Thursday, November 21, 2013

where i stayed: singapore 2013

Whenever people ask me "Is this hotel OK?" I never know what to answer. My standards are admittedly not very high. Number one criterion is location. You'd probably say that location is paramount for everyone, but not the way it is for me. I would forego cleanliness for a really good location, haha.

Second, the bathroom has to be decent. By that I mean spacious, and with bone-crushing water pressure, both in the shower and the toilet. Hot water is a bonus, not essential.

Third, I must have free wifi. Those three things are all I really need, and because I don't expect a lot I am quite easy to please.

For my first three nights in Singapore, I chose Bliss Hotel. You can see it as soon as you step out of the Chinatown NE4 MRT station, and that was enough to make me fall in love with it. It was pricey and the room was quite small-- hey, it's Singapore-- but the king-sized mattress and fluffy pillows were surprisingly luxurious. The floor area of my room on the top floor was not enough for a closet (See the clothes hangers on either side of the window? That's the closet.) but there was space for a flat screen TV, a mini ref, a desk/dresser, a luggage rack and a coffee/tea station-- thank you, Bliss Hotel, for introducing me to Super Coffee. There was even a personal safe.

The bathroom sink was situated outside the T&B, which I think is genius and a time-saver if you're sharing the room. Toiletries, towels and slippers were provided.

Rain shower, check. Complimentary shampoo, body wash and lotion, check. Thick and soft toilet paper, check. Bidet, check. Water tended to escape from the shower stall and get on everything whenever I took a bath, but the exhaust fan dried the floor in a jiffy.

Bliss Hotel appealed to my obsessive-compulsiveness. Everything in the room was neatly and efficiently arranged, even these:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

other stuff we ate: singapore

At ION Food Opera, my favorite food court in Singapore, a bowl of laksa for SGD5.20. With cockles, of course. Absolutely delectable. Grrr, I just made myself hungry.


Also at ION, a stir-fried beef set for SGD7. Nice, but the beef dish at Chinatown Seafood Restaurant was nicer. It was more than twice the price of this one, though.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

lunch at bayfront, dinner at esplanade

The last time I was in Singapore, Gardens by the Bay was still under construction. For this trip, I set aside one whole day, 26 October 2013, to check it out. Naturally, I already planned where to eat.

Lunch was at Marina Bay Sands. I recently discovered that Din Tai Fung has a branch at The Shoppes.

I'm always impressed whenever I see this building.

No trip to Singapore is complete without a meal at DTF, and no meal at DTF is complete without xiao long bao.

Steamed pork dumplings (XLB), 6 pieces for SGD7.30++

Still the best, the best, the best!

Friday, November 15, 2013

when yolanda came to town

In December 2006, typhoon Seniang's eye passed right over Boracay and wreaked all sorts of havoc. Since then, I've always kept tabs on the weather forecast. Two Saturdays ago, I noticed something big and bad approaching the Philippines. It turned out to be #Haiyan.

We battened down the hatches and waited. The day before the typhoon arrived, we had beautiful summery weather.

The predicted storm track of #YolandaPH was terrifying.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

chinatown walking tour

We arrived in Singapore at night on 25 October 2013. After checking in at Bliss Hotel, we ventured out to look for something to eat. On the second floor of Chinatown Complex at 335 Smith Street, there's a huge food centre with over a hundred stalls. We ended up at a tze char place called Home Town Cuisine.

Honestly, the food was not that great, and SGD15 (US$12) for a "braised chicken salted fish bean curd in claypot", a small order of stir-fried Chinese broccoli, some rice and a bottle of Tiger beer was not exactly cheap. But it was almost 10PM and most of the stalls were closed.

After dinner we walked around the neighborhood, but only for a little while since we had to get up early the next day to beat the crowds at Gardens by the Bay. More about that in my next post.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

the search for the best kopitiam

If I were to live in Singapore, I probably wouldn't last very long. Sooner or later-- most likely sooner-- I would keel over and die, albeit with a smile on my face. Because I would be having this for breakfast every day:

1. Hot, strong and sweet kopi. You know, the one that's served with a generous dollop of condensed milk. None of that kopi-C (coffee with evaporated milk) or kopi-O (black) nonsense.

2. Two soft-boiled eggs drizzled with dark soy and sprinkled with lots of white pepper. The whole runny mess is best eaten with a teaspoon, or scooped up with pieces of kaya toast. The remains are then slurped by bringing plate directly to mouth.

3. Kaya toast. That's white bread (not high fiber, not whole wheat) slathered with kaya jam and grilled. With chunks of butter in between, don't forget.

What's kaya? It's a jam made with eggs, coconut milk and sugar, with a dash of pandan for flavor. Yez, this meal is not for the weak-hearted or insulin-challenged.

These are the three components of the kaya toast set breakfast, SGD4.20 (about US$3.40) at Ya Kun Kaya Toast on China Street. Cheap, delicious, filling. So good and so, so bad.

Monday, November 4, 2013

eat tian tian chicken rice every day

In the heart of Singapore's Chinatown, there is a magical wonderland known as Maxwell Food Centre.

Near the entrance, there's a guide for lost souls.

Inside, the ravenous multitude stake their claims.

As for me, I have come to Maxwell Road for one reason, and one reason only-- Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. At 2PM, the queue is still astonishingly long, but I will accept no substitutes.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

shopping in singapore

A wiseacre (or was it a wise man?) once said, "There are only three seasons in Singapore: hot, hotter, and shopping." For most people who visit SG, this is true. But as my friends and family know, I'm not much of a shopper, preferring to spend my moolah on stuffing my face. There are some things, however, that I consider must-buys in Singapore because these items just aren't available here in the Third World.

To those of you who have wandered onto this page, all excited because of the keyword "shopping", let me apologize to you right away. This is probably not what you had in mind.

My usual first stop is Watsons. Yez, we have Watsons stores here, but we don't have Panadol. Why is that? Panadol is the most useful and effective pharmaceutical product in the universe.

Hoarding different types of Panadol. Extend (SGD 5.25), extra strength (SGD 5.20) and cough+cold (SGD 7.80).

Steph (silent H) introduced me to this variant of Halls. Better than Valda or Fisherman's Friend. Haven't pitted it against Altoids yet, though.

Halls extra strong candy (SGD 0.80). Make sure it's the black one.

When I was in high school, everyone used Biore to wash his or her face. And then suddenly it disappeared from the Philippine market, leaving a generation of pubescent acne-riddled youth despondent and desperate.

Biore facial foam (SGD 7.10), Biore marshmallow whip facial wash refill pack (SGD 10.90), and Eric Favre Beauty Hair color creme (SGD 34.90).

I bought the hair color because the salesman was so convincing, or maybe I'm just a sucker. I'm planning to try it out in a couple of weeks. I hope it doesn't make me go bald.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

bengawan solo pineapple tarts

It was almost 10PM on 29 October 2013, my last night in Singapore. At the basement of Takashimaya on Orchard Road, there was a plethora of munchies on display. What to get?

I had read somewhere that one of the things that you must buy in Singapore is Bengawan Solo pineapple tarts. Honestly, they didn't sound very appealing to me. I like tarts. I like pineapple. Together, though, not so much.

But I had some cash burning a hole in my pocket, a huge check-in baggage allowance that I'd already paid for, and a niggling sense that I would regret getting on the plane without purchasing some type of local pastry.

The smallest box cost SGD18.80 (about US$15) and contained 38 thumb-sized pieces.

Ingredients: butter, eggs, milk, flour, sugar and pineapple filling.

Friday, November 1, 2013

chili crab @ chinatown seafood

Six days and five nights in Singapore, one of my favoritest places in the whole wide world. So much to eat, so little time. At the top of my list, the dish that I missed the most, the national dish, the often-imitated-never-equalled-outside-the-country dish: chili crab.

This was my fifth time in Singapore, but I'd only had chili crab three times because there are just too many delicious (and unhealthy) things to eat in that tiny country. During my trip last week, I knew that I would never forgive myself if I passed on it again.

So, where? I already tried No Signboard and Jumbo. I heard that Tung Lok Seafood Restaurant on Orchard Road was good. Also recommended were Roland Restaurant and Red House Seafood at Robertson Quay. But I was already in Chinatown and I figured that there should be decent chili crab in the neighborhood.

A quick Google search for "best chili crab chinatown" produced Chinatown Seafood Restaurant, just two blocks from my hotel.

In the daylight, it looked very nondescript and generic. Perhaps not a restaurant I would normally patronise, but I could not resist the chili crab's siren call any longer.

At night, the place was jumping. The dining area was huge and filled with a promising mix of Asians and ang mo.