Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Light and darkness@Orchard

That's the boulevard along Orchard Road on Christmas day before the sun went down. By then, the crowd was already quite thick. It wasn't so thick that we couldn't make our way along the boulevard though. Then again, this spot was outside the main party area which started along the stretch of road fronting Ngee Ann City. When we reached the Paragon, where the crowd was the thickest and where the stage for the night's performances was, we quickly got off the road onto the pavement and made our way towards Orchard MRT station. We weren't waiting for the dancing to begin.

When the sun had set, the lights all along Orchard Road came on to give the place a genuine party atmosphere. I believe the lights stretched from the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station at one end of Orchard Road to Tanglin at the other end. By then, the road was suitably filled with people from all over. I could see Chinese, Indians, Caucasians, and others that I suspect were China Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, India Indians, etc., all enjoying the occasion. There were gigantic and powerful loudspeakers at strategic spots along the road, blaring out the sounds and music for the night. Although I left before the party began, I got a taste of things to come when the artists rehearsed their songs 'live' through these very same speakers. Awesome...the speakers, I mean.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Peace and the Pigeon

While we were making our way down Orchard Road among the many floats on display, we heard somebody excitedly calling her daughter to quickly stand in place to have her picture taken with the pigeon. A pigeon? On a noisy and crowded Orchard Road? It must have lost its way or something. But we realised soon enough that she was referring to a float with a huge Dove - that symbol of peace.

No wonder peace is not universal, when people so readily mistaken a dove for a pigeon, and the mistake is passed on to the younger generation. ;=)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Party @ Orchard

Last evening, after Church service, I accompanied my wife and son down to Singapore's Orchard Road to have a look-see-experience of the Christmas party that evening. Both of us really hate crowds, and my son was pining for his computer games rather than a walk down the busiest road in town where cars are not allowed today. But we went anyway.

The last time I was down there on such an occasion must be 15 years ago. I remember vividly accompanying my team mates in a diploma course I was pursuing then down to Orchard Road. The toughest project that I have ever worked on with them for the last couple of months was completed and it seemed the right time to unwind. There was a similar party on that night and I thoroughly enjoyed myself then.

This time around, it was more subdued, but nevertheless enjoyable as we soaked in the sights. The sound hadn't really started then as the party was scheduled to start only at 8pm. We were there at 6pm. But there was enough to see. The picture on the right shows the tallest Christmas tree along the road that day, and it is situated just in front of Paragon Shopping Centre. This is also the first time my son was walking down a car-less Orchard Road during Christmas. We had previously avoided the place because of the crowds - and he was still young. We walked from Somerset MRT towards Tangs, weaved between and among the crowd, had an ice-cream each with a pepper-flavoured taiwan sausage thrown in for my son, took some pictures with my sub-compact 4 megapixel digital camera, and exited at the Orchard MRT station at about 7.30pm, well before the party started, and headed home.

Large and noisy parties weren't our cup of tea. It was enough to have had a taste of the evening's events. Besides, my son was happy that he was going home to his beloved computer.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Rail Travel

The train ride up to Malacca was quite pleasant and comfortable. Maybe its because we went first class, where the seats are quite big with a lot of leg room. There is ample space to store our luggage and we were off soon enough, and on time, without too much of a wait. The only thing about travelling by train is you need to be quite energetic when you use the washroom/toilet - especially when it is in motion. (Actually you don't have a choice as the washroom/toilets are NOT available for use when the train stops at any station). That's because the cabin keeps swaying from side to side so you need to make sure that you do not sway too much with it. Otherwise the room will be a mess with you know what, and its not due to reasons arising from constipation or something similar.

Unlike older locomotives, present KTMB train runs on petrol (I think), so you don't have to contend with smoke at all. All cabins / cars are air-conditioned, so it is pretty clean. That also keeps the noise to a tolerable level as the metal rolls on the rail. Overall, I had an enjoyable rail journey up the lower half of the Malay Peninsula. I wouldn't mind going further next.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Singapore from inside-out

I haven't been travelling a lot lately, only to and from work, which is routine and quite mundane. So I haven't shot anything worth posting for the pleasure of readers of this photoblog. I still haven't been travelling, but I took some breadth-taking pictures of Singapore from inside-out, i.e. pictures that were taken in the heart of the business district in Singapore looking out to the eastern side of Singapore from a high-rise commercial building recently.

Needless to say, these pictures cannot be taken easily, and certainly not by tourists as they will not have the opportunity of standing in the spot from which these pictures were taken. The first of these shows the bay at the mouth of the Singapore River, now transformed into a bay area through years for land reclamation. At the top right is the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, which leads to the eastern part of the Island. On the bottom left corner is Clifford Pier - a historic pier - where boats and ships used to call to pick up passengers bound for trade and cruises. Many of its cruises have now been shifted to the Harbour Front, a pier just across from Sentosa Island.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fun in the sun

I mentioned in my previous blog entry that I had a fantastic time at the Berjaya Redang Beach Resort. Indeed, its a great place to relax, if that's all you want, or go snorkeling if that interests you, or both.

The resort is made up of many chalets surrounded by rich and lustrous flora, as this picture will attest to. Its a panoramic view of the surrounding chalets taken from the second floor room where my mother stayed during this particular trip.
If you are more interested in snorkeling, the hotel organises these snorkeling trips around the island in the afternoons. For S$30, or more if you need to rent the snorkel and goggles, you get to spend about 2 hours going around the island on a boat to dive at 5 or 6 places. Its really fun, and best of all, the whole family can join in. And I mean the whole family. My mother, who is pushing 80, gamely came along, sat in the boat to enjoy the scenery although she did not snorkle. The youngest among the family is 7 years old.

There are private boats for hire which also provide round the island snorkeling expeditions too. Their times are more flexible, but you need to bargain the price with them. The resort, of course, does not encourage nor recommend this, so you take your own risk if you want to do this.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Berjaya Air is a great way to fly

I had a very uncomfortable trip to Redang Island on Berjaya Air recently although the Berjaya Redang Beach Resort stay was fantastic. The problem was with the air-conditioning in the plane going to the resort.

My family and I boarded the plane at Seletar Airport. It was a typical hot and sunny day in Singapore. When the plane didn't take off soon enough, it became hot and sweaty in the cabin. You could see the sweet air hostesses (3 of them) sweating under their make-ups, the poor ladies. These small planes don't have video entertainment, or board games, so the wait got uncomfortable as time passed while the plane remained land-bound.

Although it is not in my habit of doing so, I wrote a letter of complaint while waiting for the plane to take-off, to the effect that the flight was very uncomfortable, particularly when my family consists of young children and an old lady.

The plane did finally take us to and from our destination. We had an enjoyable holiday. The flight back on the same airline was smooth and comfortable.

Some weeks after this trip, I received a letter from the company, Berjaya Air. It referred to my written complaint, admitted fault, apologised and offered me 50% off on any Berjaya Air ticket up to 10 persons within the next one year.

I am impressed, not only because of the offer of 50% off, but that the management did bother to investigate my complaint and give a reply. So the next time I fly Berjaya Air, I will have full confidence that everyone in the airline company cares about me as their customer.

Well done, Berjaya Air!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Korean Origami

Almost every eating place I go in Seoul, serviettes are presented in this unique manner. I appreciate this simple yet effective presentation of this almost essential piece of paper at dining tables. It is better than having them laid on the table where they can get soiled accidentally or get blown away. And, usually, there is only one available at any time (and sometimes none at all). I am sure diners like to have these around when they need them. In this 'Korean' way, there is bountiful supply. It is also hygienic and convenient.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Its amazing what my sub-compact camera can do. This the morning scenery from the Berjaya Redang Beach Resort early in the morning (about 7am). It presents a panoramic view of the morning breaking. It was taken sometime in May 2005.

Well, I lie. This panoramic picture is a composite of two pictures which I stitched together using the ACDSee software that came with the camera. Fool you, didn't I? Still, I think it was a good picture.

By the way, all the pictures here were taken by me. So they belong to me. If you want to make use of them, please let me know who you are and your purpose(s) in using them. I am generally generous, and allow you to use them with the proper acknowledgements, but I do not want them to be used for purposes which I think are objectionable (such as in porn sites), not that they are of interest to these publishers in the first place.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ethan Allen in Korea

Ethan Allen (furnishing) store in South Korea is a stone's throw from Hard Rock Cafe. I once had a hand in setting up the Ethan Allen franchise in Singapore. That must have been 8 years ago. Unfortunately, for various reasons, it never got established.

How was I involved? Well, I was asked to talk to an EA franchise store in San Jose, California when I was in Sacramento on a study course. My mission was to find out about the use of IT in its operations. I did that, but as I mentioned, what I learnt never got applied.

The owners of this franchise EA store in San Jose (a father-son team - I have since forgotten their names) were very hospital and I had a very pleasant visit. I'll always also remember the taxi ride from SF to San Jose and back. Its a quick way of seeing some parts of California within a short time. As usual, I didn't speak much during the journey, although I thought I should - but then I'll miss the scenery.

As the photo shows, the footpath outside this store in Korea is slopping. It reminds me of the many buildings in SF where buildings tend to be built on slopping footpaths. Some of these slopes are quite steep. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me then. It was also the first time I saw the Golden Gate Bridge - all in its glorious red colour - nothing golden coloured about it - or was it the wrong bridge?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Blind man's crossing

It that my eyes or does this sign show a blindfolded person crossing the street / zebra-crossing? I don't know what the Korean characters mean, but even if we used the image as a universal language, the meaning on this sign seems inexplicable.

Well, ok, I'm just pulling your leg. I think the paint is peeling on the signboard, so it looks as if the person has a blindfold on. It certainly is not my camera, I can assure you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Flight of asiana

This is the plane that I flew back on 13th August 2005 from South Korea. It is seen parked at the Korea's Incheon International Airport, preparing for its direct Korea-Singapore flight around 4pm Korea time. I took this picture near the passenger gate. Incheon Airport has wide clear glass walls that allows passengers to look right onto the tarmac for a breadth-taking view of the airplanes.

Asiana Airlines pilots were on strike then, but these striking pilots only flew the Boeing aircraft. Airbus aircraft pilots were not on strike. According to what we were told in flight, this is one of Asiana's newest aircraft. This is borne out by Airbus' website (, which confirmed that Asiana Airlines took delivery of these A330-300 aircraft last December (2004). The plane is comfortable and the journey home was uneventful, except for too frequent announcements over the intercom, which disrupted my movie viewing.

I can't complain, though. Quite a number of movies were available on demand basis - Million dollar baby (now I know why it won an Oscar), Kingdom of Heaven (lousy show), and a couple of others. For a 6-hour flight, I could easily cycle through two full movies and have time left-over for some short films. Great entertainment! And I was flying economy! A really good deal!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Poison Food

The puffer fish is known to be the most poisonous fish, yet it is caught, cooked and eaten as food. This restaurant in Seoul advertised this deadly fish on its menu (actually, on its entrance). It looks like it is the restaurant's star item on the menu.

According to sources, puffer fish can be eaten when prepared and cooked correctly. Nevertheless, it is a 'delicacy' that is rarely available, must less featured, in any restaurant menu. If you must eat, learn a little more about it first:

Monday, August 22, 2005

Signs and wonders

I snapped this sculpture of a pointed finger in downtown Seoul. I wonder what it signifies. I never went close enough to look at the base of this sculpture to get enlightened on its meaning. I suppose one of the purposes of a sculpture is to stimulate thinking and imagination and elicit some personal meaning or inspiration. That's why in almost all images you see in print or media, the sculpture is featured more than the description of it.

So my not taking a closer look is deliberate. But what does this sculpture mean?

We are No. 1 (in/of what?)
Look up in the sky, its a...
Ouch, my finger hurts!

I leave it to your imagination. Be inspired.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Bar Fight

Whatever is a tent bar? A place where people unwind with a glass or more of liquor in a tent? That seems to be what this picture suggests. Unfortunately, I didn't go much further than across the road where this picture was taken, so I can only guess.

This bar (if it is one) is quite prominent, what with its gigantic orange-coloured tent sticking out of a building. It's just across the road from Hard Rock Cafe Seoul. I suppose the people who set up this tent bar are trying to give Hard Rock Cafe a run for their money. Both places have prominent markers - this tent for the Ju Ju bar and the signature guitar for Hard Rock Cafe along a boulevard just outside its premises.

A Tent Bar

Hard Rock Cafe

P.S. If this blog is starting to look like a travel blog on Seoul, I have no apologies. I spent much of last week there and used the opportunity to take photos of some interesting things I saw. Don't worry, the photos will run out and the memories will recede, then I'll move on...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Ladder 49

Fire hydrants are usually situated next to roads where the fire fighter can park the fire engine. This allows them to attach the hose to the hydrants to draw water. This building in Seoul is a bit different. The fire hydrant seems to be sticking out of the building at the side, rather than on the ground. I suppose that these are purpose built fire hydrants for that specific building. The buildings around here seem to each have similar fire hydrants designed in the same manner.

Fire Hydrant sticking out of the building instead of the ground

Friday, August 19, 2005

Ancient Palace and Modern Buildings

Seoul has 5 ancient palaces. They are open to the public for viewing and in some cases, guided tours are organised at certain times of the day. These guided tours are very useful because you understand the place much better at the end of the day. But what caught my eye wasn't about the history, customs and practices of the ancient residents of these palaces, interesting as they are. Instead, I marvelled at how these ancient buildings (well, some have undergone extensive restoration) stand side-by-side with modern ones today, as this photo shows.

The old with the new,
The ancient architecture with the modern ones,
The quietness of the old and the bustling of the new,
The faded colours of the old and the vibrant colours of the new,
The dead with the live

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Home away from home

Usually, when you travel overseas, especially on packaged tours, you get put up in hotels or similar lodgings meant for tourists. This means that the sights and sounds of the place will be tailored for the tourist. It always doesn't feel like home.

Last week, I put up in a hotel that is on the west side of Seoul City, nearer to the airport side than the centre of the city. It is a 'remote' side of the city for the tourist, but I enjoyed it more because I get to see more of the way Koreans go about their life - to work, to the supermarket, working in their workshops, etc. In a sense, it felt very much like home, away from any glitzy and glamour of the city. Instead, the landscape around the hotel is dotted with local restaurants - mostly small ones, metalworkshops, mom-and-pop shops, car workshops and the like. It feels safe too, not unlike a neighbourhood in Singapore. That's why I took a couple of photos of this vicinity, to remind myself how familiar the place looks.

There is something to be said for putting up in hotels away from the buzz. Anyway, the subway system in Seoul is quite comprehensive, so I can just hop onto a subway train and arrive at virtually any part of the city. A typical fare of up to 15 stops or thereabouts is about W1000 - about S$1.80 - which is not too expensive. Taxis operate by meters but I am told it is more expensive, unless you share the cab fare with someone else.

A mom-and-pop shop just across the hotel

A yet-to-open Workshop in the morning

A neighbourhood restaurant

Road leading to the Yongpyeong subway station near the hotel

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Common Travel Destination

The toilet is the most often visited destination whether you are travelling abroad or staying at home. Whilst you may have the greatest of difficulties ordering a meal or taking a taxi to reach a particular destination (unless you are an experienced traveller), there is one place that nobody seem to have problems with - the toilet - and it is a must visit destination, if only because nature always calls, often at the wrong time. But you never have difficulties figuring out which of the two doors to enter without embarrassing yourself and possibly others. That's because we don't rely on the words on the toilet door. Rather, the graphic on the sign-board will be a better bet of having it correct.

These Male/Female graphics can be quite varied from place to place, ranging from the boring skirt/no skirt profiles to more fanciful ones, such as this sign that is used in the IT World Amusement Center in Seoul, S Korea. Although stereotypical - the guys have the short pointy hair and the gals have the ribbons / bow, it goes right with the place's theme and emphasis on Technology. Its a great design.

This place is not too far away from Seoul Land, an general amusement park with all the fun rides you'd expect, such as roller coasters, bumper cars, shot x go, etc. Really mindless fun! While you are there, hold on to your head and don't lose your mind...