13 August 2014

Alive Museum Singapore - A Twist at Every Turn

Date of Exploration : 5 Aug 2014

Featuring over 80 illusionary artworks and installations, Alive Museum is an optical playground that conceals and reveals one surprise after another! It's an action-packed gallery where you get to complete the art by being a part of it while adding your touch of creativity.

Before visiting the 'museum' (it is more of a fun-house really), I thought it was just about posing with 2D painted art that looks 3D on photo so I was pleasantly surprised by the number of actual 3D sets and props to complete the illusion that I am a mermaidman, a daredevil canoeist, a circus acrobat and lots more. The pieces fire the imagination and unleashes one's personality to create a truly unique masterpiece!

Take a moment to do some warm-up exercises to loosen those jaw muscles and stretch out the body because it's about to get physical inside Alive Museum.

A good place to start getting those vogue juices flowing is the entrance where you can come out of your shell and de-froze that inner child. What do you think of my Birth of Venus rendition? LOL.

One of my favourite pieces is this mesmerising portrait of Vincent Van Gogh with his gaze following you wherever you go! Play the video above and tell me you're not freaked out by it.

2D and 3D blending creates sensational works that offer numerous pose points. There are pictorial suggestions and indications on the best spot to pose as well as shoot a scene posted on the walls and floors so no worries about getting the best shot. But of course, don't be restricted by the suggestions and let your imagination run free!

In this ah-quatic scene from The Little Mermaid, I paid tribute to Ariel singing "Part of Your World"... but with more hiao-ness.

I probably won't survive this in real life. If I survived, my mum's unrelenting nagging for participating in extreme sports would do me in. She still wants to hold my hand while crossing the road. But that's just sweet :)

Do wear dark-coloured (preferably black) pants when visiting Alive Museum. In this photo, I'm actually sitting on the floor but my black pants merged with the dark vortex and the illusion of being sucked into an abyss is perfect. It is also a good idea for ladies to don pants for more freedom while posing.

In addition to this localised artwork depicting Marina Bay Sands, there are 8 other pieces specially customised for Singapore. See if you can identify them throughout the gallery.

Alive Museum has a stable of experimental artists and designers who constantly conceptualise new and novel exhibits such as this chamber of mirrors. Discovering this room was a surprise as throughout the gallery, there were no directional signs and we had to push camouflaged doors to exit from one exhibition space into another.

There's a twist at every turn and the mysterious journey was pretty thrilling as you never know what you will encounter next!

Shhh... Don't tell Mary Jane about this sticky affair.

Wanted to do splits but don't have the time to train? Alive Museum has an instant solution!

Believe it or not, the bench is actually painted on the wall and I'm half-squatting in mid-air but the illusion of me sitting on it is just unbelieveable!

Alive Museum has artworks with multiple themes that ranged from European art, popular culture icons, superheroes, sports, fantasy, doomsday, humour to animals.

It had been a magical ride at Alive Museum.

Because you need someone to take photos with the exhibits, Alive Museum should be visited with a friend/s, love one or family. Do note that there are no toilets withing the gallery and once you exit to use the washroom next to its entrance, you cannot re-enter again. We spent about 3 hours here so by the end of it, my bladder was almost bursting.

30% of the exhibits get refreshed every 12 - 18 months and festive works (eg. New Year, Christmas, etc) make it a good reason to come back again to create new personal illusions!

Address : Suntec City Mall #03-372 (between Towers 3 & 4), Singapore 038983

Opening Hours : 10am - 10pm daily (opening times may vary due to private events. Check http://alivemuseum.sg/information/opening-times/ for notices of early closure before visiting)

Entrance Fees : $25 (Adults), $20 (Children 3-12 yrs)

Getting There : Take the MRT (Circle Line) to Esplanade Station or Promenade Station. Or take the MRT to City Hall Station and walk to Suntec City

28 June 2014

Hong Kong - G.O.D. HK Street Culture Gallery at JCCAC

Date of Exploration : 12 May 2014

Won over by the cheeky phonetics of "Delay No More" that made swearing in Cantonese legit, I've since become a fan of the creative minds behind G.O.D.'s uncanny talent to reinterpret Hong Kong's street culture. And when the lifestyle brand launched its hilarious line of buttocks-shaped mooncakes with such names as "Spread My Cheeks", "Full Moon" and "Mind the Gap", I needed little persuasion to take the road less travelled to visit its headquarters while in Hong Kong.

The anti-tardiness wall with passing eras captured on the faces of the clocks.
Founded by two HK architects in 1996, G.O.D. (which is an abbreviation for 'Goods Of Desire' while its Cantonese name '住好啲' means 'Live Better') specialises in homewares, decorative items, fashion and accessories that find their design inspiration from everyday scenes and folk vocabulary of its home country. From a humble warehouse in the densely populated Aberdeen Island (Hong Kong), the company has expanded to a occupy a mall with a presence in London, Amsterdam, New York, Sydney, shanghai, Guangzhou and Singapore.

Getting to G.O.D. HK Street Culture Gallery

The company's HQ and its HK Street Culture Gallery (a.k.a. G.O.D. Street Culture Museum) are located within a former garment factory built in 1977 at Shek Kip Mei (石硤尾). The disused factory is now converted into an art enclave housing creative agencies and businesses supported by Hong Kong's Jockey Club Charities Trust and renamed Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre (JCCAC, 賽馬會創意藝術中心).

The green facade of JCCAC. It's a pretty prominent landmark and hard to miss along Pak Tin Street. I call it the Incredible Hulk building.
To get to JCCAC, take the MTR to Shek Kip Mei Station, use Exit C and walk towards Pak Tin Street 白田街 (about 10 minutes). Ask for directions along the way if you get lost.

Alternatively, you can catch a cab from the MTR station.

Shek Kip Mei itself is a historic site as this is where high-rise public housing was first introduced when a fire razed the area's slums in 1953 and left 53,000 immigrants homeless. Many of the earlier flats have been demolished but this old factory was given a second life.

Interior of JCCAC with design studios, artists' creative spaces and offices holed up in units within the 9-storey building.

Works from the various art studios curl, spread and stand exhibited on the first level and throughout the various floors.

In Singapore, our flatted factories usually have their corridors facing out but the ones at JCCAC face in with a hollow center. I think it is more communal this way.

Do you spot something sinister in this photo?

Yeah, that's right, there's a huge creepy-looking head watching over the building like a leftover Halloween decor. Imagine if you need to work overtime and upon coming out of the office, you see this head smiling at you.

Some studios have their artwork spilling to the corridors and my fave were these psychedelic dolls. Maybe they are the man-head's girlfriends!

Playing into the retro aura of the place, various tenants reached into their memories and recreated their version of nostalgia. Riding on a yesteryear toy taxi (not literally!), my senses were brought to...
G.O.D. HK Street Culture Gallery

If you are thinking of just walking into the gallery, you can't. It is "by appointment only" and you need to email info@god.com.hk to book an appointment to visit. It is free to visit but do email early as they take quite some time to respond. We emailed about our visitation a week before our HK trip and were still trying to get a confirmation from G.O.D. a few days after we touched down.

Thankfully the acknowledge and "permit" came in time so we found ourselves...

... getting an eyeful of Hong Kong's retroliciousness!

According to G.O.D.'s website, all the artefacts are original pieces salvaged over the years. None of the items are replicas except maybe how everything was artificially brought together to mimic a teahouse or restaurant of bygone eras.

While many private galleries frown if you take photos, the Street Culture Gallery says "Please anyhow take photos"! Is that sign really from the old days? Shows that the history of camwhoring has a longer history than we thought!

Trash or treasure? You decide. I didn't know there was a fizz called Watson's!

Trashsure were strewn all over the small gallery that can essentially be divided into 3 sections - the replicated interior of a cafe, a store area lined with miniature scenes of old Hong Kong, and a studio where designers work. Photos are not allowed at the working zone.

Miniature replicas of 花牌 (congratulatory decorative boards).

Yesteryear dim sum 茶楼.

Love the details of these mini sets that make Lego look lame.

If you love feeling mahjong tiles, your hands would be all over this lucky boxer.

I didn't know it initially, but this is actually a no photography zone as it is next to the designers' desks...

... however, staff didn't stop me from photographing the intriguing wall of letterboxes and clocks opposite it until I took some shots of products on display (see photo below). At that, I was politely asked not to photograph the items and 'escorted' to the door.

Spent about half an hour at the gallery and left feeling like I've walked into the living room of someone with a hoarding problem but I guess therein lies the real flavour of Hong Kong... a talent in having a lot going on in compact spaces.

G.O.D. HK Street Culture Gallery makes for an interesting sideshow to complement any tour of the fragrant harbour!

Address : L2-06 JCCAC, 30 Pak Tin Street, Shek Kip Mei
Opening Hours : Weekdays 2 - 6pm. Closed on public holidays. Visitation is BY APPOINTMENT ONLY via email.
Email : info@god.com.hk

03 June 2014

Kuala Lumpur - Sek Yuen Restaurant (适苑酒家)

Date of Exploration : 7 June 2013

Under the recommendation of the friendly staff at KL's Ascott Serviced Residences, we came to Sek Yuen Restaurant, an old eatery specialising in authentic Cantonese dishes cooked over wood-fired stoves since 1948. Some of the dishes here are so tedious to prepare and rare, they've become extinct from the menu of modern-day Cantonese cuisine.

A 15-minutes cab ride took us from KL Ascott Serviced Residences next to the Petronas Twin Towers to Sek Yuen. The restaurant which serves 2 dining venues side-by-side isn't too far from the city's Bukit Bintang shopping belt. The building on the left is air-conditioned while the other decorated in neon is where diners usually try to get a seat to sponge up the delights of nostalgia.

Entering the restaurant is like stepping out of a time machine. Such retroliciousness!

I'm not sure, but I think the guy in white is the boss and descendant from the Sek Yuen lineage. His outfit reminded me of those yesteryear kopi tiam tow chiu. While many restaurants serving generational recipes dressed up their premises for that artificial retro flavour, Sek Yuen has the real deal! It's as though yesterday never left.

We didn't make a booking and just walked in for dinner. During Chinese New Year period, I heard it is impossible to get a table without any reservation.

Pig trotters stuffed with glutinous rice (糯米猪手). This dish is so exotic I'm never laid eyes on it until now.

Other dishes that require pre-ordering, sometimes up to a week in advance included the Roasted Suckling Pig, Stuffed Chicken with Eight Treasures (八宝鸡
), Seven Coloured Cold Dish (七彩冷盘) and the legendary Braised Duck Stuffed with Sharks Fin that apparently costs RM1,000!Another very popular festive dish that requires pre-ordering is the restaurant's Yusheng (raw fish salad) served during Chinese New Year.

Being a table of two with my friend having a conservative palate, we didn't get to try many dishes and went for the more conventional orders.

The thing that pressed my curiousity button was the rice served in a metal bowl. Instead of using a rice cooker, I read that the rice at Sek Yuen is steamed in these bowls.

Stir-Fried Chives with Siu Yuk (roast pork). This dish brought me back to childhood where my maternal grandmother, a Cantonese, is fond of stir-frying vegetable dishes with roast pork.

Seng Kwa Tofu (Braised Beancurd with Luffa Gourd). This is also a dish of nostalgia as I was introduced to the taste of luffa gourds by my granny. The tofu is excellent with a crispy skin and soft center.

One of the signature dishes at Sek Yuen is the Pipa Duck (琵琶鸭) which is first boiled then slow roasted till the most of the fat is gone and the skin crispy... a process that takes up to 6 hours! Other signature dishes include Stir-Fried Sharks Fin with Eggs, Sweet and Sour Pork, Steamed Beef with Ginger, Jellyfish Chicken and a couple more.

Sek Yuen is one of the last remaining guards of time-honoured Cantonese recipes so drop by for a taste of the old days (古早味) before it's gone!
Address : 315 Jalan Pudu, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel : +603 9222 0903, +603 9222 9457

Opening Hours : Tuesday - Sunday (closed on Mondays)
Lunch : 11:30am - 2:30pm / Dinner : 5:30pm - 9:30pm

25 May 2014

Kuala Lumpur - Chat Masala Indian Vegetarian Restaurant

Date of Exploration : 18 May 2014

Taking a break from fooding on Kuala Lumpur's famous Chinese eats, we brought our stomachs out of Jalan Alor and the congested Petaling Street (Chinatown) to the city's Little India for some taste adventures...

Am I Bollywood-ready or what?!
There are a number of restaurants that get the thumbs up from foodies online but due to a recent badass gout attack that limited my diet to low purine foods (fruits, vegetables and dairy), my only choice on the recommended list is Chat Masala, a restaurant serving South and North Indian vegetarian cuisine.

I'm not really a big fan of Indian vegetarian fare as I don't fancy pureed vegetables in the form of chutneys and pastes. Not to sound disrespectful of another culture's culinary heritage, but they remind me of baby's vomit. As you can imagine, despite the restaurant's top rating, I'm about as excited about dining at Chat Masala as going to work everyday on Mondays.

Opened in 2004, Chat Masala specialises in masala dishes (dishes cooked with a mix of spices) and the inventor of Indian-style mock chicken and mutton. It is named one of KL's TimeOut Top 40 Restaurants from 2008 - 2010.

Interior of Chat Masala. One of the founding philosophies of the restaurant is to provide fine dine dishes popular in India at affordable prices. According to its website, the spices used are imported directly from India for that taste of authenticity.

We prepped our appetite with an order of Strawberry Lassi (RM4.50) and Ginger Lemon Drink (RM3.00).

Then came our OVER orders! The menu is pretty extensive and resulted in us over-ordering in a bid to try as many variety as there is stomach space. Even though we chose small, the portions were still pretty big for the two of us. Our waiter should've advised us if we've ordered too much.

Fronting the table are the staples Andhra Masala Thosai (left, RM4.50) and Paneer Thosai (right, RM4.00) with servings of Palak Paneer (RM8.00), Butter Chicken (RM7.00), Malay Kofta (7.00) and Mutton Masala (RM7.00). Total bill : RM46.50

Thosai (also spelt Dosa, Dosai, Dosay, Dosha, and Thosay) is a crepe / pancake-like flour sheet usually made from fermented rice batter and black lentils. It is eaten with sambar (creamed vegetables) and chutneys (wet or dry side dishes made from fruits, vegetables and spices).

My vote goes to the Masala Thosai as the filling of potato, onions and spices was more flavourful than the comparatively blander Paneer Thosai.

Palak Paneer (pureed spinach with cheese)... taste is light but very filling due of the dairy.

Butter Chicken... this was recommended by our waiter. Taste-wise, it's pretty good but texture-wise, it's not quite like chicken. At the back is the Mutton Masala which is a must-order! The dish is fragrant and the mock mutton tastes like the real thing!

Malay Kofta... this is our favourite dish. Even though we were too full and couldn't finish all that we ordered, we finished this one. It's bursting with flavours and the Kofta which feels like a cheesy version of the Malay potato nuggets is supreme in taste! Absolutely loved this. And the malai (sauce) goes well with papadums (RM1.50).

Eating like the locals do... with my hand! Attracted quite a bit of stares from the Indian diners. I know they were looking because I was stealing glances at them to learn how to finger my food.

A spread of crayon coloured cakes and desserts greeted us at the entrance of Chat Masala.

I made a mental note to try this tulip shaped dessert but by the end of our meal, we couldn't eat another bite. Perhaps next time.

After the meal at Chat Masala, my opinion about Indian vegetarian food flipped 360 degrees... I'm now a convert and in love with the baby vomit chutneys that this restaurant does so well!

As the saying goes, everything happens for a reason. If not for my gout condition, I wouldn't  consider trying Indian vegetarian food while on vacation and discovered this delightful restaurant. Because of Chat Masala, my culinary vocabulary of Indian cuisine now goes beyond roti prata and biryani. This restaurant is a definite must-try when in Kuala Lumpur!

Getting to Restoran Chat Masala : The restaurant is located in the Brickfields district (Little India) and within walking distance from KL Sentral. Look out for the road with the orange-red tiled pavement and colourful arches. The restaurant is along this main road.

Tip : We took a cab here from Bukit Bintang (RM8.00) and lucky us, we got an Indian driver who knew the exact location of the restaurant just by mentioning its name. So if you want to take a cab there and the Chinese or Malay driver is clueless about Chat Masala, look for an Indian one.

Address : No. 259G, Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Brickfields, 50470, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel : 03 – 2260 3244

Opening Hours : 7:30am - 11:30pm (Thursday - Tuesday), 3:30pm - 11:30pm (Wednesday)

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