Time Out Singapore: Brian Skerry’s ‘Ocean Wild’

23 Dec 2015: Brian Skerry, an underwater photojournalist who shoots for ‘National Geographic’, is in town to talk about his life beneath the waves

Brian Skerry

Photo: Brian Skerry

While you were perfecting that Double Windsor on your tie or applying the final touches of eyeliner this morning, there’s a good chance that Brian Skerry was swimming among sharks. As one of the world’s most renowned underwater photojournalists, the 53-year-old has clocked over 10,000 hours taking images of marine wildlife, often on assignment for National Geographic magazine.

Skerry’s fascination with the sea began at a young age. ‘I remember going to the beach as a child in New England [in America], where I lived, and looking at the waves and wondering about the animals that were down there,’ he recalls. ‘I very much wanted to explore and solve some of those mysteries for myself.’ And he did.

He learnt how to scuba dive at 15, and picked up photography a year later. He naturally combined those great loves and, more than two decades after he first released a camera shutter, he finally achieved his dream to shoot for National Geographic.

Through his award-winning images, Skerry invites viewers into a stunning, yet silent, world of colourful reefs and gentle giants. Like one of his most recognisable shots: it depicts his assistant at the bottom of the sea floor around the Sub-Antarctic region of New Zealand, dwarfed by the hulking presence of a Southern Right Whale.

These are among the issues that the photographer hopes to address in his upcoming talk here as part of the National Geographic Live series. But he reassures us that it won’t be all doom and gloom: ‘We’re at a moment in time when we know the problems that we didn’t know before. I think we’ll be in a much better place ten years from now, but it does require us to see, and it does require us to act. And hopefully that will continue.’

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Time Out Singapore: Christmas Wonderland 2015

27 Nov 2015: As far as magical photo opportunities go, it doesn’t get much better than the massive light displays of Christmas Wonderland. We were already impressed with the event last year, but this time, we’ve been promised that it’s gonna return even bigger and better. It officially opens its doors to visitors on November 27, and we’re as excited as you are. Here are five things that you can look forward to there.

Christmas Wonderland @ Gardens by the Bay

Photo by Christmas Wonderland @ Gardens by the Bay

Luminarie

With a few reaching heights of over 20 metres, there’s no doubt that these light sculptures are the stars of the show. Each of the 56 pieces is handmade by craftsmen from Italian company Paulicelli Illuminations, and you’ll find them spread across the gardens in places like the Dragonfly Bridge, Baby Bridge and the Flower Dome. The largest display is called The Spalliera, which surrounds the Cassa Armonica, an illuminated gazebo where carollers perform from Tuesdays to Sundays.

Christmas Toyland Floral Display

The Flower Dome has decked its halls with boughs of holly, Christmas rose, poinsettia and other winter plants for the Yuletide season, so get ready to feel super festive in this climate-controlled conservatory. The centrepiece is an 11-metre-tall Christmas Pyramid, which comprises four tiers of toys around a traditional German carousel.

Ice Palace

We’ve been promised snow by Christmas events in Singapore on many occasions, but we’re almost always let down when we realise that ‘snow’ really means ‘foam’. But no more. The purpose-built Ice Palace is a legit winter wonderland, where kids can skid around an ice-skating rink – they can hold on to cute animal-shaped aids if they don’t really know how to skate – and frolic in the snow playground. Yes, with real snow. Gloves and socks are available at $2 a pair.

The Fairground

Rather than Instagramming the pretty lights of Christmas Wonderland, visitors to this year’s edition can enjoy various activities at The Fairground. There are carnival game stalls, a vintage carousel, a battery-powered trackless train, and – for the daredevils – a 14-metre-high helter skelter.

Festive Market

What’s Christmas without presents? Get yours sorted at this European-style market, featuring 19 huts brought in from the UK. There is a range of food and drink options, and kids can pay Santa a visit at his cottage here, too.

 

Time Out Singapore: Best of 2015 – Attractions

23 Nov 2015: Not as though we didn’t have enough already, we list the talks-of-the-town of the year

The Karting Arena (Best New Attractions 2015)

Coney Island

Also known as Pulau Serangoon, Coney Island reopened in October. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and reconnect with nature – and maybe play a game of ‘spot the cow’ – then this is the place to be. Try to book a free guided tour on the NParks website if you want to see a few hidden spots, including the former mansion of the Haw Par brothers.

Lee Kong Chian National History Museum

Opened in April, the uniquely shaped museum is home to 2,000 specimens of South-East Asian plants and animals, which are spread across two floors and 15 zones. The highlight, though, has got to be the three 150-million-year-old dinosaur fossils.

Indian Heritage Centre

With a glowing glass façade inspired by stepwells that are commonly found in South Asia, the Indian Heritage Centre has a wealth of artefacts that are dotted around five galleries. They document and explore the history and culture of Indians, especially in relation to Singapore, all the way from the 1st century to the present day.

The Karting Arena

The opening of The Karting Arena may have been delayed by a few months, but we’re glad it’s finally here. It’s the first place in town to boast a fleet of electric go-karts, which means they produce little noise and no fumes. These can still reach speeds of 30 to 50km/h, though, just like their gasoline-powered brothers.

New rides at Universal Studios Singapore

The kid-friendly Puss in Boots suspended roller coaster doesn’t go any faster than 36km/h, so little ones can go get in on the action, too. The journey follows the fearless feline as he searches for golden eggs to save an orphanage from closing down. For older tykes, though, we’re thrilled that the Battlestar Galactica reopened after a two-year closure.

Katapult Trampoline Park

If you’re looking for a place to let the kids go wild, this is it. The main court features more than 30 interconnected trampolines, and there’s also a whole bunch of other activities for bouncy fun times, including ‘slam dunk’, ‘wall run’, and, for daredevils, ‘free fall’.

Time Out Singapore: River Nights 2015

23 Oct 2015: Get off the couch and get in on the arty party happening at Empress Place this weekend. Held in conjunction with the River Festival, River Nights comprises a series of art installations and performances taking place around the Asian Civilisations Museum with the theme, ‘Colours of Life’. The artworks will be around until October 31, but the bulk of the performances are taking place this weekend. Here are five cool things to check out.

River Nights 2015 - Artwork- Li Hongbo; Photo- Asian Civilisations Museum

Li Hongbo’s ‘Ocean of Flowers’. Photo by Asian Civilisations Museum

‘Ocean of Flowers’ by Li Hongbo

Asian Civilisations Museum

You might have seen this Chinese artist’s works before – his amazing plaster-like paper sculptures were shown at Art Stage earlier this year – but here they are again in their full multi-colour glory. ‘Ocean of Flowers’ is an installation that takes up an entire room at the museum, and at first glance, it looks like a pretty landscape of arches and towers. But then you realise that when folded shut, each component is actually in the shape of guns or bullets. It invites visitors to consider the relationship between beauty and destruction, and the price that has to be paid for there to be peace.

‘Les Voyageurs’ by Cédric Le Borgne

River Promenade

The last time Le Borgne’s art visited our shores was at the Singapore Night Festival, where his huge chicken wire sculptures of birds rested on the branches outside the National Museum. This time, he brought over his human-shaped works instead. Suspended beneath the canopy of leaves beside the river with the CBD lights glittering behind them, these Peter Pan-like figures highlight how fleeting our existence is in relation to our surroundings.

‘Walter’ by Dawn Ng

ACM Hardcourt

Singapore’s favourite bunny is back! The dorky, somewhat disproportionate – but still very lovable – Walter has been popping up guerrilla-style around Singapore since 2010. He exists to get people to re-examine the spaces around him, and this time, he’s set to invade the space in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum to remind us of the link between art and history.

New Opera

Oct 23; 10.30pm; Empress Place Lawn

Intimidated by opera? New Opera Singapore is here to demystify the art form and make it more accessible to the general public. The group is set to perform a series of songs, including ‘Habanera’ from Carmen in Mandarin, as well as ‘Una Furitva Lagrima’ from L’elisir d’amore and ‘Les Oiseaux dans la Charmille’ from Les contes d’Hoffmann, as a tribute to the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall nearby.

Zingo

Oct 24; 10.30pm; Empress Place Lawn

Let your heart beat to the sound of ZingO’s drums during the closing performance of River Nights. The local percussion collective combine traditional and modern techniques, and hope to swing the spotlight on Chinese culture, music and education.

Time Out Singapore: The Updated Singapore River Walk

16 Oct 2015: The National Heritage Board’s Singapore River Walk has been around for a decade, but the trail just got a facelift courtesy of the American Express Foundation, which donated US$160,000 to the cause. Here are the seven additions to the trail.

Singapore River Walk

Collyer Quay

Comprising Clifford Pier and Customs House, Collyer Quay was once the gateway for travellers into Singapore. It’s named after George Chancellor Collyer, who built the road and seawall in the early 1860s. Customs House was built in 1969, and the 23m-high tower’s purpose was to allow officers to keep a look out for smugglers coming in from the sea.

Raffles Place

Originally established by Sir Stamford Raffles in the 1820, Raffles Place used to be known as Commercial Square, and it was Singapore’s main shopping district. The only underground mosque in Singapore is also located here – Masjid Moulana Mohamed Ali been in the basement of UOB Plaza since 1994.

Former Thong Chai Medical Institution

Tucked away inconspicuously along Eu Tong Sen Street is the former Thong Chai Medical Institution. It was founded in 1867 by seven Chinese merchants in order to provide free healthcare advice and treatment for all. The building style is a rare example of a secular Chinese architecture, and it was declared a National Monument in 1973.

Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka

Masjid Omar is the oldest place of worship in Singapore, and it served the Malay community as well as Muslims from India, the Middle East and South-East Asia. It was built by an Arab-Yemeni man called Syed Sharif Omar bin Ali Aljunied – after whom the mosque was named – a merchant whose family built many mosques, wells and bridges for the community.

Tan Si Chong Su Temple and Clemenceau Bridge

The Chinese temple – also known as Po Chiak Keng, which means ‘protection of the innocent’ in Hokkien – was built by merchants from the Tan clan, and gazetted as a National Monument in 1883. Nearby, Clemenceau Bridge was first built in 1940 to replace the old Pulau Saigon Bridge, and named after the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, who visited the country in 1920.

Alkaff Bridge

The 55m-long bridge was built by the Alkaff family in 1996 in the shape of a tongkang (traditional river boat) It’s named after a cluster of warehouses – or godowns – called Alkaff Quay.

Robertson Quay

It’s now an enclave of condos, restaurants and shops, but back then, Robertson Quay was dominated by warehouses. There were also settlements such as Kampong Martin, where boat-builders and fishermen used to live, until it was destroyed by a fire in 1916.

 

Time Out Singapore: WTA Finals Weekend Itinerary

11 Oct 2015: Here’s to a great weekend of on and off-court attractions and happenings for you to enjoy as the WTA Finals unfolds

WTA Finals Weekend Itinerary

Singapore is a place with many nicknames. Locals call it the ‘Little Red Dot’ – a pet name affectionately adopted by locals due to the city-state’s size and appearance on world maps. But don’t let its size full you. In this city where rustic shophouses exist alongside glassy skyscrapers, hawker food gets cooked up a few streets away from restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs, and nearly every month features a massive city-wide event like the WTA Finals, there is plenty going on. Here, we recommend a few spots you must check out if you’re planning to pop by the ‘Lion City’.

OCT 31, 2015

Morning

Wake up early and explore the area of Kallang, home to the Sports Hub, where the main WTA Finals events are happening. If you’re a morning person, head to the Kallang Leisure Park for a game of bowling or a few rounds of ice-skating to psych you up for the day. Little ones can visit the Peek-a-boo Playground, located on the second floor, which features a four-storey structure complete with slides and a ball pit. They’re all open from 10am. However, if you prefer starting your day with a hearty brunch and a cuppa – and you should indeed line your stomach, since it’s going be a long day ahead – drop by Loysel’s Toy, a breezy Melbourne-style coffee hangout by the Kallang River, and get a shot of its famous espresso.

Afternoon

The first set of Doubles and Singles semi-finals is taking place at the Centre Court, Singapore Indoor Stadium from 12.30pm. Make sure you get there on time to avoid lengthy queues. Assuming the matches don’t go on for too long – the world record for the longest tennis match is set by John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in 2010, which went on for a whopping 11 hours and five minutes –  take the afternoon to explore Orchard Road. Malls like ION, Ngee Ann City and 313 Somerset are all indoors and air-conditioned, and you can get your shopping fix. For something a little more local and hipster, head to the Tiong Bahru area, where you can find a cute little bookshop called BooksActually, which focuses on selling local titles, while Strangelets and Fleas & Trees offer an eclectic collection of accessories and furniture. There are also a few cafes here if you want a snack to tide you over, such as 40 Hands or Plain Vanilla.

Evening

Go back to the Indoor Stadium before 6.30pm for the second set of Singles and Doubles semi-finalmatches, which will determine the line-up for the last match of the season tomorrow. After that, go to Kilo for some homely Italian-Japanese comfort food for dinner. Head upstairs to Kilo Lounge for the tunes afterwards, or maybe go to Brewerkz – a branch of the local microbrewery – for a pouring of Made-in-Singapore beer. We like the Golden Ale, while the Oatmeal Stout is a good substitue for a hankering for Guinness. If you don’t mind venturing into town for a nightcap, then we recommend checking out 28 HongKong Street and Sugarhall in Chinatown, Gibson in Outram Park, or Antidote at Fairmont Hotel near City Hall.

NOV 1, 2015

Morning

For those of you who chose to skip the drinks in Chinatown the night before, or want to explore the more cultural side of the district, then, the morning is a good time to go. Start your day with a quick bite at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, which offers a selection of local fare like Xing Xing’s ondeh ondeh (ping pong ball-sized glutinous rice dumplings with brown palm sugar filling and coated by grated coconut, $0.40, stall 31) or Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food’s roti prata (fried flat bread served with curry, from $0.70, stall 103). Walk along Maxwell Road when your stomach is satisfied, take a right onto South Bridge Road, and you’ll find the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which has six floors of religious artefacts plus a tranquil rooftop garden. Further down the road is the Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in town. There are also some stalls selling souvenirs around the area, in case you need to stock up on a little present for mum and pops.

Afternoon

Reward yourself with some local food cooked up with an international twist at The Tuckshop on Guillemard Road after all the walking. From there, walk to Dakota MRT station and head to Stadium, which is just one stop away. Be sure to head over early so you don’t miss the biggest match of the tournament, as two of the best female tennis players compete for the title of champion. If you find yourself with a bit of time to kill before the matches, swing by the Fan Zone, where you might catch a glimpse of some of the players and maybe even get an autograph or two. You’ll also find an art installation called Tennis Swing here – it comprises six LED swings from which visitors can experience what it’s like to be a tennis ball, as they’ll hear the ‘pock’ of the ball being hit by a racket while they swing. The Doubles and Singles finals are due to take place from 3.30pm, once again at the Centre Court at the Indoor Stadium.

Evening

The game may be over, but fans of the tournament can continue to soak in the spirit of tennis at Bugis+ and Marina Square. The shopping malls are both partners of the WTA Finals, and a number of their tenants are offering discounts to ticketholders – check their websites or Facebook pages for details. Shoppers can also look out for a series of interactive 3D artworks related to tennis on their glossy floors, which are created by locally based artist, Ben Quek. Snap a photo of yourself with them and stand the chance to win prizes. For those who decide to go to Marina Square, take a short walk across the Helix Bridge – take in the views of Marina Bay at sunset while you’re there – and reach Marina Bay Sands. Arguably the most famous building on the Singapore skyline, it’s home to a hotel, a casino, and a whole bunch of high-end shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for something that’s pocket-friendly, we suggest booking a table at Long Chim for some delicious Thai food. Wanna go all out? Head to Waku Ghin, a Japanese restaurant that’s featured as one of ‘Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’. To round off the night – and a weekend of courtside action – check into Adrift and sip on a Golden Ace, the official drink of the WTA Finals. It’s a refreshing mix of Jack Daniel’s, calamansi juice, rosemary, Schweppes tonic and soda. It costs $23, but present your tennis match ticket and enjoy 50% off. Cheers to that!

Time Out Singapore: Claire Nouvian

3 Jun 2015: Claire Nouvian gives us five facts about the exhibition – ‘The Deep’

ClaireNouvian

1) Nouvian owes the inspiration of The Deep to: ‘Footage shot in the deep sea by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California in 2001,’ she says. ‘I dove into the abyss with both feet, driven by the immediate desire to break the news of these extraordinary discoveries to the public.’

2) The Deep began as a documentary film (2001) and a book (2006): ‘And then, I developed the concept of the exhibition over several years with the assistance of architects, graphic artists, aquarium developers and taxidermists, in order to present the deep sea in the best possible conditions.’

3) One of her most exciting discoveries is called the ‘red paper lantern medusa’: ‘I was on an oceanographic ship on the east coast of the US when we found it. We were completely puzzled because the animal can really shrivel, wrinkling down to peanut size – and then it opens up both ways and looks like an accordion, or a paper lantern.’

4) She wants to send the message that: ‘Just because [these creatures] are unseen, it means they get all the bad treatment. If you wake up in many places after a storm and go to the beach, you will find that it is literally covered with plastic bags. Imagine deep sea creatures trying to survive in that context, and then be targeted by fishermen with all types of destructive gear.’

5) The exhibition is her attempt to persuade the younger generation to protect the oceans: ‘It will take years of construction, effort, and initiatives both individual and public to prepare the ground for change. But I hope that my achievements and actions may eventually have an effect on the course of events, on laws and the status of conservation.’

Time Out Singapore: Full Steam Ahead 2015

29 Apr 2015: Whether you’re looking to frolic in the sun or get down at a moonlit party on the sands, Full Steam Ahead’s got you covered

Full Steam Ahead

No offence, Thailand, but you can keep your full moon parties. We’ve got a killer one to call our own, and nope, we’re not talking about ZoukOut.

Full Steam Ahead has, since 2011, been Tanjong Beach Club’s answer to the famed beach raves up north. And this time ’round, the event’s moving from a nocturnal affair to a day-to-night fiesta with activities for the whole family. Here are the funky new things you can look forward to if you’re thinking of hitting up the sun, sand and waves this month.

The Sights

Rather than coming out only after the moon has risen, there are plenty of reasons for you to join the party while it’s still light out. The Hideout area of the festival settles your sun-drenched needs. Here you’ll find tarot card readers and snake charmers, and stations to try your hand at tie-dye, air hockey, beer pong and sunset yoga.

Those who prefer lazing around – it is the beach, after all – can get a massage there, too. Or if you’re hoping to unleash your inner island goddess (we’re not judging), then give the DIY coconut bikini classes a go. You don’t have to wear ’em, but if you do, grab a drink from a tiki bar to wash your embarrassment down.

The Chow

And don’t forget the food – you’ll need fuel to recharge over the full-day festival. In fact, just muscle your way straight to the food queues and thank us later. OverEasy sets up shop, dishing out its To-Die-For and Truffle Burgers (pictured), while Mexican joint Super Loco doles out tacos to keep the munchies at bay.

Time Out Singapore: Philip Chew

27 Apr 2015: We ask Philip Chew, descendent of Chew Joo Chiat, for five of his favourite haunts in the neighbourhood that bears his forefather’s name

Photo: Gwen Pew

Photo: Gwen Pew

Home to people from all walks of life – from wealthy expats to long-time local residents to migrant workers – Joo Chiat was named after a wealthy and generous land owner from the early ’20s: Chew Joo Chiat. While hipster-friendly places have been cropping up a dime a dozen in recent years, there is still plenty of old-world charm that can be found in the neighbourhood. And Philip Chew would know. As the great-grandson of Joo Chiat, he has lived in the district for decades – here are five of his favourite spots.

Chin Mee Chin Confectionery

‘One of my favourite coffee shops then and now is Chin Mee Chin Confectionery. It has not changed much and appears as though time has stood still. The furniture, such as the tables and chairs, is old fashioned – as is the display case for cakes. The coffee shop serves mostly regulars and worshippers at Holy Family Church, which is next door to the shop. The shop has very good homemade kaya, local coffee and cakes.’

Kwan Im Temple

‘The Kwan Im Temple at Tembeling Road was another favourite place of mine when I was young. Visitors used to be able to explore the temple from the front to the back of the building. There were many idols at each hall and each has a story to tell. Now, worshippers are confined to the front hall. The temple is very crowded during festive seasons and also on the first and 15th day of the lunar calendar.’

Koon Seng Road

‘I like the Peranakan buildings at Koon Seng Road. The houses were originally Peranakan residences. We used to visit a Peranakan friend living there. The premises have since been converted into other uses, just like those at Joo Chiat Road. I still visit the area because of the buildings’ distinct architectural styles. The façades of the shophouses have motifs derived from Chinese and Malay cultures, as well as European influences. Looking at the buildings evokes past memories and nostalgia.’

Nam Kiat Chew

‘Nam Kiat Chew is the name of a wine shop located at the junction of Joo Chiat Road and Crane Road. It was originally a provision shop before being converted into a wine store after the war. The shop owner, a lady, is now more than 90 years old and is the oldest resident in Joo Chiat. She is a family friend and I visit her whenever I walk down memory lane in Joo Chiat.

‘When it was a provision shop, its upper floor was an opium addict rehabilitation centre. A licensed opium shop was operating then at Joo Chiat Road. The addicts overcome their addiction by praying and drinking Chinese tea. Opposite the provision shop was a vacant plot of land, and in the evening, people would sit around a storyteller, listening to his action-packed tales. I still go back to the site occasionally to reminisce about the old days.’

Kway Guan Huat

‘Kway Guan Huat is a shop that makes popiah skin at Joo Chiat Road. It has been there since my pre-school days. We lived nearby and my family patronised the shop whenever we had a popiah party. Previously, the shop made and sold only popiah skins. Today it sells not only popiah skins but also popiah, kueh pie tie, sweet black sauce and other popiah ingredients as well. It’s interesting to watch how a popiah skin is made – a skilful and agile hand is needed.’

Time Out Singapore: Singapore HeritageFest 2015

14 Apr 2015: For five weekends starting April 17 – that’s World Heritage Day – revisit the past with Singapore HeritageFest. Gwen Pew rounds up three highlights

Photo: National Heritage Board

Photo: National Heritage Board

Jurong Heritage Trail: 25 Apr, various venues around Jurong

Set in Jurong this time, the latest heritage trail launched by the National Heritage Board (NHB) works the same as the others. Visitors can download a copy of the guide from NHB’s website or pick up a copy of the booklet from various locations (check the website for details), and explore the area in their own time. Over 30 sites are covered by this route, including Hong Kah Village, the Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute, Jurong Fishery Port and the Former Jurong Drive-in Cinema.

‘Many people think of Jurong as Singapore’s industrial town, but there are actually many more facets of history, culture and heritage that make up the Jurong story,’ says Angelita Teo, the festival director of the Singapore HeritageFest.

‘Through this heritage trail, we hope that more people will have a chance to discover the many different and lesser-known aspects of Jurong town, such as the social attractions, green spaces and industrial locations that were established during the development of Jurong from the 1960s, as well as places that still carry their legacies from their farming and kampong days.’

Monument Open House: 18 & 19 Apr, various venues

Since 1973, 68 buildings have been designated as National Monuments by the NHB. This open house gives the public a rare glimpse into a few of them – such as St Joseph’s Church and the Former Command House – with guided tours carried out by members of the community. ‘Each [monument] is unique in telling its story that helps us better understand Singapore’s past, and shapes our present identity as a nation,’ says Teo.

New World Singapore: 27 Apr-3 May, City Square Mall

Opened in 1923, New World Amusement Park was once the jewel of Singapore’s nightlife scene. The venue closed in 1987, but an exhibition at City Square Mall – which now stands on part of the park’s original location – lets visitors young and old relive its glory days. ‘The exhibition delves into certain details not usually known to the public today, such as the stories of Rose Chan, and to see her not just as a stripper, but also a dancer, entertainer, entrepreneur and stuntwoman ahead of her time,’ says Teo. ‘We will also bring back a few signature performances that were presented at New World back then, such as the Bangsawan dance, the cabaret dance and the Joget dance.’