Monthly Archives: June 2014

SCO Concert@National Stadium

History was created on Saturday 28 Jun 2014, when the National Stadium was used as the venue for the Singapore Chinese Orchestra’s “Our People, Our Home 2014: My Home – Singapore!” concert.

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Bringing together more than 5000 performers, this was the first concert held at the newly opened National Stadium, and two Guiness World Records were broken – Largest Chinese Orchestra performance, and Largest Chinese Drum ensemble!! It was an enjoyable evening for all; PM Lee Hsien Loong (also patron of SCO) was guest of honour, and several other ministers were in attendance (ESM Goh Chok Tong, Lawrence Wong and Grace Fu).

PM Lee, who was just in the USA, a day or 2 before this concert, and now GOH at this concert!

PM Lee, who was just in the USA, a day or 2 before this concert, and now GOH at this concert!

The 20 000 strong audience was treated to performances by Dick Lee (singing “Home”),

Dick Lee singing "Home" for the finale!

Dick Lee singing “Home” for the finale!

Vincent Ng (World Wushu champion and media corp artist, with really solid 6-pack),

Nice abs!

Nice abs!

and the SCO supported by all the other thousands of instrumentalists (from various school chinese orchestras, including Nanyang JC!!) and choir.

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We arrived by MRT at 5 pm, to get a bite before the concert started … and prepared to eat at anyplace that had no queue (what to eat not important!). However, that day coincided with concerts to be held at all the major venues (National Stadium, Indoor Stadium, Kallang Theatre) and it was also the closing time of the Open House@Sports Hub; the only place without queue happened to be Chocz, and we got some bread, brownie and muffin to “tahan” until after the concert (when we can go for supper 🙂 ).

Walking around the National Stadium and eating as we went along, we ended up at the water sports area where dragon boat training was taking place, and we saw the RED LIONS in the distance, and the beach volleyball venue filled with happy kids playing in the sand …

Red Lions, NDP rehearsal

Red Lions, NDP rehearsal

Beach volleyball area taken over by kids ...

Beach volleyball area taken over by kids …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nearer to the gates where we were seated, long queues had formed as people started to go into the stadium to get the best seats (the ticket purchased only specifies the section where one is seated, not a particular seat)…the turnstiles admitted one person at a time, and there were two turnstiles per gate; your ticket has to be scanned to activate the turnstile for entry, and immediately after entry, a security check was carried out for those carrying bags … (not sure they will find anything, as it is a cursory check!)

queues forming to enter the stadium at certain gates (opens at 6 pm, for concert starting at 7:30 pm)

queues forming to enter the stadium at certain gates (opens at 6 pm, for concert starting at 7:30 pm)

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rows and rows of seats for the musicians

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the stadium starts to fill from 6 pm … the seats are really cool (literally) – cold air blows up from somewhere, and the white and red patterns are cleverly designed to give an impression of filled seats!

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the big drums at the back, and little drums by each of the blue seats (if you look carefully), for the Guiness World Record attempt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The choir came in first (they were seated on the stadium seats directly opposite where the VIP/best seats were), followed by the musicians who started streaming in at 7 pm … by 7:45, they were still streaming in (hahaha! – it takes so long to fill up the blue seats, they should have started earlier).

some of the musicians ... mainly students

some of the musicians … mainly students

7:30 pm concert start time as advertised, and musicians are still being escorted to their seating area!

7:30 pm concert start time as advertised, and musicians are still being escorted to their seating area!

Finally, concert gets underway at 7:45, when PM Lee wields the baton (a super long one) to get the programme going! This 10 yr old Chen Xinyu on the pipa was really impressive:

Chen Xinyu, on pipa

Chen Xinyu, on pipa

And near to the end of the show, the Guiness World Record presentation…

Guiness World Record!

Guiness World Record!

A great way to spend a Saturday evening!! And will certainly be there again, soon … (WTA, free use of facilities till end July, … )

(tickets were only $20 for our seats, others were $10 and $100; convenient to take MRT using Circle Line (nearest), but Kallang MRT also possible (covered walkway for 99% of the time, except at some traffic light crossings, like at Sims Ave).

One more view of the stadium, taken at the end of the concert ...

One more view of the stadium, taken at the end of the concert …

 

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Some tips for travel to Bali …

Just some of my “reflections” or tips based on our latest trip to Bali (4th one, it seems …) for the independent traveller …

For me, the highlight of this trip was Lovina (the sunrise was magnificent, dolphins were magical, and the snorkelling was the best ever!!

For me, the highlight of this trip was Lovina (the sunrise was magnificent, dolphins were magical, and the snorkelling was the best ever!!

  1. change money over at Bali (US 100 dollar notes fetch a better rate then smaller denominations; SGD is fine too to change) and get the best rates at the busy tourist centres (e.g. Kuta, Seminiak) rather than at the airport, or farther away places (like Lovina)
  2. eat at different types of places to enjoy the different experiences offered (i.e. at warungs, recommended places in trip advisor) and enjoy the different Magnum flavours (don’t think I have seen pomegranate flavour in Singapore!!??; it is really worth it considering how expensive it costs in Singapore).
  3. try the many different activities Bali offers (e.g. learn surfing, climb a mountain, snorkel, learn to dive, white water rafting, yoga,  cycling, … the list is endless!! 🙂  )
  4. stay at different places (e.g. Legian, Ubud, …, the choices depend on the main area where you want to base yourself, and also for the activities “nearby”) and accommodation types (villa, hotel, … )
  5. hire a car and driver (who is also the guide), do your research to make your own itinerary, but also ask the driver/guide for advise and suggestions. Plenty of ideas available on the internet and from what the tour agents offer in their packages.
  6. don’t try to do everything; it is a relatively huge island, and travel speeds are not very fast and even though distance may seem near, you need to factor the mountain roads, traffic jams (esp. in towns and road works)!
  7. If booking any tours at the little kiosks dotted around the main tourist centres, make sure you do your homework by comparing prices and checking what discounts you can get … no need to commit to the first one you ask, just in case they quote a high price (the hotel rates also are quite competitive, so do check with the reception/travel desk e.g. the two kiosks wanted IDR400K for car and driver to do Tanah Lot tour, and our hotel charged even less at IDR350K)
  8. Check out tripadvisor for plentiful ideas of what to do/what not to do/whether to use a guide or not …
  9. … shall add on more as I remember them 🙂
go snorkelling in Menjagan island for great coral and marine life (best done while staying at Lovina!)

go snorkelling in Menjagan island for great coral and marine life (best done while staying at Lovina!)

 

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Bali – sun, sand, surf, dolphins, and much more!!

Our 4th trip to Bali (16 – 21 June 2014) and she continues to be a great place for a short trip with so many activities and interesting sights! Here are the highlights and some contacts –

  • surfing (this time in Legian; in 2012 we did it in Seminiak. Both times we got a free-lance instructor, Ketut, who runs his own surf “school”: search Bali Silversurf  +6281236700666 – can whatsapp him)
SY with the "pro" surf board; the rest of us used beginner boards.

SY with the “pro” surf board; the rest of us used beginner boards.

  • Great sunrise and sunsets!
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sunrise at Lovina (while watching dolphins!)

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sunset at Lovina

  • snorkelling at Menjaran Island (Deer Island – North West part of Bali) – one of the best corals I’ve ever seen, and marine life (including puffer fish, 1.2 m long barracuda, and sea anemone … ). This is a day trip from Lovina (depart hotel at 8:30 am, reach jetty after 1 hr 30 min), boat to island (about 30 min), snorkel before and after lunch, then make way back to hotel, reaching around 4 pm. (we paid US40 per pax for this, but very worth it for what we experienced during snorkelling with a guide)
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    Chien with baby puffer fish - very cute!!

    Chien with baby puffer fish – very cute!!

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    very clear waters for underwater photography! clown fish swimming towards camera … (olympus tough)

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  • sunrise dolphin tour (from Lovina, northern coast of Bali) – wake up at 5:30 am, walk to the beach, and take a boat (which we prearranged with Captain Beni +6285237630566, The Blue Pearl). He is really very very good, as we were almost always the first boat to reach the dolphins, and also there were times when we were the only boat around the dolphins. This is because he has a quiet engine which does not “scare” the dolphins away, and he does not just chase after them, but will switch off his engine and just “hang around” while the other boats speed off! I was really happy with his services (also does snorkelling and fishing trips, but we had no more time) that I gave him 25% tip (IDR60K per pax is his rate, quite standard I think, unless booked from hotel, which can cost more…)
a non-native dolphin leaping out of the water before diving in and disappearing from view ...

a non-native dolphin leaping out of the water before diving in and disappearing from view …

we were the only boat around for this pod of dolphins (and mind you, there are many many boats out there!) due to the skill of Cpt Beni (speaks very decent English too!)

we were the only boat around (and mind you, there are many many boats out there!) due to the skill of Cpt Beni (speaks very decent English too!)

  • interesting sights of Bali (Tanah Lot – iconic sea temple, Lake Bratan and temple, the twin lakes Lake Bhuyan and Tramlingan, Git Git waterfall – highest one in Bali, Munduk (for rolling hills and rice terrace views and jungle trekking)- driver Komang +6281558583706 from Bali Ayu Hotel and Villas – IDR 350 K for Tanah Lot sunset tour (4-5 hours), transfer and tour to Lovina, and back to airport (IDR550K / IDR600K each way)
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Git Git waterfall – 15-20 min walk from road, entrance fees of 5K for adults and 3K for child, souvenir shops line the way to the waterfall

Tanah Lot, waiting for the sunset ...

Tanah Lot, waiting for the sunset …

Lake Bratan, a crater lake where the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (another iconic temple in Bali) is situated at 2276 m

Lake Bratan, a crater lake where the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (another iconic temple in Bali) is situated at 2276 m

 

  • great accommodation (Bali Ayu Hotel and Villas – we stayed at the 2 story pool villa, in Seminiak; it has a club house with large screen where the girls and I got up to watch the Germany-Portugal match, but overall, we think the last villa we stayed in 2012 was “nicer” (Villa Kecapi, just a stone’s throw away, along Jln Petintenget) and Bali Paradise Boutique Hotel (in Lovina, 500 m in from the main road, 15 min walk along beach to Lovina town centre – huge rooms, very nice breakfast sets (6 choices, with one even having beef steak, and also a healthy muesli set), nice decorations and coffee table books, table tennis and pool table, and decent size swimming pool, 8 rooms only, padi fields surround it, and just 5 min walk to beach).
  • our villa at Bali Ayu (2 stories, with a pool)

    our villa at Bali Ayu (2 stories, with a pool)

  • great food choices (budget at warungs @ IDR 25K to 50K – Warung Sulawesi and Warung Kolega in Seminiak for nasi camphor, more “atas” places like Salt Tapas (budget IDR200 to 300K per pax) and Merah Putih restaurant (new restaurant featuring fusion Indonesian food – girls and I enjoyed this place much more!! (budget similarly to Salt Tapas)), and mid-range (Sea Breeze beach restaurant in Lovina is typical, budget IDR100K per pax, Jejeg restaurant in Munduk, overlooking scenic views of rice terrace and mountains).
the cool interior decor of Merah Putih restaurant in Seminiak

the cool interior decor of Merah Putih restaurant in Seminiak

Gourmet cafe for tea, just across the road from Bali Ayu ...

Gourmet cafe for tea, just across the road from Bali Ayu …

  • Other activities (visit to strawberry farm, Banjar hot spring – very local place, interesting in its own way but perhaps not if you have “high standards”, cheap massage (IDR75K per pax for 1 hour), watching World Cup at mid-night and during breakfast, eating Magnum ice-cream (IDR10 – 12K only!!! so many flavours too!!)
girl eating Cornetto ice-cream, Banjar Hot Springs (water is not that hot, entrance fees payable but very cheap IDR5K for adult), its a local place, with the "odd" tourist like us and some ang mohs...

girl eating Cornetto ice-cream, Banjar Hot Springs (water is not that hot, entrance fees payable but very cheap IDR5K for adult), its a local place, with the “odd” tourist like us and some ang mohs…

 

Yep, Bali continues to be one of my favourite places on the planet, and it is pretty easy to see why – great activities, great scenery, great accommodation and food, gentle people, just 2 hr plus flight, and great value with our strong dollar !!!

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“While I Live I Learn”

“This is the first line of the school creed of a school I visited recently. It also happens to be an approach to life that I really believe in. It should be a creed not just for a school, but for life itself, because learning never ends. Can you guess which school this is?” – Heng Swee Keat’s fb post June 21

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LOL, …, the college where I spent my “formative” years in a leadership role as HOD/Maths!!

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“I never think about retiring … “

Amy Khor (in The Supper Club, Straits Times 14 Jun 2014, Saturday) on active ageing :

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Well said! My sentiments too … 10 times over (i.e. 1000%).

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A Winter scene …

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Thursday 12 Jun 2014 painting class: a change to this would be quite welcome, if you ask me, considering how hot and humid it has been lately!!

(e.g. NEA website on Monday:  temp of 32 C humidity 89%, feels like 37 C!)

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strawberry moon

Cool shot of the moon! taken by SY on Friday the 13th, June 2014 …. zoomed to the max@200 mm.

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Fact of the day: June’s full moon is called the strawberry moon, named after the season for harvesting strawberries (from http://fullmoonphases.com/full-moon-names/ – each month’s full moon has a name! and there’s really one called a blue moon hahaha cool)

I tried taking photos of the full moon last night and it turned out not bad! I’m amazed that so much detail can be seen cos even after zooming to the max, the moon only took up 2% (legit) of the photo so this is a very cropped version:

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The second one is a photo from online that has pretty much the same orientation for comparison – it’s obviously a lot sharper and with much more detail but I think mine’s already pretty cool!

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