31 March 2013

Red Dot Roaming - Bishan MRT

My Red Dot Roaming adventures continue with the latest stop being Bishan MRT.  On my last trip I visited Bishan Ang Mo Kio park and when I was researching new places to visit I realised that the other end of this, in my opinion, huge park was close to Bishan MRT.  Therefore it seemed logical to explore this part this time.

Before I move on to my visit to the park I did find out one additional fact about Bishan MRT station itself.  It is located on the site of the former Peck San Theng cemetery which has led to rumours of the station being haunted.  The station is apparently the site of several Singaporean urban legends and several alleged ghost sightings.  Well I saw nothing when I was there and I've actually been to the station several times before, another place I used to have to visit for work.  However I love a good ghost story so little things like that always interest me!

Bishan park is literally on the doorstep of a number of HDB blocks as you can see in some of the photos below.  Similarly to when I visited the other part of this park I was practically the only person there.  Like last time it was a week day and an incredibly hot one but I couldn't believe how empty the place was.  Though I gather from subsequent reading about this park that it is one of the most popular in Singapore, something I can totally understand.  

I was most struck though by the appearance of what seemed to be a meandering river right through the centre of the park.  A little subsequent research informed me that this was originally a 2.7km concrete canal (part of the Kallang river) but after, what seems to me, a fantastic makeover it was transformed into a natural looking river with lush greenery all around it.  As a result of the work done to transform the park I understand it now also boasts an impressive array of flora and fauna.

As I mentioned it was a very hot day when I decided to visit so I did not cover the whole of park. What I did see though delighted me.  I was especially excited to see what appeared to be an allotment (see below) in the park.  I'm pretty sure I've never seen any other allotments in Singapore.  I've not been able to find out much more about this part of the park sadly but clearly there is a lot of love and attention being given to the plants here.  Does anybody know anything more about this garden?

Allotment in Bishan park - first time I think I've seen one in Singapore

Until I did my research for the area around Bishan MRT I honestly don't think I even knew this park was here, or at least how extensive it was.  To discover new and interesting parts of Singapore was my reason for doing this feature and I think this is a real gem of a find!  If you haven't been I'd totally recommend a visit.

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

Bishan MRT station is on the North South line (NS17) and the Circle line (CC15).

29 March 2013

Earth Hour 2013

Saturday 23 March was Earth Hour 2013 and after I'd finished work I went along to The Float @ Marina Bay to be a part of this year's event.  The events actually began at 4.30pm but I wasn't able to get there until about three quarters of hour before the lights went off at 8.30pm.  When I arrived there was a sizable crowd already there, many of them families enjoying various performances on the stage area.

Preparing for lights off

Preparing for lights off

It wasn't long though before the countdown began and the lights around the Marina Bay area gradually went off.  Initially I was a little surprised that there still appeared to be lights on in some areas, I was expecting a total black out.  Of course I soon realised those were lights in hotel rooms or individual offices. I hope that for that weekend in the offices at least only essential lighting was left on and that other lighting was turned off at the close of business on Friday.  Once I appreciated this it was strange to see that part of Singapore so relatively unlit for a change (compare my perform and during photos of the CBD area for example) and, in the case of Esplanade Theatres on the Bay and the Singapore Flyer, for them to be in practically complete darkness.

Earlier in the afternoon some of those attending had been encouraged to take part in a kinetic dance-out with the aim being to generate enough power to show the film The Lorax at the end of the evening.  The challenge was successfully completed and whilst the lights were still dimmed the film began, taking those attending to the end of the evening's events.  

I admit that although I'd heard about Earth Hour previously, until this year I'd not really take a lot of interest in it and when it was.  I hope perhaps now I've witnessed it it will make me think more about how my actions impact on the planet and encourage me to make some changes where I can.

Singapore Flyer

Marina Bay Sands and the ArtScience museum

Central Business District

Esplanade Theatres on the Bay

Marina Bay Financial Centre

26 March 2013

24 March 2013

Pies & Coffee

UPDATE - March 2015 - This branch of Pies & Coffee has now closed.  A real shame, in my opinion, as this was a regular go to place for me being so close to home.  They do have other branches around Singapore though.  Check out their Facebook page for more details.

As I've mentioned before I live off Tanjong Katong Road which has an array of eateries etc. and has also seen the appearance of a couple of coffee shops too.  So I just had to go along and try them (I plan on going to the other one soon).

I began with Pies & Coffee which opened up towards the end of last year (I think) on Tanjong Katong Road.  They already have other branches around the island though their website only mentions their branch in Rochester Drive.  I assume therefore that one was the first to open.  

I visited on a week day afternoon and there were only two other people in there (not including staff).  As the name suggests they serve pies and coffee though they do also serve tea and cakes.  Going in the middle of the afternoon I decided to sample a dessert and a coffee, and chose a blueberry crumble and a latte.

I am by no means a coffee aficionado, despite enjoying it a lot, but I thought the latte was very good.  It was only as I was leaving that I noticed a water dispenser where you could help yourself to water.  I wish I'd noticed that sooner or the person serving me had pointed it out.  I know for next time!  

The crumble was OK but obviously (and I guess as you'd expect) shop made so was nothing special.  I actually think it could have done with some ice cream or custard as it was a little bit dry and in the end a bit too much for me to finish.  I didn't try any of the savoury pies or, of course, any of the other cakes or desserts.  I think next time though I might stick to just a coffee.  Regardless though it was a nice little place to stop and while away some time, just a short walk from my home and I'm sure somewhere I'll be going to again.

20 March 2013

What are you Doing for Earth Hour 2013?

Earth Hour 2013 is this Saturday, 23 March.  It will be marked at The Float @ Marina Bay from 4.30pm with a load of events and performances, a kinetic dance-out and at 8.30pm the turn-off of Singapore's skyline for one hour.

This year the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is encouraging Singapore to make four lifestyle changes - reduce the use of plastic bags, turn up their air-conditioning by one degree, switch to energy efficient LED lights and take short showers.  As you can see from the poster (below) some corporate partners have already issued challenges to the Singapore public through the Earth Hour, 'I Will if you Will' platform for three of these key actions.  

The 'I Will if You Will' challenge encourages people to make a difference by offering something in return for others doing something to help the environment.  If you want to get involved and create your own challenge you can still do so and pledge your action on the Earth Hour website.

More information about Earth Hour in Singapore, what will be happening, how you can pledge your 'I Will if You Will' challenge and what else you can do to get involved can be found here.  

What are you going to do?

Earth Hour 2013 - Saturday 23 March - 8.30pm

13 March 2013

Brunch at Senso

I've said it before but enjoying brunch seems to be an incredibly popular way in Singapore to spend your weekend.  A couple of weekends ago we did just that ourselves in celebration of a friend's birthday.  We returned to a place in Chinatown we've visited before for brunch, Senso on Club Street. 

Senso is housed in a beautiful building which, from looking at their website, I understand is a former convent.  On our last visit my husband and I were talking about what a lovely building it was and how wonderful it would be to live in.  In our dreams sadly!   There are both indoor and outdoor dining areas.  The outdoor part being in a beautiful courtyard (a space just perfect for al fresco dining) and definitely our preferred space for sitting in, surrounded by pillars, a few sculptures and sheltered from the sun.

The restaurant serves Italian food so naturally brunch is Italian too and begins with an array of starters which you go and help yourself to.  This, of course, includes pasta dishes, various cold meats, salads, bread and so on.  This time I enjoyed this part so much that I went up twice but I'm afraid I was enjoying it too much to get a photo!

After you've had your fill of starters there are (as you can see in the menu photo above) a number of pasta dishes and mains to choose from.  You simply order what you like the sound of.  As we've always been here in a fairly large group we've generally ordered one of everything and then ordered another round of any we've particularly enjoyed. 

Grilled chicken leg with roasted potato and thyme sauce

Finally, of course, there is dessert which as with the starters you go and help yourself.  This includes pannacotta, cheesecakes, macaroons (which I finally tried for the first time here!) and a whole variety of other tasty little treats.  Again I was too busy eating to get any photos though! 

As well as the restaurant I noticed there is also a separate bar area.  I've not been in that part but it looks like it would be a great place for some pre or post dinner drinks if you were eating there in the evening.  This is another great little brunch find here in Singapore and well worth considering next time you are contemplating somewhere new for your next brunch date. 

06 March 2013

Red Dot Roaming - Ang Mo Kio MRT

I went on my second Red Dot Roaming adventure recently this time starting at Ang Mo Kio MRT.  My day job has taken me to the Ang Mo Kio area in the past but other than that I've never really ventured there.  I wasn't sure what was there but from a little investigation it seemed there were several parks in the area and that the Lower Peirce Reservoir was also close (ish).  The day I chose to go was a perfect day for walking and exploring.  It had rained a little earlier in the day and was dull, overcast and not too hot when I got off the MRT.  

Anyone who has lived in or knows a little about Singapore may be familiar with the term, ang moh, it is often used to describe westerners and is a Hokkien phrase meaning 'red hair'.  It's easy to assume therefore that this part of Singapore took its name from the same phrase.  There are several theories as to how the area got its name but it is believed that the name was derived from the combining of two Hokkien phrases.  Ang Mo Dan which means rambutan, (a red fruit covered in hair) and the suffix 'kio', which means bridge or bridges, which was added as an extra description to distinguish exactly where the area was as there were many bridges built around this area. 

Some of the information available in Ang Mo Kio Town Garden East

From my preparation for my trip I'd established there was a park right by the MRT so this seemed the perfect place to begin.  I was surprised when I came out of the MRT, mainly because hills seem so infrequent in Singapore, to discover that the Ang Mo Kio Town Garden East (as I discovered it was called) was actually on a hill with stairs built in to climb to the park at the top.

When I reached the top, I discovered a lovely, well maintained park to enjoy a stroll around.  There were information boards about the history of the area and suggested walking routes to discover some of the history and area of Ang Mo Kio for yourself.

After exploring here I walked towards the Bishan Ang Mo Kio park which was also on my planned route for the day.  My walk there took me mainly past HDB's and after a shortish walk I reached the edge of what, from maps I'd looked at previously, seemed to be a fairly large park.  The maps did not lie and this park is a pretty impressive size with lakes and lots of space to sit and relax.  I also saw signs advising what you should do if you get a monkey in your house.  I've not seen those signs anywhere else before but as the park is not too far from the Lower Peirce Reservoir area I guess it's far more feasible that it could happen.  I was really struck by how lovely a park it seemed and how it was utterly deserted.  Admittedly it was a week day afternoon and it had been raining but there was no one there, maybe it's very different at weekends though.

Before I went on my roam I'd read  one of many stories about how the area got its name.  This one being about a red haired British lady, Lady Jennifer Windsor who was married to a Lord Windsor who had an estate in the Upper Thomson area and had lived there from the 1920s until after World War II.  It was a terrible accident that linked her to one of the bridges in the area crossing a stream running from the Lower Peirce Reservoir.  Tragically Lady Windsor's three children were lost one day whilst on their way to visit a family friend staying nearby.  It was subsequently established that her two sons had been playing near a bridge when a sudden gush of water had swept them away, their bodies were later found but the body of her little girl never was.

Soon after this happened locals reported hearing the cries of a child and this prompted Lady Windsor to stay by the bridge for the rest of her life.  It is said that her constant presence caused locals to name the area 'Red Haired bridge'.  Apparently it was only after her death in 1963 that locals stopped hearing the cries.  I also read that the bridge, though now disused, was still visible near the meeting point of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 and Upper Thomson Road.  I was interested to try and find this old bridge and as the Bishan Ang Mo Kio park ran along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 I thought it would be a pleasant walk to do on the way.

Sadly I couldn't find the bridge, I don't know whether I just missed it, if perhaps it's now gone or if it has been swallowed up in parts of the reservoir no longer accessible to the general public.  I'd love to hear from anyone familiar with this story and bridge who perhaps knows though.

After walking all that way, which though it doesn't look far on a map filled most of the afternoon I'd reached Lower Peirce Reservoir.  I had originally thought I might then take a walk around some of that as I'd previously walked around some of MacRitchie reservoir.  However by the time I arrived I was tired and really ready just to finish my exploring there and come home.  I think Lower Peirce Reservoir is one to visit another day.

If you missed my first Red Dot Roaming post you can check it out here.  Stay tuned for the next adventure soon. 

Ang Mo Kio MRT station is on the North South line (NS16).
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