Little India


Among Singapore’s must do areas, Little India is absolutely worth visiting. To me, Little India is the perfect place if you want to have a taste and feel of India! Here are my favourite things to do around colourful Serangoon Road.

1. Have dinner at Khansama restaurant, at the junction between Serangoon Road and Norris road. The food is excellent, the staff very friendly and prices are affordable. If you cannot really eat spicy food they can tune it down for you. And if you do not live in Singapore and are used to Indian best sellers only (like Butter Chicken or Tandoori) you will be amazed by the length of the menu… Go on, try new dishes!!

2. Wander inside Mustafa department store and hunt for bargains. Mustafa centre sells books, CDs, DVDs, electronic goods, footwear, clothing, food, house appliances… basically everything. And this is precisely what makes it fun, you can find anything there!! It’s clearly a low budget department store, so I wouldn’t recommend to go there if you are looking for high-end quality objects. However, you should go there at least once to feel the atmosphere.

3. Experience the Indian crowd on a Sunday night… if you are looking for a real foretaste of India, Sunday night is the best option. Crowds are out, shops’ products are on display in the streets, fragrances invade the streets, women wear colourful sarees…

                         

4. Visit Hindu temples and learn more about Hindu deities! Check out Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman or Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India. But there are many other hindu temples in Singapore of course.

5. Take a stroll around the area when Deepavali lights are out. What a treat!! Deepavali (or Diwali) is the Indian festival of lights. It is a public holiday in Singapore which takes place at the end of October.

6. Enjoy an Indian breakfast! Dosai, chapatis, dahl… served altogether with masala chai, and there you go, a typical Indian breakfast right in the heart of Singapore!!

Of course when strolling around Little India you have to be ready to step into the Indian atmosphere for a while 🙂 But then again, Singapore is diverse and has a lot to offer, so you might as well go for it and live different types of experiences!!

And you, what are your favourite places in Little India?

Singapore’s history


Singapore is an intriguing island… If you stop and think about it, it truly is one of a kind!

Of British colonial descent, it is now mainly populated by Chinese people living together with Malay and Indian people. From a simple fishermen’s port, Singapore has become a key financial hub and the world’s busiest harbour in terms of total shipping tonnage. And did you know that Singapore’s gain of independence from Malaysia was felt by all as a failure rather than a victory?

Here are a few key dates to help you better understand Singapore’s history:

13th century: A prince of the Malay empire founds the port of Temasek where Singapore now stands.

29th January 1819: Sir Stamford Raffles arrives in Temasek and establishes a trading post for the British East India Company. Raffles separates the city in different areas for each population and Singapore gradually becomes the centre of government of the Straits Settlements, a division of the British Empire. Singapore is a prosperous colony.

1939: World War II breaks out. On 15th February 1942, Britain’s “Jewel of the East” falls into the hands of Japanese invaders. Singapore is renamed “Syonan-to” (“light of the South”) and thus begins the Japanese occupation of Singapore.

1945: At the end of the war, the British return to Singapore but change the island’s status to a separate crown colony, allowing Singapore to hold its first elections.

1962-1965: In a referendum, Singaporeans vote for a merger with Malaysia. However, racial riots in Singapore makes the Malaysian Government very angry and on 7th August 1965, Singapore is declared independent. Lee Kwan Yew, Singapore’s Prime Minister, cries on television and seems to think Singapore’s fate is doomed… Racial and political tensions are very strong.

1980s: The PAP (People’s Action Party) wins all 75 seats in the 1980 General Election. Lee Kwan Yew’s role as the “nation’s architect” begins…

I really find Singapore’s history exciting and fascinating. If you have time to deepen your knowledge of Singapore’s origins, I would recommend you to visit the National Singapore Museum, or watch this Discovery Channel DVD recommended by a friend. Absolutely worth your time!!

Universities in Singapore


Singapore is the ideal city if you wish to study abroad and experience living in Asia!

Its strong economy and links with neighbouring countries creates many opportunities for young people to study or start working there. Its universities are well-known abroad and benefit from a great location for students to travel around and discover Southeast Asia.

Singapore’s best universities include :
NUS : National University of Singapore. With over 36,000 students, it is Singapore’s largest and most renowned university. It offers no less than 16 different faculties and schools covering different topics from Business to Arts, including Music, Dentistry, Engineering or Science…
NTU : Nanyang Technological University. This university is usually very well ranked in worldwide rankings. At NTU you can study Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities… and benefit from many exchange programs and double-degrees with foreign universities.
– SMU : Singapore Management University, one of the best universities in Singapore to study Business and Management. They have more than 7,000 students each year and offer undergraduate and graduate programs in subjects like Accountancy, Management, Law, Social Sciences etc.
– and many others like Singapore Institute of Management, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore University of Technology and Design, Lasalle College of the Arts … !!

More importantly, Singapore now attracts schools and universities from around the world (like INSEAD or ESSEC for instance) and is becoming a preferred destination for foreign students as well as a strong hub in terms of universities.

Should you consider studying in Singapore for a while, do not forget to contact MOE (Minister Of Education) and take care of your student pass formalities, it is absolutely mandatory! For more information on universities in Singapore, click here.

Holland Village


One of Singapore’s well hidden places is Holland Village. Not sure you’ve heard of it? I’m not surprised!!

Holland Village (“Holland V”) is a nice spot for shopping, restaurants and bars. It is quite calm during the day and very lively at night, especially after working hours when office people meet up for a refreshing beer. It is usually packed with both locals and expatriates, which makes it a great spot to meet new people and blend in with locals if you’re an expatriate!

Best outlets in Holland V include:

1. Restaurants : you can find basically anything! European, Thai, Lebanese, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Australian, Mexican food … you name it! You will find famous restaurant chains like Crystal Jade or Sushi Tei as well as less well-known places like the Cha Cha Cha Mexican Restaurant or La Nonna Italian Restaurant.

2. Bars : Of course, the most famous one is Wala Wala bar, a two-storey bar with a terrace, usually very very packed. Harry’s bar is also always a safe bet for cocktails. But mostly, Holland Village is full of pubs and bars with live music and happy hours, so really you can just walk around and choose your favourite!

3. Shopping places : In Holland Village you will find smaller shops usually specialised in one type of product, like antiques or IT items. There is also a Shopping Mall but I think that’s less charming…

I think Holland Village is a good name for this area, as it really does capture the spirit of a “village” 🙂

A taste of Chocolate


Here is a post for all my fellow chocolate lovers with a very sweet tooth!!

If you are in Singapore on a rainy Sunday afternoon and feel like trying something new for tea time, or if you have a sudden crave for chocolate and want to share a good slice of cake with your friends… go to Awfully Chocolate!! It’s my favourite place when I’m in a chocolate mood 🙂

My personal favourites include:

– The classic All Chocolate cake

– The Super Stacked Chocolate cake (if you are really hungry and fancy a strong taste)

– The Hei Ice Cream, the most tasty dark chocolate ice cream I’ve had so far

There are currently 8 Awfully Chocolate outlets in Singapore so find the closest one and give it a try! Their hot drinks are also quite good.

A second great chocolate experience for you could be on top of Marina Bay Sands, at The Club. They have an all-you-can-eat Chocolate Buffet where you can enjoy more refined chocolate desserts.

You can find more pictures and information on this great blog. And the best part is, you can take a swim on top of MBS when you’re done (that is if you are discreet about it because you are technically not allowed in if you are not a hotel guest).

Finally, do feel free to try out any chocolate places you stumble upon, most of the ones I tried were wonderful. Check out how cute this dessert is! I had this one at Max Brenner Chocolate Bar in Vivo City last summer.

Clarke Quay and it’s history


For those of us who are interested in bars, clubs and parties, Singapore has a lot to offer too.

Of course, the first place the young people will tell you is : Clarke Quay!! Located by the Singapore river, Clarke Quay is overcrowded on Saturday and Wednesday nights (known as “Ladies’ night”, as girls can enter for free before midnight in some places). You might want to check out :

Bars : Chupitos for shots, Cuba Libre for great latino live music, Highlander for live hits, 7inch if you’re into rock music and like playing pool, Mulligan’s Irish pub for a pint, Indochine for a fun decoration and loud music… you can even have a shot of vodka in an ice bar in The Forbidden City! Worth a visit. Don’t worry, they lend you a jacket.

Night clubs : Attica if you are in the expat mood, Pump Room for live music, Le Noir for the French, Zirca if you’re into electro music and enjoy a young local crowd…

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This is Clarke Quay as we know it today. However there is a whole other story behind the place. Did you know that Clarke Quay played a major role in Singapore’s history?

Clarke Quay is where Sir Raffles disembarked when he first reached Singapore… on Feb 6th 1819! At that time, warehouses were built by the riverside so that European and Chinese merchants could store their goods in a safe place, which was also very conveniently located when merchandise needed to be transported on bumboats. Just try and picture how busy the river was 200 years ago…

The riverside area was then named “Clarke Quay” after Sir Andrew Clarke, Singapore’s second Governor in the 1870s. Later on, Clarke Quay became “Clarke Quay Festival Village” and underwent works to become what we see of it now, colourful disney-like shophouses…

Personally, I don’t really think the “new” Clarke Quay is very charming. However, Singapore still made an effort to keep some trace of her past by keeping the warehouses instead of having them demolished. And I truly believe we should be grateful for that!!

Can you speak Singlish meh?


If you have been to Singapore, you have definitely heard about “Singlish“. Actually, you might even have heard people “speak” Singlish in hawker centers.

What is Singlish? A Singaporean version of English. It’s not a proper language, but rather a slang used by very local people. Okay time to have a good laugh!! A few examples… just out of my head 🙂

walau! so stupid one i tell you! : I cannot believe he is so stupid…

oi ! wake up lah! : hey, please wake up!

alamak, so much work today, cannot tahan one loh! : I have too much work today, I really don’t know how to go about it

ayah! i told you already what! : can’t you remember what I tell you?

fly ly also can lor! : fried rice is also fine by me

Get the idea? Feel free to contribute with the funniest Singlish phrases you’ve heard so far 🙂 And if you have trouble imagining the Singaporean accent, take a look at this video… Get it now? It’s quite something isn’t it!!

Of course, it goes without saying that I am not encouraging you to speak Singlish, just knowing what it is is enough 🙂

Also, did you know that Singtel has developed an application so that the Siri system on iPhone 4S can recognise the Singapore accent? More information here.

And for those of you who are very familiar with Singlish, try out these Siri jokes, some of them are really funny!!

Nature at your doorstep


You think Singapore has nothing but skyscrapers ? Wrong !!

Singapore’s climate allows great nature spots to survive in the midst of the city landscape… not only can you find vegetation on the side of the roads and many parks and forests in Singapore, but you can also occasionally bump into wild animals (not to worry, most of the time they are harmless !).

So if you ever feel like you’ve had enough of the city, just grab a bus (or mrt) and go check some of these great places. And the best thing is, there are so many of them !! Click here to learn more.

I would like to recommend these two places :

–      The Botanic Garden : very famous must-do ! A beautiful garden where you can marvel at luxurious vegetation and trees that seem to reach our for the sky… Don’t forget to stop by the Orchid Garden, definitely worth a look.

–      MacRitchie Reservoir Park : perfect for a 2-3 hours walk in a forest, with a great treetop path to enjoy the view. You might see quite a few monkeys there, as well as interesting birds and reptiles.

Also, do not forget to bring a hat, an umbrella and a bottle water when trekking, as Singapore is hot and humid and we wouldn’t want you to dehydrate !

Singapore for Dummies


You wouldn’t believe the type of questions I sometimes get… so it’s time to set the answers straight !!

1. Is Singapore in China ?

No !! Although you might have seen the word « Singapore » often associated to the Chinese community, Singapore is definitely NOT in China. It is an island city-state at the Southern End of the Malaysian Peninsula.

2. What language do people speak in Singapore ? Singaporean ?

People who live in Singapore predominantly speak English. However, there are 4 official languages : English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. Also, according to their origins, people usually speak a few different dialects (Hokkien, Teo Chew, Hainanese…). Oh, and people “speak” Singlish too ! But more on that later.

3. What is Singapore’s population ?

According to the 2010 census, there are around 5 million people in Singapore, including approximately 3,2 million Singaporean citizens, 500 000 Permanent Residents (PR), and 1,3 million non-residents (ie people who live, work and/or study in Singapore without being granted a permanent residency).

4. Are there buses and trains in Singapore ?

Of course !! Do you think Singapore is still a fishermen’s village? Taking the bus remains the most convenient way of moving around Singapore, and the train (MRT – Mass Rapid Transit) is developing fast, with new lines opening (the last part of the Circle Line opened on Oct 8th 2011).

5. Is it true that you are not allowed to chew gum in Singapore ?

Not really, you are allowed to chew gum on the streets. However, it is forbidden to sell chewing gum in Singapore (unless it is used for medical reasons). Try not to think of it as an unfair rule to prevent you from being free, but rather as any other rule created to keep the streets clean (like forbidding dog poo or spitting…!).

Local delicacies


What do Singaporeans talk about ? FOOD !!

If you really want to localise and blend in, you have to know a few typical Singaporean dishes… I can guarantee this will enable locals to relate to you easily!!

Chilli Crab – Simply a must do on the island, and there are many seafood restaurants where you can order it, like Jumbo Seafood Restaurant for instance.

Satay Sticks –  Beef, mutton or chicken on a stick, served with peanut sauce, chilli, rice cakes and cucumber. De-li-cious. Especially when you buy it as a take-away at East Coast Lagoon Food Village and eat it on the beach directly from the plastic bag while enjoying the late breeze by the sea. Hmmm.

Hainanese Chicken Rice – Some people say it’s Singapore’s national dish ! Originally from the island of Hainan in the South of China, the dish is simply boiled chicken served with rice cooked in the chicken broth. It’s even more delicious with thick black sauce !! A personal favourite 🙂

Fish head curry – or « Ikan Merah » in Malay. Red snapper head cooked in a curry and coconut sauce.

Laksa – A Peranakan (mixture of Chinese and Malay culture) specialty. Laksa is a super fragrant and quite spicy noodle soup. Curry Laksa is the best, with coconut and curry in it.

Nasi Lemak – In Malay, « nasi » means rice and « lemak » means coconut. Therefore it is rice cooked in coconut, served with peanuts, cucumbers, fried fish and sometimes deep fried chicken. Don’t worry if it’s served in a banana leaf, it’s clean (trust the Singaporeans)! A second best favourite 🙂

Bak Kuh Teh – A fragrant Chinese pork rib soup.

Char Kway Teow – Very famous in Singapore (and can also be found in Singaporean restaurants in other parts of the world too !). Thick rice noodles (« kway teow ») cooked in dark soya sauce and served with Chinese vegetables, eggs and usually prawns or beef.

Ice Kachang – Try this desert ! It’s grated ice with red bean, jelly and syrup. It looks very colourful, you can’t miss it.

These dishes are very local and can mostly be found in hawker centers, food courts or coffee shops (rarely in restaurants). For more information on where to go, be a true singaporean and refer to www.hungrygowhere.com !!

Man I’m hungry now !!

More typically Singaporean dishes available here