Had a lovely feast of Malay food this week.
It’s Food Friday here at YQ Travelling. Today, I will share where you can find the staff canteen at Changi Airport Terminal 1.
Usually, food at airport is expensive. However, among all the airports that I have been, Singapore’s Changi Airport has the relatively cheapest food.
If you don’t fancy fast food or restaurants at Changi Airport, I suggest visiting the staff canteen. Today, I will introduce the staff canteen at Terminal 1 because this is where I usually leave when I take AirAsia.
I find that the canteen can only be accessed from the second floor’s lift. Somehow, I could not find the elevator on the first floor.
Look for the toilet nearest to the AirAsia counter. Around the corner, there is a set of elevators to the basement. Head to Basement 1.
You will reach a large staff canteen such as this.
I find it surprising that many Indonesian tourists know of this relatively secret hideout for cheap eats. Every time I go, I see a table of tourists from Indonesians with their large luggage.
The food in the canteen is very similar to what you can find at normal hawker centers.
For example, this bowl of duck porridge is S$4. The same price as at the food court.
A normal cup of kopi (local coffee)
Have you been to the staff canteen at Changi Airport? Which is your favorite stall?
[This blog post contains some photos not suitable for children as they include violent torture scenes. However, nipples of merpeople have been censored. You are welcomed]
I visited Haw Par Villa some Sundays ago with D and M. It was my third visit to the “historical theme park”. I left with the same feeling I had the two other times I went: “What on earth did I just see?”
What is Haw Par Villa? Travel site Your Singapore has a nice description:
Haw Par Villa is like no other place in the world, with over 1,000 statues and 150 dioramas that dramatise Chinese legends and folklore. Founded on Chinese legends and values, this historical theme park has large, imposing statues from famous legends of old – featuring characters like Fu Lu Shou, Confucius and the Laughing Buddha.
If you have been to Singapore multiple times and have seen almost all of the tourist attractions, you should visit Haw Par Villa.
Previously, Haw Par Villa was in the middle of nowhere. Now has its own MRT stop, aptly named Haw Par Villa Station, so it’s very easy to get there.
You will definitely know if you’ve arrived at Haw Par Villa if you see concrete statues around. Yes, get yourself in there. Entrance is free!
After passing the gates, you will be guided by a bearded old man who points with two fingers. Further inside, a dancing Thai/Burmese person teaches a stance of Taichi.
Ten Courts of Hell
If you only have 10 minutes at Haw Par Villa, you must check out the Ten Courts of Hell so you know which court your worst enemy will go. (I now know which courts are reserved for me.)
It’s kind of funny how the crimes get repetitive but the torture scenes are always…fresh and creative.
Myths and legend
Besides the courts of hell, there are a lot of the statues in the villa is about Chinese folklore.
The place has a few signs around explaining the scenes so don’t worry about not understanding them. Heck, even I don’t understand much of it.
For example, I have no idea where these topless mermaids, clammaids and crabmaids come from.
Considering how conservative we are, it’s surprising how these sea creatures have nipples. I mean, male manga characters do not have nipples but these merfolks do? That is just crazy weird. Oh, I’ve censored the nipples in case anyone gets offended by bare-breasted women sculptures with weird grins.
Besides folklore, there are also strange statues of good-and-evil. Here are a few photos of sins and what happens to bad people (or something like that).
(Click to enlarge)
The park/villa is quite big so be sure to have at least 45 minutes to look at everything. It’s also best to bring a few friends who can help you take photos.
PS You are not supposed to do what I did. Hat tip to J for the giraffe pose.
To end the post, I should like to teach you the dance of my people and a bonus video!
Photo credit: Mel
[Video music credit: Also Sprach Zarathustra by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0]
Things to know about Haw Par Villa
Nitty gritty: Haw Par Villa
How to get there: Haw Par Villa MRT station
Opening time: 9 am to 7 pm (Ten courts of hell officially closes at 6 pm but caretaker wanted to be off at 5.40 pm)
Who to go with: Friends, family.
Welcome to part 2 of Singapore for museum lovers. Last week I shared what I thought about the Asian Civilisation Museum, National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Art Museum and Peranakan Museum.
Today, I’ll be talking about three less visited museums: Reflections at Bukit Chandu, Memories at Ford Factory and Singapore Philatelic Museum.
The first two museums are dedicated to World War II so if you are a WWII fan, be sure to check those places out. The only down side about these two museums is that they are really far from other sights. Bummer.
Memories at Ford Factory
Out of the three museums I will be talking about today, Memories at Old Ford Factory is my favorite. In its past life, the museum was the Old Ford Motor Factory. I became interested in it because there were rumors that the place is haunted.
The museum was the location where the British signed its surrender contract (?) to the Japanese. The room where the signing is part of the museum collection. You can stand behind glass wall to see the room.
What I like the most about this museum is that it’s not full of artifacts (even though I do love reading). Instead, it has transcription of people telling their experience of what happened during the days of the Japanese occupation. [Or as the website says: “first-hand oral history accounts, archival records and primary documents”.]
There’s also a theatrette at the museum (same as at Reflections at Bukit Chandu) and the film made me shed tears.
I like this museum a lot but just thinking about getting there gives me a headache. There are public buses to the museum but it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. If you do not have a lot of time in Singapore, I think you should skip this place.
Nitty gritty: Memories at Old Ford Factory
Where: 351 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 588192
Opening hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 9.00am to 5.30pm; Sundays, 12.00pm to 5.30pm
Entrance: S$3 for adults
Reflections of Bukit Chandu
Another museum focused on World War II. This time, it’s more about how the Malay community help defend Singapore against the Japanese army.
The museum is located at the top of Bukit Chandu (or Opium Hill). If you are walking, be prepared for the very hilly walk from the Pasir Panjang MRT station. On breezy days, it’s very relaxing to walk uphill since most of the route is shaded.
The museum is very small. A old mansion “close to the former battle site – the Battle of Pasir Panjang, where 1,400 brave soldiers from the Malay Regiment heroically defended the last stand against a 13,000-strong Japanese army”.
The best part about this museum is the little theater where they have great sound and light effects to show how it was like when the Japanese invaded. Be prepared to shed plenty of tears (more tears than Old Ford Factory).
The museum was different from the rest since it focused a lot on how the Malay Regiment defended Singapore. In other museums, it seemed like it was mostly the British work (and terrible work at that).
It’s also rather interesting since in the Peninsula Malaysia, Malay gave their bicycles to the Japanese army, giving them a chance to reach Singapore from a direction that wasn’t expected by the British.
One of the artifacts of the museum is drawings by a local Chinese who survived the war. It showed how cruel the Japanese soldiers were during the period.
A large part of the museum is dedicated to Lieutenant Adnan bin Saidi who was portrayed as a hero who never gave up. Honestly, I haven’t heard of Lieutenant Adnan until the visit, I hope he would be upgraded to the position of national hero in other places and not just this museum.
More photos and detail of Reflections at Bukit Chandu can be found at remembersingapore blog.
Nitty gritty: Reflections at Bukit Chandu
Where: 31-K Pepys Road S(118458)
Opening hours: Close on Mondays (except public holidays) Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9.00am to 5.00pm
Entrance: S$2 for adults
Singapore Philatelic Museum
I’ve collected stamps when I was in primary school. The only reason I did it was because in the books I read, stamp collecting was a good hobby. The books never told me that watching TV, playing video games or reading can be considered hobbies.
My mom was writing to my grandfather back in Taiwan so we had many pretty stamps with the words “Republic of China”. I never knew then why they didn’t just write Taiwan but I accepted it and filed it in my stamp book.
But I’ve never really liked stamp collecting. It was most boring to me since the stamps just sat there and did nothing. At least books told me stories and running around makes my heart beat faster. I pretty much gave up stamp collecting when I was older.
Oh, where was I? Ah, the Singapore Philatelic Museum. The reason I gave a short history of my liaison with stamps is to tell you that I really do not like stamp collecting.
My introduction of the Singapore Philatelic Museum will be marred by my experience with stamp collecting.
I visited the museum as part of the Free Museum Entrance Month. My head was already full of other exhibits in the other museums so the exhibition at the stamp museum was rather disappointing.
There is a room on how stamps are made. To me, a room showing how cookies are made is a lot more interesting.
There are blown up stamps for different occasions. I saw the Olympic Games stamp when I was there.
Surprisingly, there is a room about different cultures in Singapore. They must have ran out of stamp-related artifacts.
I was quite bored out of my mind at the museum. So I will stop here.
Nitty gritty: Singapore Philatelic Museum
Where: 23-B Coleman Street S(179807)
Opening hours: Mondays 1.00pm to 7.00pm; Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9.00am to 5.00pm
Entrance: S$6 for adults (Seriously? I would rather take a bus to Old Ford Factory than pay this price for entrance.)
Have you been to the three museums I talked about? How was your experience?
[While researching for this article (i.e. checking out the website), I found out that the Far East Square branch of Garuda Padang Cuisine no longer has dinner.]
I love all-you-can-eat places especially if the prices are good.
When D and I were at Far East Square, we found out that Garuda Padang Cuisine had daily dinner all-you-can-eat promo. Two diners only need to pay for one person. I think it was S$30++ for two.
One night, we decided to try out the place. D called to make a booking but was told that no booking was required.
When we got to the place, we found out that it was order-all-you-want and not a buffet line of food.
Oh well, we ordered some dishes which came in really tiny plates.
While food in Indonesia is generally awesome, Garuda Padang Cuisine’s all-you-can-eat was disappointing.
The food had been out for a while so they were cold. Some of them tasted like they had been reheated one too many times.
The only thing I really enjoyed was the all-you-can-drink lime juice. It helped wash away some of the spice.
I guess it’s no wonder that they cancelled dinner at that branch.
More info Garuda Padang Cuisine:
Branch: Garuda Padang – Far East Square
Far East Square #01-01
7-8 Amoy Street
Opening hours: 11:30AM – 3:00PM (Last order: 2:30PM) (Closed on Saturdays and Sundays)
I used to think that travel fairs are only for people who want to buy packaged tours. Personally, I do not like packaged tours because all activities are packed too tightly and I feel that I am shepherded around. But there are times when tours make sense.
Instead of continuing my bias about travel fairs, I visited the NATAS Travel Fair last year to see if travel fairs are useful for the independent traveller. Kind of surprisingly, my answer then was “yes” since the fair helped me with two out of three questions that I had about travelling.
This year, I visited the NATAS Travel Fair again but this time without any real goals.
Surprisingly, I found the visit even more exciting. Even though there were a lot of people, it was really fun seeing people getting exciting about travelling.
I wandered around the booths and spotted Travel Guard travel insurance’s booth. They were having a 40% promo then. After asking for a quote, I did an Internet check and found that it was slightly cheaper than World Nomads. I did buy it in the end.
I also found many booths of hotels selling vouchers. If you are planning any trips, it’s good to head down to a travel fair and see which hotels are selling rooms at high discount.
In the end, I managed to grab a lot of travel brochures for China, a few tour ads for a colleague and loads of Japan-related leaflets from the Japan booths.
Have you been to a travel fair recently? How was your experience?
I adore museums. There’s something about having pieces of art/culture/history arranged neatly in a central location with captions that makes me go weak in the knees. That, plus air conditioning during hot days.
I had the chance to visit 7 national museums (including one that is not listed as a museum) in Singapore last August.
I want to share my very biased list of which museums to go to (or miss).
Best museum in Singapore:
— Asian Civilization Museum
Best for general knowledge of Singapore:
— Singapore National Museum
Best for kitsch:
— Peranakan Museum
Do not go:
— Singapore Philatelic Museum
For WW2 history buffs:
— Singapore National Museum
— Reflections at Bukit Chandu
— Memories at Ford Factory
For art lovers:
— Asian Civilization Museum
— Singapore Art Museum
One museum to visit if you only have 1 hour
— Peranakan Museum
PS I have not included the Art Science Museum in the list because I’ve not been there. The entrance price S$28 (US$22.6) is just too expensive. Even the Lourve doesn’t charge as much €15 (US$19.8).
Asian Civilisation Museum
The best museum in Singapore in many of my friends’ opinion. Why? Because the collection is the best among the museums around here.
The collection features items from many parts of Asia. I particularly like the part on China and the ghosts guardians.
The museum is near the Esplanade and the Merlion. So if you’re around the area, drop by ACM.
It’s best to allocate about 1.5 hours.
Opening hours: Monday 1pm- 7pm; Tuesday-Sunday 9am-7pm (to 9pm on Fridays)
Entrance fee: S$8 (Discounted admission on Fridays, 7pm – 9pm)
National Museum of Singapore
If you want a good look at this museum, you’ll need at least 2 hours for the permanent exhibition on Singapore’s history. There are two routes on the audioguide: story telling and history telling. I like the story telling since it’s very different from how other museums show their collection.
If you have an hour, the collection upstairs about Singapore’s food, fashion, film and photography is a good place to kill time.
The travelling exhibitions are usually top-notch. I loved the Pompeii exhibition and the Museum of Orsay collection.
Address: 93 Stamford Road S(178897)
Singapore History Gallery 10am to 6pm, Daily
Singapore Living Galleries 10am to 8pm, Daily **Free admission from 6pm to 8pm **Last admission at 7.30pm
Entrance fee: S$10
Singapore Art Museum (SAM)
When I first visited the Singapore Art Museum, it was full of rather boring and depressing art pieces. I regretted paying my entrance fee and swore never to come back.
But I did come back because of the free entrance on Friday night. The art work were better and there were more things being exhibited.
The main building (picture in the photo above) was a boy’s school. It’s rather fun imagining how it would be studying at the school.
The cooler exhibition is at the new “wing” at 8Q, which is just a corner away. Things are more exciting at 8Q.
The exhibition at 8Q is more interactive as you should be part of the art pieces. Exhibit A, B, C, D:
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 10am – 7pm Friday 10am – 9pm (Enjoy complimentary entry on Friday evenings from 6pm – 9pm)
Entrance fee: S$10 (Free entry on Fridays from 7pm – 9pm)
If you like bursts of colors, the Singapore Peranakan Museum is where you should go. Everything about it is beautiful.
Let me try to explain what Peranakan is. (Or you can click on the link there to head to Wikipedia.) Once upon a time, men sailed from China to what is now known as South-Southeast Asia (yes, I made up that term). The men who settled down here and married local women. The children would grow up in a mix of two cultures–Chinese and local–and thus the Peranakan culture was born.
To be honest, this museum is not my favorite museum in terms of content. It does show you how the daily lives of Peranakan is like with reenacted locations of the house filled with furniture. But somehow, it felt like it was trying to commercialize the concept of “Peranakan”.
Unlike the Pinang Peranakan Museum in Penang, everything in this museum has a little note explaining the scene. That’s a bonus point for the museum, I guess.
Opening hours: Monday 1pm to 7pm; Tuesday to Sunday: 9am – 7pm (to 9 pm on Fridays) (50% discount on admission charges on Fridays, 7pm – 9pm)
Entrance fee: S$6 (Free entry on Fridays from 7pm – 9pm)
Asian Civilisations Museum & Peranakan Museum Joint-ticket** S$10
Check out part two where I introduce the lesser visited museums: Singapore Philatelic Museum, Reflections at Bukit Chandu and Memories at Ford Factory.
My favorite place for a budget high tea in Singapore is the Chilli Padi Nonya Café (Heng Mui Keng Terrace). Its high tea buffet is only available on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays is only S$8.80+ per person (less than S$10 after tax).
I visited the Chilli Padi Nonya Café once when it was still in Bugis. The spread then was OK and the noodle dish was a Penang Assam laksa.
Then the café moved from the populous Bugis to the in the middle of literally nowhere Heng Mui Keng Terrace.
The first time I went to the Heng Mui Keng branch, it took me a long while of searching and a phone call to the café to find the place.
The café was huge but the place was very very empty. Compared with Bugis branch, it was practically a ghost town.
Unless you are in a large group, there’s no need to make a reservation.
Food selection at Chilli Padi Nonya Café
The Chilli Padi Nonya Café serves Peranakan food which is unique to Southeast Asia. (Don’t believe the propaganda that the Peranakan Museum tells you. Peranakan culture is not only in Singapore.)
The food selection for high tea is rather limited. But some of the dishes are so good that it’s actually worth going there just to gorge on them.
My most favorite dish is the curry laksa. You take some of the thick noodles, put it in the strainer and let it soak in the hot water a while.
Then, you put the noodles into your bowl and pour the coconut milk-filled curry gravy. DO NOT put your noodles directly into the curry gravy. (I’m looking at you middle aged man who went on Feb 17.)
The taste is divine!
My second favorite dish is the kong ba bao (which unfortunately doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry).
You need to DIY with this dish. There is a steamer of white fluffy Chinese bun skin. Take one of this.
Take a fatty slice of the kong ba which is next to the steamer. Take a slice of lettuce so your mom won’t nag you.
Once at your seat, put the meat and lettuce into the bun. Eat while warm.
The kong ba is seasoned so well that I do not mind the fatty bits at all.
My third favorite is this: Pai tee which is a a little dough cup which you fill with braised turnip. Yummy!
Pai tee translates as “top hat”. Isn’t that the cutest name?
Nyonya and Malay kuih (roughly translated as cake):
Tropical fruits. Yes, we consider fruits as part of desserts and is a perfect end to a meal.
Coffee and tea: The kopi (coffee) is kind of weak. The tea is stronger. Both goes well with the evaporated milk they have at the side.
How to get there?
Chilli Padi Nonya Café
29 Heng Mui Keng Terrace
#06-21 (Ground Level)
Tel: 6872 2982
Actually, the address tells you NOTHING because it’s rather difficult to get there.
I have discovered an easier way to get to Chili Padi Nyonya at NUS.
- Stop at Pasir Panjang Road’s Heng Mui Keng Terrace or Opp Heng Mui Keng Terrace.
- Walk into NUS, take the right at the first round about.
- Walk up passing Sheares and Kent Ridge Hall and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
- At the top, you will see a building. The entrance to Chili Padi Nyonya Cafe is there.
- Bon appetit.
Have you tried Peranakan food? How was your experience?
It’s Chinese New Year today! 恭喜发财！(Congratulations on earning loads of money!)
We’re back on Day 2 of our Chinese New Years in Different Countries series.
For today, two Singaporeans will share their take on how people in the country celebrate Chinese New Year.
Leaving the country during CNY
First up is Therese from The Nomad Damsel.
A cursory flip of the local newspapers during the month of January reveal that some Singaporeans do start planning for their Chinese New Year trips shortly after the New Year, and local travel agencies are milking it as much as they can. These travel agencies and their counterparts in other countries will come up with 4-day trips to China/Hong Kong/Taiwan for ‘the authentic Lunar New Year feel’ and even a 4-day getaway to 8 different cities in Europe. 4 days in 8 cities – I saw this advertisement on the 2nd floor of the People’s Park Complex in Chinatown. I wonder if it is humanely possible to see anything but greenery while travelling to so many places.
A study by Mercer in 2011 shows that Singaporeans have one of the lowest number of annual holidays in the world – we beat some countries in Asia when it comes to annual holidays, but we have half the number of holidays compared to the Europeans. So it is no surprise that Singaporeans tend to combine the use of their precious annual leave and state holidays so they are able to spend more time in the host country. Chinese New Year is a prime travelling period as everyone gets two days off work regardless of their ethnicity group. One aunt told me, “If I am to spend money either by travelling or by giving red packets to kids, I would choose to travel. I would prefer to spend money on something I like to do better.”
Of course, there are many Singaporeans who do enjoy spending time with members of their extended family during this festive period, but this is becoming a rare situation as parents might prefer to spend as much of their leisure time with their family instead of the former group of people.
Staying in the country during CNY
I always love Chinese New Year because I don’t have to go to work and school. I’m not a big fan of visiting relatives as I am an innately shy person, so finding topics to make small talk can be quite a challenge. Nonetheless, I have some relatives who like to debate on government policies. They fall under a different class in society compared to my family, and it is always nice to listen to their point of view of things.
The relatives on my mother side are not as well-off, but they have always welcomed us to their four room/ three room homes with open arms. It may be a little congested and uncomfortable sitting on tiny, foldable chairs squeezing in front of the TV, while trying to balance a plastic plate filled with food on one hand, and a can of soft drink on a coffee table which is almost filled with pineapple tarts and jars of tiny crispy prawn rolls.
What I like best about Chinese New Year is to watch these afternoon matinée at my relative’s house comprising dated Chinese love/ CNY movies. Stuff like Stephen Chow movies or Infernal Affairs allow me to pass time and relax, without worrying that I should be spending my holiday on more useful things. I also like to indulge in bak kwa [Note from YQ: dried barbequed meat. yum yum.]and beer at the same time, which is not the most healthy option. A friend attests to swapping beer for wine. It’s more healthy and goes well together too : )
I have been away during Chinese New Year on a solo trip to India last year, and it’s not the most joyous of all occasions. I remember feeling very lonely, not because there was no festive atmosphere at all in India, but because I was without the company of my friends and family. Scooting off to discover far lands may seem ideal during the CNY holidays, but I rather stay in Singapore to receive the warmth and blessings from friends, family and even from relatives that I meet only once a year.
Do you travel overseas or stay at home during CNY?
Ya Kun Kaya Toast is a famous chain for traditional toast and coffee in Singapore.
The food and drink there is alright but there are other places where you can get a cheaper deal.
One day D told me about the Ya Kun Kaya Toast branch at China Square. It’s supposed to be really retro (even more retro than the fake-retro which they have in other branches).
Another selling point for the China Square branch is that it’s run by the descendants of Ya Kun the man himself! OK, I’m sold.
The shop is rather difficult to find because China Square is in the middle of the CBD. Google Map’s not really that helpful because the buildings are too tall.
It was raining when we went in search of Ya Kun Kaya Toast. We managed to find it in the end without getting soaked.
Ya Kun Kaya Toast China Square branch deco
OK, the shop was quaint but only because we’re in Singapore.
The floors looked like they were scratched from chairs and tables.
The kitchen was sort of an open kitchen concept.
We ordered the usual Kaya Toast set which comes with two pieces of toast, coffee and two soft boiled eggs.
Mistaken for tourists
When we arrived, I was busy taking photos of the place. I even swirled on my stool to take a panorama shot of Ya Kun Kaya Toast.
When our food arrived, the lady who served us brought the soy sauce and pepper shakers to us. She ordered us to put the condiments onto the eggs and eat.
I think this is the first time I’m mistaken for a tourist in Singapore. I’ve been here 7 year already, lady!
We ate our food in peace. (Almost, we were instructed how to eat again.)
Later, I saw that the shop was selling petit cups as souvenirs. I took photos of them.
Then the lady swooped down with the TOURIST SET.
She looked at us expectantly before leaving us. I took a photo of the set before it was too late.