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

IMG_2155IMG_2205 (1)IMG_2135IMG_2141IMG_2235Not all had blossomed yet at the time of my visit last Sunday (13 Mar)

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.

IMG_2167 IMG_2219

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”

IMG_2191

IMG_2149

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

29-02-2016

I have completely forgotten that today is that special day we have only once in every 4 years.  Yes, it’s 29 February!

Thanks to a dear friend’s message this morning that reminded me of the day.  This good old friend (since primary school days) who resides in Johor Baru, sends me beautiful messages almost every morning.  Thanks to WhatsApp.  Such communication is made possible without incurring additional cost in our monthly phone bills.

It was kind of too late to think of doing anything special for the day after receiving my friend’s message, and I didn’t want to crack my head for that too.  I thought it is good enough to just do something that I enjoy lately i.e. to read in a cafe.

IMG_0300

Why in a cafe?  Well, in my temporary lodging now, I don’t have a proper study room and the lighting in my bedroom is poor and bad for my eyesight.  Secondly, I tend to feel sleepy in the afternoon, so reading in a cafe over a cup of coffee and occasionally plus a piece curry puff, keeps me awake. 🙂   In Marine Parade central area, there are quite a number of cafes, all just within a stone’s throw away.  How nice!  Starbucks is my pick, so they have been getting a bit of business from me lately. 😀

My current read is a book entitled Diplomacy, A Singapore Experience.  Although I am just halfway through the book, I have found it to be not only a very interesting read but also educational. It provides insights into Singapore’s foreign policies, describes the country’s challenges as a small state and also the government’s efforts and initiatives in creating good diplomatic and economic space for the country.  I must admit that I was actually not sure if the book would suit my reading interest (I have interest only in a small range of books).  I also worried that it might be too boring and “cheem” (a Singlish word meaning difficult to understand) to read, judging from the book title but I am so glad that I had picked it up.  The book was written by S Jayakumar, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Singapore who have already retired from his political career in 2011.

IMG_0446

And, I had a date with hubby in the evening.  Fortunately, he was able to get off from work not too late (before 7pm) today. Hubby has been so busy with work lately and it doesn’t help when you have bosses who are slave drivers!

We went to our favourite chicken rice shop – Boon Tong Kee – in East Coast Road for dinner.  This shop is also within working distance from where we live now and going back there for a meal is one of the many things that we want to do before moving out of Marine Parade.  Too much good food to savour in this area and its vicinity!

A simple but satisfying meal.  Happiness can be that simple. It is about being able to do things that I enjoy.

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!

IMG_1072

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)

IMG_2010

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

IMG_1492.jpg

Little surprises found in our room on the eve of CNY

Pen Cai

IMG_1658.jpg

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.

IMG_1689.jpg

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!

IMG_1694

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! 😀

IMG_7774.jpg

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

THE JOY OF READING

February has arrived, and in a few days’ time, we will be ushering in the Year of the Monkey.

Chinese New Year decorations outside Orchard Gateway which many passers-by (me included) couldn’t resist to stop for a snap.

IMG_0303

January was a month well spent in accomplishing quite a number of things which I wanted to do, and it was most satisfying to have also completed and thoroughly enjoyed reading two interesting and, to some extent, eye-opening books written by two prominent persons in Singapore.  There is so much knowledge and information out there to acquire from books.  I always wished I could read a lot more!

  • It’s Easy to Cry is the second book by Subhas Anandan, a household-name criminal lawyer in Singapore who sadly, has passed away about a year ago.
  • A Hakka Woman’s Singapore by Dr Lee Wei Ling, a neurologist and also the daughter of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore.  The book is a collection of 75 distinct articles (out of the many) which Dr Lee has written for the Straits Times at different times.

IMG_0306

In 2015, as my very own way of celebrating SG50 (Singapore’s 50th Birthday), I set out a “project” to read some books about Singapore and/or written by Singaporeans during the year.  I thought it would be a lot more meaningful to celebrate the occasion by knowing more about my country through reading than to go to the many commemorative events and celebrations lined up throughout the year.  So, I was very glad and satisfied with my picks.  These books are definitely worth reading.

  • 幹嘛羨慕新加坡(Why Envy Singapore?) was written by a Taiwanese who married a Singaporean wife, resided here for about 10 years but have returned to Taiwan.
  • 成長在李光耀時代 (Growing Up in Lee Kuan Yew’s Era) was written by Lee Hui Min, a Singaporean who is now a freelance journalist and writer.

IMG_6975

  • Be At the Table or Be On The Menu by S Jayakumar, a former politician of Singapore.  I am going to read his other book “Diplomacy” soon.
  • My Lifelong Challenge by Lee Kuan Yew who has passed on on 23 March 2015.  Mr Lee has published many books and I have read a few of them.

IMG_5467

  • Let The People Have Him is a book about the early years of Chiam See Tong (up to the time he won in a Single Member Constituency in the 1984 General Election).  He is a lawyer and also the longest-serving opposition Member of Parliament in Singapore (1984-2011).  I am hoping that there will be a sequel to learn about the political life of Chiam after 1984.
  • The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye was in the news after National Arts Council withdrew its S$8,000 funding citing “sensitive content” and its potential to “undermine the authority and legitimacy” of the government.  Despite that, this book was a hit.  The first 1,000 copies were snatched up at launch and I was glad to be able to pick up a copy on its second print.  I am never a fan of comics, not even in my young days, so this was the first comic I have ever completed reading.  t

IMG_5469

I have decided that for 2016, I am going to continue with the same reading pattern, ie to continue with books related to Singapore.  Beside the two I have completed last month, I already have a few lined up on my book cabinets. 🙂

MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL AT THE GARDENS

After visiting the Flower Dome for the Celebration of Chrysanthemums floral display, I decided to stay on for the lantern sets display in the Gardens by the Bay since I was already there.  If I don’t remember wrongly, the lanterns event held in celebration of the Mid Autumn Festival (中秋节), started in 2013 at Gardens by the Bay but I had not been to the past two events.

With my mask on, I sat on a bench in one corner of the gardens and waited patiently for the lantern lights to come on at 7pm.  But they didn’t, not even 15 minutes past 7pm.  It was only after I approached a staff that I realised that the lanterns event that evening was the first day, and Minister Khaw Boon Wan was on his way to the Gardens by the Bay to grace the opening of the event at 7:30pm.  So I decided to wait for another short while and luckily I did or I would have to miss the event again due to the bad haze condition in the days that followed.

Minister Khaw and his entourage making their way in for the opening ceremony

IMG_6866

After witnessing the very simple ceremony to light up the lantern sets by Minister Khaw, I had to rush through the lantern sets (spread out in various locations in the gardens), and even give a few of them a miss because I didn’t want my hubby to wait for me too long for dinner.

Birds Singing in Harmony – at the main entrance of the Gardens by the Bay

IMG_6870

IMG_6880

IMG_6881

Arches of Floral & Insects

IMG_6872

IMG_6875

IMG_6876

This year, there is a total of 17 lantern sets compromising of some 300 handmade lanterns.

Otters and Koi Fish

IMG_6885

Year of the Goat – In conjunction of Singapore’s 50th birthday, these specially designed goat lanterns were hand-painted by the public, in the form of a competition

IMG_6888

IMG_6894

IMG_6891

  IMG_6899

I found the goat lanterns too cluttered up, thus making it a bit difficult to appreciate the painting on them.

Lively-looking Giraffes and Zebras

IMG_6904

IMG_6907

IMG_6908

The 12 Chinese Zodiac.  Can you recognise them all? 

Zodiac 1Zodiac2

At the Supertree Grove area, there were also food street, cultural performances, games such as solving lantern riddles (猜燈謎) and huge vertical Chinese chess game, but I didn’t have the time to check them out.

IMG_6922

Lions, Tigers & Jaguars

IMG_6925 (1)

 IMG_6926

IMG_6929 (1)

Garden Rhapsody @ Supertree Grove (25 September)

Racial Harmony (Indian & Malay)

IMG_6930

IMG_6932

IMG_6934

More animal lanterns along the way to Dragonfly Lake

IMG_6937

IMG_6938

Arches of Sea Animals on Dragonfly Bridge.  It was quite crowded on the bridge as visitors continued to flood in.

IMG_6940

IMG_6948

Majestic Sea Palace on one side of Dragonfly Lake

IMG_6952

2 of the 3 Dragon Boats on the other side of Dragongfly Lake

IMG_6957

IMG_6959

IMG_6960

I missed out the Elephants, Dinosaurs, Tree of Life and Racial Harmony (Chinese) lantern sets.

IMG_6864

Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable evening going around “hunting” for the lanterns.

The lantern event at the Gardens by the Bay was spectacular.  I was impressed with the designs and the quality of the lanterns.  I  can only imagine that it was a very massive task and costly too, to put up such a public event.  Perhaps if would be even better if the event could run for a longer duration like 2-3 weeks or even a month so that more people (both locals and tourists) get to enjoy the lovely lanterns.  I think 10 days are a little too short. 🙂

CELEBRATION OF CHRYSANTHEMUMS

For the first time since last Monday (28 Sep), I woke up seeing the sunlight today!  I was able to see the tall building and even the ships again from my window!  What a nice way to kick off my Sunday!

For the past week when the haze was bad and the PSI readings remained mostly at unhealthy or very unhealthy levels, I stayed at home most of the time.  It was definitely not wise for me to go out unnecessarily, especially given my nose and ear conditions.  No thanks to the haze, one visit to the ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) doctor a few days ago has made me almost S$500 poorer!

So I was really glad that I was able to make a visit to my favourite place – the Flower Dome @ Gardens by the Bay – on 25 Sep when the air quality was much better that afternoon, for its new floral display named The Celebration of Chrysanthemums which started just the day before. I always like to go to the new floral display in the Flower Dome when most of the flowers are still fresh and at their best.  This latest display is the fifth of the six chapters in the Gardens by the Bay’s storytelling journey in 2015.  I went to all the past four chapters (even though I didn’t write about them all), and I won’t want to miss this and the next ones too. 🙂

Celebration of Chrysanthemums : 24 Sep – 10 Nov 2015 @ Flower Dome

Chrysanthemums01

Chrysanthemums02

Oops, this shot was photobombed by a man and a woman (behind the wood sculpture)!  It was not easy to snap without being photobombed even though I patiently wait to have my shots.

Chrysanthemums24

Chrysanthemums25

Chrysanthemums03

This is the first time the Flower Dome is holding a chrysanthemum-themed display.  The flowers are mainly from China, Japan and Malaysia.  Chrysanthemums are largely in the familiar white and yellow blooms.  They also come in a spectrum of reds, pinks, purples and ambers.  Though not as colourful as the tulips, they are equally attractive.  The chrysanthemum is one of the “Four Gentlemen” (四君子) of China and it represents autumn.  The other three being plum blossom, orchid and bamboo.

Chrysanthemums04

Chrysanthemums05

Together with the chrysanthemums, there are also maple and bonsai trees.  As I read from newspapers, the 8 majestic bonsai trees are on loan from ChengTai Nursery, and they are all above 100 years old!  The maples (not so outstanding though) are from New Zealand.

Chrysanthemums06

Chrysanthemums26

Chrysanthemums07

Chrysanthemums08

Beside appreciating the beautiful floral display, I always find my visit to the Flower Dome educational too, as I get to learn more about flowers, their varieties, characteristics etc. etc. – something which I had never appreciated when I was a student. I did a module on Botany during my tertiary education but unfortunately, it was a drag then!

Do you know that these daily-like flowers with a centre disk and one or more rows of ray florets (petals) are actually chrysanthemums?  This is new to me.

Chrysanthemums09

Chrysanthemums10

Chrysanthemums11

Chrysanthemums15

Pompon – small, globular blooms

Chrysanthemums12

Chrysanthemums27

Irregular Curve – the florets loosely incurve and make fully closed centres

Chrysanthemums14

Rare Spiders – long, tube-like ray florets which may coil or hook at the end.  The florets may be very fine to coarse

Chrysanthemums16

Chrysanthemums13

Chrysanthemums19

Other variety of chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums20

 Chrysanthemums17

Chrysanthemums18

Chrysanthemums21

Chrysanthemums23

These are chrysanthemums too!

Chrysanthemums22

It was slightly past 6pm when I walked out of the Flower Dome.  The haze had thickened a little by then and the PSI reading was climbing back to above 100 but I was in good spirits.  Thanks to the chrysanthemums!  It was nice to be able take a breather from the haze that afternoon, and soak up the autumn atmosphere in the comfortable, cool Flower Dome.

This was not all for the day.  To be continued.

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. 

IMG_5508

IMG_6425

IMG_5520

IMG_5546

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)

IMG_5495

Lin Shi Ling (林诗玲)

IMG_5509

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

IMG_5515

Huang Hao Feng (黄浩峰)

IMG_6446

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

IMG_6452

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.

IMG_5535

IMG_5543

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.