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Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


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Bincho at Hua Bee – Breathing new life into heritage

Fishball Noodles at Hua Bee

Have a bowl of fishball mee pok (flat noodles) with coffee by day, and yakitori with Japeratifs by night

What do you get when you put local old skool fishball noodles, coffee & toast with modern Japanese yakitori? An interesting coffeeshop with two different identities located in a nostalgic part of Singapore called Tiong Bahru.

Hua Bee

Started way back in the 1940s, Hua Bee is a cultural institution located at the base of Block 78 of Moh Guan Terrace. Many living in Tiong Bahru would remember buying fishball noodles and coffee & toast from Hua Bee (that’s all the coffeeshop ever sold for over half a century). It was also the set for Eric Khoo’s 1995 movie, Mee Pok Man.

Hua Bee

When restaurateur Loh Lik Peng took over the premises, this ‘Chipanese’ oddball combi was born to address the laments of the residents who felt that neighbourhood icons such as Hua Bee were being displaced by monied upstarts keen to have a stake in the increasingly hip neighbourhood – it will continue to exist as Hua Bee serving its well-loved fishball noodles and coffee by day, and morph into a trendy Japanese yakitori bar called Bincho at night.

Hua Bee Mee Pok

The original mee pok seller was persuaded to come back and continue serving her fishball noodles.
For us, the noodles were a bit clumpy for our liking – we preferred it firm and springy. Still, it’s worth a visit down memory lane.

The traditional way of drinking coffee would be to pour & sip it from the saucer. People in the past used to do that to cool the coffee faster. Prop up a leg as you sip to up the old skool quotient.

Hua Bee

Say hello to Uncle Lim (in cap) at the coffee stall

Bincho

The front half of the 1,500 sq ft space looks exactly like how regulars remember it, while the back half will house Bincho, a modern open-concept yakitori bar helmed by Chef Asai Masashi as well as a cocktail bar featuring playful Japeritifs by Stefan Ravalli of The Library.
Bincho, which means charcoal in Japanese, has a 12-stool dining counter with three table seats. So do make reservations before turning up.

Bincho

Featuring 3 different sets – Sakura, Bincho and Miyabi, the menu changes daily to feature fresh ingredients.

Bincho

Cocktail Area
I’ll come back to try the yakitori at night. And definitely the Japeratifs.

HUA BEE
Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace
#01-19 Singapore 160278
Tel: +65 6438 4567
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/binchohuabee
FISHBALL NOODLES and COFFEE & TOAST Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat, from 7:00AM to 3:00PM
Closed on Sun & Mon

BINCHO Opening Hours:
Tues to Sun – 12:00PM to 3:00PM (weekends); 6:00PM to 12:00AM
Closed on Mon

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Japan – Hokkaido: Noboribetsu Hot Spring 登別温泉

nooboribetsu

Located directly south of Sapporo city, Noboribetsu is one of Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort areas surrounded by a virgin forest 200 metres above sea level. Noboribetsu is a part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

One of the best things to do during the cool Autumn weather, is to indulge in a hot spring bath while taking in the majestic sight of nature’s red plumage of autumn leaves, and I was blown away by the scenic view that greeted me at the hot spring town of Noboribetsu (登別温泉).

While Noboribetsu comprises the nearby towns of Noboribetsu, Horobetsu and Washibetsu, most visitors (mainly Japanese) flock to the hot spring town of Noboribetsu Onsen 登別温泉, 6 km inland (15mins by car) from Noboribetsu itself. Founded on 13 September 1869, it has a population of 54,000 with a total area of 212.11 km2.

Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu

The hot spring resort area is renown for its wide range of hot springs – it boasts 9 kinds of hot spring baths incorporating different qualities, including a sulfur spring (most popular), a ferruginous spring and an alum spring which makes the skin beautiful (I agree!). This much variety is hard to find in hot springs anywhere else in the world, and the quality of the minerals together make Noboribetsu one of the world’s most exceptional hot springs.

Noboribetsu

Mesmerizing foliage for an urbanite

Noboribetsu

This, is not a huge drain – it’s hot spring water. I felt like jumping into a drain for once.

Noboribetsu

Do I still need to say – it’s autumn ;)

Noboribetsu

Even the roadside flowers are growing so prettily, must be the spring water

Noboribetsu

Takinoya
An awesome accommodation choice at Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu

Kumabokujo クマ牧場 Bear Farm
One of the tourist attractions at Noboribetsu. I would rather see bears in their natural habitat than caged up to perform tricks, so I gave the place a miss.

Noboribetsu

Sengen Park features a geyser that erupts from beside the hot spring water stream flowing from Hell Valley
Visitors can experience the eruption of the geyser at intervals of approximately three hours. There is the sound of pressure building, followed by the eruption of the geyser, which is accompanied by a cloud of steam. With such an angry eruption, I shudder about seeing the Valley itself.

Noboribetsu

The most impressive scene at Noboribetsu is Jigoku Valley 地獄谷 (Hell Valley), a 450-meter-diameter mouth of a volcano which produces 3,000 litres of hot water per minute. Yellow volcanic gas seeps out from the surface of the rocks and it is this strong smell of sulphuric smoke that gives it an image of hell.

Noboribetsu

I find it a miracle that something as beautiful as these berries can still grow out of hell. It shows there is always hope in life :)

Noboribetsu

A customary “been-here” shot ;)

Noboribetsu

The barren landscape does resemble hell
You can experience the dynamics of jigoku, or “Hell,” named as such for its strong smell of sulfur while hot water, vapors and volcanic gas escape from the crater, formed approximately ten thousand years ago.

Noboribetsu

Enter and be scalded – or cooked

Noboribetsu

It’s quite amusing how every tourist treats a hole with water in it as a wishing well. One thing for sure – no one is going to fish the coins out of a 90 degrees Celsius pond!

Noboribetsu

Awesome landscape. I stood still for 5mins, taking in the sights.

Noboribetsu

Even the toilet signs are represented with Hell Valley’s mascots. Question is – which is the Ladies?!

Noboribetsu

Oyunumagawa Natural Foot Bath
Throw off your shoes and enjoy a hot relaxing foot soak after hiking your way to this hot spring stream.

Noboribetsu

Even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits and excitement!

Noboribetsu

Nightfall soon came, and we hurried back to explore the town. Being a resort town, it was relatively quiet with some shops selling seafood produce and tourist souvenirs.

Noboribetsu

Noboribestu is well-known for flower cod roe, salmon roe and onikama (boiled fish paste). Souvenirs include carved wooden bears/dolls, and various candies.

Noboribetsu

Getting acquainted with the local deities

Noboribetsu

The Silence of the Lambs
From being squashed by a big buffalo.

Noboribetsu

The chill soon got the better of us, and we headed back to our hotel in anticipation of a hot midnight onsen soak.

Noboribetsu

We chose a Japanese-style room

Noboribetsu

Having tea prepared for us

Noboribetsu

しあわせ (happiness!)

Noboribetsu

Dinner time!

Noboribetsu

All decked out in a yukata and enjoying my crab

Noboribetsu

I couldn’t get enough of my seafood dinner, I had to share fish with the bears.
And off to enjoy my onsen! You cannot follow! :)

Noboribetsu

Get a cute Noboribetsu souvenir home before you leave – Whadda hell! :D

Noboribetsu brochures

Getting to Noboribetsu
By Train
Take the JR Muroran Line to Noboribetsu Station from Sapporo. The jorney is approximately one hour and costs about ¥3850. Board the bus from JR Noboribetsu Station to the final bus stop, Noboribetsu-onsen (13 mins).

There are several limited express trains to Noboribetsu as well:
– Hokuto and Super Hokuto (between Hakodate and Sapporo costing about ¥4160)
– Suzuran (between Sapporo and Higashi-Muroran costing about ¥6500).

Overnight trains
– Cassiopeia and Hokutosei trains to and from Ueno Station in Tokyo
– Twilight Express to and from Kyoto and Osaka in Kansai
– Hamanasu Sapporo-Aomori express (Aomori-Sapporo Hamanasu does not stop in Noboribetsu)

By Bus
A cheaper alternative than the train, Chuo (中央) bus and Dounan (道南) bus offer cheap, ¥1900 yen (one-way) trips to Noboribetsu in about 2 hours. There are eleven direct buses per day and boarding is at Hakodate Station and Chuo Bus Terminal [中央バスターミナル).

By Car
If driving from Sapporo or Shin Chitose Airport, the fastest way is the Doo Expressway, then taking the “Noboribetsu Higashi” exit.


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What I would do just to see her smile…


I visited North Bridge Road Market & Food Centre for the very first time with a friend who frequents there. When we went to buy coffee, I remarked to him how elderly the stall owner was. He told me “This aunty has a very hard life. She is never happy; I have never seen her smile.” Intrigued, the happy-go-lucky me probed further. I wished I hadn’t, cos’ what he told me was so tragic, I thought only existed in a TV drama serial like Oshin.

The feisty lady started her life with a beautiful family of 4 children. Until the 2nd World War killed her husband and she had to work at a brick factory to support her family. One son passed away. 2 sons are mentally challenged and unable to support themselves, thus relying on her to bring back the income. She has severed ties with her daughter who only wants money from her – she would come help out at the stall for a short while and take the entire day’s earnings which the elder needed badly to support her sons. Once, the elderly lady resisted and was threatened with a knife. By her own daughter.

At this point, I could feel a lump in my throat as I fought back tears. While we are actively engaging financial consultants to plan for our future retirement, this is a lady who can never retire, for the sake of her family. While we are having $60 wagyu steaks, this is a lady earning her keep, cup by cup. She must be in her eighties, and worrying what would happen to her sons when she passes on.


I was so touched, I went to buy 10 cups of coffee and bread. That’s the least I can do. I can’t change her life, but I can at least make a day better for her. She silently worked behind her stall, preparing the orders, emotionless. She was pretty intrigued with my dressing though, and I could see a slight smile. Finally – my crazy dressing made someone deservingly happy. Maybe I will get her some clothes for New Year too (not mine for sure) – I noticed she was wearing a man’s shirt. I suspected she was sharing her sons’ shirts for economies of scale…oh my gawd.


The next time you are at North Bridge Road Market & Food Centre, why not get a drink from her (there’s load of good food there too)? The coffee’s really not bad, and it’s one of the few places who offer steamed bread with kaya (coconut jam). And very affordable too – I have not seen a 70-cent coffee for a long time in Singapore ($1.20 on average). And hopefully, cup by cup, we will put a smile on her one day.


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Fun with 魔漫相机 MomentCam

MomentCam

Of late, I have been hving much fun with different persona using an Android app called 魔漫相机MomentCam. It’s pretty simple to use – just upload a frontal shot of your face and choose from the different hand-drawn cartoons. There are new ones to download daily, and I can now change hairstyles whenever I want! LOL

魔漫相机MomentCam on Google Play Store

I can be a sexpuss! :D

Or a glamour girl

An animal lover

And even a superhero – Thor Thor Thor THORRRR! hahaha
Try it for yourself! The app developer says “Our team is a group of young Chinese artists and computer developers with a dream and big heart to bring happiness and fun to all the people in the world.” And you are certainly bringing much laughter to me and my friends! Oh, and did I mention the app is free to download? ;)


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Look of the Day – I have my Eye on You

Look of the Day - Eye on You
Look of the Day - I have my Eye on You

Pleats Please

Top & Skirt – Pleats Please

Fannie Schiavoni

Necklace - Vintage Hollywood

Necklace – Vintage Hollywood
Body Harness: Fannie Schiavoni

Studded Sneakers – Converse

Can’t wait for Christmas to arrive! ;)