Exploring the Rail Corridor for the first time at Bukit Timah.

The Rail Corridor was formerly a railway line that was used for commuting and transporting goods between Singapore and the rest of Malay Peninsula at the beginning of the 20th century. When the railway land is returned to Singapore in 2011, the government opted to transform this continuous open area into landscaped community spaces and renamed it as Rail Corridor that runs from Woodlands train checkpoint all the way down to Tanjong Pagar railway station.

Refurbishment work is still on-going to the whole stretch of Rail Corridor except for its central section close to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve which is completed and is opened to the public last month. The highlights of this section are the two steel truss railway bridges and the Bukit Timah Railway Station complemented with new landscaping features added throughout the very much accessible path.

People started sharing beautiful pictures of them posing with the bridges and news of the spot crowded with people also came out last weekend. I decided to explore it this weekend (yesterday on a Saturday’s late afternoon) and the crowd level appears to be manageable now. It’s a nice 4km walk from the access point near Hillview MRT all the way down to the another access point near King Albert Park MRT along the Downtown line. Here are some of the shots I took:

The weather is good too during the time of my visit except for a few times when the sun ray appears to be so strong until there is very strong lens flare from my iPhone 12 Pro’s camera. I completed the entire 4km walk in an hour while observing people of all walks of life at there jogging, cycling, posing for photos and admiring the landscape.

Singapore has very small land mass but never lacks area reserved for nature. The island is filled with plenty of parks, nature reserves, reservoirs, wetlands and gardens and this Rail Corridor is among the latest additions to that. They can turn something common and uninviting into a new popular attraction in the country. This is simply brilliant and is something where other countries can emulate too.

RIP to Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh passed away today peacefully at Windsor Castle, at the age of 99. The news of his death filled the cover page of almost all the major news platform currently. British royal family is the world’s most famous royal family, headed by Queen Elizabeth II who is currently 95 years old. The death of Princess Diana in 1997, wedding of Prince William in 2011, the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebration in 2012 and Prince Harry’s royal exit in 2020 are some of the major headlines that not many people would not know.

And if I look back to my country’s history, Queen Elizabeth II was even the monarch of my country before it gained independence in 1957. Her Majesty started her reign in 1953 and this is her 69th year on the throne, making her the world’s oldest reigning current monarch. She is arguably one of the most respected figures in the world. The history of her and her royal family (including all the famous dramas in the past stated above) were really quite fascinating. I also did watch a recent award-winning and highly popular TV series called ‘The Crown’ which is based on the royal family.

Always a step behind Queen Elizabeth II in every functions or royal events, Prince Philip stood by the Queen for over 70 years. Born into the Greek and Danish royal families on 10 June 1921, Prince Philip was being educated in France, Germany and the United Kingdom before he joined the British Royal Navy in 1939. He married Elizabeth in 1947 and was granted the title of Duke of Edinburgh. Retired from royal duties in 2017, Prince Philip was the longest serving consort of a reigning British monarch. He would have turn 100 years old in two months time.

In his seven decades of service, Philip often accompanied the Queen on royal engagements, and conducted thousands of his own solo appearances. He once referred to himself as “the world’s most experienced plaque unveiler,” while the Queen lauded him as her “constant strength and guide.” The duke was known for off-the-cuff remarks that often displayed a quick wit but occasionally missed the mark, sometimes in spectacular fashion.

He supported a number of philanthropic endeavors and was associated with around 800 organizations. By the way, he had visited Malaysia too for at least three times in the past together with Queen Elizabeth II, once in 1972 for a royal tour, once in 1989 for Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting, and lastly in 1998 for the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Word of condolences started pouring in from world leaders across the world a moment after the news of his death broke out. Buckingham Palace will make further announcement soon in regards to the funeral arrangement which will be restricted in many ways due to the current restrictions from the country due to the pandemic. Rest in peace, Prince Philip.

(Images in this post are from various online sources)

It’s April Fool today, Good Friday tomorrow and Easter this Sunday.

It’s the start of another month! The first quarter of the year is gone in a blink of an eye. The possibility of leisure travel or even an opportunity to travel back home is still no where in sight. I am starting to get quite annoyed with plenty of news reporting on talks of cross border quarantine-free arrangements or travel bubbles in recent months but none of them truly materializes. It looks like there would be at least half a year or even a year to go before those things can resume. And in the end, we have to extend our wait again…I miss traveling badly.

There is no sign of slowing down for this pandemic. Originally thought that it would last only for few months at most, now I had a feeling that this pandemic is more likely to end in another two to three more years. Damn! Vaccination also will not help much to the global population as it is not for certain group of people, not 100% effective, uncertainty from various type of vaccines produced and many poor countries not having access to it. All the years wasted which would have been much better with leisure travels, family companion, large-scale events and concerts.

Ohh..and from next week onward, working from home is no longer an option for my company anymore. I have been working from home during the 2-months circuit breaker early last year, and then continued to work in alternate arrangement (work in office a week then work at home in the next week, and so on and so forth) until this year’s March. I have been used to it and to be honest, I quite like this arrangement. However, from next week onward, it will be like back to normal except that most meetings now are still conducted online. Bye bye to ‘work from home’ lifestyle which we have been adapted to for almost a year now!

It’s the first day of April today and so it is April Fool’s Day! Stay alert, if not you may be got pranked today by your friends or colleagues! That will be fun too anyway. Haha…By the way, it’s a long 3-days weekend this week as it is Good Friday tomorrow and is a public holiday here in Singapore. Who doesn’t love a long weekend so that we all can rest a bit more, and have more time to do our own things beside than work such as having a quick staycation. However, staycation is hardly in my mind now because it is very costly in Singapore and is not worth it. I would rather save some money for travel in the future when the passport can finally be used.

Easter will fall on this Sunday too. So, Happy Easter to those who are celebrating! Alright, that’s it for my post today. Have a great month ahead everyone! Cheers!

(Images in this post are from various online sources)

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is awesome. A must-see at the big screen.

Originally scheduled to be released in last year’s November, ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ finally premiered to cinemas worldwide on last Wednesday. It is one of my most highly anticipated movies of the year. I can’t wait to see the clash and epic battle between the two Titans; Godzilla and Kong and this movie delivered on that perfectly well.

It all started with 2014’s Godzilla film where the titular monster battled and defeated the MUTOs. It was then followed by 2017’s Kong: Skull Island where the mighty ape took down Skullcrawlers. A sequel film to Godzilla was released in 2019 and is titled ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ where the Godzilla managed to kill even the powerful King Ghidorah. And now in Godzilla vs. Kong, both Godzilla and Kong appeared together in a single movie to take down Mechagodzilla. (opps…spoiler!)

The film started off with human characters’ development that didn’t quite take off except for the deaf little girl who is the only one that bonded with Kong and can communicate with him. Anyway, humans are not critical for this type of film; the titans are. As soon as the first encounter between Kong and Godzilla occurred, things get very excited. That’s what all of us wanted to see from this movie. The film delivered intense and heart-stopping battle scenes from the sea all the way to Hong Kong city. Those fight scenes are pure awesome! The visual effects are extremely good too!

Sorry to Kong’s fans. In the first battle with Godzilla, Kong did lost because he had a disadvantage as the clash took place on water. He will drown underwater but not Godzilla. In the second battle at Hong Kong, he lost again to Godzilla despite having the help of a giant axe. Godzilla is truly the king of the monsters. Once Mechagodzilla appeared, the two teamed up to take down this robotic Godzilla-lookalike monster and Kong finally had a proud moment in the end as he is the one that tore down and killed Mechagodzilla with the axe powered up by Godzilla’s atomic blast. This is a movie that must be watched on the big screen to truly experience the epic battles of these titans. The film didn’t disappoint and I would rate it a total of 8.0 out of 10.

On the other hand, I have watched another movie called ‘The Father’ which was released last year and it was a good movie. It was also recently nominated at the Oscars for several categories. The story follows an aging man portrayed by Anthony Hopkins who must deal with his progressing memory loss. Olivia Colman starred as his daughter.

The film’s portrayal of dementia is very emphathetic and it moved me a lot. I do felt the struggle and pain of the aged father who had to deal with this illness while watching the story develops. Both Anthony and Olivia delivered excellent performances in here and made the movie so heartfelt and moving. It’s a small conventional story but is executed effectively. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘The Father’ 8.2.

(Images in this post are from various online sources)

Congratz to Lee Zii Jia on winning 2021 All England Open!

Since yesterday’s evening, my Facebook home page is flooded with news and posts congratulating Lee Zii Jia on winning the 2021 All England Open. All England Open is considered one of the most prestigious annual badminton championships and the last time a Malaysian winning in the tournament is none other than Lee Chong Wei back in 2017 before his retirement.

On last night, I do knew earlier than Zii Jia succeeded on getting into the final (he is the last Malaysian standing) but I couldn’t find any online platform to watch the match live. By the time it is almost midnight, we were all greeted with news of him winning the championship. He defeated Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen (30-29, 20-22, 21-9). Looking at the score, it must be a very tight and intense match in the first two games.

Today I managed to saw the highlight of the match from YouTube and his performance was really good. He appeared to be not nervous although the score was neck to neck in the first two matches. That is good. Getting nervous can really affect one’s performance on court. His solid game throughout the tournament allowed him to win over Kento Momota (current world’s no.1) in quarterfinal and over Viktor Axelsen (current world’s no.2) in the final yesterday.

He is only 23 years old this year. Ahhaa…he is still young and has many years ahead. Hopefully he can maintain or even further improve on his form and then we will see the next successor of Lee Chong Wei in representing Malaysia to win more badminton championships and even the very first elusive Olympic gold medal in the near future. However, his performance over the years was actually not consistent (sometimes good, sometimes bad). Hopefully he will just excel from this day onward. I have not been watching badminton tournaments for a couple of years already ever since Chong Wei retired because literally there is no one else from Malaysia’s badminton team that can truly deliver on international stage.

Now, Lee Zii Jia gave us back some hope. But I think he should not be too proud over this recent achievement and should instead push himself further to be the undefeatable. Tokyo 2020 Olympics is just around the corner (postponed due to the pandemic and is now scheduled to be held from July to August this year). Hope he can do well there!

(Images in this post are from various online sources)

Review to ‘The Forgotten Day’ and ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’.

‘The Forgotten Day’ is the third TVB series that I have watched this year. This 27-episode drama revolves around two individuals with different background who got kidnapped together. In the process, one of them lost 24 hours of memory which led to eventful stories. The series starred Roger Kwok, Shaun Tam, David Chiang, Grace Wong, Roxanne Tong, Zoie Tam, Elvina Kong, etc.

The series went off to a convincing start. The two main characters immediately bump onto one another into a strange friendship after they both supposingly got kidnapped together. Shaun lost a day of memory and seeks the truth to what actually happened on the day of the kidnapping that led to disappearance of his wife. On the other hand, Roger has to hide information from Shaun while trying to be a better person to his family. That’s quite an interesting plot.

However, as the story develops, things get very draggy. The scenes with Roxanne Tong and her relationship with Shaun are particularly boring to me. Same goes to scenes with Shaun’s younger sister and her romance with a veterinarian. The drama only gets back to the pace when it nears the end (which is a little too late) when Shaun’s wife is found dead and appeared to be killed on the day of his kidnapping. Focus shifted to finding the mysterious killer and things get intense finally.

However, the ending turned out differently (very anticlimactic). Everyone seems to have their own happy ending (typical for TVB) although I find this ending disappointing and felt forced. Roger’s performance here is solid (well, he has a lot of experience especially in comedic roles) but same cannot be said for Shaun. In fact, Shaun’s performance here is quite awful. There is nothing natural or convincing from his acting here. His gestures and expressions became awkward in several scenes. He is better in serious role. Generally, the series is actually quite good if not for the draggy middle section and from Shaun’s bad acting. The plot is there but TVB couldn’t deliver a solid execution to it. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘The Forgotten Day’ a total of 6.7.

On the other hand, I have also watched the Zack Snyder’s Justice League which was recently released. This Snyder’s version of Justice League is 4 hours long, and that is 2 hours more than the theatrical version released 4 years ago. His version got to see the light due to huge request from fans after disappointing outcome of the theatrical version which he first directed but left the project when it was largely unfinished after death of his daughter. Joss Whedon then came in as the director and altered Snyder’s vision.

Many praised Snyder’s version to be superior than Joss Whedon’s theatrical version. I have to agree, but I think it is unfair to compare the two. If you give 2 more hours of run time to Whedon, he could have deliver a better copy too. Snyder’s cut has more characters’ development and explained in more depth certain story arcs that comic fans will surely love (me too…I like that the main villain, Darkseid is featured here). Well, in the end, it’s all because it has a much longer run time. 4 hours…that’s actually very long! Anyway, Snyder’s vision do felt more epic and close to the DC universe. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ a total of 7.6.

(Images in this post are from various online sources)

Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal; winners of 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Recent years, the Pritzker Prize (highest honor of architecture to individuals) tend to recognize the less famous architects who still contribute significantly to the built environment. Well, at least it introduces us to these architects whom we would have not known before they won. This year’s winners are Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, founders of Lacaton & Vassal architecture office based in Paris, France.

Below are the extracts from Archdaily article on their philosophies and some of their works:

The French duo are renowned for their multiple sustainable housing projects and for the Palais de Tokyo, a contemporary art gallery in Paris. In their three decades of work, Lacaton & Vassal always prioritized the “enrichment of human life”, benefiting the individual and supporting the evolution of the city.

“Good architecture is open—open to life, open to enhance the freedom of anyone, where anyone can do what they need to do. It should not be demonstrative or imposing, but it must be something familiar, useful and beautiful, with the ability to quietly support the life that will take place within it.” — Anne Lacaton

Praised for their approach that renews modernist hopes of improving the lives of many and reexamines the definition of the profession itself, the French studio generates interventions that “respond to the climatic and ecological emergencies of our time, as well as social urgencies, particularly in the realm of urban housing”. Re-thinking the notion of sustainability, the duo believes firmly in the “never demolish” principle, taking the opportunity to upgrade and transform, while allowing enduring properties of a building to remain.

Having met in the late 1970s at École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et de Paysage de Bordeaux, Anne Lacaton (1955, Saint-Pardoux, France) and Jean-Philippe Vassal (1954, Casablanca, Morocco) built their first joint project in Niamey, Niger, a temporary straw hut, constructed with locally sourced bush branches that relented to the wind within two years of completion. At that time, they vowed to “never demolish what could be redeemed […] extending through addition, respecting the luxury of simplicity, and proposing new possibilities”. In 1987, they established Lacaton & Vassal in Paris, focusing on generous spaces and freedom of use through economic and ecological materials. So far, they have completed over 30 projects throughout Europe and West Africa, ranging from private cultural and academic institutions to public spaces, social housing, and urban developments.

Increasing living space “inexpensively”, the architects first integrated greenhouse technologies through winter gardens and balconies. Their initial application was in the Latapie House in 1993 (Floirac, France) before progressing to bigger scales, and transforming La Tour Bois le Prêtre in 2011 (Paris, France), a 17-story, 96-unit city housing project originally built in the early 1960s, alongside Frédéric Druot. Rejecting city plans calling for the demolition of social housing, they removed the original concrete façade and extended the footprint of the building to form bioclimatic balconies, making every unit bigger. This framework allowed a dramatic visual reinvention of many social housing complexes. In fact, in 2017, they transformed 530 units within three buildings at Grand Parc in Bordeaux, France, with Christophe Hutin architecture, Frédéric Druot, designing from the inside out to prioritize the welfare of a building’s inhabitants.

Always within the same concepts of maximizing usable space, in their most recent transformation of Palais de Tokyo (Paris, France 2012), Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal increased the museum by 20,000 square meters, to accommodate changing needs. On another hand, for the Atelier de Préfabrication no. 2 (AP2), a postwar shipbuilding facility, the duo chose to erect a second building, identical in shape and size to the first, instead of filling the existing void. Working with academic institutions, the architects were able to almost double the areas outlined in the brief of the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Nantes in 2009 (Nantes, France), creating spaces that are deliberately un-prescribed and adaptable.

Current works in progress comprise the housing transformations of a former hospital into a 138-unit, mid-rise apartment building in Paris, France, and an 80-unit, mid-rise building in Anderlecht, Belgium; the transformation of an office building in Paris, France; mixed-use buildings offering hotel and commercial space in Toulouse, France; and a 40-unit, private housing, mid-rise building in Hamburg, Germany.

So here are my thoughts; although I do find their works slightly too humble and simple, but I do understand the notion of ‘beauty in simplicity’ in some of them. There isn’t any imposing or awestruck designs coming out from them but I do admire their strong and consistent push for adaptive reuse. This area is getting more and more significant now due to the rising issues of abandoned or dilapidated buildings over time worldwide. Why demolish when with a careful and creative thought, an old unused building can be transformed into something spectacular and above all, useful and ‘alive’ again!



(Images in this post are from various online sources)

‘Nomadland’ dominating the Hollywood awards season so far for this year.

I seem to have not discuss much on the major Hollywood awards season for this year which is happening right now. It is most probably because I didn’t watch most of the films that are getting various nominations. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the awards season has been pushed back to allow more entries of films that are only released very recently. Besides that, all of the awards ceremonies have to be switched to virtual/online format with very little to no live audiences to prevent outbreak of the coronavirus.

The Golden Globes took place two weeks ago with ‘Nomadland’ winning best motion picture-drama and its director, Chloe Zhao winning best director. The late Chadwick Boseman, won best actor in motion picture-drama for his performance in ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ while Andra Day surprisingly won best actress in motion picture-drama from her role in ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ over the favourite, Carey Mulligan from ‘Promising Young Woman’. ‘Soul’ won best animated film and best score (very much deserved) while ‘Minari’ won best foreign language film.

The Critics Choice took place last weekend with very similar result except that Carey Mulligan do pull off the best actress win here. However, things got a bit shocking when the nomination list for the BAFTA is recently announced and she is not even nominated at all for best actress category. It’s going to be an interesting race for this category all the way to the Oscars. The other categories mostly appear consistent with the same set of winners. The SAG and BAFTA will take place on early next month and finally, the Oscars will happen on 26th April 2021.

‘Nomadland’ is dominating the season so far this year with some major wins already. It stars Frances McDormand as a woman who leaves home to travel around the American West. The film currently holds 94% score at both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. It made me wanted to try to watch it and see how good it is. And I just did. It’s an unappealing film for me. This isn’t just my type of film.

Critics praised it for being unassuming yet powerful but I find it being a bit too modest, quiet and boring. But I have to admit that the movie delivers strong character study and that Frances McDormand portrays it very well. Out of 10 points, I would have rated it 7.0 only. It is merely a depiction of a life of a woman down the road slightly elevated by solid acting, cinematography and direction. But its core story still remains dull to me.

(Images in this post are from various online sources)

Disney’s latest film; ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ is awesome.

Disney seldom disappoints with its huge collection of excellent animated films that mesmerized us all with emotional storylines, heartfelt messages, beautiful visuals, classic music/songs, and memorable scenes/moments. After having seen ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’, I can confirm that the movie is no exception.

The story revolves on Raya, a female warrior who must find the last dragon to save her father and unite the civilization in a realm known as Kumandra. Needless to say, the film features captivating visuals (every setting of the five tribes are beautiful especially the scenes featuring the floating village in the evening). However, the best thing about the movie is its fast-paced plot, which brought us into an exciting and entertaining adventure across various places with various obstacles or encounters. The journey also brought in more companions to Raya who started the quest alone in the beginning.

The film meaningfully taught us on the importance of trust which can bring about unity and peace. Although Disney’s film plots are pretty much formulaic now (storyline here is very much predictable too), but they are still able to mesmerize us all each time. That’s Disney’s magic there. Highly entertaining and gorgeously animated, ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ has made it to become another Disney’s epic film. Out of 10 films, I rate the film a total of 8.2.

Before ending the post, I would like to share a beautiful photograph (had to praise my photography skill…haha) I took early today during the sunset time from Sentosa Boardwalk, a walking distance from VivoCity shopping mall where I watched the movie. The moment is so beautiful that I had to immediately take a shot of it, with the cable cars at the foreground and the reflection of the Sun on the water.

(The first three images in this post are from various online sources)

CNY 2021 ends…and RIP, Uncle Tat.

Chinese New Year festival this year came to an end yesterday when it was the 15th day of the lunar new year. I ended this year’s CNY with a sumptuous dinner at Haidilao hotpot with my friend yesterday. It’s not a common occurrence for me to eat over there because it is very expensive (only go there once in a few months) and I don’t get why it is so popular and is able to attract massive crowd especially on weekends despite the price. I mean really insane queue.

I hope I can be reunited with my family for the next CNY (hopefully before CNY…as early as possible) as this is the first year I was not able to do that due to the pandemic. Once leisure travel resumes (at least for both Malaysia and Singapore only), I do plan to bring and treat my whole family over for a vacation in Singapore. It would be a very nice thing to do…and I’m longing for a good family bonding time again.

Just a moment ago, I received a sad news of passing of a legendary veteran Hong Kong actor; Ng Man Tat. He died due to liver cancer, at the age of 70. He had acted in nearly 20 television dramas and over 120 films in a career spanning over 40 years. He had won Best Supporting Actor at the 10th Hong Kong Film Awards for his performance in ‘A Moment of Romance’ in 1991.

However, he is more famously known for his multiple collaboration with Stephen Chow in many classic comedy films back in 1990s. His roles as ‘Uncle Sam’ and his partnership with Stephen in those films are genuinely funny and memorable even to these days. I enjoyed watching those films (have repeatedly watched them a couple of times and still find them very hilarious and entertaining). It’s quite sad to hear the news of the passing of this legendary actor. Rest in peace, Uncle Tat.

Tomorrow is already the last day of the month. That’s fast. And the next public holiday won’t be here until April. Such a long wait for the next long break after the CNY holiday.

(Images in this post are from various online sources)