Food Tasting at 1-Caramel


Some of the Singapore Blog Awards finalists, including me, were invited to a food tasting at 1-Caramel last week. 1-Caramel is mostly a dessert restaurant, but they also offer brunch and lunch. The dining area is intimate, seating up to 16 people. To get to the dining tables you must walk through the kitchen, where you can see the chefs in action. It's a pretty unique location for a restaurant.
Some photos of the food we sampled. This dessert platter was yummy. We had so much food we couldn't finish it all!
 EVERYONE pulled out their cameras to take photos of people, food, people taking photos of food...
but hey, it's a room full of Singapore bloggers. What'd you expect?
It was a great way to meet some of the other bloggers in the Singapore Blog Awards.

Unfortunately, I couldn't really make my way around the restaurant because it's such a small place, but I did get a chance to hang out with Crystal, Estelle, Calvin, Hazel and Irene. Click on their names to check out their blogs. They're all finalists in the Singapore Blog Awards, too. 

Thanks to and the folks at 1-Caramel for inviting me to this event! 

Please don't forget to vote for me in the Best Travel Blog Category for the Singapore Blog Awards! Voting ends July 3. Click here to go vote.

Bukit Brown Cemetery


Although talks of eventually developing Bukit Brown Cemetery into housing and other buildings for the living have been ongoing for quite some time, it seems as though an urgency to visit this peaceful place has come about in recent weeks. I visited the cemetery a few weeks ago and was taken aback by hill after hill of beautiful tombs and graves. Some appeared to be visited and cleaned regularly, but many were in various stages of neglect.
 Some graves have images of those who have been laid to rest.
Officially opened on New Year's Day in 1922, Bukit Brown Cemetery was the final resting place for many members of the Chinese community in Singapore. The cemetery is an expansive and verdant space covering an area of about 213 acres. When the cemetery closed in 1973, it contained approximately 100,000 tombs. The oldest grave in Bukit Brown Cemetery dates back to 1833 (source).
Guarding a tomb.
A damaged tomb, covered in overgrowth.

It is not just a place for the dead to rest; the living make good use of the beautiful cemetery as well. Bukit Brown Cemetery is a quiet place perfect for clearing your head and heart. The roads winding through the cemetery are ideal for runners or for those wishing to take a relaxing stroll. Because the trees form such a dense canopy in some parts of the cemetery, the temperature feels much cooler than if you were on a normal city street. And if you love to bird-watch, bring your binoculars. It is home to some of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen.
A marker in the ground, possibly a plot or row number?
 The gate to the cemetery remains open...for now.

Singapore is developing at breakneck speed, moving forward in every area possible with the potential for growth. And although progress and looking towards the future are important things for a country, I can't help but wonder if enough people here are concerned with the country's past. 

According to this page, 21 cemeteries have been closed and more than 120,000 tombs and graves have been exhumed since 1985. There are lots of other things besides dead people in a cemetery. Cemeteries like Bukit Brown are homes to all types of wild flora and fauna. They are places for people to walk, exercise, relax and of course, to connect with their past. Cemeteries are places of history and importance, reminders of what once was. It's a shame that Bukit Brown Cemetery won't be around for much longer. After all, in order to know where you're going, you need to know where you came from.

PS read my friend Kirsten's great post about her family's connection to Bukit Brown Cemetery here

View Larger Map
In case you're interested in visiting, here's a map. You can get here by taking any of these buses: 

Date Night at Kallang Bowl


One of the good things about living out here in Singapore is that our schedules are relatively open, allowing us the luxury of going on dates more often than we used to. The most important commitments on our calendars are to each other; this has made us think differently about how we spend our time together. Hopefully it is habit we can keep once we eventually move back to the US and get back into a different, less spontaneous routine.

A few weeks ago we went bowling at Kallang Bowl (at Kallang Leisure Park). Jeff's much better at it than I am. We played a few games and remembered how fun it is. Hearing the sound of pins crashing always reminds me of school field trips to the bowling alley. Every bowling alley smells the same, have you noticed?

Please don't forget to vote for me in the Singapore Blog Awards, where I've been nominated as a Best Travel Blog finalist! Click here to go vote! 

Beerfest Asia 2011


Here's a tried and true recipe for a good time: good music, good company, and beer. Lots of beer. At Beerfest Asia 2011 last night, Jeff and I got to try our favorite recipe and it turned out to be a really fun evening. 

We were invited to the opening night of Beerfest Asia thanks to SingTel. We sampled lots of different beers and listened to live music from the SingTel VIP area all night. 

At Beerfest Asia, there are over 200 types of beer to sample and purchase, including beers we dearly miss from the US and Canada like Rogue and Moosehead. This is the third year that Beerfest Asia has taken place in Singapore. An estimated 30,000 people will attend this weekend. 

I'm not sure if it's sold out yet, but if you can get your hands on a ticket you should definitely go. Tickets can be found at Sistic and according to the Beerfest Asia website, you can buy tickets at the door. 
As the official multimedia partner of Beerfest Asia, SingTel outfitted the VIP sections with flat screen TVs which aired SingTel's mioTV sports channels all night. SingTel also provided foosball tables for Beerfest Asia, which were a big hit. I think Jeff managed to get almost everyone at our table to play with him at some point during the night. 
There are two music tents at Beerfest Asia: the Rock Tent and the Blues Tent. The live bands we heard last night were pretty good Beatles and Rolling Stones cover bands. There's also a comedy tent with comedians from all over the world. You can learn more about the entertainment at Beerfest Asia here.

Thanks to the kind folks at SingTel and Goodstuph for inviting us to Beerfest Asia last night and being such great hosts. It was a lot of fun and Jeff and I will be back on Saturday. If you're going to be there, let us know! 

Haw Par Villa


Doesn't this remind you of the creepy Stephen King movie "Maximum Overdrive?"
Creepy, right? What's creepier is that theses faces are taller than I am.
Haw Par Villa is one of those places in Singapore you should go visit soon before it is torn down and replaced by expensive condominiums or another shiny mall. Built in 1937 by the brothers who ran the Tiger Balm brand, Haw Par Villa is a gaudy sculpture park based on Chinese folklore, mythology and Confucianist ideology. In the 1990's, it was turned into an amusement park and called Dragon World. The amusement park was turned over to the Singapore Tourism Board in 2001 because it wasn't attracting the visitors (and money) it needed to stay open.

I found this great post with old photos of Haw Par Villa and Dragon World. It used to be possible to ride a boat through the Ten Gates of Hell exhibit, but now the waterways have all been paved. The Ten Gates of Hell was the highlight of my trip to Haw Par Villa. The entrance used to be a very large dragon's mouth, but there's no trace of it anymore. This link has a photo of the former dragon's mouth, as well as an explanation of the Ten Gates of Hell.

There are hundreds of statues all over the park, each contributing to some type of "don't let this happen to you" story or moralist tale. It's a truly unique place that you have to check out yourself to get the full WTF experience. Although not exactly abandoned, it felt like I was trespassing through a boarded up theme park. Haw Par Villa is a creepy place. 

Hey, don't forget to vote for me for Best Travel Blog! Click here to vote!

Exporting Your Dog to Singapore: Category C Checklists


I get a lot of emails from readers that want to know more about exporting their dogs to Singapore. Moving to Singapore with my two dogs was stressful and, at the time, I couldn't find a blog to help me understand the export process. I hope that by writing about it, this blog will answer some questions about moving to Singapore with your pets. In this post, I'll be focusing on the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) export requirements for Category C, which applies to the following countries: USA (except Hawaii and Guam), Canada, Belgium, Spain, and Netherlands.
At SFO last year, getting ready to fly to Singapore.

The one thing I wish someone had told me about moving our dogs from the US to Singapore is that there are two different checklists to abide by: Checklist C1 for a 10-day quarantine, or Checklist C2 for a 30-day quarantine. The AVA website has been updated recently and is much more helpful than it was a year ago. Click here to download the Category C requirements.

We chose the C1 Checklist to save our dogs from a full 30-day quarantine. The C1 Checklist requires two valid Rabies vaccines and titres, the first vaccine administered at least four months before export. The second Rabies vaccine must be administered at least 30 days before export.

Both checklists require that your dog is up to date on all vaccines within a certain window of time before the date of export. The AVA now has a calculator you can use to help schedule your dog's vaccines accordingly. Check out the Import Requirement Calculator here.
Precious cargo.

The AVA also requires that pets who enter Singapore have a health certificate endorsed by a government-approved veterinarian and an official government veterinarian. First, I contacted the nearest United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) office to make sure my dogs' veterinarian was government approved. This certificate can be found by downloading the Category C requirements.

My vet filled out the AVA's health certificate, and then I took it to the USDA APHIS office near me. At the USDA APHIS office, an official government veterinarian approved the AVA health certificate and endorsed it. This AVA health certificate needs to be completed within seven days of export.

Find a USDA APHIS office near you by clicking here.
More info on the exporting pets from the USDA APHIS website can be found here.

If you have more questions about exporting your dog to Singapore, send us an email or leave your question in the comments section.

Please note: To the best of our knowledge, all information on this page was current at time of publishing. But procedures change and links get updated. We are not accountable for any changes to the information or links on this page. For the latest policies and procedures on exporting your pet to Singapore, consult the USDA APHIS or AVA.

Singapore Blog Awards


If you follow this blog on twitter or facebook, I'm sure you've found out by now that was chosen as a top ten finalist for the Singapore Blog Awards in the Best Travel Blog category. I totally didn't expect that to happen, but it feels pretty rad! 

There are some awesome prizes for the winners, and while it would be great to come home with one of them, the fact that our little blog made it into the top ten is quite a big prize already. I am truly humbled to even be a part of this awards contest. 

Look what I got!

So, people of the blogosphere, this is where I ask for your votes. If you like what you see here, and you think we are worthy of your votes for Best Travel Blog, please vote for us. We would be truly honored by your support. You'll need to visit the Singapore Blog Awards website and register first.

You can find us under the Best Travel Blog category on the left side of the webpage. Scroll down to the bottom and then click the "VOTE NOW!" button. There are even cool prizes for selected votersYou can vote once a day until July 3, 2011 when voting closes. So please keep the votes coming! 

Some friends of mine are also up for Singapore Blog Awards; please vote for them, too: 

Kirsten's blog funny little world is up for Best Y Bloggist Blog. You can vote for her here
Jerome's blog The Long and Winding Road is up for Best Photography Blog. Vote for him here, too. 

A Visit to The Intan


Last weekend, Jeff and I spent an afternoon at the Intan, a family-run home museum in the heart of Joo Chiat. Contact Singapore hosted the event and a few other bloggers were there, too. 

The Intan houses a large collection of Peranakan antiques, furniture, and other objects that owner Alvin Yapp has gathered over the past twenty years. Peranakan means "locally born," and was a title the Straits-born Chinese gave themselves to differentiate themselves from the Chinese who came to Singapore from mainland China. 
The mother of pearl inlaid in this furniture was said to help keep a house cool.
Wealthy Peranakans commissioned the kilns of the Chinese emperor to create their own personal porcelain designs.
A pair of beaded slippers. The faceted beads used for these types of slippers came from France. The beads were originally considered defective because they had cuts in them, but the Peranakan women preferred these beats as they shined more.

Alvin eagerly gave us a tour of his home museum and shared with us the rich Peranakan history and culture. The things we learned about are so diverse and multi-faceted; it is very fitting that the Intan means "rose-cut diamond" in Malay. 

What started as a personal collection of antiques has now become a museum and cultural center for all things Peranakan. Alvin's unique home museum also serves as a space for art shows, performances, exhibitions, and private parties. Tours of the Intan are by appointment only and can be arranged by calling +65 9338 2234.

Thanks to Alvin and the folks at Contact Singapore for the wonderful afternoon! 

Tricia & Verona Tailors in Ho Chi Minh City

What's better than a souvenir shirt from your trip to Vietnam? A custom made shirt from a tailor, of course.

Dong Khoi Street in District 1 is famous for it's shopping, but for us the best shop is tucked away nearby on Dong Du Street. The first thing we do when we arrive in Ho Chi Minh City is to walk to our favorite tailor shop, Tricia & Verona, to get some clothing custom made. They can complete your order in 24 hours. Jeff got measured the first afternoon we were there for some dress shirts and they were ready for him less than 24 hours later. 

If you have a favorite article of clothing, they can replicate it (this is what I usually do). Their prices, although a bit more than other tailor shops in HCMC, are still very reasonable for the quality and customer service, and especially if you consider that your order will be ready in less than a day. I had a silk blouse made for US$30, and dress shirts for men start around US$30. Prices vary depending on fabrics. 

Their storefront is unmarked, so look for the laundry sign like in the photo above as you're walking down Dong Du Street.

Cao Dai Great Temple in Tay Ninh, Vietnam


Worshippers dressed in white pray in neat rows in the Great Temple. Men sit on the right, women sit on the left.
The Cao Dai Holy Temple.
Priests or bishops wear colored robes to show which religion they are more closely associated with. Red is for Confucianism, Blue for Taoism, and yellow for Buddhism. Those with an eye on their headpiece are bishops. (source)
The Divine Eye.
Cao Dai is a religion that blends beliefs and practices from Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Confucianism into one harmonious faith. The religion was founded in 1926 in Tay Ninh and preaches universal principles of love and justice for all living things.

According to the Cao Dai website, "The noble effort of Cao Dai is to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world. Cao Dai does not seek to create a gray world, where all religions are exactly the same, only to create a more tolerant world, where all can see each other as sisters and brothers from a common divine source reaching out to a common divine destiny realizing peace within and without."

While in Vietnam, we had the opportunity to observe a Cao Dai service at the Grand Temple. Four times a day, worshippers dressed in flowing garments gracefully line up in tidy rows at the Great Temple to pray and chant. The ceremony is visually stunning, with a sea of worshippers bowing in unison to the music coming from the choir and orchestra on the second floor.

Visiting the Củ Chi Tunnels


Okay, really brief history lesson on the Vietnam War: The American War, as it is called in Vietnam and other countries, was fought between North Vietnam and The Republic of Vietnam (a.k.a. South Vietnam). The North was communist; the South was not. The US fought with South Vietnam to keep communism out of the country. 

The war escalated in the 1960's, especially under Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency and during the Tet Offensive. The war ended on April 30, 1975, when Saigon (the capital of South Vietnam) fell/was liberated* to the North. This led to Vietnam's eventual reunification as a communist country.

During the war, the Viet Cong (guerilla soldiers on the North's side) developed an intricate series of underground tunnels to hide from the American forces in the Củ Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City. In a ballsy move, the VC even dug tunnels under the American Army's base at Củ Chi.
An entrance to the tunnels.

The tunnels were used during combat, but also served as a place for VC guerilla soldiers to live, hide, and communicate with each other. The tunnels are small, some as small as 80cm x 80 cm in size. Underground rooms were built and used for meeting rooms, kitchens, a hospital, and school rooms. One woman even gave birth to a little girl during the war years in one of the tunnels!

Life underground was not an easy feat, though. The VC had to deal with ants, centipedes (we saw tons of them while we were at the tunnel site), scorpions and snakes. The air in the tunnels was hot, smelly and stagnant and dwellers found it hard to breathe at times. Food was also scarce, especially when crops were destroyed.
An American tank abandoned at the C Chi tunnels.
A look down a tunnel's entrance.
Jeff trying to fit through a tunnel entrance. He couldn't get much further than this.

Visiting the tunnels is not for the claustrophobic. We crawled through 20m of tunnel and were so eager to get out. For the more daring, you can continue onwards through about 100m of tunnel. Some of the tunnels have been made larger to accomodate larger tourists, but even these were teeny! Jeff and I were crouched down as we scooted through and our backs scraped the top of the tunnel. 

At the Củ Chi tunnels, you'll be shown entrances to the tunnels, as well as underground rooms which were used for meeting rooms, hospitals, and schools. At the beginning of the tour, an anti-American video is played to give you a sense of what it was like during the war. It didn't bother us, but for some I can see how it would. The war is still a sensitive subject for some people on either side of the line.

Also on site is a shooting range, where you can also shoot guns and rifles like those used during the war at the shooting range. There are several places to buy souvenirs and enjoy a cool drink, too. 

Travel tip #1: If you are coming to the tunnels from Ho Chi Minh City, as many visitors do, leave HCMC at 7:30 am to avoid long lines and hoards of tourists. We left our hotel in HCMC at 7:30 am at the wise suggestion of our guide and were one of the first groups to arrive. We had the Củ Chi tunnel site practically to ourselves.

Travel tip #2: At the souvenir shops here, they sell a lot of stuff made out of empty bullet shells and hand grenades including lighters, jewelry, and kitschy art objects. If you are coming back to Singapore after your trip to Vietnam and have purchased these souvenirs, mail them to a non-Singaporean address! Do not bring them into Singapore! It is illegal to bring bullets--live, spent, or modified--into the country. Let's just say we found out the hard way.

*fell/was liberated: Sometimes you hear it referred to as the "fall of Saigon" from people originally from the South or from Americans. Those of the communist persuasion tend to call it the "liberation of Saigon." 
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