#2147 | Seoul damned good – Noona Hol Dak Chicken

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Seoul, South Korea
All photos in this post taken on the Samsung S9

Is it totally excessive if my first post about Korea this year is about fried chicken? Is that terrible? Does it really matter? Here are the questions I preoccupy myself with, these days. Anyway, anyway. I just had to jot this down before time passes and weathers away the intensity of my current emotion, and I start to second guess myself and wonder if I really meant it when i thought one fine evening in myeong dong that it’s true, all that they say about knowing it’s love when you find it, like how after six trips to seoul i have finally found and fallen in love with the best fried chicken i have ever had in korea.

The name is Noona Hol Dak Oven Chicken and Beer, and the game is oven baked crispy chicken. Martin and I were wandering the streets of korea looking for a quick dinner so we could get back to work, it was an unfocused sort of wondering, guided by a general trust in the infallible quality of korean food. We were talking about something idealistic and dreamy, like how this trip was kind of exactly like what our future lives would be like if we moved abroad for work and became housemates – meals together, and then working on our individual projects silently in each other’s company. We were marvelling in the delights of adult friendships that weren’t bound by institutionalised obligations (school, work); the pure joy of comfortable companionship. We looked up and found ourselves in front of Noona Hol Dak.

Noona means older sister in Korean he said, with a sense of epiphany.
I said, Maybe this is like one of those themed maid cafes in Japan and some noona will give us chicken

We giggled like kids, we went in.

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Super bustling place even though it was past prime dinnertime

The place was buzzing, tipsy korean businessmen were shouting happily at noisy sorority girls, office ladies were trying to get the server’s attention, some kid was looking for the ketchup tray. And above all, the crackling of fried chicken skin being bitten into, everywhere. Martin turned to me: this place looks amazing. I nodded, taking credit for the place as if I made the chicken myself: thanks, I know.

We ordered the most basic thing on the menu, a plate of boneless crispy chicken to share. I had a beer, as I do. Martin had a coke after trying to ask for a coke zero and giving up after failing to communicate exactly what a coke zero was. No one in Korea knows what coke zero is, he complained, normal coke is so unhealthy and I stared at him. Martin, I said, we’re in a fried chicken joint.

More ineffectual conversation that I don’t remember, etcetera etcetera. If we had said anything of importance in between ordering our food and it’s arrival, neither of us remember the details: everything was overshadowed by the arrival of the chicken, which was squarely planted on our table by a korean uncle (there goes the noona concept). I took a bite and I think I blanked out for a bit. When I remembered where I was, we were already halfway though the plate. I’m confused, I said, with reverence, by how ridiculously good this is. Martin didn’t reply: he was chowing down.

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national jewel of korea

It’s hard for me to explain why food is so good when it is. I have a million and one ways to complain about bad food, but when it’s good, I’m usually just stunned into silence. I dont know the specifics of food science, I dont know what makes it specifically good. For this dish, it might have been just the fact that something so simple was so damned well done. The chicken was juicy and tender, the skin was crisp and cracklin. The fact that it was baked gave it the illusion of being healthier than straight up fried chicken (though i have my doubts about the truth of this hypothesis), and after we were done with the meal, neither of us felt stuffed nor guilty. We left the restaurant feeling pretty proud of ourselves, in fact, for having a satisfying meal that wasn’t excessively filling.

I’ve had fried chicken in korea before, obviously, but for some reason I have never been rendered this speechless by a plate of chicken. I have spent the past few hours wondering on and off why I was so impressed by this: I think perhaps it is because it hits the sweet spot between incredible food and a good price point (if it were a hundred dollar meal, would I feel the same way? Who knows – but I suspect my own principles won’t allow me to ever pay a hundred bucks for fried chicken). The entire meal – oven fried chicken, a beer, a coke, cost a total of 23,000 won. Writing that down now, I feel an unreasonable sense of pride, I am so pleased with myself for paying essentially twelve singapore dollars for my share of a damned good meal. Am I hyping this up too much? Am I setting everyone else up for disappointment? Doesn’t matter right now – in this current narrative, the best chicken I’ve ever had still blows my mind. Yum, essentially. Yum and yum.

누나홀닭 명동점 Noona Hol Dak Oven Chicken & Beer
Seoul, Jung-gu, Namdaemun-ro, 78 SK 명동 빌딩 1 층

x
Jem

#2146 | Dream Dinner Destinations: Camp Meating, Chiang Mai


Camp Meating, Chiang Mai

Hey guys,

I don’t use facebook much, but when I do, I get super lucky. Camp Meating popped up on my facebook feed a couple of weeks ago, one of those re-shared photo albums with an attached comment from an acquaintence, something along the lines of, omg, goals, ded, etcetera. Normally, I would have browsed and forgotten all about it, but as it happens I had just gotten booked for a travel campaign in Chiang Mai with Klook and Tourism Authority of Thailand. I cross-checked it against my itinerary and realised we had no scheduled dinner plans, so a hop and a call later, we found ourselves booked in at Camp Meating for our last dinner in Chiang Mai!

Despite the name, Camp Meating isn’t actually a glamping location nor an accomodation option. It’s a weekend outdoor dining experience styled like a glamping site, which is why the entire place looks so dreamy. When I ran a search on it online, many reviews mentioned that it was a hidden gem, but I didn’t realise they meant it quite so literally. As it was, getting there was an ordeal. Located half an hour by car from Chiang Mai city in the Mae Rim district, I 100% suggest you get a taxi or uber, or if you have a car, drive. I cant even begin to imagine what it would have been like if we’d tried to tackle it by public transport. We booked an uber that flat out refused to take us (are they allowed to do that?!) because it was too far, and then we got another uber which struggled to find the location. On Google Maps it actually pins the place as Unnamed Road, which as you can imagine, is pretty worrying. It’s buried deep in the recesses of what looks like a miliary camp, and driving in, you’re constantly like, is this correct?? Well, it is. And when we tried to get an uber home afterwards, the driver asked us to give her an extra tip because the drive in was so scary and dark (we gave her 150Baht extra). So yeah, it’s not easy to get it. But I think the isolation of the place is half of what makes it so incredible once you do get there.

Aside: We paid about 170BHT to get there by uber, and gave an extra 40BHT as a tip. Then the ride back was 180BHT, with an additional 150BHT tip.

The place is buried so deep in the foilage that we only realised we’d reached when we were about five meters from the entrance. Once we got out of the car, we could the faint sounds of old school American swing music drifting towards us, and see the glow of lights somewhere down the road. As we walk towards it, the foilage suddenly cleared up, and suddenly I forgot all about how difficult it was to get there. Because, look at this:

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GORGEOUS

INSANE. IN-SANE! I heard a gasp then realised it came from me. Before I could start to feel embarassed I realised my companions all had their mouths open too. It was just so damned magical, it was like it emerged from the pages of a storybook. Lights everywhere, lakeside tables, and the smell of barbeque, all to the background soundtrack of American swing music. Someone designed this experience and designed it well.

We had reached just as the sun was about to set, because of our filming schedule for the day as well as the delays in getting a ride there. So we’d missed golden hour, but we caught the last vestiges of dusk. It was so, so beautiful. As we made our way to our table, we were handed vouchers for the different food stations, and then left to take pictures and explore before starting our dinner. After we’d finished a round of exploring the campsite, the server magically reappeared and started explaining how the dinner worked. Each table came with its own cook, like a personal chef. You could go to three different stations to get your food: the main tent for your main dish and sides, a bar counter, and the smokehouse, for sausages and bacon. The sides and smokehouse were unlimited, and dinner came with a standard chunk of pork and a welcome drink (punch or water), with the option to upgrade to beef or lamb for 500BHT more.

Pictures from the area!

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Snippets from the main station, located in a giant tent!

The set up is super cute. At the main tent, you get a little basket which you can fill with sides – sliced bread, chips, different kinds of veggies like asparagus, capsicum, corn, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and baked potatoes. You can also collect your main meat there – Mabel and I stuck to the original pork option, and Lock upgraded his to a beef steak. Then you season your food the way you like it – there’s a table with a bunch of herbs and spices you can use, and if you dont know what to do, the staff are on hand to help you. Then you hand it to the staff and they take it to your table to barbeque for you!

The drink station lets you have water or punch for free as a welcome drink, and you pay extra for anything else you want. Soft drinks are an additional 40BHT, and I got a hoegarden, which was 160BHT. Super pricey for thai standards, especially since in the city center you can get a beer easily for 50BHT. But, yknw, it’s still cheaper than Singapore so I still went for it anyway.

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Drink station, but the punch was nearly all gone by the time we got there cos we were so late!

And the smokehouse station is literally a little smokehouse where sausages and thick cut bacon strips are slowly being smoked. When you go to this station, they fill a little wooden tray of sausages and bacon for you, and you can head back to your table and have it while waiting for the rest of your food to cook.

Your table’s personal chef starts cooking once you’re ready, and everything goes in – ours chopped and roasted our veggies, did our steaks of meat perfectly, and even buttered and toasted our bread slices for us! After she’s done she kind of just goes back to chill at one of the stations, so I assume if you need more help you can either ask her again or do it yourself. We were super stuffed just from whatever we had though, so we didnt go for round two, I cant imagine how hungry you have to be to get a sausage and bacon refill because it’s just so much food. But the option is there, I guess. The pork was a really good cut, very tender and juicy, and the beef (I tried a mouth from Lock) was really delicious too. And the portion was pretty generous – each slab of meat wasn’t just big, it was thick. Same goes for the bacon – it’s like British bacon where each slice is thick and meaty, not like the American variation where it’s all crispy and crackly. Anyway, the point is, there was a lot of food, and it was all delicious.

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delicious. one of the rare times i enjoyed pork more than beef, even.

We were left to have our dinner in peace, then as we were finishing up, the chef returned with a pan of s’mores that we could DIY roast over the barbequeue. I havent had s’mores for so long – and they were really the perfect way to end the meal, especially fitting since the entire place was decorated like a campsite.

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WHAT THE HECK THIS WAS DELICIOUS

The dinner cost us 1,200BHT per person (without upgrades), which is about 50SGD, and I think it’s so, so worth the money. Everything about the night was perfect. The only thing I would do differently if I have the chance to come back is to arrive earlier – the campsite opens from 5-930pm, and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be during golden hour! Apparently sometimes they also have the option for you to try canoeing and horseback riding before dinner, though that option wasnt available the day I was there.

Hands down the best meal we had in Chiang Mai. It wasnt just that the food was good, it was also the whole experience – the setting, the music, the atmosphere. Despite the climate in Southeast Asia it wasn’t humid at all, and we didn’t break a sweat sitting there all night even though we’d mentally prepared for the outdoor dinner to be a sweaty affair. That’s thanks to the lake, I think. I recommend this so, so hard.

Camp Meating
Reservations required – I did it by phone 2 days in advance.
Cash only
Weekend dining – Friday, Sat, Sunday

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X
Jem

#2145 | Rollin with the Reindeers

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Nuuksio National Park, Finalnd
All photos taken with the Nikon D750 on a 85f1.8mm lens

Just showing some love to one of my favorite lenses, the 85mm/f1.8 from Nikon. I borrow it occasionally on my travels because it’s such a gorgeous portrait lens. It’s one of those lenses that you dont get to use often because of how tight the crop is, and it’s heavy too, so for much of the trip I carry it around in my bag like a rock, waiting for the chance to bust it out. Often I go days without seeing an opportunity to use it – but when I do get to pull it out, bam. Totally worth it.

We were in Nuuksio National Park one of the days of our Helsinki trip, where we got to feed the roaming reindeers by hand with hay, but were ultimately separated by a wooden gate. It makes sense – you dont want to let random tourists harass the reindeers, I’ve seen terrible examples of what happens when people are allowed to do whatever they want (imagine: a child hanging off the neck of a poor deer in Nara deer park, the mother cooing how cute! and taking pictures instead of disciplining her child). So I respect the need for a barrier, but I did wish I could get closer to the reindeers, especially when they were full of hay and no longer enticed to come near. That’s when I realised – I couldn’t physcially get closer, but my lens could. Out came the 85.

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That shoulder ache i had, carrying the lens around all trip?

Totally worth it.

x
Jem

#2144 | The Broke Student’s sort-of Guide to Christchurch

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Amazing sunset along the streets in Christchurch, taken on my Samsung S9 in Pro mode
All photos in this post were either taken with the Samsung S9 or Note8

Hey guys,

I’m just going to preface this with the disclaimer that Christchurch was a solo trip for me that I wanted to do totally on my own – meaning not just a solitary trip, but one without the trappings of (admittedly self imposed) obligations to my web platforms. That’s why I didn’t bring a camera on the trip – I wasnt expecting to take photos for anything other than keepsake so a phone would do (though come to think of it the ones that my phone takes are actually very good) and I also didnt consciously plan to pen any guides or anything like that on the trip. All that is to say that if this seems a little sparse compared to my normal BSGs, forgive me. I didn’t plan for this! Something i also say when my phone runs out of battery when i’m out and about, but nevermind. Think of this, then, more as notes from a broke student rather than a full on guide. Alright? Alright, then we are aligned, and without the pressure of expectations, here I go.

Getting to Christchurch

Most people will see Christchurch as sort of an entry point to the South Island of New Zealand, which is one of the most beautiful regions in the world, I think, if you’re a scenery sort of person. Consequently most people dont stay for more than a couple of days in the city – they’re trying to get to the mountains, the lakes, the gorgeous Milford Sound. I had no car and the purpose of my trip wasnt really to see scenery, so I was happy to stay based in Christchurch. But either way, Christchurch serves as a gateway, and one where you’ll probably want to stay a night or two to stock up on groceries and stuff before moving on.

Flying into Christchurch International Airport is easy enough – Singapore has a few carriers that fly that route, though most of them feature a stopover somewhere. I did my stopover in Brisbane via Qantas. (A mild digression: Qantas has surprisingly good in-flight entertainment options – not a huge movie library, but very curated, very recent. I flew in early March and already The Shape of Water and Red Sparrow on the movie list, both of which had just been released in Singapore cinemas)

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movie selection on qantas. super recent releases!

If you book a couple of months in advance it should be easy to get an economy flight for about a thousand singapore dollars, and there’s also the budget carrier Jetstar that goes to NZ. I think its currently the only budget carrier that does that route.

A note if youre flying out of Christchurch as well – if you have an early morning flight, it’s good to know that unlike most major airports, the Chirstchurch airport does not allow sleeping overnight. You’re going to have to get there at 3am in the morning the normal way, like by taxi or shuttle or something. Which brings me to my next point:

Getting to and fro the Christchurch Airport

Christchurch is (I ran a search) the most expensive city in the world for airport taxi transfers. Seriously. The city center is about 20 minutes drive from the airport and that’s a cool 60-70 bucks and beyond. I nearly choked blood when I saw it – I have disposable income now but the broke student in me refuses to pay for that purely based on principle. That was ok going from Christchurch to the city center when I arrived – there are a number of buses that take you to the city, and it’s NZ8.50 cash or NZ2.50 if you’ve got a Metro card.

It’s getting from the city to the airport thats the problem.

If you’ve got a midday or night flight, you dont have anything to worry about since the airport bus will probably still be running. But my flight was 650am, meaning i had to get there at 450am, and no buses are running. Uber is new in CC so there were NO UBERS on the road at that time also – I had a heads up because a few days into my trip, two japanese girls started knocking on my door at 3am in panic because they had assumed they could get an uber to the airport and freaked out when they realised there were none available. I didn’t want to risk waiting on an Uber after that, and I refused to pay for a taxi, so I started looking for other options.

I finally settled on a shared shuttle service. A shuttle (which most major cities have) is a shared minivan or private bus that you pre book, and they come pick you up on the way to the airport. I didnt dare take it before because I’ve heard so many bad things about shuttle services, like how they run late because there are so many people to pick, theyre uncomfortable and stuffy, they dont show up, etc.. so I figured i just had to find a good one. I found a small boutique one called Steve’s Shuttles which was a small company with mainly 5 star reviews on facebook. I felt safer going with a small / boutique company because I felt bigger organizations (like supershuttle) would be prone to inefficiency or messing up, and also cos Steve’s Shuttle had a free phone number I could call up, and I thought the dude on the phone sounded like a decent bloke. Yes I judge people based on their voice tonality!! It’s a side effect of being a choirgirl. Anyway, tt cost me $25 bucks cash, and the shuttle came exactly at 4am to pick me up from my door! Score!! Super happy with this, would definitely recommend. Here’s the link if youre keen: http://www.steveshuttle.co.nz/

Also, plan to get to the airport early. Both the Christchurch and Brisbane airports I passed through were crowded despite the odd hours I kept. The Brisbane airport was also very inefficient in it’s security checks with only one line open both times I phased through, so you might want to make sure your connecting flights arent too close together.

Data/ SIM cards

There are service provider booths just by the airport gates. I went with Spark’s data lover bundle, meaning no calls or texts, but 4.5GB of data with an additional 1GB for purely social data (FB and the like). It was great. NZ40! Connection was super good and never dropped. There was also a 1.5GB option for 20 bucks but .. the math didnt compute. Haha.

If youre travelling solo you probably want to look at getting a Sim card. Otherwise, if youre in a group of 3 and above, a wifi egg might be more worth it, depending on the duration of your trip. Do the sums on your own based on your trip!

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basically took a lot of selfies on the trip because i was alone

Accommodation in Christchurch

There are lots of hostels in Christchurch but I think getting an Airbnb is the best option AND ITS NOT BECAUSE I WORK WITH THEM OK.

A bed in a mixed dorm is anywhere from NZ25 to NZ50. Which means you share a bunk bed with like five to eight other strangers, male and female. I’ve done this a lot, and while I’m happy to stay in hostels, the prices of airbnbs in Christchurch give hostels a total run for their money. I paid SGD26.8 per night for a private room in an Airbnb, which is basically the price of the cheapest hostel bed in a shared dorm. NO BRAINER. I didnt take photos because I was living in someone’s house and didnt think it was very nice for privacy reasons, but just run a search on Airbnb if youre coming to Christchurch, it’s a very good alternative to hostels!

If you’re a first time Airbnb user kindly sign up with my link so I get referral credit and can do more budget solo trips and bring you more broke student guides thank you! Airbnb.com/Jemma

Transport in Christchurch

There are no trains in Christchurch. I know, right? Weird. But they do have a very extensive bus system which is not very reliable nor on time, but at least it tries. That’s the theme of the city i think, because it’s still finding its feet after the earthquakes. But anyway, the bus system is called the Metro, and I took it everywhere.

The metro card is a non refundable ten bucks and this is where you need to decide whether it’s worth it for you. If you pay cash on the bus it’s NZ4. If you use the metro card, it’s NZ2.50 valid for 2 hours (So if you get off and do groceries and take a bus back within 2 hours its free), and total limit for one day is NZ5, so max you pay is NZ5 a day anyway. The bus network extends pretty far out though, and I took the bus to neighbouring towns/beaches/ports just to look see, all for NZ2.50 a trip.

This made a lot of sense for me because I was in Christchurch for 10 days, so the number of times I would take the bus (and thus the discounts I would have via the bus card) was enough to justify the 10 bucks spent on the nonrefundable card. If youre only in town for one or two days, it may not be worth it. Do the math on your end. For reference, I spent NZ10 on the card, and topped up a total of NZ30, which I used to the last penny. Then I gave the empty card to my airbnb host so other guests can top it up and use it in the future, because I am a good person. That is all.

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Some seagulls i saw when taking the bus around to the beaches out of the city

Food in Christchurch

I spent a lot of time in Auckland as a kid because my dad’s a pastor and our founding church is Emmanuel Church in New Zealand. In addition to that, in recent years, my family did a trip to NZ again – both north and south island, to visit family friends and the such. So it is from experience that I confess: food is really not New Zealand’s strong point, and it’s expensive to boot.

You’d be much better off cooking, because groceries are decently priced and fresh because they have their own produce. That’s another benefit to staying in an Airbnb – you might have access to cooking pans, oil, spices, etc, that your host lets you use, whereas in a hostel you might need to buy everything. Groceries in New Zealand aren’t cheap either, but at least you get to control the food you make and it’s still way cheaper than eating out. I cooked every single day in Christchurch, and only ate out a couple of times – when I was meeting someone for dinner, and when I felt like having unagi, which I couldnt make. (Samurai Bowl, Christchurch. Cheap for NZ standards and good food. Check it out.)

An example – I bought pork sirloin at the discount section of the grocery store, it was NZ4.50 for 3 slices, and I had it for three days with a fried egg and sautéed kale. GOOD OR WHAT.

Things I cooked:

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I used a lot of kale because it was cheap. Salmon is not cheaper than in SG, but its way fresher, so i was happy to pay for it!

Oh another thing. There are several grocery chains in Christchurch. I went to poke my head in all of them. The cheapest is Pak n Save, followed closely by New World, followed not-so-closely by Fresh Choice.

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Said Pak n Save

Coffee in Christchurch

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Photos of my coffee lol

Coffee anywhere in NZ is very good and I think this is because their milk is so damned fresh. Cows everywhere. This was my one regular indulgence in Christchurch. Fine. One of two regular indulgences. The second was..

Entertainment in Christchurch

I fell in love with independent movie theater Alice cinemas in Christchurch. It’s a DVD rental store that has been remodelled to fit two theaters, and they screen modern and retro curated films. The whole place is themed like Alice in Wonderland, and you can bring wine into the theater!!!!!

I watched three films there: The Square, Ladybird, and A Fantastic Woman. I didnt know what any of them were before going in, and they were all very good. A good parallel to this is those indie bookstores that stock curated reads as opposed to chain bookstores that stock mass titles.

If you have a student card, it’s NZ12. Otherwise its NZ17 per show. More expensive than Singapore but it’s also not like a regular theater so I guess you’re paying in part for the experience.

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Love this place

Alice Cinemas
209 Tuam St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand

Payment Modes in Christchurch

Oh yes, one last point. I only changed NZD100 for my trip and I had money left over. This is because most places in NZ accept card – not just card, but paywave, so it’s incredibly easy to just use your credit card, especially if you have a travel card with miles tied to your overseas dollar spend. I only used cash for a couple of things:

1. One ice cream cone on the beach
2. Second hand books at some random bookstore
3. Airport transfer
4. Some coffee place that didnt accept card

That’s it! Otherwise most places take card, so you can just keep a bit of cash on you for safety. Otherwise it’s all good.

Okay that’s all I have that is relevant to notes for a guide. Hope this was helpful to anyone gathering notes on a New Zealand trip via Christchurch. 🙂 Goodbye, now.

x
Jem

#2142 | A Weekend at Sea / Genting Dream from Dream Cruises

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On board the Genting Dream

A weekend at sea thawing out after a month of cold. I have to say, my first time on a cruise in what, ten years? was pretty unexpected, and mega fulfilling. I’m not going to say that I nailed the whole how to do a cruise thing best, but I think given the fun we had, I did it pretty damned well. See below for: our recipe for a superb weekend..

– a group that has the capacity to be totally ridiculous
– a willingness to make new friends
– 2-3 day cruise
– ability to source out GOOD DEALZ aka unlimited fine wine, thank you very much!

Lemme elaborate. You see, after my weekend on the Genting Dream, I realised that a cruise holiday is totally different from a normal holiday. When you fly to Phuket for the weekend, for example, you’re looking for a break, yes, but also to see somewhere new, to explore, etcetera. More likely than not you already have an itinerary or something vaguely resembling that. So yes, there is a sense of relaxation, but also a sense of adventure and agenda. Whereas on a cruise, you’re 100% there to relax. The only exploring you’re going to be doing happens within the confines of the (admittedly very large) ship, and there’s really very little that can go off plan when the plan is just to relax. It’s for this same reason that I suggest taking a 2-3 day cruise which can be easily slotted into a weekend – over the 3d2n cruise-to-nowhere we had (literally, the ship sailed out to open waters, then turned around and went back to Singapore), all I did was live my best life at a mega leisurely pace, to the tune of crashing waves and lime-fizzled corona. It was just the right amount of time too, for us to relax and yet disembark at the end of the weekend feeling as though we had not yet exhausted all the permutations of relaxation methods on the ship yet.

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Amanda, our coronas, and meeee

We were invited on a girlfriends weekend aboard the Genting Dream from Dream Cruises, so full disclosure, we didn’t have to pay for our trip (except for expenses, which i’ll talk more about later). I know people who have done full on stag parties on cruise trips, and my last cruise experience (>10 years ago?) was a family vacation, so I think as a vessel for holidaying cruises are pretty versatile. See what I did there? Ha, ha. Anyway, I checked the prices and the two night cruise that we did starts at about 400 bucks per person, although we got a nicer room that had a sea view so that goes up to 600/pp. This price doesn’t seem to be super fixed though, because there’s also a bunch of credit card promos I’ve seen for the ship online prior to my trip, and right now if you sail during your birthday month you get 30% off as well as free wifi for the duration of the cruise. I got all my information from the website, so if you want to double confirm the prices for your dates, check here: dreamcruiseline.com/

Anyway! We boarded, checked in to our room, and did a quick ship tour. After which we were free to explore the place and basically relax. Melissa and James were on the ship too, which was a nice surprise, because that totally played into my theory that group cruise trips are the ideal permutation because you can PLAY PING PONG AND GIANT CHESS TOGETHER! Okay, if you laugh at that, then you obviously havent lounged around in your swimsuit with a beer in hand all afternoon while meditating upon whether to move your Queen or Bishop, okay??

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Checking in to our room

A quick aside regarding our room: I was pretty impressed by how similar it was to a hotel room. It was super spacious, which I guess makes sense given that Dream Cruises brands itself as a luxury cruise. The cruise itself is only about a year old, so everything in our room was very new. I was particularly impressed by the fact that there were two USB charging ports next to each side of the bed, because I am practical about what I need and what I need is power!

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Didn’t need to use the main powerpoint at all – all I needed were the USB ports

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Also, cant believe there was a bath tub in our room?!?!?!

Note: The bathroom’s tap water is drinkable, and there’s a sign telling you so as well. The cruise provides bottled water per day/room, and anything above that is chargeable, so just refill your bottle at the tap if you need.

Okay, so. On to the rest of the ship!

Amanda and I are particularly proud of how we spotted this great deal. Fine, we didn’t spot it, it was pointed out to us by a bartender on one of the decks when we tried to buy a beer. But whatever. Basically, there was a two day drinks pass available which meant that you could have unlimited selected drinks at any of the ship’s many bars, like coffees, teas, juices, soft drinks, any beer, and the super yummy house red and white wines. I mean, score!! There are several tiers of this drink package, but we got the cheapest because all the higher tiers included like whiskey and gin and all that.. and we’re happy with coffee, beer, and wine. Hoho. That’s 70 bucks each for two days of unlimited drinks, and I say with some sense of pride and amusement that we broke even within the first two hours. Everything after that? We counted as profit.

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Cheers!

We were so amused at our own bargain that we started wondering if the ship would raise prices after we disembarked, citing two azn girls who helped them realise how they might be making a loss on drinks.. But at the same time, we were also impressed by how the bartender happily pointed out this deal when he overheard us discussing what drinks to get. It kind of fit in to our later realisation that all the staff on this ship are mega friendly – at least the ones we ran into. Amanda and I made friends with some of the pool staff (who then delayed closing the particular hot tub we were in, hoho) and she even made plans to play ping pong with one of the other deckhands after he knocked off at ten. And speaking of staff – the ship is full of them. There’s literally personnel at every corner, which I suppose is mainly to enforce safety measures and facilitate check in and out processes, since we didn’t have to queue for a single thing the entire weekend. The Singaporeans in us didn’t know what to do with ourselves!

We spent a majority of the first day roaming the ship and watching the live deck band from the hot tub. This is mainly because the ship only started boarding at 4pm, so when we got on there was just over an hour of sunlight left. After checking in and having dinner, we basically went straight to the pool and didn’t move for 2 hours. It was hilarious, actually, because at some point the ship was leaning heavily on the right, and all the water in the pool swished to that side, leaving me sitting on the shallow end of the pool wondering where all the water had gone. The pool staff actually convinced me that they’d been pranking me by pressing some control system, but halfway through I figured out that it was the ship’s movement. NICE TRY!

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Hot tub! Plus there’s a main stage on the deck where a band performs at night, so if you time it right, you could watch them play while in the tub.

Oh – a note on safety. For safety reasons you cant bring alcohol into the pools. And also, the floors around the pool are made of this totally awesome weird material which felt slightly absorbent and bouncy. I couldnt figure out what it was, but amanda and I bounced on it a lot, trying to figure it out. It’s also super anti slip, but the staff are always on hand to wipe up any water so that puddles dont form and lead to accidents. There are seriously a lot of staff, we timed it and if you bring a beer into the tub, you have about two seconds before someone blows a whistle at you. Oh well. At least we know we’re being watched over, safety wise!

After that we headed to the outdoor movie night, which was quite nice – all these day beds in front of a huge screen. However, they were playing Annabel Creation, so after about fifteen minutes we gave up watching and went back to our rooms to turn in. The in-room TV is pretty awesome I think, because unlike in a hotel, it has free movies. The selection isnt huge but I liked the movies that they had on show – the entire harry potter series, some of the star wars films, and I cant really remember what else because I was freaking out over the harry potter and star wars series!! I tried to watch Star Wars Rogue One, but unforch I was too tired from the day of, yknw, relaxing, so I fell asleep. Hoho.

I dont know what to tell you – the next day was spent in a way that can only be described as frolicking in the sun. Perhaps pictures will explain what can only be interpreted one way. See:

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Here i am, just after waking up, enjoying my unlimited white wine on the private pool deck

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Here i am, confidently challenging JamesBabsChen to an hour long game of chess because he said he hadnt played since primary school which led me to be stupidly cocky, when that was actually a MIND GAME and he was actually A PRO! Aka he won, okay, end of story, i dont wanna talk about it anymore

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Here I am, corona in hand, watching Mel and James play ping pong because I have no sense of coordination and so did not deign to try my hand at ping pong. This was pretty funny also because sometimes the ship tilted and the ball rolled off the table, and I did not get up to help, and just sat there and laughed. The life!

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Here is a rock climbing wall, which i did not try because i did not want to go back to my room and put on proper shoes. Anyway, it’s there if you want to try it.

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Here is the ziplining area, which I also did not try, because of above reasons. You need to wear proper shoes for this, and have proper clothes too, the ship personnel are super serious about safety and dont want you to get roper burns or anything. Anyway, this is the first zipline at sea AND part of the 35m zipline goes out of the ship and over the sea so that’s pretty hard core!

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This is Amanda being weird on the sundeck, apparently it gives you a better tan? Who knows.

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Here are the butts of Amanda, Melissa, and I, also known as the super basic I’m on a ship! pose.

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Here I am, being totally extra under the water slides. Again on safety: no jewellery or handphones or go pros or whatever on the water slide, they dont want you to bump it and hurt yourself, and when you get on the slide you will understand why.

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Here is the top view of the ship, which I took from the viewing deck on the 19th floor.

Sorry I just need to also point out that the water slides are intense!! I thought they were for kids because all these children were just flinging themselves down like it was no big deal, but now I realise that is because kids are crazy. There are two types of slides, the longer kind (stripes, on the right) and the shorter ones (solid colours, on the left), and the longer ones actually have a transparent portion that goes out of the ship and over the sea because, yolo, I guess???? And the shorter slides are EXTREMELY STEEP. Look at that purple slide!!! I sat down, looked in, and wanted to chicken out, but couldnt because I did not want to be embarrassed. And then i was like yeah okay, here goes nothing, and pushed off, and gave out a slight oh! squeal, and basically had all the air robbed from me. GOODNESS. THEY SHOULD PUT A WARNING SIGN ON THOSE THINGS: EXTREME THRILL OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

Okay, moment over.

Onwards.

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Here I am with a sign that warns you not to eat the fruits on display. Hur Hur.

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Here is a mini performance area, where they have performances and screen movies. The performances are pretty good, mainly western hits. And then there’s another performance area at the Bar 360 that’s mainly chinese hits. And there was also a pool party during our cruise that was all Bollywood hits. So I’d say they got their audiences pretty thoroughly covered?

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Late night menu! Just had to put this here because I made a mental note of it (i love soya bean milk) and wanted to come.. however I showed up at 230am when the special menu was over :(( So this photo is in memory of my non-soya-bean-moment. Melissa had the $2 porridge though, and said it was GREAT.

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Here’s one of the shows we caught on our second night. It’s called The Voyage of a Lover’s Dream. It’s basically an acrobatics show loosely tied together with a storyline, although I’d call it more a thematic show than anything else. The idea is that an astronaut and mermaid fall in love, aka the sky meets the sea, aka the Genting Dream. Get it??? Haha. I think it’s their origin story but basically the entire show is fancy acrobatics that are extremely intense. This show is free to watch, just make sure you reserve a seat first.

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Here we are posing for a photo. After this we had to scramble out of the tub to actually drink the wine, due to aforementioned pool rules.

Fun times. So that was day two, basically, and we stayed up till 3am – Amanda just could not stop playing ping pong with every single person she met, stranger or not, and I went swimming then headed off to look for a sauna. Then we reconvened for drinks and chit chatted for awhile before falling asleep. The next morning we woke up for breakfast then had to disembark in Singapore already! So it was literally a weekend trip – which I can imagine works pretty well for corporate adults/ families, since this place is also a wonderland for children.

Final points to note:

– I dont think I would pay for wifi because no ship in the world is going to have strong wifi in the middle of the ocean. At least, not to my knowledge. So if your cruise package includes free wifi (like the birthday one), then good for you. Otherwise, I’d say just take the chance to disconnect and unwind! If you really need to contact your other friends on the ship, the Dream Cruises app (which I suggest you download before getting on the ship) has an in-app chatting function so you can contact other people on the ship. You can use the app for other things too, like keeping track of your bookings and the day’s schedule on the ship

– When in doubt, always choose the chinese restaurant! It’s included in the list of free restaurants. Maybe I’m biased because I think Chinese food is the bomb, but it’s really quite a good one. It’s not buffet style, it’s more like a set meal you get, and the dim sum breakfast we had was pretty yum. Really nice setting too.

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Chinese restaurant breakfast is included in your stay

– If you like having a drink with your meal and the option of having it anytime from morning till, well, 3am, get the select drinks package. 70SGD for 2 days is super worth it for unlimited drinks, and if you frequent restaurants and bars in Singapore, you’ll agree! The house wines they serve are pretty good too, and light enough for easy drinking, so its not like they serve bad stuff on the cheap packages. Overall I think this is fab and would super recommend this haha.

– Electronics like travel irons, multiplugs, etcetera, are not allowed on the ship. I think its because they’re all subject to Marine safety standards. My hair curler was fine though.. Anyway, just be safe, and dont bring it unless you absolutely need it. All staterooms have a kettle and hairdryer anyway!

– There are extra activities you can pay for, like bowling, karaoke, arcade games, and a spa. But I do think that for a 3D2N cruise, there are more than enough free activities to occupy your time. Perhaps if we’d stayed longer we might have tried it out, but as it was, I think we didn’t even have enough time to finish the free activities!

– In the middle of the afternoon they hold free dance classes on the pool deck. This is actually pretty cute, they teach latin dance and all that, and a lot of the older folk on the ship join this enthusiastically, which is nice.

– Another thing you can do is head to Zouk – they actually have a Zouk nightclub on board. But I only just peeked in. Tts really not my scene, and I think its funny to dance with people youre going to share a ship with for the next couple of days. So ping pong and giant chess it is!

– The ship is huge, 19 decks in total, and it was running at full capacity when we were on it. Despite this, it never felt over crowded, so that’s nice. There’s definitely a healthy number of people everywhere you go, but it’s not overwhelming, probably because the ship has so many spread out things to do.

– I really think the best things to do on a cruise is be on a cruise, so if I were to do it again, I’d probably still pick the weekend cruise to nowhere. I basically like being at sea, and I think if I wanted to get to a destination I would just fly there – when a ship docks, they’re bound to the laws of the land, which means that many things on the ship probably would close while the ship was docked. So my preference is still purely spending time at sea, in a group.

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Lastly: the ship is mega grammable.

Haha! What a weekend. Thanks for having us, Genting Dream! Till next time.

Dream Cruises:
www.dreamcruiseline.com/en-sg
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Jem