Archive for September, 2011

29
Sep
11

SURPRISE, SURPRISE

Tina and I were astonished this Thursday afternoon upon seeing one of my friends’ posts in my own facebook wall. She shared a video she found uploaded in youtube with our wedding photos (not one, not two but many!) together with some other foreign couples’ pictures over David Pomeranz’s love song! The thing is, we don’t know the person who used our photos and uploaded it on the video-sharing website. We would have appreciated it more if she/he asked permission to use our photos and we would have granted him/her our sweet nod. But I must state, Gabby was happiest to watch that video with his parents’ wedding photos.

View it HERE!

PS : Because some of the photos were not uploaded anywhere, neither in our online wedding album nor on my social networking sites (this blog, fb & twitter), the person who created and uploaded the video must have been so resourceful with a good taste and great sense in choosing our photos among so many other married couples around. hahaha! Thank you but next time, please ask permission. It’s called courtesy and ethics, in case it slipped your mind. *wink*

25
Sep
11

IN A KEDAI KOPI

As parents of an almost 7-year-old wonder boy, Tina and I always consider Gabby’s preferences whenever we eat out (read: he’s like our big boss). We frequently ask him of what he likes before deciding where to dine. Are you the same when you go out with your own kids or nephews and nieces? Good thing with Gabby, he knows what he wants despite he’s a littly picky when it comes to food but has been keen on his favorites. He’s very particular with what he eats, like he wants his pizza with only cheese and no other toppings (the four-cheese pizza tops his list).

At home, he eats some veggies; he likes kangkong whenever we have sinigang (sour broth) on our table. Gabby eats practically most greens and fruits that we offer him. But whenever we go out, expectedly like kids of his age, he usually craves for fast food meals.

You can just imagine whenever Gabby gives his nod for us to try other food places over Mcdonald’s and Pizza Hut…

Some few months back, while we’re walking at Lebuh Chulia in Georgetown, we found a seemingly ordinary looking Kedai Kopi (coffee shop).

We’re a family who likes Starbucks Coffee and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf but beyond their frappuccinos in venti, we also enjoy some bites from these coffee shops, even from coffee nooks less famous and commercial than those two.

There’s always something special about simplicity; about places where pretentions do not exist, venues that allow you to be as casual as you are.

Inside Trois Canon Cafe, I found a charming painting of Shanghainese woman (kamukha ni Ate Vi, hehe!)…

Good thing I captured the menu on our table, without it I won’t recall the name of this hole-in-the-wall Kedai Kopi.

The menu contained a combo meal that passed Gabby’s taste : a thick buttered toast, oatmeal infused with maple syrup and milk and Milo ais (meelo iced!).

It’s great that this kedai kopi also serves a variety of all-day-breakfast meals; it gave me the chance to load my gastric pit. I picked from their menu something called East meets West combo : Oriental fried rice topped with fried egg, served with pork luncheon meat strips and frankfurter (yes, they’re non-halal).

While my lovely wife was content with her ham sandwich that tasted better than it looks on photo; the buns were slightly toasted with butter that made it different from the usual burger or sandwiches in common fast food joints.

I felt we also must try something that’s soothing; so I also ordered a warm bowl of beef noodle soup.

It was so good and too bad to resist.

The dining experience in a Kedai Kopi like Trois Canon Cafe would not be complete without trying their signature white coffee (actually, it came with my combo meal…)

We indulge once in a while but indubitably, we also like the simplicity in dining space and the delight in eating uncomplicated and affordable foods. And if Gabby says yes to it? It’s always icing on the cake!

24
Sep
11

NANDO’S

How often do you receive judgment before you eat?

Do you also feel some people easily label you by what you eat or drink? Neither I can blame them nor give importance to what they think. I know my palate so well that their words do not affect my appetite. But I had my widest smile upon receiving my ordered plate in one of our dinners at Nando’s. I almost burst into laughter after reading the label of the Lemon and Herb Chicken with “NOT SO BRAVE” tag. I cannot agree more! I and Tina (and Gabby of course) had developed the aversion to severely spicy food that others prefer. To each his own, I guess.

We had our very first taste of Nando’s from one of their branches near Botany Mall in Auckland, New Zealand when we stayed in that beautiful city with our family and relatives for 7 week-break in 2005. And since then, that flavorful flame-grilled chicken goodness remained a memory for a while until we enjoyed it again here in Penang.

Nando’s became one of our favorites and usually serves as one of our default restaurants whenever we feel like induluging a bit over affordable casual dining particularly when Gabby allows us to skip his fast food preferences.

“Nando’s is a restaurant group originated from South Africa with a Portuguese/Mozambican theme. Founded in 1987, Nando’s operates in thirty countries on five continents. Nando’s specializes in chicken dishes with either lemon and herb, medium, hot, extra hot or extra extra hot Peri-Peri marinades (properly known as Galinha à Africana). In some countries, Nando’s has other flavour options like mango and lime or Mediterranean.” (sourced via Wiki)

“Nando’s specializes in flame-grilled Peri-Peri chicken. Peri-Peri is the Swahili word for the African Bird’s Eye chilli, a chilli indigenous to Africa.”(sourced via Wiki)

Without a word, you know who ordered this plate, and he enjoyed it, i think.

Gabby likes chicken dishes too but he favored those peri-peri flavored processed delights than those grilled ones. He paired it with a plateful of creamy chicken soup…

Now, children, altogether say, E S P E T A D A!  :D

“Espetada has been a favorite in Portugal for years. In fact, it has been rumored that it was one of Christopher Columbus’ favorite meals! Espetada means, “pierced”, referring to how the meat was pierced onto skewer. Undoubtedly, Espetada is the most famous dish to emerge from the Madeira region.”

It was quite an experience eating Espetada. The presentation was apparently appealing to the senses. I just felt short of its serving.

At Nando’s, there’s always a reason to engage in protein & carbo-loading
(as if we’re diet-conscious, hahaha! *evil laugh*)…

Tina and Gabby love french fries while I will dunk my fork onto potato salad at any given time!

We can’t handle too much spicy foods but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t try a little…

After all, we can always wash it down with cold beverages. Gabby’s iced Milo (or as they say it here, Milo Ais; pronounced as meelo ice) and iced tea never fail to be refreshing.

And end it with irresistible melt-in-your-mouth-textured-chocolate cake…

Regardless where we eat – be it on our humble dining table, at Nando’s or somewhere else, we make sure our dining experience is always simple yet memorable and less ordinary.

19
Sep
11

ABOUT LAST WEEKEND

This was how God greeted us last Saturday noon when we viewed Him from our porch…

It was a sunshiny day too perfect to go to the Island.  It was a long weekend, by the way, because last Friday, 16th September, 2011 was Malaysia’s 54th Merdeka or Independence Day! However, Tina and I were actually lazy to go out last Saturday and had psyched ourselves to spend it at home, rest, eat and do Grey’s Anatomy marathon (We loved Season 7 Episode 18 – the Musical episode of that Medical drama).

The plan to be a bum at home didn’t push through. I was too weak to resist Gabby’s wish to accompany him to the Island. OK, fine, I also shared the same thoughts with my kid. :D  So while Tina had her much deserved-rest at home, Gabby and I hopped on the bus, went to the jetty in Penang Sentral and headed to the Island…

Enroute to Georgetown aboard the ferry…

Round trip Ferry rides from Butterworth to Georgetown jetty cost RM 1.20 per adult (PhP 16.8) and RM 0.60 sen (cents or PhP 8.40) per kid. And you only pay once at Butterworth (so if you’re coming from the Penang airport or anywhere in Georgetown, crossing to Butterworth is always free).

Another very short bus ride took us here at Sweetenham Pier..

Gabby and I had the chance to board a 12,000 ton vessel and the boy was as excited as his dad.

No we didn’t go on a cruise! How we wish, but you certainly know we won’t board a cruise ship without our muse (Tina of course!).

We went to Logos Hope, the world famous floating library that took its maiden voyage to Malaysia this year; docked in Penang since last week of August and will leave for other parts of Malaysia prior to Singapore on 25th September.


“A community of 400 UNPAID VOLUNTEERS from over 45 nationalities lives and works together on board Logos Hope. With over 5,000 book titles bringing knowledge, help and hope to the world…” Absolutely it’s a unique and inspiring experience! :)

Has Logos Hope visited your country already?  Check it out…

Apparently, it already docked in the Philippine shores too but it took us to become expats in Penang before we get to experience it.

The little kid was so happy on board the floating library…

There’s a book for everyone, even if you’re looking for the most delicious ones…

Since this largest floating book fair travels through so many countries, book titles are priced in units and there are a charts provided that convert the unit prices into local currency…

Titles are so varied and mostly affordable.

Logos Hope has different sections, prior to the main book fair, there’s a “Welcome LifeBoat Theater”. There’s that “Journey of Life” that will surely melt your heart by merely looking at the illustrations on the wall; they tell story even without trying…

Those walls will make you reflect in a blink…It cuts through me.

Then there’s everyone’s favorite part of Logos Hope, the International Cafe where you can have ice cream or coffee or both, depends on how you were inspired by those books, haha!

Volunteers of different colors and hair-dos try to make kids’ visit to Logos Hope more fun and memorable; they even hand away colorful sculpted balloons…

Imagine the passion and dedication these unpaid volunteers have as they serve Logos Hope; truly inspiring…

I know I still have a lot of grains to swallow, but as a young father and a medical educator, I say it’s so easy for any fool to teach anyone to earn a livinlifeg but it takes a ton of passion and skills and dedication to teach anyone how to live a life.

I’m glad I accompanied my son to Logos Hope last Saturday. We both learned beyond books.

18
Sep
11

ON THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON

Today’s my 35th birthday. Thank You, Lord for everything, most specially for giving me Cristina and Gabby. Amen.

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updated @ 4:19PM  18 September 2011…

Who needs a fancy birthday party when I’m enjoying a great time bonding with Tina and Gabby?  I had the luxury to doze off after I left home at 6AM and went to public market to buy stuffs to last until the next weekend. Life is good.

And look what my lovely wife prepared and cooked for lunch…

Tina’s version of crispy birthday noodle is enough to complete the wish for longer & blissful life. Medyo maalat nga lang ang noodles, she needed to add water so it became a noodle soup dish after. What the heck, it’s still delicious! cheers! :)

PS : my blog’s hit couter just reached more than 300,000. thank you so much for the follow. it really means so much. Maraming salamat po! :)

17
Sep
11

SINGAPORE : MY LAST THOUGHTS ON OUR FIRST VISIT

Is there any other terminal in the globe cleaner than Changi airport? Educate me.

Call me shallow and easy to please but Singapore’s Changi Airport is just simply impressive!

Notoriously known for being almost sterile and so strict on implementing rules, Singapore’s orderliness works for them and for their tourists too (My wife and I are so envious and felt the Philippines and the Filipino people deserve such system too), and we’re just fortunate to experience it for the first time ever. Needless to say, our 4-day visit to Singapore was indeed a memorable and pleasant one.

From the spotless airport to its very efficient immigration service (read: our passports were stamped smoothly in and out), i cannot complain a thing.There’s just spontaneity in everything.

Where else can we find cleanliness meets creativity?

My family and I were happy to see lush green amidst the city’s most famous shopping district. Apparently, even the air and the atmosphere are being kept fresh and clean by all means…

In this very expensive city where almost all luxuries are within reach and really come alive right before your eyes, you have the options to splurge or guard your expenses tightly. And for a less seasoned traveler like us with a limited budget on our pockets, we’re left with frugality and being wise to maximize the experience.

Case in point : I booked our roundtrip flights via a budget airline (Air Asia), even waited for their promo rates months prior to our break. We decided to visit only one theme park with entrance fee and just opted to go sight-seeing at those tourist spots free for public. We deviated our ideas of shopping spree to trying their MRT and riding the bus, at times, taking the cab and of course exhaust all energies at strolling and eating! Hahaha! :D

But then again, I thought it’s  also practical nice to stretch the range of our vacation by experiencing best of both worlds. I chose to bring my family to both upscale and budget hotels for our accomodation.  And so our little dreamer, Gabby who aspires to be hotelier-restaurateur-chef someday had a unique dose of exposure.

We all loved Quincy Hotel Singapore‘s all-inclusive-concept, its hip and edgy amenities and impeccable service. At S$405++ (USD 327++ or PhP 14, 122++) package includes Airport pick up by a chauffeur and a Mercedes Benz E-class limo, buffet breakfast for 2, set meals for lunch and dinner + appetizer and salad spread, free flowing coffee, tea, canned soda, exclusively bottled distilled water, complimentary mini bar, cocktails at 6-8pm, Molton Brown, London toiletries and more cool benefits any guest would enjoy…

Happy to relied on tripadvisor.com Trendiest Hotel Travelers’ Choice Award 2011. Now, we are one with those tourists who have tried Quincy and have appreciated everything about it.

But our warm and safe stay in the budget-friendly, Strand Hotel on our second to fourth day in Singapore was also noteworthy.

Glad that I took the recommendation of fellow blogger, Cza to try Strand Hotel. It’s a good choice if you only need a decent place to sleep and keep your things during your travel.

Located at Bencoolen Street, Strand Hotel’s strongest point is its accessibility to bus stops, MRT stations, restaurants, convenient store and must-visit spots in Singapore. At S$160 nett (USD 129 or PhP 5,580) inclusive of Deluxe accomodation for 2, set breakfast + buffet spread of fresh fruits, bread loaves, noodle dish, sausages, cereals, tropical fruit drinks, coffee and tea.

On our first morning at Strand Hotel (day 3 in Sg), we ordered a plateful of french toasts with maple syrup for Gabby (S$6) because our hotel package only included 2 food stubs per day; we were then unaware that the breakfast spread (other than set meals provided for guests) is already sufficient for a kid’s first meal to jumstart his day. So the following morning, Gabby just shared plates with us.

The S$160 nett hotel package at Strand was really a value for money although I bet tourists would be more appreciative if they would do some improvements like updating their interiors a bit, changing their “welcome to the jungle-sort-of-theme” curtains and headboard to a more plain and simpler hues.

The choice of hotel accomodation truly depends on your preferences, travel needs, and of course, your allotted vacation expenses.

We may not have visited the beaches at Sentosa Island and were not able to watch the city’s attractions–Songs of the Sea and The Lion King musicale, didn’t ride the cable car, failed to go to Singapore Museums, Botanical Park, Night Safari and Zoo, passed on the chance to try the Singapore Flyer and the Luge, thus, these remain to be the reasons to find time and save money to go back to this beautiful city again soon.

All in all, it boils down to the fact that vacation need not to be too expensive neither it should be lousy and restrict you on having fun memories with yourself and your love ones. The possibilities of enjoying a break whether in Singapore or anywhere else is just limitless!

Beyond Toxicity’s Singapore Blog series includes:

16
Sep
11

SINGAPORE BY THE BAY

Can you guess where I took my shadow?

Those are the waves at the foot…..err the tail of the merlion…

Merlion has been iconic that a trip to Singapore would not be complete without a visit to its park. I don’t know with Tina and Gabby but I was in awe; it was actually bigger than I thought.

Across the statue of half-lion half-fish are a couple of structures equally worthy of admiration…

The Esplanade : Singapore’s theater for performing arts creatively built with shopping and dining complex, with fantastic architectural shape similar to durian; only more sophisticated looking than the tropical pungent fruit because it’s made of glass. Its waterfront location is just perfect to wait for the sunset in this side of Southeast Asia.

One of the luxurious hotels in the Lion City is The Marina Bay Sands, famous not only for its service, and noted spectacular amenities but it’s strategic location.

At our first sight of its magnificence, Gabby asked me, “Is that a boat above those buildings?”.  I replied to our kid with a smile, “It’s the Marina Bay Sands’ SkyPark, anak.” :)

Believe me, if Tina and I have the fortune, we could have brought Gabby to Marina Bay Sands to watch and marvel at the musical, The Lion King.

From the Merlion Park, we strolled to Esplanade via their sidewalk on the bridge. Had a dose of S$1-ice cream bar, watched the glorious sunset and went inside the Esplanade mall.

When dinner time came, we had to ask directions to Makansutra Gluttons Bay. A few steps more within the Esplanade Mall, we found what we’re looking for.

Our meal that night could have been cereal prawns or chili crabs but our Filipino palates became so biased with 1/2 kg of Liempo (grilled pork belly) from a Filipino hawker food stall in Makansutra. We coupled it with Seafood Fried Rice and downed everything delightfully! :D

These capped our day 3 in Singapore after we enjoyed Universal Studios.

Other than having the lack of budget for The Lion King, failing to taste cereal prawns and chili crabs, another little regret  I also passed the chance of trying to capture Singapore’s beauty at dusk in my lens but then again, it’s all because I prioritized bringing Tina and Gabby back to our hotel to rest.  At least there are a lot of reasons to go back to Singapore. It’s that fascinating!

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Beyond Toxicity’s Singapore Blog series includes:

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14
Sep
11

WHEN IN SINGAPORE, MUST EAT…

…toasted bread with kaya and butter + 2 half-boiled eggs then washed it down with milo dinosaur

and of course, one of my favorites, Hainanese Chicken Rice…

They tasted better than they appear in photos. Would you believe that these were our airport meals?

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*Singapore Blog Series continues…

Beyond Toxicity’s Singapore Blog series includes:

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PappaMia, Check-In Level 3, Changi Airport Terminal 1.

12
Sep
11

TALES FROM A TAXI CAB DRIVER IN SINGAPORE

We met some people in Singapore. We even encountered ourselves. :)

After we took a bus from Bencoolen Street and alighted at One Fullerton, we made a decision in a heart beat that we need to postpone the plan of strolling at Merlion Park, Esplanade and enjoy the view of Marina Bay Sands to a later time because the sun was scorching hot that morning.  We opted to go ahead of schedule to Universal Studios.

And so I led my family to walk towards the waiting shed and with an outstretched right arm, I waived for a taxi cab. Clueless that we were waiting in the wrong side, I wondered why cabs without top lights that say ‘hired’ would not stop and pick us up (read: taxi cabs should take passengers from the side street and not from the main road–logical enough!).

Until one of the cab drivers on the main road signaled me to wait at the back of the bus stop and took us in.

Meet Andrew, the Singaporean taxi driver who sounded like more Filipino than we are…

Singaporean taxi cab driver, Andrew with Gabby

At first, I didn’t know how he easily spotted that we’re Filipinos, it must be how we speak. As the unusual friendly taxi-driver-and-passenger-conversation started and went on, Tina and I found ourselves so engaged with Andrew’s little stories about our own country.

My cynical brain initially thought that this guy’s cheap words about his passengers’ home country were just randomly uttered to tourists’ fascination for time being but I was completely wrong.  Andrew really knows and likes the Philippines not only because his money could buy more for him in our country but he fell in love with almost everything back home.He mentioned he has been to the Philippines several times and that his travels already took him to Iloilo, Cebu, Davao and Makati City.  Tina, with so much amusement told him, “You’ve been to a lot places in the Philippines than we do.”

He described how he felt when he bought an entire lechon (roasted pig) somewhere in Cebu and shared it to the locals, mostly kids of various ages that he found along the beach.

Andrew’s also aware of unpleasant news back home. He also recalled being with his cousin in a Korean restaurant in Greenbelt Mall in Makati and suddenly was shocked upon hearing gun shots during the time that the Rolex watch store in the said mall was robbed. He also mentioned that he knows the tragic tourist bus hostage drama that involved Hong Kong nationals in Rizal Park in Manila. For a moment, I sanked in my seat; I cringed. But despite all those, he still spoke highly of the Philippines.

Apparently, Andrew fell in love with the Philippines. He elaborated that he likes the freshest and affordable seafoods, pristine beaches and simplicity of rural life in Iloilo, he remembered how he enjoyed his stay in Shangri La Mactan Hotel in Cebu and was so fascinated with Davao. Then, Andrew professed his desire to buy a condo unit in Makati City someday.
While some of us, Filipinos feel that the Philippines is hopeless, we met a Singaporean who plans to retire in our own country someday.
Upon reaching USS, he even instructed us where to go to find its entrance. I gave him S$50 because I didn’t have smaller bill; I was expecting him to get a tip on top of the taxi rate but he did not. It was one of the most fascinating taxi cab rides that Tina, Gabby and I experienced. The trip from One Fullerton to USS was short, but definitely extraordinary.

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Beyond Toxicity’s Singapore Blog series includes:

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10
Sep
11

DAY 3 IN THE LION CITY…

 

It’s our first time to attend a Prayer Rally that drew a huge crowd on our 3rd day in Singapore!

*kidding!* Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with going to prayer rallies but we really spent our entire 3rd day in the Lion City at Universal Studios Singapore.  The photo above was taken at one of the featured live attractions we watched – Waterworld.

We continue to dream. And dream big...

On Thursday morning, 1st September 2011, I initially brought my wife and kid to the riverfront near One Fullerton via bus from Bencoolen Street. However, since the sun was unforgiving (at least Mr. Sun was up after days of downpour prior to our trip), we opted to head directly to USS via cab.
And did the much-needed tourist thing, haha! :P
It was ages ago when I stepped foot in Universal Studios Hollywood; I was still single then, and apparently didn’t have Gabby yet to share the experiences with. Nonetheless, the memory remains vivid and it’s so apt to relay the fun to our son when we got a chance to bring him in a similar venue.

With Marty, Melman, Alex and Gloria of Madagascar!

A day in most if not all theme parks would not be complete without photo-ops with those lovable mascots…
Wonder where Shrek and Princess Fiona were that day. It was only Puss whom we saw in Far Far Away. :) We watched Shrek 4D Adventure though, and tremendoulsy enjoyed the simulations of splashes and spiders crawling on legs.
Then we also caught a birdie mascot (Is this Woody Woodpecker?)…
Whe we heard the growling of our stomachs, it signaled us to immediately chow down.
Of all the restaurants inside USS, we chose Goldilocks (not the local cakeshop that we grew with) and ordered some delicious fastfood junkies…
We shared these tray of chicken burger, criscut potato fries and 3-piece chicken seasoned with 7 spices done just right! :) Ang sarap! But it made me miss our very own Max’s Fried Chicken back home. :(   
Moving on…
There was a souvenir shop where we tried on some novelty hats just for the cam…

While Gabby wore an Egyptian hat, Tina can pass here as a Miss Universe contestant representing the land of milk and honey sans visa or citizenship, haha!

There were so many hats to choose from and almost everyone at the facade of the store wanted to try them all. 

He is my King and I am his Knight...

We still wanted to escape from the heat of the sun, so we took the chance of queueing at Monster Rock that featured the Universal Classic Monsters in rock-and-roll extravagant show.  I had a mixed feelings and thoughts watching (performers wearing costumes of) Frankenstein, Count Dracula, Lady Mummy and others doing Lady Gaga and other contemporary pop songs on stage, nevertheless, it’s fun! They pulled out the show.  But prior to their production numbers, Tina and Gabby had their own show…

If there's a casting audition that day for the best act in sleeping roles, Tina and Gabby could have won it, hands down! hehe!

I’ve told you, we also watched Waterworld before lunch time. The show has death-defying stunts, pyrotechnics and explosions on water.  I’ve seen it first in Los Angeles and concluded then that the USS show is even better than its movie version. 

Since I knew that there will be parts of the show where actors would intentionally wet the audience with splashes and pails of water, I told Tina and Gabby to sit in the so-called-”dry area” of the bleachers.  I noticed improvements from its USS Hollywood version; this one in Singapore has more humor and stunts. 

We continued to while away time and went to the part of USS called Sci-Fi City. Here, the famous buwis-buhay (life-threatening) ride called Battlestar Galactica can challenge fear in anyone…

Are you daring enough to ride this?

We’re not! :( We’re just content in watching the actions from the ground. At least there, we’re surely safe! :) 

“Battlestar Galactica -Human or Cyclon? Choose your side on the world’s tallest duelling roller coasters. Prepare to engage in aerial combat between two coasters. The Cyclon (blue track) suspended coater goes up, around and upside down with an intense corkscrew and a cobra roll, while the Human seated coaster zooms at speeds of 82.8km/h and propels you over fourteen storeys into the air!” -sourced from the USS Studio Guide.

In Ancient Egypt…
one funny thing happened to us…
 
Overwhelmed with excitement, we went to the locker area and left all of our things at hand -bags,camera etc, to the designated locker by the ATM-looking machine for free. We went on queue for the Revenge of the Mummy absolutely clueless that it’s another buwis-buhay-ride. Why? Well, we went inside without reading anything! *bummer!* So we hurriedly exited the building after reading a warning sign that stated it’s indeed an indoor roller coaster ride. It really pays to read, hehe!
 
At around 4PM, we decided to leave USS.  And just before exiting the turnstiles at the gate, we saw Marilyn…

better hands off...just smile! :)

 
Outside USS, was a paradise for Gabby and Tina….
 
My family has sweeter tooth than I am (OK, we all have!). Imagine their bliss upon seeing a volume of shops of chocolates and candies…
 
I know Tina’s number 1 fan of Jelly Beans; she can eat it as if there’s no tomorrow!
 
 Those enormous Hershey’s bottles are plastic coin banks that I wanted to take home. However budget and logic restrained me, it costs S$25 each! Nevermind, haha!
 
Now, these are happiness to me (Tina, Gabby and Reese’s)!
 
At the Hershey’s store, they have these biggest chocolate bars available at whopping price of S$60 each! As I took it from its shelf to hand in to Gabby just for fun, I told him to hold it carefully for I didn’t want to be jailed if he breaks it, haha!
 
Honestly, I expected to ride an open-air tram that takes guests to different studio buildings inside USS.  I thought it’s similar to that in Hollywood with backlot filled with studios where famous movies were shot and where simulations of scenes can be experienced but I was totally wrong.
I even inappropriately compared the size of USS to Disneyland in Anaheim, Disneyland and DisneySea in Tokyo but it’s no match. Perhaps, not even half of Disneyland in Hong Kong. That was my mistake making me felt short of USS.
 
What’s important for Tina and me was the fact that Gabby enjoyed his day. :)
 
So much for a day in Universal Studios Singapore. We went to Merlion Park, Esplanade and Makansutra at dusk that same day which will be featured and posted soon…  

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Beyond Toxicity’s Singapore Blog series includes:

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07
Sep
11

CHINATOWN, SINGAPORE

On a limited budget and with only enthusiasm and a game plan to spend more time & lots of fun with my family in my pocket, I brought Tina and Gabby to Singapore.  On our second day in the Lion City, we headed to Chinatown ! :)

 

After checking out at 12 noon from Quincy Hotel where we stayed the first day, we hopped on the bus along Orchard Road and alighted at Bencoolen Street. We transferred to a more affordable hotel (which deserves a separate post) and more accessible to our itineraries. And like what we did the first day, we just left our luggage to the hotel room and utilized the rest of the day in exploring Singapore.

I am grateful that former colleagues and online buddies (credits at the end of this post) suggested one of Singapore’s most helpful websites particularly for tourists and first timers on the island like us (read: without gadgets with GPS). The site gives you details on your trip from point A to point B from mode/s of transportation (either by bus, train, taxi cab), estimated total  travel time(including waiting and walk time), to total fare (click the link and be enlightened!).

http://gothere.sg/

The Lion City’s transport system is impressively efficient.

I googled http://gothere.sg/ and lifted details of our itineraries for the remaining days of our stay. We walked through the train station from our hotel,  purchased MRT cards from the touch-screen machines (with refundable deposit of S$1 on top of our fares) in the subway.

Subways of Singapore are clearly wider than Tokyo or it might be just me. But creativity is present at every turn in Singapore, so apparent in the mosaics and murals in the train stations…

We told him but I’m not sure if Gabby realized the thought that we were literally underground when we boarded the train. 

The Dhoby Ghaught MRT station bound to Harbourfront was just few minutes-and-one-train-ride away to Pagoda Street, Chinatown.

Upon getting off the subway, we were in awe and together we uttered, “WOW” in amazement! Our eyes feasted on a burst of colors…

I read from online reviews of tourists that Singapore has the cleanest Chinatown in the globe, knowing the city implements strictest rules on fines and penalties (read : thousands of dollars), everyone is disciplined regardless of the place in Sg.

One doesn’t need to be Chinese to expect to see mostly reds in any Chinatown…

or Oriental lanterns that doesn’t fail to fascinate…

Souvenir items cost usually 3 for S$10… I got a nod from Tina in purchasing fridge magnets we bought for 6 for S$10. :)

Of all the things being sold in the stalls of Chinatown, I found these glass balls most interesting. Agree?  Do you know what they call these?

Few steps more and another surprise (well, not actually, I included it in our itinerary) caught our eyes…

“The Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. It is an agamic temple, built in the Dravidian style. Located at No. 244 South Bridge Road, in the downtown Chinatown district, the temple serves mainly South Indian Tamil Hindu Singaporeans in the city-state. Due to its architectural and historical significance, the temple has been gazetted a National Monument and is a major tourist attraction.”  –Wiki

A lion and holy cow guard the roofs of Sri Mariamman Temple…

Fantastic sight amidst the high noon…

The doors to this Hindu temple…

We opted not to go inside the Sri Mariamman Temple, we continued walking in Chinatown.  We spotted the famous Ann Siang Hill…

Vivid colors paint the structures built in Ann Siang Hill. Unfortunately, my wife and kid didn’t want to explore it so we went on walking to Sago Street and reached the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. After a Hindu temple comes a Buddhist temple… both equally stunning!

If the exteriors of Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is magnificent, the inside’s trully awesome! I’m almost lost of superlatives to describe its interiors,haha! :)

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”–Buddha.

I’m left speechless.

Almost right across the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a famous hawker food place, Maxwell.

When in Singapore, must try Singaporean foods! Our late snack-early dinner were made  of noodles….

Maxwell’s Tian Tian Chicken House became a word of mouth when Anthony Bourdain gave it a thumbs up.  It’s famous for one of my favorite chicken dish –Hainanese Chicken Rice…(believe me, this plate tasted so much better than it looks on photo)

The rice was cooked with chicken broth and seasoning, it’s delicious sans ulam.

For drinks, a fellow blogger, Dyan and former colleague Gina who’s based in Singapore never failed to remind us not to forget to try water chestnut. We’re obedient. I bought a cup, it tasted like sweet pandan; refreshingly good!  I took a photo on a whim…

Then we felt it’s time to bid Chinatown goodbye…

but can’t pass the chance without a photo-ops with this Buddha statue…

We finally found our way back to the subway and rode the MRT again.  We had Starbucks Coffee break in a mall on way to our hotel (not in photo) and called it one fine day. :)

 

Stay tuned for more of our adventures in Singapore.

—————————

Beyond Toxicity’s Singapore Blog series includes:

—————————

*Thank you to fellow bloggers, Dyanie (she did my initial itinerary!), Cza (recommended the other hotel we stayed in), Chyng, Sards , Dom/Dong Ho, Annevdns, Bambi (all of their blog posts about Singapore and replies to my queries served helpful references for this trip) and former colleagues, Ms. Gina (who provided useful links online about her work place), Dr. D. and former student, Lea for replying to my questions about the city we all like.

05
Sep
11

ORCHARD ROAD, SINGAPORE

Several minutes after checking in and marveling at Quincy Hotel, we maximized the day by strolling towards the upscale shopping district of the Lion City, Orchard Road which is about 5-7 minute walk. Thank God, Mr. Sun shone its brightest that Tuesday afternoon because few days prior to this-end-of August-trip, Singapore (and the rest of Southeast Asian countries including home-the Philippines) had experienced quite heavy downpours.

Considering we’re medical professionals, my wife and I felt extra-safer after we saw two huge hospitals several steps away from Quincy Hotel ; these are Paragon Medical Center (adjacent with Paragon Mall) and Mount Elizabeth Hospital. You never know when these facilities will come in handy whenever you’re traveling.

Here are photos of Mt. Elizabeth Street, one of the laterals of Orchard Road…

Our very first glimpse of one of the famous shopping districts in the globe …

It reminds me of Ginza in Tokyo  or its counterpart back home, Makati City. But I think, Orchard is busier, more populated and a lot more impressive because it has so many street art installations (read : it doesn’t mean I like Ginza less; it’s still remarkable in my book and definitely, would like to revisit that fantastic street with my family someday and of course, Makati City remains one of our favorites too!). Correct me if I’m wrong -I think Singaporean government really allot budget or possibly requires establishment owners to put up creative structures in streets, is there any truth to my guess?

Don’t you wish Metro Manila will have more street art installations too? (On the second thought : Huwag na lang kaya, unahin na lang ang pagkain sa mesa, edukasyon at pangangailangang medikal).

Orchard Road got busier despite it’s a weekday because it was Hari Raya holiday….

We wish all cities in the world would be as lush as this…

More inspring art installations…

Inside Paragon Mall…

The most lovable mall rat…

Being jologs as we are, my wife and I cannot relate much with the high-end boutiques inside Paragon Mall except for this wonderful shop…

We wonder if Muji in Manila is more affordable or just the same as their branches abroad, can anyone tell?  I spotted a light-weight luggage, a dark colored jacket that I like while Tina’s eyes were at Muji’s kitchen stuffs and other functional things. Do you shop Muji?

While we only window-shopped at Muji, ditched out and snobbed these divine sweets from Breadtalk…

to feast on Old Chang Kee….

We have hawkers in Penang that sell these fried balls of fish, squid, crab, shrimp but we have not seen any branches of Old Chang Kee in our probinsya. Perhaps, there is in KL, I’m to lazy to google. 

At SGD 1.20 to 2+, each stick of these fried delights are afforbably satiating. We bought a few sticks of crab, shrimp cakes, fish balls, chicken wing for Gabby and paid only SGD 8+.  Not bad for a late afternoon snack.  We munched them where else but in Orchard Road, just outside Paragon Mall and infront of Takashimaya Mall…(drinks were loots from Quincy) solb!

But wait, we had to taste that one singapore dollar-ice cream bar…

Ice cream’s OK for SGD 1. :) I had chocolate, Tina enjoyed blueberry, and I forgot what Gabby’s preference was.  After having those heavenly snacks (read : late lunch!), we walked through Orchard Road and enjoyed being tourists again.

Then we went inside the Mandarin Mall for a much-needed bladder break. We proved that hearsays about toilets in Singapore are true. Most, if not all comfort rooms in this city are almost immaculately sterile.

Tina was irked at the irritating scents of a candle store inside Mandarin Mall, so we went out and headed to Takashimaya and Ngee Ann City… another couple of malls rich in upscale boutiques.

Here, Gabby found a fountain at its plaza-like facade and asked a coin from me, closed his eyes, whispered his wishes and threw the coin onto the fountain… *sarap, maging bata!*


Must have photo ops of course…

The last photo for this post was taken by Gabby.  A bit blurry but nontheless can pass your taste for sure with caption, “lovers in ngee ann city” hahaha :)

We also checked out Lucky Plaza, the mall that was described by our limo-airport-pick up driver as “The Little Philippines” in Singapore.  It’s also in Orchard Road and is frequented by Filipinos staying and working in the city.  We didn’t stay long inside, actually, I just had our few USD changed to SgD at forex there, and headed back to Quincy for dinner. Let’s just say that among the  malls we visited in the area, it’s far different from all of them. End of story. :)

Up Next : Chinatown!

———————

Beyond Toxicity’s Singapore Blog series includes:

Our Amazing Quincy Hotel Singapore Experience

03
Sep
11

OUR AMAZING QUINCY EXPERIENCE

Hainanese Chicken Rice… Fried Hokkien Mee.. Iced cold water chestnut… One-dollar-ice cream bar… Sri Mariamman Temple… Perhaps, the cleanest Chinatown… Orchard Road… Esplanade… Sentosa… Merlion Park… These and more can obviously describe the city where we spent our Hari Raya holiday this year.

Now, if you’re still clueless of the place, you may have left your brain cells somewhere, haha! :D *kidding*

We loved Singapore! Although our pockets and credit cards are now weeping, the experience was worth it! My wife,Tina and I took our soon-to-be 7 year old kid, Gabby to the Lion City for four glorious days (August 30–September 2, 2011) of food indulgence, fun and of course, family bonding!

Let’s begin this Singapore blog series from our arrival at few minutes before 2PM, Tuesday 30th August at the Changi airport, Terminal 1…

Gabby with Mr. Lee, one of the friendliest Singaporean drivers we’ve met (We encountered almost a handful, and you’ll meet them with some of their stories toward the end of this series).

PERSTAYMERS :  It’s our first time to be in the  city described by the National Geographic as “the smallest nation in Southeast Asia that has long been a financial powerhouse.” and by the -The Lonely Planet as a place with “a strange brew of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cultures, a rich social stew that’s anything but boring.” …Who would not be excited?

I planned the trip several months back with gradual let go of the budget by purchasing online plane tickets via Air Asia (Penang-Singapore) on its promo rates and reserving rooms in 2 different hotels (read: maximizing the range of experience at the same time, reducing the cost); we only chose one theme park over a volume of choices and pre-paid it online on a non-peak season. I even asked blogger-friends who have been to Singapore many times over and former colleagues who are presently based there, for their recommendations and whatnot (credits at the end of the post). I made sure my family and I would enjoy our vacation the way we know how.

After reading tourists’ reviews at tripadvisor.com countless times and after paying attention to what bloggers have been raving about, I finally settled for Quincy. I thought it wouldn’t be voted as the tripadvisor.com’s Winner, Travelers’ Choice, Trendiest Hotel 2011 for nothing. I know Tina and Gabby will like it too.

Our airport pick up, included in the room package I availed for my family…

Jologs lang po kami. (repeat : Jologs lang po kami!) We’re so easy to please, and so riding a Mercedes benz E-class limo that doesn’t happen on a daily basis was indeed something for the 3 of us! Hence, that explains those sweetest smiles mixed with pure bliss and excitement inside the car…

Mr. Lee made us feel so welcome while he was driving. He confirmed some of the (positive) things about Singapore that I have heard and read.  Everything, including the air in Singapore seems so sterile!

Singapore in so many ways is so expensive yet seductively beautiful. Prices of almost all items are notoriously steeper than you could imagine. Hotel rates and charges could leave you begging for alms in the streets, haha! :) And so one of my considerations that made me chose Quincy is its being an all-inclusive boutique hotel. It’s amazing! :) Imagine buffet breakfast, set lunch and dinner, all served with appetizers, salad, soup, bottomless canned sodas, free flowing brewed coffee and tea, distilled water exclusively bottled for Quincy and even beer and cocktails in the evening are all included in the package! It’s the first time in the history of our vacations that we didn’t buy bottled water from any 711!

About 25 minutes after we left Terminal 1 of Changi airport, we arrived in Quincy.

Tucked in the secluded end of Mt. Elizabeth Street, one of the laterals of the famous high-end shopping district, Orchard Road, Quincy is strategic in its location. Quincy is about 5-7 minute-walk away from Orchard Road.   It works best for guests like us who would like to walk after a sound sleep and particularly after partaking on a heavy, sumptuous meal. We felt so secured (physically) as we passed by Paragon Medical Center and Mount Elizabeth Hospital from Quincy just before reaching the upscale malls like Paragon, Takashimaya, Ngee Ann City, and as per Mr. Lee’s words, Lucky Plaza -”the little Philippines in Singapore” due to its Filipino stalls and patrons.

As Mr. Lee dropped us off at the lobby of Quincy, (although we know Singapore offers jobs to many Filipinos) it was (still) surprising that 2 Filipina staffs were at the reception area to welcome us. One of them accompanied us to the 10th floor to endorsed the entire room and its gadgets to us nicely.

This was the view from our window…

Pillows that provided us one of our restful sleeps…

Everything’s so impressive at Quincy. I love its interiors in neutrals and its atmosphere, so edgy and manly.

The king-sized bed with 400-thread-count-immaculate white sheets were too perfect to curl up in bed the whole day and do nothing. –now, that’s a luxury!

I told Tina, I like this desk lamp other than the presence of 42″ LCD TV and  everything so ergonomic!

For a moment, the world seemed to stop revolving as my lovely wife and our wannabe-chef son, had their amusement over the coffee gadget inside our studio deluxe room (read : My wife and I are coffee-addicts!). It’s not just your ordinary coffee making facility but Nespresso Expresso Machine! In Tina’s words, “kape pa lang, sulit na!” (“abundance of coffee alone makes the stay in Quincy worth it!”….  because Quincy also offers free flowing coffee at the spread every meal time, even have takeaway coffee cups to Tina’s delight!) 

How many hotels offer complimentary mini bar with Lays potato chips, cup noodles, lots of tea bags, canned sodas, soya milk and iced tea and even canned beer? They replenish it everyday for free!

It’s difficult to get over with that coffee machine, hahaha! …I should get one for Tina (read : but where’s the budget?), haha! :)

Availability of a number of electric plugs is also a plus! Everything spelled convenience at Quincy!

The tandas was spotless…

The toilet and bath left us in awe! Quincy provides toiletries by Molton Brown, London with scents that definitely, rejuvenating.

There’s that rainfall effect shower, pull-me-down curtain blinds if you want some privacy on that glass walled comfort room. Bath tub seemed sterile, weighing scale’s available, slippers were uniquely thicker than usual hotel room footwears, they’re even smart in providing toothpaste that my gums prefer!  Our toilet experience at Quincy was truly beyond expectation…

The wardrobe essentials are commendable too. Sana lang, Quincy goes for better choice of towels…

We didn’t waste time and checked out their facilities at Level 12…

The infinity pool gives you a relaxing view of the slice of Singapore skyline…

Popcorn’s offered every weekend, 9PM when they show movies on big screen by the pool. Chilled drinks are again available for free!

A gym, a sauna and steambath rooms are located adjacent the swimming pool.

The lobby boasts of mac computers and egg-shaped lounge seats too.

Now, the succeeding photos make us miss Quincy more…

Quincy pampers guests on the gastronomic department too! We’re given menu of entrees to choose from, then free flowing beverages from fruit juices, canned sodas, tea and coffee, and cocktails are at the bar for self-service.

The dining area gives you a view of the greens at the hotel’s facade…

Admittedly, Tina and I rarely drink. She tried sipping her red wine paired with her main dish, but she’s really not into alcohol, while I finished my glass of white wine.

My lovely wife had an appetite for prime steak…

She had it well done, still the beef slab was tender, passed Tina’s discriminatory taste.

While I was delighted with my salmon plate… yum, yum, yum!

Gabby had tomato-based seafood pasta; and unlike kids of his age, he loves mussels and clams!

Beverage bar…

The buffet spread is simple but satisfyingly good! There’s a self-service ice cream bar too! The soft ice cream can pass as gelato with its thicker and creamier- less-air consistency. We loved the chocolate syrup topping!

Gabby at the ice cream station …see the reflection of the lush green from the outside; i love this shot! hehehe :)

 
I asked the wait staff if there’s any available dessert, he replied, “Apple strudel.” Gabby and I ordered (repeat : it’s an all-inclusive hotel package!).  I went to the ice cream machine but was no expert in topping my apple strudel with it, nonetheless was superb!  Gabby’s apple strudel (on the right) was perfectly ice cream topped by the staff… Dinner was absolutely delightful! :)
 
 
 Simple yet sophisticated hotel dining experience continued through breakfast…
 
 
Tina’s favorite corner at Quincy… the coffee counter!  Here, Gabby makes me a cup of cappuccino…
 
 
Digestive indulgence so early in the morning : We tried fish congee, I tossed some greens, loaded fibrous fruits, & my family’s favorite (but not me), cereals+milk.
 
 
After breakfast must come lunch, haha!
 
I went to the salad bar and made this…
Tina prefered a sandwich called Modesto something… (sorry, slipped my memory; must be because of aging, haha!)… She liked it a lot!

I opted for an open-faced steak sandwich… sublime! :)

But Gabby’s choice was the winner that lunch…. He decided to eat Creamy mushroom pasta; even asked for more parmesan cheese! The fusion of shitake and button mushrooms with the creamy sauce was unforgettable! Sarap talaga…

Almond jellies and Longan was the dessert of the day. Of course, we had another round of ice cream + dark chocolate syrup topping!

These smiles apparently show that we loved our Quincy experience…

If you are looking for an ultimate relaxing respite from the busy and stressful life, a staycation in Quincy when you’re in Singapore is highly recommended. In a city where hotel accomodation defines a huge portion of its tourism, Quincy rose above the rest in my family’s book.

I’m glad I made a right decision in choosing Quincy. Wouldn’t you be happy if you’re family’s content too? :)

_____________________________

This is the first of Beyond Toxicity’s Singapore blog series. Disclaimer : DocGelo’s stay in Quincy was only for 24 hours; accomodation package was personally paid and Quincy has nothing to do with this blog entry. For specific inquiries and details about Quincy kindly *visit their website here -> Quincy Hotel Singapore. Thank you.

UPDATE : 11 September 2011 sourced from tripadvisor

____________________________

*Thank you to fellow bloggers, Dyanie (she did my initial itinerary!), Cza (recommended the other hotel we stayed in), Chyng, Sards , Dom/Dong Ho, Annevdns, Bambi (all of their blog posts about Singapore and replies to my queries served helpful references for this trip) and former colleagues, Ms. Gina (who provided useful links online about her work place), Dr. D. and former student, Lea for replying to my questions about the city we all like.




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