Pai Tee, peranakan food

Chilli Padi Nonya Café at Heng Mui Keng Terrace: My fav high tea buffet in Singapore

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.

Chilli Padi Nonya Café (Heng Mui Keng Terrace)

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!

Curry laksa at Chilli Padi Nonya Café

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.

Kong ba bao at Chilli Padi Nonya Café

Kong ba bao buns at Chilli Padi Nonya Café

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?

Other yummies

Gado gado

Desserts

Nyonya and Malay kuih (roughly translated as cake):

Nyonya cakes

Nyonya cake

Tapioca kuih

Mango pudding

Mango pudding

Tropical fruits. Yes, we consider fruits as part of desserts and is a perfect end to a meal.

Tropical fruits

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.

Kopi

How to get there?

Chilli Padi Nonya Café
29 Heng Mui Keng Terrace
#06-21 (Ground Level)
Singapore 119620
Tel: 6872 2982

How to get to Chili Padi Nyonya NUS Heng Mui Keng Terrace

Click for bigger image

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.

  1. Stop at Pasir Panjang Road’s Heng Mui Keng Terrace or Opp Heng Mui Keng Terrace.
  2. Walk into NUS, take the right at the first round about.
  3. Walk up passing Sheares and Kent Ridge Hall and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
  4. At the top, you will see a building. The entrance to Chili Padi Nyonya Cafe is there.
  5. Bon appetit.

Have you tried Peranakan food? How was your experience?

airasia booking

How to beat AirAsia’s b***s**t extra charges

AirAsia revamped its Web site in November, changing all of booking pages. This is a refreshed version of the original “How to beat AirAsia’s b***s**t extra charges” with new screencaps and new step-by-step instructions.

Update: Feb 23, 2014. I’ve shifted some of the steps because AirAsia changed their sequence.

Update: Jan 13, 2013. Changing publishing date so the post will be higher up, ready for this round of Free Seats.

AirAsia Booking

AirAsia booking first page

AirAsia has revamped its whole Web site. Good news is, some of the sneaky charges in the previous booking procedure have been taken out.

However, there might be still some confusion with the booking, I’m doing up a new version of the guide too.

For this money saving activity, you will need

  • Internet connection
  • Browser
  • Direct debit e-payment method (save RM4 per journey)

I am using a return flight from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu as an example. Please ignore the exorbitant flight price.

Step 1: Pick a good price

Unless you are flying within the month, I recommend that you wait for a while for the promos to roll in. The AirAsia Facebook puts up updates about the sales frequently. I haven’t figured out the promo fares’ cycles but they come quite quick.

Plan as far in advance if you can and do not buy tickets at full price. If you are booking during the promo period, remember that a lot of people are doing the same so you need to strategize your booking.

Step 2: Beat the charges I–Luggage

When you have selected the flight with the best price and time combo, you are ready to eliminate those sneaky fees.

At the page where you fill in the passengers’ details, you will come across the first extra charge–baggage fee.

AirAsia lists the 20kg as default. You can select 0kg if you are hardcore.

Get rid of AirAsia Baggage Fee

Get rid of AirAsia Baggage Fee

I’ve been travelling with only a carry one for many of my trips now. It takes some getting used to but it is possible to stuff a laptop, two dresses and other things into one backpack.

Be careful, you will need to deselect luggage twice on the same page if you have booked a return trip.

Money saved with 0kg: S$17 one way (for default 20kg price).
Total saved: S$34

Step 3: Beat the charges II–Insurance

With the revamp, AirAsia has made it much easier to skip buying insurance. But it’s still a bit sneaky.

To remove insurance,

  1. untick the box
  2. click  [Cancel]
  3. click [OK]
Cancel AirAsia Insurance

Cancel AirAsia Insurance

A word of caution: I do not recommend having no insurance when travelling. I have an annual travel insurance by another company so I do not buy from AirAsia.

Money saved no insurance S$12.
Total saved: S$46

Step 3: Beat the charges III–Seat allocation

Hurray! There is no sneaky extra charge here.

Just head straight to Confirm on the lower right.

AirAsia seat selection

AirAsia seat selection

I was given the “Hot Seat” once (for free) but I didn’t feel that it was any better than the rest of the seats. Maybe the red faux leather was prettier than the boring black, but everything’s the same.

Unless you and your darling are two lovebirds who cannot bear to be apart (nice ad by the way, AirAsia) or you need to take care of your child/elderly, please be sensible and do not add any seats.

No sneaky charges. Hurray!.
Total saved: S$34

Step 5: Beat the charges IV–Processing fee

We are almost there!

The last fees that you will encounter is very much like the Boss level in video games. You will need that “Direct debit e-payment method” I prescribed up there.

If you pay using a credit or debit card, AirAsia will charge you something they call a “processing fee” for each flight that you take.

It doesn’t mean that you can buy 10 person’s tickets in one transaction to even out the processing fee. It means it’s 10 x [processing fee]=A lot of wasted money.

[Update Sep 16, 2013] Since a month ago or so, AirAsia has started charging processing fee for direct debit payments as well. However, you will still save a measly RM4 if you use direct debit.

In Singapore, we can use ENets as the direct debit payment option, which eliminates the processing fee. Just change the currency to Singapore Dollar to get the ENets function.

AirAsia Direct Debit

AirAsia Direct Debit

For other countries, there are other ways so please research before you start your payment.

If you are buying tickets departing from countries without your Direct Debit option, change the currency to the one your account is based to see if they have the option for you.

Money saved with no processing fee S$16 return trip.
Total saved: S$62

Step 6: S$62 richer (+pre flying tip)

So by being careful, I just saved myself S$62 for a single person return trip–enough to fund for another trip to a closer location! The amount also adds up if there are more travellers.

Also, remember to use Web check-in because they might charge you extra at the counter.

My tips are targeted at AirAsia. At my favorite money saving site: UK-based MoneySavingExpert, there’s extra tips on how to save money on budget flights with a focus on inter-Europe cheap flights.

That is all I have to impart. Go on your money saving journey, my friends!

Related posts

Do you like budget flights? What was your cheapest ticket?

Adorable Japanese baby

Money saving tips for Tokyo: Accommodation and sightseeing

Minnasan konnichiwa,

We’ve reached the end my money saving tips for Tokyo series. This time, I will share with you how to save on accommodation and sightseeing so you can see more and do more in the capital.

[My previous tips include how to save on transportation as well as food and drink.]

Saving on accommodation

Cheap hotels in bad locations

Room in Hotel Maruchu

Room in Hotel Maruchu

Hotel Maruchu where I spent a night wasn’t in the most convenient locations of Tokyo. But I had a private room and the chance to participate in the ritual public bath.

My single room with shared bathroom facilities was 3,500 yen (US$44.5) while the price of a dorm bed at Sakura Hostel is 2,940 yen (US$$37.3).

I’ve stayed in a twin bed room at another budget business hotel Weekly Mansion Kameido before. It was 5,300yen for two with a private bathroom. But the location wasn’t the best.

What’s good about these two places is that they are still considered to be within Tokyo city, unlike some AirBnb rooms which are quite far from the city.

Overnight at onsen theme park

Reclining chairs at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Reclining chairs at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

This option combines sightseeing, fun and accommodation at the price of one.

I stayed overnight at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari using the evening package which was cheaper than the day package.

While there wasn’t a bed and I was kept up at night by a snoring neighbor, it was plenty of fun since I got to soak in hot springs and participate in Gintama Land games.

Saving on sightseeing

Buy discounted tickets at 7-11

Ooedo Onsen Monogatari tickets from 7-11

Ooedo Onsen Monogatari tickets from 7-11

If you read Japanese, you can go to 7-11 to see if they sell discounted entrance tickets to places you want to visit.

There is a touchscreen machine in the store selling these discounted tickets. I had to poke around a bit before I found the tickets for Ooedo Onsen Monogatari (180 yen cheaper than buying at the door).

I believe there are discounted tickets for Skytree and other sites.

Sites with no entrance fees

Side entrance of Hanazono Shrine

Side entrance of Hanazono Shrine

Even if you are not a Japanophile, Japan is just bursting with so many amazing things to see.

Shrines are free to visit but it’s not free from capitalism.

I bought a charm for safe travels at Meiji Jingu and had my love fortune told in a slip of paper at Dai Jingu

(Fortune: I am supposed to really want love for it to come to me. Libra and Taurus are good choices, so is B bloodtyped folks but avoid Pieces people.)

I visited Hanazona Shrine quite accidentally and loved the peacefulness.

Kabuki-cho by day

Kabuki-cho by day

Tokyo’s infamous “red light” district Kabuki-cho looked very different in the day and at night.

For the fashion conscious, Shibuya and Harajuku are places to go. Anime fans, you know where to go to! (If you don’t please visit Akihabara.)

view from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

view from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building allows visitors to head up for an eagle eyes view of the city. One of the tower closes at 11pm.

People watching

Adorable Japanese baby

Adorable Japanese baby

Japanese children are probably the cutest human babies around. They usually look very packages as their parents dress them in adorable children clothing.

Japanese’s fashion sense is quite forward so even just walking down the street felt like I was at a fashion show (with me dressing down).

Check the rest of money saving tips for Tokyo:

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Money saving tips for Tokyo: Food and drink

This post is part of my money saving tips for Tokyo series. Last week, I talked about ways you can save on transportation in Tokyo.

Today, I’ll be talking about my favorite topic: Food.

Eating and drinking (even water, not beer) in Tokyo is not terribly cheap. But here are a few ways you can save those extra 100 yen (to buy more food).

Lunch time fixed menu + combo sets

Lunch menu

Lunch menu

During week days, some restaurants have prix fixe menu. Taimeiken had 800 yen set lunches. I didn’t get the set lunch because I wanted to try its omurice so I got the 1,890 yen dish instead (but with much regret).

Besides lunch sets, regular menus would have combo sets which allow you to try out smaller portions of two different dishes. The soba restaurant I visited in Kamakura had a combo of tempura don and zarusoba which were both delicious.

Fast food

Yes, McDonalds has a 100 yen menu. But since you’re in Japan, you should try out the Japanese fast food outlets.
Nakau
Although this menu from Nakau was from last October, you get a taste of how low food prices can go in these outlets.

Another benefit of these outlets which use coupon machines is that you don’t need to speak Japanese to order. Instead, you look at the pictures on the machine and pay it with your bills or coins.

Convenience store food

Convenience store onigiri
The onigiri (rice balls) in the photos were 129 yen each. Having two can substitute a meal.

These Japanese takeaway food are available at convenience stores which open 24/7, this means you will never go hungry.

Free drinking water

Free tea

Free tea

I tend to forget to hydrate when I’m travelling because it’s too much of a chore to buy water.
Luckily in Japan, there’s quite a lot of free drinking water outlets. I’ve seen some at the platforms of train stations.

Restaurants also have free ice water or tea on the table, I admit that I’ve pour half a pitcher of water into my bottle once. Just once.

Check the rest of money saving tips for Tokyo:

Do you have other tips for saving money on food and drinks in Tokyo?

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Money saving tips for Tokyo: Transportation

Tokyo is the most expensive city to live in but there are still many ways to make the trip less expensive.

As I was writing this money saving guide for Tokyo, I realized that there is just too many sub-categories so I split the tips into three different posts.

This post is about saving on transportation. There is another on food and drinks as well as accommodation and sightseeing.

Transportation in Tokyo is crazy. A short trip would cost 180 yen (US$2.3) on the train which is very expensive compared to Singapore.

From Narita Airport: Get the Suica & N’EX package

Suica & N'EX package

Suica & N’EX package

I picked up the Suica & N’EX package for 3,500 yen when I reached Narita airport. It includes transport into the city (and slightly beyond) as well as a 2,000 yen Suica.

The package also good value because the N’EX limited express train to Tokyo is 2,940 yen (gasp!).

There’s also a package with return fare.

From Haneda Airport: Get Monorail and Yamanote Line Discount Ticket

Monorail and Yamanote Line Discount Ticket

Monorail and Yamanote Line Discount Ticket

Only available on weekends

If you arrive at Haneda Airport during the weekend, remember to pick up this discounted ticket.

For just 500 yen, you can take the monorail and leave at any stations on the Yamanote Line. If you are exiting at other JR stations, just pay the extra at the counter.

Free one-way day trip with Suica & N’EX package


If you have a day trip planned to either Yokohama or Kamakura, I recommend doing it on the day you arrive if you reach before noon.

I was planning to visit Yokohama but when I found out that the package covers Kamakura, I changed my plans immediately.

A trip from Tokyo Station to Kamakura would cost 890 yen. So in theory, I’ve saved a little by heading straight there instead of taking the day trip on another day.

Transfer rebate with Suica

Buying tickets for Tokyo trains
If you are using Suica to pay for your transport, it automatically gives you rebates when you transfer from trains of the same company.

Stick to the same company on trains

Tokyo Metro

Tokyo Metro

Planning your transport within Tokyo is really tricky. There are just too many lines and too many different train companies.

Many times, I had to transfer from one train line to another to reach my destination. I accidentally took different train lines for a ride and it cost me more than it would if I had transferred from the trains of the same company.

So, I suggest taking trains from the same company when you travel. This might mean an extra 5 minutes, but it’ll cost 200 yen less.

Check the rest of money saving tips for Tokyo:

Money saving tips for San Francisco

Before I went to the US, I thought travelling there would be really expensive. But I realized that budget travel in San Francisco is possible after spending 8 nights in The City as a side trip of a business event.

While I’m not The Frugal Traveler, for the trip, my goal was to spend less than US$100 a day, including accommodation. I think I might have exceeded that budget because I bought tickets for some once-in-a-lifetime activities, shows and tours which easily costs about US$30 each.

In any case, I’m a frugal person to begin with so the trip was probably a budget travel success. Probably.

Save on accommodation with hostels


Instead of the usual cheap hotels I stay in when I travel in Malaysia, I had to bunk in hostels during my 8-night stay. Luckily, Pacific Tradewinds Backpacker Hostel and the San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel were both under US$30 per night.

A short summary of the hostel reviews:
-Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel wins at free breakfast and nice view
-Pacific Tradewinds wins at having a fantastic location (and a cosy group, if you are a sociable person, which I am not).

Save on transportation and museums with CityPass

$6 for a ride?


The CityPass (US$69) was a good investment since I was in the city for 8 full days. It includes 7-days of transportation on MUNI buses and trams and the cable car, but not on BART, as well as 9-days admission to five different museums.

I did a spreadsheet before I headed off, taking away things like the aquarium and the one-hour cruise in the bay, but I realized that I would save money getting the pass.

Sure, it was quite expensive. But it includes cable car rides which are US$6 one way–unfortunately, taken only by tourists. Just by taking the cable car 12 times, I would get my money back, not that I actually did it.

Turns out, the aquarium was actually very lovely. The other museums were even better. Sadly, I missed out on the California Academy of Science because there was other more exciting stuff for me.

There’s also an option for an Alcatraz Island tour with CityPass but you’ll need to personally head down to Pier 33 to get the booklet.

Save on food with Yelp

Thanks for the coffee


I love food too much to eat only cheap fast food while in San Francisco. Luckily, I have Yelp on my iPhone to guide me to good locations.

I usually narrow down my food choices to eateries with only one dollar sign (cheap!). I also use the checkin coupons to save on drinks. Since I do not have 3G on my phone, I would redeem the coupon first then show the folks at the restaurant my coupon later.

I’ve managed to save 50% on my latte at M Cafe, grab a free coffee at Sushi Taka and 15 percent off some stuff at a shop-which-will-not-be-named.

Save on sunscreen with Walmart

2 for $5? How can it be this cheap?


Surprisingly, sunscreen is a lot cheaper in the US than in Singapore or Malaysia.

Walmart was selling its homebranded baby sunscreen at 2 for US$5. It took all my willpower to only take four in my basket. I wanted to take 10.

The sunscreen worked very well. I didn’t get sunburnt on my cycling trip to Sausolito. (OK, maybe wrapping myself in an oversized cardigan, a scarf around my neck and tights helped.)

Save on clothes with thrift shops

Thrift Town


K introduced me to thirft stores in San Francisco. I was in luck that day because I immediately found an oversized cardigan at the first store we stopped at. It was only $5 after I rounded to price up for donation.

The blue and white cardigan was only $5

Unlike Kota Kinabalu’s second hand clothes stalls, thirft shops in San Francisco are very organized. Instead of musty old clothes smell, their stuff are perfumed with softener.

Since I wore my clothes immediately, I felt very conscious of other people smelling the thrift store smell on me. (But it’s probably all in my head.)

I also bought two dresses from Thrift Town and a vintage belt from this other place.

Favorite store: Thrift Town
Address:
2101 Mission St
(between 17th St & Clarion Aly)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Neighborhood: Mission

Save on books with second hand bookstores

Adobe Bookstore


Similar to thrift shops, I love the second hand bookstore I found in San Francisco.

I picked up two books. One was the Spanish version of Bridget Jones’ Diary which is pretty much priceless in Singapore because it cannot be found.

There was also a 30 percent discount at Adobe Bookstore because it was closing down. It was rather sad that the building owner was raising the rent too high for the bookstore owner.

Address:
3166 16th St
(at Albion St)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Neighborhood: Mission

Save on once-in-a-lifetime experiences by reading local papers

This was actually in San Jose


I picked up a free SF Weekly as reading material from one of the newspaper-dispensing things. I flipped through the events listing while having breakfast and almost had a heart attack when I saw that Dita von Teese’s Strip Strip Hooray show was in town for a two-night performance.

The last time Dita was in Singapore, it was a local star-studded event! And I believe tickets weren’t even for sale. So this show was a not-to-be missed for me.

For SF, the standing-room ticket was only US$35. When I tried buying online, tickets were sold out. I decided to try my luck at the box office and tickets were still available.

Strip strip hooray


While I had to stand for a full three hours and look past other people’s head to peep at the stage, the atmosphere was amazing. People cheered and I cheered myself almost hoarse. The host was funny, the audience who were asked to go on stage for a dance competition were really sporting too.

And I got to breathe the same air as Dita von Teese! OK, that might be a bit stalkerish, but it’s DITA (Warning: That video is more Fatal Frame rather than sexy.)

What’s your budget travel tips for San Francisco?

This blog post was inspired by BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge weekly travel blog project.
This week’s topic: Traveling to and within the USA..

More about the USof A

[Retired post] How to get rid of AirAsia extra charges

[Note: Nov 13. 2012] This is the original “How to beat AirAsia’s b***s**t extra charges” before its Web site revamp in November. For those booking with the new interface, the new post lies under the old title.

Since the revamp, there has been changes to booking so all of the screencaps are not applicable. A lot of the angst in the original post are not applicable too.

START OF OLD POST

Other titles considered: “Tips for first time AirAsia bookers” or “How I saved S$80 by not clicking blindly when booking with AirAsia”.

First thing first, I am a frequent AirAsia passenger and I’m glad that “now everyone can fly” because of it. Thanks @tonyfernandes.

What I’m not glad is that AirAsia hides its extra fees sneakily. So sneaky that you wouldn’t really know how on earth that fee for extra baggage, seats or insurance (seriously?) came into your bill.

If you are an experienced AirAsia flight booker, you won’t need my tips. But if you are a first timer or just haven’t been on the site for some time, here are some ways you can beat the BS charges.

Continue reading