Right next door to Amsterdam is Haarlem – yet another little lovely, quaint city that charmed me during my trip to The Netherlands in December last year. While I do love Amsterdam, I really love exploring other Dutch towns. I love such charming, medieval city with ancient buildings and cobbled stone streets and therefore this Haarlem, a typical “Dutch” town, is also one of my favourite.
Easily accessible (only 20 minutes from Amsterdam) yet a world away from the major city nearby. This is totally my kind of destination. It reminded me a lot of Amsterdam, but on a quieter note. The pace was a little slower, though filled with life, the presence of tourism less paramount, yet the locals were supremely welcoming. I enjoyed every minute and I often hear Haarlem described as a little city. As it is one of the most densely inhabited metropolitan areas in Europe, this reference is more an interpretation of its village-feel than its populace.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought travel and tourism to a standstill, and I'm not sure when it will restart. I’m sure everyone else is feeling the same way as the world is practically melting in front of us. However, that should not stop me from completing my travel blog posts. I went for a two-week long trip to The Netherlands in December last year and I didn’t know that would be my last trip for a long time. I can hardly believe it has taken me this long to share this, and I have to say, long overdue. But I think it’s always better late than never at all. So I will be rolling out some blogs this month to conclude the few remaining highlights of my Netherlands trip, with this post on Utrecht.
Travelling throughout the Netherlands on a whirlwind week of adventures in December 2019, I finally arrived in Utrecht. I made my way by train to Utrecht (the journey takes only 25 minutes by train from Amsterdam), a city that has come to be known by many as “Amsterdam’s cool little sister”. And indeed, I think it's one of my favourite cities in the Netherlands.
Charming is perhaps the best word to describe Utrecht. Utrecht is home to enchanting canals, medieval streets and fascinating monuments. This is a city that thrives on mixing old and new, urban living and green space, tradition and innovation. Cobblestone streets hum with chatter as the locals sip coffee and catch up with friends, while every bit of the canal is put to good use – even right down to water level, where wine bars, sports clubs, cafes start right at the water’s edge. What sets them apart is the “lower level” - below the street above - where the warehouses were located in olden times.
I visited the Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF) last weekend. SIPF is a worldwide biennial gathering of minds commonly pursuing the advancement and appreciation of photography. The biennial event is back for its 7th edition. Set amidst a pandemic, this year's theme #SIPF2020 is "Departing and Arriving", a theme that seems extremely fitting with our current circumstances.
The concept sounds very simple, yet a complex one. Prior to the pandemic outbreak, the theme "Departing and Arriving" seeks to explore our migrant histories and identities in both the local and global context. In the process of witnessing and experiencing the changes that have taken place in our world, the theme has evolved to take on a reflective outlook at the human condition. In the trajectory of arriving at a new normal is the discovery of a deeply rooted desire for a better tomorrow.
This year's SIPF blew me away and redefined everything for me. Allow me to bring you along with me on this journey of Departure and Arrival, but with a little disclaimer – I’ll be featuring some of the fine artworks I got to witness and I do not showcase all of them in my blog. I will leave some of them in suspense, because I think there are actually so much more to see for yourselves and explore at the festival.
Singapore's 1st Art Exhibition in A Department Store: Four Letter Work by I Am Not David Lee, An Anonymous Artist
I visited an interesting art exhibition recently. It's Singapore's first art exhibition that is held in a department store, ie, Takashimaya Department Store in Orchard Road. The art exhibition is titled "Four Letter Work" by a local artist, I Am Not David Lee. The "Four Letter Work" exhibition was launched on 13th November 2020 with almost no information. There isn't much social media presence about this artist. Apart from the fact that this artist is from Singapore, and that this is his first solo exhibition, I know next to nothing about this artist. He is obviously not David Lee, the retired footballer.
So who is this anonymous artist?
With the Internet and social media serving as a vital aspect of our day-to-day lives, we have become accustomed to finding out everything about anyone or anything with just a few clicks of a button. The amount of information available to us is astonishingly overwhelming, and so, keeping your identity private is no easy feat. As a result, more and more artists are releasing their art or music while maintaining an anonymous profile. By withholding their true identity, these acts may able to create an element of mystery and anticipation, which often proves to be incredibly effective in capturing the public's attention.
One of the artists that I think can be most associated with this idea of anonymity is Banksy. The idiosyncratic and brilliant street artist, who remains to this day anonymous, has captured the attention and the hearts of millions of people worldwide. While to this day the person known as anonymous artist Banksy has yet to be identified, we can still understand and chart much of the person’s history and repertoire.
Lets now take a look at this "Four Letter Work" exhibition by I am Not David Lee.
在新家坡这么高度商业化的城市，每个人的脚步都匆匆忙忙，倘若你停下来，或许能看到不一样的风景。这个春雨迷蒙的季节，我们倒不如找一家宁静的咖啡馆，小资地发个呆，享受营营役役的人们没有的品质生活。不管是喜欢咖啡馆还是喜欢咖啡的人，多数含蓄、内敛、收放自如，懂得释放工作的压力、懂得享受生活的美妙, 一如给人无限回味的咖啡，香醇、柔滑、优雅、深沉。找一个阳光灿烂的下午或者是大雨过后的清新早晨，推门而进，在 cafe 里面专心致志地发呆，大概也是人生最重要的乐趣之一了。
慈济基金会新加坡 (Tzu Chi Foundation) 旗下有4间分店静思书轩。我光顾了其中2间：第一间坐落在沈氏道，而另外是位于义顺的慈济人文青年中心。我踏入两间书轩时候，就好像从一个喧闹的世界，转换到另一个平静的世界。静思书轩以禅的概念来做室内设计，给人一种平静祥和的感觉。静思书轩以竹装饰室内的墙壁，带出东方的气息与禅意。禅式设计真让人平和幽静的书轩让我的内心也随之安定。内播放着古典钢琴配乐，让人在舒适的环境里整理思绪。
以下是静思书轩分店位于沈氏道 along Sims Avenue。
My Hong Kong Photo Series《减速香港》Published in LianheZaobao 联合早报 光影之“世界未戴上口罩时”版 Newspapers on 15 November 2020
My long awaited Hong Kong photo series titled《减速香港》 taken using slow shutter speed and under my pen name 蓝天游 is published in today's LianheZaobao 联合早报光影之“世界未戴上口罩时”版 full coverage dated 15 November 2020 ! 感谢、感恩! Thrilled to see it being featured nationwide in print! Special thanks to Lianhe Zaobao, you made my day! :)
Interactive Wallpainting in Singapore With Augmented Reality Story Inside: "The Great Story of The Infinite Drawing" By Elly Oldman
As part of the Singapore National Arts Council’s Arts in Your Neighbourhood initiative in conjunction with vOilah! France Singapore Festival 2020, there is an interactive wall-and-floor painting displayed on a wall in Geylang Bahru, telling an augmented reality story. It is called "The Great Story of the Infinite Drawing" by a French artist named Loona, but you might already know her as Elly Oldman.
Elly Oldman began to draw The Infinitive Drawing on Instagram in April 2017. You can see it here: @theinfinitedrawing. It is > 13 meters long and carries on growing every week. The actual Infinite Drawing is very hard to display in real life given the length and width. Hence the wall mural was brought to life with the help of an augmented reality activity with additional animated illustrations by Singaporean artist Marina A @mrn.a
The Great Story of the Infinite Drawing was created to be an educational story, with an ecological and solidarity-based message: taking care of the environment and respecting the people around us is important. The story will be elaborated below.
The wall mural is interactive, and people will be able to scan parts with their smartphone to watch augmented reality videos. These videos will tell the quest of a little girl and her robot across various worlds, giving clues to understand the mystery behind the huge painting.
I love reading and writing. When you don’t have a math brain or an inkling for science, you sort of need to stick with what you know, and reading is what I know. It turns out when you are someone like me, studying eventually becomes synonymous with hoarding books, so to this day, I have an absurd number of books that I hold near and dear to my heart like a coin collector would their many coins. If I have somewhat lost you on what is beginning to seem like an ode to books, have no fear because I am mostly here to say books are an important styling tool that can show off your interests and personality (or, even if you don’t style with them and just let them be in their natural habitat, books are such an important part of a home or an office). Take it from someone who will immediately scan a bookshelf in any home or office, I enter to see what the owner is into, books can say a lot about a person and their style.
So today, I am not going to try and recruit you to participate in a worldwide book club (although that would be fun) but instead will recommend to you a bookcafe that I really really love right now. I liked it so much when I visited that I thought I’d blog about it. What happens when cafe owners and book publishers come together? Singapore’s largest independent publisher, Epigram Books and Huggs Coffee collaborated to create a novel opportunity to read, drink coffee and try local bites, all in a comfortable sunlit space right at the URA Centre (45 Maxwell Road) with the books on display written by Singaporean authors, published locally or all about Singapore. I hope this place can encourage more people to pick up a book to read while chilling and café-hopping.
Visiting Doraemon at The National Museum of Singapore: Doraemon’s Time-Travelling Adventures Exhibition
My favourite cartoon character is Doraemon. I'm a big fan of Doraemon ever since I was a kid. I think everybody knows what it is. It is a blue robot cat with no ears. Doraemon has a roly-poly figure and his cute appearance is one of the reasons why he is loved by fans.
I like the story of Doraemon very much. It is about the friendship between Doraemon and a naughty boy called Nobita. Doraemon comes from the 22nd century. Its main duty is to help Nobita to get out of trouble. Unfortunately, that happens to Nobita quite a lot. Every time, Doraemon uses the amazing tools from its pocket to help Nobita. I love reading about Doraemon's tools and I am amazed by the imagination of its creators.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doraemon's creation, this beloved cat robot from my childhood has made his way to the National Museum of Singapore. My endeavour was to visit the exhibition, no matter how busy I am. The Doraemon’s Time-Travelling Adventure exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore starts today until 27 December 2020. It features several iconic elements associated with Doraemon. When I visited the exhibition, it was a whole lot of nostalgic fun.
The old charm of Singapore came back to life when I took a lovely stroll through this very quaint and interesting private museum that is housed in a landed housing property. This museum stands out from the landed properties in the residential sprawl along Changi Road in the east region of Singapore.
The owner of the property, Mr David Wee, has converted the frontage into a museum that is filled with his personal collection named "Wee's Collection" - items of the good old simple carefree days. I disappeared from the present after I entered the museum which is for meant all ages, old and young, to see and understand the things of good old days and a place for the adults to reminiscence. I saw many stuff and toys which are the kind I haven't seen for a long time. I think adults will walk down the memory lane as they reminisce about their childhood, while children will find it a delight to discover the vanishing activities from the yesteryear. One will be able to ponder and daydream of how life in the olden days might have been.
A collection is not made overnight. It takes years and sometimes a lifetime. During the tour, Mr Wee revealed that he took about 25 years to amass Wee's Collection. To acquire something that is rare is like owning a treasure. I suppose it gives more meaning as a collector if the collector can share this to other people for them to see and appreciate. In my view, a collection to be meaningful, should be shared with other people. If you keep it to yourself, then you deprive yourself the respect you can gain from your passion and the knowledge other people could acquire from your collection.
I know this is just one of those things that people say, but I've been obsessed with street art since way before it started to be cool to like street art. I mean, story of my life, right? I think if you lined up the few things in life that I'm passionate about, you would find that most of them are currently trendy. Which is kind of funny, because I wouldn't consider myself to be all that trendy a gal. But what can I say, street art is in this season. Honestly, I could just put a ton of street art photos up as proof that street art is pretty freaking awesome. And don't worry, I will, but I guess I should also write about it as well since this is, you know, a photography blog.
Nevertheless, it's 100% true; I fell in love with street art. It was pretty much love at first sight. I settled for travelling in search of street art in my hometown, Singapore and around the world before the COVID-19 pandemic. As a frequent traveller, I found there was a growing treasure trove, and often in unexpected places. I was fascinated. At one point, I genuinely considered doing a degree focused on the culture of street art (if there is). You get the picture. I'm kind of obsessed.
Once I discovered that Ang Mo Kio had street art, I knew I would enjoy it here. It’s a bustling neighbouring area for many, but for me, it was about looking for street art that day. I couldn’t notice such a big surprise in Ang Mo Kio until recently. Some masterpieces have to be seen in real, wherever they are. And can you say no to the pleasure of discovery?
The street art I saw depicts the culture, rich heritage, history and daily life of people living in Singapore in a sweet yet funny manner, almost like cartoon characters. As I walked around Ang Mo Kio Town Centre, spotting the murals, they had surely put a smile on my face or made me think about the local way of living in Singapore. These street artists’ murals are stunning. As usual with wall murals, I took a plethora of photos. I enjoyed the hours spent searching for street art in Ang Mo Kio, so now I would like to show you how talented some of these street artists really are.
If you are a café hopper cum enthusiast on our sunny island and find that you have run out of cafes to go to, fret not, 7-Eleven (7-11) has collaborated with Coca-Cola Singapore to open a first-ever 7-Eleven x Coca-Cola concept store last month in Singapore. Their concept store is a breath of fresh air as it steps out of the mould of your typical 7-Eleven.
Located at the House of Eden in No. 4 Robinson Road (conveniently outside Exit F of Raffles Place MRT station), this concept store is filled with Coca-Cola novelty items and is decked in some red furniture.
Artistic Wayfinding Project By The Singapore Alzheimer’s Disease Association For Senior-Dementia-Friendly Community In Kebun Baru Neighbourhood
It might have passed you by, but I'm a big fan of street art. It's for that very reason that I’m always on a constant lookout for interesting street artwork. What I love most about searching for street art isn’t just finding beautiful murals, but it’s the journey to seek them out. It takes you to places you wouldn’t normally visit; down backstreets and alleyways etc. I think it’s a fantastic way of getting to know a new place. In the end, I always use street art as a landmark to navigate my way around.
The street art in Singapore that I’m going to introduce today has a noble cause in itself — it is meant for people who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's Disease. People with dementia will wander. People with dementia may not remember his or her name or address, and often experience problems with orientation, which cause difficulties in finding their way back home. Wandering among people with dementia is dangerous, but there are strategies and services to help prevent it. Wayfinding helps people with dementia move independently from one spot to another. It refers to ‘what people see, what they think about and what they do when finding their way from one place to another’.
Several HDB blocks along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 have been embellished with murals of kueh kueh, satay, a tingkat and more. Everything — from the size of the murals (big, so residents can spot them from afar) to the mural subjects (traditional because these resonate with those living with dementia) to even the locations of the mural (just one or two at strategic locations instead of painting every other wall) — they are part of a dementia wayfinding project done by the Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA) in consultation with caregivers of patients who are living with early onset dementia, so as to remain sensitive to the needs of this group of residents. The murals featured familiar, retro items to aid persons living with dementia and the elderly with difficulties in wayfinding, particularly at void decks, in easily recognising their surroundings and finding their way home.
Urban farming has become quite a bit more than a fad or innovation showcase for our garden city. In more and more cities around the globe, urban farming strategies are bringing agriculture back into the city – and bringing us all closer to what lands on our plates every day.
Weaving food growing into the fabric of urban life could bring greenery and wildlife closer to home. The COVID-19 lockdown helped re-awaken interest in growing at home, but many households have no access to a garden. If we want to continue to feed people using farms in the places where most people live – in cities – we need to find the space for them. Thankfully, the opportunities for urban farming extend beyond these: rooftops, walls – and even under-utilised spaces such as old school buildings, offer a range of options for expanding food production in our city while creatively redeveloping the urban environment. Getting out into nature and gardening can improve one's mental health and physical fitness. Many research studies suggest that getting involved in urban food growing, or just being exposed to it in our daily lives, may also lead to healthier diets.
City Sprouts is a social enterprise that aims to “rejuvenate urban communities and sprout meaningful multi-generational relationships”. Its urban farm Sprout Hub is located in the heart of Redhill, situated at the former Henderson Secondary School which has been transformed into an urban farm and social space. City Sprouts uses urban agriculture as its backbone cultivating a place for urban rejuvenation, community and sustainable living. Interestingly here, you find a community transposed into a place with abundance of food and greenery in the midst of the surrounding high-rise residential and commercial buildings.
I visited the famous Singapore Botanical Gardens recently. I’ve been there so many times that I’ve lost count. But it was only that day that I really explored and discovered the true beauty of this garden. Nature is an awesome backdrop to so many special and everyday moments in our lives. We play, rest, exercise and connect with others on beaches, in parks, forests, by lakes, on mountains and in backyards. And the benefits nature offers are far-reaching: physiologically it boosts our immune systems, promotes healing and increases life expectancy; psychologically and emotionally it promotes well-being, makes us feel alive with uplifting and energizing effects, helps us feel calmer, less anxious or stressed and relieves attention fatigue. Even though, logically, I know the outdoors brings you happiness — many studies have shown that nature is one of the pathways to happiness — I truly just haven’t spent a lot of time out and about in nature. Nature gives a man an experience to know more about himself and his beingness that is why it is advisable to visit a beautiful environment once in a while.
Since the dawn of time, humans have been inspired to the heights of creativity and innovation by spending quality time close to nature. Scientists, philosophers, artists and social leaders have wandered forests and hills looking for those special moments of clarity when inspiration hits and brings insight to how we see the world. This is something that happens for everyone who spends enough time outside in nature with the intention to evolve their understanding of life.
I personally find this is one of the best ways to get a massive influx of fresh new ideas.
Many songs and poems are also completely written based on what people see in nature. It sparks creativity, even technological advances are based off of something in nature. It sparks what some people need to write, invent, or even just learn about or do something for both themselves and others. I feel like this is the part where I should have beautiful background music playing, to help set the mood for this post. So enjoy this little slice of heaven for just a few minutes and join me as we go back in time to an enchanted garden.