• Category Archives Snippets
  • Nature Causes Morning Peak Hour Chaos

    Sometimes, it’s a matter of being in the right place, at the right time. This morning, because I left my home keys in the office, I had to make a detour to the in-laws to get the spare set of keys. This caused me to be slightly later than normal. This coupled with a glitch on SBS IRIS (Yes, there are glitches on IRIS where bus arrivals occasionally go missing, but it is still better than SMRT who doesn’t even have one) that caused me to miss a bus by mere seconds, I got onto the next bus which was about 5 minutes later.

    During the bus ride, I heard on Class 95 that there was a fallen tree along Jalan Bukit Merah between Lower Delta Road and Kampong Bahru. That was in the route of my bus to work. When approaching Jalan Bukit Merah from Kampong Bahru, there were traffic police diverting traffic onto Tiong Bahru Road via CTE and Kim Tian Road. However, the bus captain of the bus I was on drove straight into Jalan Bukit Merah and was stopped by the traffic police as the road was impassable. Contrary to the traffic report on Class 95, the tree fell on Jalan Bukit Merah towards Queensway, not in the direction towards Kampong Bahru.

    So there I was at the site of the fallen tree. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to snap photos from both sides of the road, as it’s not every day that one would get into situations like this.


    Photos were taken with a Nokia N97 and resized and watermarked using XnView Portable


  • No more eggs at 10am?

    Read this article about MBS conference woes in the Straits Times this morning. Recent news about the Integrated Resorts have been focused on whether they were allowed to open too early, before everything was in place. It is like a software company releasing beta versions of applications and passing them off as public release.

    A similar incident happened to me over the Labour Day weekend. Initially, we wanted to have breakfast at Old Town Coffee in Playground @ Big Splash. When we arrived, the place was full and the only table left was alfresco, and in the hot sun. Since, the car park there had a 30 minutes grace period, we decided to go somewhere else. After much deliberation, we decided to try Killiney Cafe at Marina Square. On our way there, we drove past Suntec and a new Old Town Coffee outlet near the Promenade CCL station caught our eye and we decided to try that instead. A decision that we soon came to regret.

    The first impression I had when I first stepped in was that the place was new, even the high chairs from Ikea were white and shiny, definitely not the state they will be in after being in use by toddlers. We signaled to the staff that we wanted to order and were informed by them that we had to fill out the order form found on the table. So, we started filling out the form with our orders, which consisted of two breakfast sets. When we passed our order to the staff, they informed us that the sets were not available on weekends and public holidays. This was stated on the menu and not on the order form. Anyway, we proceed to change our orders. I ordered the Tom Yum Mee Siam and an Iced White Coffee, while my wife ordered a Nasi Lemak Special and a milk tea for herself. We also ordered some kaya toast and 2 half-boiled eggs (Omega eggs, according to the menu) for the boy.

    To our dismay, the manager came back 5 minutes later to inform us that they had no more eggs left for the half-boiled eggs. Mind you, this is at around 10am in the morning at a restaurant supposedly specializing in serving breakfast. The first thing that popped into my mind at that very moment was to rebutt “Can’t you get some at Carrefour (which was just next door)?” There was nothing much we could do except to forgo the eggs.

    The breakfast itself was disappointing. The Tom Yum Mee Siam tasted like instant Tom Yum soup cooked using paste and hot water, with bee hoon, 2 crab sticks, a few slices of fish cake and some strands of vegetables all thrown into a pot and left to simmer. Definitely not worth the $5.50 price tag. The iced coffee was much better. It was nice and fragrant and didn’t taste watered down like some iced coffees tend to taste. However, the serving was small for $2.50 and left me wanting.

    Though I didn’t try the Nasi Lemak Special that my wife ordered, I found it strange that they actually served half a plain hard-boiled egg with nasi lemak. And the egg was so overcooked that the yolk was hard to the extent that it didn’t dissolve when I tried to scoop some of it into my Tom Yum Mee Siam.

    Our ordeal didn’t end there. After we finished the breakfast, I brought the boy out first because he was getting restless. When my wife proceeded to the payment counter, she was informed that they didn’t have any form of electronic payment set up, not even Nets. There was no notice of this at the entrance or at the counter. And the staff didn’t even inform the customers when we first stepped in. Thankfully, we have the habit of carrying a bit of cash and the total cost of the breakfast was not that high. It would have been embarrassing if someone was dining alone and did not carry enough cash to pay for the meal.

    We are definitely not going back to that outlet in the short term until they have sorted out all their logistics.


  • Finally Circle Line Phase 1 and 2 Opens

    When I moved into my place in the Old Airport Road area  in 2002, one of the highlights was having a Circle Line MRT station nearby which goes directly into the city by 2008, and being able to transfer to the existing MRT and NEL lines at various interchanges.

    However, the Nicoll Highway tunnel collapse in 2004 delayed the opening of both Phase 1 and 2 to 2010 beyond the 2009 opening of Phase 3. On Saturday, 17 April 2010, Phase 1 and 2 of the Circle Line officially started operations from 6am.

    We were excited to try out the new station and trains on the first day since it was practically in our backyard. So, we decided to have a family dinner at Tung Lok Seafood in Orchard Central.

    We left home at around 7pm and started walking to the Mountbatten MRT station which was around 500m away. We took the city bound train to Dhoby Ghaut interchange to transfer to the North-South line. It was fairly crowded when we boarded, but most of the passengers alighted at the next station, Stadium, as 2 concerts were being held there that night. The ride through 6 stations to Dhoby Ghaut took about 20 minutes.

    Surprisingly, the transfer to the North-South line was a breeze, it was much closer than the walk between the North-South line and North-East line at the same interchange. The transfer consisted of a ride up the escalator to the transfer deck, a short walk of about 10-20 meters to the escalator to the existing North-South line and the ride down the  escalator.

    We took the north-bound train and alighted at the Somerset station. In all, the transit from home to Somerset, including walking to the station, waiting for the trains and the transfer at Dhoby Ghaut took slightly more than 30 minutes. In comparison, taking a bus would have taken around 45 minutes. Driving was not an option as traffic into the city is nightmarish on a Saturday evening.

    Dinner was uneventful.  It was neither fantastic nor was it terrible. Typical chinese cuisine from Tung Lok. We adjourned to the roof garden to take in the night view.  The view of the lights in Orchard Road and the horizon was nice.
    The trip back home in the opposite direction also took about 30 minutes. In all, the new alternative route that the Circle Line provides into the city is definitely appreciated, especially with public transport being more crowded and owning a car being more expensive.


  • Parking @ SGH

    Friday was the first time in the week that I actually drove to SGH to visit my dad with my mum. Now I understand why my dad said that parking was a nightmare and insisted on taking public transport on the day of admission.

    We arrived at SGH around 11.45am, just before visiting hours which starts at 12 noon. We entered via College Road with the intention of parking at Car Park G which was close to Block 5 where my dad was warded. To our dismay, the car park full indicator at the entrance was on. We drove on and rounded the main building only to find queues at the entrance of  Car Parks C and E.

    We then tried our luck at Car Park B which was a coupon parking car park. We drove around the car park and found cars waiting at every corner for available lots. We gave up trying to get a lot there and decided to go back to Car Park G and queue at the entrance.

    While driving out of Car Park B, I saw a sign pointing to a car park at HPB, and it was not full. We drove in to take a look. To our delight, we found a basement carpark with lots of available parking space. We parked at a lot near the lift and proceeded to visit my dad. During the visit, a friend of my parents who was working at SGH dropped by to see how he was doing. It turns out that she also didn’t know about the car park at HPB, which was just opposite of her office building.

    So on the way back to the car, I decided to take some photos and blog about this ‘undiscovered’ secret. Though it might be a distance away from the main SGH building, I would prefer parking there because it is a basement carpark (great for not getting wet when it is raining), and since it is just beside the walkway to the MRT, it is sheltered all the way to the main building (no umbrellas needed). The most important point for an impatient person like me is that I do not need to queue or waste time waiting for a lot.

    Oh, and did I mention that it is cheaper than the other SGH parking on week days?  Its 51 cents for every half hour, just 1 cent more than URA coupon parking.


  • The Missing Zodiac from McDonalds

    When McDonalds released the Zodiac Doraemon Lucky Charm in January, we planned to buy the zodiac signs of our family, so 2 dragons and a pig.

    2 weeks into the promotion, when we got the dragon lucky charms, we came to realize that the pig lucky charm was replaced by a cupid one so as not to offend the muslim community.  This sort of backfired as buying a pig toy and eating pork are not at all related, so most of our muslim friends are not offended. But, the chinese customers born in the year of the pig were disappointed as they could not get the lucky charm of their zodiac sign. We too were disappointed.

    Then, McDonalds announced in late January that they apologized for their oversight and said that they will bring in the pig lucky charm in mid-April and all proceeds will go to charity. I don’t know why, but I have a nagging feeling that the whole thing was all an elaborate PR stunt to bring more publicity through controversy. Anyway, that’s just a personal opinion.

    Either way, I am glad that they decided to bring it in.  And I just bought mine this morning to complete the family collection. Yippee!

    Oh, and by the way, don’t make the same mistake as me. You don’t need to make any food purchase to buy the lucky charms.

    So, all those waiting for this, have you gotten yours yet?


  • Gripe about SMRT Bus Service

    For the longest time, I have been griping about the bus service by SMRT (formerly known as TIBS, which merged with SMRT in 2001).  Especially now that I am temporarily staying at my parents’ place in Bukit Panjang during my leave, and have to rely solely on SMRT buses for public transport.  Either that or take the LRT-MRT combi, which is forever crowded.

    Its not like the service from SBS is anywhere near perfect.  But at least the intervals between buses are quite regular and predictable.  And with iris, I am able to time my trips out of the office or home without spending too much time at the bus stops waiting for the bus to arrive.

    Though we are paying the same fares for SMRT buses, there is no such online service.  I believe the infrastructure to determine the bus positions is in place as PublicTransport@SG Mobile is able to tell the arrival time of SMRT buses at various pre-defined bus stops. Perhaps it is to cover their inadequacy to provide sufficient buses on a regular intervals.  The wait for buses can be as long as 30 minutes to an hour even during off-peak hours when there are no jams.

    And to make matters worse, some of their buses are so old that the aircon cannot be felt during hot, sunny days.  This make taking the buses feel like being in a sauna on wheels in the afternoons.  I shudder to think what would happen if someone with an infectious disease unknowingly boards the bus and starts coughing and sneezing during the journey.

    I was ‘lucky’ enough to board one such bus today when I was making my way to Bukit Batok.  The bus was so old that the seats were still the old fabric type and buzzers were use to notify the driver of the intention to alight.  Based on the record on Wikipedia, the bus should be about 18-19 years old.  I thought the COE was supposed to prevent such vehicles from being on the road.  Mind you this is a public transport vehicle that travels long distance day in and day out.

    And to top it off, the recent review by the PTC about a month ago was that the bus service by SMRT was considered satisfactory.  This is probably a prelude to upcoming fare hikes due to so-called increases in crude oil prices and running costs.  I seriously think that the people doing these reviews should get off their cushy office chairs and experience the bus service first-hand.  Even when God created the world in 7 days according to the bible, he was on hand to see that things were good before proceeding.


  • Day Trip to SGH

    As I mentioned in my previous post, I chose to coincide my leave with my dad’s surgery.

    This morning was the date of admission.  I had offered to drive my parents to the hospital, but my parents with their usual thrifty mode on, said that the roads will be too jammed up, finding a car park lot at the hospital will be too much of a hassle and will cost a bomb.

    So off we went on our ‘world class’ public transport of LRT and MRT from Bukit Panjang to Outram.  The trip there was pretty uneventful, though it was fairly crowded during off-peak hours and we had to wait 5 minutes for the LRT and another 6 minutes for the MRT at Choa Chu Kang.

    When we arrived at Outram and saw a queue for the free SGH shuttle service, we decided to walk up to the Admissions Office.  Along the way, I was surprised by the changes that were made since the last time I was there, which was more than a decade ago when I had to visit the Specialist Outpatient Clinic there for my thyroid condition.

    It felt more like a shopping centre cum hotel than a hospital.  The Admissions Office was situated in the middle of everything.  There was a Kopitiam Food Court, an O’Briens Sandwich Bar, a Kaffe & Toast outlet, a Retail Pharmacy, which was super crowded like a sale was going on, and a Cheers convenience store.  There was not even a hint of the usual hospital/clinic/medicinal smell of antiseptic.  The only telltale sign that we were at a hospital were the signs pointing to various clinics and the hospital staff going about their usual routines.

    The admission process felt like a hotel check-in. They checked for my dad’s record and booking for the surgery, and asked him to wait for the previous patient to be discharged first so that the bed is available for him.

    Had lunch at O’Briens, since I have not had their sandwiches for quite some time and my mum never had it before.  Sort of regretting it after reading Julia’s post about the otah bun from Kaffe & Toast, which was just opposite O’Briens and I wrote them off as a Ya Kun clone when my mum asked what they were selling.  Will make it a point to try out their otah bun when I go visit my dad later in the week.

    It only felt like a hospital when we made our way to the block where my dad was to be warded.  At the ground floor, the lifts were cordoned off and there was a queue for visitors to register their visits.  The scene looked something like the ones on the news when SARS and H1N1 hit the country.

    We had to register our visits using our ICs, provide our contact numbers and were issued stickers for the first visiting hours session.  We were advised to return/swap our stickers if we intend to stay for the second visiting hours session.  As my dad is a new admission and he is to go to the OT the next day, we were allowed to stay beyond the visiting hours.

    At the ward, it was business as usual with the nurse going through the motions with my dad on his particulars and admission.  The conversation with the ward doctor was a bit more interesting.  I found out more about my dad’s condition, the tests that he had to go through and the surgery to be performed.

    Apparently, one of the valves in my dad’s heart is not functioning properly, which causes some of the blood to leak.  This causes the murmurs that led to the detection of my dad’s condition.  The surgery is to correct this problem by replacing the valve with an animal tissue valve.  Before going into surgery, he has to go through an angiogram procedure.  According to the doctor, this is done to check if my dad has any blocked arteries which can also be corrected during the same surgery.

    Hospitals usually ward patients with the same condition together to facilitate the doctors going on their rounds.  There was this other patient who went through the same surgery by the same surgeon about a week ago.  He is due to be discharged tomorrow.  It is really reassuring to see him walking about normally and talking to us.  What really left an impression on us was the term he used to refer to his condition.  He called it lao hong in Hokkien, which means leaking air.  My mum and I nearly burst out laughing.

    I really hope that my dad’s turn on the surgery table will be just as successful and he will be up and about in a week’s time and be ready to be discharged from the hospital.


  • The Sabbatical Begins…

    Today, I begin my sabbatical leave.  Time really flies, I have been working for the past 10 years and maybe I am long overdue for a break from work, literally.

    I’m not talking about the usual annual leave that we are entitled to.  I’m talking about an actual break from work where I can ignore most phone calls and emails for an entire month.  When my boss offered me the chance to go for this break, I jumped at it.

    The mobile phone is a great invention which brings people closer than ever, but I come from a generation when mobile phones never existed and you can be a hermit for awhile without worrying about missed calls and SMSes.

    Anyway, so it begins.  A whole glorious month away from work.

    I chose for the leave to coincide with my dad’s surgery so that I can be around to settle any loose ends, if needed.  Will be writing an entry about that later.

    A custom that is usually associated with sabbatical leave is setting personal targets to be achieved during this period.  So here goes, my personal targets are as follows,

    1. Blogging!  Wrote 3 entries before this, not counting the introduction one, and the last one being more than 2 months ago.  Pretty pathetic right?  Hope to blog every weekday of my leave, on anything and everything I do.
    2. Going to the gym.  Target to go to the gym every weekday, and go on the treadmill.  Hope to lose some excess fats and weight.
    3. Spend more time with my boy.  He is growing up so fast and will turn 3 next month.  Hope to spend more time with him and bring him swimming every weekday afternoon.
    4. Do my own things!  After I started working, everything I do day in, day out seems to be a routine.  Hope to be able to just bum around and go wherever I please, whenever I please!

    Think that’s about it.  Especially with the last one, it seems to cover whatever I want to do, whenever I decide to do them.  Will blog about it as I go!!

    Cheers to time off!!!


  • License to Flout (Traffic Rules)


    Last Wednesday, on one of the rare occasions that I drove to work, I encountered an incident which reminded me of the accident that happened involving the Romanian diplomat last month.

    With all the high profile traffic accidents that happened recently, I would have exepected drivers to be more cautious on the roads. How wrong I was.

    While at a junction outside a school, an embassy car that just dropped off a child at the school, cut into the lane of oncoming traffic. At first, I thought the driver was just impatient and wanted to move to the front of the queue which had two cars in front of him. When he did that he nearly hit a pedestrian who was trying to cross the junction (there were no proper pedestrian crossing as it was a small two-lane road). The pedestrian immediately whipped out his phone and took a photo of the license plate. But the best was yet to come.

    What happened next was a blatant flout of traffic rules. The driver waited for the traffic from the right to clear, cut perpendicularly across 4 lanes and traversed a double white line to make a U-turn. All this in front of a school and with another U-turn 200m ahead. The worst part is that he probably does this every school day morning. It really is an accident waiting to happen.

    I suppose having a special license plate does make a difference. If anything goes wrong, you can always go back on reasons of health.


  • Egg tarts from KFC

    I was never a big fan of egg tarts. To me, they were just another form of dessert.

    After reading a tweet from DK, I was intrigued that KFC would sell something so different. You can reason that eggs come from chicken and all that, but come on, oriental desserts from a fried chicken chain?

    The urge to try was reinforced by an advertorial post from Sheylara. It seems that this menu item is not new and has been sold in Hong Kong, Taiwan and some parts of China.

    I chanced upon a KFC branch on Friday at Bukit Panjang Plaza after dinner and decided to buy half a dozen for $7.50 ($1.25 each) to try them out.

    Here are some photos of the packaging and the egg tarts.


    I don’t recall fancying any of the egg tarts I previously had, so I can’t really make any comparisons.

    On the whole, the tarts were quite good and I had two of them about an hour after dinner. The custard filling was firm and fragrant and not too sweet. The pastry was just nice, flaky and crisp, but not enough to leave a crumbly mess. It was on the smallish side, hence the need to inhale two. d8

    I had another after brunch the next morning. It felt a bit more oily than I remembered, but the texture of the custard and the pastry was not compromised.

    It could be due to the hype that I noticed this and tried it out, but I would definitely go back for more if I have cravings for egg tarts in the future.

    Likes:

    • Firm texture of custard filling
    • Frangant and not too sweet
    • Crisp and flaky pastry

    Dislikes

    • Small
    • Oily if left overnight