Exploring Singapore: Woodlands Town Centre Memories

I vaguely remember as a 10-year-old kid accompanying my family to the famous Sheng Siong outlet at the Old Woodlands Town Centre, a period where the hypermarket chain has yet to commence its rapid expansion, let not its signature baibei, baibei on its hit TV game show series.

The buildings were old and I didn’t really enjoy my time there. But it was quite a frequent trip for a few weeks due to the relatively lower prices the hypermarket was offering. I just moved to the newer part of Woodlands then, with not a lot of choices for marketing.

Didn’t know that in a few years, Woodlands Checkpoint will become a popular spot for Singaporeans escaping the heightened prices locally for cheaper and better quality food and shopping. To ease human and vehicle traffic, and to enhance the security of the borders at the causeway, Woodlands Town Centre will soon be bidding goodbye, giving way to a larger complex for the Woodlands Checkpoint…

Head to Journal for full story.

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-Jee-

 

New Zealand Diaries #2 – Picton & Cheviot

An unexpected journey

A journey becomes unforgettable when you least expect it to be. If you are a free-spirited traveller like I am, New Zealand, a country vast and limitless, is the perfect location for you to set yourself free. The beauty of New Zealand does not end with its natural landscapes, but continues to flow through its people: well-travelled, open-minded, and a true representation of a global citizen.

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One might think that Picton and Cheviot, being such small towns in the South Island, will be a boring place to skip past in your itinerary. But thanks to the extremely hospitable hosts, not only were these my best travel experiences yet, I left New Zealand making friends that I never thought I would.

Boats out!

Waking up in Picton with nothing planned for the day, our host Tim invites us to a fishing trip with his friend out along Cook Strait in the Marlborough Sounds. With the sun as a warm companion, the autumn winds didn’t seem so chilly after all. While Tim geared up in his diving suit to catch some huge lobsters, we stayed on the boat to learn the techniques to fishing well with his friend.

It was 4 hours well spent with glistening emerald waters and lusciously green knolls as the background. As socially responsible individuals, we caught 8 fishes and 6 crayfish, each measuring more than 33cm length for the fishes and 60mm width for the latter. These are the official guidelines from the Ministry for Primary Industries, in maintaining the balance in the marine ecosystem.

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As if catching seafood wasn’t exciting enough, eating fresh lobsters cooked to perfection tops it all up. The tender yet bouncy meat oozes its naturally sweet flavours after every bite. I volunteered to cook some Asian style food – ginger and spring onion blue cod, egg fried rice, and a chilli French beans stir-fry – with thanks to the ingredients bought by his wife, Anne.

Gathering for dinner with Anne and Tim at the dining table, it felt like we were truly embraced into the family. Experiences like these were costless but truly priceless.

Chateau de Cheviot

While most of us live in houses built by construction companies, our host Ellis decided to build a house he could truly call his own 12 years ago. A mixture of cement, wood and natural materials make up this incredible living space he proudly calls ‘The Tree House’. An adventurer at heart, Ellis is a true representation of hard work, perseverance and positivity.

Coincidentally, Ellis and his partner Sanna were embarking on a new treehouse project and invited us to be a part of it. With no agenda for the day, we agreed to be builders of the day, albeit with the wrong attire. From climbing up trees to measure the appropriate heights of the wooden pillars, sawing planks and mixing cement, it was a full-body workout without a doubt. But I never thought being a part of this rustic construction will bring about so much inspiration and accomplishment.

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The morning fog weaves through the hills and the trees, and I couldn’t resist walking out to the backyard barefooted just to feel in sync with nature while witnessing this dramatic entrance into a brand-new day. Approaching mid-day, the sun takes over and warms up the autumn temperatures. Then it was lunch with Sanna and Ellis talking about our passion for travel, and their pet dog lazing and basking in the sun. At night, Ellis brings us out again to show us the constellations above us, identifying certain star signs and the milky way. At the end of the day, I really wanted to stop the alarm clock so I will never have to wake up from this dream.

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Do we really need to shut the doors on people all the time?

Let me describe a very typical day that happens to us too often – you walk into the lift with a few others and we are headed to different levels. Someone leaves the 5th floor and immediately the person nearest to the lift buttons hits the ‘Door Close’ button almost instantaneously.

I’m not pointing my fingers at anyone because I am honestly guilty of showing signs of impatience on the poor lift too. And it has finally been proven that the ‘Door Close’ button is feeding our need for control and efficiency. A recent New York Times article revealed that most of these buttons are in fact placebo buttons that do not actually work since a major lift redesign in the 1990s.

Seeing this phenomenon happening among city dwellers of the world, it makes me think whether or not we should remove this ‘Door Close’ button, considering that it is a catalyst for encouraging even greater impatience in our community. Lift doors open for 10 seconds on average, each lift can hold the weight of about 15 people, while there is only that many levels the lift could arrive at. Are we really that rushed for time, for that few seconds that do not even add up to a minute?

We have to admit that we get trapped inside a ticking stopwatch most of the time – getting frustrated over train delays, over a long queue at our favourite coffee place, or even at the person in front of you who walks too slowly… What if we slow down, just a little bit, and enjoy that few seconds of delay?

I vividly remember my recent trip to Seoul, where my subconscious behaviour led me to reach for the ‘Door Close’ button and to my surprise it wasn’t there. The lift had only the ‘Door Open’ button and I quickly retreated my hands into my pockets and waited for the doors to close on automation.

After spending a few days there, I would go all the way inside the lift instead of assuming the role of the ‘Button Presser’ as I always would. That also gave me the chance to greet strangers with a simple ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon’.

Living in a fast-paced society like Singapore where ‘time is money’, perhaps we should train ourselves to be more patient and forgiving. By removing something so trivial in our lives, it might just motivate us to pay more attention to the ‘Door Open’ button – allowing people to enter the lift. No more shutting people at the door, literally.

Supermarket Fashions: Not For Sale

Who’s ready for some marketing? Personal marketing I mean. On many grounds, aren’t we similar to supermarket displays where the best products get sold out faster than others? Or do we have to discount ourselves to be whisked off the shelves?

I guess there isn’t a textbook formula for a successful marketing campaign. Sometimes it just happens that you are the most popular one at the moment. But if you’re not, I’m sure one day you will end up in the hands of a rightful customer.

I used to remember a career consultant saying that it is what a candidate can provide for the consumer, but how can us human beings be for sale?

I wish for the newcomers to challenge the status quo; one day we will not be subjected as a commodity, but a human being living his passion every single day.

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The Last Chance – Iconic Singapore Buildings

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We’ve heard of Rochor Centre and Dakota Crescent giving way to new buildings, but just before they are gone for good (maybe not), take your last chance to head down and leave photographic memories for future sake! I present to you the must-visit places for your phototaking adventures.

Dakota Crescent

Oddly enough, I had been seriously addicted to a Channel 8 drama – Hero – which was set in one of the oldest estates in Singapore – Dakota Crescent. While I am still brooding over the fact that the drama has ended, I am glad to have made a trip down to take photos of the old-school structures there.

Dakota used to be part of the defunct Kallang Airport, and hence the road name – Old Airport Road. And the estate got its name from a tragic episode involving an airplane named Dakota. But the real story lies in the off-white paints and brown bricks, soaked in vintage vibes.

Humans are indeed guilty of not treasuring the things around them – I am a culprit of this. Visited Tian Kee and Old Airport Road food centre several times but never gave another look at the estate. But this trip down memory lane is definitely one that you have to experience for yourself before it is torn down for good.

Rochor Centre

How can we forget soon-to-be historic Rochor Centre’s iconic HDB flats which were vibrantly coloured in yellow, blue, green and red. All tenants have supposedly moved out, leaving the area frighteningly quiet, contrasting itself from the once bustling market downstairs.

A wreak of odour suffocates you along the staircases up to the common areas where you get the best view of the buildings. Migrant workers were seen dismantling the refrigerators left behind in the empty households, possibly finding gold or silver conductors for extra moolah. Such a poignant scene I remember.

Getting the best view involves climbing up to high spaces – that is if you do not own a drone. We looked around and found a vertical ladder at the fitness corner. Resting on top of the ladder to have your photo taken (Thanks Alexia) really makes you feel like you have no more regrets.

If you’ve always had the idea of heading down to these places, then better materialise them fast!

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5 Exhibition Highlights at Singapore Biennale 2016

Been feeling major artistic vibes recently… went for the exhibitions over 2 weekends, quite a big feat for me honestly. This time I do feel like I learnt a lot more about art – the underlying message behind the artwork, the curation of the spaces and the positioning of the art pieces – all these do not come easy and I have to give my hats off to the curators for coming up with such an event.

VENUES

While the Singapore Biennale is hosted across 6 venues, most of the art work and highlights congregate at Singapore Art Museum and 8Q, which is a good sign considering you do not have to travel far for the bulk of the exhibitions. The other venues include National Museum of Singapore, Peranakan Museum and Asian Civilisations Museum.

HIGHLIGHTS

(Like in any award shows) In random order, I am listing down 5 of my favourite exhibition features which you could take some nice, avant-garde photos there. At least that is a must for me.

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  1. Paracosmos – Harumi Yukutake

Upon entering SAM while you intend to head to the second floor, you might notice a lot of people trying to capture the best photo possible. Rounded mirrors fill up the walls leading up to the second floor, creating distorted reflections at different angles, depending on your position on the rounded staircase. Finding the best angle might be tricky, but the trippy feeling intrigues me a lot.

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  1. Noah’s Garden II – Guoyuan Deng

You have probably seen many photos taken at this installation on Instagram, and indeed this is one of those which you have to queue to enter. Well-illuminated and covered with mirrors all around, you really feel like you entered into another futuristic dimension; not to mention the 2 rotating doors in the centre of the installation that made me real dizzy. The best angle in my opinion is taking your reflection on the floor, capturing the reflection from the ceiling and everywhere else like a cascade.

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  1. Good Boy, Bad Boy – Shih Hsiung CHOU

Another reflection-themed installation (definitely not rigged) but this is different because it is the dense and viscous black petroleum that gives the reflection. I tried recreating the sample image from the handbook but what a lie because you could see yourself taking the photos through the reflection. So the photographer has to stand slightly to the side to avoid the above. The coolest thing in my opinion – the two reflections is undoubtedly different. One seemed more plump than the other and I can’t explain why.

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  1. Home, and a Home – Rathin Barman

Located at 8Q, the steel structures that make up this installation makes you feel trapped rather than what the title suggests. The use of the lighting in the room casts shadows around helps create the emptiness of the ‘Home’ – puzzling indeed. Reading the description of the artwork, which takes inspiration from the stories of migrant workers from Bangladesh, it is no wonder one could feel this way. I took a Boomerang here instead and it turned out pretty well.

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  1. The Unity of N Monuments – Xingtao JIAO

This is slightly underwhelming as you will expect a bigger space to place those chairs, but in fact it is probably just the size of your kitchen. But nonetheless, the bright contrast of the colours – red and baby blue – along with the symmetry of the arrangement, the installation is still quite impressive. If you are trying to recreate the sample image from the guidebook, don’t bother because there is not high ground for you to take a top down shot. Just enjoy the diagonal symmetries of the stool chairs.

OTHER NOTABLE HIGHLIGHTS

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  1. Growing – Hemali Bhuta (SAM)

A striking incense smell invigorates you upon entering the room and you wonder what could have caused that. Turns out, this installation is indeed made from incense sticks suspended from above and it is pretty creepy, but in an impressive way.

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  1. Sugoroku – Anxiety of Falling from History – Nobuaki Takekawa (8Q)

Prepare to challenge your intelligence or so we say mindf*** from the various paintings reflecting the World War II period. Honestly till now, I’m still thinking about the meaning behind those artworks.

  1. Video showing of the Chinese Contemporary Art (8Q)

Viewer Discretion is advised seriously, and thankfully this is rated 21. Be disturbed by what the artists deem as contemporary art and the lengths they go to achieve what they want to portray. Sounds kind of like a cult, but who is to judge right? You have to see to know what I mean.