Saturday, July 14, 2012


Picking up where we left off from last time....

3. March onwards to Dempsey Hill

Dempsey Hill is of one of more recent "dining and lifestyle destinations" in Singapore. In an earlier incarnation, it served as the British Army barracks, before being converted for modern-day use. It is a sprawling complex, suited for strolling in good weather conditions; and the tenants (mostly fine dining restaurants and antique stores) are clustered into separate blocks.

 We (my friend Angelic A. and i) had a very good dinner at The Disgruntled Chef, and had desserts afterwards at Jones The Grocer, where the staff was almost entirely Pinoys.

The Dempsey Hill website waxes quite poetically, "Let the lush greenery and old world charm of Dempsey Hill captivate you once again. We call this - paradise found."

Errr, not quite. Whilst the fact that Dempsey Hill is rather out of the way adds to its laid-back vibe, it can be difficult to get a taxi at night. Best to note the telephone number of a local cab service beforehand.

4. Explore eclectic Tiong Bahru.

My winsome friend Jellybean tipped me off on this neighborhood, so i ventured forth on a hot Saturday morning to check it out. Alighting from the taxi in front of the Tiong Bahru (TB) market, i strolled through the side streets. 

TB essentially remains a residential neighborhood, but has seen a mini-boom of housing units being converted into retail storefronts in recent years, mostly cafes and restaurants. There are a couple of foot spa places, as well as a ceramic tile showroom oddly named "RICE". Go figure :-D

Amongst the popular cafes are 40 Hands, and The Orange Thimble (photo below courtesy of winsome Jellybean), which was packed full of foreigners, as was the Tiong Bahru Bakery by Gontran Cherrier beside it. 

I had lunch at the Drips Bakery Cafe,  check out their simple relaxing interiors below:

I ordered their Beef Pastrami sandwich with mozarella cheese, which proved to be quite delicious!

For the more traditional-minded, there's Loo's Hainanese Curry Rice stall right across the street from the TB market.

As you can see from the photo above, Loo's draws quite a queue towards lunch time. Their signature dish is simply pork chop and vegetables atop plain white rice, slathered with curry. But it is no ordinary curry, as the recipe has been handed down from one generation to another (Loo's started way back in 1946).  Using traditional methods of preparation, the curry takes THREE days to make.

Another resto that looked interesting was this one below: (Bah Kut Teh is pork ribs simmered in a broth of herbs and spices, such as star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, garlic, etc.)

5. Channel your inner Zorro at Z.

After all that eating, it's now time to do a bit of exercise, right?

Z Fencing is the largest private fencing academy in Singapore, with branches as well in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Shanghai, China. It offers fencing classes/programmes for all age levels (kids as young as 4 can learn) and skill levels (even for bumbling, lead-footed persons like me, haha).

Fencing has been called "Chess with knives", "Algebra with footwork", or the more elegant "Physical Chess". Rightly so, as the sport not only provides a vigorous physical workout, but also develops mental fortitude and grace under pressure.

Contrary to popular notion (ironically, from sword fighting bouts in the movies), one doesn't get mauled or all bloodied up from fencing - it is quite a safe sport. Most important (for me, at least), the all-white uniforms look so ultra-cool!  And one can hit the opponent hard!! YESSSSSS!!!!

On this final note, there is so much to see and do in the Lion City. If you find it boring, maybe you're the one who's boring!  :-D

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Singapore Zoo and Night Safari? Check.
Shopping along Orchard Road? Yup.
Universal Studios and Sentosa? Done.
Marina Bay Sands? Done!!! :D
Half-day city tour to see the Merlion, etc.? (Yawn) Been there already.

So what is a second-timer (or third-timer) in Singapore left to do? Won't Singapore live up to its derisive nickname of SingaBORE, then? Of course not!

Yours truly was in the Lion City recently, and here are some not-quite-off-the-beaten-track-but-not-too-touristy things to do for repeat visitors:

1. Taste Singapore's finest bird.

No, not the birds at Jurong Bird Park, dimwit! I refer to one of their trademark dishes, steamed Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Endless debate surrounds which particular establishment serves the "best" chicken rice, as everyone seems to have their own favorite. Contenders to the throne include Wee Nam Kee , Boon Tong Kee, Tian Tian, etc.

I dropped by the Boon Tong Kee Whampoa West outlet (right beside the Boon Keng MRT station), and the place was full, with a short queue at the door.

 The steamed Hainanese chicken was quite tender and tasty, such that one can opt to forego the accompanying sauces.  Very good, indeed!

But the star of the show were the Coffee Ribs (above), which perfectly balanced the sweet, rich flavour of the coffee without being bitter or cloying, or overpowering the tender ribs. If i  could eat this dish every day, i would.

This place is definitely worth a return trip.

 2.  Take a walk on the wild side.

The people behind The Original Singapore Walks run daily walking tours in various interesting neighborhoods, and operates on a simple principle: To bring people into places most other tours don't. 

They typically charge SGD30.00/person, and best of all (for me), there is no need to pre-book. One simply just shows up on the designated meeting place/date/time, and looks for the tour guide.

I joined the "Secrets of the Red Lantern" (A Chinatown Night Walk),  which is billed as for adults only due to its mature content.

I must say that the Singapore Chinatown district has got to be the cleanest, most organized Chinatown ever! Our guide Gesddine wryly agreed, saying in fact, it was TOO well-ordered.

Note the red lanterns in the bustling streets of Chinatown:

At night, this particular street is closed and it transforms into an outdoor dining area. The red lanterns turn out to be street lights.

 Ah, going back to the 'adult' content of this night walk.  Not to delve too much into details, but Gesddine talked about life during the early 1900s in Singapore. Coolies! Opium! Prostitution!  Heart-rending stuff, actually.

And to this present-day, despite its well-manicured appearance, Chinatown still is officially a Red Light District. It hosts a couple of working brothels - tucked discreetly in the side streets, with only their larger-than-usual house numbers to give them away, so to speak.