Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reaching Shanghai

Time winds back to 13 May 2010. The plane that I was taking arrived at Shanghai International Airport. Greeting visitors was a standing display-board of Haibao, the mascot of the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China. "Welcome to Shanghai", read the plaque on the mascot's hand.

One of the itineraries of the tour was a ride on the Shanghai Maglev train. As best as I have learnt, the Maglev trains utilise the principles of electro-magnetic levitation to allow the trains to float on a cushion of air, eliminating friction and contributing to the train's fast speeds of more than 400 km/h. It was fast indeed though I would probably not be able to appreciate the full significance of the technology until years to come.

 Maglev Train.

When the tour group reached the Longyang Road Station, we were given an introduction of the geographical characteristics of Shanghai. The city is strategically positioned at the mouth of the Yangtze River. Shanghai is bisected by the Huangpu River, which I learnt is a tributary of the Yangtze River.

On that day, I had some time to visit the pedestrain-only Nanjing Road. Nanjing Road is the main shopping street of Shanghai. There are many buildings with interesting architecture along Nanjing Road.

Nanjing Road

That day, after dinner, the tour bus led us to Wuxi. Admittedly, I was looking forward to take a night of rest at the hotel in Wuxi.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Some reflections on visiting World Expo 2010

 Expo Axis is the structure that looks like a funnel. 
The China Pavilion is in the background.

Enough about the World Expo 2010 at the moment. I wonder if it would be apt to take some time to reflect on whether it would be better to visit the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China with a tour group or on one's own.

For Singapore residents, if you have the chance, do take some time to look at the published rates for per participant joining one of the tour groups that would visit the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China. Many of the tour groups visiting the World Expo 2010 can be considered value-for-money if you take into considerations of the following:

1) Flight tickets to Shanghai, including the taxes, can cost quite a fair bit at this point in time.
2) Booking of hotels in Shanghai can pose to be challenge if we were to book the hotels on our own. Tour groups help ensure one has a decent hotel room to stay in.
3) A standard day ticket to World Expo 2010 would costs 150 RMB. I figured it ended up value-for-money to join a tour group to visit the World Expo.
4) Tour groups have their transportation to World Expo 2010 arranged for their participants. This is important for people who are visiting China for the very first time.
5) Tour leaders tend to give members of the tour group some good tips to refer to.
6) Many of the tour packages that include a day of visit to the World Expo also includes visits to other parts of China.
7) I noticed that tour groups get slightly faster acccess at certain entry points of the World Expo since tour groups can use the group-admission queues.

 Tour buses waiting at one of the many large carparks.

 In many ways, I believe that much hospitality and goodwill could have been extended by the Chinese government to make it so affordable for residents of Singapore to visit the World Expo. Do your sums please and you may realise so.
The trade-offs are that:
1) Tour groups tend to ask its participants to wake up at pretty early hours so as to be early-birds. Just please trust that this is done in the best interest of the collective.
2) Visiting the World Expo 2010 with a tour group means that one is likely to be bound by the time restrictions set by the tour and is not likely to spend the entire day at the World Expo.
3) Actually, one day isn't enough for a visitor who is visiting Shanghai with the primary objective of participating in the World Expo. So for those who prefers to spend more time participating in the World Expo, they may wish to consider packages that allow them to have 3-days or 7-days visit to the World Expo. For the hard-core ones who wants to see each and every pavilions in depth, maybe they have to move to stay in Shanghai for at least three months.
4) On the whole, tour groups are likely to bound its participants to the designated itinerary, thus people who prefers more flexibility may prefer to go for free-and-easy tours which may cost considerably more than going with the tour groups.

"Little Mermaid" statue from Copenhagen. 
I had only managed to take a peep of it from the entrance of the Denmark Pavilion due to time factor.

My disclaimer to this post is that this may be a biased review since I have not visited the World Expo on my own, without joining a tour group.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Singapore Pavilion

Thanks to the special access privileges cards that my tour group was given, I was able to have the privilege to enter the Singapore Pavilion without having to queue. Making full use of the acess privileges, the Singapore Pavilion was the one of the two pavilions in the World Expo 2010 that I had visited.

The Singapore Pavilion's architecture evokes images of a musical box. Why music? I wonder if this has any relation with the four Mandarin pop-singers who were featured in a music-video performance shown on the second level of the pavilion?

We were queueing to watch the Urban Symphony, a music-video.

Personally, I felt that the target audience of the Singapore Pavilion was the locals of mainland China. The exhibits that were found in the Singapore Pavilion gave me the clues that this was so. One of the prominent exhibits in the Singapore Pavilion featured a few of the pioneers of Singapore and all of them had a Chinese heritage.Maybe my eyes were not observant enough, I just don't seem to recollect any prominent exhibits in the Singapore Pavilion that featured the five-foot ways of Singapore's shophouses and the other pioneers of Singapore from the other races. There was however a pretty prominent exhibit that featured the Peranakan's culture.

The mascot of the Singapore Pavilion is the lovable Little Durian Star. The mascot looks adorable and visitors can have the pleasure to take photos with him if they are lucky to come across the mascot. My mom, my friend and her family and myself were lucky to take a photo with the Little Durian Star.

The roof garden at the top of the pavilion pays tribute to Singapore’s reputation as a garden city. I think if visitors like the roof garden, they will find greater pleasure to visit Singapore itself. There are some nice views from the rooftop of the Singapore Pavilion and this makes it worthwhile to find our way up to the rooftop.

My personal opinion of the Singapore Pavilion is that the exhibits inside did not attract my interest. However, the interesting architecture and the thoughtfully landscaped roof garden will definitely appeal to its targetted audience.

Also see Cooler Insight's Singapore Pavilion @ Shanghai World Expo


Monday, May 24, 2010

What makes Germany Pavilion draw the crowd


The Germany Pavilion was one of the two pavilions in the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China that I managed to visit. We heard from various reviews that it is one of the pavilions that is worth visiting. I had queued slightly less than two hours to enter the Germany Pavilion. The time to queue may have been longer during the times when there are more visitors. What makes the Germany Pavilion draw so many visitors?

On the left is just part of the queue waiting to enter the Germany Pavilion.

First, the architecture of the Germany Pavilion is in many ways inspiring. The Germany Pavilion is designed to be a "three-dimensional walk-through sculpture with no defined interior and exterior". As visitors enter the Germany Pavilion, they will be treated to a relaxing simple stroll through a green landscape to the exhibit halls representing the different urban spaces.

 The theme of the Germany Pavilion revolves on the idea of a city in balance, "balancity". Through the various exhibits, visitors can gain an appreciation that an urban city can still be a sustainable and good place to live in "if it provides a balance between renewal and preservation, innovation and tradition, urbanity and nature, community and individual development and work and leisure."

For the visitors who have never visited Germany, the Pavilion treats them to snapshots of some of the beautiful cities in Germany. There are backdrops featuring almost life-sized images of some of the German cities. Visitors will be enticed to take photos against some of these backdops so as to imagine how it would be like to visit these German cities. I was in many ways enticed to visit Germany after visiting the Germany Pavilion.

There are a number of interactive exhibits in the Germany. In addition, visitors can look forward to view some of the latest green technology that will help make German urban cities sustainable and enjoyable places to live in. The pavilion also showcases various projects from the German art and cultural scene. Many of these exhibits appeal to people of all ages. My mother appeared to enjoy posing with the many interesting exhibits on display.

The Germany Pavilion also trained its volunteers from Germany to speak basic Mandarin. This, I see as a display of sincerity and thoughtfulness. The friendly chefs from the German restaurant that is based in the premises of Germany Pavilion took some time out to interact with the visitors too. That day when we visited the Germany Pavilions, visitors could even take photos with a pair of the aristocrats from Germany.

Completing the entire experience at the German Pavilion is an interactive performance titled "Energy Source". In this performance, Jens, a male mechanics student in a German university and female Chinese architect student Yan Yan who is visiting Germany introduce visitors to a special form of energy source. This performance is interactive and requires the participation of the visitors. In this performance, an interactive energy sphere weighing 1.2 tonnes and equipped with 400 000 LEDs hang from a four metre long rod. Its sensors react to the voices of the audience. According to the brochure that I had taken from the Germany Pavilion, the more people participating in the performance, the stronger the swing of the sphere.

I think the reason why the German Pavilion wins the heart of its visitors and draws the crowd are its commitment to excellence and its attentiveness in displaying good hospitality and sincerity. It was worth two hours to queue for.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Snapshots from my visit to World Expo 2010

In the month of May 2010, my mother and I visited selected parts of China with a tour group. We arranged to be in the same tour group as one of good friends, SY, and her family. This was a 8-days tour. The tour brought us to the following parts of China: Wuxi, Suzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Xi Tang and Shanghai. Also included in this tour is a one-day visit to the World EXPO 2010 Shanghai China.

The World Expo 2010 Shanghai China is held from 1 May 2010 to 31 Oct 2010 on both banks of the Huangpu River in the city of Shanghai, China. The theme of Expo 2010 is "Better City, Better Life". This theme seeks to represent "the common wish of the whole humankind for a better living in future urban environments" (source: Visitors can expect to be introduced to the latest green technologies for a sustainable urban life. In addition, visitors can have a glimpse of what our future cities may look like.

The largest Expo in history, there are a total of 189 countries and 57 international organisations participating in the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China (source: Please be prepared to be patient and spend some time queueing as it is expected that there will be 70 million visitors visiting this event.

This photo was taken at about 8.10 a.m. and 
our tour bus was already near one of the designated entry points.

Our tour group set off from our hotel as early as 7.30 a.m. and by the time we reached the entry point at about 8.10 a.m., there were already crowds of people queueing up to wait for their turn to enter the premises. Admission into the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China starts at 9.00 a.m. Visitors need to clear the security checkpoints before they are allowed into the premises of the World Expo. Beverages are generally not allowed to be brought into the premises. Visitors may however bring an empty water-bottle and refill it at one of the many water-coolers found inside the premises.

Waiting to enter the premises of the World Expo.

While there are many eateries and food stalls available in the World Expo 2010 premises, it is recommended that visitors could bring along some bread or dried food so that they could have something to munch on should they be hungry while they are in the middle of a queue.

It was spring season when I visited the World Expo 2010 in May. There were comparatively limited number of trees and sheltered walkways in the vicinity. Many of the times, visitors would either be walking under the sun to travel from one pavilion to another, or be queueing under the sun. As such, our professional and dedicated tour guide recommended that visitors wear a cap or a hat, bring along an umbrella, and put on sunblock lotion. Thankfully, I listened to the tour guide's recommendations.

The toilets at the World Expo 2010 are relatively clean and equipped with the necessary amenities. Interestingly, I noticed that the toilet rolls and paper hand-towels are made from recycled paper pulps.

I managed to enter and visit the Germany Pavilion and Singapore Pavilion during the 6.5 hours that I was inside the World Expo 2010 premises. About slightly less than two hours was spent queueing to enter the Germany Pavilion. I was lucky that the tour group that I was with had secured special access privileges to the Singapore Pavilion. This access privilege allowed me to enter the Singapore Pavilion without having to queue. However, I still had to queue to watch a music-video (MTV) that was one of the features of the Singapore Pavilion. The remaining time was spent walking about the premises to view the architectural designs of a number of pavilions. Many of the pavilions of the European countries have very interesting architectural designs.

Please prepared to walk a lot if you are visiting the World Expo 2010. Walking is by far the cheapest and best way to view the various pavilions found in the premises. For those who prefer to travel within the pavilions by other means, there are free public buses that shuttle visitors from one zone of the premises to another. These public buses are however usually crowded, I was told. There are also special vehicles that will transport visitors to their specified point at 10 RMB per person per trip.

In the meantime, please enjoy some of the snapshots from my one-day visit to the World Expo 2010.

Singapore Pavilion, and
the World Expo 2010 volunteers in green shirts.

Switzerland Pavilion on the left.
Spain Pavilion in the center of the background.

The red building is the Turkey Pavilion

One day is definitely not enough to tour and experience the essence of the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China. If for some reasons you are not able to physically visit the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China, do consider checking out the Expo Shanghai Online site to enjoy a virtual tour.

Personally, I think the World Expo 2010 facilitates a mutual understanding between China and the rest of the world. Many of the visitors are locals from mainland China and their visit to the World Expo 2010 is a window for them to learn about other cities in the world. Overall, I see that the Chinese government has put in a lot of commitment and effort to make the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China a successful grand-scale event.

Last but not the least, ticketing information to the World Expo 2010 can be found here:


If you like this post, please also read Cooler Insight's post on his visit to World Expo 2010. It has some very nice photos: A Visual Tour of Shanghai World Expo.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Read: Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers: The Story of Success
Little, Brown and Company, 2008.

ISBN: 978-0-6-03669-6

Many thanks to JY for her gift of an interesting read of Gladwell's Outliers. In a nutshell, Gladwell argues in this book that "if we want to understand how and why some people thrive, we should look around them - at things like their family, their birthdate, even their birth date."

I have read Gladwell's Blink and The Tipping Point. Outliers is comparatively a more engaging read than the two other titles. This could be because Outliers is much more focused on writing about people and their stories.

I am rather struck by how people in certain context could have access to greater amount of opportunities than others. It is revealing in some ways to read about how one's culture, community, family and generation could in some ways help one to have an edge to make great achievements in life. Success is, as best as I understand from this book, in many ways an accumulated efforts of groups of people influenced by key events and cultural legacy.

There are a number of key ideas discussed in this book. For example, how one's cultural legacy has an influence on one's likelihood to succeed and how having sufficient long hours of practice do make a difference in the mastery of a skill.

Drawing upon my learning points from reading this book, I came up with some unpolished ideas that may in some ways help children from low-income families in Singapore move up the social mobility ladder.

Some of the children from low-income families whom I get to know in the course of my work have lots of potential to succeed in life. Yet, many may struggle to pass English because they do not have the opportunity to communicate in English until their pre-school years (usually at five-year-old) since English isn't their mother-tongue. In Singapore, English remains as the main language medium in which most subjects are being taught. Others struggle to pass Mathematics, which is quite an important subject to master because without a pass in Mathematics, a student in Singapore is likely to have very limited choices when they wish to take up post-secondary education.

Applying the "10000 hour rule", would it mean that there may be a need to dedicate appropriate level of resources and to make concerted efforts to enable children and their parents from Non-English speaking low-income families to get easy (and perhaps free) access to community resources that enable these children and their parents to communicate in English when the children are of a very young age? This is so that by the time when the children are of Primary-school-going age, they have sufficient practice of communicating in the English language.

I have also observed that many young children tends to be kinesthetic learners, who learn best through hands-on methods. Perhaps our libraries could allow the loan of educational games and toys. From time-to-time, there could be library volunteers who could give demonstration on how to use these games and toys effectively. Understandably, these items are usually much difficult to maintain than books. Nevertheless, they may be the tools that could help build a supportive community to educate the brilliant young minds from the low-income, less-privileged families.

In the meantime, I wonder what it would take to build a supportive community (in Singapore) whereby people would be able to have sufficient opportunities to realise more of their potential. I also secretly wonder whether I have the suitable context to be successful in my own terms, and what would it be? Have I reached the 10000 hour of good solid practice on the double bass? Have I reached the 10000 hour of good practice on writing? Living seems like a constant practice.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Pixar: 20 years of Animation

To make the imagined world believable on the screen. This was the key idea that struck me when I visited the exhibiition Pixar: 20 Years of Animation, at the Singapore Science Centre. "The exhibition features over 300 sketches, paintings, sculptures and storyboards, going behind the scenes to reveal how much Pixar's much-loved characters and worlds are brought to life."

Held at Singapore Science Centre, The Annexe, this exhibition runs from 2 Apr 2010 to 27 Jun 2010. The exhibition focuses on the development of the art behind the animated films produced by Pixar Animation Studios. These films include Toy Story, Monsters, Inc, Ratatouille, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.

Being not a movie-lover, I realised that I have only watched two of the animation films by Pixar Animation Studios, namely Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. Fellow blogger, Eastcoastlife, whom I visited the exhibition with, helped fill me in about the Pixar's other animated films. There seems to be something extraordinay about Pixar Animation Studios' animated films in that it wins the heart of audience of all ages.

In this exhibition, visitors can also expect to have an appreciation of the history and production processes of the Pixar Animation Studios. One of the galleries treats visitors to five of the earlier short films produced by the Studio. One of these short films include the well-known Luxo Jr. I have also gained an appreciation of the vision of John Lasseter, who is the chief creative officer at Pixar.

There are interactive kiosks which allow visitors to meet some of the artists from Pixar Animation Studios via the computer touch-screen. Other than the interactive kiosk, I recommend that visitors check out the Toy Story Zoetrope which is simply fascinating. I was simply fascinated by the technology behind this device.

Visitors who visit this exhibition with the idea of visiting an art exhibition are likely to love the many brilliantly well-done masterpieces and artworks that are showcased in the exhibition. I marvelled at the well-drawn lines of the artworks and the colourful colourscripts. Furthermore, visitors could get the chance to watch the 3D movies created by Pixar Animation Studios (limited showtimes).

There is comparatively less emphasis on the technology behind the art in this exhibition. As such, visitors who are hoping for hands-on experience of part of the production processes may find the exhibition itself a little disappointing. Nevertheless, there are a number of educational programmes and animation programmes available for group bookings to entice animation-lovers (for students). There will be also be Pixar Master Classes and Talks available from 18 to 20 May 2010 for animation-lovers of all ages. For more information, please visit

Pixar: 20 Years of Animation, Singapore
2 Apr - 27 Jun 2010
15 Science Centre Road
Singapore 60981
Admission prices: Adult: $24, Child (3- 16 years): $19
(includes admission to Science Centre and 3D movie, limited showtimes, subject to availability.)

Footnote: Many thanks to the Singapore Science Centre, and to Eastcoastlife, for allowing me to have participate in the Blogger’s Day Out at Pixar: 20 Years of Animation Exhibition‏.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

IMPRINTS - at red dot design museum

This is possibly one upcoming exhibition to consider:

IMPRINTS - at Red Dot Design Museum
06 May 2010 (Thu) at 19:30 to 11 May 2010 (Tue) at 18:00
Location: Red Dot Design Museum, Gallery One
Address: 28 Maxwell Road, Singapore 069120

Memories of innocent laughter or silly fears of monsters under the bed. Of feelings left unexplored and having your heart exposed to vulnerability – capture your memories in a time capsule with eight young contemporary artists at upcoming exhibition, Imprints, housed within the red dot design museum from 6 to 11 May 2010.

Weave your own story with the artists as they spin their yarn of childhood memories, forgotten places, human relationships and salvage fragments of their past. With a range of artworks comprising performance art, site-specific installations, oil paintings, ceramic works and more, Imprints creates an intimate dialogue as the artists’ works interact with this iconic yet historically profound building.

Imprints is brought to you by the National Heritage Board’s social media portal,, and the Singapore Contemporary Young Artists society.
- Source: Imprints @ red dot design museum

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Revisiting the Golden Age of Singapore cinema

Old cinema seats, the nostalgic billboards thoughtfully painted by Singapore's last surviving billboard painter (CT Neo), recent polaroid photographs of buildings that used to house cinema theatres, and a collection of movie tickets from decades ago. These are possibly some of the objects that would stay in the mind of a visitor to the exhibition entitled Life of Imitation, now held at the Singapore Art Museum.

Yet, there are more that visitors can look forward to. In Life of Imitation, Ming Wong re-visits the context of the Golden Age of Singapore cinema in the 1950s and 60s. The exhibition venue has in some ways been revamped to remind visitors of the cinemas in the 1950s. There is an exhibition space dedicated to the collection of private collector Wong Han Min that lends visitors a glimpse of the local film history. Beyond the physical presentation, the visitors will be treated to works by Ming Wong that explores broadly on the theme of identity.

I have found it helpful to attend one of the guided tours to give myself a better appreciation of the techniques and methods that were used by Ming Wong to guide the viewers of his films to look beyond the superficial so as to question the embedded theme of identity.

For example, in Ming Wong's reinterpretation of a compendium of works by P. Ramlee, the artist reenacted the 16 characters from some of the famous scenes of P. Ramlee's movies, conversing in the Malay language. One thing that struck my mind was that the Malay language was supposedly our National language. However, I can't even hold a decent enough conversation in Malay even though I could attempt to pronouce Malay words by reading from a script with limited comprehension of the meaning of the words.

In one of the film installations, In Love for the Mood, Ming Wong reinterpreted Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000) by casting a Caucasian actress trying to master the lines of the two roles that she was playing in Cantonese. There were three separate screens placed side by side showing how the actress progressively learnt to master the lines. I could see that it has not been an easy task for the Caucasian actress to speak in Cantonese. Yet practise does help makes things more perfect.

I have a better appreciation of the method of miscasting when I watched Life of Imitation. In this film whereby three male actors each from a local different race (Chinese, Indian and Malay) take turns to act in two female roles, I was told that the use of miscasting deliberately draws the audience away from the performance itself to the underlying theme of identity. I could only beg your pardon that the subject of identity is rather deep for me to find the right words to articulate my thoughts. Go see this for yourself and you may, like myself, think that it was thoughtfully thought out.

"This very exhibition was first presented at the Singapore Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale 2009. It won the Biennale’s Special Jury Mention award. Tang Fu Kuen is the guest curator of this exhibition."

It is overall a thoughtful and sincere exhibition with a tinge of nostalgia.

As a footnote, I had the honour to catch a glimpse of Ming Wong the artist himself when I visited the exhibition on 2 May 2010.

This exhibition, Life of Imitation, runs till 22 Aug 2010. More information can be found below:
Ming Wong, Life of Imitation

Other related articles:
Cinematic experience at Singapore Art Museum by Lavinna Kaur (Youth.Sg)
Special Mention for Ming Wong and Singapore Pavilion @ Venice Biennale 2009 by Sherman Ong