Posts by minyong:

Articles By: min yong

Min is a financial journalist and incognito tree-hugging travel buff. Raised in Melbourne, Australia and currently living in Singapore, she has country-hopped the globe, from Bermuda to Paris, to the Dead Sea and beyond. She has a hound’s nose for coffee and is always on the hunt for the perfect brew. Min also previously freelanced for publications like The Big Issue and Melbourne’s City Weekly.

Located in a tiny back alley on the fringe of Chinatown is Mohamad Ali Lane, a small yet quaint stretch in Singapore.

On weekends, Mohamad Ali is home to a handful of old aunties and uncles selling interesting finds in Singapore.  The alley grounds are laden with a hodgepodge of old items, mainly salvaged from trash and donations. Such finds include magazines and old photos, vintage coke bottles and religious amulets that dot the narrow laneway behind the row of shophouses.

The vendors, who are typically older and homeless, are there on most days and are in full-force on Sundays mornings till late afternoon depending on the weather. However, even for Singapore standards, this flea market is small and offers pretty much the same low priced items as the Sungei Road Thieves Market, ie. VCDs cost $1, and amulets around $10.

Named after a Persian textile trader, Mirza Mohamad Ali Namazi, who arrived in Singapore in the 1900s, Mohamed Ali Lane provides a pretty small enclave of merchants where tourists gander the laneway to experience the less cosmopolitan and grittier side of the city.

On the other side of the lane however, there is a lovely tree-lined path which leads you to the charming Club Street and Bukit Pasoh areas. For the scruffy darings too, along the way, two local barbers offers some cheap trims in an open air setting if you don’t mind the outdoor ambience and back-alley aromas.

The barber’s makeshift shop, though closed for the day:

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Located in the bustling Central Business District (CBD), M-Park @ Club Street offers the first electronic parking system in Singapore where cars are automatically parked by machine. Owned by the Land Transport Authority, this four-story 142-slot public parking garage is a new and unique concept to minimise land space needed for car parks in the growing CBD.

Built in 2008, the temporary multi-story car park replaced an older lot which comprised double the current land usage, offering the same number of parking spaces. The other 50% has been converted to a worksite to facilitate the construction of the Metropolitan Rail Transport’s (MRT) Downtown Line to be completed by 2013.

This prudent use of land provides sufficient working space for the MRT’s construction, while meeting the needs of the public. It’s also a stark reminder of how scarce land has become in Singapore, therefore the need to effectively utilize spaces.

The overall process is decently fast, simple and smooth. Instructions are given by electronic signs to advise you to wait, drive into the car lift, park, and then get out.

Once the car has been secured using a prompted four-digit pin, the lift doors close and the car is mechanically rotated then slowly whisked away to an allocated spot, then drivers proceed on their merry way.

To park and to collect the car takes less than five minutes each. When Untapped Cities visited, we were the only car in queue which resulted in quick service, but we imagine a long queue at the end of the work day could result in a lengthy wait for users.

The rates are reasonable for city standards, whereby parking during office hours from Monday to Saturday costs around S$2.00 (US$1.50) per hour, and around a dollar per hour on Sundays and public holidays. Other parking spaces in CBD buildings range from $4-$8 per hour.

While this is the first of its kind in land-deprived Singapore, perhaps with the constant growth of car sales and lack of parking areas, such establishments could become more commonly used throughout the island.

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For elephant enthusiasts, this open air art exhibit sees over 100 elephants scattered throughout the Lion City to raise awareness about the conservation of Asian elephants threatened with extinction.

Organized by the ElephantParade.org, each elephant is uniquely painted and decorated by celebrities, and famous artists and designers who bestowed distinct names to embody their elephant’s motif, like: Alldressedup, Little Hairy, As Free as a Bird, Clown, Love Song, among others. Most elephants are purely painted, while others are ornamented with hats and horns. On parade from 11 November 2011 until 12 January 2012, the elephants are displayed throughout tourist destinations such as Orchard Road and Marina Bay Sands as well as the business district including a large assortment in Raffles Place.

At 313 @ Somerset, Orchard Road:

At Raffles Place:

At the end of the Singapore parade, these elephants will be auctioned off at Sotheby’s in January 2012 though no official dates have been set yet. This happens to every wave of elephants after their city parades.

Singapore is the first Asian city where these elephants have made their debut, after their launch in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 2007. Since then, the Elephant Parade has been featured in Antwerp, Amsterdam, London, Bergen, Ennem, Copenhagen and Milan.

Elephants beside the Singapore Visitors Center on Orchard Road:

To date, the mission has raised over ┝š ¬4 million (US$5.4 million) for organizations and projects dedicated to the conservation of Asian elephants. Latest elephant figures, from 2003, estimated that there were only 41,000-52,000 that roamed wild in Asia’s tropical forests, and they continue to be at high risk of extinction due to the on-going loss and degradation of their natural habitats, and through human contact such as poaching and hunting for their ivory, meat and skin, according to the WWF.

“Not Forgotten” infront of the Asian Civilisations Museum:

“Stop Asian’s Ahead!” at Raffles Place:

Untapped Citiesfinds it particularly noteworthy that Singapore is the first destination outside Europe for the Elephant Parade. As many elephants are hunted for their ivory, it is positive that the parade finally comes to Asia as this region is responsible for a large majority of global ivory demand.

“Medication for the Soul” at Marina Bay Sands Waterfront:

Mark Spits, the brainchild behind the mission, said in recent footage that he dreamed that the Asian elephant populations could: “overcome their problems, and be able to stay forever,”  a vision that will hopefully materialize.

The organizers have yet to reveal which city the elephants will appear in next, though here are more photos of these adorable elephants as they rampage through Singapore.

“Leather Trunk” in front of Republic Plaza:

“Timeless Chic” outside the Asian Civilisations Museum:

“Space for the Three Alphabets” at Raffles Place:

“Orangphant” at Raffles Place:

“One Degree North” at Singapore Visitors Centre, Orchard Road:

“Little Hairy” at Raffles Place:

“Handle with Care” at Raffles Place:

“Damaged Dumbo” at Raffles Place:

To appreciate food involves examining its presentation, aroma and taste. Remove the first sense and you are left trying to discern with smell and taste. This is the experience of most visually impaired people, and the key goal behind the concept: Dining in the Dark.

With the original idea for this project from the Blindekuh (Blind Cow) restaurant in Switzerland, the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped  (SAVH) established Dining in the Dark in 2002 as a means to raise awareness about the challenges that persons with vision impairment face in their daily activities. “A sighted person can also get to experience what it is like to be blind without the use of blindfolds” , notes on its website.

At the SAVH centre is a small dining section which includes a kitchen/preparation area, and two dining rooms – one seating up to 8 people, and the other slightly larger, catering for up to 12.

A glimpse of the Dining in the Dark building, also housing some office space:

The experience begins as you enter. The maitre d’ tells you to put your belongings (handbag, phones, umbrellas) into the foyer lockers so that other patrons and the server does not trip on items left on the floor. Then the visually-impaired and specially-trained waitress – Serena, who was born 95% blind — will ask you to place your hands on her shoulders and close your eyes as she leads you into the completely dark dining hall and seats you down.

Serena, as she stands outside the dining section:

Upon opening your eyes, it is the strangest feeling to see nothing but black! For the claustrophobes, this is a scary sensation.

The only way to identify Serena in the dining hall is through the bells she wears on her feet, so that you can trace her movements.

While seated, you are encouraged to introduce yourself to your fellow table guests, and this is immediately where my other senses became sharper. Upon shaking Michael’s hand, for example, I noticed that he had very big masculine hands, which I imagined him to be a construction worker, which I got totally wrong by the way (he’s actually the executive director of SAVH).

It hits you how a blind person relies on their sense of touch, taste and smell. So many of these realisations continue to unfold throughout the three-course lunch, while you spill and dribble food while missing your mouth, and generally make a kids-mess out of your plate.

Not giving too much of the experience away (as requested by the organisers), Dining in the Dark caters mainly for lunches and is usually booked by corporate teams, as a bonding session, and also a novelty. They take mass bookings so you cannot just book for two people, as they need to employ the server and ensure that their service utilities are covered from the event.

Upon leaving, I had a new found appreciation and respect for what visually-impaired people go through on a daily basis. Eating, being the most basic and fundamental activity for each of us, is even a struggle without vision.

Find out more about this highly-recommended and truly amazing experience here.

Other services offered at the SAVH centre:

Some street art produced by local volunteers:

One of the most influential surrealists of all time, Salvador Dali, created unexpected juxtapositions that were regarded as expressions of philosophical movements.

This latest exhibition at the stunning new ArtScience Museum  in Singapore, until 13 November 2011, showcases 250 pieces of Dali’s artwork, uncovering the central themes that inspired him: Femininity and Sensuality, Religion and Mythology, Dreams and Fantasy. Furniture also inspired the artist and in one of the galleries, chairs and tables are pinned to the wall from the floor to the ceiling.

Boasting the largest collection of Dali’s artworks ever in Singapore, the exhibition spans 10 galleries filled with his artworks from scribbles to sculptures.

Born in Spain in 1904, Dali created art pieces till the ripe old age of 84. Particularly known for his horned moustache and quirky mannerisms, Dali rose to art-stardom over his works of the melting clocks in the 1930s. Thousands of his artworks are now displayed in museums all around the world.

Dance of Time II, conceived in 1979, first cast in 1984 (bronze):

Scattered throughout the exhibition are also timelines plastered on the walls of his life and milestones, in addition to Dali’s quotes which provide insights into the visionary’s confidence in himself, his pressures and the unique way he sees the world.

The exhibition space, with its high ceilings and circular layout, feels relaxed and unpretentious as you wander around the art pieces. With an entry fee of S$15 per person, Dali’s exhibition is definitely worth the visit before it leaves Singapore next month.

Front: Space Venus, conceived in 1977, first cast in 1984 (bronze), Behind: Homage to Fashion, conceived in 1971, first cast in 1984 (bronze):

Woman of Time, conceived in 1973, first cast in 1984 (bronze):

Anthropomorphic Cabinet, 1982 (bronze):

Adam and Eve, conceived in 1968, first cast in 1984 (bronze):

Unicorn, conceived in 1977, first cast in 1984 (bronze): 

Vision of the Angel, conceived in 1977, first cast in 1984 (bronze):

Surrealist Warrior, conceived in 1971, first cast in 1984 (bronze):

Designed by renowned Israeli-born architect Moshe Safdie, Singapore’s ArtScience Museum embodies a unique yet delicate form inspired by the lotus flower — considered a “masterpiece”  among the architectural community. When Safdie designed Marina Bay Sands, he viewed the ArtScience Museum as the climax of the complex.

The ten “fingers” , each housing a gallery space, creates the building’s form of the ArtScience Museum with the tallest “finger”  standing 60 meters above ground. The museum features 21 gallery spaces totalling 50,000 sq-feet of exhibition area.

Early sketches of the ArtScience Museum by Moshe Safdie:

Moreover, there is a theme of environmental sustainability with the curved roof collecting and channelling rainwater through the central atrium of the building and into a renewable water supply for the restrooms. This bodes with the overall theme of the Marina Bay Sands Casino and Resort being that of a green building that embraces energy consumption, water conservation, waste management, ensuring air quality, among other green features.

The iconic structure is surrounded by a 40,000-sq foot lily pond reflecting pool and floats over a dynamic new urban terrace with commanding views of the Marina Bay area.

Beneath the floating museum is the Marina boulevard offering stunning view of the central business district:

The spacious lobby of this unique complex is the museum box office is impressive with glass windows allowing visitors to absorb the surrounding Marina Bay area. The main galleries are in the basement however, at the time of visiting this section was closed as it was preparing for the: Titanic – The Artifact Exhibition from 29 October – 29 April 2012.

The Upper Gallery currently features The Dali Exhibition – Mind of a Genius. The circular floor-plan, with 10 gallery spaces, allows for natural light to come in from the fingertips of the building.

The Top Gallery is the smallest of the galleries and houses the permanent exhibition which invites vistors into the power of creativity as it is manifested in the world of ArtScience. It’s basically a white room with a projected video taking visitors on a journey inside the creative process across three unique spaces: curiosity, inspiration and expression.

The permanent exhibition:

It’s definitely worthwhile to pay the museum a visit, especially with the great exhibitions on.

There are the exhibitions coming soon:
Titanic – The Artifact Exhibition
29 October 2011 – 29 April 2012

Cartier Time Art – Mechanics of Passion
14 December 2011 – 12 February 2012