Saturday, 29 March 2014

Bruno Mars moonshining in Singapore

You know how certain songs are tied to certain events? Well, our road trip from Singapore to Kuantan back in 2010 will always be associated with the song Grenade. The song kept playing on the radio throughout our drive. I mean, if a guy says that he'll catch a grenade for you, I'm sure you will take notice too!

That was the first time I took notice of Peter Gene Hernandez, or better known as Bruno Mars. He is one of those singers out there who can actually sing amazingly well. Of course, his groove and moves make him a great performer!

His concert in Singapore on 26 March 2014 was an evening of great music, great showmanship and lots of great moves. It was a tad short, as I would have loved to keep hearing him groove. Most of the songs were performed with his band member, and it was when he sang "When I Was Your Man" that you can feel his emotions - a man with his guitar singing about lost love. Would love it if he did more of that - no band, no moves, just a man singing. He has the voice and the talent to do just that.

Looking forward to more great songs, from this talented singer and musician!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Take Me Out

Take Me Out is a play that I would not have expected to be produced and performed in Singapore.

It covers something close to everyone's heart - tolerance, inclusion and acceptance of everyone no matter the background. The dialogue is brilliant, it is insightful yet funny and the actors played their characters brilliantly. The 2002 play by Richard Greenberg won the 2003 Tony Awards for Best Play.

The play is set in the locker room of a professional baseball team, and has an all-male cast with great physique that we will expect of a professional baseball team. The Tim Garner Productions of Take Me Out features Juan Jackson (whom I last saw in Next to Normal), Hayden Tee, Chris Bucko, Johnny James, Paul Lucas (who is also the director) and Tim Garner (who is also the producer).

So, why did I say that it is a play that I would not have expected to be produced and performed in Singapore? Well, the theme of the play is on homosexuality and racial prejudice. A topic that not all Singaporeans (or Asians) are comfortable with. So, bravo to Tim Garner Productions for bringing Take Me Out to Singapore.

Oh, and did I mention about the very authentic shower scene?

::: footnotes :::

Take Me Out plays in the DBS Arts Centre from 8 to 16 January 2014 and Alliance Française Theatre from 18 to 31 January 2014.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Thoughts on my travel to Myanmar (Burma)

"This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about.” Rudyard Kipling wrote in 1898. More than a hundred years later, it still hold true for me. I have travelled to a number of places, and yet, the country is truly different.

Myanmar or Burma (there is still an ongoing debate of what the country should be called), is a country surrounded by China, Thailand, Laos, India and Bangladesh. It was a country of kings and dynasties, where Theravada Buddhism became a prominent and important religion. In the 19th century, the British colonised the country, but it has since became independent for 65 years. Independence from the British, that is, but under a closely guarded military rule for most of those years. Elections came and went, and winning politicians were jailed or put under house arrest. However, in the last couple of years, since 2010 as a matter of fact, the country suddenly found themselves reforming and opening up.

It was with these history, and the recent onslaught of tourism, where we spent nine days in some parts of Myanmar that has been opened for tourism. Many places are still off-limits for foreigners. Tourism is still relatively new to the people in the country, many of the people we met and came in contact with, are friendly and welcoming. They seemed genuinely happy to see us, and many times, children and even monks, waved and smiled happily to us. Many would continue going about their daily lives, without regard to the tourists that seemed very interested in the things that they are, and have been, doing for centuries.

In Inle Lake, fishermen tried to find a quiet spot away from the speeding tourists boats that were all too interested in watching them fish. Women bathing and washing clothes by the river and lake tried to ignore the trigger-happy tourists with their cameras of different shapes and sizes. In a street in Yangon where the local carpenter were making wooden furniture, we were pretty much left alone to watch them work. In Bagan, farmers still use bull carts and cows to plough their land, and bring their goats out to graze the grass next to the temples. In the glistering golden pagoda and Buddha statues, prayers are made and flowers offered.

These made Myanmar an amazing country to travel around, and so unlike any other countries that I have been. In most of these countries, tourism became part and parcel of daily lives, and has even became an industry where the whole town or even island, is a part of. In places like Santorini and Bali, I felt that everyone I met are tourists like me, and even the locals are from other areas who went to work in the tourism industry. Many of the visitors to Myanmar are those who wanted to experience the country before tourism hit it hard. They are usually those who are prepared to rough it out, and not demand five star hotels and restaurants, because there are little, if any, of those.

In the cities and towns we went, we felt safe and welcomed. Smiles are plenty, with faces of women and children spread with a yellowish-white paste called thanaka, and men with red betel chewing teeth. In Buddhist temples, we left our shoes and slippers outside the temples without worry that we may find ourselves barefooted for the rest of the trip. I walked on the streets feeling safe from bag-snatcher and thieves. I bought souvenirs and shopped in markets without worrying that I have been cheated. Some haggling is necessary, but the prices quoted were usually pretty reasonable.

All that being said, I have noticed the impact of tourism to the ways some of them lived. In Bagan, more and more children are dropping out of school to sell trinkets and postcards. Many of them learnt English, Malay, French and other languages to communicate and sell to tourists. In some villages, children asked for money from tourists. In Inle Lake, resorts and hotels with creature comfort are being built on the lake. Restaurants are opened with more acceptable cuisine such as Chinese food and "western" food, amongst the Burmese cuisine to cater for varying tastes.

And so, I am torn. I am torn between asking people to visit the country while it is still charming and naive (for a lack of better word), and trying to keep it a secret with the hope that they will stay innocent to tourism and the good and bad that came with it. But from the way it looks, Myanmar is speeding, towards that direction - towards development and tourism, and trying to open up and hoping to catch the attention of the world. And it looks like they are not going to stop anytime soon.


Friday, 13 December 2013

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Monday, 9 December 2013

Our Lady of Paris

{ Mar 2012 - Paris, France }

That's the translation for the name of this gothic cathedral, the famous Notre-Dame de Paris. The first time I came across this name and cathedral would be the Disney's animation The Hunchback of Notre Dame!

From one end of Île de la Cité, we walked by Sainte-Chappele (did not manage to get in) and La Conciergerie (where prisoners were kept during the French Revolution, including Marie Antoinette). We were met with this imposing symmetrical gothic facade. There were lots of people on the square in front admiring the facade. We were mesmerised by the front and was so excited, that we went straight in!

The inside of the cathedral was as beautiful as the outside - from the nave, the apse, the organ, the alter and the chandelier hanging down from the ceiling. And of course, we went up to the roof and towers to see some of the older bells and the gargoyles! They all looked different with different positions. It would definitely have been a better experience if it wasn't for the grills on the roof. I could definitely imagine, the hunchback bell-ringer Quasimodo, living here!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Place Dauphine in Île de la Cité

{ Mar 2012 - Paris, France }

A small little island right in the middle of Paris and surrounded by the river Seine - that's Île de la Cité. It is considered the epicentre of the city, and it is where the famous Notre Dame Cathedral is on.

Wanting to start our exploration of Paris on our first day, we started on the other side of the island. We reached it via Pont Neuf, where we were instantly met by the statue of Henry IV right in the middle of the bridge. Pont Neuf means "New Bridge" but it is now the oldest standing bridge in Paris. From here, we took some steps down to the River Seine, and had our first stroll along the river bank.

Just a few steps from there, we walked into an open triangular square. This small, quiet and charming Place Dauphine is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city if you ever needed to wind down. Just to think that across the river bank, are all the traffic and people in the metropolitan Paris.

We read that you may sometimes see lawyers on their lunch break playing boules! But no, we did not see that when we were there. Instead, we saw a group doing tai chi! Just goes to show how universal the world is! That is one thing I realised whenever I travel - the more places I travel to, the more I realised how similar we are all becoming. We also see Parisians walking their dogs, and enjoying the beautiful weather on the bench.

For a small square, Place Dauphine has many cafe and restaurants, and is a great place for lunch or dinner. We decided to have lunch by the park at the restaurant Le Caveau du Palais (17 Place Dauphine 75001 Paris). We asked for recommendations, and ordered duck confit and another roasted meat dish. It was probably my first "real" French duck confit, and even after a few more in the country, the one we had on our first day was pretty amazing.

We ended the lunch with espresso, to fight off the jet lag and to get ready for our walk on Île de la Cité which will bring us to Notre Dame Cathedral.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

First day in Paris

{ Mar 2012 - Paris, France}

Before I started to plan the trip to Paris, I was never a Paris kind of girl. When I think of Paris, I thought of those classy Parisian ladies with their Chanel bags and stilettos. I am not one of those, and while France was in my list of country to visit, I never really yearned to go.

That is, until I started seeing photos of miniature Eiffel Tower, started watching French movies (love Audrey Tautou!) and read about living and travelling in France. That probably started in late 2010, started planning the trip to Paris (and around) in late 2011 and was there in spring 2012!

When I reached Paris, I probably caught the Paris syndrome. It caught me by surprised just how beautiful and mesmerising it was. I kept telling myself and my boyfriend then (now, husband), "We are in Paris!" While I expected it to be pretty, the real thing was more than I expected. There was just something about it, something that I can't really pinpoint even till now. The architecture? The people? The air? The light?

From the first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, we walked along the River Seine, visited the famous Notre Dame and bought the book "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" from the bookstore Shakespeare and Company. Paris, with its grey roof, red chimney and iron balcony railings, managed to captivate me like no other city had ever done.

And all this was on my first jet-lagged day in Paris. I was excited to see what else the city has to offer!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Animals, rocks and sand in Kangaroo Island

{ Australia Feb/Mar 2009 - Day 7 & 8 - Kangaroo Island, South Australia }

The first day in Kangaroo Island was spent with a lighthouse, honey farm, fish and chips and small tiny penguins. The remaining two days had more lighthouses, limestones, rocks and sand with lots of animals thrown in between.

Woke up in the morning at the Emu Bay Holiday Homes and getting acquainted with the area we spent the night. Arrived very late the night before and the whole area was pitch black! And before we know it, we had to leave! Oh well, that's the thing about road trip around a big island - you can't really stay put in the same place. We drove to a nearby town to a simple brunch and coffee.

First stop for the day is to the most charming little square-shaped lighthouse, Cape Borda. We went there just in time to see the historic cannon being fired - specially for just the two of us! Yes, it was pretty empty when we got there. There were the old lighthouse keepers cottages and a small museum. The lighthouse was in a cliff, and in the days when the lighthouse keepers were staying there, supplies will reach by boat and hauled up using a steel railway at Harvey's Return. They stayed there in a small little community, without much contact with others. It must be quite a tough job for the lighthouse keepers, and their families. Down the road was a small Lighthouse Keeper's Cemetery. The next lighthouse we saw, Cape du Couedic, was a more typical lighthouse - a long thin cylindrical shaped lighthouse!

We then made our way to Admiral's Arch with hollowed-out limestone and lots of seals! The area is home to a colony of some 4,000 New Zealand fur seals that play in the rock pools and rest on the rocks. It was my first encounter with seals, although they were pretty far away! With the strong wind, bright sun and beautiful scenery, it was turning out to be the kind of trip I was hoping for in Kangaroo Island!

Next in our list is a place called Remarkable Rocks at Kirkpatrick Point. With a name like that, we expected some interesting looking rocks, but still, the real thing blew my mind. It turned out to be a collection of gigantic rocks of weird shapes balancing on top of massive granite dome. After years of strong wind, the boulders are now of various shapes and sizes!

Being in Kangaroo Island, we decided to stay in a "hotel" with a difference. The Western KI Caravan Park and Wildlife Reserve. It has small little huts that are rented out if you do not have a caravan. We spent some time exploring the Flinders Chase National Park, seeing lots of animals unique to Australia - wallabies and koala!


The next morning, we went to the Kelly Hill Cave, a limestone cave and Little Sahara, a white sand dune. It was our first encounter in a sand dune, and the sheer volume of the sand was intimidating. I started imagining strong wind blowing the sand and covering me up! Suffice to say, that we did not spend a lot of time there, although the experience is still vivid to me!

The next and lost stop is a must-go if you happen to be in Kangaroo Island, the Seal Bay Conservation Park - home to the Australian sea lions. We managed to be up close to them, sharing a beach and just watched them sun tanning, playing with the birds, and making noisy sound. It was quite funny watching them move about!

Spending three days in Kangaroo Island was just the right amount of time to drive around the island at a slow pace, enjoying a relaxing break from the city and experience the beautiful weather, scenery and amazing landscape. We returned our rented car, took the ferry back to Cape Jervis and then bus back to Adelaide.

This is part of the travelogues of Australia 2009 trip.

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