Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kia Ora, Aoteaora - A Pacific Discovery

Disclaimer : Submitted this as an entry for a contest but it didn't land itself into the winning podium. Gutted of course, but never the less, it's up for share in public (with a little tweak to the entry). Enjoy.

An unexpected journey to say the least,
Traveling to the land of kiwi, off my bucket list,
With the land of majestic, natural, reserved beauty,
It brought tears in eyes, how little we actually see.

I recalled us taking the much needed time out,
From our hectic, bustling life, enough to constantly make us shout,
Our passports are ready, the bags are packed,
We said go travel, together, that was our pact.

Charting a 6 hours flight from Kuala Lumpur, our home,
We embraced the excitement, like a traveling gnome.
Landing to New Zealand, Christchurch to be precise,
First impression? It was a trip that was worth us being enticed.

A road trip was what we opted for ultimately,
A four wheel drive, GPS, and us in the journey.
The drive was surreal, polar opposite to the city roads,
Along the way, scenic landscapes we would gladly stay and make an abode.

The crystal clear lakes mirrors the mountain standing tall with pride,
The beauty it offers, South Island has nothing to hide.
From Lake Tekapo, the quiet attraction oh so impossible not to endear,
I immersed myself to the tranquility of the nature here.

Though short, but definitely sweet, we continued our adventure,
Knowing what lies ahead, is mesmerizing for sure.
Queenstown, we arrived, with immeasurable excitement,
Smiles on our faces are clearly not absent,

The breathtaking resort town of pure relaxation,
And extreme adventure for adrenaline pumping entertainment.
This is where, I took my maiden bungy plunge,
Conquering my fears, the jump was accomplished with a punch,

We also experienced a rustic winery along a fine vineyard,
A wine lover myself, cherished this moment locked in my heart.
The Milford Sound, reminded us how little we are,
To this world heritage, a majestic fjord and a nature wonder,
Seeing how untouched beauties like this, is actually isn’t really that far,
Inspired us to travel more, enlighten us to what the world has to offer,

What is traveling, without experiencing one’s different culture,
The Haka of Maori heritage was what we needed as a cultural understanding overture,
The war outcry, the dance, the patterns of the tattoos,
Enriched our experience, while temporary being one of them too.

A travel to us, is incomplete without having to savor their local food,
From local fruits, famous burgers and ice cream that are oh so good.
The crisp weather of autumn we enjoyed, of walking and sightseeing,
Had us hooked and don’t really feel like leaving.

The road journey from Queenstown back to the Christchurch airport,
Left me in tears really, and some unflattering snort.
Along the journey, we took the moment to stop around,
Immortalizing the moments, in pictures, to keep safe and sound,

The country views along is what I would never forget,
I would gladly move here when I retire, I said,
But after all is said and done, and experienced too
Home is where my heart is, where we were headed to.

The trip we had, opened my eyes to allow myself to reach emancipation,
To have a view on what the world has to give, in its glory and jubilation.
My Pacific Discovery, is what I truly meant,
An unexpected journey, but I would think it is God sent,

This is what inspires me, and keeps me on the move,
I would like to think, I am on a traveling groove.
“Keep Calm and Go Travel”. Take my advice,
For the life changing experience, that to me, is truly unpriced.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand, April 2012
More on my NZ South Island posts, click here to read em. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Discovering : 4D3N Singapore

I have an unexplained affinity towards Singapore, July 2014 clocked my 8th time visiting there, which made me wonder why I have not moved there already. The seven previous trips I had were all deconstructed components of a fully touristy trip to Singapore, so to say. When I had the chance to be a faux tour agent, I compiled an itinerary of what a tourist should probably see when they visit Singapore. I will just list a simple itinerary, which can be interchanged at your heart's content. (Just click the image to lead to the post).

For those who fancy the less long winded post, you can also visit my friend, Jason's experience in Singapore, over his blog here

Tips and Tricks : Singapore Day 4/4 - Tiong Bahru Bakery, Alternative - Chye Seng Huat, Windowsill Pies & Murals

Day 4, 29th July 2014

The last day of the four days Singapore trip is basically light and easy on the itinerary, and also because we were carrying our bags after checking out the hotel around. We decided to just hang around Orchard, back to destination numero uno when we arrived here.

Look at the array of buns here at Tiong Bahru Bakery!
It rained when we were there and we were actually lucky that we made it via bus to Orchard before it rained heavily. We managed to visit a bakery/cafe which I have always intended to visit for quite some time.

Kouign Amann, Croissant and Quiche = So Much Win!
Tiong Bahru Bakery first made an appearance in Tiong Bahru now at its third branch. We visited the branch in Tangs Orchard, and this trendy bakery is quite a decent place to have breads and more. The two 'must try' when you're here are the Croissants ($3.20), flaky and buttery just what I would like as for my croissant and Kouign Amann ($3.50), somewhat of a puff pastry sweeten up with caramel. We also had the chicken and mushroom quiche as well, the savory quiche hit all the right note along side the salad we ordered as a side. Happy breakfast I must say.

An interesting activity to do in Changi Airport. Stare at the Kinetic Rain. For Hours.
The rest of the day was mainly spent walking around malls as it was raining heavily to travel elsewhere. Allow almost an hour journey via MRT from Orchard and make sure you make it to the airport at least 2 hours prior for international flight. It was a good trip this time around, revisiting places in Singapore that sparks interest among tourists and locals. Singapore, till next time!

Alternative brunch visits.

If Orchard doesn't tickle your fancy, perhaps a visit to Lavender would be a suggestion. Alighting at the Lavender MRT Station, a short walk to Tyrwhitt Road would lead you to Chye Seng Huat. This rather happening (and I am judging this based on the crowd there on any given day) cafe hides behind the facade of a old shop, resonating the phrase 'don't judge a book by its cover'. I had the Cold Brew that day, tastes kind of like a watered down version of Guinness Stout for me, or maybe my taste is not acquired enough for it. I'll make it a point to try their food the next time I'm there.

Cold Brew
Le Menu... perhaps their approach is smaller menu, better emphasize on the stuff they're selling
A short walk from Chye Seng Huat towards Lavender Station, and you can find a rather cosy, kid friendly cafe to have pies and tea along with them. The Windowsill Pie have a variety of eight pies for now (Check the illustration here). We tried the Coconut Lime Vodka and the Funny Apple when we were there. The coconut lime vodka pie had a sharp zest to it, making it bitterly sweet with each bites. The apple pie was underwhelming a bit, but still tasted decent non the less. Not a bad place to enjoy for those with sweet (or bittersweet) tooth :)

Also, if the name Ernest Zacharevic rings a bell to you, you can also catch some of the murals there located at Victoria Street, about 15 minutes walk from the Lavender Station. Shutterbugs, go!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tips and Tricks : Singapore Day 3/4 - Merlion Park, Sentosa

Day 3, 28th July 2014
Hari Raya Holiday for both Malaysia and Singapore

It was a slightly less hectic day 3 since we have pretty much greedily did a number of places the day before (Click here for Day 2's coverage). We did however did a minor migration from Fragrance Hotel Sapphire to Fragrance Hotel Crystal (both within Geylang vicinity). The both of us booked the rooms in Sapphire via Roomer Travel as we can get a rebate of $15 upon signing up, which we used to get the rooms for a cheaper rate. For the 3rd day however, we settled for the so called cheaper room and voila, Fragrance Crystal.

Bro Tips : Located at Lorong 18 at Geylang, this street actually doubles as the Red Light District in Singapore for those who craves poultry (and along with other alleys in Geylang, but that is up for you to research).

Spot this Building? The Parkview Square, Downtown Core Plan Area is a office building that kind of gave a Japanese vibe when I came across the building by chance.
For brunch, I had a rather uninspiring Singapore Meehoon (or Sing Chau Mai - 星洲米) at one of the hawker shop nearby Sapphire. Then again, it's not one of the place that will blow you off with the food, so I considered that as just a tummy filler, haha.

The Merlion. And Marina Bay Sands. And ArtScience Museum. 
We checked in Crystal and left for Merlion Park shortly after that. Alighting at Raffles Place MRT, it is a short walk to the Merlion Park (Near to Singapore CBD). Another popular tourist spot and one of Singapore's best known iconic statue, the Merlion.

Bro Tips : While you are there, you might go for 
i)  A stroll on the Esplanade Bridge, a road bridge that connects the Esplanade and Merlion

Fullerton Hotel
ii) Fullerton Hotel, a five star hotel, also known as the Fullerton Building/ General Post Office Building
iii) Cavenagh Bridge, one of the oldest bridge in Singapore, the only suspension bridge spans the lower reaches of the Singapore River in the Downtown Core.

Cavenagh Bridge
iv) Sculptures near the Cavenagh Bridge

The River Merchants by Aw Tee Hong
First Generation by Chong Fah Cheong
Our next stop was Suntec City (alight at Promenade/Esplanade MRT station), where we participated in another touristy activity at the Fountain of Wealth. Immersing the hand in to the fountain and walk clockwise three times for, you guessed it, wealth. 

The next mall we headed to was Sentosa. Arguably the place to be for family entertainment, the activities that can be done here includes the Universal Studio Sentosa theme park (Check here for my USS coverage in 2012), the Casino, Palawan Beach and more. 

Shameless Shot at Sentosa
Your options to getting to Sentosa from Vivo City, the nearest mall to Sentosa (alight at Harbour Front MRT Station) are the Sentosa Express Monorail ($2 per trip) or the Board Walk (around 15 minutes walk) for those who fancies walking and enjoying the scenery. Also, you might be interested in taking the cable car that originates from Mount Faber, passes by Harbour Front to the final destination.

Bro Tips : If you're in Vivo City, do try my one of my favorite dessert place (for now), Fruit Paradise Cafe
It seems that they have Japanese Patissiers putting together luscious looking fruits that adorns the tart pastries. Definitely worth a try.

Fruit Paradise : Tart like this makes me happy
... very Happy :)
What would I do differently for the day's itinerary? If Merlion Park is scrapped off the list, USS is definitely the best choice to spend the whole day, for what it's worth. Go earlier in the day to ensure that you can go for as many rides/attraction as possible. And to top it off, watching the sunset along the Board Walk. 

Along the Board Walk to Vivo City
Pretty much that sums up the third day's activity. The last day, depending on your flight/bus time back to Malaysia/your next destination should be left as free and easy as possible (to allow ample time to the airport/bus station). The next day up next!

Tips and Tricks : Singapore Day 2/4 - Tanjong Pagar, Chinatown, Garden by the Bay, Symphony of Lights

Day 2, 27th July 2014

Marina Bay Sands
Any given Sundays I would probably be VERY reluctant to leave bed but since we're in Singapore, it is only quite fitting if we make full use of the time here and go around sight seeing or eating. Well, eating as the primary priority. We slotted our morning for brunch and hipster cafe hopping before doing the sort of generic tourist spot visits.

Speaking of generic tourist thing to do, Ice Cream Sandwich is a favorite street food in Singapore on a hot day
Our first stop was Tanjong Pagar (alight at Tanjong Pagar MRT Station). It was a short walk to about 3 small restaurants (izakaya style) with ramen. One of my previous visit here I had was Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King at Orchid Hotel, and the I must say the ramen didn't disappoint to say the least. 

Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King
So as a personal comparison, I was given the chance to try the other ramen, which was Hakata Ikkousha (barely 5 minutes walk away from Ramen Keisuke). Being it was a Sunday and brunch hour, the line was not a long (in fact, when we were there, there was none visible).

Black Tonkotsu Ramen ($13.50) and Tonkotsu Ramen ($12)
Bro Tips : Checking in to Hakata Ikkousha's page on Facebook will get you a free flavoured egg (worth $2) at time of posting. A good deal since the flavoured egg goes well with the ramen :)

The similarity between both ramen place, was that you are given an order sheet like an authentic izakaya would provide, and you can choose the texture of the ramen, intensity of soup flavour and any fixings that you wish to add or remove from your bowl, and unlimited rice and hard boiled eggs for consumption. Both places are on par on my opinion, Hakata Ikkousha however seems to be more comfortable to dine in being it is slightly more spacious than the other. Either way, ramen for lunch here wouldn't disappoint!

Traditional / Modern at Tanjong Pagar
What disappointed me however was that the cafe we intended to visit around Tanjong Pagar was bloody packed, and thus we had to improvise (in fact, we improvised a lot of the initial 4 days itinerary lol) and visited the nearest cafe to it, Plain Cafe. We only had coffee there as we just had our brunch per se, and it was pretty meh. It did attract a fair share of crowds there though.

An array of toast for breakfast or brunch anyone?

We then made our way to Chinatown (alight at Chinatown MRT station). Clean streets, free WiFi, buildings with Chinese motive facades and cultural blend of places of worship within short distance of each other - all can be found here! Excellent location for shutterbugs I must say.

Not a bad place to get bulk souvenirs if you're planning to get any.

Punny indeed
Interesting Tin Tin Shop
Entrance to the Food Alley... muahahaha
While you are there, do also pay a visit to a a cafe with awesome stacks of pancakes, at The Loft. I had the pancake with apple cinnamon compote, but basic short stacks with butter and maple syrup would just do the job as well.

Strolling further in Chinatown, you'll find the Chinatown Complex and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, and any given day, spot some elderly folks engulfing in games of Chinese chess (and checkers).

Buddha Relic Temple and Museum

Sri Mariamman Temple - Not too far away from the Buddha Relic Temple is another place of worship open for visit for tourists.
Later which, we went to Garden by the Bay for a garden stroll and random shutterbug shots.

Chinese themed garden.
Supertree Grove and the Walkways
Spot this sculpture! Marc Quinn's Giant Baby

Bro Tips : Unless you are into botany or plant photography, you may want to skip the Cloud Forest or Flower Dome as they charge you for entrance. The Garden by the Bay itself, is free to roam around. Also, you do have to pay to dine or traverse on the selected Supertree Grove (those iconic tree like structures), but that is your choice if you want to go for it or otherwise. We just went on a tourist freebie stroll before heading to Marina Bay Sands Atrium (alight at Bayview MRT station) for the Symphony of Lights show at 8 p.m..

Symphony of Lights

Bro Tips : If you're setting up tripod, it pays to be slightly earlier as the crowd builds up very rapidly 7.50 p.m. on wards, locals and tourists alike. 

Laser, projectiles and family oriented messages are the key presentation of the show. The show is on a nightly basis, with 2-3 performances from Sunday to Thursday (2000, 2130) and Fridays and Saturdays (2000, 2130, 2300). Definitely sums up a tourist's experience at Marina Bay Sands (well, aside from staying at the actual Marina Bay Sands hotel, but that's another story). Within walking distances from the MBS Atrium are the ArtScience Museum (which might be closed by 2030 onwards) and the Helix Bridge. Take the Helix Bridge and you can walk towards the Merlion, Fullerton Hotel and Esplanade. 

Louis Vuitton Gallery and ArtScience Museum behind
Helix Bridge
Pew Pew Marina Bay Sands
We did walked all the way to the Merlion, but we then realized we haven't had dinner, and we then decided to ditch the night photography there and find for dinner instead. After contemplating much on where to eat, we came up with the decision of getting McD, near Orchard area. That was probably the best McD meal I had in my life (funny the statements you come up with when you're on a brink of existence due to being too hungry).

Why-lah Malaysia don't have the Satay flavour?
That sums up our rather compact itinerary of the 2nd out of 4 days leg during this trip. If I would change anything it might be pushing Chinatown to the 3rd day and just focus on Marina Bay Sands and Garden by the Bay only. But I felt that the 2nd day went better than expected, a traveler's satisfaction if I may. :)