My Finland Winter Sunrise Photo Series《芬兰寒冬暖日》Published in LianheZaobao 联合早报光影之“世界未戴上口罩时”版 on 16 January 2022
周末愉快！三年前我在芬兰冬季旅行中，拍摄日出的照片《芬兰寒冬暖日》刊登在今天（一月十六日）的 “世界未戴上口罩时”【光影】版。感谢 Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报。感恩。
Happy Sunday! My photos on winter sunrise shots taken in Finland before COVID-19 are published in full coverage today . Thank you so much to zbNOW/早报现在. Really much appreciated.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, I will be travelling soon next month finally after two years. Travelling life must still goes on, albeit with caution. I hope that entire trip will be a smooth-sailing one and return with many great photos!
I have always fantasised about seeing a bell tower in a gothic cathedral, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame fantasy finally came true in 2021. I had a rare opportunity recently to view Singapore city from a different perspective, via access to Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall by climbing the iconic grand Clock Tower.
During a one-hour tour, I got to see the mechanism up-close and learnt more about the clock’s history and its role in Singapore for more than 150 years. I must say that the climb to the top of the Clock Tower was not an easy task – there were steep climbs and two cat ladders. It is important to wear comfortable walking shoes. Visitors were asked to wear safety helmets throughout the tour and slippers are definitely not allowed for safety reasons. Aside from the panting, the walk down the tower may be slightly unnerving for those with acrophobia.
At the top of the tower, I managed to soak in glorious city views while immersing myself in history. There, I was also greeted with five majestic bells, weighing about 5,000 kg in total. These bells have played the same Westminster jingle since 1905, chiming every 15 minutes. They complete the full melody every hour.
Most Singaporeans know that the Singapore Zoo is the big name when it comes to Singapore’s amazing wildlife parks, but if we are being honest, its sister park, the River Wonders (formerly known as River Safari, rebranded in October 2021), is totally underrated but absolutely perfect for a day out with kids – particularly younger kids.
I knew that I was in for a wild adventure when I accompanied my 5-year old niece (Janelle Teo) to River Wonders last weekend. My niece is a big fan of wildlife animals. She was very excited and had been looking forward to this adventure since a few months ago.
The River Wonders offers the best of both worlds with aquatic and terrestrial animals representing nearly 250 species, including one of the world’s largest collections of freshwater animals. The park is divided into two areas, halved by the Upper Seletar Reservoir. The first area called Rivers of the World contains the 7 “Rivers” – it features mostly sea animals like fish and crocodiles. At the end will be a bridge that will take you to the second area, which features mostly rainforest animals. The park is designed in such a way that you go through the first half through Rivers of the World, then make the return journey to where you started. To view the map of the entire park, click here.
If you are looking for a refreshing view on art, then street art is definitely the answer you need. Many have described it as intriguing, creative, and unhindered. As most of you are aware, I have always been on a lookout for interesting street art and raise awareness of them through my photo lens and blog writing. I love the thrill of discovery and that moment of personal appreciation and enjoyment in front of street art.
I have been advocating that street art is an important part of the identity of cities all around the globe, as it can help shape and define the sense of community and personality of a metropolis. There are many cities that already offer “street art tours” as graffiti and urban expression have already become relevant touristic attractions. Therefore, we cannot deny that this type of art is loaded with social, touristic, and even economic value, just like it happens with the work of Banksy, one of the most popular and sought after street artists of the century. Street artists create art out of their own creative need and to hopefully make us think as we pass their work.
Street art is also diverse. There are many different designs, styles, techniques, and types that help decorate the various surfaces that we see. Street artists come from different backgrounds, countries, and cultures. And with this, the birth of different forms of street art that dazzles and impresses me. I certainly appreciate street art and think it improves our urban areas.
Here's my latest Singapore street art photo series which are all found in Bukit Merah area. Does Bukit Merah make you think of anything? IKEA only? Take a trip down Jalan Bukit Merah and there is so much more than that. The art trail "Bukit Merah Diaries" by Brilliant Corners, is a part of the Arts in Your Neighbourhood programme organised by Singapore National Arts Council, to inspire people to explore this art trail in these neighbourhoods. I realised these murals were inspired by the residents’ childhood memories as I explored the neighbourhood. As a fan of street art, it’s my mission to understand the story behind every art piece that I come upon throughout my adventures. These street artists were invited to consider the residents’ memories and the history of the estate while creating their artistic response, giving new works of art in the neighbourhood. #dontsayinevershare
Reflection. A word that is wonderfully ambiguous. One of my favourite things to do when I travel is to go on a quest to find a body of water that has a reflection of a landmark. Photographing a reflection creates a unique image of an often photographed subject by adding interest and depth to your photograph.
Reflections show up often in the most impressive landscape photos. The iconic ones are beautiful snow-capped mountains with a lake in front acting as a mirror. But reflections are not only great for landscapes. Even in street photography or architecture, you can create stunning images with pools of water after a downpour. It is not difficult to find inspiration for reflection photography. Look for a river doing landscape photography, or wait for the rain to pass and search out puddles.
I took a scenic walk down memory lane with Singapore River recently as I have a special liking for this part of the Singapore River. Unconsciously, this is also one place that I would tend to go for some respite, or when I need to have time for quiet reflections during weekends. Furthermore, the colonial buildings nearby the area somehow have an attractive appeal to me. I simply love their designs, especially when being reflected along the mouth of Singapore River. Capturing a perfect reflection is harder than it sounds because any amount of wind at all will cause ripples and blur the surface of the water. I spent one whole day from early morning until evening to capture beautiful water reflections to form the collection below. The weather was absolutely perfect that day.
Singapore may be a concrete jungle, but as the murals on the streets and charming heritage buildings show us in the recent years, you can find beautiful art almost everywhere in the city. Even our humble HDB flats have been catching our eye more and more lately, boasting all sorts of creative designs from pop art to Medieval-style architecture.
Sometimes a pop of colour is all you need to brighten a place up. Seven HDB flats in the Teck Whye Avenue at Choa Chu Kang estate received an colourful new coat of paint a few years ago. The HDB flats at Teck Whye Ave ditched their old do – bright vibrant colour scheme with teal accents – for eye-catching designs inspired by the famous paintings themed “Composition with Red Blue and Yellow” by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. Last year, the facade of several HDB flats in Circuit Road at MacPherson Estate have also been painted to the designs inspired by Piet Mondrian.
Piet Mondrian was a 20th-century abstract painter from the Netherlands who is regarded as one of the greatest artists of his generation. Also known as one of the pioneers of abstract art, he was a firm believer of basic forms of beauty and hence discarded “non-essentials” in his work. “Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow” is a product of the Dutch De Stijl (The Style) movement. Many attribute Mondrian for bringing popularity to this rather obscure style.
The surface of things gives enjoyment, their interiority gives life — Piet Mondrian
Reopening of Singapore Haw Par Villa With A New Hell's Museum & Ten Courts of Hell 狮城虎豹别墅著名十殿阎罗和新地狱博物馆
Apart from visiting the Singapore Zoo and the Jurong Bird Park when I was a child, my parents enjoyed bringing my brothers and I to educational places such as the Science Centre and Haw Par Villa theme park too. My late grandmother used to tell me many stories about Chinese myths and legends, so I’m very familiar with stories of Sun Wukong the Monkey King, Chang’e and The Jade Rabbit, and the legend of the White Snake, just to name a few. I have not visited Haw Par Villa located at Pasir Panjang Road for more than two decades. To my surprise, I found it very interesting to rediscover this quirky place as an adult. The Ten Courts of Hell was recently re-opened on 28 October 2021 being fully air-conditioned and it is part of a new attraction called Hell's Museum.
Previously known as the Tiger Balm Garden, this cultural theme park is the last of its kind in the world. Built by the late Aw Boon Haw, the millionaire philanthropist who gifted the world Tiger Balm, Haw Par Villa is Singapore’s largest outdoor art gallery. This eclectic park which houses more than 1,000 statues and 150 giant dioramas depicting scenes from Chinese mythology, folklore, legends, history, and illustrations of various aspects of Confucianism, is a treasure trove of Asian culture, history, philosophy and religion.
I recently stepped into a sustainable second hand bookstore Books Beyond Borders located in the northern part of Singapore, and it was an unpredictable experience – in a good way.
As a writer I find it very hard to not go into bookstores – and even harder to not buy anything. Whenever I come across a second-hand bookstore this problem gets infinitely worse. How can you resist buying a few long-wanted books that are realistically budget-friendly? Well, you cannot.
However, the appeal of this bookstore extends far beyond finding a bargain book.
Books Beyond Borders is a social enterprise cum online bookstore based in Singapore. It sells second-hand books in the hopes of giving pre-loved books a new lease of life, and more importantly, to raise money for underfunded schools in Nepal. 100% of their profits after business expenses are invested in organisations helping students learn, read, and lead in rural schools. With each and everyone's support at The Books Beyond Borders, more underprivileged children would get to enjoy the luxury of reading.
Most of my friends know that I am a noodle lover. I love to eat noodles. Instant noodles serve as comfort food to myself as well as most Singaporeans, helping us tide through hectic schedules and late nights. So how could I not visit Singapore’s first instant noodle-themed experiential playground which offers visitors a quirky setting at its interactive spaces and murals?
The theme is straightforward. Called The Slurping Good!, the two-level playground will feature 13 interactive exhibits and a merchandise store selling noodle-themed goodies. Each exhibit represents the different ingredients that go into a cup noodle.
If it is anything like the other themed playgrounds, this will probably be a great chance to add some eye candy to your IG feeds. In a way, it’s also a good remedy for the wanderlust blues since this will probably remind some of the Cup Noodles Museum in Japan but with a local twist. Indeed, the visit to Slurping Good! brought me back the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka. If you cannot remember what it looked like, click here to read my blog in October 2015 about my visit to the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka.
In early September, I indulged in a pink ice cream fantasy at the newly-opened Museum of Ice Cream (“MOIC”) Singapore. Located at the historic Dempsey, the MOIC is hard to miss, seeing as the once monochromatic barracks that lined the district are now rendered a shocking shade of pink. Here, there are photo opportunities at every turn, dedicated to the celebration and experience of enjoying ice cream.
The opening of this wildly anticipated attraction was in the works for close to three months due to pandemic restrictions, but it seems like the wait was well worth it, as MOIC has brought the never-before-seen attractions to its first international location outside of the United States.
It’s really a good place to be – I was happy throughout and I could forget about what’s happening outside when I was here. It also helped the creative side of my brain, helped me forget about things. So I definitely do think that it is beneficial, allows people to take a break from things that are happening outside.
My The Netherlands Photo Series《荷兰柔情似水》Published in LianheZaobao 联合早报光影之“世界未戴上口罩时”版 on 12 September 2021
周末愉快！疫情前我的最后一趟旅行是荷兰，我在荷兰以棕褐色摄影这组照片《荷兰柔情似水》刊登在今天（九月十二日）的 “世界未戴上口罩时”【光影】版 。感谢 Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报。
Happy Sunday! My photos on The Netherlands are published in full coverage today . After returning from The Netherlands winter trip in December 2019, I didn't expect that it will be my last trip for a long time before I was forced to take a break from traveling due to the pandemic.
When will travel recover?
The million-dollar question. When will we be able to travel again? The short answer is nobody knows for sure. At the moment, we see travel recovering in stages without the need to be quarantined—first locally, then domestically between regions, and international travel is probably going to be the last, save for the Vaccinated Travel Lane currently between Germany & Singapore.
Many of us hope to travel again at some point in the near future, even if not immediately. I guess when that day finally comes, by then I will be all set to be a wanderlust again to travel in the new normal.
It’s natural to associate playgrounds with childhood and to feel nostalgic for the particular brand of whimsy that comes with early exploration and risk-taking. Maybe that’s why these spaces appeal to audiences as colourful and dynamic as the structures they are made up of. But that spirit of playfulness isn’t solely reserved for kids — nor should it only exist in outdoor spaces. Because of the creativity these public areas encourage, architects often incorporate incredibly surprising, non-traditional design elements into their construction that we’d happily have in our homes.
Rotterdam in The Netherlands is known as a playground for leading architects and has a long tradition of modern architecture in Europe. The bright yellow Cube Houses in Rotterdam designed by the late architect Piet Blom in the 1970s, are probably some of the most famous buildings in the Netherlands and attract people from all over the world. Based on the concept of "living as an urban roof", Piet Blom wanted to design a kind of village within the city and saw the houses as trees and the whole development area as a wood. I had a chance to visit them in December 2019, and have found its architecture to be utterly amazing.
While Rotterdam is known for radical architecture and forward-thinking city planning, architects around the world are also finding ways to integrate “Living in an urban roof” in their own cities too. There is an ever-growing interest by a new generation of ambitious emerging architects. So based on Rotterdam's Cube Houses concept design, I explored the idea of whether there is any similar cube house architecture in Singapore. The answer is, in my view, yes there are indeed cube house themed playgrounds in Singapore, hence this post today. An ideal playground should be a mixture of architecture, aesthetics and play value - something that both the designers and people who patronise the playground can be proud of. #dontsayinevershare
Do you like to visit art galleries? There are many different types of art galleries around the world. If you like art, science, or history, there are galleries that will inspire and delight you.
I visited an interesting art gallery recently filled with surprises. Located in a nondescript corner on the second floor of Singapore Raffles Hotel Arcade, Art Now is a gallery that makes creative designs and intriguing art pieces accessible to the public with free admission. For those who enjoy both art and culture, why not visit Art Now gallery that offers both.
The whole space is cosy and filled with a bewildering array of creations that run the gamut of pop art and the contemporary to 2D and 3D fine art, as well as fashion and other unique lifestyle items. From the architecture to the interior design, the gallery also includes bespoke furniture.
Though many of the current generation (born in the late nineties and 2000 onwards) may not realise it, they are rather lucky in the matter of choices than any of the earlier generations. Not only do they have options like the fine dining, cafeterias, delicatessens, fast food joints and pubs but they also have the option of eating at food courts. A food court can be defined as a smorgasbord of immense proportions offering many food choices at one place with several small eateries offering you different cuisines at one place and that too at affordable rates. That is why the decoration and arrangement of food courts has become of tantamount importance today. We have to admit that while many of us may not give that much weightage to the décor of the food court with a conscious mind, it does weigh on our decision to eat there. If you know all about restaurant decoration, then you realise it does have an impact and it is the same way with food courts and the way they are decorated.
So I decided to explore something many diners at Food Republic outlet, Basement 1 @Shaw House in Orchard Road Singapore realise but are unable to put their finger on – the creative theme behind the décor. In its own understated way, this Food Republic outlet is considered an art exhibition itself with each food stall beautifully styled using these large scales wallpaper murals. The typography is perfect and really fits well with the décor. You may already have experienced dining there before, but didn’t recognise the art works at the first glance. That’s because they are masked in unique decor and visual interest like never before. The cute and simple illustrations spread across the murals are actually inviting and interesting, adding some hipster vibes to the whole dining place. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the artworks while enjoying my meal, hence this blog post today to share the murals. #dontsayinevershare
The Housing & Development Board ("HDB") designed a range of playground designs for its public housing estates in the 1970s. Most of these playgrounds have been demolished for modern ones which are easily distinguished by its plastic and metal features, as well as rubber mats. Only a handful of the iconic playgrounds still stand today. For an alternative itinerary, I took a peek at the charming vestiges of its past – like these dragon playgrounds of yesteryear.
Many Singaporeans would remember them as exciting playgrounds when they were very young, that offered thrilling fun play spots where one could climb up the dragon’s spine, slide down the terrazzo slides and dart about playing police-and-thief with friends. The dragon is a symbol of power, strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it in Asian culture, and it was turned into a place where children can run along its spine and slide down its head. Even if you have yet to see these iconic playgrounds in person, I’m pretty sure you have seen some on your Instagram feed. These dragon playgrounds are the poster child of retro playgrounds in Singapore.
With no signs of any possible overseas travel in the near term due to growing transmissible delta variant around the world, there is no better time to explore our own backyard more and not forgetting these dragon playgrounds which have warmed the cockles of many Singaporeans back in the good old days. Lets head on down for a dose of nostalgia and get ready for a major throwback !