Archive for February 2013

Gardens By the Bay – Very Relaxing

Well I’ve heard a lot of good feedback about the new Botanic Gardens by Marina Bay (Gardens by the Bay for short), so I was keen to pay a visit.

I finally got around to visit, via Marina Bay MRT and then to Bayfront MRT – which now links the red line with the circle line on the east side. You walk underneath Marina Bay Sands to the Gardens, and you can take a leisurely stroll (for free) in the outer gardens or pay to go into the two ‘cloud’ domes, which houses the ‘Forest’ and ‘Flower’ themed gardens (visits to this costs about $28 to visit both domes, or $20 for local residents / workers). The Skyway costs $5 and the Garden Cruiser is $5.

I decided to stay out in the free gardens this time around – which was also very enjoyable and relaxing, and decided to come back to visit the domes another time.

In fact, looking at the annual ticket price, I decided to buy one of these, as it only costs $68 which allows me to enter all parts of the attractions for free unlimited – so if I visit over 3 times, I have made up for the annual ticket cost – and I become a friend of the bay – to get our discount entitlements 🙂 Bonus!

Pub Lunch Plus Cycling Along East Coast Park

I decided to spend a day contemplating a few things in my head, so decided to leave my apartment and have a nice Sunday Roast – something that “feels like home”, whilst allowing me to watch the world go by and think things clearly in my head. With some recent challenges at work, I felt it was good to just have a bit of ‘me time’. Oh and 2 pints of Guinness helped too – haha!

After experiencing the East Coast Park cycle way during my secondment in 2011, I wanted to make it a more regular thing. It’s another nice way to keep fit, and also sweat the stress out of the system…and the scenery is quite nice too! 🙂

It costs something like $8, $12 or $14 dollars (for 1hr, 2hr or 3hr durations), so I decided to do a ride as far eastward I could get for 2 hours. It was perfect, because you actually go eastward and go along the cycle way until you reach the Changi area – and it’s just sooo relaxing and out of the busy city life, so you really just open your mind. I almost forgot about the time though, as what goes east, must go west – for a cycle loop – ha! Luckily I made it back, and it took just shy of 2 hours – perfect!

Very enjoyable…am keen to get a few others along too, as it is better with company!

Korean BBQ – Red Pig

Well one word to describe the food – yummy!

We had gone for a few drinks after work, and a few of us were left deciding what to do for the rest of the night, so we decided to go for a Korean BBQ Dinner down the infamous Amoy Street – where there is a nice array of delightful Korean restaurants.

We went pretty late, and it was still very busy, but after about 10 minutes wait outside, we got a table upstairs. We had a delightful lunch, with great company, great conversation and great laughs throughout.

If you ever want a nice BBQ Korean, give this place a go – you won’t be disappointed 🙂

Red Pig Korean Restaurant
93 Amoy Street #06-0013
Singapore
069913
Tel: +65 6220 7176

Home Insurance – Peace of Mind

Well I finally sorted my home insurance – well that should be really content insurance – for my condo apartment. I was concerned about things like my electronics, and clothes etc – and as such I feel it would be good to have peace in mind.

I decided to go to Expat Insurance – and it only cost me S$154 for the appropriate cover that met my needs (another quote was over S$500 – so I got a bit of a saving, by reducing the cover to what I need). I wasn’t keen to go for a huge cover, just enough to come by personal effects.

Regardless, I just hope that nothing happens whilst I am here!

I just now need to get my Travel Insurance sorted – and possibly consider enhancing my Medical Insurance (that I get from Amex) to cover any additional coverage needs that I should consider…remember there is no National Health service here – so everything costs $$$ – which is totally a culture shock for my head!

Chinese New Year – in Singapore

This year would be my first Chinese New Year in Singapore – and with the Asian linkages, it is surely going to be a massive festival.

The key focus is going to be China Town, where there is a huge number of lanterns made to look like a Snake flowing down the street. For me, the best memory was learning about the infamous dish called “Lou Hei” – something I never heard about before. it seems to be famous in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia – but strangely not that popular it seems in Hong Kong – else I would have heard of it before!

Basically, it is a dish that is meant to represent all elements food good luck, good fortune and prosperity. And apparently there is a ritual when servicing the dish up…When putting the “Lou Hei” on the table offers New Year greetings. 恭喜发财 (Gong Xi Fa Cai) meaning “Congratulations for your wealth” 万事如意 (Wan Shi Ru Yi) meaning “May all your wishes be fulfilled”

  • The raw fish is added, symbolising abundance and excess through the year. 年年有余 (Nian Nian You Yu) meaning “Abundance through the year”, as the word “fish” in Mandarin also sounds like “Abundance”.
  • The pomelo or lime is added to the fish, adding luck and auspicious value. 大吉大利 Da Ji Da Li meaning “Good luck and smooth sailing”
  • Pepper is then dashed over in the hope of attracting more money and valuables. 招财进宝 Zhao Cai Jin Bao meaning “Attract wealth and treasures”
  • Then oil is poured out, circling the ingredients and encouraging money to flow in from all directions. 一本万利 Yi Ben Wan Li meaning “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital” 财源广进 Cai Yuan Guang Jin meaning “Numerous sources of wealth”
  • Carrots are added indicating blessings of good luck. 鸿运当头 Hong Yun Dang Tou meaning “Good luck is approaching”. Carrot (红萝卜) is used as the first character 鸿 also sound like the Chinese character for red.
  • Then the shredded green radish is placed symbolising eternal youth. 青春常驻 Qing Chun Chang Zhu meaning “Forever young”. Green radish is used as the first character 青 also sound like the Chinese character for green.
  • After which the shredded white radish is added – prosperity in business and promotion at work. 风生水起 Feng Sheng Shui Qi meaning “Progress at a fast pace” 步步高升 Bu Bu Gao Sheng meaning “Reaching higher level with each step”
  • The condiments are finally added.
  • First, peanut crumbs are dusted on the dish, symbolizing a household filled with gold and silver. 金银满屋 Jin Yin Man Wu meaning “Household filled with gold and silver”
  • Sesame seeds quickly follow symbolising a flourishing business. 生意兴隆 Sheng Yi Xing Long meaning “Prosperity for the business”
  • Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows is then added with wishes that literally the whole floor would be filled with gold. 满地黄金 Man Di Huang Jin meaning “Floor full of gold”

And then all of the diners at the table then stand up and on cue, proceed to toss the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks while saying various “auspicious wishes” out loud, or simply “撈起, 撈起”. It is believed that the height of the toss reflects the height of the diner’s growth in fortunes, thus diners are expected to toss enthusiastically – and make a huge mess on the table – haha!

It was certainly fun and very entertaining.

Singapore Credit Cards – Amex of Course!

Well after using my DBS Visa Debit card for several weeks of my new life in Singapore, I decided to focus on which credit cards I should get – Amex of course!  I looked around and there was a few on offer.  What makes Singapore quite different is that all credit cards charge membership fees – which is something the UK market is trying to introduce.  It seems to work here in Singapore – although it is diluted when you get the first year free etc.

Anyway, there were a few options available:

DBS Amex Altitude Card

DBS Amex Altitude Card

DBS Altitude Card (Amex) – you get 1.6 miles for every $1 spent and received 10k bonus miles each year. Complimentary DBS Altitude Butler Service – nice touch!

Annual Fee – S$192.60, waived for the first year.

DBS Visa Altitude Card

DBS Visa Signature Altitude Card

DBS Altitude Card (Visa Signature) – you get 1.6 miles for every $1 spent and received 10k bonus miles each year.  Complimentary DBS Altitude Butler Service – again, nice touch! But the Visa card has Priority Pass lounge access for free for the first year, whilst the Amex card doesn’t…hmmm!!

Annual Fee – S$192.60, waived for the first year.

UOB Prvi Miles Amex Card

UOB Prvi Miles Amex Card

UOB Prvi Miles Platinum Amex Card – you get 1.6 miles for every $1 spent locally and 20k bonus miles each year and unlimited airport limo service (VERY tempting).

Annual Fee – $256.80, waived for the first year.

UOB Singtel Platinum Card

UOB Singtel Platinum Card

UOB SingTel Platinum Card – you earn up to 4% SMART$ (UOBs reward programme) on your SingTel bill and an additional rebate of 0.5% on all other spend.

Annual Fee – Free card for life (longing your charge the SingTel bill to the card).

Amex Krisflyer Gold Card

Amex Krisflyer Gold Card

Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Gold Card – 50% + 50% bonus KrisFlyer miles with 5k bonus miles upon the first use of the card.

Annual Fee – $110, waived for the first year.

I ended up getting the DBS Altitude Card (both Amex and Visa), but I am very tempted to get the UOB Prvi Platinum Card (Amex) and the KrisFlyer one, but awaiting to see if there is an acquisition/marketing campaign before I do…I can stagger the sign-ups in any case – to maximise the first year annual free approach 🙂  haha!

 

Weekly Futsal Games – Good Exercise

I am getting into the routine of a Sunday Futsal session at the Cage, near to Stadium – I think it’s a good way to let the stress out of the system, get some exercise and also sweat out – to hopefully make my body adjust to the climate better.

It’s actually quite good fun – and got to chat to some great chaps. I just hope I don’t get any injuries as a result. Ha!

Chinese New Year – Trip to Taiwan

Let me first start with saying Gong Xi Fa Cai or Gong Hey Fat Choy or 恭禧發財 or 恭禧发财 – in short, Happy Chinese New Year to one and all. I hope the Year of the Snake brings you years of joy, happiness, success and good fortune – I think we need quite a bit of all of this, based on the challenge environment we find outselves in.

This year, I was invited to spend time with a school friend and his wife in Southern Taiwan, so I duly accepted the invitation. I always wanted to visit him last time in 2011, but never managed to find the time to do so, so this time, I wanted to make more effort to visit them both.

This was also my first time flying Scoot, another low-cost carrier, and I must admit it’s not a bad airline. They are like the others in that ‘everything is extra’, but it was a comfortable trip.

As I was only there for 5 days, and due to the challenges to get a seat on the high-speed bullet train from Taipei to Kaohsiung, we decided that I should stay around Taipei for the first part of the day, and then head down on the 19.30 train. My mate, Sam, was kind enough to come up to meet me, as I was scheduled to arrive around 05:40, yup that’s right, with the flight duration of 4hrs 50mins, that meant my flight left 00.55 on Saturday morning – ouch! Anyway, I got some brekkie, found a cafe with free wi-fi, and just cruised until Sam arrived.

As it was Chinese New Year, most of Taipei was shut, but we walked around, chatted, stopped every so often to get a drink (to keep warm, cos it was ‘cool’ here (versus the 31°C of Singapore)). We head to Taipei-101 as we were intending to up and see a fantastic panoramic view of Taipei City, so we stopped off first at Sogo to get some food – at least we knew that this food court would be open – haha. When we arrived at Taipei-101, we entered the shopping mall on the ground floor, and it reminded me very much of Orchard Road in Singapore and the many high-end shops that exist…we breezed around and eventually went up to the fifth floor and joined the ticket line. After we got to the desk, the clerk advised us that it was quite foggy, so the view could not be guaranteed if we went up. Ahhhh…what a shame, but alas we decided to save our cash for another time to see the views. I will be back again at some point, anyway – hopefully over the summer months!! 🙂

We continued our walk around Taipei and then finally arrived at the main train station where we joined the high-speed train. It was very efficient, arriving and leaving on time, it was smooth, with VERY fast. We arrived in just over an hour, and Joy, Sam’s wife, was there to greet us both. It was a bit of a drive to where they live, as we had to go further South and around the coast tip to the South-East side. I felt very relaxed already. I was advised that most Taiwanese people would be down to the Southern parts, so I would expect it be quite busy. We had a relaxing few days, visiting some lovely scenic beaches and walks, a fantastic waterfall off the beaten track, and visited some great eating places, even visiting a night market in one of the nearby towns.

The highlight was to spend some quality time with some great friends, and also enjoy the company of their lovely dogs, Chino and Shao Bai – both were delightful, but I must admit, I had an affection to Shao Bai – she was sooo cute…hahaha!

I took the return train on Wednesday, 13th at 10.15, and arrived back in good time to pick-up my flight which was scheduled to leave at 15:45, and arrived back at 20:10 ready to go back to the office on Thursday – luckily it was just a 2-day week before the weekend – haha! 🙂

What a lovely island, a lovely Couple, their lovely dogs and a very relaxing and lovely break! It was also good to talk about some of the current challenges I am facing at the moment, so thanks to them for listening too 🙂

Quick Trip to Jakarta

Well, I was scheduled to take a quick trip to Jakarta, but looking at the plane schedules, it is worth doing a night’s stop-ever, else it becomes an incredibly long day. Even with this, it was an early start – waking up at 5am 🙁

The flight was only 1 hr 50 mins or so, so a pleasurably and short flight – but it cost S$700 – ouch! It costs a third of this to go to Kuala Lumpur at a similar distance – crazy prices. And they do try to serve food which was a bit strange.

The Shangri-La Jakarta is a pleasant hotel…it is very spacious, very attentive staff and front desk, and the room was enormous (and very comfortable)! 🙂 Haha!

The brekkie was just lush – a plentiful supply of Asian and Western fusion that gave me the energy boost that I needed. One thing I did stuggle is the geography, with the chaotic traffic on the roads (there is no underground or metro-train system), and the confusing road network, meant I didn’t have a clue where I was most of the time – haha!

Shame it was only a day – as I wanted to learn a bit more about the City and the area (and to get my bearings better!).

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