Archive for the ‘Singapore’ Category

The Secret Mermaid

It makes me quite happy when I’m at The Secret Mermaid and seeing people browse over the spirits, talk about their preferences, and enjoy the cocktails. Who would have thought this tiny spot in Raffles Place would work?

TSM FacadeTSM glass and light 4

TSM MermaidTSM Space 1

Bottle Wall 1Light and sign

I suppose it’s a passion project. The Secret Mermaid is set up to be the tasting room for the craft spirits that we import from America and distribute via Liberty Spirits Asia.


You can take the guy out of the Mcdonalds…

But you can’t take the Mcdonalds out of the guy.

The annual festival of fast food has begun!

Kickstarted it yesterday with not one but two meals provided by Mcdelivery.  What a stupendous world-changing moment it must have been when the first person came up with the idea of food delivery.  “I want food… but I don’t want to make it… and I don’t want to go out into the wild to get it…”

Admittedly I wake up today feeling like my blood has turned into something synthetic and the leftover apple pie tasting rubbery (breakfast!) but that’s part of the full Mcdonalds experience.

Soon it will be time for house-visiting and gorging on things that are unhealthier than fast food. Bak kwa and pineapple tarts!

Singapore government scholarship bonds

In the US I never heard of anyone having a scholarship bond.

I can’t begin to understand it – at age 18 committing to 8 years of a job or company before you have even attended university.

One former scholarship holder looks back on her experience.

If you’re considering a government scholarship bond, this is a must-read.

Pizza Hut Online – I solved you!

Oh happy day.  Happy, happy, happy day!

I have a soft spot for fast food and convenience.  Getting pizza delivered to my apartment brings me joy each time.

The ordering process, however, does not. Time spent on the phone repeating my order, clarifying the address, confirming the credit card… agh!

Last year, I was thrilled to discover they had implemented web ordering for delivery.  I thought to myself, “How great! I can sit here at the computer, browse the menu, and with a couple clicks hot pizza will be sent to me.  No human interaction necessary!”

And then I tried to use the system.


It would never complete the registration process.  I would enter in my contact details, click submit, and then it would get stuck at the message saying, “Processing your registration.  Please wait.”  My determination to create a Pizza Hut online account drove me to leave that registration page up for 3 hours.  Same result.

I wrote MULTIPLE (yes, I’m that free) e-mails to Pizza Hut to let them know of the registration problem.  I got ZERO responses.  I called up Pizza Hut (for my manual orders) and told them of the issues.  They informed me they were aware of it and had no solution.

I HAVE FOUND THE SOLUTION!  (At least for Internet Explorer 8.0 users).

  1. Start Internet Explorer in “InPrivate” mode (CTRL-SHIFT-P or click on the “Page” dropdown)
  2. Go to
  3. Enable “Compatibility View” (click on the “Page” dropdown and select “Compatibility View” or click on the icon to the right of the URL / address box)
  4. Click “No” on the Security Warning that comes up asking “Do you want to view only the webpage content that was delivered securely?”
  5. Register for a new account

Result: Success!

Pizza Hut may have fixed their page so these steps are all unnecessary, but every time I tried before, it failed.  With these steps, registration worked.

Now let’s see if my pizza shows up on time.

Pizza Hut Singapore owes me.

(Written on the HP Mini 1000 while waiting for the pizza to be delivered)


Because we could all use a little tolerance and acceptance.

Read Popagandhi

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Is Iowa more tolerant than Singapore?

When it comes to gay rights, Iowa certainly is.  Gay marriage is now legal in Iowa.

Though to be fair, this was a decision from the court and not put to a vote by the state population.


“But the thing is,” she went on, “it’s really none of my business. Who am I to tell someone how to live? I live the way I want, and they should live the way they want. I’m surely not going to stomp and raise heck and campaign against it.”

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Enjoy the difference!

Can someone explain the logic behind the Budget Terminal’s slogan “Enjoy the difference!”

Is it being sarcastic?  What part should I enjoy?  The walk in the rain from the plane to terminal since there’s no jetway?  Or the 400 meter slog to immigration along a concrete hallway lined with iron bars on the windows?

Photo from StarvingFox

Clearly I’m not the only one with this opinion.

A nicer slogan would be:
"Budget Terminal: Welcome to Singapore"

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MRT Haiku

Deep breaths, hairy arms
rub their bristles on my skin
We all roll along

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What Chinese New Year means to me

Chinese New Year – typically an occasion for families to come together for reunion dinners, house-visiting, and awkwardness for anyone single above the age of 25.  The family dinner on New Year’s Eve is probably the most significant meal a family will have for the whole year.

For me, being a foreigner with no family here, Chinese New Year has taken on a different kind of celebration.  During the early new year period (New Year’s Eve and the first two days), food courts, hawker centers, and most other businesses are closed.  As these are the places where I get my meals from, it becomes difficult to eat.  A little planning is necessary.

So I have dubbed Chinese New Year the FESTIVAL OF FAST FOOD.  It lasts for 3 days and also involves visiting… visiting the temples of Mcdonalds, Subway, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

It is a celebration of the vitality of life… being able to eat quickly, cheaply, and getting your full range of nutrients, additives, and processed chemicals.  When I order my food take-away, there is sheer joy in walking home, the french fries in the brown paper bag tempting me to dive in immediately.

Of course there are customs during this Festival of Fast Food:

– Similar to how one is not supposed to wash their hair on the first day of the new year (it washes away wealth), one is not allowed to wash their fingers after eating KFC until first licking them. 

– Before eating the Lo Hei salad for CNY, the sweet dressing and wonton skins need to be put in… which is the same rule that you never eat a Subway sandwich without adding at least mustard, mayonnaise, or vinaigrette.

– Wearing red during CNY is important to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune.  In the Festival of Fast Food, the corresponding rule is to drizzle ketchup all over any french fries. It wards off the perils of overcooked fries and too little salt. On a related note, I enjoy soggy Mcdonalds fries.

– For CNY, they say what you do the first day of the year will reflect the rest of the year.  That is why on the first day one must eat at Burger King.  Cause after all, it’s good to be king.

Follow these traditions and you will enjoy a bountiful Festival of Fast Food.

可能从天空熔化,奶酪,并在薯条斯普劳特从地球。 大腹部及所有的流动血管!


(You can translate the above from Simplified Chinese to English)

May the cheese melt from the skies and the fries sprout from the earth. A big belly and flowing arteries for all!
Happy Festival of Fast Food!

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5 thoughts for the Singapore Tourism Board

Tonight I’ve been asked to participate in a focus group that will be discussing Singapore’s tourist attractions.  I’m not entirely sure if that is the topic as they don’t tell you what the focus group is about, but in the “qualifying” statements they listed:

  • I am a foreigner who has lived in S’pore for at least 2 years
  • I have hosted visitors from abroad
  • There are aspects of Singapore’s culture that intrigue me
  • I am NOT in the marketing / advertising and travel / tourism / hospitality industry
  • I have been to most of these cities: Bangkok, KL, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai

So in preparation for this focus group, I’ve thought about what I like – as a foreigner – when it comes to tourist sites in Singapore and some areas in which I think the Singapore Tourism Board should think more about.

1) Promote Little India
I know most locals seem to hate the place.  Mention Little India’s appeal and their first response is, “Have you seen it on a Sunday??”  Yes, I have.  It’s like one massive street party with a smattering of Bengali, Sri Lankan, South Indian, and Nepalese culture.  What’s that?  A Buddhist temple near a Hindu temple?  Awesome.  Bright colors scream out from the stalls, the smells of spices and fragrances are everywhere, and when I walk along Dunlop Street or Desker Road I can marvel at a part of Singapore that is still a bit raw.  When I have visitors, a nice walking tour is:

  • Start on Waterloo Street & Middle Road – walk down Waterloo past the Hari Krishna temple and the Buddhist temple.
  • Head into Little India.  Cut through Rochor Centre before Little India and it’s a nice contrast from a Chinese enclave to the Indian one.
  • Drop by Post Museum – see an exhibit, drink some organic wine (actually don’t – that stuff is nasty – but their other drinks are good)
  • End up at Mustafa.  Eat.

2) Sell on Unique
Build or develop interest in things that make Singapore unique.  Example – Attraction-wise: Night Safari.  That is unique.  (or at least it was – and it’s still the best night-time zoo experience).  Concept-wise: Singapore is a mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and British culture.  Leverage it.  Small country, big city… it might not be unique for shopping, the beach or nightlife, but show me how I can get the best of all 3 in a very short time.  S’pore is easy to get around, I won’t get stuck in (much) traffic, so I can overwhelm myself with activities.

Wait, I just realized that Singapore’s tagline is Uniquely Singapore.  Then we go and do things like build the Singapore Flyer.  What was the point of it?  Taiwan, UK, China, elsewhere… all have “observation wheels.”  I wonder if there has been a single tourist that said,”I want to visit Singapore to ride the Flyer.”  It’s not a draw.

Fun things to do:

  • Get some kaya toast, runny eggs, and kopi for breakfast
  • Head to Sentosa – lay on the beach.  Or if you’re so inclined, check out a museum / attraction
  • After enough sun, relax at Cafe del Mar or come back for a drink at Raffles Hotel (and a stroll around City Hall).  Take a nap.
  • Go to the Night Safari.  Eat dinner there (even though they price gouge you – seriously 5 dollars for lime juice??)
  • Still have energy?  Go to Clarke Quay.

3) Nightlife as a tourist attraction
I’m ambivalent about this.  I think the redevelopment of Clarke Quay was a positive and the combination of nightlife spots such as Clarke Quay, Dempsey Hill, Robertson Quay, etc. make Singapore a top place for night time fun.  I can see that people come to Singapore and know they will have fun.

However I disagree with ideas such as the Crazy Horse debacle (I wrote a column once on how quickly that would fail) or Supper Club (what I consider the Singapore Flyer of nightlife).  Generally, dinner is dinner and a show is a show.  Dinner + show w/ trapeze artists or topless girls = gimmick.  And gimmicks don’t last.

For a big night out:

  • Start at Robertson Quay or Dempsey.  Both have places to “ease” into the night with drinks and dinner.  Loof would be another good choice.
  • Move over to Clarke Quay for the variety and larger rowdier crowd.  Drink profusely.  On a sidenote don’t go to Le Noir because their customer service is atrocious.  (I can never resist voicing my disdain for Le Noir and Supper Club).  I suppose if you’re more Chinese-nightlife oriented you could head to St. James Powerstation instead of Clarke Quay.
  • Zouk is always good late night.
  • And the best part – a greasy supper at Spize.  Get a chicken murtabak and you just might have enough left over for breakfast the next day.

For a sleazy night out:

  • Substitute the Zouk portion above with any KTV with hostesses – if you have some money to burn, go to Tiananmen.  As a westerner this will be guaranteed humorous as you will have no idea what is going on.

For a super-sleazy night out:

  • Add in a stop to Orchard Towers.  “Four Floors of Whores”  And remember to check if that’s really a girl who is grabbing your merry-maker.

But remember, always eat supper and drink some water!

4) Singapore as a shopping destination

I understand why STB wants to promote Singapore as a shopping destination.  It makes money, it’s good for the economy… get the rich tai-tais from Indonesia to come here and spend their money.  My issue with it as a focal point is that promoting Singapore as a shopping destination does not increase the country’s cultural reputation.  Some other place puts on a sale or builds a bigger mall and boom – there goes Singapore’s tourism campaign.

I don’t know why there is such promotion of Orchard Road as the place to see.  A string of shopping malls.  How exciting.  You know what other cities promote themselves by using shopping malls as attractions?  Manila and Dubai.  These are not cities that Singapore should mimic when it comes to tourist satisfaction.

At the focus group tonight (I started writing this before the focus group), they played a video that was supposed to highlight Singapore attractions.  You know what one of the scenes was?  The front of the Bvlgari store.  Videos promoting a country’s tourist industry should not include nonsense like the Bvlgari logo.  Last I checked the brand did not originate in Singapore and I can buy their stuff anywhere in the world.  I did have a chuckle that it was right after the testimonial by Koreans about how they enjoyed Singapore when they showed the logo.

But fine, if shopping beckons:

  • Orchard Road for the standard shopping mall experience.  At least eat some ice cream bread sandwiches on the street
  • See if there’s anything quirky you can find at Bugis Village
  • Stroll down Haji Lane and feel uncool cause everyone else there is young and hip.  Have a coffee at Pluck.
  • End up at Sim Lim Square and buy electronics. :)

5) Chase the pink dollar

That’s right – convince the gay community to come vacation in Singapore.  Apparently from 2001 – 2005 Singapore flirted with the gay community… allowing large-scale parties such as Nation to be held – one party drawing 8,000 people, 40% of which were foreigners.  However in 2005 the government rejected the application for Nation ‘05.  The party then moved to Phuket and whimpered out.

Bring the reputation of acceptance and the pink money back.  If the happiest place on earth allows it, Singapore should too.

(Written on the HP Mini 1000 while eating at Don Pie Club @ China Square. Now my new keyboard has chicken pie grease on it.  I guess this is like a road test).

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