Sunday, 28 March 2010

Mellben Seafood Restaurant, Ang Mo Kio

Prior to my visit to Singapore, V had planned to take me out for a crab mee hoon dinner. I was excited because I've never had mee hoon and crab together. She picked me up from Santa Grand Hotel at Bugis and we were both chattering away the moment I got into the car. I felt so happy to see her and we're doing our cabin mates things together again! The last time I visited in May 2009, I was there to attend her wedding. So, there was much to catch up although we do speak on the phone every now and then. Just seeing her feels like I am reliving my SSEAYP days again!

Interestingly, Mellben Seafood Restaurant is located at the ground floor of a hdb flat in Ang Mo Kio. I didn't know you can do that! The place is clean and modern. Despite its open air concept, we were blessed with the occasional breeze and the restaurant is well-facilitated with ceiling fans. The interior design is full of crabs as one particular wall is covered with crab shells and autographs of celebrities.

According to V, this place is usually packed, even on weekdays. We were fortunate to come early (at about 5.45pm) as there are many vacant tables. We had the Claypot Crab Bee Hoon Soup and a dish of belacan kangkong. The prices of the dishes are not stated on the menu, so I am not sure how much V paid for our meal but I doubt it fit into the affordable category (check this blog out). However, the crab we were served was humongous! The pincers were so fleshy and yummy! V said they serve Sri Lankan crabs. The food was good and the ambiance too.

Menu cover of Mellben Seafood Restaurant full of delicious crab dishes

A concrete roof extends from the building for more restaurant space

Plants surrounding the big restaurant

I was really hungry and had forgotten to take picture before we started eating. So, here's a picture of the half-eaten claypot crab dish

Very yummy mee hoon soup!

Asia Open Source Software Training Program 2010

The Centre for International Cooperation for Computerization (CICC) in Singapore recently conducted the Sixth Asia Open Source Software (AOSS) Training Program at SIM University (UniSIM) from 8th to 10th March 2010. The CICC has been conducting training programs for the promotion of OSS in Asia since 2003.

The CICC is headquartered in Japan where one of their many activities involves Asian human resource development in OSS.

Funded by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan, workshop participants from the following countries flew in to Singapore to share with each other their knowledge in OSS as well as in promoting OSS: Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

The workshop had been very fulfilling for myself as I got to share and learn about computers and OSS. I particularly liked the presentation on cloud computing by a presenter from Hitachi, Japan. I came back feeling very much motivated by everyone's tips and encouragement and impressed by the efforts of the other 15 Asian countries in OSS development and human resource development. In Brunei, our focus is towards the latter where we have been conducting training programs (like this one) for several years now since 2007, if not earlier. Excited, I reported the experience to my programme leader and with his and the team's support, I hope something good will be coming up soon!

Before we ended our workshop, we pooled our ideas together to come up with outlines for the future workshops and I am much keen in two of the proposals, both of which are sitting at extreme ends in terms of technicality.

Registration for AOSS Workshop

Workshop objectives

Ice breaking session

Discussion and sharing

Closing session

Group photo

Figurines of famous tv characters above the coach door

More decorations in the coach

I am amused by this Kg Java sign.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Santa Grand Hotel and Bugis

On 7th March 2010, a colleague and I found ourselves wandering along Victoria Street looking for Jalan Kubor where Santa Grand Hotel Bugis is located.

We both like the location of the hotel despite its unfamiliarity to many taxi drivers. The area is famous for its Malay Heritage with many muslim shops and eateries found in several of its streets. One such street is the Muscat Street where the Sultan Mosque is located. To name a few, Kampong Glam, Esplanade, Sim Lim Square and the National Museum of Singapore are nearby attractions.

We arrived at the hotel at about 11pm with most of the shops already closed. That, however, didn't keep us from poking our noses around places. We entered different streets before making back to the hotel at about midnight.

First, I was glad I found out that Bugis Junction wasn't too far from our hotel. I've had pleasant memories of my last visit there, when we walked from Bugis to Bras Basah. And, I was excited when I recognised the National Library of Singapore! I know this was cheap thrill. The last time I came, I was led around by Singaporean friends, not knowing what was where. This time around, I had a better orientation of this with recollected memories.

I also found out why the street we stayed was called Jalan Kubor and that, really was no surprise. A subtle chill ran down my spine the instant I realised as we walked past the cemetery. Interestingly, the street has a history about two of Singapore's most dangerous criminal. It is a rather sad tale though.

Contrary to the spookiness of staying across the cemetery, the hotel is lovely. It's a boutique hotel with artsy wallpapers and furnishing. It's clean and well-facilitated. There's a nice flat screen tv where I watched CNN during my stay. They supplied toiletries including travel-packed toothbrushes and shavers, and the shower was fabulous!

There's a nice porch at the back with metal garden tables and chairs, an ideal spot for some private reading. The vintage surroundings somewhat felt a little like Malacca. We stayed for 4 nights while attending a workshop, with no complaints at all. The bed is clean and comfy, and we had no noise problem.

Lovely purple couch at the lobby

Comfy bed

The drawing table and tv. Love the wallpaper.

The wardrobe

Bugis Junction at night

We were awed by how beautiful the InterContinental Hotel looked when we were walking past it. My colleague, R, decided we ought to go check the hotel out. The beautiful white framed windows with dimmed lights escaping through them to tease the darkness outside. This place looked really gorgeous both inside and outside. There were tall glass walls with high ceilings and brick walls all in magnificent white. It kind of took me back to the British Colonial times of the 1970s. I can't help but feel like a princess walking in this place. I didn't have the courage to take any pictures while I was inside since I was not a resident. As Michael Kors would have put it, this place is totally sheek!

My photography puts no justice to the beauty of this place, the InterContinental Hotel.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Sand bubbler crab (Scopimera) in Brunei

Have you ever wonder what those tiny sand marble-like things that cover the beach are? We know as little as them having something to do with the tiny crabs but why are they there and if the crabs made them, how?

I used to think these were granules of sand made into balls while the crab is making its home, excavating sand out of a hole. I was completely wrong! These sand patterns across the beach made out of tiny sand balls are the result after a sand bubbler crab has had its meal.

It eats tiny edible particles found in sand grains first filtering out the sand particles using its pincers and then its mouth parts. As it does so, the residue that comes out are made into a tiny ball of sand. It repetitively does this as it move across the beach floor and made sure there are clear passage to easily move in and out of its hole. Thus, forming a pattern of sand balls with lines leading to its hole.

Please view these documents for more detail:
Article: Sand bubbler crab Scopimera sp. Family Dotillidae by
Documentary Video: Fooled by Nature: Sand Bubbler Crabs by
Video: Sand Bubbler Crabs (Dotilla fenestrate) by stretta

Me wandering around taking pictures of random things. Though there was still bits of trash here and there, the beach looked much cleaner which pleased me a lot.

Sand bubbles that made patterns on the beach

Sand bubbles everywhere on the beach.

Where the lines meet, we can easily tell the locations of the sand bubbler crabs' homes.

I like this remote crab's hole as it tells you the direction its owner headed while taking a meal.

Sand bubbles and crab's foot prints

There's a nicely-camouflaged sand bubbler crab

Markings on the sand

Night was soon upon us when we left the beach and we'd always wanted to take a picture of this road with the trees arching towards each other on both sides.

A straight line across the sky amongst the clouds

My sister had wanted to show me a beautiful lake in one of the residential areas but unfortunately, it was probably too dark to see anything then. This is Jalan Muara road at night.

The Hilarious Perfume Bottle

My Canadian cousins were so amused by the design of the Spa Reine water bottle as a mega huge perfume bottle. So amused were we all, we had one of them modeling for the water bottle.

My sister is taking a picture of the Spa Reine water bottle while my cousin is drinking from the other bottle

My cousin "modeling" for Spa water bottle

At Muara beach

We found a good and rather private spot, well away from a group of guys and a film-making group. At about 3.30pm, the sun was not blazing hot, which made a time for picnic ideal. Though we didn't get round to playing footie or frisbee, the several swims that we made were simply delightful!

Me looking for sunblock lotion in my bag

People doing a film shoot at the beach

Nice! Not many people at the beach

The guys doing some kind of team building activity

My uncle joked that this boy looked like he's doing a Jesus carrying the wood of the cross which sent us all in roars of laughter.

That's us all running towards the water! Great water, it was pretty clear and warm.

That's my white tee and my cousin's tank top hanging

That's us having our pictures taken. What a swell time we're having!

This is my sister who loves taking pictures of the sea bed as the waves rolled in.

Arriving at Muara Beach

It was 3pm, the promised time to be at the beach. But, we were still packing food at home. We rushed with me quickly arranging items in a basket and running up to get the football and Frisbee while my sister hurried to get changed and gather her swimwear and clothes.

The day was glorious and all that unnecessary worry of rain faded away as we set out. I was driving while my sister was fumbling into my bag for the camera when we reached the vicinity of the beach.

Don't mind the road tax sticker. Here's a picture of the road leading towards the beach.

We turned left to a small street where there were bungalow houses on the left.

Here we are, Pantai Muara!

I was scouting for parking from afar while my sis snapped away. The beach looked rather deserted from here, which somewhat thrilled us! Glorious day, private beach, nice!

Parking lot was pretty full. Oh no!

A sign to remind us to be environmentally-friendly.

I didn't know a canteen is here.

Nice, wide and paved walkway to the beach.

Lady watering the plants

Lots of casuarinas along the beach

That's my uncle and his family in the distant.