National Service in Singapore


Singapore is known to be a very small, very developed country, surrounded by larger, less developed (and maybe envious?) countries. As a result, when Singapore became independent, PM Lee Kwan Yew thought it should be a priority to be able to defend the island, and thus decided to make National Service compulsory for all Singaporeans.

I thought that for some non-Singaporean readers here, an insight into the Singaporean military service could be interesting.

National Service (NS) is a mandatory 2 years of army training for all Singaporean men. The rationale behind it is that Singapore is too small to have a voluntary army, therefore all men would be needed if a war was to break out. One might add that Singapore may have learnt a lesson the hard way during WWII when the Japanese army invaded Singapore from the North on bicycles and Singaporean troops were unprepared, too busy watching the South end of the island…

To some Singaporean soldiers, NS (yet another Singaporean acronym!) is boring, constraining and a waste of their time. To others, NS can be very rewarding, and it can be the first position they have with actual responsibilities. The discrepancy between NS perceptions comes from the fact that missions can be extremely different from one another!

The National Service Army Flag

The army actually affects you to the department they think fit for you, after you go through a medical check. For instance a NS soldier can be affected to:

– a central ammunition control office
– an air force base
– an infantry battalion
– a vehicle mechanics position
– a sniper or scout position
– cadets school to become an officer
–  and so on…

So if you spend your 2 years of NS in an office you basically have working hours and can go home on week-ends. However if you are deemed fit to go for officer training, you will have to go through weeks of survival trainings in Brunei jungles or learn about open-terrain tactics and combat on the field.

From my point of view (which is external, as I am only half Singaporean), I think I can understand that NS feels unbearable for some. However I still feel it brings people together. Feedback I have gathered from Singaporeans is that NS allowed them to meet people from different social backgrounds, and this has broadened their horizons and changed their mindset about certain things.

Plus, it has now become a rite of passage in the Singaporean society. All men have to go through this compulsory phase, and they all come back with a heightened sense of responsibility and belonging to a nation.

I must say I find this quite appreciable overall because not all citizens of the world today feel patriotic or responsible for the survival of their country !! If you wish to learn more about Singapore National Service, this documentary on youtube is quite good!

Make a joke with Bakkwa


Have you ever heard the term “Bakkwa” (or bagua) ? It’s a very local term in SouthEast Asia, and in particular in Singapore…

Bakkwa is a Hokkien term for barbecued meat. It is usually pork meat, but has been declined into beef, mutton and chicken versions too. It’s basically sliced barbecued meat, which looks a little like beef jerky. Mmmmmmm yummy !!

In Singapore, people snack on it during the day, and even queue up for it during Chinese New Year. You can find some either in established shops (one of the most famous shops is Bee Cheng Hiang) or sometimes in hawker centers.

The last time I went to Singapore I saw Bakkwa on sale at People’s Park Complex hawker center in Chinatown, on the ground floor. If I remember correctly it was labeled Kim Hua Guan, which is another reliable brand for Bakkwa (but there are many other brands too!). It’s actually nicer to buy some in a hawker center because you can watch the cook barbecue the meat for you. Plus, you can be sure it’s super fresh 🙂

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Personnally, I simply love Bakkwa. But what I love most is making jokes with it to my non-Singaporean friends !! Try this one out for fun:

Step 1: Buy packs of Bakkwa from Singapore, pack them individually and fit them in your suitcase. Make sure there is no ingredients description on the package.

Step 2: Give them out between your friends when you come back from Singapore and say it’s a Singaporean delicacy. Serve some on a plate for them to try. Cut it into pieces so that the meat is not recognisable.

Step 3: Tell them it’s DOG MEAT … and watch their reactions !! I can guarantee you, you are in for a good laugh !! 😀 See how many of your friends agree to actually taste it and bring back some home.

Do let me know if you try it out 🙂

Dialects and Teo Chew food


Singapore is a real melting pot… And there are four official languages : English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. So most important signs are translated in all 4 languages!! Don’t you just love it when announcements in the MRT are translated into all 4 languages? I know I do 🙂

To these four, you might want to add Singlish, even though it’s not a real language…

However, if you do go to a local food court or hawker center, you might be surprised to hear languages which are none of the 5 above… They are dialects!! In the streets of Singapore you might hear people talking Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese…

Most dialects would be Chinese dialects, as most of Singapore’s population is of Chinese origins. Here is a video to give you a glimpse of what the Hainanese dialect sounds like for example …

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But in Singapore dialects are more than just languages. They are a culture of their own. Which explains why some restaurants specialise in Teo Chew cuisine for instance.

In Teo Chew restaurants in Singapore, you will find very “simple” food, in the sense that ingredients are usually served without too much sauce covering it so you can really enjoy all the flavours. Teo Chew food also includes a lot of seafood (steamed fish, oyster omelet, cold crab…) and their Yam dessert is super good too !!

One of the Teo Chew restaurants I would recommend in Singapore is SWA Garden Restaurant on MacPherson Road. It’s small, local and cosy, and not too expensive either 🙂

Why we love Singapore


Here are no less than 18 reasons out of the top of my mind why one could love Singapore so much 🙂 I tried not to sound too biased, but it’s actually difficult when you appreciate the place…

1. It’s never cold! You can wear light clothes and stop worrying about a coat or scarf.

2. The food is excellent everywhere. And the variety is extremely large.

3. Food stalls are opened all night !! You can have a bowl of noodle soup or roti prata at anytime of the day or night!!

4. And it’s cheap!! Snack on a Pau or Curry Puff for less than 2 S$.

5. It’s super safe. Cabs will never cheat you. You will never be scared on the streets, even alone at night.

6. Singapore is extremely clean. No dog poo, gum or litter on the streets!

7. Singapore is beautiful at night. Take the time to look at the skyline and lights around the Esplanade.

8. There is always something new to do! Try a new restaurant, check out the recently-opened mall you haven’t had the chance to see yet, or jump into a cab and explore less known areas of Singapore (like MacRitchie Reservoir, Pulau Ubin, East Coast Park…).

9. Bargains !! Instead of walking up and down Orchard Road wondering why things are so expensive, go to Chinatown or Bugis for bargains.

10. Transportation is super convenient. No strikes. No delays. The MRT network is rapidly expanding (the circle line is now complete!) and the bus system is very well designed. You can get around Singapore for a very cheap fare.

11. Cultural events in Singapore happen quite often. As an Asian hub, it has become a preferred location for artists or exhibitions going on a worldwide tour. Check out concert programs on the Esplanade for example, or the MOSAIC Music Festival. Coming up soon in Singapore, no less than Lady Gaga and John Butler Trio!!

12. Singapore attracts people from all around the world. It’s a great place to meet people from all walks of life, both local and foreigners, and gather feedback from various work and personal experiences.

13. Singapore is a wonderful starting point to start exploring South-East Asia. Jump onto a Tiger Airways or Jet Star plane and organise a cheap and short get-away in a neighbouring country.

14. According to The Economist, Singapore is the best place to do business in the world. Which means great growth and networking opportunities!!

15. Settling in Singapore is easy. You can get your Employment Pass in no time, do most of the necessary paperwork online, set up a phone line in your home in 30mn, get a credit card and open a bank account in less than an hour… Isn’t that the dream?

16. Singapore streets are green. Even on the busiest streets in town, there will always be well-cut trees and vegetation on the side. Helps you cope with the stress of crowds 🙂

17. Singapore’s air is not so polluted. Compared to other major cities in Asia, the air is quite clean, probably because its tall skyscrapers are not too close from one another, which helps the wind circulate.

18. Last but not least… It’s a wonderful blend of old and new… Old shophouses and colonial buildings VS sparkling new malls and modern skyscrapers. Take your pick !!

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How about you, why do you love Singapore ? 🙂

See Singapore Pass


Did you ever wish to visit the whole of Singapore in just a few days, but didn’t really feel like spending too much on it? Here’s a perfect deal for you! The See Singapore Attractions Pass.

It’s a card which gives you free and unlimited access to attractions and discounts in famous AND off the beaten track places of Singapore. There are different packages available so you can pick the one which best suits your needs. Go check out their cool website to choose the best option for you.

And together with the card, you will be given a paper brochure with details of the offers you are entitled to. You can enter for free to museums, visit famous parks, take part to fun and interesting activities and even get discounts at participating restaurants and outlets!!

Among the various activities available on the pass, here are two personal favourites:

The Original Singapore Walks are a great way to discover more about Singapore’s history and less known anecdotes. You might think that walking in Singapore is very tiresome because of the heat, but it’s actually quite pleasant. But most of all, the tour guides are very knowledgeable and willing to share their passion on Singapore’s history.

– The National Orchid Garden is really worth it. It is located inside the Botanical Gardens and allows you to discover a large number of different orchids. I had no idea there were so many different types of orchid before I went there!! Did you know that most of them are actually hybrid varieties crossed by men? Click here for more information on Singapore’s gardens.

The best thing about the See Singapore Pass is that no matter which activity you decide to go for, you can be sure it will be a success. The pass provides you with free access to quality tours and museums, as well as interesting activities (a trail up in the tree, a flight in the air, or even a slide down a snowy path!!)…

It’s ideal if you want to cover most interesting places in Singapore in just a few days, and really perfect if you have relatives visiting you in Singapore too. Definitely my favourite sightseeing pass in Singapore!

The best ice cream in Singapore


One of the things I enjoy most about Singapore is the heat… I know I know, some of you might find it unbearable…

Well, I believe that after a few days your body gets used to it and you can get to the best part of Singapore (in my opinion) : being able to wear only summer clothes, bathe in the sun, have a quick swim and… enjoy an ice cream break !!

Here are two of my favourite ice cream places in Singapore, that I discovered thanks to very good friends. In my opinion, definitely some of the best ice cream places in Singapore. Go try them out !!

1. Cold Stone Creamery

Their menu is quite impressive. But the way they prepare your ice cream is even more breathtaking. They simply scoop up the flavour you like, toss it in the air, and land it in the cup or waffle you asked for. And if you ask for a flavour with add-ons (like apple bits for instance), they will show you how they mix the ice cream with other ingredients, on a clean frozen granite stone (thus the name Cold Stone…) and you can just tell from their gestures that they are experts at it. They blend it all and create a new ice cream to fit your taste. Such a delight to watch!! Plus the staff is very friendly.

Last time, I had the “Apple Pie a la Cold Stone” and it was really good! Although a little too sweet, you could really taste the apple bits and the caramel topping was superb. I truly recommend it!!

2. The Daily Scoop

Unlike Cold Stone Creamery, the Daily Scoop has more of a small cafe feel. They are located in Clementi, but have recently opened in Holland Village too.

The great thing about Daily Scoop is that they make it a point to use super fresh ingredients and they prepare the ice cream for you in real time when you order it. And they have more than 40 flavours available, some of which are very local (like with chendol, green tea, durian or cempedak!).

When I went there I had the Lychee Martini ice cream, as recommended by a friend. Really worth your time !! Especially on a super hot day like there are many in Singapore.

What are your favourite places for ice cream in Singapore?

More nightlife spots


When you ask people about the best bars and night clubs in Singapore, most of them will tell you to go to Clarke Quay (CQ). Of course, CQ remains a top-of-mind location for Singaporeans and Foreigners. However, there are more nightlife spots that you might want to check out.

Here are a few personal favourites:

1. Club Street

Club Street is not very far away from Chinatown. It is a small circular street where you can find many restaurants and bars worth trying out! Drinks and snacks might be a little more expensive than in Clarke Quay, but the atmosphere is more refined and relaxing, and you can also choose to go there during happy hours if you are on a budget. To me it is an ideal place to go for a drink and chill.

The best bar I can recommend is Barrio Chino. But really, you can just try any bar in the area. Club Street bars are mostly shophouses, which makes evenings there very pleasant as you can step onto the roof top for some fresh air and admire the view over Chinatown.

2. The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel

Singapore is famous for being an extremely clean city. But did you know that there is ONE place in Singapore where you are allowed to litter?

It’s the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel, where it is a custom to throw peanut shells on the floor! It’s also where the Singapore Sling was first created. Although quite pricy, the Long Bar is definitely a must-do for drinks in Singapore!!

3. Cocktail bars

If you feel like trying something a little more sophisticated, try cocktail bars! You can go to B28 on Ann Siang Road, which just recently opened not too far away from Club Street. I haven’t tried it yet but it’s definitely on my list. They also have Jazz sessions with both local and foreign musicians! Otherwise you can also go to Haji Lane and have a cocktail sip at Bar Stories, although the place is smaller.

4. More night clubs

Aside from Attica, Zirca, Rebel, Le Noir… which you can find in Clarke Quay, Singapore has more nightclubs in other areas.

Of course, Zouk is one of the most famous clubs. They have 4 different rooms and regularly have guest stars performing. And let’s not forget Mambo-Jambo night every Wednesday, where they play disco music from the 70s and 80s… Great fun! They are also very famous thanks to Zouk Out, a giant beach party organised by Zouk every year in Sentosa.

Other clubs include St John’s Power Station’s Power House, a former power station transformed in a night club, located near Harbour Front, and Butter Factory, also an icon in Singapore’s nightlife, near the Fullerton Hotel by Marina Bay (super trendy people call it “Butt Fac” !).

And you, what are your favourite nightlife spots in Singapore?