#FoodFri My love affair with Japanese food

Floating udon

Floating udon
Floating udon

When I was a kid, having Japanese food was a rare treat.

The Japanese restaurant that my family goes to most often started its business when I was just in high school. The place was different from the usual rowdy Chinese restaurants and had beautiful finished puzzles of Japanese beauties on the wall.

Each university vacation, my parents would take the family to the Japanese restaurant–Miyabi–for dinner. For me, Japanese food signified family.

Before my trip to Japan for summer school at the end of my third year, I read about the variety of Japanese food in my guidebooks. Back then, I didn’t understand why anyone would choose to eat wasabi. For me, Japanese food signified the exotic.

Today, I voluntarily scoop out the green spicy paste and mix a bit of soy sauce to it. I could slurp a bowl of udon/ramen as loudly as the Japanese businessman could. For me, Japanese food signified delicious meals.

Now, I am finishing this post at Changi Airport. In 8 hours, I will be in Tokyo where I will spend the weekend having fun before starting my business trip on Monday.

Even though I have not fully planned out my itinerary, I have made up my mind what I want to eat: sushi at Tsukiji, Monjayaki, udon, ramen, old Edo-styled tempura, rice balls from the convenience store and lots and lots of cheap conveyor belt sushi.

I leave you with this fascinating outdoor advertisement for a udon shop.

Other Japan eats:
What does fugu tastes like?
#FoodFri Silk pudding @ Tokyo, Japan
#FoodFri Breakfast @ Kyoto National Museum
#FoodFri Japanese fast food: Nakau

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.
Week 35 of the Indie Travel Challenge is all about Food in Asia: You have to pick one country in Asia to eat from for a month. What country do you pick? Why?

Top 5 localized GANGNAM STYLE covers

Youtube charts

I have a confession. I have very bad taste in music: I love viral music.

Back when Rebecca Black’s Friday and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe were popular, I listened to them repeatedly on Youtube not ironically but with full appreciation of the catchy lyrics and head bobbing tunes.

Currently on my Youtube loop (because I cannot buy it from the Singapore iTunes) is GANGNAM STYLE from PSY.

Youtube charts
Youtube charts

I thought about sharing the deep meaning of the song which parodies the dirt rich in Korea but I thought it would make you click the X button. Instead, I have compiled a list of Top 5 (in no particular order) covers of PSY’s song. (And leave the heavy reading to WSJ.)

From Malaysia:


ORANG SABAH STYLE (OPPA GANGNAM STYLE PARODY)
A Hakka version of Gangnam Style featuring my hometown (or homestate) Sabah. Lots of locations taken at places I am familiar with. The ending even has Bruno Mars.
Best line: Come to Sabah, wanna try the seafood. Go to island, Hey!


GANGNAM (SUPER KAMPUNG) STYLE
This is a version made by a Malaysian radio station. I think it’s really cool that the employees are sporting enough to do the invisible horse riding dance everywhere in KL.
Best line: “But in your kampung, you can wear sarong. Anywhere you go oh. Everybody knows oh.”

From Taiwan:


這群人 – 學尬乾那塞 (GANGNAM STYLE Cover/Skit/台語版)
“Studied like Shit”
A Mandarin + Taiwanese Hokkien version with a sexy dressed as a teacher/librarian. Sex sells, of course. Best line (translated): You… don’t study. Learn! Learn! Learn! Learn! Studied like shit

From Singapore:

Singaporean Style (Gangnam Style Parody)


Best part: Instead of the invisible horse riding dance, they have a shake your fist up and down dance.
Best line: “Ehhhhhh give me Tau Huay”

From Korea:


PSY (ft. HYUNA) 오빤 딱 내 스타일
“‘Oppa Is Just My Style”
OK, I’m cheating with this video. It’s actually a follow up to the original song, sung from the girl’s point of view.

UPDATE: Oppa KL Style

From KL, again.

The original video

PSY – GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일) M/V

Have you found any interesting covers of GANGNAM STYLE?

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Welcome, Readers from AirAsia blog!

I was at a travel blogging workshop when I found out through Twitter that AirAsia blog published my A Day in Osaka post. (Check out the post at the AirAsia blog if you haven’t read it yet.)

A Day in Osaka on AirAsia blog
A Day in Osaka on AirAsia blog

A big welcome to new readers (and a virtual high five to old readers).

If you are new to the blog, here are some topics and posts on the blog that might interest you:
Budget travelling
How to beat AirAsia’s b***s**t extra charges (Yes, I love you AirAsia, but the bullshit charges should be opt in.)
6 tips for a pleasant budget flight

AirAsia destinations
Japan
Skip JR Pass, take long distance night bus
Stayed: Capsule Ryokan Kyoto

Vietnam
Party signs in Hoi An

Singapore
5 free touristy things to do in Singapore
24 hours in Singapore

Malaysia
Shopping for vintage clothing in Kota Kinabalu
8 reasons you should visit Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Extra
Have you tried train travelling? I heard trains are the new planes: Tips on taking train from Singapore to Malaysia

If you have any questions about travelling in Singapore/travelling solo as a female/travelling solo as a shy person, drop me an e-mail : yqtravelling[at]gmail.com, tweet me or even comment down below (unless you’re too shy, I understand that).

Until the next post!

-YQ

How did the motorcycle cross the river?

When I was in Hoi An, I saw a very curious scene. Boats would carry a large number of motorcycles to nowhere.

I wondered if they were new motorcycles, being shipped from the dealer’s to the wherever they sell motorbikes.

So when I saw one of the boats passing by while I was on the boat ride back to Hoi An from My Son, I looked carefully.

There are people sitting in the boat, shaded from the sun under a small roof while the motorcycles were out in the sun.

I realized that the boats carried the motorcycle drivers and their vehicle across the river. It totally makes sense now. A lot of people ride motorcycles in Vietnam and somehow they need to cross the river.

Other scenes of Hoi An, Vietnam

#FoodFri ‘Large’ glass of sake

sake
sake
sake

It’s Saturday now, didn’t manage to post on Friday but better late than never.

Was out for Night Festival tonight, visiting museums and watching outdoor shows and lights (update to come soon).

Anyway, we stopped by Standing Sushi Bar, intrigued by their alcohol promo.

I got the “large” glass of sake and D got the plum wine. Mine tasted very “adult” and was dry.

Not really my type of drink. Thank goodness the glass wasn’t as large as I imagined it.

//PS I realized that I sent the post to my other blog instead of this one, so bringing it over.

24 hours in Singapore

Marina Bay Sands

This post first appeared on Diario de un Curtido as 24 horas en Singapur. Spanish version available for those who read español.

Singapore, the Lion City, is the smallest country in Southeast Asia but it is also the wealthiest. The country has a reputation of being clean, safe and strict in enforcing its laws.

For many travellers from the west, Singapore may only be the stepping stone to other countries in the region or to Australia. If you do end up in Singapore for only a day, here is a sample itinerary. I would recommend giving the city at least two days so there will be a second “24 hours in Singapore” coming up.

Day 1
9 a.m.
1. Explore Bugis area for food and temples
Take the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) to Bugis Station and head to the Bencoolen hawker centre on Albert Street. Choose between the Chinese, Malay or Indian stalls for breakfast.

For coffee lovers, skip the Starbucks and get a Kopi which is served with sweet condensed milk.

After food, head to the Goddess of Mercy temple, or Kwan Im Thong Hood Choo Temple on Google Map [178 Waterloo Street]. You won’t miss it because of the scent of incense. Outside the temple, there are flower sellers and fortune tellers who will read your palm or your face and tell you if you will have a good life or a bad one.

guanyintang
Temple of the Goddess of Mercy

A couple of doors away is the bright and colorful Sri Krishnan Temple which is over 130 years old. You can visit the temple after taking off your shoes. The statues of gods and goddesses inside the temple are worth looking.

Opposite the temples are stores selling dried food. When you approach the stores, you will smell a unique scent of dried mushrooms and Chinese herbal medicine.

After the temples of Bugis, turn back into the shaded Bugis Street. Inside, there are many souvenir shops and drink stalls. If you are adventurous, at the other end of Bugis Street, right next to the bus stop, is a Chinese food stall selling marinated spicy duck neck and duck feet.

12 noon
2. Arab Street
It is time to head to walk to Arab Street for more sightseeing and also lunch.

On Arab Street, you can visit the Sultan Mosque[3 Muscat Street] which is said to be the most beautiful mosque in Singapore. Tourists can go into the mosque at specific hours.

Sultan Mosque

For food, you can visit the various restaurants on Haji Lane for Arabic food. For Indian food, I recommend Zam Zam Restaurant [697 N Bridge Rd] which also has another branch at the other end of the shophouse lot.

Zam Zam Restaurant

After lunch, you can wander around the area for trinkets and even Sari cloth.

3 pm
3. Chinatown
From Arab Street, the easiest way to Chinatown is by bus. If not, you can take the MRT to Outram Park and change to the purple line and to Chinatown.

I’ve heard many tourists say that Singapore’s Chinatown is the cleanest Chinatown that they’ve visited. Still, the area is a bit stuff so try to be there when the sun is not too high up.

Chinatown Singapore
Chinatown

Recommended sights:
Chinatown Heritage Centre [48 Pagoda Street]
In this three-storeyed shophouse is a recreation of a typical Chinese quarters in Singapore’s early days. The early Chinese immigrants lived in tiny rooms during the night while they did labor work in the morning.

Sri Mariamman Temple [242 South Bridge Road]
If you did not visit Sri Krishnan Temple in Bugis, there’s another Indian temple in Chinatown. This temple is even bigger with even more painted statues.

Sri Mariamman Temple
Sri Mariamman Temple

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum [288 South Bridge Road]
This Buddhist temple houses the tooth of Buddha. I find the exterior of the temple too “modern”–the walls too white, the paint too fresh and the lines too straight.

There is plenty to eat in Chinatown. Opposite the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is Maxwell Food Court where famous chicken rice stalls are located. I prefer the food court next to People’s Park Complex although it can get really hot in the day.

7 pm
4. Clark Quay
After dinner, walk along Eu Tong Sen Street to Clarke Quay MRT station. This area comes alive at night, although I must warn that the restaurants and bars are targeted at tourists.

If you feel like it, take a boat ride on the Singapore River. I would not recommend this as it is too touristy.

Sit by the river next to The Central shopping mall and watch boats float by or hear people screaming on the G-MAX Reverse Bungy & GX-5 Extreme Swing.

GMax
GMax

Then take a stroll to the mouth of the Singapore river. You will walk through many underpass and past many bars and restaurants. Use the brightly lit Fullerton Hotel as your guide, walk towards it. On the left of the bank is the Asian Civilization Museum which has a good collection of Asian artefacts (but is closed at night).

After you pass The Fullerton Hotel, cross the road to the Merlion Park. Here, you will find two Merlions–half lion, half fish beings made up by the Singapore Tourism Board.

Opposite, the strangely shaped Marina Bay Sands sparkles. At night, it has lazer shows with light beamed to the sky.

Marina Bay Sands
View of MBS from Merlion Parl

Our last stop is the Esplanade, which is the shiny durian (prickly local fruit) building. It’s like the Sydney Opera House, but pricklier.

10 pm
5. Mustafa Center
After the Esplanade, you can choose between going to more pubs, heading back to your hotel and rest or visit Mustafa Center. The nearest MRT station is Farrer Park.

The shopping center is 24-hours and has almost everything you need. If you want to get Indian spices, gold chains, a watch, T-shorts, souvenirs, this is the place.

After all that shopping, maybe it’s time to head back to sleep so you won’t miss your plane.

IF YOU GO

ACCOMODATION
Rooms in Singapore will not be as cheap as the rest of Southeast Asia. As transportation in the city is convenient, it does not matter much where you are staying.

If you only have a short time in Singapore, the best locations will be near the sights: Little India, Chinatown, Bugis, Clark Quay etc.

This list is only a reference:

Five Stones Hostel http://www.fivestoneshostel.com/
Near: Clark Quay
[Disclaimer: One of the owners of the hostel is a friend of my colleague.]
From photos, this looks like a funky place to stay. All dorms and rooms have shared bathrooms.

Value Hotel Balestier http://www.valuehotel.com.sg/
Nearest MRT: Novena (It might be faster taking the bus./)
I’ve shared a three-person private room with my parents at this budget hotel.

MONEY CHANGER
Most money changers in Singapore are honest and give rates that are similar (even at the airport), although those inside shopping malls have more expensive rates.

While these are the more famous money changers, it’s not worth the transport fee to reach them just so you could save a few cents. “Best” (everywhere is quite good) places to change money are Chinatown and Mustafa Center.

STAY CONNECTED
Prepaid 3G in Singapore is not as cheap as Malaysia. There are only three mobile operators here: SingTel, StarHub and M1.

Personally, I use StarHub’s prepaid because it gives me 50 (yes, five-zero) free international SMS for the day when I send 5 international SMS in a day.
StarHub has a special Preferred Tourist Prepaid SIM Card with free 300MB data and has S$18 credits for S$15.

I’ll be doing a part 2 of 24 hours in Singapore. Have I missed out any must see sights? Tweet me or leave a comment below.

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Welcome to Ghost Month

Offerings for ghost month

You know how the west (and Americans) have one night of Halloween to play dress up, ask for candy and honor the dead?

Guess what, we Chinese have a whole month of that but minus the dressing up, candy or playful spirits.

What we have instead is the opening of Hell Mouth and a bunch of Hungry Ghosts.

Welcome to the Ghost Month

Offerings for ghost month
Offerings

The Ghost Month begins on the 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. In 2012, the first day of the 7th month falls on Aug. 17, Friday.

On the first day of the 7th month, it is said that the gates of hell open and the spirits leave the underworld and come back to visit their families. Unfortunately for homeless ghosts, they would have no where to go and would roam the earth.

To appease these homeless (and most likely hungry) ghosts, the Chinese would burn “hell money” and incense as well as put out food to feed the hungry ghosts.

Paper money burning place

Getai

Besides all the money burning, there’s an interesting event happening in Ghost Month.

In neighborhoods in Singapore, outdoor stages are set up. At special days, these stages transform into “getai” or “song stage”. From an old Hong Kong movie I watched, the shows are performed for the benefit of the wandering spirits.

I’ve only been to one getai performance because we don’t have this sort of stuff back home in KK. The getai that I went to had a small stage, which disappointed me.

Mini getai
Mini getai

There was a host who told jokes and young sexy singers who sang and danced. The usual female singers for getai are known for their skimpy outfits and high heels.

If you are interested in seeing a getai, the performance schedules for 2012 is available at STOMP.

I suppose the sexy ladies are there for the benefit of the sex-hungry ghosts as well. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear an equivalent Chippendale performances for the lady ghosts. I assume hell does not support equal rights. If I were a ghost, I will petition for a male stripper show.

My experience with Ghost Month

I cannot describe the fear I have of Ghost Month as a child. To the little me, ghosts lurked everywhere in the 7th month and were out to get me.

There are superstitions such as: Never turn back when walking alone at night if you hear someone call your name. Also, try not to go swimming because the spirits of those who drowned will want to put you down to replace their place.

Today, I don’t fear Ghost Month. I have a wish to see a real ghost and get proof of it so everybody else can rest in peace that our spirits do stay back after death.

Do you have a similar festival as Ghost Month back home? Or do you have ghost stories to share? (I love ghost stories.)

#FoodFri Murtabak @ Singapore

murtabak-zam-zam

murtabak-zam-zam

It’s very rare that I praise local food in Singapore. By local food, I mean Chinese, Malay, Indian or Peranakan dishes. (I would rather put American food to represent Singapore.)

Why? Because the Malaysian-made version is usually better.

But, I admit that the beef murtabak at Zam Zam Restaurant is up to standard. The dough was fried crispy and they were not stingy with their corned beef.

However, at the price of S$6, it’s really a lot more expensive than what we could get in Malaysia.

Zam Zam is located at the Arab Street area. Address: 697 North Bridge Rd, Singapore 198675

#FoodFri is a post up on each Friday featuring a dish or meals I’ve had when travelling (or staying put). Happy eating!

Party signs in Hoi An

Actually I’m not sure if these are socialist party signs but I love the retro look.

We must work towards a successful Vietnam. Even a Ho Chi Minh-look alike is featured holding a plant and shovel.
Everyone has the duty of saving those drowning in the pool of poverty. (Not being sarcastic.)
Driving on the road to success.
I think this is about being a happy family

Other scenes of Hoi An, Vietnam

Stayed Favehotel Wahid Hasyim, Jakarta review

The part I dislike most about travelling is looking for accommodation. I take too much time reading reviews and worrying about bed bugs.

I ended up choosing Favehotel Wahid Hasyim (pronounced FAV, not fave as I thought it was) because it has airport transport (at an extra cost). Also, it didn’t look like it had bed bugs.

I’m not sure how much extra we had to pay for the transport but it was much more convenient not having to make calls to book a taxi back to the airport. But from the airport to town, you can book a cab immediately at the counter for Golden Bird.

Receptionist

When we reached the hotel after our one-hour cab ride, the receptionist who was the most polite told us that their system was down.

We ended up eating at the hotel restaurant to wait for their system to go back up. We had different rice dishes and they came in cute layout.

The room

We finally checked in after our lunch. We had a room on the third floor, looking out the streets and a tree.

The room is an OK size, with all the stuff you need. I like that they have space above the bed for us to put our things–very convenient.

TV!

Of course, there’s a TV with cable and a desk to do writing. I didn’t writes as much as I thought I would.

Bath room

Toothbrush is provided and body-shampoo (unidentified liquid) provided.

Good location

What I like most about the hotel is its proximity to the Trans Jakarta station which is only a short walk away.

The famous backpacker street Jalan Jaksa is a 1km walk away. On the road leading to Jalan Jaksa, there’s the great peranakan restaurant Kedai Tiga Nyonya and the famous fried chicken place which I’ve forgotten what the name is.

If you are a Google Maps addict like me, please note that the hotel is on the lower part of Jl. K. H. Wahid Hasyim, not on top as stated in the Apple Maps app. I can be quite anal about maps, I realized.

We paid a total of S$107 for the room and the two-way transfer (which was almost as expensive as the room itself).

Summary

Stayed:
Pro: Great location, free Wi-Fi, comfy bed, quiet at night
Cons: Traffic can be horrible if travelling by car–but that applies to most of Jakarta

Other accommodation reviews (for the budget travelers)