(LAST) Day 08: Singapore – Kranji War Memorial

Saturday, July 20, 2013

For the last destination of our time in Singapore, Xuan took us to visit Kranji War Memorial.

“Dedicated to the men and women from United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Malaya, the Netherlands and New Zealand who died defending Singapore and Malaya against the invading Japanese forces during World War II, it comprises the War Graves, the Memorial Walls, the State Cemetery, and the Military Graves.”

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It was a beautiful day without another soul in sight. The brief tranquility was befitting for where we were visiting and provided silent moments to walk around, look at the sights and reflect.

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You can’t see it from my pictures, but “The War Memorial represents the three branches of the military – the Air Force, Army and Navy. The columns represent the Army, which marches in columns, the cover over the columns is shaped after of the wings of a plane, representing the Air Force, and the shape at the top resembles the periscope of a submarine, representing the Navy.”

There is a good picture from Wikipedia HERE.

“The War Cemetery is the final resting place for 4,458 allied servicemen in marked graves laid out in rows on maintained and manicured lawns. Over 850 of these graves are unidentified.”

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Kranji War Memorial Inscription

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And because the memorial is located on a hill, you can also see the city skyline of Johor Bahru (Malaysia) in the distance across the water…

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Following that, we ended our time in Singapore together with one last meal with Xuan – Laksa πŸ™‚

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After this meal, we said farewell to Xuan and headed back to Moon Hotel to pick up our luggage and made our way to Changi Airport. It didn’t take us long and soon we were checked in and grabbing a last/quick bite to eat at the airport before boarding our flight back to Gold Coast!

The flight was completely uneventful where I slept the entire flight home… Yes, you heard right – entire flight.

We made it back home in Brisbane around lunch time on Sunday and just crashed. We were exhausted. Such a fun filled trip but being on your feet all day, every day definitely took a toll on us. Felt like we needed a vacation from our vacation!

So… that marks the end of my trip blogging! Singapore and Bangkok in the one week off in between our Surgery and Mental Health rotations. Tired, but excited to be starting a new rotation on Monday!

I hope you enjoyed reading the trip blogs and looking at the photos!

Special thanks to Xuan for hanging out with us so much in Singapore! Wouldn’t have eaten so much without you! πŸ˜‰

Day 08: Singapore – Great fun at the zoo!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

After visiting River Safari, we went next door to visit the Singapore Zoo. At $39 SGD for both, how could we resist?

Since all of us had been to Singapore Zoo before and we were tight on time, it was decided that we would only visit the areas of interest to us.

Come on an animal-photo-adventure with us!

First up was the Frozen Tundra to see Inuka, the polar bear, give a show!

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Playing with an ice ball to get to the frozen meat treat inside

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Playful Orangutans!

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Mother orangutan nursing her baby, so lovely

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Young orangutan running around across tree branches

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White Rhino and his little bird friends

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The pretty Nyalas

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Almost like she’s giving us the evil eye for intruding on her and her boyfriend

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Pretty active Cheetah! Marching around and around

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Even trying to hunt little birds

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“When I was a young warthooooog!”

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Meerkat being lazy on duty πŸ˜›

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“Dig dig a tunnel!”

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Mufasa! Last time we visited, the lions were pathetically lazy. This time, he was roaming around non stop and looking (sort of) majestic for photos.

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A random lizard crossing our paths, is it a monitor lizard?

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Look, it’s Zaboomafoo! Okay, different species but I still love the Ring-Tailed Lemurs!

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Caught a Flying Fox waking up from its slumber…

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… he then proceeded to lick his penis… haha!

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Mike’s favourite… the Mouse-deer! They are so shy!

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I wish I had a video of Michael trying to pet him. He didn’t skirt away but kept shrinking lower and lower to the ground until he had no where else to go. πŸ˜›

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A lonely Mandrill

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Little clumsy-looking-but-cute African penguins

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I took amazing photos of the White Tigers last visit. This time, they were already fed and being lazy in a far corner. This was the best picture I got πŸ˜›

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Babirusa napping under the sun

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The pondering Banded Mongoose

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And lastly on our trip, the Hamadryas Baboons!

Lots of grooming happening

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Oh look, the little one is picking another baboon’s butt.

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Oh gosh, full of poop!

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On another side, a baby looks like he’s having fun hitching a ride

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Haha, baby baboons look like old wrinkly men… but so cute at the same time!

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And to end the trip on a “inspirational” note: Two good friends sitting enjoying the view and having a nice chat about life…

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We walked out of Singapore Zoo and said farewell to Bing and Lihuan. So lovely to see them, even though only for a day! We’ll see Lihuan in September when she comes to visit Bing in Brisbane!

Xuan was kind enough to offer to take us to one more destination before we had to head back to the hotel and then to the airport… how could we say no?

Stay tuned to find out where!

FULL ALBUM OF SINGAPORE ZOO HERE!

Day 08: Singapore – River Safari

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bing, Lihuan, Mike, and I met up with Xuan to check out the recently opened River Safari! This attraction is the fourth zoo in Singapore, along with the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, and Night Safari, all of which are managed by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

At the front entrance, and excited to see the giant pandas of course! Kia Kia and Jia Jia!

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The entire park was not yet open (Amazon River Quest closed until later this year), but we still got to enjoy quite a bit!

Starting with the Mississippi River:

Smiling fish!

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Catfish

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Rare Mississippi paddlefish

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Onto the Congo River!

The African dwarf crocodile… so cute. Those huge beady eyes.

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World’s largest freshwater puffer fish

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The weird Giraffe Catfish

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Next, the Ganges River!

The best view I could get of the Indian Gharial, haha a little pathetic πŸ˜›

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The Crab-eating Macaque of the Mekong River... in action!

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Some fish I can’t remember the name of…

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And lastly, the Yangtze River

The Yangtze Alligator

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The huge ugly Giant Salamander

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Moving on to (in our opinion, the highlight of the River Safari) Giant Panda Forest.

Immediately greeted by the active and oh-so-cute Red Pandas!

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Seemed like we spent forever cooing over the Red Pandas but eventually we moved on to see the Giant Pandas!

We saw Kia Kia first. He was moving around but assumed quite lazy poses for pictures πŸ˜›

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On the other side was Jia Jia. Unfortunately, she was quite shy, so we didn’t get many pictures of her!

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More neat animals!

The ugly yet adorable Sloth

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Colourful Toucans!

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My first time seeing a Jaguarundi, looks like an otter/cat/weasel! Such a small wild cat, but what an amazing coat!

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One of the other highlights for me: Squirrel Monkey Forest. They are so tiny, but so cute! Great opportunities for photos but it was simply too hot to stay in the forest for very long.

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I saw this turtle randomly… but thought its face looked like a dog. Thoughts?

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We ended our visit at the Amazon Flooded Forest... where I got to see Manatees for the first time, even a calf! They are huge but so graceful, I wish I could’ve taken better pictures!

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Nope, this was not the end of our animal-time-adventure. Even though all five of us had been to the Singapore Zoo (next door) before, we decided to visit again! This is our favourite zoo because it provides such amazing photo opportunities, especially when nearly none of the animals are kept behind glass. So yes, we had all bought the Park Hopper 2-in-1 tickets.

Next up, Singapore Zoo!

CLICK HERE FOR FULL RIVER SAFARI ALBUM

Day 08: Singapore – Last Breakfast!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Our last day in Singapore! 😦

In the morning, we checked out of Moon Hotel and left our luggage with reception. Then we hopped on the MRT to meet up with Bing and Lihuan for breakfast!

We finally had the chance to meet up and hang out for, yay! And they took us to a great place (so sad but I can’t remember the name) well known for their delicious roti prata.

The cutest couple!

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Plain served with 3 different kinds of curry, including mutton. My favourite of the ones we try. Roti prata is prepared by flipping the dough into a large thin layer before folding the outside edges inwards and you can really see the layers in the plain one.

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Tissue prata – Sweet, crispy and delicate. Delicious!

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I can’t remember the name of this one, but it was one of those special-deluxe-filled-with-tons-of-ingredients that the shop manager literally forced us to get it. It was tasty but huge and quite heavy. Needless to say, we couldn’t finish!

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Us!

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After breakfast, we made our way to the River Safari… stayed tuned for tons of cute animals!

Day 07: Singapore – Adventure Day on Pulau Ubin!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Today was Mike and Sandra day, and we were going on an adventure to Pulau Ubin!

Pulau means Island and Ubin means Granite (in Malay). Pulau Ubin = Granite Island

Makes sense! “Granite quarrying supported a few thousand settlers on Pulau Ubin in the 1960s, but only about a hundred villagers live there today. It is one of the last rural areas to be found in Singapore, preserved from urban development, concrete buildings and tarmac roads, with an abundance of natural flora and fauna.

We decided to visit Pulau Ubin for the day, to see a bit of nature and get away from the city.

To get there, take the MRT to Tenah Merah Station then transfer to Bus No. 02 to the Changi Bus Interchange. From there only a few minutes walk to the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, where you can catch a short 10 minute bumboat ride ($2.50) over to Ubin Island.

The weather was great! We were excited to see blue skies and the sun out but also realized one thing… we didn’t have insect repellant. Knowing my luck and the fact that there was a Dengue outbreak in Singapore at the time, I was going to die… argh!

But it was too late, and we were already on the bumboat trip over and were docking…

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Welcome to Pulau Ubin!

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I had read that there was a fish spa available on the island, which is why we specifically decided to rent bikes from Celestial Resort: $10 for all day bike rental and a 1 hr fish spa. Unfortunately, the bike only had one gear… πŸ˜›

Heading in! As you can see, many shops offer bikes for hire at differing qualities and prices. You could definitely pay more and get a much better bike than we did. Actually, we recommend getting a better bike because otherwise you’ll be pushing it up the hills like we did!

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Just simple, quiet, serene views all around the island, untouched by industrialization and technology.

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Riding the bike through shaded trails, so tranquil!

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Zombie Sandra after Mike!

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It was REALLY hot. We bought a lot of water, but if you forget to bring some, there are a few places around the island you can purchase cold drinks from.

At one point during our ride, I wailed, “This is the worst part of our trip!” because of the 20+ mosquito bite welts that had appeared almost magically. For those who are sensitive like me, the suffering! The suffering is so bad!

There are a number of tame wild boars you might run into! We encountered them twice πŸ™‚

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I find the females quite dainty looking, does that even make sense?

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Haha, one of them chased after Mike and kept nudging him (getting snot and mud over his shorts) for the fried banana he was carrying. Eventually he had to loudly shoo her away.

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Took a rest by the water.

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So many mosquito bites! And lots of planes in the background πŸ™‚

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Mike pointing out Malaysia, which you can see in the distance!

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Lots of friendly dogs πŸ™‚

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We met a nice couple at the Visitor Centre who wanted a picture in front of it because the house is old and unique. In return, he offered to take one of us, how could we say no? Too bad they barely got the house in the shot…

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The house from further away

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Enjoying the nice views

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Look, a boat from Vietnam!

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We passed by a Muslim Cemetery, which I had never seen before. Don’t know if this is what they normally look like?

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We climbed up the Jejawi Tower to check out the view! Saw lots of planes (up close!) taking off and landing at Changi Airport across the water πŸ™‚

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Mike’s pretty face!

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By now, we had been biking for a couple of hours and we were hot (I was dying from itch) and sweaty. What better time to go for the fish spa?

Before heading in, we enjoyed a nice cold orange drink, included in the $10.

The fish spa was a long pond that wrapped around a corner in a shaded area to one side of the resort. There was another couple and a Vietnamese family that came in with us at the same time. The other 2 groups settled each at one end of the pond and Mike and I sat in the middle.

For the first 10 minutes, there were non-stop shrieks and giggles from the awful tickling sensation of the fish. We expected a pond with a couple fish nibbling here and there. NO. Not this place, this pond had enough fish to COMPLETELY BLANKET your feet. There were little fish that were ticklish enough and then there were bigger fish that were more ticklish.

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It was hilarious. Don’t worry, I took videos so you can partake in the laughter too!

After a while, everyone got used to the buzzing, vibrating sensation of the fish and settled down for a relaxing nibble.

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Mosquitos were still swarming me, but by now I had given up to the Dengue god and couldn’t care less. At least I had experience what it was like to have hundreds of little minion exfoliate my feet by eating my dead skin. πŸ˜›

And that marked the end of our Pulau Ubin adventure! After this, we headed back to Singapore and then back to our hotel.

But not before stopping for food! We stopped at Tekka Market in Little India close to our hotel to have some Briyani! Looks messy but I assure you it was tasty!

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We got back to the hotel in time to enjoy happy hour and of course, shower!

Tonight, we were on a mission: To have dinner at Tim Ho Wan, one of the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, known for their amazing dim sum.

It was 8pm by the time we got into the city and to Plaza Singapura, but the line was already closed! They are still so popular that even at 8pm, the queue was at its limits before closing. SAD FACE. Broken heart.

So, with heavy hearts, we walked around Orchard Rd and checked out a few of their endless shopping centres and even grabbed a tasty kebab to eat on the streets.

Eventually, we made it back to the hotel, but again, not before stopping for more food… naan bread in Little India, what do you expect?

Haha, we called it an earlier night than usual – 11pm bedtime, woo hoo!

And that’s the end of Day 07! Our last sleep in Singapore!

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL PULAU UBIN ALBUM

Day 06: Singapore – Oh boy, Supertrees and food!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I forgot to mention in earlier posts how to get to Gardens by the Bay! Very easy, just take the MRT, Circle Line, at get off at Bayfront Station. Then it’s just a short walk from the station to the garden entrance (by Meadow Bridge) where you can pay $2 for a shuttle ticket. The ticket includes a ride in to the either the Supertree Grove or the conservatories and then back out to the same entrance.

We caught the shuttle from the Supertree Grove to head back to the entrance!

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The creeper on the shuttle

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One of the most interesting sights at Gardens by the Bay. A giant white statue of a naked sleeping baby located at The Meadow called Planet. Created by internationally acclaimed British artist Marc Quinn, the sculpture is a depiction of his son and “appears to float above the ground and is a technical tour-de-force.”

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“To me,Β PlanetΒ is a paradox – hugely heavy, yet the bronze appears weightless; overwhelminglyΒ  big, yet also an image of vulnerability. It is both a reflection of ourselves and the earth upon which we live,” said Quinn.

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The view of the Marina Bay Sands and the Supertree Grove from the entrance

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It would be a few hours before the sun went down so we decided to head back to Moon Hotel in order to enjoy their happy hour! Cheers!

Free drinks and snacks, how could you say no?

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Selfie!

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It was soon back on the road to head back to Gardens by the Bay in order to capture photos of the Supertrees at dusk.

We also had the chance to enjoy the OCBC Garden Rhapsody – a light and sound show at the Supertree Grove that portrays how mankind and nature can come together and celebrate life together in a harmonious way. It was very lovely! My battery was running too low to shoot video, but if you’re interested to see what the show was like, click HERE!

At times like this, I really wish I had a tripod and a better lens than the kit one! But I think the pictures turned out alright, what do you think?

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As you can see in the pictures, you can take a stroll on the OCBC Skyway, a 128-metre long walkway with a height of 22-metres that connects two Supertrees at the Supertree Grove, and take in a different view of the Gardens. We decided not to do the walk and enjoy the view from below instead.

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Woo hoo!

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We then hurried over to meet up with Xuan for dinner at Maxwell Rd Hawker Centre! It’s too bad a number of the stalls were already closed, including the famous Tian Tian Chicken Rice that we wanted to try πŸ˜‰ Another time then!

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We had other dishes instead!

Like this fried hokkien prawn noodles…

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And this oyster omelette!

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Xuan suggested we didn’t eat to capacity because he wanted to introduce us to a nice cafe he liked… that had yummy truffle fries. Never need to think twice when someone makes a suggestion like that, so off we went!

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PS. Cafe had a lovely atmosphere that was great for a romantic date or a gathering with friends and a super enticing menu! Even on a Thursday night, the place was crowded and buzzing!

We settled on sharing a slice of chocolate pecan pie (with ice cream) and a plate of truffle fries.

I’ve never had chocolate pecan, my only wish was that it was a sugar pecan pie because that would’ve been heaven! But still, delicious warmed up… molten chocolate!

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The plate of truffle fries was… enormous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a serving of fries that huge before at a restaurant. Not complaining though! Although they weren’t the best truffle fries we’ve had, they were pretty darn good!

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Thanks Xuan for the treat! Another fun night in Singapore! Woo hoo!

Finally… end of Day 06!

FULL SUPERTREE ALBUM HERE!

Day 06: Singapore – Gardens by the Bay – Cloud Forest

Thursday, July 18, 2013

We headed back after lunch to visit the second conservatory, the Cloud Forest.

“The Cloud Forest is higher but slightly smaller than the Flower Dome. It replicates the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions of South-East Asia, Middle- and South America. A 35-metre tall mountain covered in lush vegetation shrouding the world’s tallest indoor waterfall showcases plant life from tropical highlands up to 2,000-metres above sea level.”

A huge dome with a single massive mountain that greets you at the door. Mist from the waterfall envelopes you as you make your way inside.

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Looking up from the bottom: You can see the lower Tree Top Walk where you can get a bird’s eye view of the treetops. Then there is the higher Cloud Walk where you can get a closer look at all the epiphytes (plants that grow on on other plants (non-parasitically) or objects) growing on the side of the mountain.

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More views of the mountain and the walkways

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Right along the base of the mountain, you can immediately find all sorts of wonderful plant life.

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Lots of interestingly textured and wonderfully designed leaves I’ve never seen before…

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Tons of beautiful flowers, especially orchids of all types and colours

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Some hidden views

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My favourite part of visiting Cloud Forest: seeing the carnivorous Drosera (aka Sundews) and Venus Flytrap and Pitcher Plants in real life!

The Sundews and Venus Flytraps we saw were tiny though, I always imagined they would be monstrous for some reason.

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Had fun tickling some of the Venus Flytraps to see them snap shut! Hopefully we didn’t starve them…

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So many Pitcher Plants of all sizes

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The Waterfall View!

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Inside there is the Crystal Mountain Cave where you can see the many interesting shapes of real stalactites and stalagmites.

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On the Cloud Walk!

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Taking a picture of us taking a picture of us…

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We left via an escalator… that had fun lighting…

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And that marks the end of our visit to both conservatories of Gardens by the Bay!

We would be coming back for the night views of the Supertrees later tonight!

FULL CLOUD FOREST ALBUM HERE

Day 06: Singapore – Delicious lunch @ Hill Street Coffee Shop

Thursday, July 18, 2013

[ARGH! I had just written this entire blog post when WordPress glitched on me and I lost the whole thing!]

Mike and I took a much needed break in between visiting the conservatories for some lunch!

After walking around and checking out all the eating establishments at Gardens by the Bay, we decided on Supertree Dining – a complex of restaurants offering a multitude of dishes from all over the world. Oh, and the view of the Supertrees while you’re dining is pretty nice too I must say!

This is a photo I took later in the day very close to where we ate to give you a view of what the Supertrees looked like!

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The dining space is quite lovely with softly glowing abstract Supertrees.

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After looking at all the options, we decided to dine at Hill Street Coffee Shop. It not only had enticing menu items but also a lunch special! 2 mains and 2 drinks for $15… not bad!

We were shown to our booth by the window where we sat, chatted, and wondered awkwardly when we would receive our menus. All the staff happened to be temporarily in the kitchen, so we picked up the newspapers on our table to pass the time.

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And then we laughed. Because the newspapers were the menus! Clever guys, very clever. And very neat.

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We soon made up our minds and placed our orders.

We started with drinks while waiting for our food to come out. The options we had were either kopi (coffee sweetened with condensed milk) or teh (tea sweetened with condensed milk). Mike enjoyed a kopi while I had a teh – reminiscent of all the Cha Yen (similar tea drink) I had in Bangkok.

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Mike decided on a dish we’ve been meaning to but haven’t tried yet, the Traditional Singapore Laksa – spicy curry and coconut milk based broth with thick vermicelli, cockles, prawns, fried tofu, chicken, bean sprouts, sliced egg and fish cake. Mmm, an instant favourite between us! Nom nom nom!

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I chose the Crispy Fried Lemongrass Marinated Chicken Nasi Lemak. Fragrant rice cooked with coconut cream and served on a banana leaf (and newspapers) with a number of sides: crispy fried chicken, roasted peanuts, sambal (hot spicy sauce), acar (pickled vegetables), cucumber slices, ikan bilis (small fried anchovies) and a pieces of seafood-flavoured-crisps I couldn’t identify. The chicken was delicately crispy, flavourful and so juicy! Combination of flavours and textures were excellent! We’d never had Nasi Lemak before, but it too became an instant favourite!

Edit: We actually did try nasi lemak a few days before at Bugis Market with Xuan… it wasn’t very good though. This was great!

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With happy bellies, we proceeded back to Cloud Forest to continue on our conservatory adventure!

Day 06: Singapore – Gardens by the Bay – Flower Dome

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yawn! It took some effort to get up this morning after getting back late last night, but eventually we were up and showered. The breakfast provided by Vintage Inn was simple but filling and soon we were checking out and walking over to Moon Hotel, our home for the next 2 nights.

We chose to stay at a hotel for our last 2 days rather than a hostel for privacy and freedom to come and go as we please πŸ™‚ Since our stay at Moon Hotel last time was really nice, we decided to stay there again. And even though we arrived hours before check in time (with the expectation of just leaving our luggage in the lobby), we were given our room, no problem!

After dropping off our stuff, we decided to head down to Gardens by the Bay to specifically visit the conservatories. Oh, the excitement, especially when we could only see them from afar last time!

The conservatory complex consists of 2 columnless glasshouses – the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. TheΒ  Flower Dome is actually the world’s largest columnless glasshouse!

“The construction of the glasshouses is special in two ways. First of all by being able to have such large a glass-roof without additional interior support (such as columns). Secondly because the constructions aims strongly at minimizing the environmental footprint.”

Tickets were $28 to visit both conservatories.

We decided to start with the Flower Dome which “replicates the cool-dry climate of Mediterranean regions like South Africa, California and parts of Spain and Italy. Home to a collection of plants from deserts all over the world, it showcases the adaptations of plants to arid environments.”

“The Flower Dome features 7 different “gardens” as well as an olive grove with a bistro and a central changing display field has also been incorporated to enable flower shows and displays to be held within the conservatory.” Read more about them HERE.

Mike and I spent a few hours in here and loved it. So many beautiful subjects of photography!

Here are some of my favourites:

Stepping into the Flower Dome…

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Lots of different kinds of cacti

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Baobab!

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One of the most interesting plants I saw for the first time: Golden Rat-tailed Cactus.

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Smile!

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Pretty succulents!

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The Dessert Rose

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Stones or plants? These are stone plants (Lithops spp) – Fooling their predators by looking like rocks, these plants are soft and juicy, adapted to store water!

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A single beauty

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Field of purple!

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This plant was super pretty and interesting looking! Unfortunately, I can’t remember its name… and helpers?

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Bright red plane

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Some more pretty flowers!

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This flower was quite odd. Can you see the way the stem is oriented from this picture?

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Bi-coloured flower plant

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Loved the pink and purple hues

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Lots of pretty sights to take in, you wouldn’t believe how many photos I actually took!

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The corny, child-like, couple picture

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Hope you enjoyed the pictures! We could’ve spent forever in the Flower Dome if not for our rumbling stomachs.

Which means, next up, lunch!

CLICK HERE FOR FULL FLOWER DOME ALBUM

Day 06: Singapore – Late Night Dim Sum @ Swee Choon

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Despite the fact that it was already so late, actually technically early because it was 1am, Xuan still agreed to meet us for some yummy dim sum at one of his favourite places: Swee Choon (183-191 Jalan Besar, Little India).

Business hours are from 6pm to 6am. Due to its immense popularity, I was actually quite happy to be eating here so late at night because it meant we missed the usual crazy line up!

The restaurant was only around a 15 minute walk from Vintage Inn and soon we were seated inside with the A/C blasting and Xuan pointing out the dishes he recommended.

There were so many options, we were happy to try whatever he wanted to order for the first round.

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Despite the late hour, there were many other patrons in the restaurant… such a nice change from Brisbane! Being able to go out after 9pm on a weekday and enjoy delicious food in a bustling restaurant!

Munching on preserved daikon while waiting for our order πŸ˜›

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First up, Shanghai Xiao Long Bao – delicious steamed dumplings that gushed hot tasty soup when bitten into. To the left are Char Siew Pau – steamed BBQ pork buns.

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The top dish were Yam Fritters. These were just alright, I’ve definitely had much tastier and delicate ones back in Ottawa. Reminded me of my mum though, as it’s one of her favourite treats.

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Next was Swee Choon’s specialty, Mee Sua Kueh, a deep fried vermicelli cake. Tasty with very interesting texture, crispy noodles on the outside and perfectly cooked noodles on the inside.

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This was a Red Bean Paste Pancake. Crispy sweetened pancake enveloping a rich but not too sweet red bean paste. One of our favourite dishes of the night, we had to get seconds!

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I can’t remember the name of this dish but it wasn’t memorable. I would much rather be filling my belly with other dishes! πŸ™‚

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Beancurd Prawn Roll – yummy! Two of my favourite ingredients combined. Sometimes simplicity is the best! πŸ™‚

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And our favourite of the night: Steamed Salted Egg Yolk Custard Bun. I’ve always loved custard buns but I’d never heard of it mixed with salted egg yolk… where has this been my whole life? A hot, golden, sweet and salty lava that oozes out with every bite. Mmm… just thinking about it is making me salivate now!

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What a great meal! We left sooo stuffed, that it would be impossible to sleep if we went back to the hostel.

Only solution? Shopping at Mustafa Centre, opened 24/7! A huge mall with everything you could possibly need from groceries to sports equipment to herbal medicine. After strolling around for a while and realizing that it was already past 3am, we decided to call it a night.

Thanks Xuan for hanging with us even though it was so incredibly late!

After such a busy day (remember we had a full day in Bangkok!)… it was such a great sleep

Day 06 to continue after this nap πŸ˜‰

Day 06: Singapore – Late Check-In @ Vintage Inn

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It was 11:30pm and we had landed in Singapore on time, woo hoo!

Unfortunately, there were also 2 drunk guys with us who caused trouble and smoked in the toilets throughout the flight. Due to this, there was quite a delay in disembarking because the police had to come on board to take them away.

Eventually, we were through customs and meeting our driver (Manesh, I think) to take us back to our accommodation for the night. But there was another guest, also on the same flight as us. So we waited, and waited and waited. Thank god after about an hour he finally showed up and we were on our way into the city.

We were soon at Vintage Inn (right beside Banana Leaf Apolo) on Racecourse Rd. Vintage Inn is a boutique hostel that’s a little nontraditional in the sense that guests sleep in capsules. The staff are extremely friendly and wonderful! The hostel is quite new and very well kept. Everything was consistently clean and the facilities are very efficient in terms of space and design.

(I didn’t take any pictures, but you can see some here on Agoda)

The capsules themselves are spacious (can comfortably sit up) with storage space around the mattress, hooks/hangers, lights, international power sockets and built in lockers with locks.

The capsule design is very sturdy with thick walls and as a result, provides more privacy and peace. Although we were in a room full of other people, conversations taking place in other capsules and snoring at night came across as no more than mere muffles.

A simple hot breakfast and coffee/tea is also included and is prepared for you when you show up in the kitchen in the morning. It’s not anything special but certainly satisfying and a good start to your day.

Did I mention complimentary WiFi? Yep! And only a 100m or so from the MRT.

For $50/night (double bed) with airport pick up and breakfast included, it was a great deal, especially in Singapore! We definitely recommend Vintage Inn! πŸ™‚

By now it was past 1am and we were hungry…

Next up, food! πŸ˜‰

Day 05: Bangkok – Pak Khlong Talat, Colours and Smells

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We took the Express Boat back towards the city and got off at Memorial Bridge Pier to visit… the Pak Khlong Talat, also known as, the flower market!

Once you leave the pier, take the first left and then right at the 7-11. After that, follow the colours and the smell of flowers! πŸ˜€

Unfortunately, the best time to check out Pak Khlong Talat is pre-dawn from around 3-4am. Needless to say, the market was a little sleepy and empty when we walked around. Still plenty of sights to take in though!

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Such reasonably priced (compared to Canada and Australia) flowers… a little something for everyone!

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We saw many phuang malai garlands being made will skilled hands and sold on the spot. These are used as offerings to images of Buddha inside temples or shrines at home, ancestor shrines, etc.

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Mike… enjoying a nice cold Singha (bought at a nearby 7-11 and opened for by the cashier) on the streets of Bangkok.

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On the way back to the pier, I saw these two sorting out a huge stock of chili peppers and asked if I could take some pictures. They happily waved me to go ahead. Notice the cell phone in the plastic bag – I guess I wouldn’t want chili juice all over my cell either!

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Memorial Bridge and its respective pier with someone fishing.

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Thanks to Mark Weins and his YouTube video about kuay tiew rua (boat noodles) at Victory Monument, we had to try!

Once you get off the BTS at Victory Monument station, stay within the overhead walkway and head towards the canal (keeping Victory Monument on your left).

The canals are now very dirty and polluted.

This is not the side you want to be on…

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You want to be on this side! Which is why it’s important to keep Victory Monument on your left hand side as you are walking through the pedestrian overpass. We didn’t know that and did an unnecessary full circle around Victory Monument.

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When you reach the canal and get down onto the road, there will be a number of boat noodle restaurants to choose from. We decided to follow the one Mark Weins visited in his video and were quite happy!

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So… what are boat noodles? They are called so because they were traditionally served from boats. Nowadays, you can sit in a restaurant and enjoy them instead. They are also sold in small portions that sit shallow in the bowl, to limit spillage due to rocking by the boat.

The noodles are first blanched in hot soup before being tossed into a bowl with a little bit of water spinach (Morning Glory), a pork meatball and a few slivers of either pork or beef. The most important ingredient in a bowl of boat noodles is fresh pig’s blood which cooks immediately once hot soup is poured in, thickening the broth and giving the dish its characteristic wholesome pork flavour.

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The restaurant staff did not speak much English but it wasn’t hard to get our requests across with English on the menu. All dishes cost 10 baht each and we proceeded to eat!

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We both started with one each of the “Noodles thicken soup with beef” and “Noodles thicken soup with pork” The staff also brought over a plate of “Fried dumplings” (fried wonton skins) and “Streaky pork with crispy crackling” (fried pork rinds), which we readily agreed to take.

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Thick chewy noodles in a little bit of really flavoursome porky broth. There was also sugar, fish sauce, chili flakes and vinegar chili sauce at the table so you can flavour the noodles to your liking.

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So tasty! And because the portions are so tiny, we definitely got in a few more orders before leaving satisfied πŸ™‚ I think the final bill came to 100-150 baht ($3-5). Would definitely come again if we ever visit Bangkok!

By now, it was late afternoon and so we headed back to the hotel to hang with Laura one last time. With a bit of relaxation and chatting by the pool, it wasn’t long before it was time for us to head to the airport!

Sooner than we realized, we were getting off the train and checking into our flight back to Singapore at 8pm.

Our short trip to Bangkok was finally (felt much longer) coming to an end.

A few shots inside the Suvarnabhumi Airport.

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End of our Bangkok trip! … And I guess by default, end of Day 05!

FULL ALBUM OF LAST PORTION IN BANGKOK HERE

Day 05: Bangkok – Starting our last day at the Grand Palace

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our last day in Bangkok! How quick time flies!

We had to check out of Abloom before heading out today but that left a dilemma. We had Magnum ice cream bars (which we “only” bought at 7-11 for around $1 as opposed to $4-5 in Australia) which needed to be eaten… and it was only 8am.

Problem easily solved! As you can see, happily and satisfyingly solved too. Chocolate brownie! I’ve never even seen that flavour in Brisbane.

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We then headed out to Sathorn Pier to make our way to the Grand Palace, home of the famous Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

In a previous post, I said you should take the Express Boat over the Tourist Boat because of cost – but when the next express boat isn’t coming for another 20 minutes… the difference in cost becomes negligible, especially on your last day πŸ˜›

We were soon our way! Relaxing on the boat and enjoying the scenery as a guide provided commentary on every interesting sight we passed.

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Almost there, just passing Wat Arun!

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To get to Grand Palace, you could get off at the same pier (Tha Tien) as Wat Pho, but it is a longer walk. I suggest getting off at the next pier – Tha Chang instead.

We both found the admission fee of 500 baht a little expensive, especially compared to the costs of visiting other temples.

Don’t forget to wear appropriate/respectable attire! Closed shoes (or sandals with socks) long pants/skirts and no bare shoulders. If needed, there is a place for you to rent clothing by the entrance gate.

It was a beautiful (read: scorching hot) day with slight breezes and a clear blue sky. And it was a VERY busy day. People everywhere! Tour buses carrying hoards of Asians, all the females armed with umbrellas – I wish I could snap every single one of those umbrellas so they wouldn’t be poking innocent people in the face, or worse, in the eye!

The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok. The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. The present monarch currently resides at Chitralada Palace with the Grand Palace still used for official events.

It is divided into 4 main courts: The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Outer Court, the Middle Court, and the Inner Court.

First up, was the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) court. This was the central ubosoth that houses the statue of the Emerald Buddha. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside the temple so we’ll have to be satisfied with this instead!

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Surrounding buildings

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Phra Si Rattana Chedi, the main stupa. Covered in beautiful golden mosaic tiles imported from Italy, the stupa was a beautiful contrast against the blue skies.

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Beside the stupa was Phra Mondop, Repository of the Royal Golden Addition of the Buddhist Cannon. “The four pairs of demons that stand guard on top of the stairways, a pair at each entrance, are the work of the King Rama I period and regarded as the most perfectly proportioned of all existing classical sculptures of Rattanakosin craftsmanship.” Although we couldn’t enter, the the floor of the Phra Mondop is apparently lined by a woven mat made from strips of pure silver.

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One of the 2 Phra Chedi Thong, the Twin Golden Stupas. The stupas were built by King Rama I, one dedicated to his father and the other to his mother. They are made of brick and covered in copper foil and gilt.Each of the stupas are supported by a row of twenty demons and monkeys whose distinctive features, colours and crowns mark them as individual characters from the Ramakian, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. The fact that they all wear crowns indicate that they are demons and monkeys of noble rank.”

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I loved the monkeys and demons…. πŸ™‚

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“Yaksa Tavarnbal (Gate-keeping Giants): Six pairs of mythical ogres stand at each gate of the Balcony. These are the main Giants of the Ramayana.”

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Prasat Phra Thep Bidon, the Royal Pantheon contains life size statues of King Rama I to VIII and is only open to the public on April 6th each year (anniversary of the founding of the Chakri Dynasty), so they can pay homage to their past sovereigns.

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We left the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and walked through the Middle Court.

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Have you noticed by now how amazing our selfies have become? We don’t even need someone to help with photographs anymore!

Here’s one of us with the Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat in the background.

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And one last shot in the Grand Palace: Phra Thinang Dusit Maha Prasat.

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We had been walking in the sun for too long. Time to recharge… with food of course!

Sticky rice topped with coconut milk and crunchy deep fried mung bean served with a sweet ripe mango! We both love sticky rice and mango – the combination was fantastic!

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We also got some glutinous dumplings with a sweet peanut filling – very tasty!

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Lots of food being sold in the market by the river.

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We decided at this point to catch a boat across the river (again, only 3 baht) to visit the Forensic Medicine Museum at Siriraj Hospital. What can I say, we’re medical students. But, surprised we were to find out that the entrance fee had jumped from 40 baht a few months ago to 200 baht. Thought that was a little ridiculous and decided that as attractive as the air conditioning and gory specimens may be, our last few hours in Bangkok would be better spent seeing more of the actual city.

So off we went!

And soon we were on a boat heading back into the city…

FULL ALBUM (so far) HERE!

Day 04: Bangkok – Chinatown and Snacks

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

This was the view as we headed back over to Tha Tien Pier from Wat Arun.

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The driver of our little ferry boat!

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Since we had plans to meet Laura and 2 of her work friends in Chinatown for dinner later, we decided to head down there early and check it out during the day time.

We took the Express Boat back towards the city and got off at Ratchawong Pier (N5). From there it’s just a short walk up to Sampeng Lane and Yaowarat Rd.

Some tuk tuks just beside the pier.

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As we were walking, it started to rain! Luckily there was a closed shop where we use it’s front steps as refuge πŸ˜‰ As we waited out the rain, an elderly lady walked by pushing her cart full of tasty looking dumplings. I had to run after her to get her to stop in order to purchase a few! I don’t know why I didn’t take any pictures, but the dumpling cakes were delicious. A doughy exterior with fillings of bamboo, turnip, or cabbage. Yummy! We also bought some fried coconut banana from another stand – amazing! Balls of banana coated with a layer of coconut sticky rice and deep fried to a crisp – such a delicious treat. Thinking back now, I’m a little disappointed we only ate that once!

Soon the rain died down and we continued to stroll through Chinatown, taking in the sights, smells and sounds.

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This lady’s stand soon caught our eye. A variety of deep fried, vegetarian snacks. You take a bowl and pick out the items that you want. She then chops them up into bite sized pieces, throws them in a bag and pours sauce and chili on top for you to snack on-the-go using skewers. It was also kind of her to throw in a few extra treats we didn’t pick out for us to try – yay! The food was tasty but not something you can have every day! πŸ˜‰

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Dinner plans with Laura and her friends eventually became too complicated due to weather and location and was cancelled. Disappointed, but it was still suggested that we meet up with Laura later in the evening for drinks instead.

Due to the change in plans, we decided to head back to the hotel instead of staying in Chinatown.

We chose to take the Metro followed by the BTS back to the hotel rather than take the boat back into the city. It’s a pain in the ass using public transportation to Chinatown and back!

We passed through Odeon Circle where the ceremonial Chinese gate marked the entrance to Chinatown.

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Did I mention Mike found what he had been craving for since forever? Rambutans! And for only $1-something a kilo!

Back at the hotel… only to continue eating!

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Mike’s one kilo of rambutans! Look how fresh they are πŸ™‚

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I bought some fresh lotus seed pods! The whole lot was around 30 cents? Couldn’t finish them all but it was definitely worth it! Something I’ve never seen available in Australia and that Mike’s never tried before. You may have seen dried lotus seeds sold in packs before but these are fresh – you pop out the seeds and remove the green peel for a crisp, crunchy, fresh, slightly sweet, and nutty snack!

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One of the treats we bought from a vendor outside our train station – BBQ’d meat sausage with some cabbage and green mango.

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Another snack we bought from a nearby vendor – Banana Roti – crispy sweet crepe with fresh banana filling and drizzled with condensed milk. So delicious! Best eaten right away πŸ˜‰

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Fresh taro bread we picked up at a bakery in Chinatown. It was sweet, flavourful and delicious, with a cute cake cube within!

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We also bought fresh quail eggs to boil and have with salt and pepper! It has always been one of my favourite snacks and when Mike was back in Ottawa, my mum introduced it to him and now he loves it too!

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Unfortunately, again, our plans with Laura were canceled because she was too exhausted to go out.

That was too bad. So Mike and I decided to head back down to Chinatown again, just to see the liveliness at night. By the time we got back down there though, it was pretty late and most places were already closing up. We were able to grab a light (boring, not too tasty) dinner because heading back and calling it a night.

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End of Day 04… finally! πŸ˜€

Day 04: Bangkok – Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When we got back to Tha Tien Pier from Wat Saket, we realized, “It’s still so early! Plenty of time to see more temple-ness!” And decided to visit Wat Arun just across the river, which we were saving to visit tomorrow.

Getting to the other side of the river could not be easier… or cheaper! There is a separate, smaller boat that make rounds from Tha Tien to Wat Arun, for only 3 baht and comes every couple of minutes.

FYI: Entrance fee is 50 baht for us foreigners.

“Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, is named after Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. Sitting majestically on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun is one of the most striking riverside landmarks of Thailand.”

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“The entrance to the temple building is guarded by a pair of impressive mythical giants, similar to the 12 giants in the Wat Phra Kaew or Grand Palace.”

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“The temple is a representation of Mount Meru, the center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. The four-corner prang of Wat Arun, which house images of the guardian gods of the four directions, reinforces this mystical symbolism.”

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“The 79 meter high tower is decorated with ceramic tiles and fragments of multi colored porcelain which had previously been used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China .The porcelain mosaic fills every conceivable nook, cranny, and wall, creating a brilliantly imaginative and visually stunning monument.”

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Wat Arun was spectacular, easily the most impressive temple we’d seen that day. The intricate detail, the steep steps to the top, and the view below!

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Our only regret with Wat Arun? Not being able to come back in the evening to capture that wonderful picture of Wat Arun silhouetted against beautiful sunset colours! Perhaps next time…

In unrelated news: We found a cat napping on site… πŸ˜€

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FULL ALBUM HERE!

What did we do after this? Stay tuned to find out! Don’t worry… the day was still young and we were all temple-d out by this point! πŸ˜‰

Day 04: Bangkok – Wat Saket, The Golden Mount

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

After our visit to Wat Pho, we continued on, walking towards Grand Palace as our next destination.

During the walk, there were many vendors selling historical (war/religious) artifacts like pendants and statues. We assumed the artifacts were real because there were a number of locals using eye magnifiers to inspect the pieces they wanted to buy. I wish we could’ve been able to ask a vendor to tell us more about what was going on.

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And of course, there was food! We stopped for some rice as well as a Cha Yen (Thai iced tea).

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Unfortunately, as we got to the window to buy tickets at the Grand Palace, there was a sign that Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) would be closed shortly for maintenance.

Since Wat Phra Kaew is one of the major sites to visit in the Grand Palace, we decided to come back tomorrow. In the meantime, we would go ahead and visit Wat Saket (The Golden Mount).

This leads to another tip:

  • Taxi drivers will try to rip you off – don’t let them! If a driver doesn’t agree to use the meter and tries to negotiate a fixed price, get out of there!

Since it was a far walk, we decided to grab a taxi from Grand Palace to Wat Saket. The first taxi we found refused to use the meter and insisted on a 200 baht fixed fare. We laughed and left, and finally found a taxi that would use the meter. Total cost? 45 baht. Although the difference between 45 and 200 baht is only around $5, it was the principle that mattered to us. A couple dollars saved with honest taxi drivers meant there was more money towards something else, like tipping those drivers and trying more local cuisine!

The entrance fee to Wat Saket is 20 baht, very little!

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“Wat Saket, popularly known as the Golden Mount or β€˜Phu Khao Thong’, is a low hill crowned with a gleaming gold chedi. Within, the 58-metre chedi houses a Buddha relic and welcomes worshippers all year round.

It is unfortunate, but we weren’t able to get a good shot from the bottom to show you the full view. Here’s a picture from Google to show you what it looks like:

“The temple dates back to the Ayutthaya era, when it was known as Wat Sakae. When Bangkok became the capital, King Rama I renovated the temple and gave it its present name.”

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“Built on an artificial man-made hill, the Golden Mount is the temple’s most well-known landmark and is a sacred pilgrimage site during the weeklong worshipping period in November. To get to the top requires a climb up some 300 steps, which encircle the chedi like a loosely coiled snake.”

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The steps are tiny tiny tiny. I think they’re equivalent to 100 normal sized steps πŸ˜‰ But the walk up is super easy, even though it’s terribly hot and you will sweat!

“Approaching the top of the hill, you will be welcomed by a wall of bells and panoramas of historic Bangkok.”

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Mike posing silly but I did see other people ringing the bells as they were praying while ascending.

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Shrine at the top

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Panoramic view of Bangkok from the top!

Bangkok Panorama

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We thought we head reached the top, but wait! You can go up a small set of steep steps to the actual top – right up to the golden stupa. We spent some quiet time here observing others and just taking in the city views and refreshing breeze.

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“Before beginning the climb (or if you are us, after the climb), you will find an unusual cemetery built into the base of the Golden Mount. Covered in vines and overgrown trees, it emits a rather spooky out-of-era vibe. Perhaps this is because in the late 18th century, Wat Saket served as the capital’s crematorium and the dumping ground for some 60,000 plague victims.”

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And that marks the end of our visit to Wat Saket!

During the taxi ride back to Tha Tien Pier, we passed by the Democracy Monument. I was able to grab a quick shot from inside the taxi.

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More to come! πŸ™‚

Day 04: Bangkok – Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

As it often happens on vacation, our plans to start the day super early were spoiled by the laziness to sleep in. No worries! By late morning we were on the BTS heading to Saphan Taksin station, which connects to the Chao Praya Express Boat (and Tourist Boat) at Sathorn Pier.

We were headed off to our first destination of the day: Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

“Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest wats (temples) in Bangkok and is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, as well as one of the largest single Buddha images of 43m length: the Reclining Buddha. It is also thought to be the origin of the original Thai massage.”

Tips:

  1. Sathorn Pier is where you want to be if you will be visiting the Grand Palace and other famous temples… very easy to get to there by boat!
  2. If you want, take the tourist boat once (buy tickets at the kiosk), specifically for the narration while traveling down the river if you aren’t familiar with the area or haven’t done any reading.
  3. After that, take the express boat (it flies orange flags, buy tickets on board), not the tourist boat! It’s 15 baht as opposed to 40 baht and stops at more stations along the river!
  4. Unless you want to wear public attire worn by many other sweaty individuals, make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the temples. Covered shoulders and pants below the knees!
  5. Get there early, the later you go, the more people will be all up in your personal space πŸ˜‰
  6. If anyone tries to stop you BEFORE you’ve reached the entrance, saying that the temple is closed – do not believe them. You are being scammed.

The express boat can fit quite a few people!

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To get to Wat Pho, take the boat to Tha Tien Pier. As you approach Tha Tien Pier, you will see Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) on the other side of the river. We’ll be visiting Wat Arun later!

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From the pier, walk through the market and just follow the crowd! It’s just across the street, you won’t be able to miss it πŸ™‚

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Tickets are 100 baht which includes a small bottle of cold water – redeem it! It will be nice and refreshing πŸ™‚

“The temple has sixteen gates around the complex guarded by Chinese giants carved out of rocks. Only 2 are open for public entrance.”

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Once you enter the complex, if you want to visit the temple, you will be given a bag to put your shoes in and carry with you inside. If you aren’t dressed appropriately, you will be loaned a robe to wear.

Entrance to the temple

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“The image of reclining Buddha is 15 m high and 43 m long with his right arm supporting the head with tight curls on two box-pillows of blue, richly encrusted with glass mosaics.”

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“The 3 m high and 4.5 m long foot of Buddha displays are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. They are divided into 108 arranged panels, displaying the auspicious symbols by which Buddha can be identified like flowers, dancers, white elephants, tigers and altar accessories.”

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“There are 108 bronze bowls in the corridor indicating the 108 auspicious characters of Buddha. People drop coins in these bowls as it is believed to bring good fortune, and to help the monks maintain the wat.”

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Walls are completely covered in intricate, hand painted murals.

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“Outside the temple, the grounds contain 91 chedis (stupas or mounds), four viharas (halls) and a bot (central shrine).”

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“The main temple/chapel is Phra Ubosatha with Phra Buddha Deva Patimakorn, the principal Buddha it is situated a top a three tiered pedestal under which some ashes of King Rama I are kept. The interior of the Hall is covered with fine murals and the inside of the panels for the windows are covered in lacquer work. This is the most impressive building at Wat Pho.”

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Day 04: Bangkok – Abloom!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Can’t believe it was already the fourth morning of our trip! Let me show you where we were staying in Bangkok!

Buffet breakfast provided by the hotel. Small selection, but adequate to get you going until you find some real food out on the streets! πŸ˜‰

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Pool! Always nice to have a pool!

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Hotel had a really nice and quirky lobby.

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And we’ll end the post with a selfie!

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On to fun touristy-yet-beautiful stuff in the next post!

Day 03: Bangkok – Dinner at Gaggan!

Monday, July 15, 2013

After our little shopping adventure, we met up with Laura in the evening close to Lumpini Park for some drinks – buy one cocktail get one free! πŸ˜€

It was nice to spend more time together but it wasn’t long before we said our good-byes and parted ways because Mike and I had reservations for a very special dinner… at Gaggan, known for its progressive Indian cuisine. I know what many of you, including Laura, are thinking, “Who goes to Thailand to eat Indian food?”

Well, when it’s listed as #10 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2013, (#3 in 2014!) you know it’s worth it. We made our reservation back while studying for exams and were looking forward to this meal the entire trip. We had even already decided that we would be going for one of the tasting menus.

Unfortunately, it was raining and we had left our umbrella back at the hotel… and because our cab driver (which we needed for only a couple hundred of metres) was inefficient, we still showed up to the restaurant wet. It is also why we don’t have any pictures of what the restaurant looks like from the outside. But to give you an idea, it was a large white colonial-styled house with many large windows, each with warm light shining through. πŸ™‚

We were greeted by friendly staff and shown upstairs to our table for 2. There was a sense of intimacy as we were seated in the corner but could still look out to the dining room and see the other diners. I only wished the lighting was a little bit brighter for better quality of photos πŸ˜‰

The ambiance was really nice and felt like we were dining in someone’s house rather than a restaurant. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures to show you… sorry!

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Along with our menus, we received a ‘welcome drink,’ a passionfruit and strawberry sorbet, frozen with liquid nitrogen. We didn’t get the “flair” presentation with the liquid nitrogen being poured at the table like other diners have shared, but it was still tart and tasty.

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We soon decided on our drinks: An Asahi beer for Mike and a frozen lychee and rosewater mocktail for me.

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And it also didn’t take much effort to confirm that we would be going for the 10 course tasting menu. Most courses are listed on the menu, but the unlisted ones were a nice surprise!

The meal was exceptional… and I have photos to share with you!

The first item was something we had read online from previous diners and were quite looking forward to – the Yoghurt Explosion. Rich yoghurt with black pepper submersed in an alginate bath to give the form of an egg yolk and served on a ceramic spoon. We were instructed to slide the whole thing into our mouth and just experience the explosion. Explosion indeed! An awesome burst of flavour that left us with silly smiles on our faces and looking forward to what the rest of the evening had to offer.

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Next was a trio served on an interestingly shaped metal plate. We were instructed to eat from left to right. The first was a white chocolate shell filled with a spiced liquid concoction that included chili. Sweet and spicy, a nice kick to start off the plate.

The next item was an edible bag made of rice paper and filled with wasabi flavoured beans and dried fruit. Interesting textures from the melting rice paper, crunchiness of the beans and chewiness of the fruit – the combination of flavours was nice as well.

Lastly was a deconstructed samosa with potato mousse on the top. Nicely flavoured, but I wish it was served fresh and hot rather than cold/room temperature.

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My date! ❀

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Our third dish was called Viagra – French Oysters freshly shucked served with kokam nectar and Indian mustard ice cream. On top of the oyster was an oyster leaf with foam. We were told to eat the leaf first on its own and that it tastes like an oyster… wow, true! Did some reading afterward to find out that oyster leaves have a slightly salty/ocean taste that highly resembles oysters – even referred to as vegetarian oysters. The oysters were fresh (actually the first one I’ve tried and enjoyed) with the coldness of the mustard ice cream immediately melting in your mouth. Yum! With slight brain freeze πŸ˜‰

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The next dish, Egyptian Secret was spiced foiegras with spiced red onion chutney and cold raspberry foie powder. My first time having foiegras, and it didn’t disappoint. It was smooth and creamy with a slight bitterness that was balanced by the sweetness of the other components.

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The fifth dish, In Season was an airlight soup of summer truffles and organic waynaud peppers. With slivers of truffle on top of this delicious foamy creaminess, In Season has ruined one of my favourite comfort foods – Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup from a can. The soup was literally airy but packed full of flavour. So rich and tasty! I only wish I could eat it again…

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Next on our tasting adventure was Smoke It Up – river king prawns tandoor grilled and finished with fennel Kachumber, coriander foam and charcoal oil. The green garnish on the prawn was called salty finger, and we were told to eat it first. It was a surprising taste of watery saltiness, and interesting addition to seafood dishes! Mike’s prawn came out with a head and mine didn’t, one of the only inconsistencies we noticed that night. The dish tasted nice, although the salad was a little too salty. At the end of the night, this was our least favourite dish.

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A happy girl!

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What Mike had been looking forward to, Game On – Wild French quail sous-vide 6 hours with chettinaud spices tandoor roasted with pineapple chutney. Without inquiry, we were assured, “Using fingers is fine!” which gave us a little laugh. The quail was super tender and flavourful and the pineapple chutney added a combination of spicy sweetness we’d never had before. We both agreed that the chutney was a little too thick, too dark and too sweet.

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The last savoury dish for the night, British National Dish – chicken Tikka masala deconstructed and reconstructed curry makhani foam with traditional chicken tikka. Yes, a pretty full on dish description but it can be simplified to fewer words: Best Tikka masala ever. Really. For us at least, we’ve only eaten Indian food in Brisbane. The naan was delicious as well, we completely devoured that dish!

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Our pre-dessert: Black sesame ice cream topped with a sponge cake. Being honest here, the ice cream was great but sponge cake was kind of weird… I think this dessert would’ve been much better as a take on fried ice cream. With crisp, fried cake on top instead πŸ˜‰

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And the finale to our night: Cinanana – banana meringue with Ceylon sweet cinnamon burnt ice cream. So tasty! The banana meringue, in terms of texture, light sweetness and flavour, really made the dish for us. There was also passion fruit gelee tubes which had a nice flavour but we weren’t a fan of the texture and thought the flavours would’ve been just as great without. πŸ™‚

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After such an enjoyable meal, our only wish was that we could’ve had 2 or 3 times the portions! But alas! It was still be a great adventure!

I was adamant with Mike that I wanted to meet Chef Gaggan and shake his hand. Mike was skeptical. Chefs, after all, are busy people where their kitchen is a secret where magical things happen and not the place for customers. So I tried to prove him wrong. When I asked if it was possible to meet the chef and give him our thanks, our waitress said she would ask. She came back and said, “Yes, and he would like to give you a tour of the kitchen! Would you like to go? But he’s a very busy man, so he’s waiting for you to come right now.”

Without a second of thought I blurted, “Of course, thank you! Let’s go!” And off we scurried downstairs. Chef Gaggan met us at the kitchen entrance and welcomed us into his kitchen, asking how we enjoyed our dinner. Then he gave us a tour of his little kitchen, which although small, was highly functional with around 30 staff members coming and going. We even got to see his lab, where some of the magical creations take place.

Unbelievable to Mike, I asked Chef Gaggan for a picture with him, to which he happily agreed!

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Knowing he was quite busy, I still jumped at the opportunity to ask if I could snap a few pictures of the kitchen… He responded with telling his staff to put on their faces for the camera!

[Chef Gaggan has an interesting history and extensive experience, read more about him here on their website!]

I’m sorry for disrupting for your work environment! I wish I had been able to get everyone’s names and titles but I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. ^_^

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Excuse the pan, my fault for barging in and snapping away! But look at the colours! πŸ™‚

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Mike and I had a great experience here and I wanted to share that with all of you! If you are ever in Bangkok, make a booking at Gaggan for a night of surprises. We were taken on a whirlwind of wonderful tastes, and the other great thing? That 10 course tasting menu cost a fraction of what it would in Brisbane – 1600 baht per person (+10% service charge and 7% VAT) ~$55 CAD + fees.

Day 03: Bangkok – AFRIMS & Shopping

Monday, July 15, 2013

Our first morning in Bangkok!

After breakfast at the hotel, Laura met us around 9am in order to take us into work with her – say what? There’s a reason and don’t worry, it wasn’t because of free labour. Laura works at Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) and we all thought it would be interesting to visit her workplace and meet some of her colleagues. Additionally, Mike’s old PhD supervisor had spent many years doing Dengue Virus research at this facility and a lot of the tools Mike used during his PhD came from AFRIMS.

AFRIMS was only a short tuk tuk ride away, where we had the opportunity to meet with many of Laura’s colleagues and even got a tour of the facilities… complete with multiple mini presentations on the methods of research they used! Didn’t think I would be hearing about ELISA and Haemagglutination Inhibition Assays on vacation!

The visit ended with a wonderful lunch at a nearby Thai restaurant where we were introduced to our first bowl of Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut soup). Thank you again, Laura and all the staff we met at AFRIMS who gave us their time to not only welcome us but also to share with us the projects they’re working on!

After lunch (and a quick detour through the surrounding hospitals to exchange money courtesy of Laura), we headed to the Victory Monument sky train station. An opportunity to see Bangkok life and grab some pictures!

Victory Monument, one of the busiest transportation hubs in Bangkok.

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There are no pedestrian crossings in the traffic circle, instead people use overhead walkways.

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We decided today would be the day to check out the city and the shopping. But before that, we stopped quickly at our hotel to BATHE IN AIR CONDITIONING… and plan our shopping trip, of course.

Back alley to Abloom – remind you of Vietnam? There were many aspects of Bangkok that reminded us of Vietnam actually. From the construction of older parts of the city, to the food, to the people.

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I believe this was Sanam Pao sky train station, the one right by our hotel.

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Our first shopping stop was MBK Center, a massive 7-8 storey mall with absolutely everything you could possibly need.

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Unfortunately, what I haven’t told you is that Mike and I are terrible shoppers. We last for a few hours tops and get disheartened when our dreams of “really cheap bargains” don’t live up to expectations πŸ˜› Mike got a pair of pretty shoes though!

We then quickly walked through Siam Center… where I saw some cool sights.

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And of course, had to check out the swanky Siam Paragon.

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We finally got to settle our long-time craving for quality donuts! Yum!

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And then continued on foot down to Central World Plaza. Loved the huge open space, people passing by, art gallery, city backdrop, etc.

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More city views!

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We were going to check out Palladium World Shopping Mall, but got distracted by… SUPER C.

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We thought of all the wonderful foods we could buy and decided to go grocery shopping instead. It was a jackpot. We found Seaweed Pringles we couldn’t find last time in Vietnam, we stocked up on our favourite Kewpie salad dressings, found LARGE containers of Koh-Kae wasabi peanuts, Ice Cream flavoured Oreos, and we even got Strawberry, Vanilla, and Cappuccino TimTams (that’s right, they’re not even for legal sale in Australia). If you’re over at the right time, maybe we’ll share! πŸ˜‰

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With that, we called our shopping day a success and headed back to the hotel to drop off our loot and freshen up before meeting Laura for drinks followed by our most anticipated meal this trip – dinner at Gaggan.

More to come! πŸ™‚

Day 02: Bangkok – We made it, hi Laura!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Arrived safely in Bangkok around 7pm. The airport is huge… almost too big! Luckily, despite the vastness of the airport, we eventually found Laura! For those who don’t know, Laura is a friend of Mike’s from Halifax. She’s an infectious diseases doctor currently working in Bangkok doing research. Very kind of her to not only offer to come meet us but arrange our accommodation as well!

We took the Airport Link train for ΰΈΏ45 ($1 CAD = 30 thai baht) to Phaya Thai station where we transferred to the BTS Skytrain and took it to our stop: Sanam Pao.

Our accommodation, Abloom Exclusive Serviced Apartments, was just a couple minutes walk from the station. We were taken on a quick tour of the facilities (restaurant, gym, pool) before being shown to our apartment.

The apartment was enormous, with a living room, dining area, kitchen, bedroom, etc. Way more space than we could use, especially when we would be out most of the day!

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Mike sitting and watching TV… I mean watching nothing.

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It was already getting late and we were all hungry πŸ™‚ Laura took us to a Thai restaurant close to her place (one train stop away) for some tasty food. We had some spicy curry, stir fried Morning Glory (water spinach/rau muong), chicken with cashews, and a popular tasty Thai drink – Cha Yen.

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Cha Yen is also known as Thai Iced Tea. It is supposed to be made from strongly-brewed ceylon tea. However, due to price, black tea is often with food colouring added to give the distinctive rusty-orange colour. The tea is sweetened with sugar and condensed milk and topped with evaporated milk for creaminess. It is delicious and something we enjoyed often in Bangkok… it is not very healthy though… good thing we can’t get it back in Australia!

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By the time we finished dinner, it was time to call it a night.

Excited to wake up in Bangkok!

End of Day 02 πŸ™‚

Day 02: Singapore – Asian Civilisations Museum

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Woke up and checked out of Big Hotel (left our luggage there for safe keeping)! Xuan met us for a day of fun before our flight to Bangkok in the evening.

First things first, off to breakfast!

As we walked over to Bugis Village Hawker Centre, we passed by a few sights:

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The Sri Krishan Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna.

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Just a couple of steps away, the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist (1884) temples in Singapore. It is a popular place of worship for devotees of Kuan Yin, the Chinese god of mercy.

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We soon made it to the hawker centre where Xuan made sure we tried many yummy local dishes!

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Iced milk tea

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Fresh deep fried goodness! Ham Chim Peng – a savory, rolled bun with 5 spice. You Tiao, crisp light dough sticks that’s called ‘gio chao quay’ in Vietnamese. First time having it fresh out of the fryer… I am now spoiled. And the Butterfly Bun, slightly sweet and covered in sesame seeds – yummy too!

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This is Poh Piah, our favourite of the morning. A thin crepe-like wrap filled with stir fried turnip, hoisin/chili-based sauce, cucumber, crispy peanuts, shallots, lettuce, egg and more. Bursting of flavour and texture! Similar in style and flavour to one of my favourite Vietnamese dished called ‘bo bia‘… both very delicious!

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Another dish, called Chwee Kuay. Steamed rice cakes topped with preserved radish and chili. Simple and tasty, but not a standout to me. I think it’s because the rice cakes reminded me of ‘banh beo‘ in Vietnamese cuisine – except banh beo is much more elevated in flavour with coconut-based rice cakes often topped with dried shrimp, mung bean paste and fried shallots, eaten with nuoc mam (fish sauce vinaigrette).

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With our bellies happy, we proceeded on foot to the Asian Civilisations Museum!

On the way, we passed through Raffles City and Xuan suggested a pit stop at the Tiong Bahru Bakery for their delightful Croissant au Beurre. Crisp, buttery and fluffy – how I’ve missed quality croissants!

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We continue on with our scenic walk, an opportunity to see the Marina Bay Sands Hotel from an angle we’ve never seen before.

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Eventually, we made it to the Asian Civilisations Museum but didn’t go in until we took pictures of the Singapore River with Boat Quay on the other side.

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The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) is the first museum in the region to present a broad yet integrated perspective of pan-Asian cultures and civilisations… opened on 2 March 2003. Occupying over 14,000 square metres at the newly-restored Empress Place Building, it houses 11 galleries which showcase over 1300 artefacts from the Museum’s growing collections on the civilisations of China, Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia/ Islamic. These collections include recent acquisitions as well as artefacts inherited from the historic Southeast Asian ethnographic collection of the former Raffles Museum.

And now onto some of my favourite pieces in the museum! (I am too lazy to write out the description of each piece, but if anyone would like to know more, I will be happy to write more!)

Teak Chettinad Door (19th-20th cent) Chettinad region, Tamil Nadu

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Crowned Buddha in dharmachakra (11th cent) Pala, Bihar

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Ganesha

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Sandstone Yogini (11th cent) Pramara, Bijamandal, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh

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Schist Nataraja (12th cent) Halebid, Karnataka

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Gateway (Late 17th – early 18th cent) Western Uttar Pradesh or Eastern Rajasthan

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Nebula (2003) by Kouichi Honda, Japan

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Carved Human Skull (1900s) Kayan Dayak, Sarawak, Malaysia

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Multi-armed Quan Am (18th cent or greater) Northern Vietnam

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He-He Erxian (17th cent)

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Shakyamuni Seated in Meditation (early 17th cent)

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Plurality of identities of Daoism

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An interactive area called ‘Share Your Insights‘ that allowed visitors to answer a number of questions. These were some of my favourites.

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“Imagine you are about to marry a person whom you have never met. In 5 words, sum up what is going through your mind”

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“Imagine you are holding your baby for the very first time. What is ONE promise you would make to him or her?”

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“Imagine you can make the world a better place, what is the ONE thing you would do?”

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“Imagine you were an emperor. Name ONE value you would promote.”

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“Imagine how you would defeat a centaur who is bigger and taller than a horse to save a bride?”

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Southeast Asian silver

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Trophy and mug

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Gold Malay pendant necklace with Buddhist symbols and Chinese shop marks on reverse

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Peranakan Chinese bridal ensemble, headband, hairpins, lapel ornaments (19th cent) Java

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Shroud (2011) by Jakkai Siributr, Thailand, Bangkok

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And that marked the end of our visit!

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Next, it was over the bridge and through The Fullerton Hotel where we stopped for drinks at The Landing Point. We were a little under-dressed, but that’s okay! We sat outside and enjoyed the view anyway.

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Finally, it was time to head back to our hotel to grab our luggage and head to the airport for our flight to Bangkok at 5:30pm.

But not without stopping for some food! Haha, this time at Parklane Zha Yun Tun Mee House!

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Mmm, some deep fried wontons (but not enough filling), non-soggy noodles and char siew with a side of soup. Great end to our temporary stay in Singapore!

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THANK YOU FOR TAKING CARE OF US XUAN!

We’ll be back, but for now… off to Bangkok!

FULL DAY 02 ALBUM IN SINGAPORE HERE

Day 01: Singapore – Just Food!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Checked out of Meriton early to catch the bus to the airport for our flight at 9am. Getting there wasn’t a hassle at all and neither was checking in. We were soon seated on the plane and “scooting” off to Singapore!

Arrived in Singapore around 3pm and took the MRT to our hotel. Have we mentioned how much we love the MRT there? So efficient! We were only staying a night, and booked ourselves a room at Big Hotel in Little India.

Although the building lived up to its name, the rooms were small, as expected. With that being said, the room was well designed and took advantage of all available space. Oh, please add a fridge to your rooms so we can keep our yummy drinks and food cold!

Really comfortable and homey lobby of Big Hotel!

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It didn’t take long for us to drop our stuff off and head out for food!

After a walk through Little India, we came to our first stop: The famous Banana Leaf Apolo!

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After reading that it is often praised for having the best fish head curry in Singapore and being a dish we’ve never heard of, we had to try!

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Luckily, we arrived just before the dinner rush and didn’t have to line up. We were seated at a table with an iPad for ordering which is always fun! Ordered a serving of fish head curry (smallest one is for 2 people), one side of rice and a garlic naan.

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While we were waiting a basket of fresh, crispy (not too salty) papadums came for us to munch on. Yum!

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Food is served on banana leaves (on plates)! It wasn’t long before our fish head curry came out and the staff quickly came around to scoop rice onto our banana leaves. We didn’t receive a side of vegetables though, don’t know if we should’ve but didn’t mind at this point because there was too much food!

The flavours were great, very spicy! The fish head was enormous and full of meat that was tender and quite earthy. We were curious what kind of fish they used and when asked, we were told red snapper. One fish head was more than enough for the 2 of us, I wish there was a smaller portion available because we really only wanted a taste. (Had to save room in our bellies for more snacking!)

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The garlic naan was actually quite a disappointment. We’ve had much better naan at pretty much everywhere else we’ve ever been…

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The meal was quite expensive by our standards. With one drink each, the total bill came to approximately $40 SGD. Would we come back again? Probably not. It was great to try, but not delicious or exciting enough to make us come back. Lots of other cheaper, yummier options to choose from!

Even though we had plans to meet Xuan later that night for (another) dinner, we continued to eat on our own…

Stopped at Rochor Original Beancurd for some cold tau huay.

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Again, we just beat the queue!

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Beancurd is very similar to the ‘tau hu’ with ginger syrup I had growing up, which was always eaten warm. On a hot day, it’s so refreshing to have it cold! And for only $1 SGD! Service could’ve been a little more friendly though. The lady was annoyed with me because I didn’t speak Mandarin… that’s not my fault!

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There were also egg tarts that we should’ve gotten. You can see many cups pre-filled with syrup in the background. At the rate of customers were coming to buy, I wouldn’t have been surprised if all of them were used up by the end of the night!

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Yummy!

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As we continued to walk, this time back to our hotel to rest before dinner with Xuan, we passed by Le Cafe Confectionary & Pastry.

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If you know me, you know I love bakeries. When there are signs saying “Our Award-winning Pastries,” I am all over it.

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We walked in and asked to buy one of each award winning pastries. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the rum balls and coffee cookies, and you couldn’t buy the pineapple tarts and soya bean tarts individually. Oh no!

The young lady working told us to buy a box of pineapple tarts instead. “There are only 10,” she said, “You will eat them all in one day!” Haha, that wouldn’t be a good thing! But because we were heading to Bangkok the next day and meeting Laura, we ended up buying a box of 10 for around $8.50 SGD.

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I expressed disappointment that we couldn’t try/buy the other pastries individually and she said she might have some soya bean tarts for us to try. While we were waiting for her to come back, another lady came out from the back and gave us each a pineapple tart to sample. Thanks! We just bought 10… but oh my goodness they were delicious with crumble-in-your mouth pastry and generous not-too-sweet filling.

The lady helping us came back to give us 2 soya bean tarts. Also for free! Apparently, they were not pretty enough to sell so we could take these with us – woo hoo! We saved the tarts until we got back to the hotel and enjoyed them with a cup of iced tea… so tasty. We’d never had a soya bean tart before… what a silky treat!

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By now it was past 11pm and Xuan’s dinner with his parents had gone on for longer than expected. Mike and I decided to hold off dinner with him and see him tomorrow instead. Early night for us, no problem!

End of Day 01!

Pre-Holiday: Night in Gold Coast

Friday, July 12, 2014

Started our week long vacation with the first night in Gold Coast!

We were flying out to Singapore from Gold Coast Airport Sunday morning. Without public transportation running early enough and the shuttle bus from Brisbane costing $90, it made sense to just spend the night in Gold Coast instead.

We stayed at Meriton Serviced Apartments (Broadbeach) for a discounted price and were quite impressed. Clean, modern and great value for the money. A studio apartment with everything we needed and more!

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We brought a USB full of TV shows and movies to catch up on. Before arriving, we decided to stay in the whole night and actually stuck to our plans! How relaxing πŸ™‚

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Even brought our own food and had a lovely romantical dinner. Very nice and much needed after our surgery rotation and stressful exam!

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We had crackers and cheese, rosemary rustic bread with homemade garlic mayo, delicious salad, strawberries and dark passion fruit chocolate. Mmm! Oh, and can’t forget some wine! Moscato… our current favourite πŸ™‚

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Called an early night to be well rested for our big adventure starting tomorrow!

Stay tuned and join me as I recount our fun times in Singapore and Bangkok!

Post-Surgery… Vacation!

Surgery is officially over, woo hoo!

Our final written exam (worth 70%) was yesterday… 2.5 hours of looong testing-of-knowledge. The exam was certainly challenging, as many of my friends have agreed, but now we just have to sit and wait for our results!

More importantly – on to a one week vacation!

Mike and I were able to score really cheap plane tickets, so we are going overseas for the holiday!

Today, we are going down to Gold Coast.

Tomorrow morning, we are flying out to… Singapore!

Yep, again.

Our super basic itinerary:

  • July 12 – Gold Coast
  • July 13 – Singapore
  • July 14-17 – Bangkok
  • July 17-20 – Singapore

All our flights added up to less than $500, which we thought was a steal! We have already booked all our accommodation but haven’t really finalized our plans of where we want to go and what we want to do yet.

Like usual, I will try to blog whenever I can! If not, there will be tons of photos and posts after we come back πŸ™‚

Have a great weekend everyone! And for those on a holiday like me, have a lovely vacation!