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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

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 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ju Shin Jung

I seldom venture to this part of Singapore. Located opposite Haw Par Villa, this is a good place for people to drop by to satisfy their hunger pangs. (Speaking of which, Haw Par Villa remains one of the tourist attractions that makes me think, help, I can't unsee what I just saw!)

Upon entering the shop, you get greeted by friendly Korean staff. 

First up, lettuce for you to wrap the meat in.

The banchan came out in a steady flow, till there was no space for anything else on our tables. Seaweed soup, marinated squid, kimchi, toufu, pumpkin soup etc.

We went for the Unlimited BBQ ($29++ for lunch) where you could order pork belly, pork collar, marinated pork, marinated chicken and fresh tiger prawns. Each plate of meat came with two button mushrooms. We ordered a plate of everything.

There would be a waiter who would help barbeque the food while you enjoy your meal in peace, without worrying that the food will be charred etc. My favourite of the lot was the marinated chicken so we ordered another portion. The meats were grilled just right so that they didn't become dry. The prawns weren't that fresh but not so unfresh that you would get a stomach upset. The provision of cold barley tea also felt like it eased in digestion.

The price of the unlimited BBQ also includes one of the following: Fried Saba Fish, Clear Beef Rib Soup, Spicy Soft Tofu, Hot Stone Bowl Rice and Soya Bean Paste Soup. We got the Hot Stone Bowl Rice because it felt like the meal wouldn't be complete without rice. As usual, loaded to the brim with lots of vegetables and we mixed it with the gochujang.

I wouldn't go out of the way just to go to this restaurant because this food was really just okay. Service was good.

Ju Shin Jung
27 West Coast Highway
Tel No: 6 464 0872 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Diamond Kitchen

If I had a list for best food I had this year (which I don't), this restaurant would definitely make it into the list. 

Located at a condominium in the East, the last time I came to this condominium was more than a decade ago when I attended my primary school friend's birthday party.

We basically ordered everything from their specialties list.

We got the Three Eggs Chinese Spinach ($18) which contained egg whites, salted egg and century egg. Speaking of century eggs, I recently read this article which talks about how toxic chemicals are used to hasten the egg-festering process. My philosophy in life is that everything should be in moderation- as long as I don't eat century eggs on a regular basis, I guess the article isn't going to stop me from enjoying this occasionally! The use of wolfberries was clever- look at how much colour it adds to this dish!

We also got a Pumpkin Bean Curd ($18) which was bean curd covered with a generous serving of pumpkin sauce. It's supposed to come with pieces of prawn, crab meat and scallop but the taste of the seafood got masked by the stronger flavours of the pumpkin sauce.

We also tried the Champagne Pork Ribs ($18) which was very tender and the sauce was delicious.

This was really a highlight- the Superior Stock Clam Beehoon ($24). The stock was rich with clam juice with a medley of other flavours I couldn't really identify. So complex and satisfying at the same time.

If you don't know what it means to have an addiction, these Salted Egg Sotong ($12) will patiently explain to you while you undergo cold turkey, trying to stop your hands from inching the chopsticks nearer and nearer... Give up.

I am not a fan of salted egg but this just went perfectly well with the sotong. It was crisp, not oily and salted egg didn't overpower the sotong.

The Gan Xiang Fried Rice ($12) was also something special I have never tried. For those who can't take spice, I suggest you don't try this. It's very fragrant and tastes like fried curry rice. Needless to say, this was a well-executed plate of fried rice where every rice grain was distinct.

Reservations is a must here. One day in advance may not be sufficient- try one week. Service can be a little slow- people have said that the service is bad. What we have experienced is that they may be slow but they are not rude. Worth a go!

Diamond Kitchen
Laguna Park Condominium
5000F Marine Parade Road
Tel No: 6 4480629 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King Four Seasons

Of all the Ramen Keisuke stalls, I like this the best. 

The decor in the eatery highlighted what else, but the four seasons.

The usual accompaniment- the beansprouts I can never get enough of.

I ordered Autumn ($12.90) because I simply can't resist mushrooms. Look at the bowl with autumn leaves! The little minced mushrooms were a delight to savour- the mushroom goodness that bursts with every bite. Needless to say, the eggs were done perfectly- slightly runny and flavourful. If not for concerns about salt intake, I would have slurped this bowl of robustly flavoured soup down!

Friendly service, food was served quickly. The queues can be pretty long though- be prepared to wait!

Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King Four Seasons 
Bugis Village
158 Rochor Road
Tel No: 6 333 5740

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Makan Dulu

Makan Dulu means "eat first" in Malay. Previously known as Lee's Kitchen, it's now known as Makan Dulu because customers thought this was a zichar place when it was named Lee's Kitchen. 

Located at Katong Shopping Centre, it is a  real pity that this place isn't getting the crowd it deserves.

I strongly recommend getting a Lee's Charcoal Fish. The half fish ($16.80) had a crispy skin infused with a sweet sauce. This coupled with the smoky taste of the charcoal fish was a clear winner.

The Tahu Goreng ($5.60) was average with a homely peanut sauce.

This was another must order. Because we had tried the Charcoal Fish, we decided not to go for the Charcoal Grilled Chicken but ordered the Ayam Bumbu ($5.90) instead. This was essentially curry chicken with a very smooth curry base. The waiter informed us that the coconut milk is extracted fresh daily. The chicken was also very tender.

All of the above dishes were good on their own- but when paired with this rice, it just makes you think of how good and simple life can be sometimes. We ordered rice and they came with two of these little buckets- one was filled with coconut rice and the other with plain rice. We tried both and of course swept the coconut rice clean. Fragrant and not oily- this was perfect with the dishes. 

I didn't try the chendol but my mum who tried it said that it was rather average.

Service here was friendly and helpful. They are familiar with the menu and make good recommendations. An enjoyable lunch here!

Makan Dulu 
Katong Shopping Centre
865 Mountbatten Road
Tel No: 6 534 1602