Marina Square Mall (Pictures)

Well, I didn’t take photos inside the mall exactly.  There was a courtyard area that I saw through a set of doors as we were walking through the mall so we stepped outside to look around.  It was a pretty cool looking spot.

New Year’s Dinner at ‘New York, New York’ at CityLink Mall

We were running behind when it came time for the fireworks show so we had to haul ass down to the Esplanade area without stopping on the way for dinner. Luckily, there’s a ‘New York, New York’ restaurant in CityLink Mall, which you walk through to get to the Esplanade area.

The last time we ate at ‘New York, New York’ it was the DownTown East location and it left something to be desired. I guess it was just what we chose to eat that time though, because our New Year’s Eve dinner was EXCELLENT.

New Year's Eve 09 - 007

We started off with an appetizer of dry-spiced spare ribs.

New Year's Eve 09 - 008

Then we moved on to our main course! We both had fajitas. My wife had beef and I got the chicken and beef combo (pictured above). They tasted great, and they even came with guacamole. I hadn’t had guacamole in quite a while so that was a nice treat and the strips of beef tasted great!

New Year's Eve 09 - 009

Unfortunately we let our eyes get bigger than our stomachs and we weren’t able to finish everything, but hey, it was New Year’s Eve so what the hell? Gotta be a little decadent sometimes right?

The place was packed. We had to wait on a table when we got there. Even so, we managed to get in and out in about an hour. At 10:15 PM we started heading for the Esplanade. It was madness. You’ll see it in the next post. I’m just waiting on the video to finish uploading to YouTube. I recorded the entire fireworks show so it’s taking a bit of time.

Another New Mall, 313 @ Somerset

While my wife and I were walking down Orchard Road over the weekend we noticed that there was another new mall open.  It amazes me how often a new mall opens in Singapore.  I lived in Columbus, Georgia for a while and still have family there.  We also used to go there to visit family when I was really young.  From as early as I can remember up to today, there have only been 3 malls there.  There was Columbus Square Mall.  After that Peachtree Mall opened and after a while Columbus Square Mall shut down due to lack of business.  A few years ago a new strip mall opened up.  I can’t think of the name of it because I’ve only been there three times since then.  It’s a horrible mall anyway.  The store fronts are all outdoors.  You can’t walk around and enjoy yourself and window shop because you’re either in the heat, cold or rain.  That’s beside the point, but I’m pretty sure that design disaster is why Peachtree Mall is still open for business, instead of closing down like Columbus Square did.

Singapore on the other hand opens new malls constantly.  In the year and a half that I’ve been here, four malls have opened: Tampines 1, Orchard Central, Orchard Ion and now 313 @ Somerset.  Those are just the ones I know of.  There have probably been more.  Three of these new malls were designed beautifully.  They’re fun to go to just for the sights and sounds.  They’re interesting to explore.  That’s good, because it entices people to come into the mall and then maybe see something they want to purchase.

313 @ Somerset isn’t one of those malls.  It’s design is boring.  Bland even.  It’s an up and down mall with ugly carpeting and no imagination.  It’s not without merits though.  It sits on top of the Somerset MRT station, so it’s guaranteed to receive high traffic, at least on the ground floor.  The restaurants there look great too.  I saw a burger place I’m interested in trying out.  There’s also Trattoria on the ground floor, which I’ll review tomorrow.

The food court on the top floor is huge, spacious-feeling and packed with food choices.  It’s not as stunning as Ion’s food court, but it’s more appealing, since it feels more cozy, relaxed, and not as crowded.  From now on we’ll be going there, rather than to Ion’s food court.  Eating in Ion is a headache.

We did get to see something really surprising while we were in the food court.  We were walking past their Christmas tree when I smelled something familiar.  It was the sweet scent of evergreen.  I stopped and walked up to the tree and then looked into the branches.  They actually have a real evergreen tree up there!  I leaned in close and took a deep breath.  It reminded me of the woods in Georgia and of Christmases from when I was young.  It was nostalgic I guess.  I was the last thing I expected to find in the food court of 313 @ Somerset.

Kuala Lumpur Trip: Day 2

Our second day in Kuala Lumpur was very fun, but also very tiring.

Our first stop of the day was the Batu Caves.  The Batu Caves are a Hindu temple that has been in use since the 1890s and is still a major tourist attraction today.  It is also still used for worship, especially during the holy festival of [insert festival name here] at the end of January.  This celebration draws about a million visitors over the course of three days.

When you approach the Batu Caves the first thing you’ll notice, likely before you even notice the entry arch decorated with Hindu gods, is the giant golden statue that stands at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the caves.  The thing is huge!

After that you might notice the monkeys.  When we first walked up to the stairs we saw a few hanging off the bars and walking on the concrete because people were feeding them.  As we began to ascend the stairs we realized that there were monkeys everywhere.  Some were fighting, some were begging, a few were playing, and we even saw one pair having wild monkey sex on the staircase handrail.  Ya, really.  Later, on the way down we also saw a monkey snatch a lady’s bag away from her to get the food inside.  They can be pretty mean when you have food and don’t give it to them.

The caves themselves are fairly impressive.  The statues weren’t anything we hadn’t seen already, except for the huge one out front, so we were mostly there to see the caves themselves.  When you get to the top of the stairs (there are 272) you’ll be at the entrance to the first cave.  You descend a short flight of stairs into the first chamber and then, when you’re done looking around, you walk up another flight of steps to the next area.  I wouldn’t quite call the next spot a cave since it’s completely open to the air on top.  It’s very cool to look at though.

What disappointed me about the Batu Caves is that they’re in a serious state of disrepair.  I’m not sure what’s going on in there, but the edges were all littered with garbage.  The lower portions of the walls were also covered with graffiti.  I also noticed that a lot of the small stalagmites within arm’s reach were broken off.  I wonder if they were broken into pieces and sold to pilgrims in the past?  Regardless, it makes the lower portions of the caves look really cheap and filthy.  Don’t let that discourage you from going though.  The upper portions are still really nice.  Click through on the photos for a better look.

Oh, and be careful on your way down!  The stairs are very small and steep!

After leaving the Batu Caves we went back to the guest house we were staying at and relaxed for a while.  Those stairs are tiring!  It had started raining too, and who wants to walk around in that?

After a few hours we got back up and went to Bukit Bintang.  We had no clue what was there, but saw it listed as a place tourists should visit so we stopped to check it out.  It was only a few stops away from Chow Kit on the monorail.  It looks like a small version of Singapore’s Orchard Road.

Across the street from where you exit the monorail is a very posh mall called Lot 10, which was almost completely deserted.  The place didn’t seem all that popular.  I wasn’t surprised.  The stores there all seemed to carry very high end items that most people wouldn’t want to be bothered with anyway.

The one cool place we did see there was Jackie Chan’s tea and coffee cafe.  Jackie Chan must like his tea and coffee with a little kick because there were bottles of Grey Goose vodka lining one side of the bar.  Other than the fact that the place had Jackie Chan’s name on it, the couches you sit on are incredibly luxurious.  The bottom portion is very long, so you remove your shoes, climb up, lean back and relax.  Each sitting area has a set of small tables that swivel so you can arrange them the way that’s comfortable for you.

The mall across the street, called Suleng Wang (sp?) was jam packed with people.  It’s huge too.  You wouldn’t be able to tell from the outside but there are hallways running off from the central area that seem to go on forever.  It was definitely the more popular of the two malls and it was so packed it was hard to walk around without having to constantly sidestep people.  I got the impression it was a popular hangout location.

By the way, what’s up with KFC in Malaysia?  There was a KFC in Suleng Wang mall that was huge and it seemed like there was a KFC at every monorail stop.

On the bottom floor of the main area there was a small manga event for what seemed to be local artists.  There were black dividers set up with manga storyboards on display.  There was a stage with figure cutouts, a case with manga style swords, and booths selling manga and merchandise.  I’ll post more about it tomorrow, including photos of girls in maid cosplay!

We spent about 4 hours wandering around the Bukit Bintang area.  It seems to be a major shopping hub.  We saw another mall that I can’t remember the name of that was full of electronics stores.  If you’re from Singapore, think Sim Lim but with the looks of Tampines 1.

After that, it was about 10pm so we took the monorail back to Chow Kit station where we kicked back and relaxed in the guest house for a while.  We wound up going back out at around midnight for more satay!

More tomorrow!

Banana Caramel Crème Crêpes

Not much to say here.  I just wanted to share the photos and make you drool!

On Saturday night (yes, that was a busy day for us!) our last stop before heading home was Plaza Singapura (another mall).  On the bottom floor there was a small Japanese Food Fair set up.  Well, that’s what the signs called it, but in reality it was just two stalls.  One was selling sushi and one was selling crêpes.

After eating the sushi (which came with free green tea by the way) I had an urge for something sweet and we tried out one of the Banana Caramel Crème Crêpes.  I took some photos while it was being prepared:

What’s missing from these photos is that the batter was first poored onto a flat black metal pan.  I call it a pan but it had no sides.  Perhaps a reader can give a name for it?  After the ingredients were added it was rolled up into a paper and handed to me like an ice cream cone.

The flavor wasn’t overpowering.  I mean, the crème wasn’t exceptionally sweet.  The flavors all augmented each other well and the final product was delicious!  I could’ve eaten another one by myself after the one we shared!

Orchard Central Mall in Singapore

Saturday evening my wife and I were wandering down Orchard Road.  We didn’t have any real goal in mind.  We just wanted to be out of the house for a while and take in the sights.  Orchard Road is usually pretty interesting.  I’ve seen everything from centurions to acrobats to musicians there.

While walking down the road we saw a building that we didn’t recognize.  It looked like a recently renovated, recently opened shopping center.  We decided to check it out.  Sure enough, it was a new mall called Orchard Central.  As we passed through the doors we were handed a brochure.  We were also handed a fairly basic looking map that proved to be rather useless later.

Rather than make our way upstairs inside the building, we used the long escalators that were mounted to the front face of the building.  It was a really neat experience.  Two of the escalators we went up traversed at least four floors nonstop.  Also, there was a plexi-glass shield beside the escalator that came about as high as my head and not much else so we got a great view as we went up.  Adding to the atmosphere there are several observation decks outside the building.  The escalator leading to the roof area was closed.  I suppose it’s not finished yet but I’m interested to go back when it is, if just for the view.

Here are two shots I took from the highest observation deck I could get to:

A view of Orchard Road from a deck at Orchard Central Mall
A view of Orchard Road from a deck at Orchard Central Mall
A view of Orchard Road from a deck at Orchard Central Mall
A view of Orchard Road from a deck at Orchard Central Mall

After reaching the top and taking in the view for a while we moved inside.  The interior of the mall is not at all what I expected.  First off, most of it is still closed and under construction.  I would even say that there are more closed than open stores there.  That’s not a bad thing, I suppose, but it just seems odd.  The second thing that was weird about the mall is that the interior didn’t look like a mall.  My wife was the first to point it out and after she mentioned it, it was pretty obvious to me too.  It looks like the building used to be an office building and the interior was renovated to turn it into mall space.  The hallways were just too oddly placed for it to have been intentional.

Inside Orchard Central Mall
Inside Orchard Central Mall

The other thing we discovered about the mall is that it’s incredibly hard to get around in.  That’s why I mentioned that the map we got at the front door on the 1st floor was practically useless.  If you start from the top down it’s like trying to work your way through a maze full of dead ends and trick passages.  There are places were it feels like there should be a way through and there’s  just a blank wall.  There are other spots where you would think there’s a way to the stairwell, but in front of you is a huge open area that looks 3 floors down.  Oh, or a fake rock climbing wall that spans four stories and causes you to have to backtrack.  We could have taken the elevators all the way down to the first floor, but that wouldn’t have been much fun.  Instead, we went around, by trial and error, until we got tired.  Then we found an elevator and took them to another floor that had escalators, which we then took down to the first floor.  Sounds complicated right?

Besides its crazy interior, there wasn’t much interesting about the mall.  It had a pretty standard selection of stores when we went through it.  There were a few names I didn’t recognize, but they were on all of the shuttered, still under construction stores.  When we go back to get a look off the roof, hopefully they’ll be open too.

A final thought:  I wish there were a First Person Shooter with a stage modeled after this mall’s floorplan.  I mean, look at it.  It even looks like something from an FPS:

Empty area of Orchard Central Mall
Empty area of Orchard Central Mall

Downtown East Mall, Pasir Ris

[Edit: I found out later that the part of the mall that these photos is from is actually called E-Hub. Though I think it is part of Downtown East, there is half again as much mall as this that I completely missed. When I make an updated post I’ll leave a link here to it.]

My wife and decided to stop by the Downtown East mall on our walk around Pasir Ris.  It was sort of on the way, and we hadn’t been there yet, so, why not?

It looks like a great place.  As we came through the door we noticed a girl handing out free samples for premium yogurt.  I didn’t catch the name of the place, but the yogurt was nice.  It had toppings added onto it too that went along with the flavor.  It looked a bit pricey, but one of these days when I have money to burn I’ll probably get a cup to share with my wife.

The mall as a whole seems to be tailored to young kids and teenagers.  I guess you could say it has a theme, including the types of stores in the mall.  It’s really not that big a place, as far as how many stores are inside it, but it does have quite a few restaurants and drink shops, plus an arcade, a type of paid playground for kids, an indoor Ferris wheel, some anime shops, and a movie theater.

I suppose the best part of it all is that the mall is only a 15 minute walk from where we live.