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Capturing the National Day festivities and fireworks

With some spare time on my hands, I made my way down to the Promontory at Marina Bay, camera in hand, on 29th July, the final National Day Parade preview before the actual day. My intent was to get some practice with my new camera as well as to soak in the festive atmosphere despite not having a ticket to the show itself.

I had done this once before some eleven years ago with a Canon PowerShot camera. Back then, the parade was still held at the old National Stadium. But after that, it felt like such a chore having to lug a tripod around and camp for a good spot hours before.

This time around, I wasn’t that prepared either. I adopted an “anything goes” attitude and brought my D7500 with kit lens and 55-200mm along.

Read moreCapturing the National Day festivities and fireworks

Taste Test: McDonald’s Nasi Lemak Burger Feast

One of McDonald's best special burgers by far.

McDonald’s staple menu of Fillet-O-Fish, McSpicy and Quarter Pounder with Cheese is rather stale by now, even with the seasonal items like the Prosperity burger and Samurai burger. McDonald’s seems to have realised this over the past two years and have tried to mix things up every now and then since.

My favourite of the new mixes was the “Create Your Taste” concept, which I enthusiastically wrote about last year. “Create Your Taste” has since quietly disappeared (to my great disappointment), probably because it took up too much preparation time for a fast food restaurant. It did give birth to two new staple items, though–the Angus Cheese burger and the Chicken with Apple Slaw burger, which they (thankfully) replaced with Buttermilk earlier this year. In retrospect, perhaps “Create Your Taste” was just a crowdsourced experiment all along.

Then, of course, there was the salted egg burger, which garnered mostly mixed reviews. Now McDonald’s is back with another locally-inspired creation, the Nasi Lemak Burger. Or, should it be known as the Roti Lemak burger instead?

Read moreTaste Test: McDonald’s Nasi Lemak Burger Feast

Manekineko: K Box, reinvented

Back in the early 2000s, the name K Box, to Singaporeans, was perhaps synonymous with karaoke. It offered decent prices relative to its competitors like Party World KTV, had many outlets islandwide, possessed the latest the largest song collection and also served meals, tidbits and refreshments.

Then, Teo Heng burst into the scene around 2007 with its first outlet at Katong Shopping Centre. It offered a no-frills concept, charging by room size instead of per pax, at far more affordable rates. While it didn’t offer any food or beverages, it allowed you to bring in your own food and (non-alcoholic) drinks,  a trade-off most people are more than happy to accept. Originally situated at less accessible places like Katong and Sembawang, it has since expanded to places such as JCube, Rendezvous Hotel and Suntec City. Today, it’s safe to say that Teo Heng has displaced K Box as the first thing that comes to mind when you say ‘karaoke’.

Meanwhile, K Box went through some tough times. Many of its outlets were shuttered, perhaps due to poor business, and it made the news in 2014 for the wrong reason–hackers managed to access K Box’s database and leaked personal particulars of its 300,000 members.

Read moreManekineko: K Box, reinvented

Walkabout: 2017 Geylang Serai Market Bazaar

Ramadan is upon us once again, which also signifies the start of the annual Geylang Serai Market Bazaar. Billed as the biggest pasar malam event of the year in Singapore, it hosts 900 stalls across a few roads right outside Paya Lebar MRT.

Stalls are well in demand, since the bazaar is always teeming with crowds all month long, Muslim or non-Muslim alike. Rental is said to be as high as $17,000 this year, and some shops (probably those not selling food and those not blessed with TheSmartLocal’s or LadyIronChef’s midas touch) are still struggling to break even.

As you would expect, prices are exorbitant (at least, by pasar malam standards) and are at least on par with that of recent large-scale pasar malam events like Artbox and River Hongbao. Still, that isn’t enough to deter the millennial crowds, who are apparently willing to pay $20 and upwards for a slice of avocado toast.

Read moreWalkabout: 2017 Geylang Serai Market Bazaar

TribeCar Review — Fuss-free, Ad-hoc Car Rental

Update 11 March 2017: TribeCar has formed a partnership with Grab allowing freelance drivers to drive on an hourly basis under the Grab PowerHour scheme. Check out my thoughts below.

I first knew of TribeCar a few months back, when a promoter gave me a flyer somewhere along the City Hall area. Initially, I didn’t think much of it.

Then, it was time to make some Valentine’s Day plans this year and I toyed with the idea of renting a car for an entire Saturday. After some research, I found this was harder than I anticipated. Most car rental companies operate on a traditional model where you have to make a trip down to their offices to collect the car. On weekends, this poses a problem since their offices are not open. Weekend rentals for these companies would then mean you have to rent the car from Friday to Monday and incur the extra costs that come with it, including overnight parking.

Read moreTribeCar Review — Fuss-free, Ad-hoc Car Rental

Walkabout: Chinatown Street Decorations & Bazaar 2017

For a few weeks before Chinese New Year every year, Chinatown will be all dressed up, with the centrepiece being the sculpture at the intersection of Eu Tong Sen Street/ North Bridge Road and Upper Cross Street.

This year, the sculpture is that of a giant rooster, one that is so conspicuous that it appears in almost every other post about Chinese New Year.

Read moreWalkabout: Chinatown Street Decorations & Bazaar 2017

A Last Look at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

Corroding tracks.

I first knew of the existence of the KTM Singapore-Malaysia route some ten years ago, when we were whisked to a train station in the middle of the night, on the last day of our Secondary 3 overseas adventure camp at Taman Negara. I alighted at Woodlands terminal, not knowing that had I stayed on, I would be able to enjoy a rare glimpse of the disappearing Singapore wilderness through a train at ground level. That was something I never got to do before the Tanjong Pagar-Woodlands route closed for good in 2011. The only silver lining? Someone made a video of the entire train experience before it shuttered and uploaded it on YouTube.

Read moreA Last Look at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

Photo Essay: 2016 Orchard Road Christmas Light-up

There’s no possibility of a White Christmas in Singapore. The next best thing for us, perhaps, would be the annual Christmas light-up along Orchard Road, which has been a staple since 1984.

Read morePhoto Essay: 2016 Orchard Road Christmas Light-up

MINISO: A better Daiso than Daiso?

MINISO entered the Singapore market late last year with some fanfare and much ridicule. With a logo with the same shade of red as Uniqlo, a name that one would naturally associate with Daiso, and a tagline that looks like MUJI, on top of the fact that MINISO isn’t quite Japanese despite what they insist, one would think that MINISO wouldn’t stand the test of time in brand-conscious Singapore.

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Parting Thoughts: A Last Look at Rochor Centre

Rochor Centre

When you mention Rochor Centre, the one image that pops up in everyone’s minds is that of four colourful blocks, draped in the richest shades of red, blue, yellow and green. The place has become a popular hotspot for Instragammers eager to take their last shots before the place fades away into history.

As it turns out, Rochor Centre wasn’t always painted this way. If not for the colours, would we even bother? Perhaps.

Read moreParting Thoughts: A Last Look at Rochor Centre

Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay – Mini Photo Essay

Unlike the two previous editions of Christmas Wonderland, this year’s edition charges an entrance fee ranging from $4 to $8. Call it human psychology, but Christmas Wonderland feels a little more appealing with an entrance fee put in place. You would expect a ticketed event to be better organised, with a line-up of activities and food in a carvinal-like atmosphere, rather than what seems to be little more than an over-glorified Christmas display.

Read moreChristmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay – Mini Photo Essay