Category Archive for Singapore

Singapore Street Food & Temples! Old Airport Road authentic hawker center, Little India & Chinatown.

singapore buddhist temple

Singapore’s multiculturalism has always fascinated me. Unlike in other Asian metropolises, the population is a true mix, with the major groups being Chinese, Malay and Indian. It’s amazing that such diverse cultures and religions live together in tiny country, known as one of the safest in the world.

Perhaps part of the reason is that, as people joke, the “true religion” of Singaporeans is food. I knew this was a foodie mecca, but still, I was surprised by the huge number and range of dining options here.

Last summer, I was excited to taste-test Singapore’s famous hawker centers, and visit the colorful temples of Little India and Chinatown. 

new zealand sun and steam contiki

But first… I’m thrilled to announce my next destination: beautful New Zealand! 

Next month, I’m teaming up with Contiki — a well-known tour company for travelers aged 18-35 — and experiencing one of their NZ tours.

new zealand contiki youth tour

It’l be fun to meet other young travelers, and road-trip all over the North Island. My itinerary includes nightlife, Maori culture, and the famous glow-worm caves. There are also optional excursions like a visit to Hobbiton, where you can pose with Lord of the Rings movie sets.

dramatic new zealand scenery

Contiki takes care of all logistics such as the driving, guides, and hotel bookings — so I can just hang out with new friends, and enjoy the ride.

new zealand fur seal cute

The above New Zealand images are by Kristin Thorogood, a photographer based on the South Island (check out her Instsagram @kristinthorogood). I’ll only be in the North this time… but after seeing this cute furry seal, I’ll have to make a return journey!

Be sure to follow my Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat (all @lacarmina) and Facebook to see my upcoming New Zealand adventure with Contiki! There are drag queen adventures on my Snapchat right now, so check them out before they disappear.

buddha tooth relic temple singapore

Now, back to my Singapore story. I always try to visit local temples wherever I’m in Asia. I think they give a unique glimpse into the culture of the destination.

Photographer Ken Yuen and I stopped by the Buddha Tooth Relic temple. (Address: 288 S Bridge Rd, Singapore)

(Shop my outfit of the day below:)

singapore chinatown buildings

The architecture is based on the Chinese Tang dynasty style, although the building itself is new (the grand opening was in 2005). This temple houses the tooth relic of the Buddha, which was found in a Myanmar stupa in 1980.

chinese architecture singapore

A volunteer hands out sarongs and scarves for visitors to cover their limbs, before going in. This Buddhist temple is an inclusive one, with elements from the Mahayana, Theravada and Vajayana traditions.

incense offering buddhist temple

We watched people kneel and give incense offerings at the entrance.

buddhist monks singapore temple

The six-storey temple includes a Buddhist Culture Museum, Sacred Light Hall, and theater for cultural performances and talks.

buddha statues, many arms deity

The Universal Wisdom Hall is covered in thousands of statues of Bodhisattvas and “Zodiac Protectors,” which represent the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac.

I felt an uplifting atmosphere in this temple, and bought a mantra bracelet to remember it.

singapore tibetan buddhism temple

In the Jalan Besar neighborhood, we came across a Tibetan Buddhist temple, called Thekchen Choling. (Address: 2 Beatty Lane) The entrance had dangling rainbow fabrics and bells, which chimed when the wind blew.

rainbow tibetan decorations

Talk about “Electric Nirvana!” I saw an altar glowing with neon lights, and a huge gold prayer wheel.

The Tibetan temple gives back to the community with free medicine distribution, acupuncture, meals and other support, with an emphasis on helping the poor and elderly.

Sri Mariamman Temple singapore roof

Singapore’s Hindu temples are equally colorful: I wonder how many statues of gods and creatures live on the roof. This is the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, constructed in the South Indian Tamil style.

colorful hindu temple statues singapore

This place of worship is dedicated to the fierce Hindu goddess, Kali. On the right: you wouldn’t want to be the moustached man.

gold om sign, sanskrit

The gate is decorated with an Om, the symbol of the absolute.

little india temple, im pei singapore

I also visited the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman (Address: 244 South Bride Rd).

On a single road, you might see a heritage Chinese building, an Indian temple, and an avantgarde skyscraper like IM Pei’s “The Gateway”. That’s Singapore for you!

hindu religious souvenirs ganesha

The “Lion City” could be called the “Rainbow City.” Outside the temples, I found these amulets of the elephant god Ganesha.

singapore little india colorful buildings

Walk around Little India, and you’ll see plenty of colorful architecture. I came across multiple buildings where the shutters were painted the shades of the rainbow.

colorful hindu architecture

Little India is accurately named. I encountered scents, markets and vendors that made me feel like I was in a mini version of New Delhi (or so I imagine, as I haven’t gotten to India yet.)

singapore colonial buildings, facades

The British ruling days left charming colonial facades all over the city. Singapore’s laws help to preserve heritage buildings like these.

singapore dessert cafe

We walked around the “hipster” area Jalan Besar, a former swampland that later housed a pig slaughterhouse… and now is home to quirky dessert shops.

jalan besar tiramisu hero

The Tiramisu Hero is full of interactive fun, from a raccoon mask to a riddle. Solve it, and you’ll get a free iced tea. (Address: 121 Tyrwhitt Road.)

hipster cafes singapore

How “cat-tastic” is the interior design? The mascot is Sir Antonio the Italian cat, who wears a black cape and is on a quest to find the perfect tiramisu.

tiramisu hero, dessert shop singapore

Two young friends, a financial planner and blogger, opened this shop together. The Tiramisu Hero serves savory food in addition to their signature dessert, which is made with various flavors. Our original tiramisu came in a cute superhero cat jar, and went down smooth.

clarke quay waterfront, boats

Since it was our first time in Singapore, we also stopped by Clarke Quay. This entertainment area is known for its river boat tours, restaurants and nightclubs. The Quay is touristy, but there was recently a Goth dance party held here — so I wouldn’t write it off!

singapore street art, tunnel mural

Yes, Singapore is as clean and organized as you hear. The street art in this underground walkway was officially authorized.

(I’m wearing this exact Chaser dress with cut out sides. They also have a new updated dress with open back.)

singapore most authentic hawker center

After a long walk, it was time to eat! Every traveller needs to experience the famous Singapore hawker stalls, where vendors serve up inexpensive, local dishes in small stations. Like everywhere else in the city, there are high standards of sanitation for the food preparation.

Our local friends told us to avoid the touristy Newtown Food Centret. Our friend Jacob had a car, so he drove us to the far more authentic Old Airport Road hawker center. (Address: 19 Old Airport Road)

singapore local street food, old airport road

Yes, those prices are real, and portions are generous! I recommend coming with friends and ordering a lot of unfamiliar dishes to share. It’s a great opportunity to try new local flavors, and even if you don’t enjoy them all,  you’ll only have spent a few dollars.

old airport road hawker stands, stalls

I enjoyed the satay, and the char way teow (flat fried noodles). However my favorite by far is laksa, or spicy curry soup with rice noodles. Laksa is one of the famous Peranakan dishes, which combine influences from Chinese and Malay cuisine.

best singapore prata roti

Not many tourists experience prata shops, which are inexpensive eateries popular among students. Most prata menus have hundreds of listings, but roti is the staple dish, dressed up in a myriad of sauces. Our friend ordered a Milo dinosaur, a Singaporean drink with a scoop of Milo (chocolate malt powder) mixed with ice, and another undissolved scoop on top.

Sungei Road Laksa, best singapore laksa

On another day, I satisfied my laksa addition at Sungei Road (Address: 27 Jalan Berseh). There’s always a long lineup to what is considered the top laksa shop in Singapore. The seafood curry soup base is cooked over a charcoal fire burner, infusing it with a unique smokey flavor.  I can vouch that this is the best laksa I’ve ever had — and it was only $2 a bowl! 

singapore modern buildings architecture

I leave you with a few more snaps of the vivid architecture in Singapore.

chinatown lanterns singapore streets

And here’s a last glimpse at Chinatown.

Did you know Singapore was such a “rainbow city,” in terms of diversity and architecture? And now, time to pack my bags for yet another fascinating destination… New Zealand!

Shop my outfit of the day below (all items are from Chaser the Brand):


Fashion & Travel Blogger: 2015 highlights, memories, videos! Working with hotels & tourism boards.

steampunk hair, classical goth

2015 is drawing to a close… Time for my annual blog ritual of looking back at the highlights of the year! 

In my 2014 recap (see part 1 and part 2), I was determined to dedicate more of this site to travel and subculture stories. I feel like this goal came into fruition: my work took me to 14 different countries in 2015, where I covered alternative topics ranging from British Goth festivals to Moroccan beauty workshops.

giuseppina magazine cover, la carmina

In this post, I’ll share how these projects came together, and reminisce on my favorite memories of the first six months (above is my Giuseppina Magazine cover – here is the whole shoot). I’ve also embedded my travel videos from each destination, in case you missed them when they first came out.

And the year’s not quite done yet… Two more destinations ahead. Find out what they are at the end of this post, and on my social networks (@lacarmina, linked below). Thanks for being part of my journey, and here’s to a meaningful 2016!

Find @LaCarmina on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, Facebook page

hong kong fashion instagram snapchat

My travel filmmakers and I started the year in Hong Kong, where we were working with the new Hotel Sav. I always love coming back to this city, where I have many friends and relatives.

hong kong boutique art hotel

It was an incredible honor to have my own hotel room at Sav, which I decorated with artist Naomiyaki! This “Floor of Love” project appealed to us because it had the goal of elevating a traveller’s stay through art, and giving back to charity.

Check out all my Hong Kong articles here for the behind-the-scenes story of how we made a “La Carmina” room, and what these paintings represent.

We also celebrated Chinese New Year for the first time, in Hong Kong.

Dragon dances, fireworks and food… take a moment to watch the travel video above, to see it all in action.

line store harajuku bear stuffed

Next, my film team and I flew to Tokyo, Japan. We were working once again with trip-planning startup Odigo. I had the time of my life at the Odigo launch party with my friends.

sanrio theme cafe, pom pom purin

We also did stories and videos about the bizarre, kawaii attractions found only in Japan. From the Pompompurin puppy cafe (above) to the mecha Gundam robot, you can see the latest pop culture oddities in all my Tokyo posts.

And above is the Tokyo travel video — Pokemon cafe, Suspiria horror pubs, game centers and more madness.

iceland futuristic church reykjavik

In the spring, I finally visited one of my top dream destinations: Iceland. The country is like nowhere else, with science fiction buildings and an otherworldly landscape.

My Reykjavik memories include exploring the street art and prismatic architecture, eating insanely fresh seafood, and meeting the RuPaul drag queens (they were randomly performing while we were there).

iceland blue lagoon girl

You absolutely must take a nature tour in Iceland. Our wonderful guides Salty Tours took us to secret spots including black sand beaches, waterfalls and elf caves, instead of the usual Golden Circle. (Here are all my Iceland photos and posts, to help you plan a trip here.)

Enjoy the ethereal video of my Iceland adventures above and on YouTube @lacarmina. There’s footage of me dipping into the Blue Lagoon and taking selfies with plump Icelandic horses!

british afternoon tea party decor

My white rabbit (Miffy) and I went onward to Manchester UK, where we were working on stories with support from the tourism board. These British adventures included Alice in Wonderland high tea…

salford and sons, the smiths fan club

… and a pilgrimmage to Manchester music landmarks, including Salford and Sons. (Enjoy the full story about my The Smiths and Joy Division music tour.)

whitby england dracula castle

After a train ride through the Yorkshire countryside, I arrived at the seaside town of Whitby. We did a magazine cover shoot at the Dracula abbey that inspired the Bram Stoker novel.

whitby goth weekend costumes

Such fun to finally experience Whitby Goth Weekend, where Andi Sex Gang and other Gothic greats performed. For more photos of the event, take a gander at all my England posts.

tokyo cat temple, thousands cats statues

I then went back to Tokyo, Japan for a Travel Channel TV shoot. I can’t reveal anything about this TV hosting gig yet, but when it airs next year, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I also got to see the Japanese cat temples, Gotokuji and Imado shrines (featuring thousand of lucky cat statues). I haven’t had a chance to blog about this yet… still so many posts from 2015 that need to go up…

singapore merlion sunrise

In May, I traveled to Singapore for the first time (it was a year of many firsts). We got insider access at Marina Bay Sands, and ate our way around the city — from high end molecular gastronomy, to hawker center street food.

singapore hipsters hip restaurant

I still have a Little India and Chinatown post to share with you, but until I get around to it, you can see all my Singapore travel tips so far.

bali ubud pura temple

And then, there was Bali — land of temples and spirituality. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here with my friends Cohica Travel, and think back fondly at our temple tour around Ubud.

bali cooking classes

We also had far too much fun taking a Bali cooking class at the Ritz-Carlton Nusa Dua, with these jolly chefs!

I invite you to check out my Indonesia posts here, for a visual diary of my time on the island.

travel instagram accounts follow influencers

That takes us up to June! Next up, I’ll look back at memories from the second half of the year.

karisma experience, el dorado hotel mexico

And what’s next? Off to New York City and Mexico — with partner in crime Yukiro! We’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve, and kicking back at the new Karisma El Dorado resort in Riviera Maya / Tulum.

I’ll be posting inspiration all throughout these travels. Join us on my social networks @lacarmina — Instagram, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, Facebook page.

christmas card scottish fold cat, kitten

How about you — what were your favorite moments of 2015? Did you achieve any goals that you set, or experience something extraordinary?