5 Reasons To Sign Up For Sky Premium Membership

Sky Premium Singapore Media Briefing

Bluefin Tuna Cutting Ceremony @ Sky Premium’s Media Briefing

I attended Sky Premium’s media briefing this afternoon, and wow, I think this ‘membership services club’ might be something worth investing in. It’ll be launched in Q4 this year, and while there’s not a ton of information available at this moment, from what I saw today, I think many people will be keen to find out more about Sky Premium. So, very quickly, here are 5 top reasons that I think would entice people to sign up:

#1: Preferential rates from esteemed brands

Sky Premium offers members exclusive privileges for travel, dining, fashion and wellness. Some of these brands include FJ Benjamin, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, etc.

Also, members can look forward to exclusive invites to closed-door events, fashion shows, sake tastings, etc. They’ll also get access to business facilities at Sky Premium’s office.

Sky Premium Membership

Maguro Sushi @ Takujo, Emporium Shokuhin

#2: Panel Advisors: Allan Wu and Tan Min-Li

Sky Premium Singapore

Allan Wu and Tan Min-Li (background)

I guess you’ll be familiar with the hunky celeb Allan Wu. I’ve never heard of Tan Min-Li before today’s event though. Apparently, the lawyer is a partner of Colin Ng & Partners LLP. She’s won multiple awards for her legal work involving Corporate M&A and Capital Markets. She is also involved in film production and fashion. Both of these style-conscious individuals will be invaluable as advisers for Sky Premium.

#3: Members’ welcome package and exclusive portal

Members of the media were informed that the welcome package is “worth more than the membership fee”. At this point, I don’t know what’s in that welcome package, but I’ll update this post when I find out.😀 If you were to sign up, you’ll also get access to the members-only privileges portal. <- I’ll be happy to check that out!

#4: Premium Member Subscription Cost: S$1,200 per year

I believe there is an “initial processing fee” which I’ve not been advised regarding. But it’s stated on the factsheet that there will be no additional processing fees as long as you keep up with your membership dues.

I believe S$1,200 per year is really quite affordable for the well-heeled in Singapore. In fact, they might even consider it really cheap. I know of some people who can easily spend that amount on just one meal. And $100 per month is even lower than membership fees at certain gyms. When there’s more information made available closer to their launch date, I’d highly recommend that you check out their website and/or make a few inquiries and find out more.🙂

#5: Helmed by General Manager, Ms Margaret Koh

She has over 10 years of experience in the luxury service sector. Prior to helming Sky Premium, she was previously associated with luxury service organizations such as Banyan Tree Private Collection, Singapore Yacht Show and Raffles Marina. I think this means that great service and quality offerings from Sky Premium are just about guaranteed.

Find out more at: http://www.skypremium.com/official/

~

Pictures in this blogpost are courtesy of Hearted Moments Photography.

7 Best Hotels In Kuala Lumpur Every Singaporean Should Visit

2016 is shaping up to be a very busy year, and much as I’d love to fly to some place far away for a long holiday, I guess I will have to make do with a short getaway closer to home. This post is about the 7 hotels in Kuala Lumpur that I have either stayed at, or am planning to stay at in the near future. I’m using the tentative dates of 8 – 10 April (*do note that weekend rates are usually higher than weekday ones) and I’ve taken the screenshots off Traveloka, which is an awesome site for booking hotels and/or flights because they provide the total fee (inclusive of taxes) upfront, so you don’t get a shock at the final checkout page. Psst… there are some cool discounts to be enjoyed too!🙂

When booking hotels, I usually take note of a couple of things: user reviews, whether there is a decent-size swimming pool or not, and whether the hotel is in a convenient location. I’ve hand-picked 7 hotels in Kuala Lumpur that will cost between S$117 and S$329 per night. See if you like any one of them too!🙂

In no particular order of merit…

1) Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

I simply LOVE that view of the Twin Towers. I’ve stayed in Hyatt hotel in Kota Kinabalu before, and I love the Hyatt experience. So this one is definitely on my to-visit list. The most affordable room rate is for the Grand Twin Room (for 2), without breakfast, at S$286.07. Sometimes there are even limited-time sales on Traveloka, so book as quickly as you can using the TravelokaQuick function. As long as your credit card details are saved in the system, the transaction can be done within a minute so you can secure your booking at a great price.

Here’s my screenshot of one such flash sale for Hilton, which is #2 on my list:

Traveloka Flash Sales

2) Hilton Kuala Lumpur

Hilton Kuala Lumpur

I like to compare prices between various sites and I found that Traveloka has a Twin Deluxe Plus promotion for Hilton Kuala Lumpur – for 2 pax, it’s S$196.19. A similar room cost S$206.48 on Agoda, when I checked on 30th March 2016. It’s just a few dollars, I know, but it all adds up in the end, no?

3) Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur

Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur

I need to be at that pool NOW!😀 I think hotels should have great pools because they offer not just a workout, but also a place for relaxation. Another reason why I’d choose to book via Traveloka is because they do offer more choices for certain hotels. For instance, for Ritz-Carlton, there are 6 room types available on Traveloka (the cheapest costs S$329.08 a night), but only 1 room type available on Agoda (the Premier Suite at S$370 before tax).

4) Berjaya Times Square Hotel

Berjaya Times Square Hotel

Once again, I LOVE that view. I can never stand hotel rooms without windows, and those which frustrate me most are windows which overlook, say, someone’s backyard, or an abandoned building, etc. A nice view of the city or a lake never hurts!😀 I stayed at the Berjaya Times Square Hotel last year and enjoyed the hotel’s proximity to the shopping mall which is huge, and I think I’ll be back again soon. The price is pretty reasonable – starting from S$117.66 on Traveloka’s website.

5) Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel

Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel

Once again, that pool looks irresistible. And as you can see from the screenshot above, room rates at Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur start from just S$124.60. You can also download the Traveloka app (both Apple and Android versions are available) and enjoy paperless check-in when you reach the hotel. No time should be wasted so you can head to the pool as quickly as possible!😀

6) JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur

JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur

Room rates at JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur start from S$225.79. I’ve stayed at the Marriott hotel in Singapore, but I’ve yet to stay at JW Marriott’s hotels. So I look forward to checking out this one in Kuala Lumpur!😀

7) Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur

Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur

Le Meridien totally has a resort feel to it. I think sunsets by the pool, with a cocktail in hand, would be near perfection. Prices are not exactly cheap but I guess you just have to pay more for quality. If you are looking for hotel rooms that will fit nicely into your holiday budget, then go check out hotel booking sites like Traveloka, compare prices and find the best fit. For me, I think sites with clean layouts and which are user-friendly always get my vote. I really do not like hidden fees!

~

 Just a quick 5-step process to book your hotel. It’ll be even faster once you’ve saved your details as a member!Traveloka booking

If you have any other hotels in Kuala Lumpur that you’d like to recommend, or have me review them, please feel free to write in to me.🙂

~

This post is brought to you by Traveloka, the largest and leading flight/hotel booking platform in Indonesia. Also, do note that the prices stated in this post are based on my own pre-selected dates for check-in and -out.

Things To Do In Singapore In 1-Day: My Indonesian Friend’s Visit :D

I’ve been SO BUSY recently. Among the many things I’ve been doing is taking my pals around Singapore. Previously, my Vietnamese friends came by (read the blogpost here), then a Cambodian (*no time to blog about his trip yet*) and my Indonesian pal just left Singapore today. One day is definitely NOT SUFFICIENT for visiting Singapore, as it will be a crazy rush from attraction to attraction, so please do not attempt this unless you have absolutely no choice. In any case, here are some suggestions for things to do in Singapore. Whether you are a tourist planning a trip to Singapore, or a Singaporean wondering where you should take your pals to when they come here to visit you, I hope this blogpost is useful to you.🙂

~

I met my pal at the airport in the morning around 8am, and we popped by Tampines Swimming Complex thereafter (it opens at 8am). A shower plus swim would be a delight for most tourists, I guess. In fact, I want nothing more than a hot shower after a flight to get rid of tiredness and to feel refreshed.🙂 Tampines Swimming Complex on a Friday morning is not very crowded at all, and we sure did enjoy the swim.

Then it was a quick (and light) brunch at Century Square before we headed to Hotel Grand Pacific for a buffet lunch. At Tampines Mall, my pal also bought a tin of cookies from Bengawan Solo. When I’d visited him in Surabaya previously, I brought him a gift of cookies from Bengawan Solo, and he and his family liked the cookies so much that he (also) came here for more.😀

The dessert corner at Sun’s Cafe in Hotel Grand Pacific:

Hotel Grand Pacific Sun's Cafe lunch buffet

I’ll do a more detailed post regarding the buffet later. Suffice to say now that it’s good value for money if you’ve bought a Groupon voucher. The staff are pretty friendly too.

The view from level 10 of the National Library:

Singapore National Library

After lunch, we visited the National Library which was around the corner, and we also went to Bugis+, Bugis Junction, Bugis Street, etc.

Maple Lodge (hostel) is right outside Exit A of Chinatown MRT station (on the left) –

Singapore Chinatown Maple Lodge

Then we went to his hostel at Chinatown – Maple Lodge – which is SO conveniently located just a few steps away from Exit A of Chinatown MRT station. If you’re a ‘backpacker’ visiting Singapore, here’s a good place to stay for just S$15 a night. Check-in time is at 3pm, or so I was told.

With check-in completed, and luggage deposited, we headed to Merlion Park, which is like the MUST-VISIT place for most tourists who want to get that obligatory photo with one of the merlions. We spotted a couple in full wedding attire getting their photoshoot done. The weather was SO hot then! Bless their souls. The bride did not seem to mind at all – no complaints heard – so I guess the groom made a fantastic choice. Hehe! Happy marriage, y’all!

Singapore Merlion Park

Thankfully, I’d thought of buying ice cream when we exited Raffles Place MRT station. If you’re walking towards Exit H, you’ll see a Mr Bean outlet. I bought ice cream for all 3 of us (me, my Indonesian pal, and another Malaysian pal currently studying in Singapore). Thus, there were few complaints about the weather when we stepped out of the air-conditioned premises to make our way to Merlion Park. We were too busy enjoying the ice cream. Haha!

A few quick snaps of the Merlion and we were off to MBS:

Singapore Marina Bay Sands

* I love those clouds *

We took a really long walk to get to Marina Bay Sands. For your information, visiting the Observation Deck of MBS requires a fee of S$23 for adults and S$17 for children (between 2 and 12 years old). Find out more about the fees here: http://www.marinabaysands.com/sands-skypark/observation-deck.html

*The Infinity Pool at MBS is reserved for hotel guests*

We had dinner at the foodcourt at Marina Bay Sands. The prices are much higher than in many other places in Singapore.

Post-dinner snack and chit-chat time:

DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe

We also visited the DC Comics Super Heroes themed cafe at MBS (level 1). I ordered some nuggets & fries, plus a yuzu drink (which was SO sweet). The chirpy waiter gave us some water served in the cutest caped super hero mugs. Service was excellent, despite what some reviewers said on the cafe’s facebook page. The decor of the place is simply awesome. You can find Batman, Catwoman, and many other super heroes. And there’s the Batmobile, the fancy bike (I don’t know what it’s called) and so many photo-worthy spots. Of course, the food’s also superhero-themed so snap away if you’re ordering the burgers, lattes or desserts, etc.

After an enjoyable chat, I sent him back to his hostel. He told me that he fell asleep very quickly because he was so tired. And it’s no wonder too. I clocked over 20,000 steps yesterday, just touring Singapore with him! LOL.

~

Nana’s Green Tea at Plaza Singapura. Lunch sets (inc. of a drink) are at S$13.90.

Nana's Green Tea Plaza Singapura

ION Orchard:

Singapore ION Orchard

As for today, we had lunch at Nana’s Green Tea at Plaza Singapura before popping by Orchard Road. We went to ION, Ngee Ann City, Kinokuniya, etc.🙂 Then we were off to Woodlands where we bought sushi from my favorite sushi takeaway place. He also bought Old Chang Kee’s curry puffs and other snacks.

And then he’s off to Malaysia.🙂

I’m gonna miss him. He’s a really fun guy to chat with and hang out with. And he also brought me presents… AWWW…

~

Gifts from Surabaya

My generous pal from Surabaya brought me some goodies. There’s Kue Blinjo (which I assume is some kind of cookie), (the famous) Livana’s Lapis Surabaya (which I’ve tried previously during my trip to Surabaya) and Bandeng Asap (Smoked Milkfish).

I do wish I’d thought of bringing him to visit a cat cafe earlier. Will certainly include that in the itinerary the next time he visits. Till then!~🙂

My Vietnamese Friends Visit Singapore For A 3-Day Free N Easy Holiday

Star Wars at Changi Airport

R2-D2 at Changi Airport Terminal 3 Departures

Two friends from Vietnam* came to Singapore this Thursday and I went to welcome them at Changi Airport’s Terminal 2🙂 If you don’t already know, the Star Wars FEVER is raging at Changi Airport. I wish I’m more of a Star Wars fan, but I’m not. I do think BB-8 is super cute though.😀 In this blogpost, I’ll share with you some of the unique experiences a Vietnamese person might have in Singapore, my own experience as a pro bono and unofficial tour guide (haha!), and what tourists to Singapore can expect as well as enjoy here. *It was my first time meeting the Vietnamese guy, while the girl had been kind enough to take us around when we visited Vietnam earlier this month.

Star Wars at Changi Airport Terminal 2

Stormtroopers at Terminal 2 Departures

For one, I’ve been told by my Vietnamese female pals that clearing customs might be a bit tricky because you might get ‘invited’ to an office to state your intentions in visiting Singapore. I suppose it could be (but don’t quote me) on suspicion that Vietnamese ladies come here to look for work, or husbands? So it is always useful to have a Singaporean friend pick you up at the airport or at least be a phone call away so the authorities can verify your true intentions in coming to Singapore.

In any case, I waited for over an hour for my pals to clear customs checks. (@_@) I’m so used to breezing through customs when I return to Singapore from overseas that I forget that international travelers need to go through that whole passport stamping process while I simply use the automated scanners. (*Note to self: When picking up friends at the airport, there is no need to arrive early, or to even be ‘on time’, allow them time to clear immigration checks)

(*Another note to self: Changi Airport is really awesome. The themed decor (e.g. Star Wars) makes for some instagrammable and memorable pictures)

Rilakkuma EZ Link card in Singapore

Rilakkuma EZ Link card for travel on trains, buses, taxis etc anywhere in Singapore

One thing to note is that travelers CANNOT easily connect to WIFI at the airport. Yes, that sounds so backward. But it’s true. You have to approach the Information Counter and get a password. Even then, I think you can only use the wifi for a limited period of time. I am guessing (again, don’t quote me on this) that it’s because we don’t want local students to camp out at the airport and log on to the wifi, instead of reserving it for the travelers who need it more.

In any case, I recommended my Vietnamese friends to get a wifi router device from Changi Recommends. The current promotion price is S$9/day. I find it’s a great idea because one router can support up to 6 devices (handphones, ipads, tablets, laptops, etc) and can be shared among friends (*save money!) And you don’t have to worry about inserting SIM cards into your phones or other devices. Just switch on the router, and log on to the wifi using your phone. And here’s the best part: UNLIMITED DATA! Of course, you can purchase a SIM card at the airport – it’s about S$38. But you get something like 1 GB of data? Why not pay S$27 for 3 days of router usage and get UNLIMITED data? So my Vietnamese pals rented the router. And they also bought the EZ Link card (in a super cute Rilakkuma design) that you see in the picture above.

The EZ Link card costs S$12 per card. It comes with a S$5 non-refundable deposit and S$7 in credit you can use for taking public transport. The card is valid for 7 years, so take it back home with you, and keep it safe for your next trip to Singapore.🙂

~ Where To Stay In Singapore ~

Bunc @ Radius Little India

My pals booked a stay at bunc @ radius little india. I thought the interior of the hostel looked pretty cool (though I did not visit the dorms). Breakfast is free – you get cereal and toast with jam. And there’s free wifi within the hostel, which my pals probably didn’t need. Most importantly the hostel is located within a 5-minute walk to the nearest train station (Rochor station, which recently opened in Dec 2015). My pals paid some S$22 per bed to stay here.

~

~ What To Do In Singapore ~ 

Haji Lane

On the day they arrived, I brought my pals to Bugis (where they bought some toiletries, and SUNBLOCK) and where I also treated them to Old Chang Kee’s curry puffs – they were so impressed! LOL. We then went to Haji Lane to get some nice photos and also to visit Selfie Coffee where your selfie is printed onto the foam on your drink! *The good thing about getting the wifi router from Changi Recommends is that you can keep Google Maps on wherever you go, and navigating Singapore is easy-peasy.

I brought them for a nice dinner at Chinatown Food Street, and also introduced them to things like bak kwa (barbecued pork) that we Chinese love to eat during Chinese New Year.

The Indian uncle at Bee Cheng Hiang speaks good Mandarin – I was so impressed!

Bak Kwa tasting at Chinatown

I also took them to places like Bugis Street (for clothes shopping), Bugis+, Bugis Junction (we ate at Yellow Submarine), Vivocity, Harbourfront, and Mustafa Centre where they each bought new luggage. On their own, they’d also visited Botanic Gardens (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as listed in 2015), Marina Bay, Merlion Park, etc. They found Singapore’s weather to be almost unbearably hot (LOL) but they were not excited about returning to Hanoi’s super cold weather either.😀😀

At Mustafa, they each found luggage they liked, and since the total purchase value was over S$100, they could get their tax refunds at the airport. Same thing for their Uniqlo purchases at Bugis too.

Luggage shopping at Mustafa

 ~ How To Enjoy Your Time In Singapore ~

Dessert at Kopitiam Changi Airport

In this picture above, you see the dessert which I ate with my friends from Vietnam at the airport on their final evening here. I have a sweet tooth so I really enjoyed the dessert. LOL. Though I’m not sure both of them did.

Over the past couple of months, while traveling, I realized that 2 out of 3 Vietnamese men are particular about food. And when in Singapore, they might want to visit Vietnamese restaurants instead of trying local cuisine. So it is a good idea to visit foodcourts (e.g. Kopitiam at the basement of Vivocity, or at Changi Airport Terminal 3) where there’s food from just about every nationality in this region. LOL.

If you’d like to truly experience Singapore and the food culture we are so proud of, do bring along an adventurous palate. Same reason why I ate balut in Cambodia and found out I thoroughly enjoyed quail egg balut.

To have a really good time in Singapore:

  1. Know that the weather will be HOT, with occasional rainfall. Light and comfortable clothing, sensible footwear, and sun protection is key. Singaporeans don’t mind being sloppy with our dressing (Tee + Shorts + Flip Flops are ok for shopping at Orchard Road) and umbrellas are almost a MUST during certain months when rain can be expected everyday (don’t ask me which months, because the weather is unpredictable due to climate change).
  2. Where food is concerned, try a little bit of everything. If you have a local guiding you, tell him/her what you absolutely will not eat e.g. food which is too spicy, food which has pork in it, food which doesn’t come with a decent serving of vegetables, etc???😛
  3. Know that the malls will NOT be open even if you woke up at 7am and are ready to shop by 8am. It’s a better idea to head to the Botanic Gardens for a morning stroll and fresh air, then head to the city after 9am as the malls begin to open for business. (In other words, get as much beauty sleep as you can in your hotel or hostel. It’s a holiday after all!)

~ My Thoughts On Being A Pro Bono Tour Guide ~

I’ve never been a “tour guide” prior to this experience, and I’ve realized there is so much I didn’t know before this. Now I know I have to ask my pals these questions before they even fly over:

  1. Are you traveling with checked in luggage? If you are not (i.e. traveling with only cabin luggage) then you’ll be able to meet me at the Departure Hall earlier and I’ll know which glass door to wait for you at. If you have checked in luggage, then I’ll see you at the exit nearest to your luggage belt number e.g. 36. If you don’t see me, then wait at Starbucks or Burger King, etc. [*The reason these questions are necessary: No wifi till they get a password from the Information Counter]
  2. Will you require a SIM card / wifi router when you arrive? Will you require an EZ link card for travel via public transport or will you be taking taxis the whole time you are in Singapore? It is important to let your friends know how much these things will cost so they don’t receive a shock when they arrive and have to start Paying And Paying. For a 3-day visit, Wifi: S$27, EZ-Link card: S$12 (plus maybe one or two subsequent top-ups).
  3. Where will you be staying? Once you know where your friends will be putting up at, it is easy to plan for an activity or meal for that day they’ll be arriving. Unless, of course, they arrive at midnight, then… erm… KTV and supper?
  4. What dietary restrictions or preferences do you have? There are straightforward ones, e.g. no pork or no beef due to religious reasons, or no fast food. And then there are the less easy-to-handle ones such as “I don’t like oily food” or “I like food that resembles or tastes like food in my home country”.
  5. What are the attractions you’d like to visit? My Vietnamese pals wanted to visit Parliament House – I’ve never even been there before.😀 And I recommended that they pop by Botanic Gardens in the morning. I did also look through their planned itinerary and give them my suggestions and tips (such as where to buy cheap bottled water before heading into Sentosa).

Ultimately, I’m very proud of my country, and I want to ensure my friends enjoy their stay when they visit.

I’ll even try to be helpful when I spot PRC tourists having a bit of a communication issue with non-Chinese staff at the airport or train stations. I’ll help translate their queries, give them directions and even assist them with purchasing single trip tickets and directing them to the right platform.

Strangely enough, I think it imperative that visitors like my country. I’m really perplexed if they don’t. Apart from the weather (which I can do nothing about), I want to make their visits as fuss-free as possible. And more friends from the region will be popping by Singapore soon! I should be a part-time tour guide!😀

9 Must Try Food in Surabaya, Indonesia

I am convinced that the main reason I enjoyed visiting Surabaya so much, in spite of the really high temperatures (40+ degrees Celsius) and the poor air quality which gave me a bad breakout, was the super delicious food. And one more thing that will make any Singaporean happy: super delicious food at low prices! How can it possibly be true?! But I enjoyed them all, thanks to my pal’s recommendations – he lives and works in Surabaya and is quite a foodie. And his recommendations were all spot-on (save for one, which wasn’t his fault really).

The least exciting meal I had in Surabaya was at Juanda Airport. I had ordered a bowl of bakso – meatball noodle soup – because of the early flight and how I was craving something hot.

Bakso at Surabaya airport

It was just what I needed to fill my stomach with warmth, but it was uninspiring. So… head over to the following 9 places for food when you are in Surabaya. I GUARANTEE you’ll love it all, especially since they are highly recommended by locals!😀

Recommendation #1: Iga Penyet

My pal asked if I’d like to eat ribs for dinner. And I conjured up an image of baby back ribs (Western style) in my mind. However, Iga Penyet is ribs that have been flattened and are served with a special homemade sambal. On the left, you see the eggplant that I wanted to order ‘cos I truly love eggplant. And on the right is the platter of smashed ribs – it’s like nothing you’ll ever get to try in Singapore. Yummy! And the magic is in the sauce. Indonesians really do get their spices right. The (free) soup that comes with the meal was also happily slurped up.

Iga Penyet

I was told that there usually is a long queue outside. But we were so lucky that day to get a table immediately without having to wait.😀

Best Iga Penyet Surabaya

The address is Warung Leko, Jl. Manyar Kertoarjo V-9. Total bill for 4 pax: 146,500 Rp.

Recommendation #2: Pasar Malam (buffet) at Bumi Hotel

Before I even got to Surabaya, I’d already done some research online and read reviews of Pasar Malam at Bumi Hotel (this is why bloggers are awesome!) I got to know about this awesome hotel buffet that allows diners to eat their fill from THREE different restaurants. It’s like I love trying local food but I also want Japanese cuisine, so why not go for this option?😀 And it did not disappoint. We spent 397,485Rp (S$41) for dinner for 2 pax.

Here’s just a portion of what we ate: satay, kebab, SASHIMI and bean sprouts teppanyaki style, and some rojak(?)😀 There’s just SO MUCH to eat and choose from. I was too distracted, and didn’t take many pictures. (Remember that I’m not a food blogger, ya?)

Pasar Malam Bumi Hotel

There’s indoor seating (air-conditioned) and outdoor seating too (you get your own fan beside each table). What can I say? I really REALLY loved that dinner at Pasar Malam. The next time I’m in Surabaya, I’m definitely gonna head back there. And if I can resist the temptations, I’ll even skip lunch that day.

Pasar Malam at Bumi Hotel

Recommendation #3: Bakso Pak Djo

This is my pal’s favorite bakso stall. We spent some Rp 93,500 here for a meal for 4 pax. You can find this same stall in Galaxy Mall’s foodcourt but be prepared to pay more for the same thing, ok? Their meatballs have some truly interesting ingredients inside: quail eggs (4 on one stick) or an entire chicken egg within a meatball.

Quail eggs on a stick in the extreme right corner:

Bakso Pak Djo

Eaten on its own, these ingredients aren’t super tasty – it’s like yong tau foo in Singapore but more exotic. However, you can mix the sauces provided and you’ll enjoy the meatballs more with your very own concoction.🙂

Bakso Pak Djo address

Recommendation #4: Kedai Tua Baru

Kedai Tua Baru

Kedai Tua Baru was recommended by my pal. Its exterior looks rather rundown – like it could be a warehouse or workshop or something. However, check out the cool interior: Kedai Tua Baru interior

They even have many interesting spots just for people to take photos for Instagram. But that’s not what we came here for, ultimately.

I ordered the Seafood Kombinasi (32,800 Rp) with cumi, udang, layang, telur, tahu/tempe.  (Cumi is squid, udang is prawn, telur is egg) Once again, that sambal is the killer!Seafood Kombinasi He had Buntut Rempah (35,800Rp) which is spicy oxtail, and is SO yummy: Buntut Rempah

Besides the sambal, one other thing the Indonesians truly do well at when it comes to food has to be the keropok! Their keropok standards are out of this world!😀 I even bought buffalo skin keropok at a stall selling snacks (that’s for another blogpost. Stay tuned)

kedai tua baru lychee tea

It’s easy to get to Kedai Tua Baru – it’s just a short walk from Tunjungan Plaza. The address is Jl. Tegalsari No. 25. We spent a total of 154, 560Rp here, for dinner for 3 pax.🙂

Recommendation #5: Yamagoya Ramen

If you are craving for ramen, you may want to pop by Tunjungan Plaza 4 Lt 5. We spent Rp 190,575 for lunch for 2 pax. The broth is decent (not fabulous like in Japan, of course) and the onsen egg has a strange consistency, like it’s trying to be a preserved egg instead. But if you want a non-halal meal, in a Muslim country, then this is where you should head. My favorite, though, is the udon restaurant next door (my Recommendation #8 in this blogpost).

Yamagoya Ramen

We also ordered an extra platter of char siew, when we shouldn’t have. We really over-indulged here:

Yamagoya Ramen Tunjungan Plaza

Recommendation #6: Zangrandi Ice Cream at Galaxi Mall

Zangrandi Surabaya

I don’t have pictures for the ice cream. But Zangrandi is kinda like Haagen-Dazs – really famous in Surabaya, I’ve been told. For 2 single scoops of ice cream, I paid Rp 48,000.

Recommendation #7: Sate Ayam stall

Pardon me for raving about this stall. The food is cheap and really good. We spent a total of 120,000Rp for food and drinks for 4! Can you believe it?! Each one of us got 10 sticks of satay! You can choose between chicken satay with the skin removed, or NOT. My pals went for the skin-on fatty ones. LOL. So sinful, right? But so sedap lah.

* I can almost smell the satay again *

Sate Ayam Ponorogo

Sate Ayam Ponorogo Surabaya

Sate Ayam Surabaya

Surabaya Sate

I’m feeling so hungry now. I should never ever blog about food at night. But this is such a long post.😀 Even though this satay (or rather, sate) stall is situated right next to the road, and it’s hot and stuffy within, plus there aren’t many tables, but somehow perspiring while enjoying good satay is actually quite an experience! One I am happy to relive!😀

Recommendation #8: Marugame Udon at Tunjungan PlazaMarugame Udon Tunjungan Plaza

* look of hesitation *

 We’d popped by pretty late in the afternoon so there weren’t many diners, and we weren’t sure if this place served good udon. After all, it’s Indonesia, not Japan, ya? But this place comes highly recommended by my friend in Surabaya.

I had the beef udon while he went for the carbonara udon (yes, you read that right!) and we ordered an extra serving of egg and a beef (yes beef, not potato) croquette.

Marugame Udon

And it was DELICIOUS!!! I wanted to head back here the next day but true to character, he wanted to patronize other restaurants. We spent some 135,000Rp here and decided it was a meal to remember. Carbonara Udon! Who would have thought?! If not for my better half’s adventurous spirit, I would never know how this tastes! Of course, there are some hits and some misses – like the time we had wild boar meat in JB that gave us severe food poisoning for a few days. I would never have ordered wild boar meat if not for him too. That’s life, isn’t it? You take the roses together with the thorns.😀

Recommendation #9: Surabaya Plaza’s foodcourt!

You know that Indonesia is a country of foodies when even the food stalls in foodcourts serve up delicious food. We wanted a cheaper alternative to restaurants, and wondered if the food at the foodcourt in Surabaya Plaza was any good.

We found this stall called “Si Mbok” which, according to my ‘good food radar’, seemed pretty busy (a good sign!) and had interesting options I wanted to try.

I chose bebek penyet (duck, instead of the usual ayam / chicken) and he picked gado gado (what a safe choice!). As it turned out, both were AMAZING.

Who knew that bebek penyet would taste better than any ayam penyet anywhere else?!

Surabaya Plaza Bebek Penyet

The gado-gado was fabulous too. And like I’ve said before, the keropok is better than those in Singapore😀

Surabaya Plaza's Gado Gado

And that FINALLY sums up my 9 recommendations for when you head to Surabaya!😀 (Actually this serves as a food diary for me, so I can go back and revisit these places. HEHEHE)

~

And, of course, if you spot an A&W outlet, go ahead and indulge in some root beer float and curly fries. I know the temptation is irresistible.😀

A&W Tunjungan Plaza

Tunjungan Plaza A&W

* BURP *

Do check out my Surabaya hotel review blogpost too! And watch out for upcoming posts about the malls and other places to visit in Surabaya!😀

Heritage@25: The Most Luxurious Staycation in Singapore

*Update 14 Aug 2016: UNFORTUNATELY, Heritage @25 is NO LONGER AVAILABLE for stays / events. Should there be any change to this status in future, I’ll update this post. But for now, there are only these pictures to enjoy.

Heritage@25

I had the privilege of being hosted at Heritage@25 last month. It was a staycation that blew me away! And frankly, I was really reluctant to leave. 2D1N was just too short a stay. I could live in this bungalow with such rich heritage forever, really. Guess what, you can even book a stay here too, via airbnb!😀

I was truly being a nag when I told my fiancé, as we strolled around the sprawling compound, that he should (please) make more money so we can buy a huge house like this one. In short, I love it.

[ And yes, there are too many perks to being a blogger. If you don’t have an interest in writing though, just date a blogger. LOL. ]

* A black-and-white picture seems fit for a house that’s over 100 years old *

Heritage@25

And this is what it’s like in the morning, when you prepare to slide into the lap pool:

Heritage@25

Heritage@25, located at 25 Chapel Road, is in a quiet neighborhood. And outside its gates, you’ll never guess that it’s so BIG within. One portion is designated as the venue for events, while the other portion is the residential side.

During our stay, we were the only ones in the huge bungalow, and we relished the experience of walking around the place and pretending we owned it. Hehe!

In fact, it’s quite a walk to get from the Presidential Suite upstairs, to the kitchen downstairs. An intercom system would be necessary if you’d like to tell someone in the bedroom to please bring something down to you. Hollering without the intercom does not help. And it’s good exercise just going upstairs and coming back down. I got quite a workout!

History buffs and those who are interested in places with rich heritage and cultural influences will most certainly love Heritage@25. If you’ve noticed the staircase in the picture above, it actually has Peranakan-design staircase tiles, which are not newly affixed, by the way.

I’ve also been told that in the past, this bungalow was actually near the beach but now the surrounding area has all been ‘built-up’ for land for more properties to be built. Despite the rapid changes, this bungalow is beautifully preserved and while it’s all about preserving heritage, the furniture within is new and stylish!

~

The Rucksack Group was indeed very kind to me. They let me have their Presidential Suite! The bed was SO comfortable. But I didn’t allow myself to sleep in the next morning, cos it was a must for us to check out the pool!🙂

* the bed *

Heritage@25 Presidential Suite

And here’s the walk-in wardrobe with everything else you could possibly need: iron, safe, etc…

Heritage@25 walk in wardrobe

And the best part of the room has to be the bathroom: toilet on the right, bathtub in the middle and a standing shower on the left:

Heritage@25 bathroom

* well-stocked with toiletries *

Heritage@25 toiletries

And I am convinced this is the BEST rainshower experience I’ve ever had. Yes, even better than the ones at 5* hotels. I’ve never stood under a waterfall before, but it must feel something like that. It simply helps wash away the weariness of the day, and prepare you for a good night’s rest! I need to buy this shower head for my new home! And hope the water bill won’t be too steep!

Heritage@25 shower

And, of course, who can resist the bathtub? My fiancé LOVES bathtubs. I like a good soak in the tub if I have one of those bath bombs or bubble baths. Otherwise, it’s a quick shower and I’m off. Thus, I get to shower first!😀 And oh, these are the Original Source goodies that I received at the Shopee launch:

Heritage@25 Presidential Suite bathtub

After you’re done with your shower, there are in-room refreshments to enjoy. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, maybe? And check out the aircon remote controller in that very retro-looking cup – I simply love all of these little vintage items around the house:

Heritage@25 refreshments

And in the morning, this view greets you at the living / dining area:

Heritage@25 living room

I love wooden tables that are devoid of clutter (makes them so inviting), and the lush greenery outside and the colorful beanbags at the porch just add such a burst of color to the view you enjoy while eating your breakfast. I really could get used to living here.

For breakfast, there’s bread you can toast, and cereal. There’s no need for a huge spread because Heritage@25 is located in an area which is full of awesome foodie spots – like Katong Laksa, and chicken rice at Katong Shopping Centre.

Heritage@25 breakfast

Inside the fridge you’ll find jams for your bread, milk for your cereal, yoghurt, etc. It really feels just like home.

Heritage@25 fridge

And when your belly is full, it’s a good time to go out and get some sun.🙂 The lap pool is just outside and I must say that I’ve never had a swim in such serene surroundings! Truth be told, I’m rather intraverted and I can definitely see myself staying here, swimming everyday, reading out on the porch while seated on cushy beanbags, and not even bothering with heading out to the city. Quite the hermit’s life, in fact.

Heritage@25 lap pool

And like I said, 2D1N is simply too short a stay. ‘Forever’ sounds more like it. I’d definitely love to be back here again.🙂

Heritage@25 exterior

~ Rates ~

Depending on whether it’s the peak period or not, the rate for the Presidential Suite is between S$380 and S$500. The family suite downstairs – that’s adjoining rooms – will cost S$200 + S$200.

As a rough guide, the rates for the colonial suite, junior suite and presidential suite are from S$200 to S$500.

If you’d like to book the event venue, it’s S$1200 (Mon -Thurs) S$2200 (Fri-Sun) for whole day rental. Alternatively, pay S$120 per hour on weekdays and S$220 per hour on weekends (minimum of 3 hours).

The driveway can accommodate 3 cars but when there are events, there will be a designated valet.

The usual events held here are tea ceremonies, afternoon lunches, afternoon party cocktails, evening parties, etc. There is one restriction: that guests must vacate the premises at 10pm, so as not to disturb the neighbors.

Interested? Contact Elina at elina@thhg.sg and tell her you read my blogpost, and get the best rate possible🙂

~

*Three pictures in this blogpost are courtesy of StarHub. The rest are my own.*

A Traditional Javanese Wedding And My Favorite Hotels In Surabaya

I got to visit Surabaya in November 2015, and I fell in love with this Indonesian city (the second largest city in Indonesia, after Jakarta). I got to attend Ayu’s traditional Javanese wedding – which was an eye-opener – and I also had the privilege of having my pals take us around the beautiful, though very hot, city.😀

First… the wedding:

traditional javanese wedding

I’m with the gorgeous bride, Ayu, whose name actually means “beautiful”. How apt!

I’ve never attended a wedding that’s not held in Singapore, prior to this, so it was truly a privilege to have been invited to observe the ceremony. I say “observe” because I could hardly understand a word the officer was saying as he rattled on so quickly, though he did crack many jokes and imparted lots of marriage advice to the newly-weds. I was told that one piece of advice to the husband was to not expect/initiate intercourse when one’s wife is menstruating.😀

* the officer is the one holding the marriage certificate *

Javanese wedding

In the picture above, the bride’s father (seated next to the officer) is holding the hand of the groom, and some sort of vow is taking place. Apparently, there are two parts to the ceremony: to be married under the law, and to be married ‘under religion’ (the bride’s father entrusts his daughter to the groom who promises to take care of her, etc).

Surabaya wedding

The duration of the ceremony depends very much on whether the officer is talkative or not. LOL. This one made us stand around for about 45 minutes before the ceremony was wrapped up.

While Ayu used to be a model, she is now a makeup artist. She didn’t do her own makeup for this ceremony though, as it’s rather elaborate. In her shoes, I wouldn’t either. Not when I have to wake up so early in the morning.

I really adore the headpiece – here’s the view from the back:

Javanese bride

And there’s something awesome about stealing one of these Jasmine flower ends from the headpiece:

javanese wedding culture

Apparently, if you manage to steal one without Ayu noticing (Look over there, Ayu! There’s a bird!), you’ll find your true love very soon! However, as you can already guess, there was no need for me to resort to such thievery. Haha! But it’s pretty cool eh? In other cultures, we toss flower bouquets and force our single and unwed friends to catch them. Here, only those who so desire will go ahead and take the initiative.

And oh! I was rather amazed at the bananas outside the wedding venue too. Lots and lots of bananas, which symbolize fertility for the newly-weds:

Javanese wedding custom

There was also an exchange of gifts during the ceremony. In transparent-top boxes were a handbag, shoes, toiletries, a red bra(!), the Qur’an etc. These items signify the groom’s commitment to providing for his bride’s every need. I nearly got teary-eyed hearing this part explained to me, only to get a bit giggly again at the sight of the box containing the fiery red bra being passed from relative to relative in order to reach the front of the room.😀

It was definitely an eye-opening experience I won’t forget🙂

And I do wish the couple decades of wedded bliss, filial children and successful careers!

~

If you’d like to head to Surabaya, here are some nuggets of information that might interest you:

The time in Surabaya is 1 hour behind Singapore’s. The currency exchange rate in November 2015 was S$1 : 9660 Rupiah.

While the taxi we took to the airport (on the way back) cost 64,000rp, it cost us 145,000rp from the airport to the city via airport taxi (Bukti Sewa Taxi – Rahayu Transport). Choose Blue Bird taxis if you’re out and do keep small change in your wallet as taxi drivers in this country tend to keep the change without you asking them to, no matter the amount. It was quite a culture shock for me, especially when I visited Jakarta. The driver pocketed some S$20+ in change.

We flew to Surabaya by tigerair – no hiccups, and it costs just S$257.56 for return tickets for 2! Juanda Intl Airport T2 (which is new) has very clean toilets. However, the city has lots of mosquitoes, especially in vehicles like taxis!

[ I love the wide open space in the airport ]

Surabaya Juanda Airport

[ Was shocked to see a horse go past our taxi ]

Surabaya roads

~

Surabaya Hotels We Stayed In

Surabaya is one of those places where you can get a stay at a luxury hotel without paying exorbitant prices. We stayed in three different hotels over 4 nights, and here’s the pricing (all inclusive of breakfast)…

[ Sheraton $112, Crown Prince $77, ibis styles $49 ]

SHERATON

It’s interesting how taxi drivers pronounce the word ‘Sheraton’ as ‘Share-rah-thorn’. If you have trouble communicating with your driver that you want to go to Sheraton Hotel, just tell them to take you to Tunjungan Plaza which is linked to the hotel.

Sheraton in Surabaya has all the prestige but doesn’t quite live up to all my expectations. For one, the armchair in the room was old and worn. And after we had checked in, we received a call up to the room asking for my handphone number, email and home address. Not cool. They had also initially wanted a deposit of some 500USD. We gave them 500,000rp.

What’s good though is the provision of 4 x 330ml bottles of water within the room.

Sheraton Hotel is pretty close to Pasar Genteng. It costs 12K by taxi, while the return trip cost just 7K. The market is HOT HOT HOT though – bring a handheld fan or a towel if you must. The place is good for purchasing local snacks. [ The taxi base fare is 7K ]

  * award-winning hotel *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers awards

* the room *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers

* the bathtub in the pretty big bathroom *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers bathtub

* toiletries and 2 of the 4 water bottles *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers toiletries

[ Their rather large gym ]

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers gym

[ Pool Bar ]

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers poolbar

[ Pool – quite deserted, just the way I like it ]

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers pool

CROWN PRINCE

In terms of cleanliness, this hotel needs to work on their pillowcases and bedsheets, really. But what is really awesome here is the breakfast spread! OMG! Share some pictures with you in a bit.

Crown Prince took just a 200K deposit. And if you book a club room, you get free afternoon tea from 530pm to 730pm – it’s a really limited selection so I wouldn’t bother again next time. And there are only 3 drinks in the free minibar: coke, pocari sweat and Vit C. We did have 2 free in-room snacks though.

[ I really prefer clean and spotless sheets and pillowcases! ]

crown prince surabaya

crown prince surabaya minibar

Breakfast: The banana cake in the top left corner is AMAZING!!! I had more than 3 servings, I think😀😀

crown prince surabaya breakfast

I love the fruit, porridge, veggies. OMG.

crown prince surabaya breakfast

There’s an egg station too! So, because the food is great, I can forgive all else.

IBIS STYLES

My one biggest regret on this trip is not staying a couple more nights at ibis styles. It’s so clean and colorful (so me!) and the bed is super comfortable! Too bad we had an early flight out. Love love love that the hotel prepared a breakfast takeout for us: Choose from noodles, rice and bread.

* Yup, surprised by breakfast takeout! *

ibis styles packed breakfast to airport

[ The quirky and colorful reception area ]

ibis styles surabaya reception

[ The room with the super comfy beds ]

ibis styles surabaya

[ Everything is colorful. Everything! ]

ibis styles refreshment

ibis styles bathroom

ibis styles surabaya washbasin

I’m definitely returning to ibis styles again the next time I visit Surabaya. Apparently, there are many ibis hotels there, but this one is pretty new. I highly recommend it!

~

It’s pretty weird how 3 people from Surabaya (they now reside in SG) have spoken to me, and 2 are SHOCKED (frankly, appalled) that I like their city. Their complaints: “It’s so hot! There’s nothing to do in Surabaya! It’s boring!” Only 1 person agreed with me that the food is fantastic – the sole Indonesian language tutor at Indo Slang. I guess we sometimes have to see our own city with new (tourist) eyes, and then we begin to appreciate it more. After all, Singapore can be said to be pretty boring too. Malls tend to shut by 10pm… or rather, sales assistants lock up the cash registers around 9.45pm, and there’s not much of a ‘nightlife’ to speak of, right? But there’s so much to love too.

I really do like this Indonesian city. It also does not have traffic jams a la Jakarta. So what’s there to dislike about it?🙂 Go check it out soon!🙂

And in upcoming blogposts, I’ll share about the food places my Indonesian pals took us to, and the malls we visited, etc. Stay tuned!

5 Money Saving Tips For Singaporeans Going On Holidays

It’s that time of the year when public transport (strangely enough) doesn’t seem so crowded anymore. And weekends at the malls feels like weekdays because there aren’t as many people. And even the hawker centre or restaurant near your office is less packed at lunchtime because many people have gone away for the holidays!🙂 And if you’re still in Singapore, you are probably yearning for a holiday but wishing it’s not so expensive. I know exactly how that feels. So here are 5 creative money saving tips for holidays that I’d like to share with you.😀

#1: Save on BAGGAGE fees

Backpack or Luggage

*Swop luggage for a backpack: You’ll end up bringing less and it’ll weigh less too!😛

I flew by Tigerair to Indonesia recently – no hiccups, thank God! – and noticed that an Indonesian lady (I’m not sure if she’s a domestic helper so I won’t speculate) was at the check-in counter at Changi Airport and holding up the entire queue. Apparently she had exceeded the baggage allowance for cabin luggage and had to pay S$50, which she wasn’t pleased with.

And for some reason unknown to me, you cannot pay for excess baggage at the check-in counter. You have to walk over to some other counter somewhere else. It would be any traveler’s worst nightmare if he/she is already running late for a flight!

So… here’s what I suggest: weigh your luggage at home first. Then purchase sufficient check-in luggage allowance online before even heading to the airport (maybe purchase an additional 1 or 2 kilograms more than what your luggage weighs because the weighing scale at the airport might not exactly tally with the one you have at home). Then… here’s a tip you’ll want to thank me for (HAHA)… Have the heaviest item (that’s not too bulky) in a small handbag or camera bag, and place it on the ledge in front of you at the check-in counter, effectively blocking the counter staff from noticing it, and even if he/she does, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be asked to get it weighed ‘cos it’s small.

I’ve used this trick in the past for a heavy DSLR camera (now dead), souvenirs (that I regret buying), and even books (one of the worst things to bring along when you’re flying via budget airlines).😛

#2: Bring everything in MINIATURE and SHARE whenever possible

Budget Travel Singapore

Why bring an entire tube of toothpaste when it’s just a 4D3N trip? If you’re sharing it with 5 friends, then by all means, go ahead. Otherwise, look for small tubes. I don’t recommend using toothpaste provided by hotels because they usually taste weird.

So I have a stash of small toothpaste tubes, miniature bottles of skincare, and even those miniature perfume spray bottles that usually come as free samples with magazines. Keep those!!!

I know of friends who bring their entire 100ml bottles of perfume with them when they head overseas. I’m not sure why anyone would do that unless they are holidaying for 3 months or more.

With everything in miniature, you save on luggage space and can purchase souvenirs or do some shopping without fearing that you’ll exceed your baggage allowance when you’re heading back home.

#3: Bring your own F&B on budget flights (OOPS!)

Nalgene bottle

Of course, if it’s affordable for you, go ahead and purchase in-flight meals off the menu. Better yet, book them together with your flight ticket so as to get cost savings and sometimes, even free vouchers.

The next best thing to do would be to have your meals at the airport and board the plane with a full stomach, and be ready to sleep throughout the duration of the flight.

During those rare occasions when you JUST have to bring some food on-board, such as during transits when there’s just not enough time to sit down for a meal and yet you aren’t willing to spend so much on meals onboard, then grab a sandwich or some food that you can easily polish off within 5-10 minutes… and…

Eat them during takeoff and when the plane’s gaining altitude!

That’s when the cabin crew have to be in their seats with their seatbelts fastened, and they won’t be around to tell you that “Sir, no outside food is allowed on this flight”. GIANT DISCLAIMER HERE: I will not be held responsible should choking occur for whatever reason. If you’re incapable of taking small but quick bites, and spitting food out if something goes wrong, then DO NOT follow this tip.

And always bring your own water bottle – not just for choking episodes but because flights can be extremely dehydrating for our bodies! I refill my empty water bottle just before boarding the plane at Changi Airport. The water from the water cooler is FREE and you can take as much as you want. Once on board, however, a small bottle of water can cost upwards of S$4. In the event that you have to purchase water on a flight, ask for 2 cups of ice (cabin crew are usually happy to oblige) and you can share that bottle with a friend (save some money) OR just wait for the ice to melt and you’ll have more water to last the entire flight! This is the reason I’ll always ask for 2 cups of ice, whether I’m flying solo or not.😀

#4: Make all flight and hotel bookings INCOGNITO and don’t pay full price (DUH!)

Google Incognito Window

I’ve read more than a few articles on how to save money when booking flights. Apparently Tuesdays are really good for that. But one good tip I’ve found is to do my price comparisons using Google’s incognito window.

In the upper right-hand side of your screen, just below the red cross button is the button you can click on and see “New incognito window” as one of the options. Or just press Ctrl + Shift + N.

If I’m just browsing today and not actually paying for flights and hotels yet, I don’t want those sites to track my browsing history, know my travel dates or preferred airlines and hotels. If they do, then when I check back online tomorrow, the prices would either remain the same, or have gone up. Meanwhile, a friend might be able to get discounts just because no browsing history has been tracked.

Also, don’t pay full price. Even a mere 7% discount can add up to be a lot of money. Expedia Singapore has some discount codes for up to 60% off!

#5: Notify your overseas FRIENDS and they’ll help you SAVE lots!

Surabaya Sate

This picture shows the truly DELICIOUS satay (or Sate) in Surabaya that I had last month, thanks to my pals who brought me to the best food places in Surabaya. This was CHEAP and GOOD (and every savvy Singaporean’s dream-come-true). The meal (including rice and drinks) for 4 people came up to just S$12. We each had 10 sticks of satay!!! *faint*

My pals drove me around in their vehicle, so I saved loads on taxi fare. Also, they brought me to the cheaper and better places to buy souvenirs and local delicacies like lapis Surabaya (kueh lapis, Surabaya-style). I’d have paid at least a 30% premium if I bought those items at the Juanda Airport, and there’s no guarantee that I’m getting tastier kueh even if they are more expensive. It’s like in Singapore: those Merlion chocolates will cost WAYYYY more if you buy them at Changi Airport versus at Mustafa, no?😉

~ That’s all, folks! ~

If you’re traveling, I hope these 5 tips come in handy for you!😀 If you have more to share, please drop me an email or leave me a comment below. :D Click to read my previous post about 5 creative money-saving tips for “young” people like me. (Did you know that making a donation can give you 3x tax savings?)

6 Things The Singaporean In Me Loves About Japan

Scoot Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Pretty cabin lights during my Scoot flight to Osaka🙂

I’ve been to Japan twice this year, revisiting cities I love: Osaka, Tokyo, Kobe, etc. In this blogpost, I’d like to share with you the reasons why I have no trouble at all with visiting Japan twice in almost consecutive months. But first, like all true-blue Singaporeans, let me point out one complaint I have on the Scoot flights to Japan.😀 In case you are wondering, no, it’s not the wonderful cabin lights (those are beautiful). It’s actually got to do with the seats and the Call-An-Attendant button…

Scoot Boeing 787 Dreamliner seat

Scoot went all out in announcing its new fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, and flights to Osaka, and I had high hopes for the airline. As it turned out, even before the plane took off from Changi Airport, the cabin crew had to come round and tell us (and a couple of other passengers) that we had accidentally pressed the Call-An-Attendant button. It’s impossible not to hit the button by accident if you use the armrest. I don’t know which genius designed these seats… but seriously… it must be pissing off a lot of flight crew because they cannot ignore those signals when they light up, but 99% of the time, passengers had pressed them by mistake. (@_@)

And now… on to the GOOD stuff, a.k.a what I go to Japan for😀

(1) Melt-in-your-mouth Kobe Beef

Steak land Kobe Beef

We don’t really get such yummy beef in Singapore, unless you are ok with it costing an arm and a leg. But Steak Land in Kobe is pretty popular among tourists and locals alike. You can choose your preferred beef grade and enjoy it for lunch or dinner.

I’ve been to the same outlet twice and observed that the standards differ. One young chef cooked us really tasty beef but another older one gave us slightly tougher beef in meatier chunks.

So, if you happen to be served by the right chef (teppanyaki style), you can look to the heavens and say, like one happy Minister, HENG AH!😀

I’m no food blogger, so the way I’ll describe the beef is to compare it to marshmallows. The texture is just so soft! Make sure you head to Kobe and try Kobe beef even if you only have plans to visit Osaka, Kyoto, etc, as it’s pretty close by train.

(2) Japanese Curry Rice

Best Curry in Osaka

beef curry rice

I love the beef in Japan, but I love their curry too. And beef + curry is a match made in heaven. And at places where you can order an additional topping of an onsen egg, my goodness, you stop chatting with your dining companion because the food DEMANDS all of your attention.😀

Japanese food is simply put… worth getting fat for. And I’m really thankful that budget airlines are flying to Japan because I really do need to head over again just for oishii meals!

(3) Queuing For Japanese Cheesecake

Japanese cheesecake

Like all astute Singaporeans, we know that something must be good if there is a queue for it. And even if we don’t know what people are queuing up for, it is ok, just join the queue first and find out later…

It was exactly what happened one sunny, summer morning in Osaka. A long line of elderly men and women were queuing up outside a store which sells tidbits. We didn’t know what they were queuing up for, but we joined the line anyway and waited for our turn in the sweltering heat. After sweating for a good ten minutes perhaps, we got to the front and chose 3 packs of snacks (there was a limit of 3 packets per person) and continued queuing in line in order to make payment. Apparently there was some promotion going on that day. And if SO MANY old folks queued up for this snack, it must taste heavenly, right?

Wrong.

It was crunchy, no doubt. But rather tasteless and a waste of time to queue for.

Japanese cheesecake, however, is AMAZING! If you have the chance to eat a slice of cake in store when it’s fresh out of the oven and warm, you won’t forget that taste. Some have raisins in them too. SO GOOD…

(4) Plush Toys From UFO Machines

Little Twin Stars plush

I got this Little Twin Stars unicorn from one of the UFO machines. Probably spent less than S$10 to get this plush. Japanese UFO catcher machines are all programmed in such a way that it’s near impossible to get the toy without spending, say, S$40 or more.

I’m not going to give away the secret here, though.😀

About 2 years ago, he and I brought back a HUGE bag full of plushies. This year, we stopped at one. Hehehe!

(5) Brands + Huge Discounts

Adidas running shoes

I’d bought this pair at a sporting goods fair in Singapore before heading to Japan, and thought I’d bagged a good bargain. Turns out it’s even cheaper in Japan! (@_@)

Many Singaporeans THINK that everything in Japan is expensive. But this pair is about S$50 after the conversion.😀 Also, if you’re a Daiso fan, Daiso items are sold at 108 yen (about S$1.20) so that’s way cheaper than in Daiso stores in Singapore. Also, there are Hello Kitty Daiso items you can only get in Japan, and not in Singapore.😀 Getting an authentic Hello Kitty item for just S$1.20 is UNBELIEVABLE. Check out some of the kitty items I got here.

(6) Spacious and Comfy Hotel Rooms

Osaka Floral Inn Namba

Another misconception that some Singaporeans have about Japan is that the hotel rooms are TINY. This room is in Osaka Floral Inn Namba, and this picture does not do it justice because the “walkway” (space beside the bed) is pretty long and if you need to lay out 5 open suitcases, you can.

~

On my most recent trip to Japan, we had our wifi devices sponsored by Ninja Wifi and it is amazing! We had undisrupted wifi throughout and did not have to struggle to connect to some hotels’ lousy wifi networks.

If you’re traveling to Japan and love being connected while you’re at it, then make sure you book a device early and pick it up at the airport…

Ninja Wifi

Easy pickup at the Arrival Hall…

Global Wifi Kansai International Airport

Park Hotel Alexandra: Crystal Club Lounge

Park Hotel Alexandra Crystal Club Lounge

I’ve had a most enjoyable stay in Park Hotel Alexandra’s Crystal Club room (click on the link to check out my review) and the Crystal Club Lounge is part of the experience. Located on the 19th floor as well, the lounge offers a quiet setting and great views. I love that there are only a few people at the lounge each time I visit.😀

Park Hotel Alexandra Crystal Club Lounge

Park Hotel Alexandra’s Crystal Club Lounge has a panoramic view that I think you’ll love too. So go check it out if you get the chance.🙂 And complementary hors d’oeuvres are served at the lounge from 530pm to 730pm* while light refreshments and non-alcoholic drinks are available throughout the day.

*During those 2 hours in the evening, you can drink your fill of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and nibble on some of the fruit, cheese and cake. I’d recommend couples to book a staycation in a Crystal Club room and enjoy these perks. I sure had a great time chatting with him over drinks. Too often, we are consumed by work and don’t spend quality time together just chatting with each other over drinks and taking in a scenic view at the same time.😀

Park Hotel Alexandra Crystal Club Lounge

Park Hotel Alexandra staff have impressed me during this visit:

  1. I wanted to head downstairs to the lobby to meet Feby from Febspantry as she’d some cupcakes for me. Alan exited from one of the lifts and I stepped right in, but alas, the elevator was heading upwards instead. And Alan waited for the next lift with me and even apologized for not reacting fast enough in helping me to stop the previous lift (totally not his fault).😀
  2. Sabrina did a great job in the morning, chatting with guests as they waited for an available table for breakfast. *Tip: Head downstairs for breakfast (at The Carvery) EARLY if you don’t want to end up queuing.
  3. Eileen was the only one attending to all the Crystal Club guests during the evening when we had our (free) drinks. When I was eating the coleslaw, she came over with a fresh tray of lemon meringue tarts and offered to replace the one I had taken – she said they taste better when cold.

Park Hotel Alexandra Crystal Club Lounge

After which, she made sure to come by our table, address us by our last names, and ensured that all was well. She also offered me Bailey’s and gin & tonic, and even brought us a bowl of cashew nuts because it seemed like we were happy with our drinks and weren’t going for more food.😀

Free drinks, good service and a great view. What more can one ask for?

Park Hotel Alexandra Crystal Club Lounge

~

As for breakfast, it was not at the Crystal Club Lounge during my stay. We headed downstairs for breakfast with all the other hotel guests, at The Carvery. *Breakfast at the Club Lounge (for Club guests) will commence in September 2015.

Park Hotel Alexandra Buffet Breakfast

As with most hotels, there’s an omelette station which serves decent omelettes. The siu mai and pau are pretty good too! But I love the pastries the most! I actually neglected to take a picture of the pastries because I was happily enjoying them!😀

We had a workout session at the gym and also a swim in the hotel’s infinity pool before breakfast, and we were famished. Thankfully, the food did not disappoint. Some angmoh ladies sat at the table next to ours and even they were impressed by the breakfast options.

The infinity pool in front of the restaurant…

Park Hotel Alexandra infinity pool

This staycation was one of the most memorable ones we’ve had (that’s not us in the picture by the way). I’d love to head back here again soon.🙂 A swim in that pool first thing in the morning is pretty invigorating. You can admire the surroundings without being in a pool that’s too crowded.😉