ($15), the bill came up to $259 for seven people. By then, we were stuffed to the brim. Service was okay, although I didn't like the fact that our plates weren't regularly changed. It's typical for plates to be changed in between a few dishes but strange enough, our plates were changed only at the last dish.

Jumbo Seafood 
Various locations
Singapore Indoor Stadium
No. 2 Stadium Walk
Tel No: 6 440 3435

Monday, July 16, 2012


Robolots is situated at a place (Katong Junction) where, if you didn't consciously try to find it, you probably wouldn't find it. Selling cool bicycles and adorned with cute little robots figurines, this place is one of its kind. 

We bought a Groupon ($15 for $30) and decided to have dinner here. You can check out their website for the menu. 

Smokin' Hot Duck ($12.90) consists of smoked duck breast with Thai sweet chilli sauce. All light crepes also come with whipped potato and a small serving of yellow corn chips. One portion of crepe is probably not enough to constitute a meal. The crepe is thicker than normal but it has a smooth and chewy consistency to it. The Thai sweet chilli sauce also went well with the duck, pity the duck was a little tough.

We also ordered the Chocoholurveee It ($9.90) which contains Chocolate Cointreau gelato and chocolate chip fillings. The chocolate gelato was good but that's about it. Maybe try those desserts which are recommended in the menu!

If you enjoy thicker crepes and don't mind smaller portions, or if you want to have a nice gathering, you can consider this place! Keep a lookout for their promotions because they seem to be having quite a few recently!

Robolots La Creperie & Bar 
Katong Junction
451 Joo Chiat Road
Tel No.: 6 345 0080