Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Singapore June Return Trip '09 – Second Day and Getting Back

We woke up early the following to get ready for our first show of the day that was supposed to start at 8:30am. From our hotel, we decided to take a taxi to Chinatown Point Mall which was where we ended up at after the abortive public bus adventure the day before. The “Dream-Work” performance was scheduled at the Chinatown MRT station which was near Chinatown Point. It was later that we realized that there was more than one exit from the station and that we were at the wrong exit. Fortunately, we had more than enough time to walk through the length of the MRT station to locate Exit A where the performance was supposed to start. It turned out that we were among the first of the group to arrive that morning and we got a few minutes to ourselves before the performance started.

For “Dream-Work”, we were given wireless radio transceivers and earphones to listen to the dialogue and surrounding sounds that was being transmitted by one of the performers who carried the equipment with him. The audience, which consisted of 12 in our group, would follow the performers through the streets of Chinatown as they delivered their lines live to us much to the amusement of the public who were unaware of the public performance. It seems that on top of having a fixed storyline that the actor would perform, they would add details and descriptions that were improvised on the spot based on the items seen by the actor as we were walking through the fixed route. This made the experience more interesting for me as we would be engaged with our surroundings as well as with the story that was being told.

We walked from Chinatown MRT station back to the Chinatown Point Mall with stops at the neighborhood hawker center before continuing to the offices near the Raffles Place MRT station. Throughout the journey, we heard the story of the female actor starting her day and how her life gets interwoven in her morning rituals which led her to a local temple where she found a spot in the city for some quite self reflection. The performance was definitely a new experience for me as I have never been a participant in a public performance of this manner. I could not help but to wonder if something similar can be performed in KL and it led me to think about the stories that one could come up with on a similar walking performance here.

After the performance ended at a nearby temple, we walked on to the Raffles Place MRT station to get a train back to the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station which was close to where our hotel was. The plan was to have breakfast at the Dome Café at Singapore Arts Museum and then see some of the contemporary art exhibits there. We did end up having breakfast there but by the time we finished, it was already a bit too late to see the exhibits since we still had to go back to the hotel to pack up and check out before 12pm that day. We decide to postpone out trip to the Singapore Arts Museum for the next time we come into town and walked back to our hotel at Bencoolen St. Since we had another show to attend later in the day, we decide to keep out bags in our other friend’s room when we check out and collect them after show to avoid having to carry them during the walking performance.

After checking out, we waited for another friend who was a local who graciously offered to spend time with us to show us around the Chinatown area. It was then I discover that my friend and I shared my passion for kitchenware and we ended up in several shops in the area that sold kitchenware and tableware. Much to my travel companion’s mix of amusement and annoyance, we spent more than 2 hours looking at kitchen utensil, gadgets and plates before we were satisfied. Thanks to the sales that the shops had, I ended up buying a few serving dishes as well as a bamboo steamer at the end of the trip. We also took time to have lunch at a local noodle shop that specialized in handmade noodles which was quite good and later had desserts at a dessert place which specialized in milk snowy ice desserts.

After spending a few hours in Chinatown, our friend dropped us off at the Raffles Place MRT station where the afternoon’s “Dream-Home” performance was to start at 5pm. As was in the morning performance, we were given wireless radio transmitters and earphones to use during the performance. The afternoon performance was performed by another set of actors whose stories did intersect in certain points with the story that we saw performed in the morning. I felt that compared to the morning performance, “Dream-Home” was more scripted and less improvised than “Dream-Work”. We ended up at the flats near Chinatown Point Mall looking out to the Chevron building that towered over the public square at Raffle Place for the final lines of the performance. I have to say that after the novel performance in the morning, I found “Dream-Home” slightly underwhelming.

From Chinatown Point Mall, we took another cab back to the hotel to collect our bags before proceeding to Novena Square where we already made plans to meet up with another local friend for dinner. We ended up having a nice dinner at the Ichiban Boshi Japanese restaurant there until it was time for us to catch the 8:30 FirstCoach bus back to KL. The journey back was uneventful and we arrived earlier than schedule thanks to the driver skipping the schedule stop in highway rest area on the way back. We arrived at the Bangsar bus stop at around midnight where we then took a taxi back to Sentul where our car was parked. We reached safely home around 1:30am and ended our short but fulfilling trip to Singapore.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Singapore June Return Trip '09 – Getting There and the First Day

Our second trip to Singapore in 2009 was planned in conjunction with the Singapore Arts Festival which ran from 15th May – 14th June. A mutual friend of ours was able to get us fairly good deals on a few of the shows as we were booking them as an early-bird package booking. We were supposed to go with the person who helped us get the ticket but she had to opt out of the tip at the last minute and had a replacement person to come with us on the trip. For a change, we decided to travel down to Singapore via bus instead of the previous method of taking an Air Asia flight. After shopping around for reasonable offers, we decided on taking the FirstCoach bus to Singapore on the 6th of June.

Since my travelling companion had to work on Saturday, we decided to take FirstCoach’s last bus of the day to Singapore. The bus ticket cost us RM110 for a return ticket which I thought was fairly reasonable considering how much more we had to pay if we were to take a flight with Air Asia. The last bus departed their office, which was located around the corner from the Bangsar LRT station, sharp at 8:30pm heading south through the PLUS highway. Having not had travelled with the company before, I was duly impressed by the condition of the seats and the onboard movie service. The somewhat recent selection of movies helped me pass the time as we travel down to Singapore with only one 20 minute stop at the Pagoh R&R stop at around 10:30pm.

After the stop at Pagoh, the bus travelled on to the Malaysia side of the Second Link that links Malaysia and Singapore at Tanjung Kupang. Upon arriving, we had to disembark with our passport to go through Malaysian passport control before getting back on the bus which continued on to the Singapore side of the link at Tuas. The journey across the Second Link was smooth and it took us only 20 minutes before we reached the Singaporean Immigration and Customs complex there. We had to disembark again with our luggage this time to have our passports stamped for Singapore entry as well as to pass Customs before getting back on the bus. Once everyone had returned to the bus, we continued on our journey to the final destination at Novena Square.

We reached Novena Square at around 1am in the morning. Since the MRT service had already stopped for the night, we had to get a cab to get to our hotel which was located at Bencoolen St. The taxi driver didn’t know where exactly our hotel was located as it was a recently opened hotel on the street but thankfully I remembered to bring a print out of the address. It turned out that the hotel (Ibis Hotel at Bencoolen St) was not difficult to spot once we drove into Bencoolen St. Since we already had prior reservation at the hotel, we were able to check in fairly quickly and settle in our rooms for the remaining of the night.

The first show that we had tickets for was scheduled at 11:00am on the following morning. We still had to wait for another friend who was coming in from KL on the morning train to Singapore before going to the show. Since we had some time to kill that morning, we decided on having breakfast at Burger King at Burlington Square which was located just across the street from where the hotel was. After breakfast, we ran into the remaining members of our travelling troupe walking down the road to the hotel. After they have checked in, we took a taxi to the Marina Square mall where we were going to participate in the “Etiquette” performance.

We were shown to a pre selected table when we arrived at the Dome Café at Marina Square and given a brief explanation of what was about to happen. In “Etiquette”, we became the actually actors in the public performance. We were given headsets through which we were given instructions of what to say and do. On hearing the cues, we also had an array of items laid out and labeled on the table for which we suppose to interact with. Since each person had only half of the story in this two person performance, we would also need to listen and interact with the person sitting opposite us as directed. It was definitely a new experience for me as not only was I’m actually participating in a performance but it was also in a public place with a small and somewhat disinterested audience.

After the performance at Marina Square, we hung out for a bit to check out the shops there before proceeding via MRT to the Orchard St station where we planned to meet up with some friends who were in town. I have to honestly say that I have yet to really understand the system before being confident of being able to take the MRT in Singapore by myself. I think that with a few more trips on them, I would eventually figure out which lines to take especially in stations with line exchanges. We did eventually reached the Orchard St MRT station and met up with our friends there before proceeding to the nearby Wisma Atria Food Republic for some lunch and to catch up on the latest happenings.

After lunch, we proceeded to do a little bargain hunting starting with the Borders bookstore at Wheelock. Unlike my last visit, there wasn’t anything new for me to pickup there as I guess it was just a few months since my last visit there. After the bookstore, we hit the nearby Toys’R’us store at The Paragon for some board games that I had planned to look for. Didn’t really find any worth buying but I did pick up some travel editions of the games that I thought would be a nice addition to a games night with the gang. We later then ended up at The Heeran Shops for some CD browsing at the large HMV store they have there before calling it a day as far as shopping was concerned. We thought of using the public bus system to get back to our hotel but got on the wrong bus by mistake and ended up in Chinatown Point instead where we decided to be less adventurous and take a taxi back instead.

After a short nap and shower to refresh ourselves, we took a taxi from the hotel to head out to the Victoria Theater for the evening performance of “Electra” by the renowned Suzuki Company of Toga from Japan. A strange combination of Greek story with Japanese traditional Kabuki and Noh performance style, “Electra” was definitely not something that I could have prepared for. Even with the often delayed and, what I think was, paraphrased subtitling, it was a bit hard to follow what was happening on stage. I guess that it was a bit too high brow for my theater tastes which I believe that more than a few members of the audience shared with me. Case in point was the person sitting next to me who was actually sleeping through the show up to the point when they started pounding the drum finale. I’m sure that some people would know who to appreciate this performance but I was fairly certain that it was not something that I was overly impressed with.

We left Victoria Theater close to about 9:30pm to head out to the Esplanade for a late night supper since we had skipped dinner to get to the show. On the way, I got to try one of the ice cream cut from a block and sold sandwiched between thin wafers. I’ve seen them around the city and never had a chance to actually get one. It reminded me of the type that I used to have as a kid but sadly I see less of nowadays in KL. Having the ice cream on the balmy night walk heading to the Esplanade was actually quite fun while the ice cream lasted. Once we reached the Esplanade Mall, we decided to eat at the Thai Express restaurant there before calling it a night and take a cab back to the hotel to end our first full day of the trip.

(Having some problem with my external HDDs where all my pictures have been transferred so will have to wait to get that fixed before I can put the travel pics for this entry)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

“Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead/ 15 Minute Hamlet” at KLPac

KLPac Presents

Two sides of the same “Hamlet”!

After a hugely successful inaugural season, klpac's Theatre for Young People (T4YP) is entering its 2nd year. The 2009 season is sponsored by YTL Corporation.

Armed with an all-new ensemble, Chris Ling is taking on one of Tom Stoppard's most famous works – “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”. The first fully-staged production of the season will feature all fifteen members of the newly-formed ensemble.

Tom Stoppard's “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” is a hilarious comedy that centres on two bewildered minor characters from Shakespeare's tragic tale of Hamlet. They are thrust centre stage and given the chance to finally take lead roles in this fabulously inventive take on Hamlet. But Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do so in a world where reality and illusion intermingle, and where fate leads our two heroes to a tragic but inevitable end. Unaware of the roles in the much bigger picture of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern get themselves into hilarious situations. Although the play is primarily a comedy, they constantly stumble upon philosophical truths in the midst of the ludicrous ramblings.

As an opening, be entertained with a humorous crash course on Shakespeare’s works. A pre-show appetizer entitled The Fifteen-Minute Hamlet directed by Nicole-Ann Thomas will be in play. This blitz version of Hamlet by Tom Stoppard brings together all the famous lines and scenes from the play.

Join the T4YP troupe on their first venture on stage as they bring you the misadventures and funny anecdotes of these characters.




Artistic Director: JOE HASHAM
Executive Producer : DATO' FARIDAH MERICAN

Date & Time:
18 – 20 JUNE 2009 @ 8:30 PM
20 – 21 JUNE 2009 @ 3:00PM


RM 25
RM 15 (students with student id card, sr. citizens & disabled)

Box Office:(KLPac) 4047 9000

Venue Website: http://www.klpac.com/

Facebook Event link: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=112105306674

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weekend Happenings: 13 – 14 June 2009

I was suppose to put up a weekend write up for the weekend of 6-7th June but considering it was a travel weekend, I’ve decided to put up my usual travelogue entries for the trip later this week.

This past weekend was my weekend to go home to the family house in Selayang for this month. This was part of the deal that I made with my parents when I told them that I wanted to move out of the house and live on my own after I returned from the States. Up to that point, I have practically lived on my own and they were concerned that I would drift away from the family once I moved out of the house. To assuage their fears of that happening, I promised them that I would make it a point to return back to the family house at least once a month which I have kept this past 14 years since I last lived under their roof.

The monthly trips back home also meant that I get to catch up with the latest happenings in the family. Other than the usual news of my siblings, the latest news is that my mother is finally going to retire from her current employment which I do think is about time. Given the person that she is, she already has some other part time jobs lined up to keep her occupied after her retirement at the end of the month.

An item to note during the weekend was that I finally got a chance to learn how to make my mum’s version of the Fish Assam Pedas. Next to my favorite Javanese Sambal Goreng, this dish is the one that would always remind me of home. Knowing how to make it is one of the rites of passage that my sisters had to go through growing up. It was always expected, by my mum at least, that any females joining the family through marriage would know how to make the dish. Since the possibility of that happening for me is slim, I had to learn how to cook it myself so I could have it whenever I feel like having it.

It turned out much easier to make then I expected. I’ve always been ignorant of what goes into the Assam Pedas dish but now that I know, I know that the special taste/memories of it comes from the fact that it was home cooked. Like the dodol, this dish is another link to my family’s past and could be something that would define me as a member of the family. I’ve already been challenged by my sisters to an Assam Pedas cook off to decide whose Assam Pedas dish was better. I think I have to try it out for a few more times before I take up that challenge.

Weekends with the family have always been kind of strange. On one hand, I feel like I going to the motions to fulfill my obligations to the promise that I made but then I realize that these visits help renew family bonds for me. Being so used to living on my own, I sometimes need to be reminded of this least I feel myself drifting away from my family. I’m glad that I made that promise and have been able to stick to it all these years.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

“Mak Yong Titis Sakti" at KLPac

The Actors Studio Teater Rakyat & KLPac Presents

Mak Yong Titis Sakti
Shakespeare with a uniquely Malaysian twist!

If you haven't watched a Mak Yong performance before, then you have to catch Mak Yong TITIS SAKTI.

Mak Yong is uniquely Malaysian traditional form of dance drama. You can't find something similar in the entire Southeast Asian region that brings together this lovely fusion of dance, drama, music, romance & comedy - yes, it's funny!

Inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, snippets of the love stories have been adapted for Mak Yong. If you've read the text, you'll see glimpses of certain characters from the classic but the staging itself stays true to the style of Mak Yong.

It's basically a light-hearted romance comedy. Three couples faced with three different predicaments. And because supernatural powers & fairy tales exist in a Mak Yong performance, the magical Bunga Sakti comes into play & this set of a series of unpredictable events.

The show will be performed in B.M. but you'll have access to scene-by-scene descriptions in English. We'll also put up an intriguing exhibition on Mak Yong @ the foyer.

Music Director: KAMRUL HUSSIN
Lighting Designer: SANDEE CHEW

Date & Time:
3 JUNE 2009 @ 8:30 PM (Preview Night)
4 – 6 JUNE 2009 @ 8:30 PM
7 JUNE 2009 @ 3:00PM


RM 10 (Preview Night only)
RM 35
RM 18 (students with student id card, sr. citizens & disabled)

Box Office:
(KLPac) 4047 9000

Venue Website: http://www.klpac.com/

Facebook Event link: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=74156964631

Monday, June 01, 2009

Weekend Happenings: 30 – 31 May 2009

My blog has been in a sad neglected state of late and I have myself to blame for it. I guess that as time goes by, the need to blog has somewhat diminished especially when I don’t really have a particular item to blog about. Aside from the occasional KLPac entries about the shows that were being staged on that particular week or the occasional write ups of trips that I’ve been on, I have not really made any effort to document anything else on the blog. I hope to change this as not only did I start this blog to help me document my memorable moments but I also started this blog to force myself to write creatively instead of the usual dry stuff that I have to write at work. This creative outlet is definitely something that would be therapeutic after the long day’s work.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to start a new habit of doing a Monday morning write up of the events of the past weekend. I know that this has been done before by other bloggers and some would deride me as just following the pack but at least I’m writing something. Hopefully this will be somewhat of a regular feature from this week onwards. So to start …

Saturday was spent in anticipation of a birthday dinner gathering that has been planned weeks in advance. Unlike the usual dinner, birthday cake and presents opening, it was decided that this gathering will have a theme and people would have to show up dressed for the theme. Suffice to say that the theme was not something that we get to do all that often and it was definitely interesting to see what ideas people came up with when they came. Being the person that I am, I’ve obviously have prepared what I was going to wear weeks ago. It was not a very difficult choice for me to decide what to wear since I’ve always wanted to get the item that I ended up buying. It took me this long to get it as they didn’t have anything in my size in stock before and I didn’t really have an occasion to wear it before.

As usual, Saturday morning was my weekly laundry day. People who know me can easily attest how laundry day is actually a weekend highlight for me. I guess it all comes from the weekly trips that I had to do when I was studying in the States. I always look forward to going down to the laundry room of my apartment and just hide out to read my stack of comic books while doing my laundry. I do actually cherish the Saturday mornings that I get to relax by myself and finish reading a stack of comic books or an actual book while a load of laundry is in the machine. I managed to finish Garth Nix’s “Drowned Wednesday” this time around and have started on the next book in the series.

After laundry was put away, it was just time to get a ride from my friend to head out to our friend’s house for the dinner gathering. It was a great one since not only were most of our friends around but quite a few of them gamely turned up in theme. As customary, countless pictures of everyone were taken, good fun was had and great food was consumed. The birthday boy got his cake and presents at the end of the gathering before we settled in for a multimedia presentation of the pictures taken that night courtesy of the hard work of our group’s photographer. I’m fairly sure that those pictures would turn up in our FB pages in a few days so friends who didn’t get to attend the gathering will get to see them. It was a definitely a great gathering especially when you have your friends around.

The plan as to have a morning breakfast gathering the following day at 8:30am but considering that I didn’t get to bed till after 3am, the chance of me being there for that was next to nil. I decided to catch up with the group later in the day on Sunday for a trip to IKEA. Arriving at IKEA at around 11:30am, one would be forgiven to think that Malaysia was not in any type of recession as the Sunday crowd there was at it max by the time we arrived. After eventually finding a parking space, we proceeded to the IKEA café for brunch which for me meant my favorite meatball dish. I just can’t get enough of those and would definitely get them every time I go there. Too bad they don’t have a delivery service for their food.

I love going to IKEA. Don’t like the crowd so much but being at IKEA is like being in a huge toy store for me. I can’t exactly afford much of the stuff that they sell there but I just love being in furniture shops getting ideas of what to do with the limited space I have at my apartment. I guess that it’s part of my nesting instincts/packrat mentality of wanting to fill up space with stuff regardless if I really need it or not. Fortunately for me that I’ve been good at staying the course and not go on a spending spree every time I go to IKEA. I did however get myself a bedside drawer that I actually did plan to buy earlier and had the added advantage of being quite a steal in terms of prices.

After a return to the IKEA café to replenish all the energy burned walking around in the store, we made a pit stop at the pharmacy and the supermarket for some supplies. It was only around 6pm before I got back and got ready for the rest of the evening. Since I also had a book cabinet that I had bought earlier and was waiting for me to assemble, I decided to get out my tools and indulge in some DIY assembly time. I have to say that I do really find satisfaction in being able to assemble my own furniture instead of getting them done by someone else. The book cabinet assembly was a breeze since it was not the first time for me to assemble one of them but the IKEA drawer assembly took a while to figure out. I had forgotten how cryptic IKEA instruction sheets had become lately and having no experience assembling the set that I bought before too some figuring out.

An hour later, I had both book case and bedside drawers assembled and not a single screw extra or missing. I hope that with both items, I can keep my room more organized since I have my stuff all over the place at the moment. After the excitement of my DYI assembly session, it was time to wind down and watch a bit of TV before going to bed. All in all it was an enjoyable and productive weekend.