More Things You Might Like To Know…

The response to my first “Things you might like to know” was so overwhelming I promised you part two.

Well, here it is. Please let me know what you think.

canvas

The most beautiful city at night

So just over 13 months since we moved to Singapore and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all settled in.  Dog included. No longer is the supermarket run quite so daunting. I don’t always have to switch the satnav on whenever I leave the house.

There are so many little things that have helped me that it’s difficult to know where to start. So, in no particular order here’s a run down of more things you might like to know if you’re living in Singapore…

Sweating
This is the one we all want to talk about – but don’t – right?

Let’s get it out there once and for all.
Living in Singapore you will sweat LIKE A PIG.
Sorry, there’s no other way to say it.

article-2339291-1A3F441B000005DC-786_634x472

Is anyone else hot?

With an average temperature of 81 degrees (I’m still old school with the weather guy) it’s pretty hot. Add on the fact that we also have 80% humidity, you end up with a situation that is frankly similar to a sauna. So at some point you’ve got to get over the sweat issue.
Let’s clear up some questions/concerns straight away:

  • You will sweat in places you didn’t think you could. Down your back, legs, neck, behind your ears, backs of knees,  head, eyes… you get the picture.
  • Yes, sometimes you will leave that ‘little triangle’ on a chair as you get up. Don’t worry, it will evaporate faster than you can say, “I haven’t wet myself, honest.” Just walk away with your head held high, no one will notice – and if they do, they’re only looking because they want to be sure they’re not the only ones this happens to.
  • It rarely smells. Don’t think you’ll be surrounded by people who stink – or that you need to spray deodorant every two minutes. Sweat doesn’t smell straight away, it’s all about the reaction with the bacteria on your skin. If you’ve had a shower, you’ll be fine for a while. So don’t panic.

There’s not much you can do about it bar have surgery to remove your sweat glands – and even then you’ll probably still drip from the humidity. But there are some things you can do to help.

  • IMG_0675

    A girls best friend

    Take a fan out with you. My dear friend Toni always carried an elegant fan in her bag and gave me this advice early on. She suggested buying a few – a smaller one for evening bags, large one for when you’re off out for the day etc. They cost a few dollars from the stalls at China Town market and will become your best friend. Don’t bother with the little battery operated ones as you do look a bit daft wafting those around. Much more elegant to daintily fan yourself with a pretty fan. (I’m still working on the dainty and elegant!)

  • Avoid wearing anything not made of a natural fabric. I can’t stress this enough. Believe me, I’ve been there and done that. Thinking that viscose top that is so lovely and floaty at home will be fine when you’re out. It won’t, it will stick to you and make you feel much sweatier. Anything with a nylon lining should be packed away for trips home. It will be like going out in a sweater. Do not do it.
    Cotton, linen, silk – all the usual favourites. They won’t stop you sweating, but they’ll help you keep it under control.
  • Avoid colours that will show the sweat more – light blues, grey, certain light browns, the kind of colours that can turn a shade darker in water. They will give away any signs of perspiration long before you notice. Men have it easier here as they can wear a cotton t-shirt under their work shirt, ideal for soaking up wet patches.
  • Plan to stay out of the sun for as much as possible. Most, if not all, shops, cafes, hospitals, etc. will be air-conditioned so it’s quite easy to keep cool. If you’re going about your day to day business you’ll usually be able to take advantage of some air con most of the time. If you’re out enjoying some of the fabulous walks and sights that Singapore has to offer, then you’ve just got to suck it up. Take plenty of water with you and become friends with your sweat. Oh, and pop a flannel or two in your bag – great for mopping up.
  • But really – literally, don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s just part of living here.
destaque-cabelos-com-frizz

Release your inner Monica

Hair
Really, I don’t know where to start. I guess I’m just going to start with a suggestion. Go find the episode of Friends when Monica goes to Barbados.

Watch it.
Laugh.
Then resign yourself to being Monica.

Seriously, it’s not quite that bad (for some people). But it can be a battle. Much like the sweat, it’s part of living in the tropics. You may well straighten it, blast it with anti humidity spray and only run from the house to a cab. But, by the time you reach your destination it will start the frizzing game. By the end of the day or evening you will look like you just got out of a hot tub. But hey, so will most other people so it’s ok.

Those that don’t look like that? Well, they fall in to a few categories:

  • Keratin treatment – a “wonder” treatment that gets mixed reviews. It’s an anti-frizz straightening treatment that costs quite a lot of money but lasts a good few months. Get a recommendation of where to go from someone before you decide. In my experience, it is pretty amazing and works like magic – I’ve tried it a couple of times and was pretty impressed.
  • Olaplex treatment – this is supposed to deal with the root of the problem and repair damaged hair. I have also tried this as it’s meant to be great for coloured hair (gasp, that’s not your natural colour I hear you cry!) To be honest, I never saw the fab results it promises but I do know people who’s hair looks amazing from it.
  • They have naturally straight, glossy, perfect hair.  So a little bit of frizz just gives it a lovely natural wave. We don’t talk to those people. 😉
  • They have a wig on.

There are other treatments around too. If you see someone who you think has fabulous hair – ask them. Who wouldn’t want to be told they looked great?

Should I talk about the hair falling out now? You know right?

Going Out
If you’re thinking of heading to a concert or a show whilst you’re here. Go for it! Singapore has some great venues and there’s almost always enough tickets to go round. If there isn’t, keep your eye on the expat sites as there are often people who, for whatever reasons can no longer go, so will need to sell theirs. But, just to say, the experience is slightly different here.

10464376_10152747772936016_4328316006151473686_n

Yes, that’s right, we’re part of the show…

Singaporeans tend to be more reserved than you may be used to. So, whilst you may don your platform heels, dig out the white jump suit and slap on the 70’s wig to go along to the Abba tribute night (you know who you are hidden behind the disguises), the rest of the audience might not. That’s not to say you won’t have fun – in fact, you might well become part of other people’s evening entertainment. No one will mind, you just have to front it out and enjoy yourself.

Concerts can be tricky, depending on who you’re seeing. The sports stadium is huge but from my experience when a concert is sold out, this doesn’t actually mean there will be a full stadium. Not sure why? Maybe it’s an overcrowding concern (or fear of it?), but generally the big venues aren’t quite as crowded as you’d expect. If the artist you’re going to see is any good, they’ll have you on your feet and you’ll have  blast, if they’re a bit reserved, expect to be sitting down nodding along. Oh, and they will usually start and finish on time. Check if there’s a s support act, if not, don’t stroll in an hour after opening and expect to see much.

Packages
Oh my God, shops here LOVE a ‘package’

A ‘package’ is basically a way to pay for a service – such as nails, waxing, etc – up front. You pay for an agreed number of treatments up front and get a discount or something extra in return. They are basically buying your loyalty.

It used to really get on my nerves that every time I had my nails done (cos that’s all I do all day dahling, that and have free flow lunches right?!) I would have to listen to a huge sales spiel about a free manicure if I buy blah, blah. They’re good too. Next time listen out for the pitch. They start out asking if you’re here on holiday. When you proudly reply, “no, I live here” you will see them literally beam – Ah, an expat!  You see, they know you’re probably not too sure of things and know you’ll be around for a while. Or long enough to come back one more time at least.

12-nail-salon-secrets-10

Beauty packages – a good deal?

It’s entirely up to you if you decide to opt for a package or not. Some of them are worth while, offering really good discounts and, of course, you become a regular customer – and so feel more comfortable. But, some people have found the service changes once you’ve bought a package and others are left out of pocket when the company ceases to exist. If it’s a service you know you’ll use a lot you could save yourself a small fortune though so it’s worth considering. Some things to ask before you buy are:

  • Can you transfer the package to someone else – meaning if you have to leave before you’ve used up all your package you can give, or sell it, to someone else to use.
  • Can you share the package with other people. For example, if your mum comes to visit, can you both go to get your nails done within the package.
  • How long has the shop/company been around for and do they offer any assurances if they have to shut down?
  • What exactly is included – be careful of those that are vague. Your six manicures may only include a certain type of polish or, as I found, may only be the ‘deluxe’ version which takes so long to do you never actually have time for it.

Fogging
You may have heard the rumble first, or caught site of a very strange guy wearing what looks like chemical warfare clothing. Or, like me, you may have been driving down the road and seen a thick cloud of smoke rising up from the grounds of a condo you are passing. Don’t, like me, panic and assume there’s a huge fire and you ought to call the fire brigade.

It’s just fogging.

Fogging is used by most landlords to control the number of pests (mainly mosquitos) in and around your home. It happens regularly here and it’s something you soon become accustomed to. If you’re in a condo you should be given fair warning of when it’ll happen as you do have to shut all doors and windows. Some people suggest taping up air vents and rubbish chute openings too as those critters are on a death sentence and will try to escape wherever they can.

I’m never quite sure how assured I am by the “not dangerous ma’am” comments when I see a guy all kitted up with face mask and overalls. But the pest control companies all give the same assurances that the fogging is safe (and by ‘safe’ that means not toxic to us). And let’s face it, we live in a country that has a prevalence of dengue fever (a highly infectious disease spread by a certain breed of mosquito) as well as other mosquito borne diseases. So better safe than sorry eh? Just stay indoors whilst the fogging is going on and you’ll be ok.

Acronyms
Why oh why???

What is it with Singapore and shortening every bloody word, phrase, name there is? Jeez it’s confusing. But, don’t worry. I found this handy wicki guide that helps. Just be prepared to keep re-referring.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Singapore_abbreviations

For now. Ladies and gentleman I give you the motorways. Apparently, once you know the full names you will know where you’re going – or where to head for.
Err… the jury is out on that one!

• AYEAyer Rajah Expressway
• BKEBukit Timah Expressway
• CTECentral Expressway
• ECPEast Coast Parkway
• KJEKranji Expressway
• KPEKallang-Paya Lebar Expressway
• MCEMarina Coastal Expressway
• NSENorth-South Expressway
• PIEPan Island Expressway
• SLESeletar Expressway
• TPETampines Expressway

Cabs
One of the many things you will learn to love about Singapore are the cabs. I talked about them in the first part, but let me expand. They are cheap – back home in the UK the equivalent journey would cost three times as much. They are plentiful; even if it doesn’t always seem that way. There are generally lovely Uncles (and the occasional Auntie) driving them, some of whom will share their stories and wisdom with you, and some may even give you a pack of tissues too (which, by now you obviously know is the currency of hawker centres).

So, to clear up the taxi business. It’s all about the signs on top.

  • If it’s free and ready for a job, it’ll be lit up green and say ‘taxi’.
  • If it’s been booked it’ll be red and either say ‘hired’ ‘busy’ or ‘on call’.
  • If the signs says ‘shift change’ this means the driver is finishing for the day.

IMG_4525

Now, many expats rant and rave about a cab that wouldn’t take them (me included) because it was not ‘on their way.’ But once I learnt why I stopped the moaning.

These guys are signing off and are on the way home. Why should they turn around and take you where you want to go if it means adding another 20 minutes to their already long day?  Sometimes the light on top will tell you where they are heading which is always handy (if you know where it is you’re going of course) If it’s not going your way – don’t flag it down. Move on and find a cab that has a green light.

Also, don’t be offended if you are in a cab line and someone at the back steps forward and jumps in the next cab that pulls up. Before you lynch them, check the sign – if it’s red then they’ve pre-booked it. It’s their cab. Done deal.

Which leads me to my last point on cabs. GET AN APP! There are many cab apps to choose from and they all work well. I’ll list some at the end of the article, but input your details and you can be the one jumping straight to the front of the line. Some of them you can link to your bank card so that you don’t need to have cash on you. Handy when booking for errant kids and hubbies!

Quirky sights
As you move around the island you’ll become familiar with some of the quirky sights that make Singapore so unique. Here are some of my favourites to look out for.

  • The poles that stick out of HDB windows. Washing lines! Nope, no idea how the washing stays on either but I would love to find out. I’d also love to know how many pairs of knickers are lost per year, how many odd socks are swept up every morning any how many cursing helpers have to run down 30 floors to retrieve washing that has fallen.
  • IMG_4386

    Be respectful and interested

    Temples, temples, temples. You literally can find a temple round every corner in Singapore. If, like me, you’re a keen photographer it’s a dream and a curse. You can waste many an hour photographing some of the most beautiful buildings. From my experience so far most temples are welcoming to guests who are respectful. If you are not sure if you should take your shoes off, go in with shorts on  or take photographs – ask! Some places have a small poster up outside to give guidelines. Or, like me, you could join one of the tours that show you around places like Little India. The lovely Pooja (Tekka Tours), who ran the tour was very helpful in explaining how to behave and it was quite eye-opening.

  • Phones – everywhere. People talking, watching, listening, cradling them. It’s the nations obsession. And don’t even get me started on selfies. Love or hate them you can not avoid them lah!
  • IMG_4223

    Always something new to see

    Graffiti – this isn’t so much something you can see. But something you can’t. Unlike most cities, the side streets and old buildings are not littered with scrawlings referring to someone’s football team preference. It’s only when you see some – and this will always be organised “allowed” graffiti – that you realise the lack of it. There are some spectacular examples around so keep a look out.

  • IMG_4425

    Friendly locals

    The people! If you open yourself up you’ll be surprised what you learn.
    This couple was delightful when we stopped at their shop to buy drinks after a hot day photographing around Little India. They happily told us about their local food business and posed for snaps.  Just last week I was eating at a hawker centre and a guy busy eating his rice dish (with his fingers – totally normal here) got chatting to me and my family.  He told us what he was eating, and offered to share it. Not wanting to be rude – and despite all my British reservations – I tucked in. It was delicious! I now know that you can get huge pots of sauce to add to your dish at that particular hawker stall. Yum!

Public holidays
There are a lot of public holidays in Singapore. Yay! Nothing to complain about there at all. If you’re planning on going away, plan well in advance as they get booked up. For a list of public holidays coming up look at the MOM website.

http://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/public-holidays

There are also lots of cultural festivals that happen and you may not even realise it. For example, right now, (August) is the Chinese Ghost Month. You may have noticed the smell of burning quite a lot. This is the Chinese tradition of burning joss paper to please the unknown ghost. Local Chinese will also pay respect to their own deceased ancestors by honouring them with food and burning incense.

Always be respectful of local festivals. Ask questions if you want to learn more and keep an eye on information at community centres for more details.

Making Friends
Once you’ve got over the shock of moving here you’ll start to feel like you might want to get out and about. Really, there are so many ways to meet people here you should find something to suit you. From courses to learn Mahjong and quilting, to groups that meet to walk the green corridor or run up Fort Canning steps a dozen or so times. Not to mention the hundreds of coffee morning, brunch and lunch meet ups. Oh, and of course the ladies nights (see here for more on that). Then there are groups for specific people such as those who have children with special needs, or business women, stay at home mums, empty nesters. The list goes on and on.

facebook-login-sign-inI’ve listed a selection of Facebook groups and the main website at the end of this. Choose which ones you think suit you and press that join button. You’ll be amazed at what you end up doing. If you’re not sure, just head to Facebook or a search engine and have a look. This is by no means an exhaustive group. Please feel free to add your favourites to the comments box at the end of this.

Finally,
Enjoy it! I have met one too many people here who have said they’d wish they had joined in more, gone to see more of what Singapore has to offer, visited some of the many beautiful islands and countries that are so close. Do it! You never know how long you’ll be here and the fun will be over.

Cab Apps
Grab Taxi: http://grabtaxi.com/singapore/
Uber: https://www.uber.com/cities/singapore

Little India Tours 

Expat Facebook Groups
For all expat women
More for expat women
And more still
If you have teenage children
To meet for coffee
If you’re new here
Casual meet ups
For those who like travel
To buy or sell stuff 
Business women
More business women
If you are an empty nester
Interested in photography

Websites
For meet up groups

Advertisements

Peranakan Museum

Peranakan museum

Peranakan Museum

Where: The Peranakan Museum, 39 Armenian Street, 179941.
Why? To finally find out what Peranakan actually means. To discover more about the history of Singapore.
When? Open daily 10am-7pm. Till 9pm on a Friday.
Cash heavy? Nope! Just $6 per entry, $3 for PR.
Kid friendly? Yes. there were hands on displays to keep them interested. There was a group of school children there whilst I was there and they looked like they were having fun. Strollers allowed in all galleries and there’s a changing room on level 1.
Dog friendly? No, but then why would it be?
Disabled access? Yes, all galleries have wheelchair access and there are disabled toilets and parking spaces nearby.
Getting there. The nearest MRT is City Hall. Alternatively it’s about a 5-10 minute drive from the centre of town and there are bus stops nearby.
Extra titbit. Look out for the poem about how to be a good daughter-in-law. When you’ve finished at the museum have a wander down the street and check out the amazing street art.
Website/Contact: http://www.peranakanmuseum.sg Tel: +65 6332 7591

The nitty-gritty:

The term Peranakan is talked about a lot here in Singapore. For quite a while I had no idea what it actually meant. I knew it referred to something – or someone? – local and that there were lots of lovely housewares you could buy in the ‘Peranakan design.” I figured it referred to the indigenous people of Singapore; the forefathers of this modern city. However, a trip to the Peranakan museum made me realise that there is so much more to it than that.

The imposing staircases either side of the central atrium.

The imposing staircases either side of the central atrium.

This small museum is in what used to be the Tao Nan Chinese School, one of the first modern Chinese schools in Singapore and is right by the city’s business district. With it’s dashing pastel coloured frontage, its arched verandahs and grand entrance way, the quietly imposing building catches you by surprise as you wander along Armenian Street. As you walk though the doors in to an atrium filled with light, you can’t help but notice the two huge symmetrical staircases that lead up either side of the building to corridors and galleries on the upper levels. As museums go, it’s very inviting – not stuffy or library like at all.

So, what is Peranakan? To quote the museum themselves “In Malay, Peranakan means ‘child of’ or ‘born of’ and is used to refer to people of mixed ethnic origins.” To put this in to context, years ago, way before Singapore was the high-rise city it is now, it was seen as a place of opportunity for many neighbouring countries due to its free port. This was mainly due to Singapore’s unique location on the major sea route between India and China. It quickly became a hub of trading and many Chinese immigrants came to make their fortune here – and never left. These travellers – although mainly Chinese, there were also Indian and Eurasian Portuguese – married local Malay (non muslim) women and their culture became known as Peranakan.

There are things displayed everywhere.

There are things displayed everywhere.

The first collection I visited in the museum was a series of photographs of modern-day Peranakan people accompanied by quotes about what being Peranakan means to them. There was a strong sense of belonging and tradition in most of what I read. Something that was echoed throughout other exhibits too. At the end of the room is a film showing the early Peranakan history.

I then went up to the first level where you can see art, clothing, furniture, traditions associated with the Peranakan culture. With nine galleries all themed with things such as Weddings, religion, food and feasting, it really does give you an insight in to how life would have been like years ago in Singapore. It also reflected on how this manifests in modern Singapore too.

The colourful Nonya ware.

The colourful Nonya ware.

My favourite exhibits included the amazing display of Nonya ware – the Peranakan design porcelain ware – including a full table laid for twenty plus guests. The fully dressed, parading wedding party was interesting too. There were artefacts all around the museum including at the top of the stairs and hanging above doors.

I'm not sure how far I'd walk in these...

I’m not sure how far I’d walk in these…

I was keen to learn about the Nonya (Peranakan lady), especially the rituals around getting married and was surprised by how many traditions there are. Many women it seems no longer follow these rituals to the book, but some do still survive. The room that focused on religion and in particular the rituals around death was fascinating – if a bit eery – and I can see that these customs are still in play today amongst modern-day Peranakans.

Other displays to look out for include the intricate beadwork, the fashion and the display about the many Peranakans who became cultural and philanthropic leaders.

They even have their own cat!

They even have their own cat!

The museum is an interesting way to spend a morning or afternoon. You can get around it in a couple of hours quite easily. On your way out visit the gift shop and pick up one of their beautiful hand-made cards or find a replica of the beadwork you had previously admired. There’s even a foodie shop where you can pick up some traditional Peranakan treats. A very pleasant way to while a few hours for sure.

Oh, and then have a wander down Armenian Street, there’s some amazing street art on the building just next door and some lovely little shop houses with pots of tropical plants and canaries in cages hanging out front. There’s an interesting looking restaurant that I want to go back to as well serving traditional Peranakan food.

Well worth the visit.

Final 5 Verdict? 5 5 5  (out of 5)

Clarke Quay

quay

Where: 3 River Valley Road. 179024  to Clifford Pier, 80 Collier Quay, 049326.
Why? For a wander, a ride along the river and some great sightseeing.
When? Any time you like, it’s always there.
Cash heavy? Depends on what you do. To just walk is free. River boat tours are around $20 per person. Food is as much as you want to spend.
Kid friendly? Yes. Just keep an eye as you are by the river after all. But wide open spaces to walk along and easy for a stroller.
Dog friendly? Yes but only on a lead and not on the boats or in restaurants.
Disabled access? Yes, although it can be a bit tricky as you need to go around some buildings. Boat access check http://www.rivercruise.com.sg
Getting there. Clarke Quay MRT and Raffles Place MRT. 10 minutes from CBD by taxi.
Extra titbit. If you’re feeling really adventurous take the reverse bungee ride – not for the faint hearted!
Website/Contact: http://www.rivercruise.com.sg. http://www.fullertonbayhotel.com
The nitty gritty 

Whenever we have visitors the first place we take them, often jet lagged and little bit bleary-eyed is Clarke Quay. I’m not sure if it’s the colourful shutters of the MICA building (housing Government ministries) that I think will awaken their tired eyes. Or the towering city scape that comes in to view as you round the bend that I hope will impress them. Or the mix of bars, cafes and restaurants that can feed them whenever the need arises? Maybe it’s my old love, the Merlion – the original guardian of the city – who stands tall and proud at the mouth of the river, that I want to show off?

Who knows? I just feel it’s a great place to introduce anyone to this lovely city we call home. It has such a lot of history attached to it as the first port of Singapore. As recent as the 1970’s traders were still pedalling their wares on the banks of the river, and Clarke Quay was a noisy mix of bumboats (tongkangs) and lighters (twakows) unloading their cargoes. Ever since Sir Stamford Raffles step foot on the northern bank of the river and saw its potential as a free port it has been a hubbub for the island. But it hasn’t always been the lovely stretch of water it is now. With all the heavy traffic it encountered and the number of people living on, by and around the river it became heavily polluted and congested.

In 1977, the then Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew began a clean up operation that took ten years to complete. Involving relocating many hawkers, squatters, industries and immigrants, this clean up has got to go down as one of the biggest successes for Singapore. For the river is now beyond recognition with it’s attractive waterway walks, bustling restaurants and grand hotels that line the river. At the same time it has stayed true to it’s rich heritage and celebrates its history.

So, if you’re looking for a relaxing day out and don’t mind a stroll. Or, if you’ve visitors who have just arrived and you don’t have  a clue where to start, here’s my suggestion for a fab day by the river.

Take the MRT to Clarke Quay station, come out at the river, turn right and head towards Clifford Pier. On the way you will find many statues to catch your eye – from the large bird sculpture (symbolising peace, serenity, the joy of living and the power of optimism apparently!), to the often photographed jumping boys or ‘The First Generation’ to give them their proper names. In fact, if you are taking young children, make a game of this – challenge them to find the jumping boys, the cats, the traders, the bullock cart, and even Sir Stamford Raffles himself (on the opposite bank, but easily spotted if you are keeping a look out).

As you head under South Bridge you will enter Boat Quay which will be obvious from the plethora of eateries that spring up along here. You will be encouraged to sit down, relax, have a bite to eat or ‘just a drink madam?’ In fact, this is one of only a few streets in Singers where you will be approached by restaurant staff keen for your custom.  But this is Singapore, so don’t worry, you can easily say no thank you and they won’t be offended. There are many options, so if you are hungry give somewhere a try. Fresh fish and shellfish are on display too so you can even pick out what you’d like served up!

fish tanks

Fresh fish anyone?

 

Fed and watered? Then keep walking and you will saunter past The Fullerton Hotel – an iconic hotel that has been on the same site since 1928 and had previously dominated the city’s skyline (pre skyscrapers and MBS). Placed under conservation at the beginning of last century, The Fullerton is one of those hotels that oozes colonial Singapore. If you want to soak up some of its history you can visit one of its restaurants or bars. If not, just oggle those that are as you walk by.

Keep going and walk around the mouth of the river heading for the Merlion Park. Standing 8.6 meters tall, this is where the guardian of Singapore now lives after moving from further down the river in 2002. Join the other tourists and see if you can capture a photo of the Merlion spouting water directly in to your mouth. This really is selfie heaven so be patient with the many tourists that are around. It’s worth it though for that one good shot. Look out for the Merlion cub too that sits just behind mum. Always a nice photo opportunity for the kids.

Merlion

The Mighty Merlion

 

IMG_0869

Nearly mum!

IMG_0870

Just a bit more

Oh, and you may just notice another famous landmark or two whilst you’re there too. More photo opportunities as you try to lift the famous Marina Bay Sands with your bare hands, or push round the Singapore Eye. If you’re not sure what to do, just look around and take your cues from those in the know.

Once you’ve had your fill of photo taking head towards Clifford Pier and buy a ticket for a river boat ride. Yes, it’s worth it! Here you’ll get a chance to sail down the river you’ve been meandering past for the last hour or so. Jump aboard (or step precariously, depending on your sea legs – but it’s completely calm so no need to worry!) a traditional bumboat. They all have video commentary that will tell you more about the fascinating history of the river and Singapore itself.

bumboat

Take a bumboat ride along the river

 

This is a great thing to do come rain or shine as on a hot day you can catch the breeze as you sail along sitting outside the boat (though you don’t hear the commentary then) or sit by a window and enjoy some shade. It’s also the perfect shelter from the showers that can catch you out. Take a full round trip if you can and you will see many more famous landmarks such as the Old Parliament House, the Asians Civilisation Museum and Marina Barrage. Not to mention you get a full view of the CBD and the gob-smackingly tall skyscrapers. You can hop on and off if you wish or can choose to end your journey at any one of it’s 13 jetties.

city scape

Just a few of the skyscrapers you’ll see

 

Personally, I’d say go for a round trip and see as much as you can and end up back at Clifford Pier. This is purely because that way you can now gawp at, for me, one of the most splendid hotels in the area – The Fullerton Bay Hotel. I’m not sure of the technicalities, but the hotel is built on a public walkway (I’m also not sure they’ll appreciate my sharing this information so happily either). This basically means anyone – yes, even you in your comfy shorts and walking shoes – can stroll through the public areas. And these are public areas TO DIE FOR!

IMG_0826

The stunning Clifford Pier restaurant

I never tire of staring when I enter the lobby. The beautiful – and I mean stunningly beautiful – Clifford Pier restaurant just whisks you away to a place where you want to call everybody ‘dahhhling’ and quaff cocktails and sip Ceylon tea all afternoon. In fact, you can do exactly that as this one of the best places for afternoon tea (see Time For Tea, Fullerton Bay Hotel).

Lantern-collage_633x750

A bar with a view to die for

 

Of course, if it’s later in the evening; ah hell, even if it’s not, you can head up to The Lantern Bar. Taking it’s name from Clifford Pier’s historical Chinese name ‘Red Lantern Pier’ this is one of my favourite spots for a drink or two as the views are lovely. Not so high up you feel sick, but high enough to take your breath away. There’s a relaxed vibe most nights with a DJ playing some nights – it can get busy so book if you’re keen to go on a particular night.

But, during the day it’s also great for a juice, cup of tea or cocktail too and you can get bar snacks if you haven’t partaken in any of the restaurants earlier. Now, sit back, relax and enjoy the view.

When you’re done – and had a good nose around the beautiful lobby – you can head to the hotel entrance and grab a cab back home. Or, if you’re feeling energetic, walk back along the river the way you came and jump back on the MRT. By the time you get there though you’ll be ready for another drink and some cake before heading home – look out for the cafe’s outside the shopping mall as they can tick the box no problem

For me, this is the perfect day out for newbies – and oldies – to Singapore. A great introduction to the city without being overwhelmed and a good way to check out what you might like to do next.

Enjoy!

Bollywood Veggies

IMG_2041

Bollywood Veggies – Kranji

Where: 100 Neo Tiew Road, Singapore, 719026.
Why? To get a bit of countryside goodness, to smell the fresh air, to see another side to Singapore. For GREAT food.
When? Open Wednesday-Sunday, 9am-6:30pm. (Closed over Lunar New Year for 2 weeks.)
Cash heavy? Nope! A couple of bucks to get in and whatever you spend on lunch. Whatever it will be, it’ll be a bargain. Bring cash though as doesn’t accept cards or cheques.
Kid friendly? Yes. Paths lead around the gardens for those with strollers, and kids are encouraged to explore.
Dog friendly? I’m assuming so as they have a dog run in the garden.
Disabled access? Yes, although some parts of the gardens are not accessible it’s pretty much wheelchair friendly.
Getting there. The nearest MRT is Kranji and from there you can get a shuttle bus (check website for schedule). Alternatively it’s about a 25 minute drive from the centre of town.
Extra titbit. The owners of Bollywood Veg make a point of employing those from the local community who are physically or mentally challenged to help run the gardens and bistro. Look out for a particularly inspiring lady called May who has written a book called Scaling Walls.
And try the banana bread – it’s delicious!
Website/Contact: http://www.bollywoodveggies.com.sg. Tel:+65 6898 5001 .

 
The nitty-gritty:
IMG_2013

Subtle but well said

Sometimes, despite the fabulousness of this city, every now and then we all just want out for a while. It may be that you want a drive through the countryside? Or perhaps you’re sick of high-rise condos, traffic and swarms of people everywhere? Maybe you need some time to think, relax and chill? Or just that you want reassurance that there is somewhere on this island that grows something you can actually eat!

In which case you can’t do any better than a trip to Bollywood Veggies in Kranji. Started by self titled ‘farm-preneurs’ Ivy Singh-Lim and Lim Ho Seng, this couple have turned a pipe dream in to reality. What began as an idea for somewhere for their retirement has flourished in to a fully fledged farm, bistro, food museum, cooking school and a whole new future for Singapore’s aspiring farming community.

IMG_2025

Or, just do it out of the kindness of your heart?

We found Bollywood Veggies one Sunday afternoon after we had decided to visit Kranji War memorial and wanted to stop for a quick bite to eat. As soon as we parked up I knew this wasn’t your ordinary out-of-town cafe. The car park was pretty full for a start – always a good sign, but also makes you think “oh no, we should have booked.”

But no, Bollywood Veggie isn’t that kind of place. No reservations required.

Go through the entrance and you’ll enter a whole new world. You are welcome to stroll around the farm and get up close to a lot of what they do there. With the most fantastic and quirky little signs all over the place, that alone is enough to keep you interested for a while (and giggling at the humour of those who put them there). If you are the green fingered sort you’ll be enthralled by the number of plants, trees and flowers they have. From mangos to figs, curry plants to water lily’s. Most of which are helpfully labelled. Oh, and if you want to lend a hand, rake a few leaves for them and they’ll give you a drink on the house (non alcoholic I assume?)

IMG_2046

As a playground should be

We came across one area that, despite the warnings about snakes, is a must. (I’m sure they’re not THAT serious about the snakes). Hidden amongst some trees, lots of plants and behind an old hut type building is a seesaw. You know, the old-fashioned kind. Along with a swing fashioned from a piece of wood and a rope, tied to a tree. Also, a very quaint, if somewhat eerily abandoned looking table and chair set. It was almost as if someone had just finished playing there 200 years ago and time had stood still ever since.

Once you’ve finished pottering around the farm do stop for something to eat. The ever friendly staff will help you with recommendations. The banana curry is a favourite we were told so we were keen to try it and were not disappointed. They also serve fish and chips for the less adventurous little ones with you.

With a small, but perfectly formed, set of farm ‘toys’ to keep the kids amused, you’ll find hours may have passed without you realising it.

And as you take your leave, with shoulders less hunched and your head a bit clearer, you can even buy some of their delicious chocolate banana bread to take home. I bought a copy of the book Scaling Walls by one of the ‘farm warriors’ Siew May who, despite a tough start in life has achieved more than most of us and I look forward to learning more about her and her life. Sometimes you can get lucky and they’ll have some veg or fruit to buy too. But, I think they use most of it themselves in the bistro. With bike tours now being arranged to start and end there, Bolly Jolly weekends and guided tours it seems to me this couple are long way from retiring just yet. And Singapore is the better for it.

IMG_2036

Beautiful reminders of the wildlife

IMG_2030IMG_2020

I cannot think of a better way to while a few hours than at Bollywood Veggies. Go explore yourself, you’ll not be disappointed.

Final 5 Verdict? 5 5 5 5 5

Super Tree Grove

Super Tree Grove at Gardens By The Bay

Where: 18 Marina Gardens Drive, 018953.

Why? To gawp at ‘super’ trees as they light up and sing. From an afternoon stroll to floating above the ground on the 22m high skyway there are lots of other ways to spend your time at Gardens By The Bay.
When? Open every day. The ‘Garden Rhapsody’ is on twice an evening, check website for timings.
Cash heavy? Some parts you pay to enter, for example it’s $5 to go on the OCBC Skyway, but you can go and marvel at the super trees for free. 
Kid friendly? Yes, plenty of space to walk, push a buggy and let them wander (keeping an eye near the water areas of course). There is a specific children’s garden (that I’ll cover another time).
Dog friendly? Dogs are allowed on lead in the outside gardens but not on the Skyway, children’s garden or in the conservatories.
Disabled access? Yes, lifts, ramps and barrier free routes. Wheelchairs can also be hired here.
Getting there. MRT or bus easily enough. Can also drive as large car park.
Extra titbit. When the Singapore heat gets too much, Supertree Grove offers a shady respite.
 
The nitty gritty:

When I had a friend visiting on a quick weekend stop over I was really unsure where to take her, especially as she’d spent her childhood in Singapore.

I opted for Supertree Grove at Gardens By The Bay as it’s close to Marina Bay – and the wonders of all that’s new and sparkly about Singapore. Also, we wanted to eat so I booked us a table at IndoChine in (yes ‘in’) one of the Supertrees. Wandering around the gardens is always fascinating. There’s always something interesting to see. In this instance it was lots of what looked like abandoned carnival floats with a theme I couldn’t quite make out. It turns out they were there in preparation for the Carnival of Lights festival that was coming up.

IMG_0388

Anyone for fruit?

The Supertrees themselves are truly amazing. Covered in plants with an inverted umbrella atop each one, they look unlike anything else you have seen. The plants that cling to them look fake. It’s only when you look closely (or read it in the guidebook), you realise they are actual living plants.

Heading to the tree where Indochine is based, we decided to go for a drink at the rooftop bar first. After being radioed in – Mission Impossible styley, as if we were either high risk security or top celebs – we got in the lift. Coming out of the lift you are ushered up a staircase (again with someone radioing ahead, and… WOW!

That is pretty much the word I heard everyone say as they did the same over the next hour or so. The view is fantastic. In this little bar atop a fake tree you can sit, have a (not cheap admittedly) drink and take in the full wonder of Singapore. From the port to the bay, the city and beyond you can see it all on a clear day. Even if you’re not eating, it’s worth the $10 or whatever it is they charge you just to go up to the bar to enjoy the stunning view. Great photo opps aplenty.

After dinner at IndoChine (restaurant reviews in another part of my blog) we went back down to the foot of the tree to enjoy the Garden Rhapsody. As night falls, the Supertrees come to life. Set to music that drifts on the evening air, and with a voice over that lulls you, all I can say is lay back – yes, lay down, it’s much better experienced this way – and watch the trees dance with light.

Undoubtedly there’s something very strange about lying under a huge pretend tree covered in real plants listening to classical music watching a light show. You may wonder if drugs have been ingested by mistake. Afterwards it takes a while to come round to the fact you’re laying on the floor – or the base of a tree if you’ve been lucky enough to get a spot – as you really have been transported by light and sound out of the bustling city. It’s a lovely feeling, so hang on to it.

People start moving away slowly – almost embarrassed to have enjoyed it so much. You can then carry on your wander around the gardens, or, like us, head over to Marina Bay and find yourself another amazing bar with a view.

Final 5 Verdict? 5 5 5 5 5

IMG_0395

Enjoy the other worldly nature of the light show

IMG_0400

Part of the 128m Skyway – get there early if you want to watch the show from here.

IMG_0401

Flat on my back looking up at the super tree – you can see just see the lights of the restaurant at the top.

Final 5 Verdict? 5 5 5 5 5

Park Life

Bishan Park – or Ang Mo Kio Park

Where: Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1.
Why? For fresh air, fun and time to chill.
When? Every day of the week (anyone else breaking out in to song?)
Cash heavy? Nope, don’t need a penny, though you could take some to spend in the  cafe/restaurants if you like.
Kid friendly? Hell yeah!  There’s a playground, water playground (open at weekends only), acres of grass as well as loads of interesting nooks and crannies to explore.
Dog friendly? Yes! With it’s two designated dog runs this is the place for your pampered pooch to stretch his or her legs. Though it does get busy. Outside of the run, keep your dog on a lead.
Disabled access? Yes, the paths are wide and clear.
Getting there. There’s a large car park with coupon parking. Lots of bus routes go past Bishan Park.
Extra titbit. The water in the river and ponds that run through the park are kept clean WITHOUT chemicals apparently. Some clever plants do the job instead. 
IMG_0026

Stepping stones for the brave. During heavy rain these can become inaccessible though so watch your step!

IMG_0018

And always cautious, the local council put up a few warning signs.

The nitty gritty:

Bishan is my local park and lucky me. It is sprawling, lush, stunning and a fascinating place to wander around. Every morning the place is swarming with local people keeping fit – many in large groups (wearing matching t-shirts) – doing all kinds of exercise from Tai Chi to fan dances, jogging to meditation. I’ve even seen a few backward walkers. Who knew? At one end of the park is a fitness area where many congregate to do a series of push ups, sits ups, chin ups and every other kind of up you can think of. They take their fitness seriously here obviously. And of course there’s the joggers, walkers and roller bladers following the parks 3k route.

IMG_0007

Exercise is for wimps!

An amazing lily pond that stretches further than any frog prince could hop is a pleasant discovery around one bend and there are a large number of sun loungers big enough for the whole family to sit on. Add to this a great play area for big and little kids alike and a splash park to cool off in (weekends only) this place really rocks as far as parks go. And, to top it all, if you get a bit peckish you can head for one of the cafes. I have yet to eat in one of them but will try it out and get back to you.

IMG_0022

Woody looking for his Prince?

Taking the dog for a walk is definitely a lot more interesting in Bishan than it used to be back in the UK (think circling a cricket pitch over and again). It is a great place to take the kids when they want to let of some steam and a fab place to meet a group of friends for a picnic. You can even learn to roller blade if you like…

Final 5 Verdict? 5 5 5 5 5

IMG_0015

5 out of 5 – woohoo!