Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Marvellous Hong Kong

So, it's time for an update...  Seeking wireless connections has been more difficult than I originally thought as they may be fine for a quick FB status or wall post but replying to emails is quite hard with a phone.

I've had an exhilarating last few weeks, and enjoyed travelling around ASIA with my father.  We've had some great adventures and memorable stories to tell.  Yesterday, I guess you can say I 'officially' settled into life at Hong Kong, where I will be spending my next whole semester.  My hall mates are great and my view is.... wait for it....  PRICELESS!  It really is amazing and I could not have asked for a better room :P




Ok, ok.... So maybe this isn't my view, but I'm on a very high floor and it's equally spectacular.  The above photos were taken last night when I went out with my Dad for a photo session from the Kowloon side.  Hopefully there will be many more dramatic sunsets to come!

For now, all I can say is that I've got to dash!  I'm trying my best to get back to emails, but please be patient :D

Have a great day everyone!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

OH I just can’t wait to be King!


LION KING REVIEW


The LION KING at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands theatre is truly a performance one shouldn’t miss.  The cast is dynamic, well-rehearsed and energetic.  The ‘African’ element was generally very well maintained throughout the entire performance with the exception of several scenes which ‘modernised’ the original script and movie.  Personally, I found these scenes a little too ‘Western’ in style and lacked the ‘African authenticity’ which the original movie was famous for.  The acting was generally well-executed with very few exceptions and most performers injected moments of humour and worked with newly scripted jokes (which were primarily play-on-words).  The first half opened well with the first song as the sunrise greets the birth of Simba.  Despite how attached many of us have become to this opening song, it lacked a certain amount of energy, which was later made up for by all performers.  The harmonies were intact, just lacked the ‘vibrating walls’ and ‘goose bumps’ factor.  Perhaps the theatre microphones and sound could have been to blame.  The rest of the first half seemed to drag a little at times, and had a few additions scripted in that didn’t seem to bind the scenes together as well as the movie did.  

The interval came at an awkward time, as there were two climaxes the first half could have finished well with.  Nonetheless, it was Timon and Pumbaa that stole the show with their superbly timed performance.  Simone in particular put great effort into his accent and on-stage movements.  Pumbaa started off a little weak but built his rapport with the audience very quickly, and his voice proved to be also very similar to the original Pumbaa in the video.  One could almost say that their dual performance was a show in itself and resonated well with the audience.  As mentioned several times, the second half of the play really saved the day!  The set was a little better, the vocal performance had improved in most characters but Scar still disappointed me with his lines, which lacked sufficient pauses and drama.  However, his exaggerated movements around the stage made up for it.  

As expected, Old Simba and Old Nala had stronger voices as they were older performers and they transitioned very well into the second half!  Their duet (about half-way through the second half) was beautiful.  Their mellifluous tones and harmony warmed the audience and won their hearts.  Just when I though Rafiki could not improve her already brilliant performance, she emerged with an energy and cheekiness that portrayed the original character very well.  It was her exaggeration that Scar needed to emerge with, as that dark and treacherous character as we know him in the movie.  Rafiki – along with Timon and Pumbaa – were the true show-stoppers (and savers) and must be commended for the effort they put into their performance. 

I came to this performance with a strong pre-disposition for a show of great calibre (thus with very high expectations).  Several years ago, my peers raved about this play as did my former choir conductor, who never handed out compliments without much thought.  He valued a quality performance and regarded the LION KING as a show with an outstanding vocal work (as well as every other element such as dancing, set design, lighting, sound etc…) So, for a compliment to come from him really encouraged me to go and see it, the only problem being the show had already finished.  I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to watch the play here, in Singapore.  The Marina Bay Sands theatres are truly spectacular and a pleasure to spend time in.  They are elegant, have a luxurious feel to them and are obviously still very new. 

If you do get a chance to visit Singapore, are currently living here or already visiting, do make a stop for one of the performances.  I promise it will be a play you’ll remember for a long time and will revive those many wonderful childhood memories of the fabulous LION KING movie!

CRITIQUE

FINAL IMPRESSION
8.5/10

GENERAL RATINGS
-Music (orchestra) – 8/10
-Performers (vocal) – 8.5/10
-Performers (dancing) – 10/10
-Costumes – 10/10
-Set design 10/10

SEGMENT RATING
-1st half – 6/10
-2nd half – 10/10 (the first half had real potential but had a few weak moments.  Several performers - as well as the growingly energetic orchestra - saved it in the second half which was at least twice as good as the opening half.

CAST

-Moufasa – acting (8.7/10), singing (9/10)

-Scar – acting (6.7/10), singing (7/10) – his accent slipped several times and his timing was a little off.  Did not allow for enough pauses/breaks in his script.  However, his movements were well exaggerated which begged for more exaggeration in his acting.  His voice seemed a little too eloquent and not as sleazy and  conniving as Scar’s character is in the Lion King movie.

-Young Simba* – acting (7.5/10), singing (5.5/10)

-Old Simba – acting (8.5/10), singing (9/10)

-Young nala* – acting (6.7/10), singing (5.5/10)

-Old nala – acting (7.7/10), singing (8.7/10)

-Rafiki (monkey) – acting (9/10), singing (9.5/10- initially but then 10/10.  The second half allowed rafiki to reveal a fantastic voice!) Perfect intonation in general, smooth glissando, very relaxed voice (as applies to most performers, thus no harsh projections), rich and textured sound, absolutely brilliant dynamics!  Her acting was tremendous and the cheeky laughter typical of Rafiki was executed with precision.  Finally, her humour elicited much laughter from the audience. 

-Zazu (bird) – acting (9/10), singing (8.7/10)

THE GUYS BELOW SAVED THE SHOW!

-Timon – acting (9.5/10), singing (8.5/10)

-Pumbaa -  acting (9.5/10), singing (9.3/10)

*The above ratings may seem a little critical for the two younger cast members, however, taking their age into consideration, their overall performance was truly energetic and refreshing.  Not an easy feat for performers of their age!




N.B
THE LION KING PLAYING DATES:  March 2011- September 25th 2011


More info:  http://thelionking.com.sg/

To conclude, I'll leave you with a quote from the play:  "No rules, no responsibilities, no worries"  HAKUNA MATATA!!!

haha... if only life was that easy.... :P

Destination Unknown - part 2

The train ride was extremely quick, considering how many blocks it was travelling through. I had to change to another line to get to Century 21, which is just outside the site of the Former Twin Towers. I find it awkward visiting the memorial area and then going off to do shopping. It's quite a contrast but somehow it seems to be a convenience to tourists despite how insensitive that may sound at first.




What still amazes me is exactly how low planes fly around the buildings at the WTC site...


Rebuilding still in progress...


Century 21 could be a complete blog post in itself. There is so much to write about it that I don't even know where to begin. So, I'll keep it short. There are several levels, and I felt like I was navigating through a maze at times. There were little corners that took you to other departments beside clothing such as footwear, accessories etc... My day was running short so I paced through the entire store with good speed :) And mind you, this was through both the male and female departments as there were a few gifts I needed to buy. This trip didn't permit much time for shopping, so I had no choice but to navigate through here quickly.

After a stressful and adventurous time at Century 21, I was back at home resting. However, not for long. Some of us purchased cruise tickets for the July 4th fireworks so we had to prepare and check into the harbour area in the late afternoon. The cruise itself was fantastic and it was wonderful getting to know the American Dream crew (my Uni friends) a whole lot better. It was a casual setting, so we had the chance to talk a lot more, not just run around and make it on time to visits in our program's schedule.









The food served on board was not too bad but we were here primarily for the fireworks show. We cruised around for several hours before the show began. We were greeted with a 'beyond stunning' view of the city skyline, which was soon consumed by an amazing sunset. I've seen many sunsets, but this one is very close to the top of my list. It was a pinkish-orange and no camera would ever do it justice.




The fireworks were spectacular and we began to see how significant this day was for the American people. No funds were held back it seemed, as the show lasted almost twice as long as ours in Australia.

The next few days were spent visiting places such as police units, tenements, unions and cat shelters. Glenn, our tour leader planned some wonderful visits and we were left with just enough time to squeeze in our own such as the Empire State building. If you thought only airports were tight with security, think again. It took us almost an hour to reach the top and we were beginning to feel tired. Once we reaches the top, we forgot about our exhaustion and were wide-awake!  The view was spectacular!  Times square lit up an entire district from above and we could make out the already-dark Central park. We missed sunset due to the queue but the night was majestic!



I titled this blog 'Destination unknown' as that was a song that seemed to continuously run through my mind whilst in NY. At times, it was entirely true. We didn't know where we were going, but what we did know was that we were out for an adventure!  I hope some day I will be able to revisit New York as it really is a tourist-friendly city. Although, I had a laugh when several people thought I was an American until I opened my mouth. Nonetheless, I felt welcome either way and for that I am forever thankful to America.

I hope I can say the same for Washington as that's our next stop. Keep your eyes on this blog as I'll be posting about Washington as soon as I can!

If you have friends who have been or will be traveling to the US, feel free to link them to this travel blog. All comments are welcome, and I hope it may be of use if anyone is traveling soon!

Until next time readers :)

Some more random photos of NY!


Brooklyn Bridge is amazing.  A wonderful structure!


I loved the fact that the bridge was people, bike, pram, rollerblades - friendly!


Group photo just before we split.  Some of us walked the entire bridge whilst the rest went back to the CBD


These police cars are everywhere...  I thought no-one was inside until after I took the photo.  The female police officer gave me a funny look :P


China Town in New York - definitely worth a visit!


Does this really need a caption?



Some moody photos of NY just before we went up to the Empire State Building.  Although we missed sunset up at the Observation deck, I'm so happy I got these few photos down below!





Well, that's it for New York folks!  I know I could write another 1000 blog posts about it, but life goes on...  Many more places to visit and so little time :)  

All comments are welcome, I look forward to hearing about what you think!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Destination Unknown - part 1

As I previously mentioned in my other NY post, my day had some out-of-the-ordinary events such as the good morning America show that I really enjoyed. It was all about the atmosphere and pure spontaneity.


A photo opportunity I couldn't miss (on my way to Central Park)


I left McDonalds with a satisfied belly :). Walking uptown, I finally arrived at Columbus Circle - where Central Park begins. It was just like all of the movies I'd seen, but much better. There were no actors posing for the cut, purely everyday citizens that did 'their own thing'. This was also the case in the Boston Common. Some threw frisbees, others slept. Some talked, others walked. Some rode bikes, others clutched their cameras and hunted for that perfect touristic shot.


The beginning of my walk through Central Park

Making my way throgh Central Park was a little harder than I had imagined. There were so many paths to choose from.  I took the cyclist and runners track which seemed the most logical at the time. . Did I mention rollerblading is a huge thing in America ? It was wonderful blending in with Manhattan citizens and a great feeling I'll remember for a long time...


I never figured out what this area was all about...




Some of the tour bikes they offer to ride tourists around on.


Another common activity at Central Park is yoga or similar exercises. There are many groups with personal trainers, yet some choose to find a quiet corner in the Park and exercise or meditate alone.


I got a funny look after taking this photo, so I didn't hang around for too long :)


I won't drag this post, for I know there is little more I can say. It was an adventure alright and I did make it to the other end. From 27th to 110th (by foot) brought about great self-satisfaction. Thankfully, today's exercise made up for all of the calories I consumed whilst on my McDonalds visits.

I was ready to walk back the same way I came but two things held me back. Firstly, I wanted to see just how quickly the metro would take me back on this line.  Secondly, the heat was becoming unbearable as it was already midday. Ok, I lied. There was a third reason also. I needed to do some shopping and Century 21 was on my to do list for quite some time. You'll find out about it in my next post!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Flight Review - JQ7 (Mel-Sin)

As promised, this blog will feature flight reviews also.  So here is the first of them!

Aircraft carrier:  JETSTAR INTERNATIONAL
Aircraft type:  Airbus 330-200
Flight Duration:  approx. 8 hours



Overall flight rating:  5.5/10
Inflight food rating:  6/10
Staff friendliness:  4/10


Before we stepped foot onto our plane, both my father and I were distressed as we presented our web check-in document to the desk at Melbourne Airport.  Some airlines are extremely strict with luggage allowance, and JETSTAR happens to be one of these airlines.  There was no problem with our luggage, just that the lady at the counter made a scene about how going over the allowance would cost us $25/additional kg.  Why she bothered - when we were clearly under - i don't know, but I suspect it just made her feel that extra bit more important.  Most other airlines (even budget such as AIRASIA do warn about going over, but are usually kind to passengers regarding tolerance).  What also confused us is that she asked for our ticket from SIN-(another destination).  I don't know where she got this idea from but apparently you need a VISA to visit Singapore now, despite the fact we arrived at the airport and were granted with 3 months stay as visitors which has always been the case...  Quite frankly, it was none of her business where we were going next, and no other airline has ever done this before, so this is complaint #1.  I realise this suggests there must be many more complaints along the way, but this is not an entirely negative review.  You've got to seek the positive experiences from each flight, no matter how difficult it may be:)

Complaint #2 - Our aircraft was delayed by 1 hour as the aircraft was not towed to the gate until 15 mins AFTER our departure time from the gate (note - not boarding time).  Thankfully, we were prepared for this and didn't arrange any connecting flights from Singapore until the next day.  Finally, boarding the plane was no issue, and the crew attempted to work very quickly (they really had no choice with complaining passengers).  It's not a big delay, but you can imagine how upset some were due to connecting flights.  Before we took off, the captain was polite and sincerely apologised which - although is usually expected by passengers - was a nice gesture.  And yes, they apologised 3-4 times again before we took off and several more times when we landed at Changi - which just seemed a little over the top :)

Complaint #3 - What happens when the person sitting next to you falls asleep in a record-breaking time whilst you take a stroll or bathroom break?  You CAN wake them or you can be polite.  We chose the latter.  The passenger next to my father fell asleep and took up all of the seats.  So, we decided to find some empty ones at the back.  We and several other passengers sat in them for quite some time with no hassle.  Then, one of the crew chased us out in a very unpleasant manner, completely disregarding our situation.  Nonetheless, we got up out of the seats and went to return to our former ones, but with no luck, the passenger was still sound asleep.  So we went back asked him if we could sit back down on the seats we were kicked out of.  Again, he was very arrogant and persisted that we stand at the back of the aircraft, despite the fact we were blocking the corridor for other passengers.  So, we called the flight director (otherwise known as flight 'manager') and explained the situation.  She was extremely apologetic which was a nice contrast to the attitude of the other crew member.  He was talked to and we got the seats back.  Yes, budget airlines have their disadvantages and you can complain as much as you wish.  However, when you compare the service provided by other competing budget airlines such as AIRASIA, you'll be amazed at how friendly their crew are and what a pleasant experience it is flying with them.

Sure, there were certain complaints but all in all, the flight was manageable.  I've travelled on various different airlines (which I'll review in due time) including both budget and non-budget.  This one was generally smooth and the A330 handled the 8hour flight well!

Our inflight meal that we chose was beef steak with mashed potatoes.  The beef was relatively tasty, and the mashed potatoes were well seasoned.  However, the carrots and beans were straight from a can, soggy and didn't suit the rest of the dish.  The tea/coffee/hot chocolate beverages were mixed with luke-warm/cold water which was revolting and something that should be monitored more carefully.  There's nothing better than getting a 'cold' hot chocolate right?  I could have asked for an iced-chocolate if I really wanted...  Finally, the food and beverages were over-priced.

The take-off and landing were relatively smooth compared to some of the rougher ones I've experienced on other flights (especially in America).

Unlike AIRASIA and TIGER AIRWAYS, JETSTAR is located at Terminal 1 Changi Airport.  The others are allocated to the 'budget' terminal, which is not too bad also.  That's the one thing about airports in Singapore...  They care about their facilities and commuters a lot more.

From Terminal 1, we set off to Singapore City and that in itself is another blog post...  In the meantime, here are some photos :)

Boarding our flight from Melbourne International Airport to Singapore International Airport



Jetstar A330 Cabin (it was a full flight!)


Beef steak pieces, mashed potatoes and vegetables


Volcanoes about 40mins before landing at Singapore Airport




5 minutes from touch-down in Singapore


Ramp at Singapore airport.  The Qantas A380 can be seen!








Finally, arrived at Terminal 1, ready for an adventure, or an 'opportunity'...




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