Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gatsby: A Hidden Gem We'll Miss!

Soo hye, Jens' boss, introduced us to a hidden gem in Singapore. Gatsby is an elegant little restaurant in an area called Chijimes, near City Hall. Excellent food...and the best part? All main courses and drinks 50% off, every single day. The worst part? They are changing management and are closing down the location. We made it there two days before it closed down for an excellent meal of pasta and steak (for the boys).

Soo hye even spoke with the chefs, to find out which restaurants they are moving to next (He even has a favorite meal!). So hopefuly we'll enjoy food that good, that cheap in Singapore again.

So, we headed over to (my favorite!) Menotti cafe for some delicious Italian dessert. Like most of our local and non-German friends, we are STILL trying to figure out the correct, German pronunciation of "aphel strudel mit zanna" :P

From left: Soohye, Jens, Sean and I at Gatsby in Chijmes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Chinese New Year @ the Office

Chinese New Year celebrations continued this week at the office. Monday we had a traditional Chinese New Year "Lo Hai" lunch at a restaurant. The 10 course meal starts with a salad that everyone at the table tosses together....the higher you toss it, the more prosperity you have in the coming year! Kinda messy...but lots of fun!

Sitting at the "Vegetarian" table was quite the challenge. Our office has a handful of vegetarians and/or Halal-only people, but it took THREE times for them to actually bring vegetarian food to the table "oh, you don't eat fish?" "Fish sauce isn't vegetarian?"...

So, eventually, we ended up with veggie food that they did their best to make look like meat...we even got a yam pastry dish that they made in the shape of a fish!

Tuesday afternoon we had a Lion Dance come into the office. Deafeaning loud drum players, colourful red costumes and a giant "Lion" played by two Chinese dancers. The Lion went around to every desk in the office and "ate" an orange left for him. He also left us a message before leaving the office..

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hong Kong Drama: The Protege

Protege is a film from Hong Kong, a drama about an undercover cop working in the heroin trade for 7 years. Acting as a drug dealer for unempathetic businessmen, he struggles to watch his neighbour, a beautiful single mother fight her addiction. Brutally graphic, painfully sad, and shockingly believable, this film left me glued to the screen, despite the fact all I wanted to do was look away. Like another Mandarin film I saw in Asia earlier, it presented an intriguing story, artfully filmed. Definitely a must-see foreign film, an excellent break from Hollywood's mainstream movies. Click here to visit the official site.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hong Kong: Beautiful City of History, Art, Culture, & Shopping!

Back from Hong Kong, an amazing city so vibrant I wish I was working there. (They also have more holidays!) It is home to a similar Chinese culture to Singapore, yet leaves room for elegant western style buildings that aren't completely structured and planned into a modern metropolis. From the nightlife in SoHo South of Hollywood Road", to the vegetarian food almost everywhere, to the amazing sports outlets that make the US look expensive; I love it!

Delapidated buildings with modern stores on the first floor in Mongkok, an old fashioned tram on HK Island and high class hotels in Tsim Sha Sui provide a refreshing juxtaposition.

For all of you skimming my site, this slideshow is a brief overview, and I've added details so click to see my comments on FlickR. Pics and stories continue in the 2nd HK all-in-one post below the slideshow!

Hong Kong: Beautiful City of History, Art, Culture, & Shopping! (Continued)

At first site, our hostel looked quite ghetto...dilapidated building, narrow streets, random signs and stores with only Chinese writing. Not to mention the cargo lift with manual doors..felt like you were letting yourself into a jail cell! Inside, a tiny, renovated, super clean, unit with free i-net was a pleasant surprise...we spent our first 3 hours in Hong Kong sleeping, enjoying the air conditioning!

We splurged for our first dinner in Hong Kong...found a cute little pub on Nathan Road called Delaney's. You'll never guess what I found, after 6 months...a veggie burger! Fattening pub food, but the apple pie and custard dessert made it all worth it. Reminds me of, I miss that place a lot.

Hong Kong boasts one of the world's best night views, on Victoria Peak. Unfortunately, although we tried 3 times, we never saw a perfectly clear view...too much fog in winter I guess. Still beautiful by the Tsim Sha Tsui Harbourfront.

Nightlife...Lai Kwai Fong is so much livelier than Singapore's Clarke Quay. Although the streets were full of foreigners, most likely due to the Chinese New Year, the bars and clubs had a fun atmosphere.

Soho, however, remains my favorite place. It only took me two days to find the city's best Italian coffee shop. If you're in the area, visit Portobello's on Shelley & Elgin...cute atmosphere, couches, strong espresso and delicious chocolate cake, yum! Although I will say their local bakeries beat Singapore's by a million times...they have REAL wholegrain, rye, wheat bread; everywhere.

Basically, we spent Saturday Sunday and Monday touring the city, nightlife and excellent HK Museum of History. Not to mention shopping at the rows upon rows of stores, outlets and luxury malls.

Lantau is a Hong Kongonian island we visited on Tuesday. Very very touristy...not a bad place to visit, but seeing as the "historical" buddha statue was acutally made in 1970, it's a bit commericalized. Lunch at the vegetarian monastery...ick!!! Mushy tofu and bland veggies. Many of you know I'm no artist with chopsticks...but you try eating corn soup, with big chunks of corn-on-the-cob in it...with plastic sticks!

Our last day was perfect, a recap of our favorite places, dim sum at Luk Yu Tea House and more shopping. Perfect...except the part where we had to leave on our hurried trip to the airport. Yikes, they're not kidding when they say arrive 2 hours before the plane leaves. One late bus, and United Airline's thorough handbag check made us seated in the plane 15 minutes before takeoff...BARELY made it!

P.S. Want another (non veggie) perspective on Singapore? Check out Sean's blog

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Culture Shocked...or Acclimatized?

Two months into my trip I explained my "culture shock"--the things I love, the things I don't, about Singapore. Time here is flying like the wind; just two and a half months left in the city. While there are things I miss about home, here are a few I won't want to leave behind...

  • Fresh, sweet, tropical fruit: Whenever you want it, at every food court, as fresh fruit, cut fruit, juice or milkshakes. It really would be a great business idea; set up those food courts at home. Our food courts have one choice; grease. With the trend towards healthy eating in North America, I think it could work!
  • Authentic Thai food: The one food I will miss...we'll see how the restaurants back home compare to the amazingly spicy veggie food that the Thais cook.
  • Singapore's location: proximity to so many countries I wouldn't have thought of as typical holiday places before my trip (Cambodia,Thailand, Laos, Hong Kong). Beautiful Malaysian islands, Indonesia, and the Philippines add to the list.
  • Friends!: I've met so many people so far, locals and Europeans that I know it'll be hard to leave. It's great how many exchange students you can meet at one event. When I'm in Europe (hopefully really really soon!), I'll visit you all :-)

Things I miss...

Ok, so I've gotten used to paying double for my cappuccinos, swallowing a bit of greasy hawker veggies and getting hardly any customer service at all in most venues, but what do I miss most about the Western world?

  • Food (still on the list): No, I have not gotten used to the local Chinese and Malay food, likely because there are very few veggies. Yes, I still want to be able to find Italian food easily for a decent price, be able to have a veggie option on every menu. I have, however, eaten more Indian food here than in the whole of my life...quite funny actually!
  • People that walk at a semi-normal pace: Notice, I did not say 'normal'. Everyone that knows me, knows I like to walk fast. It's easier to get places that way! Here, they CRAWL. Not kidding. Soooooo slow. Painful, actually. What's a bit more annoying is that (even though they drive on the left), they don't walk on the left. Or, on the right. Just randomly, anywhere, right, left, middle, weaving...even in organized places, like the escalator in the train station. At first I thought it was my own, fast-walking self that was overreacting, but I've confirmed this with many other foreigners; they need to sort it out and speed it up!
  • Recycling!! Despite Singapore's anti-litter campaigns and horribly strict where to eat/drink/smoke rules, the country does NOT recycle. It is so difficult to find a recycle bin. I believe I've seen TWO since I've been here. In addition to this, they feel the need to give you two or three bags for everything you buy, or every take-away meal you get (even if it comes in a box!). I've got the most quizzical looks from vendors after asking they don't give me a bag. For a clean country, they need to waste less!
  • All of you back home... Miss ya tons...we're going for a real, Italian, decent-priced cappuccino at La Pasta at the UofA as soon as I get home (atm, may be early August)! Anyone that's there...tell them "Cappuccino Girl" misses them!

Ok, enough complaints...but really, quite reduced if you check my September entry. At any rate, Sean and I are heading to Hong Kong in 3 days, so I'm likely to be off Blogger for about a week. Will post pics before I go though, so sorry to anyone that's checking my flickr...I'll post more soon!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fort Canning At Night

Saturday night we saw Fort Canning Park at
night...quite beautiful. The Valentine's day "Youth & Love" party in the park was not quite. Foreign Youth Club, an international organization, apparently known for great events, hired a tone-deaf band, empty bar, and cheap vendors for the occasion.
I can't really complain though because I met some really great people (Valentine's Day is a bit overdone and depressing for most of us anyway!) I also got to see a few AIESEC members I hadn't seen since last semester.

We actually ended up ditching the party and headed towards Timbre, a bar with great live music. I'm not one to celebrate Valentines, but it was a fun night out!

Top Right: Petina, Kristin, Anne, Sean and I at the Valentine's party
Below: Damien, Anna & Melissa, Heineken's, & good music

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Chinatown Singapore in the New Year

Chinatown definitely turns chaotic for Chinese New Year, here in Singapore. Crazy crowds, tons of people pushing through tons of stalls to buy the Chinese Ang Po (red packets), and so many other trinkets and decorations. Since the city is said to practically shut down over the New Years' weekend (February 18th this year), people are definitely stocking up! If THIS is crowded...I don't know what we're going to do in Hong Kong (yes, finally decided. Hong Kong for 6 days at New Years...12 days left on the countdown :)

2007 is the Year of The Pig (or Boar), and people born in this year are said to be "sincere, pure, honorable and tolerant". Pigs are also said to be lucky, make money easily, and be mild-tempered. You are supposed to share this luck in 2007, if your element is Wood, Fire or Water. I'm an Ox with a Wood quite far off the Pig's horoscope but maybe it'll be a lucky year!

Check out your Chinese horoscope (it's a bit more accurate than expected...) or

find your sign and meaning of your element