SSS

… stands for a Surprise Short-trip to Singapore!

just like the name, it was a surprise trip–not something we planned for from a long time–and it was short. the main idea was just to meet my parents and spend quality time together.

and that we did!

and because that was the main idea, i don’t really have much to tell about the trip itself, nor that much pictures. we mainly stayed in, going out only to get lunch and dinner, talked & played cards. might be boring for you to see, but it was so much fun for us. 🙂 most of the pics we got was from our last full day together, when we visited the Botanic Gardens, the only place we went to other than restaurants/grocery stores. 😀 (okay, we also went to Mustafa Centre, of course, but that doesn’t count.)

though the jetlag left us tired but it was at the same time so refreshing and came at just the right moment when i was so fed up with work. i miss my parents again already now, but hopefully our next gathering isn’t too far away from now. 🙂

happy summer & mid-year (and soon midsummer), everyone! ❤

PS. the pictures were taken by 4 different people and 5 different cameras, hence the quality differences.

a Singaporean summer, part 3 of 3

here it is, the last post of our trip to Singapore. phew!

Singapore Art Museum and Bras Basah Complex

i ran out of ideas on what else to do that doesn’t cost anything (not even an MRT ticket), so i finally gave in and went along with my family to the Singapore Art Museum near the City Hall and Bras Basah area.

the ticket is 10 SGD for an adult (and half price for kids and seniors), which is i guess normal and around the same as for museums here in Finland. the museum consists of 2 separate buildings, and you would have to exit the first building & cross the street to get to the other one. i suppose this is okay on a normal day, but for some reason it made me so tired that day. i couldn’t see all the exhibitions due to my fatigue & headache, so in the end i sat down and waited for my family to finish looking around.

after resting and drinking something sweet, i felt a bit better and we continued to Bras Basah Complex, where there are plenty of bookstores (selling old and new books & magazines) and art stores. however, i again got painful ache on my leg, so i didn’t get around much nor did i take any pictures. (the pics i put here are from my sister’s camera.) i only made a point to visit Art Friend and Basheer Graphic Books. in Art Friend, you can get any art supplies you had ever dreamed of, but for example when i saw what i would have wanted (copic markers) they cost around the same as in Finland. Basheer is a bookstore that also sells all kinds of fashion & design magazines. i found lots of back issues of Lula magazine, sold for 10 SGD, and was so tempted to get one… but decided not to in the end, because i figured that for fashion stuffs i can still pretty much browse the internet from time to time. (i feel so proud of myself for being able to say no so many times to my temptations there! :D)

tip #1: if you’re an art enthusiast, the museum is worth a visit. most museums, including this one, close down at 6 or 7 pm, so don’t go there too late!

tip #2: if you love books, i definitely recommend going to Bras Basah Complex for the whole day. you can immerse yourself in all the lovely books they have there, and even buy or sell some old ones. i’m sorry i didn’t get to spend more time there as i only went on my last day in Singapore, but hopefully i can come back again next time.

Our Apartment

as you probably might have guessed, during our 9 day trip we also had some days where we just rested inside the apartment. 😀 here are a few pics of our apartment and the nearby mall where we spent our times.

tip #1: there are plenty of options for apartments in Singapore that you can book through Airbnb. our criteria was that we had our own bathrooms for each of our bedroom so that nobody would have to wait too long in case of emergency. 😀 the apartment we got did not have any ‘living room’, but that was easily fixed with spending time together at one of the rooms’ balconies, or in one of the rooms, or even the swimming pool area. there was also no TV in the apartment, but a very strong Wi-Fi connection, so if you have to, you can watch something instead from your own tablets or laptops. another thing we wanted was an apartment that has a strategic location. luckily the one we got was right in the middle of everything, so even on a resting day we could easily go to the nearby mall to grab our lunches/dinners. decide what is most important to you that the apartment must have, and go search for the right one from there.

tip #2: we actually booked another apartment before landing on this one, but the owner cancelled it due to some new rule there that the apartment may not be rented to a 3rd party via Airbnb. always be prepared for something like this to happen, as Singapore generally tends to have strict rules.

Changi Airport and Crowne Plaza Hotel

the moment was finally there when we had to depart and say goodbye to each other. we spent the last few hours together at the airport, and before catching our own flight at midnight we had a few hours of good rest at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

tip: if your flight is late at night and you already need to check out from your hotel/apartment way before that, the bad news is you can’t wait inside the passengers terminal at the airport until like 3 hours before your flight. Singapore airport has weird policy on that, which i don’t really care to elaborate here. luckily for us there’s a last minute resort, though it is quite pricey but it was worth the few hours of sleep/rest before a long flight. so be sure to have a late check-out time at your hotel or be prepared to do what we did. :p

yay, i finally finished this super long post! no more editing pictures/writing for a while, i need a rest from my jetlag and all that. 😀

but before i wrap this up, there are still a few general tips for visiting Singapore as a whole:

-while it is very handy to get from the airport to your hotel/apartment by the MRT (they have very clear maps, you can’t get lost), i wouldn’t advise it to be done in the rush hour (around 5-7 pm). we did this, of course, and let me just say that it was not a nice experience.

-depending on how long your stay is in Singapore, you might not want to rush into getting a Singaporean phone sim card. we were offered a standard set at the airport, but decided to wait until getting downtown for better options. and it WAS better to get it from downtown, as it was not only cheaper, but we got more data than the one offered at the airport, unlimited local SMS and unlimited local calls.

-even at shopping malls and restaurants, for some reason most of the shops/food stalls do not accept payment with cards. the only places i could use my card was at the airport, 7-Elevens, Mahaco Silk store, and supermarkets. oh, and taxis! so prepare enough cash for your whole trip, or if you don’t mind going to the ATMs from now and then this can also be a good option as they seem to have ATMs everywhere and anywhere.

that’s pretty much it. feel free to add if you have any other tip, but otherwise it was pretty easy to get around & enjoy Singapore.

hope you like the posts & pics, and thanks for reading! 🙂

a Singaporean summer, part 2 of 3

continued from my previous post! 🙂 go and read the first part if you haven’t already.

Marina Bay Sands

we came here twice. the first time was after visiting the Merlion Park, just to eat dinner and rest our feet while cooling down in the nice AC. the second time was because it was right next across the street from Gardens by the Bay, so we again ate our dinners there.

the place itself at first was overwhelming. i mean… the 3-towers building, a casino, and shops that bear high fashion brands (LV, Prada, and the likes) can be a little over the top to some people (= me). but the place was quite strategic, so we went in anyway. and again, i was in for a nice surprise.

on our first trip there, we saw the Rain Oculus from downstairs, and it was dry, as if it wasn’t even turned on. i only heard stories from my sister that it is some kind of water vortex, that when it’s on, from upstairs you can see the water spinning around and around while it pours down to the floor downstairs.

so the second time we went there, i made sure to catch it on action. when we were there (upstairs), we heard people saying that it only went on every hour. as it was already past 9 pm at that time, i was almost certain that we already missed it. but something told me to wait until at least 9.30, in case it started then anyway. and suddenly, when it was nearing 9.30, we started hearing some Middle Eastern music, loud enough for the whole Marina Bay area to hear. and we had noticed that people were sitting down on the steps in front of the river. was something going to happen?

and something did happen: light and water fountain show! as the show started, we were still standing near the Rain Oculus, and at 9.30, i turned around… and saw that the Rain Oculus was also starting! ❤ so in the end, we got to be treated by 2 shows. okay, so it was still overwhelming to see them in front of some shopping center building, but still it was wonderful!

tip #1: even if you can’t really buy anything from this shopping center, i recommend the food court, Rasapura Masters. i don’t remember the name of this specific food stall, but it sells Korean foods, and their Spicy Kimchi soup was just marvelous. i ordered them twice and they never disappoint.

tip #2: if you want to catch the Rain Oculus and the light & water show, the best time would be either 8 pm or 9.30 pm every night. yes, every night!

Little India

this one was originally my mum’s request. since our apartment was really close to this area, we decided it would be great to see it together.

we started at Mustafa Centre, a 24-hr department store where everything is supposedly very cheap. the products they sell are not necessarily Indian things, so don’t be fooled by its name or location. we actually ended up going here twice or 3 times due to its convenient location.

on my first trip there, something immediately caught my eyes on the 1st basement floor: FABRICS!! that was a nice surprise, as the name didn’t come out when i was looking for places to buy fabrics from Singapore. anyway, they mostly sell Indian fabrics, but there are thousands of ‘normal’ fabrics as well. the ones that i fell in love with, though, were exactly the Indian ones. because where else can i get them, here in Finland? some fabrics are sold by meters, but most of the Indian fabrics are sold per ‘saree’, which means 5-6 meters. at first i only saw that the gorgeous ones costed around 46 to 129 SGD per saree, so i was like, pffttt… i guess i’m only here to look around. but then i suddenly (naturally) found a shelf where there were saree fabrics that costed 17 SGD. that’s less than 3 dollars per meter!! of course i ended up getting one of them, what did you expect? :p

from there we went to eat at a nearby South Indian restaurant that serves vegetarian foods, called MTR. my husband insisted that we went there to try it. and it was a good thing that we did, because the food was fantastic! we loved it so much, we went there the next day, and the next day after that! 😀

then we went on to see Tekka Centre, where there are again dozens of shops that sell Indian clothes and jewelries. by this time i felt like i had bought too many things i couldn’t possibly fit them in my small bag anymore, so i only ended up with a pair of earrings. though my eyes were treated with such nice colours and shapes, it was worth the trip. again, there are no pics from this place because i was too busy window shopping!

the same thing happened when we got to Little India Arcade. there were really nice things here and there, but i couldn’t think of how to bring them back to Finland nor where to put them. we did get something small for our little nephew, A. at least this should still fit in our bags!

tip #1: Mustafa Centre consists of 2 different buildings, the other one is called Serangoon Plaza. they’re both essentially the same and connected by a bridge that you can use from inside each of the building. prices are fixed, so no bargaining here. one thing i learned was that for some reason they do not accept payment by card, even when they have major credit card logos around their cashiers. i suppose there is some minimum amount of payment if you want to use cards, but i failed to find out what is the minimum. it’s best to bring cash.

tip #2: although it is believed that the things in Mustafa Centre are cheaper than in any other place, if you’re looking for generic souvenirs or foods, i suggest you do some research first before deciding to get them there. there are better looking and cheaper generic souvenirs in Chinatown and i saw plenty of the same kind of foods sold for cheaper prices in regular supermarkets.

tip #3: in Tekka Centre and Little India Arcade, again be prepared with cash. whenever the price is not written down, go ahead and bargain… a lot!

Chinatown

we came here straight after scouring Little India. it was fun, seeing the different culture backgrounds back to back.

this was the other place that was on my list, because i had read that there is a place where there are only shops that sell fabrics, and haberdasheries/sewing notions. i was looking forward to seeing the buttons and bias tapes etc., which was why we decided to go anyway even when i had bought enough fabrics. however, after following the instructions on how to get there, we got lost somehow, and didn’t find the building at all.

so in the end we just walked around the area, and stumbled upon the Pagoda street… which was buzzing with people and dozens of shops offering cheap souvenirs!

we also found the Tintin Shop here, which sadly again was left unphotographed. if you’re a fan of Tintin, and have never had the chance to visit any other Tintin shops (we are fortunate enough to have one in Helsinki and had been to the Stockholm one as well), it is worth the visit. the shopkeeper is of course an enthusiast, and a very patient man, so you can ask him anything about the products.

tip: as i already said before in “Little India” tips, Chinatown is the place if you want to get some generic souvenirs like ‘I ❤ SG’ bags, t-shirts, keychains, magnets, etc. they mostly only accept cash, as usual, but then again most of them only cost 2 SGD at the most. it’s the best way to spend your coins.

alright, so that’s it for the second part. one more post to go (and hundreds of pics to edit!), so stay ‘tuned’! 🙂

a Singaporean summer, part 1 of 3

at some point during my time in Indonesia, traveling to Singapore became something ‘ordinary’. perhaps it was the time budget airlines started to pop up here and there, making it so easy and cheap for Indonesians to go there.

but now as a Finn, i can tell you that having a holiday in Singapore is somewhat luxurious. i mean, even the ticket already costs a lot!

for me & my husband, though, it was worth it. because the main thing about this holiday was to meet up my parents & sister & her daughter, yay!

to maximize our time together, we decided to rent an apartment instead of staying at a hotel. airbnb helped a lot! our place was just perfect, right in the middle of everywhere & it was so easy to get around with the MRT.

i have to admit that prior to coming to Singapore, i only had 2 places on my list, both of them for the same obvious reason: to look for fabrics! but i ended up doing much more and going to many other places, getting positively surprised by the things we saw & experienced.

Arab Street

this is one of the places originally on my list. i saw from the internet that it’s a recommended place for buying fabrics, and one of the best stores is called Mahaco Silk. to save my energy (and my companion’s–my mum and my husband), we went straight there first. i found what i was looking for and something else, but i’m not gonna post pics of them yet until i’ve sewn them. 😀 i actually didn’t have time to take any pictures as i was gorging on the views of lovely fabrics, so these pics were taken by my husband. apologies for not having any pics of the Mahaco Silk store, but it should be easy for you to Google it.

tip #1: you can always try to bargain at the stores here. chances are you will get a discount or then the salesperson will offer you another product that has almost the same quality but with less price.

tip#2: it’s always good to prepare cash (and this actually goes for the whole Singapore, not just this street), but surprisingly the Mahaco store accepts most major credit cards. they even have a website and ship fabrics internationally, though they say the prices are in USD. (i haven’t checked it myself, since i’ve really overdosed on fabric-buying.)

Merlion Park

if it weren’t for my sister promising her daughter that we would go there, i don’t think i would’ve even gone there. 😀 it is of course the iconic thing from Singapore, so i suppose it’s okay to go there once in my lifetime.

tip: do NOT attempt to go there on a hot sunny Saturday between 12-4 pm! you would get sunburns, lots of sweat, and there are just really too, too much people/tourists in the park. but we had to do it, just for my niece. so while we were there, we just had to make the most of it, aka take lots of pictures! (i only posted a few to spare you all from boredom.)

Gardens by the Bay

not originally on my list, but my sister’s friend and my cousin’s wife, both living in Singapore, highly recommended it. since we were already in the neighbourhood, my parents and i decided to give it a try. it turned out to be one of the best days of the whole trip, i texted my husband to come along for fun. we all enjoyed it to the max!

in case you didn’t know, it’s completely free to enter the outdoor gardens. what’s not free is if you decide to take the shuttle bus, go up the Supertree Grove, or enter the domes (Flower Dome & Cloud Forest). at first i only wanted to see the free ones, but after seeing the magnificently built Supertree Grove, we finally decided to go up. the time limit is 15 minutes, but it was well worth it!

tip #1: just like the Merlion Park, it’s best to come here after 4 pm. we were lucky that it was cloudy & even drizzling a bit, so we didn’t get any sunburns. however, since there are plenty of mosquitoes–some carry dengue fever–i would advise you to put on mosquito repellent when coming here. even if it wasn’t dengue fever, it would save you from having itchy mosquito bites!

tip #2: my sister came here after us and she stayed until it got dark. she & her daughter got to see the grove trees light up and change colours, and she said it was quite awesome. so if you have the time, try staying there until the lights go up.

before this becomes a much too long post, i’d better stop it here. hopefully i’ll be able to post the ‘sequels’ very soon!

the highlight of 2015

after a dark period in my life in spring/summer 2015, something came up that cheered me up and made me look forward to it. you know how you get excited when there’s something good to look forward to? it gets you going no matter how tough your present day feels like.

this thing is a gift from my mum: a year-end trip to Bali, Indonesia.

before i start, i would just like to say that many people (Indonesian and others) take it for granted that they can be around their families throughout the year. many of the people i know who live outside of their own home countries can visit their home countries & families at least once a year, some even many times a year. those people are quite lucky, and i hope they know it.

the last time i went to Indonesia and met my family was 4,5 years ago. the last time i spent Christmas and new year’s eve with them was 10 years ago. i couldn’t even remember anymore what it feels like to celebrate both events in +30C degrees!

the last time i went to Bali was about 5,5 years ago, and all my life i had only always visited Bali for a maximum 7 day trip. this time, i was there for 2 weeks.

so what all did i do there in 2 weeks, you might wonder. which temples did i go to, did i surf, did i snorkel, did i dive… well, sorry to disappoint you, but both my husband & i had been there as tourists a few times that now we didn’t even do any tourist-y thing. the main point was to just spend as much time with my family as possible, doing everyday stuff that might be boring for some but very precious to me as i can never do it while i’m here and my family is half a world away.

in a true Indonesian style, to be honest we had some mishaps in our trip, one of them was my sister getting food poisoning right on Christmas day and ended up in the emergency room. other mishaps included unexpected traffic jams that lasted 2 hours (it was in front of the Monkey Forest in Ubud), the AC in our hotel room being broken (not funny when it was otherwise +35C degrees outside), and… actually, let’s just forget about the other mishaps. :p because the most important thing is, i was with my family! yay!

the highlight of this trip, and probably of my whole 2015, was the new year’s eve. my whole family & i went to stay at a villa in Umalas, and not only the place itself was gorgeous, but what we did was something i hadn’t done in a long time with my family: sitting down together watching TV, playing cards and dominoes, listening to my dad’s choices of music, having lots of laugh… and when midnight came, we watched the fireworks (& flying lanterns) from all around Bali and hugged each other at 12 o’ clock. 🙂 that was simply priceless.

now i am back here in cold Finland (it just turned -20C degrees right on the day we came back here. thanks a lot, mother nature!), and seeing these pics got me teary-eyed again. i don’t think parting with my family will ever get any easier, no matter how many times i have visited my home country and family over the course of my stay abroad.

but anyway, without further ado, here are some pics of my trip.

first, our hotel, which is more like a lodge than a hotel, since it only has 10 rooms. very peaceful & lovely.

next, the sights we saw and things we did when we visited Ubud. unfortunately it rained every day when we were there, and then there were the traffic jams. but like i said, at least we were all together during those days!

after our stay in Ubud, these were all the other things we did, which was fun for us but maybe boring to you… 😀 some were taken in Sanur beach, some were in Batu Bolong beach, and most of them just around our hotel.

and lastly, our new year celebration. 🙂

that’s it for now, and my, what a lengthy post this turned out to be! again, i wish you all a great 2016! may love and happiness always be with us! 🙂

PS. the pictures shown in this blog post were taken by 3 different cameras & people, but most of them were by my husband and my sister. thanks for letting me use them here!

one day

until very recently, when you want to go to the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, you could not reach it by train. there are buses, of course, but as you know when traveling with big luggage it might be a bit hard for you to stow them in the bus, and the ones that actually let you put them in the trunk usually don’t have that many stops in the city. luckily for us, our prayers were heard and finally, a few weeks ago they opened the new railroad that connects the airport to the other parts of the city.

this certainly calls for a test drive, but we also had another thing in mind.

i am one of those people who like to stay at a hotel, even just for one night, just to feel the luxury of it. what, nobody else enjoys this? :p anyway, sometimes i even do this when the hotel is actually near my home. it’s still a great escape from your ordinary, day-to-day life, a change of scenery, etc. i definitely encourage you to try it when you have nothing else to do. sometimes it even makes me feel like a tourist in my own city. you see things differently somehow when you’re staying away from your home, no matter how nearby it actually is. i’m glad my husband also enjoys this (see? i’m not the only one!)

so to make this airport train test drive complete, we also decided to stay for a night… in Copenhagen! 😀

first, our journey started with the train ride.

for now there is not yet an exit straight at the airport, so they provide a free shuttle bus to both terminals at the airport (the whole ride takes about 3 minutes). the shuttle bus comes in every 8-10 minutes, maybe even quicker sometimes. so it really isn’t the end of the world if you just missed the previous one, the next one will come right away! 🙂 later in October, the exit at the airport should be done and so you can access the train straight from the airport & vice versa. perfect timing for autumn/winter, since you won’t need to step outside at all!

the flight to Copenhagen took a very short time, and just like that we had a change of sceneries!

you might remember that i had been complaining about the rainy weather at my place… so it was really nice to be greeted with a sunny & warm day in Copenhagen. it was about 6 pm when we arrived, so we didn’t have much time to explore the downtown area anymore since the stores & attraction places close at 6, 7, and 8 pm already. when we took a walk around the central railway station, there were many interesting looking stores that were already closed. oh well!

i must admit that i had no idea what to see in Copenhagen. i had heard of some places like Tivoli, and some museums, but since it was already quite late i didn’t feel like paying the admission fees just for an hour’s worth of sightseeing. so we decided to just walk around. our feet brought us to the King’s Garden by chance, where we caught a glimpse of the Castle. it was also nice to just see the shapes of the buildings on the streets, the houses in quieter areas.

a little while ago, i just saw a picture of a free street library in Dusseldorf – Germany posted by Indonesia in My Pocket blog. i thought it was a brilliant idea, and though in Finland you can find a similar thing at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, it’s still a different sight when the bookshelf is outdoor on some street.

so when i saw it myself in Copenhagen near the beach, i got overly excited and just had to take a picture of it! imagine taking a book you like from there and spending the whole day at the beach to read it. nice way to spend a summer day! unfortunately of course all the books were in Danish, so i didn’t take any, nor did i have any book with me to leave on the shelf.

after eating dinner and buying food for the next day’s breakfast, it was 9 pm and we still decided to continue with our stroll.

this time we decided to explore the beach. we took the metro and stopped at the Femøren station, and walked towards the beach called Amager Beach Park.

i must say, this was a nice icing on the cake! it was a vast area of sandy beach, and it looked so nice i had a hard time trying to hold myself back from dipping myself to the water.

if there was one thing i knew well about Denmark other than their bakery goods, it was the cool Bridge TV series they have made in cooperation with Sweden. the original one, of course, not the US version. (seriously, if you like crime TV series as much as i do and have not yet seen the 2 seasons of this show, you MUST!) going to this lovely beach and seeing the bridge in the background was just perfect to sum up our extra mini holiday. 🙂

the next day, we didn’t have any free time at all but went straight to the airport where we jumped back into our plane and flew back home.

25

our ride back home was waiting patiently.

overall, it was a sweet little getaway. and it truly was the perfect reason to try on the new train to the airport! 😀

that moment

at times in life, you are reminded of how you should be grateful for the things you have, no matter how small or big it is, and whether it’s tangible or intangible. this time, my reminder came from the lovely writer behind the blog Indonesia in my pocket, in the celebration of her blog’s 2nd birthday. to win the giveaway she is having, we (all of you, who feel like it!) are supposed to tell her about the most fun we’ve had in the last 2 years and why. to see the complete rules, please visit the link.

for Indonesia in my pocket: thank you, for the chance of remembering the fun i’ve had. your blog rocks!

below is my attempt/entry for her giveaway, in exactly 150 words. 🙂

going abroad, other than to Indonesia, is somewhat rare in our household. naturally, once we do, it’s always exciting and exotic to me. the one we did last year to Amsterdam was one of the first few of those and it has remained one of the most fun i’ve had in the last 2 years.

i tried and failed to point a finger to what it is exactly that makes it fun, because in truth, the whole process & experience was a joy. starting from years of working with no trip-abroad holidays, to the small surprise from my husband that we would actually go someplace new, to not expecting too much but getting much more from the trip, to seeing my husband’s first product on the display of his dream store, to finding nostalgic things from this foreign city.

it was, in short, a perfectly fun time in my life.