28 February 2012

The Istana

Visiting The Istana has been on my 'to do' list ever since I first arrived here, but it is only open to the public on certain public holidays and it always seems as if I only remember this when I've just missed yet another opportunity to visit!  We weren't going away this Chinese New Year just gone (yes I'm a little behind) so had two days of holiday (as well as the weekend) to fill, with what I hoped would be something fun, different but not too expensive, to ensure that we made the most of this time off and also to make the most of having my husband around.  He seems to be on a one man tour of South East Asia at the moment with his work commitments so actually having him around occasionally is lovely.  Even if I do then forget he is probably shattered from all his travelling and would probably much rather just stay at home when I want to be out doing something.

When we were considering things to do over the weekend yet again The Istana slipped my mind.  Fortunately though my husband remembered and made the suggestion.  We checked the website and established it was open on the Tuesday of the Chinese New Year weekend.  So that pretty much decided our plans for the Tuesday of the holiday.

On the Tuesday morning I did wonder whether we should go early to avoid queues but in the end we left mid morning.  On the way to the bus stop we bumped into our former neighbours who were also doing the exact same thing (small world).  When we arrived I could not believe how long the queue was to get in (clearly it is a very popular thing to do) as it stretched past Plaza Singapura on Orchard Road.  Even when we got close to the gates we still had quite a queue ahead as the queueing system meant we were snaking back and forth for the final part.  However despite that it did move quickly and we weren't actually waiting too long, after we'd paid and been through the security checks (which was probably the most chaotic part) we were in.  I did notice they also had an express route for families with young children to lessen their queueing time which I thought was a pretty good idea.  I don't know if they do that all the time though or if this was just because the queues were very long at that time.

Queue waiting to get in to The Istana

The Istana is on Orchard Road so in a prime spot right in the heart of the city.  It was originally built by the British, on land that had previously been a nutmeg plantation belonging to Charles Prinsep, to house the Governors and when it was completed in 1869 was known as the Government House.  When Singapore became self-governing in 1959 the building was handed over to the Singapore Government and became known as The Istana (palace in Malay).  

Usually when you walk by it on Orchard Road you can see nothing more than the entrance gates and the guards so I guessed and had heard that there was a lot of ground attached.  It is only when you enter that you realise just how much space and grounds there actually are, in fact it occupies over forty hectares of land.  The grass undulates away from you and the drive way stretches on for what seems a very long way, you certainly can't see the house until you've walked quite a way up the drive.  There is a mini golf course (you obviously can't use that), ponds, lakes and just masses of open space for people to enjoy the grounds or have a picnic, which is what most of the visitors seemed to be doing and making the most of when we went.  Thankfully there were drink stalls inside, as well as a band playing and, on our visit, some snakes for children (and adults) to get up close to if they wanted.   Being in the Istana also affords you some views of the Singapore skyline from a different view point and although you are in the heart of the city the grounds are so vast that day to day noise just melts away.  

It cost us a $1 entry, Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PR's) can get in for free, and the money raised goes to charity.  So it is not an expensive day out and for something a little different to enjoy on one of the open days was well worth it.  In addition once you are inside the grounds you can pay a further $2 to enter the actual house as well to view a few of the rooms.  We decided not to do this on this occasion.  The grounds themselves were more than enough to keep us busy that day but perhaps we'll get back there again on another holiday to have a look inside too.

Presented to the then Governor of Singapore, Sir Cecil Smith by the Chinese community  in Singapore in 1889 in recognition of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee year (celebrated in 1897).

24 February 2012

Charly T's

Last week I visited the newly opened branch of Charly T's at 112 Katong just a hop and a skip from my home.  Charly T's is described as an 'urban, fast-casual chicken based restaurant concept' with an 'array of authentic global cuisines made from fresh, seasonal ingredients and wallet-friendly prices'.  

Charly T's already has an outlet near to The Cathay at NOMU on Handy Road but has now opened a second outlet in the fairly newly opened 112 Katong shopping mall (where I went to sample some of their menu).  Charly T is described as an 'adventurous globetrotter whose goal in life is to bring travel, food, jazz, life and more together to create exciting food journeys'.  The menu items reflect this by bringing the diner a whole wealth of tastes from across the globe tying in with Charly T's personal travels.

The restaurant at 112 Katong also reflects and is inspired by Charly T's background with, for example, some beautiful Peranakan pieces dotted around.  The 112 Katong restaurant has the added plus of an intimate private dining area, perfect for family get togethers.  There is an open air porch area which also has a widescreen TV for guests to enjoy live sport.  As well as the food menu Charly T's also has a cocktail menu, (Charly T learnt his mixology skills in London), and some delicious mocktails too as well as house wines, domestic and imported beers on offer.

Side order options to accompany your choice of chicken.

My dining experience began by sampling some of the famous chicken options available.  If you are  already familiar with Charly T's the new outlet at 112 Katong has retained their Charly T’s Original Recipe Rotisserie Chicken (Qtr with 2 additions $13+, Half with 3 additions $24+, Whole with 4 additions $42+) and the Kampong Chicken (Qtr with 2 additions $15+, Half with 3 additions $27+, Whole with 4 additions $46+).  With the opening of the new restaurant though they've also added two new varieties to the menu, the Kansas City BBQ Chicken and the Black Pepper Chicken (Qtr with 2 additions $15+, Half with 3 additions $27+, Whole with 4 additions $46+).  The chickens used are all chilled but never frozen to keep their freshness and are marinated for over thirteen hours before being slow cooked rotisserie style.  They certainly tasted good for it.  My personal favourites being the original recipe and the black pepper which had a real kick to it.  The chickens are also served with a variety of sauces including the 'homemade' Chermoula sauce (a traditional Moroccan sauce of coriander, garlic and cayenne pepper sauce), creamy roasted Sesame Sauce, Kansas City BBQ Sauce and Charly T’s Original Sauce. 

If you are a fan of rotisserie style chicken or fancy trying it get yourself over to Charly T's because as an opening special from now until mid-March 2012, Charly T's at 112 Katong only is offering a discount of 50% off rotisserie chickens, complete with sides! 

After our chicken feast it was time to try some of the other dishes available, including the CT's beef burger ($10.50+), Jumbo Schnitzel burger ($14+), Kalua pork ($16+) and the Spanish omelette ($8.50+).  The kalua pork was especially good and the meat just fell away from the skewer as you cut into it.  This dish comes from Honolulu and is marinated and slow-cooked, no doubt explaining why it just melted in my mouth as I ate.  The Spanish omelette was not like any  I'd had before with a couple of us commenting that we were used to the thicker omelette full of potatoes when we thought of a Spanish omelette.  That said though it was a pleasant alternative and perhaps a little lighter than what I've always had previously.

CT's Beef Burger
Kalua Pork
Jumbo Schnitzel Burger
Spanish Omelette

Red Tang (strawberry, cranberry and lychee 
mocktail) $6.50+

Then it was time for dessert, always a popular part of a meal with me!  We sampled the Kaiserchmarrn ($14+ portioned for two) and the chocolate-filled waffles ($7+).  As the name may suggest the Kaiserschmarrn is an Austrian-German dessert.  It is a light fluffy pancake, shredded and dusted in sugar, raisins and served with 'homemade' vanilla bean ice cream.  I'd not come across it before but thought it was lovely.  As for chocolate-filled waffles I don't think they need any description.  They were just exceptionally good and are baked on the spot too.

Charly T's newest venture is a great spot for a reasonably priced meal out, suitable for all the family.  Certainly worth venturing out East for.

112 Katong

112 East Coast Road, Level 3, 112 Katong, Singapore 428802
Tel: (65) 6636 4701

20 Handy Road, Level One NOMU, Singapore 229936
Tel: (65) 6336 7789

Website: www.charlyts.com 

Operating Hours: Monday to Thursday: 11am to 11pm

                          Friday: 11am to 1am
                          Saturday: 9am to 1am (Breakfast 9am to 12noon)
                          Sunday: 9am to 11pm (Breakfast 9am to 12noon)
                          Eve of public holidays closed at 1am

Dining Promotions: 

Only at 112 Katong

Opening Promotion: 50% off rotisserie chickens (includes sides) from 1 February to Mid-March 2012.

At both 112 Katong & NOMU

Daily Lunch Specials: Lunch sets with option of Sloppy Joe, Rice Surprise or CT Burger and one soft drink from $7.50

Weekend Breakfast Specials (9am to 12noon, Sat & Sun): Special breakfast items include the Spanish Omelette and Ham and Cheese Omelette

Daily Charly Time: Happy hour with discounts off alcoholic beverages before 7pm

Seating capacity: 112 Katong
                         60 in main dining area
                         8 in private room
                         24 on Charly's Porch

                         46 in main dining area
                         15 in al fresco

Dress code: Casual

Modes of payment: Cash / Major credit cards accepted

Parking: 112 Katong
             Mall parking facility, open air carpark at Katong Village

            The Cathay or Plaza Singapura

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 FoodNews and Charly T's for the kind invitation.

22 February 2012

Chinatown Walking Tour

I recently joined an organised walking tour run by The Original Singapore Walks company.  I'd actually wanted to go on one of their walks for quite a while and when, via Twitter and some mutual contacts, it was suggested that we go on one of them I jumped at the chance to join.

We joined the tour called, 'Red Clogs Down the Five Foot Way' which centred around Chinatown.  I actually went on the walk just before Chinese New Year (so a little while ago now) which made it even better as we additionally got to see a little bit more of the build up to the festivities.  It could not be easier to join this walk or indeed any of them, depending on which one you want to go on the meeting point for that walk will be clearly given on the website and you pay the guide when you meet.  Advance reservations are recommended for some of the tours but again the tour details will clearly state this and anything else you need to be aware of before joining your chosen walk.  For our particular walk we met at Tanjong Pagar MRT and the walk finished close to Chinatown MRT.

I thoroughly enjoyed the morning, which as well as walking around some of the main areas of Chinatown, also took us to a temple, a traditional Chinese medicine shop and a wet market.  The guide was full of interesting snippets of information not necessarily written down in every guide book you'll find.  For example, that you should always step over the large step you'll find at the door to a temple (and never step on to it).  Some people believe that by doing that, as you will generally have to look down as you do so to ensure you do not trip you are bowing your head in appropriate greeting as you enter.  Also that the lions you see guarding temples and other buildings (which always come in pairs) are always male and female.  The female will be identifiable as she'll always have a cub with her and the female will always be on the right (as you look out of the building that the lions are guarding) and the male will be on the left.  For me it is these types of fascinating little extra details that really make a tour special and worthwhile paying for.

As I mentioned we got taken to a traditional Chinese medicine shop and had the opportunity to browse and buy if we wanted to.  I didn't feel though as if this were being done simply for the purpose of us shopping there.  The guide made it clear that she and her colleagues in no way benefited from taking us there and simply asked that as the shop owners were kind enough to let us view their shop if we felt we wanted to buy anything that we perhaps consider doing so at their shops.  Unlike tours that I've been on in other countries where it has been a case of taking you to a traditional shop with the idea of it simply being that you'll buy things, the guide/shop being on some form of commission for the visit and as a visitor not actually learning anything about what goes on there.  This then made a refreshing change.  Whilst we were there both the owner of the shop and the guide told us a lot of information about the traditions and importance of Chinese medicine, again with the kind of details you'll not necessarily find in a guide book.           

Traditional Chinese Medicine Shop

We were shown good places to get food in the Chinatown area (I've just got to remember them now to go back), including one noodle shop where the owner hand makes all his noodles to order.  As well as shops that sell the paper offerings for absolutely anything you can think of that we use in our everyday day to day lives.  This is for the relatives of the deceased to buy and burn for their loved ones to help them in the next life.  Absolutely fascinating to me as shops like this are just not seen in the UK.  Even now little discoveries like that remind me that I really do live somewhere that, although in some ways so Westernised in other ways is so completely different. 

Equally it was interesting to observe how much now just seems normal to me especially at the wet market, where the guide told us before we went in that the items being sold were not being sold as pets.  Obvious to me now but not necessarily so if you were a tourist visiting on a holiday.  I should add at this point that it was only frogs and a whole host of different types of fish and seafood being sold.  However it really struck me how fascinated those on the tour, who were obviously just visiting Singapore, found it all and how accepting I have become of sights just like this.

It was a fascinating morning packed full of interesting information and details.  It made me want to sample some of the other tours that have been on the 'to do' list all the more. 

Fish Heads at the Chinatown Complex Wet Market

16 February 2012

Skyve Elementary Bistro and Bar

Thanks to an invitation, I recently sampled the fairly newly opened (just last December) Skyve Elementary Bistro & Bar, just a short walk from Newton MRT.  Skyve is actually housed in a former school and has many quirky features as a result, even down to the name of the place itself with its connotations of skipping school!

Location wise it is a stone's throw from Orchard Road.  Positioned where it is though, surrounded by the older style flats (I've not seen anything quite like them in Singapore previously and was struck by how beautifully different they look) and down a quiet road just off Clemenceau Avenue North you could be miles away from the malls.  The interior of Skyve retains that school theme with classroom like chairs, menus with school themed names and place mats resembling school worksheets.

I went to sample their breakfast menu (available from 8.30am - 10.30am weekdays), being open from 8.30am Tuesdays to Fridays means it is the perfect place for breakfast catch ups with friends, a place to go and do some work or for breakfast business meetings.  Skyve is self described as a 'mod bistro' with the food being, 'a bevy of familiar, comforting flavours prepared with modern culinary techniques by master of sous-vide, Chef Vincent Teng.'  Before you ask they are open all day right through from breakfast time, so you can go for brunches (on weekends), for lunch and for dinner, bar snacks and drinks too.  Take a look at their full menu here.

The breakfast menu though was absolutely delightful with the dishes I sampled being available on both the breakfast menu and the brunch menu at the weekend.  So no excuse not to try the breakfast items if you aren't a particularly early riser and want a weekend treat instead!  It was all fabulous food, simple but well prepared classics.  The potato rosti was deliciously crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside, the classic breakfast was great with very good sausages.  I'm afraid some of the sausages I've had in Singapore have let down a decent breakfast but these get my Brit thumbs up!  My favourite has to be the ricotta hot cakes though - quite possibly the best pancakes I have ever had, with the crunch of the caramelized almond flakes combined with the passionfruit butter they were absolutely divine.  They will definitely be on my order next time I visit. 

Skyve is a great place to get your breakfast or brunch fix and I'll certainly be visiting again soon.

Croque Madam - Sunny Side Up Egg, Brioche Bread, Sliced Ham, Melted Cheddar Cheese, Tomatoes - $12
Potato Rosti - Smoked Salmon, Tomato and Avocado Salsa - $12
Classic Breakfast - Choice of Two Eggs (overeasy/sunny side up/scrambled/poached), with Mushroom Fricassee, Pork Sausage (not pictured), Grilled Tomato, Brioche or Sourdough Bread - $18
Skyve Sous Verde Egg Benedict - Sourdough Bread, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Sweet Corn, Arugula Salad, Hollandaise Sauce - $12
Ricotta Hot Cakes - Maple Syrup, Passionfruit Butter, Caramelized Almond Flakes - $12
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
Skyve Elementary Bar & Bistro

10 Winstedt Road
Block E, #01-17
Singapore 227977

For reservations: (65) 6225 6690

Operating Hours: 8.30am to 12 midnight - Tuesdays to Fridays
                         10am to 12 midnight - Saturdays & Public Holidays
                         10am to 11pm - Sundays
                         Closed on Mondays until further notice

Promotions: Skyving Hours from opening to 8pm daily - $5 half pints Hoegaarden and Stella Artois on tap

Seating capacity: 40 seats in the lounge area, 60 seats in the main dining area, al fresco seats available

Dress code: Casual

Average bill: $25++ per person for lunch; $50++ per person for dinner

Modes of payment: Cash / American Express / Visa / Mastercard

Parking: Behind the bistro or along the road after 7pm

The bistro also caters for private events and functions for up to 100 guests.

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.

Thanks to FoodNews and Skyve Elementary Bistro & Bar for the kind invitation.

15 February 2012

Hunting & Moving

We've been on the hunt for a new place to live since just before Christmas.  This has been a pretty consuming and far more stressful (than I anticipated) process for me and my husband but at long last we are finally in our new home.  Albeit in exactly the same condo block as we already were and after having looked at many other places in between.  

Our two year lease was due for renewal or expiry at the beginning of February (I can't believe how quickly that time has gone).  We were more than happy in our previous flat and would have been happy to remain there.  If nothing else to save the time of looking at other places and the hassle of moving.  Unfortunately though our previous landlord wanted to raise our rent by 30% which put it in a price range we just could not afford.  So reluctantly we gave notice of our intention to end our lease and move.  We did initially try to negotiate on the rent with him but he was adamant that he would not come down on his new rental charge per month.  So moving it had to be.

Our set of requirements were really only a desire to remain within the East Coast area, to have a balcony (we love sitting out on it and see it as an extension of our living space) and to be fairly high up to get the best of any breezes and hopefully a reasonable view too.  As time progressed and we began viewing places I also decided that I would prefer a more recently built place too.  Although we looked at one older condo with an amazing amount of additional room for our money it seemed a bit dark and gloomy inside in comparison to our old home and our home now.  The newer builds that I've seen certainly seem more light and airy, though you do seem generally to have to compromise on size unless you have a huge budget to play with.

I came to the conclusion as well with this move that it has been harder to make in a way because we now know the place (and especially as we like where we live) and have sussed out the good and the bad parts.  When my husband arrived he was very reliant on the agent he used then for guidance as he had no extensive knowledge of Singapore and in turn where he wanted to live.  He knew he wanted to be somewhere with a reasonably good commute to the city and as he liked what he was shown in the East Coast area he went for that.  I guess I was fortunate then too as I did not have to be involved in any of that process as I did not join him until six months after he'd made the move and had already found a home for us.  Since then, of course, we've been able to explore here and other parts of Singapore and definitely felt that we'd made a lucky but good choice of location for us personally, hence our wish to remain in this part of the island.

So began the hunt.  I've heard of many others here who have arrived and had amazing agents who have shown them a multitude of properties whilst also showing them Singapore, places to eat, places to go and so on.  Whilst obviously we did not need someone to show us Singapore this time, we seemed to dip out too on finding a really good agent.  Even my husband's agent when he first moved out here didn't do anything extra, as it seems so many others do from experiences I've heard about since, apart from show him various condo blocks.  Though at the time he never even thought about an agent doing that type of thing for us so never considered it a requirement.  In addition my husband's company, that he was then working for, did not assist him in lining up an agent or a contact to help him with the finding of a place to live when he first arrived.  I don't know whether perhaps those who seem to have been lucky with agents have been so because their companies have taken a more active role in the process of helping their new employee with the settling into a new country.  All that said though the one we eventually dealt with regarding the condo we have now moved into has been truly very helpful.  Including coming round to ours in the evening to personally reimburse me out of his own pocket for the cost of an unexpected (but urgently required) visit by an electrician, rather than us having to wait for the Landlord to do so.  Something I really did not expect him to do and was pleasantly surprised that he came and did.

We looked at a few places before the Christmas break but none of them were exactly what we wanted.  The agents all seemed very relaxed and laid back (including in one case never getting  back to us at all when we made enquiries) about the amount of time we still had to find a new place.  Although I'd be told that a lot of the agreeing on and signing of contracts is often done very close to an end of lease date, with landlords being reluctant to sign over a place to someone not intending to move in straightaway.  We also knew that Christmas was approaching and we were due to return to the UK so would lose a week there and that shortly before our end of lease it was Chinese New Year where lots of people would again be away.  So we were very keen to, and felt it was best to start the process as early as possible.

With nothing much happening before Christmas after the break we re-commenced the search with renewed keenness.  We saw a few places, some of which we really liked but each time we seemed to just miss out on them by a whisker, much to our increasing frustration and disappointment.  For example, in one case we were advised we could only view on a certain date and at a certain time as they were not letting anyone view at any other time due to not being able to get access to the place.  When we arrived we were greeted with the news that someone else had already made an offer above what the place was on the market for.  Therefore despite us making an offer with confirmation that we could give them a cheque there and then we, not surprisingly, missed out.  Another place did not come with a washing machine which we asked for in the offer that we made.  Our offer on that place did actually get accepted but we were told if we wanted a washing machine we'd either have to buy it ourselves (not something we really wanted to do) or pay an additional $100 per month rent to cover the cost of the Landlord supplying one.  Clearly over a two year lease that was going to turn out to be a pretty expensive washing machine!

It seemed as well that for whatever reason our precise wish list was proving hard to accommodate and suitable properties were proving scarce.  So we agreed we'd look at places that were lower down in buildings, that we'd look beyond the East Coast area and if really pushed that we could do without a balcony, as much as we knew we'd miss it.

We had looked at a couple of places in our current condo at the very start of our search but at the time felt they were both too low down in the building.  However with time marching on we began to wonder if we should in fact reconsider them if they were still free as by this stage Chinese New Year was fast approaching and the knowledge that there was not long left for us to find a new place was becoming a reality.  At the same time we decided to make another higher offer to our former landlord just a little below what he wanted (he had only had one viewing since we gave our notice so we knew the place was still available) but that too was also declined.  In hindsight perhaps that was no bad thing as even that was stretching our budget somewhat.

So we made further enquiries about the two other flats we knew had been available in our current condo.  Typically the slightly higher of the two had finally gone just that day but the other one was still available.  We'd already viewed it but knew it was exactly like our current place so did not really need to see it again, so we made an offer there and then which was accepted - hooray!  It meant we had managed to stay in the East Coast area and had kept a balcony but were just a lot lower down then we had initially planned.  It also meant we could do the move ourselves with the help of friends for the heavy furniture rather than hire people to do it for us.  Though having now done that and although only over a few floors with lifts as well I really do appreciate the firm who came and packed all our stuff up when it was shipped here, when all I had to do was supervise a bit and read a book whilst they packed!  Another good point is that we are also paying a lot less (and within our budget confines) than what our former landlord wanted (and I assume still does) for the identical one we were in previously.  We have had a rearranging of furniture, just so it does feel a little like we've actually moved and apart from the spare bedroom everything is pretty much in place now.  

This is actually a photo of our previous flat prior to the arrival of the furniture but other than the floor we are on the place we are in now is exactly the same!

The fun wasn't over though.  As is standard practice, after we had moved out of our previous place we carried out an inventory check with our former landlord and his agent where everything was checked, agreed and signed by all parties.  However his agent then later proceeded to indicate their were additional problems with the flat which would also be deducted from our deposit if not rectified.  This was something that did not sit comfortably with our idea of fairness as we could no longer access the property to view for ourselves the additional problems that had now been identified and this extra check had been done without us being present for it.  As it happens we have now received the majority of our deposit back as was originally agreed and without being charged for the additional 'problems', but only with some persistence on our part about the validity of this additional inspection and the querying of where certain things that were being quoted at us were actually written in the tenancy agreement.  With our new place we have therefore gone to great pains to get the agent to note any apparent minor faults.  For example, we have ceiling fans in this flat and the handheld controllers do not work, apparently they never have.  Not a huge problem as they can still be turned on if we do want to use them and actually we only generally use the air conditioning in our bedroom over night, preferring the rest of the time to have balcony doors and windows open to let in natural breezes.  Nonetheless though I got this clearly noted now so when we come to eventually leave here there can be no queries about whether they were at one time working or not.  Likewise there is also a mark on a couple of the bathroom tiles on the floor (again not a problem) which has been highlighted to our agent to note.  Of course I've also been busy taking photos of everything where there is the potential for a query to arise at a later date.

Moving in to the new place has not been without hitch either though, the first night after we moved we turned the oven on which tripped the fuse.  We flicked that back on and all the lights blew.  Fortunately we still had power but no lights no matter what we tried.  The electrician came to look at it and had to replace a part in the fuse box and thankfully everything now seems to be alright.  Although when our agent came in the evening to reimburse us for the cost he confirmed that the exact same thing happened to the previous tenants.  So I hope that the new part has fixed the problem rather than just delayed it from happening again.

Despite all this and initial reservations about being so low down I'm actually pleasantly surprised by, so far, how little I've missed our high floored flat (though I will always slightly miss our previous sea view with Indonesia in the distance on a clear day).  Firstly it is noticeably much quieter lower down in the building, though I imagine when they begin the pile driving on the new condo build up the road it won't matter what floor we are on it will be as noisy as ever.  I can still hear the construction noise but it is a lot quieter and certainly seems more distant and less obtrusive, I guess the buildings and trees shelter us a bit more.  We are also more sheltered from the main road near by, all we get now is the noise of the ramp as cars come and go from the condo.  I can actually hear bird song and am low enough down now to get a good look at all the different types of birds as they flit between the trees and shrubs.  This certainly makes me feel like we are a bit more secluded and less overlooked.  Our new place also has day curtains (our old place did not) which provide a certain amount of additional privacy from our nearest neighbour's balcony.  I'm not sure yet whether we get as much of a breeze as previously but we still get enough to be comfortable most of the time.

I guess you can't ever say moving isn't stressful no matter how much you plan for and prepare for it, though I didn't expect this much but the unexpected will always happen.  So far our new landlord (and the agent) have been more than accommodating with our requirements and hopefully from here on we'll have a pleasant and happy stay in our new home.

UPDATE - June 2015

Since writing this post about my personal experiences of condo hunting in Singapore I've been made aware of this great website which may just be the answer to some of your prayers. Keylocation.sg, whilst not a condo listings site, allows you to search on what matters to you when choosing your new location. You can search on commuting time but also things such as nearby schools and even supermarkets! Enabling you to save valuable time and have a clearer idea of exactly what you want when it comes to arranging viewings. With so many condos in Singapore and new ones springing up virtually everyday it sounds like a great starting point to me.

08 February 2012

Berlayer Creek and Keppel Bay

After reading a blog post by my friend Leone about the newly opened Berlayer Creek and Labrador Nature and Coastal Walk, me and my husband decided we'd like to go and visit this for ourselves.  I'd visited Labrador Park previously and had an enjoyable day, but now with the extension to the Circle Line on the MRT it is a lot easier to access this area.  Getting to the Berlayer Creek could not be more straightforward now, simply exit the Labrador Park MRT station and follow the signs.

I gather that this part of the Labrador Park area was not previously accessible to pedestrians but a boardwalk has now been opened allowing visitors the chance to get closer to the mangrove and coastal areas and hopefully some of the wildlife too.  Sadly we did not see much in the way of wildlife that day, just a few birds.  As with all the natural spots I have discovered in Singapore though it was the perfect place to escape from modern life just for a while.  One word of warning though, there is not much in the way of shelter along the boardwalk so make sure you go prepared if you plan to see it for yourself.

As we followed the boardwalk round we eventually came out to the open sea where we could see small sailing boats making the most of the glorious day and beyond that the common sight off the shores of Singapore of tankers.  I was not sure if we'd get to a point where we could go no further and have to turn back or what would happen, but we kept on walking.   As we discovered though the boardwalk takes you round towards the marina and Keppel Bay area, a part of Singapore I had not previously ventured too.

We walked past some fabulous looking condos (way out of our price league) and the Reflections at Keppel Bay (see the photo below).  One quick property search on the Internet quickly tells you how much you would likely have to spend to live here.  The views across the marina are lovely though so I'm not really surprised.

As we wandered around we admired the yachts too, looking at where their home ports were and wondering whether they'd come straight from there or not.  As you walk around there are plaques with some information about what the area was once used for, but it is hard to imagine this now as you look at all the brand new buildings and the beautiful yachts.

By this stage we were getting to the point of needing some refreshment as we were beginning to wilt in the heat.  Fortunately we could see an area where it looked like there might be somewhere to get a drink and hopefully something to eat too.  Our suspicions were correct and we were rewarded with a much needed rest and some air conditioning.  A pleasant walk for a Sunday afternoon which could not be easier to get to now.

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