Thursday, August 18, 2016

Places: Inventions and Innovation. Singapore Night Festival 2016

One of the installations of Singapore Night Festival 2016.
#showerthoughts. National Design Centre.
Image Credit: Photo used with permission from Belinda Tan.
©Belinda Tan
This year, the festival's theme is that of Innovations and Innovation. Find out what are the interesting highlights of Singapore Night Festival 2016 here: Places: Inventions and Innovation. Singapore Night Festival 2016.

Singapore Night Festival 2016 

19 and 20 August 2016, Fri and Sat 

26 and 27 Aug 2016, Fri and Sat 

Bras Basah Bugis 

Free Admission 

7.30 p.m. to 2.00 a.m.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Bye New York City

3 Jul 2015 (Fri):

It was soon time to say goodbye to New York City. I found my way back to Hostelling International New York City to claim my baggage which was stored in one of the lockers. The staff at the hostel was very helpful when I asked for directions to get to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport). There were two options to travel to JFK Airport from the hostel. I took the faster way.

Goodbye New York City. Thank you for the friendships forged and the memories.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

3 July 2015: Shake Shack in Madison Square Park

3 Jul 2015 (Fri):

Eating out in New York City is an endeavour with countless options. I had wanted to eat something that is fairly affordable and yet will make my dining time in New York memorable enough. In order to narrow down to noteworthy options, I referred to Pocket Rough Guide: New York City written and researched by Martin Dunford, Stephen Keeling and Andrew Rosenberg.

One of the places that was recommended in the Eating Out options was Shake Shack for its price and outdoor seating setting. Coincidentally, the day before I had visited Shake Shack, one of my new-found friends at the hostel told me he had a meal at Shake Shack.

Shake Shack is very popular. It is in fact a phenomenon! At non-lunch hours, around 3 p.m., there was already a long queue at Shake Shack. I had waited more than half-an-hour before it was my turn to have my order taken. It took another 15 minutes at least to wait for my order to be ready.

Located in Madison Square Park, I love its outdoor setting and the surrounding landscaped park. I later found out that in 2004, a bid was won to open a permanent kiosk in the Madison Square Park. Shake Shack has the company of beautiful trees, a lovely fountain and flowers. In some ways, I think such a natural yet landscaped location makes eating burgers healthier and less sinful.

Shake Shack is known for its grilled burgers and frozen custard shakes. I ordered a single Shack Stack, a Concrete Single Shack Attack and French Fries. 

The Shack Stack is a cross between a Cheeseburger and a 'Shroom Burger with crisp-fried portabello mushroom. This delicious burger is topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce. Each Shack Stack costs USD$9.49. I particularly like the crisp-fried portabello mushroom that was sandwiched in the Shack Stack. The burger bun was fresh and has a soft yet just right texture. The cheese went just right with the rest of the burger. Overall, a tasty burger. No wonder people are willing to queue at Shake Shack for its grilled burgers.

Shack Stack.

The Concrete Single Shack Attack (single) is one of the options of frozen custard that is available at Shake Shack. The ingredients in this dense frozen custard ice cream blended at high speed with mix-ins include: chocolate custard, fudge sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough and Mast Brothers Shake Shack dark chocolate chunks, topped with chocolate sprinkles. It tasted rich and creamy, and fresh! Shake Shack promises that the vanilla and chocolate recipes in its frozen custard items are spun fresh daily with milk from dairy farmers who pledge not to use artificial growth hormones. At USD$4.50, I think it is value-for-money.

Concrete Single Shack Attack.

Service was considered good given that the Shake Shack outlet in Madison Square Park had a long queue and did not charge service charge. There was a member of the staff who went around serving iced cold (water) and passing out menus to customers who were queuing in the line.

The weather was good on the day of my visit and there was enough shade provided by the trees. I would have to say that I enjoy eating outdoors at seated dining areas. Although Shake Shack is not unique to New York City, it was a unique experience eating delicious grilled burgers and drinking frozen custard right in a park. Furthermore, the Madison Square Park was where Shake Shack was first started.

My learning point: Eating is pleasurable not just because of the quality of the food. The environment also matters. A relaxing and pleasant environment enhances the dining experience.

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park
near Madison Ave and E 23rd Street

Subway: N, R, W to 23rd Street
Operating hours: Daily, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

3 July 2015: Top of the Rock Observation Deck and Rockefeller Centre

3 Jul 2015: My gut instinct told me that this shall be the place to visit: The Top of the Rock Observation Deck.

The Top of the Rock Observation Deck is said to be one of the obvious places to go for a panoramic views of New York. Perhaps it was because it was my first time in New York, so I willing paid USD$45 for access to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck as well as a tour of Rockefeller Centre.

The Top of the Rock Observation Deck is located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza at 50th St, at the top of the GE Building. It offers a good view of the Empire State Building, New York City's Central Park and more. I spent a good half-an-hour there at least. Up at the observation deck, I felt I had a good overview of the New York City from a good vantage point.

The Rockefeller Center was conceived more than 100 years ago by John D. Rockefeller Jr. as a "city within a city." "It has been a hub of remarkable art, style and entertainment."

For me, the tour of the Rockefeller Center was more interesting than the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. The Rockefeller Center showcases a remarkable collection of sculptures and art deco motifs.

When I was reading about the Rockefeller Center, I learnt that the American Institute of Architects declared Rockefeller Center the second most significant piece of architecture in America. It is indeed a wonderful piece of architecture and I felt thankful that I had visited it.

During the tour, our guide gave us an overview to the history of Rockefeller Center. He also highlighted to us the various works of art within the Rockefeller Center. I was glad that I had made time to attend this tour. It seemed that a visit to New York City would have been incomplete if I had missed the Rockefeller Center.

I would like to thank the guide, Jonathan, for an enriching guided tour of the Rockefeller Center.

My learning point: Give people something better!
This was what I had derived from a quote that was associated with the Rockefeller Center:
"Giving people what they want is fundamentally and disastrously wrong. The people don't know what they want... [Give] them something better." - Samuel Rothapfel, founder of the Palace Theater chain, 1914.

Rockefeller Center
From Fifth to Sixth Aves between W 48th and W 51st sts.
Subway: B, D, F, V to 47-50th St

Friday, July 15, 2016

3 Jul 2015: A short visit to The Cathedral Church of St John the Divine

3 Jul 2015:

This is a post that is overdued. While I was in New York City last year, I stayed for a few nights at HI New York City. In the morning of 3 Jul 2015, I took a stroll about the neighbourhood near the hostel and decided to spend some time visiting The Cathedral Church of St John the Divine.

The Cathedral is fairly impressive in its size. I learnt that it is more than 120 years old and reminds unfinished. It was a year later after my visit that I learnt that the cathedral is the largest cathedral in the world!

I was thankful that during my visit to the cathedral, a choir was singing. I don't know if the choir was rehearsing yet I love the sounds of the choir filling the spaces of the cathedral. A morning adventure to explore the neighbourhood had brought me to a global landmark.

My learning point: Be open to new experiences. Pleasant surprises can happen.

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Avenue
112th Street
New York
NY 10025

Saturday, July 09, 2016

3 July 2015: Absolute Bagels and Lox

Life offers pleasant surprises when we take the step out to explore what it has to offer. I was on my way to visit the Cathedral of St John The Divine that was about ten blocks away from the hostel that I was staying in. On the way there, I noticed a queue waiting to buy bagels.

I took a moment to figure out what had drawn people to queue for bagels outside the shop named Absolute Review. There were reviews that Absolute Bagels has the best bagels in Manhattan. I suppose the beeline was the testament.

I ordered a bagel with Lox Spread for USD$3.95. I learnt that Lox Spread is essentially cream cheese and lox (salmon cured in brine). The bagel has a chewy and satisfying texture and the Lox Spread tasted fresh and flavoursome. There was a generous spread of Lox Spread on the bagel. The bagel with Lox Spread was worth the queue. The best bagel that I ever had yet.

Learning point: Life offers pleasant surprises. It helps to keep ourselves opened to what are around us. We may find something that we will like!

Absolute Bagels
2788 Broadway, between 107th and 108th Streets
Subway: #1 to 110th St - Cathedral Parkway
Tel: (212) 932-2052

Operating hours: Daily, 6 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Friday, July 08, 2016

3 Jul 2015: Plowshares Coffee Bloomingdale

3 Jul 2015: I received a recommendations to check out the Plowshares Coffee Bloomingdale cafe near the international hostel, HI New York, that I was staying in. I felt thankful for the recommendations. The espresso from the cafe tasted balanced and is a lovely treat for the day.

If you are near the area and want a cup of espresso, check this cafe out!

Plowshares Coffee Bloomingdale
2730 Broadway
New York
NY 10025
United States

Friday, June 24, 2016

2 Jul 2015: A stroll about Columbia University

2 Jul 2015: Thanks to the long daytime in summer, I continued to explore more of New York and visited the Columbia University which was a subway station away from the hostel that I had stayed.

I learnt that visitors to the Columbia University can download the self-guided walking tour to explore the campus. A beautiful and stately looking campus. There were a number of sculptures placed at various parts of the campus. I felt thankful to have an opportunity to visit this beautifully landscaped university campus.

Columbia University
116th and Broadway
New York
NY 10027

2 Jul 2015: Dinner at Fluffy's Cafe

2 Jul 2015:

After a visit to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), I looked around for places for dinner. One of the best thing about travelling during summer is that the days are relatively longer and I could take the opportunity to explore for longer duration each day.

I ordered a red and white quinoa. A tasty dinner! A simple meal to be thankful for.

Fluffy's Cafe
370 West 5th St
Corner 9th Ave

Thursday, June 23, 2016

2 July 2015: The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

2 Jul 2015:

The Museum of Modern Art offers its visitors a treat to one of the finest collections of late 19th and 20th century art in the world.

During my visit on 2 July 2015, I had the great privilege to see a collection of Andy Warhol's iconic images, get a closed-up view of Van Gogh's The Starry Night, June 1889 and sculptures by Henry Moore. I had started my visit with the fifth floor for in my humble opinion, some of the most noteworthy artworks in MoMA's collection are located at the fifth floor's Paintings and Sculptures galleries.

The visit reminded me of the art history classes that I had taken when I was a teenager. When I was a teenager, I did not quite fully appreciate the value of the art history classes. When I became an adult, I became appreciative of the art history classes. These were the classes that gave me the exposure to artworks by the great artists even though I had yet to see those artworks face-to-face. Having the opportunity to see face-to-face some of the artworks that I had studied when I was a teenager was like a home-coming experience for me. I had learnt about the artworks and finally they were right before my eyes.

I could go back to the Museum of Modern Art countless times to enjoy this home-coming experience. I wished I had more time to spend at MoMA. This is the place to visit for some of the best works of contemporary art.

Learning point: There are classes that we had attended in the past which we did not know why. Yet let us have the trust that a few of these classes will prove themselves to be the best investments that we could make using our time. I know one of such classes were the art history classes.

Special thanks to Mr Ellis, my art teacher in Secondary School for giving me a foundation in art history and in fine arts.


The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
11 W 53rd St between Fifth and Sixth aves
Subway: B, D, F, V to 47-50th St

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2 July 2015: Carnegie Hall and a missed chance

2 Jul 2015:

I have heard about it. The Carnegie Hall is one of the world's great concert venues. Carnegie Hall was built by magnate, Andrew Carnegie, in 1891.  I was told that Carnegie Hall has superb acoustics.

I could have been more thorough when planning my trip in New York City. I was planning to take one of the guided tours of Carnegie Hall when I was in New York City. While I had visited the Carnegie Hall to look at its lobby area, I had missed the opportunity to take one of the guided tours by just two days. The guided tours are conducted from late September to June, and the last guided tour for June 2015 was on 30 June 2015.

At the very least, I had stepped into the main lobby of Carnegie Hall. I did not attend any concert at Carnegie Hall as yet. I was in need of a good night rest on 2 July 2015 so I decided to give up the option of attending a concert at the Carnegie Hall.

By the way, in New York City, there is a district that is called Carnegie Hill. However, the Carnegie Hall is not located there. Many thanks to one of the staff members from the United Nations for alerting me to this piece of information. It had helped to ask.

Learning point: This is a landmark that will be enjoyed in perpetuity. In the meantime, a reminder for myself to plan better in the future.

Carnegie Hall
154 W 57th St at Seventh Ave
Subway: N, Q, R, W to 57th St

Tours: Late September to June

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

2 Jul 2015: A Visit to United Nations Headquarters

2 Jul 2015:

While I was in New York, I took some time to visit the United Nations Headquarters. When visiting the United Nations Headquarters, it is essential to bring along one's identification documents. Guided tours are only offered on weekdays. By the time when I had reached the United Nations Visitor Centre past 1 p.m., all the guided tours were no longer available for reservation. The guided tours will take visitors to experience some of the non-public spaces of the United Nations Headquarters.

Knotted Gun sculpture, Non-Violence.

There were spaces for exhibitions at the United Nations Visitor Centre. Before I entered the indoor spaces of the United Nations Headquarters, I was greeted by the Knotted Gun sculpture, Non-Violence by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward at the outdoor Plaza of the UN Visitors Entrance on 46th Street and 1st Avenue. This was made by the sculptor after his friend, the singer and peace activist John Lennon was shot dead in 1980.

One interesting thing about the United Nations Headquarters is that the United Nation issues its own stamps! Visitors can also create their own unique United Nations stamps with their photos taken at the Personalized Stamp Shop. At the UN Gift Centre, visitors can find many miniature United Nations flags as well as those of all Member states. This is perhaps a wonderful place for philatelists?

Admittedly, my legs were aching by the time I was at the United Nations Headquarters so I was spending more of the time finding seats to rest my feet. While resting, I took time to admire the works of art on display at the exhibitions.

My learning point is that anyone who wants to visit the United Nations Headquarters will find it more meaningful to join the guided tour, and to visit as early in the morning as possible to get a place in the guided tour. Admission to the United Nations Visitor Centre is free.

United Nations Visitor Centre
801 First Avenue (Corner of 45th Street)
New York

Monday, June 20, 2016

2 Jul 2015: Washington Square Park and more

2 Jul 2015:


After enjoying cups of coffee at Abraco, my next stop was the United Nations. On the way there, I thought of taking photographs of the nearby university campus of NYU (New York University) as well as visit Washington Square Park. The park is a landmark for cultural activity. Two prominent features at the park are the Washington Square Arch and the large fountain.

Washington Square Park.

Washington Square Park.

On my way to United Nations, it was essential to stop by the Grand Central Station if I were to use the public transport. The station looked very different during the day.

Grand Central Station.

On my way, I ordered a 99 cents fresh pizza for myself. I felt I could make better pizzas yet at 99 cents for a slice of pizza, I felt thankful that the meal was easily affordable.

A glimpse of New York City before I visit the United Nations.