CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN THE TROPIC!

Cherry & peach blossoms in the hot & humid island of Singapore?  Yes, no kidding about it.  It’s happening right now in the Flower Dome, even earlier than Japan and Korea.  What a treat!

This first-ever experimental blossom display – Blossom Beats – is presented by the Gardens by the Bay.

Blossom Beats celebrates the delicate nature of life.  It features a good variety of blossoms including cherry (sakura) and peach.  The overall display was designed in the setting of a Japanese garden, decorated with a Torii (a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found in Japanese Shinto shrines), kimonos and other Japanese-themed decorations.

Torii in the midst of a variety of beautiful blossoms

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IMG_2188IMG_2237Near the entrance of Flower Dome, a Japanese garden with cherry blossoms (behind the bridge).

IMG_2109Bonsai arrangement is another highlight in this two-week (only) display.

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It has been almost 9 years now since I last saw cherry blossoms and it was in South Korea.  Though I have also seen it in Japan, it was certainly a joy to have this opportunity to appreciate these beautiful blossoms again, more so for the first time here in Singapore.  I was actually hoping for another holiday in Japan later this month for a true Hanami experience in the parks but my plan could not materialise due to other commitments.  Save it for next time.

IMG_2183Prunus Accolade – pink flowering cherry

IMG_2186Prunus Yodoenis Yoshido which are white in colour

IMG_2203Peach blossom Prunus “Genpei Shidare” which is characterised by flowers of two colours – red and white

IMG_2133OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPrunus Fujishidare which has pendulous branches

IMG_2159Close-up of Prunus Fujishidare

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cherry Shirotae (Prunus Shirotae) – known to flower abundantly. Flowers are white and lightly fragrant

IMG_2178Prunus “Okame”

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Later in that afternoon, we were treated with a beautiful traditional Japanese music performance – Blowing in the Sakura Wind : Sounds from Japan – by two renowned musicians from Japan.

Mother & son pair : Kaho Irie, Koto (Japanese stringed music instrument) Grandmaster and Yosuke Irie, Shaku Hachi (Japanese end-blow flute) artiste from Japan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis performance was a joint collaboration between Japan Creative Centre Singapore and Gardens by the Bay, held in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of The Great East Japan Earthquake (11 March 2011) and also in celebration of SJ50 (50 years of Singapore-Japan diplomatic relationship) in 2016.

I was glad that hubby could finally take a breather from his furious work schedule for many weeks now, and joined me in this special experience in the Gardens by the Bay.  I think our government should do more to enforce work-life balance in private corporations and take action against companies that make their employees work like headless chickens!!

Blossom Beats is surely one unique event not to be missed especially for those who have not seen cherry blossoms before.  I imagine it involved massive efforts from many to make it happen.  Beautiful blossoms aside, a visit to the Flower Dome is educational too, as I always find it.  There is always something new to discover, and new knowledge to bring home too.  All we need is just to pay a little bit more attention to what’s being displayed together with the flowers, like these ones below.

IMG_2129 IMG_2161IMG_2224Should there be future cherry blossom displays planned, I think it will great if the designers could consider creating a better Hanami experience like organising the trees more closely in rows and allowing visitors to walk under the trees.

This time, while the blossoms are beautiful, I find the overall display too cluttered with irrelevant decorations such as the huge artificial rocks and wood-carved monkeys from the past display (Dahlia Dreams) that was held over the Chinese New Year period.  These don’t seem to fit into the theme, and the huge artificial rocks are too overwhelming and distracting.  Perhaps there was not enough time to clear them since Dahlia Dreams had just ended on 8 March and the people had only 3 days to put up this new display.

If time permits, I may make my way down to the Flower Dome again for another round of visit before the display ends on 27 March. 🙂

More photos here

CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRITY CRUISE

It’s the seventh day of Chinese New Year and also Valentine’s Day today.

恭祝大家 猴年 好事连年、如意安康!

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Hubby and I ushered in the Year of the Monkey on board cruise ship Celebrity Millennium.

Celebrity Mellennium docking at Laem Cha Bang (8 Feb, first day of CNY)

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We had been spending most part of our Chinese New Year (CNY) away from home in the last few years (mainly in Japan) and for a change this year, we decided to just have a short trip instead.  We jumped to the opportunity to sail with Celebrity Millennium once again when we learned about this 5-night chartered cruise trip to Ko Samui and Laem Cha Bang (Thailand), departing on 5 February. Both of us like sailing on a big cruise ship (this was our fifth time), out in an open sea and we are so blessed that we have never had any seasick problems even at times when the ship was a little rocky due to rough sea conditions.  For us, a cruise trip is always very relaxed but yet there was never a moment of dullness as what many would think so.  There are many programmes and activities lined up for us each day but it is up to us to pick our choices.   We love chilling out at Al Bacio (a cafe on board) over a cup of coffee and a book, or sitting in the balcony of our room looking at the sea and listening to the sound of the waves. In fact, just less than four months ago, we sailed on the same ship for 8 nights in Japan and Busan, South Korea.  It was something very memorable and enjoyable.

On board Celebrity Millennium, the mood of CNY celebration was vibrant.  The ship was decorated for the occasion and the climax was on the eve of CNY. There was a Chinese menu for re-union dinner with Pen Cai (盆菜) specially prepared by a chef and his team of assistants from a Hong Kong restaurant.  In normal time, only western food, buffet and fusion food are served.  Abalone Yusheng was available too at additional costs.  There were also God of Fortune, countdown party etc.   We even had fire-crackers!  I mean the electronic ones! 😀

Abalone Yusheng

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Little surprises found in our room on the eve of CNY

Pen Cai

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This dish was actually served in a pumpkin and each serving was for a minimum of four people.  Since there were just two of us, we were served this mini portion in a bowl instead and it was in addition to the western meal we opted for.  The Pen Cai was really good!

God of Fortune who is actually the chief engineer of the cruise.  He was accompanied by the Hotel Director.

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God of Fortune made his first appearance at 7:30pm to distribute Hong Baos (red packets with money in them, a CNY tradition) to young children and we also had the opportunity to take photo with him.  He made his second appearance at the Grand Foyer where we had the party, just before midnight for the countdown.  By the way, the God of Fortune is a handsome Caucasian man! 🙂

Another surprise for the night!

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This ice-carving of a Monkey holding a peach was unveiled right after we ushered in the Year of the Monkey, by the captain of the cruise.  It was just so attractive that many rushed to take a photo with it.  Some even touched it as if they would receive some good luck by doing so, just like many did so with the God of Fortune!

Video of CNY Countdown Party (7 Feb)

So we really had a great time that night and it is definitely another precious travel memory to be cherished for the rest of our lives.  It has been so many years since we last actually had so much fun celebrating CNY!

The cruise trip would had been perfect if not for the adverse weather/sea condition at Ko Samui that prevented all of us who had signed up for shore excursion to proceed with our plans that day.  Hubby and I were all excited about exploring Ko Samui as it was our first time there but it was not meant to be 😦  While we appreciate that our safety was of utmost concern of the captain, the compensation (US$50 per room) was almost next to nothing and it came too late (after I had done my shopping on board and settled my bills at the front desk!).  So we decided to use it to try out luck on roulette at the casino.  No luck though! 😀

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Back in Singapore since the third day of CNY, we are getting into the mood of CNY celebration after a few years’ of break.  Today, I was all happy and excited to see lion and dragon dances, one of CNY rituals, at the places that I went to.  That’s a bonus for being home in this time of the year!  I like lion dances a lot since young and I remember my parents had paid for the troupe to perform at our home then.

Video of Lion and Dragon Dances seen on 14 Feb

A GETAI EXPERIENCE AT MACPHERSON

It’s this time of the year again – Ghost Festival (中元节) and Getai (歌台).

In one of my previous postings, I have written that I had very little exposure on Getai, and had only watched one or two very briefly in my neighbourhood, in the past.  The recent Getai Challenge (歌台星力量) programme on TV did somehow arouse my slight interest in Getai, and so I thought I should try to go catch one or two this Ghost Festival.

I know there are many Getais taking place island-wide during the Ghost Festival, but I wasn’t sure where to get all the relevant information to decide where to go to until I heard about the 4-night Getai by LEX(S) Entertainment and Productions (丽星娱乐制作) at 韭菜芭城隍庙中元会 (in Macpherson) on radio, on Wednesday (26 Aug) morning.  So, hubby and I found our way there that night.

Arriving there before 8pm (about an hour after the programme started), we could still spot quite many empty seats here and there although the attendance was high.  I noticed that those empty seats were choped (a Singlish word meaning reserved) with something like newspapers put on them.  It took us a while to finally manage to find two seats separated apart with a couple in between us.  I tried to negotiate with the wife to shift one seat to the right/left so that my hubby could sit together with me.  She refused, citing the reason that her view would be blocked by the person in front.  I knew that was a crap because the seat in front was empty!  On my left, there was an old lady sitting on two chairs!  I also tried to request her to let me have one seat but she said her friend was coming.   The truth was, I have overheard her telling someone that her friend was not coming anymore and the seat actually remained empty through out!  So that was one not-so-nice experience.  Why did these aunties behave so selfishly?

That night, the Getai was hosted by Hao Hao (皓皓) , Li Pei Fen (李佩芬)and Zheng Ying Ying (郑盈盈).  There were quite a number of singers, each sang about 2-3 songs, either in Cantonese, Hokkien or Mandarin.  Except Hao Hao and MediaCorp artist Chen Tian Wen (陈天文), we were not familiar with the rest of the singers and their singing.  Never mind about that though, since we were there to get an experience with a real outdoor Getai.

The three emcees for the night (left to right) : Hao Hao, Zheng Ying Ying and Li Pei Fen.  Emceeing aside, they also changed a few sets of costumes during the night. 

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Performance by singers such as Fu Qing Ling (符庆铃)、Lin Shi Ling (林诗玲), Zhong Ping & Zhong Jin Ling (钟平 & 钟金玲) and Huang Hao Feng (黄浩峰)

Fu Qing Ling (符庆铃)

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Lin Shi Ling (林诗玲)

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Zhong Ping & Zhong Jin Ling (钟平 & 钟金玲)

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Huang Hao Feng (黄浩峰)

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I can’t comment much about the performances that night since I am not familiar with the singers.  I felt that the mood  only got a little better when Chen Tian Wen made his appearance with two songs, including “Unbelievable” that shot him to fame recently.

Chen Tian Wen in his Elvis Presley’s outfit

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It finally reached the climax when Hao Hao took over the stage with 3 songs, including two renditions that he performed at the Getai Challenge.  Undoubtedly, he was the best that night.  He is definitely a Getai darling, and has won a very distinctive, loud applause for his performance.  We enjoyed his segment the best.

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Throughout the night, I observed that the audience, made up of largely senior citizens, were very inconsiderate.  They talked a lot and that was very annoying.  So, that was another not-so-nice encounter for the night.   It made me wonder if these people were actually there to enjoy the Getai or to talk.  If they wanted to talk or to catch up with friends, surely there is a better place than at the Getai!

We left after Hao Hao’s performance.  At least, he made us feel that our time spent that night was not so wasted.

On the following night, we actually went back to the same Getai for its final night there.  Some Taiwanese Hokkien singers were performing.  I didn’t know that Taiwanese singers come to perform at our Getai too, until I read about it recently.  So, I was keen to see how different their performance was.  The whole place was overly packed with people, so packed that many were standing, shoulder to shoulder very tightly.  I later read on newspaper that some 7,000 people were there that night!  There were a lot of pushing and rough actions among the standing crowds, as people tried to make their way out or get further in to have a better view.  I felt like a roly-poly toy being pushed around!  Why couldn’t the people behave in a more civilised manner?  It would have been better if the Getai organiser had a crowd control system (there was none at all) like having helpers to usher the crowds, designate proper space for standing audience, provide clear walking paths with barricades and provide a separate area slightly further away from the audience for the hawkers who were selling drinks and food.

The second night was definitely one terribly uncomfortable experience for us and we left after just two songs.

A TASTE OF SINGAPORE NIGHT FESTIVAL 2015

The Singapore Night Festival 2015 kicked off last Friday (21 August).  This annual Festival is now in its eighth year, but I had never been to any of them in the past!    There are many activities and events (whether ticketed or not) in Singapore that interest me, but many a time, the thought of the extreme crowds especially in non-ticketed events, puts me off.  For ticketed events like concerts, musical and orchestra performances, they are getting more expensive and I have to be more selective these days in order not to burn my pocket!

I finally went to Singapore Night Festival last Friday night, for the first time in my life. I had decided that I should at least for once, get an experience of this festival, or I wouldn’t know if I have been missing something interesting in life!  And If I enjoyed it, then I could consider going again.

Browsing through the programme booklet which I was given on my way to the National Museum of Singapore, I was impressed with the packed line-up of events for the two weekends, but I knew I could only sample a few in that short three and a half hours that I planned to spend.  By the way, one thing that impressed me that night was the manpower whom I believe were volunteers, that were stationed in various locations to guide and assist the visitors with directions, information etc.  Most of them were young people, and the few that I spoke with were all very friendly and helpful.

My first stop was the National Museum of Singapore where The Anooki Celebrate Singapore would be shown on its facade.  I was there about 15 minutes before the first display at 730pm.  It was already packed with crowds but still comfortable enough for me.  I enjoyed the Anooki’s display so much that I actually stayed back to watch it again twice instead of moving on to catch the Alchemy at the front lawn of Singapore Art Museum at 8pm, as I originally planned.

The Anooki Celebrate Singapore was designed by David Passegand & Moetu Batlle from France.

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Here’s a full video of the 7+-minute display. In this display, the Anooki (Anook and Nooki), world’s smallest yet very energetic Inuits, are seen running amok across the facade of the National Museum in a very entertaining spirit.  Do watch to the end for their special birthday tribute to Singapore

The other two light displays within the compound of the National Museum are :

Le Desir Et La Menace by Cedric Le Borgne (France).  It is a collection of three bird wire sculptures perched on the branches of the National Museum’s banyan tree.

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Drawn in Light by Ralf Westerhof of The Netherlands.  It is a 12m-wide installation made entirely of metal wires hand-bent into the form of a typical Amsterdam-style canal building, rotating continuously above the ground.

The Festival areas were filled with buzz – big crowds, bands and other performances, festival village etc. etc.  So there was not a moment of dullness at all.

A Volkswagen Beetle to be won at the Festival Village!  Many people were seen writing messages on the Beetle as part of the the festival activities.

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Dining under the “stars” at the Festival Village

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A stage in Festival Village – staff were busy getting ready for the next performance

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Caricature artists at work

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Crossing over to Singapore Art Museum, I was keen to catch Act 2 of the Alchemy at 930pm since I missed the first act but I had to give up in less than 10 minutes into the show.  It was super crowded, warm and stuffy despite it being held outdoor.  I was getting uncomfortable.  Apart from the occasional fire props, I could hardly see the performers from where I was!  Given the expected crowds, and it being an outdoor event which presumably would have no constraint on the height of the stage, I wonder why the organiser of this performance did not raise the stage higher up for the audience (especially those at the back) to enjoy the performance better.

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So, I decided that I should not waste my time staying on for the performance but I was having quite a bit of difficulty to get out due to the congestion.  It took more than 10 minutes for me to finally move out of the crowds! If I had to name one thing that I didn’t like about the Festival,  it would definitely be the extreme crowds within the very limited space!  Perhaps it will be better in terms of space, if the future Night Festivals would be held in the new art museum scheduled to open later this year.  The organiser can then make use of the huge open space in Padang (opposite the new art museum) for the various activities.

Fortunately, a few little pleasant surprises here and there as I proceeded to the Armenian Church for its Hanami light display.  That somehow compensated the unpleasant and disappointing experience that I had at the Alchemy performance.

Caught Spark! by World Beaters Music (UK) marching from the Armenian Street on my way

Wow, what a huge crowd at the junction of Armenia Street and Stamford Road waiting to cross the road!  Armenian Street was packed with people too!

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There was a Peranakan variety show earlier on (8-9pm) at Armenian Street but a rock band was performing when I walked past at about 10pm.  The band was so loud that even a young girl was frightened by it!  Oh dear…

I only made a very brief stop at the Peranakan Museum which, not surprising at all, was also swarmed with people.  The museum was opened till 2am, with free admission.

The statue of Queen Victoria at the ground floor lobby of the Peranakan Museum. 

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Peranakan Museum

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Moving on from the Peranakan museum, I felt as though I had entered into a different world for the night, and a little discovery tour too, as I had never been to this part of Singapore at all in all my life.  It was all quiet – a few vehicles intermittently, and there were hardly any souls walking on the street.  What a stark difference and I enjoyed that quietness of the night.

Graffiti on the walls by the side of the Armenian Street, before the Canning Rise junction.  My first time seeing graffiti on a street in Singapore!

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Oops, I actually caught two men smoking at the car park behind these walls.  Is that allowed?

Singapore Philatelic Museum which opened till 12 midnight in conjunction with Singapore Night Festival.  Now I know where the Singapore Philatelic Museum is!

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Freemason’s Hall

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Meditations on Love and Beauty @ Armenian Church which has 180 years of history.  Armenian Church is a national monument of Singapore and again, this was my first visit.  I was interested to see the interior of this building but it was not opened.  😦

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Hanami light display by Cie Mastoc Production (France), in the compound of The Armenian Church.  The light installation was inspired by hanami, Japanese tradition of celebrating the transient beauty of cherry blossoms each spring

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Wandering characters that popped up behind visitors and shared a whispered poem or a word on love

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The Memorial Garden to the Armenians (in the church compound).  A guided tour was on when I was there.

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This sums up my interesting, first exploration of the Singapore Night Festival.  I was glad that I had done so although I was all tired at the end, after all the walking and standing.

It would be impossible to cover many of the programmes within the short duration of this Festival.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to make the Singapore Night Festival a month-long event in every August.  Hopefully, it will be less crowded when the programmes are more spread out over a longer duration.

A GLIMPSE OF SG50 NDP PREVIEW AT MARINA BAY

If I have to pick a place in Singapore that I like the most, it would be none other than the Marina Bay area.  I love the beautiful skyline of the Marina Bay area and have always been impressed with the transformation of this part of Singapore in the last 10 years.  The credit goes to the government of Singapore.  In my humble opinion, this is a place that we Singaporeans can be proud of and also should be thankful to our government for what they have done, even though as a matter of fact, many of us have been feeling uncomfortable and even unhappy with some of the issues very close to our hearts, in particular population, housing and transportation, in the recent years.

Marina Bay Sand (MBS) with its SkyPark and ArtScience Museum (the lotus-look-alike building on the left)

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Beautiful skyline aside, the Marina Bay area has also been the favourite venue of NDP (National Day Parade) crowds for watching some of the actions in the event, such as aerial flypast, Presidential Gun Salute and fireworks.

This year being the Golden Jubilee or SG50 celebration year, the NDP is surely going to be very special and even more spectacular than ever.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luck to win two tickets to watch the Parade at the Padang.  Not wanting to miss the opportunity to be part of this celebration, hubby and I decided to join the crowds at Marina Bay instead, to catch glimpses of the event preview last Saturday (1 Aug).

(If you are a foreigner reading this, you may want to visit the SG50 or Singapore50 Website to find out more about SG50).

Oops, we were not kiasu (a local word meaning afraid to lose) enough!  By the time we got down to the Marina Bay area at about 6pm, the entire bay area was already swarmed with spectators that packed like sardines!

We managed to squeeze into a spot facing the MBS which turned out to be a pretty good spot.  Spectators on my left.

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Spectators on my right

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Spectators in front of MBS (opposite where we were) and…

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… up on the SkyPark

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It took a lot of patience though, to wait for the “actions” to take place at different stages of the NDP.  We were in a spot further away from the big LED screen showing live-streaming of the NDP at the Padang, so we couldn’t see what was actually going on over there except some of the commentaries amid the noises from the spectators.

The aerial display this year is indeed very spectacular, featuring a total of 50 aircraft from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).  An A380 flight adorned with our national flag from the Singapore Airlines was part of this segment too.

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State Flag Flypast

Salute-to-Nation : formation of the number “50” by 20 F-16.  This won a lot of cheers!

Impressive aerial manoeuvers

Getting ready for the Presidential Gun Salute

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21-Gun Salute during the inspection of the Parade by the “President”.  My first-time seeing a Gun Salute so up-close, and it was really loud.

After dark, as we were still waiting for the fireworks

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ArtScience Museum with its SG50 light projection

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Here’s a video that I have put together for the aerial display and fireworks.  Watching the fireworks so close for the first time was a breathtaking experience but it was too close to capture them well even with my wide-angle camera.  Alas, I also forget to use the manual-focus function. 😦 So, I am not very satisfied with the recording quality of the fireworks.

It was past 8:20pm when the fireworks ended.  Spectators began to disperse and restaurants there were getting even more crowded.  We had to wait for a while to get our table even with an advanced booking!  Fortunately the food was satisfactory (though a bit pricey), or it would have spoilt our night!

Palm Beach seafood restaurant

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While in the restaurant, we observed that there were a number of tables with diners wearing red tops.  Many came from the NDP Preview (as they were carrying the Fun Packs).  I have observed that majority of the NDP attendees would automatically wear red for the occasion, even without being told to do so.  I think this is something rather uniquely Singapore.  Perhaps this is a kind of Singapore Spirit we have at this time of the year.  I actually like it!

We had about half an hour to spare after dinner and before the next event at 11pm.  We took a stroll around the Merlion Park to enjoy the beauty of the night.  There were still many people hanging around there, many of whom were tourists.

Our national icon and also a popular tourist icon, this 8.6m-tall Merlion spouts water all day long

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The 2m-tall Merlion cub.  This doesn’t spout water

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The 260m-long Esplanade Bridge (left) and the newly completed 220m-long Jubilee Bridge with Esplanade Theatres by the Bay at the background.  The Jubilee Bridge was the brainchild of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, first Prime Minister of Singapore.  It is a bridge with no steps and provides barrier-free access.

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And the finale for the night – a music and light display by The Fullerton Hotel, as a tribute to SG50.

A Celebration of Our Heritage

“A Celebration of Our Heritage” showcases the iconic moments that took place at the Fullerton Square, including scenes from the election rallies in Singapore.   It is showing until 9 August, 2015 at the following timings.

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Majulah Singapura!

  • Aug 1 – 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm
  • Aug 2 – 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm
  • Aug 3 to 7 – 8pm, 9pm, 10pm
  • Aug 8 – 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm
  • Aug 9 – 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm

This is the second time The Fullerton Hotel has put up such a display in celebration of Singapore’s 50th year of Independence this year.  The first was “Journey of Singapore”, a 2-minute montage of sketches and graphics on the milestones of Singapore, shown at the end of 2014.

Journey of Singapore

Six more days to Singapore’s 50th Birthday!  Although we have no interesting arrangement planned for the coming Jubilee weekend yet, we are surely looking forward to the 4-day break (7-10 Aug).  It’s a rare treat to have one extra holiday declared this year, in celebration of SG50! 🙂

GETAI CHALLENGE 歌台星力量 (Episode 5 : 29 June 2015)

Here are for the fans out there, photos and video which I managed to snap at the recording session of Getai Challenge on 22 May 2015.  Not many though, since they did not actually allow taking of photos and videos initially.

Getai Challenge (歌台星力量) TV programme is being telecast on MediaCorp’s Channel 8, at 8pm, every Monday.  The recording session (Episode 5) which I went to was telecast tonight.  There are going to be 13 episodes for this programme.

From left to right – Emcees : Wang Wei Liang (王伟良), Pornsak and contestants : Xie Wei Na (谢伟娜), Cheng Ze (承泽) & Xiu Ping (秀萍), Luo Yi Qi (罗翊绮) & Bao Bei Sisters (宝贝姐妹)

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Contestants : Zhu Li Li (朱莉莉), 2Z Sisters (2Z 姐妹), Li Bao En (李宝恩) & Chen Jian Bin (陈建彬)

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Contestants : Hao Hao (皓皓) and Huang Zhen Long (黄振隆). 

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Seen on the screens were the judges for episode 5 (left to right) : Huang Lei (黄雷), Liu Ling Ling (刘玲玲), Irene Ang (洪爱玲) & Lin Qi Yu (林倛玉)

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Chen Jian Bin & Li Bao En listening to comments from the judges after their performance.  Their unique costumes might have won them some additional points.  Chen emerged as the winner in this episode and maintained his number 1 position since episode 1.

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Pornsak is definitely one good and talented emcee but I think the chemistry of emceeing would be very different and even better if Pornsak were to partner with Mark Lee (李国煌) instead.

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While the judges were busy finalising the results for this round of challenge behind the stage, audience were treated with some entertainments by a few of the younger contestants.  Here’s what I have put together – their performances which were not shown on TV.

It was new to me that these Getai singers do have their pools of fans too, many of whom are middle-aged or senior citizens.  This goes to say how little I know about Getai.  Just like the fans of Mandopop or K-Pop singers, these Getai fans seem to follow their idols through their performances everywhere.  I learned about this when I briefly chatted with one of the fans while waiting to get into the theatre for the recording session.   In fact, she (a fan of Hao Hao) asked if I would like to join the group as a fan, and she offered me a T-shirt (with Hao Hao’s name printed on it) to wear into the theatre.  I politely declined.

If I remember correctly, Getai began to gain its increasing popularity after the movie 881 (by Royston Tan) in 2007.  There have also been annual Getai Awards in recent years, to honour popular Getai singers.  Surely these Getai singers deserved to be recognised and awarded too.  In my opinion, Getai is one important cultural aspect of Singapore and it needs to be preserved.  It is good to see that there are actually quite many young Getai singers.  They sure boost the vibrancy of Getai performances.  I don’t have any issues with Getai singers speaking/singing in dialects like Hokkien, Cantonese etc. on stage but I think it is time for them to do away with all the less refined jokes or raunchy contents, and raise the sophistication level of Getai performances.

If you are interested to find out more about Getai in Singapore, Singapore Infopedia offers a good read.

Entertaining Getai Challenge  (歌台星力量) But With Pains (my previous posting).

ENTERTAINING GETAI CHALLENGE (歌台星力量) BUT WITH PAINS

I went to MediaCorp last Friday (22 May) to watch the recording of a new Channel 8 variety show called Getai Challenge (歌台星力量).  Joining me was my hubby who happened to be off that day, and a friend.  As the programme organiser was giving out tickets for the recording, and prompted by the thought of visiting MediaCorp before it moves out of Caldecott Hill next year, I jumped at this opportunity.

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The building where the reception and TV Theatre are.  TV Theatre was the venue where the recording was carried out.

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Most Singaporeans are familiar with Getai (歌台) – live outdoor stage performances (mostly singing) which are common in Singapore and Malaysia and generally held during the Ghost Festival (lunar 7th month) and other Chinese festivals or temple events.  It is a unique culture in this part of Asia but I was not exposed much to it in my growing up years.  Neither my parents, aunties nor my late grandma went to such performances.  However, many years ago, I did go with my hubby to catch one or two Getai (that’s about all) in our neighbourhood. I would say the performances were entertaining, and the singers were not bad too although we were only there briefly.  Many of the performers spoke in Hokkien dialect.  This was not an issue even though I couldn’t understand some of it, but what I didn’t like were the dirty jokes they cracked.  This was partly the reason why I didn’t go again subsequently.

Back to the indoor recording of Getai Challenge in MediaCorp.  It was actually quite entertaining and interesting to see the flow of the programme etc. although the mood was completely different from that of a real Getai held outdoor.  This is understandable. The programme is going to be broadcasted on our national TV, so it has to be recorded in Mandarin and of course, dirty jokes are not allowed too. (For the benefit of foreigners reading this posting, Chinese dialects such as Hokkien, Cantonese etc. are not allowed on Singapore’s national TV stations.)

The entire recording took about 3 hours but we know it will be edited to an one-hour programme (or rather, about 45 minutes after deducting the commercial breaks) when it is aired.  So, it was kind of fun to watch the recording and then to see on TV later how it has been edited for broadcast.

The two hosts for Getai Challenge – Pornsak (newly crowned Best Variety Show Host at Star Awards 2015) and Wei Liang

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The participants

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Out of respect, I shall not share or reveal more details about the recording for now since this programme has not been aired yet.

However, the entertainment did not come without “pains” though.  In fact, it was quite frustrating and unpleasant waiting to get into the theatre.

The recording was supposed to start at 12 noon and audience were to be seated 15 minutes before recording, according to the information printed at the back of the tickets.  We arrived in a taxi past 11:30am, and not knowing where to alight, the taxi driver dropped us at TV Gate which turned out to be the entrance for staff only.  Fortunately, it was not a long walk over to the TV Theatre, as the weather of very hot then.  On arriving at the relatively small reception area (where the TV Theatre is located), it was already packed with people who were earlier than us.  Many of them were middle-aged people or senior citizens.  This was not unexpected.  You would imagine only people who are not working to be able to make it in such an odd timing, unless they took a day off but how many would do that? Seats at the reception area were limited. I made an attempt to speak with one of the receptionists in trying to gather more information but in vain.  She was friendly but all I found out was that the entrance into the TV Theatre is at the basement carpark.

Groups of people waiting at the basement carpark.  I later found out (from speaking to one of them) that they were fans of the different participants (singers).

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Names of Getai singers pasted on the wall of the carpark pillars but can you guess what they meant?  I only found out later that they were meant for the different groups of fans to gather/queue but how do they expect a first-timer to know?

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The basement carpark area was very warm.  Can you imagine the entrance to the theatre of a National TV station is through a basement carpark without a proper queuing area and air-conditioned?  There were many wall mounted fans but none was turned on until so much later when the staff were out past 12 noon to organise the various groups into the theatre.  We also had to watch out for the incoming/outgoing vehicles.

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So, we were totally at the mercy of MediaCorp, not knowing when we could get into the theatre even it was way past 12 noon.  No one came to brief us or give any update.  One aunty among the fans group was lamenting that two nights ago, in a different recording session for the same programme, the recording didn’t start until close to 9pm, despite the actual start time of 7pm.  And the recording didn’t complete until past 12 midnight.  That’s how MediaCorp take their supporters’ time for granted!

To cut the long story short, it was already close to 1pm by the time it was our turn (as non-fans) to get in.  We were allowed into the theatre in groups, and priority was given to all the fans or special group such as students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, so we were the last. 

At 1250pm, we were still waiting outside the theatre

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There was more waiting after we were finally seated in the theatre at closed to 1pm!

It was almost 4:45pm by the time we stepped out of the theatre.  My stomach was growling badly.  What a day!  Food was not allowed in the theatre.  At the expected time to be seated in the theatre at 11:45am, we haven’t had our lunch and we naively thought that the recording would probably take about 2 hours since MediaCorp arranged the recording at such an odd timing, neither before nor after lunch.  It was such a bad experience without sufficient information and proper instructions from MediaCorp in advance.

Hearing from others who had attended the previous recordings, it seems that such poorly organised programme is the norm.  It is very disappointing that MediaCorp takes their audience for granted.  Even the tickets are free, that doesn’t give them the rights to waste the time of the audiences and cause unnecessary suffering. I doubt I will ever be interested in another experience like this in future, not even in the new location.  Once is enough.