30 April, Tuesday

30 April, Tuesday

30 April, Tuesday

CHINA, Luoping – When farmers decided to take up canola cultivation, we bet they didn’t think they’d be helping to make the world a more beautiful place.

Thanks to their brilliant yellow blooms, the canola fields of Luoping turn into a gorgeous bright gold between the months of February and March. The extent to which this crop is grown in the region causes the entire countryside to become awash with this captivating hue.

The magical sight attracts droves of travellers and photographers to the region – along with bees which are attracted to the flowers. Do take care not to disturb the bees too much while you’re out there doing your shooting or posing. Look out for beekeepers who set up temporary hives during the season – they just might have a jar or two of first-harvest honey to sell you.

To complete your trip, don’t miss the annual Canola Flowers Festival, a local festival celebrating Luoping’s exemplary harmony with nature.

Singapore: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Singapore: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Welcome!

Singapore is a cosmopolitan city-state that is ever-changing, constantly being shaped by the ebbs and flows of global trends. A major financial centre hub today, it seemingly stays true to its history of trade and commerce birthed as a strategic port from the early 14th Century.

The Marina Bay Sands that stands prominently as part of Singapore’s skyline today accentuates the futuristic and technological cityscape vibe that has so encapsulated much of the world’s perception of Singapore. Venture further in, however, and you’ll soon become aware of Singapore’s “City in a Garden” dream, spearheaded by the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Botanic Gardens. Treetop jungle bridges, walking trails, and redeveloped eco-working spaces has sought to reimagine Singapore into a sustainable, living and breathing city-state.

To know and experience Singapore one unequivocally needs to know and experience food in Singapore. Dotted with hawker centres and coffee shops in almost every neighbourhood, street food remains the heart and soul of this country. But that’s not all Singapore has to offer; with Michelin-starred restaurants opening by the dozens, there’s a whole spectrum of food choices from around the world at your fingertips.

Through it all, Singapore is a country that has an eclectic mix of food, cultures, and experiences that melds together a form of Westernised modernity with its traditional cultures and heritage.

“A fast-paced metropolis and global financial hub obsessed with world-firsts, where centuries-old cultural practices adorn steel-and-glass facades with a dizzying array of sights, sounds and tastes all year round. Singapore’s multitudinal character is what makes it so difficult to define – much less stay away from.” 

Best Time to Visit

No matter which time of the year, be sure to pack light when you’re visiting Singapore.

Being a tropical island located just one degree away from the equator, it’s no surprise that the climate here is a steady humid Summer that lasts all year round. Temperatures can get as high as 35°C, though the norm ranges from around 30-32°C. January is when temperatures dip down to the coolest, but even then it doesn’t fall below 24°C.

Rather than weather, Singapore’s seasonality is guided by her year-round schedule of colourful festivals and traditional celebrations.

The city is arguably at her prettiest in the second half of the year. Besides the spectacular parade and fireworks that happen every National Day (Aug 9),  a mind boggling array of street light-ups, markets, fairs and processions – with life-sized decorations looming over it all – pop up in celebration of ethnic and religious events observed by the multicultural nation.

Ramadan brings with it the Geylang Serai Bazaar (May to June), which is fast becoming known as among the best place to fill up on the latest food trends. It’s also a great place introduce your palate to the comfort food that is traditional Malay fare.  

 

The arrival of Deepavali in late October sees the vivacious Little India district go into overdrive, with street-wide parties, rituals and feasting. This religious ceremony celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, and devotees carry out face and body piercing in atonement.  

November and December is the time for Christmas light-ups and winter villages. Leading the pack is Orchard Road with its annual light-up that turns the entire street and its malls into something quite magical. We also recommend dropping by Gardens by the Bay for its Christmas Wonderland winter village.   

In February, the city gears up for her largest celebration yet. Chinese New Year sees the colour red taking centerstage – thanks to the hue’s status as an auspicious symbol among the Chinese celebrants. Be prepared for lucky lion dances which are believed to bring good luck and prosperity to homes and businesses.    

Typical Travel Costs

  • Dorm Bed: SGD$25 to $40

  • Mid-range accommodation (Double room in a hotel): SGD$150 to $300

  • Luxury hotel: SGD$350 to $800

  • Street Food: SGD$2 to $6. 

  • The average price of food for one day is SGD$10 to $30

  • Subway ticket: SGD$0.83 to $2.08

Other Notes:

Tipping is generally not expected. Tipping in Changi Airport is prohibited.

Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are accepted in most hotels and restaurants. Though some hawker stalls are starting to implement cashless forms of payment, the large majority of these street food stalls only accept cash.

Getting into the City (From Changi Airport)

By Airport Transfer

The Airport Transfer bus may prove to be the most comfortable, but it’s also the most expensive option. You can opt for the 4-seater limousine at SGD$55 or the 7-seater large taxi at SGD$60. It might be more worth it if you have a bigger group, if not, there are more affordable options below!

By Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)

The MRT is the public train system in Singapore and it’s as efficient as one can get from the Airport into the city as long as you have some time to spare. Easily one of the cheapest options out there, it’ll get you into the city around 45 mins to an hour. All you’ll need is an Ez-Link card and you’re good to go.

By Bus

The alternative to the MRT, public buses are available at all four terminals. You can board with the Ez-Link card (public transport card) or cash but do take note that change is not given so it’ll be best to prepare exact change for the ride.

By Taxi

Taxi remains the undisputed champion when it comes to convenience but as usual, it can get quite costly. A taxi ride into the city would take around 30 minutes and would set you back about SGD$20 to $40.

You can also check out this link for more information on how to get into the city from Changi Airport.

Useful Facts

  • Country Code: +65
  • Currency: Singapore Dollar
  • Time Zone: GMT+8 hours
  • Language: Primarily English, but Mandarin, Bahasa Melayu, and Tamil are spoken as well by different communities.
  • AC Socket Type: Type G – 230V 50Hz
  • Transport Card: Ez-Link
  • Four Seasons: No, tropical Summer all-year round. Thunderstorms are common.
  • Tourist App: VisitSingapore

Getting Around Singapore

Singapore has a small geographical space that allows for a highly dense but efficient public transport system that can get you across the island in 45 minutes. With the MRT lines, you’ll be zipping from one historic neighbourhood to another in less than 10 minutes.

For first-timers to Singapore, you can opt for the Singapore Tourist Pass (STP), which operates like the Ez-Link card to help you get around the city. You’ll get unlimited rides on public transport at SGD$10/$16/$20 at 1/2/3 days respectively. There’s a SGD$10 refundable deposit which you’ll get back when you return card before leaving Singapore.

The STP grants you special deals at certain Food and Beverage (F&B) establishments and various attractions around Singapore as well!

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The Unforgettable Taste of Vietnam

The Unforgettable Taste of Vietnam

If the only Vietnamese food you’ve tried is phở, you’re really missing out on a plethora of delicious dishes defined by daring and distinct use of herbs, spices, and sauces. And eating in Vietnam is not a boring sit-down affair in a sterile restaurant. The nation’s delicacies are better sampled right on the street while you perch precariously on plastic stools as motorcycles zoom by you, only inches away.

We all know street food is the best sort of cuisine, anyway—and Vietnamese eating culture epitomises this down-to-earth authenticity, one that you can taste in its food.

Phở

We would not be phởgiven (pardon the pun) if we curated this list without listing phở.

A good bowl of phở has a complex broth that is at once beefy, herbal, and sweet, with silky rice noodles that you can slurp right up without having to chew.

Combine that with tender morsels of rare beef and the fresh hit of basil and mint, and you’ve got a hearty, comforting bowl of noodles that you’d want to eat for every meal.

While the basis of phở–the broth, the beef, and the noodles—are identical through Vietnam, the North and the South have their own take on it. Phở Hà Nội, or Hanoi-style phở, keeps the dish classic with a heavier and oilier broth, such that the only accompaniments it needs are chopped chili and lime.

The South prefers a lighter broth that is perked up by hits of fresh basil, coriander, and mint, and the crunch of bean sprouts. You can even accentuated the broth further by adding pickled garlic and a multitude of sauces that sit at every table of the phở shops in Saigon.

Bánh Mì

Think of bánh mì as a sort of French-inflected Vietnamese sandwich.

Wedged between freshly baked baguettes is an assortment of fillings that vary according to region—but our favourites are the bánh mì that come stuffed with paté, picked vegetables, heaps of fresh coriander, and of course a generous serving of cold cuts.

The result is an explosion of tastes and textures that somehow perfectly complement each other.

Apart from the joy you feel from consuming the pinnacle of a sandwich, eating bánh mì also imparts a strange, ambivalent sensation to the politically conscious. How can such a delicious meal arise from the tumultuous affair of colonialism?

Though munching on bánh mì bears no fruitful answers, it is a reminder that food is as much a country’s cultural heritage as its architecture.

Gà Nướng Sả

On first sight, gà nướng sả is essentially grilled chicken on white rice or vermicelli noodles, a staple fare of many cuisines. What makes it stand out, then?

As is the case in many Vietnamese dishes, its distinguishing feature lies in the use of sauces and herbs. In particular, lemongrass is a flavour signature to Vietnamese cuisine—East Indian lemongrass is native to Vietnam (and Mainland Southeast Asia) and has been used by people in the region for centuries—and the herb takes the centre stage here.

The chicken is first marinated in a blend of honey, fish sauce, lemongrass (of course), and other secret ingredients, depending on the chef. It is then grilled over a roaring flame that gives it a crackling skin while keeping the meat inside moist and tender.

If you like bbq, you’ll love this piquant and aromatic take.

Bánh Xèo

Despite its lace-like, eggy appearance, bánh xèo is actually more a pancake or crepe than an omelette, as its name, “sizzling pancake”, suggests.

The yellow colour derives from the addition of turmeric to the rice batter, which not only makes it gloriously golden, but also tasty and healthy (turmeric is a powerful antioxidant).

Bánh xèo typically contains shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and greens, and is eaten dunked into a sauce that is unique to every chef.

Like phở, each region has put its own twist on bánh xèo—but unlike phở, these variations can change the flavour profile of the dish immensely!

For instance, you might find bánh xèo  with fruits like banana and starfruit in central Vietnam,  which sort of turns it into a sweet crepe, compared to the standard savoury fillings that the Southern chefs favour.

Chè

Once you’ve had your fill of hearty savoury fare, it’s time to unwind with a traditional Vietnamese dessert, chè.

Chè is actually an umbrella term for any sweet Vietnamese drink or pudding, so there is an endless variety to pick from. The most common ingredients include beans, fruits, tapioca, jelly; the ingredients are then almost always topped with sweet coconut cream.

It’s the perfect dessert for you to cool off during a scorching Vietnamese day, and, with the array of ingredients, you are sure to find one that appeals to your palate.

It’s also super convenient to get—just pop into any grocery store and you’ll find rows of chè in plastic cups lining the shelves—befitting of its status as the national dessert of Vietnam.

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29 April, Monday

29 April, Monday

29 April, Monday

CHINA, Hong Kong – It’s not for nothing that Disneyland is known as the happiest place in the world. When beloved cartoon characters and childhood fairy tales come to life, waving and posing for pictures all around, it’s difficult to feel anything but a sense of wonder and joy.⁣
⁣⁣
⁣The fifth park in the franchise, Hong Kong Disneyland is recommended for travellers new to the Disney experience. With only one park and three hotels, planning becomes much easier. The park also does a good job keeping up with the latest and greatest in terms of rides, shows and attractions; just look at the recent addition of the latest Marvel ride featuring Ant-man and The Wasp.⁣
⁣⁣
⁣For Disney fans in Asia, Hong Kong Disneyland is probably the most accessible and convenient. Plus, needing only one day to fully enjoy the park makes it an easy option to include in your next vacation.

7 Airbnbs in Tokyo for the Budget-conscious to the Family-friendly

7 Airbnbs in Tokyo for the Budget-conscious to the Family-friendly

Hotel accommodations in Tokyo are notoriously known for their rather high price points, which sometimes can be inescapable, especially during peak periods like Sakura season. AirBnbs, however, often present the next best alternative and for some, it could even be the first and only choice.

Moreover, like they always say, if you want the full experience, you have to live like a local. (They do say that right?) Forget the pricey executive hotels so small that you can hardly breathe in and consider staying in these AirBnbs for a renewed living experience in Tokyo.

Image via Airbnb.

CozyHomeHOTEL

This cosy studio apartment has everything you need for a fraction of the price. Kitchen, check. Dining table, check. Work table, check. WiFi, check. Okay, you get the drill.

This Airbnb provides all your travelling needs at well under $100 per night, proving that staying in comfort doesn’t have to burn a hole in your wallet. Oh let’s not forget that it’s near Ueno Park and the Senso-ji Temple in the Taito district. Folks, this is a  steal.

Book Now: From $79 per night

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Scandinavian Style Apartment

This big, spacious Airbnb has artfully designed walls (not forgetting the soft toys) that will be sure to have the kids grinning from ear to ear. With a fully furnished dining table and kitchen, meals can easily be whipped up if you’re up for it.

Able to host up to 8 people, there’s more than enough space and comfort for large families and perhaps no better place to stay for a multi-generational family vacation.

Book Now: From $87 per night

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

301 Kid-friendly Apartment @ Tokyo Skytree

Families with small kids, fret no longer! This Airbnb has a kid-friendly room and play corner that will be sure to meet all your needs. With a colourful bed and playmats lying around, you might find it hard-pressed to get your children to even leave the Airbnb. Aside from the cute kid-friendly room, the Airbnb is stocked with toys and even a highchair for toddlers just learning to walk.

A little cosy room, located right by the play corner, lets you have maximum comfort and still be in proximity of your child. This Airbnb is great for families who have a young wide-eyed child ready to catch a glimpse of the world.

Book Now: From $31 per night

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Cosy Studio Apartment

It’s bright, it’s cosy, and it has everything you’ll need for a solo traveller. From a single stove to microwave, your 12 midnight hunger pangs should be of no worries. With a small little round dining table and a television, this Airbnb is just big enough for you to feel right at home.

If that isn’t enough to tempt you, know that you are also just minutes away from Tonkatsu Santa, one of the best Japanese restaurants offering Tonkatsu (pork cutlet), I’ll leave it at that.

Book Now: From $45 per night

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

FJ58 Traditional Japanese House

Centrally located in Shinjuku, this Airbnb is a two-storey renewed traditional Japanese house  that can host up to 8 people. It’s a place that appears to be a remnant of the past in a district that is buzzing with the modern.

Gone are the blacks and sleek design favoured by so many cookie-cutter hotels now. Instead, here you’ll find  comforting dark brown wooden sliding doors and tatami walls that harken back to the glorious Meji era  — a welcome change if you ask me.

Book Now: From $161 per night

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

J’s Apartment

Where luxury meets tradition, this Airbnb transports you back in time in true style. With a natural cedar wood look and elegant finishings, this Airbnb has blended a modern luxurious feel with the traditional facade of 1940s Japan, making for an attractive stay.

Should you ever find the determination to leave this abode, you’ll be nearby local institutions such as The Ghibli Museum and the Robot Restaurant, both of which are must-visits in the Katushika district.

Book Now: From $112 per night

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Designer Studio Apartment

There’s just something about this designer Airbnb that exudes character. Maybe it’s the minimalist design or the contrast of black sofa bed against the white walls and brown flooring, you can tell this Airbnb was tastefully put together. There’s more than enough space for a solo traveller and even extra beds should you have friends over.

Nestled in Asakasa, one of Tokyo higher-class districts, it’s a distinct blend of Nagatacho, Japan’s center of politics and Roppongi, Japan’s liveliest nightlife district. Get ready for boutique shopping and non-stop bars and pubs.

Book Now: From $100 per night

 

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Image via Airbnb.

Disclaimer: All prices mentioned in this article are subject to Airbnb’s change without notice.

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