29 April 2013

Planting Tulips for Tulipmania

Last week I was involved in an incredibly fun morning at the Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay - planting tulips for Tulipmania which opens today, 29 April 2013.  

Like many here we don't have a garden, just a balcony with a few pot plants on it and whilst we've tried to grow plants in the past we've had varying degrees of success at this.  I'm not a massive gardening fanatic (though I reckon if I had a garden I'd love it) but the opportunity to get my hands a little dirty and do something a bit different sounded like a lot of fun and something not to be missed!

I arrived bright and early and there were already a lot of volunteers busy planting the bulbs in the Flower Field area of the dome.  It was a very organised morning, with limited time to get the planting done it certainly needed to be.  The bulbs were planted sections at a time (you can see the tape dividing the sections in my photos) according to a plan which will see the tulips bloom in rows in a variety of different colours.  It was fascinating to watch how quickly the rows were planted up.  Of course as well as watching the others doing it I got to do a bit myself.  I was nowhere near as efficient as those who had been doing it all the morning but it was great fun and certainly not something I ever imagined I'd be doing at the Flower Dome.

Tulipmania is a three week event beginning today, 29 April 2013.  It has been organised to bring people 'closer to the wonders of nature' and to take 'visitors on a botanical journey into the world of tulips'.  There will be an amazing 20,000 bulbs all flown in from the Netherlands on display during these three weeks in many different colours, including red, pink, yellow, white and purple.  You can also see a variety of other beautiful spring blooms in the Flower Dome such as lilies, hyacinths, daffodils and muscari.  There are plenty of activities arranged as well for everyone to get involved in whilst Tulipmania is on.  These include activity sheets for children and events such as Dutch cheese tasting as well as special promotions, including a 15% discount on admission into the cooled conservatories during Mother’s Day weekend (10-12 May), and a chance to win a pair of tickets to Keukenhof, Holland in 2014.  Take a look at Gardens by the Bay's website for more details of these and everything else that is happening.

The Flower Field is sure to look amazing when all the tulips in all their beautiful colours are in bloom.  I really hope to get back there again to see them, especially as I helped plant a few of the bulbs!

A few tulips that had already been planted

This was the row I helped to plant

Tulip Facts - how many did you know?

Tulipmania is on now from the 29 April 2013 to 20 May 2013 at the Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay.  Check out their website for more information and 'tip-toe through the tulips' there soon.

The Flower Dome is open from 9am - 9pm.  Admission charge to the Flower Dome applies.

Thanks to Gardens by the Bay for the kind invitation to take part in the tulip planting.

26 April 2013

April - Yellow #worldcolors #worldcolours

The #worldcolours colour for April is a very Spring like yellow.

The Reclining Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand

Bintan, Indonesia

Bukit Brown cemetery
The Year of the Snake, Chinatown

Flinders Street station, Melbourne, Australia

National Orchid Garden

Sentosa Flower festival 2012

Bull ring, Ronda, Spain

Little India
'Delightful Durian' - Elephant Parade

Masjid Sultan mosque by night, Kampong Glam

If you missed any of the previous months colours check them out here.

22 April 2013

Extreme Sailing Series 2013 - Part 2 - Singapore

The weekend before last saw the second stage of the Extreme Sailing Series 2013 come to Singapore, beginning in Muscat, Oman it arrived here on the 11 - 14 April 2013.  The Extreme Sailing Series sees eight teams with forty of the world's best sailors from eleven nationalities taking part.  This time around these sailors have between them competed in twenty Olympic campaigns, twenty five Americas Cup campaigns and amongst them have had twenty eight World Championship wins, so there were definitely some first class athletes taking part.  For the first time ever this year a team representing Singapore was also taking part as an 'invitational team'.

Singapore staged test and exhibition events in 2010 and 2011 but this year was a host venue with the race taking part in the Marina Bay Reservoir.  Singapore is part of an eight-venue global circuit (next stop Qingdao, China - 2-5 May 2013) hosting this year's event.  

The Extreme Sailing Series pits some of the best professional sailing teams in the world against each other on identical catamarans.  The courses are close to shore, challenging and tactical to provide maximum entertainment.  Singapore is set to host the event for the next three years, so even if you missed it this time you can hopefully catch it next year.

The action began on the Friday but we weren't able to get there until the last day, the Sunday.  It was a wet, drizzly start to the day but not enough to dampen spirits too much.  On each of the days there were a variety events taking place on and out of the water.  We caught some windsurfing amongst other things. 

Sunday was the culmination of the racing in Singapore and saw the Swiss team, Alinghi sail to victory.  The placings after the action in Singapore were:

1st - Alinghi (SUI) -198 points
2nd - Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) - 163 points
3rd - SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) - 161 points
4th - Realteam (SUI) - 159 points
5th - The Wave, Muscat (OMA) - 153 points
6th - Team Korea (KOR) - 144 points
7th - GAC Pindar (NZL) - 143 points
8th - Team Aberdeen Singapore (SIN) - 127 points

The overall standings after Act 2 - Singapore are:

1st - Alinghi (SUI) 18 points
2nd - Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 18 points
3rd - The Wave, Muscat (OMA) 16 points
4th - SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 12 points
5th - Team Korea (KOR) 11 points
6th - Team X Invitational 10 points
7th - Realteam (SUI) 10 points
8th - GAC Pindar (NZL) 9 points

We had a fun late morning, early afternoon there, though the action continued after we left and into the evening.  Although I'm not an expert on sailing it was fun to watch the boats sailing in the familiar waters of the Marina Bay area. Definitely something to catch next year when it returns, or, if you happen to be somewhere it has yet to come to on this year's circuit, to check out when it arrives in your city.

Next stop is Qingdao,China 2 -5 May 2013, after that it moves on to Istanbul, Turkey 20 - 23 June 2013, Porto, Portugal 25 - 28 July 2013, Cardiff, UK 23 - 26 August 2013, Nice, France 3 - 6 October 2013 and finally Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 14 - 17 November 2013.

15 April 2013

Red Dot Roaming - Botanic Gardens MRT

My latest Red Dot Roaming via the MRT took me to the Botanic Gardens.  Of course I've been there countless times but only once before have I taken the MRT and so entered the gardens from that side.  I tend to always go in via the entrance nearest the Ginger garden and National Orchid garden.  So I figured it would be interesting to explore that side of the gardens a little more.

Entering on this side brings you into the Eco area of the gardens and close to the Eco lake.  You are also close to the Jacob Ballas Children's garden.  Probably the only part of the gardens now that I've never been to, but one I've heard great things about.  There were some parts of the Eco garden area closed off for work unfortunately on the day I visited but still plenty was accessible.  According to information in the gardens the Eco garden area gets its name from two sources: economic and ecological.  This reflects both the many plants grown in that area of economic importance and the attempt to keep a natural feel to the landscape, particularly around the lake.

For me perhaps the best part of this side of the gardens was the area around the Eco lake.  Visiting on a week day meant it was reasonably quiet and it was lovely to watch the swans swimming gracefully in the lake.  This is certainly somewhere I could happily sit and while away an afternoon or perhaps enjoy a picnic.

My walk ultimately took me as far as the Evolution garden, a part of the gardens I've walked around several times previously.  I did, however, wander around it again as it is a fairly shady area.  The Evolution garden tells the evolutionary story of plant life throughout the ages, though somehow I always seem to walk around it the wrong way, going back in time instead of forwards!  On this occasion I decided not to walk any further and wandered slowly back the way I had come from and towards the MRT station.  Walking towards the Evolution garden from this direction includes some slight hills and though not steep, in the hot sun of that day I was in need of a drink by the time I'd finished wandering around this side of the gardens.

The Eco Lake

Given that, from the MRT station, you practically step right into the gardens it seemed very peaceful in this half.  Even when I went via the MRT before on a weekend it didn't seem as busy as the other side of the gardens sometimes does.  Perhaps controversially though I think I actually prefer the side of the gardens I usually enter from near the Ginger garden and National Orchid garden.  Although the Eco lake area was lovely and very peaceful.  I suspect future visits will see me favour that half of the gardens over this half if I'm honest but it was a lovely stroll around one of my favourite parts of Singapore.

If you've missed any of my previous Red Dot Roaming posts, take a look here, don't forget to let me know if you think there is somewhere I should be visiting.

Botanic Gardens MRT station is on the Circle line (CC19) and Downtown Line (DT9).

10 April 2013

Chill Out Bars on Tour - Saigon

My husband has written yet another instalment in his 'Chill Out Bars' series, this time following another recent business trip to Vietnam.

A key part of the ‘expat’ living in Singapore experience is the ability to travel to many places that none of us, in our respective countries, would ever dream, or only distantly dream, of visiting. Such places include, Thailand and Malaysia but also extend to hops to Indonesia (avoid the horror that is Kuta in Bali), the Philippines, Cambodia (not been), India and many more such as Sri Lanka, what a view from the hotel. These trips can be for pleasure or more likely in my case for work. However when working one still needs a beer of an evening to help to unwind or at least escape the shackles of the laptop (I still have the crackberry).  So I thought I’d write a chill out bars post describing the bars I visited in Saigon (all the locals and a good few others use the old title) or Ho Chi Minh City to be official.

I stayed in District One, a short walk from Notre Dame Cathedral, the Freedom Palace and the mighty Mekong, so on my first evening I decided to go out and search for a beer, as I finished in the office at about 4pm.

The Roof Garden at the Rex Hotel

The Rex Hotel has been an institution in Saigon for many a year, during the war years it would have thronged with Americans, soldiers and journalists alike. But we are not here to talk history, there was beer to be drunk. Having consulted the interweb I decided upon a sundowner at the Rex’s rooftop bar (I like a rooftop), called the Garden Bar or Roof Garden. Initial signs were not good, the queue for the lift was long and full of northern European tourists (more on that in a minute) and the lifts were very small. Having let two go I managed to make it into the third and ascended to floor five, full of disappointment I wondered if the bar would be packed. It was not, the area is huge and the bar area was reasonably empty. I chose a seat in the fading sun, away from my Germanic looking fellow visitors and ordered a beer. When travelling I always try to have the local brew and definitely would not order a Tiger (which is everywhere in Vietnam), so I ordered a Saigon (I think this is the same beer as it’s northern cousin Ha Noi) and watched the world go by. The bar itself is a bit kitschy, there is a big golden crown in the corner, flanked by a couple of huge fake elephants.

View from the rooftop bar at the Rex hotel

Why was the bar so busy? This is the history bit. As I mentioned the hotel became famous during the Vietnam war for hosting the American military command's daily conference.  Its rooftop bar was also well known as a hangout spot for military officials and war correspondents.

After this I stumbled on a local restaurant and dined on bbq’d prawns and pork, with some fried rice.

Saigon Saigon at The Caravelle Hotel

Unfortunately, my work trip had to extend over a weekend, as I had meetings in Saigon on Thursday / Friday and Hanoi on Monday / Tuesday, so I decided to spend Friday night in Ho Chi Minh. Again I was looking for a sundowner and not wanting to be boring I chose a bar called Saigon Saigon, another rooftop affair on top of the Caravelle Hotel (across the square from the Rex and a little up from the river). The bar has a terrace area to the side and an l-shaped ledge with teak tables around the side of the bar area. The staff are very attentive and quickly served me a beer, pointing out that I’d ordered a non-happy hour beer, as it was a local one.  Happy hour extends from 5pm to 8pm and was 2 for 1 on house pour wine and draft beers, bloody Tiger.  I watched the sunset from here and the comings and goings in the street below. For a communist country there are a lot of Ferrari's, Range Rovers and Bentley's on the streets.

Bobby Chinn’s Restaurant (next to The Intercontinental Hotel, within The Link Shopping Mall)

Having watched Bobby Chinn on TLC many times I decided to give his restaurant a try. It is split into a dining area and an eating area with the bar at the far end and the kitchen in the opposite corner. I sat on the high bar chairs and ordered an excellent steak with a baked potato and veg (I have had the wasabi mash before, which is bloody fab). The bar also had a happy hour with promotions on house wine, I was ready to go after three glasses but was informed that there was another one in the pump (I stayed for the fourth). The steak was perfectly cooked, the spud, a rare treat and the wine excellent. The place is a tad pricey for Vietnam but then I was lucky enough not to be paying on this occasion.

One thing to note, there is one problem with eating and drinking in bars in Vietnam - the smoking ban in these places has not yet made it to the country (hence my choice of rooftop outside options). 

If you want to read suggestions for more chill out bars both in Singapore and elsewhere that my husband has travelled to, take a look at Chill Out Bars in the Lion Citypart two of Chill Out Bars in the Lion Citypart three of Chill Out BarsChill Out Bars Returns or New Year = New Chill Out Bars.  Alternatively if you are travelling and happen to be going to the Costa del Sol area of Spain why not check out this great place.

09 April 2013

The Great FIJI Water Race at Savour 2013

This weekend Savour 2013, the 'largest gastronomic extravaganza showcasing the best from world-­renowned chefs and leading establishments in the food and beverage industry' comes to Singapore.

FIJI water will be there holding their own 'Amazing Race' style competition, 'The Great FIJI Water Race'.  Where the winner could walk away with the grand prize of $1000 cash and a year's supply of FIJI water.  Instant mini-prizes, upon completion of key tasks, (limited to first 100 contest participants) such as delicious cupcakes from Cake Over Heels and cooking demonstration vouchers from Tools of the Trade are also up for grabs.

The competition will take place this Saturday, 13 April 2013 from 12 noon to 4pm.  To be in with a chance of winning the prize contestants need to complete five compulsory key tasks and three optional bonus tasks to earn the most points in the shortest amount of time.

Image courtesy of FoodNews PR

How to get involved

Anyone attending Savour 2013 can take part, so if you want to all you need to do is visit any of the following Key Task or Bonus Task stations at the event to pick up a scorecard.
  • Tuck Lee store
  • look out for the person roaming the festival grounds wearing the mask of guest Chef Emilio Macias from restaurant Astrid y Gaston in Peru.  Follow FIJI Water on Twitter or Instagram, @FIJIWaterSG for updates on his latest location.
  • Cake Over Heels booth
  • Balzac Brasserie booth
  • Barilla booth
At each station there will be a Station Master who will explain to you the details of the race and validate your start time.  At the end of the race submit your scorecard to any Station Master who will record the race completion time. 

Points are awarded on the completion of every task.  The team to complete all 5 Key Tasks (Bonus Tasks are optional) in the shortest amount of time wins an additional 20 points, while teams that complete all Key Tasks and Bonus Tasks will get an additional 10 points.

The top 10 captioned photos (taken as part of the tasks) will win 5 points each, and the ‘Best Captioned Photo’ at the end of the race will win dinner for two at Balzac Brasserie and five cases of FIJI Water.

All winners will be announced on FIJI Water's Facebook page at 8pm.  

Other Rules of Participation

• Participants can form teams to complete the tasks and there is no limit to the number of participants per team.  However, there will only be one mini prize per task for each team and one ultimate grand prize.

• Participants must complete tasks in 4 hours, between 12noon and 4pm.

• Scorecards have to be submitted to any of the 8 Station Masters by 4pm.  Any late submissions will not be entertained.

• Scorecards must be initialled by the Station Master after completing each task.  Scorecards that are not fully initialled will not be recognized.

• In the event that there is a tie in the score for the final prize, FIJI Water will relook at race photos of the finalists that were posted up on Instagram, and award a tie-­breaking 5 points based on the photos and captions.

• Other terms and conditions apply, and FIJI Water reserves the right to alter the rules of the race at any point in time. 

For all the latest information on 'The Great FIJI Water Race' and details of the tasks to be completed visit FIJI Water's Facebook page or alternatively visit their blog

02 April 2013

Exploring the City with a City Nomads Card

I'm sure if you live in Singapore you'll have come across City Nomads, the online guide to what's on across the city’s best restaurants, bars, shopping, cultural and nightlife scene.  You may also know as well that they recently launched the City Nomads card to bring some great offers to those members who sign up for the card.

Image courtesy of City Nomads

I was invited along to the recent launch party for the card at Tamarind Hill, Labrador Park which was a great night.  The restaurant also looks like a great place to try at some point by the way.  

So how does it work I hear you ask?

Each month City Nomads will feature a carefully selected (City Nomad card members only) list of their personally approved places with promotions of up to 50% off.  There will also be a few chosen partners with longer term collaborations as well as special invitation access to private events plus free and/or discounts on ticketed events.  By the way only a limited number of membership cards will be circulated so you really will be in an elite crowd and you'd better think about applying for one soon!

Cardholder Benefits

- Savings of up to over $500 every month – you’ll likely recoup the cost of Membership card after only 3-4 uses

- Up to 30% off a curated list of the city’s best restaurants and bars, including all food and drink for Nomad member and friends up to a group of 6

- 15% off handpicked fashion and lifestyle boutiques

- 10% upwards discount on theatre and show tickets

- Up to 50% off at tried and tested spas, yoga studios and beauty outlets

- Special invitation access to private events plus free and/or discounts on ticketed events through the weekly Nomad Card newsletter

- Preferential prices on City Nomads events (ie: whisky and wine club, dining events)

How To Get Your Hands On One!

1. Subscribe
Go online and check out the Members section of the City Nomads website here and select the payment plan that best suits you to become a Nomad member.

1 year membership: $216 nett ($18 per month)

6 months membership: $132 nett ($22 per month)

3 months membership: $84 nett ($28 per month)

2. Receive the card
As soon as you subscribe, you’ll receive an e-card so you can get going on enjoying your membership while your physical Nomad card wings its way to you in the post.

3. Check out the Members’ offers online (here)
Feast your eyes on the monthly privileges and offers and start planning your hit list with your friends.

4. Go and enjoy!
Get discovering all the cool spots and happenings around town and enjoy the offers by flashing your card at partner outlets!

For more information visit City Nomads

Having learnt a little more about the card at the launch party I've opted, initially, to buy a three month card, which I think is a great way to try it out to see how much you'll use it.  Hopefully I'll be putting it to lots of use and can share some of my experiences with you here too.

Go try it out for yourself today.
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