Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Busy Afternoon On Bugis Street

A search for RC helicopter parts and Bluetooth headsets set my sights on the infamous Sim Lim Square. Prepared to spend the better half of my afternoon walking to accomplish my mission, I armed myself with a camera just in case there was anything interesting to capture. But first, I allowed myself the simple pleasure of sitting on the train ride from the Pasir Ris Station to the Bugis Station.

In hindsight, I realize that the thought about Bugis not being interesting should never cross anyone's mind. For locals, Bugis as the "largest street shopping location in Singapore" is sure to always have their attention, shopping being the favorite national past time, rivaled only by football and gastronomy. For tourists, Bugis is the best place to find cheap souvenirs. And for those who like to dig in a little deeper into Bugis' past, the place has been made famous by transvestites luring sailors and military personnel on their stop in the Merlion City.

As for my own experience, the visit of friends to Singapore is almost always never complete without a tour of Bugis. And why not? T-shirts, mugs, key chains, trinkets and other items that are light on the budget and easy to carry are golden to visitors wanting to take a piece of Singapore with them. A huge percentage of friends from neighboring countries are also interested in purchasing electronic goods during their visit, and for that, if you know what you're doing, what better place to go than Sim Lim Square?

As to my very own adventure during this particular visit, I am tempted to summarize it in two words: mission failed! Not only did I not find the helicopter part, but I also ended up not buying any Bluetooth headset. But then, all things considered, it wasn't a total failure. After all, few things could rival satisfying one's curiosity, and I say this after watching sales pitchmen go about their business — it was a priceless 10-minute education in making high impact presentations. (I will confess that I have more than once bought items they were selling even if they were speaking in Mandarin, a language I could count on my fingers the number of words that I understand.) How about the joy of drinking fresh juice after a long and tiring walk? Or the inexplicable pleasure of my longstanding affair with Ya Kun's kaya toast? Or the fact that I managed to buy something from the fruit stand for just $5? And oh, I made four people happy by bringing home Ritz' apple strudel.

This must be the weirdest way I've ever ended something I wrote, but I'm having a slice of that apple strudel for my midnight snack just after hitting that orange "publish post" button. Chow!

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Monday, June 6, 2011

A Tropical Paradise Called Boracay

Boracay is without a doubt one of the best tropical beaches in the world. Its powdery white sand beach is phenomenal, its diving sites plentiful and amazing, its gustatory treats abundant and delightful, and not the least important of all, its people friendly and accommodating.

There are myriad of activities for just about everyone, from people simply wanting to relax and enjoy the beach to the more adventurous and athletic ones ones seeking the thrill of various sports in and out of water. Shopaholics need not suffer withdrawal symptoms as flea markets abound in Boracay; there's also a mini-mall that shouldn't be difficult to find nor forget given its name, D-Mall. As for party animals, you should have a blast at the night scene. And before I forget to mention, there's internet connection in the island if you couldn't wait to post your lovely Boracay pics on facebook until you get home.

If you haven't been to Boracay, it's not a matter of thinking whether you should go or not, it's simply a question of when. The best time to visit would be during the months of summer in the Philippines — March, April and May. The peak season however, starts in the month of October. The four months between these, as you've probably deduced, comprise the off-peak season — they're ideal for tourists on a tight budget but beware that the same months form part of the typhoon peak season in the Philippines.

There are tons of useful information about Boracay in the Internet so feel free to google away. It's also best to ask people who've been there too or, if you are so fortunate to have a Filipino friend, ask for practical tips and advice.

If there's anything that bothered me during my recent trip to Boracay, it would be this canal leading to the beach from goodness knows. There's a bit of smell emanating from the water although it wasn't that bad. It's comforting to know however that a sewage treatment plant has been started ahead of it's schedule. Otherwise, I'd fear for the future of this lovely island.

If you're curious about the fourth picture, that's a shot of street food being sold along the shorelines. See that orange spiral treat? That would be isaw in the local tongue, or grilled chicken intestine.

The last picture is a shot from the balcony of our hotel, the Ambassador in Paradise.

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