Friday, November 30, 2007

Singapore. No Place For The Budget Tourist.

Last night, I came to meet 2 young foreigners on the streets outside Esplanade, a Dutch and a French. They asked me for some directions to pubs where they can find cheap beer, so I directed them towards Boat Quay and Clark Quay. Since I was on the same route, I brought them along and started chatting. I came to know that they are around 24 years of age. They are exchange students studying International Business in Macau and had taken a week break to visit Singapore and later Malaysia. Their plan was a 2 days stay here and it was their first day when I met them. They asked me for recommendations on places to visit and probably take photographs. I immediately recommended the 2 places that I would always recommend tourists, Little India and Chinatown. Apparently, they are staying in a budget hotel at Little India, and have already explored Little India and Mustafa Centre. They have also taken the train to Chinatown earlier before marching towards city centre where I met them. I then asked them what they know of Singapore and interested to see. All they know was that Singapore was part of Malaysia and since independence, Singapore has placed themselves on the map with a good reputation of thriving financial hub. They would like to see skyscrapers that are very much like that Hong Kong and would like to take some scenic landscapes. Since they are students on a tight budget, they had no interest in malls and shopping.

They were very shocked not to be able to find the skyscrapers they were expecting. They were not interested in Orchard Road, Christmas decorations, heartlands, Chinese culture (since they have experienced much of that in Macau) and Botanic Gardens, which I recommended. They don't seem interested in buildings such as Fullerton Hotel, Supreme Court and City Hall, which I recommended. Our colonial buildings are not as old (with many refurbished losing its aged appearance) and many buildings are replaced with new buildings which are nothing, in terms of architecture, compared to those in France. I was reluctant to recommend them Kallang to see our water sports and dragon boats, since they would probably not be keen and not have time to participate. I realised immediately that I can never be a good tour guide, because I have no other recommendations. It then dawned on me that being a photographer, I should be able to recommend some scenic views, but I realised that there are NONE WORTHY! Sentosa is out since they have no interested in spending more money on things that they can see back home or in Macau.

I then recommended Pulau Ubin with a visit to Chek Jawa, which is cheap and a good experience of the kampong culture of old Singapura. From the watch tower, they can get scenic views of Johor and the straits. I also recommended VivoCity and a visit to Mount Faber. They definitely have wild imagination of these names, thinking that there is another city and a mountain, which was not mentioned in their "Lonely Planet's Southeast Asia guide book". They are definitely very adventurous to visit without doing proper research and definitely not with a general guide. Then again, it is sure hard for someone like them to enjoy Singapore since one would need to spend, shop, eat and drink indoors. That is what most people do in Singapore. Though I was definitely ready to recommend them a long list of places to try local food on a budget, but they would not have the time to do so. I also reassured them that chewing gum is definitely legal in Singapore. I was quite ashamed when I had to be honest and tell them that "Hey, thats all we have in Singapore and I regret to tell you that there is nothing more interesting for you."

We finally reach Boat Quay and I gave a brief account of the history of Boat Quay. I recommended that they explore Boat Quay and then Clark Quay, to find their cheap beer and enjoy the night scene of Singapore. I made a comment, "Now that you have been to Boat Quay and Clark Quay, you can tell others that you have seen and experienced all the night life of Singapore!"

It was really nice to have met them, though we did not exchange any contact info and not even names, I was glad to have recommended them and letting them know Singapore (not from the perspective of a travel guide) within 30 minutes. It is not the name that we are after, but the brief acquaintance worth remembering. I sure hope that they remember that they had once been to Singapore and met two friendly Singaporeans. :)

If you were me, what would you have recommended?
What are your thoughts of our tourism?

Note: These are my personal thoughts and tourists should not be detered from visiting Singapore. This is just a rare account.
Singapore is a lovely island that is rich in its multi-cultural-ethnic asia heritage. Singapore sells authentic Tiger Balm cheaply at S$2.30 per bottle (while Europe sells at $8 euros)!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Look what I have had! Bibimbap & Kimchi Soup @ Hanok Rice & Noodle

With the recent influx of Korean culture into Singapore, there are more and more Korean food, irregardless of authenticity, making their way into the local food scene. I only started appreciating my Korean food when I visited Cambodia earlier this year. Apart from visiting the food courts for the usual Kimchi Jjigae, Ginseng Chicken, Grilled Saba Fish and Grilled Chicken or Beef, I had visited "Janchijib" for something more authentic.
Most of us know and have probably tried "My Mum's Cuisine" products (available in the local supermarkets) and restaurants. From the same people behind "My Mum's Cuisine", comes "Hanok Rice and Noodle" restaurant, which is located at United Square basement (facing atrium) at Novena. After checking out the menu and considering to be reasonably priced with comprehensive list of Korean cuisine and Chinese La-Mian (handmade noodles), I decided to try their food. Not very good with Korean cuisine, I found myself ordering the same stuff as I did at "Janchijib".

Dolsot Bibimbap (Chicken)
As usual, the Bibimbap (with Chicken) is served in a hotstone bowl with a neat display of ingredients, namely cucumber, carrots, soya bean sprouts, shitake mushrooms, vegetables, spicy chicken with sesame seeds, onion and a raw egg. Three small dishes were served alongside. They are the sauce for Bibimbap, kimchi and soya bean sprouts. After blending the sauce into the Bibimbap, the lovely golden mixed rice is ready for diggin' in!

Kimchi Soup
The kimchi soup comes with kimchi, tofu, golden needle mushrooms and clear rice vermicelli. The soup is very spicy and sour, such that I was choking a few times and having 'burnt' lips.

Disposeable wet napkin had a modernized graphic of the original "My Mum's Cuisine" photo.

Though slightly pricer than the food courts, "Hanok Rice and Noodle" definitely serves better tasting and delicious korean food. Note that 10% service charge and 7% GST applies here. I am contended with the food they serve and will try their La-mian sometime. I will recommend this to anyone who is comfortable with the price and likes Korean food. However, for anything more authentic, "Janchijib" is the place to visit!

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

1/6th SDU (飛虎隊): Casual by Very Hot

SDU (飛虎隊): Casual by Very Hot

Very Hot has concurrently released three versions of SDU:
1. Very Hot SDU Breacher,
2. Very Hot SDU Point Man/Assaulter, and
3. Very Hot SDU Casual
The Very Hot SDU: Casual is supposed to be mimic Hot Toys SDU Comic Festival Version. Between the SDU Breacher and the Point Man/Assaulter, the difference is in the gear. From the links above, it can be seen that the SDU Breacher has more equipments such as the 'Super Ram It!' Battering Ram, crowbar, Halligan Pro-bar, sledgehammer. SDU Breacher dons a different tactical vest (without the groin guard padding) and does not have a shield compared to SDU Point Man/Assaulter. However, for the official Very Hot SDU: Casual, it should be an SDU Point Man/Assaulter in plain clothes (white T-shirt, jeans and canvas shoes).

Apparantly, the one that I scored is a jumbled-up box set with gears of the SDU Breacher with casual outfit (t-shirt, jeans and shoes). It is no longer the same as the official piece, but I do get more equipments. Hence, at 75% of the R.R.P., I consider this a darn good deal! Apparantly, according to 1/6th bro, he believed that from the OEM brown box, it is a non-Casual SDU, i.e Breacher in tactical outfit. However, I refused to believe him and insisted on picking the box up and look into its contents. I was so excited when I saw the white t-shirt and jeans with the white 'tri-striped' shoes. It has been what I have always wanted! If I had not trusted my instincts, I would be squeezing my nuts now!
1/6th bro, I'm not being competitive here, but just trying to make sure I will not '走宝' (miss out on something) again.
For this SDU: Casual figure, I have picked Banderas (DRAGON) from my library, since from a different perspective, the headsculpt does look a mixed Caucasian-Asian appearance, which fits perfectly into this role, since Michael Fitzgerald Wong (王敏德) also of mixed descent, played as an SDU Point Man and Leader in "First Option" & "Final Option".

SDU: Casual
Special Duties Unit (飛虎隊)
1/6th Scale Action Figure
by Very Hot

The Special Duties Unit (SDU) or 特別任務連, nicknamed 飛虎隊 "Flying Tigers", is a secretive and elite paramilitary police unit of the Hong Kong Police, that is originally established as a sub-division of the Police Tactical Unit (PTU). Its primary functions include counter-terrorism, anti-narcotic raids, hostage rescue and other domestic crimes (usually involving firearms). The SDU used to be trained by the British SAS to hone their CQB (Close Quarters Battle) tactics, before 1997 during British Colonial rule.
The selection criteria for SDU is very stringent to maintain a high standard of the unit. The recruitment is only open to those with a minimum of 2 years in Hong Kong Police service. Applicants must even be non-smoker and non-alcoholic too. The training syllabus is close to that of the British SAS but slightly lower standard, since the SDU does not operate in International missions. Identities of members of the SDU must remain secret and only known to close family members. SDU does not enforce a retirement age, but allows members to resign or when they are physically not capable to fufill the unit's duties.
(Extracted from Wikipedia: SDU)
DRAGON "Banderas" body with Very Hot SDU casual outfit with Breacher gear
This is the first wave of the Very Hot box sets which does not come with weathered equipments.

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