I have always been a big fan of the culture of ancient Egypt. It all started when my mom read to me something about the curse of Tutankhamen; that was way back probably around twenty years ago. It was not a hard a hard decision to revisit the National Museum of Singapore one hot Sunday afternoon as they currently house a temporary exhibit about ancient Egypt.

a stone statue of an Egyptian god

Dubbed as Quest for Immortality – The World of Ancient Egypt, this exhibit offers an insight to how the ancient Egyptians perceived life and the afterlife. The life after death is very important to these ancient civilization and as such it was very important for them to make sure that adequate preparation were done in order to ensure a smooth transition of the dead from his earthly existence to the realm of immortality.

sphinxes and pharaohs

There are more than a hundred priceless artefacts spanning from 4500 BC to 950 BC in the exhibit; these includes statues of gods, jewelleries of the dead and tools for mummification. But perhaps the most interesting artefacts of them all were some real mummies. Yes, there were a couple of them bundled up by thick plaster and displayed. However these are not the grotesque version you may have probably seen in the encyclopaedias; needless to say, it is enough for me to tell myself that I have seen an Egyptian mummy in person myself.

these jars were once used to contain human internal organs

a portion of the book of the dead inscribed in this papyrus

a royal jewelry especially designed for the dead

an example of hieroglyphics carved in this beautifully preserved piece of stone

an ancient Egyptian mummy - it ain't that scary looking right?

This exhibit is currently ongoing until the 4th of April. The gallery is open from 9AM until 6PM. There is an entrance fee of 15 SGD that applies. Lucky for you if you have a Mastercard as there is a 50% discount to the entrance fee. A free guided tour is conducted everyday at 11:30am and 2:30pm (with an additional tour at 3:30pm every Sunday).

Yesterday was the start of the Chinese New Year; so first and foremost, I would like to greet each and everyone Gong Xi Fa Cai. It is also opening of the much awaited casino of Resorts World located in Sentosa Island here in Singapore.

Resorts World Sentosa is an integrated resort with key attractions that includes one of Singapore’s two casinos, a Universal Studios theme park and the world’s largest oceanarium. Once fully operational, it will employ more than 10,000 people directly. The casino opened at exactly 12:18 on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, an auspicious time for local Chinese. I just learned that 12:18, when pronounced in the Cantonese dialect would mean prosperity.

Our friends, Nino and Nina, suggested the idea of visiting the establishment on its opening day. I first though that this would be crazy since I definitely know for a fact that it will be pure chaos as a lot of people will definitely be there on Day 1 – a proof of this was the sneak peak ticket for Universal Studio which was on put on sale a few days back which I heard was sold out in a matter of a few hours. Since we have nothing else do for this particular Sunday, we let curiosity overcome us and headed towards Sentosa Island.

the eager crowd waiting for the Sentosa monorail

As expected the queue was very long; we waited for more than half an hour before we stepped into the Sentosa Monorail. We alighted at the Waterfront Station, just a stop away from Vivo City. There were a lot of people immediately upon stepping out of the monorail; people of all races were there, some were trying their luck at the casino, some were just wandering around, some were shopping while some were on their way out of the island.

taken upon alighting at the Waterfront Station - noticed the people?

workers doing some last minute fix at the huge fountain

We were not able to visit the casino but I hope to be back there while I am still not liable to pay any entrance fee in order to enter the gambling area. Just for information, the Singapore government adopted a 100 SGD levy for all citizens and permanent residents – this is their so-called safeguard against any possible ill-effect of gambling to the island nation.

various characters helping out in putting a festive mood

one of the entrance to the shopping complex

one of the beautiful halls in Resorts World

the entrance to the underground casino

The integrated resorts is still not complete, in fact it may take a few more weeks before everything will really go full swing but nonetheless I would expect that this would be one of the newest attractions that should be able to help Singapore Tourism Board attain its goal of having at least 17 million visitors a year by 2015.

one last look at Resorts World

Singapore Airshow 2010

10 February 2010

Last weekend, I got the chance to attend the 2010 Singapore Airshow. This biennial event is considered as Asia’s largest aerospace and defence event and one of the top three airshows in the world. I was expecting much from this event since the previous airshow held in 2008 displayed a number of good air exhibitions which included the Airbus A380 making some rounds in the sky. Added to the fact that I have always been a very big fan of airplanes and flying – it is obvious to note that this event is one of the things that I have been looking forward to for Q1 2010.

Clear blue sky at the Singapore Airshow

It was a long way going to the Changi Exhibition Center where the event was held. I had to take a ride from my apartment going to the Changi International Airport; from the terminal, we had to take another 15 minutes shuttle ride going to the actual venue. It was two in the afternoon when we arrived, a full hour to go before the start of the much awaited air exhibition. We went inside the main building to cool ourselves from the scorching sun and at the same time wander around the various exhibits being displayed. People were everywhere inside, some of the were taking photos while some were queueing up to get closer to some static displays.

Actual tires and landing gear used in airplanes

Boeing displayed several models of their commercial planes...

The afternoon air exhibition started on time and featured death defying stunt by the F-16 and the AH-64 Apache of the RSAF. Not to be outdone, the USAF did some stunts in their A-10 Thunderbolt – I must say this one is unique, the plane looks like a flying pig yet it can be able to maneuver with grace up in the sky. The final air exhibition was by the Italian firm, Alenia Aermacchi, using their new M-346. I was amazed by all the tight aerial exhibition but I was actually expecting some more stunts, like multiple birdies flying up in the sky and doing the same move all at the same time – I heard this was the case back in 2008. At any rate, I posted below a clip from the airshow courtesy of YouTube.

The air exhibition lasted for probably half an hour. Afterwards, I took a quick stroll outside the building to take a look at the various airplanes parked for the public to see and touch. There were a lot of fighter planes which I could not name, these were mostly from the RSAF and the USAF. A Boeing 737-800 was there on display courtesy Garuda Indonesia; the company is supposedly leveraging the airshow this week to spotlight its new livery and interior decor. This said display was open to the public and several people queue up in order to get a glimpse of the new interiors of the Indonesian airline. I did not stay too long in the tarmac as it was getting too hot then.

from private jets...

... and fighter plane

there is even an Airbus A330-200F

It was an experience to attend this event. Despite not being able to fully satify my expectation, I believe it was well worth the 20 SGD I spent on the ticket. If I will still be in this island then, I will definitely attend the 2012 edition of this airshow, hopefully it will be much better by then.

Men of Faith

31 January 2010

As some of us may know, Singapore has a substantial number of people who are Hindu. These people are intense about their religion, and some of them takes some extraordinary measures to display their devotion – Thaipusam is an example of this.Yesterday, I witnessed this festival for the second time. This is a yearly event is celebrated by Tamils usually in January or February that commemorates a special day of worship to one of their god, Lord Muruga (also known as Subrahmanian). This deity is supposedly the universal granter of wishes. All those who wish to ask for a future favor, fulfill a vow in return for a granted favor, or to repent for past sins generally participate in this festival. I know a man who once participated in this festival in order to ask for a son; less than two years later, he got his son.

a particularly colorful and interesting kavadi

these oranges are attached to the body by hooks

Thaipusam is most visually characterised by the procession in which devotees carry huge colorful shrines called kavadis. Sharp metal spikes and lots of hooks attached the kavadis which at the same time pierced into the body of the devotee. There were some people that showed their devotion by pulling along heavy shrines with religious images and icons by means of hooks pierced into their back. Most of these devotees have have multiple sharp piercings through their face or fruits hanging from hooks pierced onto their chest. Apart from this punishment in their flesh, these devotees had to endure the pain of marching barefooted for a good 4 km to get from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to the Chettiar Hindu Temple.

young devotee

a devotee resting...

Gory as it may sound, it is amazing to note that through religious faith and trance, very little blood is shed. Occasionally, some of the devotees would go through a sudden trance and had to be helped or restrained by families or friends who are part of their entourage. It is said that intense preparation is needed in order to be successful in Thaipusam, these preparations includes sexual abstinence, a strict diet and of course lots of faith…

I woke up at five in the morning last Saturday; hurriedly packing my backpack for a quick weekend getaway out of Singapore. The destination was Tioman Island in Malaysia.

It has already been a while when I started dreaming of spending a weekend under the sun in this island. It was just this time that we decided to give it a go. Armed with my backpack and a 200 SGD budget for two persons, we headed out of my apartment at around 6:30 AM; it was still a bit dark then.

We boarded one of the earliest trips out of the Orchard MRT station; inclusive of walking and the waiting time, it took us approximately an hour to reach the Kranji MRT Station. From there, we waited a bit for the SBS Bus # 170 to take us from there to the Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

Orchard MRT at 7 in the morning...

Orchard MRT at 7 in the morning...

The SBS Bus # 170 is the cheapest way to get to Malaysia from Singapore. The ride from the Kranji Station will drop us to the Woodlands Checkpoint to clear past Singapore immigration. Bad news early on as there was a very heavy traffic going to the immigration building in Woodlands; it was so bad that it took us more than 40 minutes for a ride that would normally takes less than 5 minutes.

Inside the Woodlands Checkpoint was not good either as it took us more than 15 minutes to clear past the supposedly ultra efficient Singapore immigration.

We boarded the next SBS Bus # 170 that was available and from there we headed out of Singapore Island via the Johor-Singapore Causeway, the next stop being the Sultan Iskandar Complex. Another traffic jam clogged the Causeway, which took us at least 30 minutes to reach the Malaysian side of immigration.

very heavy traffic jam in Malaysian soil

very heavy traffic jam in Malaysian soil

The Sultan Iskandar Immigration Complex is very clean and very huge; I was in fact more impressed by it than the checkpoint in Singapore. I was bummed out however by the sea of people who were there to clear past immigration as well. Picture taking is prohibited in most immigration facilities in the places I’ve been to however I managed to snap the below image during the 20 minutes I waited.

lots of people wanting to enter Malaysia

lots of people wanting to enter Malaysia

Another SBS Bus # 170 waited for us upon clearing past Malaysian Immigration, thankfully the traffic was no longer that heavy on our way to the Larkin Bus Terminal, The ride took less than 10 minutes. It was 9:45 AM when we finally reached our destination albeit more than two hours late.

queuing up for the bus to Larkin Terminal

queuing up for the bus to Larkin Terminal

Wasting no time, we started looking for the bus to Mersing. The next trip is not going to leave until 11:30 AM, from there it will be more than a 2 hour ride before we reach the jetty port in Mersing. It would take at least another half hour waiting time for the ferry to Tioman plus another two hours for the ferry ride, we expect to reach our destination at 4 PM the earliest. It was here that we decided to cancel out our trip to Tioman Island as time simply was not enough for us to enjoy and relax considering that we need to be back the following day.

front of the Larkin Bus Terminal

front of the Larkin Bus Terminal

Definitely we do not want to go back to Singapore; it was then I suggested on visiting again Malacca, a place where I have been to twice already in the past. Since the next bus leaves at 11 AM, I wasted no time and got us tickets. Much to my surprise, I was very glad to find out that the tickets here cost way cheaper than in Singapore. The ticket cost us just 19 MYR (roughly 8 SGD) versus the Singapore – Malacca bus that would cost around 25 SGD on the average. True that it was not that convenient as compared to getting a direct trip from Singapore but if you were on a tight budget, it would make sense to take this route.

a pair of tickets to Malacca please...

a pair of tickets to Malacca please...

The bus arrived on time and we were already onboard ten minutes before departure. Although we postponed our trip to Tioman Island indefinitely, I was more than happy to visit Malacca again than go back to Singapore…

onboard for an uninterrupted ride to Malacca

onboard for an uninterrupted ride to Malacca