Travel

Exploring Christmas Wonderland at Gardens By The Bay (2018)

Christmas is the time of year when Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. For many other people, it is the time for holidays, merry-making, spending year-end bonuses and catching up with family.

For those who are in Singapore and in need for some festive atmosphere, Christmas Wonderland, an annual year-end event held at the Gardens By The Bay since 2014, has officially opened and there are many activities that cater to varied interests, but the main highlights would be the 7-storey high luminarie mirror maze, a brand new “Garden Rhapsody – The Christmas Special” light and sound show at the Supertree Grove, a magic show by world-class illusionist Rob Lake, an outdoor skating rink specially flown in from Switzerland, German kinetic light installations at Santa’s Grotto and getting to meet Mr. Claus himself!

If you start your visit from the main drop-off area, near the Visitor Arrival Centre, you will find Asia’s tallest golden luminarie Christmas Tree, which stands at a height of 20.7 metres.

Look for the grand luminarie archway nearby and the path will lead you to one of the entrances to the Christmas Wonderland.

I’m not sure how many people share my view, but I feel that the sky looks best when taking pictures during the “blue hour”.

If you do a bit of walking around, you can also find various lighted archways around the park (do be mentally prepared as there will be many “photo bombers” around).

The places that you’ve seen up to this point, can be found at the non-ticketed area at the Gardens By The Bay.

Do note that Christmas Wonderland is a ticketed event and the prices will vary depending on the dates of your visit. More details on ticket prices can be found at the end of this post.

The festivities are spread across the Supertree Grove and The Meadow, so there’s a fair bit of walking to be done.

At the heart of the Supertree Grove stands a 22-metre high luminarie mirror maze, the biggest in South-East Asia. Visitors can navigate through this maze of mirrors without worrying about getting lost inside, as the layout isn’t complicated at all! (a slight disappointment for me, as I do love a challenge!)

The lights were quite mesmerizing to look at and I couldn’t help taking a few more shots from different angles!

Even a furry friend could be found enjoying the festive atmosphere, as well as the lights!!

Other light displays can also be seen as you make your way around.

Although it doesn’t snow in this part of the world, visitors during this period can experience the wonders of “snow” at the Supertree Grove during Blizzard Time.

“Snow”fall timings (schedule is subject to change pending weather conditions):

  • 6:30pm – 6:35pm
  • 7:55pm – 8:00pm
  • 8:55pm – 9:00pm
  • 10:00pm – 10:05pm

Garden Rhapsody – The Christmas Special
This ongoing light show now has a festive feel, with a repertoire of familiar Christmas songs.

  • 7:45pm
  • 8:45pm

Festive Market
A total of 24 wooden huts can be found in the vicinity and these are modelled after the traditional Christmas markets found across European cities. Shopaholics can look for unique Christmas gifts here, whilst the foodies can enjoy specialty food and beverages.

I usually can’t help ordering a serving of rosti whenever I can find it and there was a stall by The 6ixs Rösti, which serves this traditionally Swiss dish, with a South-East Asian twist!

However, I decided to go with something more traditional to go with the festive season and thus I ordered an “Original” Rosti with Turkey Breast.

As you make your way towards The Meadow, you will find traditional Carnival Games and Kiddy Rides. Tokens are required for these – games start from $4 and rides from $6.

Skating Under The Stars
Specially flown in from Switzerland, this outdoor skating rink features an 8-metre tall illuminated Christmas tree.

Open from 30 November to 26 December 2018, 4pm to 11pm daily.
Admission (Tickets available on-site only):

  • Adult $10/session
  • Child (12 years old and below) $8/session

There are about eleven skating sessions held daily.

I like the feeling of peace and tranquility when all skaters have been cleared from the rink.

Santa’s Grotto
This is the place to visit if you want a short break from Singapore’s hot and humid weather!

Meet Santa in air-conditioned comfort and along the way to meet the-man-in-the-red-suit, selfie/wefie enthusiasts can be kept busy with several festive installations and a kinetic light installation from Germany.

Meeting Santa Claus…

Slice of SAVOUR
“Slice of SAVOUR” is a bite-sized version of the SAVOUR Gourmet Festival and foodies can sample modern French cuisine by Michelin-star chef Emmanuel Stroobant’s Saint Pierre, contemporary Italian cuisine by Chef Simone Depalmas from Sinfonia Ristorante, modern Chinese bites from Blue Lotus by Chef Ricky Ng, juicy burgers from Three Buns by Potato Head Singapore, all-day café-bistro favourites from Bee’s Knees and artisanal Christmas cocktails by Three Wisemen (prices from $6 onwards).

Festive Entertainment
The Cassa Armonica, an 8-metre high illuminated gazebo, plays host to various carolling groups, as well as seasoned performers like Rani Singam, Joanna Dong, Sara Wee, JAWN and several others (check the official website for the performance schedules).

Tip: Try to time your meal time with one of the performances, so that you can enjoy some musical entertainment with your food and drink!

Magic Show
Catch “The Magic of Rob Lake” at the performance tent at The Meadows. Rob Lake was a quarter-finalist in America’s Got Talent 2018 and in 2008, he was the youngest magician in history to receive The Merlin Award as ‘International Stage Magician of the Year’ from The International Magicians Society – one of the industry’s highest accolades and the equivalent of an Oscar.

Duration: 45 mins (Daily, from Tuesdays to Sundays)
Showtimes: 7pm and 9pm
Additional 45min Shows (select days) at 5pm (on 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 Dec).
NO SHOWS on 3, 10, 17 Dec.

ONLINE ONSITE
Adult $12 $14
Child (12 years old and below) $8 $10

Prices are not inclusive of Christmas Wonderland Admission ticket.

Lucky Draw
From 30 November to 26 December, all visitors will stand a chance to win one of ten prizes in three Christmas Wonderland Giveaway draws conducted on 7, 14 and 27 December. Prizes include three Genting Dream cruise holidays for a family of four worth $4,600 each, a 3-day trip for two to Bali, Pattaya or Penang, inclusive of a two night stay at Hard Rock hotel and return flight tickets worth up to $2,500 each as well as shopping vouchers.

Overall, the Christmas Wonderland is good fun for both young and old and puts you in a festive mood. My only grouse is that the weather isn’t cold enough to match the magical holiday atmosphere, but that shouldn’t put you off from visiting and soaking up the atmosphere! ^_^

Opening Hours:
30 November – 26 December 2018, 4pm to 11pm daily

Location at Gardens By The Bay: Supertree Grove and The Meadow

Admission Ticket Prices:

DATES ONLINE ONSITE
30 NOV – 6 DEC $4 $6
7 DEC – 13 DEC $6 $8
14 DEC – 26 DEC $8 $10

* Entry is complimentary for up to 2 children under 0.9m for each paying adult.
* Purchase entry tickets online at least 1 day before your visit. Same-day admission tickets can only be purchased at the ticketing counters onsite.
* Separate charges apply for certain Christmas Wonderland attractions, OCBC Skyway and Gardens by the Bay conservatories.
* Separate charges apply for tickets to The Magic of Rob Lake. Save up to 30% with the special Family & Friends online bundle.
* Tokens are required to play the carnival games and rides.

Tickets can be purchased at www.christmaswonderland.sg or at on-site ticketing booths.

Note:
The luminarie light sculptures are lit from 30 November to 26 December 2018, 7pm to 12am (daily), except for the luminarie at the Gardens by the Bay visitor arrival area at the Main Entrance, which will remain lit till 1 January 2019.

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Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

(Only in Summer) Refreshing Bear-shaped Shaved Ice at Japanese Ice Ouca「ジャパニーズアイス櫻花」

Summer is my second least favourite season, but funnily enough, I found myself melting under the sweltering heat of Tokyo’s summer this year! Always on the lookout for kawaii (i.e. cute) themed food and also in search of something to cool me down, I managed to find a place which satisfied both criteria!

Japanese Ice Ouca「ジャパニーズアイス櫻花」 typically sells ice cream throughout the year, but in summer, they also offer shaved ice desserts (kakigori) on their menu.

These were no ordinary looking kakigori and they were shaped like bears’ heads and aptly named as “Bear Kakigori“「くまちゃんかき氷」! Various flavours were available and I was in a dilemma as to which one I should order, as I wanted to try everything!

Still undecided, I then asked the guy at the counter to recommend me a flavour, since it was my first time there. He told me that both the white one (milk) and the green one (matcha) were good. After some quick deliberation (‘cos there was a queue behind me), I decided to go with Shirokuma (literally translated as “white bear”), which was milk flavoured shaved ice with a scoop of milk ice cream for its snout. You can choose whether to have a “small mouth”, “large mouth” or “big mouth” and this will determine the scoop size of the ice cream for the bear’s snout. I went with the “small mouth”, as I had just finished lunch and wasn’t sure if I could finish the dessert if I went overboard with my order.

Seating is quite limited at this shop and as it is usually packed with customers, the only seat I could get was a bench outside the shop, which meant that I had to eat fast before the ice started to melt under the heat!

I do have to say that this bowl of shaved ice is just too cute to be eaten! However, it was really refreshing and tasted great! Apricot was used for the ears and the eyes and nose were actually black beans!

Do give this a try if you visit Tokyo during summer!


Address:

Japanese Ice Ouca「ジャパニーズアイス櫻花」
〒150-0013 東京都渋谷区恵比寿1-6-6 土田ビル1F
1F, Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0013, Japan.
[Map]

Tel: 03-5449-0037

E-mail: info@ice-ouca.com

Opening Hours:
Spring & Summer (March to October)   11:00~23:30 (last order at 23:00)
Autumn & Winter (November to February)   12:00~23:00 (last order at 22:45)

Getting There:
3-min walk from Ebisu station (both JR and Tokyo Metro lines).

Categories: Eating in Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo (東京) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indulge your Taste Buds at Cempedak Island

Cempedak Island’s chefs have excellent cooking skills and produce some amazing food, so I couldn’t help but to dedicate a post just on the food itself!

We jumped straight into lunch when we arrived at the island and were immediately impressed by the food and also the polite and friendly service by the wait staff!

You can either dine at the restaurant itself or at more “private” tables located nearer to the water’s edge. Three of these tables are available on a first-come-first-served basis.


The dining menu is handwritten on little blackboards placed on the table, which is located at the entrance of the restaurant and usually only the menu for the current meal and the next will be displayed, unless the boards haven’t been changed yet, to show what you can expect for the next meal.

Apparently, the menu is fixed for each day of the week, so if you are staying there long-term, you will probably see the same dishes come the same day in the new week. However, guests always have the option to request the staff to prepare something else to their liking, but you’ll have to give them advance notice so that they’ll have ample time to prepare it.

With the aim to prevent food wastage, a standard portion of food will be served to all diners, but those who have larger appetites can ask for second helpings. If you like a particular dish and want more of it, the staff will also gladly oblige to your request.


Saturday Lunch

Soto Medan

This was a really tasty soup, with fresh ingredients and a rich chicken broth that is much more flavourful than the average Soto Ayam that you’ll find in Singapore. I have to say that it was a nice start to the meal!

Steamed Fish Pepes with Sautéed Veggies and Sweet Corn Rice

This Gurame fish was fresh and very meaty, plus it was almost a complete meal by itself! Prior to this, I’ve never had steamed Gurame before, as most places usually serve it deep fried “flying fish” style.

I was extremely impressed by this dish as it was deboned for us! This was probably my first time being served with a whole fish (except for a missing tail) without the fish bones! However, I still found a bone near the stomach area, so you’ll still need to be careful when you eat the fish, as the kitchen staff could have missed removing a couple of the bones.

Nonetheless, I felt like I was being pampered by the extra effort that was put in for our dining experience! (and this was only our very first meal there!)

The sautéed veggies were a nice accompaniment to this main course and we found sweet kernels of corn hidden in the mound of rice on the plate.

Do note that one fish serves two persons at the table.

Strawberry Tartlet

Haha…fancy a western dessert to end an Asian meal! I had no complaints as it was good and tasted exactly like how a strawberry tart should be. However, it felt more like a chocolatey strawberry tart to me, as its pastry shell was lined with chocolate. The plate was also decorated with a strawberry coulis, which we mopped up and devoured together with the tart.

Coffee/Tea

We ended our meal with some coffee and tea. There are several standard options that you can choose from, so do check with the staff for the complete list of available choices.


Saturday Dinner

Breadsticks

These are served at every meal only during dinnertime, so I won’t be repeating the picture of the breadsticks in the subsequent meals listed in this post. There are two types of breadsticks served, one flat and one a bit roundish, like an oversized pretzel. I preferred the flat version as it had more flavour in them. Bread is also served at the same time as the breadsticks.

Tuna Salad

Not being a fan of tuna salads, I was initially wondering whether I should have this for dinner, but since I didn’t ask the staff to prepare something else, I decided to just try whatever was on the current day’s menu. To my surprise, it was really good and my hubby was shocked that I actually ate it!

Grilled King Prawn with Nanyang

Loved the presentation with the three fresh and plump king prawns intertwined and stacked to make a “prawn tower”, which sat atop rice mixed with wild ferns (paku pakis), seasoned with Indonesian spices. Melinjo cracker bits were scattered next to it.

We couldn’t quite figure out what the “Nanyang” meant in this dish, but overall the harmony of flavours could bring a song to my lips.

Papaya Gaul (pictured below on the left)
Lemon and coconut sorbet, with fresh papaya hidden beneath.

I don’t like papaya and had informed the staff during the previous meal, so they suggested replacing it with mango and I was fine with that, as I love mango! The combination was very refreshing and I loved my dessert! (pictured above on the right)


Sunday Breakfast

It isn’t everyday that you get breakfast with a view (yes, we managed to get one of the “private” tables this morning!)

We were served with a selection of fruit, as well as pastry.

The items labelled as “pastry” were served in a quaint little basket, which I absolutely adore!

Bread Butter Pudding
Somehow this looked more like a muffin to me.

Sarang Semut
Literally translated as “Ant’s Nest”, this cake derived its strange name due to its cross section resembling the appearance of an ant’s nest.

Although the piece of cake doesn’t look appetising, its dark brown colour is due to the caramel in the cake and its taste is actually quite nice! In terms of texture, it was springy to the touch and chewy, so it wasn’t exactly my favourite choice of cake, but I have to say that this cake probably requires some skill to be able to create the nest-like appearance.

I would consider this to be one of those experiences where you travel to a foreign country and try their local food, which is unfamiliar to you.

Mango Lassi
A blend of fresh mango and yoghurt.

As my stomach sometimes doesn’t agree with yoghurt, I opted to just have the mango juice by itself, so as not to jeopardize the rest of my holiday. Pure fresh blended mango juice is just heavenly! (oh yes, I am biased to mango)

Cempedak Style Nasi Goreng with Sunny Side Up

A hearty breakfast and the fried rice was delicious.


Sunday Lunch

Indonesian Food – (clockwise from top left:) Ayam Bakar, Udang Sambal, Yellow Fish Curry, Beef Rendang, Nasi Kuning, Urap; with Sambal Bilis Kacang and some extra sambal chilli (upon request) in the centre.

This was a seriously huge lunch for two people! Judging from the reactions that I happened to notice around me, most people were taken aback when presented with the portion of food at this meal!

Here’s how it looked after I put a bit of everything on one plate!

The Sambal Bilis Kacang (i.e. spicy anchovies with peanuts) was so good that we asked for a second helping! My other favourites were the Ayam Bakar (i.e. grilled chicken) and Beef Rendang, but I was too stuffed to ask for more.

Pisang Goreng with Coconut Ice

This was a nice and sweet ending to the meal, although I would say that the fried banana may have been a bit heavy, especially after such a huge main course!


Sunday Dinner

Calamari Salad

A refreshing salad with the calamari and crackers providing a different dimension of crispness from the vegetables.

BBQ Lamb Loin with Cous-Cous and Pita Bread

I was initially quite skeptical about this main course as I generally don’t like cous-cous, but this was really good!

The lamb was tender and the pomegranate seeds provided an extra crunch to each mouthful. Overall, the entire dish was a burst of flavours on the taste buds.

Spicy Chocolate Tart

This chocolate tart came with a surprise message, as we were celebrating our wedding anniversary a few days earlier with this trip. There was just a hint of spiciness in the chocolate and it was quite nice.


Monday Breakfast

Pastry:
Kue Apam
One of the traditional cakes in this country, it tasted alright but wasn’t exactly my favourite of cakes.

Strawberry Muffin
This wasn’t the best muffin that I’ve had in my lifetime, but it will taste just fine if you aren’t a fussy eater.

Melon Madness
A blend of rock melon and yoghurt.

Again, mine was just pure melon juice without the yoghurt.

Pulut Hitam

Fancy having this as a main course! I usually think of having pulut hitam as a dessert, but this version only had a small amount of coconut milk over the black glutinous rice and was topped with cubes of fresh mango. It was a savoury dish and was quite filling.

Omelette, Mushrooms, Roasted Tomato & Toast

This mushroom omelette was cooked just right and it was a satisfying breakfast.


Monday Lunch

Indonesian Beef Spring Rolls

Crispy spring rolls with a beef filling and the combination of ingredients had a nice balance of crunchiness.

Chicken Taliwang, Sauteed Vegetables and Steamed Rice

An Indonesian style roast chicken, which was quite nice.

Lemon and Basil Tartlet with Lemon Sorbet

The lemon sorbet tasted similar to the one from Saturday night and the tart was alright, but nothing to rave about. Overall, it was nice citrusy ending to the meal.


Monday Dinner

Broccoli Orange Salad

I liked this salad, as it had a nice balance of flavours.

Poached Fish, Sauteed Asian Beans and Baby Potato

The fish was minced and shaped like the potatoes on the plate! Although it didn’t look that appetising, the fish was well marinated with Asian spices and the flavours shone through.

Chocolate Indulgence

A plate for sharing, but we were reminded we could ask for more if we wanted extra. It was a little too sweet for me and not really the type of chocolate that I like. I felt that the taste of the macaron could be improved and probably the best thing on the plate were the slices of banana, which were slightly caramelised.


Tuesday Breakfast

Pastry:
Carrot Cake
This is one of the better versions of carrot cake that I’ve tasted.

Onde-Onde
Not the usual type of Onde-Onde that I’m familiar with! This one is coated with sesame seeds and was quite chewy.

Jamu Beras Kencur
A herbal tonic of sorts and somewhat an acquired taste, this was served warm.

Pineapple Crepes

Absolutely delicious! The crepe filling was juicy and the pineapple was cooked with spices like star anise. Overall, it was a savoury delight!

Soft Baked Egg with Roasted Tomato Sauce and Toast

This one took me by surprise, as it sounded ordinary, but tasted so wonderful! The tomato sauce really whet my appetite and the medley of flavours pleased my stomach so much that I felt tempted to ask for seconds! I’ve never been as satisfied with a breakfast egg dish as I have with this one!


Tuesday Lunch

Rujak Segar

An appetising salad that whet my appetite for more food!

Grilled Butterfly King Prawn with Coconut Rice Cake and Veggies

Here’s another look at the dish with the coconut rice cake.

The prawns were not overcooked and were done just right, while the coconut rice cake was more like an enhanced flavoured ketupat.

Bubur Sum-Sum

It was my first time having this dessert, which seemed more like a type of rice pudding, served with a palm sugar syrup.


Apart from water, the beverages served during breakfast, plus coffee and tea, are included in the meal package. All other drinks are charged separately.

These were some of the drinks that we had tried…

Homemade Sodas

Soursop Soda – this wasn’t great as I felt it needed more soursop in it.

Mocktails
Alice’s “Drink Me” Potion (fresh pineapple, coconut cream, rosella syrup) and Island Temple (rosella syrup, lemonade) – both drinks were quite refreshing.

Banana Fantasy (banana, milk, honey) – probably a banana lover’s dream come true! Haha.

Juices
Orange and Pineapple – freshly squeezed juices that tasted great!

In order to be eco-friendly, instead of plastic straws, bamboo straws are used for the drinks. It was my first time encountering these bamboo straws, which can be washed and re-used.

In conclusion, the food on the island exceeded our initial expectations and there were more hits than misses! The wait staff were very friendly and polite, plus they took time to explain what the dishes were and also tried to remember our food preferences. Overall, the dining experience was great!

Categories: Indonesia, Riau Islands, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Review] Addams Family Musical in Singapore (2017)

Direct from the UK, The Addams Family have recently moved into the MES Theatre at Mediacorp and have brought along their entire clan, who are classified as being either living, dead or undecided.

For those who are still unfamiliar with this musical comedy, it is written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the creators of multi award-winning Jersey Boys, with music and lyrics by Tony Award nominated Andrew Lippa.

Differing from the TV series, in this musical, Wednesday Addams is all grown up now and has a shocking secret that only her father Gomez knows – she has fallen in love with a sweet young man (Lucas Beineke) from a normal respectable family. Having been pleaded by his daughter to keep his “cara mia” Morticia in the dark, audiences will get to see whether Gomez manages to keep Wednesday’s secret until the two families meet for dinner, which turns out to be an eventful evening. Will love triumph or will there be disastrous consequences?


Photo Source: Mediacorp Vizpro

Playing the iconic role of Gomez Addams is established actor, Cameron Blakely, who was recently seen in Singapore’s season of Les Misérables as Monsieur Thenardier and also has a string of theatrical and film credits to his name. He seemed at ease with the role and sounded very convincing with his Spanish accent.

The role of Gomez’s beloved wife, Morticia Addams, is played by Rebecca Thornhill, who joins this show direct from the West End production of Mathilda The Musical, playing Mrs Wormwood to great acclaim.

If you had watched the previous run of this musical in Singapore in 2013, which was from the USA, this current production showcases a brand new orchestration and presentation. The sets look different in this West End version and it has also scaled down on the number of props used as compared to the Broadway version. According to the producers, having fewer props makes it easier for the show to go on tour.

Opening set:

Music is played live and you can find the musicians in the orchestra pit. Now this is what the real musical theatre experience should be like!

It’s funny how my favourite scenes in the musical have changed with this UK production. My new favourites are the opening scene and “Pulled”.

Wednesday Addams is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher, who previously played Éponine in Les Misérables. Apart from having an impressive theatrical and acting credit, she also has a strong social media following.

I loved her vocals, especially in “Pulled” and found that this song seems to grow on you, as I was even singing it when I got home.

25-year-old Grant McIntyre made the role of Pugsley Addams very believable and I wouldn’t have guessed his age if I didn’t know it!

Full Disclosure – this scene is one of the highlights of the show, so do pay attention otherwise you might miss the plot!

Photo Source: Mediacorp Vizpro

Excerpts from the musical:

There were many comedic moments in the show and I especially liked the part when Uncle Fester, played by Cory English, took a dig at the members of the audience who were seated at the cheapest seats!

During the night that I watched the show, somehow the audience didn’t get it when Lurch, played by Dickon Gough, broke out in song. I guess probably only true Addams Family fans will find it funny, as they will know that this butler usually only speaks in a series of grunts and groans.

I was somewhat horrified to find that “Thing”, whom I’ve always known to be a hand, turned out to be an arm in this show!

Despite feeling unsettled by the new interpretation of “Thing”, another one of my favourite songs is “Crazier Than You”, which features Wednesday and the Beineke family.

Photo Source: Mediacorp Vizpro

I thought the sound system at the MES Theatre was excellent, as we could hear every single word that was being spoken and sung. However, during some of the group scenes, the lead singer sometimes gets drowned out by the other vocals and thus I felt it could have been better if the sound balancing was tweaked a little.


Photo Source: Mediacorp Vizpro

The cast members divulged that they had injected some of their own interpretations to their characters. I thought they all did a great job!

Family ties are extremely strong in the Addams Family, so do come and meet this kooky family. I’ll leave you with parting words that the entire Addams clan will articulate to you,
“It’s family first and family last
And family by and by
When you’re an Addams
You do what Addams do or die!”

Venue:
MES Theatre at Mediacorp
[Map]

Getting There by MRT:
One North Station – take exit A and walk towards the left for about 11min.

Show Dates:
15 Nov 2017 – 03 Dec 2017

Show Times:
Tues – Fri: 8pm
Sat & Sun: 2:30pm & 8pm

Ticket Prices:
$65, $95, $135, $165 (excludes booking fee)


Special thanks to Mediacorp Vizpro for the invite to The Addams Family musical!

Categories: Media Invite, Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toripy「トリピー」: Tottori Prefecture’s mascot

Tottori Prefecture「鳥取県」 is well-known for its pears, which they name as 20th century pears「二十世紀梨」 and thus it’s not surprising that its mascot has incorporated some pear elements.

Toripy「トリピー」 first appeared in 1997, as a mascot at the Yume Minato Expo「夢みなと博覧会」 and since then he has been a tourism mascot for Tottori Prefecture (in case you’re wondering why I used “he”, that because according to his biodata, this mascot is of the masculine gender).

He is part pear and part bird, but please don’t ask me to attempt to guess what kind of creature that makes him. Regardless, I do think he is cute!


(photo of Toripy and a tourism official taken at the Japan Rail Cafe, when they visited Singapore as part of a Tottori promotional event)

Categories: Japan, Tottori Prefecture (鳥取県) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oktoberfest & Thirsty Thursdays one-for-one drinks at Siloso Beach and other Night events!

Love relaxing and unwinding by the beach? From 5th October, consider heading to Sentosa in the evenings, as the Oktoberfest celebrations will kick off about three months’ worth of Thirsty Thursday deals at beachside bars, restaurants, hotels and attractions across the resort island.

Between 5th and 8th October, F&B outlets at Siloso Beach are celebrating Oktoberfest with authentic German beer and cuisines served by staff in traditional Bavarian costumes. Watch German music performances and take part in games including Hammer a Nail, Speed Cage Soccer and Golf Bunker Challenge.

Participating F&B outlets have partnered with Singapore’s only German Microbrewery – Paulaner Bräuhaus, to provide an exclusive Oktoberfest experience.

Enjoy live music with your cold brew.

Visitors to the Sapphire Pavilion may be “persuaded” to participate in a Chicken Dance in the midst of your Oktoberfest celebrations!

I’m not a huge fan of beers, but I have to say that this beer was really smooth and was quite enjoyable!

Some of the Oktoberfest fare include dishes like Traditional Pork Knuckle, Bavarian Meat Patties, Gourmet Sausages and Roasted Capon Chicken.

Dates: 5 – 8 October 2017
Time:
Thu & Fri: 6pm – 10pm
Sat & Sun: 12pm – 10pm
Venues: Sapphire Pavilion (Siloso Beach) and Participating Partners Venues
Participating Partners: AJ Hackett, Coastes, Flame Bar, Sand Bar, Mambo Beach Club, Ola Beach Club, Wave House Sentosa and Siloso Beach Resort
Admission: Free (but Island admission and car park charges apply)


Thirsty Thursday deals

From 5th October to 28th December, one-for-one drink promotions are being offered at AJ Bar & Beach Dining, Bikini Bar, Coastes, FOC Sentosa, Hotel Michael – Michael’s Lounge, Ola Beach Club, Hard Rock Hotel Singapore – Rock Bar and Wave House Sentosa.

More details can be found here.

I have to say that some of the beach clubs look pretty cool and the setting makes you feel as if you are in another country!

Coastes

Ola Beach Club

Mambo Beach Club

Wave House


Free GrabShuttle Service on Thursdays
Every Thursday from 5th October to 28th December, starting from 6pm, those who work in the Pasir Panjang and HarbourFront areas can enjoy free entry into Sentosa and complimentary rides to the doorsteps of these F&B outlets by hopping onto the Thirsty Thursday Bus (i.e. a special GrabShuttle service). Real time bus arrival timings will be available on the GrabShuttle App.

Guests working in the Pasir Panjang area can board the GrabShuttle service at Mapletree Business City and Mapletree Business City II. Departing at about every 30 minutes, the bus will bring guests to FOC Sentosa, Coastes, Bikini Bar / Ola Beach Club, Wave House Sentosa / AJ Hackett, Hard Rock Hotel / Hotel Michael and VivoCity.
[Last boarding at 1st stop (Mapletree Business City) is at: 9.30pm]

Guests working in the HarbourFront area can board the GrabShuttle service at VivoCity, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Singapore, HarbourFront Tower One and Keppel Bay Tower. Departing at about every 45 minutes, the bus will bring guests to FOC Sentosa, Coastes, Bikini Bar / Ola Beach Club, Wave House Sentosa / AJ Hackett, and Hard Rock Hotel / Hotel Michael.
[Last boarding at 1st stop (VivoCity) is at: 9.15pm]

The GrabShuttle route can be found here.


Photo Credit: Sentosa Development Corporation


Other Night Events at Sentosa

Merlion Magic Lights!
See the majestic 37-metre Sentosa Merlion come to life with vibrant and colourful lights and projections! This light and music extravaganza features a new neon theme for the first time!

Date: From 1 September to 29 October 2017
Time:

  • Weekdays: 7.45pm to 9.15pm (30-minute show intervals)
  • Weekends: 9.45pm to 10.15pm (Additional show)

Venue: Merlion Plaza (Imbiah Station, Sentosa)


ONE°15 Christmas Boat Light Parade

Singapore’s only Boat Light Parade, this features a flotilla of power and sail boats dressed in bright Christmas lights and decorations.

On 18 November, a lighted parade of boats will be on static display at ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove from 7pm – 10pm. On 19 November, boats competing for the top honor of “Best of Show” will parade from ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove, past iconic landmarks in Sentosa including Siloso Beach, Fort Siloso and Resorts World Sentosa, before arriving at the Sentosa Boardwalk, in front of VivoCity, between 8pm and 9pm.

Date: 18th to 19th November 2017
Time: 7:30pm onwards


Pop Up Night

Curated by urban artist Samantha Lo (aka Sticker Lady) and Singaporean visual artist, soph O, special neon light art installations will be put up at prominent areas along Siloso Beach, including the jetty, Ola Beachfront, Emerald Pavilion. There will also be interactive activities including UV Tattoo, Light Painting Booth and an interactive Doodle Wall.

Date: From 20 October to 12 November 2017
Time: 7pm to 11pm
Venue: Siloso Beach


Popcorn Movie Nights @ Sentosa

Singapore’s first beachfront outdoor movie screening series at Palawan Green. This weekly free outdoor cinematic experience combines awesome food, music and film for the perfect mid-week escape.
Date: 18 & 25 October 2017
Time: 6pm
Venue: Palawan Green (Beach Station), Sentosa


For more details on the night events, click here.

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Hagi no Tsuki「萩の月」- A Sendai Specialty 

If you are familiar with the Chinese tradition of eating mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival, Japan has a different version of mooncake called “Hagi no Tsuki”「萩の月」. This Sendai specialty was inspired by the autumnal moon (“tsuki” in Japanese) dominating the night sky, over the field of Miyagino covered with bush clover (“hagi”) blossoms.

This is packaged in boxes containing 5, 8, 12, 16, 20 and 28 cakes each.

I happened to buy a 5-piece box of these cakes during the Sendai Tanabata Festival and it came wrapped in special paper for the festival.

After unwrapping and unboxing, I found 5 smaller boxes inside!

The shape and colour of this cake looks like the full moon, but it is actually a light and fluffy sponge cake filled with a mild-flavored custard cream. Unfortunately it’s shelf life is only about 2 weeks, so if you are planning to buy this as a gift for someone, you’ll need to make a note to check on its expiry date before you purchase it!

Overall, I liked the cake as it wasn’t too sweet and was very fluffy. Definitely a must-buy if you are visiting the Sendai region!

(In case you’re wondering – I bought mine from a department store in Sendai city, but these can also be found at the shops in the JR Sendai station)

Categories: Sendai (仙台) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sentosa Sandsation 2017

Building sandcastles is an activity usually associated with kids, but these days it has evolved into an artform.

Sentosa Sandsation 2017“, a three-week long sand sculpture festival (from 1-17 September), is Southeast Asia’s largest sand festival and features more than 30 larger-than-life sand sculptures.

The exhibition area is spread across 2,400 square metres on Siloso Beach and visitors can walk through three zones with different themes, which include a competition zone, as well as sculptures depicting Singapore’s unique blend of culture, humour, quirks and colloquialism. Admission is free and the event is open from 10am – 9pm daily.

Leading the team of sand sculptors for Sentosa Sandsation 2017 is JOOheng Tan, an internationally-acclaimed Singapore sand artist, whose works have been showcased in over 70 cities across more than 20 countries.

An interesting fact is that the sand sculptures are made with just sand and water! 1.2 million kg of sand has been used and 300 tonnes of seawater needed to compact the sand. In case you’re wondering, the sand will be recycled after the event.

Apparently neither rain nor wind will affect the sand sculptures as the rainwater will be absorbed (and evaporate), while the compressed sand will not be affected by the wind.

Zone 1: Our Sandsational Singapore (Singapore, Ho Say!)

This features 15 three-dimensional sculptures inspired by local culture and I found that most of the sand sculptures in this zone are tongue-in-cheek representations of familiar Singlish phrases. The sand piles here are about 16ft (4.87m) high!

Download the MixGo mobile app for an enhanced experience and watch the sculptures come to life with various Augmented Reality effects (the app also includes behind-the-scenes video features, simulated photo frames and filters, as well as gamification features).

Sentosa Sandsation

So Jialat! (Using lots of strength)

Use the MixGo app to scan the picture…

A photo frame will appear and you can use it to take your pictures.

Blur like Sotong, Gabra like Zebra (to describe a person as being totally clueless, and messes things up)

Using the MixGo app, an octopus appears on the screen!

Kelong (match-fixing)

Singapore National Theatre

Lia’h Boh Kiew (to express one’s inability to understand)

Jiak Zua (to jiak zua or eat snake literally means to skive or shirk responsibilities)

So Wayang (an act of pretence)

Steady Pom Pipi (to describe one’s ability to remain cool under pressure)

Kan Cheong Spider (refers to a person with a nervous disposition, one who is easily flustered)

Cut Queue (to jump queue)

Talk cock sing song, play ping pong (to engage in nonsensical conversation or to make no sense)

Chope! (to reserve a seat)

So Kiasu (afraid to lose out)

Tok Kong (superb, top of line)

Using the MixGo app here will launch a game:

Zone 2: Sentosa International Sand Sculpting Championship

Based on the theme “Imagination”, 14 renowned sand artists from 13 nations around the globe are participating in this championship and the sculptors spent a total of 28 hours over three and a half days to create these creative works of art.

On 31 August, Portugal’s Pedro Mira was crowned the winner of the Sentosa International Sand Sculpting Championship, clinching the Golden Shovel Award and a cash prize of USD 5,000. Togo’s Bob Atisso and Poland’s Borecki Wiaczeslaw were presented with the Silver Shovel Award (and USD 2,500) and the Bronze Shovel Award (and USD 1,500) respectively.

The winning sand sculptures were judged based on various criteria including concept, design, originality, three-dimensionality of the works, as well as carving technique.

[Belgium] …if cats got bigger? by David Enguerrand

[Canada] Tropical Splendor by Michel Lepire

[Czech Republic] Lion City by Jakub Zimacek

[France] The world through children’s eyes by Benoit Dutherage

[India] Save our Oceans by Sudarsan Pattnaik

[Italy] Smog City by Leonardo Ugolini

[Mexico] Way (or Uay) by Calixto Molina

[The Netherlands] Entangled by Marielle Heessels

[Poland] Evolution by Borecki Wiaczeslaw (Bronze Shovel Award)

[Portugal] Broken Heart by Pedro Mira (Gold Shovel Award)

View from the other side of the sand sculpture:

[Russia] Dreams by Aleksei Shchitov

[Spain] Everything can be possible, so why not? by Cuesta Marin Montserrat

[Spain] Game Over by Sergio Ramirez

[Togo] The Drive of Illusion by Bob Atisso (Silver Shovel Award)

Zone 3: Shifting Sand 2

In this last zone, JOOheng commemorates his 20th year of transforming ordinary sand into incredible artworks through a series of interactive sand art pieces.

Visitors can “step into” the art pieces and become part of the artwork.

A different theme is planned for each weekend and those who visit between Mondays and Thursdays will be able to witness the artist at work.

Week 2 (work in progress):

On the final weekend (15-17 September), JOOheng will be sculpting a vision of Singapore in the year 2040, based on a winning sketch submitted by a local child aged 5-12 years old who will imagine how it will be like to live and play in future Singapore, and what makes us a happy and cohesive nation.

Sentosa Islander members will get the exclusive opportunity to snap a photo with the interactive sand artwork from Fridays to Sundays*, from 12pm to 9pm. Simply flash your Islander membership card to enter the photo area and have your photo taken with JOOheng’s interactive sand art! You will need to provide your email address or mobile phone number, so that the photograph can be sent to you.
*Only valid on the following dates: 1-3, 8-10, 15-17 September 2017, from 12pm – 9pm.

People’s Choice Awards
Visitors to this sand festival can take part in the People’s Choice Awards and pick their favourite sand sculpture by taking a photo with their favourite sand artwork, posting it on Instagram with the hash tags #SentosaSandsation and #SandsationalContest, plus stating the reason(s) for their choice. One winner will be drawn from the entries featuring the most popular sculpture, and this person will get to enjoy a 2D1N Sentosa staycation package. The results of the People’s Choice Awards will be announced after 20 September.

Event Details
Date: 1 – 17 September 2017

Time: 10am – 9pm daily

Venue: Siloso Beach, Sentosa

Admission: Free
(Note: Island admission and parking charges apply)

Getting There: Guests can enter the island for free via the Sentosa Boardwalk, or take SBS Transit’s Service 123 to get to Sentosa’s Beach Station.

As part of the resort island’s 45th anniversary celebrations, from 4-10 September 2017, Singapore residents will also enjoy free entry to Sentosa with a waiver of charges for the Sentosa Express monorail and gantry fees for cars, as well as free rides on Sentosa’s on-island cable car line which brings guests directly to the Siloso Point Station where the event is. The free cable car ride starts from the Merlion Station at Imbiah (opposite the Sentosa Express Imbiah Station).

Those who are making their way from Beach Station can hop onto the Beach Tram and get off at Mega Adventure, where you can find the entrance to the sand festival.

Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suehiro Ramen Honpo 「末廣ラーメン本舗」

After looking for recommendations for good food in Akita city, I came across this ramen chain Suehiro Ramen Honpo「末廣ラーメン本舗」, which has several branches across Japan, but mainly in the Tohoku area. One of their branches can be found at the JR Akita station, but many Japanese reviewers said that the food quality is much better at the main branch of this ramen chain.

Thus, I decided to go look for 「末廣ラーメン本舗 秋田山王本店」 – if you don’t understand Japanese, the word 本店 means the main branch (otherwise known as the very first shop which the chain started from).

It took us 30min to walk there from JR Akita station and it was definitely worth the effort!

The shopfront looks like an old traditional Japanese building. Upon entering, we found that there were only 10 counter seats.

The recommended dish is “Chukka Soba“「中華そば」, which is basically ramen noodles with a generous serving of pork slices in a delicious dark soy sauce soup base.

Diners have to use the vending machine located at the entrance, to purchase tickets for your food and then hand the tickets over to the chef at the counter.

Chukka Soba「中華そば」

I went with the recommended dish and it was absolutely delicious! The soup broth was flavourful and wasn’t overly salty, unlike most Japanese ramen. It tasted very much like a soy sauce pork dish that my late grandmother used to cook for me and thus it really warmed my heart and stomach!

Do note that the ramen is usually topped with spring onions (i.e. scallions), but due to my allergies, I requested for them to be omitted.

中華そばがおすすめです。スープに濃い醤油味、すごく美味しい!

If you love spring onions in your bowl of noodles, you can help yourself to as much as you want from the big bowl of spring onions placed at the counter. Unfortunately, the two elderly men who run this restaurant did not allow me to take any photos of the counter and the cooking area, so I can’t show it to you. I found it amusing that this bowl of free-flow spring onions seemed to be the highlight for many Japanese foodies who visit this ramen shop.

Overall, I was extremely satisfied with the food here and it’s definitely worth a try if you visit Akita!

Address:
末廣ラーメン本舗 秋田山王本店
2 Chome-2-4 Sannō, Akita-shi, Akita-ken 010-0951, Japan.
秋田県秋田市山王2-2-4 日興ビル1F (NHK横)
[Map]

Getting there:
30min walk from JR Akita station.
An 8-min ride on the Akita Chuo Bus from the West exit of JR Akita station. Alight at the “Akita Prefectural Office No. 2 Government Building”「県庁第二庁舎前」and it’s a 2-min walk from the bus stop.
秋田駅からラーメン屋まで歩いて三十分です。
秋田駅西口から秋田中央交通バスで8分「県庁第二庁舎前」下車、徒歩2分。

Opening Hours:
10am to 2am, but the shop may close anytime if the soup stock goes wrong or if the shop is in need of cleaning.
Typically closed on Mondays, but this is still subjected to changes.

Categories: Akita (秋田), Akita Prefecture (秋田県), Japan | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Babahera Ice「ババヘラアイス」- a Rose-shaped ice cream sold by Grannies in Akita!

Babahera Ice「ババヘラアイス」 is an ice cream that is well known in Akita. These are usually sold from pushcarts along the streets by old ladies dressed in bright yellow and red aprons and donning yellow headscarves.

The name “Babahera” comes from the Japanese words baba「ババ」, a nickname for old women or grandmothers and hera「ヘラ」, which is the ice cream scoop or spatula.

The uniqueness of these roadside vendors is that they scoop the ice cream into the shape of a rose! There is only one flavour available – banana, which is not in my list of favourites.

The ice cream wasn’t of the creamy kind and its texture felt more like a slushee. Tastewise, the Minions would probably enjoy the banana flavour more than I did, but it was still an icy treat to cool you down on a hot summer’s day! One serving of babahera ice costs ¥200.

I had seen many of these grannies selling babahera ice during my walk in Akita City, but only this particular lady, who had strategically parked her cart along the pedestrian arcade in front of the JR Akita station, was a spritely character and she did a little dance whilst scooping the ice cream! If you are visiting Akita, do look out for this friendly granny with a big warm smile!

Categories: Akita (秋田), Akita Prefecture (秋田県), Japan | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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