Read that fans queued overnight to buy tickets to their Singapore fanmeet end of January and the tickets were sold out before you could say pronto. The Hallyu wave is slowly but surely creeping insidiously onto our shores.
I wanted to attend the fanmeet but no chance now. How to outrun these energetic teenage Primadonnas in buying tickets? Yeah, I know these boys are really young – they are practically wearing diapers under those snazzy clothes.
At this point, I am wondering how the official fanclubs of these idol bands coin their fanclub moniker.
For example, the fans of FT Island call themselves ‘Primadonnas’. The DBSK fans are ‘Cassiopeia’ – which is basically a constellation so I am not sure if this is a play on their idols being some far-flung and unreachable star. The Girls Generation fans are ‘So Weons’ – which means ‘Honey’ I think. The fans of ss501 (pronounced as ‘Double S’) are known as ‘Triple S’ – again, another word play I wonder.
Well, Rain fans are ‘Clouds’. This one is a no-brainer but what tickles me is that he actually has a protege called ‘Thunder’. Now, when is ‘Lightning’ turning up?
Constructed by King Indravarman I in 879 to honour his forefathers when he first ascended the throne, Preah Ko means ‘sacred bull’. There are several stone bulls still standing at the front of the temple (but they don’t look like bulls to me no matter how hard I stare at them).
Preah Ko consists of two rows of three towers on a raised platform, facing east. The central (and taller) tower was dedicated to Jayaraman II, the founder of the Khmer empire. The tower to the left was dedicated to King Indravarman’s father and the tower to the right is dedicated to his grandfather. The 3 rear towers were dedicated to the wives of these three men.
Unlike Bakong which was made from stone, Preah Ko was constructed using bricks. The intricate carvings and inscriptions on the prasats and walls are beautiful and still in pretty good condition.
Even though this was only the second temple in our trip, I was beginning to feel the onset of temple fever.
The Bakong was the first temple we visited. I was so pre-occupied with taking photographs that I completely missed out on our guide’s explanation of the temple’s history.
Ok, I confess that I barely listened to our guide throughout the trip and had to research on the Internet the history of all the temples we visited after I returned.
Constructed around AD 881 by King Indravarman I (3rd Khmer King), the Bakong was the first sandstone state temple of the Khmers. It is seated in the centre of Hariharalaya, the first capital of the Khmer Empire, and this area is now known as Roluos.
As Hindu was one of the official religions of the Khmers, the construction of state temples was understandably heavily influenced by Indian temple architecture. Featuring a 5-tier pyramid surrounded by chambers, chapels and prasats (towers), the Bakong is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods in Hindu mythology. Each of the 5 tiers represent a different realm (from bottom up) – nagas (cobras), garudas (mythical birds), rakshasas (demons), yakshas (nature spirits) and maharajas (kings).
What we were unprepared for was the unbelievably hot weather. Barely started the day and we were already soaked in perspiration climbing up and down the very steep steps of the Bakong.
So happy to see humongous coconuts on sale as we exited the Bakong, but it was difficult getting away from the clamoring hawkers trying to get us to buy their coconuts.
After a good night’s rest and a pretty heavy breakfast, we were both ready to start exploring.
Our guide, Phat, met us at 8.30am in the hotel lobby and our first stop was to buy the 3-day Angkor temple pass costing US$20 per person. The ticket counter takes a photo of each tourist and imprints it onto his/her ticket. I was quite surprised to hear that the revenue from the ticket sales does not entirely go to the Cambodians but is shared with a Vietnamese company who has been granted ticket concession rights to the Angkor Archaeological Park for a number of years.
Phat also showed us a map of Angkor (attached in the thumbnail below) and highlighted the locations of the 7 temples which we would be visiting over the next 3 days.
Aside from the Khmer Rouge genocide between 1975 and 1979 and the legendary Cambodian landmines, I know every little about Cambodian history and culture. Not surprisingly, I had a bit of a difficulty trying to absorb Cambodia’s history recounted by Phat along the way – the good husband was naturally nodding away enthusiastically.
Very (very) briefly, present-day Cambodia came under Khmer rule sometime around AD 802. At its peak, the Khmer Empire was the biggest and most powerful in Southeast Asia, with its boundaries stretching as far as the Thai-Burmese border in the west and Laos in the north. Hinduism and Buddhism were the Khmers main religions.
The Khmers were architectural genius, building remarkable temples and irrigation systems, as well as being master stone sculptors.
The Khmer civilisation came to an end in 1491 when the empire was invaded by the Sukhothai Kingdom.
I tasted these popsicles for the very first time during the Korean pop concert at Fort Canning last December.
Having queued for a long while to enter the concert grounds, we were looking to buy a drink to quench our thirst. Nearby, a makeshift stall manned by Koreans was selling take-away bimbimbap and thin-crust pizza slices to (long-suffering and hungry) Korean pop fans and we spotted in the stall’s ice-box these attractively wrapped popsicles in orange and pear flavours. We bought both flavours.
Wow, they were YUMMY. Sweet, cold and addictive. Each of us had something like 3 popsicles that night. The flavours were intense and I think that is because good quality fruit extracts, not just colouring, were used to make the popsicles.
My fridge is now stocked with popsicles (orange, pear and kiwi) from Seoul Mart at Parkway Parade. They are great to have on a warm and sticky Singapore day.
While exploring Tekka Market, I found a stall that sells cleaned buah keluak – $12 for a packet of 50 nuts – so I bought a packet to give a friend who makes a mean ayam buah keluak for someone who is not Nonya.
I am very fond of ayam buah keluak, especially the slightly bitter cooked buah keluak which I like eating on its own mixed in rice.
Out of curiosity as to how buah keluak is cleaned, I Googled the Internet for information.
Ok, I know I sound IGNORANT beyond words can describe but I learnt (for the first time in my life) that buah keluak – the seed from the fruit of the Kepayang tree found in Indonesia and certain parts of Malaysia – is lethal.
I read that almost every part of this tree and its fruit are poisonous. To remove the poison from buah keluak, locals cover the nuts with ash, bury them underground for 40 days and thereafter, boil the nuts in water several times. The nuts have to be soaked for several days or at the very least, over-night, in water before use.
I mentioned this fact to people around me and it seems that poisonous buah keluak is common knowledge. HOW COME I DIDN’T KNOW?!
This upcoming drama with an Italian restaurant setting is one that I am looking forward to watching.
The food-themed storyline sounds fun and I like the leads Lee Seon-kyun and Gong Hyo-jin, especially the latter. This also reminds me of Bambino, the Japanese drama featuring Jun Matsumoto as a rookie chef in an Italian restaurant, which I had enjoyed watching.
Airs 4 January 2010 in Korea, which is tomorrow!
I know that watching this drama is bound to send me into a bout of ‘I-Want-To-Cook-Pasta-And-Plate-It-Like-How-A-Chef-Does-It’ frenzy.
I have yet to write about our trip to Siem Reap last November. After I return from a trip, I spend alot of my time editing, organising, uploading and captioning photographs; by which time, I am too tired to write a long post about the trip. [Bits and pieces of my post on my short Seoul trip last October are still lying in a folder somewhere.]
Before my memory fades, I thought that I should just kick off Siem Reap and write a little as I go along. To start the ball rolling, here is our itinerary (not including the two travelling days).
We landed in Siem Reap after dusk, alighted from the plane and walked on the tarmac to the airport. The exterior of the airport could be mistaken for a Balinese resort with its wooden structure, sloping roofs and curved eaves. It was a refreshing change from the usual bricks-mortar-glass-and-steel structure that we are used to.
Clearing customs was a breeze and the hotel pick-up was waiting to pick us up. The ride from the airport to the hotel was smooth and traffic-free, and I saw numerous Korean restaurants lining both sides of the main road leading to the hotel – I learnt later that Siem Reap is a popular tourist destination with Koreans.
We reached Hotel De La Paixin 30 minutes, checked-in and quickly changed for dinner at Abacus. Friends who had dined at this French restaurant highly recommended the place for its excellent food at very affordable prices. We had Googled the restaurant and read many complimentary reviews regarding its food, price and service.
The bellboy got us a tuk-tuk to bring us to Abacus – and back as well – which is situated in an alley off the main road between the airport and the hotel. The Siem Reap tuk-tuks are very similar to the ones in Bangkok. I have always loved riding in tuk-tuks because they are so much fun. Unfortunately, the ride to Abacus was quite bumpy as the roads were uneven and full of potholes – I hung on tightly and tried to enjoy the short ride.
Abacus is situated in a bungalow with a beautiful garden but it was too dark for us to appreciate the surroundings. The restaurant setting was warm, cosy and casual. I am always slightly nervous about dining in a French restaurant because I find the atmosphere in a number of them rather formal and, may I say, uptight. I felt relaxed in Abacus, well, relaxed enough to take out my camera.
The menu is quite substantial, with choices of French and Khmer-style courses. We ordered two appetisers – the mango and crabmeat salad and beef carpaccio – to share and the restaurant also served an amuse bouche. Very yummy. By this time, I was seriously regretting having eaten on the plane.
For mains, I had chosen the pan-fried beef tenderloin, wild mushrooms with mash potato, foie gras truffle sauce, while TBH opted for marinated duck breast served with mashed potato and pumpkin, wild mushrooms and snow peas. We each had a glass of red wine.
The meats were really good but for me, it was the sides – wild mushrooms, snow peas and mash – that shone. Regretfully, we had absolutely no space for dessert and could only order cappuccino to round it all up.
The food was excellent, we were very happy and no, the bill did not break our pocket. We could afford to return another day.
With our very stuffed bellies, we braced ourselves for the bumpy ride back and hoped it wouldn’t make us throw up our dinner.
A friend brought us to this dingy-looking stall housed in an old coffeeshop at Blk 40 Beo Crescent many years ago and we have not found another curry rice place which we liked better eversince (esp when there is plenty of parking in the two HDB multi-storey carparks a very short distance away from the coffeeshop).
The stall is run by Hainanese folks. Unfortunately, they are not open during dinnertime (and on Wednesdays) which means that we can satisfy our curry rice cravings only during the weekends.
Our usual orders are: rice, fried eggs, braised cabbage, deep-fried pork strips and taupok – which comes up to approximately $7 for two persons. If there are more than the two of us, we would also order the sambal sotong and/or sambal fish (they use batang fish, for those who are particular about their fish).
The reason why the rice is the focal point in the photograph is because to me, the rice IS the most important thing to eat here. Drenched in three different types of curry sauce, the rice is definitely good enough to eat on its own, I feel.
For over 2 years, I kept a blog on Blogger but have chosen to keep it private. It is my personal space to write whatever I liked (the frivolous and inane), however I liked (possibly in bad grammar but I try to avoid using Singlish) and whenever I liked.
From time to time, friends have asked about the whereabouts of this mysterious blog because they know that I keep one. My response to that has invariably been “if I tell you then I will have to kill you…”
With the new year, I thought about starting afresh; about setting up a new blog with a different look (and keeping the old blog separately). The stark-looking, simple and uncluttered layout of this template appealed to me. I wanted a background in white because I like white alot and also, I feel that photographs look good against monochromatic colours like white and black.
So here I am, on the last night of the year, in the midst of setting up a new writing space and thinking about the answers to several questions.
Firstly, what should the focus of this new space be? Do I want to continue writing whatever random topic that pops into my mind like before? Or do I want to focus on specific areas – such as food reviews, travel, entertainment, etc – but unfortunately, I am not one bit knowledgeable in these areas; so definitely not.
What I do know is that I don’t really want to write about myself and my [rather dull] life, which inevitably leads to plenty of whining and complaining regarding all sorts of things.
Next, do I still wish to keep this space private or do want to open it up to family and friends? I am not really sure about it too. [So if you are reading this now, then you know which way I have decided on.]
For the time being, I guess I will just focus on writing about things that interest me, ie, a mish-mash of books, food, Korean entertainment, movies, art, etc.