Well Christmas came and gone, I hope all my friends and fellow AnD'ers had a lovely festive holiday with their family and loved ones!!
I have been pretty busy with the run up to Christmas, so this blog is a little later than expected. Since I have been doing some drama teaching at various schools around Hong Kong, having to deal with up to 30 to 50 students (who's first language is not English) can be pretty taxing work at times. So the Christmas holiday was much welcomed, and I took the opportunity to jump at a bargain 4 days get away to Singapore from 19th till 22nd December! As this was my first trip in Asia, outside of Hong Kong and China, I thought I'd share with you all my (not so exciting) adventure...!
I had very little knowledge of Singapore prior to my departure. Many people had told me it is actually much like Hong Kong, except it's cleaner and just as expensive.... And there isn't much to do there....! My idea of the holiday was just to get out of Hong Kong for a little while to relax and de-stress, and also to take in other parts of Asia while I'm at it. Flights and accommodation to Singapore just so happened to meet my needs and budget when I made the booking 12 days before my departure, so I was pretty excited regardless what was to be in store in the country....]
NOTE: This picture of the exterior of the hotel I stayed at,
Amrise Hotel was taken on a nicer day during my stay. Upon arrive to Singapore, what was supposed to be an afternoon of light shower turned into a constant day and night of downpour rain...!!!
The hotel room I stayed at was by no means anything special. It was small and certainly wasn't the most cleanliest, but it had a private bathroom with shower and toilet. It did the job anyway, as I never intended to be holed up in the room too often, but instead I'd be out and about most days and just needed a place to crash and sleep at the end of the night. So that was fine with me. And for a country that is known to be notorious for accommodation rates, the price I paid for 3 nights at this place I certainly couldn't complain about (I did say it was a budget holiday after all....
Funny thing was, the hotel was situated in the Geylang area. As mentioned, I had little knowledge of Singapore, let alone it's different districts such as Geylang. All I knew was the hotel is just outside of the city and near the East Coast - that would do me fine as accommodation outside the city is cheaper and it's convenient enough to travel around from where I'm based. Little did I know, it turns out Geylang is recognized as the
"Red Light District"
of Singapore and the hotel I was staying at was just around the corner from the populated area where the
"ladies of the night"prowl the streets...!!!
It was little wonder why my Singaporean and Malaysian friends sneaked a cheeky smile or raised an eyebrow when they learnt I was staying in the Geylang area, when I honestly had no clue of it's reputation! Despite witnessing the occasional
tradeor what seemed like
business negotiations going on few nights while I was making my way back to my hotel, I fortunately (some would probably consider, unfortunately though...?
) didn't really come across anything dodgy or seedy myself for the duration of my stay....
Singapore is really easy and convenient to get around. Dirt cheap too, especially for those who possess a ez-link card (very similar to Hong Kong's Octopus and London's Oyster card) which covers your journey on public transport such as the MRT train, and bus services, etc.
Eating out is surprisingly really cheap also, and not at all expensive as I was informed or people made out it to be (it probably is still considerable more expensive than it's neighboring Eastern Asia countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, etc.). Much of my adventures in Singapore consisted of hunting down some of the restaurants/food malls/hawkers that features
"the best"of the various kinds of food you can find in Singaporerecommended to me by a friend! You shall learn more of the spots as we progress through my Singapore journey day by day....
Although I did have a camera in my possession on this holiday, it came to no use on the first day particularly while I was outdoors.... Because I already had my hands full constantly carrying an umbrella and occasionally a map/MRT journey planner!!! To get away from the rain, I did stop off a local diner nearby the hotel which claims to be famous for it's roast chicken and roast duck.....
So I opted for the
Roast Duck noodles to kick off my Singapore food adventure....
It sure was tasty (although the duck was covered in a bit more sauce than I would usually like), and for it's portion at the fraction of the price I would be paying back in Hong Kong certainly didn't disappoint at all!
The afternoon was spent roaming through the famed Orchard Road, which is the popular shopping area in Singapore(much like Oxford Street of London). Again, due to the horrendous weather, much of the time was spending hiding from the rain and wandering the malls.
Towards the evening, I opted to venture to Little India in search for this restaurant,
Bismillah Biryani on Dunlop Street which boldly claims (on a massive sign displayed outside the restaurant!) to have
"the BEST Biryani in town!" I trekked through the miserable rain and got drenched in puddles to get to this place, and upon arriving I was asked directly "Mutton or chicken?"
Since I don't eat lamb, my obvious choice was chicken. I was a little surprise there was no menu or list of options on display. "So I guess I will be having the chicken Biryani." I later learnt the restaurant, as it's name suggests, serves their signature Biryani dishes only. I mean, why else would someone go there, right....?
on't be fooled by the appearance. One thing I discovered
when dining in Singapore, a lot of the time the presentation leaves a little to be desired. After all, people usually like to appreciate and admire their food before they get stuck in, right? (Cue many Hong Kong people flashing their mobile cameras and iPhones over their dinner for 5-10 minutes before it can be served!!
) But where the presentation and appearance may be lacking, the taste certainly doesn't miss a beat. All the food I have had the pleasure to sample in the country really hits the spot, and this Chicken Biryani was no exception. Underneath the rice laid a succulent whole piece of chicken breast and drumstick, along with the spices and light creamy yogurt as a sauce dip, it may well have been the best Biryani I have had....!
After dinner, I traveled to Suntec City - another popular high end shopping mall frequent by tourists and the locals.
A popular attraction at Suntec City is the Fountain of Wealth, which is located on the lower ground floor at the heart between all the mall towers.
It was quite an impressive display, and I was fortunate to catch one of the light shows that was happening on the night (apparently it is only shown on certain nights of the week).
I wrapped up the night with a bit of Starbucks fix before making my way back to the hotel.
For those that do enjoy Starbucks, I am sure the majority do find it an universal comfort spot and no matter where you go (which branch? what
country you're in? etc.) it always in someway reminds you of home....
So nothing like a cup of hot Chai Tea Latte and a
hot caramel and chocolate panna cotta
- my most expensive purchase on the day! - to brighten up a raining night....
I kicked off the morning hunting for some brunch (yeah, I slept in for a bit longer than usual - I am on my holidays after all....
) at this restaurant in the Geylang/East Coast region called
328 Katong Laksa. This little hawker (outdoor diner) supposedly does the best and most authentic
Laksa (popular Malaysian/Singapore dish, noodles in a spicy coconut soup base with shrimps and various seafood or sometime chicken pieces). I swear, people can either read my mind or they simple believe their signature dishes are that good - there surely isn't any reason why people wanna eat anything else but that dish!!! Once I sat myself down, a waiter with broken Singlish approaches me and says, "Laksa. Medium, or large?" I mean, it was what I was after, but is there no offer of a menu or a drink....?
Only regret I had here with this dish was not ordering a large portion....!
Considering the weather was an improvement to the day before (although it still threatened with the occasional shower) I spent the early afternoon strolling through (a section of)
East Coast Park.
East Coast Park is the largest park in Singapore, and it possesses a white sand beach and has various water sport activities, BBQ spots, camping areas, etc. available to it's visitors.
The sign proudly states,
"Singapore's First Cable Ski Park!"
East Coast Park is divided into a number of sections. I didn't get to walk the whole of the park (it is quite big.....!), instead I took in the whole of Area E and certain parts of D. I might have been missing something, but the beach sand didn't look so white to me..... Hmmm.....
All the walking calls for a bit of refreshment.....
A nice fresh young coconut..... Ahhh.....
Next stop off was to Chinatown. It reminded me much of the many Chinatown I've been to in other big cities, such as London, Liverpool, Toronto, etc. They have various stalls set up all along the stretch of the streets and smaller lanes, their owners barking across to one another and to the tourists/customers trying to off their own goods at the best deal they could offer!!
It was actually quite a crazy busy day when I got there, so much I couldn't even muster the opportunity to capture this hectic street!
What I did get to capture right down the end of Pogoda Street was the impressive monument above the entrance to the
Sri Mariamman Temple.
Sri Mariamman Templeis the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, and is filled with many fascinating and intricate statuettes.
Not long after
this photo was taken, once again it began to rain heavily. Considering I was feeling peckish and was in Chinatown, I suddenly craved to sample some of the
dim sum in Singapore.... I decided to take shelter from the rain in what obviously looked to be one of the more
"touristy traps" kind of a Chinese restaurant.... Anyhow, I was a tourist, I was hungry, and I was after some dim sum.... So there I was....
Chilli Crabis a famed signature dish in Singapore, but I wasn't too hot on trying it because it simply looked so messy to eat. So I decided to sample it in more of a bite size ready-to-eat form with
Chilli Crab dumplings(plate above).
I also had some servings of veggie fried dumplings. I must admit the
Chilli Crab dumplingswere pretty tasty, but it didn't entice me to try an actual Chilli Crab.... Perhaps unless it came with the meat alreadyprepared out of it's shell in edible chucks for me.... Now we're talking.... Hehe....
Every dim sum restaurant I go, I have to sample their
Har Gow(above right). I also ordered a portion of
Scallop and Prawn dumplings (left). I was a bit disappointed with the texture of the rice pastry on both these dim sum, as it seemed slightly over-cooked/steamed and fell apart far too easy even with the slightest touch of the chopsticks. The fillings though was pretty nice, although the tiny scallops were bit of a joke and certainly wasn't worth it's menu price.
After a bit more wandering around Chinatown, I made my way back to the hotel in Geylang. I thought I'd treat myself to a Thai massage at one of the better looking parlors in the local area. I admit I was a little apprehensive at first, especially with the reputation the area has I was fearing the parlor was a cover operation for some alternative kind of
"massage".... And in a place called
Ceasar Palace, you never quite know what might they have in store....
Thankfully it was certainly a legitimate set up and I enjoyed a wonderful 65 minutes oil-based Thai massage session. For the most part, it was just about right and was nice and relaxing, with the exception when the lady was piling pressure and hammering out a few knots I had on my shoulders and just above the collar bone...!
I assure you, after such a session I slept real soundly that night....
Post-massage, I had already worked up quite an appetite. For the evenings dinner, I went in search for the Dhoby Ghaut branch of this popular franchise buffet restaurant,
Sakura. As I arrived at the restaurant rather late at 8:45pm (after spending a good half hour lost looking for the place!) and the restaurant closes at 10:00pm, I wasted no time and got stuck in plate after plate....!
Do excuse the photo, but it is suppose to be plates of
Teriyaki Salmon. I had not brought my camera with me, and my Samsung S8000 Jet mobile was acting up and basically does not cope well with taking pictures in the dark. I missed (or had not bothered with) the 3 more plates of entrees that followed in the evening....
NOTE: Yes, I may well be the only artist in Hong Kong that does not possess an iPhone or a fancy Android phone....
I can always make room for some sushi and sashimi....
Not too mention a bit of naughty stuff to top it all off....! (The
Lychee White Chocolate Roll, furthest in picture with white outer layer,
was particularly delicious!)
As far as buffet dinner goes, I certainly have had better than that of
Sukara. Considering the time I got there late in the evening, I probably didn't have the best or freshest of selection. But what they did have on offer certainly hit the spot, and I left the place with my belly full and content.
Fact: It seems the higher end the restaurants and the more I pay to dine in Singapore, the taste simply does not compare to the more delicious and authentic food and flavours that I find at the street diners, food malls, and hawkers etc.!!
Since I was in the neighbourhood I decided to walk off the few extra pounds I must have put on post-dinner by strolling through the busy streets of Orchard Road. I have heard Singapore can go a bit Christmas frenzy this time of the year, and they certainly didn't hold back when it came to Christmas lights and display along their most popular shopping district! Orchard Road at night has possibly one of the most stunning Christmas themed decorations and lights I have ever seen in any city. Unfortunately I wasn't armed with a proper camera, so I had to make do with some dodgy looking photos taken with my (non-iPhone or Android) camera phone.
I was in such awe of the place I had promised to myself I must visit Orchard Road again at night armed with a proper camera! Anyone who is a fan of Christmas would quite truly think they are in heaven here!
But like all good night must end with one thing....
My regular (holiday) Starbucks fix...!
I'm not usually a coffee drinker, but since it's Christmas and I am on holiday I thought I'd sample the
Cranberry White Chocolate Mocha, which was pretty nice despite a tad sweeter than I would have liked.
Thai massage + big buffet dinner + Starbucks = Good nights sleep!
After the previous night's feast, I thought I'd kick start my morning with something relatively light. I initially was in search for a local cafe that would serve Singapore's
kaya (a jam-like spread made from egg and coconut served on toast), because I was intrigued to try it out. Unfortunately I didn't have much joy, so I settled for a local Chinese breakfast stall in the area for some cheap and cheerful
Chicken congee (rice porridge).
I was pretty impressed the chicken served in this congee was freshly cut from a nice chunky piece of breast in front of you, as apposed to the server/chef just grabbing and throwing in a handful of pre-cuttacky, stringy bits of chicken which I've been so familiar with from other diners/congee houses from elsewhere in Hong Kong and UK, etc.
The agenda for this Wednesday morning was a visit to the
Botanic Gardens towards the west side of the city.
Despite it being relatively busy most times, the
Botanic Gardens still makes a nice and peacefulget away from the hustle
and bustle of the city.
Various Christmas trees decorated and donated to the park from different organisations and embassies.
Evolution Garden attraction within the
Shaws Foundation SymphonyStagein the
Had some real trouble trying to fit the whole of this old historical, gigantic mother-trucker of a tree on camera!!!
Still early in the afternoon, I headed south of the west side to the
Haw Par Villa.
Haw Par Villais a park that contains over a thousand fascinating statues of characters and stories from Chinese folklore, myths and legends.
Many people's favourite and loveable,
The Laughing Bhudda.
The ever wise
The Three Star Gods -
Fuk, Luk, Sau (Wealth, Prosperity, and Longevity).
An animal marching band...!!!
Things never seem to have been easy for
King Kong, even as a child. Here it looks like the poor beast is experiencing neglect and isolation from his fellow brethen...!
One of the most popular attraction features in
Haw Par Villa would be the
Ten Courts of Hell. It depicts the horrendous trails and tribulation that sinners goes through when their time on earth is done, where they will endure the endless pain and suffering....
Each court supposedly has it's own punishment to fit the level of crime committed.
You'll think twice 'bout not giving up your seat for that old lady on the bus...!
Most fascinating, but enough of the torture and gruesomeness..... I'm hungry...!!!
Haw Par Villa to locate another restaurant nearby recommended by my friend called
Shop on Clementi Road. This places supposedly serves the best
Murtabak (a pancake like bread stuffed with meat and cheese filling, and served with a curry sauce dip).
I've had other food before that were quite similar in taste and appearance. This would probably be the first
MurtabakI have had (I went of the chicken and cheese option) and it truly was delicious.
After lunch, I traveled and did more walking along the Raffles area in the centre of the city. The place appears to be a high end financial district with endless towers of commercial and financial buildings. There wasn't anything of particular interest I could find in the area, but what with all the walking I did require another pick-me-up....
Frozen mango yoghurt with cranberries and mixed seeds.... Just what I needed....
Wow, it's been like almost two years since I've had one of these
Boost chocolate bars. Not necessarily my favourite of all chocolates, but still taste as good as I remember them to be.
After a little rest and quick freshen up back at the hotel, I was on the road again early evening. I hit Chinatown once more, this time to hunt down the popular
Maxwell Food Centre where it is said the stall that serves the best
Hainanese Chicken Rice in Singapore,
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is located.
Probably because of it's reputation, the dish in
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice costs considerable more so than from other stalls that serve the same. Even at the price though, it is a lot cheaper than dining at the likes of
Cafe de Coral, and most certainly taste a lot better and really was one of the best Hainanese Chicken Rice dish I have
I said I wasn't gonna leave without getting more snaps of Christmas on Orchard Road....
I didn't get to count or take pictures of every single one, but there had to have been over 20 odd specifically designed Christmas trees
all along this busy stretch of a street!
The Ferrero Rocher
as tree, similar if not the same as the one found by
iSquare in TST, Hong Kong.
With an early dinner and another eventful evening stroll done and dusted, a bit of supper was on the cards....
I'm quite a fan of noodles so I was intrigued to try this Malay dish called
Mee Soto (thick egg noodles in a clear chicken broth, served with shredded chicken, spices, chilli, and an egg).
I parked myself in the
Lucky Plazaon Orchard Road to wolf this delightful dish down with glee....
And you know the drill by now....
Starbucks - this time I accompanied my hot Chai Tea Latte with a dangerous treat which I haven't yet seen in the Hong Kong branches,
Chocolate Peanut Butter Stack!! Such goodness and goodnight...!!!
For someone who had been a pescetarian for good part of five years, and only recently in the past eight months or so started eating chicken again - I realized on this holiday I had consumed a good deal of meat. So after checking out of the hotel, I kicked started the day with a vegetarian brunch....
I found a local vegetarian diner that served me up a dish of
Mee Goreng(fried noodles with a variety of toppings and veg of your choice). As far as vegetarian dishes go, this certainly looked a bit greasy, but it really was tasty and I particularly enjoyed the protein soya
"Char Sui" and the fried green beans on this dish.
On my way to the airport, considering I had time to kill, I decided to stop off at the Expo station which was the MRT stop before Changi Airport. I was fascinated with the design and structure of a section of the Expo station, as it's appearance resembles some sort of spaceship or something from
NOTE: More road works going on.... I am not sure was it all just coincidence,
or Singapore is just that organized that the whole nation plans constructions and renovations
to take place all simultaneously! Literally everywhere I went - be it Orchard Road,
Lucky Plaza, Chinatown,
East Coast Park,
Haw Par Villa, etc. etc. heck, even the MRT stations and the trains themselves! - there was some form of maintenance happening or underway!! The reason how I got lost where I was going on a number of occasion was due to road works happening or streets been blocked off due to constructions!! I suppose it is how the country goes about making improvements and for the better perhaps....
The 4 days get away in Singapore was just what I needed and wanted for a relaxing
holiday. There were the options to go visit
Night Safari, etc. But that would have been a different holiday all together, and some company would have made those experiences better. Whereas I truly wanted to travel solo and to enjoy some alone time to chill. I wish to have had the time to visit
Sentosa Island, but perhaps that may be a trip for the future should I be in Singapore again....
Arriving back in Hong Kong in the late evening of Thursday, 22nd December - it was a Chinese Festival Holiday. So it was nice to return home to some fine cooking from my mother....
All this prepared just for my brother and I....
I had realized I wasn't even featured in any one of my pictures throughout the trip in Singapore.... Just to provide some evidence I was there (and wasn't just some fancy pictures I took from the internet...!) I thought I try my hand at taken a snap of myself at
But that could be any old airport, right....???
(I'm never as good as the likes of
Joe Fiorello with the one handed camera self portrait snaps!)
Wishing each and everyone of you wonderful holiday season and a fantastic New Year!!! May all your dreams come true in the year 2012!!!!
Peace & Best Wishes,
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