Day 1 in Bangkok: Century mall, Le Tada Residences, Platinum, The Market Bangkok, Big C Supercenter

bangkok airport sim card

Was supposed to be on a plane today, actually. Because of COVID-19, all plans were changed. So I’m just going to complete this blogpost regarding Day 1 of my Bangkok trip in February 2020. ๐Ÿ˜€ Pretty interesting how we just went with the flow that day – we’d planned to meet my pal who is based in Bangkok and probably most of the day would have been spent with said friend. This Singaporean pal in Bangkok was supposed to pick us up from the airport but as there was no reply to my messages, I figured he must have overslept so we decided to make our way to the hotel without waiting for him.ย 

At the airport, I picked up the sim card I’d booked via Klook, for something like $6.35! Cheaper than if I were to get a Changi Recommends wifi device! Here are the sim card rates I’d have paid over-the-counter if I hadn’t booked with Klook:

klook bangkok sim card

Then we headed to the basement where we could take an ‘airport train’ to Phaya Thai, and which would cost us 45baht for the full journey. Before we got onto the train though, we noticed that there are a few bubble tea shops to the left of the automated ticketing counters. We found one at a (hidden) corner called ‘Monte’s Cup’. It had a steady stream of airport workers buying their bubble tea here. So we joined the queue and bought Yakult Green Tea + a topping of aloe vera for 60baht.

monte's cup bangkok airport

Always follow the lead of the people who work in an area. They know what’s best. ๐Ÿ˜‰

From Phaya Thai, it cost another 16baht to take the BTS to Victory Monument station. We had lunch at Narai Pizzeria, which is SO popular among students. No doubt because you pay a flat fee and then get to eat and drink all you want.ย 

narai pizzeria

*Note to self: Definitely eat the proteins with the shabu shabu first before the carbs (pizza, pasta).ย 

narai pizzeria review

narai pizzeria shabu shabu

The food’s OK. Nothing amazing. Just good for when you’re feeling ravenous. Haha!

We paid a total of 509baht for the shabu buffet for two.ย 

And we did pop by the cinema to check out the movie ticket prices. I can’t say they are cheap though:

movie ticket price bangkok

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le tada residences bangkok

After lunch, we made our way to Le Tada Residences. The reception counter was in one building but we stayed in another, which was fine with us. Since we saw that a group of Mainland Chinese folks were staying in the first building. And the receptionist even mentioned that people from Wuhan were staying in the hotel – which no doubt spooked us a little.ย 

Luckily we were in a bit of a food coma, and rather chill, ‘cos check-in was quite a disaster. After heading to the second building and locating our room (#327), we found that there was a strong smell of cigarette smoke within. Since the smell was unacceptable to us, AND we didn’t want to end up having to pay some cleaning fee or other (on behalf of the previous guest), we headed back downstairs and over to the next building to inform the receptionist. We were then issued the keycard for room #528 but when we got to the room, alas, it was not ready. In fact, it was in quite a mess. The housekeeper, who probably speaks little English, just said “LATER! LATER!” to us. So off we go again… back down to the lobby and this time, the lady comes along with us to yet another room (#529). The keycard issued to us was problematic though – it wasn’t able to open the door. (>_<) So we told her we’ll just drop our bags in the room (since the ‘master’ card she had was able to open the door), wash up, then collect replacement keycards from the lobby on our way out.ย 

Quite an ‘adventure’, no? Anyway, on Day 2, we found they had left a surprise for us in-room.

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Since my pal had gone MIA (Ah! It’s really a young millennial thing), we took a 15-minute Grab ride to Platinum, and that cost just 92baht.

best shopping in platinum bangkok

My fav shop in Platinum. I don’t even know what it’s called. But EVERYTHING’s priced at 20baht.

And I evidently don’t do enough walking, as I felt my knees HURTING after a while! Unlike other men, my darling doesn’t complain about accompanying me shopping, does a great job of steering me in the right direction when I am lost in that maze of stores, and his knees are just fine! Hmph! (@_@)

After feeling like I’ve just ascended a mountain, and I’m not really feeling my legs anymore, we head outside and use the overhead connector to get to the mall beside Big C. Apparently, it’s called The Market Bangkok.

At their foodcourt, there’s supposedly some Tom Yum Goong Noodles with a Michelin Bib Gourmand accolade. It turned out too sweet for my liking plus it didn’t look nor taste like it would win any kind of award. ๐Ÿ˜‘ Good thing the foodcourt has an ongoing promo whereby you can exchange 100baht for 120baht in coupons. My darling’s tom yum goong fried rice wasn’t remarkable either. I really don’t think we’ll be back again. I’m sure we aren’t the only ones waiting for Don Don Donki to open its outlet downstairs. ๐Ÿ˜‰

At Big C, we spent almost S$60 on snacks and drinks! And what’s perplexing was that there were many randomly-pasted signs along the aisles and on product shelves that said “ๅŠ ๆฒนไธญๅ›ฝ”. We certainly haven’t seen anything like that in supermarkets in Singapore. And now, it’s probably not just China, but the whole world, that needs the encouragement.

At another store, I found interesting tidbits such as these crispy bamboo worms in a can. ORIGINAL FLAVOR, no less. I’m not sure I’ll like ‘original flavor’ worms. Maybe if they’re spicy or have some other flavoring (tom yum?), I might be able to enjoy them. ๐Ÿ˜€ย 

crispy bamboo worms bangkok

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In any case, I am glad this blogpost’s done! ๐Ÿ˜€ The previous ones did make me feel like ‘Ah~~ I wish I can go travel’ but because of this virus situation, we’ve got to stay home more often than we’d like. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And as my sis kindly reminded everyone at dinner, we can choose to stay in 1 of 3 places: Home, a Hospital, or a Picture Frame.ย 

~ 55555 ~

Day 3 in Bangkok: (KLOOK) Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Maeklong Railway Market, Asiatique

Inside the minibus which we boarded at Century Mall

The current COVID-19 situation has disrupted our upcoming travel plans (haiz) so I might as well complete blogging about our previous trip to Thailand. ๐Ÿ˜€ On Day 3, we went on a tour that we had booked via Klook (get S$5 off your first activity by clicking this link) We got to vist the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and Maeklong Railway Market. The tour cost $33.65 per pax after a discount with a Klook promo code.

Spotted this building along the way. It looked like a dragon had tried to climb to the top. ๐Ÿ˜€ Turns out it’s King Power MahaNakhon, one of the coolest buildings in Bangkok:

Please go Google for a better image if you’d like. This was taken while on a moving vehicle so… ๐Ÿ˜‰

First stop: 7-eleven

Our hotel (Le Tada Residences) was pretty near the pickup location – precisely why I booked that hotel in the first place. So it was easy for us to be there at 7am. We’d actually wanted to go on this day tour on Day 2 of our Thailand trip but they did not have enough guests to warrant proceeding with the tour, and as luck would have it, we did not check our emails and Klook wasn’t able to get in touch with us. So we showed up at 7am that day, then went back, and returned again the next day at 7am. ๐Ÿ˜€ There were 7 of us on that tour, so it was definitely comfortable in the minibus, which could probably seat 10 or more people. Apart from me and my darling, it was a group of 5 Filipinos.ย 

And unfortunately, our guide Cherry was late so we did not make it in time for the train. So there were some changes to the schedule. We went to a rest stop (kind of like Yong Peng in Malaysia) where there was a 7-eleven outlet. (I bought Lactasoy with no sugar, and it was just awful) Some of the ladies bought their breakfast here – one even bought cup noodles to bring onto the minibus. I’m surprised they didn’t spill any hot liquid on themselves as they shared the noodles.

Then we visited a temple – Wat Bang Kung – that was built during the Ayuttaya period. There was also a Thai Boxing Temple nearby, not that we saw any actual boxing going on:

Then we made our way to Maeklong Railway Station. We were told that atย 11.10am, the train will arrive and at 11.15am, we were to meet our guide, get tickets from her and get onto the train before 11.30am. It was simply a train-riding experience – we had to alight at the next stop, and the journey took something like 15mins only.

maeklong railway station

When the train is in sight, EVERYONE clamors for a picture. And yes, people will stand on the tracks, as if unafraid of being run over.

I’m not sure why this is a tourist attraction.ย 

But the food at the station is really good! And cheap too! We were attracted to a stall called Rom Hub Station as there was a lady with a gigantic hair accessory on her head (the flower was bigger than her face) calling out to passersby. The Mango Sticky Rice is VERY GOOD (and cost just 50baht) while the fresh coconut costs only 15baht. You won’t regret dining here!

One very enjoyable meal in Bangkok!

After boarding the train, we found that sitting on the left side was cooler. ๐Ÿ˜€ Do take note if you’re boarding the train around 11am. ๐Ÿ˜‰

When we reached Lat Yai Station, we got off the train and made our way to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. We were given watermelon and some water before we got onto the boat, which was probably a good thing.ย 

We were supposed to go for the 60-minute boat ride at 10am. But because our guide was late, and we missed the train, we got onto the boat after 1pm, when it was SUPER HOT!

The Filipinos sat in front, while we took the back seats, as we did on the minibus. XD

ย  I got a fright when this lady stuck out this long pole with a hook at the end, latched onto our boat and pulled it close to her ‘shop’.ย ย 

Like that also can, ah?

Either the boatman would select which ‘stalls’ he wanted to stop his boat at (and we’ll sometimes see him receive cash, whether or not we bought anything), or we get dragged in, as shown above. (>_<) And unless you don’t mind paying exorbitant prices, don’t look, don’t point and most certainly don’t ask any questions. The sellers are experts at coaxing people into parting with their cash, and unless you are a seasoned shopper and can put your foot down and say “No, it’s either this price or I’m not buying”, it’s best to just keep quiet and look at your phone or elsewhere. Let the sellers grumble to the boatman in Thai about how miserly you all are, and then you get to leave. ๐Ÿ˜€ย 

I like this lil old lady’s smile ๐Ÿ˜€

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Unfortunately, it seems to me that this floating market serves mainly tourists. I didn’t see locals buying stuff off the boats.ย 

After we were done with the boat ride, we were shown places where we could sit down for a meal. Darling and I set off towards the nearest 7-eleven store, where we bought Cherry Blossom Magnum ice cream, among other things.ย 

We could then select our preferred drop-off location: Asiatique, Chinatown, Siam Center or Century Mall where our journey began.ย 

We picked Asiatique, and there we had dinner at Checkmate Bar & Bistro, which was offering 50% off via Eatigo (yes, you can use Eatigo in Thailand!) There was also 1-for-1 for Stella Artois beer.

BBQ Pork Ribs at 380baht++

We also had their deep-fried chicken wings (just the mid joint) at 180baht++, which went SO WELL with beer. The Tom Yum Kung (250++) was a disappointment though. I’d probably not come here for mains again. It’s more of a finger food + beer place. ๐Ÿ˜€

We did also have ice cream at Swensen’s.

asiatique swensens

The Swensen’s at Asiatique doesn’t serve hot foods. You come here just for dessert. Had two scoops of ice cream, with jack fruit, fudge and cherry toppings, and a yummilicious chocolate lava cake! The bill? Just 254baht. And water is served free-of-charge. ๐Ÿ™‚

Read about Day 4 of our Bangkok 2020 holiday HERE.

Day 4 in Bangkok: Makro Sathorn, King Power Rangnam, Don Mueang International Airport

Around this time last week, I was in Bangkok. And, for a change, I’m going to blog about the last day in BKK first. ๐Ÿ˜€ So this post is about Day 4, as the title suggests. Breakfast was pretty amazing, as you can tell from the picture above. In fact, I was the one who made the waffle ‘cos the guy who was supposed to do it was nowhere to be found. He was the one who helped divide it up later on though. I love the pork porridge, fruits and the fried potato chunks. If it’s not so troublesome to prepare, I’d probably have breakfast like this every single day. ๐Ÿ˜€

We did not use the pool at Le Tada Residences during our stay though, ‘cos (1) it was located right next to the dining area so there will be many eyes watching us, and (2) staff had told us there were people from Wuhan staying in the same hotel so we tried to avoid the common areas as much as possible.

Our flight was right after lunch so we decided to do some shopping before heading to the airport. We paid 160baht for a Grab ride (+50baht for the toll) to get to Makro Sathorn, which is like our Giant hypermart in an IKEA warehouse layout. You’ll see what I mean in the picture below. Instead of going to another Big C outlet, I thought we might as well visit something new to us…

Keep track of the amount you are spending and you can possibly get a tax refund at the exit. Interestingly, our ride back to the hotel cost us 165baht via Grab but the vehicle’s meter (it was a taxi) showed just 127baht as the fare. So if you want to save a little, you can try flagging down a cab.ย 

After our shopping, my darling goes for a massage opposite King Power Rangnam, which cost 250 baht for 1 hour while I chill over at KOI cafe in King Power.

90baht for my golden bubble milk tea:

Our Grab ride from the Le Tada Residences to Don Mueang International Airport cost us 316baht, which I believe was money well spent since there was no way we could comfortably get our bulging luggage to the airport via train and bus. ๐Ÿ˜€

And after days of tom yum, my meal of choice at the airport was McDonald’s!

And like everywhere else, there’s a sign showing their support and encouragement for Wuhan. It does surprise me that the Thai people love and support the Chinese so much, that there are similar signs in supermarkets, malls, restaurants elsewhere.ย 

And if you’re wondering whether you can purchase masks in Thailand to bring back to Singapore, well, there’s a limit on the number of pieces you can take home. It’s usually 30 pieces per traveler, unless you have a doctor’s letter to prove you are ill and need the additional masks then you can have 50 pieces in your luggage. In fact, we saw a large transparent case at Immigration, which you’ll usually find contraband in, and it was filled with packets of surgical face masks! (@_@)

In any case, masks are also either out-of-stock in most stores we visited in Bangkok, or the prices are ridiculous just like in Singapore. For a box of surgical face masks, I was quoted between 1,700 and 1,900baht, which is about S$77 – S$86. If you’re going to BKK to get masks, my advice is ‘don’t bother’. It’s actually cheaper in Singapore.

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! ๐Ÿ˜€ I think there are only two things about Novotel Pekanbaru that I like: the location and their breakfast spread! ๐Ÿ˜€

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*

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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.

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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. ๐Ÿคฃ 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.

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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 aย Grab ride to the airport and it cost just 46K – cheaper than the ride from the airport! Along the way, we saw people peddlingย 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ˜…

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. ๐Ÿ˜Ž OK. ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช 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! ๐Ÿ˜€ 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

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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 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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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). ๐Ÿ˜€ 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

*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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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 aย  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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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! ๐Ÿ˜€ 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.ย 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? ๐Ÿค”

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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? ๐Ÿ˜‰

~ 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! ๐Ÿ˜… 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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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 evenย 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

~

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. ๐Ÿ˜… 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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! ๐Ÿ˜› (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. ๐Ÿ˜€

*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. ๐Ÿ˜‘ 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. ๐Ÿ˜…

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ˜… 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

Taiwan Day 2: Bus from Taipei to Leofoo Village ๅ…ญ็ฆๆ‘, Puti Commercial Hotel ๆœดๅ คๅ•†ๅŠกๆ—…้ฆ†, ็้ฆ™็‰›่‚‰้ข Zhen Xiang Beef Noodles

leofoo village

Before we flew to Taiwan, I’d gotten some REALLY cheap tickets to two attractions from Changi Recommends, besides getting the wifi device from them as well. The first of the attractions is Leofoo Village or ๅ…ญ็ฆๆ‘. I paid just S$25 for a pair of tickets. The usual price for an adult ticket is TWD999 (or about S$44). You can probably get some discounts off Klook or other sites but I’m quite sure I got a steal. ๐Ÿ˜€ Anyway, read about our Day 1 in Taipei if you haven’t already – Chen Ji Mian Xian, Dream of Red Mansions Hotel, ๆ–ฐ้ฆฌ่พฃ็ซ้”… New Mala Hotpot, Typhoon Mitag.

Checking out from Dream of Red Mansions (what a name, bless them) was a breeze. Just handed over the keycards to our room and that was it.

And we spotted a crazy queue of people outside the Xinfutang (already in SG) bubble tea store at about 9.40am. The shop wasn’t even open yet and people needed their bubble tea fix! The staff were getting their morning briefing done by the manager! LOL.

And right outside Ximen station is this colorful photo spot. I’m sure IG lovers will love this…

We set off early for Leofoo Village as I thought we’ll be spending a lot of time there. It’s known as the “Disneyland” of Taiwan. And it supposedly is the country’s largest theme park (?!) and I thought we could head there the non-touristy way by taking the local bus! So we took the train to Zhongxiao Dunhua station which is just 5 stops away from Ximending.

Once there, head out of exit 8 – you’ll have to walk up some steps. And then cross the pedestrian crossing behind you. In the middle of the crossing, and to your right, is the bus stop. Bus 5350 is a direct bus to Leofoo Village. We used the loo at Starbucks (near to exit 8) before boarding the bus, as the department store SOGO wasn’t even open yet at 1030am!

At the bus stop, you’ll see the display showing a rough estimation of waiting time for the bus. But I highly doubt its accuracy. You can also check online: https://ebus.gov.taipei/thb/StopsOfRoute?stopid=535001&id=5350(ๅพ€)&nameZh=่‡บๅŒ—ๅธ‚โ†’ๅฐไบบๅœ‹โ†’ๅ…ญ็ฆๆ‘&provider=ๅฐ่ฏๅฎข้‹

We boarded this blue coach below after spotting it from afar and ended up RUNNING towards it. It has recliner seats so… MUCH LOVE! ๐Ÿ˜€ It was quite packed with folks from the airport but I think you should have no trouble getting a seat on a weekday morning. Just tap your easycard on the reader when boarding and alighting. We boarded the bus at 1046am and reached Leofoo at 1207pm.

Many locals use this bus to get home from the airport so tourists to Leofoo have ‘competition’ for seats! There is 1 short rest stop as seen in the picture below for people to pay for tickets if they haven’t already done so…

And here we are at the entrance to Leofoo!

Beautiful skies showing no trace of the inclement weather from the previous night. The water theme park was also said to have been closed from some time in September? If you plan to have some splashin’ good fun, you might want to check with them whether it’ll be open during your visit. We exchanged our Changi Recommends voucher printouts for these tickets at the Guest Service Center.

There are lockers outside – TWD30 for a large one and TWD10 for a small one. So affordable! So don’t worry even if you’re coming directly from the airport!

There were a number of rides under maintenance during our visit (but I didn’t really care since they were the scary ones). If you want a cage ride (like in the picture below), you need to book it 3 days in advance and pay TWD2000. If you’re staying in the resort here, I believe you might either get discounted tickets or a free ride (but I’m not sure since we didn’t stay here).

So peaceful! Makes you appreciate having this whole space to yourself. No need to crop random passersby out of your pictures too!

And here’s my Prince Charming, ็™ฝ้ฉฌ็Ž‹ๅญ (literally ‘prince on a white horse’)…

We were taking pictures of each other AT THE SAME TIME. Hence we have these weird ones. ๐Ÿ˜€

And here’s a diva – knows its best angle, how to show off a leg and all. ๐Ÿ˜€

I hate rollercoasters. Even the relatively mild ones that the staff tell me aren’t scary at all… I’m screaming my head off. Luckily, as mentioned, there were very few visitors. Barely any waiting time. And definitely no need for express passes and the like.

Love the meerkats. So kawaii!

We didn’t go for the pricey TWD2000 cage ride but we did board the free bus and got to see black bears, Bengal tigers and African lions up close. All the driver needed to do was to open the doors and we’d have been dead meat. But I guess the animals snoozing under the shade would have to be woken up first. ๐Ÿ˜€

If you have no fear of heights, go take one of these overhead rides – I think you’ll have to pedal to get it moving. If it stalls then… good luck to you!

Hot, hot day:

Carousel under a blue sky. Hopefully the place isn’t always so deserted, or else it might have to shut soon. I guess we popped by when it’s not peak holiday season yet so… Singaporean mummies and daddies, make sure you come by! This place is so kid-friendly!

And for thrill-seekers, there ARE some rides that’ll make your heart skip a beat too:

I think I enjoyed this next one. You enter a dark room and there are lasers everywhere, as if protecting some priceless treasure. You need to reach certain designated spots without touching any of those laser beams. Actually if you just lie down and crawl, it’s perfect. Just don’t wear white clothing, ok?

There also a Mighty Mountain Flume Adventure whereby you get into a canoe and you head down the shorter ride first, and then plunge from a 3-storey height (the second ride). Just board the canoe once, and you get two plunges. If the first one freaks you out… well… just wait, the next one’s gonna be higher! ๐Ÿ˜€ As you can imagine, I volunteered my services as photographer.

And oh! It can be really hot midday so make sure you wear a hat, sunscreen, bring a portable fan, etc.

We had a grilled chicken meal which was delicious! Just TWD209, with fries and tea.

I also bought bread at a theme park. I’m nuts, I tell you. But red bean and mochi is somehow delicious!

We left at around 345pm, which means we spent under 4 hours here. There are buses to the Longtan area but I think the frequency is around 30 to 40 minutes. I was so tired I just wanted to hop into a cab so we did. It’s TWD300 fixed fare to our hotel.

Apparently, there were drivers who took tourists on long routes so as to overcharge them so now there’s this sign to show the respective fares to the various locations.

I’d booked a room at Puti Commercial Hotel. I’d thought we could enjoy a dip in the pool but there was “NO WATER” in it! I’m not sure if it was due to the typhoon the previous day and so they had to do some cleaning, or they’re just not prepared for guests. If you want to do some laundry, head to level 5.

I believed those reviews on agoda and so we headed to ็้ฆ™็‰›่‚‰้ข Zhen Xiang Beef Noodles. I’m not sure why those Singaporeans say the beef noodles here are good. Have they never eaten good beef noodles?! At 449pm when we entered, the place was deserted and service was non-existent. Sauces and cutlery are near the entrance so you can help yourself.

The laminated order sheet and markers are at the counter. Just go grab one and decide what you’ll have…

Take my advice: the meat is not as good as the tendon. And the TWD70 ones come with only soup and noodles – no meat whatsoever.

Get a FREE noodle or soup refill here:

I fell in love with Taiwan Beer on this trip. And this bottle… GOLD MEDAL TAIWAN BEER… love love love:

Bottle cap opener hanging from some string in the middle of the eatery. As usual… self-service! Grab the beer from the fridge and remove the cap. No one’s gonna do it for you.

You can also help yourself to free ice cream. Eat while waiting for your beef noodles to be served.

One MAJOR downside of dining here at ็้ฆ™็‰›่‚‰้ข Zhen Xiang Beef Noodles is that there are lots of mosquitoes. Maybe we were here at mozzie hour. We left around 522pm. I killed 2 mosquitoes in the dining area, and encountered a third in the washroom. Wear repellent or long sleeves and pants when dining here, ya!

Strangely, if you’re willing to walk, the town’s pretty big. There are SO MANY other beef noodle places, and lots of other cuisines. There’s a TWD399 buffet where you can eat till you drop. There’s a bee farm. There’s even a big “pond” they call ่ง‚ๅ…‰ๅคงๆฑ .

We even found a shop selling mala stinky tofu, where you can ask for refills of the soup. Just TWD70!

We also went into hardware stores selling all manner of household items, and they had cheap snacks and drinks too! We even managed to find the prawning place that the boss of the mala stinky tofu place had told us about. It’s next to the Ford car showroom. (Ford in Mandarin sounds like “fu te”)

There’s also this Blueworld petstore where they sell pigs, iguanas, birds, hamsters, fish… and even pythons!

The pig looks a little distressed. It was going round in circles and its water / food bowl had even been overturned.

That’s a python for TWD12800:

I have no idea what these sea creatures are. Head of a dragon, body of a sotong, is how I describe them:

As for my thoughts about Puti Commercial Hotel… hmm, no working pool, no fridge in the room, all 2-pin power points, rain shower doesn’t seem to be working, bicycles don’t have locks so we didn’t feel safe borrowing them, so TWD1350/night seems to be rather pricey! I’d likely not stay here again. Worse still, if you aren’t at the breakfast area by 7am, most of the good stuff would have been eaten by the locals already. And horror of horrors, the auntie in charge of the breakfast area sat at one of the tables fiddling with her mobile phone while she instructed us to clear our breakfast dishes and put them in the sink. Did I FEEL like a hotel guest here? No. Felt more like I’m at home with MOM. Hahaha! Don’t get me wrong though, I really do clear my own dishes whether at home or outside. But to be instructed to do so when other (presumably Taiwanese) guests do not clear theirs but just up and go, makes me feel like we’re being discriminated against. But it was pretty common on this trip. As we look like we could be from China. Once we start speaking English, or say that we’re from Singapore, we generally get better service. Strange but true.

Taipei Day 1: Chen Ji Mian Xian, Dream of Red Mansions Hotel, ๆ–ฐ้ฆฌ่พฃ็ซ้”… New Mala Hotpot, Typhoon Mitag

It’s been a long while since we’ve been back to Taiwan. I think it has been a good 5 years since. Previously, we narrowly missed being on the same train as the guy who carried out random stabbings on the MRT train (he has since been executed). We were probably one train ahead of him and had alighted to enjoy our meesua (Chen Ji Mian Xian) when we noticed lots of ambulances whizzing past. Safe to say, we found it a bit dangerous and scary to return any time soon. This time round, all was well except for our narrow miss with Typhoon Mitag. If we had taken a later flight, we’d probably be left stranded in Singapore since many flights were cancelled due to the impending typhoon. Anyway, in the picture you see above, we got our complimentary One-way Taoyuan Airport MRT vouchers from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau in Singapore, located at 10 Collyer Quay #06-03. You simply have to show your flight booking and a reservation for at least a one-night stay in Taiwan and you can claim the freebie that’s currently available. We were lucky enough to get these! ๐Ÿ˜€

And here’s the exchange rate for the money changer at the Taoyuan airport:

We exchanged the MRT voucher for a purple token. Just tap it like you would an ezlink charm on the reader. Then when you exit a station, drop it into the slot.

We flew to Taiwan with Jetstar, and I have to say that while I appreciate the cost savings, the experience is not very comfortable. For some reason, there’ll be a guy seated behind us and he’ll have super long legs and be very fidgety too. When the dude behind moves about in his seat, his knees are in contact with the back of your seat and your lower back will be subjected to bumps and sometimes kneading like when you’re on a massage chair, except that this would not be at all enjoyable.

I definitely want aisle seats next time (easier when I want to go pee), and I’d better be seated before the emergency rows which have extra legroom so only giraffes would have an excuse for giving me that back-kneading I do not need. And since Scoot is removing their booking fees… pardon me for not having any brand loyalty! ๐Ÿ˜€

It was a different story on the Taoyuan Airport MRT. Comfy seats with USB charging ports. My goodness!

*If you were wondering, we exchanged the vouchers for the tokens at the Information Counter, or what we would call the ‘control station’ in Singapore.

Clearing customs this time was a pleasant experience too. The female officer was all smiles, called me by my first name, told me about the typhoon (which I didn’t know about) and advised that I stay indoors at night.

Unfortunately, the airport is a little different from how I remember it to be. No convenience store where I remembered. Anyway, we took the train to Taipei Main Station. That took around 35 minutes. And we bought bubble milk tea (TWD45) and Taiyaki (TWD30).

Both weren’t exactly remarkable. But we just needed something to fill our stomachs before we took another train to Longshan Temple Station to get to Chen Ji Mian Xian. Interestingly, yes, you can use your super old easycard for the trains. Just top up the existing value and you can use it immediately. It doesn’t seem to expire, ever. At Longshan Temple Station, take exit 2, take a left and cross the road, straight ahead will be the stall. Alas! The taste is no longer as good (bummer!) and there are now super small oysters, and they provide basil (I think) leaves on top. Basil is called ‘ไนๅฑ‚ๅก”’ in Mandarin, so feel free to confirm this with the stallowners when you visit. I don’t like basil and for the life of me, cannot understand why they think this leaf adds to the dish. If anything, it makes it yucky. My recommendation is to remove the leaf and add lots of chili sauce.

TWD75 for a large bowl:

Another regret of mine is that we did not come by earlier. At FamilyMart, there has been a promo – buy 3 of these candies and top up TWD10 (or 50 SG cents) to get a HELLO KITTY CUP HOLDER! OMG! As you can imagine, they’re sold out everywhere. Woe is me.

And because of the typhoon that was coming (around 8pm), we tried to quickly find our hotel, which was supposed to be above a Uniqlo store. Bloody agoda.com reviews. The hotel’s not actually linked to any part of Uniqlo which has something like four storeys. We went all the way up and found there’s a special level which allows you to customise your own tees! And they have some special designs here that are not available elsewhere.

But as it was raining cats and dogs and mice and elephants, we (or rather, I) just wanted to find the hotel quickly. So here are the directions to Dream of Red Mansions Hotel: From Ximen station, take exit 6, then turn right and walk till you see the cinema and Uniqlo after it. Between the two is the entrance to the lift lobby as shown below:

The hotel is on the 12th floor. I’ve read that they have rooms on level 13, but are super inconvenient to get to so I’m glad we got a room on level 12. ABC Mart on the 5th floor is undergoing renovations so it wasn’t open… again, bummer. And I found that the stairs are pretty useless to the public. Always take the lifts ‘cos the stairs are only for staff to use.

Anyway, here’s our room 1206. Love it. The power points are suitable for all plugs so you don’t need a travel adaptor. So far it’s the only hotel in Taipei / Taiwan that I’ve seen have this.

*We paid TWD1355.44 for this Deluxe Double room

Watching the news and shaking our heads ‘cos they ALWAYS get reporters to stand in the rain and do dramatic news reports. In the past they had people hugging lampposts or trees just to avoid being blown away.

My darling, bless his adventurous soul, wanted to head out of the hotel to go shopping and find a place to have dinner but I just wanted to stay within the building. Because even standing near the entrance at level 1 would get you drenched. Thankfully, good sense prevailed and we had dinner at this place on level 6 called ๆ–ฐ้ฆฌ่พฃ. And despite their being famous for mala hot pots, I chose non-spicy soup bases! ๐Ÿ˜€

They don’t accept credit cards here so make sure you bring cash! What I love most: HAAGEN DAZS ICE CREAM! FREE FLOW!

Here’s the order sheet – you can order just 8 items each time and only 3 units of each.

What looks like osmanthus jelly was actually the collagen stuff to dunk into the soup base. (@_@) Luckily we asked before I put it into my mouth. ๐Ÿ˜€

You have 2 HOURS to eat as much as you can. They serve up the items a little too slowly for my liking, though. But I love the plush leather seats, free flow TAIWAN BEER, top grade meats and fresh seafood (the scallops and prawns are yummy!) We spent a total of TWD1596 here, which I think was well worth it.

They have canned drinks in the fridge with a sign on the door that says you cannot take any of the drinks within. But check with the staff and they’ll say you can help yourself. And since I saw other diners taking Coke and all, I had two of this Apple Sidra drink, which was delicious:

If not for the 2-hour limit, we’d probably have eaten till we threw up. HAHAHA! Everything was so good!

And here’s the view from our hotel room – you can almost see Taipei 101 in the distance:

As I get older *cough cough*, I find that I cannot tolerate hotel rooms without windows. I cannot stand seats on budget airlines. And I certainly will not sleep after 10pm ‘cos it makes me cranky the next day. So for this trip, I only booked hotel rooms with windows and we went to bed before 10pm too – thank you, Typhoon.

And for travellers who are worried about the weight of their bulging luggage, the hotel even has a weighing scale for you to use!

There’s a water dispenser too! And free coffee, if you’d like. Rooms are clean, staff are friendly, and I’d return even if travelling solo next time! The only drawback is that the soundproofing isn’t awesome. You’ll be able to hear your neighbors shutting their room doors, or even when their bathroom taps are running. May I suggest ear plugs? ๐Ÿ˜€

Why I DON’T Recommend Staying At The Puteri Pacific Johor Bahru

The Puteri Pacific Johor Bahru is a hotel with a fantastic location – near JB’s CIQ and City Square shopping mall – but there are a few reasons why I won’t want to return to this hotel again. The bed’s comfy and the view is decent yet the downside to staying here makes me want to never return again. One night is more than enough. So, if you’re heading to Johor Bahru for a vacation, or you’re just horrified at the queue at Immigration (so many people wanting to return to SG) and therefore you’re staying in JB overnight, try not to find a hotel near CIQ. Instead, look for (perhaps) a boutique hotel some distance away. Here’s why…

The room looks decent in the picture above, ya? The beds were comfortable enough and the sheets looked clean. But that’s about it. The carpet’s old and so are the rest of the furniture. And when we entered the room (1011, if you’re wondering), there was a strong musty smell. But there’s a notice saying we should not open the windows. And it looked like we won’t be able to, unless we tried breaking it. (@_@)

The view’s nice though…

I’ll usually take some shots of the hotel room before we get ourselves settled in. At first glance, the toilet looked OK.

Nothing seemed to raise eyebrows…

Then when I wanted to take a shower… I found that the bathtub looked either old or stained. In any case, it appeared dirty…

And once the shower curtain is drawn… it looks like a scene in some horror movie. The shower curtain is horribly gross. So disgusting I felt like throwing up.

All you need is someone to lie here with fake blood and you’ve got yourself a perfect horror movie scene…

I can accept horribly old carpets and sofas because I won’t walk around barefooted nor will I sit in those chairs but if there’s a bathtub and no separate standing shower, then the bathtub (AND curtain) should be spotless. It must look clean! Not like this disgusting… argh… I have no words. The curtain is obviously stained and there was lots of black mould on it. Anyway, I wrote them an email last night after discovering the horror and I haven’t heard back yet.

Thankfully, the rest of the hotel seems decent enough. Here’s a view of the pool from the lift we were in…

I didn’t sleep well though. At about 6.20am, there was a shrill alarm which went off. Sounded like a fire alarm to me. It rang for a few seconds, stopped, then rang for a few more seconds. Just enough to wake me up. Then, around 6.25am, the alarm went off again for a good 10 to 15 seconds. We got out of bed – he went to pee while I phoned the reception. The lady who answered my call said she’d check with Security and let me know (but she didn’t). I told him that he should have saved the pee – if there’s a real fire, it might come in handy. Hahaa! Anyhow… disrupted sleep is the worst!

And when we were ready to head down for breakfast, we found a note had been slipped under our door (and all the other doors too) to tell us to check out “before or at 12.00 noon” as “the hotel is expecting a large number of arrivals”. (@_@) Not a note to say “We hope you have enjoyed your stay and please let us know if we may be of further assistance” but to tell us to hurry up and checkout. Well done. We feel so welcome. It’s like you can’t wait to kick us out. And oh, around 11am, staff actually came to ring the doorbell to double confirm that we’re checking out. Gosh. I really hate staying here.

Lobby area which perpetually smells of cigarette smoke:

The saving grace might be the hotel breakfast. I’ve read reviews that hotel guests have to queue to enter the cafe when there are many guests and staff can’t clear the tables fast enough. However, we faced no such problem. We got ourselves promptly seated and while I didn’t exactly appreciate every single breakfast item, there were some which were to my liking.

There’s a Roti Canai station where Singaporeans can get roti prata. ๐Ÿ˜€ Pair this with curry and I think you’ll be quite happy. The omelette is also good, the scrambled eggs less so but still decent. I took the sambal chili from the buffet table and found it paired well with the omelette. ๐Ÿ˜€

Unfortunately, my “red bean pau” turned out to be lotus seed pau instead.

There’s also fruit (watermelon and orange), salad, pastries, fried mee, fishball noodles, cereal, etc. Seems to cater to an international (business traveler) audience but there were many locals staying here when I visited. Breakfast is only served till 10.30am so no chance of sleeping in, ya!

And after breakfast, I asked the dude at Reception if he had a plaster as I was getting a blister on my left foot from all the walking yesterday. He went into a room at the back to check then returned to say they don’t have any (OMG no first aid box?!) and that I could buy some from the kiosk at the lobby (OK, that works too, I guess). Turned out to be 50sen a piece, which was fine. But still… this isn’t a hotel that exceeds expectations.

I’m not sure if I should blame them or not. This isn’t a 5-star establishment, for sure. I just checked, and the Princess Deluxe room we stayed in will cost just S$38 on agoda.com with the new promotion. You get what you pay for, I guess.

It’s walking distance from City Square, yes, but do note that ground level is level 1A of the carpark. The lobby is at level 4A. Don’t walk. We had to get to the staircase in the middle of the carpark at the ground floor, find the lift and take it up to 4A. But 4A of the carpark lift translates to level 1 of the hotel lifts later on. Might be a bit confusing. But that’ll only be if you decide to disregard my review and stay here. Stubborn eh? ๐Ÿ˜›

*Oh, another good thing is the hotel wifi has no password. So when we had to book a Grab ride to a mall, it could easily be done at the entrance to the lobby.