Monday, May 18, 2015

Across the causeway! 從碧山到新山!

Hi guys!

It has been a week since my previous post and my schedule has been packed to the brim so far.

So here is a look at what I ate and did last week over at Johor Bahru!

For the benefit of my readers who do not know where is Johor Bahru, let me give you a short introduction!

Johor Bahru is the capital city of Johor in southern Malaysia, located north of Singapore. 

It is separated by the Johor - Singapore Causeway, a 1056-metre causeway that links the city of Johor Bahru in Malaysia across the Straits of Johor to the town of Woodlands in Singapore. It serves as a road, rail, and pedestrian link, as well as water piping into Singapore.

 Photo credit: Colin Lim

How to get there?

Photo credit: Causeway Link

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Regent Star

Regent Star's Bus Schedule

You can get to Johor Bahru (JB) via the above mentioned Bus Services or refer to Buses to JB for more information.

For SBS and SMRT buses, you are able to pay for your journey via EZ-Link cards whereas for the Causeway Link (CW) buses you will have to pay cash (NO Change will be give).

Personally, I prefer to take CW1, which cost S$1 from Kranji MRT Station to JB Custom and RM1.50 from JB Custom to Kranji MRT Station as the route is a bit shorter and the bus is more comfortable than SBS 170.

What to do in JB?

1. Eating
2. Cafe Hopping
3. Shopping
4. Sightseeing

This trip was primarily a Cafe Hopping and Sightseeing trip around downtown JB

There are many cafes and eateries in the hipster cluster of JB, or rather along the streets of Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Jalan Dhoby and Jalan Trus.

You must be thinking why is Jalan Tan Hiok Nee such a weird road name, is it named after a person? 

Jalan Tan Hiok Nee is named after Tan Hiok Nee, a Chinese merchant who was bestowed the title of "Chinese Major" by Sultan Abu Bakar in 1870 and subsequently was accorded a Datukship. He started as a textile merchant and ended up as a supplier of fabric and later controlled the market at that time. Tan Hiok Nee also planted black pepper and gambier along Sungai Johor, from Kota Tinggi until the shores of the Tebrau Straits facing Pulau Ubin. Tan Hiok Nee was also the head of the Ngee Heng Kongsi Clan from 1863 till 1873.

 Hopefully the maps will help! Alternatively, if you are lost, you can always ask the friendly locals for directions and I am sure that they will tell you where to go if they know the way!

So I met up with fellow Blogger/Instagrammer, Alvin See when he was back in Johor and we went to Faculty of Caffine (F.O.C). See how serious he is when he is snapping photos for Instagram! This spot is my favorite because of the strong lighting as compared to the rest of the tables in the cafe.

Thank you Alvin for being my hand model! So we had the Madam Lim's Homemade Brownies topped with vanilla ice cream, granola and chocolate sauce (RM13.50). The Brownies were moist and soft yet firm enough while the granola bits provided additional texture to the dessert. I had a Minty Chocolate drink (RM12) which was refreshing and perfect for a warm day! 

You can refer to my Instagram Post for additional information and read some of the comments made by my followers.

The interior is an eclectic mix of industrial-chic with modern elements with the use of some vintage furniture. The cafe is a little dim and the lighting here is a little warm, so if you prefer your food photos to look less warm, choose the correct table. They have an outdoor section at the back which is tiny but cozy and an extended indoor seating which is my favorite spot as there are spotlights casting strong lights over the table.

Overall, the cafe is a nice place to chill and spend a lazy afternoon at. 

Faculty of Caffeine (F.O.C) as seen from the street, which is opposite of the Galleria @ Kotaraya

Photo Credit: Google Map

Address: 106, Jalan Trus, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

Phone:+60 16-713 2714

This place is about a 10 minutes walk away from City Square via Jalan Wong Ah Fook, take the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple as a point of reference

Photo Credit: Malaxi

Along the streets of Jalan Trus, you will be able to spot EH HE or Earth Heart, unfortunately it was closed when we visited on a Monday! Do note that most cafes here at closed on Mondays or open late, after 3:00pm.

Chaiwalla & Co Container Cafe (website), is a cafe made from an actual container. Founded in 2012, the name Chaiwalla is actually derived from a Hindi word that means "Someone who prepares the tea"  and they serve custom made beverages and good food from JB to KL.

Spotted in the frame is Kevin, who can't wait to order some drinks and snap some Instagram-worthy pictures. 

The Menu!

So we ordered Double Chocolate Smoothie with Nata De Coco and Japanese Matcha Milk Tea with Pink Pops. The drinks are thick and nice but a tad too sweet, you either have to live with no sugar at 0% or bear with the mild over-sweetness at 50%. I do not think that I would be able to take the 100% sweetness.

Being the typical Instagrammers that we are, we brought our drinks to different places and experimented with different angles. #foodinweirdplaces

I must say that I was quite satisfied with my shots! What do you guys think? Leave a comment on my Instagram or on this post.

Address: Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

Just across the street, this outstanding Red House caught my attention. So I went to check it out and they actually were selling local products such as biscuits etc. I didn't buy anything, just took a peek and left, maybe I will check it out again the next time I visit JB ...

This popular bakery has been operating in a shop in old downtown Johor Bahru since 1919.

Hiap Joo Bakery was actually started by an Englishman and he handed over the business to the great grandfather of the current owner in the 1930s.

The breads and cakes here are timeless and classic pieces of pastries as they are still being baked using wood fire in a clay brick oven, which gives it an extra whiff of smokey fragrance.

Hiap Joo's signature product is none other than their banana cake. Slightly charred on the outside while moist and spongy on the inside. It is fragrant and mildly sweet. The sweetness is very subtle and not overpowering as no chemicals or artificial flavorings are added into their cakes

Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory
13 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee
80000 Johor Bahru 
Johor, Malaysia

You might want to go early as their cakes get snapped up pretty quickly especially during lunch hours. The cakes here are best consumed within a day as they do not contain any preservatives.

#FoodInWeirdPlaces AGAIN! 

Next up, we went over to Qin Garden Kopitiam and ate at Adam Soroso's Nasi Padang. The dishes are all displayed there, all you have to do is ask for rice, choose your own dishes and settle the bill. 

This bakery commenced operations in 1937 and was founded by En. Shamsul Hak. Three generations later, it still retains much of its unique charms by offering various types of breads baked traditionally using wood-fired ovens. Now known as Salahudin Bakery Sdn. Bhd., its special recipes have earned it a special place in the hearts of Johor Bahru residents.

The lady boss is polite and friendly, she speaks very good English as well! So don't be afraid as there will be no language barrier, even if you do not speak Bahasa Melayu. Photography is very welcomed as well but it would be polite if you were to seek permission first before snapping away!

A wide array of breads are available here, such as the coconut buns, banana cakes to even curry puffs with sardines or mutton fillings. The prices here are affordable as well with prices ranging from RM1.20 - RM2.00, you will have to visit this bakery by yourself in order to experience the nostalgia.

The legendary wood-fired oven, which produced thousands and thousands of breads since 1937.

Time to head back home...

JB has many of such back alleys with graffiti and they are quite an interesting sight to witness as compared to the usual clean and orderly street scene that we have back in Singapore. 

Came across this Coconut Wine shop (opposite KOMTAR JBCC) on the way back and decided to check it out. However, it was too early for alcohol and we gave it a miss but the interior was definitely very Insta-worthy. 

I shall end this blog post with a picture of me in front of Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple.

Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple 柔佛古廟; known as Old Temple 古廟 by the locals, is a Chinese temple located at downtown Johor Bahru of Jalan Trus, the temple is flanked by modern skyscrapers. This temple is one of the oldest structures in Johor Bahru. The temple is a place of worship and a symbol of unity among Five Chinese Dialect Groups which are "Teochew", "Hokkien", "Cantonese", "Hakka" and "Hainan". The temple was built during the 19th Century by then Head of Ngee Heng Company led by Tan Hiok Nee and various Chinese community leaders.

In 1995 - 1996, it underwent a major renovation at a cost of RM1.5 million. Much of its cultural aura was preserved, and important relics such as the century-old bronze bell, joss stick pot and wooden tablet remain. In 1995 - 1996, it underwent a major renovation at a cost of RM1.5 million. Much of its cultural aura was preserved, and important relics such as the century-old bronze bell, joss stick pot and wooden tablet remain.

The temple hosts 5 Deities:
Xuan Tian Shang Di (元天上帝) (大老爷)
Hong Xian Da Di (洪仙大帝) (洪仙公)
Gan Tian Da Di (感天大帝)
Hua Guang Da Di (华光大帝)
Zhao Da Yuan Shuai (赵大元帅)

Every year in the first lunar month of 20-23rd, the Temple organizes its annual Chinngay known as the Parade of Deities 古廟游神.The Chingay parade lasts for four days. The climax of the parade is on the night of the 3rd day when the Deities parade around the Johor Bahru Town Centre or in Chinese known as 圣駕巡游. The annual Chingay has attracted more than 300,000 people to march around the major roads of Johor Bahru together with the 5 Deities being worshiped in the Old Temple.

Credit: Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple

On my most recent trip to JB, I finally had the chance to go to IT ROO Cafe, which claims to serve the best Chicken Chop in town. True to its claim, the fried chicken chop made with whole thigh meat was well marinated and fried till golden brown, crunchy and so sinful! For RM17, you get a freaking big piece of chicken chop, fried potatoes, 2 sunny side up with oozing yolk, thick golden brown mushroom sauce and coleslaw!

Till the next time ~

Saturday, May 9, 2015

National Gallery Singapore

Hi guys!

Last Saturday (02 May 2015), I was invited by The A List to have an exclusive "Naked Museum" tour of the National Gallery Singapore (新加坡国家美术馆), before it is officially opened to the public in November 2015 and I must that it was truly a memorable experience!

since there are no art exhibits in the museum, it is named the Naked Museum

What is the National Gallery Singapore about?

The National Gallery Singapore will focus on showcasing Southeast Asian and Singapore Art, dating back to the 19th century to the present day. Through the extensive collection of art works, the Gallery will be able to illustrate and present to visitors the development of Singapore and its neighbors' cultures, which depicts their social, economic and political histories as well.

The National Gallery mainly focuses on Modern Art but it will take a contemporary approach and look beyond national and regional boundaries of art, and take on a wider ambit of international visual arts culture, research into the Asian heritage and cultural affiliations while also engaging with global cultures and discourses.

Logo of the National Gallery Singapore
Photo credit: Marketing Interactive

I know it looks really simple and some may think that it is a "no brain-er" kind of design which probably anyone on the streets can come up with but it does reflect on the architecture of the National Gallery Singapore, as seen below:

The Asylum (Singapore), the design firm behind the logo took 3 months to come up with the concept. The firm took a bold approach towards the creation of the logo through an abstract representation of the two iconic buildings housing the National Gallery Singapore, the logo comprises two rectangular blocks and it can be interpreted in any imaginable way — two building blocks, two dialogue boxes, two platforms or just two spaces for visual arts.

The two basic geometric shapes pays homage towards the movement of abstraction in the early 20th century, of which the Bauhaus movement was a prominent example. This is also evident within the development of modern art, which is the focus of the National Gallery.

The logo has received mixed reviews and some netizens got really creative and came up with their own interpretations of the logo to simply poke fun at the simple logo.

Who says that Singaporeans are not creative?

Identity of National Gallery Singapore

The National Gallery Singapore is about art and it aims to excite, engage and inspire all their visitors.

The color palette used is a mixture of charcoal grey or red, both being timeless colors that represents strength and steadfastness, inline with the Gallery's vision of becoming a visual arts institution that will inspire and engage Singaporeans, people from the region and linking everyone around the world through art.

The font used is Akzidenz-Grotesk, a modern yet simple and versatile font which will blend in well alongside the Gallery's exhibits, making it inviting, dynamic, inspiring and confident.

Construction of the National Gallery Singapore

The former Supreme Court and City Hall were closed in 2005 for extensive renovation, paving the way for the birth of National Gallery Singapore - the nation’s newest museum. Construction of the museum is being executed by studio Milou Architecture, a Paris-based firm which specializes in museum design and the adaptive re-use of historical and heritage buildings, and its Singapore partner, CPG Consultants - began in 2011 and is now approaching its final stages. 

To create a more inclusive environment, the museum will have multimedia guides that will be available in the four official languages and daily tours led by gallery docents, said Mr Lawrence Wong (Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Ministry of Communications and Information).

A special history exhibition, highlighting key historical moments that took place at the former Supreme Court, is also slated to be held next year.

The Singapore Courtyard

10 Fun Facts about the National Gallery Singapore

1. The total cost for the project is estimated to be $530 million.

2. The combined floor area of the National Gallery Singapore will be around 64,000 sq m, comparable in size to the Musee D’Orsay in Paris and the Museo Nacional Del Prado in Madrid.

3. The sculptures on the former Supreme Court’s friezes and tympanum were designed and sculpted in the 1930s by Italian Cavalieri Rudolfo Nolli.

4. There are more than 10,000 artworks in Singapore's National Collection and the new museum will display about 1,000 of them at a time.

5. The National Gallery Singapore will house the largest collection of South-east Asian art in the world. 

6. 15,000 aluminium panels, all in shades of gold, will make up the National Gallery Singapore’s roof and veil, a sloping extension of the roof which runs down the museum’s main entrance between the two buildings.

7. The former Surrender Chamber on the third floor of City Hall weights approximately 2000 tons and had to be suspended using a series of steel beams during construction. 

8. The museum will house the Keppel Centre for Art Education, the first dedicated art education facility of its kind in Singapore and the region. It will occupy over 1,000 sq m of the ground level in the City Hall wing.

9. The ponds in the rooftop gardens serve double duty as skylights. Made of steel frames and laminated glass, they allow natural light to flow into the courtyards below.

10. In the 80 years since the construction of the former City Hall, the building’s shallow foundations caused the building to twist as it settled. Now the north-west corner of the building is 1m taller than its south-west corner, and the floors of the building are slanted.

Credit: Straits Times

The architecture of the interior is simple and clean, with usage of white walls with wooden fixtures and floor. The roof has been fitted with glass panels with a reflective pool above, which provides natural lighting. This is a good move to reduce energy consumption of the National Gallery Singapore. Look! We have a surprise guest coming to visit the National Gallery as well! Do not be alarmed as the two buildings were previously home to many of our feathered friends such as pigeons and swallows and some of them still call this place their home.

Once you go up to the rooftop, you will be greeted by a spectacular view, featuring the glass reflective pool and the new Supreme Court is in the background with its distinctive UFO-like structure.

The dome of the Former Supreme Court as seen from the rooftop

The skyline of Singapore's CBD, with the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall in the foreground being towered by the skyscrapers at the back, such as One Raffles Place and UOB Plaza One.

This reminds me of tree branches or like the same structure that is supporting the glass roof of ION Orchard. Look at how tiny these people are as compared to the structure of the building.


Looks like someone's home! Let's not disturb!

The symbolic white-font "Naked Museum" block 

How can I miss out on a photo opportunity for keep sake?


The Grand Old Rotunda Library is being restored and looks very photo-worthy!

How about a more artsy shot?

The clean and simple feel is being exemplified throughout the whole National Gallery, even the staircase are wide and simple.

Let's have a game of chess on the floor! 

Waffle anyone?

Let's head to the outdoor patio for some fresh air!

This is probably the next most Instagrammable staircase in Singapore! Photographers and Instagrammers time to get ready your cameras and mobile phones this coming November!

I am so glad that by opening my mouth to ask a stranger to snap a photo for me, I got acquainted with another photography lover.

A look inside the Rotunda Library! There used to be such a huge collection of books that the space is insufficient to store them.

This used to be the holding cell for inmates waiting for their cases to be heard at the Old Supreme Court. There were a total of 12 inmate cells; 10 for men and 2 for women and they were located just below the court rooms. Today, at the new National Gallery, 2 of the 12 cells still remains.

The buildings

The Former Supreme Court and the City Hall are national monuments and have played a significiant role in Singapore's history. Facing the Padang (Flat Field in Malay), the two buildings are now being integrated together via link bridges and a new basement level, combining both old and new architecture.

Former Supreme Court

The Former Supreme Court building was built on the site of the former Grand Hotel de l'Europe, one of the most palatial hotels in Southeast Asia that was demolished in 1936. Designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, Chief Architect of the Public Works Department, the former Supreme Court building was built to house Supreme Court offices and courtrooms and was declared open on 3 August 1939.

This building is the former courthouse of the Supreme Court of Singapore, before it moved out and commenced operations in the new building on 20 June 2005.

The architecture of the former Supreme Court building is in harmony with that of its neighbour, City Hall. The general layout of the building exemplifies British colonial architecture, comprising four blocks of offices and courtrooms surrounding a central rotunda with a dome that was originally used to house a circular law library. It was to be the last classical building to be built in Singapore. United Engineers Ltd was the building contractor.

City Hall

The City Hall building was built between 1926 and 1929 and was originally known as the Municipal Building. Designed by the British Municipal architects A. Gordon and S. D. Meadows, it was used to house the offices of the Municipal Council, which was responsible for the provision of water, electricity, gas, roads, bridges and street lighting.

From 1963 to 1991, City Hall came to house offices of several government departments and courtrooms. City Hall has been the focal point of many important events in the history of Singapore. It was in the City Hall building that Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, on behalf of the Allied forces, accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces on 12 September 1945.

The building also housed the office of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore. Mr. Lee and members of his Cabinet took their Oaths of Allegiance and Oaths of Office on 5 June 1959 in the City Hall Chamber.

It was gazetted on 14 February 1992 as a national monument. The original layout of City Hall is a typical example of neoclassical British architecture. The building's interior is modestly proportioned, but its front façade is distinguished by 18 three-storey-high Corinthian columns facing the Padang.

Credit: Wikipedia

Mark your calenders and watch out for this space as it is super photogenic and Instagrammable!

Thank you The A List for the invite!

National Gallery Singapore
1 St. Andrew's Road
Singapore, 178957

Nearest MRT Station: City Hall (North-South Line/ East-West Line)

Further readings: