What’s New At Resorts World Genting

Resorts World Genting Tower 3

Before our recent trip to Resorts World Genting, our very last visit was a number of years ago. And when we went back this time, there was a new hotel tower at First World Hotel (bringing its total number of rooms to 7,351) and a new cable car system, among other updates! Though I detest long bus rides, I can easily be tempted to make another trip to Genting again as it’s now an even cooler place to be at… even if you do not gamble.

We stayed in room 28868 (how auspicious?) on the highest floor and found the room in Tower 3 to be very new and clean. That said, the pillows leave more to be desired but I guess it won’t matter to most folk, anyway. I was the only one sleeping in the room at night; my darling was busy earning some moolah in the casinos. ๐Ÿ˜€ I also love that you can order Motorino pizzas, meatballs, chicken wings, etc, with room service!

I’ve previously blogged about some new restaurants & cafes you need to visit. If you haven’t read the posts yet, click on the links below:

#1: Burger & Lobster

#2:ย Cafรฉs Richard

#3: Motorino

This isn’t the best photo of their new cable car system, but I actually enjoyed the ride in the Glass Floor Gondola. A ride in one of the special gondolas with glass flooring will cost RM 50. The regular ones cost just RM 8. End to end, the 2.8km journey takes just 10 minutes, half of what the older cable car system took.

Resorts World Genting cable car

~

At Sky Avenue, there’s so much food to indulge in. If I had to start (small) somewhere, I’m going back for more of Tokyo Secret’s cheese tarts. Freshly baked (and HOT), these yummy tarts will leave you craving for more…

Resorts World Genting Tokyo Secret

And oh… cheap(er) GongCha bubble tea too! ๐Ÿ˜€

Aside from eating and visiting the casino, there are more family-friendly games for those who are young and young-at-heart. We went to the arcade to play basketball and I also wanted to try my hand at fishing for a prize at the ‘duck pond’

I won’t play this game again… ever:

Resorts World Genting arcade

You pay RM 23.20 to get an arcade card with 20 credits. For this duck ‘fishing’ game, you’ll spend 4 credits, and get to fish out 2 ducks. I thought I’ll be sure to get at least one tiny, consolation prize with 2 tries. I got nothing. I’d rather have spent the credits on the basketball machines – each game there costs just 3 credits. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Don’t want to spend any money? There’s always the lovely view to admire at the hotel. You’ll have to do that at the lobby though. The opaque hotel room windows cannot be opened more than, say, 4 inches.

Resorts World Genting review

For breakfast, there’s A LOT to choose from at Resorts World Genting. There are so many restaurants, eateries, cafes, etc. And of course, there’s The Food Factory for a buffet spread.

The Food Factory:

Resorts World Genting Food Factory

(above) The chef is cooking some carrot cake for our breakfast. Yum! The food factory can seat some 1,600 guests. Don’t expect gourmet meals, of course. Just eat for the purpose of satiety. When we were having our breakfast, we enjoyed items like scrambled egg, niang doufu (to pair with porridge), mini pancakes (plus a chocolate fountain), bread, pastries, etc. I love fruit so I was surprised to find that there was just one kind of fruit: yellow watermelon.

On the way home to Singapore, our coach stopped at the Awana rest stop. It’s not as busy as the one at Yong Peng, so the food at the canteen has been sitting around for a while, if you know what I mean. We happily stocked up on snacks at the store though.

Resorts World Genting bus rest stop

If you aren’t heading back to Singapore, but prefer to visit KL instead, you can take a bus to KL Sentral then a train to Pasar Seni to go to Chinatown. ๐Ÿ™‚

~

From Singapore to Genting, we took a coach from Golden Mile Complex. For reasons unknown to us, the coach from ‘The One’ was an hour late and the seats weren’t too comfortable either; you cannot have it recline much without ending up lying on someone’s lap. ๐Ÿ˜›

*Watch out for the Twentieth Century Fox World Theme Park that is slated to open later this year.

5 Reasons Retirees Will LOVE The Luxury Cruise Ship ‘Insignia’

Oceania Cruises

It’s not often one gets to board a cruise ship docked at Harbourfront just for a look-see, especially when it’s a LUXURY cruise ship. My pal Bosco and I got to do a tour of the ship, and enjoy a quick lunch on board, thanks to Sky Premium. Apparently, it’s an around-the-world cruise which starts and ends in Miami. See the world in 6 months on this cruise? Yes, sign me up… when I’m rich and retired! ๐Ÿ˜€ I certainly won’t mind being on this ship with lots of friendly, smiling crew. In fact, the ship can accommodate up toย 669 passengers, and it comes with 400 crew members; so any time the retired ol’ me needs help, I’ll be sure to get it. ๐Ÿ˜€

Insignia Cruise Review

Here are 5 reasons why I think retirees will enjoy being on Insignia:

#1: The Chillaxing

Insignia Cruise

At the Sundeck on deck 11, you get to enjoy the blue skies, a good tan, and simply laze by the pool. If you don’t fancy swimming, there are twoย hottubs filled with saltwater (which might be better for your skin) ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, there’s a new specialty cocktail every day at the pool bar. Hang on… I might not want to wait till I’m retired. ๐Ÿ˜€

Insignia Cruise Hot Tub

#2: The FOOD

Oceania Insignia restaurant

A little bird told me that Versace plates are used in one of the restaurants on-board. But you’ll have to make a reservation with your cruise booking (or immediately after boarding the ship) in order to get a table. *wink*

Insignia restaurant

Here’s the lunch we were treated to:

Oceania Insignia Reviews

What we had for lunch: (1) Maine Lobster and Daikon with Caviar, (2) Stuffed Provolone Cheese Pasta Purses with Butternut Squash Cream, (3) Pink Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Black Truffle and Foie Gras Demi-Glace, (4 *Alternative main) Den Miso Glazed Sea Bass, (5) Papuan Chocolate Volcano, (6) Petits Fours and Macaroons

I’d say it’s either hit-or-miss with our lunch menu that day. The lobster + caviar starter was, obviously, aย delicious treat. The stuffed provolone cheese pasta purses which followed were slightly cloying and ‘jelat‘ after the first mouthful. The beef and fish mains were good. The Papuan Chocolate Volcano was a huge HIT, but the petit fours and macaroons left much to be desired. If this accurately reflects food standards on-board the Insignia, well, I guess passengers will quickly figure out what they should or shouldn’t order – after all, they’ll be on-board for a while.

Insignia hasย 2 specialty restaurants which require reservations. For Italian fare, head to Toscano, unless you’re craving for some good ol’ steak, in which case you should head to their steak house ‘Polo Grill’. At Toscano, staff will bring out aย giant wheel of parmesan every night. The food is made fresh every night and it’s very fine dining with Versace plates, no less. There’s also vinaigrette and olive oil pairing, somewhat like wine pairing. ๐Ÿ˜€ The restaurant has some 8 selections of olive oil and 4 for balsamic vinegar.

At the Steakhouse (Polo Grill), you can indulge in some steak, lobster, crab, primerib, chicken, etc. There’s also a themed night depending on which port the ship is at. The chefs will procure the ingredients from that particular city for your meal.

*Ice cream is made on the ship every day too. There’s a range of sugar-free desserts at every restaurant, and they’re made to be suitable for diabetics. And the Insignia has begun serving vegan food too!

At ‘Waves’ located near the pool, you can grab some hamburgers, hotdogs, etc. In short, you’ll never go hungry on the Insignia. And on the rare occasion that you’ve missed a meal, fret not, as there’s 24-hour room service.

Special mention: theย Papuan Chocolate Volcano is a must-try…

Oceania Insignia around the world cruise

#3: The Staff

The staff on-board the Insignia are very friendly, and always ready to greet you with a smile. They might also be able to call you by name by the end of the cruise.

Oceania Cruises

#4: The Pampering

Insignia Cruise Spa

Head to the Spa for everything from manicures to waxing, massages to haircuts. You can even get a new hair color here.

Oceania Insignia Cruise Spa

 

#5: The Entertainment

Oceania Insignia

What’s the point of getting on a cruise if there’s no entertainment to look forward to? On board the Insignia, there’s the gym, of course. For those who prefer more sedentary activities, there’s mahjong, card games, jigsaw puzzles, stage shows, art classes, and last but not least, THE CASINO! The casino is openย only on seadays and remains shut when the ship is in port (it’s illegal to operate the casino when in port!)

From 7am to 10pm, head to the fitness center for spinning sessions, yoga, pilates, etc.

Insignia library

We did not get to visit the suites, but we did get a look around the library. There’s a beautiful hand-painted ceiling which you must see. The library looks very homey as it’s designed to look like someone’s living room – to be the passengers’ home away from home. There’s comfy furniture and a good selection of books. I’m told that because the seats are so comfortable, people come here to read, but they do also find themselves falling asleep here. ๐Ÿ˜€

Elsewhere on the ship, from 4pm to 5pm, passengers get to enjoy tea with a string quartet playing. There’s also a baby grand piano on-board (I hear they have a talented pianist too) and if it’s your thing, you can also indulge in some cognac and wine tasting. The Insignia is very atas indeed.

But the most important piece of information I noted during the tour of the ship is that the Insignia has very good Wifi, what with the new satellites they’ve invested in. And even if you’re not too IT-savvy, there are ‘Internet Managers’ on board to help you out every morning and afternoon.

If you’re a retiree with some extra cash to spend, I’d highly recommend you give this cruise a go. I think it’ll be fun, meeting other retirees from around the world and trading (life) stories. If you’ve not reached that (life) stage yet, then a cruise might get boring for you. True story: LOML and I were at Maldives some time back, and at the resort’s pool bar, he had one of every drink on the menu then went off snorkeling, following a baby shark back to where it came from. I sat on the beach, read a book, and occasionally wondered what would happen if he met the baby shark’s, well, parents. So if you and your partner aren’t ready for a chillaxing sort of getaway then the usual free-and-easy holidays which involve flying would be more suitable. (Less likely to see sharks too)

~

Lots of thanks to Bosco from Hearted Moments Photographyย for these pictures ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

#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:ย 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 totalย 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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.ย 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! ๐Ÿ˜€ 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! ๐Ÿ˜€ 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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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!

~

ย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

~

This post is brought to you by Traveloka,ย 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, asย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

~

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 forย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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:ย http://www.marinabaysands.com/sands-skypark/observation-deck.html

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

We had dinner atย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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’sย Kue Blinjo (which I assume is some kind of cookie), (the famous)ย Livana’s Lapis Surabaya (which I’ve tried previously during my trip to Surabaya) andย 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!~ ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

~ 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 ~ย 

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. ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

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

ย ~ 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??? ๐Ÿ˜›
  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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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! ๐Ÿ˜€

Visit To Cambodia’s Royal Palace Which Is Dripping In Gold

Cambodia's Royal Palace

Oh yeah, the tee I wore had some gold color on it too! ๐Ÿ˜€ Ahaha! If you’re headed for Cambodia’s Royal Palace, be prepared to spend at least 2 hours there in order to fully explore the grounds. The place is HUGE! And there are two things you must note, at least according to me: (1) The weather will be HOT so apply sunscreen and what-have-you, and (2) Be careful when walking up and down the steps – our female Cambodian friend fell and sprained her ankle. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ The guard was really kind though – he went to fetch some ointment for her. Kindness abounds in Cambodia!~

Here’s the tourist information board at the Royal Palace entrance. If the words are too tiny for you to read, the main gist of it is that opening hours are from 8am to 11am, and 2pm to 5pm. Tickets are at 25,000 Riel or USD6 each. Do not wear shoes inside the temple or take photos inside photography-prohibited places. Dress modestly, with your pants or skirts covering the kneecaps!

Cambodia Royal Palace Visitor Information

Cambodia Royal Palace Water Lily

Ok, I have to admit that I can hardly tell the difference between a water lily and a lotus flower. So I’ll just hazard a guess that this is a water lily. Hahaha!!!

There are too many photo spots within the compounds. So snap away. Just take note that it can get really hot here. So make sure you stay hydrated – drink lots of water!

Wow photographing statue

* beautiful architecture *

Cambodia Royal Palace

Royal Palace Cambodia

*Newsflash* I interrupt this blogpost to bring you some breaking news: Gigantic pigeons have been spotted at Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat!!!

Mini angkor wat with pigeons

Nope, I’m just pulling your leg. There is a miniature “Angkor Wat” within the Royal Palace compound! Hahaha! Because the real Angkor Wat is too far away – a 5-hour drive or so – we made do with pictures here. ๐Ÿ˜€

Mini Angkor Wat

You might also spot a lady and a traditional khmer silk weaving loom:

Weaving cloth at the Royal Palace

Here’s a Youtube video on how she operates it:

I was lucky to have gotten the photo when I did. ‘Cos when the angmoh (in the green shirt) came along, she was busy talking on her phone. And so he had to wait for her to get back to work. ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

Lady on the phone

This is the last of my Cambodia Travelogue blogposts! ๐Ÿ˜€ I definitely look forward to visiting Cambodia again. I am convinced that Cambodia will see some good times ahead. The economy appears to be doing well, I spotted many sites which have been earmarked for the construction of mega shopping malls, and there’s even an AEON mall which I did not get to visit on this trip. Foreign investment is definitely pouring in to the country. Even the guest house in Cambodia that we stayed in is owned and managed by a Singaporean. ๐Ÿ™‚

So it’s not “goodbye”, but “see you again soon”, Cambodia!

ASEAN youth leaders

Click on the links below to read the blogposts:

  1. My Visit to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum a.k.a. S-21
  2. My Stay at a Singaporean-owned Guest House in Cambodia, and a study tour at Brown Coffee & Bakery
  3. My Top 5 Recommendations for Food in Cambodia, plus a few others for the adventurous palate
  4. My experience volunteering at a Cambodian Orphanageย ๐Ÿ™‚ *Make sure you visit the right orphanages!
  5. My visit to Cambodia’s Central Market and Watt Phnom

Cambodia: Central Market, Watt Phnom and other Snapshots :D

Cambodia Central Market

Cambodia’s Central Market reminds me of Thailand’s Chatuchak Market. It is a little more organized though. ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t take many pictures here as I was largely kept busy munching tidbits like Cambodian doughnuts, quail egg balut, palm seed dessert, and other mostly sweet snacks. (Thank you, Seng, for buying all those yummy goodies for me to stuff my face with, just like I did to you in KL #paybacktime) ๐Ÿ˜€ If you’re visiting the Central Market, bring along your USD, and note that bargaining is mandatory and expected.

I’d brought just 250,000 Cambodian Riel (100USD) with me for this trip. And ended up spending about half of it only. I did not have to pay for accommodation and transport, and some of the meals were paid for by my pals. Yup. I feel super fortunate! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ And I didn’t buy anything at the Central Market. My SG pals got some cool shades at the very first stall they encountered. It’s not something I’ll usually do – I might scout around for a better deal first. But as we had our Cambodian pals helping us with the bargaining, I guess it made sense.

This is the flower stall that became our meeting point for the group (picture taken with shaking hands while getting off the van, I guess)

Cambodia Central Market flower stall

And here’s my Thai friend gamely trying on some expensive (20USD?) wigs:

Cambodia Central Market wigs stall

One of my hobbies in the past wasย prawningย but I have since stopped. Though it is a really thrilling sport, it is rather cruel. Still, the sight of these mega prawns (you can’t really tell their size from this picture, but trust me, they are BIG) set my heart racing again. The exhilaration of landing a big catch at the prawning pond is beyond words: feeling that tug on the line, and battling the prawn as it tries to stay in the water while I ‘wrestle’ it to the surface, maintaining a careful tension so I don’t jerk the line too much and have the hook ripping through the prawn’s mouth. XDย Ahh… those were the (cruel) days.

Now I just snap pictures, ok:

Cambodia Central Market mega prawns

And then there’s this weird-looking marine creature with a hideous hide and yellow legs:

Weird seafood in Cambodia

No one seemed to know what those creatures are. But I’m DEFINITELY not having them on my dinner plate. Ever.

~ Watt Phnom ~

Watt Phnom

Watt Phnom is a Buddhist temple in Phnom Penh. And beyond that, I cannot tell you anything else about it (try Wikipedia instead) because we did not proceed up those stairs. We did take the obligatory tourists shots here though. Our Cambodian friends tell us that the view at the top is not worth the entrance fee. You have to pay 1USD per person just to visit Watt Phnom – it’s not an unreasonable sum, but if the locals say we shouldn’t, then we don’t. There’s a security guard house near the foot of the stairs. And should you loiter too long here taking your free tourist pictures, you’ll get dirty looks shot your way. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I did see some people hawking food though. And you can even spot their children studying right next to them. Somehow, such a sight causes a stirring in my heart. The children in Singapore are so fortunate: they sit at desks to revise their homework, use the coolest Smiggle stationery, see better with the help of desk lamps, and most likely have air-conditioning in their study rooms and/or bedrooms. And they have the cheek to complain, when they should be seizing every opportunity to develop to their fullest potential! *sigh* And yes, even I am guilty of being ungrateful sometimes, and not counting my blessings enough. That’s why these trips are important!

Kids outside Watt Phnom

~ Random Snaps Around The City ~

Cambodia's Independence Monument

This photo was taken from the van we were on, hence the reflective bit in the middle. This is Cambodia’s Independence Monument. According to Wikipedia, it was “built in 1958 for Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953”. It looks even more stunning at night, as there are water sprays and multi-colored lights. Do keep an eye out for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

And here’s a Cambodian tuk tuk:

Cambodia tuk tuk

It is different from Thailand’s tuk tuks. Cambodia’s tuk tuks are essentially motorbikes with an attachment at the back. I did not get the chance to ride in one of them, but I did watch enviously at tourists sitting in them. Ahaha! ๐Ÿ˜€

And one final interesting sight in Cambodia is the row of balloon sellers you can find lining major roads. It’s apparently the latest fad right now: gentlemen buy these balloons for their girlfriends. I’m not sure how I would react should my other half pop by my place with these balloons. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Balloon fad in Cambodia

We DID see a guy holding onto what must be some 20 balloons when we boarded the Chom Ka Snea boat tour. We’d all thought that some wedding proposal must be happening soon. And one of my Cambodian pals was brave enough to step forward and ask the guy what was happening. As it turned out, it was a birthday celebration for his girlfriend. So we all wished her a happy birthday. ๐Ÿ˜€ (And secretly wondered about the number of balloons he’ll need to buy for a proposal – maybe hundreds and hundreds of them).

*The boat is berthed at the “floating port in Bopha Phnom Penh Titanic Restaurant, Riverside along Preah Sisowath Quay”. It costs USD5 per pax. We went after the sun had set so it became a night cruise of sorts. Do go at a more opportune time to get some pictures of the sunset, ya!

Stay tuned for my final post about our visit to the Royal Palace in Cambodia. ๐Ÿ™‚

And click on the links below to read my Cambodia Travelogue posts:

  1. My Visit to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum a.k.a. S-21
  2. My Stay at a Singaporean-owned Guest House in Cambodia, and a study tour at Brown Coffee & Bakery
  3. My Top 5 Recommendations for Food in Cambodia, plus a few others for the adventurous palate
  4. My experience volunteering at a Cambodian Orphanageย ๐Ÿ™‚ *Make sure you visit the right orphanages!

What To Eat In Cambodia: 5 Must-Try Food When You Visit Phnom Penh

Before I visited Cambodia, I was clueless as to what dish is a must-try during my trip. Most countries have a popular ‘national’ dish, e.g. phad thai in Thailand. But what is Cambodia known for when it comes to food? Here are my 6 recommendations, so you can make an informed decision regarding what to eat in Cambodia. ๐Ÿ™‚

#1: Fish Amok

Cambodia Fish Amok

Fish Amok is the dish that my Cambodian friends said we should definitely try. When it was served, I thought it LOOKED like it was otah but a steamed version instead. It’s actually a really thick curry that is steamed in banana leaves and served with some coconut cream on top. You can order this dish with a variety of ingredients. I found vegetables under the curry. It’s quite tasty; just watch out for the tiny fish bones in the fish amok.

And you can also order some other dishes to go along with your meal. Many dishes might seem similar to those found in Thailand. Even Fish Amok can be found in Laos and Thailand. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cambodian Thai Food

#2: Master Suki Soup

Cambodia Master Suki Soup

I love having steamboat for dinner, and Master Suki Soup did not disappoint. Just like Surabaya food, the secret is in the sauce – go ahead and add more garlic and cut chillis for an added kick. ๐Ÿ˜€ And you MUST order the roast duck – it tastes REALLY good!

And oh, one thing you should note about Cambodian restaurants is that in the middle of your meal, they might bring drinks (that you did not order) to your table. At the boat noodles restaurant I’ll tell you about in a bit, the wait staff brought a selection of YEO’s canned drinks (Go, Singapore!) and at Master Suki Soup, they brought Coca-Cola. And they’ll even bring drink glasses filled with ice just to tempt you further. ๐Ÿ˜‰ *Should you leave the drinks untouched, they will be removed at the end of the meal, and will not be reflected in your bill. ๐Ÿ™‚

Another tip: should you need to call for the waiter, just shout out “Bong” (which is a term to refer to an older brother or sister) – doesn’t matter if the wait staff look younger than you do. *wink*

#3: Boat Noodles Restaurant

Cambodia Boat Noodles

The boat noodles restaurant that we visited was highly recommended by my Cambodian Bong. ๐Ÿ™‚ It is located near theย Paรฑรฑฤsฤstra University of Cambodia, or PUC in short. Service is rather slow. And the juices that we ordered never arrived. But the food was pretty good. I’d prefer if the broth arrived steaming hot (I love hot soup) but taste-wise, it was slightly above average. My friend from Thailand found the broth too sweet for her liking though, and decided to add table salt into the broth. <- I wouldn’t recommend doing this, not when the broth has cooled down. ๐Ÿ˜€

We got ourselves seated at level 2 of the restaurant. You’ll have to remove your footwear along the staircase before you reach L2. And be prepared to get a cramp as you’ll have to sit cross-legged on the ground. The same thing happened at the restaurant where we ate the fish amok. LOL! *You can sit with your legs stretched out to the side if you get a corner seat though.

Cambodia Boat Noodles Restaurant

#4: Balut (Quail Egg Version, and Duck Egg Version)

Balut at Phnom Penh Night Market

When you are in Cambodia, do visit the Phnom Penh Night Market. By the way, while we like to pronounce the words “Phnom Penh” as ‘Nom Pen’, the actual pronunciation is something more like “Per Nom Peng” – ask a local! ๐Ÿ˜€

When you arrive, take a seat on one of the straw picnic mats, where you’ll find bottles of sauces at the ready. Order your balut, which comes in a tray like what you see above. You can squeeze some lime juice into the pink-colored sauce receptacles. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sit the egg in one of the ceramic egg cups and crack the egg shell with the spoons provided. The sight that greets you is something right out of ‘Fear Factor’:

Cambodia Balut Duck Egg

Avoid looking into the egg, but bring it up to your mouth, and drink all the liquid from the egg. ๐Ÿ™‚ Then, continue hacking away at more of the egg shell, and add the mixture of sauce that you’ve prepared. Dig in like you would when eating a pudding out of a cup. ๐Ÿ˜€ *You can eat the entire egg (sans shell) but do avoid the tough white-colored portion, which is the size of a pebble. I don’t know what it is, but it is hard, and not tasty at all.

Actually, if you can, go for the quail egg balut instead. It’s smaller and therefore less intimidating, and a lot more tasty! ๐Ÿ˜€

Mine came with what looks like a fully-formed head, with eye and beak:

Cambodia Quail Egg Balut

Yes yes, I know it’s cruel. And rather disgusting. To the first accusation, I say “Hey, once-in-a-lifetime. Why not?” and to the second, “Wait till you taste one!” There’s a reason why people view balut as a tasty (and very desirable) snack.

At Phnom Penh Night Market, you’ll find these picnic mats spread out, with baskets containing sauces. You can order food from any of the surrounding stalls and eat them while sitting on those mats. Do order the sugarcane + lime juice. It’s really good – I drank two whole cups of them. *I was really thirsty after the visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Didn’t buy water while I was there because it was pricey. Hehe!

*You’ll have to remove your shoes before getting onto the mats, so do keep an eye on them. Or you might just find your shoes missing when you are ready to go. Also, some very young children might stop by to beg for money. I took the cues from my Cambodian friends, and either shook my head or tried to ignore the kids. They’ll leave pretty quickly. Children who beg for money can be found at the markets, and at road junctions approaching motorists.

Cambodia Phnom Penh Night Market

#5: Spicy Hotpot, Green Salad and (hopefully cooked) Fish

Lunch at Buddhist event

We attended a by-invite-only event at the residence of my Cambodian Bong’s mentor (I think he might be the President of PUC). There was a celebration of sorts as a Buddha statue had been acquired. And monks from selected temples and pagodas were also invited. Here, you see them seated in neat rows, as visitors dropped gifts and cash into the bags placed in front of each monk:

Buddhist event

For lunch, we had the spicy hotpot you see above. The soup looked like tom yam soup, but the taste and ingredients are different. There were prawns, pineapple, tomatoes, etc. The green salad was a delightful toss-up of veggies whose names I know not of. The fish looked really yummy but it was, unfortunately, under-cooked.

If You Are Feeling Adventurous:

Cambodia Fried Insects

At the markets, you can find a selection of fried insects as well. Some look really big (even longer than my palm). I do not have the stomach for these things, so I most certainly gave them a miss. But you should give it a go if you’re game for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

And, for some reason, the bananas sold in Cambodia are mostly green. Here’s one seller who popped by the guest house that I stayed in, with his improvised cart attached to his motorbike.

Cambodia Banana Seller

For a sweet end to any meal, though, do pop by any of Brown‘s 11 coffee & bakery outlets, and get yourself some brownies. I’m a huge fan of theirs.

And if you’re into volunteering, do check out the reputable Cambodian orphanages that you can spend some time at helping to educate or entertain the children. ๐Ÿ˜€ As a rule of thumb, I avoid those cruises or places which force the children to perform in exchange for donations. The time spent rehearsing and performing would be more well-spent on revision and doing their schoolwork. I definitely do not wish to encourage those ‘businesses’ which might force children to become performing artists so as to line the pockets of the adults.

Stay tuned for more as I share about my visit to the Royal Palace, and other snapshots taken around the city. ๐Ÿ™‚

Visiting Cambodia: Study Tour At Brown Coffee Plus A Guest House Stay

Cambodia

I left for Cambodia on the last day of 2015 and despite the short stay, I got quite an eye-opening experience. This is why travel is so important to me. ๐Ÿ˜€ Cambodia is about 1253km away from Singapore, the time there is exactly one hour behind Singapore’s time, and while they have their own local currency (the Cambodian Riel), payments usually involve USD! So bring your US dollars instead of trying to get Cambodian currency in Singapore. If you’d like to pay using their local currency, just convert the prices (in USD) by multiplying them by 4 to get the rough equivalent in Riel.

Cambodian Currency

A two-way ticket flight from Singapore to Cambodia, via JetStar, can cost something like S$286, depending on when you fly. Flight time is approximately 2 hours. You’ll need to fill in an arrival card and a departure card before you enter the country (the departure portion will be stapled to your passport). There’s no need to apply for a visa if you hold a Singapore passport. There’s also no departure tax at the airport when you leave, unlike in some Indonesian airports.

Cambodia Immigration Arrival Card

Once you get to Cambodian customs, go through the checks briskly. Do not hover at the exit as you may get picked up for more checks. I’ve been told by my travel companions that some items can get confiscated for no apparent rhyme or reason. Nothing like that happened on this trip, thankfully.

And you may want to purchase a SIM card at any of these booths. My pals got theirs at the one in green – USD5 for 4GB of data. It’s pretty cheap.

Cambodia Phnom Penh International Airport SIM card purchase

I decided not to purchase a SIM card because (1) If I can save USD5, why not? (2) There’ll be wifi in the guest house we’re staying at and (3) it’s best to limit your handphone usage within the country. My local pals tell me that snatch thefts involving handphones occur pretty frequently. So think twice before you stop to take a picture along the roads or to reply to whatsapp messages when you are out!

~

Brown Coffee Cambodia latte art

Thanks to Bong’s recommendation, we got to visit Brown Coffee’s HQ for a study tour. Brown is a popular coffee chain in Cambodia. And before we go into the business / entrepreneurship side of things (which may or may not interest you), I must say that Brown serves amazing food and drinks! I got to try their egg tarts, cake, and brownies. And their brownies are truly phenomenal! Probably better than any brownie I ate in 2015. So let’s just say that I had a really good, sweet start to the new year! Hehe! When you are in Cambodia, do pop by any of the (currently) 11 Brown outlets – more outlets will open this year!

Here’s one of the corporate videos put together by Brown:

Thank you Bong & Tiffany for being awesome pals!

ASEAN youth leaders

Bunleang Chang, the young man who conducted the presentation, is one of 5 co-founders (all cousins) of Brown. Bunleang is the face of the brand and the one who is featured in media interviews. ๐Ÿ™‚ He’s rather cute, and I was tempted to ask him for a photo. Haha! He’s one of many young Cambodians who have studied overseas (Sydney) and returned to their homeland to help the country improve.

After facing difficulties while working in the non-profit sector, which was his original calling, Bunleang and his cousins decided to create a brand based on their passion for coffee, and create employment opportunities for the Cambodians instead. I’ve read in one report that half the country’s population is under 25 years old. So this ‘cafe culture’ is definitely one to capitalize on. ๐Ÿ˜€ And in case you were wondering, I’ve also found out that the name Brown is โ€œtโ€™notโ€ in the local Khmer language, which is “the name of Cambodiaโ€™s beloved national sugar palm tree”. So while it may be Western-sounding (and easy for expats and tourists to appreciate), it is still very ‘Cambodian’.

Brown was set up in October 2009, and they opened their 11th outlet in October 2015. In 2016, the aim is to open 5 more outlets. Some reasons for their success include: building a strong supply chain (and learning to handle more aspects themselves, e.g. doing the roasting of the green beans instead of having them roasted in Thailand), investing in Training & Development, innovating processes and products, and by building a strong company culture with a clear vision and mission.

Brown will even hire locals with absolutely no experience in this F&B line and train them. Barista training takes 10 days, and will equip new hires with knowledge on how to operate the machinery and other equipment, train them to make expressos, explain SOPs and workflow, teach them basic English and hospitality skills, and also ensure they understand the importance of food hygiene and safety.

We got a tour of the facility: checked out where the beans are stored, how they are roasted, how the beans are tested for quality, how the coffee is brewed, and received a quick introduction to latte art and coffee appreciation too! ๐Ÿ™‚

A video about the Brown Roastery (from YouTube) –

Brown Coffee Cambodia

Brown Coffee & Bakery has 11 outlets, and the company also manages Gong Cha (there are 5 outlets in Cambodia) and FOX wine bistro (1 outlet). I certainly did not expect Cambodia to have Gong Cha! What a pleasant surprise! ๐Ÿ™‚

LOTS OF THANKS to Brown for the awesome study tour!

~ The Guest House We Stayed In: Golden Celestial Guest House ~

Golden Celestial Guest House

The guest house is just a 5 minute drive away from the airport! The location is pretty awesome, as one of the things I tend to fear would happen during my overseas trips is missing a flight because I get to the airport late. It has only happened once in my entire life, but once is already one time too many. ๐Ÿ˜›

In Cambodia, you can book a stay at either a hotel, motel or guest house. Most of them are very new, having been set up in recent years. Golden Celestial is owned by the parents of one of our pals. So it’s great to know that we’re staying at an establishment owned and managed by Singaporeans. ๐Ÿ™‚ At the vegetarian restaurant on level 1, you’ll find Mandarin-speaking aunties and uncles, at all times of the day. ๐Ÿ˜€

I’m leaving out any commentary on the rooms we stayed in, as those are not usually rented out to guests. They are reserved for the owners and their friends.

Contact information for this guest house:

Golden Celestial Guest House Cambodia

~

Here’s a picture of a sunset in Cambodia, taken at one of the places we had dinner together. In the background, you see taller buildings (a sign that change has come to Cambodia), water fountains in the middle (many parts of this country are not at all ‘backward’) and there’s a balloon vendor at the corner of the street (balloons are the current fad – I’ll share more about it in another blogpost), and slicing through the picture are the overhead cables. XD

Sunset in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Check out my earlier posts regarding this Cambodian trip. I visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and also spent a memorable afternoon volunteering at a Cambodian Orphanage. And stay tuned for more regarding the food, culture and sights of Cambodia. ๐Ÿ™‚