SIN/KL 2014: Overnight sleeper train SIN to KL

December 01, 2014

For $50ish or less, you can purchase a return trip on the overnight sleeper train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. Mike and I enjoy this method of traveling because not only does the price pay for your transportation there and back, but also for your accommodation over 2 nights.

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Getting to the train station is very easy. We were staying in Little India and simply grabbed a bus to Woodlands station. Woodlands is a point of entry/departure so if you were planning to take one of the buses that go straight through to Johor, you need to alight and proceed through Customs and Immigration. Once completed, you hop back on your bus and carry on. If, like us, you are going to grab the train into Malaysia, you need to walk over to the train station (follow the signs, very easy). You will queue outside the gate until it is boarding time. Once the gate opens, you will proceed through a separate Customs and Immigration and then board the train.

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We were hoping to experience a 1st class sleeper (private cabin with 2 berths) or even a deluxe sleeper with private shower and toilet, but unfortunately, those cabins were being renovated at the time. Instead, we booked 2nd class sleepers. There are two rows (lower and upper) of bunks on either side of the cabin. They are less private but still spacious (Mike is tall and did not feel cramped at all) and comfortable.

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Some tips for taking the train from Singapore to KL:

  • Buy your tickets in advance, in person or online. They can and do sell out.
  • Don’t forget or lose your passport and your disembarkation/embarkation card, you need these to leave and enter the country.
  • Bring water and snacks. They do sell food on board but always nice to have brought something you like.
  • Toilets are available but can be filthy and there’s no soap – always carry hand sanitizer when you’re traveling!
  • There are no specific luggage compartments that are secure and within view. Most passengers keep their bags with them on their bed. This is easiest and most comfortable if you are not traveling with anything larger than the size of a carry-on piece.
  • Bring an eye cover/sleep mask, especially if you’re in the top bunk. The curtains do not sit flush with the ceiling so the lights will shine through.
  • Bring an Ipod, listen to music, and sleep. If you’re worried about missing your stop, don’t worry the staff will walk through the cabins and yell loud enough to wake everyone up. Otherwise, set an alarm on your phone!
  • The cabins will have large garbage bags hanging off selected bunks, please use them and dispose of your garbage responsibly!
  • If you book your train ticket originating from Singapore, you will be charged in SGD, this makes your overall trip more expensive. The cheapest way to get to Singapore to KL is to grab a bus from Singapore to Johor Bahru (few dollars max) and then get on the train to KL (RM 45, $15 CAD). This is compared to $46 SGD or $40 CAD to travel straight from Singapore. The trip back from KL to Singapore should cost around RM 43 or $14 CAD. Can be as cheap as $30 CAD or closer to $55! I do find, however, that is simply less hassle if you get on the train in Singapore.

Left Singapore at 11:30pm and arrived in KL around 7am the next day. Very similar times on the way back as well. It was an enjoyable experience, we would definitely do it again if traveling to Malaysia!

SIN/KL 2014: Dinner at Gardens by Bay

December 01, 2014

After our visit to the domes at Gardens by the Bay, we walked around and enjoyed the nearby sights, including the Supertrees in daytime.

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Here are a few facts regarding the Supertrees, taken from the Gardens by the Bay website:

  • These unique trees of up to 16 storeys in height can be found all around the Gardens – twelve at the Supertree Grove, while the remaining six are placed in clusters of threes at the Golden and Silver Gardens.
  • 11 Supertrees are embedded with environmentally sustainable functions like photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy.
  • Supertrees are made of four parts: reinforcement concrete core, trunk, planting panels of the living skin, and canopy.
  • Over 162,900 plants comprising more than 200 species and varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and tropical flowering climbers are planted on the Supertrees.
  • Garden Rhapsody – When night falls, watch as the Supertrees come alive with a dazzling myriad of light displays bursting across the sky.

At 6pm, we met with my Aunt Tam at Supertree Dining for a casual dinner and catching up! Aunt Tam grew up in Australia and is currently working in Singapore. Michael and I have been lucky, this is now the second time we’ve been able to meet up with her in Singapore!

We decided on dinner at Hill Street Coffee Shop, one of the numerous options within Supertree Dining. Other options include: American diner food, Italian and even Texas Chicken.

A simple but tasty dinner of satay, laksa and nasi lemak. Even better was the company 🙂

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With Aunt Tam!

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After dinner, we enjoyed the lit up Supertrees and there was even fake snow (in the form of little soap foam bubbles) within the large lit up castle-like structure! Everyone was loving and it was be the closest thing to snow we would enjoy this year 😛

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Our timing was great and we got to sit and enjoy the Garden Rhapsody light show!

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Unfortunately, we couldn’t hang out too late. Aunt Tam had work the next morning, and we had an overnight train to catch to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!

SIN/KL 2014: Flower Dome & Cloud Forest

December 01, 2014

What is a great thing to do on a very hot summer day? Spending it admiring nature in glorious air conditioning of course!

Take the MRT to Bayfront station and take the short walk over to Gardens by Bay for a few hours to enjoy the park’s peaceful greenery as well as the two domes.

On the walk to Gardens by the Bay, take some silly photos in the MRT tunnel! Lots of nature backdrops and mirrors to choose from 😛

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Once you exit to the walkway, you will see the Supertree Grove. From there, it is about a 15-20 minute walk to the domes. Or you can pay $2 for a shuttle ride in!

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For $28, you can visit both the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. As we have visited the domes once already, Michael opted to pay an additional $4 for an audio tour, which he thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommends!

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“The Flower Dome 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. Stop and smell the flowers in the colourful changing displays of the Flower Field, which reflects different seasons, festivals and themes.” 

Enjoy some of our photos from the Flower Dome!

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The Cloud Forest houses “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.”

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The Cloud Forest has an amazing selection of beautiful orchids, take a close look around!

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My favourite, Venus Flytraps

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A couple was doing a wedding photo shoot during our visit – very cute and wish I could get this photo to them!

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I recommend visiting Gardens by the Bay in the late afternoon after lunch. After your visit, you have time to check out the Supertree Grove while there’s still daylight. Grab some dinner at one of the restaurants on site, then check out the lit up Supertrees, take a walk 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” and watch the Garden Rhapsody light show. A whole day of fun, especially if you love nature!

SIN/KL 2014: Cheese & Chocolate Bar at Marina Bay Sands

November 30, 2014

[Note: Sorry everyone, I’ve come to learn that the Chocolate & Cheese Bar is now closed until January 5th when it will reopen at Tower 2 on Level 55. It’s too bad because you won’t have the opportunity to visit the rooftop as part of your dining experience :(]

We highly recommend booking yourselves an indulging late night buffet at The Cheese & Chocolate Bar on the top (57th) floor of Marina Bay Sands Hotel if you have time during your visit to Singapore. Yes, it is pricey ($48/person + service charge and without wine pairings) but is a great experience! Mike and I went last year when it was still only a chocolate buffet, imagine our excitement not only for the opportunity to take my mom, but that it’s now also a cheese buffet!

On arrival to Marina Bay Sands, you need to see the hostess of RISE Restaurant in the lobby to get your pass up to the 57th floor. You need this pass not to use the elevator but to be let onto the roof terrace once you reach the top. As you walk towards the restaurant, don’t forget to take your time and enjoy the amazing unobstructed night view of Singapore and the renowned infinity pool.

We were warmly greeted at the entrance and escorted into the restaurant. The wonderful aroma of chocolate welcomes you as you enter the dining area and shown to your table. You can request to sit inside where it’s air conditioned or outside to enjoy the view. The ambiance is warm, the decor rich in shades of brown, and service friendly.

You can have optional wine pairings which are an additional $19 or $27, we opted for just teas and coffees, which were quite good! No time was wasted and we were quickly checking out the tasty delights and filling our plates.

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The set up is quite compact and small, however, lots of different presentations of chocolate on every bench.

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There is also a manned station with its featured dish made to order. Last visit, they were chocolate donuts with your choice of flavoured sugars. This time it was a chocolate banana gallette with vanilla ice cream.

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Mike and I have a system. We share one item between the two of us – that way, we don’t eat as much and get to try as many dishes as possible 😉 As you can see and imagine, there were lots of delectables!

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Such a wonderful variety of flavours, textures and presentations, really something for everyone. There were too many good ones to choose a favourite!

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These were our only 2 misses: ginger chocolate poached pear with a flake of gold on top (ou, fancy) and macarons. The macarons looked good, but had a terrible texture to them, not at all what they should be like.

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We started with chocolate, but don’t forget this is also a cheese buffet! From their info page, “The newly added cheese buffet offers 12 types of the finest cheese brought in from France, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom. Cheese lovers will be treated to a spread of hard cheese, soft cheese, blue cheese and goat cheese along with accompaniments. Round up the evening from a selection of six wines specially paired with each type of cheese for a divine experience.”

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Accompaniments included a range of breads, crackers, crisps, chutneys, honeys, nuts and dried fruit.

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A great selection of blue cheeses to Michael’s enjoyment! I’m trying to acquire a taste for blue cheese, but I think I need a lot more work 😛

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Dress up, come hungry and enjoy a great night out above the city of Singapore.

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Also, don’t forget to take in the views! My pretty mom enjoyed it!

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The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, as well as the Supertree grove of Gardens by the Bay.

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Looking out from the infinity pool on the other side of Marina Bay Sands is Singapore’s skyline – beautiful!

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After dinner, enjoy a walk around Marina Bay Sands, take in the decor, enjoy the views and maybe even watch the light show! Until next time! 🙂

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SIN/KL 2014: On a plane to Singapore!

November 29, 2014

See these excited faces? Off to Singapore!

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An uneventful flight with Scoot, followed by a short day in Singapore. Getting to Moon Hotel (stopping at Tekka Market in Little India for food on the way), resting and having a late but delicious dim sum dinner at Swee Choon!

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My mom finally had a taste of Swee Choon’s amazing Salted Egg Yolk Custard Buns that we’ve been raving about. Other favourites definitely included the Portugese Egg Tarts and Red Bean Paste Pancake.

Now I’m really craving dim sum…

SIN/KL 2014: Gold Coast for a night

November 28 2014

Hello friends!

With end of year exams finally over, we were more than ready for vacation!

To start, Michael and I were taking my mom to Singapore and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) for a week, Nov 29 to Dec 06. Related blog posts to this trip will be titled with “SIN/KL 2014” 🙂

It would be my mom’s first visit to Singapore and the first time in Malaysia for all three of us. We had hoped that Mike’s parents, as well as his Aunt Patsy and Uncle Dan would also be able to join us. Unfortunately, the cost of airfare was too high for their dates of availability.

Taking advantage of Singapore’s budget airline, Scoot, we had to fly out of Gold Coast Airport, about an hour’s drive from Brisbane.

We booked a night’s stay at Outrigger Resort in Gold Coast for a good night’s rest without rushing to catch our flight the next morning. For around $115, it was exactly what we needed: clean, spacious, with a pool, numerous restaurants along the street, and less than 5 minutes to catch the bus directly to the airport.

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Easy check in, now off to find some good dinner!

A day in Singapore

September 20, 2014

We landed in Singapore around 1pm. After a huge waste of time with Scoot (which may be discussed in a later post), including a 1 hour delay, we finally made it out into the city!

We first strolled through Little India, enjoying the sights and smells, finally stopping at Mustafa Centre to exchange money. Then we headed over to Chinatown, enjoying a quick lunch of BBQ pork and char siu with rice at Chinatown Food Street (CFS). This was the first time we came across CFS, here’s a little blurb from YourSingapore:

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Located on Smith Street in the heart of Chinatown, the revitalised CFS seeks to create the most authentic Singapore dining experience for locals and tourists alike. From a tantalising plate of Char Kway Teow, to sticks of mouthwatering Satay, CFS offers a diverse spread of local delights, with iconic food from local cultures all represented on one street.

With street hawker stalls, shophouse restaurants and ad hoc street kiosks, complete with the al-fresco dining style along the street, one can revisit the Chinatown of old at CFS. Newly constructed high-ceiling glass canopy shelter and internal spot cooling system allow diners to indulge in culinary pleasures regardless of rain or shine. Now fully pedestrianised, visitors can dine in comfort along Smith Street from day to night.

If you are ever in the area, HERE’S a good article with 10 food stalls to check out!

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We had to have a quick lunch before we needed to be on our way to a very important appointment – our first ‘real life escape game’ at BreakOut! Since last year, BreakOut materialized and landed the #2 ranking on the Trip Advisor list of attractions in Singapore. With nearly a 5 star rating after over 130 reviews, how could we pass it up?

What is BreakOut? Here’s a description from their website:

BreakOut Escape Game is a Real Life Escape Game provider in Singapore, offering themed escape rooms to players who enjoy the challenge of playing escape games in a physical environment. Real Life Escape Game is the latest global phenomenon that has taken the gaming world by storm, with more and more players experiencing the simple thrills of escaping from beautifully designed escape rooms.

Taking on the role of the main characters in the story, you and your teammates have to work together to find clues, solve puzzles and navigate yourself out of a locked room that you are trapped in, while beating the clock!

BreakOut has 3 themed escape rooms of varying difficulty – Forever Young(4.5*).,The Scientist(4*) and Magician’s Secret (5*). We cater to both newcomers and seasoned gamers.

Each session is 1 hour long. We booked our visit for 2:30pm and chose ‘The Scientist’ room to break out of, apparently the easiest of 3 rooms:

An eccentric but genius scientist has discovered a miraculous cure to any form of cancer – it is rumoured to be a previously unknown species of the mushroom family. Its wondrous properties are worth a fortune, and you and your accomplices have broken into his laboratory to steal his discovery. Unfortunately the paranoid scientist has booby trapped the room and you are trapped in his laboratory. Can you escape before the police arrive?

BreakOut is extremely easy to find and on the second floor of the building. We were greeted by staff as we were climbing up the stairs, “Sandra? Welcome! Come on in!”

We were asked if we’d ever played such a game before, either in real life or virtually. We hadn’t. We were given a quick run down and then taken into our room. The rules of the game were explained, including how to immediately stop the game and leave the room if required. We were reminded that unless there was striped tape around objects, they were a part of the game. Keep our eyes and ears open, be observant, use our brains and enjoy the game!

And then the staff was gone, we were left in our room, and the timer started to count down. Suspenseful music played continuously as we frantically tried to figure out how to get out of the room. We soon realized why the recommended number of players is 4-8 people, as opposed to two! The more people in the room working with you, the more fun and successful you’ll be.

We really did try. But maybe it was the jetlag and not sleeping for over a day, but we got stuck a number of times. We felt a little embarrassed but no worries! You are constantly being video monitored and if the staff find you aren’t progressing quick enough, someone will politely knock, come in and offer a vague clue to help you get back on track.

Unfortunately, we failed to break out of the room within the hour 😦 However, because no one had booked the room after us, we were allowed a few extra minutes to complete the game.

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A super fun and exhilarating experience! It is very clear that the rooms and situations have been thought out and well prepared. An hour of adrenaline rushing through your body as you race against the clock. 😉 Highly recommend a visit to BreakOut if you’re in Singapore! We will definitely be coming back to try the other 2 rooms the next time we are in Singapore. 🙂 Thanks to the staff for their great service and not openly laughing at us! 😛 We look forward to visiting again.

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After BreakOut, we walked around Chinatown some more, stopping at Koi Kei Bakery – the famous Macau name, renowned for their perfectly crispy-crumble-in-your-mouth almond cookie.

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Stepping into the shop can be a little overwhelming because there are so many options available. Luckily, the staff is there to help you out 😛 We were greeted as we stepped into the shop and given a few minutes to look around before being offered samples. Lots of samples. I think you could have a never ending taste of cookies if you wanted. We started off with the most popular cookie – the almond cookie. She gave us a sample of both the hand made and machine made almond cookies – you could definitely taste the difference in texture!

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Despite its popularity, we ended up not getting any almond cookies. Instead, we purchased a box of almond pastry. Superbly flaky and buttery while not too sweet. Yum!

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We continued our short day in Singapore with a steady stream of food. Including our first taste of Kaya Toast, a popular Singapore and Malaysian snack. Kaya is a coconut jam, often served on buttered toast with pandan, sugar and/or condensed milk. A sweet treat!

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For dinner, we foolishly thought we would be able to dine in at Swee Choon Dim Sum Restaurant, one of our favourite places. Boy, were we wrong. Dinner time meant huge lines. No time to wait. Good thing we could take out! We grabbed a few of our favourite dishes including: egg tarts, steamed salted egg yolk custard buns, and red bean paste pancake. So delicious, just as we remembered, and can’t wait to be back!

Unfortunately, our time in Singapore had to come to an end and we headed back to the airport…. where we finally had the opportunity to shower for the first time in 2 days.

See you again in December Singapore!

Trip Report – Business Class: YOW-LHR-PEK-SIN-BNE

(Note: I think this is going to be a long post, but I hope you enjoy!)

Hello friends!

On January 7th, Michael and I began our journey from Ottawa back to Brisbane… in style 😉

With 90 000 Aeroplan points and the most lovely agent on the phone, we were able to book our entire flight back in Business Class, going the long way. Of course, we had to pay taxes, which came to approximately $600.

Here was our flight itinerary:

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And so begins my amateur trip report! It certainly was an enjoyable first experience, definitely wanted to document and share!

January 7, 2014

Flight AC888 YOW-LHR (Boeing 767-300)
Departing Ottawa at 9:45pm
Arriving in London Heathrow at 9:35am Jan 08
Flight time: Approx 5hrs 40mins

Seats 2C and 2F

We said farewell to our family around 8pm at the airport and headed in through security. One of the best things about flying executive quickly became clear. Priority lines. For everything. Makes life so much easier.

Once through security, we headed to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge. A worn but roomy lounge with ample seating space. A conservative but good selection of drinks. There were also snacks, including some hot foods, I believe. We didn’t take a closer look, mainly due to being stuffed from dinner.

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The lounge was quite deserted and quiet, but good environment to get some work done. Also a nice view of planes landing and departing for those who are interested. Bathrooms were spacious with large, private stalls and anything you might need (feminine hygiene products, body lotion, etc).

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Boarded without any issues and I got to experience the Classic Pod for the first time. Not to mention they recline completely flat! Although slightly sad that configuration was 1-1-1 because it meant I couldn’t talk to Michael at all while seated.

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We left around an hour late due to bad weather outside Ottawa causing half the crew needing to come in via taxi from Montreal.

Hot towel, champagne and nuts right after take off as opposed to before due to lack of staff – no problem!

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Every year, Michael and I exchange cards on our flight back to Brisbane. Continuing with that tradition and reading my card after take off.

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Happy in his seat under mood lighting.

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Dinner was quite tasty, I was impressed.

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Appetizer: Nova Scotia lobster, seared scallop and marinated shrimp served with quinoa salad and caper tartar sauce.

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Salad: Mixed greens, grape tomatoes and Parmesan served with balsamic vinaigrette. Also had warm crusty bread.

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There were a choice of 4 mains, I chose the Ricotta and spinach ravioli offered with rose sauce, basil chiffonade, portobello mushrooms and parmesan. The ravioli was delicious but I simply couldn’t finish it all.

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Mike chose the Sauteed Atlantic salmon accompanied by lemon and scallion sauce, a grain medley of wheat berries, long grain rice and acini di pepe pasta, french beans and baby carrots. Slightly dry salmon but good flavours and definitely good quality for airplane food. No photo, sorry!

For dessert, a chocolate pecan brownie with whipped cream. Certainly not close to being one of the best brownies I’ve ever had but still good, nice and warm too. I passed on the cream.

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A decent wine selection but no Canadian choices, which I thought was a shame!

One of my favourite aspects of these flights – amenity kits. This one was compact and included the usual items (eye mask, toothbrush, tooth paste, ear plugs, socks) as well as some beauty products by Vancouver company Escents.

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In terms of service, nothing was lacking. However, both Michael and I felt pleasantries were forced rather than genuine coming from one particular flight attendant. Going up to every single passenger with a list in your hand, mumbling or butchering names while saying the exact same greeting to each person comes across as robotic. When we greet people and are unsure of how to pronounce their name, the easiest and most polite thing to do is to simply ask, “Excuse me, how do I correctly pronounce your name?” Such a simple thing to do and you look a lot less ignorant.

I had ambitious plans to stay awake and get a lot of studying done for my MCCEE. Yea, that didn’t happen. I slept most of the flight, eventually waking up to have breakfast before landing.

Continental breakfast consisted of fresh orange juice, sliced seasonal fruit, yogurt and croissants (and blueberry muffins I didn’t see) with butter and preserves.

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And soon we touched down in London! We made a quick stop in the AC Arrival Lounge to freshen up before heading into the city. Paid a small fee to store our carry on luggage at the airport and headed into the city via the Heathrow Express Train (£34/person return).

On the train for just a short 15 minute ride into the city!

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Arrived at Paddington station!

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Being on the streets of London for the first time!

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Due to our short layover (approx 8 hours total), we decided to go on a tour with The Original London Sightseeing Tour. The bus tour was great, we didn’t hop on and off like we would’ve it we had more time but got to see most of what it had to offer. It eventually got pretty cold being on the top of the double decker bus and not moving around at all! 😛

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Here’s a short video I put together of the sights we saw! London is beautiful, we’d love to come back and visit again when we have time… and money!

We eventually made our way back to Heathrow Airport. I didn’t take any photos of the Star Alliance lounge but it was packed, even for 2 levels. Apparently many flights going into North America were delayed due to bad weather which explained why the lounge was so busy. Had a nice shower to recharge for the next leg of our journey and enjoyed some snacks and drinks as well. 

Sooner than we wanted, we were zipping through lines in order to board our next flight with Air China to Beijing.

January 8, 2014

Flight CA938 LHR-PEK (Boeing 777-200)
Departing London at 5:40pm
Arriving in Beijing at 11:25am Jan 9
Flight time: 9hrs 15mins

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Warm greetings from all the staff, a near empty cabin and seats actually beside each other, we immediately knew we were going to enjoy this flight.

Within minutes of being seated, we were given our noise-cancelling headphones, amenity kit, slippers and menu. 

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Amenity kit with L’Occitane de Provence products, lovely!

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And of course, champagne for take off 🙂

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Good bye London!

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I didn’t take any photos of the cabin, but here are some from other (as linked) sources

Wine and more champagne

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Air China was serving their Winter menus. 

For dinner, Michael chose to have the Western option, which consisted of the following:

Amuse Bouche: Asparagus wrapped in parma ham, Scallop with keta caviar and radish and Hot Canape: Chicken kebab with chili sauce, Veg brochette

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Assorted bread roll served with butter

Appetizer: Seared scallops with noodles

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Salad: Fresh seasonal salad mix with Italian dressing or basil vinaigrette

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Main courses: Beef fillet served with Frisse risotto & vegetables OR Blue cheese gnocchi spinach & pine nut kernels

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Dessert: Apple crumble tart OR Bread & butter pudding OR selection of cheese with crackers

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Seasonal fresh fruit

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Overall, Michael enjoyed all components of his meal and found everything quite tasty! And of course, very filling 🙂

For myself, the Chinese option which consisted of the same amuse bouche, hot canape, breads and dessert options, with the following differences:

Appetizer: Poached chicken thigh with sesame soy dressing, mushroom shitake with julienne carrot, and mixed peppers with black bean sauce

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Main courses: Monkfish with hot bean sauce served with peppers, asparagus and carrots OR Chicken Yu Hsiang Aubergine served with brocoli (both options include steamed rice).

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I chose the Chinese option because I thought of all airlines, Air China would have Chinese food down pat. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The food was alright but mostly bland. Comparing our meals, the Western option is certainly more elegant with much better and sophisticated ingredients.

Like the previous flight, these seats also laid completely flat, it was wonderful! Again, I didn’t get much studying but a lot of sleeping done. 😛

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The flight certainly didn’t go by quickly, but was very comfortable and enjoyable. Service was impeccable and the bathrooms were spacious and well maintained. Air China has a small but decent drinks list, although we didn’t take advantage of it.

Lovely views passing by Mongolia!

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Breakfast!

As I had already chosen the Chinese breakfast option, I was anticipating disappointment after the first meal, haha!

My meal consisted of:

Plain rice congee with pickles, pickled spicy radish julienne, and mushroom wood fungus julienne. I’m normally a huge fan of pickles and especially fungus but again, not very flavourful.

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Dim sum with shrimp dumpling, sieu mai, char sieu bun, and chive & prawn dumpling. The dim sum was tasty, thank goodness!

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Mike had his Western breakfast of Scrambled eggs with bacon sausage & grilled tomato. Also danish, croissant, pain au choc & breakfast rolls with butter, marmalade, honey, cornflakes & milk, and fresh fruit. Of course he enjoyed his meal immensely!

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Again, comparing our meals, the Western option is much more substantial with more flavours.

Soon landing in Beijing!

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Check out the crazy smog pollution… the closer we got to the city…

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I was last in Beijing in 2007, around a year before the Beijing Olympics. I remember the airport service being horrendous with poor service and extreme lacking in English speaking staff for international flights.

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The airport is still not completely efficient as they had only 1 kiosk open to proceed to international transfers. As a result, a haphazard, huge snaking line coiled around a tiny space that blocked way for further incoming passengers. Should’ve taken photos!

Once through security, we proceeded to International Air China Business Lounge (serving all Star Alliance members) located on the 2nd floor.

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The lounge itself is quite spacious with plenty of seating area, and multiple stations to get snacks (packaged pastries and sandwiches) and non-alcoholic drinks.

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There is also a separate hot food station. However, like the airline food, I don’t quite understand how the quality of Asian styled food is so low. It might taste alright if you are extremely hungry, however, we certainly didn’t go for seconds.

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And unless we were mistaken and couldn’t locate other bathrooms, there are only 3-4 bathroom stalls in the entirety of the lounge, not enough!

The bar

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Otherwise a relaxing layover!

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View from the lounge

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Heading to our boarding gate!

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January 9, 2014

Flight CA969 PEK-SIN (Airbus A330-300)
Departing Beijing at 3:25pm
Arriving in Singapore at 9:45pm Jan 9
Flight time: Approx 6 hrs

Seats 13D and 13H

Again, service was lovely as we boarded and settled into our seats. Although the seats were not as nice or private, we did find the cabin more spacious and open. We also liked the insect-antennae lamps.

The seats beside us.

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Unfortunately, the cabin was quite full, with many Chinese passengers who find hoarking (Is this a real word? To bring up sputum and snot by snorting and hoarking) and spitting completely socially acceptable, as well as talking at full volume. Oh well, such is life!

No amenity kit either… 😦 But champagne for take off!

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Meals! We switched things up this flight. Mike decided to opt for the Chinese dinner option, consisting of:

Appetizer: Five spice smoked pomfret and Chinese salad: Marinated bran with vegetables and peanut

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Main courses: Gong Bao prawn OR braised chicken and chestnut with yellow wine sauce, both served with steamed pearl rice and seasonal vegetables, OR stir-fried assorted mushrooms with spring onion accompanied with jasmine rice and seasonal vegetables.

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Michael found the meal, “meh.” The main course was alright but he didn’t touch the pomfret and most of the salad.

Learning from my previous mistake, I chose the Western option this time, which should have included:

  • Amuse bouche: Tea smoked duck breast
  • Hot canape: prawn skewer with Thai chili sauce
  • Appetizer: Baltic style smoked salmon with black pepper
  • Salad: Fresh seasonal salad leaf with French dressing or Chinese vinaigrette.
  • Assorted bread roll served with butter
  • Main courses: Baked Tandoori fish served with raisin turmeric rice and curried vegetable OR stir-fried assorted mushrooms with spring onion accompanied with jasmine rice and seasonal vegetables.

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Unfortunately, bad luck struck again! Although I received my main course, apparently, they had made a mistake and were completely out of the other Western dishes. I said not a problem and accepted the Chinese side dishes… which weren’t very good and like Michael’s, remained mostly untouched. The Tandoori fish was very spicy and salty, I couldn’t finish it although the rice was extremely flavourful! Curried vegetables were mushy snow peas though 😦

Dessert: Hazelnut cake OR orange flavour chocolate cake OR selection of cheese with crackers AND seasonal fresh fruits.

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Cakes were alright but not tasty enough to finish all of it!

This flight went by quickly and we soon found ourselves landing in Singapore!

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After transferring terminals and doing some duty free shopping (have to restock our bar ;)). For spending over $100 on duty free liquor, we got a free Spongebob SquarePants plush toy! I chose to take Patrick, complete with a deep innie belly button home.

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After shopping, we headed to the SilverKris Business Lounge.

Very spacious with ample seating room, this lounge reminded us of a gentlemen’s club with dark colours and leather seats. Lots of drink options and an extensive hot foods area although we didn’t check out the food. I was able to squeeze in a shower in their lovely bathrooms (that you don’t have to go to reception to get a key) which was refreshing and great.

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Michael enjoyed a frosty mug of Tiger beer, of course

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We had a very brief 3 hour layover and soon found ourselves heading to our boarding gate for our last leg home.

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January 10, 2014

Flight SQ255 SIN-BNE (Airbus A330-300)
Departing Singapore at 12:45am
Arriving in Brisbane at 10:45am Jan 10
Flight time: Approx 7hrs 20mins

Seats 12H and 12K

Perhaps our most anticipated leg of the journey due to it being Singapore Airlines, the aircraft was probably one of their oldest and most outdated. The seats looked and felt tired, disappointment!

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The service, however, was great as always on an SQ flight. Again, no amenity kit (why? :() but we did get funky slippers!

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As always, champagne for take off!

We opted for 2 meals during this flight. Both dinner and breakfast. With many naps lying nearly flat in between… 😛

For dinner, we had warm focaccia with smoked chicken, cheddar cheese and sweet onion relish. Delicious!

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Highland Park 12 Year-Old Single Malt Whisky for Mike and a Skyhigh (“An invigorating recipe featuring vodka, Cointreau, lemon, topped with 7-Up). I quite enjoyed all the unique Singapore Airlines’ cocktails on this flight.

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And egg noodles with braised beef brisket, mushrooms, and leafy greens. Also delicious!

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Before landing, we both enjoyed an American Breakfast with fruit yoghurt, poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, bacon, ham, mushroom and roast potatoes. As well as breads with preserves. For airplane food, it was impressive and mighty tasty!

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Once landed in Brisbane, we proceeded through immigration and customs without any issues or delays. Once outside, there was no taxi queue, allowing us to immediately get into a taxi and be home within 1/2 hour.

Although we enjoyed most aspects of our flights immensely, it was a relief to finally be home!

Summary:

Best service: Tie between Air China and Singapore Airlines
Best food: Air China (LHR-PEK) for Michael, Air Canada (YOW-LHR) for me
Best drinks selection: Singapore Airlines (SIN-BNE)
Most comfortable: Air China (LHR-PEK)
Best entertainment: Air Canada (YOW-LHR)
Best lounge: Changi Airport’s SilverKris

Would we do it again? Yes! But only on points… 😉

And thank you to James and Kim for being so lovely! Not only did they keep an eye on our place for us, they made sure we had some fresh bread and milk in the fridge for when we got back! You guys are the best!

Just a bit of food

I haven’t done a food update since… May probably?

Not much to share since then, but here are a few dishes!

Vietnamese ground pork, ready to go into the oven! Nom nom nom. Final product was served at our post-surgery potluck.

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Chewy nutella peanut butter cookies

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We first had laksa last month in Singapore and it was quickly one of our favourite dishes. Trying my hand at homemade laksa and it was quite tasty!

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Chicken panfried dumplings. I love dumplings and these tasted great but they just take so long to make and get eaten so quickly! Haha!

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Made some perfect carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing to raise money for the RSPCA!

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I made cheesecake for the first time! The lazy way… with a chocolate oreo cookie as a base rather than a crumbed one. Baked cheesecake with a hint of peanut butter and nutella 🙂 Got the stamp of approval from Yoni and Mike!

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(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 🙂

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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! 😉

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 😛

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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. 😛

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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 😛

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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 😛

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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 😛

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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… 😛

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 🙂

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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 🙂

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

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Lots of friendly dogs 🙂

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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 🙂

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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. 😛

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, Planet is a paradox – hugely heavy, yet the bronze appears weightless; overwhelmingly  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 😉 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 🙂 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. The  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 😛

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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! 🙂

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

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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 😉

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! 🙂

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

Next up, food! 😉

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! 😀

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 🙂 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 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 🙂

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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 🙂

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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 🙂

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

Singapore Day 5: Country Wide Shopping

June 22, 2012

Our last day in Singapore… 😦

After sleeping in and having breakfast, we checked out and left our luggage at the hotel.

We had been told that Singapore is known for its shopping, but we hadn’t checked it out yet, so away we go!

We started at Bugis Street

Moved to Orchard Road

Then City Square Mall and a final stop at Mustafa Centre

You would need days to fully look through the shopping areas of Singapore – so many stores. Our tired feet cried and won out. After Mustafa, we walked back to our hotel to grab our bags and head off to the airport. It was about 8pm when we finally checked in and after a shop around their duty free stores, we were ready to chill out to board our flight.

Luckily, no delay with our Scoot flight this time! We were off at 10:30pm and back in Gold Coast before we knew it.

What a great trip… until next time!

Singapore Day 4: Dinner and Marina Bay

June 21, 2012

Turns out my aunt, Tam, is still working in Singapore!

She treated us to a lovely Japanese Buffet dinner at Kuishinbo in Great World City and it was great to catch up! Thank you so much again!

We then went down to Marina Bay waterfront in time for the 9:30pm Wonder Full – Southeast Asia’s largest light and water show. We decided to watch the show from afar so the show did not look as spectacular as we had anticipated. Or perhaps the shows are better on special occasions? Didn’t matter – good views and got nice pictures!

Debated going up that great hotel (Marina Bay Sands) but decided against it. But we walked around and saw lots of other pretty sights!

Louis Vuitton store on the water…

The Helix Bridge

ArtScience Museum (shaped like a lotus) on the left, seen earlier from afar

Michael taking a picture of Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Beautiful view!

Singapore Day 4: Chinese and Japanese Gardens

June 21, 2012

From the MRT station, we started off towards the Chinese Garden…

First visit, the 7 Storey Pagoda

The beautiful Bonsai Garden

Our Zodiac statues in the Garden of Abundance

Over the White Rainbow (13-Arch) Bridge to the Japanese Garden

Ran into my favourite flower! 😀

FULL ALBUM HERE!

Headed back into the city and met Bing and Lihuan at Hong Lim Food Complex in Chinatown for yummy lunch! Tried a number of dishes including

Bak Chor Mee (Mince Meat Noodles)

and Ice Kachang (colourful on left) for dessert!

Some shots of Chinatown

Neat idea – we need this

Back to Little India for some drinks (happy hour!) at our hotel before meeting my aunt, Tam, for dinner

Tekka Centre – where we had hawker Indian food a few times!

Singapore Day 3: Universal Studios

June 20, 2012

After breakfast at the hotel, we took the train to Harbourfront Station and then the Boardwalk ($1) over to Sentosa Island.

There are many tourist attractions on this island but we were focused on completing just one – Universal Studios – and my first time too!

By late afternoon, I started running a fever 😦 Fortunately, the short line ups allowed us to go on all the rides at least once and we felt happy to leave early.

What is amazing about having a fever? You can be outside in +40C and not sweat… at all!

As you can imagine, early night for me 😦 And breaking fevers is no fun when your bed is left soaking wet! At least Michael was able to enjoy happy hour at the hotel and Bing even came by later with ‘Dau Huay’ from Rochor Beancurd. Very similar to the Vietnamese hot tofu dessert with ginger syrup – except this one is eaten cold and doesn’t have ginger – yum yum!

Singapore Day 2: Singapore Zoo & Night Safari

June 19, 2012

After visiting the Botanic Gardens, we headed over to Ang Mo Kio for some lunch and to grab a bus (#138) to the Singapore Zoo!

We paid $42 SGD to visit both the Singapore Zoo (closes at 6pm) and the Night Safari (opens at 7pm) later that night.

And now… some of the wonderful animals we encountered!

Asian otters

Tapir! So cute!

Babirusa (not a warthog!)

My favourite – the majestic White Bengal tigers

Ehhhhh 😉

Catching his food

Celebes Crested Macaque

Brown Capuchin

An artist painting rhinos 🙂

Zaboomafoo!

Ring tailed lemur

Meerkats!

Jaguar

Komodo dragon

Orangutan, haha

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ALBUM OF SINGAPORE ZOO!

After a short break for dinner, we headed over to the Night Safari. Very impressed that the Night Safari and the Singapore Zoo were separate entities – both with their own trails and animals. We decided to start with the walking trails, then ended the night with a 40min guided tram ride (included with ticket). What a great time! But by the end of the night and spending the entire day on our feet,  we couldn’t wait to just get back to the hotel and sleep!

Fishing cat

Barking deer

Civets! You know… the ones that eat and poo out super expensive coffee?

FULL NIGHT SAFARI ALBUM HERE!

Singapore Day 2: Botanical Gardens

June 19, 2012

Moon Hotel was great! Located in Little India with wonderful buffet breakfasts every morning, free mini bar that’s restocked daily, free wifi and free happy hour (5-7pm) with up to 5 drinks from a great selection. Nice modern room with everything provided. The only thing we lacked in our room was a window! We had curtains but no windows which made our room always feel like 6pm – the mood of being in the ‘moon’ hotel? Staff were friendly and courteous – would definitely come back again!

Tuesday morning started after breakfast with a short walk to Mustafa Centre to exchange money. Thanks to Bing and Lihuan for the recommendation because we received a great exchange rate. We then headed over to Farrer Park MRT (Mass Rapid Transit – train) station to get our EZ-Link cards (similar to Brisbane’s Go cards) and headed over to the Singapore Botanic Gardens!

The garden was easy to find with the great MRT system, such a beautiful place!

The Reflexology Footpath – felt great on bare feet!

A woman practicing Tai Chi in the morning

A squirrel and his spoils!

Entry to the garden is free, but $5 SGD allows you to visit The National Orchid Garden inside – worth it!

Only a very few of the very beautiful orchids in the garden

A ginger flower!

Sun-basking turtles

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ‘SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENS’ ALBUM

Singapore Day 1: June 18

Arrived to the Gold Coast Airport at 7am to check-in for our flight at 9:00am.

After reaching our boarding gate, we waited… and waited. Then it was announced that were was a half hour delay, then another half hour delay, then a 2 hour delay, and then we were indefinitely delayed until further notice.

1pm came and went and we were still sitting around the tiny terminal. The only restaurant around was making a ton of money and I was surprised to see how patient the masses were.

Kids were still happily getting along

Others just chilling out and taking it as it comes

Eventually, Michael’s iPhone was dying so we hung out behind the Jetstar desk to charge up

Aww, the sad face!

I also don’t understand the lopsided gate numbers – it doesn’t look good!

Finally 2:30pm … we were boarding! 6 hours late!

We were randomly upgraded from Economy (blue) to Super Seat (yellow) with more room!

The flight wasn’t too bad, but they wouldn’t give you free water. We had to pay S$4 for a 330mL bottle of water!

Someone was not happy about it!

Check this woman out… a whole row to herself!

We finally arrived to Singapore around 9:30pm local time (we were initially supposed to be there at 3:30pm!) Bing and his girlfriend LiHuan picked us up from the airport and took us to East Coast Lagoon Food Village to eat local hawker food!

Bing and Lihuan!

Tried lots of dishes including: grilled stingray, carrot cake, chicken wings, char siu noodles and satay meat kebabs! Yum, thanks guys!

By the time we checked into Moon Hotel, it was already 12am. Called it a night and went to bed ready for a full day of activities tomorrow!

Photo #113: A Kid for a Day

June 20, 2012

Spent the day at Universal Studios Singapore – my first time ever visiting a Universal Studios – so much fun! Truly felt like a kid again and short waiting times made the day even better!

Photo #98: Wall of Tapes

June 05, 2012

One portion of Neo Kim Seng’s Mix: Re / Tape – part of the Visual Arts exhibit on display at the Esplanade in Singapore.

The description from the exhibit:

During its heyday in the 80s, the cassette was the choice format for sound recording. It eventually lost out to the compact disc, which today is also experiencing sharp global decline from the convenience of digital downloads.

Pre-recorded music cassettes return in this installation, reconfigured and remixed not only as cassette clouds but as fragments of walls of cassette shop to evoke personal memories.

The creation of the mixtape in this installation was inspired by how damaged tapes are repaired – the damaged portion is snipped off while the rest of it is spliced back together with clear sticky tape. While a few seconds or minutes may be lost, a remix of the song is created.

Employing the same technique, this mixtape was made from snipping segments from selected cassettes joined together with sticky tape, re-recorded and played back without any editing. The differences in sound levels and quality, including dropouts, are inherent in the re-taped music.

Farewell Singapore, until next time!

Michael and I made it back to Australia safe and sound and ON TIME!

After 2 weeks of immobility studying for exams, our bodies are crying in pain from spending more than 12 hours a day on our feet. Wished we had podometers to see how many km we traveled!

Singapore, you have been good to us. Special thanks to Bing and his girlfriend Lihuan for picking us up at the airport and taking us for real local food a bunch of times! It was also great that my aunt, Tam, was still in Singapore – great to catch up and thank you again for the lovely dinner!

And now, it’s back to reality! Just a weekend to unwind, catch up with blogging before it’s back to school!

Quick update from Singapore!

I’m still alive!

Singapore has been great and soooo humid! I’ve held off blogging about my trip to Singapore because my iPad won’t let me upload pictures properly onto my posts so I’ll do it a soon as I get back!

In the meantime, I also have not forgotten about my daily photo project. That will definitely be the first thing I do when I’m back in Australia 🙂 I have decided to ‘cheat’ and take new pictures for the days my photos were corrupted… I have tried to take neat pictures so I hope it pays off well!

(Update) Flight to Singapore delayed!

Woke up at 5:40am in order to get to the airport by 7am for our flight to Singapore at 9am.

It is now almost 11am and our flight is still delayed! 😦

I have already gone pee 3 times, finished reading a book (Pretend You Don’t See Her by Mary Higgins Clark), and I can only take so much butt-to-seat-cushion-pressure!

Please board soon!

11:10am

How disappointing! Delay has been due to “engineering” issues and there is now no estimated time of departure.

Scoot! Your airline just opened a few days ago! You are not making a very good impression on all of us so far…

 

First semester – done!

Phew!

Thank goodness my exams are finally over! I was seriously getting burnt out after studying for over a week straight and then having 4 exams in 4 days!

June 12 – Clinical Science Imaging (1 hr) exam – went well. Luckily I was in a small room and could see the screen fine but many I know were in larger rooms and had a hard time making out some of the pathology in the images.

June 13 – Clinical Science written (2 hrs) exam – Any more studying would not have prepared me better for this exam. Multiple questions testing random tidbits of knowledge. The level of difficulty of past exams compared to ours was like night and day. Did not like this exam as much and was really happy I didn’t have to regret taking the evening before off to go see a soccer game instead!

June 14 – Ethics and Professional Practice (1hr) exam – much better than anticipated! Although I wished for a few more minutes to have another read through of my answers.

June 15 – Global and Community Medicine (1 hr) exam – went well! But there were only 40 MCQs each worth 1.5% of our final grade – eep!

Our last exam finished around 12:30pm and with a huge weight lifted off our chests we spent the rest of the day hanging out with friends and relaaaaxing 😛 Good times!

And today?

Lots of cleaning… and packing for Singapore! We fly out of the Gold Coast on Monday morning so going to spend Sunday there. Yay – excitement building! We still have to decide what to do though! Thank goodness for friends helping us out and giving us good advice! 😀

Last week of Semester 1!

Hello everyone,

Hope you are all having a fantastic day 🙂

I have exciting news to share – I’m almost done first semester of second year med, woo hoo! What a great year so far – some downs but definitely lots of ups!

This is my last week of school and then we have next week off to study for exams. I have 4 final exams this semester, spread over 4 days – June 12-15. They’re coming up soon!

I’m feeling confident. Not because I’ve studied and know my material but simply because I have to succeed! There’s too much at stake to be lazy and fail. So much stuff to go through but there’s still lots of time to get everything done.

We do not start Semester 2 until June 25 so guess what I’m doing for the holidays?

Singapore!

Mike and I have bought tickets to visit Singapore from June 18-22 – very excited. It’s a place we’ve been wanting to visit and didn’t get the chance to while we were on elective in Vietnam.

You know what makes it even better? There was a sale and our tickets cost only $200/person for a return trip – how could we pass up that opportunity? In addition, a couple of our Singaporean friends are also going home and have offered to take us around and show us the little gems of Singapore 🙂 I’m so excited! I will finally be able to experience epic food adventures I keep hearing about!

So great to have this little opportunity to look forward to but until then… study study!

Are you preparing for exam too? Good luck!