Fika Swedish Cafe and Bistro, Singapore

What are the odds of returning to the exact same restaurant, out of hundreds of similar outlets, on two different (and unrelated) occasions? When my recent media trip brought us to Fika Swedish Cafe and Bistro for lunch, I was like… wait a minute. This place looks awfully familiar. Then it hit me: I was here three years ago, when my Singaporean buddy Jaryl brought me here for meatballs.

As I said, what are the odds? 

20161020_133507-tile

Housed in a quaint two-storey building, Fika is Swedish for (loosely translated) ‘break’, and can mean anything from having coffee with friends and family to taking a breather from work. No points for guessing what sort of cuisine they serve.

20161020_135118-tile

The inside is cosy, with lots of white and wood. The ground floor can comfortably seat about 30 people, with more seats on the sidewalk outside. There is also a dining area on the first floor.

20161020_140900-tile

Our orders were quick to arrive, and they looked absolutely scrumptious! Swedish cuisine is a beautiful blend of flavours, textures and colours – they got the sight, smell and taste down pat. Sorry my phone didn’t do the food justice.

The last time I was here it was just Jaryl and I, so we only got to eat meatballs. But since this was a group trip, there were more people so we got to try loads of different dishes.

(Above) Baked Almond Chicken Bites (SGD9) , made from marinated chicken breast coated with roasted almonds. It was fricking addictive. Crunchy on the outside but tender and juicy on the inside, the meat had a peppery flavour, a perfect marriage with the nutty sweetness of almond. Gone in the blink of an eye. Also, we were ravenous after a whole afternoon spent walking around Chinatown.

20161020_140518-tile

The Pickled Herring Platter (SGD 14) was a delightful smorgasbord of pickled herring, hard rye crisp bread. boiled egg, potatoes, red onion, caviar spread and dill mayo. Again, great blend of textures – crispy from the rye bread, creamy from egg yolks and mayo, balanced out by the fresh leafy salad and crunchy onions. People who don’t like the ‘raw’ fishiness of the herring might want to skip it though.

20161020_140939-tile

Everyone should know by now that I’m not a fan of greens, but the Fikasalad (SGD15) had me going for seconds. Mesclun salad, french beans, roasted pumpkin, sunflower seeds, rich feta cheese, radish, cherry tomatoes, and (more) eggs are drizzled over with an  appetising honey-lemon vinaigrette and tossed together for great effect. It is also served with a slice of hard rye bread.

img_20161020_172002-tile

Don’t forget to try this item on their seasonal Autumn menu: the Warm Countryside Salad (SGD16). The centrepiece is a lingonberry poached pear, which is so soft it literally melts in your mouth. Surrounding it like a beautiful garden is rucola salad, plump, meaty mushrooms, walnuts and cheese. Being a fan of mushrooms I was a very happy camper.

20161020_141809-tile

For the mains, I had Fisherman’s Pasta (SGD24): essentially linguine with mussels, white fish, squid and prawn, topped with fresh rocket leaves and cherry tomatoes in a buttery, lemon-garlic sauce. After the phenomenal salads, this was a little underwhelming as it lacked seasoning and taste. The seafood was mostly fresh, except the fish which was overcooked and soggy. Gotta commend their portion though, which was enough for a big eater.

20161020_142825-tile

Filched Swedish Meatballs (SGD 19) from a fellow media member. The dish is served with baby potatoes, lingonberry jam and cream sauce. Bursting with meaty flavours and juices, it’s still as good as they were when I first had them three years ago. They also feel very home-made, like something a mom might churn out of the kitchen for guests.

FIKA SWEDISH CAFE AND BISTRO 

257 Beach Rd 199539 Singapore

Phone: +65 6396 9096

Opening hours: 11AM-11PM (Mon-Fri), 12PM-11PM (weekends)

HALAL 

fikacafe.com

Oldest Taoist Temple in Singapore – Thian Hock Keng, Chinatown, Singapore

Singapore has a significant Chinese population (74%). Long ago, when the first Chinese immigrants arrived on the island republic with nothing to their names but hopes and dreams, Chinatown was the epicentre of everything. Today, it spans several blocks within the Outram district and houses numerous heritgae sites and old buildings – an important reminder of the country’s culture and history.
For our Chinatown Tour, we had Shal from Ruby Dot Trails as our guide. And what a guide she was! Visiting places of interest is one thing but having a good guide is another: and Shal really elevated our experience by telling us loads of interesting stories and tidbits. It felt more like having a very knowledgable local friend bringing us around. 🙂
20161020_101517-tile
Our first stop for the day was Thian Hock Keng, or the Temple of Heavenly Happiness. Established in 1839, it is the oldest and most important Hokkien/Taoist temple in Singapore. Shal pointed out that the temple sits on Telok Ayer Street, which was so called because the area where Chinatown is right now was actually by the sea (now it’s not due to land reclamation).
Dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea and patron deity of seamen, Ma Zu, the temple was originally a simple shrine located close to the shoreline. Sailors arriving after a long voyage from China would offer their prayers as thanks for safe arrival to Singapore. Eventually they brought over a Ma Zu statue from China and erected a proper temple in 1842, at a cost of 30,000 Spanish dollars.
20161020_101942-tile
20161020_102245-tile
There are separate entrances to the temple. We entered through the side door, because the main one is only for VIPs. The side doors are painted over with images of two fierce generals, or the ‘Door Gods’, who guard the temple from evil.
20161020_102459-tile
The main entrance, on the other hand, has different ‘door gods’, which, according to Shal, are eunuchs (since Mazu is a goddess, so it’s more appropriate).
20161020_101955-tile
The main temple. It’s not very large, but it sure is grand. Just look at the elaborate details!
The structure is typical of Chinese temples, with a spacious courtyard and a huge ash urn for joss sticks. Shal pointed out some interesting fixtures for us. If you look up at the beams, there are Indian elements – figurines of Indian craftsmen alongside the usual dragons and phoenixes. During the temple’s construction, Indian craftsmen and workers were brought in to help. As a gesture of thanks, they were allowed to carve their images into the structure. It proved that racial harmony and tolerance were in place, even back in the days. How cool is that?
Even though it wasn’t a very big temple, it was surely an important one. Visitors looking up might notice a large scroll-like hanging at the top of the chamber, which was a decree from a Qing Dynasty emperor – a great honour for a temple in what was considered the ‘boondocks’. The decree has been stored away for safekeeping, but we can still see the replica at the temple today.
taoist-sorcery
Source: taoist-sorcery.blogspot.com note: NOT the Ma Zu statue at Thian Hock Keng temple.
Pictures of the main shrine housing the Mazu statue wasn’t allowed, but I wanted to illustrate the story with a picture, so yeah.
Mazu: The Goddess of the Sea
Like many Taoist deities, it was believed that she was an actual person before being deified (is that a word?) Her real name was Lin Moniang, and she lived in 900s Fujian province during the Song Dynasty. An excellent swimmer, she wore red garments while at the shore to guide fishing boats home, even in harsh weather. Her father and brothers were fishermen. Legend has it that a big typhoon arose while they were at sea, and Lin Moniang fell into a trance where she dreamed of them drowning and attempted to save them. She saved her father but her mother woke her up from her trance, thus dooming her brother. The father returned alive and the villagers believed a miracle had happened. It was said that Lin Moniang ‘died’ when she climbed a mountain alone and flew to heaven, becoming a goddess.
Mazu is often flanked by two generals, Cheen Lei Ngan (thousand mile eye) and Soon Fung Yee (with the wind ear), from the legend of the 10 Brothers. They are her eyes and ears, and lookout for sailors or fishermen in trouble.
  20161020_102532-tile
Chinese temple, but European-style tiles from Holland. The outside gate is Scottish steel.
20161020_103348-tile
Side area, housing other deities. There are deities for everything you could possibly pray for – Mazu for protection and blessing, Confucius for kids who are studying, another deity for health, and one for matters related to love.
20161020_103359-tile
20161020_103344-tile
Another interesting story is that of the Black and White guards of Hell, or the Heibai Wuchang. 
Legend has it that they were once two constables of justice, Xie Bi’an and Fan Wujiu. While looking for an escaped convict, they split up and promised to meet at a bridge. Fan Wujiu was on time but due to heavy rain, Xie got delayed. Not wanting to break his promise to his colleague, Fan waited, but the rains swept the bridge away and he drowned (hence the black colouration of the deity, due to decomposition). Upon finally arriving, Xie was so overcome by remorse and guilt that he hung himself (thus the long tongue). Looking down from heaven, the Jade Emperor was impressed by their loyalty and friendship, thus appointing them guardians of the Underworld.
At Thian Hock Keng, Shal explains that devotees pray to these deities if they wish for wealth from ‘unorthodox’ means, ie striking the lottery or such. A closer look at the statues reveal that their tongues and mouths are stained black from opium and more recently, cigarettes – since unorthodox wealth = unorthodox offerings lol. There was a small table with an ashtray and sometimes you’d see beer or alcohol as well. Those with very sick and old relatives also pray to the Heibai Wuchang, to strike the person’s name off the list, since they are soul catchers.
  20161020_103833-tile
After all that, stepping out from the temple to the sight of towering buildings was a bit disorienting. We are still in the middle of 21st century Singapore!
20161020_103940-tile
Thian Hock Keng Temple 
158 Telok Ayer St,
Singapore 068613
Opening hours: 730am-530pm
Entrance: Free – but observe local customs and dress decently.
thianhockkeng.com.sg

National Design Center, Singapore

Hey guys! I was in Singapore recently for a hotel review, but I can’t blog about it yet (it’s embargoed until December, when my article is published for work). What I CAN write about, though, is the places we went to visit during our stay. One of these is the National Design Center in the Bras Basah-Bugis district.

20161019_144417-tile

The NDC is housed in the former 120-year-old St Anthony’s Convent – though, judging from its well-maintained structure and spick-and-span interior/exterior, you’d think it was opened just yesterday. Inside, visitors will find two galleries and three design labs, namely the IDA Labs, the Materials Design Lab and the Prototyping Lab.

We were led around by the affable Mr P, who guided us through different sections of the centre while offering some interesting insights on exhibits. 🙂

20161019_144546-tile

As mentioned previously, the old pre-WWII Art Deco building used to be a school, so the layout is like a school block with a courtyard in the middle (now an exhibition space). During our visit, they were running a special exhibition in celebration of 50 years of Singapore-Japan diplomatic ties with Asia’s biggest Rody toy collection. These are cutesy inflatable ponies (? horses?) with short stubby legs, and they come in a variety of colours.

I don’t know why these were chosen to represent Sg-Jpn ties, since the Rody toy brand is from Italy. Mr P couldn’t answer me either lol.

20161019_144609-tile

20161019_144747-tile

The one on the left represents Singapore, and the one on the right represents Japan.

20161019_145005-tile

After awhile, it does get creepy, the way they’re all staring at you… .__.

20161019_145258-tile 20161019_145320-tile 20161019_145545-tile

Some of the center’s staff busy rearranging the toys.

20161019_145656-tile

We next stopped by at the Prototyping Lab – a maker space where SMEs, startups or anyone, basically, can rent a space and facilities to create prototypes or work on projects. Some of the stuff they have include laser making machines, 3-D Printers, CNC routers, and a host of other tools for carpentry, electronics ,and more. They also offer prototyping assistance schemes to help startups commercialise their inventions, as well as apprenticeship programmes.

I think it’s great that there are such avenues available. It’s no wonder Singapore became a first world country in a matter of 50 years – they genuinely appreciate local talents, and offer them the means to achieve their dreams and realities. Having a maker culture also encourages youths to be innovative and to think outside the box. This is something that Malaysia sorely needs. We have too many spoon-fed kids in our education system.

20161019_150400-tile

The lab wasn’t very large but it was bustling with activity. There was a leather shoe workshop being conducted in one corner, while in the backroom some makers were working on electronic circuitry.

20161019_150415-tile 20161019_150509-tile 20161019_150521-tile

The space was comfortably cluttered with an assortment of past projects, such as these 3D printed items, displayed on racks around the lab.

20161019_150608-tile 20161019_151806-tile

We hopped on to the aptly named Kapok, a retail outlet-cum-cafe selling the most hipster sht imaginable clothing, souvenirs and other lifestyle items by indie labels and designers. Apart from being really cool and trendy, some of the products are legit great conversation starters, like this book-lamp. Open the ‘pages’ to turn the lights on, and simply close it to turn it off. Of course, the price was really ‘great’ too. Emphasis on the inverted commas.

20161019_151941-tile

20161019_152024-tile

How about some iPhone covers made from real marble? Granted, you’ll have an actual stone weighing down your pocket, but it’s a nice thing to be able to tell your friends that it’s genuine.

20161019_152158-tile

Olivia Burton watches for the ladies.

20161019_152214-tile

Accessories from local label Stale and Co. 

20161019_152218-tile

Cafe area is just next to where you can shop for stuff.

20161019_152350-tile

I’d have loved to buy something from the shop, but unfortunately the cheapest items were at least 15SGD, and when converted to our measley, terrible-performing ringgit, that would set me back about RM45, which can buy me a week’s worth of cheap lunches back home. So nah.

20161019_154026-tile

Moving on, we came to another exhibition titled Death by Design, which explores the role of design in death. I was really impressed – this was a final year project by students from the Division of Industrial Design, National University of Singapore – but it was of excellent quality. These students are on to great things ! 🙂

Death is often a taboo subject, and cultural aspects of honouring the dead are rarely changed or touched upon. But as we live in a modernising world, many of these issues are cropping up: the need for space to bury our dead, for example. The exhibition explores the possibilities of using design to solve these issues, challenging the norms of what people have been doing for centuries.

20161019_154039-tile

20161019_154044-tile

In Chinese culture, for example, we burn paper offerings of hell money and gold ingots for our dead – a practice that is not very environmentally friendly. The solution for this, as explored by the exhibition, is a new paper design, which burns without leaving any residue behind.

On the topic of making a will, the exhibition suggested that it would be possible to leave ‘e-wills’ in the future, without the need for paper. The will or messages for our loved ones can be sent to the recipient, even after death, at a set time.

20161019_155221-tile

The IDA Labs was next on the list. Like the Protoyping center, this is also a maker’s space where SMEs or individuals can come together to discuss, create and invent. There’s a large workshop-like area for working, complete with loads of 3D printers, as well as a classroom-like space.

20161019_155905-tile

Pokemon-shaped 3D printouts. I’d pay money to buy these 🙂

20161019_160002-tile

When a button was pressed, the thing started rotating and because the models are set at different positions, it gave the illusion of movement.

20161019_160443-tile

The Materials Design Lab is where they keep a catalogue of new materials created to suit our ever changing needs in a modern world. This section is very hands-on as visitors can touch and feel samples. We had brain fart moments whenever we saw something that looked really hard and sturdy, and they ended up being as light as a feather.

20161019_162214-tile

Last but not least was the exhibition dubbed Fifty Years of Singapore Design, which chronicles the journey of the country’s design evolution: everything from clothing to buildings, products, promotional government materials and even furniture. The iconic Singapore Airlines uniform was also on display (above). There were also posters explaining how the country’s stamp and money design has changed over the years.

20161019_162831-tile

Mr P telling us about another iconic Singaporean item – the hawker stall chair. It looks simple, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. For example, the chairs ‘legs’ jut out for more stability, and the center has a small hole so that rainwater would run down without having to wipe it dry. It also allows users to chain it easily together to prevent theft.

“There’s one more thing you can use it for,” Mr P quips, motioning with an upside down gesture. “Put a plastic bag and you get a portable trash can!”

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and I left a little wiser about the design machinations of Singapore, and how it has shaped this very young but progressive nation.

The NDC doesn’t get as much hype as some of the republic’s more popular attractions, like Marina Bay Sands or Sentosa, but if you’re ever in the Bugis area and you enjoy learning about design, history and culture, I suggest a visit. 🙂

National Design Center Singapore 

111 Middle Road
National Design Centre
Singapore 188969

Opening hours: 9AM – 9PM (daily)

designsingapore.org

Travelogue Singapore: Universal Studios Singapore

So it’s Day 2 of my trip to Singapore, and the plan was to meet up with Grace and spend the entire day at Sentosa @ Universal Studios Singapore! Had breakfast at the patio and common kitchen area of the inn, which is nicely decorated with clean stainless steel chairs, potted plants and an open air concept and lots of sunshine.

20131218_083559

20131218_084302

Jaryl came to pick me up at 9 and we walked to the nearby MRT station near Victoria Street. It was a weekday, and lots of people were seen waiting at the bus stops to commute to work.

20131218_105412

We alighted at the final station and then took a monorail over to the island. Finally able to pose at the iconic Universal Studios revolving globe outside the theme park.This is my first time here. Met up with Grace – she’s lost most of the weight that she gained from giving birth. Since she was a staff, we had discount prices. SGD30 only for two tickets, what a steal! It usually costs SGD70++  for a single ticket. We were hoping that since it was a weekday, there wouldn’t be long queues, but meh, it was the school holidays.

20131218_105725

20131218_121129

20131218_121403

The place was richly decorated for Christmas! Upon entry, we come to the ‘Street’ area, where the entire place resembles a vintage movie set. We also saw a sneak peek of what is to come inside – well-loved characters from movies such as Shrek and TV series like Sesame Street. We were also lucky enough to get an express pass for one ride, after filling up a form by a staff member.

20131218_121158

Cookie monster! I never watched Sesame Street much as a kid, but if I had to choose, my fave character would be the Cookie Monster. The suit was really fluffy and soft, but I can’t imagine how the person inside must be suffering… I think the weather was close to 40 degrees celcius.

IMG_0239

Our first ride was the Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase (being kids again.. ;P) which was fun and entertaining. The indoor ride has both 3D and 4D effects, filled with colourful lighting effects in the dark to make it look like space. I was quite surprised when I got a squirt of water at some points during the ride, and reasonably impressed with the standards of the mechatronics compared to theme parks in Malaysia, lol.

IMG_0247

Defeat the evil Count Dracula thing in Sesame Street, who I think wants to turn the world into a spaghetti covered landscape or something..

IMG_0244

Main street, where there are always quirky mascots from well-loved movies walking the streets to take pictures with patrons. Lots of interesting ‘shops’ as well!

IMG_0234

Stopped for lunch outside an American style diner, designed to look like 1950s America. A couple of old classic cars outside the place which we couldn’t miss out taking photos of.

IMG_0235

There were also diner girls performing to Candy Man by Christina Aguilera.

20131218_122906

Our next ride was the much-anticipated Transformers ride. Set inside a futuristic looking building, it’s definitely one of the better rides at USS. There was a long wait, so we decided to use our express pass to get inside immediately. Once inside, everyone takes 3D glasses and sit inside a jeep looking simulator. The inside is dark and we are surrounded by huge screens. The ‘story’ of the ride is that the Decepticons are attacking the base, so the Transformers and the rider (the narrator will refer to the riders directly as we ‘escape’ from Megatron) will have to get out from the base and into the city. The use of strobe lights, smoke and wind make the ride very realistic. The 3D effects are fantastic, even for someone who wears glasses like me (I never enjoy watching 3D movies coz of my glasses, but this was awesome) – like when the evil bots hurl ‘rocks’ at the vehicle.

The climatic scene is when the entire jeep falls from a skyscraper – the feeling is realistic as the jeep ‘plunges’ down. So if you’re in USS, this is one of the must-go-to rides here.

20131218_122942

We wanted to go on the Human and Cyclone rollercoaster rides, based on the movie Battlestar Galactica, but it was closed for maintenance. Noooooo ~ T^T

20131218_124401

After the Transformers area was The Mummy section, dedicated to one of my favourite comedy action-adventure films when I was younger. Who wouldn’t like quirky yet rugged Brendan Fraser ? Tall statues of the Greek jackal-headed god Anubis held up stone slabs at the entrance, where there is a replica of an ancient tomb – which houses The Mummy ride.

20131218_124902

Grace didn’t have the stomach for fast rides, so Jaryl and I had to queue up for nearly 45 minutes for the two minute ride… lol. The wait to the ride is designed like an ancient tomb, and it’s very dark inside. I stumbled a few times, coz my astig means my eyes are not great at detecting light. The indoor rollercoaster was exciting, with 4D effects ~ there are parts where there’s fire and you can feel the actual heat radiating from the ceiling. I still feel that after European rollercoasters, Asian ones are nothing

The Malay lady next to Jaryl was funny. She was on the ride with her husband, and at the end of it she was laughing and saying ‘I’m too old for this shit!’.

20131218_160705

20131218_151604

Moving on, we came to Fairytale land, home of our favourite green ogre – Shrek. Shrek is one of my favourite animations, because I like how they retell classic fairytales into something unique and different. The castle set in the Kingdom of FarFar Away reminds one of the Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland. There were also lots of ‘themed’ shops, such as the souvenir place which had a small wooden ferris wheel inside, or the restaurant, which has wooden benches and tables like a proper fairytale inn should.

20131218_151753

20131218_154740

Me and Grace went inside the 4D show, which has Shrek and Donkey chasing after the dead Lord Farquhar’s spirit, who has captured Fiona to be his bride. There were funny parts during the show, like when Donkey sneezed on screen and water splashed onto our faces (its just water, but the psychological effect was kinda ew), or how ‘spiders’ poked and prodded at the audience’s feet through little air holes at the bottom of the seats. The show itself was maybe 20 minutes, but very fun to watch. I’m guessing this will be the future of cinema next time.

20131218_133812

Next was Jurassic Park, which has a cafeteria resembling the actual scene in the movies, the one with the huge dinosaur skeleton in the middle and where the raptors attack the group of survivors. There’s a wet ride here which has visitors sitting in boats while going through the ‘rapids’, but it started raining just as we were queueing up. The park has strict rules on thunder/rain and rides, so we ended up walking over to the Madagascar section for some safe, indoor kiddie rides while waiting for the rain to subside.

Then we went to see a real movie set – how sometimes, when they’re not using CG, the movie crew has to set up props, the good old fashioned way. This was a scene of a storm in a boat house, with New York City in the background. It was tremendously awesome, especially the background screen behind the windows. During the storm, they fell off and it actually LOOKED like New York City was really out there. The ‘platform’ was set on fire, along with smoke effects and things falling down. Way more realistic than CG.

20131218_133840

The rain subsided a little after that, so we went back to Jurassic Park for our last ride – the rapids. It wasn’t very exciting, but the thing is that certain seats in the boat would get the person soaking wet when we got to the plunge, and Jaryl was extremely ‘lucky’ – got completely soaked head to foot. It started to rain for real after that ride, so we decided to call it a day.

Heading back. The sky was already dark with storm clouds – and then a furious rain bombarded us as we lined back to the monorail. The rain was going sideways, the wind was in a frenzy – was like a tropical storm. Lucky we managed to finish the rides. Went back to Marina Bay Sands for a hotpot dinner in the cold weather.

Day 2 was really fun. Til next post!

Travelogue Singapore: The Arab Quarters & Malay Heritage Area

If there’s one thing I learned from my trip to Singapore, it’s that…

I’m really unfit.

D:

I was exhausted after just half a day of trudging around in this island city’s unforgiving humidity and scorching sun. The thing about South East Asian weather is that it saps the energy out of you. I never felt so tired when I was in the UK, even though I walked around a lot in Sheffield. Bleh.

IMG_0178

I’ve been so pumped up to post about Marina Bay Sands that I skipped to tell my trip in chronological order lol. Anyway.

Here we are heading towards my inn along Aliwal Street. This area is known as the Malay Heritage Area or Arab Quarters. There are lots of Malay and Arab shops, roadside eateries where people can smoke shisha, bars and such. There is also a mosque and a Muslim cemetery close by.

The golden-domed Masjid Sultan (Sultan’s Mosque), located within the Malay Heritage Area called Kampong Glam, which, back in the 1800s, was a place allocated for the Sultan by Stamford Raffles as a place for the Malays to live in, after British took over rule of Singapore. The Sultan brought over his relatives from the islands of Riau, Malacca and Sumatra, and built a grand palace and mosque, hence the name Sultan Mosque. The road now houses loads of souvenir shops selling accessories, clothing and eateries. Apparently dreamcatchers are a fad as well coz I saw many lining the street.

IMG_0182

Carpet galleries abound along the Arab Quarters.

IMG_0185

Jaryl brought me to Bali Lane, a very ‘indie’ street crowded with low, double storey shophouses oozing cultural heritage and charm. With wooden shutters that open up on the second floor, it’s narrow lanes and colourfully painted facades, it’s hard not to be charmed by this place. Aside from chic, cozy little cafes, there were also boutiques, souvenir shops and clothing shops.

IMG_0186

IMG_0188

Fancy some colourful socks?

IMG_0189

Quirky decorations outside a boutique.

IMG_0191

Was very very tempted to get those tribal, geometric inspired bags. Hm.’

IMG_0192

Something I noticed about Singapore is that they have a love affair with chic, urbanesque cafes. Little ‘alternative’ spaces where the resident hipster may sip coffee and read or post pictures of Red Velvet cakes on their Instagram. I really like the sign though.

IMG_0193

At night it can get very crowded, with people spilling over onto the sidewalks, sipping on flavoured shisha in a wreath of smoke and laughter. A combination of bluesy jazz from live music bands and loud bass thumping from more upbeat clubs will be the rhythm of the night. My inn was close to one of these, so it was really thumping till 2am. Hardly got any sleep the first night lol.

IMG_0194

A central point in walking around Singapore is this building, coz it’s really tall, nearby the inn and easily recognisable. I never found out what building it was though, we just called it the Batman building, coz it looks like something straight out of Gotham city.

IMG_0195

Bugis Shopping Mall, which is also within walking distance of the inn.

IMG_0196

Had a long tiring day walking, so stopped by for some Starbucks.

Til next post!

Amazing Night View at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

20131217_173746-tile

Hi people! Continuing on our Singapore tour where we left off…After the museum and river tour, headed back to the inn to check-in, shower and chill. Legs felt like falling off D:

Had dinner at a nearby cafe called Fika Swedish Cafe and Bistro along Beach Road. It’s a small, chic looking cafe with white deco, tables and chairs. Splurged a little on their signature dish, which is meatballs for SGD20. It came in a plate of eight huge, juicy meatballs drizzled over with sauce and lingonberry jam, steamed potatoes and salad. The meat balls are defo better than the Ikea variety.

img_0200-tile

Back to walking. Walked REALLY far, all the way to Marina Bay Sands. Passing by the inside of Raffles hotel. It looks like a colonial British building, with white arches and little shops bathed in yellow light, which visitors can access through a covered pavement.

20131217_190910-tile 20131217_190919-tile

A tall building with glass elevators! Would’ve been interesting to be in one of those.

20131217_192715_lls-tile

We were back at the Esplanade area, heading over to Marina Bay Sands. The view is absolutely breathtaking at night. Now I know why people say Singapore has one of the prettiest night views in the world. But let the pictures do the talking!

(Left) Marina Bay Sands building and (right) ArtScience Museum, which is shaped like a lotus flower on the water.

20131217_193811-tile

The ‘Helix bridge’, shaped like DNA strands. There are lots of joggers running up and down the length of the bridge.

20131217_200247-tile

Marina Bay Sands shopping centre!  This place is MASSIVE. Guess who we saw? 

Jackie Chan! He was around to promote his new movie, Police Story. Since he was a VVIP and all, that’s why they closed the ArtScience Museum for him to make an appearance. He walked on the red carpet through the mall, and people were chasing after him in crowds to  take a picture.

20131217_201025-tile 20131217_201142-tile 20131217_201718-tile 20131217_204757-tile

There’s an entrance to go to the top of Marina Bay Sands, (where the ship like platform is), and you have to pay 20SGD (pricey, but worth it!) to go up to the 56th floor. Upon reaching, a strong breeze and cool night air greets the guest. For patrons staying in the hotel itself, you also have access to the Infinity Pool, a large swimming pool that cascades right over the edge of the building, and a dining area/bar which was off limits for us normal tourists.

It feels like you’re on top of the world, standing there looking at the lights with the wind in your face.

20131217_205319-tile 20131217_205937-tile 20131217_210049-tile 20131217_210248-tile 20131217_210456-tile 20131217_210613-tile  MARINA BAY SANDS

10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956

Esplanade / Merlion, Singapore

img_0141-tile

We continue where we left off at the Asian Civilisation Museum, in Singapore’s commercial district! Located just opposite the museum is the Singapore River, which has a neat little bridge crossing over to the other side. Cavenagh Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in the country still existing in its original form since the 1860s.

img_0143-tile

An old notice.

img_0145-tile

View of the Sg river, which is pretty murky (not much different from our Sungai Klang in KL!). This place is still a commercial hub, although very different from how it must have been like two hundred years ago, when the Chinese settlers were still peddling their trade at the river mouth.

img_0146-tile

Next to the river is the famous Fullerton Hotel. It is also an old building, reputedly haunted (as are most places in SG!) and used to house the old post office. Must say it cuts an impressive figure with its European inspired architecture.

img_0147-tile img_0148-tile

Just by the riverside you will find interesting art pieces, such as this one featuring young children ‘jumping’ into the river for a bath. The cheeky art installation even has one of the statues in the process of taking off his pants. This must have been the case for children back in the days, but the water has become so filthy, and the river is definitely not safe for swimming in what with all the tourist boats about.

PS: This might sound silly but as a child, I always thought every single river was home to crocodiles. LOL

img_0150-tile img_0151-tile

Skyscrapers tower over the commercial district in Sg. They’re mostly bank buildings.

img_0165-tileWe walked over to One Fullerton, a waterfront vista with lots of chic cafes and eateries. If you don’t mind the blazing hot weather, it’s actually really nice to see the entire view of Marina Bay Sands (the three buildings with what looks like a ship on top) and the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum (which unfortunately was closed that day. I’ll tell you why later). There’s also the floating platform (the colourful thingy in the distance), aptly named The Float, which is where the proud National Service trainees graduate every term, and where Singaporeans celebrate their National Day.

Those little white blobs of balls on the water are ‘Wishing Balls’, where people write their wishes and float them out on Marina bay. Pretty sight in the day, but I think it would be awesome if it were lit up at night.

img_0155-tile img_0156-tile img_0160-tile img_0161-tile

Just nearby is the symbolic Merlion, an icon created to representing Singapore’s maritime past as a fishing town, and the lion, derived from Singapore’s name ‘Singa’ which means Lion in Malay. Apparently figures of lions attached to fish bodies are not uncommon in cultures all over the world, including as a coat of arms in United Kingdom, for the British East India Companies, and in ancient Indian cultures.

img_0166-tile img_0170-tile

The Esplanade is just above the Fullerton area. It’s a long stretch of walkway facing the river, and also includes a mass of skyscrapers. The funny shaped spiky buildings are nicknamed ‘durians’ by locals, and house huge theatres.

We had a quick lunch at the Esplanade shopping area, then headed back to the inn to check-in and rest. It’s tiring to walk up and down Singapore because of the humid and sunny weather. I daresay it’s hotter than Malaysia @-@

Til next post!

Asian Civilizations Museum / Old Supreme Court, Singapore

The first thing one notices about Singapore is the neatness and order in everything. Buildings are tall and squarish, roads are clean and grid-like, there are cafes, banks and classy looking shops everywhere. The entire city has a very metropolitan feel to it, not at all like the dirt and grime, smoke and dust of good ol’ KL. But then again, I only visited a small part of Singapore.

My local friend Jaryl, who was very kind to show me around during my entire stay, is a great tour guide. He knows a lot of places and his way around the streets, which buses and trains to take… if it was me being tour guide around KL, I would probably suck. I can’t find my way anywhere without a GPS, that’s how bad my sense of direction is.

After dumping my bag at the inn (check in was at 3pm), we took a bus and started walking to our first stop – the Asian Civilisations Museum.

20131217_112439-tile

Passing by the famous Raffles Hotel. There are a lot of posh hotels in Sg, seeing as how it derives a big chunk of income from tourism. I can’t afford a night’s stay here, so I can just snap a picture from afar. 😛

20131217_113522-tile

This is the Padang, or field, which also houses the SCC (Singapore Cricket Club). Here we are making our way across to the Business district. You can tell it houses important commercial and official buildings – it’s a cluster of mega-structures all hulled up in one area.

20131217_113908-tileJust opposite the field is the old Supreme Court of Singapore building. With it’s murals and Corinthian columns, it screams European influence. Singapore was once under British rule, and the architecture of this building reflects it. Now, the place has been converted into an arts and culture center.

asia-europe-museum-network
Photo courtesy of Asia Europe Museum Network

After a hot and sweaty walk, we arrived at the fully air conditioned museum, much to our relief. The building, which overlooks the Singapore river, used to be known as Empress place and has a long history. It started off as a government office in the 1800s, before being converted into a museum in 1997.

Entry to the place is SGD8 for tourists. Locals get in for free.

Funnily enough, Singaporean casinos charge locals SGD100 for entry. So I guess they’re encouraging their citizens to go to museums instead of gambling. :3

img_0066-tile

The museum houses a big collection of interesting artifacts from all over Asia, S/E Asia in particular.  If you’re a history buff, I would recommend a few hours exploring the exhibits, as they are extensive and there are lots of items to look at. The stuff isn’t very interactive. There are a couple of screens to touch, but no hands on stuff to do, mostly. There are also guided tours at intervals throughout the day.

img_0069-tile img_0071-tile img_0072-tile

Old coins

img_0075-tile img_0076-tile img_0081-tile

 

img_0085-tile

A lacquered wooden box, which was very well preserved even til this day. Really pretty. They have a section entirely dedicated to the art of lacquering and how it has evolved through different ASian regions through the centuries.

img_0086-tile

Ash urn for the dead, done in the likeness of a water buffalo.

img_0088-tile img_0096-tile img_0104-tile img_0105-tile img_0108-tile

If you look closely at the Hmong garment (above), notice how they wove their beautiful traditional garments with a modern day character? :3

img_0112-tile

The keris is a deadly Malay archipelago weapon that has a distinct shape. And while it’s pretty to look at, the curvy shape of the keris was designed for maximum damage, as it would pull a person’s guts out better as opposed to a straight blade.

img_0113-tile

I was surprised to find that the colourful, wooden figure of a mythical creature was from Kelantan, Malaysia. Most Malay states have rich cultures handed down from ancient times, but since these cultures clash with religious beliefs, they are often eradicated as being pagan beliefs. It’s sad that a culture or history is lost because of something else. Religion should learn to preserve a culture, not destroy it. 😦

img_0120-tile img_0121-tile img_0124-tile

Spent a good few hours in the museum. It was worth the visit: Well kept and extensive collection; shame we didn’t have more time to explore. 🙂

ASIAN CIVILIZATIONS MUSEUM

1 Empress Pl, Singapore 179555

Open daily: 10AM-7PM, 10AM-9PM (Friday)

acm.org.sg