16 July 2016

And That's That

Well I've reached the end of my Singapore posts and so I guess this really is going to be the last post on this blog! I promised I wouldn't just leave the blog hanging and while it may have taken awhile (we left Singapore in April) here we are.

Thank you to all of you for reading the blog, commenting on it, liking posts, sharing posts and suggesting things for me to do. I'm only sorry I didn't get to do everything on my list but I'm not sure however long you live somewhere whether you actually would with day-to-day life happening too. The blog will stay here, I've invested too much love in it over the years for it not to and I shall keep checking on it and updating it if I become aware of changes. So if you are reading this and know something to be incorrect here then please do let me know. Not being in Singapore obviously makes it difficult to keep on top of changes but I would like to be able to amend posts accordingly if, for example, somewhere has subsequently closed.

If you'd like to know what I'm doing now you can follow my new blog, Where's the Next Adventure?, like the new blog's Facebook page here, follow me on Twitter here, on Instagram here and on Snapchat at @moggie78

In the meantime thank you again and I look forward to keeping in touch with you all. Just remember wherever life may take you don't forget to embrace it wholeheartedly!

18 June 2016

East Coast Sunrise and Sunset

Whilst we lived in Singapore we chose to live in the east coast area, specifically Katong. It was just chance that took us there, in fact my husband originally wanted to look at other areas but the agent he used when he first moved to Singapore took him there and we ended up living in the same condo (in different units) for our whole stay. As time went on many of our friends ended up living in that area too which was great. We got to know the area well and became very fond of our neighbourhood, getting to know many of our neighbours and feeling completely at home. Living where we did also meant that East Coast park was very close and provided us with much enjoyment in our free time.

This post was inspired by a friend of ours who lived in the area and also enjoyed visiting East Coast park, particularly for the fantastic sunrises. Our friend took some amazing photos whilst she was living there. We decided we wanted to see this for ourselves too and we went many times (with a flask of tea in hand) but I never really got around to sharing any of those photos, certainly not on the blog anyway. Whilst we never got any sunrises (or sunsets) as good as hers here are a selection of some of the photos I took from different visits.

By the way if you want to see some of our friend's photos of the sunrises and a whole load of other great photos and posts check out her Singapore blog. Just like us, her and her husband are no longer living in Singapore and now reside in India so take a look at her new blog too.

From sunrise to a couple of sunset photos

08 June 2016

Sembawang Park

On our last Sunday (sob) in Singapore we made the trek to the north of the island to Sembawang park as it's an area that we'd never been to previously. Sembawang park like many others in Singapore is the perfect place for those living in the vicinity of it to get away from the hustle of the city and enjoy some relative tranquility, even if it is right next to a shipyard!

We took the MRT to Sembawang station and then walked the last part, I'm sure you could easily catch a bus though if you wanted. The park isn't right on the doorstep of the MRT station but if you don't mind a bit of walk it's perfectly doable by foot. There is also plenty of signage directing you along the park connector to this and other parks in the area and it's a pretty pleasant walk. It takes you past some landed properties and HDB's before ultimately hitting more open country with just a sprinkling of residences and shophouses housing a few small restaurants and convenience stores. The walk is pretty much a straight line before reaching the park right on the coast overlooking the Straits of Johor.

As we approached the park we heard the sound of a siren a few times. We briefly thought it was the island wide alarm but quickly realised it wasn't. I'm not sure what it was but can only assume it was connected to the shipyard in someway. Other than hearing this alarm though, as is so often the case, the road leading to the park was pretty deserted of any life.

View towards Sembawang jetty from Beaulieu house

There is a strong connection to Singapore's naval history in this area. As I mentioned the park is right next to a shipyard which was originally a naval base of the British Royal Navy from the 1920s until Singapore's independence. After entering the park, and with the shipyard on our left, we soon spotted Beaulieu House in front of us. The house was built in the 1910s as a seaside house for a family by the name of David who were in the mining business. The house is actually older than the naval base whose construction began in 1923. After the base was built the house was then acquired by the British government to be used as a residence by senior Naval officers. 

During the Japanese Occupation it was believed to have been used by the Japanese as a Headquarters and watch towers were built to overlook the naval base. Following the end of the Japanese Occupation it was returned back to the British and used once again as a residence by officers and their families until the complete withdrawal of the British in 1971. It was then gazetted as a conservation area and subsequently became a seafood restaurant, which it still is today. By the time we'd walked all the way from the MRT station we were quite warm so popped in there to get a cold drink before exploring the park a little more. There are loads of newspaper cuttings etc about the place and trinkets dotted all over the restaurant. I've heard it is also a popular venue for weddings and whilst we were there a young couple were discussing their wedding plans with one of the staff.

After finishing our drinks we went for a stroll around the park, firstly walking along Sembawang jetty which the British began building in the 1940s but abandoned during the Japanese Occupation. It was later completed by the Japanese. The park, being right on the coast, is great for enjoying cooling sea breezes. Although, as I said, we barely saw anybody on our walk to the park the park itself was quite busy. There were lots of families and groups of friends picnicking and enjoying themselves. I noticed some very cool climbing frames in the children's play areas, including a huge one that resembled a warship, if only I were a few years younger! I also noticed a petanque court, possibly the only one I've ever seen in Singapore, memories of a trip to France a couple of years ago for our friends wedding came flooding back at that point.

I have to admit that whilst there may be a lot of historical (particularly naval) interest in the area I wasn't blown away by the park itself. It was nice to visit a different area but unless I lived there I doubt I'd look to go back. One nice fact I've learnt since my visit is that Sembawang beach (you can see some of it in my photo above) is one of only a few natural sandy beaches remaining in Singapore. Whilst it may not be extensive it makes a nice change from the artificial ones we all know on Sentosa and it was great to see people enjoying it that Sunday afternoon.

Looking towards the shipyard from the jetty

As I said whilst I may not choose to return if I'm ever back in Singapore it made for a pleasant afternoon out. As a final place to visit before leaving it was great to go to a completely different part of the island and see what it had to offer and maybe, if I had the chance, the area really needs further exploring.

15 May 2016

Street Art and Shophouses of the Everton Road Area

With time going against me in the rundown to our departure date I knew I just had to pick out a couple of things that I wanted to try and do before we left. As part of my Red Dot Roaming posts and just generally I had an ongoing, ever increasing list of places etc. that interested me. One of these places on the Red Dot Roaming list was the Everton Road and Spottiswoode Park Road area (reasonably close to Outram Park MRT) which I'd read had some beautifully preserved shophouses and also some interesting street art in Everton Road and from my long list of places I chose this as an area I wanted to see.

Since going however, and unfortunately after I ran out of time in Singapore, I realised there are actually more murals than I saw on my visit, but I got a bit carried away on the day with the lovely shophouses and overlooked these - oops! I guess that just means I shall have to return to Singapore someday to catch up on what I missed. A search on the Internet though reveals countless photos and blogs of and about the mural I saw plus the one I didn't. They really are quite charming, all the more so as street art is quite a rare sight in Singapore.

The murals were painted by a local who lives close to Everton Road and who was inspired by the murals in Kampong Glam. The artist's first mural was the one I missed, for this one he got the permission of the building's owner (the great-grandson of the original owner of the building in the photo below) to paint his mural and the results have been very popular with visitors. I can't quite believe though that I saw the building that it's painted on and took a photo of it because I liked the ghost signage but didn't see the mural! Anyway as I said they are obviously very popular, indeed on the day I visited there were two other people admiring the one I did see and taking lots of photos.

The murals depict scenes from Singapore's past, a very different place to the Singapore I know but one I'd have loved the opportunity to have seen if I'd been alive at a different time. The artist actually has his own website and you can read a lot more about the murals and the process of painting them (in particular the one I saw) here if you are interested.

Ghost signage dating from the 1930s, the building was originally a garage run by a Malacca born businessman, Choa Kim Keat.

Couldn't resist a close up of the cat in this mural (apparently this is a local cat who lives in the neighbourhood)

As I said, although I went to see the murals, I also got distracted by the beautiful shophouses in the area. Everton Road and Spottiswoode Park Road are absolutely overflowing with some gorgeous ones, I had not realised there were so many until I got there and they just kept coming and coming. Whilst I was visiting I then recalled reading previously about a shophouse on Spottiswoode Park Road whose second storey has the honour of having the oldest painted facade in Singapore (the building dates from the 1890s) but, of course, I hadn't remembered this beforehand so hadn't established which one it actually was before my visit!

I'm not an expert at all on shophouse design, other than I think they all look beautiful, but there did appear to be some differences between them which I guess means they are of different ages and have different styles and influences. For example, some almost looked a little art deco in style. Of course shophouses tend to be beautifully decorated and these and the five-foot ways did not disappoint, lots of beautiful tiles, beautiful coloured exteriors and charming decoration on the exterior. Wandering around these couple of roads it has undeniably become a trendy spot and I'm sure a highly sort after area to live if you can. As I wandered into Blair Road directly across from Everton Road at the crossroads with Spottiswoode Park Road, at the far end I noticed a few shophouses had been converted into nice looking bars and cafes. I didn't stop to try any that day, but maybe if I do return to Singapore some day I'll have to check out what is there then.

Beautifully tiled shophouses and five-foot way

At the far end of Blair Road I came to this large open expanse of grass with some HDB's to the left. I was curious as to what this was and if you look at my photo below what the circular thing to the left is. I also wondered about the building frame over on the far side. I couldn't find anything out about the space and maybe it is just an open, undeveloped area but it was quite a pleasant and unexpected find at the end of the road.

I was intrigued by this open expanse of grass and the shell of a building on the other side of it at the end of Blair Road which leads into Everton Road

Contrast of the shophouses and the modern Pinnacle @ Duxton in the background

As I walked back towards the MRT station again I noticed how the more modern buildings of the area such as the Pinnacle @ Duxton towered over the old shophouses. A contrast I've always quite liked. I also noticed the sweet letterbox design on one of the shophouses in the photo below. They also had some seats out the front with matching cushion covers. I'm glad I took the time out to go up there before I left to have a look at this quite lovely area. It's a shame I missed part of the murals I went to see but I guess that's all the more reason to return and maybe he'll have painted some more by then!

Loved the design of this post box

The Pinnacle @ Duxton towers over the other buildings in the vicinity

19 April 2016

Coney Island

Somewhere I was determined to get to before we left Singapore was Coney Island or Pulau Serangoon as it is also known. So we earmarked a day and headed over there. We decided to get there by firstly revisiting a Red Dot Roaming walk that we'd done previously and entering Coney Island via this route, making our walk just a little longer too. We took the MRT to Punggol and then got the LRT to Kadaloor and from there followed the Punggol Promenade Nature Walk around to the furthest entry point on to Coney Island near the Punggol Settlement, our intention being to walk the island and exit it at the other entrance point. When we first visited that area Coney Island was still in the process of being prepared for opening but we had seen it from our walk along the coast so knew this was one way of getting there.

As planned we followed our previous route until we reached the far entrance to Coney Island. Just a short walk across the previously locked up bridge and we were on the island and ready to explore it further. The island has one main path that runs straight across it more or less and then a number of side paths taking you to the small beaches and coves, picnic areas, mangroves and so on. You can choose whether to walk straight across or you can detour off the main path as much as you want. It is easy to follow the smaller side paths round and back to the main path again. The island is obviously very popular with cyclists (as I said we walked it which is also perfectly doable) and the main path is pretty well laid out with the side paths being a little more rustic.

Despite having already walked a fair distance from Kadaloor LRT we decided we would explore as much of the island as we could and found ourselves wandering off on to almost every side path we stumbled upon. As I said the majority of small paths take you off to small beaches and picnic spots. Despite there being a lot of people on the island (we visited on a Sunday) it wasn't too crazy and if you'd got a picnic I'm sure you could have found a spot to enjoy yourself. I assume, unlike the beaches on Sentosa, that these are natural beaches rather than man-made.

There are warnings up at various points that the island has deliberately been left in a more rustic state and therefore to cover up and wear mosquito repellent, particularly around the beach areas. Personally, we didn't find it too bad but everyone has different levels of tolerance so go prepared if you are susceptible to insect bites. Also there are no refreshment facilities on the island so go prepared with water etc. There are toilets at the first entrance to the island near the Lorong Halus Wetland and some shelters as well as tree cover in places. There are also a number of hides dotted around for those keen on doing some bird watching on the island.

One of the small beach areas

I don't think anyone can have failed to heard about the infamous cow who is resident on the island. Unfortunately, and perhaps not surprisingly we didn't catch a glimpse of it. I imagine there were just too many people around. Also there is a lot of forest cover (remember the island has been left in a rustic state) so I guess it's very easy for the cow to hide up. Apparently there are also wild boar on the island, there are signs up advising what you should do if you encounter the cow or the wild boar but we didn't see any of those either. Has anyone been lucky enough to catch sight of either on their visit?

One of the more rustic side paths

Alongside the forested parts of the island there is also a boardwalk you can follow taking you through a mangrove area. The perfect way to explore this habitat without getting your feet wet! Before we visited I had also read about the abandoned beach villa on the island that at one time belonged to the Haw Par Brothers, those of Tiger Balm and Haw Par Villa fame. I love abandoned buildings but we didn't go looking for it as it is not safe and is also in a mangrove area subject to high tides. In case you are wondering the mangrove area you can walk through is not the same part of the island sadly. I just have to satisfy my interest in abandoned buildings by looking at these blog posts here and here

Boardwalk through the mangroves
Main path through the centre of the island

As I said we opted to leave the island by the entrance/exit nearest to the Lorong Halus Wetland and from here we walked back past the wetlands towards Kadaloor LRT station. I really enjoyed our visit to Coney Island and am so pleased that I got to go there before we left. It's a great place to spend a day and get back to a more rustic side of Singapore.

09 April 2016

Ash & Elm

I recently got to sample Ash & Elm's lunch time weekday semi-buffet lunch.  For this, Ash & Elm at the Intercontinental hotel, Bugis has taken the best from their signatures and offers diners the chance to enjoy dishes from the Charcuterie & Cheese Room, Wood-Fired Oven and Charcoal Grill. From these stations you can enjoy as much as you like (as you can from any good buffet) but the twist is that you can also combine it, if you wish, with a choice of a main course from a variety of daily options.

The semi-buffet lunch is perfect for those looking for a great venue for a business lunch as well as those looking for somewhere different to lunch with friends. The dining space is open and airy thanks to the skylight roof but also offers up cosy more private spots for an intimate lunch with friends or for enjoying a business lunch with colleagues or clients. 

The salad station

Charcuterie and Cheese Room

As I said, before enjoying your main course you can choose from a variety of appetizers and soups in a typical buffet style set up. We began our meal in the 'Charcuterie & Cheese Room', yes you read that right - a whole room dedicated to charcuterie and cheese! My companion for the meal is a big cheese fan so he was in heaven. There was a good selection of European cheeses, pates, meats and condiments to choose from. We both took an ample range which we then very quickly consumed. To accompany our starters we were given our own bread basket with a variety of breads including sourdough, bread sticks and more. The bread was accompanied by two types of butter one of which contained seaweed. The slightly salty taste to this butter really went well with the breads. In fact in the end I only had the seaweed butter.

Our selection of breads

minestrone soup

seafood chowder

Salad with roast duck 

Fun interpretation of a mozzarella and tomato salad

From meat and cheese we moved on to salads and soups. There were a choice of two soups on the day we went, seafood chowder and minestrone. As I'm not a huge fan of seafood I opted for the minestrone soup. This had just a little warming kick to it and was really good. My companion chose the seafood chowder which they said was excellent. After this we had to try some of the self-serve salad too. The options on the day we visited included a Caesar salad and roast duck which you could add to a base of various salad items of your choice, including beetroot (one of my favourites), sweet corn, tomatoes, lettuce etc. Alongside the conventional salads they also had a fun interpretation of the classic mozzarella and tomato salad which you can see in the photo above. It was fun to squeeze the balsamic dressing over it and then eat it straight off the cocktail stick.

Roasted French Free-Range Yellow Chicken Supreme
Basquaise-style with Basmati rice

Chargrilled Australian Angus Beef Striploin
Potato gratin, pan-seared French beans, natural jus

After all the starters it was time for our mains. As I said previously Ash & Elm are offering a semi-buffet so you get all the benefits of a buffet plus the option of a main course too. Just make sure you leave enough room for it and then desserts too! There is a different daily selection of main courses, on the day I visited the choices were the chicken (above), Scottish salmon fillet, Parma ham flatbread, penne pasta and Australian Angus beef striploin (which my companion chose). The chicken was delicious, nice and moist and the tomato based sauce complimented it perfectly. I also got radishes with my meal, something of a treat in Singapore! I was pretty full by the time I'd finished though, if I'd realised I was going to get three pieces of chicken I'd have held back a little on the buffet. My companion's beef was also very generously portioned, something to keep in mind if you are dining here. 

The fact that the main courses change daily also means you can take the opportunity to dine on other dishes on your next visit rather than having to choose from the same few each time. Therefore you have to return to enjoy some of the other offerings!

Despite the fact that I was quite full by that point, after a short break to let my lunch digest a little, I found some room for a selection of desserts. I have to admit to a sweet tooth so couldn't resist trying a few. The lemon meringue (front of the photo) was particularly nice and zesty but they were all very good. By the way there is also a chocolate fountain for you to dip fresh fruit etc into, how can you resist that at the end of your meal?

I had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch and love the flexible nature of Ash & Elm's weekday lunch semi-buffet, if you want to dine light on just the buffet section you can or else you can enjoy a more filling meal. One that, on the day we went, meant I only wanted a very light bite in the evening. It's a relaxed spot for a different lunch concept serving up some great food at a great price. Go check it out soon!

The semi-buffet lunch is available on its own as a spread of appetizers, soups and desserts for $38 or with a choice of main course at $48.

Level 1, Intercontinental Hotel
80 Middle Road
Singapore 188966

Semi-buffet lunch (Mondays to Fridays) - 12pm to 2pm

Website: intercontinental.com/singapore

Dining reservation (email): intercontinental.dining@ihg.com

Dining reservation (telephone): (65) 6825 1008

Payment methods: Cash and all major credit cards

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 Ash & Elm for the kind invitation.

17 March 2016

Walking the SG50 Golden Jubilee Walk

During last year's festivities for SG50, Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence, a new walk route was laid especially to celebrate this. This follows an 8km route taking you through some of the history of Singapore right up to the modern day. We like walking and exploring so decided to give this route a go.

The walk begins at the National Museum of Singapore, somewhere well worth visiting too if you haven't been. Although there is the marker in the photo below outside the museum one thing I would say is that the start and end of the walk are not that obvious. Whilst the trail of SG50 markers to follow the route around are generally good, though we did lose them at one point and looking at the map afterwards it seems we also missed a part of the walk so maybe in hindsight they weren't so clear, the start and end could definitely be better marked. Regardless though we still had a good walk!

Start of the SG50 Golden Jubilee Walk at the National Museum of Singapore

National Museum of Singapore 

Back to the walk ... from leaving the National Museum of Singapore we headed towards Fort Canning Park and on past here towards the Peranakan museum and past the National Archives of Singapore. As we walked along Armenian Street I spotted this graffiti or street art on a wall, quite a rare sight in Singapore so it definitely caught my attention.

Graffiti on Armenian Street

Then we walked on towards the Central Fire Station, Singapore's oldest operating fire station which also houses a heritage gallery. Along the route are several plaques with information about some of the places of interest you pass. I'm not altogether sure whether these were put in place for the jubilee walk or if they were already there. I suspect some of them were already there. The information was a bit limited though and it would be good if there could be a little more along the route.

Central Fire Station

As we approached the Singapore river I have since realized that this may have been where we missed part of the walk. It was around this point that a section of the footpath by the river was closed off for work so this may have been why or that the markers were not too clear at this point. Either way we followed markers that took us straight towards the Esplanade area and on to the Helix bridge rather than walking near the Padang and National Gallery etc. Regardless though the walk we took at that stage, that obviously didn't quite follow the set route, was still very pleasant.

As I mentioned we completely lost the markers near the Helix bridge, maybe in hindsight because we took a slightly wrong route. However we headed on over the bridge and managed to pick up markers again on the opposite side which we followed into Gardens by the Bay.

Sir Stamford Raffles with the CBD in the background
Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall

Once we were in the gardens we followed the route around towards the Marina Barrage, walking past the domes and also near where the family of otters live. I'm still waiting for the day I see them but I suspect it probably is not going to happen now! The walk ends at the Marina Barrage but, as I said previously, it wasn't terribly obvious. Regardless though of these minor issues (which in no way spoilt our walk) and despite us taking the incorrect route the walk is very pleasant and lets you see both the historical and the more modern sides of Singapore. It's worth doing if you enjoy walking.

Closest I've got to seeing the otters at Gardens by the Bay

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