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Explore Singapore: Experience Nature and Heritage in Pulau Ubin

Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle? Try exploring Pulau Ubin, an island northeast of mainland Singapore. A one-way boat fare cost $3 per person and it takes about 15 minutes to reach the beautiful island.

Visitors are greeted by the tranquil island offering untouched nature. Take a pause and keep a lookout for wildlife in the mangroves.

A must-do activity in Pulau Ubin is to rent a bicycle and get off the beaten track to enjoy the views of traditional kampong villages, nature trails that weave through old rubber plantations and discover the island’s mangroves. It is not uncommon to encounter abundant wildlife like jellyfish, kingfishers and sometimes, even pink dolphins!

House 363B has a rich historic background and it was owned by Mr Chew Teck Seng, a local provision shop owner from 1970 to 2005.

The house has since been conserved and refurbished as a model Chinese kampong house. The original architecture was retained and minimal changes were made to conserve its rustic charm. The house now serves as an immersive “museum” that takes guests back in time to life on Pulau Ubin during the 1970s. Many items in the house, including furniture, appliances, kitchen utensils and photograph were donated by past and residents, as well as friends of Pulau Ubin.

Those who are interested to take a look at this house will be pleased to know that it will be open on the 2nd and 4th weekend of the month and public holidays, from 10.00am – 2.00pm. Teck Seng’s Place is currently one of the highlights in NParks’ Kampung Tour, held on every third Saturday of the month.

We took a walk along the Sensory Trail. If the scorching heat is not a show-stopper, you should take a walk through the backyard planting of the Pulau Ubin village home where nature-lovers will love to see tropical fruits trees of different varieties. It takes about 1 hour to complete the trail.

Related image
Image Credit – Habitatnews – NUS

Some kampong houses may look dated but they still retain their rustic charm. It was learnt that the National Parks Board (NParks) will be restoring kampong houses on Pulau Ubin to their former glory.

The first of its kind in Singapore, Ubin Fruit Orchard is a one-hectare site that showcases fruits such as rambutan, lychee, logan and others.

Further into the island, visitors get to see kingfishers, magpies and native birds inhabiting along the mangroves of the Chek Jawa Wetlands. Travelers to Singapore, mark Pulau Ubin down during your visit!

From National Parks Board.

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Travel to Vietnam: Ben Thanh Market @ Ho Chi Minh City

A must-see attraction in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, Ben Thanh market is a bustling attraction where tourists could just shop and taste real Vietnamese food. There is a number of vendors displaying eye-catching local handicrafts, apparels, souvenirs, silk fabrics, embroidery and brocade and many more cute gifts that tourists can bring back to friends and family.

Vendors and food stalls in the market food section that offers guests dishes freshly made to the order. Here, one can taste various kinds of local dishes.

The food court is open from dawn and the most vibrant at nightlife. Starting from 7 pm daily, over 170 stalls concentrate along Phan Boi Chau Street and Phan Chu Trinh Street.

Goods for daily use. Looking nice but Ben Thanh market is known for inflating the prices up to two or three times the original value.

Shops selling spices, grocery, cosmetics and colorful candies and great Vietnamese coffee bean/powder.

It is no secret that Ben Thanh Market is possibly the most visited place in Ho Chi Minh City. While it may not be the best location for shopping, every tourist knows their trip to Ho Chi Minh City cannot be completed without a visit to Ben Thanh market to experience Vietnam at its original.

Address: Ben Thanh Market, Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam (Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Avenues and Le Lai Street, Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam)

Nearby Attractions: https://www.skyscanner.net/trip/ho-chi-minh-city/things-to-do/ben-thanh-market/nearby-things-to-do

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Harbin 哈尔滨 Travelogue – (Part 3): Scoot Off to The Wintriest Harbin with Kids!

Nothing lends whimsy and mystique to a picture quite like a snowy day. Frosty weather is not uncommon in Harbin during winter. First-timers to Harbin 哈尔滨 ought to take a pause and experience the local scene in its originality. It might be 7:30am in the morning but the city had already taken a life of its own.

A Walk on the Streets

Freezing cold at -24°C. Infamous for its very cold winters, bring more clothes than you will think you will need to Harbin so that you can layer.

Food of Harbin has so many kinds of specialities around Central street and Hongbo Century Square that even if we want, we could not finish trying all of them.

 One of the best street food, the sweetness and piping hot sweet potatoes will make you fall in love with Harbin.

We explored the side alleys of Central Street and had our simple breakfast in this restaurant.

Broccoli, tofu, rice cake, egg tart and glutinous rice made up our breakfast. We were holding back from ordering more dishes so that we could reserve our stomach for other delicacies.

Guandong Ancient Lane

We met an unfriendly taxi driver who refused to alight us outside Guandong Ancient Lane, which was one of our much anticipated attraction in the itinerary. We were told to walk by ourselves which would take us about  3 mins. We read from a blog that visitors would need to pay but that wasn’t the case. Entry is FOC.

Full of traditional delicacies, Harbin Guandong ancient lane displays culture of the ‘Guandong migration’ period, which refers to the historical period when people migrated  from the central part of China to the Northeast. How majestic is this building!

Everything here is indoor. The place displays an ancient feel and there is a sense of unhurried-ness. With a myriad of different dining options and picturesque spots, this might be one of the few places in Harbin where visitors can snack and relax at the same time.

 

Many pictures taken and will let them do the talking.

Russian chocolates.

We tried peanut candies!

Dragon’s beard candy (or Chinese cotton candy) is a handmade traditional art of China. It is also a traditional Chinese sweet similar to floss halva or Cotton candy.

No idea what this is…

There is a foodcourt selling classic Chinese dishes.

A great food haunt where dishes are freshly cooked in front of you. We have to admit that they look really appetising.

What A Big Catch!

Located right beside Guandong Ancient Lane is a huge shopping mall. Our first impression was akin to The Paragon where everything would be expensive but after some exploring we thought this mall was a place for bargain hunting.

More than just fashion shops, the mall is a suitable hangout for families with kids.

Plenty of pop-up cafes to have a drink and just chill.

Located at the basement was a huge marketplace for shoppers to shop for groceries and dine.

Freshly squeezed fruit juice with cute bottles.

What a big catch! We were pleasantly surprised that we could order seafood and had them cooked on the spot for us to dine. What till we see the price 🙂

Here’s our order – a lobster (CNY50 = SGD10)

Seabass (CNY30 = SGD6)

皮皮虾 (CNY31 = SGD6)

The chef ushered us to this cosy dining area while we waited for the food.

The restaurant exhibited a homely feeling which made it a favourite place for shoppers to have a respite and enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee. The decor and furnishing were contemporary and inviting.

Everything was hot and fresh! Our seafood craving was satisfied in the most economical way.

Including the cooking cost, the total bill came to CNY137.90 = SGD27.60.

Hey, did we mention our food hunting continue after savouring the seafood?

Big and Small M trying the soya bean milk.

Crispy chinese pan fried dumpling (鍋貼).

Chinese flat bread (发面饼).

Cute animal buns!

Time Kingdom

If your little ones enjoy KidZania, they will surely fall in love with Time Kingdom. Akin to KidZania theme style of play, Time Kingdom is also an interactive city made for 3 – 15 year old kids who can immerse themselves into lots of fun through realistic role-play in Harbin.

The Wintriest Harbin

Harbin 哈尔滨, which is nestled in the heart of China’s historical Manchuria region, is still a place less travelled. Apart from its freezing weather during winter, taking a walk in the back alleys allowed us to see these visually pleasing buildings that transported us to a place where time seemed to have been frozen for 40 years, a flashback to a simpler and more peaceful time.

In a mood for supper? Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街 has no lack of eatery options.

Small M was wondering why the chef had to use such a big pot to place the dish.

A thriving late-night dessert culture has taken grasp of Harbin especially among the youngsters. We were surprised that Harbin offers one of the best places to be tempted by decadent desserts.

While Small M trying in vain to search for free Wi-Fi amidst the Great “Wall” of China…

Big M knows it is still possible for a selfie.

Sweet dessert for us! It would be blasphemous to talk about cafe hopping without including them during your visit to Harbin.

We have tasted the wonders of Lapland and in our first trip to China and Harbin, this trip was nothing short of amazing. The locals are warm and approachable and Harbin is safe with a lot of securities. All thanks to Scoot introducing the direct flight to Harbin, we came and captured the raw beauty of this ‘Ice City’. Harbin 哈尔滨, we will be reunited soon!

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Phuket Food Recommendation – First Seafood Restaurant (Thai Food Number 5)

Searching for wallet-friendly Thai food could not be better than First Seafood Restaurant in Patong. A little gem hidden off the beach side of Rat-U-Thit road, First Seafood Restaurant at first glance may not look classy but it sure attracts many hungry customers especially the tourists.

We were wondering why so many customers were dining here and not the neighbouring restaurants and decided to give it a try.

The menu was extensive and seafood were fresh. Customers can choose to pick your own seafood from the tanks and price will be quoted after the catch.  Seafood is to be found aplenty on Phuket Island and delicacies are to be indulged in. The restaurant chef will cook fish, prawns, squid, crabs, shellfish, lobster and other items in local Thai styles. The prices for are generally reasonable and dishes come with fairly generous serving.

Thai Steamed Seabass – our favourite!

Tom Yam Seafood Soup.

Stir-Fried Baby Kai Lan with Garlic.

Stir-fried Minced Meat with Long Beans and Tomatoes.

Steamed Crab with Garlic.

Mango Sticky Rice.

First Seafood Restaurant is located at Off Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee RoadKathu, Phuket 83150, Thailand. Click here for the TripAdvisor recommendation.

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Harbin 哈尔滨 Travelogue – (Part 3): Russian Town, Harbin 哈尔滨植物園, Ji Le Temple 极乐寺, Confucius Temple 哈尔滨文庙 and Teresa Teng Music Restaurant

A brand new morning, a brand new experience. We hopped onto a cab outside our hotel after agreeing to a fare of CNY240 for a day trip. The Harbin of today is still very much influenced by its Russian past. Due to the strong decades’ presence of Soviet Russians, it is not uncommon to see glimpses of Russian style in architecture, education, art, food, clothing, language and more aspects of life.

Our first stop was to visit the Russian Village which was located near to Sun Island.

The river was literally frozen.

Russian Village

Russian Style Town or Artist Village in Harbin Sun Island by the north bank of the Songhua River, is a Russian architecturally-styled village with small detached houses within. During winter, this place seemed more like a ghost town albeit with curious tourists coming to explore the vincinity and experiencing Russian foods and products.

We were discouraged from entering the Russian Village by our driver as this attraction was quiet and nothing much exciting to explore. He did, however, drove us around the outskirts of the Russian Village to take a view from the outside.

Some sights at the entrance…

Food vendors selling sweet potatoes, sausages and Bing Tanghulu Candied Hawthorn Stick or 冰糖葫蘆.

Bicycle rental available.

Address: China, Heilongjiang, Harbin, Songbei, Pingyuan St, 平原街

Harbin 哈尔植物園

It was a weekend and the traffic was quite bad in the morning. It took us one hour to reach the next destination which was appealing to Big and Small M. What’s in store here?

Visitors who want to visit Harbin 哈尔滨植物園 definitely have to come with reserved transport as after entering, you would need to drive up to 1km before reaching the spot with fun-filled activities.

This is the only restaurant here for us to catch a lunch.

Our order – a tad saltish and not very appealing though it did fill our stomaches.

And we had fun after that! Building a snowman 🙂

During winter in Harbin, the temperature is usually below 20 degrees. One of the most popular activites is the winter swimming event which is a physical activity showing off the strong physique and iron of local Harbin people. Over here, the swimming pool was dug for winter swimming.

The performance takes place every hour. We were standing in the freezing cold awaiting for the show to start.

Would you dare to try this? Certainly not us!

Dog sledding but we did not try as we would need to pay extra (which we didn’t know after paying an exorbitant price for the tickets). We had no regrets not trying dog sleeding as the dogs did not look excited to run at all, so unlike of our experience in Finland where every husky were given a name, trained to perform a specific role in sleigh-ridding and much more excited to run.

Pony ride.

Family-friendly rides that we get to enjoy here.

Alas, we wished we could stay longer to maximuse the ticket value but the temperature was really overwhelming today at -24°C. Our bodies were smarting from the cold. We had to cut short our fun and returned to the car.

Ji Le Temple 极乐寺

Who says visiting Harbin is all about ice and snow?

Ji Le Temple or Temple of Bliss is located at the end of Dongdazhi Street, Nangang District in Harbin. It is the biggest Buddhist building complex in the Heilongjiang province. The entrance gate, Hall of Heavenly King, Grand Hall, Sacred Hall, Sutra Depository, Bell Tower, Drum Tower and the Seven-storey Buddhist Pagoda are the main buildings.

Related image
Photo Credit: visitourchina.com

The entire building of Temple of Bliss is magnificent, elegant and dignified, retains the style and features of temple architecture of China. Before reaching here, our driver brought us to his neighbourhood to buy a winter coat for Big M. It was a good buy as the price was almost half of what we need to pay at shopping malls. It was about 4pm when we reached here and the temple was already closed, unfortunately.

We thought it is a lovely temple that offers a peaceful break from the busyness of the city where one can soak in its tranquility and understand more about Chinese Buddhism. Big M wearing her new winter coat 🙂

Along the streets were lined with shops selling Buddhist wares.

Address: 9 Dongdazhi St, Nangang Qu, Haerbin Shi, Heilongjiang Sheng, China, 150001

Harbin Confucius Temple 哈尔滨文庙

Harbin Confucius Temple was built in 1926 and completed in 1929. The temple ground occupies an area of 25,000 square meters and its construction area is 5,674 square meters. In 1996, the temple was listed on the key historical sites under state protection.

The temple’s symmetrical structure consists of three courtyards dotted with old trees and rare flowers. Due to its likeness to the Imperial Palace, it has earned the moniker “the Forbidden City of Harbin”.

heilongjiang confucian temple
Photo Credit: Harbinice.com
inside the Confucian Temple
Photo Credit: Harbinice.com

Address: 25 Wenmiao St, Nangang Qu, Haerbin Shi, Heilongjiang Sheng, China

Harbin Food at Its Best

Night falls and we were craving for food. The best time to try chinese hotpot is during winter and our driver brought us to this restaurant.

Great service – the staff opened the door for us when he saw us walking up the stairs.

Chinese hotpot 火锅 , also known as Chinese fondue, is one of the most popular meals in China. It consists of a simmering metal pot with broth at the center of a table, and all raw ingredients placed beside the metal pot, so people can add and cook whatever they like in the broth.

A hearty meal for us after a long day out!

The spirit of Northern Chinese cuisine lives on the wholesome goodness at Lao Beijing Roasted Duck 老北京明炉烤鸭. We took a stroll at the streets and caught the sight of a chef roasting the duck which inevitably drawn us into the store.

Specially-bred and fattened ducks are glazed and hung in a wood fire to roast until the browned skin is crisp and the meat succulent.

Noticed the QR code below? Everyone is using e-payment in China now. The presentation of the duck was just like any other chinese restaurant in which the chef carved the duck in front of us.

Heavenly goodness at its best.

The price of a whole duck including the wraps and sauces – SGD 12.

The Heart of Harbin

Not to be outdone by the likes of bigger stores such as Mykal Supermarket, the supermarkets in the heartland are possibly one of Harbin’s best-kept treasures. It was a pleasant experience browsing through the store products and discovering the local produces.

Most of the product prices were much cheaper compared to those in the shopping malls.

Salted promfret fish.

Mantou, often referred to as Chinese steamed bun, is a type of cloud-like steamed bread or bun popular in Northern China. The name mantou is said to have originated from a tale about Zhuge Liang.

Some sights during our walk.

Bing Tanghulu Candied Hawthorn Stick or 冰糖葫蘆. These two guys were shouting at the top of their voice to attract customers to their store. A nice try. We stopped and bought one to try out.

Teresa Teng Music Restaurant

We blogged about Teresa Teng during our trip to Taiwan 金寶山 Chin Pao San which you can read it here. Our Harbin trip brought us back to the memory lanes where Teresa Teng Music Restaurant allows fans to reminisce the evergreen hits of 邓丽君that bring you back to the 70’s and 80’s.

Dine, wine and enjoy live performance of her songs.

Harbin’s charm lies in the way it yields glimpses of a timeless China. Our experience thus far has been magical. Planning to visit China? Try Harbin 哈尔滨.

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All photos, information and opinions, unless otherwise stated, in this post belong to Katong Kids Inc. Reproducing or copying them for use on third party sites without our written permission are strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

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Harbin 哈尔滨 Travelogue – (Part 2): Jiuzhan Park 九站公园, Stalin Park 斯大林公园, Sun Island  (Tai Yang Dao) 太阳岛, Harbin Polar Land, Siberian Tiger Park 哈尔滨东北虎林园, Harbin Flood Control Memorial Tower 哈尔滨防洪纪念塔 and Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街

We were impressed on our first day in Harbin 哈尔滨 and felt that it is one of the ideal travel destinations for famililes with kids without taking long flights.  Come Day 2, we had the whole day to explore Harbin and we booked a personal driver from the hotel. It cost us CNY400 for the whole day transport which was considered reasonable. Continue reading “Harbin 哈尔滨 Travelogue – (Part 2): Jiuzhan Park 九站公园, Stalin Park 斯大林公园, Sun Island  (Tai Yang Dao) 太阳岛, Harbin Polar Land, Siberian Tiger Park 哈尔滨东北虎林园, Harbin Flood Control Memorial Tower 哈尔滨防洪纪念塔 and Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街”

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Harbin 哈尔滨 Travelogue – (Part 1): Holiday Inn Harbin City Centre, Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街, Euro Plaza, Mykal Mall and Saint Sophia Cathedral 圣索菲亚教堂

This might be a late coming trip to China and for so long we did not have a strong motivation to visit and only did so when we were planning to visit a country to experience winter at its extreme coldness. Needless to say, this time our travel map pointed to Harbin 哈尔滨, China a less travelled place. Continue reading “Harbin 哈尔滨 Travelogue – (Part 1): Holiday Inn Harbin City Centre, Zhongyang Dajie 中央大街, Euro Plaza, Mykal Mall and Saint Sophia Cathedral 圣索菲亚教堂”