26 September 2011

Singapore Science Centre

This was a place I'd heard good things about before we visited, both from people with children and those without.  So it seemed a logical must do with my fiance's sons whilst they were visiting.  I'll be blunt though I was disappointed with it.

To me it seemed very chaotically organised.  Whilst there were plenty of great hands on activities it was hard to follow around the centre in a logical fashion and avoid missing displays that perhaps the boys may have liked to explore more.  I guess the idea is that you pick and choose (and come back again) what you want to do but for me I felt like we may have missed out on things as a result.

As well as the general layout seeming chaotic part of the centre was also being altered and was therefore a work in progress so to speak.  Visitors were still able to view what was already in place there which was no bad thing I admit.  However where they had not completed the exhibition there was just a large, mainly empty room.  It actually almost seemed as if we had trespassed into an area we should not have been in, apart from the fact we were not the only slightly bemused visitors in the room and there was nothing to physically stop us walking into this area.

The centre did have a separate temporary exhibition about sharks, 'Planet Shark' which, in contrast to the main centre, seemed well organised and really enjoyable, interesting and informative.  There were numerous facts and details about sharks as well as how they have been turned into creatures to be feared throughout history through first hand accounts, films and so on.  They also had damaged surf boards and other paraphernalia from shark attacks and a lot of information about the trade in shark fins and the efforts that are being made to stop this.   Unfortunately, having checked on the centre's website this exhibit has now closed (so my apologies as it has taken me a while to publish this post) but for me this was the best part of our visit. 

We did see one further clever exhibit just before we left and it was my step sons who actually spotted it.  It was a portrait of the (now former) President (though he was still President at the time of our visit) S. R. Nathan which moved as we watched it.  It really did look like those portraits that follow you with their eyes as you move across a room.  I wonder if they've replaced it yet with Dr. Tony Tan?

Perhaps we were just unlucky, there were plenty of exhibits to be seen and it is clearly very popular.  Maybe it was also, in part, because science has never been my most favourite topic, I admit that much of the Science Museum in London is completely wasted on me, so don't take my word for it.  I'm afraid though I personally left this place disappointed and with the feeling that it did not match the good things I had previously heard about it from other people.

23 September 2011

Seven Links Bloggers Project

I was recently invited by Bec from Bec's Expat Life to take part in the Seven Links Bloggers Project.  This is an opportunity for bloggers to share some of their posts again with their readers under seven specific headings.  Then to nominate some other bloggers to take part in the same project. 

I've been aware of this project for a while and have been enjoying re-reading the posts of some of the blogs I follow and with some, I've only recently found, reading their posts for the first time.  I was therefore pretty excited to be invited to take part myself and have enjoyed looking back at my own posts and finding ones that I believe fit the categories listed.

My most beautiful post

I would have to nominate my post on the Bukit Brown cemetery.  This has become one of my most popular posts given the publicity this cemetery has received in recent months and also thanks to my piece being subsequently included on a local Singapore history website.  The reason why I think this post fits this category though is that this is probably one of the most beautiful places I've visited since moving to Singapore.  To me its beauty is in its isolation, peacefulness and the way in which mother nature has claimed it, in part, back for herself. 

My most popular post

I'm actually including my top two most popular posts here as my run away winner for this was not actually written by me but by my fiance!  Both my top two posts do however have a link in that they both relate to drinking spots in Singapore.  Clearly very popular Internet searches.  Top Five Chill Out Bars in the Lion City proved so successful that within a few days of first being posted it had already stormed ahead of anything that I had written and it continues to do so.  

View from the rooftop bar 1-Altitude

Like I said, though, I did not write my most popular piece myself so strictly speaking my own personal post for this category is my one about a place near where I live which is pretty close to a UK pub in style, the Cider Pit.  The Cider Pit is a great place to go for a quiet local drink and by Singapore standards is reasonably priced as well.  It also sells a lot of beers and ciders that are not commonly found in Singapore as a rule so I guess it is no wonder it is a popular search topic.

My most controversial post

This was a tough one as I don't really think any of my posts have been that controversial and I don't set out here to write or cause controversy.  However just for my naivety and the number of people that were happy to point me in the right direction I've selected my post on my good fortune to have an oven and my belief that you could not buy bags of sugar in Singapore!  Ovens, Hot Water, Sugar Sachets and Cereal Packets was written after I made the relatively late discovery (almost a year after I moved) that ovens were not a common feature in Singaporean kitchens.  Coming from the UK, where people would think it bizarre not to have an oven, I just assumed everyone had one.  When I discovered that was not necessarily the case I had to share it.  I decided to also include some other differences I'd discovered one of those being that I'd never seen bags of sugar in a supermarket.  Readers were quick to tell me exactly where I could buy them and since writing this post, supermarkets I frequent that I'm sure never used to sell bags are now doing just that.  Did they just read my post and determine to prove me wrong too?!?

My most helpful post

Another tough one as I never really think of any of my posts as being obviously helpful in the way that some of my fellow bloggers are.  When I looked back through my posts though it became clear that ones where I've written about my own personal position and decisions I've made as a result have always met with a positive reaction from readers in a similar position to me.  I think my most helpful post was my one about my decision to remain in Singapore when the time came for my initial career break from my job in the UK to end.  At that point I had to decide whether I was going to remain or return back to the UK.  It was a difficult decision to make as it meant giving up my job with no new one to go to which did not sit comfortably with me.  In the end though I'd got engaged to be married following my move, had met new people and in effect moved on with my life.  It is heartening though to still receive comments from readers who have found my blog as a result of them being in a similar position to I was.  I like to think that my honesty about how I've felt at times reassures people that it is OK to be daunted by the prospect and nervous and that despite those fears you can settle in and make a life for yourself as a result.

A post whose success surprised you

Not long after I first moved out to Singapore I wrote a general post about the first Youth Olympics that were taking place at that time and an experience I had after ordering shepherd's pie in a restaurant.  The number of subsequent hits on my blog as a result of searches for 'shepherd's pie in Singapore' surprised me and I subsequently wrote a post on this and other places where I have since found shepherd's pie in Singapore.  The post is only a couple of paragraphs but I'm constantly amazed by how many views it gets and how many people find my blog by searching this topic.

A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved

I'm always flattered to think that anyone reads my posts, especially as the majority of people who read this do not know me personally and in some cases choose to return to read what I write on a regular basis.  So for me any hits are a great thing.  In looking back though I have been surprised that some of my posts on, what I would say, are big tourist pulls in Singapore have not attracted more interest.  Out of several posts like this I've picked my one about the National Orchid Garden.  This was somewhere that it took me quite a while to get to but I had friends both in Singapore and back in the UK telling me how lovely it was and that I had to get there sooner rather than later.  It is therefore somewhere I imagine would be high on a visitor's 'to do' list and that's why I'm surprised that it has not been a more popular post.  So if you have not read it why don't you take a look now (or at least once you have finished reading the rest).

The post that I am most proud of

I think this would have to be the post I wrote immediately before this one, my random wish list of things I would like to do in Singapore.  I had great fun thinking about this following a strong desire to try the infamous ice cream sandwich and a subsequent Twitter conversation on this subject.  As soon as it was posted I had a great reaction from people as well to my list.  As well as all the fun things there was also one heart felt hope for my future.  I'm determined to do my best to achieve all of the things I put on my list and, of course, write about them here when I do.

So now I've written my seven links what happens next?  I have to select some other blogs to keep this up and select their own personal seven to share.  So I've selected the following three who I hope will carry this on.

Firstly my friend Lynne from the UK, she started her blog, Lynne's Diary about the same time I began mine.  I used to work with Lynne and a couple of months before I came to Singapore she retired from the Civil Service (where we both worked) and began sharing all the things she is now doing.  She certainly keeps busy.

Secondly I'd like to nominate Tanya who writes, Australian Expat Family.  I enjoy reading what Tanya and her young family do in Singapore.  It is great to get another perspective on things as she shares her life in Singapore.

Finally I'd like to nominate Over Here a blog I've recently found written by a lady called Kristin.  Again this blogger shares her perspective on life in Singapore with her family and it is lovely to share in and hear about their experiences.

Look forward to reading their contributions soon I hope!

17 September 2011

My Singapore Wish List

The idea for a random wish list came to me following a recent Twitter conversation.  Since moving to Singapore I've had a 'to do' list taken from various guidebooks, recommendations from blogs I follow, friends and just from living there and hearing about new places that have opened or have revamped themselves.  Gradually items have been ticked off and other places have been added.  This is mainly though just a places to visit list full of various attractions.  My wish list, on the other hand, is not necessarily glamorous or unusual but a collection of a few everyday things that I'm still to do and once I get back would like to achieve.

So in no particular order they are:

Eat an ice cream bread sandwich

It was this very thing that was the subject of the Twitter conversation I had recently.  Since arriving I've tried (for me at least) some foods I never imagined I would including durian, BBQ stingray, chili crabKatong laksaThunder tea rice and various other seafood dishes.  To have not tried something so relatively unassuming seems shameful.  I also have no excuse as you do not have to go far in the more touristy areas of the island to find an Uncle selling this very delight.  So this has to be on my 'to try' list sooner rather than later.

Visit JB

Whilst I suspect this is not the most interesting part of Malaysia to visit and I definitely want to go to Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Penang at some point.  I've not been here (or indeed Malaysia yet, is that bad seeing I've been in Singapore over a year?!?) and therefore never crossed the causeway from Singapore to Malaysia and I really would like to.  There is a good reason for my reluctance to do this up until now which I promise to explain once I get back to Singapore.  After that in theory I guess, if I wanted to, I could cross the causeway everyday.

More travel in the surrounding area

More generally I still want to increase my travelling opportunities whilst I'm in Singapore.  I have to say that I have not done badly since I arrived but reading other blogs and just doing my own research has only made me all the more interested in visiting other places too.  Hopefully once I return I can increase that tally a little further.

Spot the Orangefoamfinger

This one may be a little random and also make me seem a bit of a stalker which is definitely not my intention (especially if you are reading this Mr OrangeFoamFinger).  However I'd love to spot this fellow blogger and, of course, his distinctive Orangefoamfinger.  I've been following his amusing blog on both Singapore and other places for a few months now and he really makes me laugh.  If you haven't seen his blog yet you must take a look.  His posts often include photos of him posing in various locations with the famous foam finger and I would be made up if one day I happened to spot him somewhere in Singapore. 

Explore more hawker centres

I've been to a few hawker centres and food courts in the time I've been living here of course but I know there are a lot more to explore and at times I still feel a bit of a newbie with regards to them all.  Likewise I tend to stick to the same few dishes so I'd definitely like to visit more and try some other dishes.  In particular I think I should definitely try the dishes that each centre is particularly known for.

Avoiding long periods of separation from my (shortly to be) husband

For various very good reasons myself and my (soon to be) husband have had some long periods of separation in the past couple of years.  Initially when he first moved to Singapore, I do not know why now, but at the time it came so suddenly that I just did not feel ready to make the move straight away.  The lease on our flat had about six months to go before we could break out of our contract without having to pay out a lot of unnecessary money so this seemed a good reason for me to remain in the UK a bit longer.  By the time it came to me going I absolutely could not wait and now I wonder what on earth convinced me to remain, fear of the unknown I guess.  Since the start of January we've also had two longish periods apart, the second one currently ongoing.  It has been for a very good reason (wedding organising) but as a result of our time apart we've been apart for two Valentines days in a row and will also be apart on my birthday.  Whilst I certainly do not think celebrating Valentines day is the be all and end all and agree that the commercialism of the day is a great money maker, it will be nice to be together on it for once.  So I hope that once we are married next month, for the time being at least, any future separations we have will be weeks rather than months.

So there we go a random wish list of things I would like to achieve when I return to Singapore next month.  Wish me luck!!

13 September 2011

Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor and his Legacy

A few years ago several of the terracotta warriors together with various other artifacts and sculptures, originally discovered by some local farmers in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province in 1974 were brought, on a temporary exhibition, to the British Museum in London.  I jumped at the chance to visit this exhibition when I heard about it and can still remember the overwhelming awe I felt as I walked into the final part of this exhibition and came face to face with a selection of these warriors.  I cannot image what it must be like to see the complete collection in China, something I would love to have the opportunity to do.  Having read some retrospective information about the exhibition at the British Museum I gather this was one of their most successful exhibitions ever with visitors being turned away despite the museum extending the exhibition opening times.  I can completely believe how popular this must have been at the time.

So when I heard there was to be a similar exhibition at the Asian Civilisations museum in Singapore I was determined to revisit and see parts of this amazing collection again.  The exhibition in Singapore is refreshingly different in that on entering you immediately walk into a room displaying another art installation of contemporary pieces to complement the main display.  The installation was created by local artist, Justin Lee and is called 'Life After Death'.  Here you can see reproduction terracotta warriors adorned with everyday items from our modern world, headphones, laptops, stylish handbags and so on.

From here you then walk into the main display of beautiful warriors and artifacts.  There are a hundred exhibits on display and range from small pieces, that are believed to have been placed there to provide entertainment for the Emperor through to some of the warriors themselves.  I gather this is the first time that the actual terracotta warriors have been displayed in Singapore, so it's a must see whilst it is there.  The display was just as awe inspiring as when I saw the pieces in London.  It is one of those collections that really leaves you amazed at the work at the time that went into creating all the pieces.  The soldiers even have different hairstyles, making them look unique and just like real people.  They need to be seen to be fully appreciated.

The exhibition, 'Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor and his Legacy' is on at the Asian Civilisations museum until 16 October 2011 and the entrance fee is $8.

09 September 2011

A Little Piece of the Orient in Kew

The weekend before last was a Bank Holiday one in the UK (the last one before the Christmas holidays for my family and friends).  Coincidentally Singapore had a holiday for Hari Raya Puasa celebrating the end of Ramadan on the Tuesday after and Presidential elections were held on the Saturday of that weekend.  The elections meant a holiday in lieu and in the case of the company my fiance works for he was given the Monday off as well.  I admit I was a little disappointed to be in the UK whilst he was in Singapore as, had I been there, we may well have taken the opportunity with a long weekend to go for a last minute break somewhere new.  However given I'm currently in the UK there was not much I could do so dismissed that disappointment to carry on with the wedding organising.

What I did not realise was that on a whim my fiance had decided to fly back to the UK to spend the longer weekend (in his case) with me!  The first I knew of it was when I got up on the Saturday morning (UK time) to a text message he had sent a few hours previously from Dubai advising me of what he was doing.  By this point he was already back in the air and headed to the UK so all I could do was sit and wait for him to arrive.

Understandably he was pretty exhausted when he arrived so we spent that night at my parents (where I'm currently staying) and on the Sunday headed up to London to stay close to the area where we were living before we moved to Singapore.  A stone's throw from there is Kew and Kew Gardens, somewhere I last visited as a teenager when, to be honest, I really was not that interested in the place.  We never went in the whole year we lived near there so decided that it would be a nice thing to do.

Unlike the Botanic Gardens in Singapore you have to pay to go into Kew's and it is not a cheap day out but it is a lovely place to wander around.  Of course most of the plants and trees in the main grounds are more suited to the climate in the UK but there are also several Victorian glasshouses which house more exotic plants.  The gate we entered in by (Lion Gate) brought us close by the pagoda in my photo above.  The pagoda is a ten-storey octagonal structure which was completed in 1762.  This whole area of the gardens is devoted to East Asia and has a very Japanese feel to it.  There is a beautiful Japanese style gateway and gardens in a typically tranquil style.  The gardens also include a desert area, a Mediterranean area and an Alpine rocky area amongst many others.

In the Palm House (one of several glasshouses and other buildings housing plants not so suited to the climate of the UK) it was just like stepping briefly into the humidity I'm used to experiencing when in Singapore.  Although the majority of the plants in there were from South America and Africa.  As soon as you walked in there was a sign advising that it was 28 degrees but that it felt hotter due to it being dripping wet (welcome to our world)!  By the time we left I was glad to be back in the more temperate late August UK weather.  However in my defence I was wearing jeans, socks and boots - not my usual attire when experiencing those levels of humidity.

Kew also has a Treetop Walkway which reminded me a little of the treetop walkway in MacRitchie Reservoir.  This treetop walk was only 18 metres high though and the structure felt a little more secure than the one we went on in Singapore.  Although not as high it still gave some great views over the gardens and the surrounding area of London.

A lovely day and weekend thanks to my fiance's insanely wonderful spur of the moment decision and great to have a little taster of Singapore whilst back in the UK.

05 September 2011

Cooking for Kids

Whilst we had my step sons staying we, of course, looked for some more child centred activities for them to get involved in.  One such thing we found was a cookery class at the Red Dot Brewhouse in Dempsey.  The Red Dot Dempsey venue is set amongst lush vegetation in a restored colonial bungalow and is a great place to relax and get away from the busy city.  The weekend we visited there were just a handful of people enjoying family Sunday's together.

The 'Look Mum I Can Cook' class is run every Sunday from 1pm to 2pm.  Parents or Guardians are required to eat at the Dempsey Sunday brunch but for an hour your children are completely supervised and looked after by Chef KC Chan and his willing assistants.  The weekend that we went my step sons made a rather delicious dessert with strawberries (I assume they make different dishes each week).  This included the use of a blow torch to get the required effect, though I rather suspect the adults supervising did most of that.  It was delicious!

02 September 2011

Polling Again

Earlier this year Singapore held a General Election and last Saturday held Presidential Elections, the first contested election since 1993.  As with my post about the General Election I do not propose to write about the whys, ways and wherefores of the system but I wanted to make reference to it nonetheless.  Unlike with the General Election though I have not been in Singapore for the majority of the campaigning so have had to observe what I can from a distance.

The campaign ran from the 17 to the 25 August with 17 August being nomination day, in the end, and just to complicate things all the candidates shared the last name of Tan!  During the campaign period each candidate was allowed to hold one rally and were able to campaign via the Internet, by going house-to-house, handing out flyers and displaying posters and banners.  There were also broadcast interviews with the candidates on TV and opportunities to make statements via the media.  As with the General Election there was a cooling off day the day before polling day to allow voters to consider who they wished to vote for.  On this cooling off day no campaigning or new election advertising was allowed.  Likewise a public holiday was given in lieu of election day.  So although, if I had been in Singapore, I obviously could not have voted I could have enjoyed the benefits of another holiday.

The role of President is the Head of State role in Singapore and the position is largely ceremonial.  There is a lot more information available on the role, the functions and history of it here. 

In the end Dr. Tony Tan, a former deputy Prime Minister won by a narrow margin of 0.34% of the vote and was therefore elected as Singapore's new President.  I have recently been reading several other blogs about the elections and if you are interested in finding out more I'd recommend taking a look at, WTF Mate and Singapore Actually who have both written a series of great posts on the subject.
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