Jun 20, 2014

Managed to get your hands on the first 嵐 event in Singapore?

Arashi 嵐, my favourite JPop group, is finally coming to Singapore... on the big screen.

Nevertheless, this is the first time Johnny's has held an 嵐 event in Singapore.

"I hope the Shaw server can take the traffic..."

And then the battle for the tickets for the public screening for 嵐ワクワク学校 (Arashi Waku Waku Gakkou) starts this afternoon.

12.01pm logged on to Shaw Website.
- keeps hanging, keeps refreshing -
12.20pm managed to select seats.
12.21pm OMG! I was kicked out by the system! I was already at the payment stage!!!
12.24pm Keep refreshing. 嵐ワクワク学校 page is not appearing.

Verdict... 嵐ワクワク学校 tickets sold out in 24 minutes?!



***Fortunately, Lady Luck was smiling upon my two friends... 托他们的福,我也得了一票!***

Wonder if Shaw will add another screening? It is really lucrative. A theatre's worth of $50 each tickets sold within half an hour.

Wonder what the battlefield will be like if 嵐 ever has an event in person in Singapore. Will the tickets be sold in seconds regardless of price???

Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to watching 嵐 on the big screen! :D 楽しみ!

Jun 13, 2014

Cafe Hopping in Malaysia ~ Cozy in the Rocket

Have you heard of "Amelie Cafe" in Penang? The hole in the kind type of cafe which oozes raw and rustic vibes.


Photo credit to Clauds Wu :)





The husband-and-wife team of "Amelie Cafe" has replaced "Amelie Cafe" with "Cozy in the Rocket", which is also in the neighbourhood.

Actually the encounter with "Amelie Cafe's" successor was purely by chance. 2 years later when I revisit Penang, I very much wanted to bring my parents to "Amelie Cafe", to show them her unique character. And of course, their desserts!

When we finally came to Lebuh Armenian, we were already tired, sweaty, and craving for some shelter. Exploring by foot in George Town during noon is no feat!

And I came across a cafe which reminds me of "Amelie Cafe". A little raw, with the handwritten signages, and yet cozy. However, "Cozy in the Rocket" is bigger, is air-conditioned, and ... the landmark plants decorating the shopfront are missing. Nevertheless, we went in...







Eh... the picture of the dog! I think I saw it before somewhere!

And it is.. it was in "Amelie Cafe", 2 years back:

Photo credit to Clauds Wu :)

But then I didn't know it was "Amelie Cafe's" successor yet. And I ordered a range of food for us - Mango and Passion Fruit juice, 100 plus canned drink, Aglio Oglio Spaghetti, Pork Spareribs Spaghetti and Coconut Panna Cotta. Everything costs us about RM90 odd. The pasta were a hit for my parents, though they are usually not keen on western cuisine. And the dessert Coconut Panna Cotta was a major hit amongst us.


Aglio Oglio Spaghetti: Bacon strips were still crispy. Yums!


Pork Spareribs Spaghetti: Very generous with their homemade bolognese sauce.


Coconut Panna Cotta: Truly 入口即化! Slurps!

If I knew "Cozy in the Rocket" was "Amelie Cafe's" successor, I would have made desserts my mains!

TIP
I went on a weekday afternoon, and it was only the husband-and-wife team on duty. One in the kitchen, one in the hall. So... be patient. Enjoy the air-con while waiting for your order :)

Oh ya... they have improved a lot on their toilet facilities as well. No longer was it dim and dark. It is now located out of the air-con premises, and has two cubicles, all clean, bright and cheery. :)

Location:
Cozy in the Rocket
262 & 264, Lebuh Pantai, George Town, Penang.



"Cozy in the Rocket" is easy to locate it as it is next to the street art lane, and there are many popup stalls along that street now. So.. go with the crowd :)

Opening Hours:
11am - 4pm, Closes on Mondays


Penang - Short Getaway Must-Dos

Two years later, I am back at Penang! This time I am the impromptu tour guide, bringing my parents around. Based on my experiences from my two trips, here's a short list of the must-dos in Penang.

Confession
I've recently added Danbo to my family... so you will see Danbo almost everywhere in the pictures that follow. :P Be warned ... Cuteness ahead... :P

What to see?

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

My personal choice of the must-see destination in Penang would be Pinang Peranakan Mansion. In fact, it's a hotspot for wedding shoots as well. On the two visits I made to the mansion, there were couples doing their wedding shoot, in their gowns and suits. It is also the location where Mediacorp's "小娘惹 The Little Nonya" was shot.







TIP

Do not worry about their no photography and videography note posted on their official website. When I bought the tickets, they specifically told us we can take photographs. And everyone is doing so, as well.

A well preserved mansion that acts like an museum for Peranakan artefacts, it recently added an annex. This annex is air-conditioned and offers more services, such as a Peranakan restaurant, souvenir shops, and even a jewellery counter that sells pre-loved antique Peranakan jewellery. There were more displays of Peranakan jewellery and accessories.



Remember to take off your shoes before you take the stairs to the second storey of the mansion.









Street Art



In conjunction with the George Town Festival, George Town was revitalised with guerilla street art.

I didn't manage to find all street art... too many!

Here're the ones I located:



Notice the two very similar ones, which I labelled "2012" and "2014"? They touched up the paint and added a "half bicycle" permanently to that art installation.

The tourism board of Penang even produced pamplets on George Town's street art. You can grab one at the airport!

Sleeping Buddha - Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple

Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple houses a 180-foot long Sleeping Buddha.


It is currently undergoing some renovation. Colours are being revitalised:



TIP
Remember to take off your shoes before entering the temple's premises.

Next to Wat Chayamangkalaram Temple is the Burmese Buddhist Temple.



Find out where other gigantic Buddha statues are located:



What to eat?

Char Kway Teow - Penang Style

This is my favourite hawker haunt in Penang - Gurney Drive Hawker Centre, also known as Anjung Gurney. If you stay at G Hotel. This food paradise is just a few steps away. Facing G Hotel, on the right is Gurney Plaza, and then next, on the right is Gurney Drive Hawker Centre.



It's an open-air hawker centre, with loads and loads of local cuisine options.

And I highly recommend you to try Stall 71 Char Koay Teow. (It's spelt differently from our version: Char Kway Teow) RM6 per plate. I think they increased their prices, but they also increased their manpower, so it's now more efficient, though the queue is still as long.



This is how it was in 2012:


Now there is another auntie who is frying Char Koay Teow, and more helpers to keep track of orders, payments and washing.

Penang's char kway teow is different from Singapore's. You have to try it. And this stall's chay koay teow is very well-fried, ingredients are fresh too. Prawns are big and fresh~


Stir-fried Bittergourd with eggs 苦瓜炒蛋- Song River Cafe Style

Yes! Bittergourd. Nope, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. You must be wondering why am I recommending bittergourd dishes to you, instead of what Song River Cafe is famous for - their Bak Kut Teh.

TIP
Song River Cafe 松花江餐室 is featured in several travel guides on Penang.



Mmm.. actually I think their Bak Kut Teh was just so-so.

But their stir-fried bittergourd with eggs is heavenly! The best bittergourd dish I have ever tasted. Yeah.. even better than Okinawa's, and Okinawa is the place that is famous for their bittergourds!

Bittergourd doesn't taste bitter anymore.. somehow.. I wonder well. But it blended very nicely with the eggs. Note it's 蛋花, and not the usual fully cooked eggs we often see at our foodcourts.



It seems easy to make.. since ingredients are simple and easy to source - eggs, bittergourd and soya sauce. But... I can't achieve Song River Cafe 松花江餐室's delicate balance.

Location:
65,Persiaran Gurney, 10250, George Town, Pulau Penang



Where to shop?

Again, if you stay at G Hotel, shopping malls are very near you. Besides the just-next-door neighbour, Gurney Plaza. There is now a new mall called Gurney Paragon Mall, just on the left of G Hotel, a few more steps away.

Gurney Plaza is huge and has almost everything. Branded shops like Coach, Chanel, Armani Exchange and so on... And it has late night entertainment options like cinema theatres (Golden Screen), KTV (RedBox) and even the gym (Jatomi Fitness). Of course, not forgetting all the dining options and pubs and coffee joints (You have both Starbucks and Coffee Bean just opposite each other).

TIP
A&W is no longer located in Gurney Plaza. *Weep* A loss of another Singaporean favourite. (To understand the irrational craving for root beer float and curly fries - there are no A&W outlets in Singapore, after they moved out in 2003.)

Location:
Gurney Plaza, Persiaran Gurney, 10250 Penang, Malaysia.



Now, more about the new cousin in the neighbourhood, Gurney Paragon Mall. The biggest draw... it has H&M and Kate Spade! And of course, it's new. Very new. Likely just opened within these two years, as when I was visiting Penang 2 years back, the mall was still in the midst of construction. Since it's the new kid on the block, not all shops are filled. Maybe about 90% is filled.

Location:
163-D, Persiaran Gurney, 10250 Penang, Malaysia.



Where to take a break from all that walking and shopping?

Coffee Elements

Since we are on the topic of shopping, let me introduce you to Coffee Elements.

We had Cafe Latte, Energy Refresh, (I was told by the staff it's like a lemon-grass drink. But it's more than that! I loved my drink. 有甘甜的 aftertaste.) Red Velvet Cake and Carrot Cake.

Somehow.. the carrot cake was a hit between my parents. You can try ordering this for your seniors next time you are nearby.



Location:
3rd floor of Gurney Paragon Mall

Cozy in the Rocket

If you were exploring downtown at George Town, then do not miss "Cozy in the Rocket". Tucked in Lebuh Armenian area.

A quick observation... perhaps due to the boom of street art in George Town, there are now a lot more tourists, especially around Lebuh Armenian area. They are more popup stalls catering to tourists too.

Actually I was on the search for "Amelie Cafe", which I visited with Huishan 2 years back. At that time, "Amelie Cafe" was featured in Straits Times!

A quaint little cafe with style of its own- "Amelie Cafe" back in 2012:


I could not remember the exact location... but vaguely remembered it should be around Lebuh Armenian or thereabouts. Then I stumpled upon "Cozy in the Rocket", also a cafe, which emits similar vibes as "Amelie Cafe", but not quite her, as "Cozy in the Rocket" was way bigger, and it is air-conditioned! It's like an oasis to us, as it was a really hot and sweaty afternoon exploring George Town on foot.

And... it's only now.. when I am back, that I found out that "Cozy in the Rocket" is actually the upgraded version of "Amelie Cafe"! Not only it is air-conditioned, twice its size, brighter... the toilet facilities are way better and cleaner as well! By the way, Amelie Cafe is now defunct, as "Cozy in the Rocket" replaces it.

Now... the layout in "Cozy in the Rocket":


They served drinks, coffees, pasta and desserts.

I highly recommend their desserts! Too bad, I only ordered one that day. But it was wonderful! Must try!

Coconut Panna Cotta


Read on to find out my more extensive review of "Cozy in the Rocket".

Location:
262 & 264, Lebuh Pantai, George Town, Penang.



Opening Hours:
11am - 4pm, Closes on Mondays

Where to stay?

For both of my stays, I used G Hotel as my accomodation. Basically because of its location. Just next to the mall, no worries about catching a late-night movie. And it is just a few steps away from the yummy local food paradise, Gurney Drive Hawker Centre.

Other perks:

  • Free wifi in room and lobby. Signal is pretty strong.
  • Free complimentary welcome ice-cream
  • Free bar (drinks in fridge are free)
  • Included breakfast buffet (I loved their spread!)


And I managed to get an extra bed without extra charge when they ran out of twin rooms for my superior room reservation. It costs RM1650.10 for 2-nights in a Superior Room (king bed with extra add-on bed) for 3 people. Hence, it costs about SGD110 per person per night.



Comparing with my previous stay, I think their standard of service has improved, too.

It is about 40min away from the airport. From the airport to the hotel, if you booked via the airport taxi counter, it's at the fixed price of RM44.70.



From hotel to airport, it is a fix price of RM40.

I always asked the hotel staff to help me call for cabs. I can also check with them on the prevailing rates. Seems like now taxis don't go by the meter. They still do on my first trip 2 years back.

That's all~ Hope you find this guide useful as you plan your trip in Penang!

Jun 3, 2014

How to make Zaru Soba

Another favourite for summer~ and for all of us living in tropical countries~ Zaru Soba. "Zaru Soba" is loosely translated as "Cold Soba noodles with dipping sauce".



It is a very simple dish, and you can prepare it under 30 minutes. (^-^) Here's how:

Ingredients needed

Soba

  • Soba (Quantity- as you like)
  • Sesame oil (for flavour)
  • Boiling water


Tsuyu/ Dipping Sauce

  • 250ml of water
  • 1.5 tablespoon of soya sauce/ shouyu
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoon of sake
  • 6g of bonito flakes
  • 1 piece of konbu (approx 7cm by 3cm)


Garnishing

  • Sliced seaweed
  • Sliced spring onion


Method

Soba

1. Add a few drops of sesame oil to the boiling water.

2. Boil the soba. Remember to stir them to prevent them for clumping together.

3. Drain away the water to retrieve the soba.

4. Run the soba under cold water to cool it.

Tsuyu/ Dipping Sauce

1. Add all the ingredients into a pot.

2. Boil them.

3. Drain away the bonito flakes and konbu.


Ready to serve

To serve

1. Add garnishing to the soba.

2. Dip soba into the tsuyu/ dipping sauce for taste, before eating.

Enjoy~

Other recipes of homemade Japanese food which you may like to try:


Jun 2, 2014

Cafe Hopping in Malaysia~ Humble Beginnings

Mille Crepe Cakes~ Have you seen one? Lots of work involved in making one, since it actually means a French cake with "a thousand" layers. I rarely see Mille Crepe Cakes being sold in Singapore. Otherwise, their prices are exorbitant, which deter me from buying. Mmm.. to me then, spending so much for many many layers of crepe doesn't seem justified.

But Humble Beginnings's Mille Crepe Cakes changed my mind... Here's why...



Humble Beginnings sell many varieties of Mille Cakes. On our short getaway to Johor Bahru yesterday, we tried French Bean flavour, Coffee flavour and Swiss Chocolate flavour. And my favourite is the French Bean Mille Cake. Mmmm.... *drools* just recalling the cake makes me drool~

I highly recommend it to all Vanilla lovers. The strong Vanilla flavour and fragrance lingers... It somehow reminds me of the Ben and Jerry's Vanilla ice-cream. Similar tint of vanilla flavour~

Each piece costs RM9.90, which is about SGD4 (considering current exchange rate of SGD1=RM2.50). Very affordable.

Tempted? Here's where to grab one... Oh.. unfortunately they don't have any branches locally yet. But from their website, they do deliveries to Singapore too. Pickup at Cathay Cineplexes and charged at SGD10 per location.

Well... if you have time to spare, why not head down to Johor Bahru. It's really close, as it is at City Square, just next to the Immigration Checkpoint. You wouldn't need transportation in Malaysia, just a few steps away after getting your passport stamped.



Humble Beginnings
J6-05, Level 6, City Square
Johor Bahru 80000
Johor, Malaysia

Mar 1, 2014

Finding Japan in Singapore ~ Singapore's 1st Cat Cafe ~ Neko no Niwa

Cat Cafes... I have heard of many in Japan and Korea, but I have never stepped into one when I was in Japan. That's because I was more of a dog lover rather than a cat lover. I realise how wrong I was when I visited Singapore's first cat cafe, out of curiosity...

Tucked along the street along Boat Quay, along with the seafood restaurants, stands Singapore's first cat cafe. It is located on the second floor of the shophouse unit. So do look up and watch out for the prominent metal signage at the shophouse, when you are looking for the cafe.



Cafe Cats, also known as Neko no Niwa 猫の庭, houses 13 cats. They were all adopted cats, saved from the streets and shelters. Under the care of Neko no Niwa, you won't be able to find a glimpse of their painful past. They are now healthy, fit and have a shiny smooth coat of fur.

The cafe is also very clean and well-kept. There are toys and structures for the cat residents to play with, and we can also brush their fur using the given brushes.

When we went over, it was 7pm. Some of the cats were just waking up from their naps. Some of the cuddly beings strutted around, stretched their lazy backs and approach the visitors warily.











Some are still half-awake and couldn't be bothered with our phone cameras, DSLRs stalking them and continued with their daily business.. or in some cases, their naps.





You might probably realise my favourite model at the cafe is Demi :P

For first-timers like us, we are given a booklet on the basic rules of the cafe.



The more prominent ones I remember is washing your hands before entering the cats' dormitories and not using flash when taking pictures. Actually, I stopped using my compact camera to take pictures of them too, as I realise when I try to focus my camera on them, it emits a red light, and the cats don't quite like them. So all the photos taken and posted here are via my trusty iPhone.

TIP
It is best to visit them during the late mornings or late evenings (like after 8pm), as the cats usually have afternoon naps. Since payment is by hours, it is better to visit when the cats are active.

It was therapeutic to hang around at the cafe, even though most of the time, I was stalking the cats, trying to take a good shot of them. But just watching them strut around, or jump up the shelves, or even just staring out the windows is surprisingly very relaxing...

Keen to pay a visit to Neko no Niwa too? Here are some things to note:

Payment structure
First hour at $12 per person, subsequent hour at $5 per person.

Food and drinks are sold too. Of course, payment for these are separate from the hourly charges. Take a peek at their menu.

They carry artwork and craftwork from other artists and crafters too. All revolving around the theme of cats. You can buy them too at the cafe.

TIP
Only cash payment accepted.

Where to find Neko no Niwa?

54A Boat Quay (Level 2)
Singapore 049843

Nearest MRT: Raffles Place Exit G, Clarke Quay Exit E


View Larger Map

And the most important of all... remember to call to make a reservation first! The cafe is very popular, hence it is best to book a place first before you go there, to avoid disappointment.

Telephone Number: 6536 5319

Hope to see you at Neko no Niwa! Can't wait to make a second visit... this time I will choose a timing when all cats are active!


Oct 27, 2013

世にも奇妙な物語 ~ New Perspectives Towards Marriage

It all started this autumn, when I stumbled upon a Japanese SP on "世にも奇妙な物語" also called "世界奇妙物语" or "Strange Tales in the World". The SP consists of 4 short stories, each lasted only about 20 odd minutes. Very short, concise, short and sweet. I like! You probably already know that though I am a drama addict, I am quite picky about the dramas I watch. For instance, I don't really like long dramas. I like dramas which wrap up under 20 episodes. Actually, 15 is a nice number, as I usually find plots draggy halfway.

Back to "世にも奇妙な物語". It is a series by Fuji TV. And it starts way back from 1990! It has more than 10 years of history! The stories may be fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romance... but something in the story is definitely out-of-ordinary. Some are really awesome. Unexpected endings. Touching. *sniff* Or intriguing. *sets me thinking* All these action under 20 odd minutes. :D

Recently, there is quite a number of online commentaries and discussions on low birth rate, low marriage rate and even low dating rate in Japan. Whether it's true a not, it's quite controversial (referring to dating rate). I guess universally, developed countries all face the same problem of falling birth rate and later marriages. Singapore alike.

And the following 3 stories which I stumbled upon, actually brought some interesting insights or new theories on the topic of marriage. Something for your mind to chew on...

世にも奇妙な物語 2013 秋の特別編 仮婚
When we talk about marriage, we must first find a life partner we would like to settle down with. Mmm.. what is your ideal spouse like? No idea? How about having a role-play first to find out which type you are compatible with?

I like the twist in the ending! Unexpected!


Start from 2:23.



世界奇妙物語 2012 秋季特別篇 同坐一桌的戀人

Next, you have found someone. But is she/ he really "The One"? The following story sheds some light on how to identify him/ her.

Pretty touching. Like! Ah.. if only identifying "The One" is as simple as that in the story.

世界奇妙物語 2000 結婚模擬程式

Found him/ her. Now, we would like to embark on our next chapter- getting married. But first, let's get a wedding planner. Wow.. their services are so varied nowadays that they even provide simulation service of marriage life. But is it good to have a peek first? Mmm.. I wouldn't even if there's such a service in reality.
What's more! Takashi Kashiwabara 柏原崇 is starring in this story. I missed his dramas, since his work as 入江 直樹 Irie Naoki in "イタズラな Kiss" in 1996.


So what are your thoughts?

Actually each short movie tells a story behind the marriage/ dating scene in the society then. 肉食女? 素食男? 离婚? 爱情长跑?What's our role in a marriage? It led me thinking for a while. Hope they have brought new perspectives to you too. (^_^)