Sunday, December 29, 2013

4 Jul 2013: Our first afternoon and night at Prague

4 Jul 2013:

When our orchestra reached Prague, it was already afternoon time. I have had good vibes when we reached the Hotel NH Prague.

After checking into our respective rooms, a group of us explored the neighbourhood of Prague on foot. It was a windy afternoon as best as I could remember. The streets of Prague felt refreshing to me! There were stalls selling cherry tomatoes and cherries. These were fresh, juicy and delicious. Furthermore, they were a lot more cheaper than the cherry tomatoes and cherries that were sold in my hometown, Singapore. Thanks to the generosity of my friends and travelling companions, I had the pleasure to sample a few of these cherry tomatoes and cherries. Yummy!

A park that we came across on our way to Charles' Bridge.
Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

Time was spent reaching the Charles Bridge, and to explore part of it. The beautiful sights that we saw at Charles Bridge were etched into my memory. Guess what was the river that ran under Charles Bridge? It was the Vltava River, otherwise known as Moldau. I was reminded of Smetana's Moldau. What a lovely river.

Charles Bridge



I wished I could be less anxious and be more relaxed to enjoy our adventures about Prague. I must have been too disciplined to follow strictly to the agreed time to reach the hotel for dinner. In the end, despite walking back to the hotel at the fastest possible pace, I was still slightly behind the agreed time for dinner. Then again, if I could have been a bit more forgiving towards myself for taking a bit more time to travel, maybe I could enjoy the journey back to the hotel so much better? 

The buffet dinner at the Hotel NH Prague was sumptuous. I like the pasta especially. Having the company of orchestra mates made the dinner even more memorable. 

Prague in the evening. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

After the dinner, we took a tram to get across the Charles Bridge. We were on our way to get to an organ concert that would start at 10 p.m. at the St Salvator Church. The organist was Robert Hugo and the soprano for that night was Marie Fajtova. The concert was marketed as "night organ concerto by candle lights'. I could not remember much about the concert. However, I could remember that the skies only turned dark at about 9.15 p.m. that night in Prague. I was reminded that it was summer.

Back to the concert, on hindsight, although it was extremely enticing to listen to an organ concert by the candle lights, I was simply not someone who could tolerate late nights. I was feeling too tired that I was half-asleep throughout the entire concert. Whatever organ playing and soprano singing that I had heard inside that lovely Gothic church of St Salvator Church somehow just felt as if they had happened in my dreams, pretty vaguely.

The organ concert that we had attended.
Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

After the concert, the temptation was to go for supper. Eventually, my choice was to take the tram service number 9 to get close enough to Krizovnicke Square before walking back to the hotel by foot. Thankfully, the streets of Prague was generally safe especially when I was walking on the streets with the company of several friends. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

3 Jul 2013: Seting off for Europe

Time winds back to 3 Jul 2013 (Wed):

The orchestra was at the Changi Airport Terminal One getting ready to check in the instruments and the luggage. The flight was scheduled to depart after midnight the following day.

The NUS Symphony Orchestra was making its way to Vienna for the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Festival. Months of rehearsals have been put in by the dedicated members of the orchestra in preparation for the concert.

To reach Vienna, the orchestra would first fly via plane to Prague before taking a coach to Vienna. To reach Prague, there would be a transit at Dubai Airport.

At the Changi Airport, our group met the members of Singapore Management University Symphonia (Singapore) who were also participating in the same festival, albeit that they were taking part in a different category of the festival's competition.

4 Jul 2013 (Thu): The plane that the main group of the orchestra has taken reached Dubai Airport. I was thankful that I have gotten some rest on the flight to Dubai. My vague impression of Dubai Airport was that it was huge! We had to travel to another part of the Dubai Airport to catch our connecting flight to Prague.

Dubai Airport. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

Waiting for the connecting flight to Prague required patience. I remembered having to wait for more than three hours at the Dubai Airport. It was perhaps easier to be patient that day because all I needed was more rest. Eventually, we took the connecting flight to Prague and reached Prague in the afternoon.

Arrived in Prague

What is one of the first things a travelling orchestra would do when it reached its destination? Other than clearing the immigrations, it was to unpack the instrument cases so as to check that the instruments are in good conditions.

At the Prague airport, I noticed that there was a Bohemian deli shop selling food. There was a few money changer at the airport. In Prague, the currency in use is the Czech Koruna. I learnt a lesson at Prague airport, the exchange rates for Czech Koruna using Euros would be better if we were to have the exchange made outside the airport. Here is sharing this tip with you.

We were on our way to the hotel, Hotel NH Prague.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Read: The Power of Now


Title: The Power of Now
Author: Eckhart Tolle
Publisher: New World Library and Namester Publishing Inc, Canada (2004)

About a year ago, one of my friends recommended me to read the book A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It was a good read, and I had thought of reading Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now. Eventually, I managed to borrow a copy of this book from the library and read it.

In essence, as the title suggests, this book discusses the importance of living in the present moment. A good reminder to yours truly. The book opens with an inspiring quote:

You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are! - Eckhart Tolle

Wikipedia has a summary of a few of the chapters from this book. If you are interested, you may refer to:

The edition that I was reading has a total of ten chapters. These were:
1) You are Not Your Mind
2) Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain
3) Moving Deeply into the Now
4) Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now
5) The State of Presence
6) The Inner Body
7) Portals into the Unmanifested
8) Enlightened Relationships
9) Beyond Happiness and Unhappiness there is Peace
10) The Meaning of Surrender

I felt a sense of comfort to read this book and it turned out to be a page-turner over the course of two weeks when I was reading this book intermittently. This is a book that is worth a read.

This URL has a number of noteworthy quotes that were found in The Power of Now:

Do check out the quotes as well as Eckhart Tolle's webpage for this book:

Monday, December 09, 2013

Directions to Stephen Riady Centre, NUS University Town

In response to a need to direct friends to the Stephen Riady Centre in NUS University Town, this is a post that attempts to consolidate two of the posts that I have published several months ago. I have included a few minor updates in this post.

In essence, there are two more popular ways to get to Stephen Riady Centre. These are:

  1. The weather-proof way: For those taking bus services 96 (from Clementi MRT station) or 151, and for those taking the Internal Shuttle Bus Service D2 from Kent Ridge MRT station. If you intend to take the Internal Shuttle Bus Service during the non-peak hours, University Vacations and on Sundays, please take note that the frequency of the shuttle bus service is at least 15 minutes.
  2. The scenic way from Buona Vista MRT station: For those who are taking MRT to Buona Vista MRT station or taking bus services 196.

The weather-proof way

This method is possibly suitable for people who prefer sheltered pedestrian walkways which will prove to be helpful during wet weather condition. It is also suitable for people who are familiar with getting to the University Cultural Centre and the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, yet have no clue how to get to University Town. Soon you will learn how to get to University Town!

Getting to Stephen Riady Centre, University Town, NUS:
1) Take bus service 96 from Clementi bus interchange and alight at bus stop #16169 opposite the NUS University Cultural Centre and on the same side as NUS Raffles Hall. Then cross to the other side of the road to the bus-stop #16161.

1b) Alternatively, take bus service 151 and alight at bus-stop #16161, just after the NUS University Cultural Centre.

Bus stop #16161. After University Cultural Centre, and opposite Raffles Hall.

2) From bus stop #16161, you can choose to walk along the sheltered pedestrian walkway until you get to University Town. The walk is approximately 10 to 15 minutes from bus stop #16161 to University Town, Stephen Riady Centre.

2a) Alternatively, depending on the schedule of the NUS Internal Shuttle Bus Service, you can take the internal shuttle bus service D1 as well as D2 from bus-stop #16161 and alight at the next stop. 

Bus service D2 ply between Kent Ridge MRT station and University Town. If you are heading to University Town from the Kent Ridge MRT station, walk to bus stop #18339 which is on the same side as National University Hospital and take bus service D2 to University Town. It will be five bus-stops away.

The schedule of the NUS Internal Shuttle Bus Service can be found here:

Please take note that the frequency of bus service D2 is about 15 minutes during the University Vacations and about 30 minutes on Sundays. Given that this is the case, if you intend to travel to University Town using the internal shuttle bus, please set aside 30 - 60 minutes to wait for the internal shuttle bus. The good news is that travelling on the internal shuttle bus is free!

Walk under the shelter of the sheltered pedestrian walkway.
This is the weather-proof way to get to University Town.

On the way to NUS University Town, enjoy the sceneries and the experience of walking across an expressway.
In the background is a glimpse of NUS University Town.

Congratulations! You are in University Town, NUS.

3) Look for directional signs or simply walk forward towards the direction of the Stephen Riady Centre, formerly known as the Edusports. Along the way, you will pass by Subway, Fish and Co Express and Koufu Food Court.

Koufu Food Court on the left.

4) After Koufu Food Court, look ahead and you will see the Stephen Riady Centre. Walk towards the Stephen Riady Centre and you will find yourself on the second level of the Stephen Riady Centre.

Stephen Riady Centre.
5) Take one of the nearby lifts or the stairways to get to your designated level of Stephen Riady Centre.

Second level of Stephen Riady Centre.
There is a Food Court on this level.
The toilets in this centre are gender-neutral.
Please expect to find doors to the Gents painted pink and doors to the Ladies painted blue and vice versa.

Level One. Stephen Riady Centre

The scenic way from Buona Vista

"Scenic" is relative. Anyway, using this way to get to NUS University Town, you may come across a World War II heritage marker if you are observant enough.

Getting to Stephen Riady Centre, University Town, NUS:
1) Take MRT and alight at Buona Vista MRT station.

2) From opposite Buona Vista MRT station, next to the MOE Building, take bus service number 196 towards Clementi bus Interchange. The journey will take about 10 minutes, and there will be 6 stops along the way before reaching the designated bus-stop.

3) Alight at bus-stop #19059. It is opposite the New Town Secondary School.

4) You will see a glimpse of the University Town, NUS.

5) Walk on the pedestrian foot-way that is somewhat parallel to the construction site to get to Stephen Riady Centre. The walk will take about 10 - 15 minutes depending on your pace. Along the way, if you see anyone, you may choose to say 'hello' to the strangers that you would see. The NUS community is generally friendly and you can also asks for verification that you are walking in the right direction.

6) Before reaching the Stephen Riady Centre, you will pass by the Education Resource Centre. There is a 24-hours Starbucks Coffee outlet at the Education Resource Centre. If you do not need a drink from Starbucks Coffee, continue walking ahead. You will see the Yale-NUS College (which is now under construction). After that, you will see the Stephen Riady Centre about less than 1 minute walk away.

On the left of this photo: Education Resource Centre. University Town, NUS.
On the right of this photo: Yale-NUS College under construction.
In the middle of the horizon: Stephen Riady Centre.

7) When you are at Stephen Riady Centre, find your way to your designated level either via the stairways or the lifts. On the ground floor (i.e. first level), you will find NTUC Express, Fortune Village and the Dance Studio.

Stephen Riady Centre.

Facilities nearby Auditorium 2, Stephen Riady Centre. University Town, NUS.

Level One, Stephen Riady Centre. University Town, NUS.

Stephen Riady Centre.

Dining and retail options:
There are various dining options in University Town. 

For example, there is a food-court, Flavors@U-Town at Stephen Riady Centre, on the second level. Flavors@U-Town opens daily from 7.30 a.m. - 10 p.m. At Flavors@U-Town, one can find a variety of food from Western food, Chinese style soups, Chinese food, Malay food, Indian food. 

For more dining and retail options in University Town, please visit:

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Places: A visit to Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris

The largest private art museum in Paris, Pinacothèque de Paris, will open its first venue outside of Europe in Singapore! Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris is set to fully open by the first quarter of 2015 at the Fort Canning Centre, within the Fort Canning Park.

Before the full opening of Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris, there will be an exhibition entitled "The Art of Collecting, Masterpieces from the Pinacothèque de Paris" held at the Fort Canning Centre from 14 Sep - 31 Dec 2013.

It took me a few months before I could find the opportunity to make a long overdue visit to the above-mentioned exhibition. For more about my recent visit to the exhibition, please see: Places: A visit to Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris.

Monday, December 02, 2013

8 Jul 2013: A visit to Mozarthaus, Vienna

On 8 Jul 2013, YH and I visited one of the houses, Mozarthaus, that Mozart had lived in when he was in Vienna. This house is perhaps the only surviving house that Mozart had lived in when he was in Vienna. When we were at the Mozarthaus, we met a number of our friends in the orchestra. This seemed to be a popular choice to visit for music-lovers.

In this house, I learnt that Mozart had spent 11 years in Vienna. Over the period of 11 years in Vienna, Mozart was said to have changed 13 addresses. Mozart had lived in the house from 1784 to 1787. The house is located very near St Stephen Cathedral.

The mysterious Free Masons somehow caught my interest. I learnt of Mozart's admission to the Free Masons in Dec 1784.

During my visit to the Mozarthaus, I had the pleasure to use the audio guide. It offered a lot of information on Mozart and could easily replaced a human tour guide except that it did not answer questions! A word of reminder if visitors were to use the audio guide, it will require a lot more than a hour to listen to every single item on the audio guide.

Mozarthaus also gave visitors a glimpse of how Mozart's Marriage of Figaro was so well-received in Prague. There was a lot of material being put on display yet quite a number were replicas or copies of the originals. If I was there to do a research on Mozart, it would make sense to put myself through so much information. However, if I were a mere tourist, it may be the visuals that would get me interested in Mozart. However, while the visuals on display attempt to get the visitors to imagine how life could have been during Mozart's times, some of the visuals appear disconnected with the general themes presented by the audio guide.

Anyway, a quote under the section of Mozart's Requiem left the strongest impression in me. The quote (translated in English) went,
"As death, when we come to consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence, I have formed during the last few years such close relations with this best and truest friend of mankind, that his image is not only no longer terrifying to me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling!"

Structurally, the house consists of four large rooms, two small ones and a kitchen. The Wien Museum has done an excellent task to curate the apartment.

Admission is 10 euro per adult for regular entry. It will require at least 2 hours to browse the exhibition and to listen to most of the items on the audio guide. While I would recommend lovers of classical music to make a visit to Mozarthaus for the sake of learning more about Mozart, visitors who prefers to see important exhibits related to Mozart may prefer to give Mozarthaus a miss. Essentially, I realized that many of the exhibits found in Mozarthaus were generally not original copies. This meant that the focus of the visit to Mozarthaus would not be to see the exhibits but to experience the house.

Photography is not allowed in the exhibition galleries of Mozarthaus. This reason may be strong enough to deter all the photography buffs. Anyway, this is is reason why I have limited photographs of Mozarthaus to show you. Whatever it is, this may be the place for fans of Mozart to visit while in Vienna.

A-1010 Vienna, Domgasse 5
Opens daily from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Tel: +43 1 512 17 91