29 March 2015

Red Dot Roaming - Harbourfront MRT - Marang Trail and the Henderson Waves

Red Dot Roaming recently took us down to Harbourfront MRT to explore the Marang Trail and further on to the Henderson Waves. You can actually walk a lot further than we did that day if you wish, our walk makes up a part of the Southern Ridges which stretches between Kent Ridge park and Harbourfront, but we decided that might be worth saving for another time. Most likely approaching from the other side and walking towards the point that we reached on this walk .... watch this space! Conveniently, as well, that part of the walk also lines up nicely with MRT stations, more Red Dot Roaming for the future I think.

Anyway back to our walk from Harbourfront MRT. Leaving the MRT station are signs pointing you towards the trail and as long as you take the right exit the start of the trail is literally right outside of the station. For reference it starts on the opposite side of Telok Blangah Road from Vivocity.  

A helpful sign just outside the MRT station

The trail is not actually that long but is a reasonably steep climb up steps and sloping footpaths taking you into Mount Faber park and ultimately to the top of Mount Faber, so be prepared to get warm. Whilst researching our walk I'd noticed on a map an indication of graves on the trail which sparked my curiosity greatly. I find graves very interesting, as anyone who reads my blog regularly may have noticed and I wasn't disappointed, tucked away amongst the undergrowth was an old Malay grave. I've since read that there was a Malay kampong here called Kampong Marang. However I really don't know much more than this, does anybody know anything more about this area and the graves? I'd love to hear from you.

Malay grave in the undergrowth on the Marang Trail

Walking on along the trail as we climbed higher we got some good views across to Sentosa and of the cable car. It didn't take long though to reach the top and enter Mount Faber park which is one of the oldest parks in Singapore. We actually visited Mount Faber not that long after we arrived in Singapore in 2010 and took a ride on the cable car over to Sentosa too but I'd not been back since then. It was interesting to approach it from a different point, last time we cheated and got a cab to the top, and good to revisit the park again which, as I mentioned, gives good views over the surrounding area.

This time though our plans were to keep walking beyond Mount Faber park and on to the Henderson Waves which would take us into Telok Blangah Hill park. Whilst we walked on through Mount Faber park the route took us away from our views towards Sentosa and instead gave us great views across the city, looking towards the HDB blocks you can see in my photo below and the CBD in the distance. As with a lot of the walking I've done in Singapore the paths are carefully laid out and signposted, great for not getting lost and suitable for all the family to enjoy.

Soon enough we arrived at the entrance to the Henderson Waves. The Henderson Waves is actually a pedestrian bridge, the highest in Singapore at thirty-six metres. The bridge connects Mount Faber park and Telok Blangah hill park. The bridge gets its name because it has a wave format to it which rises up and below the deck that you walk on. These 'waves' provide shelter and rest points along the walk over the bridge. The views from the top of the bridge are also pretty good too, looking down on the busy Henderson Road below and across back towards the city.

View from the Henderson Waves

Henderson Waves

By the time we reached the other side and entered Telok Blangah hill park, which has been in existence since the early nineteenth century, we were starting to get a little tired from the hot sun. We wandered around a little bit more but really wanted somewhere just to rest for a while and refresh ourselves before deciding what to do next. As we walked around we fortunately stumbled upon the Alkaff mansion. The mansion is a beautiful colonial building built in 1918 by Syed Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Alkaff. The Alkaff's were a family of traders whose ancestors had arrived in Singapore from Yemen in 1852. It was built as a retreat for the family and to entertain their guests and was well known for hosting high society parties in the 1930's. The property was acquired by the Singapore government in 1984 and after a period of disuse was eventually converted into a restaurant and eventually became an Italian restaurant in 2011.

I had previously heard of the place but wasn't sure it would really be suitable for what we wanted right at that point. However as we approached we discovered there was also a terrace area outdoors serving drinks and food in a relaxed environment. All we wanted was a cold drink and so we ended our exploring enjoying a refreshing drink in the shadow of the colonial bungalow. There were lots of families there doing the same or enjoying something to eat so this is clearly a popular spot to stop after a walk in the area. 

We decided to end our walk for that day having been out in the heat of the day for a few hours. We promised ourselves we would complete the walk by starting from the other end of the Southern Ridges and make our way towards the mansion from that side at some point soon.

Alkaff mansion from the terrace

Harbourfront MRT is on the North East Line (NE1) and Circle Line (CC29)  

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

17 March 2015

St Monica's

I have to admit that Boat Quay is not generally my first choice of places to go for a night out in Singapore these days.  Nearly five years of living here have made me appreciate there is a lot more to the island than this little stretch, but when St Monica's came on to my radar I was curious and decided to give it a go.  St Monica's is at the far end of Boat Quay, well past all the initial bars and restaurants that engulf the unsuspecting tourists as they explore this spot.  Make sure you keep on walking to discover it for yourself.

St Monica's is marketed as a dive bar which, according to Wikipedia, is an informal pub or bar often considered disreputable, sinister or a detriment to the community.  When I thought about it a little more I realised that I have often described places as dives (though maybe not in Singapore) and that this was never meant in a complimentary way.  St Monica, after who the bar is named, is the patron saint of alcoholics, disappointing children, victims of adultery and difficult marriages which only adds to the idea of it being a thoroughly dodgy but, let's face it, an interesting type of place to go to.  These two points got me even more curious!  St Monica's didn't disappoint and is rather cool and definitely worth a visit whatever your personal situation may be.

The bar is actually in the former location of the Spiffy Dapper, look out for the sign (pictured below) above the side entrance door of the shophouse and make your way up the steep, dark staircase to the second floor above.  Once you are inside you'll instantly notice that St Monica's is stripped back, dimly lit, basic and wonderfully unpretentious, a breath of fresh air amongst all the other bars in the area.  The decor is minimalist with simple tables and stools for sitting on and just a couple of framed collages of various rock band logos on the wall behind the bar.  There is no drinks menu to peruse, what you see behind the bar in terms of beers (they carry a range of American and English craft beers), ciders and spirits is what they have but the barmen can also make you a cocktail or two if you want.  I'm not a beer drinker so stuck to spirits and also had a cocktail, a particularly good daiquiri.  I do need to get back again to sample some others though.  My husband tried one of the beers, as recommended by the barman, an unusual whisky based one from Scotland.  The beer is brewed with Scottish water which is then conditioned in barrels used to mature Scotch whisky giving it a unique taste.  You can see the bottle in the photo below.

Looking towards the bar

The soundtrack to enjoy your drinks too is a fabulous rock one, there was some great music the night we visited and plenty of those rock anthems we all know and can sing along to from the 70s and 80s.  It's loud and fun and has had me humming a few of those classics all week!  With St Monica's laid back vibe it'll be no surprise that it feels like you can go there dressed as relaxed as you want, it's all about turning up, enjoying a few drinks and having fun.  Naturally being on the second floor of a shophouse in Boat Quay also guarantees a nice view over the Singapore river and down on to the crowds passing by below.  We sat right by the windows and there was something sort of fun about spying down on everyone walking past underneath.

Peeking out on Boat Quay below from the shophouse windows

View towards the Central Business District and Boat Quay from the Elgin bridge

I loved St Monica's and its 'couldn't care less' attitude and think it's definitely a welcome addition to the scene in the Boat Quay area.  Somewhere I would definitely choose to go to again.  Go find it too asap and let me know what you think!  

St Monica's is open Monday - Saturday from 6pm - 1am.  

Check them out on Facebook or on Instagram, @stmonicas_sg 

12 March 2015

Singapore Jazz Festival 2015

This past weekend saw us head off to the Singapore Jazz Festival 2015, very excited to be enjoying an evening of top quality performers.  The festival made its debut in Singapore last year (and we were lucky enough to have gone then too) and returned again this year, featuring some of the best artists in the business all overlooked by Marina Bay Sands and the CBD skyline.  The festival featured over 250 artists, including international Grammy award winners, chart toppers as well as some of Singapore's own jazz stars.  Although the festival is billed as a jazz festival its organisers state that it is a celebration of jazz inspired music and its influence across all music genres, guaranteeing an exciting mix of performers.  Also ensuring that everyone attending should have a great night and be able to enjoy the music on offer.

Ready to enjoy the night, armed with our FIJI Water, the Official Artesian Water for the festival

It was a lovely evening with pleasant temperatures and after a busy day at work armed with our bottles of FIJI water, the festival's official artesian water, we arrived ready to enjoy the evening.  The acts performing on Saturday night included, DJ Maurice Simon, Charlie Lim, Indra Lesmana, Snarky Puppy, Naturally 7 and Jessie J.  The performers we saw were all good but for me the highlight of the night was Naturally 7.  I'd not heard of them previously but they are an American based acapella group with a distinct style known as vocal play.  Check them out on YouTube if you don't know them already, they are amazing!  They sang a range of well known songs and were absolutely mind blowing!  I really can't sing their praises enough.  Jessie J was headlining the festival and the last act of the night and whilst I admit I did enjoy Naturally 7 more, she too was very good, she has a powerful live voice and certainly kept the crowd entertained.

The main stage

Asides from being a great night out the Singapore Jazz Festival also has an important social and development element to it.  A part of the proceeds taken from the festival goes towards supporting the Foundation for Arts and Social Enterprise in the nurturing and promoting of local jazz talent through a Jazz Academy.  These artists are then, in due course, expected to help future generations of talented musicians to achieve the same success in a 'creative circle of help'.  They also want to raise the profile of Singapore generally as a regional and international hub of arts and culture.  Something I've certainly seen developing recently right across the board.

The perfect backdrop to the festival

We had a great night out at the jazz festival yet again, the setting is perfect and the backdrop stunning.  Let's face it, it's a great skyline and one I never get tired of.  I'm pretty sure the 2016 festival will be even better!  Definitely one for your diaries. 

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 Food News PR and FIJI Water for the kind invitation.

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