25 Aug 2014

Dakota Crescent Pilgrimage

With Singapore stepping up its pace in rapid urbanisation, as the years go by, many of the old HDB estates and even old condominiums and housing estates have to be demolished. Though urbanisation is a necessary evil, its still saddening to see all these places slowly disappear with the younger generation not knowing about all these hidden gems and the history behind the city planning back in those days.

The estate was built in the late 1950s with the signature architectural styles of olden HDB designs with terrazzo flooring and mosaic ventilations situated at random corners of the corridors. My favourite bit of this housing estate is all the colourful balcony doors that look really old school like as if I've been whizzed into a 70's movie.

Okay I'm sparing you guys from any more awkward introductions to the place as I'm really bad at advertising.... Hehehehehehe. I find that places like Dakota Crescent is extremely precious to us young Singaporeans, with our primary/secondary school hideouts/hangout spots/haunts all slowly disappearing, there seems to be nothing left for our future generation (like our kids) to look back at. I mean like seriously, King Albert Park was a hugeass part of my secondary school life, with my friends and I going there to eat macs and grow fat/study while eating macs and growing fat/doing stuff that involves growing fat on macs/smelling like macs after leaving the place/trying to be badass and buy alcohol from Cold Storage in our uniform (okay we didnt do that)...... All in all that place was there to watch us grow up from loserish sec 1 kids who knew nothing about life to sec 4 teenagers who thought we knew everything about life. 

I want to live in a Singapore where my old haunts, not all, at least some would still remain, for me to tell my kids in the future "This is where your mum hung out during her secondary school days", or "This is where mum met dad". Imagine if you met your future husband at King Albert Park, how sad would that be.... because that place doesn't exist anymore. It is like as if, urbanisation is depriving all of us of our memories, and it's close to asking us to let go of the past as though it was something not of much significance to us and give it all in for new and swanky, futuristic looking buildings.... Well maybe they would be icons for the future generation to find their future spouses but..... what about us?

We actually visited Dakota Crescent as part of our OG's hipster outing organized by yours truly for the sole purposes of fun and laughter. But I realised it was not all fun and laughter over there as the residents there were truly sad that they will have to soon leave their lives at Dakota Crescent behind and move on to something new. We met this Malay uncle who saw us taking photos of his interesting bedsheets hung over the railings of a two storey shophouse. For a moment I thought he was annoyed at us intruding on his personal life, but he actually urged us to take more photos to prevent his home from being recalled by the government....... This made me think, progression is good but.... have we left many others behind on the way?

Tian Kee & Co used to be an old provision shop owned by an elderly couple which was pretty famed in the Dakota Crescent estate. It has since been recently converted into a cafe which still adopted the name of the former provision shop. The cafe is pretty old-school and sells beverages and snacks that are inspired from our local tastes. Do try the Pink Lady (rose syrup and steamed milk) and Ice Snag (an interesting fuse with espresso, steamed milk and rose syrup), they are really jugs of surprises. Their lychee cheesecake was average, the yuan yang cake was sold out when we went there.... so I guess this calls for trip number 2!

To be very honest, I do not want to tell you that Dakota Crescent is THE place to be seen, as it is still.... a residential estate, not some nightclub, and it is one of Singapore's most best-kept secret edens around the island, especially so if you have a knack for time travelling back to the 60s/70s, do check out this place, and take as many photos as you can to spread the word before its gone for good! :/

Stay hipsterrrific,
Ming Rui.

6 Aug 2014

Busan Weekend: Gamcheon Culture Village

"No one is here by chance", but we indeed visited this culture village by chance. The night before our full day in Busan, my dad actually called to tell me that the chinese papers had reported about this cool new lesser-known tourist attraction in Busan called Gamcheon Culture Village and urged me to go check it out. It's said that this place is like the "Santorini of Asia" like wow got so good meh? 

The next day was actually supposed be spent on the Busan City Tour Bus touring Taejongdae and having seafood at Jagalchi Seafood Market. However, when we got to Busan Station, the queue for the city tour bus was too damn long, and apparently we had better have made a reservation for the bus, if not it's close to impossible to board it on weekends. I mean like, who knew! So we decided to change our itinerary for the day on the spot and YOLO-ed our way to Gamcheon Culture Village! And damn, I NEVER regretted coming to this place a single bit.

To get to Gamcheon Culture Village, you would first have to take the Busan Metro to Toseong Station and exit by Exit #7. And you would see this crossroad with Exit #6 opposite you. Cross opposite and turn left. You would see some Busan Cancer Centre (or something along that line)

Walk straight down till you see this bus stop.

This should be the view opposite you,

You are at the bus stop boxed up in black, and you are supposed to take the MINI BUS 2 or 2-2 up to Gamcheon Culture Village or Gamcheon Haneul Maeul (Ha-nool Ma-ool... well that's close)

On the mini bus....

Alight when you see the Tourist Information Centre! Actually most of the people would alight at this stop so just alight along with them. Maps of the village are sold at this place for 3000 won I think?

And heeeeeeeeeeeeere weeeee areeeeeeeeeeeee, 
I'll just let the pictures do the talking.

I really like how random street art installations are scattered all over this village.

We had lunch at this cafe selling simple fare and of course, we ordered our favourite dosirak to satisfy our dosirak cravings. Not as good as the one we had in Seoul, but the million dollar scenery they had on their rooftop made up for everything. The toppings on their patbingsoo were also given really generously.

Look for the kind waffles uncle near the Tourist Information Office if you are lost and need directions!

I would definitely return to this place to spend a full day here to slowly take in the sights and sounds as we didn't have enough time to complete the course as shown in the map. But I guess whatever we covered in a mere 4 hour trip was pretty impressive! 

Gamcheon Culture Village is a place I would strongly recommend to those travellers who like to discover something off the beaten track. The place is so lively, colourful and filled with youthful ajummas and ajussis around to help you out if you lose your way. Who says slums are definitely dirty, dark and smelly? 

1 Aug 2014

Busan Weekend: Haeun-day(해운대)

TRAIN RIDES I LOVE TRAIN RIDES! Godknowswhy but taking a long train ride has been in my bucket list for a long while. Our nice Seoul apartment host helped us keep our overweight luggages for the weekend and off we went to Seoul Station to board the KTX bound for Busan at a whopping 7:00 am. Props to all three of us managing to wake up so early!

The journey to Busan was around 2.5 hrs long and by the time we reached Haeundae Station where we were residing for the weekend, it was already almost lunch time. 

Our accommodation experience in Busan was unpleasant. We did book the apartment through Airbnb and we thought this apartment had the best location and the host looked pretty motherly. But throughout the entire trip, she never replied to any of my questions pertaining to the apartment and check-in timings. Worse still, she was late in picking us up and we were stranded with so many pieces of luggages at Haeundae Station waiting underneath the hot summer sun getting grilled there for a good 20 mins. There is no reason why she should be late as I've already informed her 10 mins before our arrival at the station.

She drove pretty dangerously back to the apartment and there was a huge crack on her windscreen (that she did not replace). Okay the next thing that happened was a nightmare. The tourists residing in the apartment that we booked hasn't checked out yet and they were nowhere to be seen. Hence, she offered us another unit that was facing DIRECTLY a construction site where we could see the faces of the construction workers so clearly right outside our window. If we could see their faces, it means they could also see ours' too right? The corridor at our level had a foul rotting trash stench, and it was so dimly lit it seemed pretty iffy to stay for a long duration, especially so for a group of young girls.

The apartment was so-so, but the staircase leading up to the loft unit was so steep all three of us had trouble climbing it. Tall girl Ming ended up sleeping on the couch instead.

Complains aside, after settling down in our apartment we headed to Centum City for lunch at Lotteria, then to Spaland for a long afternoon of sauna-hopping. There were no photos taken, I mean who takes pictures in Saunas when your phones might overheat. It was pretty worth it, 15,000 won for 4 hours and the facilities are pretty luxurious! If you do not mind showering naked along with many other aunties.... there are shower facilities, traditional Japanese onsen style. 

I'm honestly not a fan of having cold food for proper meals... We had naengmyeon, bibim naengmyeon and mandoo for dinner that day. Naengmyeon (냉면) is buckwheat noodles served cold, something like the Japanese soba noodles. Bibim Naengmyeon (비빔냉면) is the same dish served with a spam of hot pepper sauce. Mandoo (만두) is the Korean version of gyozas. Naengmyeon is actually Busan's speciality other than fresh seafood, so we decided to have it for one of our meals and HONESTLY the hot bakuteh-like broth served in the teapot was my saviour for that night as I kept dipping my noodles into that. Naengmyeon is everywhere to be found in Busan but the best would be Chuncheon Naengmyeon! Go google it and make sure you do not go to the wrong one (we went to the fake one).

As we stayed in the vicinity of Haeundae, we had the luxury of being within walking distance to the beach! The evening breeze was amazing and we had lots of fun running away from waves, freezing after a while as the water was too cold, watching people get dunked into the sea, e.t.c. I did not have much fun as dumb girl here wore boots AND STOCKINGS to a beach so, no playing of water.... But I did go back to Haeundae to play when I went there with my mum again in June and one side of my slipper was swept away by the waves hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha and my mum got so panicky looking at me trying to retrieve my poor slipper. 

Do remember to check out this roadside cocktail bar while you are at Haeundae! It is located on the left side of the strip if you are facing Haeundae beach. The names of the cocktails are pretty whatwereyouthinkingatthatmomentwhenyougavethename like "Sex on the peach", "Pineapple Thank You", "Grape See You Again", BUT DO NOT LET THAT HOLD YOU BACK FROM TRYING HIS MIXES. THEY ARE REALLY GOOD. And sex on the peach really turned out to look like the colour gradient on a real peach... hmm pretty impressive mixing skills ain't it?

I think the best part of my apartment in Busan was the convenience store downstairs. They sold EVERYTHING. From yummy kimchi to eat as a banchan (side dish) with your cup noodle ramyeon, to iPhone 4S cables. Wow, I was so impressed. And check out these adorable delatte packagings below


Will be updating more on my Busan Weekend but meanwhile, I'm busily settling what to move to hall so it's like I'm splitting myself up into two running back and forth between NTU and home. Wow. FIVE MORE POSTS TILL I FINISH UP MY #3GIRLSTAKESEOUL VACAYCAY

Thank you so much readers for bearing with my irregular postings and following me through on this whole journey! :)

Stay hipsterrrific,
Ming Rui