Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Most Unique Starbucks In The World

Starbucks is a common sight in most countries. How special can any Starbucks be? Well, not when you visit a Starbucks that is fashioned after a traditional Hong Kong Cafe. I am not a stranger to Hong Kong but this particular Starbucks is not exactly an easy one to find.

Yes, this is the Starbucks on Duddell Street, Hong Kong. Tucked away in a discreet little street in Central, away from the hustles and bustles.

I shall let the pictures do the talking. Here's the explanation of how this unique Starbucks came about. This poster is placed at the entrance for visitors to read.

You have to see it to believe it. It was surreal to be here. I felt like I was in the movie set for "In The Mood For Love", being transported back to old Hong Kong.

They even placed paper menus under the glass panel on the tables, just like the Hong Kong cafes. The Chinese characters of the title is the Chinese name for Starbucks Coffee.

Located at the basement of building with windows but no good street views, the designers created a window display of toys based on typical Hong Kong characters.

A combination of something old and something new. It is really nice to see Starbucks participating in the conservation of culture. Perhaps there should be one special Starbucks in every city. Maybe they should have a Starbucks in Singapore modeled after a traditional kopitiam (hokkien word for coffee shop) with wooden chairs and marble top table.

P.S.: Singapore Tourism Board, here's an idea for you!

Check out the floor tiles, wooden chairs and glass top table... and the old-style poster in the background.

They even put in a bird cage as part of the decor to create an authentic depiction of the past.

Old tv, fan, tea cups and knick knacks as part of display.

My tip for you is to visit as early as you can. I was there at 10am on a Saturday morning and was among the first few customers. Being an early bird, I got a nice booth table with a good view.

Starbucks @ Duddell Street
Floor M2, Baskerville House, 13 Duddell Street, Hong Kong.
Tel : 2523 5685

Monday, July 18, 2011

Siem Reap Report - My Favourite Temples

I had the good fortune to visit Siem Reap last month. In an earlier entry, I shared with you the wonderful Amansara Hotel that was "home" for the 5 days I was there. For today, I decided to share with you the amazing temples that I love about Siem Reap. I reminisce about my Siem Reap adventures on a daily basis, reminded by the wallpaper image on my laptop.

This is a picture I took at the Bayon. It gives me a sense of serenity every time I look at it and that is why I chose it as my wallpaper on my laptop.

There are many temples in Siem Reap but let me show you my favourites. Perhaps it will inspire you to visit if you haven't been, or remind you to visit again.

#1 Favourite - Bayon Temple

The amazing Bayon Temple, located in the geographical heart of Angkor Thom. The 54-tower temple is a quite remarkable sight. From far, the temple seems to be a shapeless mass of grey and brown stone...

However, as one approaches, one realizes that each of the towers is in fact carvings of Buddha faces. There are 216 huge enigmatic faces bearing down on you wherever you turn. I was in awe and felt really privileged to be standing there.

Most people will choose Angkor Wat as their favourite. I personally prefer The Bayon over Angkor Wat for its unique design concept.

This is my favourite photo from all the shots I took in Siem Reap. It captured the perfect moment of a monk in bright orange robe against the grey background of the Bayon.

#2 Favourite - Angkor Wat

The magnificent Angkor Wat at dawn. The trick is to enter via the East gate instead of the popular West gate, and you will have the temple all to yourself (almost). It only gets better. Even I can't believe how good the photos turned out despite using just my humble Blackberry camera.

The early bird being rewarded with magnificent sunrise. I woke up at 4am so I could be on site at 5am, to be in time to see the golden glow of the sun falling on Angkor Wat temple.

Speechless by the beauty I witnessed. Even Angelina Jolie was captivated.

This is the location that was used to film Tomb Raider. In the movie, they created a floating village on the lake, which is non-existent in reality.

#3 Favourite - Ta Phrom (Jungle Temple)

Ta Prohm, also known as the "jungle temple". You will remember this in the scene where Lara Croft (played by Angelina Jolie) first stepped foot in a temple in Siem Reap. Originally known as Rajavihara (Monastery of the King), Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of King Jayavarman VII.

Real tomb raiders visited Ta Prohm in the past to steal precious gem stones that the King left behind as an offering to his late mother.

This is the famous "Tomb Raider" tree, immortalised by the film. The massive trees weakened the temple structures with their strong roots. Nature triumphs over humanity. The roots cleave massive stones in two and spill over the top of temple ramparts. The effect is striking, especially the strangulating root formation.

We stood where Angelina stood...

The famous tree... that kinda looks like a butt naked man! Or at least what my tour guide said. :)

If you are looking for a short holiday, why not consider visiting Siem Reap? The temples will leave an indelible mark on your memory, just like they did with mine. It was truly the most unforgettable experience to stand on the temple grounds. I left humbled and in awe.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Terracotta Warriors In Singapore

I have been a little too busy to blog these days, but that doesn't mean I haven't been out and about sussing out interesting things to do in Singapore. It has been a weekend of art and culture, with a visit to Asian Civilisation Museum (ACM) to view the special exhibition on Terracotta Warriors, and to Drama Centre to catch Dick Lee's Beauty Kings.

Asian Civilisations Museum at Empress Place

This special exhibition runs till 16 October 2011

I have always been fascinated by the terracotta warrior figurines and this is the closest I could get to see the real thing without having to make a trip to Xi'an, China. This is the first exhibition of the actual terracotta warriors to be held in Singapore and in Southeast Asia. With admission fee of only S$8, it is really good value for money.

At the entrance of the gallery leading to the actual terracotta exhibition, the works of artist Justin Lee titled 'Life After Death' set a stylish and dramatic tone. His work blends Western pop art with traditional Eastern figurines. A rather fun way to give life to historical figurines.

The terracotta army buried near the tomb of the First Emperor of China is perhaps the most important archaeological discovery of our time. Unearthed in 1974 outside Xi’an, the thousands of pottery soldiers and horses are striking works of art that tell us a great deal about early China.

Located on level 2, the exhibition gallery is not huge, but substantial enough to give a good explanation about the first emperor and his legacy. This exhibition features one hundred artefacts from Shaanxi province in China. Besides the 10 terracotta figures, the display contains important bronzes and jades from the Qin state before the time of the First Emperor, Shi Huangdi. The Han dynasty inherited the legacy of unified China, and charming terracotta figures from this later period show how the First Emperor’s tomb influenced later burials. Recent excavations have revealed a variety of objects, including painted warriors, acrobats meant to entertain the emperor, chariots and life-like birds. Many of these will be presented in the exhibition.

The exhibition catalogue (priced at S$24) offers pictures in full colour with interesting literature. I would recommend buying a copy at the gift shop before you proceed to view the exhibition. It would be a handy guide that you can refer to while looking at the artefacts. The museum also offers complimentary guided tours. Do enquire when you are purchasing your ticket.

For more information, please visit

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops

I was introduced to this blog site about 30 minutes ago and I felt compelled to share it with everyone. Her entries about what customers said to her at the bookstore where she works are hilariously funny. The best part is the comments are non-fiction but sounds like fiction.

The blogger is Jen Campbell. A 24-year-old writer living in London and working at Ripping Yarns, a secondhand bookshop in North London specialising in collectable children's and illustrated books.

In her blog, she talks about the writing process and the book industry. However, what I love is the series on "Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops". It is a good read for a great laugh especially when you are feeling down, angry or moody.

Here are some of my favourite excerpts.


Customer: Excuse me, do you have any signed copies of Shakespeare plays?
Me: Er... do you mean signed by the people who performed the play?
Customer: No, I mean signed by William Shakespeare.
Me: .....*headddesk*


Customer: Hi, I'd like to return this book, please.
Me: Do you have the receipt?
Customer: Here.
Me: Erm, you bought this book at Waterstone's.
Customer: Yes.
Me:.... we're not Waterstone's.
Customer: But, you're a bookshop.
Me: Yes, but we're not Waterstone's.
Customer: You're all part of the same chain.
Me: No, sorry, we're an independent bookshop.
Customer: ....
Me: Put it this way, you wouldn't buy clothes in H&M and take them back to Zara, would you?
Customer: Well, no, because they're different shops.
Me: Exactly.
Customer:... I'd like to speak to your manager.


Customer: I'm just going to nip to Tesco to do the weekly shop. I'm just going to leave my sons here, is that ok? They're three and five. They're no bother.


Customer poking his head through the door: Hi, can I bring my dog inside?
Me: Sure, there's a sign on the door that says that friendly dogs are allowed.
Customer: Hmmm. Well, she's not that friendly; she might bite people.
Me: .... well then please leave her outside


Customer: I don't suppose I could have a cup of tea, could I?
Me: Well...erm....
Customer: Thanks, I'm parched.
Me: Have you seen anything you'd like *indicates bookshelves*
Customer: Oh, I'm not buying. I'm just waiting for my bus.


Customer: My dear, there's a long queue in the post office, and I only want a first class stamp. Do you have one I could buy from you?
Me: No, I'm sorry, I don't.
Customer: Well then, perhaps you could go and stand in the queue for me - you're a lot younger than myself; your legs can handle it.
Me: I'm afraid not - I'm running this bookshop by myself.
Customer: I'll keep an eye on it for you.
Me: No, I'm sorry, I'm afraid I can't do that; I'd get in a lot of trouble.
Customer: Well, you've been extremely unhelpful *storms out*


Customer: Do you have brown eyes? *peers over at me*
Me: Yes, I do.
Customer: My mother told me never to trust anyone with brown eyes.
Me: You have brown eyes.
Customer: ..........


Customer: You have maps?
Me: Yes, we do. Road maps?
Customer: Yes.
Me: We have old ones - Ordnance Survey maps, and road maps, here.
Customer: I need a map to Dover.
Me: *looks around.* I'm not sure we have a specific South-East map. We have a road map of the UK.
Customer: No. I walk.
Me: You're walking?
Customer: Yes.
Me: To Dover?
Customer: Yes.
Me: That's very very far.
Customer: It's five miles, yes?
Me: No. It's about eighty miles.
Customer: You point me in the right direction?
Me: I don't know which way it is from here.
Customer: Ok. I follow the smell of the sea.


Customer: These books are really stupid, aren't they?
Me: Which ones?
Customer: You know, the ones where cats and mice are best friends.
Me: I suppose they're not very realistic, but then that's fiction.
Customer: It's really stupid.
Me: Well, they use that kind of thing to teach kids about accepting people different to you, you know?
Customer: Yeah, well, books shouldn't pretend that different people get on like that and everything is la de da and wonderful, should they? Kids should learn that life's a bitch, and the sooner the better.


Man: *enters bookshop smoking a cigarette*
Me: Excuse me?
Man: Yes?
Me: Could you put that cigarette out, please?
Man: Why?
Me: Because it's illegal to smoke in a public place.
Man: This isn't a public place; there's only you and me here.
Me: Yes, but it's still a public place. And apart from anything else: I'm allergic to cigarette smoke, and this shop is rather flammable.
Man: Why?
Me: … because it's filled with paper.
Man: Is it?


Customer: *poking her head around the door, glancing at our six by six metre bookshop*: Do you have a cafe in here?
No, I'm afraid we don't.
Customer: Oh, I was looking for a bookshop with a cafe.
Me: If you want a cup of tea, there's a cafe four doors down.
Customer: Could I take some books there with me to look through and browse? And then bring them back?


For more, please visit Jen's blog at

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.

I love watching documentaries and I chanced upon a really inspiring documentary yesterday that I would like to share with all of you. The title 'Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead' was enough to get my attention... and it did make me change my lifestyle after watching it. Well, I started incorporating juicing as part of my healthy lifestyle.

So what's the film about? Overweight Australian Joe Cross attempts to do something about his failing health that was an accumulation of bad diet choices and sedentary lifestyle. He was 100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease. Being overweight, or rather, obese, is taking a toll on his health and he is on the brink of getting a heart attack anytime.

This is "Fat Joe" when he was 310 lbs

The film takes us through his self-imposed 60-day juice fast (under the supervision of his doctor) journey through America in which he engages everyday Americans in discussions about food and obesity in this lighthearted documentary addressing a deadly serious subject. Why America? He goes there for work regularly and he can't think of a better place than America (it is junk food paradise afterall, or should I say hell?) to face his battle against unhealthy food.

Joe talks to everyday regular Americans about their weight, diet and health.

Soon after his journey began, we could see how quickly Joe's weight in on the steady decline. I have to say he is an inspiration - for not eating doughnuts, pizzas, burgers and all things unhealthy while he was in Amercia. That's a massive load of willpower. He stuck to his juices and nothing else. He also ended his dependence on prescription drugs as his body begun to heal itself.

Joe brought his juicer everywhere he went.

And now... are you ready for an inspiring moment? This is how Joe looks now. After his fast, he continued to include juicing as part of his lifestyle. He exercises daily and eats wisely.

Holy smokes! Beneath the fat suit is a gorgeous man!

Yup, this is Joe Cross now. Amazing transformation that resulted from a healthy lifestyle!

Joe proved just how empowering it can be to take responsibility for our own health. In his film, he also showed how he inspired "Fat Phil" to make a lifestyle change. Fat Phil was a truck driver who was morbidly obese, tipping the scale at over 400lbs.

Fat Phil on the left, Joe Cross on the right (can't call him Fat Joe now...)

Fat Phil having his first fruit juice

Fat Phil on his way to a new him. He has lost lots of weight and still losing...

This is really a must-watch film as it would change your life or would at least inspire you to change your lifestyle. I have incorporated juicing into my dietary needs after watching this film. I replace at least one meal with a powerful fruit & veg juice cocktail. It is the best thing I can do for my body and immune system, by drinking the anti-oxidants and vitamins. It is not about losing weight for me (although it will be a bonus of course), but more about cutting down on processed food with empty calories and zero nutrients, and giving my body the good stuff it needs to be strong and healthy.

I opt for organic produce as much as I can but when it's not possible, I will ensure I wash the fruits and vegetables with an organic wash to remove the pesticides and unwanted stuff. Start looking after your body and it will start looking after you. :)

For more information, please visit:

John McIntyre, founder of Healthy Juicing, got in touch with me to share the interview he did with with Joe Cross. In the interview, they talked about Joe's favorite recipes, motivation, how to resist peer pressure and the need for a juicing community. You can read the interview by clicking on this link: