Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Songkran in Singapore without water: Is there any point?

The word "Songkran" has recently stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Though I haven't been following developments very closely, I feel that my position makes it appropriate to give my view on this matter.

Firstly, what is Songkran? From my shallow understanding, it's considered the new year (just like what Lunar New Year means to us) for people in Thailand, Mynamar, Cambodia, Laos and some minority tribes in China. Traditionally, during this festival, people visit temples and cleanse Buddha images with water in order to bring good luck for the new year. This gradually transformed into a crazy festival with everyone hurling water at everyone else to celebrate the new year. Tourists from every corner of the globe flock to different parts of Thailand during this event to experience it. In Mandarin, Songkran is called "泼水节", which translates literally as "Splashing Water Festival".  Suffice to say, no matter whether you are cleansing your Buddha images or throwing water at everyone you see, the spirit of Songkran revolves around 1 element, yes, you guessed it, water.

This controversy first caught my eye when I read an article which talked about some officials in Thailand's Culture Ministry threatening to sue Singapore over the organisation of their very own festival. My first thought was, "Why the big deal? Even though it might purely be a marketing event, at least it helps to showcase Thai culture, especially the Songkran culture to more people, surely that can't be a bad thing."

Besides, if anyone wants to REALLY experience what Songkran is really about, they will DEFINITELY choose to come to Thailand, no matter what Singapore can offer, so it's not really a threat to tourism as well. A couple of nights ago, I mentioned to my wife that it would be almost impossible for Singapore to close a couple streets to allow "water-fights" to take place for 2 whole days. Before I knew it, the bombshell was announced, Singapore's Songkran is to take place, dry.

This morning, I finally visited Singapore Songkran's official website. To my astonishment, this was the very first picture that greeted me.

Is this going to happen? NO

I also found out that it is going to involve a lot of Thai food, Thai products, Muay Thai and a plethora of gigs involving a few entertainers from Thailand.

If you ask me, attending a Songkran event without water is like going to Singaporean chicken rice stall to order chicken rice, and end up getting char kway teow instead. No matter how Singaporean the char kway teow tastes, I want my bloody chicken rice, complete with chicken, rice and chilli sauce, not lacking in ANY element.

If I can give my 2 cents worth to the organising committee, I feel that all backdrops and information regarding water pistol fights on the website need to be removed immediately in case more paying attendees (as not all events are free) are misled, and that the name of the festival needs to be carefully reconsidered, at least for future versions of the same event.

No water, no Songkran. Period.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An hour in the life of Daddy Eddie

I peeped through the small little clear circle on the otherwise totally frosted glass window of the classroom. Little Noah, just woken up not long ago, looked okay with attending the lesson and Li Li seemed up for it too. I guess it's time for me to leave and 'do my stuff'.

It's 5pm sharp, so now, what do I have to do? Ah yes, UOB and AIS to run some company errands, hopefully make an important phonecall, then it's a trip to the musical instrument shop, buy a cheap Ukelele, settle myself down in a cafe and master playing 爱琳娜 to give my sweeties a surprise when they see me again.

While waiting in line at UOB, a familiar vibration in my pockets prompts me to take another look at my phone. It's a WhatsApp message.

"Hi Eddie, your friend xxx just called asking about any news of the projects?"

Friendly fire from my supplier, pleasant but a definite addition to my stress levels for the day. The next hour would now be punctuated by message after message with him, explaining everything that's happening in Thailand.

5.34pm, UOB errands complete. It must be time to slowly walk back to the school, passing by the Ukelele shop. It must also be time to call my media company to tell them what I expect from our next meeting.

5.45pm, head a little bit groggy from the long conversation. Hmmm...... maybe I should call a potential dealer who had been stalling on our cooperation for many weeks.

6.00pm sharp. Unknowingly, I am back at the entrance of the school. I activated WhatsApp again to send my final message to my supplier. I scrolled back to have a look at our chat history. Gosh, more than 60 correspondences within the last hour.... really?

Wait a minute, wasn't I supposed to pass by AIS? Ah sh*t, so the errand accumulates and has to be done tomorrow. What about the Ukelele? I must have passed the place while on the phone and totally missed it.

I took a deep breath and walked into the school again to peer through the same tiny hole I did exactly an hour ago.

Ah..... my babies, my lovely babies. How nice to see you all again. What does my life even mean without you?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

3rd couple date in 3 years on International Woman's Day 2014, and it's all about Singapore!

Posing with our cod dish

One of the major drawbacks of having a young family in a foreign land is that couple dates are virtually impossible. Noah is 25 months old now, and over the 3 calendar years, we have only had real couple dates twice, which have been extensively documented here and here. Family members came and went since the last one, but couple time just simply did not materialize for some reason or another, until saviour Miss Li Kunqi arrived last week. So here's a big THANK YOU to her for looking after Noah for a whole afternoon and agreeing to it without even flinching!

My plan for the 6 hours was very simple, and it revolved around making sure Li Li got an opportunity to walk through the brilliant "Hello World!" Exhibition at Emporium's TCDC before it ends later this month. However, exhibition aside, the date became one which felt like it happened in Singapore!

Cherry duck with tea-infused tangy sauce
Lunch was a simple but satisfying one at TWG, which is an up-class tea salon and boutique from Singapore. Food was good (not great), service was excellent and the dessert was decent as well. I had wanted to do a post on TWG a while ago when it just opened but got put off by a waiter telling me that pictures were not allowed. I am glad that they are now more open to customers taking pictures in the restaurant, though I am no longer in the mood to write about them.

Our tickets at the Singapore Film Festival
Gotten after around half an hour of queueing

The highlight of the date has got to be our participation in the Singapore Film Festival. 2 movies were on show, That Girl in Pinafore and Ilo Ilo of Golden Horse fame. Due to timing issues, we could only watch the first one but boy was it entertaining. 

I think it is also worth mentioning that this was our first cinema experience after Noah's birth (no, I did not watch a movie alone or with other friends), and due to it being a film festival, we could not choose our seats and ended up with a location requiring us to raise our heads in the northeast direction throughout the whole movie. It didn't help too, that my seat was faulty and uncomfortable, but ah well, it's free, it's a rare couple date and I got to watch the movie with the director himself, I shouldn't complain too much.

The movie itself though, was quite unforgettable. Set in 1993 Singapore talking about the lives and dreams of JC students linked together by a local folk music movement, it was really nostalgic and brought back a lot of memories, though I think my elder brother might be able to relate even more with the songs. I personally would have preferred a less abrupt end and perhaps at least 1 more uplifting song performance by the cast, but the movie is impressive enough for me to consider buying the DVD for keepsakes.

I will thus like to end this simple post off with a MV of my favourite song of the movie, "黎明的心", youthfully sung by the 3 energetic female leads in the show. Enjoy.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Art in Paradise Pattaya, where imagination runs wild

So, is that it? I'm dead? There are so many things I haven't done.

Pattaya has always, to me at least, been Thailand's Sin City. The beaches are mostly shallow, low class coyote bars spread all across the city and half-naked old Caucasian men stroll along the streets every single day as if it was their backyard. I was told that Pattaya used to be an army base for the US army during the Vietnam War, and goodness knows what they did here during their 'vacations' to make it what it is now.

However, over the last few years, there has been commendable effort to re-create Pattaya into a family destination. Up came many mega shopping malls, photo spots and top-class hotels and resorts. I still did not fancy it too much, but this Chinese New Year, I decided to make it my family's getaway destination while they were in town (my dad had been wanting to visit for a while and it's about time I granted his simple wish).

If you have to go to Pattaya, especially with your family, you really should not miss a visit to Art in Paradise, because, it is to me, a very good summary of Thailand in 1 building: whimsical, creative and absolutely no inhibition to turn ideas into creations. It's difficult to imagine what a 3D art gallery actually is, but boy will it keep you entertained for a good couple hours once you step in.

Noah enjoying a peck on his cheek

Showing off my brilliant fishing technique

Ah sh*t, there goes our coconut juice

Wait a minute, is that elephant actually coming towards us?
A friend in need is a friend indeed.
I sh*t in my pants

I meditated with Noah under the Bodhi tree
Li Li strolled through ancient Ayuthaya
Dad protected his grandchildren from the dinosaurs
Mum became the Angel I always thought she was. Why are you finding it funny, Noah.

Art in Paradise has just opened a branch in Bangkok at the end of February, so now you don't even have to visit Pattaya to immerse yourself in this wonderland.


So what are you waiting for?

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