Sunday, 29 April 2018

A personalized Tour Guide in Singapore

Recently (Sep 2017) I had visitors to Singapore after nearly 14 years staying here. Szet Li was one and the other Chris from the USA

Its funny coz I always write about all my travels but not really about the travels in Singapore and I wonder why …. Too close to home maybe … afraid that someone might track me down or refute the conclusions I make after much thoughts.

I’ll just go with lazy …

I was lost when they both had no itinerary on their list and leave all the recommendation to me trusting that I would give them a Singapore Experience no guidebook or internet recommendation can compare. The local knowledge or rather a skewed Malaysian perspective ….

Szet li was high school friend and Chris was a guy I bump into in a hostel in Seoul, Korea and re-connect again when I was in Copenhagen, Denmark.

It’s amusing that after two visitor came to Singapore and I became a tour guide of sorts, I brought them to the same route that I felt was the best way to see and experience this city-state mundane lifestyle.

Two personalized tour trips in Singapore for two very different Individual

Type 1 – The Foodie

Chris, my buddy ping me up on Facebook one day saying

Chris : Hey man, hows it goin? Ill be in Singapore for two days, arriving on Sep 1st and was planning on spending sept 2nd doing a day trip to Johor. On the third I fly to yangon, if you around maybe we could meet up, at least for a coffee or something or come with if you are free

I got his flight number and decided to pick him up in Singapore … then convince and chuckle him out of going to Johor and staying in Singapore instead … A day trip on to Johor on a public holiday without any know how of the complex border crossing between Malaysia and Singapore would have just burn him and probably made him miss a flight to Yangon anyway …

I knew Chris was a chillax traveller with no plans and no preference … food was a big up so the tour begin the moment he landed (about 10pm) ….

You hungry?? – Yeah …

So straight to the first stop Geylang Midnight Lorong 9 Frog Porridge.

The next day was the “I can’t eat anymore”

It started out nice and slow going to Chinatown for food … the food chain tour went in this manner

(Note that this was all done in a single day less than 8 hours)

1. Original Chew Kee Eating House – This is one of my fav since working in Chinatown for so many years, Soy Source Chicken Noodle

Soy Sauce Chicken Noodle - Chew Kee Eating House

2. Claypot Chicken Rice – This one was at Chinatown Complex Food Centre, 335 Smith Street … up to second floor and try not to get lost in the maze of hawkers … I could never find the same hawker twice since I always got lost, so a random choice for a Claypot Chicken Rice

3. Durian – Along the way somewhere in Chinatown we pass by a Durian shop … tough negotiation with the uncle just to let me buy a small piece sampler for Chris … the one “biji” cost me SGD2 … Definitely interesting he said …. But once is enough 😊

4. Mei Heong Yuen Dessert – Good old and new traditional desert … there are many desert shop in Chinatown with all the tourist but this is the one the locals or go in “tapau” and leave quietly … it is still quite popular and crowded since those that know how to find good stuff will still find it. … I stuff him with “Bak Chang – (Cantonese Dumplings)” as well with a Red Bean Lotus & Cheng Teng

5. Free Bak Kwa Sample Bee Cheng Hiang - What can I say … nothing beats free food … just hang around the MRT entrance where the store is and you get tiny bits samplers …

6. Popiah – Block 32 Upper Cross Street, Chinatown Food Court … this is another hidden gem when you will not see idiot tourist Gawking with cameras … it was my fav and the stall lady stills remember me after so many years … bonus tour point was the numerous old folks that plays Chinese Chess as if their live savings depends on it …

7. Tiong Bahru Market - Jian Bo Shui Kueh #02-05, this is a traditional dying art of love ….

Jian Bo - Shui Kueh, Tiong Bahru Market
8. Otak – Otak - Block 112 Bukit Merah Neighbourhood Hawker, this is just me being lazy since its near my place of stay … also I did not know much place that sells Otak-Otak at 4pm in the afternoon

Break !! – I need a break he says

So a break we had … time to walk and burn some of the food away …

The Marina Bay Loop seams to be the best option I thought but more importantly Chris was on the same page as me for free stuff … so a bus ride to the National Gallery of Singapore. The old colonial building, City Hall of Singapore overlooking the “Padang” field where the annual F1 race starts was the starting point of the blurtravels personal walking tour.

In we go to the National Gallery but restricted ourselves to the free section :P the hidden gem that I knew as the highest floor of the National Gallery has a very nice al fresco bar with air-conditioning overlooking Marina Bay Sands, Esplanade and all the sky lines of Singapore on both sides. The bar was expensive but the view was free.

Then the slow walk passing the Victoria Theatre, Dalhousie Obelisk (Who knew Singapore had one Obelisk yeah), Anderson Bridge and tadaa we were at the most expensive hotel in Singapore, The Fullerton. The marina bay came into full sight and of course a visit to see the infamous “Merlion” of Singapore.

Then it was a long loop walk passing by the esplanade, DNA bridge and finally reached Marina Bay Sans Shopping Mall, Casino and Hotel. Luckily Chris was not a casino guy … else gulp … then we join all the other tourist for the lightshow.

OK ….. I can eat now so he says …

So for the last food stop I brought him to Kembangan MRT

9. Seng Kee Black Chicken Herbal Soup Restaurant - We ordered the second signature dish … Pig Organs Mee Suah, a delicacy not easily found in Singapore or Malaysia …

Seng Kee Black Chicken Herbal Soup 
Type 2 – Universal Studios Themepark

Szet li was a promised Universal Studios Themepark trip which I somehow said yea sure I’ll pay for you and everything so long as you make your way down to Singapore.

Fun Fact … of the 14 years I stay in Singapore I have never been visited before by friends in KL.

The occasional chit chat at the mamak stall when I am back in KL always friends have hopes of one day visiting Singapore …. But for a 5 hours bus journey or 45 minutes plane ride it was always a dream to them … Some or rather most would be here for a work trip and gone the moment I see the facebook check-in. So the first personal visit I got … bring a smile inside

So no brainer … a full day in Universal Studios Singapore … 😊

Surprisingly, night time was the same tour as Chris downtown …. For a first timer in Singapore I guess that was my best tour route 😊 … yep that’s the best route I think …

Sunday, 1 April 2018

The Hunt for that Special Ride

A road trip starts from the very beginning. Previously I wrote about converting my license from Singapore to Malaysia and the whole purpose was so I could be more aligned when travelling. Passport Malaysia, License Malaysia, Motorbike, bought, registered and MADE IN MALAYSIA.

All this for the paranoid traveler like me preparing for the future event if I were to try to sneak cross over borders of difficult nature such as the Thai-Myanmar Border or the Myanmar-China Border or the Cambodia-Vietnam border or the Vietnam-China Border. Best to get your story straight …. Especially when not speaking the same language. Best not to confuse the already confused officers when going about some unimaginable road trip.

So I decided in Sep 2017 that I was to be using a motorbike instead of a car for the road trip …. Now I just needed to buy a motorbike.

The dilemma was real :-

What kind of bike should I get ??

What was my budget … RM 5k ??

Second Hand or Brand New ??

250cc or 125cc or should I upgrade my license and get a Harley … ??

Could I afford a classic like Vespa??

Can I maintain the bike on the road myself??

What about Carnet & Insurance??

Those were just the basics that go over in my head while looking at adverts and adverts of bikes for sale on the internet. In the end money rules them all … I managed to streamline to a few models

Demak D7 125cc

Demak D7 150cc ( but its not out yet … only picture in theory on the internet )

KTNS GP 125cc

KTNS GP 250cc

As you can see …. I have a thing for the classic look. This all started after looking at my landlord bike in Singapore a Suzuki GN 125 which he maintained lovely like a vintage …. Alas I could not buy the bike off him for it would be in SGD 5k plus the other hassles of Carnet in SG insurance in SG registration to a non-citizen non-pass holder … Short story … I like a old mechanical no nonsense bike which I can strip apart myself someday and custom built it to my liking

My Singapore Landlord Bike - Suzuki GN 125 
So one fine week while I was back home in KL doing nothing … took my dad for a bike shopping trip … Demak D7 was about RM2900 but there was no stock in all the cycles shop we went in KL ... this covers from Setapak area to Ampang to Kajang … anyplace on the web that says there was a Demak D7 …. There was no more stock when we reach the place …

Next Best thing Was the KTNS GP 125cc – Price about RM 6k … imagine that … now I had to think very hard on how this was going to be …. Did not jump the gun but saw the other more beautifully sleek KTNS 250 cc … - Price about RM 12k … both had stock but need to order and wait …

I did not buy any bike that trip back to KL …

A month later late Nov 2017 … scouring the net like crazy for some hint a of a decent bike …. I found the authorized dealer shop that sells Demak and an expensive phone call from Singapore the guy tells me ya we have stock, but not much left …

Thinking it might be a false news like all the calls that say yea we have it till I reach the shop and they run out of stock and tries to sell you the double the price KTNS GP 125, I decided to drop a message on their facebook page. …

One day later the reply came … yea we have it … not much left thou …

Ng Brothers Motor
No. 37, Jalan Pakis 1, Taman Sri Pulai, Johor, 81100 Johor Bahru, Malaysia

So one nice weekend I made a trip to Johor, took the expensive long distance taxi ride to their shop and it was time to buy a bike …. Price was RM2900 ++ the guy said … just let me confirm the stock he said … a short phone call later

“But” …. He says …. My heart fell … thinking it must be the same thing again … no stock … run out … some other nonsense excuse ….

Motorshop: But only one color left – Black … are you ok with that … this is old stock no more in production this model he says …

With a big grin I paid the deposit and cant wait for the next week to come into Johor to pick up my new bike.

Somewhere in the middle of the week I got a call from the bike shop … they have a problem he said, … my heart fell even harder this time thinking its gonna be some shitty excuse that they made a mistake and now they don’t have the bike ….

Motorshop: I made a mistake … they don’t have black color … only blue, is it ok with you ….

Heck yea of course it was ok with me, better yet I prefer that color initially just did not say anything since there was no choice anyway …. But that was just my heart screaming YES YES YES

To him I said

Me: Haaar … no more black ah …. Got discount or not ? ( I just had to asked )

Motorshop: Haha … no discount, this is old stock and actually hor there is another thing, because its old stock, ppl are jacking up the price and selling it …

Me: Huh ?? Sorry I don’t understand. ( I fully understand … shit shit shit … how much is this extortion gonna be? Maybe I should not have asked for a discount .... too greedy ... instead of getting a discount i am being asked for more money *facepalm* )

Motorshop: I mean I get the old stock from other people and they not selling at old price anymore, they are selling higher price

Me: How much higher ( all kinds of random possibilities ran through my head even thinking if this was a big scam or not )

Motorshop: RM 300 more

Me: Ok ….

So I got the bike, an new but old bike if that make any sense … It was a bike that was manufacture in 2014 and sat in the store till I bought it in 2017 … 3 years … not too bad I hope … the shop settle all the insurance, road tax and stuff which was about RM 100 …

That next weekend I went to Johor and straight to the motorshop. Before even entering, I could see my bike nicely parked outside … it was one of a kind … no other bike looked like it. Paid my balance including the extorted RM 300 … I think it was extorted … well maybe not from this motorshop chap but definitely from someone up the line that pass the bike to him and finally to me.

Demak D7 - Ready for Collection

Demak D7 - My First Ride
Checked my Ownership document, Road Tax, Insurance …. Wait … what … I am married ??? Looking at the motorshop guy I pointed to the insurance which says martial status : Married …. Err this is wrong …

Motorshop: Ah !! no problem … its ok … you anything just come back … if I put you married its much much cheaper the premium … else at least 5 times more !!

Rolled my eyes …. Ok I am married I guess ….

Demak D7 back at Home - The Adventure Planning is in full swing now