Thursday, 26 December 2013

Random: Collins Beach, Manly, NSW

It is almost an end of yet another year. Looking back, I have had a lot of blessings. Sure, there were sad times and there were even times when I really wanted to murder some people, but when I pause amidst the chaos, take a deep breath, and try to reflect on what I have and who I have around me:

Life is awesome.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the new year ahead, although I don't think I will travel as often as I would like next year - all in pursue of building a house. *sigh... succumbing to the great Australian dream.
As when that's done, 1/2heart and I will move to the northern suburbs, we decided to hit one of the many beaches strewn across the northern line. I'm sure sydney-siders are very familiar with Manly (no, we are not building a house there), but this time we visited a quiet beach located just above the Little Manly Cove: Collins Beach.

Collins Beach is tucked away from the main road and can be accessed from a small walking trail at the end of Stuart St.
Pretty as a picture.

Actually, it kinda reminded me of the old Little Bay beach. Mostly untouched but beautiful, small and quiet. The unfortunate side of it, is that the beach is quite dirty (in comparison to more crowded touristy beaches such as Manly or Bondi) - lots of plastic wrappings and glass bottles left by irresponsible patrons.

Apparently it is also home the little penguins. The sign says that their breeding time is in between July until February, but we did not come across the cute birds.

The Waterfall

Look at that beautiful clear waters. More daring people will probably jump from this spot into the emerald waters below, but count me out -_-

Thus the end of our small weekend excursion. If you don't know of this little spot, it is definitely worthwhile to check it out. There is no eateries or shops within the vicinity, so if you decided to bring your own food, please make sure to clean up and take away your rubbish.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Travel: Singapore Day etc Part 2: Katong Food Trail (Part three); And Of Course More Food; Flight Back Home

Yay! Finally got a chance to update. I am now back in Sydney and this post will be the last part of the Singapore travelogue.

For our last bout of Katong food eats, we visited Chin Mee Chin (204 East Coast Road) - a small coffee shop probably more well know for their kaya toast and other kaya pastries (puff and tarts). Forget Toast Box! This place sells the ultimate kaya. The fragrance and taste just linger in your mouth. Their coffee is pretty good, too. For 2 Kaya Toast, a cup of coffee, and two soft-boiled eggs, we paid SG$4.50. Cheap and tasty breakfast.

I wanted to try their kaya puff and tarts, too, but decided against it as we had to visit another eatery. Well, originally we wanted to visit Geylang Lor 29 Hokkien Mee - but it was closed when we came T_T, so we went to well-known Beach Road Prawn Mee instead (370 East Coast Road)
Apparently, the owner of this shop is related to the one at Joo Chiat? However I have to say, the taste cannot be compared. The Joo Chiat's one was so much better and richer. I don't understand why the hype about Beach Road Prawn Mee. The soup was so diluted and bland in comparison.

The only thing outstanding is that they have jumbo prawns here. But then again, you do have to pay the price (SG$10.80 per bowl)

BUT! The Ngo Hiang/ Lor Bak stall within the same shop is worth mentioning, because they were cheap and yummy :P 

With that, it is the end of our Katong Food Adventure.

During our retail therapy visit to Orchard Road, we stopped by Cornery - a small popcorn shop located at B4 level of ION Orchard. You might think...'Meh, Popcorn... what's so special?' Wait until you see the range of flavors they offer.

Green Tea popcorn, guys! How can you not like this! (Ok, maybe just me?). And wasabi popcorn - perfect snack to open up your blocked nose. :D (I actually really like the sensation). Now you know my top two favorite flavors from the range. There are other more boring normal ones like butterscotch, chocolate, cheese... .
Now if they can invent durian flavored popcorn next....

On our third year anniversary day (23 October), 1/2heart and I decided to go to Palm Beach Seafood at One Fullerton to have a nice dinner. Actually, it is one restaurant we distinctively remember because of one outstanding dish: Double Baked Crab. 

We had our first taste quite a number of years ago with our friends who resided in Singapore. At that time, I did not pay too much attention to the name of the restaurant, but I could still remember the amazing taste. Actually, later on I thought we had dined with our friends at No Signboard, but finally figured out that Palm Beach is the correct restaurant for that dish.

The restaurants at One Fullerton have stunning waterfront view, suitable to impress your date or guests. But we chose to sit inside anyway, because what could be more beautiful than this beauty:

The crab costed A$60 per kilo. Ours was almost 2 kg and ohemgee, it was massive. The pincers were almost as big as my palm (and I certainly don''t have itty-bitty hands). 
The crab tasted just as wonderful as I remembered from our first visit. Double baked with cheese and butter, it was rich although not too powerfully laden with too much flavor you still could taste the crab sweetness. 

We also had Four Treasure Vegetable dish and then Tofu Pudding with Longan and Sweet Coconut.The vegetable was a great accompaniment to the crab, to balance out the richness. The Pudding was not too sweet and refreshing - a perfect finish for our cholesterol-heavy anniversary dinner. The bill came to around SG$113, and I think it was a much better fare than No Signboard.
So ... we have eaten 4 type of crabs in the span of 2 weeks... . (-_-);

Our Singapore trip came to an end to quickly, and so we had to catch our flight back to Sydney - this time on Airbus (A380). The business class seats are much better than the 777, with noticeably more space as well as better design (I think). The seat could also be converted to a fully-flat bed, however you need the flight attendant to assist you, as this could not be done with any push of a button (still require manual folding :P)

fully flat bed. Sorry for the messiness. On a plane or not, that is the state of my bed everyday

Plane Food: Lamb Satay, Dim Sum with Noodles, Omellette & Sausage breakfast
Sigh... now when will be our next holiday... .

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Travel: Singapore Day etc Part 1: More Food; Katong Food Trail (Part two)

It is nearing our final days in Singapore, and we ran out of 'touristy' things to do. So what else to be done apart from spoiling our tummy more?

After browsing row after row of shopping malls along Orchard Road, we decided that we deserved to have a proper yum-cha for lunch, so off we went in to Taste Paradise (ION Orchard #04-07). Dim Sum is only served during lunch hour.
This is yum-cha - fine dining style. Dining set up is sophisticated, modern, and somewhat much more silent than the usual chaos I am more used to in Sydney yum-cha restaurants. Instead of picking and choosing your dim sum from the carts pushed by chinese ladies, you ordered your dim sum here a la carte.

Not your usual dim sum plate either
Baked BBQ Pork Pastry (SG$4.80) was beautifully flaky and contains juicy aromatic honey BBQ pork. This would be my favorite version of this dish I have ever had so far. If you ever dined here, I suggest you give it a try, especially if you are a fan of BBQ pork or BBQ pork buns.
Steamed Tofu with Prawn (SG$5.80) was kinda ordinary, although this was apparently on of their chef's recommendation/signature dishes.

Har Gow/ Prawn Dumplings (SG$5.80) usually serves as a benchmark of a good dim sum, as this always appears on any menu of any yum-cha restaurant. Taste Paradise did not disappoint - the prawn fillings had those fresh crunch with each bite, and enveloped in the right texture of the translucent skin.
Crackling Pork Belly (SG$12.80) was perfectly crunchy and the fatty parts made them just melt in our mouth. There was not hint of toughness or chewiness from the skin, and this would mean that the pig skin had been perfectly and thoroughly pricked to create that even crunchiness throughout. However, for the price, I don't think I would be ordering this again if I came back. The size was no bigger than a standard passport cover.

Lau Sar Pau/ Steamed Custard Bun with Salted Egg Yolk (SG$5.80) was OK, but despite a lot of hype of Taste Paradise's version, I felt that these were very sweet and did not contain enough salted egg yolk. The bao was of good consistency, but overall I still prefer the version served by a stall at Food Republic at VivoCity.
Steamed Rice Roll with Dough Fritter (SG$4.80) was very good. Another must order.
Loh Ma Gai  / Glutinous Rice in Lotus Wrap (SG$4.60) was juicy and flavorsome too. An ordinary item served in a lot of dim sum restaurants, Taste Paradise serves them with just the right consistency and flavor. The glutinous rice grains' texture could still be extinguished individually, not one big soggy mush.

Over with lunch, we roamed over the shopping malls and decided to go to Bugis for more cheaper retail therapy. Alas, I did not find much there, even on the upper levels boasting Korean style products. I prefer shopping in Malaysia, to be honest (or straight to Korea).
But walking around was still a good way to burn calories (every calorie burn counts!). I found this prop - advertising for the incoming Thor movie - was a very smart idea :)

Hey Thor, you left your hammer in Singapore!

Night came, and it's time for dinner ^_^ As we were still in the city area, we headed to Makan Sutra at Gluttons Bay - just by the Esplanade. Hawker food prices with fine dining view.

Satay Bee Hoon, Fried Tofu, and BBQ Wings.

The next day we decided to explore more of what Katong has to offer, which means... another section of Katong Food Trail - lunethings style!
We headed to Katong Shopping Centre - where people can go shopping for maid services, literally. The whole complex has so many maid service agencies. But we did not go there for domestic help, we went there for a hidden gem located at the basement - in the form of delicious chicken rice.
Seriously people - Tian Tian Chicken Rice is overrated. If you were at Katong, go here instead. The long queue of people lining up this stall (while the other stalls could hardly compare) would agree with me.

A plate of Chicken Rice and small portion of the Roast Chicken and Steamed Chicken costed SG$6.50. Soup was included, and the condiments ( pickled vegetable/fruit or acar ) and the chilli, garlic, and soy sauce was self-served. You would have to notify the lady who received the order if you wanted your chicken to be boneless. I forgot to mention it to her -_-; nevertheless, we devoured them off the bones in no time.

Trying to lighten up our load a bit, we decided to walk to our next destination - Eng's Noodle House (287 Tanjong Katong Rd). We were met with another queue already forming up - a promising sight indeed.

Before long, we were seated and ordered Dry Char Siew Wanton Mee (Small SG$4.50), Soup Char Siew Wanton Mee (Small SG$4.50), and small servings of each fried and boiled wantons (SG$3 each). Might as well order the drinks (SG$1.50 each): Barley, Lime Juice, or Water Chesnut. We had Barley and Lime Juice. You would need the cold drinks to cool your burning throat a few minutes later - because that small bottle containing chilli sauce with the apt warning 'Beware Hot Chilli!' on your table is not for decoration.

I love that chilli!! I used about one soup spoonful of the liquid gold and mixed them into my dry wanton mee. Burning and tasty!

As our second Katong food adventure was laden with lots of carbs and highly filling, we stopped our trail there.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Travel: Singapore Day 7 Part 2: Gardens By The Bay

Connected to Marina Bay Sands, is an expansive man made garden - Gardens By The Bay.

There are currently two indoor conservatories/green houses. Both are uniquely dome shaped and massive, you cannot miss them even from the Marina Bay Sands towers. There are also several giant 'trees' - man-made and equipped with solar cells at the tops to provide green energy to the facilities, some of which would be distributed to the conservatories. It is pretty fascinating that such huge structures could utilize solar power and plant compost to power up the electricity and power needed by the garden.

Visiting the conservatories requires ticket admission For tourists, it will be SG$28 per pax, and with a SIA boarding pass, you'd be entitled to 10% discount.

Currently, the Flower Dome conservatory has Deepavali theme, as it is nearing the Festival of Lights in November.

Spam pictures of beautiful flowers...

And cute mini cactuses... . They are actually quite beautiful and very low maintenance... hmm... might get a few of them when I'm back in Sydney... .

Interesting looking prickly... um...

There is also an interactive screen almost at the exit of the Flower Dome.

The second conservatory is Cloud Forest. May I also just quickly note that both of the conservatories are always cool - the temperature control is fueled by the eco-energy obtained by recycling plant compost. There is an explanation of the eco-energy cycle for Gardens By The Bay inside an indoor presentation at Cloud Forest, near the exit.

It is called Cloud Forest as rows and rows of water mist are sprayed into the air, giving effect of being amongst the cloud. Patrons take the lift to the top of the 'mountain' and make their way down via the skyway/bridge.

There are also a few rooms where people could see various presentations and data about eco energy, global warming, and basically giving more awareness to preserving nature.

Presentation of how the eco energy fuel the gardens

I suggest to actually visit the domes in late afternoon. When it's getting darker outside, the lights will be lit up inside the conservatories and you could see the same things you saw earlier in different lights. Both are equally beautiful.

Done with the conservatories, we headed to the giant trees again for a light show. A feast to the eyes.

And headed back to the Marina Bay Sands towers; lights lit up everywhere presenting us with gorgeous uninterrupted night views of Singapore Eye (the Ferris wheel), the gardens, and of course the famous Marina Bay Sands towers.