10 things I love about you: Far East Square

Not to be confused with Far East plaza, Far East Square opened in 1999 in a homage to more traditional Singapore architecture.

It’s also where my office happens to be, in an old second floor chinese shophouse that sits proudly amongst the Central Business Distract glass skyscrapers.

Far East is one those enclaves of cafes, shops & kiosks that make you feel like you’re in a posh Spanish plaza arcade. So hurrah to Amoy & Telok Ayer Street. Wear that ‘Art District’ badge with pride & keep Singapore heritage alive.

Here’s why it’s the best place to work in the city:

1)       Mr Teh Tarick Cartel. I’ve never witnessed anything less than a 20 person deep queue outside. And Singaporeans know their tea. They MUST be onto something.

2)      Fruite! It’s salad and fruit. Together. Strawberries, Pear, Balsamic, Walnuts. All in a cute basket for $6 – 8.

3)      Once Upon A Bar. Purely for the French themed beer towers featured in the pic above. Ok and $6 Asahi Beer 1 for 1 on Mondays.

4)      Oosters Belgian Brassiere. Strategically placed outside the ‘Watergate’ entrance. What’s that – it’s home time & raining? Oh well you might as well. Serves gigantic sterns of Belgian beer.

5)      Barbazza. Italian restaurant with the softest, creamiest mozzarella in town.

6)      O brien’s. Technically across the road but still a winner. Comfy armchairs at the back with decent UK mags whilst you wait. $9 salad/wraps.

7)      Evolve Gym. Need a Muay Thai punch-bag to vent after work? Sometimes. Here’s just the spot. Classes from 6.30am.

8)      Fuk Tak Chi Museum. Home to Singapore’s oldest temple, showcasing early immigrant lives.  Free admission.

9)      Tan Hock Seng Cake Shop. Over half a century old this Hokkien stall always has interesting $1 – 2 pastries. Not knowing what everything is means you have to sample it all, what a shame.

10)   Chinese Symbolism. A dragon’s head, a lion’s mane, a stag’s body and an ox’s tail all make up the Far East logo to symbolize goodwill, kindness, wisdom and fertility. And who doesn’t want those. :)

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Pulau Ubin Island, Singapore

Goodbye Singapore, hello ….well, it’s still Singapore – but one of the 60 islands that technically make up the country. Who knew.

Besides,  anywhere you have to catch a boat to is a fully fledged holiday in my book, even if it is 10 mins across the Johar Strait from Changi Airport.

Only 10 sq Km, Puala Ubin is the Singapore of yester-year: AKA – Rainforest. It’s hard to believe that even up until the  1860’s this was how the CBD looked, pre-skyscrapers. It’s marketed for it’s flora and fauna but at the same time comes across a little rustic & ramshackled. Somewhere between Borneo and Lamma island Hong Kong in vibe.

Tiny ‘Bumboats’ (clue is in the name) depart Chengi Village Ferry Terminal from 8am – 7.30pm ish, leaving whenever there are 12 people, for $2.50 one way.

There are 4 or 5 noodle restaurants by the port to grab lunch, or the famous Singapore black pepper crab. Some optimistic souls had set up a wooden stall selling durian by the roadside, which people physically veered away from. For those not in Asia – it’s THE most potent fruit you will ever smell/taste.

A handful of professionals come kitted out in knee pads & armed with their own mountain bikes . Or like us, you can hire girly ones with bells & baskets for $6 for the day. If anything better epitomizes Asia it’s what I saw earlier this afternoon: A fully grow women in her 20’s using stabilizers! Although if it makes her feel any better we all looked equally as silly, wearing plastic ponchos in the torrential rain.

Pulau Ubin highlights include the Chek Jawa Wetlands, where you can spot the Orient Pied Hornbill. Yes I read that on a sign. They are only so distinctive as they look like the toucans from the Guinness ads.  If you are digging the ornithology, you can spot stalks birds on the old quarry lakes.

Over 100 inhabitants still live on the island, so if you don’t fancy the cycling there are old camper vans acting as tourist shuttle buses. It’s all quite like the TV series LOST when they go back to the 1970’s. There are even wild boar knocking around, and the old Jejawi lookout tower. No time travel though.

Singapore Night Safari

Name-checked by travelers, blogs, TripAdvisor (and now me) let’s talk about Singapore’s #33 best tourist attraction: The Night Safari.

Whichever side of the fence you sit on with the whole ‘Zoo’ issue, The Night Safari is famed for the fact it has no cages or enclosures. If I were an endangered panda I’d certainly want to live here. In terms of zoo prestige, Singapore is the Ivy leagues.

Getting here is quite an expedition, for such a small island. From urban jungle to rainforest jungle takes about 40 – 50 mins via MRT/Taxi. At one point we were worried we’d accidentally driven to Malaysia.

The zoo opens nightly from 7pm – midnight, and tickets are quite reasonable at $32. If you go completely wildlife crazy & make a week of it, you can buy a combined ticket for Jurong Bird Park as well.

Now, one of my fave aspect to any kind of sight-seeing is the addition of a miniature train. Who wants to walk through bat caves & jungle trails when there’s a nice train that takes you around the 40 min circuit.

You have your elephants, hippos, zebras – all the classics. But there are a fair few ‘filler’ animals too. You know the ones –  deers, goats, some fancy cow-like creatures. The pink flamingos look particularly beautiful lit up by moonlight on the reservoir. There’s also a few hansom wolves that definitely look more mysterious by night.

I’m not sure what I expected; giraffes in their pajamas maybe? But it turns out most animals spend their evenings, much like they do in daylight hours. If you’ve got kids it probably feels a bit more fun, dangerous or magical by night. Sophia, Annika and I had a great time, but unless you’re a world-class photographer (flash photography is banned) your shots all come out like this!

 (It’s a baby wallaby!)

 

Heads Shoulders Pins&Needles: Chinese Acupuncture

Note to self, I should really Wiki things before I set off on these little adventures. It’s similar to my visit to the chiropractor last month – I vaguely know what these people do, but not really.

So, I’m sauntering near Eu Tong Sen Street on my way to Central food basement when I hit upon Qi Fang Chinese Acupuncture Clinic. It’s $15 for consultation & $25 – 35 for treatment. Besides, it’s way nicer than the ones I checked out in Chinatown’s People’s Park Centre.

The nice, female, DR Hoh takes my bloody pressure, asks what the problem is (shoulder pain) & then makes me stick out my tongue.

She then takes me to lay face down in small cubicle, and flawlessly & ruthlessly begins stabbing needles into my spine. Having mini needles prick into you
whilst laying still makes you feel like a paralysed spiky hedgehog that’s been hit by a car. It’s a little narcissistic but the pain is actually addictive. It’s like scuba diving, the sensation feels wrong but perversely it’s quite calming.

Dr Hoh is obviously pleased with my talents as a pin cushion as she continues past my lower back and with a flourish plants one in the back of my knee. Now this does actually spark a yelp.

Then she goes and grabs 4 ‘special’ needles (which I’m interpreting with my face down as meaning HUGE) to jab into the base of my  skull. The fact that she warns me to “hold my breathe’ is a slight indicator that she upped the ante. Now I wont lie, these last couple did sting, but after the whole thing was done it felt like someone had drained the pressure from my bones.

No pain, no gain right?!

Because you’re worth it…Hairdressing in Singapore

A year of sun, sand & sea certainly takes it’s toll on your hair. Plus I work in Asia now. Immaculately shiny hair is a prerequisite.

Fusion Hub, Jurong East, is at the end of the red MRT.  On the scale of budget to fancy lets say we have:

 

1) The Chinatown street barbers ($5, 70 yr old man, chair, scissors, alleyway)
2) Tony & Guy et all ($200+, supermodels, ‘products,’ wine, Vogue)

Well, Fusion Hub would be somewhere in the middle. OK it’s in a retro run down Chinese shopping arcade, but it’s quite modern & airy inside.

Their ‘Deep re-bonding’ treatments start from $30 up to $50. Apparently the price depends on whether the products are Chinese, Italian, or Japanese. A  glamorous hot pink wearing stylist with super glossy hair talks me through it all. Exciting stuff.

There’s a luxurious tub of creamy conditioner so buttery you could eat it. Plus a 100ml glass vial of magic serum that you smash to activate it. I like the drama of it all.

Being English, I’m prepared for that uncomfortable 5 min sink horror, where you feel your neck is being dislocated and a chavy Saturday Girl blasts ice water down your bra.

Not in Singapore. I behold… A flat-bed, full of cushions. It’s like an upgrade to Virgin airlines first class (I imagine.) Not one, but two staff give me a washing worthy of a dog grooming parlor, with a dam amazing head massage thrown in too.

Hot pink leggings girl reappears and the treatment itself is applied the same way dyeing is, just without the foils. I sit for 30 min under a space-age heater hat with atmospheric steam pouring out. I glance up a few times from my Shanghai fashion mags to feel like I’m in a very pleasant scientific experiment.

The whole experience took just over an hour, and was a fraction of the price you would pay in Europe, for great service too. Treat yourself!
 

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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