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Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

You may remember that last year I was a little clueless when it came to Chinese New Year. I ended up ringing in the year of the snake with a last minute trip to Kuala Lumpur. My friend, Giselle, was barely more than a stranger to me at the time yet invited me along with her and her husband anyway.

Doesn’t that seem the nature of life here in Singapore? You meet someone and a week later you are hauling your bag on to a bus and settling down next to them for an adventure. Sometimes you part ways at the end and keep in touch as a formality on Facebook. In other cases, as is the case of Giselle, I was happy to make a friend to keep.

Our agenda was relaxed with a few things in mind, including Thean Hou Temple in its full New Year glory.

Thean Hou Temple

Thean Hou Temple

Thean Hou Temple

Heh, this sign made me laugh. By the end of day 1 we had made a game out of trying to get a taxi that would use it’s meter. We took turns approaching taxis and the one who got a driver that would use the meter won the round. Generally one out of every 4 taxi drivers would oblige.

taxi

Giselle studied art, so a trip to the Islamic Arts Museum was in order. The architecture of the building was a highlight.

Islamic Arts Museum

Onto the charming and chaotic Batu caves!

Batu Caves

atbatucaves

inbatucaves

And of course, a trip to KL would not be complete without a view of the Petronas Towers.

petronastowers

Although there are quite a few sights to see in KL, one draw of the city is their affordable 4 and 5 star hotels. Might as well spend some time enjoying the facilities and take things slow. My travelling companions booked early and were able to get a deal at a top hotel. I, on the other hand, was last minute and had to go a bit more budget. With a pool like this, I didn’t feel a bit bad about the extra money saved.

Hotel

Impiana KLCC rooftop pool

2014 introduces the year of the horse. Once again, I found myself without plans. This time due to tentative work-related commitments. While husband and myself contemplated last minute bookings, we opted in the end for a staycation spent with new and old friends in similar situations. Sometimes its just nice to not rush around.

One thing remains the same between CNY of the snake and the horse: so.many.mandarins.

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I had heard there was an art scene in Singapore, but I had yet to run into it and hence, yet to believe it.

I was relieved to know that I was wrong. There is more-than-just-relevant art in Singapore and it doesn’t take much scratching below the surface to find it. In fact, I saw it Friday night at the Gillman Barracks.

I was tempted to check out the series of art galleries when I heard one was housing Ai Wei Wei’s first solo exhibition in Southeast Asia. Husband and I went to his sunflower seeds exhibition at the Tate Modern  in January 2011 and I was curious to find out what else this famous Chinese contemporary artist and dissident had up his sleeve.

His piece at Michael Janssen gallery focused on the ongoing tainted milk formula problems in his home country. I could feel his disappointment, the frustration associated with wanting your country to be more, to be better than it is. I think we all have those moments, but compound that with 81 days spent in jail held by your own government without any official charges being filed and you either come out with your soul crushed or more vigor than ever.

What I found profoundly different from his sunflower seed installation at Tate Modern was how accessible his work felt in Singapore. The sunflower seeds at the Tate were designed to be interactive, but ultimately had to be placed off limits due to safety issues. The dust created from walking on the seeds was creating a health hazard. But here were the milk canisters. Right there. I could have kicked them if I wanted to. (I didn’t)

Ai Wei Wei's Baby Formula at the Michael Janssen gallery

Ai Wei Wei’s Baby Formula at the Michael Janssen gallery

We moved on to check out some of the other galleries. As a part of the Gillman Barracks first anniversary, the galleries were open late. We weren’t sure which one to check out next, so we followed the path of free wine.

Andy sips wine and contemplates art at the Gillman Barrack galleries

Andy sips wine and contemplates art at the Gillman Barrack galleries

More

Anthropos: Navigating Human Depth in Thai and Singapore Contemporary Art Curated by Loredana Pazzini-Paraccian

Anthropos at Sundaram Tagore Gallery Singapore

The studios began to close, but we were lucky to stumble upon a small street party where up and coming Singaporean musician Charlie Lim was performing solo.

Charlie Lim at the Gillman Barrack's 1st anniversary party

Charlie Lim at the Gillman Barrack’s 1st anniversary party

Gillman Barracks street party

Gillman Barracks street party

We contemplated food at the Naked Finn, but the lines encouraged us to go elsewhere. The food looked fantastic, so it will be something to look forward to on our next visit.

Ai Wei Wei’s exhibit continues until October 6, 2013 at the Micheal Janssen Gallery,

address: 9 Lock Road, #02-21, Singapore 108937

opening hours:
Tue to Sat 12pm-7pm

Sun 12pm-6pm
Closed on Mondays & Public holidays

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I come back from a weekend away to find myself choking on smoke and acrid air in Singapore. I start to ask everyone around me what is going on. I’ve been here a full calendar year now exactly, I thought the surprises were over.

Sadly, this is what it took for me to care about the deforestation of Sumatra. OK, the words “to care” are not exactly right. “Be aware” is more appropriate. With so many things going on in the world, how do we just pick one cause? We usually get cause fatigue and sink back into our slumpy little holes of wine and cheese or working out or television or whatever else we can find to hide away in and feel better. I’m not judging. These are my drugs too.

But when it’s in your face, in the air you breathe, I suppose you can’t ignore things anymore.

If this is the future, it’s scary and awful, y’all and I don’t know what to do about it. Think I’m being melodramatic? Check out this photo taken atop the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands.

Photo from Reuters

Photo from Reuters

Permission has been granted to convert up to 70% of what remains of Indonesia’s rainforest into palm or acacia plantations. This smoke covering Singapore comes from the clearing of those lands by fire. Visit Sumatra and Borneo now because in 20 years the forests there will be gone. Accompanying the eviction of animals and plants from their land is violence. Communities that had lost their traditional forest fought multinational companies and security forces in more than 600 major land conflicts last year. All according to the Guardian.

This isn’t some far away place anymore. This is Singapore’s backyard. This is MY backyard.

What can be done about it? Well I guess we can stop buying palm oil for a start, but it seems like we just consume and replace one thing with something else- another cash crop perhaps? I’m not putting down the palm oil ban idea. It could be a temporary Bandaid. The rainforest might really appreciate a Bandaid.

The mantra “Live simply so that others may simply live” sounds really groovy until you realize it’s being spouted by one of the world’s wealthiest and most privileged. Before you start asking me for a loan thinking I have some CEO type gig or inheritance, consider that 80 percent of the world live on under $10 a day. If you are reading this, I am pretty sure that you too are among the world’s most wealthy.

So tonight I eat vegan – it requires less land mass to raise grain and vegetable than animals. Besides, we are all headed there anyway eventually. I contemplate growing a garden and whether its responsible to have children, how many, and what resources one should give them. I self congratulate myself for driving a scooter instead of a minivan. Then I think about how many shoes I really need to own and my love for travelling on airplanes.  I think about emerging economies and their rights to own shoes and travel on airplanes. Or even sometimes their right to just try and feed their families.

I think – does it really matter what I do? “I’m one person and even if I manage to figure out something, the rest of the world is not going to come with me,” says a small voice. Regular interactions on Facebook have schooled me on this one. “Are you kidding me??” was the response to my suggestion to reduce carbon footprint if you didn’t have cash to give to a charitable organization.

“We think it’s so cute that you care about people,” was a response from a good friend who doesn’t see eye to eye and married a man who doesn’t believe in global warming.

“OK,” I mumble to keep the peace. “I guess the jury’s still out?”

Now I’m cynical and sad. And I crawl into bed doomed by this whole new problem of unsafe air, deforestation and homeless orangutans when the other day my biggest problem was whether or not the cab driver was ripping me off $5 and having an annoying heat rash. (BTW, heat rashes are super annoying.)

I’m grateful for the perspective but not very happy about the rest of it. I snap out of my wallowing.

Who’s got time to be butt hurt over stupid things when THE RAINFOREST IS BURNING. The one next to my house, not the one on the other side of the world anymore.

As for raising awareness, the smoke seems to be doing it, you see. It’s got my attention and my lungs.

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A cure for what ails you

Photo taken at a Chinese Medicine Shop near Ghim Moh Market, Singapore.

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The other day I saw an ad on TV sponsored by StarHub, Singapore’s cable and telephone company.

There was an artsy looking woman on the screen with a ukelele trying to convince me that Singaporeans really are happy.

I wondered if this had anything to do with recent polls citing Singapore as the most emotionless country in the world and another one saying that Singaporeans didn’t experience positive emotions, basically that they are unhappy. According to the study, Singaporeans were less upbeat than people in poor or war-stricken areas like Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Haiti. Ouch.

Sure enough, the ad was indeed a response to the study.

There’s a whole Facebook page dedicated to proving that Singapore is actually happy. And a happiness bus that distributed free coffee outside of La Pau Sat to go with it.

So folks, this is the Singapore Happiness Campaign. You can share pictures and videos of proof that you are happy on the Facebook site in exchange for a chance to win cash and the latest mobile handsets.

The submitted photos are mostly babies and children, food and shared moments with friends. I didn’t notice any photographs of the infamous five C’s.

What does this mean for Singapore and the life satisfaction level of its residents? That indeed they are happy? That they are like everyone else in the world? That cash and mobile handsets can encourage you to participate in a social media project where you submit your very own Instagrams? Or a need to prove to the rest of the world that they are not an unhappy society?

I think it means that Singapore likes campaigns. There was the Courtesy campaign to promote a pleasant living environment filled with kind, considerate and polite Singaporeans. The Speak Good English Campaign, a movement to promote the proper use of English over Singlish in Singapore. The Speak Mandarin Campaign, to encourage the Singaporean Chinese population to speak Mandarin. Singapore’s OK Campaign, for better hygiene.

And I haven’t even mentioned the use of remade modern fairytales to warn women of declining fertility, oh my. They go on. I counted ten total government campaigns for 2012 alone off this government website.

Do they work? A 2011 study says no, they actually wear out the population.

But maybe, just maybe this happiness one will work? I’m crossing my fingers for you Singapore. Here’s to hoping that an absence of emotion doesn’t equal unhappiness, only a shyness in expressing it. It’s just too bad I missed the free coffee to go with the tagline.

Editor’s note: Although this isn’t the original commercial mentioned in the posting, you can view one of the happiness campaign videos here.

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Ran across this item while browsing at Dean and Deluca in Orchard Central. Ever tried one of these Green Musk Melons? At 100 SGD (that’s 80 USD or 50 GBP) a piece I hope they are absolutely fantastic! That’s one food item you don’t let rot in your refrigerator.

image

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I prefer not to shop at Court’s as I’ve had my share of frustrations with their customer service, but I do like to check their pricing on big ticket items.  That’s why I ended up looking at this ad on their website for a Samsung washing machine and found this beautiful piece of marketing.

Like a diamond, the Diamond Drum Washing Machine is long lasting, caring, beautiful, and is an expression of most woman’s want.

That’s right, ladies. Court’s knows what you want. It’s diamonds and washing machines. List it right above equal pay, joyful expression of the soul, and a house in the Dolomites- or on Sentosa Island if you prefer.

Maybe if you are lucky you will meet a man who can give you both a washing machine AND a diamond.

With that, I am headed out to buy a washing machine. Because sadly, even conflict-free diamonds can’t get my clothes clean.

Editor’s note: My local electronics store sold this washing machine for $455. That’s $44 lower than Courts. That includes delivery, installation and disposal of the old one.

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You may notice a distinct lack of mosquitoes in Singapore. How can that be? Isn’t Singapore in a tropical environment? Aren’t mosquitoes suppose to thrive here?

If you miss the little blood suckers you can come over to my house. There are always a few in the backyard. Mostly, the population is controlled.

I get regular notices of mosquito fogging being done in my neighborhood. The notices warn to stay inside. After being home during one of these foggings, I understand why.

An ominous cloud floats toward the house. The smell gets stronger until I run into the back room. The smell starts to dissipate and I wonder how much poison I have absorbed. I think “why didn’t I make plans to just not be at home right now?”

Mosquito truck

Mosquito truck fog

Oh, the mosquito truck. Being from the swamps of Texas, I am familiar with these monsters. My mother would make us all stay indoors for a few hours when the mosquito truck came by. For me it was cutting into play time. For my mother it was a reassurance against mosquito related annoyance and disease.

Things weren’t the same for her generation. I heard tales from my aunts and great aunts that as kids they would all run outside to dance and jump in the cool thick white cloud. The story was told with humor and nostalgia.

Did anyone see Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life? There’s a scene in the movie where the boys chase behind the mosquito truck. When I first saw the scene, something in my head clicked and I knew what the aunties spoke of.

Photo not mine

Photo not mine

I ran across this post by another blogger through a google search. Apparently, yes, the DDT truck was a Texas thing. Scary to think what used to be “good for you.”

It’s scary to think what parts of our everyday life now we will later find out are poisonous.

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Looking up in Tanjong Pagar

Looking up in Tanjong Pagar

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I love a trip to Little India in Singapore. The area is so colorful and different than the rest of Singapore. You often forget that you are on this tiny island all together.

We had our first visitors in September and they wanted to check the area out. With the food and the visually stunning temples, this was not a hard sale for me. Here is a small collection of photos I took that day.

Temples, temples and more temples…

little india 1

temple

little india 3

little india 2

Beautiful shophouses

shophouses

Am I the tourist or is he?

tourist

Locals shopping for groceries

local shopping for bananas

Who can resist a coconut stand?

coconuts

British girl Amy’s first coconut.

chris and amy coconut

I think she liked it.

amy coconut

Note: Sunday in Little India gets hectic. Plan accordingly.

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