About Grace Tan

Grace owns the award-winning business and lifestyle blog, WorkingWithGrace.wordpress.com. She is also the author of the best-selling book 'Blogging For A Living'.

Glow & Yummilicious Cafe @ Bedok’s East Village

We had an early dinner today, thanks to Eatigo. XD For 50% off, we had to make a 4pm reservation at Glow & Yummilicious Cafe (or Glow Yummilicious Cafe). When my darling first said the cafe’s called “Glow”, I thought we’ll be having poke bowls, acai smoothies and the like. Turns out there’s none of that. The cafe’s signature items are the Penang Prawn Noodles and Penang Char Kway Teow. Also, if you’re lucky, you might be able to try their colorful Xiao Long Bao. Today, we only got to savor the traditional Shanghai Xiao Long Bao.

For $8, you can get a bowl of prawn noodles or a plate of their char kway teow. The Xiao Long Bao cost $8 for 6 pieces and $9 for 8 pieces.

Decent. Though I’d have appreciated having more of the ginger. πŸ˜€

The prawn noodles (in the first pic you see above) seemed like they were in a very dangerous-looking broth. Dangerous only because it looks terribly spicy. However, it’s milder than it looks and you will even be able to taste the sweetness in the soup. It’s a more-than-decent bowl of Penang Prawn Noodles though you may or may not raise an eyebrow at the $8 pricetag. But at 50% off via Eatigo, it’s definitely worth it.

As for the char kway teow, my darling and I both felt it’s a little overly salty. But it’s likely still manageable for most people. I think seniors would think it’s just right. And the noodles even have a slight char to them, which I love. The prawns are plump and I think the only thing I miss is blood cockles – there aren’t any in this cafe’s version…

I need those cockles or else it’s not char kway teow for me! πŸ˜€

Despite there being no cockles in the CKT, I don’t dislike this cafe. Simply because the lady boss is super friendly. She wasn’t intrusive at all, like she didn’t ask if we live around the area, how we found out about her cafe, etc. Instead, she even told us where she worked previously, how much the rental for this eatery is, how her rental’s cheaper than her neighbors’, and when the lease will be up. For a kaypoh person like me, meeting someone like her is the best as she’ll satisfy my curiosity without me having to ask many questions. (But, of course, I don’t share what she told me lah, since those details can be ‘sensitive’, ya?) πŸ˜›

And oh… her name’s Catherine. Hence the eatery’s logo / mascot is that of a cat, and there’s some cat decal on the wall you see when you enter.

I ordered the Korean HongCho (Vinegar Fruity Drink) that costs all of $4. Catherine had told us that the Eatigo discount applies to the drinks as well. But it seems that it’s not the case.

Anyway, it wasn’t unpleasant. Rather sour, yes, but since I’d ordered vinegar, I knew what I was in for.

There are 8 tables in the cafe, so it can comfortably seat 16 people. I’m not sure if that TV is there permanently or if it’s removed when the place is busy.

What you may be happy to note is that the mall (East Village) offers complimentary parking DAILY from 12noon to 2pm. And apart from that, parking rates are comparable to the open-air carpark across the road. So you might as well park at the mall if you’re dining or shopping there.

Glow is in pink… and near one of the entrances/exits of the mall:

I do think it would make sense for Glow & Yummilicious Cafe to serve more dessert items too. For now, they have Sago Gula Malaca / Green Bean Sago at $3. Because what I ordered today was appetite-whetting, what with the spicy prawn noodle soup and the sourish korean beverage, I was actually craving for something sweet at the end. Even ice cream would do.

But I guess we could have gotten dessert easily from one of the other shops within East Village. Also, Glow needs to issue receipts. When we asked to pay for the meal, Catherine said it was $16 and my darling paid her, and that was it. No receipt, no tally of items. And it was only after we’d stepped out of the shop that we found it didn’t add up.

$8 for Xiao Long Bao

$8 for CKT

$8 for Laka

$4 for the drink

With 50% off, it should be $14 and not $16.Β 

But $16 for everything we’d consumed was still a fair price to pay. Would we return if we have to pay full price? Hmm… I’m not sure we will.

But we might return to East Village to check out the other shops. For today, we took a quick walk around and saw a few interesting ones…

There was a steady stream of customers getting churros at Chulop!

And this is random, but there’s also a betta shop here:

They have lots of trophies from betta competitions… go in and have a look…

And there’s even a Putu Piring Cafe!

The putu piring are priced between $3.20 and $4.70 for a box of 4. Choose from Gula Melaka, Coconut, Chocolate, Durian or simply get a mix of flavors. πŸ˜€ They do also sell Fruit Rojak ($4.50) and Char Kueh & Tau Pok ($4).

Thailily: Authentic Thai Cuisine You’ll Love

It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Thailily and by “a while” I mean something like one-and-a-half years. πŸ˜€ SO glad they are still in business ‘cos the Thai food here is good. And one of their neighbors is Udders Ice Cream, which has mind-blowing chocolate ice cream – certainly one of the best chocolate ice cream places in Singapore. And this time, at Thailily, I found that there were airplants on the tables. Apparently, workshops are held here for people keen on putting together their own airplant table displays. Go follow Thailily on IG if you want to find out more. πŸ˜€ And since my professional photographer pal, Bosco, was with me, I shamelessly challenged him to a ‘shootout’ (haha) whereby he’ll use his professional equipment while I’ll use my trusty ol’ Samsung mobile phone. *The pictures watermarked with ‘workingwithgrace’ will be those I took. And the perhaps better-looking, unmarked ones will be his. Muahaha! πŸ˜€

These are the prawn cakes, which I’d also ordered back in 2018.

The handmade Thai prawn cakes cost $12.90 for 6 pieces. If prawn’s not your favorite, you can also try the handmade Thai fish cake at $9.90 for 6 pieces. There’s also something called the Thai Style Moon Shrimp Cake ($13.90) which I’ll probably order next time since it sounds intriguing. Their Lemon Chicken Nuggets are also handmade – I’m not sure where else in Singapore you can find handmade chicken nuggets. OMG!

They were served steaming hot…

thailily novena menu

Strangely enough, I enjoyed the sweet sauce back then. But now I think it should be dipped into a spicy sauce instead. Does age do this to tastebuds?! Anyway… the prawn cakes are plump and juicy enough that you can eat them without any sauce. I wanted to ask why they have a hole in the middle, like doughnuts, but decided *ahem* it’s probably to differentiate these ones from the prawn cakes from other restaurants. πŸ˜€

Then we also had the tom yum soup. It may look really spicy but it isn’t. With the coconut milk, it was even pretty manageable for my pal, who doesn’t usually take spicy food. He was surprised this soup tasted sweet. πŸ˜€

This is exceptionally good tom yum soup. Order it!

thai lily restaurant novena menu

And in a somewhat omakase fashion, chef also had us try this new noodle dish:

thailily restaurant novena

It was served with beansprouts (which I love) and bittergourd (which my darling loves, but I don’t) and my pal, Bosco, made the comment that it would be quite a waste if customers who aren’t used to the taste of raw bittergourd end up discarding them. Hmm. Maybe the staff should ask if diners like bittergourd and allow them the option of ordering this dish without bittergourd? As for the noodles, they can be a little dry so you can add a bit of the sauce provided (which is rather salty) OR add the tom yum soup, and it’ll taste truly delicious!

It’s hard to go wrong with ordering these prawns too:

thailily restaurant review

But I think we overdid it with this platter:

thailily restaurant halal

Somehow, eating deep-fried stuff makes me feel really full so I’d probably not order this again unless I’m feeling ravenous that day.

Do order the seabass, however, if you like fish. Thailily has a $16.90 promo (for a limited period) for their fresh sea bass. You can have it steamed in lemon sauce, steamed thai style, fried in thai chili sauce, stir-fried with green mango, fried with lemongrass in tamarind sauce, or even go for the 14 Spice Fried Sea Bass!

thailily restaurant

And one dish I really enjoyed comes with A LOT OF garlic! πŸ˜€

The squid’s decent but that garlic is amazeballs! I’d love to buy a jar of it. πŸ˜€

thailily novena

If you’re truly mad about garlic, you need to order this.

And on my previous visit, I said the lemongrass drink was odd but this time, it was good – I was surprised too! πŸ™‚ If you like Thai food, do pop by Thailily at Novena. You won’t be disappointed.

*Thailily also has $8.90 set lunches available daily from 11am to 3pm (except on public holidays). There are 8 mains to choose from. And you’ll also get tom yum soup and a free drink!

When I searched for Thailily on Google, somehow this search term popped up: thailily restaurant halal. It’s likely not halal as they serve up pork dishes such as stir-fried minced pork with basil, and thai grilled pork neck. πŸ˜‰ So if you were wondering, well, now you know.

I would actually recommend couples pop by Thailily for Valentine’s Day this Friday. I’m not sure what promotions there will be (if any) but you’re guaranteed good food in this cozy restaurant. And save some stomach space for the ice cream at Udders. It’ll be the perfect night out, for sure. πŸ˜‰

~

165 Thomson Rd, Goldhill Shopping Centre, Singapore 307618 (beside United Square Mall

Tel: 6251 0123

* They do also work with foodpanda and deliveroo so you can get your food delivered to your doorstep if you’d prefer dining at home! πŸ™‚

** And I now know not to pit myself against a professional photographer. I think he wins hands-down. If you need a photographer for your events, head over to Hearted Moments. πŸ˜€

When Your Grab Driver Asks YOU To Cancel The Ride

grab driver no show

On 31st January 2020, I was at Changi Airport Terminal 1 awaiting my Grab ride. The app’s pretty amazing in that it allows me to indicate exactly which Arrivals door I’m at, and in this case it was ’13’. We had to wait for a few minutes for the driver to arrive, and so did everyone else. Then, all of a sudden, the app indicates that my driver had ‘arrived’ but I was standing at Door 13, and there wasn’t a vehicle there. So where had he gone?! Then the driver calls and tells me he is not at Terminal 1. Instead, he’s at Terminal 3 (and I wonder why the hell he’s there, but I don’t ask). I ask him how much longer I’ll have to wait. And he says he might take another 5 minutes, but that I can cancel if I wish to. Somehow, I had this nagging feeling that he just wants me to cancel the ride, instead of him canceling it on his end even though he doesn’t want to come fetch me. So I cancel, and re-book, and wait a couple more minutes for another driver (who showed up, thankfully).

On the way home, of course, I send in feedback to Grab about this terrible driver who was irresponsible enough to (1) indicate via the app that he had arrived to pick me up, but actually was far away, (2) ask me to cancel instead of him canceling right at the start so I could have quickly made another booking, and (3) make me wait when all I wanted was to quickly get home to a hot shower!

And today, NINE days after sending feedback to Grab (not as a blogger, mind you, but as a Grab passenger), I get an email from Grab which states, among other things…

“After looking into your experience, we’ve found that your driver should have picked you up. As a corrective action, the driver has received a strike on record. We’ll continue to monitor and train your driver to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you or someone else again.

 

In view of this, we have credited SGD 3 into your GrabPay Credit Wallet as a gesture of apology.

 

We’re sorry about your frustrating experience and have taken your feedback seriously as an opportunity for Grab’s improvement.”

This is truly AWESOME.

I loved that the driver has gotten “a strike on record” so he’ll certainly think twice before doing the same to some other unsuspecting Grab passenger.

And, as an unexpected bonus, I get $3 credited into my GrabPay wallet – I’ve checked, and yes, it’s in.

So folks, the only reason I’m sharing this is so that YOU know you should do the right thing and report to Grab whenever a driver pulls a stunt like this. If he/she doesn’t want to fetch you after accepting the booking (whether the app does this automatically or not, I don’t care), then the driver should be the one canceling the ride. So we don’t have to wait and wait and wait for someone who doesn’t appear, and who then even has the cheek to indicate via the app that he has arrived when actually he’s far away.

I used to think that having private hire vehicles compete with taxis was such a great thing for us passengers. I no longer have to be chided by taxi drivers who have queued for many hours only to pick me up and find that I don’t stay far enough from the airport so they cannot earn a higher fare to warrant the time they’d spent in the taxi queue.

Unfortunately, nothing’s perfect though.

Even with Grab, which is a fabulous app as it is, there will still be drivers who will do unexpected things like what I experienced on 31st Jan. So, folks, please report them. Then treat yourself to a cup of bubble tea or something with the S$3 credit. πŸ˜‰

Sudio Fem Earphones Review + Sudio Discount Code 2020

I’m totally in love with Sudio’s Fem Earphones. Yes, they are completely wireless and it appears that the portable charging case has gotten even cuter! Don’t even get me started on how gorgeous the baby pink color is! And because we’re all wearing surgical masks now, especially at the airport, it is definitely more convenient to be using wireless earphones when you need to remove your mask when going through the immigration checks. This blogpost offers a review and, as usual, a discount code so you can get 15% off! And because it’s Chinese New Year (and Valentine’s Day is coming up soon), there’s also a special promotion whereby you can get any 2 sets of earphones at 25% off. There’s no better time to get your hands on Sudio earphones. πŸ™‚

If you don’t already know, the name ‘Sudio’ is a combination of “Swedish” and “audio”. And the products offer a minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic paired with outstanding sound quality. Available in black, white, blue and pink, the Fem earphones retail at $219.

And here’s what you need to know about the Fem:
20 hours of battery life, 6 hours in a single charge
Real Clear Voice: 4-microphones system
IPX5 – Splash, rain, sweat proof
Touch control
Individual automatic pairing (both earbuds connect directly to the phone)
Graphene driver for a great music experience
Siri & Google assistant compatible
Free worldwide shipping
18-month international warranty

It’s really great for phonecalls too. Amazing sound quality so you’ll probably never have to go “HELLO?! Sorry what did you just say? Can repeat?!” πŸ˜‚

~

I got back last Friday from my trip to Pekanbaru. Took the Sudio Fem Earphones along, of course:

sudio fem

Not our intention to mimic celebrities πŸ˜€ Haha! Just that the people seated around us were coughing badly and they were NOT wearing masks. Therefore we had no choice.

I LOVED using the earphones while on the plane. Got to listen to an audiobook I’d downloaded before the flight: ‘Unshakeable’ by Tony Robbins.

At home, I found that I had to keep my handphone close to me. If I were to walk to the service yard to take in my laundry, for instance, the distance between me / the earphones and my phone left charging in the living room would cause me to lose the sound altogether. Same thing happened if I were to head to the washroom. But that’s probably the only downside to these otherwise fabulous earphones.

Sudio Pouch CNY Packaging

Photo courtesy of Sudio

Here’s why you should get your Fem earphones right now: the CNY promotion! You’ll get a FREE special edition CNY gift packaging + crossbody pouch + buy any 2 earphones and get 25% off (15% from code + additional 10%).

The CNY Promo is valid all the way till 14th February 2020! Why 14th February? I guess it’s a hint to all you guys and girls out there that the Fem earphones would make the perfect Valentine’s Day gift! If you’ve already bought matching couple tees, rings, shoes, bags, phone covers, etc, and you’re quickly running out of ideas, well, get matching Fem earphones or any Sudio earphones for that matter! πŸ˜€ 25% off makes them quite a steal!

*Also, I think it would be a truly lovely idea if Sudio allows customers to customize their charging case, say, with name engraving. *wink wink* Perhaps this may be possible in the near future… I hope. πŸ˜€

Book your Fem earphones now before they are all sold out!

[ For 1 Pair] Get 15% OFF with discount code ‘workingwithgrace‘ at https://www.sudio.com/sg/

[ For 2 Pairs ] Get 25% OFF! (15% from code + additional 10%)

Pekanbaru Day 5: Breakfast at Novotel, Shopping at Mal Ciputra Seraya and 88 Plaza

novotel pekanbaru

Breakfast at Novotel Pekanbaru starts at 6am and lasts till 10am. I think it’s probably the lull season in January. We stepped into the restaurant at around 7am and there were just a few occupied tables. Novotel’s breakfast spread offers many kinds of porridge (chicken, pitan, etc) and rice. Of course, for the angmohs, there’s also toast, muffins and a cereal bar. I thoroughly enjoyed the beef and mushroom porridge and had two servings! πŸ˜€ I think there are only two things about Novotel Pekanbaru that I like: the location and their breakfast spread! πŸ˜€

novotel pekanbaru breakfast

lontong and beef+mushroom porridge

novotel pekanbaru review

novotel pekanbaru food

The lontong was a little overly salty but I loved everything else, especially that cute porcupine or anteater shaped pau. The cut fruits are stored in the chiller, making them easy to miss. The melon also seemed a tad unripe. As for the pineapple, if you know how to select the ripe bits, it tastes delightful! *burp*

~

Checkout takes a while at the Novotel so make sure you only book your ride after you are done. The front desk staff need to communicate with housekeeping staff above and then again and again before finally releasing the deposit. My three crisp 100,000rp notes which I’d handed over for the deposit were returned to me in the form of six old 50,000rp notes. Bummer.

For some reason, old (crumpled, creased, stained) notes are not phased out. And as tourists (obviously), you might often find yourself the recipient of old notes. But it is ok, just hand them to the driver for your next Grab ride. So far, no one has refused any old notes… unlike in Singapore – you know how our aunties are.

~

Since our flight was at 6.30pm, we decided to do some last-minute shopping before heading to the airport. That’s easy since Mal Ciputra Seraya is just next door.

And there’s always time for another LIANG sandwich:

liang sandwich bar pekanbaru

We went back to LIANG and found that they take really long to prepare your order. The lady before us had placed her order, gone into the cafe next door and started working on her laptop. I was impressed at how customers can order from LIANG and eat in Cinnamon & Coffee, after ordering a beverage of course.

The LIANG “sandwich” (which is more of like a prata than a crepe or sandwich) has scallions in it. So it is different from the plain ones we are able to buy frozen from supermarkets. Smart! This means we will still have a reason to visit LIANG’s outlets.

The Nyonya Spicy Chicken tasted just so-so. The previous one I had with mayo and mushrooms tasted a lot better.

Then we went shopping…

At the Polo Ralph Lauren shop, we found just one female staff seated on a stool near the changing rooms. No greeting. No recommendation. And interestingly enough, I found the top I had held up the day before and placed back down at an awkward angle was still there in the exact same awkward angle on the same pile. 🀣 Looks like no one bothered to fold the clothes properly even though customers would see them the minute they entered the store.

When my darling asked if a particular top came in a larger size, she replied with a simple “no”. She didn’t need to check, had no other styles that came in a larger size and that she’d recommend.

The good thing is she doesn’t do any selling. So you can take your time and look through everything on display. She really doesn’t care.

I’m not saying all sales staff are like that. There is one particular boutique next to a shop selling teddy bears whereby the staff stand outside the shop to invite customers to enter. We went past a couple of times and I had to avoid looking them in the eye.

~

We then took a different exit from Mal Ciputra Seraya and next, a very short walk to 88 Plaza. It’s like Sheng Siong. With slightly cheaper snacks. Masks were flying off the shelves there! We saw one shopping trolley with 5 or 6 boxes of masks. And there were more people picking up the last few boxes near the cashier. Apparently, the Indonesians are panicking just like us in Singapore.

After heading back to the hotel, repacking our luggage and chilling a bit in the lounge, we took aΒ Grab ride to the airport and it cost just 46K – cheaper than the ride from the airport! Along the way, we saw people peddlingΒ keropok once your vehicle stops at traffic junctions.

Here’s a lady who’d come right up to your vehicle to ask if you’d like to buy keropok:

pekanbaru traffic junction keropok seller

When we finally reached the airport, we located the Information Counter and confirmed that there’s no departure tax and we were free to spend all our remaining rupiah. πŸ˜€

We then found a cafe that looks quite popular and has an obvious plus: it disallows smoking. However, according to the sign at the entrance, they do not allow DATING COUPLES too. πŸ˜…

no dating couples in pekanbaru cafe

I’m really not sure if they are serious about this:

no dating couples pekanbaru airport

I turn to my darling and point out the sign and he immediately says we are not dating. 😎 OK. πŸ€ͺπŸ€ͺ So we sit and chat as if we are two serious business people. We’re totally not dating.

Food takes REALLY long to be served here. Like maybe the chef fell asleep halfway or they had to make the meatballs from scratch. Order only if you don’t mind waiting. If you have a plane to catch, A&W might be a better choice.

pekanbaru airport food

pekanbaru airport food review

And we DID go to A&W after that too! πŸ˜€ We were obviously trying to stuff ourselves silly before returning to Singapore:

pekanbaru airport A&W

My darling ordered the Deluxe Burger and it turned out to be one sad burger. How is this deluxe?

pekanbaru airport A&W review

~

Since there’s no departure tax, we spent just about all the remaining rupiah we had. Then we went to the check-in counter.

Note: After you have checked in your baggage and gotten your boarding pass, take the escalator up and look around as there is a departure lounge for domestic flights and one for international flights. The domestic one had a long queue. I spotted the sign for domestic and turned back in time to see the one for international flights which had no queue! We could have easily joined the queue for domestic flights, reached the front after much waiting and then found out we joined the wrong line. So please pay attention, ya?!

The boarding lounge has washroom facilities and it also has a water dispenser. Plus a booth selling snacks and drinks. So if you don’t wish to pay for pricey F&B items on the plane, you can get what you need here.

And that’s the end of my Pekanbaru travel series – nothing terribly exciting, just a relaxing trip for both of us.

Read, if you haven’t already done so:

Pekanbaru Day One

Pekanbaru Day Two

Pekanbaru Day Three

Pekanbaru Day Four

Pekanbaru Day 4: Novotel Pekanbaru, Willton Cafe & Resto, Wisata Alam Mayang, Mal SKA

novotel pekanbaru free masks

Masks provided at Novotel Pekanbaru. We only spotted this during check-in. The next day, the box had disappeared.

Day 4 in Pekanbaru was our second-last day in the city and yes, we were panicking a little because of the dwindling amounts of rupiah in our wallets. We did go a little crazy in Matahari and the hypermarts. And we had not visited the money changer since it was a little elusive plus we had thought that since we were not paying any tour agency for day tours, we should have enough to last the whole 5 days in Pekanbaru. That’s also when I wondered if there is a departure tax at the Pekanbaru airport. There are exit taxes for other Indonesian cities, right? I can’t recall if it’s Batam or Bali or even both of these. But as I found out on Day 5, thankfully, there is no departure tax. All taxes should have been included in your flight ticket price already. *phew*

And Novotel did not impress me with what seemed like its over-emphasis on $$$. Guest comfort appeared to be rather low on their list of priorities. The first thing they requested was a deposit of 300,000rp and it was payable using cash or card. We didn’t want to hand over our cards for safety reasons. And 300K was a lot when we had been spending over our *ahem* budget. We asked if we could provide Singapore Dollars instead, and no, it was NOT accepted. So fine. I hand over 3 crisp 100,000 notes, fully expecting them to keep it in an envelope with my name on it and then return it to me upon checkout. That was wishful thinking on my part, I found.

Also, the hotel doesn’t offer currency exchange services. Alright, I guess I can still accept that. Then we were reminded that there was to be no durian or smoking within the room, or actually within various other areas in the hotel too, or else there would be a 1 million rupiah fine. And if you happen to lose your room card, please pay 50,000rp. And after that checklist of fines, the receptionist even forgot to return my passport. I wonder how that even happens! Thankfully, I was unfazed by their various fines (hello, we are from the ‘fine’ city called Singapore) and was just standing there waiting for her to stop talking and return me my passport.

By the way, breakfast at Novotel Pekanbaru is from 6am to 10am, at level 3. Make sure you’ve gotten your breakfast voucher during check-in. I’m not sure if there’ll be a fine if you lose it or forgot to claim one and then they say you’ve lost the slip. (@_@)

We stayed in Room 1202 at Novotel. At our previous hotel (Fox Harris), our room was 714, but the view was decidedly better there.

twin room novotel pekanbaru

I’m not sure if this view is even worth mentioning…

novotel pekanbaru review

But I have to say that Novotel Pekanbaru, or at least room 1202 that we were allocated, has the WORST bathroom design I have EVER seen. You can shower in FULL VIEW of your room mate.

novotel pekanbaru room

Sure, you can pull down the blinds so the person in bed won’t be able to see you shower on this side. But if he/she is going to the toilet on the other side, there are no blinds on the other side so the person is STILL going to see you naked. It’s awkward whether you are dating, married, parent-and-child, siblings or even best friends. I’m not THAT open. And the last I checked, I have no apparent exhibitionist streak too.

So I had to issue various threats to my darling to not use the toilet while I was taking my shower. (@_@) I don’t even know why there has to be glass. It’s not even a freaking bathtub where I can soak in the bubbles while watching TV through the glass. It’s a standing shower, for goodness sake! Haiz.

Anyway, the hotel seems to be a nice place to have wedding events and all.

novotel pekanbaru wedding

Interestingly, they don’t have level 4, 13 and 14. So perhaps this hotel is not REALLY 18+ storeys high. πŸ˜€ I didn’t know they are so pantang / superstitious. I’m perfectly OK with staying on level 4. πŸ˜€

novotel pekanbaru hotel lift

And apart from the fines and my passport not returned to me till prompted,Β we also had to request for another toothbrush as the hotel provided just one toothbrush for a twin room. (@_@) I mean, my darling and I are close but not close enough to share toothbrushes. Assuming they didn’t mean to have us compromise on oral hygiene, and had purely forgotten to include two sets, then I have to say they aren’t paying much attention to detail, eh? That said, their toiletries are more-than-decent. Would take home a set if we had stayed for more than 1 night. Haha!

novotel pekanbaru toiletries

Novotel is located just across the road from Fox Harris but appears to be entirely different from its neighbor. For one, there’s a metal detector / scanner at the entrance to Novotel, together with a security officer. The interior is posh. And they are worlds apart in terms of the way guests are treated. At Fox, it is like you are among friends. I would stay at Fox Harris again in a heartbeat.

After checking into Novotel, we walked over to Mal Ciputra Seraya which is just next door and had a meal atΒ Willton Cafe and Resto. We also tried to sit as far away from the eatery’s smoking corner as was possible. 😣

willton cafe and resto pekanbaru

willton cafe and resto review

Willton has SG laksa, prata, etc, but I randomly ordered something called Tongseng Ayam + Nasi without even knowing what ‘tongseng’ is. And now Google tells me “Tongseng is an Indonesian goat meat, mutton or beef stew dish in curry-like soup with vegetables and kecap manis.” No wonder it was so tasty.Β His main was some chopped chicken with rice and egg, and that was delicious as well. It can be said that the food at Willton is not too salty. In fact, it’s seasoned just right. No wonder their tagline is “We’re Better”.

We returned to our hotel room after lunch and found that guests cannot even request for more mineral water bottles. Each room gets a maximum of 2 bottles. πŸ™„ So it appeared to us that this hotel is more expensive than Fox but Fox is way sweeter to guests. I think we got an additional 4 bottles there. Housekeeping staff at Fox are really sweet. Anyway, yes I know I know, save the earth by using less plastic, right? We found that there are water dispensers in the gym both at Fox Harris and at Novotel, so any time we needed water, we could fill our water bottles at the gym. Anyway, they are deserted most of the time.

Need water? Go to the gym!

novotel pekanbaru gym

You can see the pool from the gym. It looks rather small and people dining in the restaurant should be able to see you in your bikini. I do prefer Fox Harris’ indoor infinity pool. Sorry, this comparison is inevitable since they are located just across the road from each other and we stayed at both hotels during this trip. XD

novotel pekanbaru gym and pool

Nobody uses the gym in Pekanbaru’s hotels, it seems.

novotel pekanbaru gym

My darling wanted to go fishing so we Google-d and found this place calledΒ Wisata Alam Mayang. Our Grab driver was surprised we knew about this place and asked us how we found out about this spot which usually only has locals visiting.

wisata alam mayang

wisata alam mayang fish

wisata alam mayang plastic trash

wisata alam mayang fishing

wisata alam mayang entrance fee

wisata alam mayang haunted house

Cheeky schoolkid in the ticketing booth. The blue building nearby is supposed to be a haunted house attraction but it appeared to be shut that day and so kids took over the booth. πŸ˜€

wisata alam mayang picture

wisata alam mayang photography

On the way here, our Grab driver was coughing badly but he had a mask on. The aircon seemed to be blowing out hot air only too. Our usually short Grab trips are fine. But this longest one has to be entirely different.Β Murphy’s Law, I guess. It took about half an hour to reach this place. And we each had to pay a 20,000rp entrance fee.

Our driver said there are many people here on Saturdays and on Mondays. It was really hot to be out and about, really. So bring an umbrella when you visit. We also managed to board a rickety tram after much walking. And as it went round the park, we heard some kids talking:

Kid: “WATERRR PARKKK!”

Him: “Did he just say What The F*ck?”

Me: “No. Water park. He said water park.”

And unfortunately, it seems like there is no paid fishing available here. You bring your own rod, pick a spot and wait for a catch. We spotted only two guys fishing but there were kids everywhere. I suppose all these schoolchildren were sent here on a Thursday afternoon after school for an excursion?

There’s no particular theme to this park – it has swan boats you can peddle over the pond, a haunted house and other “attractions”, a horse stable, etc. It’s not the Botanical Gardens even though there’s a lot of green. It’s not a fishing spot per se as there weren’t many people fishing and it didn’t look like you could pay for a rod and bait – you have to bring your own. And it’s no amusement park either. It’s like a mish-mash of so many different things. And we probably went at the wrong time.

I was rather surprised to see a man throwing slices of bread to the fish then dumping the plastic wrap into the same body of water the fish are in. It appears that many of the locals don’t bag their refuse and certainly do not think twice about littering. MAYBE there aren’t enough rubbish bins. I’m not sure.

And when I went to the restroom, I found it to be kid-sized. Also, the guy sitting outside seemed to be collecting 2,000rp ( I think ) per restroom user. Most people didn’t pay but as a foreigner, I simply handed over the money and went in.

My darling also commented on how there’s a 20,000rp charge to enter the park itself. I said “Imagine what it’ll be like without the fee.” If the place can be spruced up properly, I think even a 50,000rp charge would be well worth it. It’s a pity how there’s so much land and so much potential for this place to be an area where kids and families can have a truly lovely recreational and picnic spot. But it’s all marred by the trash.

We walked to the entrance ourselves when we were ready to leave and on the way there, my handphone picks up a signal. Finally, I can book a Grab ride! Hallelujah! πŸ˜€ (As mentioned in earlier posts, TPG’s not that awesome in Indonesia or, at least, in Pekanbaru) We then booked a Grab ride to Mal SKA. The guy at the ticketing booth helped communicate with our Grab driver and told him we are at the ‘ticket pos’. The vehicle turned out to have a totally different licence plate. Seems like this is very common in Pekanbaru: (1) The drivers will call you upon confirming your booking and (2) The car licence plate will not match what your Grab app tells you. I’m not sure how this is even secure. If I indicate via the app that there’s an Emergency during my ride and I need help, the authorities won’t even be able to locate the right vehicle using the licence plate number registered with Grab!

Anyway, nothing untoward happened. And I learnt that it is useful to have an Indonesian next to you, such as a security officer, as Grab drivers often call to ask where you are… in Indonesian. Can’t answer? Pass the phone to someone unlikely to run away with it e.g. security guard, ticketing officer, policeman.

And oh! Do bring insect repellent if you are heading to Wisata Alam Mayang! There were many mosquitoes, a few of which even followed us into the car! But I guess it was imperative that we made the trip as we are unlikely to return to Pekanbaru.

As an aside, durians were in season when we visited in late-January 2020. But the fruit I had the most of was the avocado. In Pekanbaru, sometimes you’ll find ‘avocado’ spelled as ‘Alpukat’ and sometimes as ‘Apulkat’. I believe they refer to the same fruit.

At Mal SKA, we went to the cinema!

Mal SKA cinema

We watched Ip Man 4 at the cinema and paid just 35,000 for each ticket. That’s very cheap at about $3.50! If we’d selected a Premiere movie / seat, it would cost 60k which is still really inexpensive compared to watching a movie in Singapore.

The movie really hit home. It’s hard to imagine the racism that minority races face in America until you see it on the big screen like this. And indeed, the grass is not always greener on the other side.

We also found that quite a number of people were wearing masks. Even the cashier at Mr DIY was wearing one as he was coughing. And they sell masks too so I guess he has no excuse not to be wearing one when he is ill. We bought what we call our ‘zao lor bag’, a canvas tote for containing our purchases and it cost more than S$5. But we had no choice – we did too much shopping and couldn’t possibly check in plastic bags full of our purchases at the airport. πŸ˜€

Then we had dinner at Solaria after his haircut…

solaria pekanbaru

solaria pekanbaru review

solaria pekanbaru menu

The Juice Alpukat was blended just right and the food was a lot better than I had expected. Solaria has many outlets and you can find one in just about every mall you go to. At this particular one, we had to pay at the cashier counter before the food would be prepared and served. I’m not sure if the other outlets allow you to eat first and pay later.

Interestingly, there is a hypermart at SKA’s basement and to access it, assuming the lift isn’t working again, you need to locate that escalator going downwards. And it is (almost hidden) behind Biggby Coffee. We actually had to check with the Information Counter to find out how to get downstairs to the basement. (@_@) The snacks and drinks sold in the hypermart are cheap as well so it’s worth looking for the escalator and then heading down to the basement.

And we found some Transformers outside H&M:

hnm pekanbaru

Reminds me of the Bumblebee that sometimes shows up outside Waterway Point

As for our Grab ride back to the hotel, it cost all of 24,000rp. The driver didn’t know where to find me and he called and said Starbucks. So I sent him a picture of the location I was at and he managed to find us! πŸ˜€ So if all else fails in a country where you have an obvious language barrier with the locals, just send a picture via the Grab chat and the driver will come looking for you. πŸ˜€

~

Read on for:

Day One in Pekanbaru

Day Two in Pekanbaru

Day Three in Pekanbaru

Pekanbaru Day 3: Pekanbaru’s Grand Mosque Masjid An Nur, Vanhollano, Mall Pekanbaru, Senapelan Plaza, Harmoni Massage, Sushi Tei Pekanbaru

masjid an nur pekanbaru

Day 3 of our Pekanbaru holiday has to be my favorite. πŸ˜€ We started off the day with a visit to Masjid An Nur or the Grand Mosque in Pekanbaru. You may not be able to tell from the picture but the sky was overcast that day and there was a fine drizzle. The Grab driver just randomly picked a spot to let us alight and we walked towards this fountain (?) area that I’ve seen in many pictures online. Here, there were already 5 people (2 ladies and 3 men) getting ready to take some pictures here. I saw the ladies looking in our direction so I figured they were thinking of asking us for help to take their group picture. So, much to their delight, I volunteered and snapped a few pictures for them. One lady returned the favor and helped us take a Polaroid shot that I truly love (but shall not share here). πŸ˜€ The Grab fare from Fox Harris Hotel to Masjid An Nur was just 21,000rp. So I didn’t regret coming here just for a photo and then leaving. We did not explore the mosque as (1) I’m not sure if they welcome tourists and (2) While I was covered from head to toe, my darling was wearing bermudas and sandals.

And then we decided to be gungho about exploring the vicinity and walk in the direction of Mal Pekanbaru as we’d spotted it during the Grab ride to the mosque. And just as we were going past the shopfront of a boutique, some people from inside the shop chased this monitor lizard (?) out of the shop… and right at us. I freaked out and hopped out of the way. The creature was thrashing about wildly. And I’m just glad it did not launch itself at me or chase me out onto the road! XD

pekanbaru boutique monitor lizard

The staff quickly shut the door as the lizard just thrashed about wildly outside, desperately trying to get back in. I’m not sure why. Is its mate in there or what?

To calm our nerves a little, we stepped into the Vanhollano bakery. On the ground floor, they sell pastries and on the second level is their cafe where you can order mains and/or drinks.

There was a Buy-5-Get-1-Free promo… so we ended up with 6 buns:

pekanbaru vanhollano bakery

vanhollano review

It cost us a total of 57,000rp, so it’s not exactly cheap – probably similar in price to many bakeries in Singapore. Of all the buns, I found that the white one (the cheapest too) was the best – it’s soft, fluffy and full of chocolatey goodness within.

At the cafe upstairs, we ordered coffee and an iced lime beverage. Good place to chill and eat some buns too.

We found that Mal Pekanbaru reminded us of Sim Lim Square in Singapore. For instance, the whole of level two seems to be made up of small shops selling handphones.

Outside, we spotted this cute kiosk called Jelly Potter:

jelly potter pekanbaru

There is another shopping centre called Senapelan Plaza right next to Mal Pekanbaru but I do not recommend you visit unless you don’t mind being greeted by cigarette smoke the minute you enter the Plaza. Even the arcade there is full of smoke. This is one thing I love about Singapore: no smoking in malls. In Malaysia and Indonesia, it is sometimes inevitable that you’ll be in a mall and then encounter this annoying cloud of cigarette smoke that you can barely escape as the air-conditioning and closed doors keeps it in.

So we went back to Mal Pekanbaru for lunch as we had found that there is this attractive eatery called Kedai Oma on level 3. The place was PACKED when we returned at about 1230pm. Best to head here early for lunch as it’s popular though situated at the topmost level. <- Clear indicator that the food is very good here.

kedai oma mal pekanbaru

I just keep ordering avocado juice wherever I go because it is so much cheaper in Indonesia:

kedai oma mal pekanbaru review

Jus Apulkat 22,000rp

kedai oma mal pekanbaru menu

As my darling was feeling under the weather, it was porridge for him and fried noodles with seafood for me. πŸ˜€

kedai oma mal pekanbaru price

It’s truly better than your average fried kway teow. And despite my eating the noodles first then tasting the porridge (which I had expected would taste bland), I found that the porridge was pretty good too! Make sure you visit Kedai Oma when you head to Mal Pekanbaru. You won’t regret it. πŸ˜‰

After the meal, we felt like heading back to the hotel to check out the Infinity Pool which we went to on Day One but found a large group of guests there (so we did not have a swim). Unfortunately, TPG failed me in this mall and I could not get a signal so I could not book a Grab ride. We went into Grand Jatra Hotel next door and asked for their wifi password so we could book Grab. A lady called Ayu was so helpful – took my phone and did the necessary. Our Grab car came within mere minutes. πŸ™‚

*Grand Jatra Hotel is right next to Mal Pekanbaru. Great place to stay, I’d guess!

That’s one thing to love about Indonesians. They aren’t stingy with their wifi connections. I suspect staff in SG hotels would simply say their wifi is for hotel guests only. Come on! I might just stay at Grand Jatra Hotel next time! Or… I’ll blog about it and recommend that people stay there! πŸ˜€

Traveling really makes you learn give-and-take. This country is generous with wifi and it also has smokers smoking within malls. Just have to accept it if you are traveling here.

As an aside, we saw a lot of stray cats but I have yet to see a pretty or well-fed stray in Pekanbaru. In Singapore, it is not uncommon to see community cats which look like someone takes good care of them. In Pekanbaru, cats roam the streets even during the daytime and they all look so skinny.

Back at Fox Harris Hotel, we headed to the Infinity Pool at level 15 and we got lucky! No one else was using the pool. We had the whole place to ourselves.

fox harris hotel infinity pool

fox harris hotel infinity pool lounge

And after a reinvigorating swim, we made our way to Harmoni Massage, a foot reflexology place we often spotted while taking Grab rides.

harmoni massage near fox harris hotel

harmoni massage pekanbaru prices

 

harmoni massage review

It was a short walk from our hotel to Harmoni for the foot reflexology session – 60mins foot massage for me and 90mins foot & back massage for him. They gave us baggy shorts to change into. And we also had TV screens positioned near the ceiling across from us to keep us entertained in the Couples room. You can choose to have either aΒ  male or female massage you. I picked a lady, of course, and he went with a guy. However, that skinny young man had quite a lot of strength so my darling instantly regretted his choice.

We tipped them both and I must say I’m not sure if I gave enough. Mine was a 75,000rp foot massage and I think I gave the lady a 20,000rp tip. Is that sufficient? I don’t know. I found her a little distracted, and she also left the room midway without any explanation. So ya.

We then took a Grab ride to Sushi Tei, which has a standalone building. Argh! I should have taken a picture of the building – I forgot! Anyway, here’s one I found online on Tripadvisor. It really looks gorgeous at night though:

Pic Credit: Tripadvisor.com

I believe there might be a campus next door. And I used the STPKU wifi since there’s no password required. XD

Snapped a quick photo on the way into Sushi Tei:

sushi tei pekanbaru

When we reached the restaurant around 5.50pm, it was still rather empty. The dinner crowd had yet to descend upon the place. So we got ourselves a comfy booth that probably could seat 6 to 8 people instead of just the 2 of us.

Since there weren’t many diners yet, I didn’t feel comfortable getting sushi off the conveyor belt as who knows how long it’s been sitting on the belt?

We ordered these instead:

sushi tei menu

Crunchy Lobster Roll

sushi tei pekanbaru review

Salmon Chasoba

sushi tei review

Salmon Oyako Roll

sushi tei pekanbaru drinks

Sushi Tei Ooki Mango Tea

sushi tei pekanbaru price

Sushi Tei Rainbow Roll

sushi tei pekanbaru rainbow roll

Rainbow Roll

It’s best to pop by early to allow yourself some time to browse through their EXTENSIVE menu. And if you’re the easily-hangry sort (*ahem* like me), don’t bring indecisive friends to dine here – they’ll take forever to decide what they want to order as there are just TOO MANY pages in the menu!

We ordered the pitcher of Ooki Mango Tea, which turned out to be delicious and so refreshing. It also offered great value-for-money as it gave us 4 glasses of tea and cost just 49,000rp before taxes.

They were out of the Dynamite Roll so we got ourselves the Crunchy Lobster Roll instead. As for the Rainbow Roll, they were out of avocado so they gave us cucumber as a replacement. As we have come to realise, in Pekanbaru, you have to be flexible ‘cos what you want may not always be readily available, unlike in Singapore (unless it is CNY).

sushi tei pekanbaru prices

We even received three Sushi Tei candies with our change. And I gave one to our Grab driver. πŸ˜€ Getting back to our hotel via Grab was pretty cheap at just 15,000rp or S$1.50.

If you do the sums, you’ll find we spent just S$20+ each for dinner at Sushi Tei. It’s actually really cheap. I wish we’d planned to have dinner here every single night. My goodness! πŸ˜€ We can have local food for breakfast and lunch, then have a sushi feast every night. My kind of food heaven. But alas! I doubt we’ll be back in Pekanbaru any time soon, as it’s really not as exciting as many sponsored posts try to make it seem. As my darling would say, there are lots of other places we have yet to visit so why return to a place you’ve already been to?

Hmm, but there’s still Day 4 and 5 to blog about. So stay tuned.

~

Day One in Pekanbaru

Day Two in Pekanbaru

Pekanbaru Day 2: SKA Mall, Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks’ Tokidoki Tote, Living World Mall, Transmart Carrefour

mal ska pekanbaru

Mal SKA’s ‘SKA’ appears to be pronounced ‘es-ka’ instead of ‘ska’ or ‘S-K-A’. But if you’re booking a Grab ride, it won’t matter since you won’t have to pronounce the name or give directions.Β Found Shihlin here and got the tote bag in my preferred design! Woohoo! Paid 100,000rp for XXL Crispy Chicken (very dry) and a Tokidoki tote. By right, for 90,000rp I should be able to get a tote, Teriyaki / Spicy & Cheese Popcorn Chicken Bowl and a bottle of mineral water. But according to the staff, this wasn’t available then. Maybe because it is was not even 11am yet? πŸ€”

mal ska shihlin taiwan street snacks

shihlin taiwan street snacks tokidoki tote

The Shihlin chicken was SO dry… and spicy. We then ordered a Sparkling Mango Tea from ‘go mango’. It was so-so. At LIANG sandwich bar, I wanted the nyonya spicy chicken and was told it was sold out. I wanted to get their lychee tea too and it was similarly also sold out. It was only 11.15am on a Tuesday. I guess that’s Pekanbaru, or Indonesia, for you. They are very, very chill. So, as a tourist, you have to behave the same way. If something you want is not available today, just come back tomorrow. It’ll likely be ready then.

go mango ska mall

liang sandwich bar mal ska

I also found that one of their recycling bins looked rather odd – it says Plastic on top but Paper below:

Mal SKA is pretty impressive: there’s an archery venue, trampoline park and ice skating rink in this mall. So safe to say… it’s pretty big. Folks with kids would surely enjoy spending time here.

waqqash archery ska mall

ice skating rink ska mall

Those excavators are huge – I don’t even think they are kid size. This shows you just how much space / land there is in Indonesia and in the malls in Pekanbaru. (@_@)

And we visited Matahari once again and ended up with more of their coupons to use.

For folks who are constantly hangry:

Across the road from SKA mall are two other malls: Living World and Transmart Carrefour. I think it is possible to spend a whole day just exploring these 3 malls even if you don’t have kids.

We had lunch at Ichiban Sushi.

ichiban sushi pekanbaru

Salmon Teppanyaki: the vegetables are a little overly salty but the fish tastes good.

pekanbaru ichiban sushi review

As for the Beef Teriyaki Bento Set, the gyoza’s not the best but the beef’s decent – probably stewed in a sweet sauce. One thing you’ll notice is that Pekanbaru has a very young workforce. Almost all the staff in the malls are young people. It’s nearly impossible to find seniors working as retail or F&B staff.

Found a KOI outlet here and bought a cup for a taste of home πŸ˜€

KOI here has the exact same taste as in SG. However, their largest cup appears to be our ‘M’ sized one in SG thus it seems to be pricier here actually. (@_@)

And if you go overboard with your shopping, please note that there are no money changers within the malls. In fact, when I asked for a money changer, I got directed to Sudirman street – there’s a Kirana Baru Money Changer there. Even the banks located in malls will not take your Singapore dollars.

My darling had coffee at Kim Teng (which is SO popular in Pekanbaru, just like YaKun is in Singapore). He found their coffee very sweet…

And the most interesting bit about Mal SKA? This sign! Apparently, you’re not allowed to bring guns into the mall. I’m sure people with weapons will most certainly think twice about bringing them into the mall upon seeing this sign, ya? πŸ˜‰

~ Living World ~

living world pekanbaru

There’s also an archery venue here. I didn’t think the Indonesians were so interested in archery. Hmm.

Head to the supermarket for cheap and good avocado juice:

Living World is a larger and newer mall, compared to Mal SKA. There is a “foodcourt” with plush seats. But we actually found few people out and about. There were more staff than customers in most of the shops we visited.

Likewise, we found it impossible to get our money changed to the local currency in this mall. We would have to visit the moneychanger near Mal Pekanbaru as there are none at SKA, Transmart and Living World! πŸ˜… I guess there aren’t many tourists here. Also, English is not widely spoken nor understood here. And in some eateries, the menus are exclusively in Bahasa Indonesia. But it helps that being from Singapore, we know our nasi putih, mie goreng, etc.

My darling read somewhere that Pekanbaru is the cleanest city in Indonesia. But we couldn’t help noticing that there’s still a lot of rubbish strewn about the city. Not too far from the main road was this ‘dumping site’ with lots of trash and chickens going through that rubbish heap…

We also had to cross potholes and muddy places to get to Transmart Carrefour…

Inside the mall, it was a world of difference, of course. Found the supermarket looking gorgeous. And it even had its own hydroponics setup, from the Pekanbaru GreenFarm. Wished I could have gotten these veggies and prepared a meal with them! πŸ˜€

pekanbaru green farm

And I also found this quite hilarious-looking CNY display for *erm* bathroom attire?

And the cartons are stacked so high and in such a manner that I wanted to play life-size Jenga:

There’s also a truly impressive arcade at level 3. Take the lift to get from G to 3. There’s even an indoor rollercoaster – likely for kids. I wouldn’t dare to take the ride anyway.

The foodcourt looks miserable – like the last customer they served was from a week ago. And the female staff manning the bumper car ride was going round and round in a bumper car herself. I hope she doesn’t drive herself crazy going round in circles. (@_@)

After the obligatory tourist shots at the photowalls, we headed downstairs to the entrance where there is a Wendy’s outlet. For just over S$2, we got a baked potato with bolognese sauce plus a Coke!

And for S$2.30, I got beef spaghetti + small fries and a coke for takeaway (including a takeaway charge of 909rp).

My darling got takeaway from Abah Burger which, surprisingly, tasted pretty good! But eating too much keropok gave him a sore throat soon enough.

By the way, if you are wondering, I used my TPG sim card in Pekanbaru. Data roaming works here but since it is a FREE service from TPG, don’t expect it to be awesome. For instance, in one part of the mall, the reception is great, and in another part of the same mall, there can be zero reception.

We spent an entire day exploring the three malls then took a 22,000rp Grab ride from Transmart back to FOX Harris hotel. Who knew that shopping (and eating) could take up so much time?!

~

Once again, if you want to find a money changer in Pekanbaru, you can look for the one called ‘Kirana Money Changer’ that is near Mall Pekanbaru. We actually haven’t been there ourselves. We decided to pay with a credit card in places that accepted it, and with cash for Grab rides and others. Thus, we were able to have a 5-day holiday in Pekanbaru without having to exchange more Sing Dollars for Rupiah. And oh, assuming you really need a money changer, the street it is located at is called Jenderal Sudirman. Just Google Kirana Money Changer and you should be able to find the required details.

We’d initially thought that we’ll visit a money changer in Pekanbaru (perhaps get a better exchange rate) and then book a day tour or something. We do travel pretty much free-and-easy and make up the itinerary on the go. But there was no day tour. Even our hotel did not offer or know of one. Fox Harris hotel does, however, offer a private car service at 200,000rp for the first hour. It can take you anywhere you’d like. But I suppose a Grabcar would be more convenient… and cheaper?

And I do highly recommend staying at Fox Harris Hotel. Our room had a rain shower, a safe, and evenΒ bedside reading lights though it must be said that his worked (and got rather hot after a while) but mine totally did not light up. πŸ˜€

~

Read about Day One in Pekanbaru here.

Pekanbaru Day 1: Airport, Mall Ciputra Seraya, Grab Rides, FOX Hotel Pekanbaru

sultan syarif kasim II international airport pekanbaru

Pekanbaru’s airport – Sultan Syarif Kasim International Airport – is a really compact one. After exiting the Scoot plane upon landing, we took a few steps and could then see the queue to get our passports stamped. πŸ˜… The leftmost queue was for Indonesian passports while the other two were for foreigners. So make sure you join the right queue! And awaiting us downstairs, after clearing all the immigrations checks, was A&W! (Head down the escalator and you’ll see it behind you) *By the way, if you need help with your luggage, there’s a porter service at 10,000rp per piece of luggage. πŸ˜‰

If you’re wondering why we picked Pekanbaru, which is a relatively ‘unknown’ place to us Singaporeans, well, I read some sponsored articles about Pekanbaru and mistakenly thought that it’s quite the happening spot for a holiday. But it’s not really the case. We did not encounter a single PRC Chinese person in Pekanbaru so you can probably tell how ‘popular’ it is as a travel destination. Not a bad thing, actually, considering the fears of the Wuhan virus which has been spreading across the globe.

Photo taken while waiting for our Mango Chicken Pocket which turned out to be a disappointment:

A&W pekanbaru airport

The chicken’s puny. But the curly fries are top-notch and the ‘Perkedel’ were delicious, packed with mashed potato, corn and spring onions. At 13,000rp per piece, the perkedel don’t come cheap but are well worth the pricetag. I really should have brought some back to Singapore since the flight time’s only about an hour! πŸ˜› (We spent some 153,000rp here so I wouldn’t say dining at A&W at the airport is cheap, ya?)

We then purchased a 1.5litre bottle of AQUA water from the convenience store and it cost 11500rp. Could be much cheaper elsewhere but we were thirsty!

We also wanted to get a SIM card BUT strangely enough, I asked a few vendors and couldn’t find one selling a SIM card at the airport! However, there’s free wifi in the airport, and I had my TPG sim card which offered free data in Indonesia. *TPG’s coverage in Pekanbaru during my stay was spotty at best so I couldn’t always rely on it.

On the way to the Mal Ciputra Seraya…

The traffic police might miss you if your vehicle’s ‘camouflaged’ like this. πŸ˜€

*Malls are spelled ‘mal’ in Pekanbaru. So instead of it being the Ciputra Seraya Mall, it is Mal Ciputra Seraya.

The Grab ride from the airport to Mal Ciputra Seraya cost rp87,000. I was not expecting the vehicle to be a blue cab. We boarded the cab at about 1.30pm and reached the shopping mall at 1.52pm. To my surprise (and a bit of annoyance), the cabbie asked for an additional 5000rp for the ‘tiket’. Had to dig it out of my purse for him. πŸ˜‘ Had already prepared 87,000rp exact so I wasn’t expecting to pay any more. But since 5000rp is 50 cents in Singapore, there was no point questioning him – just pay lor.

*And when we were heading back to Singapore, the Grab driver who took us to the airport also asked for 5,000rp for the tiket. (@_@) So my guess is they’ll ask for money from the guest they drop off at the airport and also the one they pick up from the airport, and pocket 5,000rp.

CFC pekanbaru

Mal Ciputra Seraya is quite something. Saw a CFC outlet (yup, not KFC, though there’s ALSO a KFC outlet) and the Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks outlet was offering Tokidoki totes with selected menu items! The design I wanted was out-of-stock though. So I didn’t want to settle for second-best.

shihlin taiwan street snacks pekanbarupolo ralph lauren pekanbaru

sour sally pekanbaru

chatime pekanbaru

boboutea pekanbarucalais pekanbaruMatahari department store, Mal Ciputra Seraya

The Matahari department store also had some CNY promo going on. We found Disney items at ‘Buy-1-Get-2-Free‘. Insane! We bought fast charging cables. And then found there were discount coupons attached to the long receipt. One of them was for 50,000rp off our next 100,000rp purchase. Needless to say, we went for another round of shopping, hoping the next receipt won’t have more coupons or else this will never end. πŸ˜…

Bought toothpaste at Guardian as it was SO cheap:

guardian toothpaste pekanbaru

fox harris lounge

The lounge area of Fox Hotel Pekanbaru or Fox Harris

fox hotel pekanbaru review

Apparently, there’s no need for travel adaptors in Pekanbaru. The hotels are usually designed in a thoughtful manner:

pekanbaru power outlets

fox harris hotel spa

The main reason you have to stay at Fox Harris is for the view from the infinity pool πŸ˜€

fox harris infinity pool

It’s also an indoor pool so you can swim when it’s raining outside, I guess. But even with good weather, the water’s also really cold. So try not to dive into the pool, ok? πŸ˜‰

And the gym’s forever empty. If you’re a fitness fanatic, you’ll LOVE this hotel:

fox harris gym

View from our room – 714:

fox harris hotel room

I didn’t check my email so I didn’t know our Agoda reservation had been cancelled without our knowledge. πŸ˜… Anyway, we got a better deal booking a room at the hotel itself at 396000rp per night. That’s about S$40 so it’s really quite affordable. We didn’t opt for the hotel breakfast though, thinking we’ll find better food elsewhere.

Since Mal Ciputra Seraya is just across the road, we went back there in the evening. And we picked a bakso place for dinner:

bakso pekanbaru

You can never go wrong with bakso in Indonesia, really:

bakso lapangan

bakso lapangan review

bakso lapangan pekanbaru

bakso lapangan food

The Bakso Penyet Kom (34,090) is really good. That sambal has oomph! The bakso’s delicious, of course, thought that hotplate kangkung with beef has too much salt. Make sure you eat it with rice or else it can be overwhelming. πŸ˜‰

We’d spotted a Celine Dorayaki stall at the airport but didn’t buy anything from them. So when we saw yet another Celine Dorayaki stall at this mall, I bought a Belgian Choc dorayaki. Unfortunately, it didn’t taste very good so our first purchase was also our last.

celine dorayaki pekanbaru

And something happened at this other food stall – Verina Risoles – that I’ll probably remember for quite a long time.

verina risoles pekanbaru

We ordered this ‘risole’ without actually knowing what it is. But since there’s a queue here, we thought it must be good. According to food.com, a risole is “a small croquette, enclosed in pastry or rolled in breadcrumbs, usually baked or deep fried.” At Verina Risoles, it’s served with small green chilis.

verina risoles pekanbaru price

My darling said that this should probably be eaten the same way we eat vadai. It didn’t cross my mind that this small green chili can pack a punch. I ate it with our Prawn Risole and at first it tasted OK, then when the spiciness kicked in, my tongue felt like it had been set on fire, my eyes were tearing and even my eardrums were hurting (I don’t even know why!) Water did not, and does not, help, of course. So I made my way to the hypermart to purchase some milk. By the time I’d paid for the chocolate milk, the ‘fire’ in my mouth had been extinguished somewhat. My goodness! Do NOT eat the green chili! EVER! However, the risoles are good. I just wish this wasn’t the only time we saw the risoles freshly prepared. At other malls / outlets, the risoles looked like they had been sitting there for a while already so we didn’t feel tempted to purchase any.

~

And here’s the interesting thing: Across the road from Mal Ciputra Seraya was our hotel – FOX Hotel. And this road, however, is not an easy one to cross. So on our first day in Pekanbaru, one security officer actually assisted us in crossing the road THREE times. The first time was before we checked into the hotel (we’d gone straight to the mall from the airport, remember?) and we had to cross the road to get to Fox Harris. Then a second time when we went back to the mall for dinner. And finally, the third time (it was even drizzling then) when we returned to our hotel. Because Pradana was SO helpful, so friendly and displayed such initiative, I thought I had to go beyond just thanking him. I bought him a J.Co donut from the mall. Saw his eyes light up when I handed him the sweet treat. πŸ™‚ Sadly, that was the last time we spotted him on duty. For the next few days, we met other security officers who were less friendly and less proactive. So no more donuts.

Wear A Mask Even If You Are Well

Yes, wear a mask even if you are well. I’m not saying this to be difficult. I’m saying this as someone who stood behind a person sneezing yesterday and got water droplets all over both feet as the ‘sneezer’ had directed his erm bodily fluids towards the ground and somehow the wind carried the ‘spray’ to me. I was wearing flip flops so I most certainly felt those droplets. (@_@) If he had been walking towards me, perhaps those droplets would have landed on my face and/or torso. The ick factor aside, the main reason us who are well shouldΒ wear masks is because, very often, the people who are ill, don’t! If you wear shoes to protect your feet from cuts and scrapes and blisters, and jackets to protect your body in cold environments, why shouldn’t you wear a face mask to protect yourself against the inconsiderate and unhygienic practices of people you happen to meet in public, in the office or even at home?

We KNOW that we should cover our nose and mouth when we want to sneeze or cough, preferably with a tissue. But sometimes this uncontrollable desire happens when we least expect it – such as when your hands are full with grocery bags so you end up going ‘achoo’Β at the person in front of you or if you turn to the side, maybe at a wall.

I guess we can all agree that many people who are coughing and sneezing in public do not don masks. I have even witnessed someone raising the mask he was wearing so he could sneeze outside of it. It was a totally *facepalm* moment for me. Like, do people even know what the masks are for?

To put it simply, wearing a mask when you are ill is about being considerate. It is also about being apologetic that you are out in public when you should, by right, be staying at home and resting. You don a mask because you want to be socially responsible and not spread those germs and viruses to the people who are around you. Perhaps you wish to continue working and not take that MC for whatever reason. Maybe you are the only one who is available to pick up your kid from the childcare centre so you have to be out.

So you wear that mask and you KEEP IT ON.

I’ve heard complaints that the (surgical) face masks are uncomfortable to wear the entire day. Perhaps it feels stuffy, you don’t want the virus to stay around / near your face the whole time, people can’t hear you well when you’re talking to them. And the list goes on. People who are ill are already suffering because of their bodily discomforts. So I don’t even want to fault them for not wishing to add to their list of various discomforts by wearing a mask.

If I cannot change them or what they are doing, I can only protect myself by doing what they are unwilling to do. I wear that mask myself or I stay home!

On Day 3 of CNY, I’d gone overseas, to Pekanbaru. And I began wearing a surgical face mask at the airport. I was not ill. But my fellow passengers on that flight were. People around me were coughing quite badly. Most weren’t wearing masks. Ordinarily, I’d have freaked out and asked for a change of seat. Especially since there’s the Wuhan virus scare now. However, I had my mask on. So I didn’t panic. And after that, we met Grab drivers who were similarly unwell too. And now I’m back in Singapore. I don’t have the flu, cough, fever, etc. I credit that not to a super strong immune system (since I doubt mine’s really like that) but to wearing masks.

Why?

  1. Having a mask on means I do not subconsciously touch my nose or mouth. That mask acts as a barrier and a constant reminder.
  2. People think I am unwell so they stay clear of me. Yes, that means even those who are coughing or sneezing will think I have a more potent virus and decide to keep away. πŸ˜€
  3. It reminds me to practise good hygiene. I certainly used a lot of antibacterial wet wipes or washed my hands after touching money or at mealtimes.

The Government has made it quite clear that our health is our own personal responsibility. So if I am willing and able to buy masks and wear them, I should. If I see someone who is ill and doesn’t have a mask, I should offer the person one too. Whether he/she appreciates it or wears it, it doesn’t matter. We protect ourselves first then we can care for / about others.

I understand the G’s intention to not have the public panic and make a rush for stores to grab some masks. As there probably won’t be enough masks. The G’s giving out four masks per household, and I think that’s a total of about 5-plus million masks? If everyone in Singapore puts on a mask today, that would wipe out the entire supply of masks given out… just in 1 day.

But I guess most households might have a ‘stockpile’ of masks from previous health scares or even something like the SGHaze. So we can use those when we need to head out of the house. *Do check the expiry dates though.

Ultimately, we need to be clear about one thing: we aren’t the Japanese or the Taiwanese. They already have this (good) habit of wearing masks when they are ill and need to step out of the house. In Singapore, the only time I see my personal friends wearing masks is when they are parents and they are ill and do not wish to have their (young) children get ill too. In protecting their kids from the viruses, they are ensuring they don’t get sleepless nights tending to sick (and often cranky) children. Here, sadly, you have to protect yourself. Don’t count on the people you meet to protect you from their viruses. We need to learn from the Japanese and the Taiwanese, for sure. But who knows how long it’ll take for that habit to be ingrained here?