Pondok Tempo Doeloe @ Surabaya, Indonesia

“What’s good to eat here?” That’s the first thing a group of us from Singapore who were in Surabaya for the first time asked our local friend who was driving us to our hotel on the west side of the Indonesian city.

“Well, there’s the popular deep fried ‘flying fish’…” Ohhhhhh.

“There’s also ayam bakar (roasted chicken)….” Ahhhhhh.

“And our roast duck….” Drooool!

In the end, after being bombarded by a gazillion questions from his food-mad visitors, our friend simply realized that the best way to show us just how good the local food is was to bring us to a reputable Indonesian restaurant for dinner.

Pondok Tempo Doeloe: Traditional Indonesian Cuisine

Located down the right far end of the road from our Fairfield at Marriott Hotel and housed in a huge building with its own carpark, Pondok Tempo Doeloe prides itself on serving authentic Indonesian cuisine. It is part of the Ikan Bakar Cianjur (IBC) Group which has a string of restaurants in Surabaya to Bali that specializes in Indonesian cuisine.

We were there early for a 5.30pm dinner but the brightly lit and spacious restaurant filled up quickly even on a weekday night. The venue was also chosen as it could accommodate our large group of about 30 by joining three big tables on one side of the dining area. Being the visitors, we simply left the ordering to our host. Just bring it on!

The first dish to arrive was the much talked-about “Flying Fish” or Gurame Goreng, a deep fried fresh water carp marinated with a special sauce. The fish is so called as one side of its meat is curled up during frying as if it has a flying fin. The meat is not only tasty — especially when eaten with either sambal belachan or sliced red chili in black soy sauce — every part of the fish was super crispy and munching each bit of it was so good!

There was also another style of fish ordered – the Gurame Bakar, a Javanese-styled flame grilled fresh water carp that offered softer texture and a different spice flavor. Crispy as it was, it wasn’t quite as fun as when eating the flying fish!

Another great dish was the Ayam Bakar or Javanese grilled chicken marinated with spices that was truly fragrant and yummilicious. It was certainly a delicious flavor that many of us have never tasted before!

Just like with Chinese cuisine, the above meat dishes were best eaten with fluffy white rice. And of course, you also need to have some greens to balance all the fried stuff. Indonesian vegetable dishes are hardly different from Chinese favorites and so we had the likes of Sauteed Baby Kai Lan and Sauteed Kangkong, albeit cooked with a dash of sambal.

​When it came to drinks, a team member who has been to Surabaya before highly recommended the Juice Alpukat, an ice blend avocado juice served with a dose of sweet syrup which we thought was gula melaka (palm sugar) at first but it was just something that is sweet. Well, I was skeptical at first. As much as I love avocado – more as a salad or sandwich garnish – drinking a whole cup of blended avocado didn’t sound quite appetizing. I was pleasantly proven wrong – the thick, creamy and sweetened “smoothie” was actually quite enjoyable and I finished every drop!

In the next few nights, we would continue to be taken to try out other authentic Indonesian dishes at other popular restaurants in the city. But just on our first night in Surabaya alone, the Flying Fish had us at hello! Here’s to many more!

​Pondok Tempo Doeloe is at Jl Mayjend Sungkoko 206-208 Surabaya, Indonesia.

Bodacious Bar & Bistro @ Biopolis SG

It was New Year’s Eve and 8 of my church small group mates decided to meet for dinner before the Nightwatch service to welcome in 2020. An eatery relatively close to our church was chosen and that was Bodacious Bar & Bistro located at Biopolis in Buona Vista.

Though I live nearby, I didn’t realized there are quite a number of eateries in the commercial and industrial hub of Biopolis. Bodacious, located at the western end of Biopolis Street, is one of the bigger establishments with a large, sheltered al fresco area where people can be seen enjoying a drink or two on lazy afternoons.

Bodacious’ interiors is decorated in a hipster-cafe, light industrial style with much room between tables, and our group was seated near the side wall that holds a bold signage of the place placed against an eye-catching montage of celebrity images, with a row of wine bottles strategically lined in the middle.

As it was New Year’s Eve and because one of the serving staff insisted that “it’s Happy Hours every hour” – eg beer prices are between $7 to $12 for half-pints/pints/bottles all day, which is very decent – I decided to have a pint of Stella Artois ($11), while others chose either other beers or mocktails.

Bodacious’ dinner menu is quite extensive comprising soups, salads and appetisers, main courses, sweets and desserts, and sides for sharing. There’s even Happy Hours Oysters (@$2-$3) from 5-8pm. A list of small plates & bar snacks ($8-$19) is listed on a table menu. Drinks-wise, the bar covers a good range of beverages from wines, beers and spirits to cocktails, mocktails and liquers, from soft drinks, milkshakes and juices to brewed coffees, premium teas and mineral water.

Whilst waiting for others to arrive, we early birds decided to have the Bodacious Cheese Platter ($29 for 5 types/$20 for 3 types) which was a lovely mix of blue cheese, Camembert, goat cheese, provolone and grana Padano, accompanied with fig jam, walnuts, raisins, figs and mini toast. A great starter, the cheese lovers among us had absolutely no complaints about this item.

STARTING “SMALL”

When the rest eventually arrived, we first settled on three small plates for sharing, before each chose their own main course:

If you have a choice between French Fries ($8) or Truffle Fries ($10), go for the latter I always say. Nice, crispy and flavorful, this was delicious to munch.

It looks messy but the Crispy Wings Coated With Cajun BBQ Sauce ($10) was a good savory filler for those whose stomachs had started growling…

Finally, there was also the Ultimate Forest Roasted Cauliflower ($8), which is glazed with sweet garlic mayo and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. I never really fancy cauliflower but this was really good.

THE MAINS EVENT

A good thing of having a big crowd at dinner is that all can order different things (as much as possible) and then steal a bite from each other’s dishes. The main courses at Bodacious comprise mainly meat and seafood items, with a veggie item or two, ranging from $16 to $38.

The Iberico Pork Ribs ($21) sounds tempting and I was glad I ordered this as the baby pork ribs, served with coleslaw and salad, were savory and tender, with the meat easily coming off the bone. Its BBQ glaze was also just the right dash of sweetness and flavor.

The one who had the Linguini Vongole ($18) actually painstakingly removed all the clams from their shells before eating. However, despite being infused with white wine, chilli and parsley, the sauce was found wanting and the overall taste a tad salty.

The French-styled Duck Confit ($23), served with braised lentil tossed in foie gras butter and fresh green, actually looked good but the meat was not tender enough and could be better according to the one who partake of it.

She who had the pan-fried Sea Bass Steak ($19) with olive crust, served with corn puree and sauté green vegetable, found it nice enough although she deemed the small plates much more enjoyable in terms of taste.

The duo who shared the Bouillabaisse ($20) – a fish stew filled with fish, clam, prawn, and scallop served
with garlic toast – felt it tasted more like a seafood soup rather a stew. It’s not something I’d ever order so can’t comment…

The two who ordered the Scallop & Prawn Aglio Olio ($18) both felt that it wasn’t like a typical Aglio Olio. Although the taste wasn’t exactly bad, the dish was lacking the fragrance of garlic and olive oil.
Also, the presence of a parmesan crusted egg “added to the strangeness.”

JUST DESSERTS

After our mains shockingly, most of us still had room for desserts. Of course it also helped that we are all going to share a few choices and not have one whole dessert to ourselves.

For the eight of us, we thought ordering four desserts to share was justified:

First to arrive was the Classic Italian Tiramisu ($11) which was simply lovely with just the right amounts of cocoa, cream, sponge and rum. Yummilious!

The Dessert of the Day ($8) was an elongated peanut butter brownie served with vanilla ice cream which is actually quite nice.

The Salted Caramel & Chocolate Waffle ($11), served with vanilla ice cream and fruits, wasn’t too bad I thought but palate purists deemed it way too small, had too many fruits, and “where’s the chocolate ice cream?!” (The chocolate in its name refers to just the sauce topping apparently…)

Last but not least, there was the Chocolate Fondant ($11), a hot chocolate lava cake served with vanilla ice cream. It didn’t look appetizing when it arrived but once the “lava” oozed out, every bite was delicious and great.

All in all, the final bill cost an average of $36 person – from a range of $29++ to $42++ – which is quite decent except most felt the main courses could be better. Still, Bodacious has a nice ambience (both indoors and outdoors) and is still a recommended place for casual drinks and good bar snacks and desserts.

Bodacious is at 70 Biopolis Street, Singapore 138547. Opening hours: Mon-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri 11am-11pm; Sat 9am-10pm. Closed on Sundays & Public Holidays. Tel: 6778 9585

Japan: Ghibli Museum in Tokyo-A Must-Visit For Studio Ghibli Fans

[Photo Credit: Ghibli Museum Souvenir Program]

When in Japan: If you are a huge fan of Studio Ghibli or animation in general, visiting the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo is a must.

The brainchild of Hayao Miyazaki, renowned Japanese animator and co-founder of animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli, the one-of-its-kind museum is dedicated to all things Ghibli and the art of animation. Being a longtime Studio Ghibli fan—from My Neighbor Totoro to Spirited Away, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea to The Red Turtle—visiting Ghibli Museum was hence my top priority whilst I was in Tokyo last November.

By Advance Reservation Only
Opened in October 2001 and located in Mitaka, a short train ride from Shinjuku Station, the Ghibli Museum is so exclusive that no tickets are sold at the venue. They can only be purchased online with authorized dealers which you can find on the museum’s website. As it is a very popular destination, tickets get sold out as soon as they are available. Thus, to avoid disappointment, I simply left it to my travel planner, Joey of Atlas Travelz, to book tickets for me and my travel mate after providing her with our preferred date and time of visit. It was with joy when she confirmed the purchase prior to our leaving for Japan!

Have your passport and ticket ready whilst queuing at the museum's entrance. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

From Mitaka Station, it’s a 15-20 minute walk to the museum which is located in the west of lush Inokashira Park, but we decided to take the shuttle bus instead—which alas is not a Cat Bus but a vehicle gaily painted with Studio Ghibli characters—that goes from the station to the museum (round-trip ¥320/SGD4).

We chose the 2pm entry time slot as my BFF, who had visited before, said more than two hours will be needed to thoroughly cover every nook and corner including the museum’s exteriors. (Thus 4pm is too tight as the museum closes at 6pm). Besides tickets, a passport for identification purposes is also required for entry, so do remember to bring yours along if you have a ticket for visiting the museum.

For Your Eyes Only – No Photography Allowed Indoors

Just seeing the brightly colored, European-styled building, bedecked with leafy coverings, from the outside already made you feel like you are on the magical setting of a Studio Ghibli film. The glee of finally being there was halted somewhat when we were told at the entrance that no photography was allowed indoors. Sob! However, what awaited us within more than made up for that slight disappointment…

A Museum Where Those Seeking Enjoyment Can Enjoy

A Ghibli Museum poster showing a cross-section of the 4-story building. [Credit: Ghibli Museum]

In a museum souvenir program filled with his original concept illustrations, sketches and notes, Miyazaki stated the kind of museum that he wanted to make is one “that is interesting and relaxes the soul… where those seeking enjoyment can enjoy… and a museum that makes you feel more enriched when you leave than when you entered!” Well, it’s definitely all these and then some.

Upon entering you will be greeted by colorful flora and fauna, as well as recognizable Ghibli characters such as Totoro, Satsuki and Mei, painted on the ceiling and walls, as well as on the stained-glass windows. At the reception, a museum ticket in the form of a 35mm film strip is handed to every visitor in exchange for the ticket voucher. (Mine I think is a strip from Castle In The Sky but I have to re-watch the film to be sure!)

Fascinating Rooms and Spaces

[Credit: Ghibli Museum souvenir program]

From the reception, we went down a flight of stairs which brought us to the Central Hall in the basement, whilst its domed glass ceiling (with images of Ponyo and her sea friends) is way above the second floor. Here you will have a fish-eye view of the number of spaces you can explore – a spiral staircase, a cast-iron elevator, a bridged passage, intricately designed restrooms, etc. This floor also houses the Saturn Theater, a small but vibrantly decorated screening room that screens Studio Ghibli original short films made exclusively for the museum including Miyazaki’s last known work, Boro The Catepillar (2018).

Exclusive Screenings of Studio Ghibli Short Films

During our visit, we first got to watch Imaginary Flying Machines (2002), which features director Hayao Miyazaki himself in the form of a humanoid pig akin to the main character in 1992’s Porco Russo, narrating the history of aviation. The second was the charming and heartwarming tale of Mr Dough and the Egg Princess (2010) which tells of a tiny egg girl who decides to run away with her new dough friend, so to escape the clutches of her evil witch mistress. Both were equally delightful, well worth the 25-30 minute wait to get into the 80-seat theater.

Insightful Look Into The Art & Processes of Animation

One of the museum’s highlights are the rooms with exhibits devoted to the art of animation. In “The Beginning of Movement”, visitors get to see many original artworks from different Studio Ghibli films, including an amazing 3D Zoetrope “Bouncing Totoro” display showing how animators made Satsuki and Mei dance with a grinning Totoro in My Neighbour Totoro. In “Where a Film is Born”, rooms are bedecked with things you will find in the working spaces of an animator — from storyteller to background artist, staging to inker and painter.

There are also temporary exhibits that will change from time to time. For instance, the special exhibition we saw, “Sketch, Flash, Spark! — From the Ghibli Forest Sketchbook” —showing how the museum was designed and built—will run till May 2021 (tentative).

Other Enchanting Spaces

[Credit: Ghibli Museum souvenir program]

The museum also boasts a giant cuddly-looking Cat Bus which only young children can play with (bah!) Here’s hoping that the planned Studio Ghibli theme park in Nagoya due for completion in 2022 will have either a giant Totoro or Cat Bus that adults can play with!

Robot soldier at the museum's rooftop garden. [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

As photography is allowed outdoors, needless to say, the Robot Soldier from Castle in the Sky (1986)—who many mistook for the Iron Giant from 1999’s The Iron Giant (including us)—on the rooftop garden was a very popular selfie / wefie target. To get up here, one has to climb a towering iron-cast spiral staircase located outside the Cat Bus Room.

In the premises, there’s also has a library-cum-book shop, cafe (with indoor and al fresco areas, selling ice cream, hotdogs, etc), children’s play area, garden patio and an extremely popular gift shop named Mamma Aiuto! (Italian for “Mama, help me”.) Named after the sky pirates in Porco Russo, the shop has everything Studio Ghibli you would love to own, from pins to handicraft sets to adorable plushies. As we are not super rich, we found the pricing rather expensive sadly. But if you can control your must-buy urges, there’s a store within Tokyo Station that sells official merchandise at slightly more affordable prices. But of course, the museum gift shop also have more exclusive stuff.

Ghibli Museum souvenir programs available from the museum gift shop, Mamma Aiuto! [Credit: Marguerita Tan]

In the end, I decided to go for this set of two Ghibli Museum souvenir programs which cost only ¥1000 and also came with a complimentary, almost 4-foot long poster of a cross-section illustration of the museum (pictured midway in this post). The booklet top left is filled with Miyazaki’s original concept sketches of the museum as well as his thoughts of what he wanted for it, while the one on the right is filled with well-shot photos of the museum’s key features. And oh, I also bought a key-chain with a mini Totoro plushie ‘cos you just can’t leave here without a memento of the iconic creature. (Especially when it seems we missed seeing the giant Totoro figure that was supposed to be housed in the museum’s old reception!)

All in all, it was a totally worthwhile trip to the Ghibli Museum for this animation and Studio Ghibli fan. Do consider going if you are one too and planning a trip to Tokyo, Japan in the near future. You won’t regret it!

Ghibli Museum is in Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan. Closed on Tuesdays, special holidays, and often for periodic maintenance, so do check its website at http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/ for its calendar, ticketing details, and other information.

My Studio Ghibli haul (mainly plushies, socks, and towels), plus the Museum's cool film strip ticket. (Mind not my free Frozen 2 sticker sheet from a Shinjuku store...)

Read also:
* 5 Things We Want to See in Studio Ghibli’s Theme Park in 2022
* Studio Ghibli Sees First East-west Collaboration in the Wordless Wonder ‘The Red Turtle’
* 6 Great Fantasy Films That Studio Ponoc’s ‘Mary and the Witch’s Flower’ Will Lovingly Remind You Of


Japan: 5 Best Spots To View Mount Fuji In Kawaguchiko

When in Japan: Catching a good glimpse of Mount Fuji is a must.

After years of trying, my dream of a Mount Fuji holiday finally materialized in November 2019. I have always been fascinated by Japan’s tallest peak (at 3,776 metres)—and an active volcano at that—and thus for my second trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, I wanted to be at the best spots to view the iconic mountain.

I have always managed my own travel arrangements but for the first time (in forever), I gave all my requirements to Joey Sim of Atlas Travelz agency and let her handled all the arrangements of this Japanese trip for me.

My original plan was to travel to just Hakone and Tokyo, but upon knowing my wish for “a hotel with onsen and a Mount Fuji view, with or without lake”, Joey recommended that I go to Kawaguchiko instead, before moving on to the other two destinations. And her recommendation was truly appreciated as the opportunities to view Mount Fuji at different angles in the Yamanashi Prefecture – about 2.5 hours by bus from Tokyo – went beyond my expectations.

Thanks to the great sunny autumn weather we had during our stay at Kawaguchiko – my BFF had joined me by then – my Mount Fuji obsession was totally satiated. (It also more than made up for the disappointment of our totally rained-out Hakone jaunt.) If you too would like to be at good locations to admire the picturesque peak, here are 5 best spots in Kawaguchiko to do so.

5 Best Spots to View Mount Fuji at Kawaguchiko

  1. Fuji View Hotel

Of course, there are other hotels, resorts or ryokans in the vicinity which may also boast good views of Mount Fuji, or are much closer to the central Kawaguchiko Station, but then again, there is a very good reason why this hotel is named “Fuji View”. Thanks to Joey’s recommendation, the awesome view from our 2nd-floor room balcony (see above) was worth the price alone. The fact that the hotel also has a well-equipped onsen, as well as beautiful gardens bursting with autumn colors made it even more worthwhile.

2. Mount Fuji 5th Station

About an hour ride on the Hiking Bus from Kawaguchiko Station will bring you to Mount Fuji 5th Station, located at 2,300m above sea level and the closest you can get to the peak (unless you plan to climb it of course). Upon disembarking from the bus, I asked my travel mate, “Where’s Mount Fuji?” “You are on it,” she deadpanned. And whoa, she was right! Just look up and you can see the breathtaking snow-covered summit in all her glory, against a clear blue sky and beautifully lit by the sun. Besides many areas for visitors to take selfies/wefies with the mount, the tourist hotspot also houses a shrine, a post office, shops, eateries, and platforms to view the Fuji Five Lakes area.

3. Lake Kawaguchi

A cruise on Lake Kawaguchi – from its eastern shore to and fro Kawaguchiko Ohashi Bridge – will provide you with unblocked views of Mount Fuji, ie, if you could get a good spot by the side of the boat. It was a tad misty the day we were there but the view was still absorbing nonetheless. Along the promenade, the trees were a delightful sight with their autumn colors of reds, orange, and yellows. Cherry blossoms are said to be in abundance here around mid-April. You can get here via the Red Line Bus or the Mount Fuji World Heritage Loop Bus from Kawaguchiko Station.

4. Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway

Directly across the Lake Kawaguchi cruise pier, you will find the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway which provides great, yes, panoramic views of the sacred mountain and the lake districts. You can actually skip the cruise and go directly up the ropeway, but you get a discount if you buy a combo ticket for both attractions at the pier, so why not? Unless you stand at the ropeway carriage window facing the lake, there’s not much to see but trees until you reach the observation deck which is about 1000 metres above sea level and near the peak of Mount Tenjo. If you get here just before sunset, there’s a lovely reddish-orange glow over Mount Fuji, Lake Kawaguchi, and the provinces around them.

5. Chureito Pagoda

“Visit Mount Arakura Sengen Shrine for undoubtedly the best postcard view of 5-storey Chureito Pagoda against the backdrop of Mount Fuji”, trumpeted my itinerary. Guess I missed out on the tiny detail that there is also a hefty 398-step climb up before one reaches the observation deck for the famous image of Mount Fuji flanked by a pagoda and cherry blossoms seen on many a Visit Japan brochure! But thanks to my trekking stick, and lots of rest stops, have to admit that the view was ultimately worth climbing for. There’s a slight jostle for the best spot to take the above-pictured view but once you get it, do take time to check out other areas on the hill where you can admire the grandeur of Mount Fuji.

All photos by Marguerita Tan.
No text or photos to be reproduced without the blog author’s permission.

Chinese New Year Celebrations 2020 @ Chinatown Singapore

Rats! Lots and lots of them in Singapore’s Chinatown! Big ones, small ones, all gaily dressed in their Chinese New Year finest. Yes, as you read this at the start of 2020, the Year of the Rat will be upon us faster than you can say, er, “Rats!”

This year’s Lunar New Year is from Jan 25 till Feb 8, and Chinatown is already all geared up to usher in the Metal Rat with a host of festive activities and celebratory events. Musings on the M49 was chuffed to be invited to a media preview organized by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens Consultative Committee to have a close-up look at this year’s lights!

Street Light-Up

In collaboration yet again with students from the Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD), the annual Street Light-up boasts 1,388 handcrafted lanterns—in the form of rats, gold coins, ingots, mandarin oranges, and firecrackers, etc—projecting much glow on Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road and Garden Bridge.

There are 200 rat lanterns in all, mostly placed along Eu Tong Sen Street, with the main 12m-tall centrepiece (see top main picture) located at the junction where the street meets Upper Cross Street.

Amongst the rat lanterns, look out for many a ferris wheel made of gold ingots (with mini rats inside a few of them) which represents an eternal cycle of luck and wealth.

The Year of the Rat also marks the start of the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac. According to legend, the Rat outsmarted larger animals such as the Tiger, Ox, Dragon, etc, to win the race set by the Jade Emperor and hence that is why the little creature ended up being at the head of the Zodiac. Lanterns of the other 11 animals that made it to the Zodiac (pictured above) can be spotted a distance behind the main centrepiece.

Official Light-Up and Opening Ceremony: Sat Jan 4, 2020

If you want to see the Chinatown lights, you can actually go now. BUT, if you enjoy big dazzling excitement and pomp, the official Light-Up and Opening Ceremony will be on Sat Jan 4 from 6pm-10pm at Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road and graced by Singapore’s President, Mdm Halimah Yacob. There will be music, dance and Cantonese Opera performances, and a lion dance troupe performing “21 Plum Blossoms Poles”, a festival first. And oh, stay on till the sure-to-be-explosive fireworks and firecrackers finale!

Heritage & Food Trail: Weekends Jan 5-19, 2020

Among the many activities planned for Chinatown’s 7-week Chinese New Year celebrations is the Heritage & Food Trail with an emphasis on Cantonese influence. The guided tour (available in English and Mandarin) takes one through the culturally-rich streets of Chinatown, before descending on Chinatown Complex Food Centre where participants will indulge in delicious Cantonese cuisine such as Yam Ring and Yam Cake from five popular hawker stalls including Heng Kee Cantonese Cooked Food and Jia Ji Mei Shi (pictured). A ticketed event, visit chinatownfestivals.sg for more information.

Other Highlights

Other Chinatown Chinese New Year events include a Festival Street Bazaar (Jan 3-24; 6pm-10.30pm daily and 6pm-1am on CNY eve) with over 300 stalls selling Chinese New Year delicacies, decorative items, apparel, etc; nightly stage shows at Kreta Ayer Square (Jan 4-24, 8pm-10.30pm) including lion dances and musical performances; and a Wishing Tree at Chinatown Point (Jan 3-24; 11am-9pm) where each “Make A Wish” card costs $2 and all proceeds will benefit the underprivileged elderly residing in Chinatown. A Countdown Party will also take place on Chinese New Year Eve on Fri 24 Jan.

Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre will also host a special Cantonese Opera show on Sun Jan 5, as well as the 13th International Lion Dance Competition on Sat 11 and Sun 12 Jan. For enquiries and ticket purchase, call Kreta Ayer Community Club at 6222 3597 (9am-9pm).

Last but not least, Chingay 2020 (Jan 31-Feb 1), Asia’s largest annual street performance and float parade, will make an appearance at Chinatown on Sun Feb 2, 6-10pm along New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street. So, if you can’t get to the F1 Pit Building for the parade, get on down to Chinatown instead!

For more info on all events, visit chinatownfestivals.sg.

All photos by Marguerita Tan.
No text or photos to be reproduced without the blog author’s permission.

El Teatro Tapas @ The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Arcade

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On Boxing Day a.k.a Annular Solar Eclipse Day, an ex-classmate and I decided to go to The Capitol Kempinski Hotel arcade for our bi-annual meet-up and we opted for the Spanish restaurant and bar, El Teatro Tapas.

We were led to a cosy corner table lined with many cushions and which offers a good view of the length of the arcade. The menu for El Teatro (which is Spanish for “The Theatre”) is simple: there’s cold tapas ($12-$16), hot tapas ($14-$30), cold cuts and olives ($10-$28), paellas ($28-$40), and desserts ($8-12). There’s also a wine menu from which you can order by the glass or bottle. On weekdays, they have a two-course ($17++) and 3-course ($22++) set lunches which are quite decently priced considering that some of the mains already cost around $20-$30.

We decided to order a la carte in order to try more dishes. First up was the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota ($28) or Acorn Iberian Ham Pork, which is a lovely slate of cured ham slices served with some salad. If you love Spanish Jamon or parma ham, this will be a delight to savor.

We had wanted a green veggie dish for the “health part” but was intrigued on what constituted a Russian Salad ($14). Well, it is a fancy creamy tuna potato salad with loads of mayo, topped with garnishing and thin croutons. A nice tasty item for sure. (Oh, we were also given at the start a complimentary tapas of olives which normally you have to order a glass of wine before getting it, so thought that was nice of the manager.)

It was while waiting for the next dish to arrive that we was wondering why the sky had suddenly gone dark – the arcade’s roof is partly glass from which you can see the sky – when we suddenly remembered that there was a solar eclipse happening on this very day – December 26, 2019! So we took turns to dash out of the building – and despite dark clouds and super bright sunlight (you ain’t supposed to watch it with the naked eye) – were able to fairly make out the crescent shape of the sun as the moon slowly move across it.

As the annular eclipse was supposed to occur at 1.24pm, we carried on with our lunch. The sizzling Garlic Prawns ($22) was utterly fragrant when it arrived, served on a piping hot pan drenched with olive oil and with loads of colorful peppers, plus two pieces of toasted bread. This is one of the items in the set lunch menu so it would be very worth it indeed if you like prawns.

Last but not least, our final dish is the prawn, chicken and mushroom croquettes. Though the menu states that you can choose between the three, we were told that two of each meat will be served in the dish of six croquettes, which was a-ok for us. The taste for the elongated prawn croquette (top of picture) was sadly nothing to wow about, but the mushroom (the round one) and the chicken (middle with crust slightly browner) were flavorful and tasty, enhanced by the Spanish Padrón peppers that came with the dish.

It was in the midst of eating our croquettes that we realized we had totally missed the “magic moment” when the “ring of fire” occurs. It was already 1.40pm when we both dashed out of the restaurant—not before informing the waitress not to clear our table!—this time just to the foyer right outside El Teatro to catch the view (as seen above) through the roof of the arcade. Oh well, at least we could say we saw phases of the cosmic spectacle of the century!

All in all, the quality of food in El Teatro was good and service was attentive. Pricing was probably a bit steep but our four dishes came up to about $96, which is still decent for two people in the town area. Would love to try their paellas one day as I have been looking for a paella as good as those we ate in Barcelona but to no avail. Something to consider.

El Teatro Tapas is at The Capitol Kempinski Hotel arcade, 15 Stamford Road. Opening hours: 1130-1430 and 18:00-22:00 daily.

‘Frozen 2’ Fun @ Singapore Changi Airport

Look out for a giant Olaf at Singapore Changi Airport T2!

If you or your kids are big fans of Disney’s Frozen 2, do make your way down to Singapore Changi Airport where there are loads of fun Instagram-worthy opportunities with the lovable characters from the blockbuster animated film, which has since grossed over US$1 billion (S$1.36b) at the global box office.

The main highlight of A Frozen Wonderland At Changi is located at the airport’s Terminal 3 Departure Hall (in front of Departure Immigration). Here you will find a handful of life-sized sets inspired by the enchanting film featuring key characters namely Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, Sven, and Grand Pabbie.

Every night till Jan 5, 2020, there will be an entralling light, sound and snow show at 7.30pm, 8pm, 8.30pm and 9pm, which primarily tells the story of Frozen 2, in which Queen Elsa and company go in search of a mystery voice she’s been hearing that or who may save the kingdom of Arendelle from grave danger. Needless to say, spoilers galore at the attraction (and this blog post) if you have yet to see the film!

Grand Pabbie, the wise old troll, should be the first figure you see if you approach the set from the front as he’s extremely well lit.

Over to the right, you will find Anna and Olaf in a boat, depicting the scene when Elsa sent them away for their safety.

At a lovely autumn-inspired spot, and besides four elemental pillars, you will find macho Kristoff and his faithful reindeer, Sven, in the midst of life-like looking trees and plants and in a great rush to find his beloved Anna.

Last but not least, on the biggest structure, you will find the getting-more-powerful Queen Elsa tackling Nokk, the mythical water horse spirit, in stormy seas. This set has a big part to play during the daily show, so make sure you have a good view of it during the performance!

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW

Each show will end with a dramatic snowfall scenario that everyone of all ages thoroughly enjoyed! It’s mainly soap suds in case you are wondering!

This moment lasted quite long and, have to say, my pal and I had great fun taking wefies and being covered in “snow”, as did everyone around us!

OTHER FROZEN 2 SIGHTINGS…

Elsewhere in T3 Departure Hall, you will find an Enchanted Forest as well as an Arendelle Castle, where you can pose with cardboard cut-outs of Elsa and Anna, or check out these utterly cute 1-metre-tall plushies of Olaf and Sven.

These sections have areas and activities primarily designed for kids, but you would require a pass (and probably need to spend some money on a single receipt that kind of thing.) Visit https://frozenwonderland.changiairport.com/ for more information on how one can participate.

Over at Jewel, there is also some Frozen 2 content. At the Cloud9 Piazza on Level 5, there is an Arendelle-inspired festival market with a few stalls selling Frozen 2 merchandise. But the draw is definitely these life-sized models of Princess Anna and Queen Elsa. An Olaf figure can also be found at one of the festival’s gates.

For a great shot of the lovable snowman though, you have to pop to Terminal 2 for this larger-than-life, 3-metre-tall, spinning Olaf which is easily a big draw. Don’t miss it!

A Frozen Wonderland At Changi will be at T3, T2 and Jewel until Jan 5, 2020.
For more information, visit https://frozenwonderland.changiairport.com/.

Read also:
* ‘Frozen 2’: The 20 Best Quotes from the Disney Animated Blockbuster Sequel
* ‘Frozen 2’ Leaked Image Shows Elsa and Anna in an Autumn Setting