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20 April 2014

Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction

I admit, it's a while ago now that we actually did it, but we went to see 'Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction' at the ArtScience museum and what can I say, only that it is another excellent exhibit.  Like many I've always had a bit of a fascination with dinosaurs, seeing the skeletons and fossils at the Natural History museum in London is always the best part of any visit there.  So when I heard this exhibit was on its way it shot on to my 'to do' list to check it out.



The exhibit takes you on a journey spanning 600 million years through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous prehistoric periods.  Walking around the displays takes you back to what the world was like at the time dinosaurs roamed.  The models are incredibly lifelike (in as much as what it is thought they may have looked like when they were alive) and very impressive.  As well as the models there are also reconstructions of dinosaur skeletons together with some fossils (both real and models of) and lots of interesting information about life during the time periods and fascinating details of the dinosaurs on display.  At one stage there is a recreation of what the environment was like during the time of the dinosaurs in an area of what is now China.  This allows you to see the models in a natural setting as well as just the stand alone ones etc. on display in the earlier part of the exhibition.  Towards the end there is also a rather cool metal model of a dinosaur which I thought was pretty spectacular and yes there are a few moving models, including one that allows you to see how they believe a Tyrannosaurus Rex moved.

Naturally there are also lots of hands on activities and puzzles to keep all ages interested.  Loads of items can be touched and investigated in a fun and engaging way.  It has to be said it's also fun to walk around and underneath the huge replica dinosaur skeletons (at least the head and tail ends) just trying to imagine an animal this large being alive!  I've never visited the museum with children but at all the exhibitions I have been to I'm always struck by how much there seems to be for children to get involved in and actively participate in.  

There is a phone app you can download to enhance your visit further which we were told about when we got our tickets.  My husband tried to download it but it actually did not download in time for our visit, and this was after we had been for a coffee first before going in.  So maybe if you want to enhance your visit that way this is something you'd really need to do before coming so you were ready.

Whether you (or someone you know) is a dinosaur fan or just casually interested this is definitely another exhibition to go and see if you haven't already!

Dinosaurs: Dawn to Extinction is on now until 27 July 2014, admission charges apply.

15 April 2014

Tulipmania is back for 2014!


Tulipmania is back for 2014 at Gardens by the Bay and last week I got the chance like last year to go down to the Flower Dome and help with some of the bulb planting.  I also got to see the special star of this year's event - Miffy the rabbit.

Following the success of last year's event, this year Gardens by the Bay are bringing in some 50,000 bulbs of many varieties and colours straight from the Netherlands.  This year too Miffy the rabbit, a popular Dutch children's book character will also be making several guest appearances throughout the event.  The display this time is a little different from last years 'fields of tulips'.  This time inspiration has been drawn from the Madurodam, a miniature replica model park in Amsterdam.  The centrepiece of the display will depict Dutch canal scenes, houses and windmills set in amongst the tulips and hyacinths.  Tulipmania is part of the Europe leg of 'Gardens by the Bay Goes around the World' which is a series of floral displays for 2014, this time bringing a 'mini Holland' to Singapore.

As I mentioned I got to see and do some tulip planting myself too.  I joined some others to help plant up pots of tulips to be placed around the model Dutch style houses on display in the Dome.  It was fun to get my hands dirty and do some planting.  Exciting too to know that those very tulips I planted will be on display for a while for everyone to see.  Let's hope they turn out OK!

Tulip bulbs ready for planting
Busy planting bulbs.

After getting our hands dirty we cleaned up and went back into the Flower Dome to see the display taking shape and watch the volunteers planting the bulbs around the centrepiece, the Dutch inspired model houses.




As I mentioned this year, as well as flying over the bulbs, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines have also flown over Miffy to join in the fun of Tulipmania.  She is making several appearances throughout and we were lucky enough to get to see her last week.  As you can imagine Miffy was very popular with children and adults alike and she's sure to be a hit when she pops down to the Flower Dome next.

Throughout the next three weeks you'll find a host of events, activities and competitions taking place at Gardens by the Bay, including an Easter egg hunt with Miffy and a 'Tulip Cheer' event.  Visitors to the Flower Dome can also collect a souvenir Miffy postcard, whilst stocks last.  Keen photographers can join in a photography contest in partnership with Canon, check here for details.  Or why not have a go at winning yourself a pair of tickets to Amsterdam and a host of other prizes courtesy of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.  Check out the Gardens by the Bay website for further details of all these and more.

Whether you saw last year's Tulipmania or didn't manage to get there go and check out this year's beautiful display whilst you can.



Tulipmania is on now until Sunday 4 May 2014.

The Flower Dome is open from 9am - 9pm, admission charges to the conservatories apply.

Ticketing promotion

Tulipmania Special Senior Citizens Discount

50% discount off Senior Citizen Local Resident ticket to the Flower Dome only (UP - $8/Senior Citizen)

Terms & Conditions
  • Valid from 14 April to 4 May 2014
  • Promotion is only valid for on-site purchase
  • Proof of identification and age is required, and each NRIC entitles you to one discounted ticket purchase
  • Other ticketing terms and conditions apply

Thanks to Gardens by the Bay for the kind invitation and opportunity to view the bulb planting.

30 March 2014

German Girl Shrine - Pulau Ubin

I mentioned in my previous post after my visit to Pulau Ubin that whilst there we managed to see something quite interesting.  This being the German Girl Shrine.  I had actually already heard of this, thanks to a previous blog post I'd read sometime ago (and others since) but I had no idea where it was on Ubin and whether, given we were walking, we'd be able to get anywhere near it.  Luckily though we managed to do just that and did get to see this curious place.  

It was not that well signposted but wasn't too difficult to find thanks to it being in a bright yellow building tucked just down a side road and clearly visible from where we were walking.  There was a sign on the road for the shrine just before we arrived at it, but this was the only one and only directed us in a fairly general direction.  So if you go looking for it yourself make sure to keep an eye out for that yellow building as you could easily walk right past it.



The German Girl Shrine is actually a little bit of a mystery it seems.  The story dates back to before the First World War and to a German family who owned a coffee plantation on Pulau Ubin at the time.  The land actually belonged to two German families but the exact identity of who the German girl was is not known.  When war was declared in 1914 the colonial Government here in Singapore began seizing German businesses, properties and so on, including the coffee plantation on Ubin.  The girl managed to escape into the woods, no one knows exactly what happened after that but a few days later her body was found.  It was assumed she had got lost and fallen to her death.


The story surrounding this unknown German girl goes on to say that when the war was over her family returned to try and locate her remains.  Sadly they weren't able to do so and so left Singapore.  The remains were said to have been kept in a Taoist temple where they remained until, in the 1970s, a new temple was erected to house them.  In time this temple became a popular place for worshippers praying for good luck in gambling.  By then the girl was regarded as a deity as some lucky gamblers attributed their good fortune to her and the shrine was adorned with offerings of fruit, flowers and other things as more and more came to worship there.




The story reached its conclusion when a local who had migrated to Australia had several dreams about the deity and to pay his respects subsequently went out and bought a Barbie doll which he sent to Pulau Ubin.  The doll has since become the symbolic idol of the shrine and is still there along with many items typically associated with young girls/teenagers.  People still regularly come to leave these items and pay their respects to the girl.  

Having visited many temples this one with its cuddly toys, make up, perfumes and so on is certainly the most unusual and quirky I've seen.  Sadly it seems now that the identity of the German girl has been lost in the mists of time and will probably never been known.  Although it seems unusual for her memory to be preserved in this way it is also lovely to think that this unfortunate nameless girl is remembered still to this day.



28 March 2014

#worldcolors #worldcolours 2014 - March - Green - What does green mean to me?

Green is this month's Project World Colours choice and as green was also featured last year I've again taken the approach of thinking about what the colour green means to me.

The colour green reminds me of the beautiful British countryside which is one of the things I do miss about living in Singapore and look forward to seeing again on return visits.  Green is a lush, vibrant colour and one that also features predominately in Singapore too given its rainforest climate.  Anyone living in Singapore will know that we've recently had a particularly dry spell of weather which has now finally been followed by some rain and it's good to see the green beginning return to Singapore.  Here then are my selection of photos from the UK (specifically the Lake District) and Singapore which I think best reflect what green means to me.

Lake District - UK 














Singapore

Bishan park

Bukit Brown cemetery

Chinese and Japanese gardens

View from the Treetop Walk, MacRitchie Reservoir

Botanic Gardens

13 March 2014

Pulau Ubin

I like to think I've done quite a bit of exploring in Singapore, though I fully admit there is a long list of things still to do.  One thing I'd never done though was go to any of the islands off Singapore, with the exception of Sentosa but I'm not really sure that counts!  Of course Pulau Ubin is probably the most famous of these and finally I recently managed to get there.

The majority of visitors to the island hire bikes, I admit I am not a bike rider but my husband (who is) and our friends who came with us were thankfully willing that day to walk around part of the island instead.  To be honest the fact I'm not a bike rider is probably the reason it has taken me so long to go.  My husband has been before and biked around and I've always had the impression you could only really ride bikes there.  Yes you'll definitely see more by taking a bike ride but you can still walk it (or at least some of it) too.  So if, like me, you don't really ride bikes don't be put off going!


There are lots of bike hire places when you first get off the bumboat

It was another warm, sunny, dry day so sun cream was a definite requirement.  In case you didn't know Singapore is currently experiencing one of the longest driest spells since records began and I can only personally recall it raining twice since we got back from the UK at the start of January!  We do so desperately need some rain.  However it was a fine day for walking and it started early with a couple of (much needed) kopi's at the Changi village food court and then we met our friends and made our way over to Ubin.  

Getting to the island is easy by way of an approximately ten minute bumboat ride from Changi Village jetty.  The fare costs $2.50 one-way.  There is no set timetable, boats just go once they are full, they carry twelve passengers so it doesn't take long to fill up.  I'm not sure what time the last boat goes from Ubin but I would imagine you wouldn't want to leave it until the very end just in case you got left behind and had to camp out!

View across Pekan Quarry

Pulau Ubin is regarded as one of the last parts of truly rural Singapore reflecting what the main island used to be like before development took over.  There are many former granite quarries over the island and in the 1960s this quarrying supported a few thousand settlers but now only a handful of residents remain.  The name actually means 'Granite Island' in Malay.  The granite was used for much building work in the past including the building of the Singapore - Johor Causeway.  

For me the most surprising part initially was that there were proper roads on the island, though only a handful, and that there were so many signposts guiding you to the different parts.  I'm not sure what I was expecting but I suppose I just didn't expect to see roads.  I suppose on the flip side the fact there are so many good roads could also be seen as a hint about things to come.  There are suggestions the island may be developed in time, but it did make getting around by foot (and I imagine by bike) a lot easier than I anticipated.


We visited on a Sunday and I was quite expecting the island to be pretty busy.  In fact although there were plenty of people there it really didn't seem busy at all, other than where all the bike hire places in the the village area after you get off the bumboats.  We certainly managed to enjoy Ubin without having to fight through crowds of people.  Admittedly we got on the island fairly early but we spent several hours there and it didn't appear to get especially busier as the morning progressed.  I'm not sure how far we walked (several kilometres) but thankfully there were several drinks carts selling water etc. dotted around the island.  I'd recommend taking your own as well though just in case!




I had hoped we might get to see some interesting wildlife whilst we were there.  Sadly though all we got were just a few insects.  However we did get to see a very different Singapore to what I see usually, an interesting and slightly unusual spot (more on that soon in a separate post) and some different views across to Malaysia.  Somewhere (can you believe it) I still haven't been too!

Whilst there I was struck by the thought of what a fun place this would be to come for bike rides in the school holidays.  When I was younger I did ride bikes (alas not well) with friends and I'm sure we'd have loved to have had a place like this on our doorstep to go exploring in.  I really hope then that the island does not get altered too much from how it is presently.




After walking back to the village area on Ubin we were all pretty tired and in need of some refreshment and food.  We'd hoped to eat at the restaurant on the island as it looked good.  However it was lunchtime and incredibly busy with no one looking like they were leaving at any point soon unfortunately.  We walked just a little further towards the jetty and found a place serving drinks so managed to quench our thirst at least.  Instead of waiting to see if we could get a table (we were very hungry) we decided to get the bumboat back to Changi village and eat at the hawker centre there.  We had a great morning but I was so glad when we eventually sat and ate!  We all certainly got our exercise that day.  

Inside the bumboat on the journey back from Pulau Ubin

07 March 2014

An Evening of Jazz at the Singapore International Jazz Festival 2014

Last Sunday evening I attended the final night of the Singapore International Jazz Festival (Sing Jazz) 2014 at Marina Bay Sands.  This was the inaugural festival in Singapore and saw some pretty cool names playing over the four days, including Jamie Cullum and Natalie Cole as well as many emerging talents.  
                                                                                                
Sipping on my FIJI Water, the official artesian water for the festival

Fortunately with the dry spell Singapore is currently experiencing there was no need to worry about the weather but it also meant we needed to ensure we kept ourselves well hydrated with the FIJI Water available to purchase.  With a host of free acts performing across the weekend we got there early on the Sunday afternoon to enjoy a drink, some dinner and some of the free entertainment first before heading into the Event Plaza for the main acts.

Backdrop to the festival

The main acts playing on the Sunday included Roberta Gambarini, Roy Hargrove, Gregory Porter and the Earth, Wind & Fire Experience.  All the performers played great sets and got the audience up on their feet and really into the music being played.  The performances were a mix of both singing and instrumental pieces, really upbeat and lots of fun.  Although I wasn't particularly knowledgeable about the performers (with the exception of the Earth, Wind & Fire Experience) prior to the night they were all great.  I particularly enjoyed Roy Hargrove who plays the jazz trumpet and played some really great music.  

In addition we were also in a prime spot to catch the nightly Light and Water Show at Marina Bay Sands something I've not seen before.  I've seen the lasers from Marina Bay Sands but never been in a position to see the water part too.  A nice little extra to our evening.


Stage area

The festival organisers are keen to show that there is an 'important and social development element to Sing Jazz' as well with the proceeds from the festival ticket sales going towards supporting the Foundation for Arts and Social Enterprise in providing funding to develop and promote local jazz talent through a Jazz Academy.  In turn the artists supported now will be expected to nurture the next generation of musicians in a creative 'circle of help'.  The organisers of this year's festival therefore hope to establish an enduring, world-class live music festival here in Singapore bringing together some of the world's best jazz acts and emerging talents, both regional and local.  


Backdrop by night

As I've already mentioned it really was a great night out no matter whether you were an ardent jazz fan or just someone, like me, who enjoys listening to good music of any type.  With the stunning Singapore skyline backdrop, great company and some fabulous jazz music how could we not enjoy ourselves?  I look forward to the festival returning next year.


Stage area by night

This blog post resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thank you to FoodNews PR, FIJI Water and the Singapore International Jazz Festival for the kind invitation.

28 February 2014

Extreme Sailing Series 2014 - Singapore

Last weekend saw the return of the Extreme Sailing Series to Singapore's Marina Bay.  We went down to catch some of the action on the final day of competition on the Sunday. The weather was perfect, plenty of sunshine and a good breeze too.  

The Extreme Sailing Series was established in 2007 and is the original 'stadium-style' racing circuit designed for spectators, delivering exciting action close to the shore. This time around Singapore hosted the opening act of the 2014 global tour.  Nine teams from seven nations are taking part this year which includes some of sailing's most legendary figures, including winners of America's cup, world champions, record breakers and Olympic heroes, including Sir Ben Ainslie.  Once again alongside the racing there was a host of fun activities for the family as well as food and beverage stalls and best of all entry to watch the racing was free!  Singapore was once again represented too with Team Aberdeen Singapore taking part.






It actually turned out to be a pretty exciting weekend for spectators which included a major crash between two of the teams (Team Aberdeen Singapore and France's Groupama Sailing Team) due to the windy conditions on the Saturday.  Luckily everyone was OK and both teams were able to take part on the Sunday after some repairs had been made overnight.

We spent an entertaining afternoon watching the teams in the concluding races on the Sunday and, of course, were cheering on the British team in particular.  In the end the standings after day four of the competition and twenty-nine races are as follows:

Position / Team / Points

1stAlinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey - 217 points.

2nd - The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari - 193 points.

3rd - Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Thierry Wassem, Sebastien Stephant - 178 points.

4th - Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, Glenn Ashby, James Dagg, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat - 168 points.

5th - Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Sophie de Turckheim, Tanguy Cariou, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan - 160 points.

6th - Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Nick Blackman, Haylee Outteridge - 156 points.

7th - J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Sir Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Pippa Wilson, Matt Cornwell  -152 points.

8th - Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Paul Campbell-James, Alister Richardson, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov - 128 points.

9th - Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Tom Johnson, Will Howden, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi - 128 points.

10th - SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Peter Wibroe, Nicolai Sehested - 126 points.

11th - Team Aberdeen Singapore (SIN) Nick Moloney, Adam Beashel, Scott Glen Sydney, Tom Dawson, Justin Wong - 82 points.

12th - GAC Pindar (AUS) Seve Jarvin, Troy Tindill, Ed Smyth, Sam Newton, Alexandra South - 59 points.

J.P. Morgan BAR - The British team skippered by Quadruple Olympic Gold and Silver medalist, Sir Ben Ainslie 






The Extreme Sailing Series 2014 moves on for Act 2 to Muscat, Oman on the 19th - 22nd March 2014, 
Act 3 - Qingdao, China - 1st - 4th May 2014, 
Act 4 - Saint Petersburg, Russia - 26th - 29th June 2014, 
Act 5 - Cardiff, UK - 22nd - 25th August 2014, 
Act 6 - Istanbul, Turkey - 11th - 14th September 2014, 
Act 7 - Mediterranean (host still to be confirmed) - 2nd - 5th October 2014 
and Act 8 - Sydney, Australia - 11th - 14th December 2014.

If you'll be in one of these locations over those dates do try and catch some of the action for yourself this year too! 

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