31 March 2007

Diving in Redang - August 2006

Will be going to Redang the coming week (yipee!) so I thought it'd be good to write about my previous trip which was back in August 2006 and indulge in reminiscence for a bit.
First heard about Pulau Redang in Malaysia after watching the Hong Kong movie 夏日的么么茶 back in 2000; was very attracted by the island paradise with pristine sandy beaches and clear blue waters. Wanted very much to go there and then, but was put off by the long travelling time - a whopping 13 hours coach ride! Don't think I want a relaxing holiday at an island paradise to be marred by a tiring journey to and fro.

So, the idea was shelved for quite a bit until last year after hubby and I got our Open Water certificate. Was looking for spots to dive; among places like Phuket, Bali, Sipadan etc, Redang came out top of the list. Good news is, we could take Berjaya Air from Seletar Airport straight to Redang Island and the flight is only 1 hour 30 minute. Yes, an indulgence since the flight cost much more than a coach ride.
Decided to stay at Laguna Redang Island Beach Resort located at Pasir Panjang Beach where the movie was filmed. Yes, another indulgence since this resort is one of better ones :p
Was really excited on board "Dash 7" since it was my first time on a 48-seater aircraft; and even more so by the breathtaking view as we approached Redang.

Just look at the lovely blue waters! While we were transferring by ferry to the resort, really had a strong temptation to jump straight into the water :D

Laguna Redang Island Beach Resort is clean, modern, well-maintained with spacious and comfortable rooms, exactly what I had in mind :) Wasted no time to check around the resort and beach and true to its name, Pasir Panjang definitely has one of the finest beach on the island.

And there it stand, the "More More Tea" Inn made famous in the movie! Actually the colorful and quaint building was shifted from its original location to make way for the resort. The building is now a souvenir shop just next to the resort.

The whole stretch of Pasir Panjang Beach houses many resorts that suit all types of budget.

Although it looks kind of commercialised, the overall feel is still idyllic and rustic; perfect for a getaway for families, friends and couples alike.
The house reef boasts of many reef fishes and corals, really convenient for snorkelling since the waters is sheltered and quite shallow.

Many dead corals washed ashore.

And not to forget diving; Redang is said to offer one of the best diving in this region with an amzing variety of marine life. We did 5 dives with the resort's dive centre. The dive centre is well-equipped with experience divemasters so we were in good hands. Disappointing though, the visibility during our dives was average at around 10m - 15m.
Brought along a camera this time as we found a underwater housing during a sale before the trip but didn't manage to take many photos. Realised that underwater photography is not an easy task indeed.

Dive 1 - Terumbu Kili (South Point)
Saw large schools of fishes in a feeding frenzy on the corals; one big Titan Trigger Fish, the infamous territorial fish known to attack divers; turtle, blue-spotted stingrays, the usual reef fishes like anemones, soft and hard corals and etc.

Dive 2 - Mak Cantik (Maxi Mount)
Means 'beautiful mother' in Malay. This dive site is home to a large coral garden, comprising of many hard and soft corals. A pity that visibility was not very good due to particles but nonetheless very pretty.

Dive 3 - Tunnel Point
We did several swim throughs at here as this site is made of large boulders pile up to form tunnel-like structures. Supposed to hear the boulders creak when surf action causes them to move slightly, but we were distracted by many large angel fish, butterfly fish and nudibranchs.

Dive 4 - Chek Isa (Mini Mount)
Another beautiful dive site but visibility was low with hot and cold current. Saw 3 white-tip sharks zoomed past (or was it just one which swam around?), was pretty excited but it all happened too fast!

Dive 5 - Mak Cantik (Maxi Mount)
Re-visit to this underwater coral garden. Saw big stingrays, turtle, cushion star, puffer fish and etc.

Well, here's hoping that my upcoming dive trip would be a good one!

Travel resources

26 March 2007

Pisceans Birthday Celebration at Brotzeit, VivoCity

Had a belated joint piscean birthday celebration with my JC gang yesterday at Brotzeit German Bier Bar & Restaurant, located at the ground floor of VivoCity facing Sentosa. The breezy waterfront seating area offers stunning view, whereas the indoor section with dark wood furnishings and wooden tables flanked by benches created a cozy and contemporary ambience.

We settled comfortably at the sleek wooden tables and poured through the menu, bewildered by the vast selections of authentic german beer and food. Actually, I'm not familiar with German cuisine, somehow the only impression of German fare is sausages, pork knuckles and beer. Well, am I wrong! And I'm happy to declare that I walked out a satisfied customer, by not just the food but also the prompt and friendly service.

We ordered a selection of speciality items (highly recommended by the servers and Ah Hong) to share so that we could try a little of everything.
I particularly enjoyed the sausage platter served with sauerkraut, mashed potato, pickled cucumber and garnished with roasted onion rings. The mixture of thin and fat sausages were lean, juicy and crunchy with different flavours like cracked peppers, cheese, smoked and more; can't exactly remember all the types now but this really converted my idea of sausages. Was particularly impressed with the sauerkraut which is finely sliced sour white cabbage; the distinctive sour taste was not over-powering and complements the robust taste of the sausages. The mashed potato was buttery and smooth.
And there was the mushroom stew with different varieties of mushroom. The full-bodied taste of mushroom lingered in my mouth and the creamy stew was rather addictive.

The signature roasted pork knuckle was tender, crackling quite crispy but meat a tad dry. Other dishes included greens, German-style pizza and seafood platter, all pretty well done.

Also tried a few variety of beer, one of which was mango-flavoured, tasted fruity and sweet but mild. Had to skip dessert altogether as the meal was really filling and we still have the birthday cake. Must really go back there one of these days to try the desserts which I heard was good. The meal set us back by $26 per person but well worth it considering the quality of food, service and ambience; and hey, nothing beats the company and of course JUICY news :p

Really feel very blessed to be able to celebrate every birthday with this group of wonderful friends for the past 12 years. Despite personal and work commitments, everyone made effort to get together for birthdays and festive celebrations. It is also heartwarming to see the group grow literally with partners (and now babies) joining in. Thank you, dear friends!

German Bier Bar & Restaurant
VivoCity, #01-149-151
Tel: 6272-8815
Website: http://www.brotzeit1516.com/

22 March 2007

Open Water Diver Course - May 2006

Dive season in East Malaysia is open! Been looking forward to diving for a couple of months now and will be planning a trip up to Pulau Redang in April :D

Have postponed our diving plans for a few years due to busy schedule, but finally made time for the Open Water Diver Certification in May 2006 and since fallen in love with diving. After the Open Water Diver Course in Pulau Tioman, we did a couple more dives at Pulau Tenggol and Pulau Redang before the monsoon season.

At first, I was rather apprehensive due to many incidents heard about scuba diving and that it is a relatively risky sport. It also seems rather confusing as there are a number of diving schools that offer certification like PADI, SSI, NAUI and etc. At the end of the day, safety is our priority and we managed to find a dive operator (Fishermen Scuba) that we are comfortable with and took up SSI certification (Scuba Schools International).
We started off with a 1-day theory lesson to go through the basics followed by 2 pool sessions to get ourselves comfortable with the diving apparatus and learn techniques and drills that are of utmost importance in diving. The theory and pool sessions are essential as they prepare us mentally and physically for the open sea. And finally the highly anticipated open water dives (over a weekend) where we got the chance to do 5 dives.
For Fishermen Scuba, the arrangement was such that we departed on Friday night and stayed at Hotel Timotel in Mersing. Early next morning, we boarded the Fishermen Diver Explorer at Mersing Jetty and started our journey towards Kampung Salang in Pulau Tioman which is the northern most village. Before reaching Salang, we did our 1st dive at Pulau Renggis which is just off Lalang Village.

For the seasoned divers, this was supposed to be a check-out dive to warm up and get familiar with the dive gears, whereas for open water trainees we did our basic drills like mask clearing, regulator retrievals, air-sharing, emergency ascent and etc. Although we were kept busy with our drills, it was really exciting because the visibility was great and we could actually see lots of marine creatures around like clown fish and anemones.

After the 1st dive, we checked into Salang Indah Resort, a modest resort with basic amenities but nonetheless comfortable. Kampung Salang is beautiful and idyllic; having one of the nicest beach in Tioman with crystal clear blue waters.

After lunch and rest, we headed for our 2nd dive at the house reef, Salang Indah. After a quick revision of basic drills, our dive instructor led us around for our leisure dive :D where we saw so many species of reef fishes that we lost count.

The 3rd dive was at Soyak where we saw moray eels, parrot fish, rainbow runners, cushion sea star and so many more. As the current was pretty strong, the dive was a relatively short one as we were all beginners. With that, we concluded our training for the day.

Nightlife at Salang is pretty happening with many restaurants serving BBQ seafood, satay and the infamous Ramly Burger; and great place to chill out at the only beach bar in Tioman. Had to complete a theory test before hitting the bed.

The following morning, we did our 4th dive at Chebeh. Having completed our basic drills and theory test the previous day, our dive instructor led us straight for our leisure dive. Ahh, this was where the real fun began and where we had more time for explorations and "sightseeing" Chebeh is really very beautiful with great coral formations and is my favourite dive site to-date. Was lucky to see a pair of turtles kissing; many blue-spotted stingrays, giant clams, angel fishes etc etc. And this was the point where we decided we must get an underwater camera so that we could capture the beauty of the underwater world.

The 5th and our last dive for this trip was at Malang Rock. Once again, beautiful dive site and we saw puffer fish, sting rays, moray eels, nudibranch and etc. It was really an amazing experience as we marvelled at the different species of sea creatures all around us.

We are finally certified Open Water Diver! When it was time to depart, we didn't feel like leaving the island and was already craving for more dives. Definitely gotta be back again!


20 March 2007

Birthday Vacation

Took a one-week hiatus from blogging. Was really pre-occupied, busy and tired with work, chores, fiddling with my new notebook (old desktop dying soon) and setting up a wireless network at home, felt rather frustrated trying to cope with everything at the same time. Didn't even have time or mood to cook these few weeks :(

Decided to sneak away for a birthday vacation to Bintan over the weekend. Again?! Well, didn't feel like driving up NS highway and trying to save up for upcoming dive trips; boring, yes, but Bintan seems the most convenient choice for a 2D1N getaway and a birthday treat for myself :)

Opted to stay at idyllic Mayang Sari, with rustic beachfront seaview chalet so that I can simply laze by the beach and do nothing, seldom have chance to 'do nothing' since I'm a multi-tasker who cannot sit still. Ideal choice because ambience is tranquil (read: no noisy, rowdy holiday crowd) and beach is nice with clean waters.

There are only 2 restaurants at Mayang Sari, Spice Restaurant and Belle Ile. Hubby and I settled for a quick lunch of salad and burger before hitting the sea for a quick dip as the weather was humid and hot. Surprisingly, we found hard and soft corals with some marine fishes; a pity we didn't have our snorkelling gear but visibility wasn't good anyway.

Was also contemplating a massage at the Kedaton Spa (used to be Asmara Spa) but the spa was fully booked. Should have made booking in advance. Ended up strolling the lush gardens and read by the chalet patio till sun set. Took a simple dinner at Spice Restaurant before retiring back to chalet.

The next day was slow moving, woke up to great sunshine, had leisurely breakfast and slept somemore. I could certainly do with more lazing around :p

The picturesque beach resort offers great photo opportunities but I wasn't motivated. We checked out by noon, had lunch of fish and chips at Belle Ile and headed for home. Return journey is usually the dreaded part and made worst with a crowded ferry terminal; should avoid peak hours for return ferry in future.

Wouldn't say that this is a well-rested getaway, somehow missing something? A friend told me that moodiness is infectious and I certainly agree that negativity breeds negativity. I think even this entry doesn't sound appealing. Hope I could get my crazy vibes back and energy level up again soon. More holiday perhaps? :D

Travel resources

13 March 2007

My first designer cupcakes

Attended a cupcake workshop conducted by pastry chef and food blogger, Joycelyn last Friday afternoon. Chanced upon it while I was surfing her blog KUIDAORE and learnt that she is conducting cupcake workshops at Shermay's Cooking School on selected Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays these couple of months. Some classes were already fully booked when I called in January.

Despite the fee being on the high side, I still went for it. Was inspired by the photos posted on her blog. Imagine myself being a domestic goddess churning out delicate and yummy designer cupcakes? *grinning & dreaming away*

Well, basically I’m also lazy to source for recipes and hope to get some decorating tips. The 3.5 hour workshop offers demo and hands-on with a foolproof master recipe and a box of 12 regular-sized cupcakes to bring home, kind of an easy way out for me. And I can also skive from work for one afternoon!

The workshop started with a demo on Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Cupcakes and Valrhona Dark Chocolate Cupcakes. Thereafter, participants were paired up and proceeded to make the Valrhona Dark Chocolate Cupcakes. The chocolate cupcakes were surprisingly easy to make, without using an electric mixer. It's almost as if they were made out of a Betty Crocker's pre-mixture. But this is definitely different because they were made from scratch! The cupcakes turned out really tender and moist with a rich chocolaty taste. Yum!

The Vanilla Cupcakes were pre-baked for us because these took more time to make than the chocolate ones, requiring an electric mixer to thoroughly mix the ingredients. Taste-wise was stronger due to the good quality Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract used; texture was slightly denser than the chocolate ones but still very tender and fluffy.
We were also shown how to make various types of frosting and toppings as well as decorating techniques which would transform plain looking cupcakes into boutique cupcakes. Since it was my first try on cake decoration, didn't think my cupcakes looked all professional but well, passable I guess.
Marzipan (almond paste) and chocolate putty (almond paste and chocolate) are malleable and can be used to create pretty 3D decorations by tinting them different colors. First time coming across marzipan, feels very much like playing with plasticine or Play-Doh but it made the cake look really chic.
Joycelyn also demonstrated the Swiss Meringue Buttercream with raspberry and chocolate variations. Buttercream make the cupcake look classy provided that they are applied well; and it's certainly not easy to use a piping bag. I used to think that buttercream is very heavy and too creamy for my liking but this tasted pretty light and smooth.
An easy and versatile decoration is icing which can be dolloped atop cupcakes using spoons. It can be tinted to different colours and flavoured to different taste like chocolate, vanilla, lemon or as it is. After the icing dries up, it will form a smooth and satiny crust which is slightly crunchy and goes very well with the tender cupcakes.

One extremely easy way to decorate a cupcake is simply spread lots of Nutella atop the cupcakes, add some chocolate bar and that's it! Sinful, but nice.

There are so many variations to the cupcakes; I will have to slowly explore them. Meanwhile, shall savour my fruits of labour over a nice cup of Earl Grey.
Baking and Confectionery Supplies
  • Shermay's Cooking School http://www.shermay.com.sg/ - some of the better quality ingredients like Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract (or Bean Paste) and Valrhona chocolate, chic looking kitchen gadgets, cookware, bakeware.
  • Phoon Huat http://www.phoonhuat.com/ - a wide range of value for money confectionery products and bakeware.
  • Pantry Magic http://www.pantry-magic.com/ - professional kitchen tools and supplies.

07 March 2007

Samar Arabic Cuisine at Baghdad Street

There is no lack of good food at Kampong Glam area; usually hubby and I would eat duck rice and herbal soup at the Rochor Duck Rice stall along Beach Road.

Decided to try something different and found Samar Arabic Cuisine by Baghdad Street with alfresco dining where we can enjoy a leisurely lunch.

Set lunch is available and for S$11.90+, you can get a starter of bread n dip, an entree (3 choices) and dessert. Not a bad deal at all.

I'm a bread person, give me any type of bread and I'm a happy girl. The bread tasted a little like pita bread and quite chewy, went very well with the chick pea bean paste. I also like to dip the bread with olive oil :p The tomato and cucumber side salad with mint dressing was refreshing. In fact, the starter alone was rather filling.

My choice of entree is fish with bread (yes, more bread as I couldn't get enough of it), came with 2 large slices of deep fried fillet, baked potato and sauteed vegetables. The tomato-based sauce went well with the fish but a little over-powering. The portion was quite big and couldn't finish most part of it (and offered them to hubby :p)

Hubby ordered lamb with rice. The texture of the Basmati rice was firm yet fluffy and tasted quite fragrant. Lamb was tender and spices just right. Not bad.

Dessert was choice of vanilla, strawberry or chocolate ice cream with watermelon and crushed peanuts. Can see the thought put into the dessert as it is not just plain ice-cream but comes with watermelon slices which are refreshing and peanuts which added crunchiness. Sweet ending to the meal!

Overall, it was a pleasant dining experience, perfect for an idyllic afternoon. I wonder how strawberry Shisha will taste like. I don't smoke but tempted to explore. Next time perhaps.

samar arabic cuisine

60 kandahar street
1 baghdad street
singapore 198906

office 6226 4604
restaurant 63980530
facsimine 62264605
email samar@singnet.com.sg