Sunday, October 31, 2010

Walkabout 30/10/2010 deepavali at Little India

The beginning of Little India at Serangoon.Deepavali is one week away.
I have slightly less than 2 hours to burn this afternoon and this time was meaningful spent at the Deepavali fare at Little India.

 Jewel boxes
From Dhoby Ghaut, it was an easy one stop train ride to Little India. 5 minutes later, from exit C of the station, purpose bound, P and I zoomed towards the main thoroughfare - Tekka market and the fare grounds opposite it, in search of excitement.

Elephant good luck charms for Indians
The shopping spirit almost overcame me and I summoned every ounce of self restraint to tear myself away from the trinkets  stores just mere steps from the MRT exit. Muruku sold for the festival reminded me that I have yet to take my tea break for the day.

I checked out the gold at the well patronized gold smith shops and couldn't help but winced at the hefty price of the yellow mineral. At more than SGD 65 per gram, I wonder how many Indian families can afford the gold dowry for their daughters.

More decorative stuff for the home
While I agonized over the price of gold, P recorded Serangoon Road on film. Satisfied, we made our way to Tekka mall, now called the Verge. Whatever it is called now, the mall still operates at half strength with human traffic skirting around the building.

Bells to ward off bad luck ?
Some uninspiring coffee at the Banquet food court later, it is time to check out the fare grounds. Hastings road has been totally transformed into a compact tented market throbbing with music and brimming with merchandise. The transactions of shops from both sides of the lane spilled onto makeshift stalls set up under the tent. Giddying amounts of trinkets, festive lights, ceremonial pots, snacks and incense dazzled before us. I was ready to jive with the drum beats from speakers hanging overhead. In sensory frenzy, I commanded P to take pictures here, here, there and everywhere, worried that this moment of pleasure will soon be washed away by the impending clouds looming beyond the tents.

Peacocks in the air
Tenacity helped me checked out prices of so many merchandise, from lockets, pashima scarves to cookies, a feat when all Indian communities has descended upon this 50 meters of space. I ended up with 4 packs of crispy snacks, 3 more than originally intended, 1 garland of flowers with another garland free ( Indians love me ! ) and some sundry from a provision shop, as we emerged soaked in incense and sweat.

The flower stall where I got my garland
A mini cultural exchange happened at the flower stall as an Indian lady gave me a mini lesson on the types of flowers used for offerings. For that moment, I felt totally Singaporean, sisterhood bounded by a common language and that little space we shared. It was awesome !

All flowers here come from India !
Of course, the trip could have been even more productive if there was more time, but at the rate I was going, I wasn't doing too bad either. The next time I come again, I am going to make sure I have a bigger bag and more cash - any rational Singapore girl would need it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

4/10/2010 Johor Bukit Indah bus-about

I have always thought that it is a lot of hassle taking the public transport into Malaysia . With the recent knowledge that a bus plies the route between Jurong East and Johor via the second link that ends at a shopping mall, the barrier is broken and I thought : why not ?

Afterall, Jurong is a stone's throw from home. And what can be more purposeful than a shopping mall as a destination. Besides , a bus ride will allow me to twiddle my thumbs and enjoy the scenery ( boy, was I wrong ). This is a far cry from the stress of driving to an unknown location on unfamiliar road.

So today, after depositing the Little H safely in school, together with Pat, we turned up at the Jurong East Interchange at 8.45 am for the Big Ride.

Jurong East Interchabge has a Causeway Link booth manned by 2 staff in yellow and blue, who collected our fares of $4 per person prior to getting up the bus. It was a bright yellow beat up bus bearing CW3 bound for Bukit Indah. The frequency is a decent 20 minutes.

CW3 gave a smooth ride down Jurong Town Hall Rd , pass AYE and Tuas checkpoint in about 15 minutes. After clearing immigration at Tuas checkpoint, we hopped up the same bus. A little sprinting is required in order to be on the same bus because any delay at the immigration means we will have to take the next CW3.

We went north via the 2nd link. At Johor immigration, we had to fill up forms, a delay that caused us to miss our bus this time. It was while walking up and down the bus bay that we realized that CW3 didn’t stop at the appointed bus bay located after the customs because of the many tour buses there. In our staid and Singaporean manner, we did not expect the bus to deviate from its prescribed course.

We hopped up the next bus 20 min later. CW3 traveled a short stretch of the NS highway and passed a little quaint, busy town. Finally, at 10.15 am, CW3 disgorged us at an invisible bus stop outside Aeon Indah ( Jusco, Tesco,Giant framed by humongous carpark )

We walked a well trodden path and cut across the Jusco car park. The charges are : 1st hr free, subsequent RM1 per entry. This information will be filed away for our future trips.

We surveyed the 3 level mall. It is cavernous and quiet , being Monday. Nevertheless, shops are opened. There are lots of clothing and shoe shops, quite hip and current. Aeon Indah looks half like any mall in Singapore with its familiar tenant mix: SK, Toast Box, Kenny Rogers, Face Shop, Secret Recipe etc.

At a toy shop, I spied a little notebook going for RM7.50. it will be a present for Hopey for not being with the party. The deal was made sweeter with a final discounted price of RM6.

Our tea break was at the Donut n Coffee shop. The price is affordable and place cheerfully set up with yellow chairs and tables. Most importantly, the colorful donuts were all priced at a happy RM 2.30. I had a holeless coconut and mango donut and Pat a choco peanut donut. 2 iced coffee cost another RM 10.

There are many silver ware shops. With gold price at USD1320 per ounce, I am squirreling silver for posterity instead. I bought a silver chain at a shop in level 2 for RM35. This will go well with my new handmade silver pendant. The deal was sealed with 9 future cleaning services at RM1, if I should ever visit.

At Jusco, restraint was needed as we did not drive. I bought 3 packs of A1 curry paste , RM3.40 each. It is cheaper compared to those sold in Giant IMM for 2.40 SGD. Another housewifely idiosyncrasy.

By noon, we have toured each level twice. The only thing that is cheaper is the nail color at Face Shop priced 9.90 RM. It retails at 7.90 SGD back home. October is too early for Christmas shopping spree so I abandon the notion of purchase with much regret.

The initial idea was to eat at the Jap noodles at Restaurant St Level 2 . But we were running late, and make do with lunch at the food court in front of Jusco. I had chicken noodle hot plate 6.15RM, Pat had chicken clay pot rice 5.50 RM. Food is pretty good, staff friendly. My only grouse was the modest portion.

We had chendol from the dessert stall : a regular for RM2.50, durian chendol for RM4. I would not recommend this. The shaved ice, not fine enough , has too little ingredient. The red bean in the regular chendol was undercooked. It is expensive considering the meager amount of ingredients.

I thought our trip today was an anticlimax until our final mall sprint: 3 donuts RM6.90 that comes with a pretty box, Fragrance pork floss 200g RM12, rice crisps with pork floss, Malaysian caramel puff ( xiangbing ) at a modest RM20. The final scoop at Lavender bistro was 3 pieces of fancy bread : choc log bread, chicken charsiew bun, charcoal bun for less than RM7

This seems shallow but a housewife has to do what a housewife has to do.

We walked out of Aeon Indah towards Macdonalds' golden arches where CW3 terminates. We surveyed the length of the strip of shop houses behind Macs looking for CW3 embarkation point. There were no waiting passengers, only a dilapidated kiosk announcing a CW3 assembly point. No drivers were in view. Just as we were wondering, a CW3 rolled in from nowhere. The bus driver was puzzled why I was so anxious. How not to be ? Proper protocol back home was abandoned and rules here are fuzzy. Even answers from bystanders are non specific. I was afraid I would miss the bus again.

That was 1.30 pm.

RM5 (each ) paid, we were the only passengers on board. CW3 loped behind Macs, past Aeon Indah and went a short stretch of NW highway southbound. Now experienced, we cleared Malaysia immigration quickly and hopped up the same bus, all in a cool couple of minutes. It was quite a workout.

CW3 sped through the 2nd Link over the Straits of Johor. Singapore greeted us with her glistening Immigration and customs building. We made it through the automatic passport readers that scanned our passports and thumbs. More x-ray machines and we were off again.

Disoriented, we looked beyond the tour buses at the bus bay and saw our CW3 in the distant. The driver had made through customs and was awaiting his passengers. By now, he had recognized the 2 frenzied jog-a-trot plastic bags passengers and admitted us without asking for tickets.

Past Tuas, AYE, we reached Jurong East I/C at 2.30pm. It was a surprising fast 1 hr ride home, with enough time for a cool drink before we collect our car at IMM and bring the loot back home.