Postcards from: Paris
River Safari, Singapore
As part of the Buddy Programme at SMU, we had an outing to the newly opened River Safari.
River Safari is the newest wildlife park opened by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and is inspired by the world’s most famous rivers such as the Mekong, Nile and Yangtze. While I am a big fan of the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, the River Safari failed to impress as I felt that it was quite barren compared to the other parks. Of course, the highlight of River Safari is the Giant Panda Forest, home of Kai Kai and Jia Jia – the pair of giant pandas which is a gift from China to celebrate 20 years of Sino-Singapore relations. But mind you, it is just a 10 year loan.
Kathy, Anton, Dj and I (at my chubbiest)
The Amazon River Quest is a boat ride that brings you through “the Amazon”, showcasing many species of wildlife from the Amazon. That was pretty fun too, I guess. However, like how the trams are at the zoo and Night Safari, you may not get to see the animals if the timing is not right, since the boat will not stop. Fortunately, we got to see the jaguar, which was to me, the highlight of the whole ride.
Flamingoes – always an amusing bunch
Of course, no trip to River Safari would be complete without having a meal or a little snack at Mama Panda House, the resident café serving up Chinese food such as bamboo (surprise, surprise) rice and their signature Panda Paus. I am a HUGE fan of paus, especially red bean pau, so I ordered one for myself. These paus do not cost the same as paus we get at neighbourhood food centres; they cost about $2.90 each but they are also bigger than they kopitiam compatriates. The paus also come in Chocolate Custard flavour. The paus look adorable, almost too cute to eat. Almost. To make it more bearable, eat the eyes and nose first, then you will have the heart to devour these yummy paus. They were soft and fluffy, and filled with a generous amount of red bean paste. Yup, worth the $2.90. Almost as yummy as the $2.50 tau sar pau at 40 Hands.
Red bean Panda Pau from Mama Panda House
Posing with the pandas outside Mama Panda House
Gazing at the long bridge that connects the park, it felt like I was transported back to the past. This somehow looks very “kampong” like.
We wandered into the Giant Panda Forest. Other than the famous giant pandas, it is also home to the red panda, which reminded me of a reddish-brown racoon.
We spotted one panda lazing and grazing. Not sure if it was Jia Jia or Kai Kai.
Suddenly, we heard some rustling, and saw the other panda scurrying from one side of the exhibit to the other. Just like paparazzi, we followed suit with our cameras, capturing photo after photo of the panda.
They really are the celebrities of the River Safari.
Towards the end, we saw the alligators of the Yangtze as well as the giant catfish of the Mekong. Close up of a Chinese alligator
Thank you SMU for organising this trip for our buddies! Although I felt that it was pretty disappointing compared to the zoo, I am hoping that River Safari has gotten better since last year when we visited since I believe it is now fully operational.
I waited for until I could finally meet with Cindy to visit Vienna. Ivy had hinted that she wanted us to visit Vienna together, and as best friends, we very willingly went along with it.
Vienna, or Wien, is the capital of Austria. The city has a rich history as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and is, till today, one of the richest cities in the whole of Europe. Known as the City of Music, famous for its operas, palaces, Wiener Schnitzel and Sachertorte, I quickly found out that there was more to Vienna than just that.
I arrived in the night, and was jumped on from behind by Miss Gwee. We were both crying and laughing hysterically, totally elated to finally reunite after over 2 months or so. You must understand that we are “neighbours”, and live just a few minutes away from each other. We also used to see each other so often. Naturally, I missed her so. I’m sure she missed me too.
The next morning, we did what we do best – walk.
St. Charles’ Church (Karlskirche)
St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom)
Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule)
Imperial Palace (Hofburg)
We decided to visit the Kaiserappartements where the Imperial Treasury (Kaiserliche Schatzkammer) and Sisi Museum can be found.
I really enjoyed looking through the thousands of jewels and pieces of gold-adorned treasures such as plates, cutlery, candle holders and china. Just imagine, the excesses!
Photos were not allowed in the Sisi Museum, but it was worth the visit as well. Empress Sisi is definitely one of the most interesting characters in the Habsburg Dynasty, and maybe even in history. Definitely read about her!
We bought some chocolates at the gift store at the end of the audio tour, and just chilled outside the Hofburg, people-watching.
In true Cindy and Maddie fashion, we continued walking
We crossed the park and lo and behold, another grand building!
The Parliament Building is located along Ringstraße, a famous boulevard in Vienna. Tripadvisor recommends taking the Ring Tram to explore Ringstraße – the Vienna State Opera, Imperial Palace, City Hall and other sights.
Just beside the Parliament is Vienna’s City Hall, or Rathaus. I would say that this is my favourite building in Vienna. It is beautiful, majestic even, in the night.
Rathaus (City Hall)
We were in Vienna in November, before the Christmas season (Weihnachtszeit) began. They were in the process of setting up the world-famous Christmas Market (Christkindlmarkt). I knew I had to return to Vienna again to visit the Christmas Market, and I did! But that’s for next time!
Tired and famished, we headed back to the area around Stephansplatz to look for some food. We came across a decent looking restaurant and decided to give it a shot. I ordered some beef goulash with spätzle – a very hearty and comforting meal for the chilly weather.
Beef goulash with spätzle
The next morning, we decided to do the free walking tour which started at our hostel – Wombat’s City Hostel – The Naschmarkt. Wombat’s is a really good chain of hostels and it can be found in various countries around Europe. I would highly recommend Wombat’s. Always affordable, clean, spacious, safe, and the staff are always very friendly and sociable. Definitely value-for-money. Seeing Cindy and I cry and hug each other on the first day, the receptionist might have thought that we were lesbian partners reunited, but we got extra free drinks each for being so emotional.
Our first stop was to the Naschmarkt, which the hostel is named after. Naschmarkt translates to: a market for eating tidbits, and that’s exactly what they sold here – snacks, small eats, fresh produce, bread etc.
Around Naschmarkt are many famous buildings designed by Otto Wagner, an Austrian architect and urban planner. Along the way, our tour guide showed us some of his pieces of art.
We were also introduced to the world-famous Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper).
Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper)
We never did watch an opera, mainly because we simply had limited time in Vienna to do so. You are able to get cheap tickets before the shows, if you are willing to queue with other bargain hunters. I hear they go as cheap as 3 Euros for standing tickets. Well, maybe next time round!
Our tour guide
Our tour guide was really good. Lots of insights into Viennese life, recommendations and stories. She brought us to many of the places that Cindy and I had already visited, but this time, we had commentary to better understand the history of the places.
Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule)
I would highly recommend this free walking tour. This lady was a great guide!
The last thing we did was to stop by Café Sacher – a must-do for all tourists! I had already tried the Sachertorte, a famous Viennese chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam, back in Graz, where they also have a branch. But I had to try the ORIGINAL, and also, wanted Cindy to try it too. We ordered a slice of Sachertorte, Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) and coffee.
Once again, I was slightly disappointed with the cake. Although a tad more moist than the one I had in Graz, I still found the Sachertorte very… unexceptional. The first thing that I told my mum when we had a slice was that we could certainly bake it better. However, for the sake of being all touristy and indulging in the history of Vienna, I’d still say go try it. The cake has an interesting story too. But order other things as well. The coffee there was superb.
We packed our stuff, and we were ready to leave for Prague. Vienna had been a relaxing trip for us both. The weather was fine, the city was safe and clean – as close to Singapore as you can get (in that sense), and the company – the best!
Thank you SMU, for all the wonderful memories – the friends I’ve made, the love I found, the things I’ve learnt in and out of the classroom; the opportunities to travel, to learn new sports, to inspire. These have been the greatest 4 years of my life, and I have zero regrets. But the road wasn’t always so smooth. I regretted the decision choosing SMU in my first and second year, asking the what-ifs if I had chosen NTU or NUS instead. However, things changed. I started to enjoy the classes and met people who made life in school so much more enjoyable. I can proudly say that I’ve made friends for life – BFFs, and of course, the love of my life. They encouraged me, they listened to my endless ranting about sleep deprivation, heavy workload and useless group mates for years, yet they always willingly offered a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. You know who you are. I thank God for you everyday.
Also, I would like to thank my mummy dearest for supporting me throughout my years of education. I hope you’re proud of what I’ve accomplished, and the woman I am today. I work hard so that one day, you can have the life that you really deserve. I know it wasn’t always easy – and maybe it still isn’t, being a single parent, having none of the household burdens shared with anyone. But you’ve done the best job. Look at where we are today. You never pushed me to study that hard. In fact, you were the one who told me not to kill myself over my exams, and that I should just go to sleep. You’ve said this since as far back as I can remember. Yet, I always studied into the wee hours, because I didn’t want you to waste your money sending me to school for nothing. Like you always say, “what is worth doing, is worth doing well”, and that has been a principle I’ve always believed in.
Yesterday, 15 July 2014, marked the official end of my university education. And I’m proud to announce that I graduated with a Cum Laude (totally unexpected!). It really brings me great joy to celebrate with those I love, and to see the proud faces of my family, especially my grandpa who already demanded to see my official transcript. I know that he is extremely proud of me too, because I’m the first in my generation to graduate from university.
Once again, thank you to everyone who has helped me in this journey. In all honesty, some of us may grow apart over the years, but at this very moment, I just want to say that I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me. I wouldn’t have made it this far, and this well, without you.
Brunch at Carpenter and Cook
Finally met up with Hector after he got discharged from the hospital a few weeks ago. I felt really bad because I was supposed to visit him at his place, but I got too caught up with my own things, preparing for exchange etc. We chose a place as close as possible to his place, so that it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle for him to hobble down with his crutches. He’s so nice, he wanted it to be convenient for us too, but we insisted. Anyway, Lorong Kilat is a walkable distance from the 961 bus stop that drops close to Beauty World. I never realised that Carpenter and Cook was so close to the Chicken House, which I always saw across the street from Ng Kim Lee Confectionary at Chun Tin Road. The cafe has a very artsy vibe to it, with interesting antiques on display and on sale. We arrived at about noon and it was empty. I’m guessing it’s more of a tea place as they don’t serve a lot of savoury items on their menu as compared to sweet items such as their cakes and tarts. It’s not the typical eggs benedict kind of brunch place.
We saw many interesting antique items on sale. Mirrors, clocks, crockery, tea sets and lights just to name a few. I kept looking around while waiting for Hector to arrive. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t get bored here waiting.Clockwise from top left: The Swirly Bun, Passionfruit Meringue Tart, Banoffee Tart, Cook’s Amazing Quiche served with side salad.
The Swirly Bun – $5
I know it seems extremely pricey for a bun, but the Swirly Bun was amazing! The brioche was so soft and fluffy. I just went “mmm!” when I ate it. Stuffed with ham, tomato (or was it red pepper) and topped with cheese, it was yummy. I much prefer it to the quiche. So if you’re looking for something savoury, the Swirly Bun beats the quiche!Cook’s Amazing Quiche (Spinach and Tomato), served with side salad – $7
Also a little pricey for its size, the quiche was just average. They were serving two kinds of quiche, the spinach and tomato one that we ordered, as well as a bacon version, but we chose the spinach because the staff recommended it. Well, maybe if it was warm, it might have tasted better. I just picked at the crust, as I always do with any sort of pastry.
We had to order the Banoffee Tart! Hann Khee and I are obsessed with Banoffee, ever since we had that obscenely good one at Delicious last year. However, this was no where as awesome. In my opinion, it was a little too light, with more cream, and too little banana and toffee. The sprinkling of cocoa powder on top of the cream also made it a little too bitter for us. We tasted a little hint of coffee powder, but maybe it was just the bitterness of the cocoa. I wouldn’t say it was bad, it would probably taste good to someone who isn’t making a comparison.
Passionfruit Meringue Tart – $6.50 and Cinnamon Tea – $5
We ordered the Passionfruit Meringue Tart also because Ivy and I fell in love with the one we had at Overdoughs a couple of months back. Once again, this paled in comparison, but wasn’t bad. This was not as tart as the one at Overdoughs, the meringue wasn’t as sweet or anywhere as sticky, and the crust is a simple one, unlike Overdoughs’, which is a cornflake crust. I would have preferred it to be at least a little more tart. (Review of Overdoughs here and here)
Ivy and I also ordered a pot of hot cinnamon tea to share. The cinnamon tea has a slightly sweet aftertaste. It very much reminded me of the oatmeal I have for breakfast. I love cinnamon. I put cinnamon in a lot of things that I bake because it simply has the best smell coming out of the oven 🙂
Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Tart – $6.50
After finishing our initial four orders, we ordered the Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Tart. I wanted to order it at first, but no one seconded me! Anyway, the staff did recommend this tart, and I was eyeing it because I had read many good reviews for this tart. How could you go wrong with chocolate and sea salt caramel?! The sweet and salty flavours combined perfectly. I declare this the winner in the tart battle.
At about 2pm, the cafe started filling up and was fully packed as we were about to leave.
My lovely friends. Two injured fools and the beautiful Ivy, all coincidentally dressed in shades of blue.
No more meet ups with friends, for I am leaving for Europe tomorrow! Just the last few items to pack and I’m all set. I can’t wait. It’s going to be an epic adventure 🙂
Carpenter and Cook
19 Lorong Kilat
#01-06, Singapore 598120
Operating hours: Tuesdays – Saturdays: 10am – 10pm
Sundays: 10am – 7pm
Closed on Mondays
Tel: 6463 3648
Brunch at Hatched
Finally met up with my favourite people, the Muay Thai peeps. Ho Seh Bo, Tok, and my angels, Ivy and Cindy 🙂
Headed to Hatched for brunch. I have been meaning to try Hatched for the longest time! However, just a couple of days before this brunch, I read a review from a popular food blogger on Hatched that was rather disappointing. Apparently, all the poached egg dishes he ordered weren’t runny. We still gave it a shot though!
A little spoilt for choice. They have such a good menu. Pretty much everything sounds good. They have a very nicely designed menu, colourful and the some of their dishes have cute names such as Popeye’s Salute and Burly Benedict.
Our dear Wei Guang couldn’t make it for brunch, so we made sure his presence was still felt 😛
They have cute Easter egg salt and pepper shakers too!
The best thing about eating in a large group is you get to order a variety and pick at everyone’s food.
Hatched allows you to choose between just one, or two eggs for their poached egg dishes. I was starving because Cindy and I gymmed in the morning before brunch. So proud of us, that we managed to reach SMU gym by 9.30am to work out.
Popeye’s Salute: Creamed spinach on English muffin, topped with poached egg and served with homemade mash – $19 for 2
I much prefer the Eggs Florentine Cindy and I had at Canopy. Though this one feels more “clean”, the creamed spinach was hardly creamed and tasted a little too raw for my liking. The mash that came with the dishes was yummy! The mushroom gravy that topped it knocked the ball right out of the park! The poached egg was also runny. YAY!
Sir Benedict: English muffin topped with smoked ham, streaky bacon, poached egg and Hollandaise sauce and served with homemade mash – $19 for 2
The classic benedict. I found this much better than the Popeye’s Salute. Everything tastes better with bacon! Runny yolk, check! Not the best eggs benedict I’ve had – I still love love love the one at Rider’s, but definitely not bad.
El Chorizo: Scrambled eggs cooked with Chorizo, served with toast, baked tomato and homemade mash – $16
I love spicy Chorizo, but this one was… Ok. Nothing special, I guess. I remember a slight sour aftertaste that I didn’t quite like. The eggs, however, were done pretty well. Ho Seh Bo commented that the Chorizo tasted like Chinese sausage or 腊肠. Well, slightly.
Oozy Baked Eggs: Two eggs baked with bacon, cream, mushrooms and tomatoes, with cheese oozing on the top, served with toast – $12
I ordered the baked eggs for myself. I have fallen in love with baked eggs ever since I had a taste of it at Cafe Epicurious. Although the one at Cafe Epicurious wasn’t as oozy as I liked (the cheese was a little cold by the time it got to me), it was still delicious. We all agreed that the baked eggs here is the most worth it dish. At only $12, the serving is pretty big. It was fully loaded with bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes and sweet onions as well. It was also perfectly oozy. Look at the stringy cheese!
I am also a big fan of pesto 😀 Pesto + eggs + bacon + cheese. Yum. My only complaint about this dish is that the toast was already cold by the time it got to me. A little hard, so I only ate one.
The Designer with tomatoes, mushroom, cheese, onions and bacon, served with toast – $14
Tok ordered the Designer omelette after his single Sir Benedict wasn’t sufficient. This was pretty good too. They’re very generous with the ingredients, so the omelette was pretty stuffed. I’m not sure how many eggs went into this omelette but it was huge! Definitely worth it!
All in all, I’d say Hatched is a pretty good place if you’re looking to satisfy your egg cravings. Although it seems a little expensive, the servings are bigger than usual, so it does justify the price. I’d go back just for the Oozy Baked Eggs. I hit the jackpot with that order! The place is pretty crowded on weekends. We went on a Saturday at noon, but we remembered to make a reservation so we didn’t have a problem. The cafe was at full capacity throughout our meal and many people were queueing outside as well, so do make a reservation just in case!
Hatched @ Holland Village
267 Holland Avenue
Tel: 6463 0012
Opening Hours: 9am to 11pm (Last Order: 10.30pm)
Closed on Mondays
I’ll miss you people! Only slightly over a month to exchange ):
Breakfast at Casa Verde, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Looks like I almost forgot to blog about the brunch I had on the Father’s Day weekend. Decided to choose somewhere more scenic for breakfast, so we decided on Casa Verde at the Botanic Gardens for some good food, good views and canine company!
Casa Verde is under the Les Amis Group, which also owns Canele and Peperoni Pizzeria, as well as other popular outlets. Casa Verde, which means “green house” in Italian, is very appropriately located at both the Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay.
The cafe was easy to find, just beside the entrance near the carpark.
I spotted the beautiful Golden Retriever and quickly took the seat beside! 🙂
The breakfast menu is available from 7.30am to 11am and consists of the usual egg dishes, big breakfasts, as well as local fare, such as Mee Siam and Laksa. I was craving for some scrambled eggs, so Hann Khee and I ordered the Gourmet Breakfast set, as well as a Cinnamon French Toast to share.
Gourmet Breakfast – Choice of fried or scrambled eggs, mushrooms, back bacon, Cumberland sausage, hash brown, grilled tomato & toasts – $15
The serving for the Gourmet Breakfast was HUGE. I definitely would not be able to finish it by myself. So at $15, it was really worth it. The scrambled eggs were soft and creamy, but not too mushy, and was perfect with the toast. The pretty much ate all the mushrooms because Hann Khee doesn’t eat mushrooms, and he ate the bacon since I don’t really take bacon. The mushrooms were yummy. Mushrooms are always a good idea! It is sheer blasphemy to not like mushrooms! Especially when they are sauteed in butter and garlic!
Cinnamon French toast with strawberries & maple syrup – $8.50
We were deciding whether to get the French toast, wondering if the bread used would be the everyday, thin, store-bought sandwich bread. Fortunately, when it arrived the bread was thicker than we expected and so neatly and elegantly arranged. A really pretty dish from all angles! Perfectly parallel, they seem to take a lot of pride in their presentation, which is always a plus! I found this pretty filling as well, but I finished my share anyway because it was so good! The French toast was not too eggy, and the cinnamon, and maple syrup went so well together.
Woofy can smell the bacon!
1 Cluny Road
Visitor Centre, Singapore Botanical Gardens
Tel: 6467 7326
A Surprise at Group Therapy
This is a long overdue post, but I have finally
stopped procrastinating found time to write it!
I was supposed to meet Hann Khee for brunch at Group Therapy. We walked from Tanjong Pagar MRT to the cafe. I must say, I really love the buildings in the vicinity. Those short shophouses, freshly painted in a multitude of colours. Really a pretty sight.
What was supposed to be a brunch date turned out to be a surprise! Claire appeared out of nowhere and I was shocked but really happy to see her again. I didn’t even know she was back from Australia! So a reunion with what’s left of our Bondue clique 🙂
We had a hard time choosing what to order, simply because the menu just looks too good. My initial plan was to order the organic granola & muesli bowl with yogurt and fresh fruits because I’m used to having fruits for breakfast every morning. However, after seeing what the tables beside us were eating, I changed my mind! On my left were two men; one of them was having the grilled ham & cheese panini and when he bit into it… Food porn indeed. I was set to order that panini.
Grilled ham & cheese Panini with swiss button mushrooms, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese – $16
The stringy mozzarella totally made my day. The amount of ingredients in the panini may not look like much, but the taste is spot on. And with a hint of rosemary, it was a killer panini. The sandwiches at Group Therapy are served with a salad (that comes with yummy couscous) and chips. The chips were so good, we were wondering if they made their own. But apparently they don’t. They were very lightly salted and they just didn’t seem like store-bought ones.
Roasted Almond Latte – $6.50
We asked for recommendations, and their Roasted Almond Latte is a house specialty. Hann Khee ordered it and I took a sip. Very impressed. Definitely one of the better lattes around. It doesn’t leave a sour aftertaste that some coffees have, and the almond aroma is strong. I could sniff it forever. I believe it was already sweetened, maybe with almond syrup, so we didn’t have to add any sugar. Personally, I’m not one to have latte with sugar. However, when it comes to local brews, I go for kopi-c siu dai.
Claire ordered the Mint Hot Chocolate, but I think they gave her the regular Hot Chocolate instead. No hint of mint at all, and rather disappointing anyway. The hot chocolate wasn’t rich and creamy. A little too diluted.
Smoked salmon avocado sandwich with cream cheese, avocado slices & rocket leaves – $18
This sandwich was huge! And much more stuffed than my panini. You can’t go wrong with smoked salmon and cream cheese, I guess. I’d skip the avocado though. Just way too much fat in one sandwich, albeit healthy fats. Or maybe I’m just not too big a fan of avocado. I just get sick of it after a while. Hann Khee didn’t finish the sandwich, because he ordered two additional poached eggs (for $3), and just because he loves poached eggs. They, apparently, are “like a symphony playing” in his mouth.
PS. This smoked salmon avocado sandwich photo won me photo-of-the-day in the OpenRice #Makanhunt Instagram contest 😀 I wonder what my prize is!
Poached eggs with thick toast, smoked salmon, gruyere, hollandaise – $15
Claire had the poached eggs and I think this may just be as good as my panini. What really made this poached egg dish stand out for me compared to other cafes is their hollandaise sauce. I can’t really start to describe it, but definitely give it a go when you’re at Group Therapy.
I’d definitely place Group Therapy among the top cafes on my list. Can’t wait to go back for more!
Group Therapy Coffee
49 Duxton Road, #02-01
Dear Hector Tan got into an accident in Africa and had to be evacuated back to Singapore. Going to visit him at the hospital now. Praying for him every day. We were supposed to both train and fight one last time before retirement from Muay Thai! 😦
Get well soon, friend ❤