Bangkok Shopping Spree (4D/3N)

Bangkok would have to be one of the places where things are cheaper, much cheaper than in Singapore and a shopping paradise for the shopaholics (who like to get things in the bulk and cheap) out there!

Singapore to Seoul: Ways to Maximize Your Cash When You DIY (Flight)

With the average flight to Seoul from Singapore costing about S$1200++ per person (and that’s just economy!) on Singapore Airlines, getting tickets on promotion are definitely worth it.

Volando Urai Spring Spa and Resort (馥蘭朵烏來渡假酒店)

Volando Urai Spring Spa and Resort (馥蘭朵烏來渡假酒店) is located in New Taipei City (Wulai), close to to the Wulai Town (and waterfalls).

Wulai Hot Springs Escapade Itinerary (3D/2N)

While this trip was a simple and short one, it wasn't necessary one of the cheapest: this trip was one meant to enjoy the hot springs and just take it slow (and basically be pampered).

Staycation: Club Room Stay at Rendezvous Hotel Singapore

Rendezvous Hotel Singapore was having a staycation promotion, so needless to say we grabbed the offer (which came with complimentary breakfast, wifii, drinks and snacks).

A Fun (½) Day Out at Alive Museum (Singapore)

Alive Museum (Singapore)
Alive Museum (Singapore)

Alive Museum, previously known as Trick Art Museum, is one of (South) Korea’s biggest chains of illusionary museum which incorporates 2/3D artworks set in different angles to create interesting 3D visual illusions; offering an interesting ‘interactive’ artful experience where visitors can ‘interact’ with the pieces by posing and taking ‘creative’ photos. And it is finally here in Singapore! It is located at Suntec City which makes it relatively convenient to get to too. 
*Thanks to and Alive Museum, I was given the opportunity to visit this intriguingly fun museum! All opinions in this post are completely my own, based on my experience & thoughts.*
Alive Museum (Singapore)
The 'artful' and colorful tickets :)
The adventure started when I meet up with D and we made our way to Alive Museum full of anticipation. When we arrived, we were in awe: there were countless of art pieces (ok there were about 80 or more art pieces, but it’s been a while since we were in a museum so it seemed countless). 

Alive Museum (Singapore)
What lies beyond...

Once we were inside the museum, we slowly warmed up and were soon busy posing and taking (some ridiculously posed) photos. There was none of that ‘stuffy’ museum aura with stern security guards eyeing your every move and signs plastered (almost) everywhere to tell you that no photography is allowed. Contrary to that, there were signs everywhere encouraging you us to ‘interact’ with the art pieces by posing and taking a photo (or two) with them. So it ended up being a fun day filled with nothing but doing funny poses and taking photos with the art pieces. It was a crowded weekend, making it slightly challenging getting some good shots with some of the more popular art pieces, but we still managed to have a fun time posing silly and snapping photos away.

Alive Museum (Singapore)
Just getting warmed up on the poses...
Alive Museum (Singapore)
getting warmer...
Alive Museum (Singapore)
totally abandoning any sense of 'pretty' and just having fun lol

For the few times that we were out of ideas, there was signage (next to the art pieces) to give inspiration on how to pose, where to stand etc… And in addition to the paintings, there were mirrored floors and walls to add to the ‘interactive’ experience… Ultimately we had a blast; even though we were somewhat camera shy (initially)!

Alive Museum (Singapore)
a few ideas for poses

So is it worth to make a trip down to Alive Museum? The answer would be an absolutely yes! Especially if you have not visited before, and/or want a fun day out with friends or family which involves taking lots of ridiculously fun (posed) photos in a artistic environment to bring out your inner artist (lol). It is also the perfect place if you are the sort who just likes to take photos. And there will always be a reason to return: 30% of the exhibits will be switched for new ones ever 12 to 18 months!

For just S$25, the admission fee for an adult might not be the cheapest around, but considering that this is Singapore, it is pretty reasonable pricing (you just have to take your worth in photos haha). Of course, there are ways you can save (that little bit more): 
  1. If you are going in a family, the family package might be more worth it.
  2. If you have the Passion Card, you can save 20% off the original ticket pricing.
  3. Stalk the website or Facebook page for more offers and promotions (you never know what you might come across) ^^

Alive Museum

Website | Facebook | Promotions

Address: Suntec City #03-372 (between Towers 3 and 4)

Ticket price: 

  • Adults $25
  • Child (aged 3-12) $20
  • Family Package $60 (2 adults, 1 child, $10 for each additional child)

Opening hours: 10am – 10pm daily (last admission 9pm)

Current Promotion: Present your full priced ticket and "Like" Alive Museum Facebook to redeem a Burger King Meal worth S$7.85. Offer valid from 21 June to 30 September 2014. While stocks last.
More Information

Travel Thoughts: Bangkok during the coup and curfew implementation

It was just days before the departure for a holiday in Bangkok when the news of a military takeover was announced. While there were some worried travelers who cancelled their flights and postponed their trip immediately, we decided to go ahead (but with precautions of course). Travel insurance was a must, as was signing up with the MFA (Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to keep abreast of the situation and Singapore’s take on the situation, and of course keeping an eye on the local news when we were in Bangkok.

When we arrived at the Suvarnabhumi Airport, nothing seemed out of the ordinary; everything and everyone was bustling about as they should be at a busy airport. Even when we took the BTS to our hotel, it was reassuring that there were no glaring (obvious) signs of the turmoil that was portrayed on the news before we left. Unlike what the news reported, not all areas were high with tension and people went about their daily lives; locals and tourists alike (mostly in the unaffected areas).

Bangkok curfew
Life carries on...

On our arrival (and first day in Bangkok), our plans were somewhat changed because it was also the first day the curfew was implemented (and for all the days throughout our time there): we had to be back in the hotel by 10pm and not leave again until after 5am. The announcement was somewhat sudden, so on that first night we could see from our hotel a “mad rush” (as much as possible) on the roads with vehicles of all sorts filling up the streets to get home before the curfew. I can imagine it to be much more chaotic on the trains and buses.

Other than having to be back in the hotel by a certain time, our schedule was not greatly affected sans the late night market visits and eating part of the trip, and missing out on Asiatique. :( Despite the circumstances, the main inconvenience we had during our time there was the barring of TV channels – there was practically nothing to watch as we were confined within the hotel room for the first 2 nights (more channels were allowed for broadcast the following days, so it wasn’t all too bad).

Even when we were out, life seemed to go on as per usual with little hint to the turmoil that was hidden beneath and often portrayed on the (local) news; it was surreal seeing the chaos and riots on the news and yet walk about streets that were the exact opposite of what was being portrayed. No doubt that there was a crisis that was ongoing, but it seemed distant and life seemed to go on. The only reminder that a curfew was in place by a military coup (that had occurred) was the occasional TV signal (to say that that broadcast has been blocked), and as dusk approached shops closed early (as early as 8pm as they had to get home by 10pm); nightlife was almost non-existent.

Bangkok curfew
A reminder of the situation on television as life continues...

Despite that, we managed to have a good trip and still managed to eat and shop to our hearts’ content (well almost). It was, for the most part, an interesting experience and I would definitely visit Bangkok again sometime in the future.

What is a holiday… really?

A couple of days ago I was reading an article on Yahoo about “4 Common Travel Planning Mistakes That Cost Singaporeans Dearly”, and the author mentions that staycations don’t count as a holiday. What really counts as a holiday (in the author’s eyes) is to get out of Singapore because “The point of going on holiday is to get away from the stress and suffocating congestion of Singapore – and that includes getting away as far as possible from sight, sound and kiasuism other Singaporeans..”

Well, I believe that a holiday, no matter where you are, is something or someplace where you enjoy yourself, being relaxed and just taking it slow or getting to do all the things you want to; which varies for each individual. For the time (and sometime budget/family) constraint individuals, yes a staycation DOES count as a holiday too. The rationale is simple, if your idea of a holiday is just lazing by the pool, chilling out, having breakfast served and just doing the things you normally don’t have time for than it doesn’t matter whether you are outside of Singapore or not... Does it?

Spend a little more and find yourself on Sentosa or even Tioman (for example), where you could convince yourself that you are somewhere out of Singapore (figuratively or literally). I mean, if you are just mostly going to be staying in the hotel and not going out much for your holiday other than eating and shopping than it really doesn’t matter where you are… right? As long as you are happy and have a good time, it doesn’t matter where you are. And if it’s a staycation, you even get to save more (and have a bigger budget for a better room etc…) on the flight fare.

Even if you decide to go overseas, while you might be able to get away from the sight, sound and kiasuism of other Singaporeans, that still won’t spare you from meeting nasty people abroad who behave in strangely similar ways, just in different ‘presentations’. No matter where you are there will be some sort of congestion (unless you decide to head off to some remote place which isn’t well-known to escape people and/or traffic).

Ultimately, it all boils down to your attitude and perspective. If you think that a holiday is an ’escape’ from all of that (and the reality in which you live in), than you will always be coming back ‘home’ more unhappy than when you left and always wishing you could go back. A holiday, in essence, should be something that is viewed as an extension (not an escape from) of your life; where you learn and enjoy the new (and probably sometimes challenging yet fun) experiences, and do it within your means not beyond it. Otherwise, you will only return from each holiday feeling more ‘drained’ than last one.

Dinner at Central World - Zen Japanese Restaurant

After an eventful day out after a half day tour at the Maeklong Railway Market and the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market (ตลาดน้ำดำเนินสะดวก), we decided to head back to the hotel to escape the sweltering heat (for a while) and decide where to go next, Platinum Mall (again) or some other shopping mall in the vicinity. In the end, PrincessyLee decided that we should take a walk to Central World and have dinner there. So walk we did, though the busting (human and vehicle) traffic streets with a whiff of some really bad smog (from the traffic). It took us about 15-25 minutes or so (on foot) to get to Central World Shopping Mall, but it was well worth the walk (sans the scorching sun).

Upon arriving at the entrance of Central World, the outlook of the building was pretty impressive and its interior resembled that of a shopping mall you would be able to find along Orchard Road (in Singapore); a really huge shopping mall and a somewhat upgrade (a little more upscale) from Platinum Mall (in furnishings, décor and items being sold). Central World has its own cinema, a great variety of shops selling clothes, accessories etc…with a good balance of branded designer items, big brands (e.g. H&M) and even budgeted items, and a plethora of restaurants with cuisines ranging from Western, Italian all the way to Japanese.

No thanks to the on-going curfew at the time, we decided to play it safe (no movie or vigorous shopping) and just have dinner instead (after a bout of window shopping of course). Given the variety of food options, it took us quite a while to finally decide what to eat. But decide we did and we chose this Japanese restaurant called, “ZEN Japanese Restaurant”.

Zen Japanese Restaurant
Zen Japanese Restaurant

From the moment we entered the restaurant to when we were seated down and eating, it did not seem that we were in Bangkok at all: the ornaments that adorned the walls and surroundings, and seating layout were very Japanese-like and literally transported us to a place outside of Bangkok.

Zen Japanese Restaurant
The very Japanese interior
PrincessyLee ordered the saba set (with rice) while I ordered a dish that resembled a beef don (or similar). Both meals were served with a soup and a side of kimchi (? – made me wonder for a split second if we were in a Japanese or Korean Restaurant haha).

Saba Set
The Saba Set which came with a bowl of rice and a rather large piece of fresh saba, served with a side of soup and kimchi
The set I had, I think there was rice underneath (lol)
Anyways, the food in general tasted pretty nice and the pricing was reasonable too. Service was prompt and acceptable, though it would have been better if the waitresses/waiters did not just, well, literally stand around and ‘wait’ (it was a slow day given the curfew, protests and all, but still when you have more than 3 waitresses just standing around you while you eat, it can get a little bit stressful).

Thai Milk Tea
And how could we forget the drinks? PrincessyLee had the Thai Milk Tea. This is before it was mixed...
Thai Milk Tea
The drinkable version, all milky tea goodness! ^^
Sprite - the Thai Version
It seems that I was on a Sprite spree when I was in Bangkok. I just love the slim looking cans hehehe

With dinner in our happy tummies, we made our way back to our hotel sidetracked to Platinum Mall again for another round of intense shopping (lol) and managed to buy bubble tea, before ending the day with a wonderful Thai foot massage.

Bubble Tea
Some random bubble tea shop that we stumbled across called COCO
Bubble Tea
Tea with bubbles (pearls) for just 50 baht. It was pretty nice.

Dinner at THE WALK + Chili

After all the shopping and getting a nice relaxing foot massage, it was time for dinner at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant. As the curfew was still in place at the time, the restaurant closed earlier (at 11pm), so we wasted no time in getting our dinner after a long’s day of walking and shopping.
The Reception
When we arrived at the 20th floor (via the elevator) we were greeted with a very ’happening’ reception area. The reception area was empty, but a few seconds later a waitress pop ups from behind a door and upon learning that we were here for dinner, she ushered us past the bar area (which was deserted, given that the curfew was in place) and up some stairs to THE WALK, which was located on the 21st floor.
Chili Hip
Chili Hip, a left turn and we were at...
...the lounge/bar area. After walking straight and up a couple of stairs...
The (overall) lighting was slightly dimmer than expected (ok, it was practically dark, except for the lights that illuminated off the surrounding buildings and projector), so it was a tad hard to see what we were ordering. It would have been better if the tableside(electronic) candles were brighter, but we somehow still managed to order a plate of Phad Thai Noodles and Phad Thai Rice (I think). Our booking came with complimentary drinks (e.g. soft drinks, wine, or fruit juice), which was a nice touch.
While waiting for the food, we marveled at the surrounding night lights and the other patrons who were there that night just for a drink or two. There was a group of elderies (in their 50s-60s) seated at the table next to us commenting that it was too dark to see what was on the menu (lol), but they too managed to order their dinner in the end.
Night time in Bangkok
Night time in Bangkok
The food soon arrived and we found ourselves happily digging in with the surrounding night lights and ‘hip’ fashion music playing in the background.
The starter: warm fluffy soft bread served with the restaurant's own special concocted sauce reminiscent of satay sauce with a pinch of lemon grass; very peanuty and refreshing at the same time.
Phad Thai Rice
Phad Thai Fried Rice (I think): The rice was flavorful and the seafood fresh.
Phad Thai
Phad Thai Noodles: well flavored and simply a delight to eat with the flavors bursting in the mouth, along with fresh seafood.

Although the lighting was dim, the wait staff did an excellent job being attentive at taking our order, serving the food and even processing payment at an efficient pace. So with our tummies filled, we ended the night by heading back to our room for some serious last minute packing.

8 Course Chinese Lunch

It was neither a wedding lunch, nor was it a baby’s month old celebration, but rather it was a combination of both as we were invited for the family lunch at Tung Lok Seafood Orchard Central.

Usually a Chinese wedding lunch (or dinner) would entail of guests eating 8 or 10 course meal and seated according to familiarity with about 10 to table. A red packet containing money (with a minimum sum for the couple to cover their costs - basically paying for your share of the food/table, but of course you can always give more), sealed and signed off with the giver’s name is the norm (for a gift). Lunches are cheaper than dinners and holding the function on a weekend would cost more. In addition, the amount to give also varies, depending on venue and location. 

Tung Lok Seafood Orchard Central is a branch of one the more well known (somewhat higher end) Chinese restaurants in Singapore (apparently). The lunch was a an 8 courser, starting with a cold dish, followed by soup, scallop with broccoli, sea cumber, fish, meat and noodles, ending off with dessert. While the food was just slightly above average, it has been a while since I last went to such an occasion, so what better opportunity to take the photos just for memory’s sake.

Cold Dish
Starter: Pieces of shrimp (or was it lobster) in the mixed fruit salad, served with a side of shrimp (lobster?) meatballs coated with salted egg (yolk) and salmon rolls
Soup: Since there wasn't any menu, I am guessing that this was sharkfin's soup with pieces of crabmeat
Broccoli and Scallop
Broccoli and scallop sauteed in a chili sauce
Fish. It was too fishy and quite fresh.
Roast Chicken
Dessert: yam with ginko nuts and fattening coconut milk

Fine Dining at SILIQ Restaurant for Dinner (Volando Urai Spring Spa & Resort)

SILIQ Restaurant
SILIQ Restaurant decor during the day

It was our last night at Volando Urai Spring Spa & Resort and dinner was at the SILIQ restaurant, a fusion restaurant that blends the best of east and west. The service was impeccable, as expected of a restaurant of fine dining, but I much preferred the wait staff over at ABU restaurant because they were more smiley and welcoming. Ok, I might be a tad biased since that was the restaurant I was pleasantly surprised with my surprise (and complimentary) birthday soufflé cake (with birthday song to boot) the night before.

ABU restaurant
le birthday soufflé cake by ABU Restaurant

Anyways, unlike tea time there weren’t many guests for dinner at 7.30pm so it exuded an exclusive vibe, just like its cousin ABU restaurant (which serves up French cuisine and is also located within the resort grounds). Located on the higher grounds of the resort, the view of the river was not as pretty as ABU restaurant, but it was at night and there were blinds so the view didn’t matter much.

We were promptly seated and brought the menu to make our selection for dinner. Not long after, the food soon arrived in fine dining style:
Grains Chinese Bun
Grains Chinese buns (essentially slightly toasted fragrant mantou) served with basil butter, cinnamon meat saucr & sesame sauce
Siliq special platter
Appetizer: Siliq special platter which consisted of fresh scallop, fragrant mushroom & yummy smoked duck
SILIQ soup
Onion Soup which was lightly flavored and pleasant on the palate
SILIQ Restaurant
DramaQueen had the Wild Prawn Plum Jelly Salad...
SILIQ Restaurant
... while I had the Smoked Salmon Salad Spring Onion Dressing
white gourd Lemon Sorbet
White gourd lemon sorbet to wash the taste buds for the next dish!
SILIQ Restaurant
Tender Fried Spring Chicken which was tenderly juicy and surprising not as oily as it looked
SILIQ Restaurant
DramaQueen had the Seafood Club Cranberry Sauce which consisted of codfish, prawn, mussel & clam
SILIQ Restaurant
And I had the salmon steak
SILIQ Restaurant
Dessert consisted of mozzarella, apricot & ganache, blue cheese & NZ Cheese with Longan Yogurt Mousse and a piece of chocolate

Dessert was a pleasant surprise and DramaQueen was absolutely taken with it because it had popping candy hidden within the empty shell of the chocolate. It was a poppingly sweet touch to end the night (and dinner). By the time we finished dinner, it was almost the stated closing time of 9.30pm.

With our tummies (overly) satisfied, we made our way back to the room (which was on the same floor) to watch a couple of DVDs before exploring the public hot springs (which we went the next day after breakfast) and ordering supper (just to experience it) before ending the night (finally!).
Volando Urai Spring Spa & Resort Supper
One set of supper to end off the night ^^

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