Friday, July 29, 2011

Before Departing to Man-land

July was a month intended for party and let loose. With three months of military training coming up, and nineteen months being tied up to a conscription, who knows what I am up for? Definitely not a treat. So this July I had one of the most splendid month of the year. I am so grateful to everyone that made this happen and possible. To those who missed, I miss you too but there's only room for so much.

By right, I am suppose to be free, a lot of time to spare like nobody's business but being the organized person I am, I can't stand unattended days of doing just nothing. I love the days of doing nothing but that has to be planned! So late June I came up with a lot of plans, made calls, and went all out in planning for July. Of course some were impromptu - and that usually happens when that day was planned as 'Do Nothing - Be a Potato Couch'. That never happens.

Firdaus's Birthday Party
In early July one of my beloved friend had his pre-birthday BBQ at East Coast. It was a great move because everyone was there. Old friends finally meet up, and have means to keep in touch. It was ages since we met and I don't know how many mobile I've changed before we met again. Glad that he enjoyed his time and now he's operationally ready (ORD). My turn's next! Anyway, have a great 21 bud! More trips coming up hopefully.

The Last Supper
This dinner was planned ages before. It did not occur in my mind that I need to spend as much time as possible with my friends and family in July. I made a good choice in June.

As you move along in life, you will realize that nothing stays forever. This August will be the beginning of the turning point in life. I will be away for National Service (NS), and my friends are all over the place in this globe already. H and N will be set west for internship and I am so happy for them! At least I know I am not alone facing ordeals away from family! We must make plans how to catch up with each other virtually!

I can't wait for the return of N with her British accent after six months and H with his Southern African fashion after a quarter year. I on the other hand will come back obviously tanner, and probably a tad uglier with a head that reflects the moonlight. We are so going to laugh looking at each other. I am going to miss them so much!

We decided to have our final dinner at Sakura restaurant and my, my, H was famished and I made a mistake by having MacDonalds before hitting the buffet. Tempting McSpicy! It was such a bad idea. Lesson learnt, never have a meal before a buffet dinner. I thought it was a good idea that we had this dinner together - a final proper dinner, in a perfect setting to chat about anything and to entertain each other while time permits.

Visiting The Departed
Every year, just like most Muslim family, we would visit our departed beloved ones together just before or during Ramadan. Its significance is to remind ourselves that we will not be here forever, and to remember the people whom we used to have in this world that affected our lives in so many ways.

This year was a little special.

There was an arrangement to visit them together as a family but it took a turn. The following week (with all these NS stuffs coming along) was impossible so I decided to visit one of them - by myself. It was my late grandmother's.

I you had followed this blog since it was opened, you would have known how attached I am to my late grandmother. When she died, it was hard for all of us in this family because she raised us up (my brothers and I) and helped in the family in so many ways you could ever imagine.

She is pure hearted, witty, kind and benevolent, generous, funnily sarcastic and all those other qualities that no other grandmother are capable of doing and comprehend. She was like the heartbeat of the family, that runs the house, cook for us, and took care of us. For the lack of better word, she was the perfect woman that any man of his age could have asked for.

Al-fatihah.

Visiting her grave by myself, being seven feet away from her made me relive those moments I had with her on a personal level. The World Ward II stories she told me, and the times she'd bring me to the market or fetch me from pre-school, it was an experience that I wish I was old enough to understand that I was going to miss all of those.

I felt grateful to have the chance to go there by myself.

Photography Club - Guest Speaker
Woo, I'm honored to be a subject of attention to a bunch of photography amateurs. Mind you that this bunch doesn't own DSLRs and put them on auto mode forever when creating art. Calling them amateurs is like putting a mirror in front of myself albeit with confidence.

In one of the weeks I went, I was astonished to see there were juniors with sky rocket confidence. It was great!

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows
It's probably a Generation Y thing - to watch Harry Potter. Since its first movie, I've been following the movies closely, watched them more than once, read the book, and talked about it leisurely with friends.

The latest and final movie - Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (Part 2) is like my childhood film finale. For nine years, since I was 11, I looked forward to each of its movie release and I know I speak on behalf of most of you when I say this as it all started as a fantasy, kiddy, and bright film that went darker by series.

The cinematography was great despite the slow story line, probably holding on everybody's eagerness by doing it slow and steady. That was one of the reasons why I watched Harry Potter. The book is definitely more informative albeit draining for some of you.

Illys, Ward, Ras - Hangout
I wouldn't categorize this s a normal day hangout even if its done at the mall nearby because we had not met for ages. That makes it special.

It was good catching up with them, heard news about our juniors, seniors, and about the people from our own cohort. Just to know what are they up to now because we can't possibly meet each and everyone of you. Glad to know some of them are married, have babies, while some other are studying, or has started working.

Fad on Ice
I bet Pulau Tekong will be hot as the sun scorches my shiny reflective head so before I forgo my good civilian life this August, I'd better make full use of my time here by enjoying cold environment whenever possible. Shall not sweat till August!

Anyway, that day was my second time watching Harry Potter too.

Ice skating was great and I already learnt to ski backwards! Definitely a good experience after so long. Someone even thought the mall is new which  it is in fact not. The mall went through a major makeover before it reopened! I love the fact that that mall is not as crowded as some other malls.

ScreenSingapore Appreciation Party
After days of hard work (I know some worked harder) with ScreenSingapore, we finally got our invitation to its appreciation tea party. The invitation didn't come without magic. We got to watch Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (Part 2) with the rest who were involved in ScreenSingapore, with compliments from the organizers. I had a great time with E and S. E better be grateful for the ticket I got him because he had been wanting to watch it!

Such a great time spent with them.

About S
S - Sham is a friend I met in ScreenSingapore. Lord knows that live chattering we made there. We hanged out a lot together because we can read each others mind like there's telepathy in our brain, how awesome is that!

About E
E - Elfie is a friend I met while I was in SP. At that time we weren't that close because we are in fact not from the same school. Long story short, we chatted a lot on the phone, and I decided to introduce him to S several weeks after that because before I am gone to the land of men (sounds so wrong but true) and E definitely need a friend. So the two of you, mingle and don't you single me out!

 Great weekend spent with them the other day!

HSBC TreeTop Walk
I'd call last weekend the final weekend for me. Obviously after this I will be all jittery to even think that today is in fact not that the day I enlist but since the date is drawing closer, it's time to tone down on the rough activities and just relax for a while.

Last weekend was the last vigorous activity that I did as a civilian. After this, say goodbye to two years of freedom.

This trekking was a family day out and at the same time, to sweat out the toxins, and give a little warm up before the training really starts. After this week I am sure that my stamina will boost a little bit. Still hoping things go well there!

First Visit - Universal Studios Singapore
Remember the days when Universal Studios just opened and it seems almost the entire world is in Singapore to see it. Alas the main attraction: Battlestar Gallatica was not opened yet. That leaves Universal Studios open to people who don't ride roller coasters.

After some time the main attraction was opened and people like me starts flocking in. I'm as usual, slow-by-a-minute when it comes to this because I have the Singaporean mindset, and definitely cost conscious. The reasons I would give if anyone who had been to Universal Studios was this.

  1. It's still new, the rides are new and you'll not know who will die first being the test rat on a rotating wheel.
  2. It's still new, I bet the rides will break down halfway getting a dose of people riding. They need some getting used to before I go.
  3. It's still new, the price of the ticket is still high, maybe it will come down! (Then I'll raise my hand and start praying, haha!)
And then after some time, it seems everything else is stable, and the price is evidently not going down, I had to come up with new reasons.
  1. No one wants to go with me yet, it seems everyone in my contact list has been there.
  2. It's the monsoon season now, I don't want to get wet and get my money wasted.
  3. I'm just waiting for the right time to go. (This folks, I never lie)
The rest are just reasons to save my money and honestly, I never thought it would be worth it. So much money spent on so many rides with so little time.

I got my tickets as a gift, it is like a response to one of my reason in hoping the price would go down. In fact it did for us, I went in and just paid for the Express Pass. I decided to go before I leave for the army, on a working and schooling weekday where there's not many people, on a sunny day and majority of the patrons were Indonesians. Contrary to some thoughts saying most rides were closed on a weekday for maintenance, when I called, the rides were all open, all of them.

It seems I went at the right time, so grateful! And nobody died because it's no longer new, I got to go with all my siblings, just the three of us in different world each hour, it only rained in the morning, and wait, did I just completed all response for all the above reasons? God, yes.

I was so glad that day because that was not only my first visit to Universal Studios Singapore (USS) but first time being on the tallest dueling roller coaster! That was my first ride in USS. I felt giddy the first time I took it because I have not ridden anything that gives the adrenaline rush since secondary school. After that, I did not stop riding it. I even went back to back. After that day, I don't feel so good on top of being mute for the day.

There are seven worlds. Hollywood will be the first you will see and enter. Look out for actors dressed as Charlie Chaplin or Marilyn Monroe. Monster Rock was vibrant with pyrotechnics and live music and you must not miss this! The pre-show was even more fun. I can't stop amusing myself from looking at people rushing for empty seats only to know they are reserved - for the handicapped.

As you walk you will land in cosmopolitan world of New York where you will regret missing Lights, Camera, Action! I was so amazed by the backdrop that looks so real. It really makes you think you're on a real set. In New York, be prepared to act like Marilyn Monroe over the steaming manhole. Don't worry, it's not hot! However, standing too long on that manhole can damp your legs.

The next thing you knew, you're in the Sci-Fi City, queuing for Battlestar Gallatica (Cylon and Human). From Vivo City, I've always thought they are the same ride with different route but I was wrong. They are two different rides which has two different types of seats! If you get there, you'll have a tough choice judging which one is more thrilling.

After Sci-Fi, we stepped into the world of Ancient Egypt where I was fascinated by the man made ruins. Everything looked so real. In the Revenge of The Mummy, you will get to see props like mummy and beetles, twists and turns that you will not expect because you'll be blindfolded by darkness. Treasure Hunters was a laid back ride we took to cool down a little bit. Look out for buff men that dressed up like pharaoh's guards, and eight shaped women dressed as its mistress. Definitely photo worthy!

Being into The Lost World made me lost for a bit. Thank God there was the Studio Guide with me! Maneuvered my way through the place and we rode the Jurrasic Park Rapids Adventure. It isn't as adventurous as I thought it would be. Given a choice, I'd choose log flumes over this. The queue was long by the way. If I hadn't bought the Express Pass, I'd be crying over wasted time queuing. The queue at the Canopy Flyer was long too. We saved a lot of time indeed.

Our spirits were uplifted when we were Far Far Away. The Shrek 4-D Adventure is a sensory ride that engages you sense of sight and touch. It felt so real and the 4-D glasses doesn't bother as much as the conventional 3-D glasses. SimEx-Iwerks should add blowing warm air and synchronize it with the bellowing fire from the dragon. I was so annoyed not being able to take photos with Shrek and Fiona! I spent the entire day crying at the fountain in front of the castle. Just kidding!

Madagascar wraps up our first round in USS. The Madagascar: A Crate Adventure was uplifting but some tourist really spoiled my mood. Since when it is ever appropriate to take pictures with flash when the essence of the ride is its lighting and color? Or even, shove the bloody flash on other peoples face?

In reliving my memory as a child, my brother and took the carousel in Madagascar!

By the way, purchasing the Express Pass is SGD$30. The feeling you get when the long queue looks at you: priceless.

This probably sums up the fun packed July I had. Thank you to the high above for such a great time handed down to me! A weekend left before army starts. Wish me well!

To every single one of you, whatever you did definitely made my departure easier.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Universal Studios Singapore - 15 Tips

I was back from Universal Studios Singapore last night, and here are some pointers for some of you if you want to know. It worked well for me, so hopefully for you too.

  1. Check the local weather forecast. Avoid monsoon season no matter how cooling it is. I failed to do this and it rained in the morning. Luckily everything went well in the afternoon not long after it was opened. I managed to warm up in the gym with H though. It is a blessing in disguise.
  2. Buy your tickets in advance online. Skip the queue and avoid disappointments. 
  3. Purchase the Express Pass. The Express Pass costs SGD$30. The feeling you get when everyone looks at you cutting queue and saving time, priceless. But check out the ride availability. As for me, I went on a weekday and the odds of having all rides open is lesser than a weekend. Luckily, all rides were opened.
  4. Get the Studio Guide from the counter. What I did was to cross out the places I've visited to make sure I went for all. After which, I used it to find the bloody restroom. It camouflaged with the display buildings!
  5. Save your Express Pass for peak periods - in the afternoon. The rest of the time would be useless to use it. You'll be wasting your lifeline to cut the queue. You can ask if the queue is long before using your pass.
  6. Bring a poncho and a plastic bag. It's for wet weather, but mainly for Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure. You would not want to throw it away in case it rains or you want to ride on the Rapids Adventure again.
  7. Bring a spare towel and a t-shirt. You will get wet even  if you're not riding water rides. All the more reason to bring one if you are taking public transport. Be considerate.
  8. Charge your camera and empty its memory. Universal Studios in its name is in fact a studio. There are wedded couples who take photos there too. There will be so many photo opportunities for your own keeping. Especially if you've not been to Egypt or a real fairytale land.
  9. Eat well before you enter. The food there isn't cheap but neither it's expensive but definitely more worth it to eat outside in my opinion. Never say I didn't warn you but do not eat too much because you will obviously want to try out the food in there and you wouldn't want to smear digested food onto someone's face while riding the Battlestar Gallatica. We are prepared for rain, not digested food rain.
  10. Bring an empty bottle. It lightens your bag while you're on your way there, and it's healthier to drink plain water. You can refill your bottle at the water cooler and have your own water parade. Alternatively, if you think this plan is cheap and you want to flaunt your wealth, by all means buy their drinks served in a bong-shaped bottle or any other drink.
  11. Be there early. I know it's a little rushy to be there early in the morning and they were about to open but it is fun to see the place before it gets crowded. USS is not that big but you wouldn't want to be there for a while either. After paying that much, you would not spend as much time as possible in USS?
  12. Be the last to leave. No, not because I'm asking you to hide as a mummy and do a planned robbery but once the crowd subsided, you will own the place with lesser people to yourselves.
  13. Just bring a bag to fill in everything. In USS, you live like Aladdin. They have free lockers with time limit and some doesn't. So, read the labels properly. You wouldn't want to feel cheated and spoil your day.
  14. Rest well the day before because the fun and thrilling rides involves walking before getting in. Bring your happy spirit and use it all in USS. Avoid making fun packed plans the following day, you'll be beat.
  15. Bring a cap and a pair of shades. Photos with the actors who dress up as Marilyn Monroe or Charlie Chaplin has to be quick because there will be queues and sorry folks, Express Pass doesn't work here and you don't have the whole time in the world to touch up. So the cap is to cover your bad hair, and the shades is to cover your eyes - especially if you tend to close your eyes in pictures. And of course its dual function is to play double up by protecting your eyes from the sun and the blaring flash.
    Hopefully the tips will help you enjoy the seven worlds even more!

      Friday, July 1, 2011

      Conscription!

      Today’s post brings you an important news in my life and the several things that I am grateful for. Just like any other Singaporean man, we will be conscripted by the age of 18 – but it depends on the education path that we take.

      Right after graduation, my old schoolmates, friends and relatives have been asking where I am posted to for National Service and I asked myself the same question. Every single day I’d go to the letterbox to see if there was any letter that was addressed to me. There were a few then like subscription letters, or even school related letters.

      I was gob smacked to go home one day to found a letter on my study table that comes in a package.

      That letter bears my enlistment date and posting. So before I get conscripted for the next two years, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made my break a worthwhile one. I have been doing odd jobs while on my break so it is hard to answer when people ask what I am doing because nothing was even temporary.

      I had a great time spending 4 days teaching primary school students Malay Language as part of their compulsory third language module, this experience has enabled me to understand myself better – as a student.

      Following which I did a short term service with Fairmont Hotels and Resort. It has spectacular working environment, the nice people I met from all over the world, and the knowledge imparted while I was there, I would never barter them for gold. It was a very fulfilling job, thanks to Ms Jean for the matching job she had for me. If it would not have been for my dinner there, I would not have found out the job vacancy.

      Not forgetting Ms Rajes, for the ScreenSingapore experience and the wonderful people I met from there. It was such a tiring week for me but it is an experience that I will not regret taking upon. Honestly I was very, very reluctant to be a part of this until a certain point of time that my heart says go, I had to follow.

      My break would not be complete without work dedicated to the ones with special needs. I would like to thank R. W for introducing RDA to me. Riding for Disabled Association provides therapeutic horse riding lessons for the mentally and physically disabled. They are very, very special people that have a special place in my heart.

      Today onwards marks one month before embarking my journey in the Singapore Armed Forces. I hope all of you would wish me godspeed for my ‘holiday trip’ protecting the nation!