Mori Hostel 27/10/16 – 30/10/16

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Despite regularly hopping along the stretch of hostels at Jalan Besar Road, I’ve never actually came across this hostel, which is located at the nearby yet discreet Race Course Road. Worst of all, I’d barely took notice of the very intriguing array of cafes and stalls (and bak kut teh) available at this side of town. Shame on myself for missing out on such gems!

But here I am on another adventure into the (somewhat) unknown. Just beside this hostel is another establishment who’s name I’ve glanced upon on booking sites, the Mitraa Inn. The focus of this entry is nonetheless towards my stay at the Mori Hostel, and the picture you see above is my first attempt to capture the check-in experience in the lobby. As the image may hint towards, while it left a polished impression on what’s next to come, it more accurately foreshadows the general lack of width in the spacial department. In later attempt such as the one below, I could only capture so much until the field of vision hits the counter, which stands to occupy one half of the lobby.

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It is understandable, and not unexpected, considering it’s located within a shophouse and visibly sandwiched in between other establishments from the facade. Mori Hostel stubbornly continues to properly function in its relatively well optimized spaces, as revealed while receiving my bed sheets and blanket in the lobby. I could not only appreciate the smart use of sliding door cabinets to store sheets behind the counter that would otherwise be disguised as a simple wall, but was pleased to observe my bedding are not trampled with and hygienically stored before handing. Not to mention that services and rules were unambiguously laid out upon facing the counter on the sliding door walls.

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It’s still cheaper to buy drinks from any nearby convenience stores, and in this case there’s one beside the Mitraa Inn. The hostel does not own a cold water dispenser, so I took a bare stroll down to get a 1.5 liter bottle of water for $1 from the mini mart. It’s really just right next to the hostel. Don’t waste your money away if you’re ever visiting around here!

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Anyways I was still at checking into the hostel. Here’s the keycard I received as the counter lady walked me up to my room, which was at the second floor, out of three. Perhaps the photo does not capture my point, but it’s a pretty classy looking card in my books, and more it’ll be more apparent if you had it in your own hands. The lighting direction in the corridors at night quite overshadowed what would be a sort of artsy walkway, though that’s not necessary a negative for me. On the second floor however, one of the corridor lights constantly flickers, which is not very complementary to an otherwise welcoming walk through.

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On this night of checking in, I was quite famished, haven’t eaten a meal since the early lunch in camp. On the way to this hostel, I had encountered a visually interesting cafe, just from the minuscule view of its interior through its door. Spending a short while in the room before desperately heading for dinner, and deciding to document my meals (it’s all part of the hostel hopping adventure!), here I present to you: Hungry Heroes!

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Prior to stepping in, I had made no connections between the name of the cafe, and its possible themes that it would encompass. Therefore, I was actually surprised (dumb me) to find myself bombarded with figurines, art and posters of many superheroes! Apparently upon prompting, one or two of my friends have already heard of this place, so looking back, it’s strange not to see much of a crowd, although I might’ve just arrived at a non peak hour. That’s actually good news for the ambience it served, and I was in sort of a dissonance trying to reconcile the nature of pop culture leaning comic heroes with the overwhelming levels of “atas-ness” in the space. Just look at that decor!

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If there’s one thing I was annoyed by, I observed some mashing together of both Marvel and DC superheroes, which I’m sure would outrage a comic book purist. But let’s get to the food! It’s probably what you want to see, and certainly what I was here for. Sitting down and laid out in front of me was a very cool fake news mat. I’m not too great at identifying materials myself, but I was pretty immersed by the thin paper used for this print, which is either a superb imitation of newspaper paper, or is actually newspaper paper. While the food was being prepared, there were tons of distractions in the cafe such that it didn’t feel long before the food arrived.

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That’s $24.70 (GST and service charge included) into the drain by the way. It’s “Pan-Seared Norwegian Salmon” on the meats menu, because I was looking to have some fish, which isn’t my fancy in most cases (salmon is an exception) and hence I don’t consume enough of them at all. The reviews weren’t lying about the big portions! One of the highlights of this meal for myself was actually the big slice of lemon they provided, for which the photo doesn’t do justice to present. I had enough juice to sprinkle both sides of the salmon, plus the salad, so the meal was rather zesty, if that’s the right word for it.

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I am fan of both raw and cooked salmon, but the thing that has it going for raw salmon is that I would never encounter a bite too difficult to go through or a chew too dry. Fortunately, this meal had none of that, and mixed with the sauce provided in its every bite (it’s mayonnaise… I think), I felt it paired excellently with the salad, and even the fries. If there are any improvements it could take, I would wish for more cherry tomatoes in the salad, for the above top down image shows all there were in the otherwise fulfilling meal. And just one more picture before we say goodbye.

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…And we’re back in my room. Enclosed by four walls and without any windows to naturally ventilate the space, it’s only normal that it has developed an unpleasant odor that I’m sure is not particularly unfamiliar to any seasoned hostel hopper. It took me about 3-5 minutes to acclimatize to the smell, so on my end it’s not a deal breaker. Indeed, this room is one of the most spacious ones that I’ve stayed in, although there’s no space under the bunk beds to lay any shoes or slippers beneath. Lockers require you to bring your own padlocks, or to rent one for $5 to secure them. Without either, I simply left most of my belongings in the lockers while keeping my valuables close to me on my bed. I do have to leave a positive note on the generous capacity of the locker storage as well as the size of the bed, yet ironically the blankets were a tad too small.

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Yes, those are my slippers. Plug sockets were somewhat limited, with only one allocated per bed. There’s also a switch for each individual bed light, which were essential even in the day if the room lights were off (because there are no windows). When I was checking in, I had took note of the lack of table space and plug sockets within the lobby. As I do spend much of my day tied to my laptop, this was bad news; the lobby is not a laptop friendly zone. This resulted in me staying up in the room for essentially 90% of the stay within. Fortunately, the air conditioning could be manually handled, so there’s not much to fret about the stuffiness or heat wise.

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It’s down to my first morning! Yet not a word about the toilets. This is by far the most disappointing aspect of the Mori Hostel, where half the facilities are damaged, dirty or faulty. On the second floor, where my room was located, there was only one toilet room with a toilet bowl and sink, and another shower room down for maintenance. This meant the potential for guests on the second floor to jam at the one and only toilet bowl and sink available, although for the stay it did not happen as such. Not only was the water hose in this cubicle constantly leaking water and wetting half of the toilet floor, the sinks themselves were also too small to have a comfortable morning routine without water splashing onto your own feet.

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As you can see in the above image, this was the first floor shower room of my choice for the stay, which had a broken shower head holder. There’s another shower room beside this one, with clothing hooks installed way too high for a short guy like me to reach *cries*. I had to do some shower gymnastics in order to scrub my hair while holding on to the shower head with two hands and my armpits. Added to that the fact that all first floor toilet rooms have no ventilation whatsoever, it made showering and defecating in the hostel terrible chores rather than pleasant reliefs. Hopefully the establishment intends to fix these issues, for in any other aspects I would only have minimal complaints. But on a brighter note, it’s breakfast time!

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It’s an interesting outdoor linear breakfast space, playing with the lighting of the day. I actually woke a little late for breakfast, having missed the 10:30am mark after the listed free complementary breakfast period. Alas it is common for the hostel staff to not strictly adhere to the timings, so everything was going sweet and dandy until…

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…There’s no more bread! Fortunately, dried cereal is also served, along with a brand of milk I have actually yet to notice in supermarkets before.

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The refrigerator was readily stocked with packs of cold Arla UHT full cream milk. According to the side label, it’s German by origin and imported by a Philippines company, Scanasia Overseas. I was actually expecting a rather bad tasting milk, as I’ve had numerous vomit inducing experiences with German milk brands, even within hostels. Surprisingly, Arla milk complemented relatively well with the dry cereal.

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There was a time I told myself not to consume any boxed cereal whatsoever due to the questionable ingredients that many such brands contain. Oh, the nostalgic days of preparing a warm bowl of oatmeal. Hostel living don’t exactly incite a healthy diet, however, and just look at that sweet devilish chocolaty milky delight… I do love my milk. But I promise myself not to consume any much more sugar for the rest of the day.

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You might be wondering why it hadn’t come to my mind that the breakfast space might’ve been serviceable as a laptop zone. My answer would be: it depends. Firstly, it faces the same issue as with the lobby regarding a lack of table space, or to be more precise, a lack of table width, albeit to a slightly lesser degree. It was still problematic to place a laptop on the table surface. That’s not to mention the lack of plug sockets, where I could only find one free along the entire length of the space. Secondly, it was not immune from the warm weather conditions outside, and for someone like myself who perspires quite a lot, it wasn’t a great idea to soak my clothes away; I had only brought 3 sets of T-shirts for this trip. Lastly, it was just not a clean environment by any measure, although somewhat understandable given its outdoor nature. I could see birds flying in to steal bites off from grounded leftovers. On a side note, the guests here aren’t exactly considerate to the space.

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Fast forward to past lunch time, which wasn’t much of a wait considering how late I was for breakfast, I was making my route to Rangoon Road, a hot spot for hippy cafes. It was tough not to notice some of the interesting locales on the way, several being temples and condominiums side by side. Nonetheless, the street still caters to my love for shophouses, grounding a healthy balance between that and residential HDB blocks. As a tourist, it might be valuable to enjoy the tourist experience while being able to observe a little more of the quiet Singaporean’s lifestyle, perhaps more towards the elderly who would visit these temples.

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And here is the Halloween inspired Brunches Cafe. It was about 3pm at this point, so I was not faced with the usual crowd, which once again really brought out the character of the space. One of the staff greeted me at the door after I had spent some minutes trying to snap an insta-worthy picture at the doorstep. Stepping in, I was awed by the celebratory atmosphere that the multitudes of decor cultivated. From the attention grabbing cloaked skeleton standing upon the open trunk truck, the varying seating designs, and to the subtle placements of toy spiders creeping on the ceiling and wall webbing, it’s undeniable how much craft went into the cafe’s design. Now that that’s mentioned, I wonder how an arachnophobe would do in a place like this.

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While waiting for my food, there was a another guest seated nearby whom I believed had ordered a breakfast item (I saw egg), and the portions from where I was seated looked huge! Sadly, I was not able to snap a picture of the said item nor fully identify the item on the menu. At the point of observation, I was almost convinced to return to this cafe along with friends. That tipped to a definite confirmation when my meal arrived. Ignore the weeping from my wallet and behold, the “Cajun Chicken Pizza”!

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I should be complaining less, for it’s significantly cheaper as compare to a place like Hungry Heroes. The meal cost me $18.70 (inclusive of GST and service charge) while not skimping on food quality, portioning, or even the ambience. While I could initially note the tenderness and flavor of the ingredients, the highlight of this meal would personally be the crust, being thin and, more so, crispy! While it did get a little difficult to slice, once my teeth had sunk into the crust, my gosh! That’s not to discredit the other aspects of the pizza, as the photos would suggest the benevolently sized pieces of chicken amongst layers of sauce and vegetables just waiting to be munched on. There is also a salmon variation on the menu, named “Smoked Salmon Pizza”, which would cost a dollar more prior to GST and service charges.

And that was it for the first lunch of my stay. So early into the trip and I was already spending beyond my reasonable means. Until Saturday night, I would keep my activities and spending to less extravagant levels. That also meant opportunities to document some of the nearby budget options. But I would be back and holing myself in the hostel for the most part, and what would I do while holing up? This entry couldn’t be complete without talk of everyone’s favorite Wi-Fi.

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While being a multi-leveled hostel, it’s also the only hostel in my memory that hosts a singular central guest Wi-Fi network that spans all three levels of the hostel. My time with the Wi-Fi on the second floor was only positive, there almost not being a single random disconnect. Using my laptop, I was also able to load videos on YouTube at 1080p without too much of a hassle. The only nitpicks of my early usage of the Wi-Fi would be that it was not immediately apparent which Wi-Fi network guests were supposed to connect to, for there were two networks where one was name “MORI” while the other included the word “hostel”.

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I therefore abused the hostel’s Wi-Fi network into the ripe evening. The above picture taken just prior to leaving for my second dinner showcases some potentially missed opportunities of what might’ve been functional and enticing living spaces for guests. Throughout my stay, unless a guest was using one of the lobby desktop computers, these spaces tend to accommodate only to the staff, or they were empty. In hopes of adapting to and utilizing the space, I had also inquired about the use of the lobby post check-in hours, for there would be no staff at the counter past 11pm. Unfortunately, they were not very accommodating in that regard as well, for the lobby would be locked up within the off hours.

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I took a short stroll down to the nearby Lam’s stall, which had capture my attention ever since I stepped onto Race Course Road. I read good reviews about the “Salt Baked Chicken Thigh”. Nonetheless I set my eyes on first item in the menu, the “Lam’s Abalone Noodle”. Admittedly, this wasn’t exactly what one may consider a budget option, although it was still below $10, so that’s progress! It was slightly past 9pm at the time of patronizing, and the shop had begun to pack up its stores. The lady at the store was kind enough to permit my purchase, and not long after the food was served.

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As you can see, the portions were quite underwhelming for a $7 street stall meal. Just as well, I wasn’t too hungry at that time of the night. I am usually quite distasteful of abalone because very often, it can be challenging just to bite through the meat. Granted, this meal harbored the same problem to a lesser degree, but my highlight for this meal would be the egg, which was so yummy! I might have had a better experience if I had asked for more chili, so I wouldn’t dismiss this stall as a tourist trap or just plain overpriced. If you’re looking for a light and relatively affordable dinner, this is a viable option. And I’ll be back one day to report on the “Salt Baked Chicken Thigh”.

I woke up to my second morning of the stay, initially oblivious to the weather; the four walls fully encapsulated me from the external conditions. I had to secure at least one decent breakfast at the Mori Hostel, so I ensured my earlier arrival at the breakfast space to grab some of that bread before it ran out. Lo and behold, a thunderstorm was raging outside! Fortunately, an extendable shelter was installed in the breakfast alley just in cases of such emergencies.

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The darker weather actually brought on an interesting twist of atmosphere to the space. With this photo I attempted to capture in perspective the perceivable straight line that sliced the wall on the right, defining the shaded from the lit surface area. Despite what the wet floor in the above photo may suggest, the extended shelter does a great job keeping the relevant furniture and installations clean and dry for the most part. The cool weather would’ve turned the above into a viable laptop zone, if not for the location of the one and only free plug socket hiding under soaked portions of the table and highchairs in the only corner of the space unprotected from the rain.

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And there’s bread! Although the spreads were all out. I ended up dipping my toasted bread into the Arla milk, which thereby brought myself to the conclusion that I wasn’t deluded about this one German milk brand not actually being disgusting.

Remember what I said about the guests of this hostel being inconsiderate? Below is a more comprehensive proof of that statement.

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I cannot comprehend why anyone would throw a bag of chips (or any actions akin to that) and clog the sink in the breakfast space, and for obvious reasons, I really doubt that’s an accident. That’s not getting started on the universal rule of washing your own dishes in hostels. To the individual who did this, you ought to still respect the property of the business owners as you would to anyone else’s property. Just because you’re paying to patronize, it does not entitle you to wreck their property apart. In no parts among any forms of transaction agreements between hostel owners and guests imply that such respect is to be abandoned, so let’s be more courteous, shall we?

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The heavier breakfast enabled me to stay true towards my commitment of budget level spending, and perhaps a little too much. I skipped lunch on my second afternoon, and laid low until the sky went dark. Craving for some Jalan Besar goodness, I headed across the multiple streets in between there and from where I was to encounter some street murals that I’d least expect to find within this side of town. This photo above is probably not the best representative of the other art within its vicinity, but it was too dark to capture some of the more impressive ones. So be it, at least there’s some surprise waiting for you!

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According to their website, Ponggol Nasi Lemak do own two other outlets in Singapore. I’ve never been to any of the others besides this store, which I believe is to be their flagship. It has a very blatantly fast-food chain like ambience, all from the design of the logo to its sterile interiors. I have, on several occasions, stepped in for a meal to escape the heat from hot sunny days; the air conditioning is a godsend. Despite the description, I do have more (maybe irrational) confidence that it serves relatively healthier food for prices one would expect at a hawker. I was fortunate enough on this night to somehow escape a long queuing time and to grab a seat with ease, for crowds do indeed gather during the peak hours. My go to option, as it was for this trip, is set 2 on the menu.

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Even if I was compelled to, there’s little to complain about a $4.30 quick dinner fix. As of writing this blog, a friend of mine noted the chili in the top down photo formed the shape of a heart. No, I’m not insisting that it’s intentionally served in such a manner, but you got to admit it adds a sweet flair to the image. There are a total of four available set meals, and I’d like to shine a light on set 3, which essentially swaps the egg in the picture out for one more chicken wing. That pushes the price up to $5, the most expensive set meal on the menu. While some “kiasu” money savers might be cringing in their heads at the price hike for such an apparently minuscule alteration, I would testify to the glory of the chicken wing, for which is easily top notch value. It certainly wears a crispy coat worthy to die for! That, in contrast to my next meal, would make my point all the more stronger.

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It was last morning of my stay, and also the morning of check-out that I woke to find a piece of paper on my bed with what’s written in the photo above. If there’s one advantage to name right now about hostel living over staying in hotels, to which I acknowledge there are many, you get to observe and participate in interactions with other guests in a shared establishment, where in hotels you might’ve otherwise just ignored your neighbors entirely. In my observation, hostels necessitate a great deal of trust amongst their owners and the guests, and amongst guests themselves, in order for the establishment to maintain its continuity. Such bonds are perhaps less crucial in the running of hotels, hence the lack of the culture I speak of. Anyways, that was a sweet gesture!

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I skipped the complementary breakfast that morning and saved my stomach for the Jewel Cafe and Bar, which caught my attention a few days past when I was at the Brunches Cafe. It was just across the street from where I was lunching, and from then I had decided upon my next cafe to tackle, and with a friend. I’m certainly not lying about Rangoon Road being filled with these curiosity luring traps (or treasures), with there being several more ice cream cafes along the lane. Sure sounds like a great place to hop for both main courses and desserts, doesn’t it? But getting back to the cafe at hand, I have to admit that while there were barely any glaring faults about its interior space, if at all, my exposure to the previous two cafes had ruined my expectations forever. It’s your average run of the mill hipster cafe visually, but unless you’ve seen it all, it should still ought to be atmospheric.

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More friends meant more dishes, which means more photos for y’all! This time I had arranged an appointment with a friend, but it so happens this friend of mine does not have a particularly big stomach. For lunch, he would order a breakfast item: Eggs Royale.

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For $16 (exclusive of GST and service charge), I had expected a more fanciful platter. I took a small bite with my friend’s permission, but I’d refrain from making any further comments lest I conjure a false memory of the taste, as it did not leave much of a memorable impression. Nevertheless my friend claimed that he was stuffed from the meal, yet in doing so also credited that to his humongous cup of latte, which was priced at $5.50 (exclusive of GST and service charge).

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He speaks the truth in that regard. The photo does not do full justice to its quantity, but it was a fun comparison having positioned my cup of water next to his latte. Unless reputed in that respect, I tend not to indulge in cafe beverages for they’re too pricey without the wow factor many a times. It might explain why I hadn’t taken any pictures of my drinks up till now, but for this infrequent occasion it somehow went over my head to take a sip so… sorry guys.

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I ordered a “Southern Fried Chicken” for $18 (excluding GST and service charges). Yes, I’m about to make an unfair comparison between nasi lemak fried chicken wings to southern fried chicken drums, being stylistically worlds apart. Yet surely it is reasonable to want to be wowed after paying a premium multitudes to the dinner prior. While by no means terrible (it was good, actually), there were no highlights beyond the generous servings. The chicken was good, skin was good, fries were good, and salad was good… but I’d humanly compare to my prior other experiences, and have the present one undermined. I’d actually take a Ponggol Nasi Lemak chicken wing over the drums here, due to its (subjectively, perhaps) more addictive skin. For a $4.30 meal to be preferable over a $18 main course in its featured aspects sort of puts me in a state of regret for my wallet. It’s not all dull and gloomy; the friendly service is worth noting.

Me and my friend parted ways thereafter. Before I end this entry, which is almost hitting its 5000th word count (thanks for reading until the end), I needed to show a picture of the first floor toilet in the Mori Hostel just in case I left an apocalyptic impression of the washing closet situation. Instead of the ones inside individual toilet rooms, there’re three rationally sized sinks on the ground floor. I did most of my morning and night hygiene routines here rather than upstairs, which did salvage the bad circumstance. Hey, I’d love to have that classy lighting in my home toilet.

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Upon checking out, I would chill wherever that’s functional on the ground floor. Laying around the ground floor is permitted until 9pm, so I squeezed my laptop on the little available table space in the lobby and began work on this entry. Just slightly over an hour, my battery was drained, hence I made my way to the only plug socket in the breakfast space. Fortunately, the weather was cool and the socket was unused at that moment. I said goodbye to the establishment at an hour close to dinner and traveled back to the army camp.

All in all, I enjoyed my time at the Mori Hostel, which excelled for its location and sufficed in the facilities and services provided, at a budget of $17.70 with taxes (booked through hotels.com) on average per night of stay. Mori Hostel is a 5 minutes walk from Farrer Park MRT, and the check-in time is between 2pm-11pm.

map

Mori Hostel
429 Race Course Rd
Singapore 218675

Hungry Heroes Headquarters
33 Tessensohn Road
Singapore 217656

Brunches Cafe
96 Rangoon Road
Singapore 218381

Lam’s @ Race Course Road
460 Race Course Rd
Singapore 218700

Ponggol Nasi Lemak
371 Jalan Besar #01-01
Singapore 208998

Jewel Cafe and Bar
129 Rangoon Rd
Singapore 218407

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