Staycation in Chinatown, Singapore

Everyone needs pampering once in a while. Since I started my new job last month, I had been working till late almost every day and was really looking forward to the SG50 National Day long weekend. Since I was unable to fly off for a short getaway, the next best thing was to do what Singaporeans love best – staycation.
The lovely thing about a staycation is learning how to be a tourist in your own backyard and rediscovering your own city. For these reasons, we decided to check out the newly opened Thai restaurant in Telok Ayer Street followed by an overnight stay at Hotel 1929.
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Recently opened in late July 2015, Cha Thai is the second concept restaurant by Loaves Me Group. Cha Thai simply means Thai tea, you know, the popular sweetened iced tea (teh peng) that we would usually buy from a cafe or street vendor in Bangkok. I don’t know why the owners named the restaurant as such but I am guessing they want to introduce a fusion concept of toast & tea to us. Think of it as Toast Box, or Ya Kun but Thai style – the take-away counter forms only one part of the restaurant.
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But today I want to share more about it’s main restaurant and it’s menu. Before I continue further, I have to remind you that this blog post is about pampering myself. So Cha Thai is considered expensive if you are comparing to Thai restaurants in Golden Mile but it definitely gives Thai Express a run for their money, cos Cha Thai offers premium Thai cuisine at an affordable price in a casual, relaxing setting.
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Creamy Crab Roll ($15) – Deep fried spring roll sticks served with crab cream sauce

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[Front] Tom Yum Soup (Thick) $28 -Thick soup base created with variety of herbs with tiger prawns, mussels, fish balls and mushrooms. [Back] Tom Yum Soup (Clear) $28 – Clear soup base herbs and basil leaves with tiger prawns, mussels, fish balls and mushroom.

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Baked Pineapple Rice ($18) – Curry spiced baked rice with chicken, pineapples, cashew nuts, sweet pepper bells, and raisins

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[Left] Steam Giant Sea Bass Fillet ($35) – Ocean seabass fillet boneless steamed with chili, garlic, herbs and lime sauce. [Drinks] Butterfly Pea Juice and Lemongrass Tea (both at $3.90 each)

What makes me love Cha Thai is that they use premium ingredients. For our appetizer, the spring roll sticks, it is served with real crab meat inside the cream sauce. For soup, I recommend the Clear Tom Yum Soup as it is lighter in content comparing to the Thick Soup, but equally spicy. Chopped Chinese sausage was topped onto the Pineapple rice, making it an perfect fragrant combination. The steamed Sea Bass was fresh and without the ‘fishy smell’. To round it off, we ordered the toast cubes. Try the Cha Thai version of kaya (coco jam), a refreshing taste to pair with the golden brown toast cubes.

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Cha Thai Toast ($8) – Golden brown toasted cubes with choice of pandan or Cha Thai (Thai tea) flavor

After our meal, we took a 10-minute walk from Telok Ayer Street to Hotel 1929 in Keong Saik Road via New Bridge Road. The walk was also a good way for us to burn off some fats and digest our food. It’s been a while since I stayed at a boutique hotel, the last time was in Malacca.
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Hotel 1929 is a boutique hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown. Hotel 1929 beckons with a whimsical mix of old world architecture and a chic interior. The boutique hotel consists of five conservation shop-houses built in 1929, and features 32 individually designed rooms decked in a mix of classic designer and retro vintage furniture. 1929 is conveniently located along the fringe of Chinatown, a 5 minute walk from Outram Park MRT Station.

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After check-in, we proceed to head up to the top floor. We walked past through the narrow corridor along the 4th storey  and were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by our small suite. At the first glance, it looked like a pigeon hole and reminded me of some hotels in Hong Kong that I had stayed at before. After the rain had stopped, we discovered the roof top terrace that was part of the Terrace Suite, it provided a great hang out spot for four of us.
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The indoor blue mosaic-tiled shower room is fairly small too. There is no partition between shower area and toilet bowl so be careful not to wet your toilet seat. But what the guestrooms lack in size, they make up for in amenities. There is premium coffee-making machine with Nespresso capsules, handy smartphone (I didn’t get a chance to test it out), outdoor bath tub, mini bar with coke and juices. If you consider the terrace area, it’s really comfortable initmate retreat.
We spent a lot time and fun, taking turns on the rocking chair. Overall Hotell 1929 is a designer concept with artsy decor centered around different types of chairs. For example, there were various vintage barber chairs in the lobby, and special theme for every room.
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For dinner, we went for the set dinner at Restaurant Ember. Priced at $88++ per person, it might seemed expensive but the 4-course dinner was definitely worth every dollar for the experience. I chose to add on the wine pairing at $30++ for delightful dinner.
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The bread is freshly baked. It’s so delicious that we asked for a second helping.

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1st Appetizer – Carpaccio of Hokkaido Scallops, Daikon, Arugula, Ginger & Rice Water Vinaigrette

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2nd Course – Pan-seared Foie Gras, Slow-cooked Eggs, Unagi & Truffle Sauce

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Main Course – 60-hour Slow-cooked Angus Short Ribs, Burnt Onion Puree, Tomato Confit & Beef jus

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Dessert – Champagne Jelly, Macerated Stawberries & Yogurt Sorbet

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Complimentary dessert from Restaurant Ember

After dinner, we took a walk around the neighbourhood. Located at the uptown part of Chinatown, the hotel is away from the usual crowd. During the day it is an area where small business and offices are located. When night falls, the mixture of cafes and eateries come to live.

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In the morning, I tried bathing at the outdoor shower. Honestly, it can be a very liberating experience, something for you to check off your bucket list. But the weather was not in my favour, the sky soon turned dark and there was light rain. The curtains kept flying – either sticking onto my soapy back or semi-exposed my naked butt. I really won’t recommend to use it during a windy day but people with outdoorsy fetish or exhibitionist will definitely enjoy it.
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After showering, we went downstairs for breakfast. For breakfast, Restaurant Ember serves breakfast set with choice of scramble, soft/hard boiled or sunny side up eggs. Every set comes with baked potato, beans, bacon and sausage. We help ourselves to the table of toasts, croissants, fruits, cereal and porridge. The croissants were very yummy even though we didn’t toast it. After we were done with our meal, the staff served us yogurt while we were enjoying some fruits.
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Overall, Hotel 1929 is an awesome experience for a 1 or 2 nights stay. I wish we have more time to enjoy the alfresco area as it was raining when we were staying there. I would definitely recommended it for tourists and local staycations. One thing to note is that there is no swimming pool and gym at Hotel 1929 but hotel guests can use the facilities at New Majestic Hotel at Bukit Pasoh Road just further down.
Hotel 1929 is located at 50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089154 (nearest MRT station: Outram Park – NE3/EW16). Visit their website for more information and reservation.
Cha Thai is located at 80 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 048466 (nearest MRT station: Downtown – DT17). Visit their Facebook page for more information or call 6636 3696 to make a reservation. Open daily from 8am to 10pm.
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Answer this simple question: What is the name of the Thai Restaurant mentioned in this article?
Please reply in the comment below, make sure I can contact you via email 🙂

Best Budget-friendly Staycation Chalet – Treehouse Villas @ Changi

It’s been a long time since I attended a birthday party at a chalet, and due to my hectic work I was in a desperate need of a cheap and good staycation in Singapore. Through my BFF’s recommendation, I chose to spend my 30th birthday at Treehouse Villas @ Changi for a relaxing weekend with a few friends.

Treehouse Villas @ Changi, managed by MINDEF/SAF as part of their staff welfare, is the perfect place to unwind without the usual skyscrapers, shopping malls or HDB apartments. To complement the lazy weekend, we ordered sushi platter and Japanese pizza through Foodpanda for dinner. My friends are too shy to be in this blog so bear with my narcissistic photographs as I introduce this budget-friendly resort to you. (Read on till the end and find out how you can win $15 Foodpanda vouchers.)

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A stone throw away from Changi beach and 5-10 minutes walk to Changi Village, Treehouse Villa @ Changi is the perfect location for weekend stay. I love that it’s away from city, and if you’re craving for adventure, hop on the bumboat to Pulau Ubin or soak in the sunset at Changi Point Costal Boardwalk.

Once you stepped inside Treehouse Villa resort, you will experience its Balinese-inspired ambiance and greeted by its cow mascot as the chalet ground. Surround by trees, you can hear birds chirping in the morning. Each chalet unit is of either a 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom and can accommodate a big party, especially good for birthday party, family with kids or Christmas celebration. The 2-bedroom chalet I booked has a king-sized bed and a fold-away mattress in the master bedroom; the other guest room consists of a queen-size bed and single bed – which can allow up to 6 people to stay overnight.

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Each unit has two shared bathrooms, cable TV, free WiFi, barbecue pit, smoking corner, refrigerator, freezer, microwave oven and various utensils and cutlery to support your cooking needs . My favorite area is the bathroom on ground level because it has a sheltered outdoor bathtub. The resort also provides every unit with complimentary tibits & bottled drinking water, free barbecue supply, and mahjong table. Additional charcoal and BBQ accessories can be purchased from the clubhouse.

You can order BBQ packages from the clubhouse directly but one day advance order is required. Alternatively you can call for your own catering. For us, we booked our food delivery via Foodpanda, to me that’s the best for small groups. Our sushi platter and pizza from Nihon Mura was delivered within 1.5 hours.

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Only one parking lot is allocated to each villa, but there is alternative public car park near Changi Village. This area is usually quiet but it can get really packed on Saturday evening, so arrive early or you will face parking problems. There isn’t a swimming pool but sports facilities are available at the nearby clubs. You can rent a bicycle at Changi Cycling Service Pte Ltd located at Changi Village, produce your Villa card key and get special rate.

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In terms of service, the staff are friendly and helpful in general. Standard check-in is at 3pm and check-out before 10am. Friday was laundry day and we waited till 5pm for fresh towels to be sent to our villa. One important thing to note is that the reception is closed over the weekend so if you need any assistance, do it before they knock off on Friday.

Pricewise, Treehouse Villa @ Changi is unbeatable. The 4 days 3 nights off-peak weekend package costs around only $360. If you are planning for a weekend staycation for a group of six, it’s only $20 per person per night!

Address: Treehouse Villas @ Changi, 326 Sealand Road, Singapore 508252

Getting there:
Nearest MRT stations are Pasir Ris, Tampines, and Tanah Merah. Take Bus 29 from Tampines interchange and alight at Changi Sports Club along Netheravon Road. Alternatively, take Bus 2 from Tanah Merah station and alight at Changi Village terminal. I took a taxi from Tanah Merah and the 15-minutes journey costs less than $9 on a Friday afternoon. If you’re driving, take TPE and exit Loyang Ave, or drive along ECP and exit Changi Coast Road.

Booking tips:
Unfortunately, this good deal is only available for SAF regulars, i.e. full time staff in Navy, Army, or Air force. If you are a NSF or NSman, you can get your friends working in SAF to book for you. This is how I get my booking now. If it’s the non-peak season, they will allow you as proxy and your friend doesn’t need to check-in for you.  Remember to book in advance, as it is subjected to balloting, hence it’s best to avoid school holiday season and public holiday to increase your chance. And since there are more 2-bedroom than 3-bedroom villa, it’s easier to ballot for the 2-bedroom chalet.

*Thanks for all your comments and emails but I’m unable to assist with booking the rooms as I’m not a staff of SAF.

Win Foodpanda Vouchers!

In celebration of my 30th birthday, Foodpanda is giving away 3 x vouchers of $15 (min. spending $30) to my blog readers. Foodpanda is the most convenient tool for food delivery in Singapore with the widest gastronomic range. Ordering food is now easy, fast and fun, simply choose your favorite meal via their website or mobile app, and the restaurant delivers it directly to your doorstep.

To win the Foodpanda voucher, simply answer this question: How old is Malcolm Sunny this year? Reply in the comment below, make sure I can contact you via email.

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