Lifestyle: Common Man Coffee Roasters

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(All photos by Wedding & Travel)

Coffee aficionados have reason to rejoice with the arrival of Common Man Coffee Roasters. Created by the same team — Harry Grover and the Spa Esprit Group — behind the popular  40 Hands Coffee at Tiong Bahru, Common Man is not content with just serving quality coffee. Instead, the store’s Martin Road outlet is a coffee roaster, specialty coffee bar, 60-seater restaurant that offers all-day dining, and retail space with coffee accessories on sale, all rolled into one.

The unique experience that Common Man seeks to provide to its consumers is clear from the get-go. All visitors are greeted by two imposing statues at the store’s entrance, a rather unconventional interior design choice by local standards, may we say. Upon stepping in, it is a refreshing change that Common Man provides good table service, from showing you to your designated seat, to taking orders — something that you don’t get often in other cafes. The spacious interiors also feature well demarcated zones for different users — those who are here to sample the bistro menu will appreciate the well crafted furniture that are of the Scandinavian aesthetics; single visitors with a laptop looking to finish up some undone work will be delighted with the generous number of counter seats (and with comfortable chairs!); last but not least, there are also a small number of tables for groups of friends.

Common Man’s bold take is not restricted to its design. The coffee roaster seeks to “experiment with different coffee flavour profiles, all in the name of helping customers open up their palates to other exciting possibilities”. What this translated to for us, was quite a wild cuppa that was high on acidity. Apart from the usual espresso-based drinks, you can also expect to find other variations of coffee, for example, filter coffee here. No worries if you’re not quite the coffee specialist — it is a joy simply to observe the baristas going about their work at almost clockwork precision on the bar! The wait staff are also on hand to answer any queries you might have.

Our visit on a weekday afternoon was a pleasant experience as the place was only half-filled, but don’t count on that, because we know that there is no hiding good coffee places from Singaporeans. With the quality experience over here, we bet everyone’ll be checking in to Common Man pretty soon.

Common Man Coffee Roasters
22 Martin Road, #01-00
Singapore 239058

Travel: Penang, Georgetown

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(All photos by Wedding & Travel)

Penang, how Singaporeans love you so. After all, it’s hard not to do when you’re a place with glorious shiok food (and god knows Singaporeans love our nom!), traditional heritage and modern street art, and amazing scenery combined into one. If you’ve only got one single day in Penang, check out our itinerary of only the must-dos to get the most out of your short getaway!

1. Georgetown Walking Tour (half a day)

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Much of Penang’s charm can be found around its street corners, which make for a delightful walk with its eclectic mix of traditional shophouses and contemporary street art. You can easily spend half a day wandering around Georgetown — we suggest that you start in the neighbourhood of Armenian Street, where Penang’s most iconic street murals, “Little Children on a Bicycle” and “Skippy Comes to Penang” (aka the Giant Cat mural), can be found. Just so you know, these amazing art were done by Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, as part of the annual Georgetown Festival.

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As you take in the art, feel free to wander into the many interesting shophouses along the way. Expect to find stores where you can get your hands on exquisite handmade beaded slippers or some fashionable local togs. In fact, if you’re lucky, you may even catch sight of the artisan working on their products right in the store! Apart from these, we also loved the stores selling retro toys that made us feel like a kid all over again! And the best part is, with every few steps along the way, it’s easy to find vendors selling cooling remedies and ice sticks (we recommend the sour plum flavour) to drive away the scorching summer heat.

2. Peranakan Museum (2 hours)

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Take a short visit to the stunning Pinang Peranakan Museum, which was built at the end of the 19th century by Chinese businessman and community leader Chung Keng Kwee. In case you might be having a moment of deja vu, this beautifully restored traditional house has in fact served as the set for various drama productions in Asia, including our very own The Little Nonya! We felt as though we were spying on a Peranakan family’s lives, as we transversed between the many rooms in the building, taking in the awesome collections in each. Despite the fair number of tourists present, the building somehow managed to retain its calm and graceful disposition, making it a totally pleasant way to while away the afternoon.

3. Gurney Drive

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And what better way to end off a rewarding day than to indulge in Penang’s finest street food at this seaside promenade? Take your pick from fresh seafood zichar, char kway teow, Assam laksa, barbequed cuttlefish, satay, oyster omelette and many more! With so much goodness in one place, we bet you’ll be torn over which stall to pick! But then again, there’s no need to worry too much — there’s always room for a second round.

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Getting to Penang is a breeze as it is only a 90 minutes’ flight away, and is served by many budget airlines including AirAsia and Jetstar Airways.

Life as a Wedding Singer: Ruth Kueo Miaoru

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(Photo Courtesy of Ruth Kueo)

Ask any wedding singer which song is a must-sing at weddings, the answer would almost definitely be: Teresa Teng’s “The Moon Represents My Heart” (月亮代表我的心).

But of course, the song list, which usually comprises of more than 20 songs, is more varied and challenging than just crooning crowd pleasers like the above-mentioned timeless 70s ballad, as the professionals would explain. In multiracial and multi-lingual Singapore, wedding singers need to be well-versed in music of different genres and be more than just effectively bilingual.

And for Ruth Kueo Miaoru, overcoming hurdles of singing in dialects especially, involves lots of hard work.

“Languages I’m not familiar with are, for example, Hokkien and Cantonese. I started to romanise those languages so that I could pronounce them as accurately as possible while singing. But this also meant I had to spend time jotting down the Romanised form of every word in the song.

It was also difficult to deal with song genres I’m not too familiar with, e.g. authentic jazz tunes and really old evergreen classics, but this pushed me to listen to more songs and expose myself to more genres.”

The challenges of being a wedding singer don’t end there, but the sweet-faced 22-year-old who has sung at more than 100 weddings so far, remains undeterred. Apart from compliments and feedback from guests who have heard her sing, what fuels Ruth on is her passion for music.

Having participated in various singing competitions around the region like Taiwan’s “One Million Star” and singing demos for famous Mandopop stars like JJ Lin, the NUS graduate embarked on a journey to make music her career upon graduation. Ruth’s first baby step was the founding of her own company, White Ribbon Live Music.

“Music is my passion. I set up White Ribbon Live Music because I thought it will be a really great idea to make a living out of it. A live band company which provides live music for weddings and corporate events allow me to make a decent income and at the same time, with this stability, it gives me the freedom to continue to pursue music and establish myself as an artiste/singer.”

Now armed with experience, Ruth is ready to take the next step into realizing her dream. Soon, her debut EP with 4 of Ruth’s very own compositions, will be released! We spoke to the petite girl with the courage to dream big, about her experiences as a wedding singer and singer-songwriter in the local music scene.

W&T: Do you remember the first wedding you performed at? How was the experience?
Ruth: Very meaningful. I could still remember the couple’s name. It was pretty nerve wrecking as it was in one of the luxurious hotel in Singapore, with a very big ballroom (St. Regis) and many distinguished guests. Meaningful and fulfilling when you hear compliments from the many guests, and keeps you going after that.

W&T: Can you let us in on some of the hard work as a wedding singer that people outside the trade don’t know?
Ruth: Learning songs one by one and having to sing 25 songs in a wedding, is different from singing just one song in a competition or performing one song in a showcase. We have got to keep up with the stamina and deliver every song to the nicest possible. During peak periods when I get back to back wedding gigs, it is easily 50 songs in a day and stamina is really important.

Singaporeans are rather passive crowds, hence in a dinner setting at a wedding celebration, we don’t really get much applause as compared to when we sing at my regular bistro bar performing outlets, but we just have to get used to it and do our best to smile and entertain the couple’s guest during the joyous occasion.

W&T: Many wedding singers have gone on to release their own material and music they put out tend to be happy and optimistic. Will yours be the same?
Ruth: I will actually have more sad love ballads in my EP! However, I always try to have a sense of lingering hope in my lyrics so as to create a hopeful image.

W&T: What have you learnt in the process of producing your album?
Ruth: (I’ve learnt that) album making is a time consuming yet fruitful process! From writing melody, to writing lyrics, recording demo, arrangement, actual recording, backup vocals, all of these take up a lot of time but the results are very fulfilling, especially when you see the final product.

And regarding producing an album, I realise the final product must represent yourself and I believe people will only be able to feel the sincerity in your music if you are comfortable with your own music style, so, it’s the best to be yourself, and be comfortable in your own skin.

To know more about Ruth Kueo Miaoru, pop by her site (www.ruthkueomiaoru.com/) or facebook (facebook.com/ruthmiaoru) to learn instant updates on her performances and upcoming EP.

Travel: Penang Spooky Tour Packages

Psychologists have long proved that scary experiences help to increase feelings of affection, albeit temporarily under those circumstances. Couples looking for that something to get your hearts pumping, here’s the perfect getaway for you — a short trip to Penang, Malaysia for a Spooky Tour.

The Penang Spooky Tour, now in its second year, is a special package that Tourism Malaysia came up with to be launched in conjunction with the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival. Under this tour, you can visit spooky spots like a T-junction that is famous for ghost sightings, and the Protestant Cemetery, where Penang’s European founders lie. You can also expect an up-close look at the local Hungry Ghost festivities, which is a fresh experience, even for Chinese. Unlike its Singaporean counterpart, which has become characterised with commercialised getai performances, the Penang festivities still retain a whole lot of traditional charm, with roadside Teochew opera performances, and elaborate ceremonies for the worship of the God of Hades.

But the highlight of the Spooky Tour is no doubt, a visit, and if you’re up to it, an overnight stay at the notoriously haunted Penang War Museum. In fact, the War Museum has just wound up as one of Asia’s top 10 haunted sites in National Geographic’s new documentary, I Wouldn’t Go In There! For the uninitiated, the Penang War Museum is situated on a hilltop that was historically dubbed as Bukit Hantu (translated as Ghost Hill). First built as a military defense fortress in the 1930s by the British, the site was later used as a torture and prison camp by the Japanese after Penang fell during World War II. As you can imagine, there is certainly no lack of chilling happenings over there!

Adhering to the principle of retaining as much as the site’s original state as possible, the Penang War Museum is designed as a trip ‘Back to Malaya’, to take the visitor back to the days and state during the World War II. Likewise, expect no luxury accommodations over here — visitors on the overnight stay will sleep together in the Museum’s old barracks, which once served as interrogation and torture rooms for Prisoners of War! Facilities are basic, with only a sleeping bag provided, and shared toilet facilities. The Museum can accommodate a maximum of 20-30 people per night, so do make sure you book ahead if you don’t want to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience! A 2D1N Spooky Tour package including the overnight stay costs RM$269 per person. (For other shorter packages, do check out the image below.)

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Psst, we spoke to the owners, who told us that they hire a Malay bomoh (i.e. Malay witch doctor) on-site if visitors stay overnight just in case anything happens… don’t say you haven’t been warned!

To book, you can contact the following operators:

Capital One Leisure Sdn Bhd
66, Lobby Arcade Penang Road
Cititel Hotel
10000 Penang
Tel: 04-262 3790
Email: info@capitaloneleisure.com

Ravi Sharma Travel Sdn Bhd
46, Leigh Street
10200 Georgetown, Penang
Tel: 04-263 2145
Email: sharma1@streamyx.com

Jouis Holiday
No 457, Chulia Street
10200 Penang
Tel: 04-261 8828
Email: enquiry@jouisholiday.com

Pacific Style Holidays Sdn Bhd
Rooms 3-A, Kompleks Muzium Perang
Lot 1350, Mk 12 Daerah Barat Daya
Batu Maung, 11960
Penang
Tel: 04-626 5742
Email: penangwarmuseum@yahoo.com

Lifestyle: 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic

If you, like us, adore the works of National Geographic’s photographers, be thrilled to know that you can now view these stunning snaps up close at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands!

Taking up residence at the Art Science Museum, the “50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic” will be showcasing 50 iconic snaps by some of National Geographic’s most remembered and celebrated photographers, like Steve McCurry, Chris John and Joanna Pinneo.

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Joanna Pinneo is most famous for this photo titled “Sub-Saharan Mali”. It was taken on an assignment to Mali to uncover how drought is affecting the Tuareg nomads in sub-Saharan Africa. In shot are a local family whom Pinneo had met on the trip and constitutes a poignant moment, reminding the world about the catastrophic effects of climate change.

This is the first time the exhibition comes to Southeast Asia and coincides with the 125th anniversary of the National Geographic Society this year. So, expect more than just visual delights for there will be a vast array of engaging programmes, interactive spaces and workshops lined up just for you.

For the photography buffs, make a bee line for the workshops like “Negative to Print” and “Darkroom Developments” and discover for yourself the thrill of developing a 35mm film into negatives or vice versa. The best part of it all is that, these workshops are absolutely complimentary for exhibition ticket-holders!

For more information on “50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic” and its related programming activities, visit www.marinabaysands.com/ArtScienceMuseum