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

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.