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asia Archives • Cook the Beans

Singapore on a Budget

Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia, with a tropical climate, great food, busy vibe where its always something happening I stumble in many cultural activities like concerts, performances, multimedia and water projections, so try to be aware and look at all the billboards and posters that came across to you. As you know Singapore is not the cheapest place to visit when you have a tight budget, but it’s possible, and definitely worths a visit even if short. 

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I travel by bus from Malacca to Singapore (24RM), took 4hours to the border, then we left the bus twice to show our passports. If you do the same be prepared to run… because the second time you leave the bus, they will give you 20 minutes, so take all your belongings with you and if you lose the bus don’t worry you just need to wait an hour for the next one.

Once in Singapore it’s easy to travel around, they have a good and easy public transport system and almost everyone speaks English 🙂 when using the bus just make sure you have always the correct amount because they don’t give change.

Here is a list of my favorite places, that you should visit and tips to save money:

Places to explore:

  • Marina Bay – very cosmopolitan, great views, includes The Merlion Square
  • Botanic gardens – is a Unesco World Heritage Site, It’s more natural than Gardens by the Bay which seems to be more man-made (although very beautiful in its way) – free entry – they have frequent concerts from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra come early and bring a picnic.
  • Gardens by the Bay –  this futuristic garden deserves a visit during the day-light and another visit during the night between 7.45pm and 8.45 pm, when the trees twinkle and glow with music – free entry
  • Marina Bay Sands – great views 
  • Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, great place near The Merlion Square. Has always lots going on (some are free). The shape on the outside was inspired on the famous durian fruit.
  • Baba House – (Peranakan home) located near Chinatown has a free hour-long tour but booking is required

  • Sri Mariamman Temple –  oldest Hindu temple –free entry

  • Thian Hock Keng  – Singapore’s oldest Chinese temple –free entry
  • Clark Quay – busy nightlife 

  • Southern Ridges trail – great walking trails through 10km of forest and canopy walks.

  • China town
  • Little India
  • Arab district (great walk early morning before the crowds arrive) don’t miss the Haji Lane – it’s  heaven for art and culture lovers. 
  • Orchard Road

Museums:

  • Art Museum (free on Fridays after 6pm), incredible good
  • Peranakan Museum (1/2 price after 7pm – $5)
  • Asian Civilisation Museum (1/2 price after 7pm – $5)
  • National Museum ($10) – check the website for free guided tours – offered daily

If you have time:

  • Movie Mob –  free outdoor movie with drive-in concept and picnic events.  Happens around Singapore (check their page)
  • Haw Par Villa (founder of Tiger Balm) outdoor exhibitions of  Chinese mythology and legends. – free entry
  • East Coast Park – 15km stretch of beach (can get busy during the weekend)

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Accommodation:  it will be your biggest expense in Singapore, so you must do your research with time and book before your arrival. Backpacking is by far the cheapest option you can get something for $20-30 p/night. If you want more privacy and be in contact with local people airbnb would be a good option.

Eating:  hawker centers are by far the cheapest and best option you have to taste Singapore’s multi-cultural food. I have tried many different ones and they were all a complete delight for every foodie,a main can cost from $3-7. Remember that in Singapore you can drink tap water it is safe and clean.

I hope you don’t miss Singapore from your travel list.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

? More about vegan food in Singapore ?

A Vegan in Sabah _ Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu, was actually a very pleasant surprise, through my stay I easily found really great places to eat.
I just need to start to say that KK has countless markets, all selling fresh fruit, juices, coconut water and lots of other local vegan delicacies.
I had no trouble at eating at the street markets either, the food was okay, nothing too extraordinary  but I appreciated that they could always veganaise something for me.
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I’m going to start with my very favourite place of all, the Vege Garden.
The only reason I didn’t have all my meals there was just because I wasn’t always in the city and they are only open till 5pm.
This small eaterie located between an Orange Convenience store and a Tourism Operator, and it’s part of Wisma Sabah mall. the food is just amazing and it’s very affordable.
The owner is super friendly and is always happy to give you some advice about the food he has for the day, and if they have run out of food they will arrange something for you. I loved this place so much that I had all my breakfasts there, a few lunches and even a couple of meals as a snack 😀 😀
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The Liew Chai Vegetarian has really delicious options of mock meat, and its very affordable.
If you are not a mock meat fan they also have a good selection of vegetables and tofu.
 This eatery is located in the middle of the food court on the lower ground floor of the Centrepoint Mall.
Beyond Veggie is located in the Suria Sabah Shopping Mall. Its a bit more sophisticated and modern and more expensive than the other ones a mention. Has a huge variety of dishes and desserts and the food is tasty.
Among all the food, the most surprising things we found on KK was the coconut jelly/pudding that is served in a coconut shell with the flesh of the coconut, I truly enjoyed it.
The green caviar (called also by Latok or sea grapes), that is a type of seaweed found in Sabah and Philippines. I found it at the Night market.
Interesting enough for the first time in my travellers life I just found many stalls selling fermented drinks and herbal teas with fungus.
 Other dishes we had:
Click here if you want to know what to do and visit at Kota Kinabalu and here if you are planning to visit the islands.
photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Don’t mess with Melaka

We landed in Kuala Lumpur and went straight away by bus to Melaka what takes approximately 2 hours, and we felt in love with this small appealing and pleasant town.

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Melaka was colonised by the the Dutch, Portuguese and British. The city has a rich history and to tells it proudly with it’s 14 museums 🙂 You can say that fusion is a good word to use when talking about Melaka, once you can find in this charming city  Christian churches, chinese and hindu  temples, mosques and red-brick buildings.

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Melaka is a UNESCO world heritage site and an exciting place to discover. You can easily walk to every point of interest, and if you want to go further you can always rent a bike. The city has great views, artistic buildings and streets. Although not to the extent of Penang there is a lot of street art to be found in the side street nearby the River.

The Dutch Square is the tourist centre, it’s buildings are painted red but more surprising than that are the colourful and noisy trishaws decorated with famous cartoon characters.

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The Jonker Street,  is the main tourist street which can be very crowded. The Ruins of St Paul’s Church are at the top of St Paul’s Hill.

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Melaka has a large and thriving Chinatown that deserves a visit. The Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is the oldest functioning Chinese temple in Malaysia and a must see.

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Melaka is a great place to seat and watch the world go by,  either by the river, or at one of the great many eateries. Food was one of my favourite parts of Melaka  so if you are interested check out the link –   ? ?a vegan in Melaka ??

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Travel through the South of Vietnam

My journey started at Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) and from there I explored the south of this diverse country. To visit Vietnam you need to apply to your Visa beforehand, there is no possibility to get a Visa once you are at the border or the airport.

Ho Chi Minh City has a pulsate and chaotic energy. The traffic is something beyond explanation, but despite that, it’s full of life and the best way to explore the city is losing yourself in the street.

This is what I recommend to visit:

  • Jade Emperor Pagoda
  • Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda
  • Binh Tay Market
  • Ben Thanh Market
  • Botanic Gardens
  • Cho Lon area

Once in HCMC don’t miss the coffee, it’s a true delight and also all the incredible vegan food.

Mekong Delta

Mekong Delta has many places to explore, and it’s incredibly beautiful and exotic with its water floating world. You need time to explore all its beauty and its innumerable rivers, canals and, streams that cross the landscape.

I need to say that’s possible to visit the Mekong Delta without a tour and is actually quite easy. You just need to ask around and combine different ways of transport, bus, ferry and motorbikes.

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You have so many options to choose from, that taking a decision is pretty difficult mostly when you don’t have much time, so I will leave a small list of the best places I visit:

  • Ben Tre – it’s very picturesque and less tourist than My Tho. This area is famous for its keo dua (coconut candy)
  • Ha Tien – it’s beautiful, has a nice riverside market, lots of caves to visit some of which have been turned into temples. Thach dong cave pagoda deserves a visit.
  • Tra Vinh – for me is one of the charming  towns in the Mekong Delta
  • Minh Long – has the Cai Be floating market that is always busy, carrying all the characteristics of the locals’ life.
  • Sam Mountain– has a strong Chinese influence and its full of pagodas and temple the Cavern Pagoda it’s a nice one to visit.
  • Can Tho – is the largest city in the region you can visit the floating markets, Phong Dien, Cai Rang – and take a boat along the canals.  Phung Hiep is the biggest and busiest floating market in the Mekong Delta it opens at 4.00 am closes at 11.00 am.

Asian Markets are always my first choice to eat, and Vietnam wasn’t an exception, I especially enjoyed the rice paper wrapped spring rolls, fruit and smoothies.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

A taste of Vegan Thailand, testimony and tips

15I have been in Thailand twice, and visited the country from north to south, east to west and several islands from both seas. Thailand was the firsts country I visited in Southeast Asia and since then fell in love for that part of the globe.

If you are planning to travel there, be prepared to be astonished with its exotic, luxurious and unspoiled natural areas, colorful places, interesting temples, nice, smiley and laid-back people, great weather, unbelievable beaches, maniac drivers, and at last but not the least THE FOOD….

From my personal experience, I need to say that’s fairly easy to have a vegan/vegetarian diet in Thailand. Even when you adventure yourself out of the big cities and you go to places that haven’t seen many Foreigners.

I found that being vegan in Thailand is often deeply respected as Thailand is a predominately Buddhist country.  There is a big prevalence of soy products, like milk and tofu, and traditionally Thai food doesn’t contain dairy, this includes desserts 🙂 so your main concern will mainly involve the use of eggs.

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Fruit stands, fresh markets, night markets and street stalls are very abundant. You will have so many vegan options to choose from, that looks like heaven. All my meals included fresh veggies, fruit (so much fruit),  rice or rice noodles, juices and Coconut Water and may I say fruit again 🙂

The fruit is just amazing, you definitely need to try Mango, Mangosteen, Rambutan, Pineapple, dragon fruit, Custard Apple, Langsat, Longan, watermelon and, Coconut.

The fruit is so delicious that I just couldn’t have enough of it… and you will understand why…

The only problem is what they cook with. They tend to use  fish sauce, oyster sauce, and shrimp paste a lot, so be careful, prepared and relaxed knowing that most of the times communication is not the best, so make sure you explain that you are vegan/vegetarian and you don’t consume shrimp paste (gapi), oyster sauce (sot hoi naag rom), and fish sauce (nam bplaa).  In some odd occasions I even needed to add that I don’t eat chicken too 😀

If you can’t communicate your needs and you’re feeling uncomfortable just politely decline and move on to another location. you will see that everyone will smile and be kind to you. I like to eat in the street stalls and markets, from my experience people is really nice and will try to do something for you even if is not in their “menu” but be prepared to be persuaded to have their normal dish because they think what you are asking is not going to be delicious 🙂 Try not to be to picky and expect them to cook using the same pans where they did the chicken, fish and shrimps.

jclassrestaurant_thumb4I found that the easiest way is to say that you follow a jay diet, which translates as strict vegan, but with no garlic and onions. So you can look for the national sign: a bright yellow flag with “Jay” (เจ) written in red, looks like a 17. You can find this sign almost everywhere from restaurants, food stalls or supermarket packages. The restaurants are not too expensive and the food is great.

I found that looking for Taoist temples which have also restaurants is great as well, they are vegan, the price is usually low and they use lots of really delicious textured vegetable.

It’s also good to know that Thailand hosts a great annual national vegetarian festival called teet-sa-kan kin jay, so you can always try to travel during those dates  (9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar) you will not regret.

Happy Cow is a very useful tool to find restaurants.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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