Ten Things to Squeeze in a Two Day Trip in Singapore

It was my official first visit in Singapore (not counting the layovers where I was stuck in the airport for four hours early this year). As much as I wanted to taste all the culinary extravaganza and do the historical walk in this island state, I have to squeeze in what a tourist would do:

1. A river cruise to see the famous sites while listening to a prerecorded commentary. It is the best way to see imposing structures of the country in an hour. Esplanade? Check. Circular Quay? Check. The Merlion? Check. The Raffles Hotel? Check.

Fastest way to see the sites.

Fastest way to see the sites.

2. A leisure walk at the Gardens by the Bay. To all flower lovers, it must be in the itinerary to stop and smell the flowers at the flower dome. The Rainforest dome, on the other hand, is a different experience for those who haven’t been to a real forest. The 5 Degrees show at the end of the tour is a must see to have a better appreciation of climate change and what we can do to adapt.

War of the Roses at the Gardens by the Bay's Flower Dome.

War of the Roses at the Gardens by the Bay’s Flower Dome.

The waterfalls inside tha Rainforest Dome.

The waterfalls inside the Rainforest Dome.

Lovely roses I wish I can grow

Lovely flowers I wish I can grow.

3. Since we are still at the Gardens, get on your back in one of the green patches to watch the light show of the Super Trees. Why on your back? The lights are astonishing and looking up for a couple of minutes will definitely hurt your neck.

Supertrees supershow

Supertrees supershow

4. Try out the rides at the Universal Studio Singapore. I am such a scaredy cat that I didn’t even join the crowd for the Jurassic ride or the Mummy. I can boast, though, that I have watched almost all the shows (except the one in the Diner)! My favorites are Soundstage and the Monster Rock,

Sesame Street babies we are not.

Sesame Street babies we are not.

5.Joyride at Sentosa –from the Waterfront to Imbiah to Beach Station. It was hot and humid that day but might as well enjoy what Sentosa has to offer…including….

Stitch scaring the Merlion at Imbiah.

Stitch scaring the Merlion at Imbiah.

The boardwalk at Siloso Beach.

The boardwalk at Siloso Beach.

6. A picnic by the beach. It was the best picnic ever with sounds from the nearby restaurant and tastiest meals from my cousins. Now, this is what a picnic at the beach in Siloso beach is for them. We had to forego boiled bananas and sweet potatoes, bagoong, liempo and grilled fish. It was a first world picnic in the imported sand.

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7. Photoshoot in the city. The lights beckon one to have night shots in almost every corner.

From the outside

From the outside

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to the inside

8. Drowning yourself with kopi c partnered with kaya toast and soft boiled eggs. I love coffee. Period.

Having the traditional breakfast before a day in USS.

Having the traditional breakfast before a day in USS.

9. Savoring the Indian platters in this place called Little India. It wasn’t my intention that I chose our hotel near that place that is dotted with restaurants that offer dahl, naan and tandoori chicken.

Manong and my dosai. A naan with curried potatoes stuffed in it.

Manong and my dosai. A naan with curried potatoes stuffed in it.

10. Enjoy the company of friends and family. I am so thankful that Tin and Carlo were there to keep us company and feed us along the way. For the tiny state, there is still a lot to see. In my next visit, I will try on the chili crabs and walk along the shophouses.

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Loca Over Malacca

When we booked for a flight for Kuala Lumpur, Malacca (or Melaka in Malay) was originally not in the itinerary. Friends, however, insisted that it is the best place to visit especially if we are planning to go to Singapore from Malaysia. They raved about the 3Cs : Colors, Cuisine and Culture. It got me thinking – might as well go to another heritage site on my birthday since I love history.

Seeing Red

Like any town surrounded by water, Malacca is one of the trading spots in the spice route. Chinese, Indians, Arabs and Europeans have passed by this seaside city that faces its own Strait and the Indian Ocean. Wares have been traded. Intermarriages happened. Influence of other cultures are very much evident in this side of Malaysia. Conquered by Portuguese and Dutch, the imposing Church by the hill, the water wheel by the river and the “red” square shout European. Yes, red is everywhere – from the Melaka Church to the scaffoldings at A Fomosa. Due to its Chinese origins, the lanterns, signages and the large Jonker Street stage are coloured crimson. There are yellows and greens and oranges yet the colour of life and love is everywhere.

red postal box

red postal box

Crimson gate of our guesthouse.

Crimson gate of our guesthouse.

Red scaffoldings in St. Paul's Ruins and A Fomosa

Red scaffoldings in St. Paul’s Ruins and A Fomosa

Parade of Hello Kitty rickshaws

Parade of Hello Kitty rickshaws in different shades of red.

Something to light the alley.

Something to light the alley.

Backstreet guest house, Mamee restaurant, sunny day and a colorful temple

Different colors : Backstreet guest house, Mamee restaurant, sunny day and a colorful temple

Hot, Cold and Sweet

My first travel abroad 10 years ago introduced me to Malaysian cuisine — or the mixed of Malay, Indian and Chinese influences on the food. It didn’t leave a bitter (or spicy) taste in my tongue then and it is still on my eat list after tasting the good eats in this side of Malaysia. The noodles kept me breathless with all the spice and fish cakes. The simplicity of the dumpling noodle paired up with a strong kopi c kept me energized for a morning of walking.

Noodles galore at Jonker 88

Noodles galore at Jonker 88

Peranakan noodles, chicken 3 ways and musses in a pot

Peranakan noodles, chicken 3 ways and musses in a pot

The story of noodles continued until lunch with the Nyonya laksa that is best eaten with a tissue on hand—or a crunchy and sweet rojak on the side. To counter all the soups, an ice cendol or ice kachang made of shaved iced and flavoured beans and sweet nothings drizzled with coconut syrup, is the answer. A dessert that looks like a meal by itself. It was an attack to the senses when I first tasted the syrup that I decided to get a solid form of the sugar.

My new favorite : Rojak!

My new favorite : Rojak!

Ice kachang

Ice kachang

Since it was relatively warm in the city, cold treats came in between walks : iced pops with red or green beans, cendol, cold durian puffed and iced kopi o. Eating iced pops reminded me of younger days – days you buy iced buko straight from the styro box. I think I never forgot how to eat ice pops real fast – bite the ice!

Night cap was composed of a gula malacca cake (since it was my birthday), a dare to stuff one’s mouth with durian puff (the tastiest since I tried it in Singapore too!), sweet potato pie since I am so impartial with this root crop, a bit of egg tart (hey, this was a former Portuguese colony) and the list goes on.

Street desserts

Street desserts

The Place the Baba dan Nyonya Built

There might have been strong presence of the Europeans in the city but nothing can compare to the intertwined cultures of Chinese and Malay. There are areas that Malay culture is very eminent as shown in their architecture. Yet, shophouses that dot the area shout Chinese. The Baba dan Nyonya Heritage Museum is one of the best places to dropby to learn about this great combo. There are no shots of the interiors of the house but photos can’t put justice to the affluence and the strong attachment they have for their married culture. It was like a bahay na bato with a whole lot of Chinese stuff.

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Outside the Baba dan Nyonya heritage house

Outside the Baba dan Nyonya heritage house

My favourite parts of the tour? Holding on to the marble (to cool you off) and admiring the yellow paint interiors of the hallways. It is so admirable that the 4th generation were able to preserve the original house.

It cannot be discounted that Peranakans love their history so much. Admittedly, developments can be seen from the outskirts (or shall I say the city center) but preservation of their culture is still on top of the list. From the shophouses to the food to the lively shows on weekend nights, these speak volume of how the people in Malacca treat their history.

St. Paul's Ruins

St. Paul’s Ruins

Thirty-six hours in Malacca is not enough. I would love to go back and explore all the churches and visit all the museums. Take a cruise in Sungai Malacca during the day to see the arts by the river. Eat the chicken rice balls and go biking afterwards.

Malacca had me when I saw the light illuminating the river.

A river runs through it.

A river runs through it.

Foto Friday : Hot and Cold

Hot Rafa (source: nadalnews.com)

Hot Rafa (source: nadalnews.com)

I cannot deny my love for Rafa. This photo is not for some shoot but one of his game faces worn during the ATP Finals in Rio.  One day, I know that I will be watching you playing LIVE.

Ice kachang

Ice kachang

The syrupy coconut sugar made my heart melt. I remembered telling my cousin that I wanted the flavor with the brown syrup. Lo and behold, all ice kachang(s) are drizzled with it. I even brought home chunks of that sugar.

An All Girls Weekend

A trip that took two weeks to prepare. It was a blessing that my cousin joined us to the so-called 2nd leg of the SEA trip after doing the 1st leg in 2012.

It was a frantic preparation, including last minute buys for travel essentials that’ll be needed for a hot and humid weather in Malaysia and Singapore. One thing that we were ready for — our flight! We were way too early for our 2PM takeoff.

Upon arriving in KL’s low cost carrier teminal (LCCT), we headed out for an early dinner of nasi lemak. That fueled us til we reached Malacca, a three-hour bus trip from LCCT. We were booked for a 9PM trip thru Transnasional thus a dinner along the way was not an option.

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Reaching Malacca at almost 12mn was like being in the zone. A very quiet zone with red lanterns flickering on the shophouses of all the jalans. What was needed is some oriental music in the background. I can not contain my excitement when I got the first glimpse of the heritage town. I imagined how colorful the place is during the day.

Malacca is a place like no other. I will not describe how friendly Peranakans are but how they looked out for your safety. We were twice reminded by residents to keep safe of our belongings while we were walking in Jonker Street. It was like a concerted effort among residents to protect their reputation as a safe historical site.

Backstreet guest house, Mamee restaurant, sunny day and a colorful temple

Backstreet guest house, Mamee restaurant, sunny day and a colorful temple

Malacca is a place for old world buff like me. Cobbled streets. Check. Interesting facts about its history. Check. Old (shop)houses and turn of the century ruins. Check. A river that runs through it. Check.

A day was not enough but we had to move to our next destination – Hello, Singapore!

The city state is all modern dotted with remnants of history. Cosmopolitan. Worldly. Hot. Truth be told, this is my first time in the land of Lah! I was excited to try out the chicken rice, tons of indian set meals and laksa. Fortunately, my cousin who resides there brought us to all the places and had us experience a fast break look of the city (aka river cruise).

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away...

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away…

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I can never be happy enough to have a 5-day all girls trip. A very long weekend indeed.

Eat Outs

I am not the queen of the kitchen. Neither am I the princess of takeouts. Sometimes, though, it is good to taste something different.

When budget and time limit one to travel, I suggest eating out — with not the usual pasta and iced tea menu, to have a feel of a place somehow.

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Fried spring rolls

Fried spring rolls

Eating out is a hit or miss thing. All those misses I charge to experience and tell myself never to eat at that place again. Of course, second chances are given from time to time. Honestly, I got a few of my faves that I call food phases. These are my go-to not so common food : Dahl, matter paneer, kimchi chigae, kimbap, hummus, keema and falafel. These are the food i will order over and over again when I am in an Indian, Korean and Middle Eastern restaurants. How about you, what are your choices?

Cooking Abroad

I don’t consider myself a good cook. I do dabble in experiments in the kitchen but my repertoire is limited to : long cut adobo, paella, Italian style spaghetti and torta patata. Baking, on the other hand, is a different thing.

Back in Australia, our dinners were different from what I am used to in Manila. For one, rice was not a regular except if we have Chinese. And I am talking about food, not the nationality. Cooking, traveling or not, definitely saves a lot of money.

Below are some of the food Boo and I whipped up (except for the prune bread which I baked very early in the morning in my first week there).

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I must say that preparing and cooking your own food bring a different satisfaction. Yes, there are more plates to wash but getting first hand lessons from someone is a happy bonding time. Much better than a fine dining date.

And washing the dishes is never a chore when someone got your back. I am lucky to have Boo who is very comfortable in the kitchen and  Dotty who ate all the excess food.

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