Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dinner with KJ

Met KJ for dinner last night....she surprised me with the prettiest sunflower bouquet!

Some friends had commented that they hardly see any photos of me on my blog or in Facebook.....so, here's one of me (photo taken by KJ while we were queueing at Ma Maison).
We had clam chowder, seafood paella and pork croquette....and some asahi beer.
Back home, the lovely bouquet is now sitting on the table where I can admire it.
Thanks for everything my friend!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sun-tanning in the heartland.....

When I looked out of my windows this afternoon.....I saw something on the tiny grass patch downstairs.....
....it was a caucasian guy suntanning! I found it quite funny....'cos RG and I were just complaining about the heat when we were out for only a short while to buy lunch....and yet, this guy was seen lying under the scotching sun for almost an hour! While it's such a torture for us to stay in the hot sun even for a minute....the boy didn't seem to be getting enough of it. Interesting!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly.....

Incident 1 - BAD
Bought a universal remote control from an IT shop in Tiong Bahru Plaza. Had checked with the staff (sales staff & cashier too) SEVERAL times if there's a return policy and was told "yes, no problem at all. Just return the good in its original packaging together with the receipt in 7 days for a full refund". When the remote didn't work on my TV, I did as I was told...brought remote back in its original packaging with the receipt within 7 days.

First the staff handling the return asked all kinds of questions like "why you want to return?", "what's wrong with the item?" etc. Then he scrutinized the item front, back, up, down & centre (I was pretty sure he would've used a microscope to inspect the remote if he had one!). Finally, he told me that a cash refund was not possible....and that I could either find another item (of a similar or higher price) to exchange for and pay the difference in price or I can top up another SGDXX.XX to obtain a cash voucher of the smallest denomination.

All these options require that I spend more or buy something that I don't really need. And none of these "conditions" were conveyed to me even after I had asked the staff numerous times regarding the return policy before purchasing the item 'cos I was really worried that the universal remote might not work on my TV! In the states, there are no questions asked for refunds and you either get a credit on your account or cash back on the spot! And I know that I won't be looked upon like a criminal/cheat when I need to return something.

Incident 2 - BAD
I was going to purchase a scarf at a clothing shop at CCK Mall. The price tag clearly read SGD9.90. I proceeded to the cashier to make payment. First I was made to wait really long for someone to appear at the cashier....then the lady started keying in the price and then took my credit card to swipe. Then she told me "oh, by the way, the scarf is not SGD9.90....the actual price is SGD14.90". Great...I was told about the wrong pricing only after the price had been keyed in and my credit card swiped!

So I told the cashier that the price tag clearly read SGD9.90 and the rest of the scarves on the same rack were all priced at SGD9.90. She said "yah, sorry...I'll get the staff to price them correctly later". In the states, wrong pricing on goods do occur fairly frequently....and when that happens, the shops would usually honour the price even if it's much lower than what it should be. I had once bought a floor rug for only USD1.00 in the states 'cos the item was tagged wrongly...yet the wrong price was honoured by the shop.

Incident 3 - BAD
We had made a room reservation for a night's stay at a new fancy hotel in Singapore yet we did not receive any email confirmation or payment invoice. And when we called the reservation hotline on numerous occasions, the calls went answered. So we wrote them an email to check regarding our online booking and guess what, there was no reply either.

And when I finally got through to the reservation hotline after many many tries, I was told that our booking was confirmed. I asked why there wasn't an email confirmation at least...and the staff told me that the booking system is not capable to do that yet! I also asked why our email went unanswered and the staff could only muster a feeble sorry. For a big hotel chain....I'm quite surprised by the poor service standards. I just think that if the hotel is not ready to handle guests' bookings...then perhaps they should've delayed their opening.

Incident 4 - BAD & UGLY
Since I got back, I've seen and personally experienced numerous cases of people cutting queues (i.e. at the supermarket, shops, cab stands, cinema etc.). And what's shocking to me is, the people cutting queues are young SG adults who look educated. They were so shameless and even after they were being told off for cutting queues, some of them would still talk back or stare at you like you were being a bitch! Grrrrhhhhh

Service staff should be trained to handle such situations too. There were many instances when the service staff had witnessed the queue cutting and yet did nothing about it and continued to serve the queue-cutters. It makes my blood double boil! I do not think that should be the case. Service staff should be trained to "tell off" the queue cutters politely and refuse to serve them.

Incident 5 - GOOD
I made an online booking for a hotel in London and paid using my SG credit card. When the amount was charged to my card a couple of days after my online booking, I got a message from the bank saying that an amount of GBPX,XXX had been charged to my card. The sms served to verify the authenticity of the charge as it was an out-of-the-norm overseas transaction.

I think it's a very good system for credit card customers as it'd definitely help to reduce fradulant credit card usages. I wish there is such a system in the states too. Even when I accidentally overdrew on my US checking account...there wasn't any form of notification to alert me of it.

As if there are not enough shopping malls in Singapore already....

On my birthday, we went jalan-ing along Orchard Road. There are 2 brand new malls near Somerset MRT Station and they are 313@Somerset & Orchard Central (former Specialists' Shopping Centre).

Of the 2 mallls, RG and I both prefer 313@Somerset 'cos the mall layout is much better, there are more places to shop at and a huge foodcourt too.

We saw a giant iphone at the apple shop!
We especially like the spacious, bright and clean foodcourt on the top floor of the mall.
Our tea which consisted of dao-hway, hum-cheem-peng & you-jia-kueh. Yumz....
Orchard Central, on the other hand, has kind of a strange floorplan which doesn't feel very conducive for shopping. But there are many interesting restaurants there....which might be worth checking out.
What we like about Orchard Central is the rooftop garden and the lovely views from above. Here's the really long escalator that'd bring you up to the higher levels.

Marina Bay Sands - the new addition to our skyline!There are some very interesting sculptures at the rooftop garden too.

The very busy junction outside Somerset MRT station....the pedestrains looked like little ants...hee hee
This was me getting out of the VW van, looking all sheepish, 'cos the security guard had caught me entering the vehicle to take a photo =P

Monday, July 19, 2010

New developments at Sentosa....

I was at Vivocity again today to meet my friends for lunch. The last time I was at Vivo, I had already noticed all the new developments across at Sentosa. I brought along my camera to take some photos of the changes.....

These are NOT new of course....Vivo has been there for awhile already....the port has been there like FOREVER....
Some uncompleted developments.....
See the round tower in the background.....that's one of my favorite restaurants - Prima Revolving Tower restaurant...still standing proud!
That's the light rail that links Vivocity & Sentosa....It has been only 10+months that we have been away....yet there seem to be so many new developments i.e. circle line, IRs, new malls etc. It is quite amazing really....that there can be so much changes taking place in our tiny island within such a short span of time. Compare that to the states where many of the small towns still look almost the same as what they used to be decades ago!

We haven't been to Sentosa nor have we visited any of the IRs yet. But just today, RG had booked a night stay for us at the new Marina Bay Sands http://www.marinabaysands.com/ on National Day so that we can enjoy the views, celebrations and fireworks from the hotel room. I'm really looking forward to taking photos from the room as well as from the skypark observation deck!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Separated at birth.....

My old Nokia phone's battery had died. Originally, I had wanted to buy a replacement battery 'cos I really liked my Nokia but I was told that the battery itself was SGD60! For that price, I'd rather just get a new phone.

So I asked the telco staff if there was a CHEAP phone that I could get without having to sign a new contract. The staff said "sure!" and then started to show me phones in the range of SGD100-200.

I had to ask her at least 3 times if she had something CHEAPER! Eventually, she grudgingly took out this LG phone and told me that "it's the CHEAPEST phone oleadi!". She definitely made it sound like I was the CHEAPO-EST person in Singapore =P And then, she told me in disgust "this phone got no camera one leh!". Yes dear.....if I had wanted a camera....I won't be buying a phone!

So anyway....my cheapo LG phone cost me SGD48 - at least it's still cheaper than buying a replacement battery for the old Nokia phone! The phone is almost identical to the one that I'm using now in the states (see below - right one is from the states).

I couldn't resist telling the telco staff that I had gotten the same phone in the states for only USD20 and on top of that, I was given USD30 worth of call time! So please don't bloody think that I'm a cheapo 'cos I'm still paying SGD48 for the same phone.

I see that many Singaporeans have very fancy cellphones (i.e. iphone, HTC, blackberry etc) that are top-of-the-line models. There seems to be some kind of pressure to be always seen to be carrying the latest and best phones. It's sad....how materialistic we have become. When have we start allowing STUFFS i.e. cellphones, cars, bags etc to define who we are?!!

In Singapore...when it rains...it POURS!

It has been raining quite abit in Singapore lately. So much so that there had been numerous incidences of flooding in many different parts of the island. I'm thankful that our flat is on a little hill (BUKIT Ho Swee: BUKIT = HILL).

The tropical storms usually come too fast, too furious....I managed to take a photo of one such big downpour. Just look at the big rain droplets!

But it's always nice after such heavy downpours 'cos the temperature would be much cooler, the air feels much cleaner and the trees look much greener!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


DAISO has always been one of my MOST favorite shopping places in Singapore and Japan! I was having lunch with a friend in Vivocity today and decided to drop by DAISO just to take a look (I swear I went with the intention of looking only!!)......but the minute I saw all the bag making hardware....I went berserk! I mean.....everything for SGD2.00!!!

I bought some of the bag making stuffs in the states but they cost many many times more......so I loaded up my basket with zippers, spring frames (for purses), button kits, snap closures etc....think I almost cleared many of the shelves =P

Funny thing was.....nobody else seemed to be looking at these stuffs....I guess not many people in Singapore are into sewing and crafts. Luckily all these things are quite light.....they should all fit into my 1 suitcase of 20kg comfortably.

Next on my shopping list.....FABRICS!!! Must head over to Arab St one of these days....

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tiong Bahru Market

As I mentioned before, Tiong Bahru Market is just a stone throw from my flat. I like the market 'cos there's just so much to see and buy....from fresh produce, meats, fabrics, toiletries to all the yummy local cuisines!
I love the many flowers shops on the ground level of the market.....there are so many different types of flowers - cut ones as well as potted ones. And the flowers are all very fresh looking.

And fruits.......I don't even know where to start.......

The wet market is on the ground floor and the food stalls are on the 2nd level....
See all the new high-rise buildings in the background......
Here's the famous chwee kueh stall......I'm not such a big chwee kueh fan but I've tried it before and it ain't too bad.
That's our breakfast.....RG with his kway-chap....(I love how the stall owners will give him a look of disbelief when he goes to order his kway-chap or pig's organ soup! They'd always exclaim "got pork leh!").....
Me.....I prefer my chee cheong fun and soon-kueh!!! I really really miss soon kueh when I was in the states!
To get to the market and back.....we need to walk pass the old walk-up flats...I like that the estate has an old charming feel.....very nostalgic!

These are probably the original shutter windows.....

I don't see these old mailboxes anywhere else anymore!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Our 54sqm of cosy-ness.....3-STD flat in Tiong Bahru

We are back in sunny Singapore!! =)

For my readers in North America and other parts of the world, here's a peek into how the majority of the Singaporeans live - in public housing (we call them FLATS).

Just before we left for the United States, we had downsized to a itsy-bitsy 54sqm flat...which is approx 3 times smaller than our previous place.

When we first looked at the flat, it was very bare and with most of the original floorings and tiles. The whole place was quite dirty and smelt of pee. But for whatever strange reasons, RG and I both liked it a lot....and we were ready with an offer the very next day after our viewing.

Here are some photos of how the flat had looked like......

The bathroom was a nightmare. It was poorly designed - long, narrow and without any ventilation. The access to the bathroom was right at the end of the kitchen which we thought was kinda weird and gross too (imagine someone cooking and another pooping at the same time =P)

The entries to the rooms were also right off the tiny living room which provided very little privacy.
RG worked on the reconfiguration of the layout (mainly the room entries & bathroom access)....he is very good at that! With the new floorplan, we engaged a general contractor to oversee the entire renovation. It wasn't easy 'cos we were on a tight budget and had very little time as we were leaving for the states in a few weeks time.

Below, the doorways to the rooms were changed.....some parts of the old walls were taken down and some new walls were put up....
Based on RG's ideas, the contractor helped realised the new floorplan which involved the creation of a new access to the bathroom and a tiny foyer to provide more privacy to the rooms.
We wanted a light, bright and airy look......so we chose lighter colors for the wall/floor tiles as well as kitchen cabinets.
Old windows were replaced too.....
RG bought me a granite sink which I absolutely love!
We left Singapore before the renovations were completed......my parents, RG's sister and brother had helped oversee the renovation project till completion. We are so grateful to them!

And here's what we returned to.......
I love that the laundry and kitchen sink area is very bright and airy!
We kept several pieces of our old furniture and appliances.....they look kinda too big for our tiny flat but we tried to make the best out of what we have. According to my mom, the movers had brought over 45 big boxes of our stuffs and that's not including the chunky furniture etc. The movers had to make 2 trips despite the super big truck =P
So now, from the living room area, the entries to the rooms and bathroom are out of sight.
We had to sacrifice some space in the master to carve out this little foyer.
We couldn't do much about the length and narrowness of the bathroom, but we tried to make the bathroom brighter with the glass blocks, brighter lighting and most importantly - a ventilation fan! I really enjoy bathing with the rain shower.
Despite having to sacrifice some space in the master, we still managed to fit in our king size bed and TV. We don't have a wardrobe in the room right now 'cos we are using that corner as a small study. Our wardrobes and all our other stuffs are in the other room which we are using as temporary storage right now.
We are very happy with how the flat has turned out. It's small but very cosy for the 2 of us. The best things are the LOCATION (we are 5+min to Tiong Bahru MRT, 2min to Havelock food centre and 5min to Tiong Bahru market and plenty of buses to town area) and the pretty unblocked, greenery views.
There's a giant tree as tall as the flat (we are on the 8th floor, 9th is the top floor) that provides for a nice green view and much privacy (I can change in the room even though I haven't put up the curtains and I can see the open sky when I lie down in bed!).
We are very happy to be home.....it is a very comfortable place. We love it and we wouldn't change a thing about it. This is heartland living at its best!