29 January 2016

'Phoenix Facial' at the Asian Wellness Spa, One Farrer Hotel and Spa

I recently had the opportunity to try out something very different, some of which I've never experienced before and the other, something I rarely do. I was lucky enough to sample the 'Phoenix Facial' at the Asian Wellness Spa at One Farrer hotel and Spa, comprising of a traditional Chinese medicine consultation, a facial and acupuncture. I've always thought it would be interesting to have a traditional Chinese medicine consultation to see what they considered would help my overall wellness so I jumped at the chance to have one. The acupuncture was also a first for me and although I've never really thought about it previously I was curious to have the opportunity to experience this as well.

The Asian Wellness Spa is one of two spas at the One Farrer Hotel and Spa, which is just a short walk from Farrer Park MRT station. The Asian Wellness Spa offers a range of treatments and targeted programmes to enhance both your emotional and physical well-being, incorporating both Western and traditional Chinese medicine. The 'Phoenix Facial' that I got to sample uses both traditional Chinese medicine and European techniques to treat the skin from within enhancing the blood circulation and collagen production.

Upon arrival at the spa I firstly had my consultation with the traditional Chinese medicine physician. She asked me a whole range of questions about my general well being and health as well as examining my tongue and taking my pulse on both wrists. As I said before this whole experience was very new to me but she took the time to explain everything in the consultation and how it relates to the principals of Chinese medicine. I have to say it was fascinating to learn about my body type and whilst I can't say I'll be able to follow her advice entirely there are certainly parts of it that provided some food for thought for the future. The consultation also helped her to assess where the needles would be placed during my acupuncture session. So as well as having the facial acupuncture she also decided on suitable points on my arms and legs that would help my general well-being.

From here I was then taken to the treatment room for my facial cleanse and mask. This was wonderfully relaxing and I could have happily dozed off a few times during the session. By the time this was completed I was incredibly relaxed and any nerves I may have had about my first acupuncture session were gone. The TCM physician had warned me I could experience a little pain during the acupuncture session but for me it felt like nothing more than a pin prick and any feeling I had of the needle being in my arms, legs and face soon disappeared. I did flinch a little more when she put the needles in my face but even with these I hardly felt a thing. I have to admit I was pleased that the whole experience was so pain free. I then had to lie fairly still for a period of time before the needles were removed. I really am not sure how long I was lying there for but I guess something like twenty to twenty five minutes. As I lay there I had the opportunity to just relax and tried to empty my mind of all thoughts, easier said than done, but I did try! Finally I was given a moisturising on my face with a jade roller, very cold but a very refreshing way to end my facial.

Much of my experience at the Asian Wellness Spa was a first for me but I had a great time. The TCM physician was excellent and made the experience both interesting and enlightening. The Phoenix Facial itself was wonderfully relaxing and the acupuncture pain free and simple. I left the spa feeling invigorated and ready to get on with the rest of the day. Why not check out this and their other TCM rituals, treatments and programmes for yourself and in the process give yourself a wonderful treat too.

The Asian Wellness Spa is open daily from 1pm to 10pm.

To book an appointment or discuss suitable experiences call +65 6705 7854 or email aws@onefarrer.com 

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 to you the Asian Wellness Spa, One Farrer Hotel and Spa for the kind invitation.

20 January 2016

Cantonese Cuisine at EMPRESS

Anyone who's been down to the CBD area in the past months will have most likely noticed that the Asian Civilisations Museum and surrounding area has been having a bit of a makeover. This has resulted in the fairly recent opening of EMPRESS, a Chinese restaurant retaining some of the traditional whilst also embracing modern, fun dining. I was lucky enough to be able to head down there for lunch recently and I wasn't disappointed.

The restaurant comprises both an indoor and outdoor seating area. We dined inside, it was raining and obviously you also get the benefit of a little air con too but at night I imagine some al fresco dining would be just perfect. The indoor dining space is lovely though, bright, open and airy. The restaurant space is modern but also includes some traditional Chinese elements to the design alongside the historical aspect of the museum building with the feature wall behind the bar giving you glimpses of the museum's facade. Although I didn't see it, I understand there is also a private dining room as well as the main dining area. All of this right on the Singapore river giving great views, whether by day or night, of the CBD, Boat Quay and the river.

I was there on a week day lunchtime and imagine the restaurant being perfect whether you were a tourist straight out of the museum, an office worker looking somewhere different for you lunch (they have set lunch menus) or looking to hold a relaxed business lunch meeting. Equally with the bar area and outdoor seating this would make a great venue for a few early evening drinks or an evening meal.

Image courtesy of Mercury PR

On to the food! We started our meal with the Triple Roast Platter ($28 for a small portion) a delicious dish and great for sharing, it can be ordered as a small, medium or large dish. It comprises of crackling roast pork, EMPRESS char siew and EMPRESS sweet and sticky pork ribs, certainly keeping to the restaurant's Cantonese roots. The fatty goodness of the char siew was delicious and the crackling roast pork was super crunchy. I could happily eat this dish again and again!

Triple Roast Platter - crackling roast pork, EMPRESS char siew and EMPRESS sweet and sticky pork ribs
Image courtesy of Mercury PR

We then tried a couple of the soups on offer, I was reliably informed that no Cantonese meal is complete without soup and these certainly did not disappoint. I had the king prawn dumpling in supreme broth ($14) with my companion having the teapot soup ($14), which I also tried a little of. Both soups have a chicken based broth and were incredibly hearty, just right for that rainy day. My soup had some delicious chunks of chicken in it as well as possibly the biggest dumpling I have seen or at least certainly eaten!

King Prawn Dumpling in Supreme Broth
Image courtesy of Mercury PR

Teapot Soup - Supreme Broth with pumpkin, seafood dumplings and crispy spring rolls
Image courtesy of Mercury PR

The soups were followed by some delicious tofu, the seafood spinach tofu ($22 for a small portion). This is made in house and served with prawns, fish and scallops, this too can also be ordered as a small, medium or large portion. Whilst I may not be the biggest seafood eater around this was delightful. This was followed up by a delicious beef dish and one of several vegetarian options the fried brown rice medley ($20 for a small portion), available in small, medium or large portions and also giving diners a healthier option to choose as well if they wish.

Fried Brown Rice Medley - Hon Shimeji mushrooms, asparagus, goji berries, pine nuts
Image courtesy of Mercury PR

Finally came dessert, I always have room for a dessert but I'm generally not a fan of many Chinese desserts, EMPRESS though has come up with a range of desserts that are totally unexpected making them absolutely amazing! I had the Coconut Custard with Filo Pastry containing Thai pineapple, honey mango, passion fruit pearls and coconut ice cream. The result was something light and refreshing, perfect to round off a meal on the right note.

I admit that even after over five years living here I do sometimes still find traditional Chinese restaurants just a little intimidating. EMPRESS though has got it just right in my opinion, keeping some of those traditions but embracing a relaxed, unstuffy and modern approach too, both in its food and decor, making this a restaurant that is accessible and welcoming to all. Definitely a restaurant to add to your 'go-to' list.

Opening Hours - EMPRESS
Monday - Sunday 
Lunch: 11.30am – 3pm (Last Order 2.30pm) 
Dinner: 6pm – 11pm (Last Order 10.45pm) 

Opening Hours - EMPRESS Bar 
Sunday to Thursday 4pm – 12midnight 
Friday & Saturday 4pm – 1am

Website    www.empress.com.sg 
Facebook www.facebook.com/empressasiancivilisationsmuseum 

For Enquiries and Reservations 
Tel: 6238 8733 
Email: reservations@empress.com.sg / info@empress.com.sg

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 EMPRESS restaurant and Mercury PR for the kind invitation.

12 January 2016

Red Dot Roaming - Kovan MRT - Japanese Cemetery Park

I've had a long held interest in cemeteries and so the Japanese cemetery park had been on my list of places I wanted to get to for a very long time. Although not on the doorstep of Kovan MRT I decided it was still a doable walk (in reality about a twenty to twenty-five minute, very pleasant walk at a steady pace) and decided to make that my next Red Dot Roaming stop. 

The Japanese cemetery park is the largest in South East Asia and contains within it the remains of Japanese prostitutes, civilians, soldiers and also convicted war criminals who were executed at Changi prison. It was established in 1891 to serve the burial needs of the Japanese living in Singapore. Three brothel keepers got the original government approval for a cemetery for the destitute Japanese prostitutes known as karayuki-san, who made up the biggest percentage of the Japanese population working in Singapore at that time, to have a final resting place here. The founders of the cemetery also owned rubber estates and so combined some of their own land with some public land to establish the graveyard. Gradually the cemetery was subsequently used to bury other members of the Japanese community from a whole variety of professions. 

At the end of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore a number of tombs and memorials were erected to commemorate the war dead. This includes a memorial for a number of Japanese war criminals who were executed at Changi prison for war time atrocities including the Sook Ching massacre, a military operation aimed at removing anti-Japanese elements from the Chinese community in Singapore. The cemetery was closed for burials in 1973 and named a memorial park in 1987.

As you might expect there are also a few notable graves and memorials within the cemetery. These include one for Yamamoto Otokichi (also known as John Matthew Ottoson) who is recognised as the first Japanese resident of Singapore, living here from the late 1840s up to his death in 1867. He played a crucial role in opening up relations between Japan and the west and, from reading more about him since, seems to have led a fascinating life.

This grave caught my attention as the inscription is written in English

As I mentioned previously the walk from Kovan MRT to the cemetery park was very simple and takes you initially past a couple of condos and some shops and then through a number of quiet roads dotted with large houses. Although it's quite a twisty route through these residential streets it's easy enough to follow and in no time at all I was almost at my destination. The road that the cemetery park is on seems quiet and unassuming but the entrance is easy to find once you arrive. The park itself has a peacefulness that you'd expect from a cemetery and although surrounded by houses seems remote and distant from them once you enter inside.

This gravestone had a photo of the deceased on it and reminded me of some of the graves I saw on my visit to Bukit Brown cemetery

The cemetery park is the perfect size for a leisurely stroll and helpfully included close to the entrance are some information plaques about the history of the cemetery as well as a diagram highlighting the different areas of the cemetery, notable graves etc. Most of the graves are naturally inscribed with Japanese characters but a few (like the one in my photo above) have their inscription written in English. I also noticed a few graves with photos of the deceased on them. I remember seeing graves with photos like this in Bukit Brown cemetery and although I couldn't read the gravestone inscriptions there or here seeing their photos gave me a connection with the person who once lived and worked here too, albeit many years ago in a very different Singapore.

Grave of Yamamoto Otokichi (John Matthew Ottoson) 

Tucked away down a residential street the cemetery seems almost forgotten by everyone, even those living on its doorstep. It gives an interesting insight into a part of Singapore's history and that of a particular community living here. It also touches in part on very difficult times in Singapore's history which are nonetheless very important. It's good to know that the graves here are safe from the threat of development and that those buried here can continue to rest in peace. 

Kovan MRT is on the North East line (NE13).

If you missed any of my previous Red Dot Roaming posts, check them out here and, of course, let me know if you think there's anywhere else I should be visiting! 

05 January 2016

Red Dot Roaming - Khatib MRT - Lower Seletar Reservoir Park

I'm still on the letter 'k' for my Red Dot Roaming exploring of Singapore as I've discovered a lot of great places to visit right on the doorstep of MRT stations beginning with that letter. Next up was a visit to the Lower Seletar Reservoir Park just a short walk from Khatib MRT station.

The Lower Seletar reservoir was completed in 1986, previous to that the Seletar river ran through the area with forests, plantations and farms on its banks. Sometimes I'd love to be able to time travel to get a glimpse of how places used to look. The park is a relatively small and peaceful space so is easy to enjoy in its entirety in an afternoon.

Looking towards a golf course which is not part of the park

On the day I visited the first section of the park, a sheltered part, nearest the junction of Yishun Avenue 1 and Yishun Avenue 2 was cordoned off and it looked like some work was being done on that part. However a short walk further along Yishun Avenue 1 and I was in the park. As I walked along admiring the, quite frankly, huge reservoir to my right (sometimes it's hard to believe such massive expanses of water can be found in Singapore) I noticed there was a water venture centre in the park. Here you can rent out kayaks, I didn't, anyone who knows me well would be far more surprised if I said I had, but I noticed a few out in the reservoir that afternoon.

Jetty stretching out into the reservoir - perfect for an afternoon stroll

At the far end of the park was a jetty heading out into the waters of the reservoir. Along the walk were several boards giving you a little history of the reservoir. I also spotted a lizard along here and, of course, plenty of birds. On the afternoon I visited the weather had gone, in that very Singapore way, from a beautifully bright sunny day to rainy and a little cooler, this definitely made it more pleasant to walk around though. It also meant when I got to the end of the jetty and was right into the reservoir (just beyond the white covered part in my photo above) I got to benefit from some wonderfully cooling breezes from off the water, always a plus in Singapore. As well as the fact that the park was pretty much all mine for the afternoon!

Looking back from the jetty

Looking towards a nearby HDB, one of those with a design painted on it

As I was looking back towards the park I noticed the HDB in the photo above, one of many in Singapore with fun and creative designs on them which definitely make them stand out a little more. I also managed to capture a bird in flight in this particular photo which I like too. Later, when I left the park to walk back to the MRT station I saw some further examples of the HDB art which you can see in the last two photos below. All different and all very endearing.

That's a pretty big expanse of water!

Some more examples of HDB art (above and below) on my walk back to the MRT and from the MRT station platform.

It was great to discover another little park in Singapore and one with such a lovely backdrop to it. Singapore is lucky to have so many parks etc. to spend time in outdoors and although this one was not the biggest, if you live near here or fancy seeing another part of the island one weekend this may just suit you.

Khatib MRT is on the North South Line (NS14).

If you missed any of my previous Red Dot Roaming posts, check them out here and let me know if you think there's anywhere else I should be visiting!

01 January 2016

Sup Tulang - a Rather Gruesome Looking Dish!

I have to say that my husband is generally a little more adventurous with food than I am and not so long ago he decided, along with some friends of ours, to try something he's been curious about for a long while. Here's his post about his first experience trying Sup Tulang.

Earlier this year we had some visitors from the UK and I took the opportunity to try a dish I’d been meaning to have for a number of years but never seemed to get around to. That was Rojak, which was consumed in the excellent Satay by the Bay part of the Gardens by the Bay complex, (we had done the Flower Dome and were on the way to the Supertree Grove Skyway) it was tangy, crunchy and wonderful, why did it take so long to have? As a result I began to wonder what else I’d been missing out upon and vowed to be more adventurous and eat new stuff (or new to me anyway). First on the list was Sup Tulang.

Sup Tulang is essentially a bright shockingly red coloured soup made with mutton shanks. The shanks are served whole with the marrow still inside the bone cavity. One is expected to peel the remaining meat off the shank and suck the marrow out of the bone with a straw. Given the colour, the dish looks reasonably gruesome.

Attention to the dish was peaked by its inclusion on one of Anthony Bourdain’s Singapore TV travel programmes that was recently shown again on the travel and leisure channel, TLC. In the show the anchor tries Sup Tulang with fellow celebrity chef Bobby Chinn.

So having roped in a couple of very willing volunteers (the owner of this blog decided that she could miss out upon the experience) we set off in search of culinary adventure. The dish is available within the Golden Mile Food Centre, not to be confused with the Golden Mile Complex across the road. Initially and mistakenly we started our search here, however and with rising spirits of failure, relief and escape we realised our mistake and found the correct location.

Once in the right place we quickly found the stall, Haji Kadir (run by an extremely affable chap, who may have been surprised by the adventurers wanting to try his dish) and the said dish was ordered. The adventure was about to begin, but not before two large bottles of Tiger had been purveyed from the drinks vendor across the other side of the food centre’s basement.

When the dish arrived it was indeed bright red, almost vampire blood like in its appearance, and was served with French bread (a sliced up baguette if you are sophisticated) that was a tad stale, this didn’t matter as the bread is dipped in the red sauce and mixed with the chili and vegetables (white cabbage). Given that the sauce was bright red we had assumed that it would be hotter than Hades but were pleasantly surprised by the flavour of this gruesome looking dish, reckon it would be great to serve up at a Halloween Feast. The meat falls off the bone and is incredibly tender as it has been braised (as opposed to roasted) and tastes of wonderful lamb. The next stage of the process is to suck the marrow out of the bone cavity with a straw acquired from the drinks Auntie or the proprietor of the sup tulang stall. The technique is to bash the marrow into a liquid in the cavity tube with the straw (or a plastic spoon handle) and suck it up quickly without looking at what you are doing, it looks like mushed up brain but tastes of intense mutton.

The dish is messy to eat and stains your fingers so you look like you have committed a terrible crime. Take many many tissues or buy them from the Auntie or Uncle that will come to you and lastly don’t wear white!

Each shank costs $1.5, we had three each so the dish cost $14 (including 50c for the bread).

The Golden Mile Food Centre is on Beach Road, past the Park Royal Hotel and lots of fishing tackle shops, with the nearest MRT probably being Nicoll Highway or a trek from Bugis.

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