02 October 2015

Say What??

So if you know Singapore you'll, of course, know about Singlish. I've lived here a little over five years and although in that time I've come to learn some I don't pretend to know a great deal. But if you are new to Singapore or a tourist here you may find yourself completely in the dark about it.

In case you don't know Singlish is a dialect spoken uniquely in Singapore. The vocabulary consists of words originating from English, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew and Tamil to name just a few. You only need to be in the country a short while to hear it spoken in most day-to-day settings you are likely to find yourself in.

Never fear though if that's you struggling to understand because the Park Royal Hotel on Kitchener Road has come up with something that may help just a little. They have taken some of the confusion out of it all by collecting together and sharing on their website a handful of popular and well known Singlish expressions. As you can see from below each expression is colourfully illustrated, an example of how to use it is given and more importantly what it means if you hear it used. You can see this includes such fun expressions as, 'don't play play', 'bo jio' and 'blur like sotong' (a personal favourite of mine) to name just a few. 

So if you are flummoxed by something you've heard on the bus or at the wet market why not check out their helpful page. It might just give you the answer you need and make your time in Singapore (whether it is short or long) all the more enriching.

25 September 2015

AMPED - A really fun afternoon trampolining

I think people who know me well would tell you I'm not big on exercise (other than going walking) and I am probably not the most adventurous of people either when it comes to more active/sporting pursuits. When I was in secondary school though I used to belong to and compete a little for the school trampolining club and whilst I wasn't amazing at it I used to really enjoy it. Friends at work had recently found an indoor trampolining park actually not to far from my home (though I think this one may now be closed), had been along and enjoyed it and I figured it might be fun to try it once again so I agreed to go with them to the AMPED trampolining park the next time they went. 

Thanks to the irregular hours we work we were lucky to be able to go during the daytime in the week when it is, in theory, a little quieter than it would be in the evening or at the weekends. So we all met up one Friday afternoon, this time opting for the park near River Valley Road (there is also a park in Jurong) as this was close to work so convenient for those we were meeting who'd just finished for the day. Despite it being a weekday, however, it was still pretty busy (to be sure of a spot you should book in advance) so I can't imagine how manic it must get during weekends and school holidays!

The view post bounce

As I mentioned it is recommended you book online in advance and the first time you go you are required to sign a waiver form just in case you get injured. You also need to buy a pair of special socks with grips on to wear on the trampoline beds. They reminded me a bit of the slipper socks that were very popular a few years ago. I can't recall how much they cost but they weren't very much and you can then keep these to use every time you go. After all that (make sure you wear suitable clothing too) you are good to go.

The centre has numerous larger and smaller trampoline beds all joined together so you can bounce from one part to another very easily. There are also a few crash mats dotted around and a foam cube pit thing for younger children. You get an hour's slot to bounce as much as you want. Believe me even if you take breaks and are just there to have some light-hearted fun an hour is more than enough! There is air con at the River Valley Road branch but you will still be super hot by the end so go dressed appropriately and prepared to get sweaty.

It was a brilliant afternoon, I certainly felt a few muscles I've not used for a while afterwards. I was also impressed by how many moves I could still remember and still kind of do! It was fun to have the chance to do something again that I used to enjoy doing and also to do something just a little different with good friends. It's a great activity for children and with the current haze problems something good for them to do to burn off energy but also do indoors, but to be honest it's good fun whatever your age.

20 September 2015

East Coast Park to Gardens by the Bay

Yet more walking for us, we really do do quite a lot don't we? This time though we walked from East Coast Park to Gardens by the Bay on the fairly recently opened path/bridge which seamlessly now connects the two without you having to venture anywhere near a main road.

We live near East Coast Park so this is an easy place for us to get to and enjoy when we don't have any other plans. Earlier this year an overhead bridge was opened that connects East Coast Park near Fort Road to the open space on the other side of the road and allows you to walk (or cycle) right to Gardens by the Bay East. From here you can, if you wish, then continue across the Marina Barrage and around to the main part of Gardens by the Bay. 

For us the walk began close to Tanjong Katong Road at the underpass (near the Big Splash) allowing you to walk under the ECP. Once you reach the other side you are in East Coast Park and ready to begin. As you can see in the photo below the path is, as always in Singapore, beautifully laid out and clearly marked for walkers and cyclists. There is no need to worry about getting lost the path will take you all the way there. For most of the route you'll walk (or cycle) with the ECP on your right hand side.

Off we go!

As you get closer to Gardens by the Bay you'll pass the Marina Bay Golf Course on your left. Not being interested in golf and by default not a golfer I was amused to see people standing in what looks like a building with no walls, on several different levels, all practicing their shots. From there you shortly find yourself in Gardens by the Bay East and can catch a first glimpse of MBS through the trees.

There's MBS

From here, if you want to, you can walk on through this part of gardens, over the Marina Barrage and into the main part of Gardens by the Bay. We did just that when we visited but this final part of the walk is something that we'd done previously so were already familiar with. This is a great walk (and one we've done again since), it's great to be able to walk all the way to Gardens by the Bay from our home and certainly proves how small Singapore is and how easy it is to walk what seems quite a distance away. This is yet another simple, well laid out and easy walk and whilst there may not be lots of new things to spot along the way it is absolutely worth doing at least once, whether you are on foot or on a bike.

Just a little part of the Singapore skyline

An iconic Singapore building

09 September 2015

Red Dot Roaming - Kent Ridge MRT - Kent Ridge Park, Hort Park and the Forest Walk

I've been on a bit of a roll with my Red Dot Roaming posts and managed to get another walk in another part of Singapore done not so long ago. This time my roaming took me to Kent Ridge MRT to complete the Southern Ridges walk. I'd already previously walked from Harbourfront MRT, starting at the Marang Trail going to the Henderson Waves on another Red Dot Roam so the plan this time was to walk the other half of it. In the end we actually walked all the way back to Harbourfront MRT so ended up completing the whole of the walk.

Getting off at Kent Ridge MRT station we took a short walk through the nearby business park (absolutely devoid of life as we went on a Sunday) entering the park through a small side entrance which looked a little like we were just wandering into somebody's garden. Thankfully though it wasn't and we had entered Kent Ridge park. Our entrance was close to a lake where we saw a beautiful kingfisher type bird just watching the world (and no doubt the fish) go by. Our plan was to head towards the Canopy Walk and then on to Hort park and after a bit of confusion as to which way to go we were soon on the right track.

View from the Canopy Walk

Passing through the Canopy Walk, a boardwalk taking you (as the name suggests) up to the tree canopy we came to Hort park. Hort park is a gardeners dream and somewhere I didn't even know existed until planning this walk and looking into the area a little more. It is a 22 acre park connecting Kent Rdge park, Telok Blangah park and Mount Faber park housing a multitude of greenhouses, a visitor centre and different themed gardens including a Balinese Garden and Butterfly Garden. The park is full of educational and research elements and is right next to a business park (what a lovely spot to look out on from your office) and would be a great spot to explore more thoroughly if you were lover of gardening. We only passed through it on our way to the Alexandra Arch and Forest Walk so only saw the area fleetingly but I was very impressed by what I did see. I've since read that the greenhouses are home to some very interesting plants so maybe it will be somewhere to return to at some point.

Walking Through Hort Park

Passing through this park and on to the Alexandra Arch was a thousand times nicer than having to negotiate the busy Alexandra Road below us. I do love how Singapore does the park connectors and other paths connecting walks and cycle paths etc. here. Many times its is possible to completely avoid walking on main roads and the paths are always beautifully laid out making them great for everyone. There really is no excuse for not getting out there and exploring the parts of the island nearest to your home or a little further afield either by foot or bike.

The Alexandra Arch was designed with a curved deck and titled arch to look like an open leaf. It really is a very photogenic bridge even when it's almost swallowed up in the trees etc (see my photo below) and I couldn't resist taking several photos of it. From the Alexandra Arch we then walked seamlessly onto the Forest Walk in Telok Blangah Hill Park. Treetop walks seem quite popular in Singapore with the one in MacRitchie Reservoir and the new walk on Sentosa near Fort Siloso. Unlike the other two though this one twists and turns as you walk through the forest and gives great views towards the city and out towards sea. The walk also takes you through different elevations climbing to 18 metres in places. Just like the other two you get to walk through the treetops and enjoy a totally different view of the forest and the surrounding area.

Alexandra Arch
Forest Walk
View from the Forest Walk Towards the Alexandra Arch

As you enjoy the walk and the views you pass close to the Gillman Barracks, a former military camp and now a contemporary arts base and some where still on the 'to visit' list, anybody been? The walk also takes you close to Preston Road which through an exit allows you to view a handful of beautiful black and white houses. How lovely to live there and have this walk on your doorstep.

Black and White Houses
A path taking you through the trees on the Forest Walk

Upon leaving the Forest Walk you find yourself in Telok Blangah Hill Park and here we were close to where we finished up on our previous walk when we did the other half of the Southern Ridges from Harbourfront MRT starting at the Marang Trail. As I mentioned we actually carried on and walked all the way to Harbourfront MRT that day and if you'd like to read about that half (albeit in reverse) take a look at my previous Harbourfront MRT Red Dot Roaming post.

This is a great walk to do whether you do the whole route or just sections of it. Since doing this my husband has actually done it again with our recent visitors from the UK. You get some great views of both the CBD and out to sea, seeing some history and the natural parts of Singapore along the way. It's all beautifully joined together with connecting paths and elevated walkways allowing you to walk a considerable distance barely having to venture on to main roads.

View Towards Reflections at Keppel Bay and Beyond

Kent Ridge MRT is on the Circle Line (CC24)

If you missed any of my previous Red Dot Roaming posts, check them out here.

16 August 2015

Red Dot Roaming - Kadaloor LRT - Punggol Promenade Nature Walk

It's been a while I know since my last Red Dot Roaming post but I managed to get to the next place of interest to me, the Punggol promenade nature walk. This is another stretch of the North Eastern Riverine Loop of which I've been to the Punggol Waterway park and the Sengkang Riverside park areas previously. If you are interested in exploring any of this part of Singapore check out this really handy guide produced by the National Parks and, of course, my previous posts!

This time though we got the LRT to Kadaloor station, the first time my husband had ever been on the LRT, and began our walk from there. We began not too far from the Lorong Halus Wetland park, somewhere else I would like to visit but something we decided, this time, to save for another day. As with so many of the walks and routes to explore in Singapore everything was beautifully sign posted and the paths well cared for, making it perfect for all the family to enjoy. We did make a slight error getting on to the walk and had to backtrack a little but we were soon on the right route and underway! If you decide to join the walk from Kadaloor LRT make sure you head under the bridge close to the building works and RiverParc Residence (rather than walk across it) to join the jogging and cycle path which will then take you around to the nature walk.

The point of the walk near Lorong Halus Wetland park (that bridge leads across to it) where you can decide whether to join the Punggol Promenade Nature Walk or go in the opposite direction and join the Riverside Walk

From this point we were then on the nature walk with the sea to our right. Throughout the whole walk the path was well defined with much of it being split between a cycle path and a footpath. As you can see from my photo below the first part was tree lined and really didn't feel much like Singapore. We visited on a Sunday but asides from a few runners, walkers and cyclists we hardly saw anybody until we reached the end of our walk.

Before long though we left the initial tree lined walkway and were out in the open with very limited shade. Make sure you take plenty of water and wear plenty of sun cream! It is from this point that we could see Pulau Serangoon or Coney Island as it is also known, lying between Singapore and Pulau Ubin and another of the many islands off the coast of Singapore. 

As you follow the walk around you pass two bridges connecting the island to the mainland but both have large gates restricting access. In the past I have read that you can get across to the island but I honestly don't know if we could have as it didn't look like it, needless to say we didn't try it. I've read that Pulau Serangoon has been earmarked for development with residential areas, areas for sport and recreational use and for a nature reserve. As I understand it some of this will be opening this year (not sure if it has yet), lets hope the residential plans etc. don't destroy the natural nature side of the island.

View across to Pulau Serangoon (Coney Island)

As we continued around we passed alongside the Serangoon West Dam which is the second connection between Pulau Serangoon and Singapore and from here across the water the edge of Pulau Ubin came into view and further on so did Malaysia. At this point we started to see more people as we came closer to Punggol Point and the Punggol Settlement. There were people fishing as well as walkers, cyclists and so on.

View Towards Pulau Ubin
View Towards Malaysia

At the Punggol Settlement we were greeted by the welcome sight of a couple of convenience shops as well as some restaurants over two levels, a little oasis of life after the relative isolation of the walk. We were definitely grateful for the opportunity to get a drink and then something to eat. I've read since that the area used to be a popular dining spot in the 1970s and is now enjoying a bit of a resurgence. Certainly with the riding stables, holiday chalets (who knew) and outward bound centre that we spotted close by I imagine this is a popular place to satisfy your hunger. Also the views as you dine looking out to sea and towards Malaysia are very pleasant and a welcome change.

A little of the local wildlife

Punggol Point and the beach is also an important spot for those interested in history as this was the site of part of the Sook Ching massacre, the extermination of perceived hostile elements among the Chinese in Singapore during the Japanese occupation of Singapore. At this site (one of several) between 300 to 400 Chinese civilians were massacred on the 28 February 1942. These victims were some of the 1000 Chinese men previously detained after a door-to-door search of the Upper Serangoon Road. The Sook Ching massacre took place in various locations, both here and in Malaysia (Malaya as it was then known) between the 18 February and 4 March 1942. This area at Punggol Point has been declared a national heritage site and there is a small plaque acknowledging this piece of the area's history at the site.

After our lunch and with our walk ended we headed home, at least once we managed to secure a taxi. The relative remoteness of the spot (despite the restaurants etc there) means that can be a little challenging. It was, however, great to discover this part of Singapore. I had not realised beforehand that the Punggol Settlement and Punggol Point area was quite so developed with plenty more than just places to eat and drink. I can imagine it's a popular spot for those who live close to the area and even for those living further afield. It seems like somewhere refreshingly different, whether you are visiting with family or looking for somewhere a little more unusual to go to with a loved one (especially with those sea views) though admittedly not the easiest spot to reach (or get back from) if you don't have a car. Hopefully I'll get back there again at some point.

Kadaloor LRT (PE5) is on the Punggol LRT line. It can be accessed via Punggol MRT on the North East line (NE17).

As I mentioned above this walk was another section of the larger North Eastern Riverine Loop, take a look at my previous posts on the Punggol Waterway and the Sengkang Riverside park floating wetland.

If you missed any of my previous Red Dot Roaming posts, check them all out here

05 August 2015

Gardens by the Bay Celebrates SG50 in Style!

Last Friday evening saw us head to Gardens by the Bay to enjoy the opening night of their latest floral display in the Flower Dome, 'From Tales to Legends: Discover Singapore Stories'. This is a celebration of some of the many tales and legends of Singapore and is just one part of the Gardens celebrations for Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence.

The latest display transforms ten local legends with beautiful floral interpretations of each. These include Sang Nila Utama, the famous tale of how Singapore got its name when the ruler of the Sri Vijaya empire went on an expedition in search of new lands, discovered Temasek, as Singapore was then known, saw what he thought was a lion on this island and renamed it Singapura which means 'lion city', as well as the stories of the Merlion and the Singapore Stone. All these were familiar to me but the display also introduced me to some new tales including, the tale of Bukit Timah and that of Radin Mas, the tale of a Javanese princess who settled in Telok Blangah and ultimately saved her father from certain death by leaping in front of the blade about to stab him. Luckily for those visiting each display tells you the story of the legend so everybody, whether you are already familiar with them or not, can enjoy the tales.

The tale of Sang Nila Utama
The lion Sang Nila Utama believed he saw on Temasek leading him to rename the island Singapura 'Lion City'

All of these tales are nestled in the Flower Dome amongst a large variety of stunning orchids and other flowers. The current display features more than 8000 orchids and plants beautifully put together by Singaporean landscape architect, Damian Tang. Orchids seem an appropriate choice of flower for this celebration display as they have been a part of Singapore's heritage since the 1930s and the establishment of the orchid cut-flower industry. The display also includes the use of Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, named after Agnes Joaquim (1854 - 1899), an avid gardener and orchid breeder who discovered the orchid in her garden.

As you walk around the dome you'll also see several images from Singapore's past. This part of the display remembers some of the unsung heroes who helped to build Singapore. This includes the coolies, Samsui women, night soil carriers and many more. The night soil carriers was a job I wasn't previously familiar with, these individuals were sewage collectors who manually disposed of human waste back in the 1950s before modern sanitation was introduced. All of the these images are inspired by paper tole which is the art of making 3-dimensional images from flat prints. This looks really effective and makes the images really stand out and feel far more lifelike than just a flat print does.

Bukit Timah

Tanjong Pagar


As well as the lovely display in the Flower Dome right now I'm sure you'll already know that Gardens by the Bay has a nightly 'Garden Rhapsody' display, a light show beamed from the Supertrees. But did you know you can currently enjoy a special SG50 version? For the first time laser imagery is being used on the Supertrees accompanied by some local nostalgic musical favourites especially arranged and composed just for this event. We were able to see the show on Friday night as part of our visit. I've seen the usual display which is quite something and this special version didn't disappoint, the trees always look stunning lit up under the night sky and, of course, this is free to enjoy.

If you still haven't decided where to view the aerial flying displays from the Republic of Singapore Air Force and the National Day fireworks, what about popping along to the gardens? It's an excellent spot to catch them from and would make for some great photos as the planes fly over the Supertrees, a great little extra on top of your visit to the Gardens. There are several other events being held at the Gardens over National Day weekend too, including a 'Mass Dance for SG50' on the 8 August 2015. Check out the Gardens by the Bay website for more details of this and everything else that is happening over the month of August.

After all that you'll no doubt be hungry? What better way to end your evening, begin it or even break it up than by dining at Satay by the Bay? This was exactly where we headed after watching the Garden Rhapsody show on Friday night. Satay by the Bay is a large hawker style casual dining space with nineteen stalls, six satay carts and a Bar and Bistro Corner in a garden setting by the waterfront, perfect for families. Never fear if the heavens do decide to open whilst you are there as Satay by the Bay provides a sheltered dining area (as well as an outdoor area) so you can still enjoy your delicious food. 

The drinks stall operates twenty-four hours a day with most other stalls open from 11am to 10.30pm. We dined on a whole range of dishes, including satay, masala chicken, nasi briyani, BBQ chicken wings, sambal stingray, prata and lots more. I don't think you could leave hungry to be honest! in fact it was all so good I didn't get any photos of the food so you'll just have to go along and try it out for yourself.

By the way Satay by the Bay is also currently celebrating its third anniversary with an SG50 Lucky Draw. You have the chance to win ten lucky draw prizes, valued at ten times the amount you spend at Satay by the Bay. All you need to do is submit your receipt(s) with your personal details into the lucky draw box at Satay by the Bay. This is running from now until Wednesday 30 September 2015, Terms and Conditions apply.

I recommend heading to Gardens by the Bay at some point over the SG50 weekend to see some (if not all) of what is on offer and soak up a little of the party atmosphere.

'From Tales to Legends: Discover Singapore Stories' is on now until Sunday 13 September 2015, the Flower Dome is open daily from 9am - 9pm with extended opening hours until 10pm on National Day (9 August).

Admission charges to the conservatories apply.

There are currently numerous ticketing promotions as part of the SG50 celebrations offering reduced entry to the domes to both local residents and tourists, check out the Gardens by the Bay website for more details.

Garden Rhapsody - SG50 Edition will run now until 10 August 2015 with laser projection at 7.45pm, 8.30pm, 9.15pm and 10pm nightly at the Supertree Grove. It will then run from the 11 August 2015 to 13 September 2015 at 7.45pm and 8.45pm nightly at the Supertree Grove.

Admission to the Supertree Grove is free.

This blog resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thank you to Gardens by the Bay for the kind invitation.

29 July 2015

Food Glorious Food in Ho Chi Minh City

Having written about all the marvellous food we ate whilst in Hanoi here's another post from my husband about the food we ate in Ho Chi Minh City on our whistle stop visit. You can follow him on Twitter at @asksirstamford

After our very late arrival on Friday night (much later than planned) and a morning of exploring, for Saturday lunch we visited Nha Hang Ngon. This is another branch of the chain we visited on our first night in Hanoi. It was again a series of hawker type stalls serving a variety of local dishes, different from Hanoi though 1000 miles to the north, with the dishes typically being spicier than their northern cousins. We chose fresh spring rolls (called salad rolls here in the south), differing from the northern version in that the peanut sauce had chili in it. We also had a dried beef and green papaya salad which was fresh and a little spiced. The owner of this blog chose chicken skewers, whilst I ordered the chili squid, served with a little tomato salad. The restaurant is in District One, near the Reunification Palace, the Ho Chi Minh Museum and the War Museum (I'm afraid I'm not in the slightest bit interested in the war so visited none of that). We had made our way to lunch after visiting the rooftop bar of the Rex Hotel, with its kitsch dancing elephants. This was the site of the Americans Five O’clock Follies, where war time propaganda was disseminated in the 1960s and 1970s and from where the last defeated American helicopter left from. Before that we'd been to the observation Saigon skydeck of the Bitexco Financial Tower that gave us a bird’s eye view of the city from on high.

Fresh salad rolls

Dried beef and green papaya salad

Chicken skewers

Chili squid

For dinner we decided to try a restaurant that was recommended / mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide and also had reasonable Trip Advisor reviews, although the one saying it was full of ‘merchant bankers’ also did put us off slightly. The place was called the Temple Club (so named as it was opposite a Hindu temple), down a side road in District One and was again located in a former colonial villa. The upstairs dining room was exquisitely decorated with spiritual artefact's, such as fresco's, wooden plaques and statues of the Buddha etc., which complimented the extensive menu, all menus in Vietnam seemed to be enormous with far too much choice. We order a tasting platter to start and a couple of main dishes and a bottle of Chilean wine. The Temple Platter contained four key elements, including fresh and fried spring rolls (again), rolled beef and a salad roll. The highlight of the meal was the caramel pork hotpot, which was pork covered in sickly sweet sauce which was accompanied with special fried rice (with small prawns) and a chili chicken dish. All the food was great and the atmosphere lovely. The night was rounded off with a Saigon Beer in our hotel bar.

Interior of the Temple Club

Spring rolls

Special fried rice complete with fried egg

Chili chicken

Caramel pork hotpot

The next day, after a rather warm morning wander around the Botanical and Zoological Gardens (it was hot and the animals were caged in appalling conditions) we decided over coffee to take up another recommendation (from our friend who writes the great blog, A British Girl Abroad) and go to Cuc Gach Quan restaurant. This is also allegedly in District One by taxi but it was in the back of beyond and would never be found without local help. The restaurant is down a backstreet, again in what was termed as a French villa and again had an overly extensive menu (described as what a local family would typically eat). With help from the excellent waiter we chose a number of dishes and had to assure him that I was very very hungry as we ordered many dishes (he probably thought that I was a big fat pig). 

As usual we had fresh and fried spring rolls, and again these were very good. I love the contrast one gets from the fresh ones against the crunch of the fried example. Alongside this we had a bacon and lemongrass small dish, which was deep fried lardons of pork in a spicy chili and lemongrass dressing, a chicken, chili salt dish with boiled chicken bones with associated flesh to be dipped in a salt, chili and lime mixture with a portion of fried rice and Vietnamese sauteed vegetables. Being a greedy glutton I also ordered a fish hotpot, which was deliciously spicy but a little fiddly with the bones, it did however compliment the rice perfectly. The restaurant was excellent and up there with the best we went to all week, I’d certainly recommend it and may return next time I travel to Saigon for work.

Interior of Cuc Gach Quan restaurant

Just a soft drink but check out the straw, completely natural!

The week was rounded off with a pint or two in a branch of Brotzeit, above the Hard Rock Cafe, and next to the Intercontinental Hotel, this is a great hotel to stay at having stayed there previously for work. As is the one we selected for our brief stay, the Sofitel Saigon Plaza.

Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offered a huge variety of different and delicious dishes. We did not have anything disappointing, but then I never really expected us to either. I can't wait to return!

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