The State of Fun

Sentosa Island is the most southerly point in mainland Asia.  When I saw this sign on my first visit many years ago, I was confused.  How could an island be the most southerly point of the mainland?  Then it was explained to me that because Sentosa is attached to the rest of Singapore by a bridge, and Singapore is attached to Malaysia by the causeway (now there are two) it is possible to start walking from Tanjong Beach and walk all the way to Mongolia.

There are so many things to do and see on Sentosa that just one day is a bit of a teaser.  There are several hotels on Sentosa if you can afford 5* luxury, Costa Sands Sentosa Kampung Hut is the exception being a bit more like camping.  There are plenty of budget hotels near Sentosa but remember to factor in that there is an admission charge to get onto Sentosa each time.

There really is something for everyone, from active, outdoor activities like the Wave House, and bungee jump at AJ Hackett, to indoor pursuits like Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and the Resorts World Sentosa casino.

Many people go to Sentosa for the Universal Studios theme park, but many others just go for the beaches.

Birdwatching in Singapore

When a long-tailed parakeet flew overhead while I was swimming today, I realized that with the exception of the post about being attacked by a crow, I had not written about the birds of Singapore.

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The first time I saw one of these beautiful, bright green birds, I thought someone’s pet must have escaped.  It wasn’t until later that I learned that the long-tailed parakeet is native to South East Asia.  Now, whenever I hear their distinctive call I look up and smile.

For a ‘birder’ visiting Singapore who does not have the time to seek out the many different kinds of birds that live here, I recommend a visit to Jurong Bird Park.  It is the largest bird park in Asia.

Get Outta Town and Leave Your Passport Behind

Visitors to Singapore are sure to include Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Botanic Gardens, and the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in their itinerary but may miss out on some interesting places that are off the beaten path.  Before the Lion City was famous for its futuristic architecture, it had kampongs and fishermen.

Palau Ubin

Palau Ubin harkens back to what Singapore used to be like.  To get there, you take a bumboat from Changi Village.

St. John's Island

St. John’s Island has a fascinating history.  A ferry from Marina South Pier MRT station will take you there.

Lazarus Island

Lazarus Island is inhabited by monkeys and cats.  You must walk there over the causeway from St. John’s Island or you can take your yacht.

 

West Side Story Reimagined

In keeping with the theme of unusual things to do in Singapore, this post is about what I did last evening.  I am not sure what to call it; it was a film, it was a symphony, it was amazing!

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It is events like this (and like the exhibition that I posted about previously) that blur the line between art and technology; perhaps there isn’t even a line to blur.  According to the program, “Half a century after its original release, West Side Story the motion picture will be presented tonight in a format that brings its own innovations.  MGM has created a restored, high-definition print of the film that reveals details unseen since 1961.  A new sound technology developed by Paris-based Audionamix and utilized by Chace Audio by Deluxe, one of the film industry’s top restoration companies, has isolated vocal tracks from the feature, using new source-separation technology that separates elements within a monophonic soundtrack.”  The Singapore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Joshua Tan, performed the musical score so seamlessly that I often forgot that the music wasn’t part of the film. They deserved every bit of the enthusiastic applause that followed the film’s end credits.

A Music Tasting

Being neither a chamber music expert nor a French wine expert, last night’s event was an opportunity to learn a bit about both.  The venue was @Libitum Pte Ltd, Music and Art Studio on East Coast Road.  The wine and the information about it were provided by Guillaume of The French Cellar.  The music was performed by @Libitum Quartet.

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I imagine some of my readers are thinking “isn’t a quartet four musicians?”  but these five very talented people to not all play at the same time.  When a piece called for the flute, Albert Shagimardanov gave up his seat to his father, Zufar.  The musicians from left to right are Zufar Shagimardanov, Elena Shagimardanov, Albert Shagimardanov, Narine Gevorgyan, and Khachatur Khachatryan.

There were four types of wine, each paired with two pieces of music.  Pairing wine with food has become almost commonplace but pairing it with music was a novelty I could not resist.  Here are my impressions:  The first wine was a sparkling wine called Clairette de Die Tradition.  The first piece of music was Polka Pizzicato by Johan Strauss; bubbly and light-hearted, it danced like the bubbles in my glass.  The next piece, also by Strauss was Tales from the Vienna Woods.  At first, the music seemed staid and sombre, so I was afraid it had been mismatched, and that it would be better with a red wine. Soon the music changed and became whimsical and playful.  I was told later that this kind of music was written to be played in the wine houses on the outskirts of Vienna and was meant to emulate the drunkenness of the patrons.

The next wine was Chateau Haut Bessac, a white wine from Bordeaux.  I thought I must have misunderstood because I thought Bordeaux wine is always red, but Guillaume explained that 80% of the wine from that region is red but not all.  I discovered that white wines from the Bordeaux region are very interesting.  Elena invited the audience to close their eyes and imagine they are in a garden.  The quartet played Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D major and suddenly Zufar’s flute filled the garden with birdsong.  It was magical.  The second piece paired with the white wine was a Baroque Quartet by J.S. Fasch.  This time the music was led by the flute and the strings were like gentle breezes blowing through the imaginary garden.

It was time now to start getting serious.  The first red wine was Bastien from the Cotes de Provence. Accompanying this wine were two pieces by A. Piazzolla, Oblivion and Adios Nanino.  The music, like the wine, was intense.  The finale was a red wine from Bordeaux (Orby) and two tangos; one, Chao Paris by Piazzolla, and Pur Una Cabeza by Carlos Gardel, probably the most recognizable tango ever.

For my readers in Singapore, I recommend checking out the @Libitum Facebook page for upcoming events.

A Five Hour Bus Ride

The cheapest way, short of walking or hitching a ride, to get between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is by coach.  Several companies ply this route so choosing which one to use is based largely on how convenient the departure and arrival points are to where you are, and where you want to go.

I used to use a company that departs from a shopping mall 10 minutes on foot from my office. My last trip with my usual bus company ended up taking 8 hours instead of 5.  I did get to see a part of Singapore that I had never seen before and I took some photos while waiting for another bus to arrive so that the passengers could be consolidated.  This is a smart move, business-wise, for the bus company but it made my normal trip intolerably long.

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Unlike long flights on airplanes, there are no meals served, no movies to watch, and no toilets.  That is why I changed bus companies.  It is not as convenient for me to get to the new departure point (I have to take my luggage on the public transit) but at least once I am on the coach it is only 5 hours travelling time to Kuala Lumpur and a meal of nasi lemak and hot coffee were served on board.

Please note – there are sometimes long delays at the border crossings which are beyond the control of the bus companies.

 

End of an Era – Last Opening at Ikkan Gallery

Tuesday night, I went to the last opening night of Ikkan Gallery in Singapore. This gallery opened in May 2011 and has shown a staggering array of modern and contemporary artists. This last show features teamLab , a group of techno-artists that I was introduced to by Ikkan Sanada several years ago.  Although it is their last show at Ikkan Gallery, their presence in Singapore will remain as they now have permanent installations at The Arts Science Museum, The National Museum, and Marina Bay Sands.

I am going to miss attending the gallery openings which not only introduced me to art in its many and varied forms but also to art lovers.  The people who attended the openings were as interesting, to me, as the art that they came to appreciate.  I am forever grateful to Ikkan and Miho for inviting me to the openings, and allowing me a peek into a fantastical world.

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A Public Service Announcement

If you, or friends of yours, are planning on visiting South East Asia (and I highly recommend it) please be aware that there is no duty-free allowance for tobacco or alcohol if you are coming into Singapore from Malaysia.  That means ‘zero’, ‘nada’, ‘niente’, ‘none’!

A few days ago our bus was delayed because some young backpackers were trying to bring alcohol into Singapore from Malaysia.  We ended up leaving them at the border crossing in the middle of the night.   I was reminded of an incident a few months ago when our bus was delayed because a middle-aged woman thought the open package of cigarettes she was carrying did not apply to the NO duty-free allowance law.

I have travelled with Singaporean friends who threw away their cigarettes before going through immigration.  Trash receptacles are provided. Although most countries allow for some tobacco products to be imported without duty, Singapore does not.  Some alcohol can be imported without duty but NOT from Malaysia.  It doesn’t matter where you purchased the alcohol if your last port of departure was Malaysia.

Wishing everyone safe travels!

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Crow Attack

I like to think that I get along with most animals and I have found that, generally speaking, my furred and feathered neighbours tend to avoid interaction with me. So, being verbally and physically attacked by a crow yesterday came as quite a shock.

I was walking across a parking lot on my way to the post office when a crow began making a terrible racket. When I looked up at the crow, I saw that he (I am not really sure of the crow’s gender) was looking at me.  Clearly, I had done something to upset him, so I apologised.

As I continued walking, he let out a frightening caw and swooped at my head. I felt the wind from his wings. I was totally confused and my mind was reeling as I tried to imagine what was provoking this behaviour. I was envisioning Hitchcock’s The Birds.

The crow swooped again and this time I could feel his claw in my hair. I lost it! “Stop bothering me now”, I yelled. “I have never done anything to you! Leave me alone, you stupid crow.” The fact that I stooped to personal insults is a testament to how agitated I had become. I held the large, white envelopes I was carrying over my head and proceeded to the post office.

Fortunately, I sustained no injuries but I remain completely baffled.