The sun rises on a Sembawang tradition

5 04 2012

The Panguni Uthiram festival is a Hindu festival that is celebrated annually during the full moon of the Tamil month of Panguni. In Singapore, this is celebrated at the Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar Temple, now located at Yishun Industrial Park A. The celebration of the festival in the area traces its history back to 1967 when the temple was located off Canberra Road which was then part of the Royal Navy Naval Base in Sembawang. More information can be found on a previous post, A lesser known Hindu festival with a Kavadi procession: Panguni Uthiram, and also on the Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar Temple’s website.

Photographs taken at Sunrise today of this year’s Panguni Uthiram


Thaipusam at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

7 02 2012

Having photographed the procession of Kavadis on the streets over the last two Thaipusam celebrations in Singapore, as well as with Thaipusam falling on a work day this year, I decided to set off early this year to take a look at the preparations of the Kavadi bearers at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road at the break of day. The colourful Hindu festival during which ‘Kavadis‘ or burdens, some which involve piercing of various parts of the body, are borne by devotees, is one which captivated me as a child and one that still contiunes to fascinate me to this day. It can possibly be considered to be the last authentic religious festival that is still enacted on the streets in Singapore – albeit with some restrictions which give it less of an atmosphere than celebrations that take place in our northern neighbour Malaysia.

Extreme action on the Bay

9 12 2011

This weekend will see some Extreme action returning to Marina Bay as Singapore plays host to the 9th Leg and grande finale of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series™ – the second time the Extreme 40 circuit will be seen at Marina Bay, the first time being in December 2009. The race will see ten teams featuring 40 of the world´s best sailors racing from Wednesday 7 December to Sunday 11 December 2011 in what is the final and deciding round of the 2011 season. The race will commence at 2pm on each day with the 9th to the 11th being public days, and action can be caught at the Extreme Race Village which is located at the site of the Singapore Flyer, which will be opened to the public from Friday to Sunday.

The Extreme 40 Boat

The creators of the Extreme 40 took the biggest, fastest sailing boat in the Olympics — then made it twice as big and even faster. And no, brakes do not come as standard… The concept of Extreme 40 is to bring the sailing to the public and not the other way round.
The Extreme 40 catamaran is a scaled-up version of the former Olympic class Tornado, all of the dimensions are relative to the Tornado, it’s just twice as big and incredibly fast. Both light -for better speed and acceleration potential – and very stiff – to withstand the huge efforts put on the structure – the Extreme 40s are made of a honeycomb core trapped between two carbon fiber skins. The stability is provided by the shape of the structure, the Extreme 40 being a “rectangle” sitting on the water, but things change very quickly when the wind kicks in and one hull starts to fly: it’s a treat for spectators, and a real challenge for the crew who have to maintain the balance whilst making the most of the boat’s potential. The generous sail area allows Extreme 40s to sail faster than the wind, in just 15 knots of wind, an Extreme 40 is capable of traveling at 25+ knots.

Weekend Race Programme:

Friday 9th December
12:00 – 20:00 – Extreme Race Village opening times
12:00 – 14:00 – Moth Racing
14:00 – 17:00 – Extreme 40s Stadium Racing
17:30 – Public presentation to the top boat of the day

Saturday 10th December
10:00 – 12:00 – Moth Racing
12:00 – 20:00 – Extreme Race Village opening times
11:00 – 14:00 – Optimists Racing and NeilPryde Racing Series
14:00 – 17:00 – Extreme 40s Stadium Racing
17:30 – Public presentation to the top boat of the day
17:00 – 19:00 – NeilPryde Racing Series

Sunday 11th December
11:00 – 12:00 – Moth Racing
12:00 – 20:00 – Extreme Race Village opening times
12:00 – 14:00 – Optimists Racing and NeilPryde Racing Series
14:00 – 17:00 – Extreme 40s Stadium Racing
17:30 – Championship trophy presentation

**please note that times/activities might vary

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The Gala Opening of the 1st Rendezvous With French Cinema

8 12 2011

The Cathay last night saw a crowd that had gathered to welcome the ever so lovely Carole Bouquet at a red carpet event – opening of the Societe Generale Private Banking 1st Rendezvous With French Cinema. Ms Bouquet, was there to open the six-day French film festival together with Mr Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chairman of uniFrance, the association responsible for the promotion of French Cinema internationally. Also gracing the event were members of a delegation of French film personalities which is in Singapore to promote the French film industry and will be presenting their films and taking questions from audiences at the Festival screenings.

Mr Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chairman of uniFrance with Ms Carole Bouquet.

At a press conference held before last evening’s Gala Opening during which was Ms Bouquet and members of the artistic delegation were introduced, Mr Clermont-Tonnerre, spoke of how uniFrance hopes to participate in more events such as this not just to increase the market share of French films in Singapore which is estimated add about only 1%, but also to increase cooperation between the French and local film industries as well as increase its distribution network. Also speaking at the conference was Ms Bouquet, who revealed that she had only just landed a few hours before. Ms Bouquet, who is well-known for her role in the 1981 James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only and as the face of fashion house Chanel in the 1980s, has over 40 films to her credit, added that she was happy to be in Singapore together with the delegation and to be the “godmother” of the 15 films which will showcase the diversity of French Cinema.

Ms Carole Bouquet with Mr Olivier Gougeon, Regional Chief Executive Officer – Asia Pacific, Societe Generale Private Banking.

For the festival’s title sponsor is Societe Generale Private Banking, bringing the festival to Singapore, is very much an extension of the sponsorship of the Cannes Film Festival by its Head Office. Its Regional Chief Executive Officer – Asia Pacific, Mr Olivier Gougeon, spoke of the French zeal for filmmaking which the organisation hopes to share by creating a first of its kind artistic, cultural and industry exchange. He also added that he hoped that this would not “just be a rendezvous with French Cinema, but a date”.

Stéphane Rybojad, Director, Forces spéciales (Special Forces) with Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Director, Elle s’appelait Sarah (Sarah’s Key).

Ismaël Ferroukhi, Director, Les hommes libres (Free Men) sharing a lighthearted moment with Mathieu Demy, Actor/Director, Americano.

Ms Bouquet speaking.

The crowd that attended the Gala Opening was treated to a brilliant opening movie, The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius – and an appearance on stage of Ms Bouquet and the delegation. The movie, a (largely) silent movie set in Hollywood between 1927 and 1931, looks at the decline of a male star as the silent movie era made way for the talkies and stars Jean Dujardin, one of France’s leading actors, who took the accolade of the Best Actor Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for his role in the film, alongside Bérénice Bejo. The festival will run from 8 to 13 December 2011 with tickets priced at $10 each. A list of films to be shown as well as a synopsis of each film can be found at this page (click here). More information on the festival, ticketing and schedule can be found at the festival’s website

The Gala Opening of the Societe Private Banking 1st Rendezvous with French Cinema was held at the Cathay.

Mr Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chairman of uniFrance with Ms Bouquet and the other members of the Artistic Delegation on stage at the opening of the Societe Private Banking 1st Rendezvous with French Cinema.

Mr Clermont-Tonnerre and the gorgeous Ms Bouquet.

The Ultimate Battle has begun …

4 12 2011

Recruits are now being sought for a battle for the Universe which arrived at the shores of Singapore on 2 December 2011. The battle is one that pits the forces of good against that of evil, and what is at stake is a Universe that is ruled not by humans, but by humanoid robots that are able to transform into machines such as vehicles – a virtual one that many of us have had an introduction to as an a member of the audience in 3D on a cinema screen. We now have the opportunity not just to be armchair observers of that battle, but to actually get right into the thick of the action as the latest human recruits of NEST riding on EVAC, an AUTOBOT recruit who makes his debut as a character as it joins in on his first battle to help protect the ALLSPARK shard from the evil DECEPTICONS – on TRANSFORMERS The Ride which had its World Premiere at Universal Studios Singapore® on Friday.

The ride is located within Sci-Fi City, one of seven zones of Universal Studios Singapore.

TRANSFORMERS The Ride: The Ultimate 3D Battle opens at Universal Studios Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa (image courtesy of Universal Studios Singapore).

TRANSFORMERS The Ride was launched at a Grand Opening party at Universal Studios Singapore on 2 Dec 2011.

The highly anticipated ride was powered up at a Grand Opening party, by TRANSFORMERS director and executive producer Michael Bay, who made a grand entrance on stage in a 2010 edition of the Chevrolet Camaro, with the ALLSPARK shard. Bay also served as what is Asia’s most technologically advanced motion thrill ride’s creative consultant. On stage with Bay, were Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, Chairman of the Genting Group and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS); Mr Tom Williams, Chairman and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts, Mr Tan Hee Teck, CEO RWS; and Facebook fan contest winner Mr Malcom Chen.

The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro making its entrance.

Michael Bay making a grand entrance in a 2010 edition of the Chevrolet Camaro (image courtesy of Universal Studios Singapore).

Mr Michael Bay being introduced on stage as Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay and Mr Tom Williams looks on.

The ALLSPARK shard was inserted by Mr Michael Bay to power up the ride.

All guests to the party had an opportunity to experience the Ultimate 3D Battle, something that must be the ultimate experience for any fan of the TRANSFORMERS or for that matter anyone else seeking to have a four-minute adrenaline rush on the back of EVAC, a Stealth Transport Bot, who we are told is as agile and fast as they come. Going through the ride’s entrance, Guests are led through a Pre-show area resembling a NEST facility where the anticipation builds where Guest are introduced to the world of the AUTOBOTS and prepared for the ride with paraphernalia as well as instructions for the ride, including an ALLSPARK shard containment chamber, before arriving at the waiting area to board EVAC.

All guests to the party were able to have an experience on the Ultimate 3D Battle.

Guest are taken through a Pre-show area to the ride.

ALLSPARK containment in the Pre-show area.

TV monitors providing instructions to guest in the Pre-show area.

Battle glasses (3D glasses) for the Battle.

The waiting area before boarding EVAC.

TRANSFORMERS The Ride - EVAC ready to roll (image courtesy of Universal Studios Singapore).

On board EVAC, Guests are seated in three rows of four seats and secured in with a lap bar (personal belongings may be placed on the floor or in a net placed in front of the seated Guest). It is once EVAC is launched where the fun starts (of course!) as Guests are immersed in a fast pace, heart-pumping battle between the AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS – some which are seen spring right into your face (fans will be thrilled to come face-to-face with BUMBLEBEE and OPTIMUS PRIME), as EVAC accelerates, decelerates and reverses through subway tunnels, over roof-tops, across city streets, in between skyscrapers (even falling in between them) and even crashing into buildings which feels so real! Spectacular 3D effects that make the ride a truly awesome experience and a must-go. Chiefly responsible for these visual effects is Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) a division of Lucasfilm Ltd, which had digital artists working simultaneously out of their offices in California and Singapore. The project was also one that was worked on simultaneously with the most recent feature film TRANSFORMERS: Dark of the Moon which was the 4th highest grossing global movie of all time. For me – it was certainly an amazing experience and one that I would certainly want to have many more experiences on – and if I may borrow from a phrase from a famous hero of many battles past, I came out of Sentosa and I shall return – just for what must certainly be the Ultimate 3D Battle!


TRANSFORMERS The Ride - OPTIMUS PRIME battles MEGATRON (image courtesy of Universal Studios Singapore).

Bumblebee guards the entrance to the ride.

EVAC who makes his debut as a character on the ride.


TRANSFORMERS The Ride is located within Sci-Fi City – one of the seven zones of Universal Studios Singapore. The attraction is enhanced both by a TRANSFORMERS retail store, the TRANSFORMERS Supply Vault, and a new food/beverage venue, the Starbot Café. In addition, theme park guests will be welcomed to TRANSFORMERS The Ride by a walking OPTIMUS PRIME character who measures a whopping 2.9 metres in height, a 2.3 metre tall walking BUMBLEBEE character, providing great photo opportunities for the family.

A special 3D2N Ultimate Fun package for TRANSFORMERS The Ride has been rolled out through the Resorts World Sentosa website and authorised travel agents, which includes complimentary TRANSFORMERS The Ride souvenirs.

Guests planning to visit Universal Studios Singapore and take part in the ultimate 3D battle at TRANSFORMERS The Ride this holiday season are encouraged to make prior reservations as quickly as possible through the Resorts World Sentosa website at

TRANSFORMERS and its logo and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro and are used with permission. © 2011 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved. © 2011 DreamWorks L.L.C. and Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Universal Studios Singapore® & © Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

A sneak peek at the Gardens by the Bay

13 11 2011

Latest updates and a preview of Cloud Forest
Latest updates (from a 3 Apr 2012 Media Preview) on the Gardens by the Bay’s Bay South Gardens opening, opening hours, admission rates and the Cloud Forest can be found in this post: An ascent into the clouds.

It is hard not to notice that massive project that is being undertaken by the National Parks Board (NParks) to create a garden in the Marina Bay area that is part of a greater effort to transform Singapore from a ‘Garden City’ to a ‘City in a Garden’ with the obvious signs from the sprouting of the supertrees that are very visible in the area. Occupying 101 hectares of prime land by the waterside in Singapore’s new downtown, the Gardens by the Bay will, when the first phase is completed in June 2012, offer visitors an opportunity to savour a 54 hectare site at the Bay South, just across the East Coast Parkway from the Marina Bay Integrated Resort, designed by UK-based landscape architecture firm Grant Associates, that will offer Horticultural Themed Gardens, Supertrees and a chance to experience the environments of the cool-dry springtime climates of the Mediterranean and semi-arid sub-tropical regions as well as the cool-moist climate of the Tropical Montane regions such as in Mount Kinabalu in two cooled glass conservatories.

It is hard not to notice the futuristic looking glass domes, and ...

... the sprouting of the Supertrees.

Several of us were able to have a sneak peek at what will be on offer at the Gardens by the Bay, which will feature as one of the venues in the 20th World Orchid Conference (20WOC) World Orchid Show, which Singapore is hosting for the second time this November, yesterday. What we were able to see were the sections which were made ready for the preview – the Heritage Gardens, Dragonfly Lake (and Dragonfly Bridge which connects the strip of land between the ECP to the Gardens), the Supertrees at the Golden and Silver Gardens and one of the cooled Conservatories – the Flower Dome, which features some never seen before and thoroughly fascinating plants from the cool-dry Mediterranean and semi-arid climates around the world.

The foliage of Supertrees, which are tree-like structures 25 to 50 metres in height are vertical gardens with an emphasis on creating a 'wow' factor, seen with a natural tree.

The preview, which was for members of the media, started with a briefing chaired by the CEO of Gardens by the Bay, Dr Kiat W. Tan and the COO, Mr Kenneth Er. We were guided through a plan of the Gardens and the features of each area of the Gardens – which would cost approximately SGD 1 billion to build. The Gardens by the Bay would include the current area of focus, the Bay South area, as well as a 32 hectare site at Bay East which is being designed by another UK firm Gustafson Porter, and Bay Central – which will have a 3 km waterfront promenade that will offer stunning views of the city.

The Dragonfly Lake with the Supertrees at the Silver Garden in the background as seen from the Dragonfly Bridge.

Next it was a preview of the opened parts of the Gardens itself, which we were told, needed a huge effort to get ready for the WOC sneak preview, which will include the Flower Dome, where there is a display of some 14,000 orchids – 150 hybrids and 30 species from around the world which include Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and South America.

One of the parts of the Gardens by the Bay opened for the sneak preview was the Flower Dome.

The external areas we had access to did appear to be short of tree cover and shade, and perhaps a little too much concrete for a garden – perhaps as the space was one that was created to blend in with the area and one that required itself to be different from the existing parks and gardens. The fact that the garden was new was another factor and perhaps a more garden-like feel to the garden would come as the trees in the garden matures. The Heritage Gardens was an interesting concept, and allows visitors to move through spaces that are connected with the three major ethnic groups that featured in the development of Singapore as well as with the colonial establishment, with plants and trees which feature in the cultural practices and cooking of the respective ethnic groups.

A sculpture in the Chinese Garden - to represent the numerous Chinese who have left their homeland to seek a better life elsewhere.

A rockery with palms and cycads in the Chinese Garden.

The highlight for me was the visit to the Flower Dome, which covers an area of 1.2 hectares (or 2.2 football fields) under a steel frame supported glass structure which features 3,332 glass panels of 42 varying shapes and sizes and is 45 metres high. What was interesting to learn during the briefing about the Flower Dome – and the smaller neighbouring Cloud Forest (which isn’t completed yet), was of the innovative cooling system which makes use of biomass from horticultural waste generated by NPark’s parks and gardens. An holistic approach is also taken to maintain both temperature and humidity, resulting in an estimated 30% savings in energy consumption compared to conventional methods which also involves:

  • Minimising solar heat gain while allowing maximum light through the use of spectrally selective glass and light sensor operated shadings,
  • Cooling only of the occupied areas through thermal stratification which ensures cool air settles on the ground and warmer air is vented to the upper levels, and,
  • An efficient dehumidification process which de-couples the de-humidification of air from the cooling process using a liquid dessicant to first remove moisture.

Innovative energy efficient methods involving the use of NPark's own biomass waste is used to cool the Conservatories.

Chilled water pipes run below the Flower Dome to cool the ground.

Walking into the cool Flower Dome, one can’t help but be impressed with what has been achieved, as well as with the visual treat provided by the curved glass and steel roof. The Flower Dome is arranged to move the visitor from one cool-dry region to another, from semi-arid regions that represent areas such as the Australian Bush, South Africa, South America, the United States and Madagascar to the springtime climate of the Mediterranean. On display are Baobabs (Bottle Trees), Ghost Trees, Cacti and Succulents, as well as the fire adapted plants of the Australian Garden, the moisture rich plants such as various species of Aloe Vera in the South African Garden, the trees of the Mediterranean region in the Olive Grove such such Fig and Olive Trees, as well as some fascinating trees such as the Monkey Puzzle Tree and the Chilean Wine Palm in the South American Garden.

The Baobabs.

The Succulent Garden.

Cacti in the Succulent Garden.

A Ghost Tree - planted near graveyards in Madagascar and is said to have medicinal uses.

An Aloe plant in the South African Garden.

The leaves and branches of the Monkey Puzzle Tree - so named because a UK based specimen owner remarked that it would 'puzzle a monkey to climb the tree'.

Chilean Wine Palms - natives used to fall the trees to harvest the sap which is used to make an alcoholic beverage.

The highlight for me - 1000 year old olive trees in the Olive Grove. The trees were ones that were affected by development in Spain and transported by refrigerated container to Singapore.

The trunk of an Olive Tree.

The Flower Dome also features a Flower Field, which will feature changing displays of flowers to reflect different seasons, themes and festivals – including its current display of orchids for the WOC. The Flower Dome will also see two F&B outlets, as well as an event space for 800 to 1000 people. The event space will be used to host a gala dinner for the WOC.

The Flower Field in the Flower Dome which will feature changing displays of flowers to reflect different seasons, festivals and themes. It currently displays orchids for the 20th WOC.

Phalaenopsis on display in the Flower Field of the Flower Dome during the WOC.

More Phalaenopsis on display.

And yet more!

Visitors to the WOC would be able to visit the Flower Dome for a sneak preview during a one week period from the 14th to the 20th of November with a ticket to the WOC. Further to this, visitors as well as members of the public without admission tickets to the 20WOC World Orchid Show would also be have a look at the external areas of the Gardens by the Bay which are ready. Information on the 20WOC World Orchid Show, including admission and ticketing, can be found at the 20WOC’s site. Further information on the Gardens by the Bay can be found at their website.

That one man isn’t alone – remembering Tiananmen 22 years on

4 06 2011

On the 4th of June 1989, hundreds (according to official accounts), if not thousands, lost their lives in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, as tanks and troops sent in by the government of the People’s Republic of China, brutally and indiscriminately opened fire on the crowd of demonstrators that had occupied the square for some seven weeks. The unarmed demonstrators, mainly students, had been staging what was a peaceful protest as part of a call for democratic reform in China. 22 years on, although economic progress has been made, democracy remains elusive, as human rights abuses continue, one recent case being that of the detention of dissident artist Ai Weiwei. It is for that and for those who gave their lives on the fateful day that we must remember.

Remember 4th of June 1989.

Remembering Tiananmen: "One Man alone, can stop history, can move a mountain".

This post is also appears as ‘That One Man Isn’t Alone’ on asia! through asian eyes, an online and mobile platform for Asian bloggers and other writers. asia! offers a place to get a feel for what ordinary Asians are thinking and saying and doing providing a glimpse of the Asia that lies beyond the news headlines.