Another Birthday Dinner At Another Nara Japanese Restaurant

Last Year in Sep, I was celebrating my friend’s birthday at Bukit Timah’s Nara Japanese restaurant. This year wise, I am spending time with my young sister and almost rest the siblings together for her birthday dinner at Nara Japanese Restaurant, but this time we are at Novena. Hidden along the dark alley of the old shophouses, the Nara Japanese Restaurant stands out of the shops, thanks to its traditional Japanese exterior design. Below are some photos for sharing.

Nara Japanese Restaurant
Goldhill Shopping Centre
167 Thomson Road
Tel: +65 6884 6884
Opening Hours: 11.30am to 2.30pm and 5.30pm to 10.30pm daily

Relax With Your Family For This Year’s Heritage Festival !

Many who are tired of the hustle and bustle of city life here may turn to Singapore’s outlying islands for a getaway, but not all are aware of the rich culture and history behind them.

This year’s Singapore HeritageFest aims to change that: Singapore’s numerous outlying islands are the subject of this year’s festival. The event, which takes place from July 18 to 27, will introduce visitors to the idea of Singapore as a nation of islands, and not just an island-nation.

Singapore was once made up of over 70 islands, but today has just 40, with several merged and others transformed into landfills and tourist attractions. Organisers hope the festival will help people discover lesser-known tales of Singapore’s trading past as well. The event will highlight the role Singapore’s migrant forefathers played in the country’s development, as well as the traditions brought with them.

Participants can expect a variety of activities, including boat excursions to lighthouses and outlying islands.

Visitors to Kusu Island will be treated to a performance from the Siong Leng Musical Association. It will perform a rendition of nanyin, one of the oldest existing musical styles of China that is usually only performed during the ninth lunar month at the island’s Tua Pek Kong temple.

The Association has been performing nanyin, or songs from the South, at the temple for the past 40 years, and it hopes to introduce this traditional art form to more people with special performances during this year’s HeritageFest.

“When you talk about nanyin, people will actually think that it’s a slow and boring kind of music,” said Siong Leng member Chelsea Tan. “We wanted to change the conception that nanyin is more for senior citizens. We wanted to show them that young people do play nanyin as well, and it can also be interesting for us when we learn nanyin.”

Participants can also hop on boat rides to other islands, such as St John’s, where they will learn about its history as a former quarantine site. Other activities include tours to Raffles Lighthouse, which are rare as visits are restricted.

Away from these islands, activities and exhibitions will take place across 11 festival hubs, including malls and the National Museum of Singapore, featuring topics such as traditional healing practices and motor racing.

Source: Channel News Asia, 26 June 2014 The HeritageFest is now into its eleventh year, and the National Heritage Board says it has seen more partners coming on board. Over 40 community groups, individuals and partners have contributed to the line-up.

“If people come on board, they do more. With more programmes, more people can get involved,” said festival director Angelita Teo. “Last year we had more than 40 programmes, this year we have more than 60. So that growth is something that we are working hard on, to encourage more people to come on board.”

Activities are free and the public can sign up for them from next month. The National Heritage Board hopes to attract 1.3 million visitors to the festival. More information can be found at the HeritageFest website.

Clear Blue Sky and Green Ricefield along The Way to Ubud (Day 2)

My girl friend had to drag me out of the bed after I was unable to wake up after my late night movie marathon at the villa. We have scheduled the driver to pick us up at 11am to travel to Ubud, for the famous rice field at Tegallalang.
The journey took more than an hour and I was catching my wink while my girl friend was looking over the car’s window, looking at the life of Bali. When one part of the journey, I was woke up by the bright sunshine and a beautiful blue sky greeted me.

This is one of the amazing photos I have taken. The motorbike is improvised with a bamboo-made structure to hold the goods while traveling. Just look at the overwhelming goods that it is carrying and I doubt the rider is even able to look through the side mirrors for the coming traffic. Not crazy but just imagine life is still hard in places like Bali, even if it is a tourism spot. 

Brussels and 10 things you need to know about losing your passport in a foreign land

Location: Brussels/Bruxelles, Belgium
No. of days: 2
So my first trip as a Londoner was to Brussels (Belgium). This is also the place my bag got stolen with my passport, phones, wallet, credit cards, cash and camera in it. So read on for my (realistic) advice on how to cope if the unfortunate befalls on you too. I emphasize on the “realistic” because most people will tell you “you should have done this, you should have done that”, but having felt like I went through hell and back, I can safely say no amount of preparation is ever sufficient.
On happy things first, this is my second time to Belgium. The first time was to Antwerp and Ghent in 2012 and although I don’t recall much of Antwerp (but I loved Ghent – another story for another day!), I felt like Belgium has way much more old buildings that date back to the 1200s than any other country in the EU. After a while, you will realise that Europe is all about 1) Museums, 2) Churches, and/or 3) Architecture. My favourite out of the 3 is architecture, so that’s the main thing I always look out for.
Other than the architecture, the only other (few) things I took away from Belgium was the chocolate (heavenly), moules and frites (mussels and fries) and of course, Belgian waffles! By the way, Belgian waffles did originate from Belgium…

In case you find the little boy below familiar, his name is Mannekin Pis (Pis as in Piss) and he is Belgian and he resides in Brussels.
So because my camera got stolen, I only managed to salvage those pictures I uploaded into Facebook before they were gone. So I don’t have other pictures of Brussels. And neither do I have much other memory of Brussels other than I spent the worst 2 days of my life (ever!) there.
A lot of people I spoke to (whether they had lost their passports before or not, whether they were Singaporeans or otherwise) sympathised with the fact that I suffered poor service and poor attitude at the Singapore High Comm (I will not go into details) but I went as far as to complain to MFA. I know that nothing would come out of it (nothing did), but at least it gives me (and friends and those of you reading this) a sense of what to expect or what not to expect from Singapore High Comm because whatever treatment I received was “by the books” and any better treatment received by the victim is their good luck (irony).
So, here is the interesting part.
Because you will need them to issue you a document called Document of Identity (DOI) that proves you are Singaporean. This document will allow you to get back to Singapore.
You will need a passport photo for this and a small amount of cash. So STUFF SOME SPARE CASH SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Oh, and make a police report. You will need it to replace your passport. Just bear in mind the language barrier…

i) Stay in whatever country that you are stuck in and apply for a new passport there (this means if you are all alone and have nothing on you – in my case, alone, no phone, no cash, no credit card and literally nothing to save myself with) you’d probably end up begging. And without money, how are you going to apply for a new passport?
ii) In my case – try to return to the UK and have my passport replacement done here. Obviously this was far more palatable but this is a big risk because the UK is notorious for their strict immigration rules and it is a gamble whether they will let me in based on photocopied documents or calls to verify my background. Didn’t work for me.
iii) Go back to Singapore. Seriously??
The verdict on this point was: Singapore hasn’t realised that globalisation has taken place and the system assumes all Singaporeans who travel originate from Singapore.
I literally had to argue with the handling officer why I needed to borrow a phone to call a friend to buy me a ticket to either go back to UK or Singapore. I had to repeat myself 3 times that I had no money, no phone, no credit card, no friend. So according to MFA, it was out of her kindness that she allowed ONE call in the end. Kindness much? You decide.
I also had to beg her to zap photocopies of my passport and visa to try to get back to the UK.  According to the handling officer, it is taxpayer money and they are not allowed to do it. (hello, I paid Sg taxes too and I literally needed them to save my life, do I really need to argue with you over taxpayer money?) Ditto point above, I got lucky she eventually agreed to zap them.
You have to ASK, you cannot expect them to OFFER it to you. My handling officer went as far as to “encourage” me to be a fare cheat on the local tram.
I was too distraught to think of asking, but someone told me that there are 2 ways on getting money via high comm: a) Get your family to wire you some money and b) direct loan. But a) would be challenging if you don’t even have means to contact friends and family! and b) I’ve been told what happens after you arrive home will drive you crazy… 
So basically, you need to remember ask (in your tired, muddled, confused, scared mind after all that’s happened to you), not their job to offer it to you.
‘Nuff said.

Because the only thing useful about that action is to call the credit card company and cancel them. Obviously that means buying a train/air ticket online is therefore out of the question.
The correct thing to do, is to spread out your cards. Ditto with cash. Not in different pockets of the same bag, obviously.
But remember in most countries (especially outside of Asia), using your credit card requires photo ID so have another card (work ID?) that has your photo and name on it to use it in a physical shop.
Provided you have access to your email account. 
Luckily for me, I had my iPad (Thank god!) and I didn’t actually have to memorise numbers but I’ve come to realise we get so reliant on phones that we would be completely lost if we didn’t know any number by heart! – some people cannot even remember their own phone numbers… 
My insurance agent/friend always joked with me that this is just kopi money to him. Before this happened to me I never saw the value of why I should be buying travel insurance.  I reckoned I lost at least SGD 2k replacing my passport, camera, phone, penalties for the various replacement cards etc. And that’s not including my flights and visa costs. Chinese say 不怕一萬之怕萬一 but when the  萬一 happens…

You never know when your plans will get delayed.
I never came closer to the fear that I may die that day. Financial losses aside, I was still having nightmares one month after that. So, what is the verdict when all the odds are stacked against you? In all honesty, I don’t know because my silver lining was that my employer saved me (where my own government failed). So let’s hope nobody has to have literally everything stacked against them.

Banyan Tree Group Launches New Brand, Cassia

Banyan Tree Group on Thursday (June 5) announced that a new brand has been launched, taking the hospitality group into a new segment.

With Cassia, Banyan will now have three brands in its portfolio. The group is seeking to expand globally. It has a target of 66 hotels and resorts, with more than 100 spas and galleries, across 33 countries by 2017.

Cassia lies in a niche sector between hotels and serviced apartments. It will offer fully-finished one and two-bedroom units for sale, with flexible living and investment options.

Five projects are being developed in Thailand, Indonesia, Sir Lanka, Australia and China.

An additional seven projects are being planned in Brisbane, New York, Japan, Seychelles, Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Vietnam.

Said Mr Ho Kwon Ping, Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings: “It is a hundred per cent real-estate, but focusing with a very strong hospitality element to it, and that is bringing our expertise in both areas to launch this new brand.”

Source: ChannelNewsAsia, 5th June 2014.

Taking Stock of 1 Year in London

Hello Followers of the J82Productions Blog! 
I am a new contributor on Jeffrey’s blog and I have never blogged publicly before so any feedback and comments are welcome! In my posts will be a bit about my life in London, travels and food. If there is anything you would like to see or know about please feel free to let me know.
The Who
A born and bred Singaporean girl who moved to London exactly 51 weeks ago. I work as a Business Analyst in an Insurance company and have worked 7 years with my current company. An opportunity came up to move here a bit more than a year ago and am Thankful to have been the one to be given the chance to experience life here.
Whilst I count myself to be relatively well-travelled for my age (the travel bug clearly bit my Uni harder than the other Unis), there was one regret that I left Uni with. Half (or so) of my Uni mates have gone on at least one-semester foreign exchanges before, most ended up in Europe; and of course with it, lots of travels. I’m glad facebook wasn’t common then, if not I might have ended up with a psychological problem. And by graduation, I felt like I was one of the rare breeds who haven’t been to Europe before. I wasn’t sore, but just a tinge of regret…
The Why
I’ve heard it many times before I hit this stage: people my age or slightly older than me grumbling about feeling lost, bored, frustrated, etc with life. I used to not know what they were talking about until I reached there myself. 
I think it might have been quarter/mid life crisis.
Lots of people have come to tell me how brave I am but I’m not as courageous as how these people perceive. I’d probably have NOT done it if I’ve never been to London, if I wasn’t familiar with the local culture, if I couldn’t speak the local language (so that means no other European country because you will be hampered – but that’s another story for another day). I’ve been in this British company for 6 years, been to London 3 times over 3 years and spending a grand total of 2 months. So I think I have a pretty decent knowledge compared to the average tourist, so I’d like to believe I have a rough idea of what I was getting myself into…
And the weather – apparently a few people died of heatstroke when the temperatures hit 30 Deg C in summer. (Sorry, not funny but as a Singaporean where we’d be really Thankful if DAY temps ARE 30 Deg C, I just can’t help wondering what these people did to end up that way).
The What
Over the past year, I felt like experiences of a lifetime have been crammed into one year and I don’t even know where to begin. Moving homes twice, fixing an Ikea sofa from scratch (I’m very proud of this – how many girls you know built a freaking sofa by themselves?), cooking more in one month here than I have ever cooked in the first 20+ years of my life, changed about a dozen bulbs at home, watching more than a few live football games, learnt snowboarding, travelled lots, getting my bag stolen in Brussels (which had my most importantly worldly possessions plus passport – another story for another day), and then pickpocketed in Paris (and you would think I would be more careful after the Brussels incident, right?), and the list goes on…
I’ve had to look through at my pictures from the past year to remind me, I can’t even remember everything! I hope its not because aging.
The How
I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support of friends and family – both here and in Singapore.
For friends in Singapore, I admit to have the FOMO-syndrome (Fear of Missing Out). But thanks to facebook these days and Whatsapp, we can still indulge of some of their idiosyncrasies even if you are not physically there. It is also a good time for you to filter your friends though – those who make en effort to see you when you are back, and those who don’t seem to bother much. (Although I might have gone home a bit too often compared to others who’re this far away….). So Thanks to all of you who remembered me and shown me love everytime!
On friends in London, I am glad to have met so many amazing people, you are indeed what I came here for. I wouldn’t know what would happen to me otherwise.
I once hosted a dinner for 5 of us including me (yes, I can hardly cook and I hosted a dinner – that must be some kind of achievement in itself) and all 5 of us were of different nationalities – Singaporean, Malaysian, Hongkie, Japanese and Chinese – I am still very amazed by it till this day.
The When
Travels so far in the past 12 months include Brussels, Val Thorens (France), Oslo, Edinburgh, Manchester, Munich, Nuremburg, Paris.
Upcoming trips to Mallorca, Rome and Moscow.
Past locations include Barcelona, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Maastricht, Antwerp, Ghent, Cologne, and a few small towns within a 2 hour radius from London.

Lest you think we are living up the good life here and travelling, the truth is that: IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO TRAVEL TO EVERYWHERE DESPITE BEING STATIONED HERE because of 1) Money and 2) Time. The same problem that bugs us no matter where we go!

Ok that’s it for now, sorry for the boring (no picture) rant that went on for too long, I promise the next one will be more interesting with photos!