Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Is it Still Possible to Get Cheap Electronics in Singapore?

Singapore has long been known as a good place to buy cheap electronics. With rising prices and all that sort of thing, many people wonder if it is still possible to get cheap electronics here... or anywhere else for that matter.

The short answer is... yes. The qualifier, of course, is that "cheap" is always a relative term. One can find affordable items here, but one shouldn't expect a very expensive piece of equipment to suddenly become inexpensive just by crossing a border. It won't. But, you can still find many items cheaper than what you might find in other countries.

One thing also to keep in mind is that one might find truly cheap pieces of electronic equipment. When that happens, it is always wise to keep in mind that you get what you pay for. In the US, I have seen prices as low for items that will last much longer than their cheap counterparts in Singapore, but they also are much bigger and bulkier. You always end up losing out somewhere when you pinch pennies.

But that often doesn't stop those of us who are gadget-happy in Singapore. Even though we know that we might get lousy equipment, we still shop for those money-saving deals. Sometimes, it works out just right. If you are looking for some gadget, and don't mind if it doesn't last very long, just as long as it serves its purpose, there are still lots of places you can go in Singapore to find what you are looking for. Lucky Plaza is one that caters to tourist. For locals, the prices are substantially lower than what tourists pay. I am not sure if it is that the shop keepers gouge the tourists enough to make it possible to offer better prices to locals or what, but I often get good deals on electronics there. A careful shopper can really find something worth picking up. Today, I was able to get a few mp3 players for friends at a really low price. I know it was less than the shop owner wanted me to pay, but he was willing to do so in hopes that I might bring some friends from overseas back sometime down the road. And I probably will too.

Shopping at places like Lucky Plaza can be lots of fun, especially if you are good at bargaining. After getting the good deals I did today, one of my friends said she noticed that the shop keeper who first spoke to me was caught off guard when his boss gave me such a good deal on the items I bought. When I left, the guy who was so surprised said to me, "You are a good bargainer. Next time I go shopping I think I better call you along."

So, my tip for anyone shopping for cheap electronic goods in Singapore is this: spend your time looking around and asking questions, then don't be afraid to push the price down as low as you can.

And of course, if you speak like a local it helps a good deal too.

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Car Hire in the UK

If you are looking for a reliable car hire service in the UK, where do you start? For many of us, we like having several options to choose from. Car Hire Direct helps you to do just that.

At Car Hire Direct, you can search for the vehicle you are looking for, and choose from the results generated. It is a very handy service, allowing you to compare and consider before making a decision on what vehicle you will cruise around the UK in. Just key in the information — when and where you want to pick it up and return it — and you'll see several options to choose from. It's a really easy service to use.

You can also use Car Hire Direct when you travel to other locations. They have services for Spain, Italy, France, the US, and many other destinations. Pop in and take advantage from this excellent service before you plan your next driving tour.


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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Would You Eat It?

My two younger nephews made their second trip to Shanghai with me about 1 month ago. Like they did last year, they approached the trip with a certain eagerness toward trying foods that they haven't ever seen before. Big on their list of must-try dishes this year was pig brains. I had mentioned to them that I'd seen it served at a restaurant when I was there recently, and they couldn't wait to give it a try. It wasn't nearly as high on my list, but I was more than happy to eat with them and enjoy the experience.

We tried pig brains while eating "hot pot." With a boiling soup sitting in the middle of the table, various dishes are brought out and cooked in the soup while you eat. It's always fun to eat this way, and seemed like a good time to try the boys' most sought-out dish for the summer.

Having tried it, I would say that boiled is probably not the best preparation method for pig brains. I'd much rather have something that comes out a little less soggy. In the area where my parents live (around Houston), it is not uncommon for people to fry pig brains with eggs. I can see why, as the texture of the brain was pretty close to that of eggs. I imagine that would be a pretty nice cooking method for brains. The flavor wasn't bad at all.

Here's some "before and after" shots of the pig brains, one just as it arrived at the table, and the other after it had been cooked.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Unique Storytelling Contest

Here in Singapore, most people usually think of storytelling contests as something catering to kids. Not this one. The Northwest CDC is organizing a storytelling contest for seniors. If you are over 55, you can join the competition, and the winners will later join the national contest, organized by the National Library Board in November 2008.

Stories can be told in English, Mandarin, Tamil, or Malay. It will be lots of fun, whether telling a story or listening to the tales told. The registration deadline is July 31. You can download the form from the Northwest CDC website.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Xiao Xuan Feng

I went to Xiao Xuan Feng in Hougang Mall for the first time the other day. We had gone to take a double-decker bus from the Woodlands interchange, and decided to have lunch in Hougang. I didn't know there was a Shanghai restaurant there, but when we saw Xiao Xuan Feng, we decided to give it a try.

The food is very good, and the portions are big enough. Though it was a little pricey (nearly S$100 for 7 people), there was a whole lot of very delicious food. We had xiao long bao, shui jiao, several types of la mian, and lots of other typical Shanghai dishes. It was a fun outing, and we all really enjoyed the food.

You can find Xiao Xuan Feng on the second floor of Hougang Mall.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

The World's Smallest Hotel

There is something quaintly heartwarming about the world's smallest hotel and its history.

Beautiful place!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Watery Playground in a Shopping Centre?

I don't know who came up with the idea of putting a watery playground in a shopping centre, but it was a pretty brilliant idea. At IMM in Jurong, the kids' play area is really nice. It is on the 3rd floor, and you can go outdoors (on the roof of the 2nd floor), and let the kids choose wet or dry playground. I had taken my nephews there last year, but we weren't prepared for the wet area, and so had missed out on it. This year, we went and the boys had a great time. There's a nice little shower area off to the side, which makes it really convenient to get the kids cleaned up and then go in for a nice cold drink and a snack inside IMM.

The playground is right next to the area that is sometimes used as a stage for various events. It's not to hard to find, and really is a fun place to play. It doesn't allow adults on the play area, but that is really OK. There's plenty of places for adults to "play" inside IMM.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

When Hell Opens Up

The seventh month on the Chinese calendar is the month that hell is supposed to open up, and the ghosts residing there are free to roam the earth again. In Singapore, this period (known as the Hungry Ghost Festival) is one in which many Chinese find it imperative to appease those restless spirits. This video gives a little idea of some of the rituals involved in appeasing the ghosts that have been given a temporary release from Hell.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Taking a Train Under the River

Before this year, I had not taken the train that goes through the tunnel under the river at the Bund in Shanghai before. I've been fortunate enough to have lots of kids visit me in Shanghai this year, and it's certainly broadened my experience of the city. The tunnel under the Huangpu River is one of the things I might not have ever bothered to do if not for all the "underage" guests I've had in 2008.

The ride itself is a pretty cool experience. It is a sort of mini-train, and it goes slowly through the tunnel. As you move from one end to another, there are all sorts of lasers and lights flashing here and there. There is also an audio voice-over that suggests some of the things that we might see if we travel far enough under the earth. The thoughts range from magma to hades. The visual effects to go along with each thought are quite nice.

All the kids who have gone on the ride with me list it as one of the things they really like. It's a fun experience, and well worth the fee to go across. A one-way ticket is 40RMB, and it is just 50RMB to travel both ways. Kids are half price.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dance Appreciation Series

At the Esplanade, you have a chance to engage with contemporary dance in the Dance Appreciation Series on 6 August 2008 at 4 pm. This is the second installment in the series, and it offers participants the opportunity to understand how contemporary dance differs from classical ballet.

The series is conducted by the Singapore Dance Theatre, and is aimed at Upper Primary and Secondary School students. It is an hour-long programme, and tickets are priced at just $10.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

South Beauty

South Beauty is a well-loved Sichuan restaurant in Shanghai. The food is spicy and delicious, and the atmosphere is always just right. There are branches all over the city, including Shanghai Times Square, Shanghai City Center, Citic Square, 881 Club, and Shi Mao International Plaza. I've been to the restaurants at Super Brand Mall in Pudong, and at Tao Jiang Road in Xu Hui (just off of Heng Shan Road). Both are nice, but the environment at Tao Jiang Road is really top-notch. The decor is something else, and the service is good. And the food is always of the best quality at South Beauty.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Da Kang Water Park

Da Kang Water Park is in the northwest part of Shanghai. It is not a huge place, but it is fun!!! There are plenty of facilities there, and the price is much more affordable than most water parks in the area (only RMB45 per person for 2 and a half hours). There are a number of water slides there, six in all. There's a "river", a diving pool, a half-Olympic size pool, a children's playground pool, and, best of all, a wave pool. The whole park is indoors, making it possible to enjoy the place no matter what the weather outside.

If you are looking for a great way to enjoy the day, especially with kids, Da Kang Water Park is a great spot to visit!

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