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)

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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

Highway Bus from Tokyo Shinjuku to Lake Kawaguchi and Fuji-Q Highland

Highway Buses in Japan are a cheaper alternative to taking trains and if the travelling time to get to your destination is almost similar for both rail and bus, I will choose the latter as you can save quite a fair bit of money.

In this instance, the highway bus ticket from Shinjuku to Fuji-Q Highland or Lake Kawaguchi costs ¥1750 as at the date of this post, but taking the train will cost between ¥2080 to ¥4650 depending on which trains you are taking (i.e. fast/slow, reserved/non-reserved seating) and the number of times you’ll need to change trains. Do note that the Japan Rail Pass is not valid on these highway buses and you’ll need to buy a separate ticket. If you have already purchased a Japan Rail Pass, then it’s a no-brainer to take the JR trains to maximise your pass.

Both the Fujikyu and Keio Buses operate one to two direct buses per hour from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station (Keio Highway Bus Terminal) to Kawaguchiko Station in the Fuji Five Lakes region. The one-way journey takes close to two hours and most buses will stop at Fuji-Q Highland before arriving at Kawaguchiko Station.

Reservations are required for the Highway Buses and this can be done on-site at the bus terminal, by phone or online.

Inquiry and Reservation
Fujikyu Highway Bus Reservation Center: 0555-73-8181
Keio Highway Bus Reservation Center: 03-5376-2222

For online reservations, click here (in Japanese only).

If you need help to search for the route「新宿~富士五湖線」, click here where I have already entered the search criteria to board from the bus terminal in Shinjuku.

More information:

Locating the Keio Highway Bus Terminal「新宿高速バスターミナル」- it is opposite Yodobashi Camera on this map.

This is how the street looks by day…

…and by night:

Try and collect your tickets at least one day before your date of departure, so that you don’t have to rush on the actual day (in case there is a long queue) and also to familiarise yourself with how to get there. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to get lost navigating the streets to locate the bus terminal on your departure day and miss the bus!

Collection of bus tickets for departures on the next day and beyond can be done at the 2nd floor of the bus terminal building. Look for this door:

When you get to the ticket office, please take a number and wait for your turn.

On the day of your departure, look out for the correct bus bay for your destination. The bus departure times and their destinations will be displayed on the digital signboards.

Lastly, to ensure that you have boarded the correct bus, the destination will also be displayed on the TV screen located at the front of the bus.

For those planning to visit Fuji-Q Highland, you will alight at the Highland Bus Station「富士急ハイランド」. This is located on the left of the parking area at the Highland Resort Hotel & Spa, which is near one of Fuji-Q Highland’s entrances.
[Map]

Those who want to explore the Lake Kawaguchi area should alight at Kawaguchiko Station「河口湖駅」.
[Map]

If the weather is clear, you should be able to see Mount Fuji behind the train station building. Unfortunately if it is a rainy day, the mountain will be totally hidden in the clouds. The picture above was taken in the early afternoon and on a somewhat rainy day. Usually the clouds will start to descend from mid-morning onwards, so the best time to take good pictures of Mount Fuji without much cloud cover would be in the early morning.

Categories: Fujiyoshida (富士吉田), Japan, Kawaguchiko (河口湖), Tokyo (東京) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Augmented Reality Effects Bring New Life to Exhibits at the Trick Eye Museum Singapore

Combine 3D together with Augmented Reality (AR) and you’ll get an out of this world experience!

27th May 2017 will mark the launch of Trick Eye Museum Singapore’s new AR mobile app, which you can use to take pictures at the museum and also discover the additional animations which appear with each of their art exhibits. This app is available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. You can use the app to take both photos and videos of yourself interacting with the art installations. There are added sound effects and music if you take videos using the app and you can watch some of my clips towards the end of this post.

The AR experience starts outside the entrance to the museum, where there is a hideous sea serpent waiting to pounce on unsuspecting visitors!

Running apps on your mobile with AR features does drain your phone battery life and I forgot to bring a power bank, thus in order to conserve my phone battery, I took only AR photos and videos during this visit, but I’ve also included some pictures from my previous visits for comparison.

If you have visited this 3D art museum since the last time when they had refreshed their artworks, you would be familiar with the rest of the pictures in this post but do take a look at how the pictures have been enhanced to provide a more fun and entertaining experience to your museum visit.

Original:

With AR turned on:

It puzzles me as to why a tiger has appeared at the Island of La Grande Jatte! Really unexpected!!

If you already think that this scene from the “Ghost” zone looks impressive in 3D…

…you will be pleased to know that it looks even better with the AR features turned on! I felt as if I was part of an animated movie with the skeletons moving about!

Some of the artworks have not-so-elaborate AR features, but the effects are still good as they enhance the visuals of the 3D exhibits.

Original:

With AR turned on:

Original:

With AR turned on:

Original:

With AR turned on:

Here are some other scenes with AR effects:

The addition of the AR features are best captured on video and you can “interact” with some of the animated characters (this is a chance to show off your acting skills!).

Here’s a compilation of some of the exhibits (please excuse my poor acting skills):

Do note that unless you are taking a selfie, you won’t have any idea of what special effects or animations are taking place in the space around you. If you have a friend helping to record the video for you, that person will need to be the director, otherwise it is pretty much up to your own imagination with regards to how to react in the scene!

Don’t worry if it’s too noisy at the museum, as the app will not record the background noise but instead overlay its own music and sound effects to your video.

Overall it was good fun and the AR effects certainly provide a different kind of interactive experience with the art installations!

Things to take note of before heading to the museum:

    • Download the “Trickeye” app (Free) from both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
    • Bring along a power bank in case your mobile battery runs low from using the app.
    • Try to familiarise yourself with the functions on the screen, otherwise if you are not sure, you can always refer to the tutorial page.

From 27 May to 26 June 2017, visitors to the museum will enjoy 50% off admission prices for tickets purchased from the Trick Eye Museum and Sentosa ticketing counters.

Thanks to Trick Eye Museum Singapore for the media preview of the new AR features!

Categories: Media Invite, Museums, Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chocolicious Fun at Universal Studios Singapore!

Chocoholics are in for a treat at Universal Studios Singapore’s latest Chocolate Garden attraction! Go on a Chocolate Adventure from now until 28th May 2017 and indulge your sweet tooth in some of the available offerings.

The entrance to the Chocolate Garden can be found between the Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase ride and The Brown Derby.

This walk-in attraction contains several themed areas like Lollipop Land, the Fondue Garden and there’s also a Choco Hedge Maze!

Lollipop Land

The swirls of colours immediately catch your eye when you enter the garden.

It makes for a nice photo spot.

There is an area for kids to decorate their own lollipops and they can add them to the Lollipop Garden!

Cocoa Hedge Maze

Get lost in this maze and who knows, you may even find some chocolate treats hidden amongst the bushes! It’s a pity the hedges aren’t high enough for adults to get lost in, but kids would probably enjoy this!

Fondue Garden

For a limited time, marshmallows are given out for free near the entrance to the Chocolate Garden, but if you haven’t had enough of them, you can purchase more at $1 for a set of 2 packets, each containing 2 marshmallows. The stickers that you see on the left of the photo below are for those who have registered for the cupcakes and cookies workshops.

Now if you have your marshmallows in hand and using the sticks provided, go dip them into the various chocolate fountains for a sweet indulgence.

There are several chocolate fountains of different varieties like Milk Chocolate, White Chocolate and there are even Strawberry and Pandan flavours!!

Character Meet and Greet

There are a few characters that you can meet in this area – Candice Cupcake and Mama Cookie are two newly introduced characters at the park and then there’s everyone’s favourite Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.

Candice Cupcake is such a sweetie pie!

Mama Cookie is quite a feisty character!

Then there’s Cookie Monster donning a chef’s hat and an apron. Who’s the guy next to him? Well, he’s the Chocolate Man…

Chocolate Man Hunt

The Chocolate Man wears a badge or patch with the words “Are You Looking For Me?” and he will be roaming the park. Look carefully for him as you explore the park and when you do find him, shout “Got you! You are the Choco Man!” and you can win a mystery prize, which ranges from retail and dining vouchers to Universal Studios Singapore admission tickets!

Cupcakes & Cookies Workshop

If you are feeling creative, you can sign up for one of the sessions where you can decorate delicious cookies and cupcakes. It costs $6 each for a cupcake or a cookie.

We were first given a demonstration of how to decorate a cupcake and the kids looked like they couldn’t wait for their turn to try doing it!

  

Here are some samples of cookies and cupcakes that have already been decorated – they all looked like a sugar overload to me!

  

Ok, now’s my turn to have a go at cupcake decorating and we were given some white chocolate, strawberry chocolate, four different bottles of cream and lots of candy sprinkles!!

On the left is my chocolate chip cupcake and on the right, my completed masterpiece!

  

I coated my cupcake with strawberry chocolate, but didn’t add that many candy sprinkles as I don’t like my cupcakes to be too sweet! Mama Cookie saw it and approved of it! ^_^

You can bring your cupcakes/cookies home after you have finished decorating them, i.e. if you don’t plan to eat them on the spot. A word of advice – if you’re doing cupcakes, do remove the flag before you put the cupcake into the box. I forgot to do so and mine was a little squashed after I put the lid over.

Here’s a quick recap of what you can find at the Chocolate Garden:

Schedule:

I wandered around the park to see if I could interest any of the park’s characters in some chocolate.

The Minions weren’t interested – oh yeah, I forgot that my cupcake wasn’t banana flavoured (you can see my squashed cupcake here).

The Raptor looked keen and about to escape from his enclosure! Then again, he’d probably eat anything! Oh well, I’d better run along before he really escapes!…

Do go check out the Chocolate Garden and the various characters there. It’s also a good place to hang out to get away from the scorching sun!

Other Chocolate Flavoured Dining Offerings

Chocolate-flavoured delights can be found at various dining outlets in the park and these include Cho-infused Curry with Chicken Katsu, Nutella & Cheese Fries, Crispy Chicken Strips with Chocolate Dip and Cocoa Slush. Visitors can purchase the Sweet Tooth Package and choose three selected chocolate-themed items at participating dining outlets for just $20.

A Chocolate Adventure is a new experience included with regular paid admission to Universal Studios Singapore. Now until 28th May 2017.

Categories: Theme Parks, Universal Studios | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beat the Queues at popular eateries with DBS Fastrack Apps

Hate long queues? Are you one of those who always dabao food/drinks on behalf of your colleagues, friends, family or perhaps for yourself? Read on to find out how these mobile apps could help save you a lot of valuable time! Queuing may gradually be a thing of the past for you…

List of apps currently available:

Several merchants (as seen from the above photo) have partnered with DBS Fastrack to provide a solution to enable customers to order and pay without having to be physically there. More eateries may be added to the list in the near future.

What’s in it for me as a consumer?
Well, one benefit is that you can avoid queuing and save that precious time to run other errands. After all, in our fast-paced society, time is money.

These mobile apps are especially useful when ordering takeaways, as you can go pick up your food/drinks when they are ready for collection.

Some establishments like Five Star Restaurant, allow customers to drive by to pick up their food orders. With their app, it allows for a cashless drive-through and customers can just grab and go – this minimises inconvenience to other road users as previously customers who stop their cars to pick up their orders may obstruct the traffic flow in the area.

From the merchants’ point of view, they benefit from these apps as it increases their productivity and they can serve more customers due to a reduction of time required to handle cash and return change.

How does it work?
I decided to give it a go and went down to Koufu to check out the weekday lunch queue in the CBD area. This was the queue at the Duck Rice stall and although the queue wasn’t exactly that long, I decided to order duck rice to go, via the Koufu app.

When you launch the app, you can select the stall which you wish to order from and a choice of food items will be displayed. Ohh…I discovered that there is a 10% discount if you order via the Koufu app!

I chose the Specialty Braised Duck Rice, checked that the correct quantity was specified and that I was doing a takeaway (although dine-in option is also available).

Add the item to the cart and when you are ready, click on the cart to do a checkout.

The estimated waiting time will be shown next and you will be prompted whether to proceed with your payment.

The amount to be paid is displayed and you can choose to settle by DBS/POSB Debit or Credit cards, or by DBS Paylah!

I chose to pay using DBS Paylah!

After my payment had been processed, a collection slip was provided and this is to be shown to the stall when collecting my food.

At the stall, they had also printed a collection slip with the queue number and this sat next to my packet of duck rice.

I have to say that the ordering process and payment was pretty straightforward. The best part was getting a discount on the food and knowing what time I had to go collect it. Do note that if you want to use DBS Paylah!, you’ll first need to apply to use internet banking.

As my office will be moving to the CBD area early next year, I am happy that I will have some solutions available for me to beat the long queues during the lunch hour madness. For those groups of colleagues who want to dine-in but don’t have the habit of using tissue packets to reserve tables at various eating places and one magnanimous colleague usually needs to sit at the table and wait for the rest to return before heading to order his/her food, the good news for this person is that he/she can sit at the table and order food via the app whilst waiting! Alternatively, everyone can sit at the table and chat, order via the app and walk over to pick up the food once it is ready.

Each mobile app differs according to the merchants’ customizations. Most will offer takeaway options, but some may also allow dine-in orders to be placed via the app. Hmm…I can’t wait to go try this out at Tiong Bahru Bakery and Miam Miam, both of which have notoriously long queues during the peak mealtimes.

These apps are available for download in both the Google Play Store as well as the Apple App Store. All you have to do is search for “DBS Fastrack” and a list of related apps will be displayed. Do try out the apps and let me know if you find them useful.

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

Mulan The Musical (木兰少女)

Mulan The Musical (木兰少女) runs from 16 December 2016 to 5 February 2017 at the Resorts World Theatre. This musical comedy from Taiwan, which is making its overseas debut, brings a different twist to the legendary story of Hua Mulan (花木兰).

The cast includes Zhou Ding Wei in the leading male role (the General), Taiwanese singer-actress Li Qian Na and Lai Ying Ying taking turns in the role of Hua Mulan and Singapore artistes Pierre Png and Ann Kok in supporting roles.

At the beginning, we are introduced to the Hua family, where the head of the household has some health issues, the older sister Hua Mulian (played by Ann Kok) was pregnant out of wedlock and the younger brother Hua Xiong, who exhibited some effeminate traits.

If you are familiar with the story of Hua Mulan, you will know that she took her father’s place in the army out of filial piety. However, in this version, she reluctantly agreed to take the place of her father as her siblings couldn’t make the mark and she was deemed to be the most qualified candidate in their family. Thus, Mulan disguised herself as a man and joined the army as Hua Munan (花木男), which is a more masculine name.

Pierre Png plays the army captain, also known as “Encik” and several of his scenes are hilarious! Be prepared for some vulgarities in the dialogue as some of the scenes have local influences and may remind the local audience of Singapore’s National Service.

Look out for this bathroom scene where someone accidentally opens the door to one of the stalls (whoops!) but I won’t spoil the fun for you, so you’ll just have to go watch!

My favourite part was this subsequent bathroom scene with the strawberry-scented soap! It was quite funny, but also romantic in a kind of way.

Whilst at the army camp, both the General and Mulan’s childhood friend Guanfu fall for her and it was amusing to see them wrestling with the idea of having feelings for someone of the same gender. At one point, Mulan was accused by her best friend for being indecisive and liking two guys at the same time (劈腿).

Well, there is a bittersweet ending to the story and in my personal opinion, it resolved the dilemma for Mulan to have to choose between the two!

Apparently, the script has been modified for the Singapore audience, to incorporate local humour and colloquialisms. Current societal issues have also been weaved into the story and these include single parenthood, compulsory military service and LGBT issues.

The music during the second half of the show sounded much better than that in the first half. I was most impressed by Zhou Ding Wei’s vocals and I felt that his voice outshined the rest of the cast.

Curtain call:

It turns out that I absolutely loved that bathroom scene with the strawberry-scented soap, so I just had to get this picture taken as a keepsake! LOL!

Do note that Mulan the Musical is about two hours long with a 15-minute intermission and the show is in Mandarin, but English subtitles are displayed on screens located at both sides of the stage. I wonder which translation software did they use as I found some of the English subtitles to be strange and it was quite funny – one example was 马子 (girlfriend) being translated as “pony”!

Overall, I liked the show for its comedic elements more than the musical numbers.


Dates: 16 December 2016 – 5 February 2017, select nights (please refer to show calendar)

Time: 8pm
Venue: Resorts World Theatre
Prices*: Cat 1: S$128, Cat 2: S$98, Cat 3: S$68, Cat 4: S$38
*Prices exclude SISTIC booking fee and handling charges. Terms and Conditions apply.
Tickets are available from SISTIC or at the Resorts World Theatre.

The photos in this post are credited to Resorts World Sentosa, unless otherwise stated.
Thanks to Resorts World Sentosa for the invite to watch Mulan The Musical.

Categories: Media Invite, Resorts World Sentosa, Theatre | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

KoKoPanda – A Korean Superfood Dessert and Beverage Parlour

Officially opened on 16th December 2016, Kokopanda is a new Korean soft serve and beverage concept focusing on “superfood” toppings to cater to the health-conscious. Yes, you can indulge without feeling guilty!

They offer three unique soft serves, which include White Cremo (a rich smooth and creamy Korean soft serve ice-cream made from premium Korean milk), Black Yogo (a black frozen yogurt made from roasted coconut husk that contains edible activated charcoal, which helps to cleanse the body of toxins) and for the undecided who want to try both – KoKo Twisto (a combination of both Black Yogo and White Cremo).

White Cremo

Black Yogo

Koko Twisto

Quality ingredients sourced directly from Korea are used, including Korean Milk and a selection of superfood toppings like KoKoCrunch granola (a blend of dried fruits and rice puffs) and dried fruits that are rich in vitamins and fibre. The best part is that the fruits are not artificially sweetened and if you are familiar with Korean strawberries and tangerines, they are naturally sweet! The Korean Milk used here is preservative free and thus has a shorter shelf life, so this is regularly flown in fresh from Korea.

A variety of dried fruit is available and this includes Jeju tangerine, Korean strawberries, pear, apple, persimmon, orange and lemon! My favourites are the pear, tangerine and strawberries.

Interestingly, when you eat the dried fruit on its own, their texture is what you’d expect dried fruit to be like, but when you put them into the soft serve, some of them turn a little crispy! I tried this with both the tangerines and strawberries and there was an added crunch to them!

Fruit Bombs (made from real fruit juice) and Jelly Pearls (made from seaweed) are some of the other toppings that are available. If you like nuts, you can try the Honey Butter Almonds, which I absolutely loved!

In addition, there are also Jellies and Chia Seeds that you can choose to add to your dessert or beverage.

A variety of different drinks can be found on their beverage menu, which include Seoulistic Iced Tea Lattes, Korean Fruit Vinegar Ciders and Fruit Enzyme drinks, Exotic Gangnam Iced Teas and ChiaChaCha, which is a refreshing combination of 100% coconut water with Chia Seeds.

One of their signature drinks is the Jeju Green Tea Latte and you can have this with black KoKoPearls, i.e. if you are the type who’s into bubble teas. I usually like my drinks with 0% sugar and I found the green tea latte with black pearls to be just right for me as it wasn’t too sweet and I think those who don’t like the slightly bitter taste of Japanese matcha may like this as this Korean green tea doesn’t have that same bitter taste. Premium grade Jeju green tea is used and it contains natural polyphenols and antioxidants.

Those who can’t do without sugar haven’t been forgotten and similar to other beverage outlets in the market, you can customize your sugar levels, but of course to be healthier, try to slowly reduce your sugar intake and go for 0%! ^_^

Although I’m not a hugh fan of coconut water and healthy drinks, I did try the ChiaChaCha with added Mango Fruit Bombs and I have to say that those fruit caviars burst easily in your mouth and made each sip of the drink very flavourful! Hmm…possibly something I can consider drinking more of in the future, with health benefits!

Weight conscious individuals can opt for the Green Grapes or Green Apple Cider with Chia Seeds, as these are made from pure fruit vinegar ciders known for extra health benefits such as weight loss and maintaining blood sugar levels.

If you haven’t already noticed by now, the shop’s logo has a cute panda in it and you can find this mascot on both the drink and dessert cups, on the staff’s t-shirts, as well as at the shopfront.

On what sets KoKoPanda apart from other dessert and beverage outlets, Katie Kang, Managing Director for KoKoPanda states: “We are all about superfood desserts and beverages. We noticed that many of the drinks and desserts available today are mostly made from sugar and syrups with little goodness included. We are here to spread our concept of guilt-free indulgence by adding the benefits of superfoods into delicious desserts and beverages that people already enjoy.”

I’ve always thought of health foods as being bland and taste-wise not to my liking, but this has somewhat altered my perception. Healthy desserts and beverages that taste good too! Do come and give it a try!

As part of their Opening promotions, Kokopanda will be having a special Buy-1-Get-1-Free promotion on all items on their menu during their launch weekend from 16–18 December 2016.

Thanks to KoKoPanda for the dessert and beverage tasting!

Address:
KoKoPanda
#B2-60, Plaza Singapura,
68 Orchard Road, Singapore 238839.

Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm Daily

Categories: Cafe, Desserts, Eating in Singapore, Korean | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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