Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Mia's Review: The Cat Cafe @ Bugis Village

If you didn't know, I've reviewed on the first cat cafe in singapore (Neko No Niwa, located at boat quay) a while back HERE. And after knowing that the 2nd cat cafe has officially opened, I was like, "OMG, I have to go!"
Well, the 3rd is opening real soon and 4th opening coming August... So I reckon I will have lots of meow-hopping to do real soon. 

But first, let's get on with The Cat Cafe, shall we?

Located conveniently at Bugis Village, above Burger King (you turn left when facing BK and go up to the 3rd floor at the staircase), I'll say this cafe has won the pioneer in terms of location from an Eastie's POV. Significantly less walking from the MRT station too, yay! 

T was totally awed by the coffee machine when he first stepped into the cafe. He literally went, "Whoa, chio!" at the machine and the lady boss was actually nice enough to entertain him. =.=" 

Fees for The Cat Cafe is just a one-time entrance fee of $15, one soft drink included. You may top up for coffee or other hot drinks and get some yummy pastry to eat while inside the cats' area. 

Before entering the cats' section, we're given a laminated piece of paper stating the cafe's rules with regards to handling of cats to read through, and then handed over to the "cat-keeper" (staff stationed inside the cats' area), who asked us to remove our shoes and either change into their rubber slippers or we may choose to go barefoot. Lastly, we had to sanitize our hands with the hand sanitizer provided and viola, we're good to go! 

We were given a low table by the window and our food and drinks were served after a short while. 


T got his usual Latte while I went for the Caramel Carameow Latte. 
Their coffee isn't fantastic, but it's really not bad. Pretty strong coffee taste with a generous amount of caramel added to give it a rich sweetness. 

And we also got their Salted Caramel Chocolate Chiffon cake to share, which was highly recommended by the boss herself. I actually wasn't hungry at all (pretty full in fact). But hearing not just chocolate, but also salted caramel, and I was like, "Okay, that too!"

The lady boss's recommendation didn't disappoint us. This is really good! The chiffon cake is soft, fluffy and a little moist, packed with chocolate fragrance and a slight hint of the chocolatey sweetness. The chocolate taste actually isn't rich or sweet at all, but that's the characteristic of such flavoured chiffon cakes. As for the salted caramel cream frosting, it was yummy~! I'm a total sucker for salted caramel AND chocolate, and this cake totally nailed it. The glob of Dulce de Leche at the top sprinkled with some coarse sea salt just perfected it all. 


Didn't manage to take an overall picture of the cafe as it was full house when we visited on a Saturday evening (waited 1 hour on waiting list). But I took these pictures of the windows upon noticing the cute glass decoration of their cafe mascot, the fat ginger kitty. Heeheehee! 

The cafe is also filled with low to high wall shelves and "overhead bridges" for tired/annoyed cats to escape from the human clutches.

And now, let's introduce the kitties, shall we?

 First kitty we met is this 'ginger skinny one', which I didn't find out her name (if you're interested you can check out the The Cat Cafe), who was hogging T's seat.

Level of seat-hogging: Ultimatium.
Apart from being very comfortably seated facing T's crotch for a good 30 minutes, she also was very interested in sniffing M's butt (shared by Oyhz) when they were there a few days after my visit. HAHAHA!

At one point she was even licking T's hand merrily.

 The second kitty we met was this really sleepy kitty, who jumped onto the kitty bed behind my seat and just slept away until their feeding time at around 7pm.


And there's also this 'greedy kitty', who not only came by T's bag for a good sniffing multiple times, eyed the cake on our table hungrily, and eventually managed to snatch a bite of some half eaten cake off the other patrons' table. And that's her punishment for her greediness, for like.... 5 minutes?

I love how Silver looks like when she's napping....

And how she grooms herself after feeding time! Aww....

 Here's Tuxedo, the biggest of the 14 resident cats at The Cat Cafe.

 Here's Jimmy AKA Garfield, Tuxedo's buddy. I found them napping together, cuddled up at one corner of the cafe when I first arrived. Aww...
And Jimmy doesn't really enjoy getting pets. He was swiping away the girl's hand in the first picture.

Elly, with the totally "HUH?" look on her face. Hahaha! She loves to prance around on the railing while we're there, hardly touching down on solid grounds.

Another sleepy cat, who napped on this 'overhead bridge' until feeding time...


Another cat, whose name I don't know. She (I assume) has striking blue eyes, so pretty! Wave a cat toy at her and she'll start playing!


And at about 6:30pm, we suddenly realised that all the cats are 'gone'. Turns out they've all gathered around the feeding area to wait for food!

The mass meowing of these hungry cats when the staff came in with stacks of cat food was so cute. And during feeding time, this particular greedy black cat caught my attention. She gobbled down her food at amazing speed (first to finish) and stealthily went on to steal bites from other slower-eaters.

Immediately after feeding, we found this cutie chillaxing in the cat house. Such a cute face!

Jimmy then got into a fight with another cat over the roller-tunnel.

And soon after feeding time, their snack-feeding time starts! Do note that the cafe management limits the amount of snacks sold, so if you really wish to feed the cats, go earlier in the day (when I went at 5pm the day snacks were already sold out) or in the evening right after their feeding time at 6 plus 7pm.

 The snacks is actually a small bowl of wet cat food that resembles our canned tuna. Even overheard a male patron mumbling, "Wah, I really feel like finding 2 pieces of bread to kiap these..."
Do take note that the cats might get a little too excited (claws out, as seen on bottom left... THAT greedy cat!) and will fight over the snacks. The two female patrons, whom I really have insufficient photoshop skills to crop out (sorry!), were both scratched by the cats while they fought for the spoons.
So, take note yeah?

And lastly, do make sure you keep your shoes properly. You'll never know which cat has a ribbon fetish. 

And now, my thoughts on this 2nd cat cafe in Singapore. Needless to say, they win the pioneer hands down for me. Not just in terms of pricing and location, but the service as well. Hey, this is still a cafe business alright? There's been some harsh criticism by some patrons (actually I don't even know if they're really patrons in the first place), crying cat abuse because the cafe management is too slack on correcting misbehaviours in patrons, especially of young kids.

True enough, when I was there on a Saturday evening, there was an alarmingly large number (compared to the other cat cafe, which I also visited on a weekend, around the same timing) of children. Rowdy children, who were clearly mishandling the cats, terrorising them. I vividly remember this young boy, I reckon to be in lower primary school, who was ruffling Elly's back really roughly while she's perched on the railing.
Once, Elly twisted and stared at his hand.
Twice, Elly once again twisted and the boss told him to stop it.
Yet, he went for the third time.
I was like... boy, do you understand simple English?
Elly raised a paw and the boss quickly reached out her hand and grabbed the boy's hand and put it away, reminding him a 2nd time to stop the misbehaviour.
And the boy's mother turned and stared at the boss and she had to quickly explain, apologetically, that she had to do it because the cat will smack the boy this time round.
Like, WHAT?
Hello, parents... You don't want to (too lazy to?) discipline your kids and yet doesn't like others to do it for you. So what you want?

Now back to the criticisms. Some even compared them to the pioneer, and praised the latter for doing a good job in protecting the cats' welfare, and even went on to saything things like, 'if you cannot get your priorities right, don't try to make money off animals.'
Okay, I suppose this person is against all zoos in the world as well?

I personally don't go very well with the cafe's insistence on allowing kids of 6 years old and above to enter, with the idea of cultivating the love towards cats in children. I feel that that's the sole responsibility of parents and it's really too idealistic on the cafe management's part to want to achieve something so big.
But then again, I respect their big-heartedness and I agree that what's now is to find the balance between caring for the cats' welfare and being customer-oriented. They're not a cat rescue centre. They're a cafe with 14 cats. They're effectively a cafe, still a business, that relies on paying customers to keep going.
And to be very honest, The Cat Cafe is obviously not there yet, but their efforts to make it happen is still worth our warm support.

Till then,
Mia

Monday, 28 July 2014

Mia's Travel Log: Kanchanaburi - War Museum, Death Railway, Elephant Camp, Tiger Temple

Yes, for my 4d3n Bangkok trip this time, I actually travelled to Kanchanaburi for a day trip with bookingtodays! First up, let's start off with this agency. Both ZH and I weren't very happy with them due to serious lack of responsiveness and really not organised at all. After a few email exchanges with them, we gave them our confirmation for the reservations (with no deposit paid online) and asked for their confirmation in return. Waited for 5 days and no replies came even after my email reminders. Turned out, they only replied the night before my flight and by then, I have given up on this day tour thing already. 
It was a (mini) mad rush for re-scheduling of our itinerary to squeeze the day tour back in (and also the money for the tour) when we received their call to our hotel room at 5pm in the afternoon after we checked in on the first day. And yes, our tour was scheduled on the very next day and they'll pick us up at 6:30am in the morning. 
Darn!

Nevertheless, we managed to drag our sleepy selves out of bed early next morning to wait for the driver's call, which came at about 6:30am and stating that they're reaching in 5 minutes time. 
"You come outside ok, outside!"

Alright, okay... I'll go outside... but outside, where?
Didn't see any form of vehicle that looked remotely like a day tour pick up car and so we decided to redial the number, only to be left unanswered. And then an angry looking man came and ordered us to follow him, mumbling rather angrily as he ran off back towards the vehicle parked by Indra Square without really caring if we could catch up, or not. 

But it's alright! Fret not, for we're not stuck with this angry driver for the rest of the day. Because they're really disorganised! We're all picked up from various hotels by various vehicles before dumping us together by a roadside and started to sort us out by sticking different coloured stickers on us. ZH and I were given yellow-purple and immediately we started searching for other yellow-purplers and keeping an eye on them just in case we get left behind. But heck, we didn't even end up in the same van as any other yellow-purplers after waiting by the flies infested roadside for more than 30 minutes. 
And of course, after a nearly 2 hours bumpy ride on a really crammed and uncomfortable van, we were asked to switch vans at the mid-way stop. And of course, the van switching carried on as and when they felt like it throughout the trip.
Mehhh....

Well, enough of complaining. Let's start the itinerary!


First stop for the day, was the war cemetery to commemorate the brave soldiers who died during WWII. 


The cemetery was only a short stop of around 20 minutes and we were then whisked off to the WW2 & Jeath War Museum and Death Railway, which was a 5 to 10 minutes drive away.

You'll need to pay an additional 60 THB to enter the musuem. If not, you'll only be left with this section of an old WW2 train, and the market place outside selling mainly jade pieces and other jewelry. 

Found the museum rather interesting, for it seemed to be housed together with a temple...

 The ceiling is full of depictions...




The museum is full of life-sized figurine depictions of the hardships and cruelty that the war has brought to the world. 

And then we came to the 'balcony' of the building and was awed by the sight of the death railway. One section of the railway looked different due to restoration works. 



 And so we quickly followed the crowd and got onto the short section of the railway.

Both to camwhore and enjoy the scenic views. :)

And guess where we're headed for next? 


Elephant riding at the elephant camp! We got a really big elephant and I had to "jump-flip" myself up to the seat from the platform.

This smaller, younger elephant kept disturbing us by trying to poke us from tbe back with the tip of its trunk. 

Frankly speaking I felt quite bad towards the elephants having to 'work' like this. Some of the seats really looked badly tied to their body and I really hope that it's not hurting them. Nevertheless, it was still a pretty fun and new experience, paired with tons of fresh air and greenery. 

And then, it was the most disappointing buffet lunch ever. I took everything available in the 'buffet' except for the white rice. Could hardly finish this tiny portion of food even, for they really did not go very well with my tastebuds. 

 And immediately after lunch, we went for water rafting...

Which, most of the time, was being dragged along by a motorised boat. HA HA HA!


But the simply scenery was pretty enjoyable though...


 And after that we came to Saiyok Noi Waterfall, which was kind of disappointing as we expected the waterfalls like those in Bali...

And upon seeing the poster, we wondered if it's a work of photoshop...?

Overwhelmed by disappointment, ZH and I were actually the first to return back to the van and stood by the roadside under the hot sun for the rest of the tour members to return. *sulk*

And then we finally arrived at our last destination, and also the highlight of our day tour! It's the Tiger Temple! 
And before I start with more photo-spamming, I will want to remind all who are planning to visit tiger temple to not wear red, orange and pink tops and to wear long pants regardless of how hot the weather is. BookingTodays never bothered to inform us of the dress code required for Tiger Temple, and we had to buy some ugly looking tops (ZH wore pink) and pants at totally hiked up prices at the lunch place. 
Mehhh....



And now, back to the tiger temple. The premise is really huge and we took a 5 to 10 minutes walk to reach the tiger canyon, where many tigers in their sleepy afternoon nap mode were gathered for tourist to take photograph with. 

This is one badass magestically beautiful looking tiger. 

There's 2 lines for phototaking, one for individual shots to be taken on your own camera by the volunteers/staff (FOC) and another for group shots taken the same way, but at a price. I vaguely remembered it as 1000 THB, but I might be wrong. 

And of course, ZH and I chose the FOC individual shots. HA HA HA! 
There'll be one staff holding onto your hand and leading you from tiger to tiger to snap pictures. So basically, you'll go one round and take pictures with all the tigers inside, before leaving the barricaded area. And yes, that's the Abbott of the temple, with one of his favourite tigers. 

After the photo-taking session, there was apparently a 'live show' whereby there will be an 'identity switch' between the tigers and the tourists. All the tourists will be put behind cages and the tigers set loose for their feeding/play time. However, as the 600 THB entrance fee does not include this show and we need to pay an additional 500 THB, ZH and I left the canyon and headed for the Cub Waterfall....

And met this playful cub up for photo-taking there! At one point it targeted on one of the male tourists and wanted to attack him. One of the staff came to scold the cub, and this was what it did to ask for forgiveness....
Meow?

And before we left the temple premise (we were only given 1 hour to roam, so we never got to find out the actual temple building nor the black bear cubs), we managed to see them walking the tigers back from the canyon, on leashes! 



And the abbott even bottle fed this full grown, 200 pounds, male tiger milk! 

And with that, we left the tiger temple and hopped back onto the van (only to be asked to switch vans, yet again!) to head back to Bangkok. Yet another (almost) 4 hours of bumpy, uncomfortable ride... T.T
But for the tiger temple, it was really worth it! 
And to add on to the lack of proper arrangement on BookingTodays' part, as we were leaving Kanchanaburi, the guide actually asked if we wanted to stop by the war cemetery. ZH and I were like, "What, again?"
And then we realised it because 90% of the tour members in this van has skipped the cemetery in the morning. But fortunately, as all of them were really dead beat, they agreed to give it a miss and we were headed straight back to Bangkok for the day. 

So my advise to you is, do drop by Tiger Temple for a look! But not with BookingTodays, please. 

Till then,
Mia
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