Chia Te and Sugar & Spice in vending machine

Chai Te and Sugar & Spice goodies are available from this machine,

Each trip to Taipei usually involves a stop at Chia Te at Nanjing East Road to buy its mouth-watering pastries for the folks back home. And since a friend introduced me to Sugar & Spice, that’s another stop to make while in Taipei.

Imagine my joy when I took a walk at Level 2 of Taipei Main Station and came across this vending machine (above). The two labels caught my eyes and I quickly made a beeline to check out what’s available.

Chia Te’s pineapple tarts were available for TWD200 for a small box of six. The tarts are among the best I’ve tasted. A friend gave me a box a couple of weeks ago so the taste is still fresh on my tongue.

I tried looking for the Sugar & Spice offering but could not find it in the machine. The poster at the side did show the nougat, which is what I love from this brand. Perhaps, others like them too — that’s why they’re not there.

Anyway, I think it’s a brilliant idea by both brands to make their goodies available in the vending machine. Taipei Main Station is such a busy place with thousands of tourists passing through daily.

It will save many a trip down to the shops. Chia Te’s outlet at 88 Nanjing East Road Section 5 can be packed so this beats having to tussle with fellow consumers, or worst yet, not being able to get in at all (which happened to me once).

Incidentally, the same box of Chia Te pineapple pastry is sold at TWD260 at another shop on the ground floor of the railway station.

Now, my hope is that Yu Jan Shin’s butter pastry will also be loaded onto the vending machine. That would really make my day.

More than a carabiner

IMG_20190523_112832.jpgHaving grown up on spy novels and adventure books, I’ve been a sucker for gadgets of all kinds. One of these is the ubiquitous carabiner, which can be used for a multitude of purposes — hanging stuff onto back packs, hooking things onto poles and lots more.

Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the Heroclip while searching for a gift for an event. First crowdfunded on Indiegogo two years ago, it’s a clip that comes with a 360-swivel and hook with a rubber tip.

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Courtesy of https://myheroclip.com/

At first glance, it doesn’t look extraordinary but upon reading further and watching the demo videos, I was hooked and ordered two online (see top).

I decided to test them out during my trip to Sydney. Usually, I put my sling bag under the seat in front of me — all my important stuff and snacks are in there so I prefer to keep the bag close to me.

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During the flight, I used the Heroclip to hook my sling bag onto the back pocket of the seat it front of me. It kept my bag from touching the floor and more within reach. I don’t need to bend to pick my bag from the floor.

The next use was the clincher. While most toilets in Sydney have hooks behind the cubicle door for hanging stuff, I went to one that did not have one and there was nowhere else to put my bag and jacket except on the floor.

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Tada…enter the Heroclip! I whipped it out, hooked if over the toilet door and hung my bag and jacket on it. Don’t know if you’ll feel the same way but not having to put my bag and jacket on the floor  matters lots!

Back in Singapore, I always found it a challenge bringing groceries home while cycling. The Heroclip came to good use again as I hooked it on my handlebar and attached my grocery bag on it.

Five things I really like about the Heroclip:

  1. Design — The inventor has put much thought into coming up with something that is practical, easy to use and nice to look at.
  2. Versatility — It can be used for many purposes. Just be imaginative.
  3. Sturdiness — Made of aluminum, it’s lightweight but feels solid and strong. The Medium-sized clip can hold up to 27kg.
  4. Compact — It’s easy to bring around.
  5. Variety of sizes — I bought two sizes  (medium and small) and there’s a third, mini.

Heroclip range
Courtesy of https://myheroclip.com/

If there’s one thing to improve on, it’s the price. With a price tag from S$21.40 for the mini version to S$26.30 for the small version, it can feel a little pricey. Surprisingly, the medium Heroclip, which is the biggest available, is priced lower than the small model at S$24.90.

These prices from Qoo10.sg are better than many others online and come with free shipping for orders above S$40.

Overall, I highly recommend the Heroclip, which is more than a carabiner and has become another of my travelling companion.

Credit card payment makes Sydney commuting so easy

IMG_20190516_131505.jpgOne of the the biggest joy of my trip to Sydney was the discovery that I could use the credit card to pay for public transportation.

There’s no need to buy and top up an Opal card. The contactless credit card works perfectly.

Why didn’t they think of this earlier? OK, kudos to Sydney but why not in all major cities in the world? This makes taking public transportation so much easier, especially for travellers.

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I only got to know of this payment method when I wanted to take a ferry to Darling Harbour last week. My Sydney friend said that I could just tap my credit card.

It seems like this feature was introduced last November and is available for all public transportation — light rail, train and ferry. This will be expanded to buses this year.

Having enjoyed the convenience, I’m so glad that Singapore will be implementing contactless card payment using Visa card for train and bus fares from June 6. Mastercard payments have been available since April.

 

River Safari: A walk along the wild side

Mother’s Day was the day we set aside for our first visit to River Safari, a Singapore attraction flanked by the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari Singapore, both of which are must visits for locals and visitors.

Millions have visited since River Safari officially opened in 2014 and we were delighted that we could finally find time to check out this item on our bucket list.

On a scorching day, we were grateful that the exhibits were air-conditioned at certain stretches and well-sheltered at many other spots.

The first thing that we noticed was that the S$160 million park is not about riding a boat on a river and viewing exhibits along the way. The boat ride at the mid-point was a tour around the reservoir.

Rather, it is a river-themed zoo and aquarium, similar in part to the now defunct Underwater World. The exhibits were segmentised according to rivers of the world — Mississippi River, Congo River, River Nile, Ganges River, Mekong River, Mary River, and Yangtze River. I studied many of these during my geography lessons in years gone by.

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The 12-hectare River Safari features wildlife — fish and animals — found in or around these rivers. From the alligator gar to the giant salamander, and squirrel monkeys to milky crane, many species in the animal kingdom could be seen up close.

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Special mention must be given to the Giant Panda Forest where Kai Kai and Jia Jia are teh stars. Kai Kai is supposed to be the more outgoing one but it was the shy Jia Jia that won the hearts of visitors when we stopped by. She was having a hearty meal of bamboo (see video at the top) and made for an Instagrammable photo opportunity.

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Another exhibit worthy of mention is the Squirrel Monkey Forest, where the tiny monkeys roamed freely.

River Safari is definitely worth a visit if you’ve not done so. Everything can be seen in half a day so the rest of the day or night can be spent at the award-winning Singapore Zoo and Night Safari Singapore.