Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Tip of Peninsular Malaysia

Hello everyone, I'm back in town and hope all is well out there. I can't deny the fact that since October actually, my schedule has been quite upbeat till today. Work aside, there are other things in life that needs attention and I am grateful to Almighty for the utmost inner strength that was handed down to me over the past few months.

While most of you fly across the ocean for peace, I just had to cross the sea. How convenient!

When I was young, my parents brought me around Malaysia a lot for holiday. You name it, I've been to all states in West Malaysia. (But, if you want to cheat, you can always drive up then back down) That was because my siblings and I were still young, and my late grandmother was not suited to fly so Malaysia was always the ultimate destination when it comes to holiday. In which, I'm proud to say that my dad somehow knew the road in Malaysia a little better than some other. My family and I probably deserve a certificate of appreciation for that. Only kidding!

Since this year my family and I were busy, we hadn't had the opportunity to spend time together so we decided to just stay at one of the resorts in Johor, formally known as Johor Darul Ta'zim. While the room service was faster than I thought, there's a lot to be done on the cleaning. Vacuum cleaning is an imperative skill but clearly, it is not the cleaner's forte. Or is it because I'm overly hygienic when it comes to travel? I don't know.

The journey started with horse riding (again!) with my beloved nephews before checking in. Apparently there was a little misunderstanding on the timing initially but I'm grateful it was all sorted out. I'm happy that my nephews were elated that day. Mission to make two kids happy accomplished!

I finally had the chance to set foot on one of Malaysia's latest attraction and from a person who has not crossed borders for a long time I am pretty sure there is progress in Malaysia. I mean all these while when I visited Malaysia, I was a little pessimistic about it. Same old facade, deteriorating buildings, abandoned projects and what not. Well that was then when I thought every country in the world should be like home but home is tad to perfect really. When the fact is, it is common to see what we see in Malaysia in other parts of the world too, be it its positive or negative aspect. Oh what have we become, Singapore. Just hope our small country doesn't make our people small minded.

Apart from the new plastic note and newly built checkpoint, there are new projects around Iskandaria that is on the way or already up. But Singaporean investors confidence remains questionable as crime rate is still sky high.

Anyway one of their latest attraction I went to was Legoland! Word has it that Legoland are for kids and it has never been so true. It kinda bring back my memory as a kid, playing Lego, not cleaning them up after playing and then got scolded with my late grandmother because she accidentally stood on one of the Lego pieces. You know how much it hurts, especially when you stood on it unexpectedly.

Going to Legoland is like going to Art of Brick exhibition at the Art Science Museum. Only magnified! Look at the making of Christmas tree video. Just look at the weight!


Honestly, Legoland is huge for kids. Definitely more enjoyable for them. It's a whole new world. It's definitely more colorful and the things there are just mini. Even their most thrilling roller coaster is kid friendly. Height is a secondary issue. As much as I enjoy and recommend you parents to go there with your kids, (if you have a kid who can walk and talk at least), maybe you might really want to look at the time you're going. It was not really pleasant to wait in a long queue and torrid weather. You know how kids behave when they are lethargic and impatient. I spent the entire time praying for this thing called Express Pass to be available but no it did not happen. It is not available in Malaysia yet I think? Nothing works better than hope!

If none of your family members are kids, know that it's a pretty wholesome theme park for adult family too because I know for sure I can't convince my mum to ride something like Formula Rossa or Big Shot no matter how eligible she is. So, don't think of it as just a theme park for kids. It is indeed a family friendly theme park.

There goes my short break. Hope this entry is entertaining and informative enough for you readers. Thank you for visiting my humble blog. Also, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to my alumni mates for not being able to attend the reunion BBQ that was organized last week as I was not able to reach Singapore on time. Know that all of you are always in my mind! I kinda crave for some barbecued sausages and otah.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Week in Fine City: Singapore (II)

ArtScience Museum
It was my first time going to the world's first ArtScience Museum which hosts popular touring exhibitions like The Art of Brick, Fujians and the renowned Harry Potter: The Exhibition. For the price you are paying, in my opinion, it is economically wise to purchase the entry to all exhibition because different exhibit surely gives different experience.

There's not much to say but feel itself.

The Fujians: The Blue Ocean Legacy exhibit shows a lot about Chinese history and the impact it made in Singapore, as well as how different people of different races and religion live harmoniously during the Song and Yuan dynasty in Guangzhou. It also shows 2,000 year old ocean route of sea-faring Fujians from early trade to mass migration. Very interesting, especially for those who kept asking why do they see Chinese in almost every part of the world. There sure be a Chinatown in most countries!

The Magnum photo exhibition, Outside In displays photographs from three lauded photographers; Stuart Franklin, Mark Power and Jacob Aue Sobol. The installations were magnificent. Well spaced, well lit, as compared to The Fujians where I had to be a little bit more cautious. As much as I love most of the photographs, I'd appreciate it more if they have a booklet with detailed captions.


Dhany and I really enjoyed The Art of Brick - the first major museum exhibition to use Lego as a sole art medium. You know when we entered the exhibit and there was this warning sign that says 'Do Not Touch', I've always wondered what would happen if a naughty kid runs around and hit one of the installations and it crumbles into pieces? Come one, it's Lego and you can detach the brick as easy as breathing.

The question is, do I pay for the damage(s) in cash, or do I have to sit there and redo the entire thing? Just a curious thought. Nevertheless, I could not be more impressed by this above all not because doing it is tedious. I think doing it is simple because you're just joining blocks but how patient can you be joining a few thousand Lego bricks, just for one installation? I'm sure Nathan Sawaya is earning big bucks for the time he had spent with inexpensive toy. These days, not many has that kind of patience. I'd be disappointed if I ever find out he uses a machine to produce this. Hah!

 One of the installations in The Art of Brick

Tip: Find out the exhibitions the museum are having and read about them before coming. At least you won't be too lost. Only certain exhibitions has a chargeable audio guide. You're lucky if it's complimentary.

Gardens By The Bay
Gardens By The Bay is relatively new. It opened in late June 2012 and I bet only a handful of you appreciate its engineering. When I stayed at Marina Bay Sands hotel about a year ago, I've always wondered how the two domes and supertrees were constructed. There are many tall buildings in Singapore from public flats to office buildings so we tend to ignore anything that looks smaller just like the two domes and the supertrees.



I don't know the technical and engineering specifics of the construction but what I know is that the supertrees are actually exhaust pipes to the self-sustaining air cooler in the Cloud Forest. It's not just for show after all, they are functional. I recommend you to watch National Geographic's Megastructures: Gardens By The Bay.

The Flower Dome is very cheery, probably because of the scent and the saturated colour from the flowers. Dhany and I just can't get enough inhaling the air and taking deep breaths. Good thing Christmas is around the corner so the dome is donned with Christmas decorations. Not wanting to take photographs would be an opportunity wasted. It's like we patrons agreed that the decorations are beautiful when we helped each other to take photographs!

The Cloud Forest is chilly and may seem dull at first. I really should have read a little bit more on the Cloud Forest because it was really, really chilly. We should have brought a sweater with us. The Cloud Forest may seem dull at first because you don't see colorful flowers around and all that's attracting you is the man made waterfall. But as you go up to the top and follow the path, then you'll get to see more. I felt a little giddy walking on the trail because it was so high that the people below really look like ants. Just when you thought the dome isn't that bag and high. I've got it all wrong! It was fun though because you'll have a vantage point of the outdoor garden and Marina Barrage.

Tip: If you're going to Cloud Forest, bring a sweater. Not winter wear, okay?

Dinner at J's Wok
J's Wok is one of the many restaurants that incorporates food business and charity. The profit that the restaurant earn goes to Jamiyah Organization - Muslim Missionary Society Singapore that gives welfare to children and the aged. So while there are many other concept restaurants that we can go, Dhany and I went to J's Wok for dinner with my relatives for they have known Dhany when we were in Jakarta. While the menu serves Western, there are still options for Asian cuisine. After dinner we spent about an hour going for karaoke. Heh! It has been a while! Thanks to my relatives for the dinner and karaoke treat!


Singapore Flyer
That day I visited the Singapore Flyer, I began to lost count on how many times have I rode it. The first time was in 2009 with Nat, Faz and Fiz, then there's Grand Prix, and then with my colleagues, and several other times which I forgot.

I may have lost count but that doesn't mean I'm used to riding the Singapore Flyer. At times, I do feel the anxiety being on Singapore Flyer. But this time is a little unique because my dad joined us during the tour. At least I feel a little safer with my dad around! There were only seven people in the cabin: my dad, Dhany and I, and a family of four from the Emirates.

What's so uniqe about having my dad on board?

Tips: Don't be scared, take the map in the capsule and have a read. You might want to avoid riding it at night if you're there for real sight seeing. Otherwise all you see are flickering lights. I've tried both!
 
On board, he explained to us what would happen when the Singapore Flyer stops functioning. Just like what was broadcasted in the news, the survival kit is just one thing. I had no idea there's this thing called dry toilet! I just can't imagine being stuck, having to do my business in a glass capsule with other people on board with no privacy. So before boarding, remember to say your prayers!

But should any breakdown occur, the Singapore Civil Defence Force has my full trust. I always believe they are capable of saving lives and does a good job in rescue missions because they do them regularly. We have all the state of the art equipment but the trouble with saving people these days is just like how my dad put it;

"Actually the mission is easy, but one capsule can hold thirty passengers. And on this wheel there are twenty eight. So if it breaks down, do you think everybody wants to come down?"

Guess we can't put much blame on our superheroes for not saving them, remember that there are many other in other capsules who will want to get down real badly.


My dad has my respect for his career in the uniformed group and almost every work day he has a mission to attend. There are many stories he shared with my family and I, which gives us a lot of learning point from his working experience.

That sums up my holiday in Singapore. I hope you readers find this informative and entertaining!

I am not writing a review, I don't get paid and I don't get sponsored as what most would have asked and thought. I am just sharing my experience for my reader's benefit on what I went through as a tourist and host.

Special thanks to my family for the wonderful help, my relatives who came by for dinner and karaoke, and of course, Dhany, I do hope you have enjoyed your stay here!

A Week in Fine City: Singapore (I)

If 2NE1 and Beyonce did their world tour, I did my island tour. Not that rich to do a world tour on my own. I had my vacation in my homeland and like any other tourists, I am pretty impressed.

A good friend of mine, Dhany from Jakarta, Indonesia came a week ago so I got to kill two birds in one stone. I won't write much but I will highlight to you some points and maybe tips for you to take note if it's gonna help. This post goes to you tourists and of course, my fellow Singaporeans. The world is just too big to venture for a one week vacation.


National Museum of Singapore
Let's start of with the basic. The first place we went when my friend arrived, we went to the National Museum and here's why it should be the first activity on your itinerary. While most would have gone to the mall upon arrival, I think it is important to expose yourself to the Singapore culture and history for better understanding. Then you won't have much of a cultural shock. Its entry is cheap yet rich in culture, history and information that even I, as a Singaporean didn't know. Then you'll understand why the Singaporean Chinese, Malays and Indians are just different from their native counterparts. So if you're heading to Singapore, I recommend you to visit the Singapore Living Galleries and Singapore History Gallery before going anywhere else. It's gonna be a plus point for you if you're going to head to places like Chinatown, Little India, or Kampong Glam. Then on you'll be able to see how much these places have changed and progess.

I've never been so interested in history until I went there. Hands down, I did not fare so well for my Histroy exam when I was in secondary school. A subject which I avoid doing totally.

Tip: Visit the Singapore Living Galleries and Singapore History Gallery. You might want to spend more time there with the complimentary multi-lingual audio guide.

Malay Heritage Centre
My family, Dhany and I went for breakfast at Kampong Glam for there's an array of traditional Malay dishes, followed by a tour at the Malay Heritage Centre. That place was lovely sight with well manicured shrubs, clean, simple and decent facade. Although Singapore is just a red dot on the world map, the Malay culture here is influenced a lot by the countries she is surrounded by. I must say it has a lot of information on the modern landscape of Singapore's Malay society but it lack on how the Malays were during the colonial times. They should have displayed more permanent exhibits like the metamorphosis of the Malay scripts which begins from Sanskrit and now, Roman alphabets, and how the majority of the Malays in this archipelago has evolved from being animists, adherents of Hinduism then Islam through trade.

I happen to read a lot on Malay history because it is more complex than I thought, which is why I thought it lack a lot of things. And for its complexity, this is one of the reason why I avoid answering questions on Malay society and its religious belief. Not that I can answer all but not many would be able to comprehend its intricacy. After all, that place is called Malay Heritage Centre for a reason so it would have been better if they cover on what happened in the Malay Archipelago as well.

The Malay Heritage Centre just reopened in September 2012 after going through one and a half year of renovation works. The painting is still fresh!

Tip: Wear a simple footwear if you mind taking time taking them out. No footwear is allowed in the Malay Heritage Centre permanent exhibition.

Shopping at Bugis Street
Dhany and I also went to Bugis Street so that she can enjoy the best retail deal in Singapore and she was amazed by the name of it. She was saying that back in Indonesia there is an ethnic group named Bugis. She's not wrong at all. Bugis Street was indeed occupied by the people of Bugis then. Amazing what Sir Stamford Raffles did to Singapore then. In a way it makes Singapore histroy easier to understand because it has been so called organized by area.

At Bugis Street, don't just be prepared to shop till you drop, but be prepared for the crowd and potential pickpockets. Although Singapore's crime rate is one of the lowest in the world, it's safer if you remain vigilant. No, you don't have to padlock your bag!

Tip: Cash is the most acceptable mode of payment, credit cards are acceptable too. There's money changer there as well should you are short of cash.

There they have a lot of apparels and accessories for sale. Mostly for teenagers while the older ones can cross over and head to Bugis Junction where there's a relatil mall there. You can get local souvenirs at Bugis Street too. In my point of view, Bugis is one of the best places to shop because the things sold are trendy, affordable and you have a choice to let your teenage kids shop at Bugis Street while you parents shop at Bugis Junction or Bugis+ mall.

On the downside, some shops don't allow you to try on the apparels (especially womens), it's either they don't allow you to try them out at all, or you'll have to buy, then try them in the toilet, if it doesn't fit, you can exchange for another size. So that really depends on the type of shopper your are.

It's not much of a cheating technique, just that it's a weird policy I don't wish to abide and avoid as a consumer.

Tip: Wear something light because it can be very stuffy at certain parts of Bugis Street and who knows, you can try some outfit by wearing them over?

On Aura Tout Vu Fashion Show and Closing Party
Before Dhany came, I messaged her to bring something nice for her to dress up as she'll be treated to a surprise.

Little did she know that she will be attending a fashion show. So when we reached Marina Bay Sands, she was surprised by the unexpected event. She thought I was going to bring her out to some fancy restaurant! Well, Dhany, I really hope you really enjoyed the haute couture fashion show and the closing party. Definitely a crazy night for us!

The closing party was bizzare!


Jurong Bird Park
It is shameful that as a Singaporean, we don't see what our country has got to offer. Jurong Bird Park is Asia's largest bird park and I had no idea until I visited their website. The last time I went to Jurong Bird Park was when I was what, fifteen? Proud to say that for a long time I've not been there, I remember that place quite well. Large probably doesn't seem so large to me anymore I suppose? Only kidding! My legs were wobbling by the end of the walkthrough. Shagged! I wonder how Dhany survived in heels. As she puts it, suffer for fashion!


Feeding the lory was the highlight and I really, really recommend you park goers to go there. For just SGD$3, you can get close to the lories, feel them in your hands and hear these cute creatures chirp and get comfortable with you. It felt so ticklish when one of them perched on my shoulder and started licking around my neck and ears. Very playful little birds.

One even stood on Dhany's head! Glad that that did not freak her out.

Do take your time reading the exhibit info! Not all parrots and are the same apparently. Just when I thought they are like humans with different hair colour, they are in fact humans with different races.

We were supposed to go to Singapore Zoo and Night Safari but the weather is just not on our side on the two days we planned. I guess Jia Jia and Kai Kai don't want to see us. Or is God telling us to wait till the River Safari's construction is complete and open to public? I love animals (except for some) so going to these places is kinda huge for me.

Tip: Check the weather forecast before going to the above mentioned places as these places adopts open concept exhibit.

Universal Studios Singapore
In attempt to be the tourists prime destination in Asia, Universal Studios Singapore (USS) is Southeast Asia's first movie theme park built.

It is small as compared to the ones in other contries but that does not mean you can't have the same adrenaline rush and fun here. Besides, it's Dhany's first visit and it is an adrenaline junkie's dream to try out the rides at Universal Studios.

There are several preparation that needs to be done before going. I kinda forgot what  should we prepare for before going so I had to refer back to my 15 tips entry (click here) before going to USS. Should you want to come to Singapore and have a blast at USS, avoid the monsoon period. It is not worth it if it rains. It will only dampen your spirit and probably your wallet too because tickets are charged peak period. Nonetheless, I am very grateful that it did not rain that day but it started to drizzle when it was about to close.

The new ride, Transformers was so amazing we took them thrice. Very thrilling without giving you a heart attack like the Battlestar. Didn't had the time to go for the Mummy again though. If you plan to go there again, you might want to wait for Sesame Street to open!

That day at Sentosa, I have never felt so lucky and I have no other to thank but the Almighty.

Tip: Read the 15 tips before going to Universal Studios. (click here)

 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Haute Couture Fashion Week 2012, Singapore

For the lack of better word, it was amazing. But I'm sure it's paradise to those who loves a good champagne, nice TWG tea and its macarons.

This year's haute couture fashion week is different for me because all these while, fashion events that I have attended to are the ones in permanent building like event halls but this is the first time I am attending to the one in a big tent. It felt a little bit like Aladdin's tent. Plain on the outside but magic on the inside.

A quick information on the shows that I went and I recommend you to check them out if you're interested in fashion. If you're not, I recommend you check them out as well for cultural exposure. Cultural exchange is not limited to overseas trip only!
  1. Asava by Polpat Asavaprapha (Thailand)
  2. Barney Cheng (Hong Kong)
  3. Junko Shimada (Japan)
  4. Yumi Katsura (Japan)
  5. Maurizio Galante (France)
  6. Julien Fournie (France)
  7. Christophe Josse (France)
  8. Atelier Gustavolins (France)
  9. Alexis Mabille (France)
  10. On Aura Tout Vu (France)
I remember giving a rough explanation on what haute couture is all about last year because I was that noob to even know how to pronounce that word. I used to pronounce it confidently as 'hot-ketua'. What the? Laugh all you want, I know most of you people in my circle don't even know how to pronounce that French word too. Will see who'll have the last laugh. Only kidding!

At this year's event, I learnt that not anyone can be a haute couture designer. Seriously. I am not talking about the kind of hard where people could say "Just design something really intricate and nice, poof, you're an haute couture designer." No. Apparently it's a little bit like if you want to be a property agent. You have to pass like an exam to be certified and recognized one. They have a union that governs this, unbeknownst to me.

Up till today, you have no idea how impressed I am with the details of just one dress. Sure not many would wear it on a day to day basis but in a way, it expresses ones vision and imagination on a dress. Of course, being impressed doesn't mean I like everything that I see. It's art and it's only natural. Probably all would agree with me that as nice as these dresses are, have you ever wondered how are they gonna;
  1. Keep and transport them (but there's DHL)
  2. Get into the car.
  3. Sit on a chair to have a meal.
  4. Take a leak or a dump. Sure Kumar would joke about sarees but he'd probably have not seen this!
  5. Better yet, run from a robber.
I am very grateful to be able to attend this year's event anyway. Very, very grateful. Thanks a bunch, with cherry on top to my family who helped me out just so I could attend this event. So thank you to all of you. Hopefully the ones who're suppose to be surprised are surprised too. They are people like S, A and D. Did those initials just spelt sad? Funny.

Not forgetting the new people I got acquainted with! You guys just made this experience more vibrant. I will e-mail to all you fans when I am free. This week has been hectic and lord knows why. Will share it with all of you people next week!


Have a great week everyone! This is your final sprint before the year 2013!

For more pictures, you can always view my Instagram profile if you're too shy to follow me. I won't bite! Check out www.instagram.com/muhdzulfadli. The full album is in my Facebook! Gonna miss you!