Photos from the Quest for Immortality

Here are some photos from my visit to the special exhibition Quest for Immortality - The World of Ancient Egypt in the National Museum of Singapore. 

There were a number of statues showcased in the exhibition. Some of their faces looked so life-like. Could not really remember what the statues are called!

Some of the statues are tiny, like this one here...


There were also some smaller pieces, dedicated to beauty. This is a tiny piece, probably less than 1.5 inches in height, that was used to apply kohl to the eyes. 

And of course, all ladies need jewelery no matter which year you were living in.

There are carvings...


...and stelae. Stalae are stone slabs with carvings for funerals. I guess they are probably like the tombstones that we know today.

From the exhibition, I had a sneak peak of the Ancient Egyption's extremely elaborate burial customs. They will go through the mummification process performed by a priest, where they removed internal organs, removed the brain through the nose, and cover the body with some form of chemicals. The body would then be wrapped in linen and burried in a stone or wooden sarcophagus or coffin (like the one below).

The internal organs are preserved in canopic jars, like this.

Scarabs or dung beetles are considered sacred in Egypt. They are sometimes put on the mummy before burial.

Most of the ancient Egyptians are also buried with the Book of the Dead. It is a book that describes the afterlife, and provides instructions on overcoming obstacles in the afterlife! It is written on papyrus and placed with the body. 

It was an interesting exhibition that provides insight to all things related to death in the Ancient Egypt. After the visit to the museum, we went for a walk around Fort Canning Park.

After seeing so much of the Egyptian's burial custom, it is only natural to snap a photo of the tombstone we saw in Fort Canning Green. I found out that the area used to be a Christian graveyard! I have been there various times for concerts and plays without knowing that. There are now only a few graves left (shown below) and some of the tombstones were set into the walls surrounding the area. No wonder they said that the place is haunted!

The beach in the island of Bali

{ July 2009 - Bali, Indonesia }

We planned our Bali trip around spending times in 3 main cities - Sanur, Ubud and then Seminyak. We spent the first day in Sanur, drove up North to Ubud on the second day, spent our whole third day in Ubud and our last day in Seminyak.

Day 4 (21 July) - Seminyak and back to Singapore

We spent the night in Seminyak, after travelling from Ubud at night. After breakfast, we started walking along Jalan Raya Seminyak which is a congested and crowded road, with lots of pollution all around. There are rows of shophouses along the road, and it was definitely not probably at around the same price as Singapore. So, we just walked along the road window shopping, while trying to hold our breath when walking along the road. After awhile, we just couldn't stand the smell any longer, and escaped into a (very western looking) cafe for drinks and lunch. The menu were full of western food but we managed to order a relatively Indonesian looking dish.

After lunch, we walked to Seminyak beach. It was a quiet stretch of beach with very few people, but lots of interesting designs on the sand! We believed that they were made by tiny little crabs, crawling around the sand. Isn't it amazing how many different crabs, crawling around randomly could produced such interesting designs?


We stopped by a small little shack that sells drink to enjoy the sun, the breeze and the view. We were asked to get tattoos a few times, but I wonder how safe that will be! There were also lots of vendors walking around selling batik (like the one below) as well as sunglasses and caps.


As we started walking South towards Legian beach, there seemed to be an invisible line that indicated the end of Seminyak beach and the start of the Legian beach. The following view while reaching Legian beach took us by surprised with the number of people on the beach.


We spent the rest of the day just resting by the beach, sitting in cafe having drinks and relaxing. That taught us something - we were not meant to have relaxing holidays! After awhile, we were just bored! We wanted to look at things, see things, experience the place. However, all Seminyak and Legian beach showed us were the number of foreigners on the island. If we wished to spend time with tourists, we would rather visit their home country and be tourists in their country.

All in all, Balinese have interesting cultures, and the country was beautiful. However, we did not really have a chance to meet lots of Balinese - there were lots of tourists and from what we understood from the locals, there were lots of Indonesians from other islands that went to Bali to work. So, most of the "locals" you met in Bali, aren't really locals after all.

So, in reflection, would I want to go to Bali again? Actually, I would. But, the next time, I would be spending more time on the North of the island, maybe around the volcanoes and lakes, and less time, if any, by the beach. The food was good, though I wished there were more local food than restaurants catering for westerners. We enjoyed ourselves, nonetheless. A holiday is still a holiday - and there would definitely be stories to tell regardless of how much you enjoyed it (or not).  I wrote three entries on my short Bali trip, didn't I?

Of monkeys and Balinese culture

{ July 2009 - Bali, Indonesia }

After enjoying the sun, sea and sand in Sanur, and the nature and culture around Ubud in the past two days, we were ready to enjoy more of Ubud.

Day 3 (20 July) - Ubud

We started the day, bright and early, and walked towards the Ubud Monkey Forest. It is a natural reserve, with temples and lots and lots of monkeys!

The area was in a forest and so there were lots of trees all around.

We spent some time in the sanctuary - watching and trying to avoid the monkeys, visiting Pura Dalem Agung (a Hindu temple), and enjoying the nature (amidst the people around us). After that we walked towards Penastanan, following the suggested walk in Lonely Planet. It was a great change walking along the roads and houses where the locals actually lived.


When we reached Penastanan, we were greeted with endless views of paddy fields. Too bad the paddy fields weren't on terraces - else the view would have been even better.

We continued walking past many artists' houses, got a little lost, but finally found Antonio Blanco's museum. He was a Spanish artist who eventually lived in Bali with his Balinese wife. From the museum and his paintings, he was definitely an eccentric person. His art pieces are one of a kind, but a little too much for me sometimes with all the paintings of the nude female form.

After a tiring day with all the walks around Ubud, we treated ourselves to a wonderful meal in Warung Ibu Oka. They serve roasted suckling pig (a rarity in a country of Muslims, but acceptable in the island of Balinese Hinduism), and it was probably the best meal I had in Bali!

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the Pasar Seni (Art Market), enjoying the act of haggling while shopping. I ended up buying an abstract painting (that up to this day is still sitting wrapped in my cupboard).

We had our dinner at Bebek Bengil Restaurant (Dirty Duck Diner). They served crispy duck and lots of Indonesians food. The dishes were a little pricey, but the food was definitely worth it. After dinner, we took a chartered taxi to Seminyak, for a good night rest before our last day in Bali.

Sun, sea and sand with nature and culture in the island of Bali

{ July 2009 - Bali, Indonesia }

We went to Bali, Indonesia for four days in July 2009. While we, or rather, I am not a "beach" person, we thought that a short trip to Bali would be great pick-me-up from the daily work life. After doing countless research, we decided to spend our time between Sanur (quiet "family" beach), Ubud (the cultural centre of Bali) and Seminyak (the party and shopping central - after Kuta, that is).

Day 1 (18 July) - Singapore to Sanur, via Denpasar

Our flight landed in Denpasar around noon, and we went straight to Sanur. After resting for a short while in our hotel, we walked out to search for lunch and the beach. Lunch was a simple Nasi Campur, which literally means mixed rice. It has rice, noodles, eggs, vegetables and satay sticks (grilled meat on satay).

We saw some interesting Balinese architecture in the houses we passed in search of the beach. And here is a lone "leaf-less" coconut tree in someone's garden.

The beach in Sanur is calm and quiet, although I have to say that it did not take my breath away. Spent some time sitting by the beach, enjoying the view and the sunset, munching on grilled corns sold by the beach, and visiting the quiet "market" selling clothes and paintings. We ended our first night in Bali with a dinner by the beach, with sand under our feet.


Day 2 (19 July) - Sanur to Ubud, via various towns

We had the intention of waking up bright and early to watch sunrise and walk along the beach. Well, sleeping took priority, and we continued sleeping till the sun was up! We arranged for a car to drive us up to Ubud, and to stop us in various towns along the way. We ended up stopping at various towns and shops making and selling different things - silverware, batik, painting and woodcarving. It would be interesting if you have not seen those things, but being from Malaysia, the painting of batik is pretty much similar between the countries. 


As we go towards the north, we stopped at Goa Gajah (which means Elephant Cave) and Yeh Pulu which has carvings on the wall (below).

We finally got to Ubud in the afternoon. There was one main road running across the centre of the town, with shops (and lots of tourists) along the road. Walking along the roads, we visited a few places. Right in the heart of Ubud is the Ubud Palace and the Puri Saren Agung. Apparently, the local royal family still lives there.

Walking up north, we were met with an imposing gate opening towards the private temple of the royal family - Pura Marajan Agung. Balinese are mostly Hindu, but their practices seemed to be different from the Hindu elsewhere. It would be quite interesting if we had the chance to witness the locals praying and practicing in the temple.



Walking towards the west of the Ubud Palace, we saw more temples....


until we reached Pura Taman Saraswati. It is a beautiful temple, with ponds in front, overflowing with lotus. We watched a dance performance there that night. There were also dance performances in the other temples, but we decided on this just because of the wonderful temple and pond.

The short time that we were in Ubud that day showed us that there are definitely more to Bali then just sun, sea and sand. I loved the local culture already, even if I saw more foreigners than locals.

Quest for Immortality - The World of Ancient Egypt

We went to the National Museum of Singapore on Sunday, 17 January to watch the exhibition Quest for Immortality - The World of Ancient Egypt. Here is a synopsis of the exhibition from the museum...
The ancient Egyptian world is often characterised by a fascinating and remarkably supple mental universe. Ancient Egyptians melded images in ways that often beggar logic. They linked material elements with a realm inaccessible to humans, as reflected both in their daily conduct and their emphasis on the afterlife that led to their quest for immortality.
Quest for Immortality – The World of Ancient Egypt offers an insight to the ancient Egyptian’s attitude to life and the afterlife, and the preparations they made to ensure their transition from earthly existence to immortality. Discover the Egyptians’ means of equipping the dead – through mummification, provision of sustenance, magic and ritual – and explore the evolution of their burial rites as well as the changing relationship between man and ritual through time.
With 230 artefacts spanning from 4000 BCE to 950 CE, this exhibition endeavours to place tomb objects in their social, religious and artistic context, demonstrating the diversity and adaptability of an art that has prevailed in both time and space.
I noted two things once I stepped into the exhibition area - the darkness of the area and the number of people there. The place was packed when we were there - being Sunday afternoon and all. And the darkness? That I couldn't understand. Some statues were even hidden behind walls and are only visible through cracks in the partitions. I guess they wanted to make it feel mysterious and eerie but I thought it was unnecessary and the effect in Antalya Museum was definitely much better!

Walking down the passage from the door were statues, sphinx, carvings, stelae, jewelry and cosmetics, and ending with an area with sarcophaguses and mummies - one of which has an x-ray showing two infants burried with her. There were also short clips projected on walls showing funerals and preservation of bodies.

It was an interesting albeit morbid exhibition, but it was definitely much smaller and not as exciting as what the organisers and media had made it out to be. Did the exhibition make me think of immortality - probably not. Did the exhibition renewed my desire to visit Egypt - yes it does! Show me the real pyramid anytime!

[Photos taken during the exhibition were posted here.]

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

I have heard about Haruki Murakami, but has been quite reluctant to try reading his books. I found out that unless I really like the genre or the stories that the specific authors write, I usually cannot appreciate their books. These would include Neil Gaiman and even Paulo Coelho. While I appreciate their books, they are usually not easy reads - at least, not for me.

However, I finally decide to buy and read one of his books, and I picked up Sputnik Sweetheart. I started reading the book without knowing the genre that Murakami usually writes. It was, fortunately, a quite easy read for me. I finished it within 5 days (with probably just an average of half an hour each day). It was one of those novels where you just could not put down.

But here is the beauty of it - the novel touched me in many ways and made me think and wonder, but at the end of it all, I have to admit that I don't really know what this novel is about. The words, the prose, the stories are suspenseful and hypnotic. The narration brings me deep into the loneliness, the isolation and the confusion of the characters. And yet, there are times when I could not help but wonder - "Why is he telling us this? What is the significance of this section?". It is beautiful in the way that it is written, it is provocative in the story and yet it is confusing in its ending.

When will I watch Michael Bublé live in concert?

I wish. I wish. I wish.

I wish that I will have a chance to watch Michael Bublé live in concert. Wonder when he'll come to Singapore, or anywhere around Asia? He'll be in Italy in May - that I know. I'm planning a holiday to Italy sometime in October. Maybe I should move it to May just to be in time to watch him in concert?

For now, I'll make do with watching his music video...

My Sister's Keeper - The Book

I decided to buy and read this book after I saw the trailer of the movie based on the book. The movie starred Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin. I was initially reluctant to read the book as I read one of Jodi Picoult's book called The Tenth Circle and I remembered that I didn't like it all that much. However, after watching the trailer and loving the story line, and hearing good reviews about the movie, I decided to read it. The books which movies are based on are usually much better than the movies themselves, aren't they?

The book is about a 13-year-old Anna who sues her parents for medical emancipation - for the right to decide what she wants to do with her body medically. You see, she is conceived and born to be the perfect genetic match to her older sister Kate, who has life-threatening leukemia. Considering the topic, it is not surprising that I ended up crying while reading the book.

I also like the way the book is written. The story is told from the various viewpoints of all the different characters in the book. It builds the characters slowly and allows readers to understand the characters better as the story progresses.

I highly recommend the book, but if you are still not convinced, watch the trailer and decide for yourself. I hope to watch this movie soon, and hopefully, it wouldn't disappoint.

Weekend trip to KL (19-20 Dec)

Today is one of those days when I just felt the itch to write, but not sure what to write about. So, I decided to write about the trip I took after Turkey - a weekend trip to Kuala Lumpur (or KL as we call it). It was for my colleague's wedding on a Saturday evening. I do not have any photos for this trip as all the photos were taken by my boyfriend, and I do not have a copy yet.

[Image from Wikipedia. Clockwise from top left: Petronas Twin Towers, Petaling Street, Masjid Jamek and Gombak/Klang river confluence, Tugu Negara, Masjid Negara, skyline of KL. Center: KL Tower]

Now, I have to admit that KL is not my favourite place in the world. I may even go all the way out and say that I pretty much detest the place. I was living and working there for a short 5 months in 2005. It was for my first permanent full time job. I found it messy, dirty and simply too chaotic to do much really. And of course, being robbed point blank about 2 weeks after I was there did not help much. I started looking for jobs in Singapore right after that!

I was walking home after a late night at work, and being tired and sleepy I walked home slowly after taking the train. Out of nowhere, two men on a motorcycle came from behind me and grabbed my shoulder bag which has everything! My first instinct was to grab my bag even more tightly, and that resulted in me falling flat on the road. I hurt myself, and lost everything - money, credit cards, keys to my rented apartment, mobile phone and everything else in my bag. I was living alone and did not have any family living in KL then. Being relatively new to KL, I could not remember any of my colleagues' phone numbers. Taking the chance that they may still be toiling away in the office, two kind strangers drove me back to my office. Luckily my colleagues are still in the office, and I stayed with one of them for the night. That incident scarred me for life - physically (I have a permanent scar at my hip from the fall) and mentally (I detest KL and was living in fear for the rest of my stay there).

So, more than four years later, I was invited to a wedding in KL. It took me awhile to decide to attend the wedding, not having been back there since I left all those years ago. Luckily, no unfortunate event happened and I came back safe and sound.

We took an early morning flight out to KL and a friend drove us for bak kut teh at Imbi. The bak kut teh was good, although the rest of the food (pig trotters etc) that we ordered was not fantastic. We brought our Vietnamese friends to Petaling Street (aka Chinatown) where you can get lots of fake branded goods - bags, belts, sunglasses, luggages - you name it! It was funny seeing how all the street vendors are happily selling their fake goods under signs that say selling fake goods is illegal! We then went to check in and rest in our hotel. The hotel is pretty good for the price and Mid Valley Megamall is right outside the hotel! We rested, and then went off to the wedding dinner in the evening. After the wedding dinner, we spent the night singing our hearts away in a karaoke until late at night (or early morning, depending on how you see it).

After a quick breakfast of coffee, teh tarik and nasi lemak in Mid Valley, our friend drove us to Ampang for yong tau foo. Ampang is probably the most famous place for yong tau foo and it is my first time there. The food is great and we ate lots! After lunch, not knowing where else to go, we drove aimlessly and ended up at Dataran Merdeka. Royal Selangor Club was having their 125th year anniversary celebration and there were many antique cars on display. We spent some time watching the parade and snapping photos of the antique cars there. My boyfriend and I then spent the rest of the day walking and chilling out in KLCC, having cakes and drinks. At dusk, it was more photo opportunities to take night shots of the Petronas Twin Towers, before travelling to the airport to catch our flight back to Singapore.

So, a weekend in KL was alright after all. The food was great, and I did not lose anything!

Goodbye 2009, Hello 2010!

Here's to another brand new year of lots of travelling, hopefully!

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