Eastern Europe for CNY 2019 trip!


It is way too early to tell but it is likely that I will heading to eastern Europe next year for the usual once-in-a-year trip during the Chinese New Year holiday season. MATTA Fair hasn’t arrive until September but my dad is already checking out some travel companies to search for interesting places that we have yet to visit with reasonable pricing and right timing. Eastern Europe appears to be the right one at the moment. We usually booked the tour during MATTA Fair but I guess my dad want to do it early this year to also enjoy the early bird discount and skip the crowded fair this year.

So what does Eastern Europe covers? It is basically a group of countries that lie at the eastern side of Europe. They are Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, etc. The trip will cover most of the countries in this region and will takes up about 10 days. We have visited Italy before in a single trip back in 2011 and not long after that, we have also visited Central Europe (went to Germany on a single day as part of that trip). That was back in 2013. Next year, we are returning to Europe after a long 6-years gap. Tourist destinations in Eastern Europe are not as famous as those found on other parts of the continent but are still worth visiting.

Some of the interesting places I found from the itineraries provided by multiple travel companies are Prague Castle, Saint Mary’s Basilica at Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine, Auschwitz Nazi Concentration Camp, Budapest’s Matthias Church, Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace, Hallstatt in Austria, Mozart’s Birthplace at Salzburg, and Munich’s BMW Museum. Although these places are less popular, but I’m sure that they are beautiful destinations and worthy of a lot of pictures to be taken.

The price is not as high as we expected (well, gotta still start saving now to pay for this trip). The flight schedule and day is at good timing. My dad is already quite firm on his decision (selected this place) and I don’t have much objection (although I also do have some other more preferred choices like Egypt, Dubai and Greece). I do raise up these places to my dad in the past few years but he shown not much interest in them. Anyway, I will just follow by his desired place every year. We would also like to visit Western Europe like Spain and Portugal but the pricing is much more expensive. We are also eager to travel to Xian (to see the famous terracotta warriors) but we have just been to China early this year. So, Eastern Europe is the likely choice. 2019 is the year to go a bit further (not within South East Asia or in Asia).

There are more than 7 months to go before the trip. Long way to go. Perhaps I would have gone for another oversea trip before this one. There is a possibility because I may be joining my company for a trip to Myanmar two months from now. Arrghh…my mind is already thinking of trips! The last oversea trip I had was in February at Zhangjiajie, China (as mentioned in the previous paragraph). Now, I can’t wait for another enjoyable and memorable vacation. Life is boring with the usual working weekdays and lazy weekends. For me, travel is a must to enjoy life, to spend quality time with companions (family) and to enrich own self with wonderful experience. Don’t you agree?

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

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When is the next long weekend after this past Raya weekend?


The past weekend which is made a day longer due to the Hari Raya holiday had just ended and now I am already searching the calendar for the next one! There isn’t anymore public holiday for this month and the next one too unfortunately. Even for the holidays after that, none of them falls on Friday or Monday to turn the associated weekend longer. Anyway, I spent some great quality time the past weekend when I returned to KL. But I find that the days were very short and I got to return to Singapore in no time. That’s sad and there’s a huge feeling of emptiness after the weekend. Life resumes to normal ‘back to work’ daily lifestyle.

I realized I spent about a day just on the journey to and from for this trip to happen the past weekend. Yes, it is no joke: I spent around 24 hours in just the journey heading to KL on last Thursday’s evening and in the journey back to Singapore on last Sunday’s afternoon. The craziest is on the latter trip due to unusually serious traffic congestion all along the highway from KL to Johor. I thought most would be taking extra leave on Monday and not crowding the roads that soon. I was wrong. Bus delays, frequent stops and long queue at immigration checkpoints were making the matter worse. The journeys are the bad experience but are inevitable especially during the festive season (longer holiday sees more people returning to Malaysia from Singapore and the other way around too).

As Father’s Day falls on last Sunday, I treat my dad a buffet dinner at Kontiki Restaurant at Federal Hotel last Friday. There wasn’t many people around and the ambience of the restaurant was quite good. As for the food, there isn’t much variety, but still we couldn’t try all of them (my family couldn’t eat a lot). Chicken satay, sushi, salmon and sambal prawns are the best. However, the fresh ‘seafood on ice’ served smell bad. The price is a bit too expensive (only good thing is that people aged 55 and above get to enjoy half price…and so my dad got that discounted price). It was still a nice and warm buffet dinner with great services by the staff. However, we would certainly try other places when buffet dinner comes into mind next time. There are tens or hundreds of restaurants in Klang Valley that served buffet that we have not tried before.

On the other hand, the highly anticipated (I’m not very eager on this football thing) FIFA World Cup has just started (since last week). It is now being held at Russia. I won’t be watching the earlier matches. I will only be watching the semi-finals and the final which will be happening mid of next month. I can’t believe that the historic 7-1 semifinal match result between Germany and Brazil (also the host) in the previous World Cup was already an event 4 years ago. This time, I’m expecting some major shocking defeat or victory too in the matches just to make things more surprising and exciting.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

 

Selamat Hari Raya Aildilfitri!…looking forward to my upcoming Raya 2018 holiday back in KL.


Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all Muslims, particularly to my Malay friends and blog readers here! A month of fasting finally came to an end and may you have a wonderful and festive Raya celebration with your family, relatives and friends! If you are returning to hometown, have a safe trip and don’t be stress out by the traffic congestion (it is inevitable). For those who are not celebrating, happy holiday as well! This is a slightly longer weekend, thanks to the Hari Raya holiday that falls on Friday this year. Hence, I wouldn’t miss this opportunity to return home to spend a bit longer time in KL.

I’m already expecting a huge crowd tomorrow at the two border checkpoints between Malaysia and Singapore after working hours. A lot of Malaysians working in Singapore (like me, and especially the Malays) will go back to Malaysia for this celebration or simply enjoying the holiday. Usually it would take an hour or two to get through the checkpoints, but for tomorrow, I’m expecting about 3 hours. That is craziness that will only happen a few times in a year (only during festive period). A bus ride from Singapore to KL will usually take 6 hours, but for tomorrow, I’m thinking 8 hours or even more. My bus ride will start at 9pm and I think it will be almost morning when I reached KL.

The crowd at the checkpoints is my first concern. The second one is the traffic congestion along the route. Authorities in both Singapore and Malaysia should really look into making the exiting and entering procedures more efficient and less time consuming. My suggestion is to combine the two checkpoints into one, making it much easier and convenient for everyone. For bus passengers like us, we do not need to get down the bus twice if this approach is implemented and the buses do not need to queue again and again. People would ask me, why not just take a flight? Well, affordability is still my priority.

There isn’t much Raya mood going on here in Singapore, mainly because Malays comprises only a very small portion of the population here. It’s considered just a minor celebration here as opposed to being one of the main festive seasons in Malaysia. I recalled the time when I was working in a small office where all the other employees are Malays. They would turn up the radio with all the repeating festive Raya songs, share the Raya snacks and biscuits, and organize break fasting session and I would join in the fun. When my former colleagues were taking additional leave on the Raya week, I am the only one left working in the office. That was some cool experience though.

Anyway, I would like to take this opportunity to wish to all the Muslims Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri again! Have a great one! I’m looking forward to this weekend too in KL!

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

Movie review for ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ and 2-billion box office milestone for ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.


Dinosaurs return to the big screen. The fifth film in the Jurassic Park film franchise, ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ opened on international markets much earlier than its debut in the US to our delight. We get to watch it two weeks earlier. The release of this latest film also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the first film that started it all. Can’t believe it has been 25 years already since the first time we are seeing the ‘kids hiding in the kitchen scene’, ‘raptor knowing how to open a door scene’, ‘T-rex saving the day at the end of the movie scene’, etc.

In this ‘Fallen Kingdom’, the story sets few years after the event in ‘Jurassic World’ whereby the theme park is now permanently closed and left abandoned. The dinosaurs roam freely until a volcanic eruption on the island occurred that will put them into extinction once again. Owen and Claire returned to the place to rescue them but were actually tricked to do so by a businessman to make profit by selling them and on the other hand creates another powerful hybrid dinosaur called Indoraptor. Another hybrid dinosaur on the limelight after the terrifying Indominus Rex that brought an end to the ‘Jurassic World’ theme park in the 2015 movie.

I think I have very high expectation before the movie and so after watching it just now, I felt a little disappointed. I have to say that 2015’s ‘Jurassic World’ is better and more exciting than this one. Well, this ‘Fallen Kingdom’ is also worthy of a praise by me mainly due to the fact that the people behind it can still creatively moving the story forward from and after the first four movies. The starting scene of this that features the Mosasaurus escaping is thrilling while there are still some heartstopping scenes after that. However, the level of intensity seems to have gone down and the supposingly climax-reaching scene in the end couldn’t hit me.

The 2015’s ‘Jurassic World’ has a great introduction scene to the opened theme park, had a great flow of story in the middle, and a jaw-dropping finale fight scene between the dinosaurs. All that is gelled into a great and an entertaining movie. This ‘Fallen Kingdom’ couldn’t reach that high standard set by its predecessor, but it is still a good effort. I like the play of light, shadow and colour in this one which delivers it into a darker tone and intended horror buildup of the story (there are still some funny moments to lighten up the mood). Besides that, I am also moved by some very sad moments involving the dinosaurs as the movie also goes deep to the emotional side.

I missed the post-credit scene unfortunately (didn’t know that Jurassic Park movies now beginning to have post-credit scene too) but I knew the details of it already and find it unimportant. Jeff Goldblum is in here but for a very unimportant cameo role who is just present to deliver some golden quotes. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ a total of 7.3. It’s still fun and nice to watch; I will never get bored of another Jurassic Park film.

This movie is expected to gross over US$ 1 billion (I’m thinking about US$ 1.3 billion) in its final box office revenue just like its predecessor. ‘Jurassic World’ in 2015 gained over US$ 1.6 billion worldwide. ‘Fallen Kingdom’ is predicted to earn lesser than that but will still easily cross the 1-billion mark. On the other hand, ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is in a certain position to reach the 2-billion box office milestone by end of this weekend or latest by early next week. It will be the only fourth film in history to reach that impressive figure (after ‘Avatar’, ‘Titanic’ and ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’). Now the question is whether it will eclipse ‘Star Wars: The Force Awaken’ which earned US$ 2.068 billion back then for the third spot in the table of highest grossing films of all time (unadjusted for inflation). There is quite a high possibility for ‘Infinity War’ to do so.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

 

 

Malaysian Prime Ministers’ legacy in the form of skyscrapers.


It’s June 9th today and that means exactly one month has passed since the Malaysia’s 14th General Election. This election is particularly historic as it marked the first time in history of the country that the opposition won, defeating the ruling coalition that has been the government since independence 61 years ago. Datuk Seri Najib’s time as Prime Minister was over and he also resigned as President of his Malay-based party, UMNO. Tun Mahathir get to return to the Prime Minister he once held before for 22 years in the past, and this time he is representing Pakatan Harapan, and not Barisan Nasional. A lot of changes were immediately implemented, partly to fulfill the alliance’s manifesto and also partly to ‘cleanse’ the governing systems of the country.

It’s unfortunate that Najib is still roaming freely although he is supposed to be arrested for all the crimes and wrongdoings he and his wife had done, and all the troubles he had contributed to all Malaysians. Both of them of course denied all of it but hopefully the truth will prevail. So many cash, jewelleries and handbags found in their various homes and they claimed those are their personal items, gifts from the others, and money belonging to the UMNO party. What a joke! Dumb lies, one after another! Remember the 2.6 billion in his private bank account and he stated that it is a donation from Arab. He and his cronies should not exist by now already.

Pakatan government is doing a good job so far. If they have not been doing well, we will kick them out in the next election too. However, as for now, we should gave them time and chance since this is their first time on the federal level (except Mahathir) without any prior experience, and they have to continue on to resolve all the ‘shits’ (such as the sky high national debt) that BN had left in the past. Hopefully, we will be hearing more good news to all Malaysians. In this one month alone, we have already been greeted with a number of positive news like abolishing of GST, freeing of Anwar Ibrahim, commencement of full investigation on 1MDB scandal, etc.

Najib is no longer in power but his so-called ‘legacy’ is still highly visible in the form of a skyscraper in the heart of the city of Kuala Lumpur. The Exchange 106 Tower which will be 106 storeys and 492 metres tall when completed is nearing the topping out stage. The skyscraper is in the Tun Razak Financial District project under the scandal-hit 1MDB. The structural steel work for the crown of the tower is concluding and that means the tower is now reaching its final height. Some sources said it will be only 446 metres tall but some said it will be 492 metres. There’s a confusion there, probably due to the variance by different parties on where the height is measured from. I think it stands taller than 452-metres tall Petronas Twin Towers and so The Echange 106 will probably be 492 metres tall. Here’s some latest images of the tower.

Another much taller tower is also approved under Najib’s tenure as Prime Minister in the past. The PNB118 Tower which will be more than 600 metres high when completed is currently under construction too. But for this project, it is still a long way to go before completion.

These two projects are often seen as the way Najib left a mark on the capital just like the iconic Petronas Twin Towers during Tun Mahathir’s time as the fourth prime minister previously. I’m not against these new rising towers (only against the people behind it), but I do really sometime question the need of more supertall office sksycrapers in the city which is still considered small and already has plenty of vacant office spaces.

(Images in this post are from skyscrapercity.com)

 

Thought on my first month in Singapore.


Time flies. I have now worked for a month. Two more months to go and I will clear my probation and start to enjoy my annual leave entitlement. Seven months to go for a year’s end bonus and salary increment hopefully. This first month of my work in Singapore has been a crazy challenge for me but I can now happily said that I overcame that and will continue to learn as fast as I can to adapt to everything new over here.

Working here in one day equals to working in Malaysia in three days. This is why Singapore is a much more developed country and has currency three times higher than the Malaysian Ringgit. Efficiency is the core principle in the daily life of all working adults in this island nation. Back in the past when I was working in KL, I will only stay back to work after office hours for few days in a month in average. Here, I’m staying back at least three times a week. This is quite tiring but hopefully I will get used to it. Hardworking attitude is a must at here too. In the meantime, I’m still trying to maintain a good balance between life and work.

Busy on every weekdays and totally free and bored on the weekend. That’s how it is for my situation now. I spent two weekends last month back in KL by the way. Those trips back and forth were quite exhausting and short-of-time but at least they are better than spending huge amount of expenses staying here in the weekend on meals, outings, entertainment purposes, etc. The next time I will be returning to KL will be two weeks from now during the Hari Raya holiday. I’m expecting huge traffic congestion as many will be going up to Peninsular Malaysia during that longer weekend. Madness on the checkpoints is inevitable.

Singapore is a city with very high cost of living. I, along with other Malaysians working here are often attracted by the higher salary figure over here especially when you convert it to Malaysian Ringgit. However, it’s hard to be able to save a lot each month due to huge expenses on room rent (already took me 650 dollars per month), meals (about 450 dollars monthly), transportation (MRT and bus rides cost about 50 dollars a month), and other expenses (phone data, groceries, outings, will easily took me another 250 dollars off a month). So roughly, I can only save about half of my salary monthly. That is not so good actually. I have to be really determined to save as much as I can but at the same time, I do still need to have a room for myself (not into sharing), have time for entertainment to get rid of stress like going for movies or outings, or head back to KL.

Alright. That’s it for my update on this first weekend of June. To all my Muslim friends, happy fasting. Have a blessed ramadhan. Less than two more weeks and Hari Raya Aidilfitri will be here. I can’t wait for that holiday to come too. On my side, I’m looking for a much smoother and pleasant working time in this second month with lesser days of working overtime and I’m wishing that you will have a great month ahead too.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

 

Oasia Hotel Downtown won ‘Best Tall Building Worldwide’ at 16th CTBUH Awards.


Oasia Hotel Downtown in Singapore has been selected by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) end of last month as the winner of ‘Best Tall Building Worldwide’ in its 16th Annual CTBUH Awards. Oasia Hotel Downtown was chosen from among the four regional Best Tall Building winners.

American Copper Buildings won for Best Tall Building Americas, Oasia Hotel Downtown is named the Best Tall Building Asia & Australasia; Best Tall Building Europe went to The Silo; and Zeitz MOCAA for Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa.

The visually-striking Oasia Hotel Downtown stands out amongst the gray and blue high-rises of Singapore with its plant-covered façade of red and green, which connects to the green of the cityscape. Landscaping is used extensively as an architectural surface treatment, and forms a major part of the development’s material palette, with a total of 54 species of plants climbing along the aluminum mesh façade screen. With a substantial commitment to outdoor communal space through the incorporation of “skyspaces” along its height, the tower provides respite and relief to its occupants, neighbors, and city. “This project won not only because it incorporates 60 stories of green walls along the exterior,” said CTBUH Executive Director and Awards Juror Antony Wood, “but because of its significant commitment to communal space. The tower has given over 40 percent of its volume to open air communal terraces in the sky.”

I have the opportunity to view this building a couple of times as it is located right at the downtown of Singapore. Although it is not as tall as some of its neighbouring buildings, but it stood out from its distinctive red-coloured aluminium mesh facade coupled with greens all over the four sides of the building. The appearance breaks away from typical glass tower block or monstrous solid mass while the detailed design thought to the communal spaces is a plus point.

American Copper Buildings is a dual-tower residential skyscraper in New York City, USA. It is a venturesome and highly visible architectural statement clad in copper that addresses the area’s dual need for affordable housing and climate resiliency. The two towers are designed such that they appear to “dance” with each other. They are also connected by a bridge approximately 300 feet from the ground, which will be three levels in height.

The Silo in Copenhagen, Denmark is a 17-storey former grain silo that is now turned into a residential apartment. Exterior of the existing silo is reclad, while its interior has been preserved as raw and untouched as possible. An angular faceted exterior facade made of galvanized steel has been installed to serve as a limate shield. This has allowed the building’s characteristic slender tall shape to be maintained.

Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, South Africa underwent a similar approach with The Silo in Copenhagen. Zeitz MOCAA is formerly a grain silo building too and is now trasnformed into a contemporary art museum. Using a variety of concrete-cutting techniques, the interior of the building was carved out to create a number of galleries and a large central atrium. The remaining concrete shafts were capped with strengthened glass in order to allow natural light to enter and create a “cathedral-like” interior. I am in awe of the result of this concrete-cutting design approach. The space created looks awesome and I personally find that this is more deserving to win Best Tall Building Worldwide.

In addition to the regional and overall Best Tall Building winners, a number of other award recipients were recognized at the conference, including the World Trade Center Master Plan for the Urban Habitat Award; MULTI for the Innovation Award; The EY Centre for the Construction Award; New York Times Tower for the 10 Year Award (2007 Completions); and Shanghai World Financial Center for the 10 Year Award (2008 Completions). In all, the 10 awards winners were chosen from a group of 48 Finalist projects representing 28 countries.

Reference:

http://tallinnovation2018.com/winners/

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)