Showing posts with label Singapore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Singapore. Show all posts

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Singapore: Little India is Singapore's Tamil neighborhood

One reason I love visiting Singapore is because they have preserved significant cultural quarters within the modern city. These include Chinatown, Arab Street and Haji Lane, and Little India which was quite close to the hostel I was staying at along Lavender Street. So from the Little Red Dot, I walked along Jalan Besar (which also has some creative examples of adaptive reuse of old shop houses) to the Tamil ethnic neighborhood of Little India.

It's was quite an interesting walk around Little India which the local Tamils call Tekka. You get to see, smell, taste, hear and feel Tamil culture as you explore the preserved shop houses that line its streets.

Little India Arcade offers visitors a convenient concentration of crafts and souvenir shops. Of course, Little India is also a place where you can get really good Tamil food.

Just like in Singapore's culturally rich neighborhoods, there is a mix of cultures in Little India. It's major places of worship (and attractions) includes the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and the Abdul Gaffoor Mosque.

The main deity of the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is the Hindu goddess Kali who is associated with empowerment. Bengali workers built the temple in 1881 which might explain why the temple was dedicated to Kali, with devotion to goddess being popular in Bengal. While the Abdul Gafoor Mosque, built in 1859, features Arabian and Renaissance-style architecture.

How to get to Little India
Take the MRT to Little India or Farrer Park

Check out more photos of Little India in the Ivan About Town Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Singapore: Santa Grand Hotel Lai Chun Yuen in Chinatown

There are a lot of fine examples of adaptive reuse in Singapore. The hotel I stayed at in Chinatown was no exception. In fact, most branches of Santa Grand Hotels are heritage buildings that have been converted into boutique hotels. They have two branches in Chinatown right beside each other, Santa Grand Hotel Chinatown and Santa Grand Hotel Lai Chun Yuen where I stayed.

According to the marker in front of the hotel, "Lai Chun Yuen was by far the most popular Chinese opera theatre in Singapore in the late 19th century. Built in 1887 and originally designed in the style of a Chinese teahouse, its overwhelming popularity made it a prominent landmark. Patrons would sit around small tables, nibbling tidbits and sipping tea while famous opera singers performed on stage. Wealthier patrons had private cubicles where they enjoyed more personal services, rendered by the girls from the brothels on Smith Street. All these took place in high-ceilinged rooms with wooden balconies, decorated with ornaments and dimly lit lanterns."

The lobby of the hotel is actually the main hall of the old opera house. The Singapore Government required Santa Grand Hotels to preserve many elements of the opera house, including the stage which you can see right above the reception desk. Chinese lanterns adorn the hallways of the hotel.

And my room on the third floor leads to a common wooden balcony that affords guests a view of the street below. The room's furniture and fixtures are modern. But you can see that they've preserved the old wooden floor.

It's nice to see structures like these that survive generations because they are made relevant in changing times through adaptive reuse. The Chinese opera culture declined in the 1930s with the advent of cinema. In fact Lai Chun Yuen was converted into a cinema in 1941. But that did not survive the Japanese Occupation. Today, it is a charming boutique hotel. But you can still feel the spirit of the place as you enter its portals.

Santa Grand Hotel Lai Chun Yuen
25 Trengganu Street, Chinatown

Santa Grand Hotels Central Reservation
Tel. No. +65 6298 8889; Fax No. +65 6396 8356

Thank you to the Singapore Tourism Board and Agatep Associates for arranging this visit!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Singapore: Arab Street, Haji Lane, Little India, Chinatown, Singapore River, Marina Bay, Universal Studios, Jurong Bird Park & more

Singapore may be a small country, but there's definitely a lot to see and do. I spent nine days last month in Singapore, exploring its culturally significant old quarters: Little India, Arab Street and Haji Lane, Chinatown and Katong (Perenakan), took a cruise along the Singapore River and walked from Bugis to Raffles Place to marvel at the old and modern architecture, visited Universal Studios and Jurong Bird Park on the Singapore Tripper Pass and enjoyed a fantastic view of the Singapore skyline from the top of Marina Bay Sands among a lot of other things.

And expect a lot of food shots because Singapore is very known for its hawker food! And thanks to many of my local Singaporean friends, I was able to try a lot of the food only the locals know!

Thank you to the Singapore Tourism Board, Euro RSCG Agatep PRSanta Grand Hotel Lai Chun Yuen in Chinatown, iFly Singapore, and my local friends Ong Han Chong and Diana, Tin Pei Ling and Ng How Yue, Ian Cai, Angela Lau and Francis Lim for treating me out to really good local food! Thanks also to Ron Cruz and Lilit Reyes for meeting up with me and Gideon Lasco!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Singapore: Singapore's version of bak kut teh

Bak kut teh is not only found in Malaysia. In fact, Singapore has its own version of this "pork bone tea" as bak kut teh is translated in English. The difference though is that the Malaysian version is dark while the Singapore version is light.

Singapore Bak kut teh is a Teochew-style broth with garlic and fresh peppers as the main ingredient while Malaysian bak kut teh is a Hokkien-style herbal pork broth, a complex mixture of several herbs and spices boiled with pork ribs for hours. And one of the best versions of Singapore bak kut teh can be enjoyed at Founder Bak Kut Teh Restaurant.

If the number of photos of celebrities who've been to the restaurant that are posted on the walls of the place is an indicator of how popular this bak kut teh restaurant is, then it must be good! It surely did not disappoint. We also ordered braised pork trotters to go with our soup.

Founder Bak Kut Teh Restaurant
347 Balestier Road, Singapore
+65 63526192

Related entries
Klang's legendary bak kut teh
Bah kut teh, chicken rice and more food from Kuala Lumpur

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Singapore: Holland Village's eateries and watering holes

Holland Village is a small commercial enclave that has become a popular area for younger Singaporeans and expats. Known for its eateries and watering holes, among the many establishments you could find there include bars and up-market dining options, a 24-hour kopitiam, a market, and a food court that features both local and western dishes. I was there in 2007 and got to try out a lot of the local fare courtesy of my Singaporean friends.

Laksa is a dish of rice noodles, shrimps, cockles, fish cake and chilli paste in thick coconut-based soup. Katong laksa, which originated from the Katong area of Singapore, is sometimes referred to as Singapore's national dish by many of its fans. So while in Holland Village, we tried out the Katong laksa! Take note that Katong laksa is served with a spoon alone (no need for chopsticks) since the noodles are cut up into small pieces.

We also had Nasi lemak which is usually composed of coconut rice with omelette, anchovies (ikan bilis), peanuts, cucumber, sambal, and sometimes fried chicken. In Holland Village, you can point what viand you want to include in your Nasi lemak (you basically pay for what you get) from a wide selection of dishes. Everything is placed on top of brown wax paper and served with the coconut rice.

The eating just didn't stop and when I thought it was all over, we got sting ray, chicken wings and satay.

Singapore: Orchard Road, Lau Pa Sat and more food adventures in Singapore

Singapore, just like neighboring Malaysia, is a culinary delight. Every time I visit Singapore, my friends take me around to all these great food places, especially hawker food. This trip was no different.

Before proceeding to Formula One, we had an early lunch at Crystal Jade Golden Palace at the Paragon Shopping Centre along Orchard Road. We had a lot of dimsum. And what we thought was going to be a light snack turned out to be a really heavy meal. Thanks to Ian for the dimsum binge! I was so busy eating, I forgot to take note of what we ate. Maybe you guys could help me name the dishes?

Update: Here are the names: first photo - pan fried carrot cake, steamed char siew (barbecue pork) bun, steamed rice rolls, steamed (har kau) prawn dumpling, baked barbecue pork pastry, xiao long bao; second photo - diced barbecue pork, mango and seafood spring roll, pan fried rice rolls with XO sauce, steamed pork ribs with fermented black beans, egg tarts, baked sesame pancake, steamed siew mai (pork).

After the race, another friend treated us out to more food. This tme it was at Lau Pa Sat (Telok Ayer Market) an early 19th century market in the central business district of Singapore which had been conserved and adaptively-reused as a food centre.

In the evening, the street beside it makes way to hawker stalls which sell the best satay in town! I missed the satay so much, I made sure to have a serving that night. We had chicken and lamb satay with the really yummy peanut sauce. Thank you to Joy for the satay!

After dinner, I had another late dinner with another Singaporean friend who took me for some Singapore bah kut teh. I'll talk about that in another post. Thanks to Leon for the bak kut teh!

Crystal Jade Golden Palace
290 Orchard Road
#05-22/24 Paragon
+65 6734 6866

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Singapore: 2009 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix

We were in Singapore last September to watch the 2009 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix which is a spectacular night race that cuts through the heart of downtown Singapore. Although there were qualifying races and other events the past few days, we got ourselves tickets only for the Formula One final on September 27. In fact, we purchased our tickets online as early as April.

The original plan was to get grandstand tickets. But we were advised that the walkabout tickets were just fine. And you could see more action if you went around the area. The cars moved so fast when viewed from the grandstand, you wouldn't see much action except through the video screens.

Since we wanted a good spot, we arrived early and picked the spot of our choice, one of the corners where the cars slowed down. My dad had been studying the map for weeks and had already decided where we were going to wait it out.

The day started with the Aston Martin Asia Cup at 3:30 p.m. followed by Formula BMW and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. It was only at 6:30 p.m. that the main event started. Imagine we waited already three hours by the time the drivers came out. Talk about patience!

Our perseverance gave us front row seats to the Formula One Drivers' Track Parade. The only hassle with the view though was the wire mesh that protected us from the action on the track.

The actual Formula One Race started at 8 p.m. A lot of people suggested that we bring ear plugs. Some find the noise too loud. But I found the ear plugs a hassle so I ended up taking them off.

What is great about watching from corners is that the cars slow down a bit. After several laps of the same thing, we decided to move around. There's an open field (padang) where you can sit on the grass and watch the race from a really large video screen. I got to see action from a grandstand view while walking around and you couldn't see much when the cars passed by since they were simply too fast.

Anyway, it was a great experience. The race was won by Lewis Hamilton of McLaren-Mercedes. Sad I wasn't able to take home the lanyard I wanted since they were sold out days before. But I got myself a souvenir program of the 2009 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix. I wonder if we'll get to watch it again next year.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Malaysia & Singapore: Bus trip from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore

Bus travel from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Singapore and vice versa is very convenient. You can easily get on a bus at the Puduraya Bus Station anytime of the day. But since I was with my family, I made sure to purchase the tickets months before. It was a good thing I was in Malaysia several times this year before our Singapore trip so I got us front row seats on the executive bus.

A regular round trip ticket on the 20-plus seater executive buses is between RM80 to 100 if you buy it in Malaysia (remember that tickets can cost double in Singapore). The luxury 16-seater buses can be triple that or more. But seats can come with individual TV screens or even WiFi Internet access (such as Transtar which leaves from the Pasarakyat Bus Terminal off Jalan Imbi/Bukit Bintang). The choices for land travel between Singapore and Malaysia are endless.

Since the only thing you'll see along the way would be Malaysia's modern highway system, take this opportunity to rest or sleep. The trip usually lasts five to seven hours, depending on the bus company and how long the lines are in Singapore and Malaysia Immigration. So it's best not to be at the border during rush hour when workers move between Singapore and Johor Bahru.

The only thing I did not like about our trip was that place called Restoran Jaya, the stopover of the Transnasional bus, because the flies were swarming all over the place and on the food! I didn't expect to see anything like that in Malaysia, especially at a bus stop. And we didn't get to finish lunch with all the flies! In fact, the flies got in our bus and we had them as guests all the way to Singapore! But aside from that, the trip was fine.

I know of two major bus stops in Singapore which receives buses from Malaysia. In my previous trips, we were dropped off at Golden Mile along Beach Road. For this trip, it was the Lavender Bus Station along Lavender Street. There are other stops or private station depending on the bus company.

Puduraya to Lavender v.v.
Mahligai Espress +65 62949306
Transnasional +60 (3) 2070300/20705044

Puduraya to Golden Mile v.v.
Konsortium +60 (3) 40416789

Puduraya to Station v.v.
Citiexchange Express +65 63981216
Lapan Lapan Travel +65 63922188
Suasana Edaran +60 (3) 20722666 or +65 62962666

Pasarakyat to Lavender v.v.
Transtar Coach +60 (3) 21411771 or +65 62929009

Station to Golden Mile v.v.
Grassland Express +65 62931166
StarMart Express +65 63965681

Station to Station v.v.
Aeroline +60 (3) 21649611 or +65 63419338
Airebus +60 (3) 22870300 or +65 67376535
First Coach +60 (3) 22873311 or +65 68222111
Luxury Tours & Travel +60 (3) 20783988 or +65 67332808
Nice++ Bus +60 (3)22721586/22723634 or +65 62565775

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Singapore: A little trip around Singapore town

Wow! Talk about digging out albums from the baul! And talk about tedious too since I had to scan every photo!

I was lucky then since I still had remaining miles on my United Mileage Plus account for a free ticket to Singapore. The plan was for me to attend the 2003 SSEAYP reunion (SIGA) in April but that didn't work out since it was postponed to 2004 due to the SARS scare. So I had to rebook my ticket to a later date and I chose instead to visit when the M/S Nippon Maru was docked in Singapore and Malaysia in September. It was still risky since if the SARS situation didn't improve, SSEAYP could have been cancelled. But to make the long story short, the trip pushed through.

September 12: I arrived in Singapore late in the afternoon on a Singapore Airlines flight. I can't remember what I did that night but eating Singapore hawker food was definitely on the list. We had dinner in Holland Village if I remember it right. I stayed at the flat of my SG-mate Leon in Ang Mo Kio while in Singapore.

September 13: For lunch, I met up with the family of my mom's classmate. They took me to this great Chinese restaurant which served chili crab. In the evening, I attended the reunion on board the ship. It was great meeting old friends and munching on Nippon Maru food again.

September 14: I spent the morning walking around Chinatown. I visited the Chinatown Heritage Centre. This museum is actually several old shophouses that were refurbished to show the early days of Chinatown. In the Philippines, we now have Bahay Tsinoy.

Anyway, walking around the brightly-painted colonial shophouses in Chinatown sure shows how much Singapore loves its architectural heritage. According to one account, "Singapore's Chinatown was slated for demolition. However the government, recognizing the people's desires and the historical importance of the area, canceled plans to raze Chinatown and are now in the midst of reconstruction."

According to the Visit Singapore website, "Singapore's Chinatown evolved around 1821 when the first Chinese junk arrived from Xiamen, Fujian province in China. The passengers, all men, set up home around the south of the Singapore River which is known today as Telok Ayer. Chinatown’s local name - Niu Che Shui (Bullock Cart Water) arose from the fact each household at that time had to collect fresh water from the wells in Ann Siang Hill and Spring Street, using bullock-drawn carts.

"Not all parts of Chinatown are Chinese though. The Al Abrar Mosque along Telok Ayer Street, and the Jamae Mosque and Sri Mariamman Temple along South Bridge Road lay witness to the harmonious racial and religious atmosphere in Singapore."

Singapore has other ethinic quarters which include Little India, Geylang Serai and Kampong Glam. In the afternoon, we relaxed at the beach in East Coast Park. Located off the East Coast Parkway, the beach and landscaped terrains in the park are a weekend favorite for Singaporeans. I also got to visit CHIJMES, a heritage landmark of Singapore.

For dinner, we attended a birthday celebration and met even more PYs there. And for an evening snack, we went to Lau Pau Sat, another Singapore landmark, for some satay. Stalls open only at night when Boon Tat Street is closed from vehicular traffic since the stalls and tables occupy the street.

September 15: Lunch was with my SSEAYP host sister. The highlight of the day was a boat trip along the Singapore River. I paid SG$12 for the guided tour. It came with a great map which showed the highlights of Singapore River, from the restored shophouses and imposing colonial structures, the many charming bridges, to modern-day skyscrapers.

Of course, you couldn't miss the Merlion. A half-fish, half-lion beast, it is a fitting symbol of Singapore. The singa or lion is said to represent the animal that a Sumatran prince saw when he rediscovered Singapore while the fish is a tribute to Singapore's history as Temasek, the ancient sea town.

After the brief tour, I strolled around Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. Now that is adaptive reuse! The old shophouses and warehouses in the area were restored and converted to chic bars and restaurants which come alive especially in the evenings. If Mayor Atienza had some political will and love for heritage, he could do this rehabilitation and urban renewal in San Nicolas for example.

For the evening, it was a visit to largest fountain in the world at Suntec City. Made of cast bronze, it was built in 1997 costing an estimated US$6 million.

September 16: Traveling to Malaysia from Singapore is very easy since you can do it by land. I took a six-hour bus to Kuala Lumpur for SG$25. I was met at the Puduraya Bus Station by another SSEAYP batchmate and we had dinner for a while at KFC. But I was leaving for Penang on an 11:59 p.m. bus so not much time to chat.

Check out this song called
Singapore Town.

Heritage watch
More endangered fish found inside boat of arrested Chinese

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Looking back at SSEAYP 2002

Happy New Year to all! Time really does fly fast and I can't believe it's already 2007! Anyway, I was cleaning my room a few days ago and I got to look at some albums from previous trips when film cameras were still in style.

After my voyage on the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program in 2002, I tried my best to visit my friends in the various ASEAN countries every year. I remember in 2003, my trip was postponed several times due to SARS. It finally pushed through in September and it was a blessing in disguise since it coincided with the docking of the M/S Nippon Maru in Singapore and Malaysia. In 2004, I went to Hue, Vietnam but wasn't able to meet up with anyone. My mistake was I sent the e-mail message too close to the trip and my SG-mate (the 340 participants are divided into 11 Solidarity Groups or SGs) only found out we were in the same city, attending the same festival when we got back.

My blog was born during my trip in 2005 to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and Brunei. The very first post was actually in my Friendster blog which is still up and about. In April last year, I made a whirlwind tour around Southeast Asia visiting five countries namely Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. I've blogged about all these post-SSEAYP trips already except the one in 2003. And thinking about it, I may never get to see again some of the cities I visited during that trip. It would be a pity if I didn't write about them, two of which are heritage towns of Malaysia namely Penang and Malacca. So for the next few days, I'll be looking back and writing about that trip.

Heritage watch
Enriquez antique mansion goes kaput
Yes people! The Enriquez Mansion along Calle Hidalgo, an 1890s house with Ionic columns and praised by Maria Morilla Norton in 1910 as the "the most beautiful house in the islands," the same one which became the site of the School of Fine Arts of the U.P., is now Acuzar property and has been transferred to Bagac, Bataan. And yes, Acuzar is planning to build a 20-storey building to replace this elegant house in the heritage street.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Singapore: Sunny island set in the sea

I had been travelling for over four hours by now but it was still a long way to Singapore. It was a one hour and a half bus ride from the new KLIA LCC-T (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) to Kuala Lumpur. I reached KL Sentral Station at about 10:15 p.m. and took another bus from there to the Pudu Raya Bus Station. From there, I took a bus to Singapore which was about six hours. For dinner, I had nasi lemak on the plane and mee rebus at the stopover midway between KL and Singapore. This is the second time I've done this border crossing to Singapore so it wasn't much of a hassle. I got there at 4 a.m. after 12 hours of non-stop travel!

As soon as I got down, I gave my SSEAYP friend Leon Ong a ring. Hehe! He had thought I was arriving the next day but he went straight
to fetch me at the Golden Mile Food Centre where the bus dropped us off. And of course, since we were in Singapore, we went straight for food. Hehe!

Breakfast was soya... tau huay and soya milk. I hope I got the spelling right but that is taho to us Filipinos, although the Singapore version does not have syrup or sago, just boiled peanuts. After breakfast, we went straight to Leon's flat and it was off to bed for me.

Obviously, I slept the whole morning. I had been to Singapore several times before so I've seen most of the sights. Things you shouldn't miss include walking tours around the colonial district or even better, a boat ride on the Singapore River which comes complete with a narrated recording of the history of the former British colony and the buildings you pass by; and trips to Sentosa Island, Clarke Quay and Boat Quay and of course, Chinatown and Little India. In the evenings, there is the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo.

Anyway, I had breakfast take two when I woke up prepared by Leon's mom since he was at work. After lunch, we bought my bus ticket back to KL. Driving around Singapore is indeed refreshing. It's an urban jungle. Not the concrete one but literally, the island is very green with trees! You have modern buildings right beside virgin forests. I hope Mayor Atienza learns to follow the Singapore example. He should stop cutting trees at the Arroceros Forest Park and should even start planting trees all over Manila! I also wonder where Bayani Fernando got this idea that trees cause slow traffic. I still remember that Katipunan incident where he wanted to get rid of all those big trees. I heard Singapore even imports big trees for their downtown areas.

Check out the photo of the East Coast Parkway (ECP). In the middle island, you have trees and bougainvillea shrubs in full bloom. At the sides, you also have trees and flowering shrubs. All pedestrian overpasses and flyovers have hanging bougainvillea shrubs on either side and ivy crawling up the concrete posts. It saves up on paint since the green ivy does the trick of covering the concrete. I laud Bayani for the cadena de amor but I think he should first make ivy crawl up the MRT posts then let the cadena vines to grow over them so that even if the cadena vines dry out which happens quite often, it's still green underneath. Maybe the NLEX and SLEX could also learn a lesson or two from the ECP.

Another thing is the urban planning is nothing but excellent! You feel there is so much space despite the fact that land is scarce in Singapore. In the Philippines, it's the opposite. We have so much land but everything feels so cramped up. Sigh! Can our mayors please create forest parks in their jurisdictions. We need trees to breathe! At the same time, Singapore was able to eradicate its slums thanks to the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Maybe Gawad Kalinga and the HUDCC could learn a thing or two from the HDB.

And all over Singapore, you had centuries old buildings and shop houses freshly painted. Hello again Mayor Atienza, please see how Singapore does it. They don't go around demolishing old buildings like the Jai Alai, YMCA and San Lazaro or plan trashing the Army Navy Club and Elks Buildings. In fact doing that in both Singapore and Malaysia is a crime. The trend in most old cities all over the globe today is urban renewal and renaissance or "re" which stands for restoring, regenerating, rebuilding, reviving, resurrecting these old urban centers, not demolishing old buildings like Mayor Atienza does.

Later in the afternoon, we met up with Dawn Pereira, another SSEAYP batchmate and went for some kaya roti at the Ya Kun Kaya Toast along China Street. Yummy! Hehe! I had a Horlicks drink to go with it. I wonder why those Horlicks candies are no longer available in the Philippines. I used to love them as a kid.

After that snack, it was off for early dinner. I really consider Singapore and Malaysia as food havens since there is so much to eat thanks to the mixture of many cultures which includes Chinese, Malay and Indian. The photo of the hawker centre above is in Ang Mo Kio. It is however a regular Singapore scene which you can find almost everywhere. I definitely had to have some char kuey teow which is a fried noodle dish with scallops. But aside from that, we also ordered oh-luak which was oyster omellette with wansuy and green onions, and chendol for dessert.

Then is was off to somewhere I haven't been to before. The best place to take a photo of the Singapore skyline is a bridge which is rarely visited by tourists. You park at Suntec City and it's a short walk from there. Wow! Great view!

And we weren't done eating yet since we met up with Singapore PYs Vincent and Francis. I had satay which is the Malay version of our barbecue, ice-cold sugar cane juice, chai tow kway the Chinese version of carrot cake and roti john. We were done eating at 10:30 p.m. since I had to catch my bus back to KL which was the last bus for the night. The first one in the morning was at 7:30 a.m. and I would be late for my flight if I took that one. So it was less than 24 hours in Singapore but it was most worth it.

I arrived in KL at 4 a.m. Tired from all that travelling, I got myself a room at a backpackers place for less than US$10 which was good enough for a few hours of sleep and a shower before I left for the airport. Zzzzzzzz!
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