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29 January 2014

The Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year is almost upon us and this year we'll be welcoming the Year of the Horse.  The year I was born in.  I wanted to catch a little bit of the hustle and bustle in Chinatown at this time of year and also see the CNY decorations there which are usually always very good.  So we went along a couple of weekends ago, had some lunch and a wander around the stalls.

Here are just a few photos from our day.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!










26 January 2014

Thaipusam 2014

Just over a week ago (17 January 2014) the Hindu festival of Thaipusam was celebrated by the Tamil community of Singapore.  This is an amazing experience that I have been fortunate to witness now four times.  My first experience (you can read about that here) saw me walk the entire 4.5km route from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal temple on Serangoon Road to the Sri Thendayuthapani temple on Tank Road with the devotees carrying their Kavadis and other offerings.  For the last three I've decided just to observe from a specific point along the route.  

If you've never experienced it for yourself and you have the opportunity to I would strongly suggest that you do.  It's unlike any other religious festival that I've witnessed and an experience that really does stay with you for a long time afterwards.  This year was the first time my husband got to see it for himself and whilst we only watched for a little while here, as I haven't written about it since my first year, are just a few photos from the day.



Not seen this before, Kavadis that look like the Hindu temples














24 January 2014

Takeaway Time

Last Friday evening after watching a little bit of Thaipusam with my husband after he'd finished work (my fourth Thaipusam and it still blows me away every year), we decided we'd get a takeaway.  We do get takeaway occasionally but nowhere near as often as we probably did in the UK.  When we do we tend to default to the same places that we know we can call, know what the food is like and we know we can have delivered.  Last week though we decided to use Foodpanda.sg to order our food and try out a new place in the process.  We used it once a long time ago but hadn't done since mainly because of our habit of sticking with the same restaurants that we always call directly.  It is dead easy though so no excuses!  You simply enter your postcode, choose a style of food and then a restaurant from those that will deliver to your area, make your order choices and simply wait for it to be delivered.  

They have a huge variety of food options to suit all tastes and cravings including Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Malay, Thai and a whole lot more.  We debated a little about what to get but in the end went for Indian food, something of a regular choice for us if we are getting takeaway.  However this time we decided to choose a restaurant we'd not tried previously, Kinara on Upper East Coast Road.  We then of course had the dilemma of picking dishes but went for a couple of starters, a couple of curries and rice.  We  were given a delivery time, received confirmation that our order had been received and was being prepared and sure enough the food arrived within the indicated time frame.

Restaurant locations on bag, Kinara has more than one branch in Singapore

Overall the food was excellent, though as is often the case we ordered far too much for one meal.  Luckily though curry leftovers are just as delicious (if perhaps not more so) and my husband benefited from those for his lunch the next day whilst I was at work.  

Since moving to Singapore and thanks to a friend who mainly only eats the vegetable Indian dishes I've sampled a lot more of these in addition to the meat dishes I would usually favour.  One particular item I've discovered is paneer something I'd never tried until recently but I now love.  Paneer, in case you don't know, is a cheese and I particularly enjoy it served in a spinach based curry, try it if you haven't it's good!  We ordered the paneer in the photo below this time, the paneer being dipped in flour and spices and then deep fried.  I have to admit this was perhaps the only part of the meal I was a little disappointed with but I think that is just my personal taste rather than the food itself.  I found it a little bland this way and personally think it is nicer served in a curry sauce.  Next time I'll go back to the paneer with spinach, but if you don't try these things you never know.

Subz Panjabi Samosas

Alongside the paneer dish we ordered samosas, naan and three different curries with saffron rice.  A lamb curry the Laal Maas Rajasthani, the red curry dish in the bottom photo.  A chicken curry the Murghaloo which came with potatoes and green chillies and inspired my husband to cook up his own version minus the chicken a few nights later and a tandoori chicken kebab dish, the Murgh Peshawari.  All very good, full of flavour and just the right amount (for me at least) of kick to them.

Paneer Amritsari

Ultimately our meal was great.  I'd definitely order from Kinara again and perhaps we should at some point actually venture to the restaurant as it is so close to us.  We'd also used the Foodpanda delivery service again and most definitely if we want to try a different restaurant (as it is so easy to browse the options available) for takeaway rather than our usual go to list of places.

By the way, flipit.com Singapore has a (free) 25% off foodpanda discount code for new customers.  So it's now even more worth making that order for your takeaway today! 

Lasuni Naan
Laal Maas Rajasthani, Murghaloo and Murgh Peshawari with saffron rice

19 January 2014

#worldcolors #worldcolours 2014 - January - Rainbow

Project World Colors (Colours) has returned and I'm taking part again this year.  It is a similar concept to last year, here's how to get involved if you are interested in joining the project for 2014.  Go on why don't you, it's lots of fun and definitely makes you look at your photos in a new way!

The theme for January is rainbow so here is my contribution.

Rainbow over Southport, UK Boxing Day 2013
Rainbow over Dempsey, Singapore
Shop in Chinatown, Singapore
Flight of Fancy display, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Coral Garden (2012) Olivia d'Aboville, i Light Marina Bay 2012, Singapore
Shophouses, Singapore
Singapore Flyer, Singapore
Rainbow reflections in the water beneath the Singapore skyline
The Search for Happiness, Eeshaun, OH! Open House Marina Bay 2013, Singapore

If you missed any of my posts from 2013, check them out here.

10 January 2014

Red Dot Roaming - Clarke Quay MRT - Hong Lim Park

My last Red Dot roaming took me to Clarke Quay MRT and Hong Lim park.  Hong Lim park is right (as I discovered) outside Clarke Quay MRT station and is most famous for being the home of Singapore's Speakers Corner.  The park was actually the first privately-owned public garden in Singapore created by Hokkien businessman, Cheang Hong Lim who bought the land in 1876.  It was originally called Dunman's Green after the first Superintendent of police, Thomas Dunman but the name was changed in 1876 when Cheang Hong Lim donated the land for the garden.  Its subsequent history includes being used as a venue for storytelling during the Japanese occupation, as a cricket ground for the Singapore Chinese Recreation Club and the Singapore Cricket Club in the 1950s and 1960s, as a venue for Chinese operas in the 1960s and 1970s and as a venue for many early political rallies. 



As I mentioned though for me, at least, it is most famous for being the venue of Speakers Corner which it was officially designated as in 2000.  I wasn't expecting much from my visit if I'm honest, I was just curious as I'd not been there but I was still underwhelmed by it when I actually did get there.  It is simply just an area in the park with a sign to tell you what it is and a separate one advising on the regulations of speaking publicly there.  I don't know what I was expecting and I suppose there isn't much more that could be put there but nonetheless I was a bit disappointed.  I've never visited Speakers Corner in Hyde park so can't compare the two sadly.

Ultimately the architecture of the buildings surrounding the park interested me more and my visit was only a brief one.  The park seems a nice place to go on your lunch break if you want to get some fresh air and there is a cafe in the park which looked pleasant for light refreshments (I didn't go - I believe this cafe has since closed down) but I'm not sure I'll be rushing back to spend more time there any time soon.






If you missed any of the previous Red Dot Roaming series, check them out here.

Clarke Quay MRT is on the North East line (NE5). 

07 January 2014

Edinburgh

Despite having just been back to the UK for Christmas I still (unbelievably) have one more part of my summer trip to share!  My blog resolution for 2014 undoubtedly is to be more prompt in my blog postings.  By the way I won't be sharing any of my latest trip back, just because it was mainly spent with family doing all those typically Christmas things and was only a relatively brief visit.  It was lovely nonetheless. 

So the final part of my tour of the UK in the summer was to go back up north to Edinburgh.  For the final week of our trip my husband was on a work conference there so I spent the first few days of that week with my family and then travelled up the day before (my husband's birthday) our flights out from Glasgow back to Singapore.  Edinburgh is a place I've been to many times and is undoubtedly a fabulous city. Obviously this was a very brief visit so we didn't get to do much but it was an enjoyable way to end our trip.

I travelled up to Edinburgh by train from London.  Something I've done previously and had made a conscious decision to do this time rather than taking a flight up.  The views as you travel up through the north east of England are beautiful and as you cross over into Scotland the train line travels parallel to the coast, again providing you with some beautiful scenery.  If you have the time to do it I'd definitely recommend travelling up this way.  A flight is obviously quicker but the train journey is only approximately four and a half hours direct and if you book your ticket in advance you can get a decent price and reserve a seat.  Always a good idea as the trains on these main routes across country can get busy. 

Personally I like the fact you can just arrive at Kings Cross, London to go to Edinburgh (or any train station when you are travelling by train to places), get on the train and go rather than having to get there so long before travelling to check in, go through security etc. as you do with flying. Whilst I don't mind flying I have to admit I don't enjoy all of that beforehand.  I actually quite enjoy travelling to places by train and as I have no choice but to travel on planes most of the time it's nice to have the opportunity to go by another means sometimes if I can.  My husband was, of course, on his conference that day as well so I planned to catch a train which got me to Edinburgh late afternoon to meet me once he'd finished so we could go back to the hotel. 

View towards Edinburgh castle

As I mentioned it was my husband's birthday and so we had planned to go to a restaurant for a meal.  A few places were suggested but in the end we went to the Jamie's Italian in Edinburgh. We've been to the one in Brighton before and I've always enjoyed the food.  We've yet to try out the one here in Singapore and I've seen mixed reviews but certainly in the UK the restaurants are fun and affordable.  I particularly enjoyed my starter which was the seasonal vegetable crudites on ice served with a mint and lemon yoghurt.  The vegetables were fresh and the yoghurt a refreshing accompaniment, I certainly felt very healthy choosing that one.  We enjoyed a good meal and good company, what more could you want for a birthday dinner?


Our flight back to Singapore was in the evening the following day so we had the morning to do a little wandering around Edinburgh (and a little last minute shopping) before making our way across to Glasgow.  We went for a walk in Princes Street gardens to begin with but as the skies looked like it might be about to rain we decided an indoor activity would be best.  So we decided to go into the Scottish National Gallery which is very close to the gardens. 


I really had no idea what artwork was there beforehand but have to say I was really impressed, best of all and like so many art galleries and museums in the UK it's free to enter.  The gallery houses the Scottish National Collection of fine art spanning the period from the early Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century.  A highlight for me was that we were lucky enough to see Rodin's The Kiss which is currently on loan to the gallery from Tate Britain, we had no idea that was the case until we went in.  According to the gallery's website it will only be there until the 2nd February, so if you are in Edinburgh get there soon to see it.  Besides this there are pieces by Botticelli, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, Rubens, Rembrandt and many more artists from across Europe.  Of course there is also a selection of paintings depicting the beautiful Scottish countryside as well as portraits of notable people from Scottish history many of which were painted by Scottish artists.  We spent an interesting morning there wandering around and admiring the pieces.

All too soon though it was time to make our way to Glasgow for our flight back to Singapore.  I'd have loved just a little bit longer back in Edinburgh as despite being there several times there are still things I've not managed to do that I would like.  Hopefully we'll get back there again before long so I can.
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