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Offline weecheng

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Today article about SGTravelCafe
« on: Aug 08, 11, 03:56 PM »

Make space for travel

For those with a serious case of the travel bug, there are places where you can hang out to exchange tales and advice
04:45 AM Aug 06, 2011

by Serene Lim

WHILE most travellers turn to Facebook or blogs to share their travel experiences, you have to admit: It isn't quite the same as having a little old-fashioned show-and-tell. Preferably somewhere you can have a cuppa or a pint, some food, and a captive audience. Sorry, I mean "like-minded avid globe-trotters". Yes, that's better.
Well, you actually can, at the newly-opened Betel Box Living Bistro in Joo Chiat Road and the more established Campers' Corner in Waterloo Street.

Launched two weeks ago, Betel Box Living Bistro is a natural extension of Betel Box Hostel located above it. Owner and director Tony Tan seized the opportunity to expand when the ground floor unit became available last September.

Tan - a familiar figure in the local travel scene, thanks to his popular hostel and tours - envisions his new outfit as "a community centre of sorts and platform for those interested in travel and Singapore".

Lined up neatly outside the cafe are bicycles which travellers and even passers-by can rent, to explore the area. Inside, there are books on Singapore serving as reference points. If you're hungry, the cafe offers "colonial-English cuisine", as Tan dubs it, and the menu includes innovative fusion dishes like Nyonya Burger and Roti Babi.
What excited Tan about the space more, was that it would enable a seamless flow of travellers living in the hostel above, and locals mingling at the bar area to exchange stories and experiences. And in the private room, which seats up to 36 people, there's a projector set up so it can double as a classroom or workshop to hold cooking classes or accommodate a group of backpackers sharing their photos from their recent trip.

"The mash-up is deliberate. It's not just a commercial entity - it's a community space where travellers can drop by and share stories. And I hope that the kind of travellers we attract will reinforce our community efforts to retain our physical, natural and cultural heritage," explained Tan, who's also an executive committee member of the Singapore Heritage Society.

Whether it's civic groups advocating the conservation of Chinatown shophouses or the casual traveller hoping to share his or her experiences traversing the world, Tan welcomes them all to use the space at Living Bistro for free, albeit with a couple of conditions.

"There is some level of curation as the speakers have to be well-prepared ... (and) organised. The event must be open to both the public and my hostel guests to participate. Lastly, food and drinks are to be purchased from the bistro," he added.

That's certainly good news for groups like independent travel social platform SgTravelCafe, which has been organising gatherings and presentations on off-the-beaten-track destinations such as Timbuktu for their members every second Friday of the month since February 2007. While meetings have been usually held at a member's house, a recent session was organised at Living Bistro before it officially opened.

"Being independent travellers, we're sensitive about where we hold our gatherings as we prefer not to pay for venues, as well as remaining strictly non-commercial," said a founding member and travel author Tan Wee Cheng.

It's the same love for travel that prompted Campers' Corner to start Slideshow Night every other Friday of the month. Previously located at Capitol Building, the outdoor gear store revived its Slideshow Night in February this year after settling into its new Waterloo Street outlet.

"We are always seeking people who wish to share (and participate) in our Slideshow Nights ... Everyone can apply as long as they have the clippings, photos, videos," said sales manager Xinni Sam. "We do not charge them. We just wish to create a place for people to talk about their trips for the benefit of everyone who may want to try something similar."

Slideshow Night has seen travellers present their photos of their trips to Hokkaido, Guilin and Aconcagua. That last one was courtesy of Joanne Soo, a member of the Women's Everest Team, who climbed the Argentine mountain in February.

But no pressure if you aren't a swashbuckling mountaineer, or if your trekking experience is limited to the mall. "The photos and presentations don't need to be adventure-related. City photos are fine. We welcome all sorts. Slideshow Night is simply an avenue to share and mingle," said Sam.

Slideshow Night attracts an audience of 20 to 60 each time. Some are friends of the presenters; others are interested regulars and spontaneous walk-in customers. To cater to the crowd, in-store cafe/bar Station 51 offers German beer as well as grub like pizza.

Campers' Corner also allows travellers to use its space for exhibitions. It is currently running a mini photo exhibition by travel operator Shangrila Adventure along its corridors until Aug 7.

"I know the Campers' Corner folks, and since the space is free, I decided to have an exhibition showing photos of our trip to Tibet. There's quite a bit of interest," said Alvin Low, founder and director of Shangrila Adventure. "I've gotten a couple of leads from the exhibition."

Even tourism organisations are welcome. Campers' Corner will be collaborating with the Australian Tourism Board to hold a presentation on Tasmania on Sept 2 - complete with cheese and wine. But before that, one of its own customers will be presenting on Aug 26.

"It was their very first time trekking and they loved it so much that they wished to share the experience with everyone," said Sam, who hopes to see more first-timers come forward.

Avid travellers, you know what to do and where to go.

Betel Box Living Bistro
(#01-01, 200 Joo Chiat Road)
Opening hours: 7.30am to 10pm daily, except Tuesday
Tel: 6247 7340

Campers' Corner
(#01-01, 51 Waterloo Street)
Opening hours: 11am to 8pm daily
Tel: 6337 4743
« Last Edit: Aug 11, 11, 03:54 PM by Karel »