The Occasional Traveller http://theoccasionaltraveller.com Occasionally Travelling, Always Inspiring Tue, 16 Sep 2014 06:55:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Live the designer life at BIG Hotelhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/12/live-designer-life-big-hotel-singapore/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/12/live-designer-life-big-hotel-singapore/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15593 A short staycation at a BIG Hotel - A review on this boutique designer hotel with a great central location in the Arts & Heritage district of Singapore

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There’s just been so much going on in Singapore recently – lots of arts events are happening right now for some reason, which means I’m extra busy at work, and recently I took some time off to check out the Singapore Night Festival that happened in the Bras Basah Bugis area, or what they’re calling Singapore’s Art and Heritage District.

Since the folk at BIG Hotel had invited me to check out the hotel, I thought this would be the best time to do it, and it sure was nice just strolling back to my hotel at 1am to crash instead of trying to hail a cab home!

Here’s a little more about my BIG hotel stay:

Getting There

Big Hotel - Facade
Is the BIG Hotel really big?

BIG Hotel has a great location in the Bras Basah district along Middle road. It’s away from the bustle enough for the surroundings not to be too noisy, yet close enough to the action that you can get to the major sights and shopping malls quite easily – 10-15min walk will get you to most major nearby sights.

The closest MRT is probably Bras Basah on the Circle line, but you could walk a little more to Dhoby Ghaut, which is a major interchange of Circle, North-East and North-South lines, so it’s quite convenient for travellers.

 

The Room

Big Hotel - Room Keycard
I like being a bigshot!

I checked into room 1321 on the 13th floor. The overall room has a great designer vibe, very clean and almost showroom like, with concrete walls and lots of wooden panelling. I stayed in the Executive Room, which honestly isn’t very large, but for a traveller who’s likely to spend most of her time out of the room, it’s quite enough.

It’s got this open concept thing going for it which makes efficient use of the tight space – there aren’t any cupboards, just hooks and knobs on a wall – this lack of cupboard paneling helps create the feel of a larger space in the room.

Big Hotel - Room from Door
Standing at the door with my wide angle iphone lens to give you a better view of the room. The toilet is on the left
Big Hotel - Room from Window
I’m standing at the window next to my bed and shooting towards the doorway

The bathroom is narrow and pretty tight – there’s only enough room for the toilet bowl and shower, so they stuck the sink outside instead, and while that does help save space a bit, it’s a bit weird washing your hands outside the loo, and I feel like I don’t have enough ledge space to put my toiletries.

Big Hotel - bathroom
small but efficient bathroom. Rain shower option as well!
Big Hotel - Coffee Machine
There are 2 Nespresso capsules in the room, along with tea bags and mineral water.

The bed is quite the showpiece, a large king sized bed and very comfortable – they put it on a raised platform with space underneath it, which is a smart space saving idea. It also has a large flat screen TV placed attached to the wall right at its end, so even if you checked in with the plan to spend all day indoors, you’re probably not going to move much from this comfortable bed especially when you have a whole slew of popular movies on demand at your finger tips. Wish I had more time to indulge!

Big Hotel - Space Saving
Safe and space to stow luggage under the bed
Big Hotel - View from Window
There aren’t very many windows in the room – this tall narrow one was next to the bed. you can see La Salle College of the Arts (black building) on the right side

Each room is equipped with a Google Nexus, and  besides pre-loaded apps and info, it can also control all the room lights and the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the door! You can also activate the Internet TV Protocol, and the same movie selection as on the TV is available for watchng, so if you lose the war for the remote, you could just plug in and watch your chosen show on a smaller screen. It’s also useful for those without their smart devices, as you can take it out of the room and use it instead of incurring charges on your own phone!

Big Hotel - Nexus 7
Being able to turn on and off all the lights on a device is quite novel…

 

Big Hotel - Corridor
outside the rooms – water cooler and ice machine on every floor

The Hotel

Big Hotel - Reception
the showroom like reception. it’s kinda nice to see people comfortable enough to just hang out here

It’s designed to feel like you’ve stepped into a designer’s house, and that’s something you feel right when you step into the lobby as you descend the stairs from the entrance at level 1. The reception area feel like it sprung out the living room of a showroom, and it’s obviously quite popular with guests as they lounge around this fancy living room, reading the newspapers or flipping the channels on TV.

There is a restaurant on the other side of the basement called the Nook, which also serves up takeaway food deli-style, so busy travellers can just grab and go if they need to, and is also where they serve breakfast in the morning. If you want a tipple, there’s a lovely little bar area called Grape and Grain up on level 2, which looks pretty nice to hang out in. If you’re in need of last minute snacks, the 24-hour convenience store Cheers is right around the corner.

Big Hotel - Nook
the Nook is located on basement 1, same level as the reception. i like the deli style counter

Other amenities include a gym on level 2, but that’s about it for this boutique hotel.

 

Around the Area

For museum lovers, you’re in the arts and heritage district with lots of options nearby to satisfy the culture vulture in you. The Singapore Art Museum and National Museum are within 10-15 mins walk from the hotel. I checked out the Singapore Night Festival while I stayed there, walking the entire district, and then heading back to my room at close to 1am.

For the shoppers, you can hit up the more popular The Cathay, Plaza Singapura, Bugis Plus, Bugis Junction within 10 mins walk, or maybe check out some hidden gems. Sunshine Plaza is popular with students and has a great dim sum place called Victor’s Kitchen, or the Selegie stretch has a rather eclectic mix of nightlife, gaming and other random spaces within.

 

Price

I stayed in the executive room with breakfast, which usually goes at S$218, but when I last checked an equivalent stay on the website, prices were as low as $148. There are smaller rooms which were going for $188 as well. Do check out their website and consider booking directly from there because they have some pretty good deals, like for solo travellers and with a no-breakfast option too.

 

BIG Hotel
200 Middle Road, Singapore 188980

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Reader Recs: Cafes to visit in Singapore (and a CafeFest Singapore review)http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/08/favourite-cafes-singapore-cafe-fest-giveaway/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/08/favourite-cafes-singapore-cafe-fest-giveaway/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15615 Looking for a cool hang out in Singapore? My readers recommend their favourite cafes to visit in Singapore, and I check out the inaugural CafeFest and whether it was worth it!

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If you’re wandering around Singapore on the weekend, one favourite way to escape the heat is to pop into one of the many myriad cafes that have been springing up all over Singapore. Cafes were once the mainstay of the hipster crowd looking to see and be seen, but these days you can find just about anyone in a cafe looking for a nice place to chill out.

The folks at Skyscanner Singapore kindly offered me and my readers some tickets to check out the inaugural CafeFest Singapore, which brought together 12 popular Singaporean cafes together in a 2-day festival with music and games to boot! I held a little giveaway for my readers asking about their favourite cafes in Singapore, here are some of their recommendations which I thought I’d compile and share with everyone else.

A quick note that I haven’t been to most of these places myself, so I’m gonna have to do a little exploring sometime soon! Also, I am not a coffee drinker at all so I can’t give you any personal feedback on some of these coffee, but I can give you an opinion based on what my friends are raving about!

 

CENTRAL

Downtown hip areas where people like to congregate and hang out on a weekend, these places are where you see and be seen, and an easy place for you to take a quick break at before going shopping or checking out the downtown area.

RONIN
17 Hong Kong Street (Clarke Quay area)

This coffee joint was one of the more popular recommendations from my readers. “Consistently good coffee and smiley service crew“, says nigochu. Another reader Khai Yuan meanwhile liked the ambiance and how you had the option of sitting at communal tables or smaller high-seat tables. Be warned that the data connection is apparently weak here, but as Khai Yuan puts it quite optimistically, “no distraction and a good place to have some alone time!“. It also doesn’t seem to have a website or social media pages, so no pix unfortunately, but check out the Yelp reviews here.

 

TOBY’S ESTATE
8 Rodyk Street, #01-03/04 (Robertson Quay area)

Cafes in Singapore - Tobys Estate
Photo via Tobys Estate Facebook Page

Another of reader Khai Yuan’s favourite places because of its great coffee, it’s easy to see that he’s not the only one who thinks so because when I was at CafeFest, Toby’s Estate had one of the longest queues throughout the day! My friend P gave their coffee the thumbs up, but sadly passed up on the pulled pork sandwich which according to various comments I’ve seen, is quite delectable.

 

ARTISTRY
17 Jalan Pinang (Bugis area)

Cafes in Singapore - Artistry
Dessert after lunch with the colleagues – this is an incredible peanut-butter reeses choc cake, mhhmmm

Reader Brian proclaims that the “red velvets coupled with their friendly atmosphere always make my day complete!”. I like the ambiance of the place and it’s pretty nice to chill in the outdoor area when the weather is good. What’s also great is their support of local musicians who often hold gigs here, and also nearby are Ernest Zacharevic’s street art which you can check out while digesting your meal.

 

NYLON COFFEE ROASTERS
4 Everton Park Road #01-04 (Outram area)
Closed on Tuesdays

Cafes in Singapore - Nylon Coffee Roasters
Photo via Nylon Coffee Roasters Facebook page

“Great coffee” says my other giveaway winner Andre gives it his stamp of approval for great coffee, which is a common refrain I’ve heard from most people who visit. It’s not quite a proper cafe – more for the coffee lover who takes their brews seriously and want to stand around with other coffee lovers, don’t expect to lounge your day away in this cafe!

 

I AM CAFE
674 North Bridge Road (Kampong Glam / Bugis area)
Closed on 1st/3rd Mondays of the month

Cafes in Singapore - I Am
Photo via I am Facebook Page

Nice ambiance, good coffee, generous portion of food, and my favourite red velvet cake” says ja3cywong. It’s pretty new but well located in one of my favourite parts of Singapore, Kampong Glam, close to hipster shopping street Haji Lane. They were also at CafeFest but I didn’t manage to check them out much.

 

HEARTLAND

These cafes are located in heartland residential areas, and most easily visited by people who live around them so not as convenient for visitors to Singapore. Still, distance has never stopped a true blue cafe-loving Singaporean from getting there, and if you have a little more time to spare and some inkling to explore how Singaporeans live, here are some places to check out.

CREAMIER
128 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 #01-835
Closed on Mondays

Cafes in Singapore - Creamier Ice Cream
photo via Creamier’s Facebook page

A popular ice cream cafe located in one of Singapore’s older public housing estates, the lucky people near the Toa Payoh area like Chris How get to enjoy their great homemade ice cream and famous waffles right in their neighbourhood. I’ve heard so many good things about them, this is definitely top of my list to check out!

 

HABITAT COFFEE
223 Upper Thomson Road
Closed on Mondays

Cafes in Singapore - Habitat
Photo via  Habitat Coffee Facebook Page

Reader Amanda Lua loves to hang out with her friends at this cafe located along Thomson Road. It’s not the easiest to get to as there’s no nearby MRT, but there’s lots of good food along this stretch of road, so make it a proper food expedition and then pop in here right at the end to chill out after you’re stuffed!

 

HATTER STREET BAKEHOUSE AND CAFE
Blk 212 Hougang Street 21 #01-333
Closed on Mondays

Cafes in Singapore - Hatter Street
Photo via Hatter Street Facebook page

Quirky cafe and mouth watering desserts” says my reader Eunice, and you know things are a little different at this cafe just from the rather colourful get-ups the folk manning their CafeFest booth were wearing! This Alice in Wonderland inspired cafe did have some pretty interesting looking cakes and desserts on display, so definitely for those who like to have some fun with their food.

 

CHOCK FULL OF BEANS
Blk 4 Changi Village Road #01-2090

Cafes in Singapore - Chock Full of Beans
photo via Chock Full of Beans facebook page

Reader and giveaway winner Debbie loves the “whimsical 3D latte art” and there are lots of amazing examples on their facebook page. It might be worth your while to venture to this far, far eastern end of Singapore just to check it out!

 

WIMBLY LU
15-2 Jalan Riang (Serangoon area)
Closed on Mondays

Cafes in Singapore - Wimbly Lu
photo via Wimbly Lu website

This place is hidden quite far inside a private housing estate so it’s not the easiest place to get to without a car – speaking of which, look for the classic VW Beetle that’s perpetually parked outside this shop! The oddly named Wimbly Lu specializes in chocolates and has some really delectable sweets for sale, including this rootbeer cake dessert above. They recently opened another small branch in Serangoon Gardens, which is marginally easier to get to!

 

VISITING CAFEFEST

So this last Saturday, I popped down to the Waterfront Promenade at the Marina Bay Sands area to check out this inaugural 2-day festival with the Skyscanner folk. Overall I think CafeFest was a great concept, bringing 12 popular but scattered cafes to 1 central area so people can try their food. However, the ticket bit (pre-fest tix cost from $20-30 depending) seemed a little bit redundant as the event was open to public (not exclusive as they initially claimed) and the discounts for ticket holders weren’t very significant ($0.50 – $1 on average). Also, they didn’t seem to know or have any news about ticket perks like the Uber rides, so their organization could use quite a bit of work. This post should give you an idea what’s happening on the CafeFest social media pages now (i.e. not good at all!)

Updated 14 Sep 2014: In case you’re one the poor folk trying to seek compensation for the tix, just know that it’s turning into a bit of a fiasco! Stay tuned to the CafeFest FB page for the updates on that

My friend P also pointed out that it was pretty hard to eat that much anyway because honestly, how much coffee/cakes can you consume at a go? Some ideas we thought might be awesome would be to sell sample sized portions for $1 each so you could really try everything if you wanted to, give some spending credits for ticket holders and much better discounts of at least 50% to make the pre-sales worthwhile. Our killer idea? Have an awesome $12-for-12-coffee-shots sampler set exclusively for pass holders (anyone want to hire us for your next event? :P)

Still, if you didn’t bother with tickets and aren’t involved in the current brouhaha, you would probably have had a pretty fun experience just hanging out on the boardwalk with a plethora of food and drink choices and enjoying some of the activities like music performances from the Spotify pavilion or the random ping-pong tables by Fred Perry.

CafeFestSG - Sign
The 12 cafes you could find at CafeFest
CafeFestSG - Giveaway Debbie
Me and Debbie with our CafeFest goodie bags at the entrance!
CafeFestSG - Providore Chocolate
I had this pretty decadent drinking chocolate from The Providore, a pretty newish Aussie style cafe that opened up in Mandarin Gallery Shopping Arcade. Not related at all to the Providore which I saw in Margaret River though!
CafeFestSG - Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich
This was breakfast :P

 

The CafeFest tix for this giveaway and my own visit were courtesy of Skyscanner Singapore, much thanks to the lovely Pamela for arranging everything and being such a cool chick to hang out with at CafeFest. Follow Skyscanner on Twitter or Facebook for the best flight deals and travel inspiration!

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Richard Silver gets Time Slicedhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/03/richard-silver-gets-time-sliced/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/09/03/richard-silver-gets-time-sliced/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15617 See famous landmarks around the world shift from day to night in a single image in Richard Silver's Time Sliced series.

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It’s been a bit of a weekend, having some domain problems which had my site down for the entire weekend. I did feel kinda lost, and it’s thrown off my already spotty posting schedule even more as I spent more time troubleshooting than actually getting any writing done!

So I’m gonna distract you with pretty pictures today from the Time Sliced series by photographer Richard Silver, who took photos of famous landmarks around the world around sunset, which he then stitched together into a single image where you can see the light change from day to night in slices of time.

I like how you can almost see time passing you by as you look at the pictures and you can somehow feel the sunset taking place. Awesome work! See the full series on his website or over here at flickr (there’s a Marina Bay Sands one too!)

Richard Silver Time Sliced Rome
I want to see the coliseum in Rome some day!
Richard Silver Time Sliced London
London’s Westminster Abbey looks so regal
Richard Silver Time Sliced Istanbul
Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia is also another place on the bucket list
Richard Silver Time Sliced Easter Island
the Moa on Easter Island is one of my favourite pix of his entire series!
Richard Silver Time Sliced Beijing
Beijing’s birds nest stadium looks like a phoenix egg about to hatch!

 

Photos of Richard’s work via Colossal, used with permission.

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Staying at a Winery in Margaret River – Amon-Ra at Ibizan Wineshttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/26/amon-ra-ibizan-winery/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/26/amon-ra-ibizan-winery/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15588 Looking for a cosy corner down away from the hustle and bustle down in Margaret River? Amon-Ra at Ibizan Wines is the perfect place for you to check out.

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So earlier in the year I was up in Margaret River enjoying the wineries, breweries and other gourmet food on a short holiday to relax. The one thing I knew I wanted to do while down in this famous wine region was to stay on a winery somewhere, rather than in a hotel like the Rendezvous Grand Scarborough which I stayed in on my first night there. It took a little researching, but I ended up finding a cute little place called Amon-Ra, in a little winery called Ibizan Wines.

If you’re looking to really escape from civilization and stay in a nice homey sorta place for a decent price, I highly recommend you check this place out. More below…

 

GETTING THERE

Marg River Wine Tourism Map - MR
Make sure you enter by Davis Road! There’s entry to Bridgelane Road via Rosa Glen Road, but no through road to the winery from that direction

Ibizan Wines doesn’t have a retail front, so it’s not listed on the official Margaret River Tourism Map – it’s located south-east of the main Margaret River town in Rosa Glen. You’ll most probably be driving around this region when you visit, so it’s not difficult to get to on your own, but it is a little out of the way if you’re talking about proximity to town – as you can see from the map there’s not much out there save for rolling green fields! The good news is that you can avoid some of the heavier traffic (or roadblocks) which usually take place in the main roads…

Also, it’s either the remote location or something about grape vines, because there is no telephone signal on the winery. Yes, that’s right, the house has no internet, no wi-fi, no phone signals, so you’re welcome to drop off the face of humanity for a little bit when you’re out there! GPS still works though so you won’t be completely lost finding your way there, and the owners are happy to make any calls for you if you need – Michelle offered to make reservations for us, helping us get lunch at Leeuwin Estate.

 

THE HOUSE

Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Exterior
Taken from the treehouse

The owners Brian and Michelle live on the winery, and Amon-Ra is actually a separate guest house about 100m or so from their own property. And that’s it, no other people on the land but you and them, so it’s really good if you want to get away from the maddening crowds. It is pretty damn peaceful when sitting out on the verandah at any time of the day!

Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Entrance
Welcome! Entrance to Amon-Ra

The house itself is mostly made up of one large room with a King-sized bed, complete with floral couch from your childhood and an old but servicable TV. There’s quite a lot of space so you don’t feel cramped up, and the general furnishing and has the look of being rather lived-in so you feel like you’re staying over in someone’s quaint little home rather than in an impersonal hotel. There’s also a heater behind the couch, which is quite welcome as it can get cold at night.

Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Bed
The main room of the house is taken up by the large comfortable bed
Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Couch
Rather quaint couch and cupboard. The TV is located behind me

It comes with an ensuite bathroom and shower, quite decently sized and also equipped with heaters. Another godsend were also these really thick fuzzy bathrobes that made getting out of the bath a less chilly experience!

Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Shower
The shower on one side of the sink
Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Toilet
Toilet on the other

There is also a kitchenette next to the room, though it’s not attached to the room directly – you have to walk out onto the verandah to access it. It comes with a fridge and is equipped with most stuff you’ll need if you’re preparing your own food. There’s also a little grill on the verandah which you can use for cooking, which is exactly what we did one night with steaks and mushrooms from the supermarket!

Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Kitchenette
Kitchenette! That door is locked~
Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Kitchenette Table
We ate our grilled dinner in here because it was too cold outside at night! That wine bottle is actually a pepper grinder!
Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Kitchenette Fridge
The fridge comes stocked with condiments you can use for cooking/grilling, and there’s the standard coffee/tea and even some instant mix soup for snacks
Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Porch
Selfie with the grill on the verandah – it was nice to just sit outside during the afternoon and chill out on the porch with a book and wine
Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Grill
S grilling dinner. I helped cut the mushrooms, though apparently I am quite useless in kitchen

 

AROUND THE HOUSE

The winery is a working vineyard, so throughout the day you’re likely to see the owners pottering around the place working. Behind the house is a backyard/shed filled with tools and materials.

Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Backyard
The backyard, not much to see there

And in front of the house, you can’t miss this very charming little treehouse, which gives you great views of the house and the surrounding vineyard area.

Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Treehouse
Treehouse! You can’t NOT want to climb up

You’re free to wander the grounds as you please, so it’s great for a good walk. The house is located right next to a gate that leads to the vineyards. If you walk all the way to the end of the vineyard, you’ll find yourself at the edge of the woods, and you could probably wander in for a bit, but I didn’t venture out so far.

Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Treehouse View
View of the vineyard from the treehouse. The house is to the left of this picture – I walked down that lane you see to the right, all the way down till I hit the forest edge
Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Cabernet
You can see the different types of grapes being grown – I saw vines for cabarnet, sauvignon and chardonnay just from my quick wander
Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Grapes
close up of the grapes – definitely not harvesting season….

And when you’re tired of all the outdoorsy stuff in the day, you can curl up in bed and watch TV or their little hodgepodge collection of DVDs at night – it’s an old TV, and the collection of DVDs ranges from ok to rather suspect (and I mean the sort where you get people standing up in the middle of them or terrible English subtitling) so bring your own entertainment if you need some!

But the best thing you could do is probably enjoy the complimentary bottle of wine thrown into the room stay – what better way to enjoy a winery stay? They also have additional bottles of wine in the room available for sale, so you can drink first and pay later, or order more to ship home!

 

AROUND THE AREA

From the map above, the nearest ‘town centre’ is Witchcliffe, though I can tell you that there really isn’t anything there – it’s just a part of the highway which has some buildings on either side of it. You’ll need to head into Margaret River if you want to pick up groceries or find a restaurant.

We had breakfast at The Berry Farm one morning. And for the beach lovers, Redgate beach is also quite near, as is the Mammoth Cave along Caves Road.

 

COST

Their rate for Easter at that point was A$120/night (and down to A$110/night if you paid by cash on arrival), which was quite reasonable all things considered! Margaret River gets a lot of visitors during that period, and this was actually one of the more reasonably priced accommodations that I managed to find.

See their listing at Stayz, though you’re probably better off just emailing them directly. Michelle replied me really quickly, so getting the stay settled was quite efficiently done.

 

Perth Margaret River Amon Ra morning view
Mornings on the porch
Perth Margaret River Amon Ra Hidden in Trees
This hidden gem

 

All in all, I really enjoyed my stay at Amon-Ra! I think couples would enjoy getting away from the hustle and bustle, and just the fact that there’s no phone signal there, forces you to enjoy holidays the old fashion way, by communicating and talking, and it doesn’t hurt that their wine is pretty decent (the white Chardonnay that we had was more dry, but still quite tasty)

Find out more about Amon-Ra on their website at ibizanwines.com.au.

Do you have a place to recommend to stay in Margaret River? Share here!

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Wear the World on your Wrist – the Artelier World Cuffhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/21/wear-world-wrist-artelier-world-cuff/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/21/wear-world-wrist-artelier-world-cuff/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15574 Ladies who want a beautiful way to remind themselves to travel, check out the Artelier World Cuff by Cristina Ramella, handmade and wanderlust worthy

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So work has been crazy busy, but a colleague tagged me in an  instagram picture recently because she said it reminded her of me, and WELL NOW HELLO MY PRETTY… #distracted

These lovely world map inspired accessories are handmade by Cristina Ramella of Artelier and are totally wanderlust worthy. While they’re a little out of my usual price range, they aren’t too exorbitant and I think they would make a great gift for the fashionable travel lover in your life.

I mean, it’s less permanent than a travel tattoo, and classy enough to wear to work or play. It’s such a nice reminder for yourself to travel more :)

(Do I sound like I’m trying to talk myself into splurging a little? Hm…)

Artelier World Cuff Gold Greece
I love the detailing of the map!
Artelier World Cuff Rhodium
The rhodium gunmetalish colour is my favourite, absolutely gorgeous! If I were to splurge, I would totally get this one

 

Artelier World Map ring rose
The ring version is slimmer, but no less exquisite

 

Artelier World Map ring
I think the pale pinkish colour would be quite popular with the ladies…

Check out the Artelier shop here. The ring costs USD225 while the cuff goes at USD350.

The world map series items are definitely my favourites, but here are two other travel themed items that I thought were also pretty cool:

Artelier NYC ring
This NYC ring is for anyone who doesn’t mind a little bulk – I love the 3D effect of the buildings!
Artelier Africa necklace
She has different pendants for different continents, so if you have a favourite one to visit, this is simple, not too pricey and still quite nice ;)

Do you have a favourite travel themed accessory? Share yours here!

Pictures used with permission from Artelier.mx

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Catching a live Muay Thai fight at Rajadamnern Stadiumhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/14/catching-live-muay-thai-fight-rajadamnern-stadium/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/14/catching-live-muay-thai-fight-rajadamnern-stadium/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15450 Want to watch some Muay Thai live in Bangkok? Go watch some real fights over at Rajadamnern Stadium, or catch the theatre show at Asiatique.

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So besides the day trip out to Ayutthaya, another thing on the itinerary I was quite stoked about on this recent trip to Thailand was the prospect of watching Muay Thai live… like how awesome would that be, being able to catch a real Muay Thai match in person! All I really know about Muay Thai is that it was a really hip fitness option a few years back and that it can be pretty brutal, so I was quite keen to see a real Muay Thai fight.

Bangkok - Asiatique Muay Thai Live Theatre
The Stage at Asiatique

It turns out I probably should have looked at the itinerary a little closer – “Muay Thai Live” is actually “Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives”  a show at The Stage at Asiatique, almost a musical of sorts . It focuses on the history and legends of Muay Thai and its origins, and in true Thai style fashion, even involves a little campy modern day wedding scene, i kid you not. It does show off some very fancy Muay Thai moves and employs now retired Muay Thai fighters as its performers, and these guys are RIPPED.

Bangkok - Asiatique Muay Thai Live
The cast take pictures with the audience after the show. This group was giving very enthusiastic hollers for every photo, kudos for enthusiasm!

If you are interested in catching this, the show is 70 mins long and tickets cost 1,200 – 1,500 THB. You can buy tickets at the door 1 hour before the show, or online at Thaiticketmajor.com.

But still, I was kinda hoping to catch a real Muay Thai fight. The show was nice but very much staged, with sound effects and all; some of the stunts and leaping around were pretty impressive, but it was still ultimately, a showcase.

So when two of the other guys on the trip Seth and Justin said they wanted to check out a real fight too, I was all hell yeah I’m coming along! It was just us 3 as everyone else was a little more concerned about shopping time – our lovely tour guide made some calls and arranged our tickets, and off we went!

 

HOW TO GO CATCH A MUAY THAI FIGHT IN BANGKOK

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Schedule
Programme and ticket windows, photos of the fighters are also on display

You can watch Muay Thai fights at two main stadiums in Bangkok:

 

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Wall
Inside the stadium – did you know this stadium was built in the 40s, wow!

It was a Sunday night, so we headed to Rajadamnern Stadium, but for some reason our cab driver ended up bringing us to Lumpinee Stadium instead, so by the time we finally ended up at the right place, we arrived in the middle of match #5.

Each Muay Thai night usually has 9 matches throughout the night, with the first match starting around 630pm. The highlight match is usually match #7, and what time it starts depends on how efficient the previous matches were.

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Doorway
Entering the stadium – our seats were to the right side, near the Red corner

We decided to shell out for the most expensive ringside tickets at 2,000THB, and our tour guide helped ensure that besides getting ringside seats, we got put right up front in the first row, so we were really up close and personal with the action, much to the delight of Justin the photographer. Being right up front means the only guy who might block you is the referee, and that when they start punching on your side of the ring, all that sweat you see flying… flies right on to you!

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Flyer
Yup we were that close!

You mostly see tourists in the 2,000 THB seats, but there are seats for 1,500 THB which puts you slightly further behind, and 1,000THB. You can buy 500THB tickets, but that puts you really high up in the rafters behind a netting, which may not be the best viewing experience.

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium View
View from the tiered 1,500 THB seats. Pretty decent view actually, you get a better overall view of the fight, though without that gritty close-up sweat speckled experience. Our original seats were on the right where that pink shirt is. Across the ring was where most of the locals and punters were.

If you’re on your own, you can buy at the ticket window, and there are lots of sellers in different coloured jackets around the stadium entrance who will accost you once you arrive. It’s pretty competitive all around, so if you have tickets booked beforehand, make it very clear you’re looking for that particular person. Would have liked to have seen the entrance pre-match, I imagine it must have been quite buzzy.

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Queue
Closed for the night

 

 

THE DUMMY’S GUIDE TO HOW MUAY THAI FIGHTS WORK

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Muay Thai Fight
The main match – that’s Jame Sak on the left (red) and Supper Ball on the right (blue)

So I went in knowing nothing at all about how Muay Thai matches work – is it a knock down all around brawl? How does one determine the winner?

You basically have two guys, one designated Red and one designated Blue. There are 5 rounds in each fight, each lasting 3 mins, with a 2 min break between bouts where the fighters get wiped down and fixed up, before they go back at it again. There is a referee in the ring who keeps things clean, as well as 3 other judges who sit on each side of the ring and score the match.

After the match, each judge hands their score to the referee, who then announces the winner at the end. If you’re interested in more details, here’s quite a comprehensive list of rules; this is just to give you a rough idea of what’s happening when you watch!

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Ticket
The programme on top – you’re given an entry sticker (left) as well as the ticket (right) upon entry. As you can see all our fighters that day save for the main match were kinda smallish! You need to be 100lbs minimum to fight.

There’s a flyer which lists out all the matches for the night, with details on which school they are from, how heavy they weigh and their names. Based on this and how they looked before the match began, the guys and I had a little fun placing bets on who the winner would be. Me and Seth did pretty well, guessing 3/4 winners correctly. Justin however, only managed 1/4, so if you’re ever in a betting situation with him… well you know what to do :P

There is actual betting happening though, by the locals in the 2nd tier seats – they can get really into the match with a lot of yelling and gesturing.

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Pre Fight
Bangkok – Rajadamnern Stadium Pre Fight

Before each match, you’ll see the fighters do a little dance or ritual of sorts called the Wai Kru in which they pay respects to their teachers. It involves some posing and prayers in the middle of the ring, or walking around it and ‘blessing’ each corner.

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Between Fights
Bangkok – Rajadamnern Stadium Between Fights

Even the parts between bouts were interesting – we were close to the red corner, and at every break, a guy would fish out this large round metal tin and a stool for the fighter to sit on while his trainers gave him a pep talk and a muscle rub, also watering and wiping him down. There was a bucket next to the ring where they poured all this waste water, which was kinda icky~

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Band
Check out the stadium band – The 2 guys in front are playing the Klong khaek (tom-tom), the one in the middle playing the Ching (cymbals) and the guy behind on the Pee Java (Thai reed pipe)

There’s a really great vibe overall as they have a little band playing Thai traditional music in the corner – this repetitive, percussive beat that plays throughout the bout kinda sets the rhythm for the match, and just makes for a really great atmosphere overall.

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Podium
This guy’s pretty hyped up because he just won his match with a rather impressive knock out! We nicknamed him Batman because he had that pattern on his shorts.

 

BEHIND THE SCENES

In between matches, we wandered around the stadium a little. We had access to the back room where the fighters got ready, and lest you think it’s some sort of fancy American-style locker room, this is how it really looks:

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Locker Room
The ‘locker room’ is basically like a storeroom with a bunch of tables! Definitely not fancy at all. Also, that’s Justin hard at work.

 

The fighters as a whole are generally quite friendly and happy to take pictures with fans, so naturally I took a picture with my pick and winner of the main match, Supper Ball. (seriously, you can’t make stuff like this up. I will admit to picking him purely because his name cracked me up, but he was really quite good – he gave his opponent a bloody nose!)

Bangkok - Rajadamnern Stadium Supper Ball
Me and Supper Ball!

Overall I really enjoyed the experience and it’s a great way to spend an evening if you want to soak up a little bit of the local culture!

This trip to Thailand was sponsored courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways International. All views are my own.

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Where to find Street Art in Singapore: Kampong Glamhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/11/street-art-singapore-kampong-glam/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/11/street-art-singapore-kampong-glam/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15405 A new series on where to find street art in Singapore, starting off with one of my favourite spots, Kampong Glam! Also, announcing a new side project!

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I’ve talked a lot about street art that I’ve encountered overseas, first in George Town, Penang; and then where I was in Shoreditch, London. Upon doing up these posts, it occurred to me then that while I now knew more about the Penang and London scenes, I actually knew very, very little about Singapore’s own street art scene, which is kinda sad!

So I’ve started up a little project on the side to rectify this, I’ll talk a bit more about it at the bottom of this post, but in the meantime here’s a little guide to tell you where to find street art in Singapore. I thought I’d start with one of my favourite places in Singapore where you’re quite likely to see some cool bits of street art: Kampong Glam.

Kampong Glam is the collective name or what used to be the Arab/Muslim quarter in Singapore’s history. You’ll find the beautiful Sultan Mosque there, as well as an entire street filled with cloth merchants along Arab Street and where you can get great Malay and Indonesian grub. It’s probably more well known with the younger crowd for its hipster area Haji Lane, with indie boutiques, Middle Eastern food and shisha. It it’s one of the areas where street art has been around for awhile, even before it started to gain popularity in recent years.

If you happen to be in this area, these are a bunch of places where you’re likely to see some great street art. Note that the nature of street art is ephemeral and always changing! Here’s a link to my Google Map collection of these artworks and more!

 

Victoria Street

This stretch became prominent mostly for the commissioned works by Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic, whose works you’ll probably recognize if you’ve been to Penang. He has some pieces over in the East at Joo Chiat, but most of his Kampong Glam works are clustered along Victoria Street between Jalan Klapa and Jalan .

Walk down from Bugis and you’ll see the Girl with Lion Cub first at the Jalan Pisang junction, then go down further and you should see the Kids in Trolleys, as well as the Kids in/on Giant Exclamation Mark on the side of the AMC building at Jalan Klapa. Don’t forget to walk down a little bit more and you’ll see the Boy in Window before the Jalan Sultan junction

Singapore Street Art - Girl With Lion Cub
This is quite a huge piece of work! I personally feel her face looks a bit distorted, but the lion is cute
Singapore Street Art - Kids in Supermarket Trolley
Very Zachas style, fusing a real supermarket trolley (sawn in 2 and fixed to the wall) and his lifelike drawings
Singapore Street Art -Kid in Exclamation Mark 1
Look closely at the exclamation mark to spot the kid’s feet!
Singapore Street Art -Kid in Exclamation Mark 2
Look up high to see one of the boys making a break for it
Singapore Street Art - Boy in Window
I actually missed this the first time round and had to go back again to check it out, it’s pretty subtle!

 

Aliwal Arts Centre

After you’re done on Victoria Street, cut through Jalan Klapa, cross North Bridge Road and head down Aliwal Street till you reach the Aliwal Arts Centre. This arts centre houses one of Singapore’s more popular artist collectives RSCLS on its second level, with current members including a Young Artist Award winner ZERO to the once infamous SKL0 aka the sticker lady who cause a bit of an uproar back in 2012 with her ‘My Grandfather Road’ graffiti. Pop by their studio or look for their works all around the building – last I was there, one large wall in the alleyway behind the building and a side wall have been painted, but they do intend to fill up more wall spaces, so keep a look out!

 

Singapore Street Art - Zero Converse
In the back alleyway of Aliwal Arts Centre. This work was done by ZERO, I love the vibrant colours!
Singapore Street Art - RSCLS
This work was actually created quite recently, a collaboration work involving folk outside of RSCLS, though the RSCLS people did tidy it up at the end
Singapore Street Art -Antz
I saw ANTZ do this live, and it was pretty amazing how fast and efficiently he worked! It even has a concept – graffiti being the voice that only sounds in the alleys…
Singapore Street Art - Jac
If you’ve been following on Instagram, you’ll know that the R was done by me! And beautified tremendously by the talented DEM

 

Sultan Arts Village

This rather obscure little building is easy to miss, a tiny enclave just a few roads down from Aliwal Arts Centre in front of the Malay Heritage Centre. Go check out The Black Book, a shop run by a graffiti crew ZincNiteCrew (aka ZNC), which sells spray paints and apparel. They also run the occasional graffiti battle here, so keep checking out their practice walls. Also check out the walls behind the shop, as well as around the front and sides for more awesome street art – can’t confirm if they are all done by ZNC folk, but it is a fun place to explore.

 

Singapore Street Art - Sultan Arts Village Slacsatu
This beautiful piece is by Slacsatu, one of the founders of ZNC
Singapore Street Art - Sultan Arts Village
It says Sultan Arts Village – there are plants in front of it so this was the best angle I could manage
Singapore Street Art - Sultan Arts Village Dancer
Around the side of the building are more paintings, this one of a traditional dancer
Singapore Street Art - Sultan Arts Village Face
And another one of a face. I suspect these are all ZNC works but can’t be sure
Singapore Street Art - Black Book
This picture is actually a throwback to 2012 when I first stumbled upon the place, but it still looks more or less the same now, except the boards behind are always changing!

 

Haji Lane

This lane is more famous for its hipster shopping, shisha joints and budding photographers looking for a colourful yet rustic backdrop; it is one of the spots in Singapore which has had street art for quite a long time before it got hip. You’ll see more works by ZNC here, and quite a lot by JabaOne concentrated at the end from Beach road leading up to the alleyway linking Arab Street and Haji Lane. Some of the other shops have got into the act as well, with artwork on their shopfronts, it’s definitely a great place to check out.

Singapore Street Art - SlacMyowAsno
It’s not quite Haji Lane, but the alley linking Arab Street to Haji Lane – there’s a large wall which has a work by ZNC’s Slac, Myow and Asno on one side…
Singapore Street Art - Jaba Merdandy
And work by Jaba on the opposite side
Singapore Street Art - JabaOne Piedra Negra
Jaba has a huge collection of works in this area, covering all sides of Piedra Negra on the Beach Road end of Haji Lane – remember to go all around the building!
Singapore Street Art - Button Figures
These random button figures are opposite Jaba’s work, no idea who they are by…
Singapore Street Art - ZERO-KILAS Straits Records
Ok not quite Haji Lane, but it’s neighbouring Bali Lane – the famous Straits Records facade is done by ZERO and KILAS

 

Of course as you wander around the area, you might across more than these artworks I’ve listed here – I’ve spotted several other pieces, but these are the main spots you’re likely to see more works, if you do find new areas to highlight, do let me know!

As you can see, I’ve started to look at Singapore’s street art scene a little bit more closely and started a side project to start documenting the locations and artworks so that people visiting Singapore know where to go and whose work they’re looking at. Street art is only starting to catch on, and it’s still illegal if you do it on public property without permission, but many building owners are starting to become more open to it, and there are some spots which are free for street artists to practice, like *SCAPE and the Rail Corridor in Commonwealth.

Do check out Singapore Street Art at singaporestreetart.tumblr.com and on instagram @singaporestreetart – it aims to document all past and present street art in Singapore, so do send over any snaps you might have!

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My First Performance Art – Marina Abramovic’s 512 Hours at the Serpentine Galleryhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/07/performance-art-marina-abramovic/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/07/performance-art-marina-abramovic/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15459 Ever been a part of a performance art piece? I got to catch Marina Abramovic's 512 Hours at the Serpentine Gallery when I was in London, it was real bizarre!

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So while i greatly enjoyed the street art on my recent London trip, as well as visiting the various galleries and museums both for work and leisure, one particular experience i wanted to talk about was my visit to the Serpentine Gallery, specifically to see Marina Abramovic’s 512 Hours.

London Work Trip - Serpentine Gallery
The Serpentine Gallery is pretty small, and named for the Serpentine river that runs through Hyde Park.

You’ve probably seen her videos circulating online at some point – she’s a pretty well-known performance artist, with her most famous piece being her retrospective The Artist is Present at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010 and known to befriend celebs like James Franco and Lady Gaga. This 67-year old lady (!) describes herself as the Grandmother of Performance Art, so now that i had the chance to go see her in person, and for free… why not?

Quite frankly, performance art perhaps is one of the art forms I’m most skeptical about; my personal opinion on art is that a lot of it is actually rubbish, and with performance art it tends to be really weird, abstract, or self indulgent… maybe I just don’t know how to appreciate it most of the time, but I honestly had no real idea whether I was going to like this at all!

London Work Trip - Blue Sky Plane Trails
It was a pretty damn beautiful day to be outside!

My colleagues and I started our day at the Victoria and Albert Museum, before taking a walk to Hyde Park nearby – the Serpentine Galleries are located in Kensington Gardens / Hyde Park – with the Serpentine Gallery on the west side of the Serpentine Gallery (The Serpentine Sackler is across the river on the East bank). We didn’t have too much time to spend as we had another meeting to get to, but since we were in the area, thought it was worth checking out.

London Work Trip - 512 hours entrance
Before entering the inner sanctum

In hindsight, we were pretty lucky – there was no queue at all so we walked straight into the exhibition. What you see above in the picture is the outer gallery. Just inside the doors is a cloakroom of sorts with lockers for you to store all your things away. No phone, no belongings, no cameras, and not even your watch, so unfortunately no pictures for my readers either (after you’re done reading, go here for some idea of what it might have looked like).

Bereft of all our worldly belongings, we walked into the next room and that’s when you can feel the weird vibe in the air. Perhaps because it’s really quiet, people kinda shuffling around the place like you’re in an invisible library. No one was talking to each other – You were supposed to be quiet overall but I don’t think there were any rules about a chitchat, so there was just a lot of gesturing and nervous glances between us as we made our way around the rooms.

In the first room we entered, there were raised wooden platforms and a bunch of people looking all artsy in black just standing on them, kinda staring blankly into space and not moving. Around that room were various foldable chairs which were lined up and facing the wall; each chair faced a different piece of coloured paper, and several people were sitting down in these chairs, staring at the coloured paper in front of them like they were absorbed in a television show. Elsewhere, some people were holding small hand mirrors, gazing intently into the little round mirrors and for some reason, walking backwards. In the adjoining room, a piece of cloth was laid across the backs of some chairs – two people dove beneath the sheets like children in a blanket fort.

Well the short version is – lots of people doing bizarre things in a mostly empty room all around me.

You’ll have to imagine for yourself how you would react upon stumbling across a rather odd scene like this. I was, not unexpectedly, rather perplexed. Mostly, I couldn’t figure out why people were doing what they were doing, and why they seemed to be doing it with such certainty – could it be that when in an empty room, there is some intrinsic nature in all of us to adopt certain behaviours? Like stare in a mirror and walk backwards?! Wow deep thoughts there… I only found out later that there were ‘guides’ in the room who kinda led people to certain activities, and I’ll admit to being a tad disappointed by that!

Sadly, I didn’t actually see Marina herself in the flesh, though she was supposed to have been there – too many artsy people in the room I suppose! Also, we had to rush off for our next meeting, and without a watch to tell the time, we couldn’t afford to dawdle too long. My two companions were both giving me even more perplexed looks by this time, so we left quite quickly – around 10-15 mins after we first arrived.

Perhaps my experience would have been different on my own, or with more time to ‘participate’ – apparently even after the first week, Marina reported that there were regulars who showed up all the time, and people who hang around for hours on end, so apparently some people seem to really get something out of it. Me? Well it’s really just not my cup of tea, but I’m glad I did check it out, so now I can say I’ve officially been a part of performance art!

London Work Trip - 512 hours hand stamp
The only souvenir I took away from 512 hours – this handstamp

If you’re in London or are interested in the project, check out the Marina Abramovic Serpentine Diaries where she gives frequent updates about her experience at the gallery – she’ll be there till 25 August so you still have a little time to pop by! You can also see how people felt about it at the 512 Hours Tumblr where they’ve scanned in the feedback forms left by participants after their experience.

Anyone have a weird arts experience to share?

 

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Bangkok detour – a day trip to Ayutthayahttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/04/bangkok-detour-day-trip-ayuthaya/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/08/04/bangkok-detour-day-trip-ayuthaya/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15449 Take a break from the shopping, eating and spas of Bangkok with a day trip to Ayutthaya to explore Thailand's heritage and culture through its temples.

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I’ve been to Bangkok 4-5 times in my life, but the reasons i go there have always been the same – cheap shopping, good food and affordable spa options. It’s usually an extended weekend trip, 4 days at most, and all that time is spent in Bangkok city.

So when Tourism Authority of Thailand invited me up on one of their FAM trips recently, i was quite happy to see that a day trip to Ayutthaya was a part of the itinerary. I’ve heard that this little province, once the capital of Thailand, was worth a day trip up to check out, but have never been able to compel myself to go, even though it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Ayuthaya - Wat Chaiwatanaram view 2
Ayuthaya – Wat Chaiwatanaram view 2

But now that I’ve been there, I’m quite glad that I visited; it reminded me a little of Bali and visiting temples there – Bangkok’s heritage has a similarly strong Hinduism influence in it, and you can see how Indochina and the surrounding regions have also left their mark. For the compulsive shoppers/foodies/spa lovers visiting Bangkok, I’d definitely recommend finding some time to get away from the congested city just for a little bit!

 

How to get there

The historical city is actually an island within Ayutthaya – we travelled there by coach, which was about an hour’s drive from Bangkok. As usual, you have to take into account Bangkok’s peak hours and heavy traffic getting in and out of the city, though you can see the surrounding city melt away as you leave it. Train is another popular way to get to Ayutthaya – you can take a train from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station – check out seat61 for more details.

When you’re on the island itself, cycling is one of the more popular ways tourists like to see the place, and bicycles are available for hire, or see if you can get one of their little tuktuks – these are different from the Bangkok ones, our guide described them as ‘rat-like’.

Ayuthaya - Wat Chaiwatanaram tuktuk
small pointy nosed tuktuks – the only other place in Thailand you’ll see these types of tuktuks apparently are in Hua Hin

Temples galore

There are many wats (that’s the Thai word for temple) that you can visit here – over 400 in fact! According to our guide, temples were build in abundance by the richer folk as they provided education for their children. We visited just two of the temples in the morning while we were there, which I thought was enough to see similarities and differences without getting ‘templed out’.

Remember that while you’re in a tropical region, you are visiting religious places, so while they aren’t super conservative, avoid the super short shorts or inappropriately revealing tops. I carried a light scarf with me just in case.

There isn’t much shelter either, so make sure you have appropriate sun protection and stay cool and hydrated!

Wat Maha That

Ayuthaya - Wat Maha That dramatic wall
Check out that dramatic sky!

This was once the royal temple of Ayutthaya and housed Buddhist relics, located right next to the royal palace though it’s mostly in ruins now as it was sacked by the Burmese back in 1767, and you’re left to wander around the remains of this once grand place. Generally it’s quite peaceful, save for the tourists roaming around getting in the way of your awesome panoramic shots.

Ayuthaya - Wat Maha That towers
These towers are known as Prangs
Ayuthaya - Wat Maha That stone pile
I found a bunch of these stone stacks around the temple complex
Ayuthaya - Wat Maha That leaning tower
You don’t need to go to Italy to see a leaning tower – this gravity defying prang is pretty cool

There are lots of Buddha statues scattered around as well though most are headless now (apparently also courtesy of the Burmese); one iconic image from this place is this particular Buddha statue’s head which is entwined in the roots of a tree – there’s something a little surreal and beautiful about how nature has taken over.

Ayuthaya - Wat Maha That buddha head roots
One with nature

Opening hours: 8am – 6pm
Entry for foreigners: 50 baht

 

Wat Chaiwathanaram

Ayuthaya - Wat Chaiwatanaram View
a rather grand panorama welcomes us to Wat Chaiwathanaram

The next temple we visited was Wat Chaiwathanaram, . Built for the King’s mother, it lies on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river and commands some pretty amazing views. Check out the scale model near the entrance, so you can admire the beautiful layout of this place.

Ayuthaya - Wat Chaiwatanaram dramatic spire
this pointy spire is called a stupa. I kinda like how armageddon-y this picture looks :)
Ayuthaya - Wat Chaiwatanaram headless statues
More headless Buddhas. It really does make the place quite a lot more atmospheric – and you wonder where all the heads have gone, because while there are some scattered about, there are a lot more bodies than there are heads…
Ayuthaya - Wat Chaiwatanaram Tiles
Looking down at the pretty tile work

 

What’s special about this temple is the very tall and steep central Prang, which apparently draws much influence from Khmer (Cambodian) style architecture. You can climb up the almost ladder-like stairs on all 4 sides to the top, and I recommend that you do because there are some pretty amazing views from up there!

Ayuthaya - Wat Chaiwatanaram Stairs
Climbing up is almost like going up a ladder, but coming down is way more precarious! Don’t wear a skirt here!
Ayuthaya - Wat Chaiwatanaram panorama view
The view from up there is totally worth it though! You can see the River in the distance
Ayuthaya - Wat Chaiwatanaram daniel concerned
This is Daniel, the writer for Sylistic.com, looking rather concerned about how to get down…
Ayutthaya - Wat Chaiwatanaram inside
In case you’re curious, this is what’s at the top of the Prang. There’s a guy to the side who will light the incense for you if you want to pray, but that’s about all there is at the top!

 

Opening hours: 8am – 6pm
Entry for foreigners: 50 baht

 

The Food

Ayuthaya - Ban Mai Lim Nam sign
Ayuthaya – Ban Mai Lim Nam sign

We ate at Ban Mai Lim Nam (it seems to go by Ban Mai Rim Nam on the internet though) by the river, which involved a whole lot of Thai style seafood, including some humongous river prawns and catfish. Very filling lunch and known to be a good place overall.

Ayuthaya - Ban Mai Lim Nam river prawn
River prawns are huge and a different taste from the usual prawns we eat
Ayuthaya - Ban Mai Lim Nam basil chicken
This chicken curry thing was way herby and spicy!

33 U-thong Road, Tambon Pratu Chai, Amphoe Phra Nakhon

 

Roti Sai Mai

Ayuthaya - Roti Sai Mai stall
One of many roti sai mai stalls
Ayuthaya - Roti Sai Mai skin
the skin is something similar to popiah skin – usually it’s plain, but these innovative folk have added some ingredients for colour and taste! Pink is dragonfruit, yellow is banana, green for pandan and the black spots are black sesame1
Ayuthaya - Roti Sai Mai candy floss
The candy floss is packed separately so it doesn’t melt – you have to roll them together yourself if you take away. I brought a pack back for the office but ended up eating half on my own because it’s pretty damn yummy and surprisingly addictive.

As you walk around the streets of Ayuthaya, you might spot a lot of shops selling this interesting concoction. Roti Sai Mai is a famous local snack which is basically straw like sticks of candy floss rolled in popiah/spring roll skin. It can be a little sweet, but the skin does temper the sugar nicely (I had 3 rolls for supper, oops)

Ayuthaya - Roti Sai Mai eating
Chomping down on a freshly made roti sai mai – best eaten hot!

 

Is that all you can do in Ayutthaya? Probably not! If I stayed overnight there, it might have been nice perhaps to go on a cycling tour. There is also an elephant village where elephants large and small perform, but it’s really not my thing…

Have you been to Ayutthaya? Share your tips and experience with us here!

Some resources online that I found quite useful:

Travelfish has quite an extensive guide on how to get to Ayutthaya and get around on your own

Tourism Thailand‘s official site gives you info but not much on actual reviews

This trip to Thailand was sponsored courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways International. All views are my own.

 

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A hilltop hangout at Mt Emilyhttp://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/07/30/hilltop-hangout-mt-emily/ http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/2014/07/30/hilltop-hangout-mt-emily/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 02:00:00 +0000 http://theoccasionaltraveller.com/?p=15396 The newly refurbished Hangout at Mt Emily is the perfect option for the budget conscious traveller willing to pay for the privacy of their own room.

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So I’ve done quite a number of reviews on Singapore’s local hotels – generally they’ve been pretty nice hotels, and in general Singapore’s standards when it comes to hotel pricing tends to be a bit on the high side, so if you’re coming fresh from somewhere else in South East Asia, the price differences might be a bit of a shocker.

When the folk at Hangout at Mt Emily asked me to check out their recently refurbished location which just re-opened on 1 July 2014, I was definitely quite curious about it. My impression of it was that it was a backpacker’s lodge with shared dorms (It’s a Hostelling International hostel), but now that I’ve visited, it’s now a rather interesting hybrid of classy backpackers and budget hotel, which is good for those who’d rather save on fancy accommodation but still want something better than a typical hostel, something that I personally look for when I travel overseas.

 

Hangout Mt Emily - Exterior
Hangout Mt Emily – Exterior

 

LOCATION

Describing the convenience of Hangout @ Mt Emily is a little difficult. On one hand, it’s located in quite a central area of Singapore walkable to the shopping malls of Dobby Ghaut, and arts/heritage areas near Bras Basah. On the other hand, it is a little out of the way as it’s up on a hilltop, and even walking from the closest MRT stations Dobby Ghaut MRT (North-South Link, North East Line, Circle Line) and Little India MRT station (North East Line), it’s still 20mins at a leisurely pace, and involves some slope and stairs.

Hangout Mt Emily - Room View
A wide angle shot of the view from my room window – the park is just beyond the roundabout, and the right hand side is a dead end road that leads to a compound with some small offices. The bottom right leads to the stairway described below.

The payoff though for being more out of the way is that it’s nice and quiet around the hotel as it is mostly surrounded by fancy residential condominiums and overlooking a park, so it works if you don’t mind a bit of a walk. It’s not completely out of the way though – the malls nearby make it easy for you to get any amenities that you need, just remember to do it before you make that climb!

(It’s less of a trek than my Seoul accommodation…)

Hangout Mt Emily - Directions
If you’re walking from Dobby Ghaut MRT, walk along Selegie Road till you see the mall Wilkie Edge on your left. Turn up Wilkie Road and keep walking till you see this little sign on your right, which points to the staircase that leads you to the hotel.

 

THE ROOM

I was put in Room 303, one of the Double Plus rooms with an ensuite bathroom. As budget hotels, the room is fairly basic – most of it is taken up by a large bed and a daybed couch, but as far as budget hotel rooms go, it’s fairly spacious – I would have been quite pleased by the space available. The bathroom is also quite basic, a shower with all-purpose shampoo/soap and that’s about it. There’s no TV or mini bar or even any fancy amenities, so as long as you don’t go expecting anything frilly you’ll be fine.

Private room sizes range from double/twins all the way to quin (5 persons).

Hangout Mt Emily - Door
Funky room doors – quite hard to miss your room number…
Hangout Mt Emily - Room
The room from the doorway, as well as the bathroom and the multi-purpose table area at the hallway entrance
Hangout Mt Emily - Room Bed
Another view of the room from the couch area – I just got my new iphone lenses so you’re doing to be seeing a lot of these wide-angles going on…

For the more budget conscious, 4 shared ‘dorms’ are available, but you’ll be glad to know that they aren’t bunk beds!. They look pretty swanky really., and even come with their own personal safe!

Hangout Mt Emily - Shared Room
By hostel shared dorm standards, this is quite nice!

 

THE HOTEL

One of the hotel’s best kept secrets is their rooftop terrace which is accessible only to hotel guests. Located on the 7th floor, it’s an open air area with a great view of the surrounding city, and deckchairs that you can lounge on. There’s even a ‘pool’, which is more or less a tiny outdoor shower/footbath which has water about shin deep. Late evenings and nights would be a nice time to hang out here.

Hangout Mt Emily - Rooftop
Check out the the rooftop terrace! It’s cosy and has a great view.

 

On level 2 is the main lounge area where you can relax and watch TV, as well as a reading nook. Computers are available, and a laundry room to catch up on laundry. No worries, wifi is available throughout the hotel.

Hangout Mt Emily - Common Room
Hangout Mt Emily – Common Room

 

There is an in-house restaurant called Wild Rocket opened by quite a popular local chef Willin Low – I’d visited it before the renovation and found the food quite interesting, though it’s not particularly budget, but if you had to splurge on one fancy meal in Singapore, this would be a good option.

The restaurant also is the location for the morning breakfast buffet, which runs from to 9am, which is rather early but it’s so they have time to turn over the restaurant for lunch service. The breakfast buffet is fairly modest but tasty – some breads, cereal and the usual American style platters.

Hangout Mt Emily - Wild Rocket
I like the woody design of the facade, which reminds me of a whole bunch of deckchairs stuck together

 

 

AROUND THE HOTEL

The closest point of ‘civilization’ is Selegie Road, which is a stretch of road which haven’t yet undergone the shiny refurbishment of the Orchard Road area, so it’s a nice change of atmosphere. From there you have the Bugis-Bras Basah area at your doorstep, so you’re fairly close to museums like the Singapore Art Museum and the National Museum, or more popular shopping malls like Plaza Singapura and the Cathay. You could also walk to the Little India stretch from there.

 

PRICE

This particular room (the Double Plus) that I stayed in has an internet rate from S$150, with a rack rate of $345 (!), so definitely make sure you book your stay online. The cheapest private room goes from S$285/150 (rack/online). Meanwhile, dorm rooms range from S$40-60/night. If you’re a HI member, you can get slightly cheaper rates too.

 

The good news is that if you’re thinking about staying there this year, drop your booking request to bookings@hangouthotels.com with the email header “The Occasional Traveller“, and you’ll get 10% off the best available rates!

Terms and conditions as below:

• Valid for stay till 21st December 2014 and subject to availability
• Not valid for stay on 18 to 21 September 2014
• Promotion applicable for 1st night, 2nd night onward at prevailing internet rates
• Complimentary WIFI and daily breakfast on the house
• Offer is valid for new reservation only
• Not valid with any other promotion, discounts and/or other privileges
• hangout@mt.emily reserves the right to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the promotion with no prior notice.

Payment/Cancellation
• Cancellation: No refund policy applies (Modifications of booking dates are not allowed)

 

Hangout @ Mt Emily
www.hangouthotels.com
10A Upper Wilkie Road, Singapore 228119

 

Thanks to Steven and Hangout Hotels for organizing and sponsoring the stay.

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