Wanderlust: Singapore

Van Cleef & Arpels Exhibition, ArtScience Museum

16:09

Perhaps, instead of calling it a birthday trip to Singapore, I should really call it a birthday trip to Marina Bay Sands.

For most of the four days I spent in Singapore this year, I was in the Marina Bay Sands area. I visited yet another attraction at Marina Bay Sands on my last day in Singapore before flying back home - the ArtScience Museum.

I waited at the doors of the museum by myself at 9.45AM on a Sunday morning. The museum stated it would open at 10AM, and I was third in line outside the door. There were plenty of families sitting around outside waiting for the museum to open too.

It was sweltering, and toting a luggage bag, I thought I would melt into a puddle of my own heat. My makeup certainly protested by running down my face, which was fast becoming an oil slick.

I stared pleadingly into the building, but the ticket-sellers ignored my gaze. My one small consolation was that the museum offered FREE WI-FI, which I could get even by standing outside the door.

As soon as they unlocked the door, I burst in and asked for double tickets to both exhibitions at the ArtScience Museum. One was the Future World exhibition, and the other, the titular exhibition: Van Cleef & Arpels.

With the tickets being timed tickets, the ticket-seller advised me to go to the Future World exhibition first, before going to the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibition later. She eyed the surrounding families with their tiny toddlers and children knowingly.

"The Future World exhibition will only get more crowded later on." She murmured as her gaze flickered back towards me.

I took her advice.

They also had a luggage-holding area (actually, pretty much just a chucking area behind the ticketing counters, so let the museum hold onto your luggage at your own risk), so I left my luggage behind and started exploring the exhibitions.

I have nothing much to say about the Future World exhibition - it was certainly a pretty exhibition, but it felt too small and just about barely tolerable with the crowds of families and young children that came in shrieking and running around. My favourite room was the last room, and when I left that room, my first thought was literally: "Wait, that's it?"

I liked the Van Cleef & Arpels Exhibition a lot better compared to the Future World exhibition, mostly because there were less people visiting it. I could linger over the exhibits, admire the jewellery, read the descriptions, and just generally spend more time taking it all in in gorgeous, lovely silence.



The first room I ventured into had these transparent posts, each with Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery in the center of the posts. The jewellery pieces sparkled even more underneath the orange spotlights. It was truly bling bling central.



Look at all that shiny gold bling! #nofilter

I love to look at jewellery pieces like this, as I consider them works of art. Plus I am like a raven - I like looking at shiny things. I am not fond of wearing heavy bling, but to look at? They are positively pleasing to the eye.

I must say I would be terrified to wear them in a place like Malaysia too, where snatch thefts are common, and human life is secondary to the thieves who are already dreaming of what the expensive-looking jewellery will fetch them.


The exhibition claims that the zip necklace/ jewellery was invented by Van Cleef & Arpels. According to this New York Times article, it took more than ten years for artisans to perfect a fully functioning zipper coated in precious gems.

It certainly looks eye-catching, but the plebeian side of me cannot help but whisper that zippers seem more suited to clothing items like jeans, pants, and hoodies. To see it on such a glamourous-looking bracelet/ necklace convertible jewellery is a bit jarring.

Yes, yes, I am a plebeian peasant.

The exhibition also showed gems in their fairly natural state, as well as their jewellery "themes" throughout the years, from the mythical to the Oriental.



I find it slightly humourous that the largest ever crystal found in the Alps was named after General Napoleon Bonaparte, who was given the nickname "le petit caporal".

Some of my favorite pieces in the exhibition were the ones that took its inspiration from myths around the world, such as the ones with griffins. The ones that took their inspiration from China were also lovely - I liked the scent bottle, carved with the image of a bird.

As expected, the pieces looked almost new in their exhibit cases, though they were made many years ago.




There was a noticeable security presence in each room as they watched us museum visitors look at each exhibit. I would be terrified if I were the museum curator, should one piecec get stolen, be lost, or irrevocably damaged. Some of the pieces were slightly more than a hundred years old, with the company founded in 1896.

I found my favourite semi-precious gemstone, by the way.




It is the obvious crystallisation aspect of tourmaline that I enjoy looking at, as though there is something else hidden deep within the layers of patterns, something not visible to the naked eye.

Also, the description uses both the words "crystallization" and "crystallisation". They should really make up their minds if they want to use American English or British English.


So pearly.


I... do not particularly enjoy jewellery that looks like this. They may be made of expensive materials, but the design does not appeal to me in the slightest. Some designs and materials do not seem to mix well, such as a gold pair of Hello Kitty earrings.

Is it snobbish to feel like precious materials deserve prettier designs?

This is truly beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I do like the little Scottish Terrier one in the above picture, I just think that gold seems wasted on it.

Then there's my favourite piece out of all my favourite pieces in the Van Cleef & Arpels Exhibition.

Tadah.


Perhaps to some, THIS is the tacky/ cheap-looking design.

Oh well.

I can totally see myself wearing this with a little black dress.

There were also Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery pieces on loan from royalty, nobility, and celebrity for the exhibitions. Probably the closest I will ever get to some of the people mentioned, really.

"Look! I am a feet away from a jewellery piece that adorned the neck of the Duchess of some place or another!"

....Yeah.

All in all, I would not say it was educating for me. It CAN be educating, but I am afraid all the words I read about gems and semi-precious stones and the history of the jewellery pieces have faded by now. What I do remember is that I got a precious, quiet one hour or so in a museum, looking at some of my favourite things in the world.

Jewellery lovers, or even those with a passing interest in jewellery, should enjoy this exhibition. I believe it ends sometime in August, so get yourself there while you can.

And with that, Singapore marked the start of yet another of my 2x years, complete with my hopes and dreams for the year.

May my dreams continue to shine brightly as I work my way towards making them come true.


Wanderlust: Singapore

A "Luxurious" Trip at Marina Bay Sands Hotel

04:00

All my overseas travels in the past three years have been within Asia. There was Japan (2013), Taiwan (2014), and Japan (2015) again.

Each trip lasted at least ten days, and I subsided on cheap food and cheap lodgings. Having friends in both Japan and Taiwan, there was also free food and free lodgings thanks to their generosity. Their friendship is something I am grateful for - it allows me to travel to East Asia and stay long without ruining my budget plans.

This year, my annual overseas birthday trip has been a little different.

This year, my thought was on LUXURY (I know luxury is a subjective term that means different things to different people, but let's just say right now, to me it means BATHTUBS, JACUZZIS, A NICE COMFORTABLE BED, PRIVACY, and FOOD WORTH OVER RM50.00 PER MEAL).


Well, I certainly got four out of five of that, at a tremendous price.

This year, I spent a total of four days overseas.

This year, I spent approximately RM525.00 a day, including my flight to get there.

This year marks the first time I have paid so much for a hotel room at almost RM800.00 per person. *heart jumps a little at seeing this figure*

This year, you see, I decided to spend my birthday night at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in a Deluxe Room.

The Deluxe Room that is the cheapest room available at Marina Bay Sands, because let's not go too crazy.



My room was the Deluxe Room with a Garden view. Not just any garden, but Gardens by the Bay.

When I left Changi Airport at 1.30PM or so in a taxi, I asked to be dropped off at Marina Bay Sands Hotel Tower 3, which is where my Deluxe Room was located.

Instead, I was dropped off at Marina Bay Sands FINANCIAL CENTRE Tower 3.

Not wanting to add more to my taxi fare of SGD20.00 (I paid RM60.00 for a ride that took about 15 minutes, my poor heart) or to argue with the taxi driver ("Yeah this is Tower 3"), I took off and trudged off in the direction of the distinctive hotel. Hard to miss a hotel that has three towers with a boat-shaped roof linking all the towers together.

It also took me forever to walk through Marina Bay Sands Shoppes to find the entrance into the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It was almost 3.00PM when I plopped in on my Deluxe Room bed.

I sort of meandered there a little, using the free WiFi and unpacking my things to do the important task of charging my electronic devices. #firstworldproblem

I had a solid plan, mind you. My plan was to sit in the bathtub all afternoon, get cleaned up, then go meet my University Close Friend (UCF) for a scrumptious birthday dinner before adjourning to Gardens by the Bay for the Supertree Grove.

I HAD THIS RELAXING BIRTHDAY PLANNED OUT, WHEN...



 Shiny sink, check. Shiny toiletries. check.


Shiny SHOWER, check.

I had happily thought that all hotels that purportedly called themselves FIVE-STAR HOTELS would have bathtubs in EVERY room.

I stand corrected. I stand miserable, too, as I looked into the bathroom to see NO BATH.

So much for my relaxing all afternoon with a book in the bathtub plan.

Thwarted, I looked for the next best way to soothe my soul.

I walked back to Marina Bay Sands to have food from a restaurant chain that is also available in Malaysia, but it is not a restaurant chain I permit myself to go to in Malaysia except on special occasions.

It was my birthday.


I can go to Din Tai Fung in Singapore if I bloody well want to.

Also, Din Tai Fung was one of the more "affordable" restaurants in Marina Bay Sands Shoppes that I could afford to dine in.

Ahem.

I ate my 'zha jiang mian' in morose "I mourn my bathtub dreams" silence. Oh, and the ubiquitous 'xiao long bao'.

They did help make me feel better.

Marina Bay Sands Shoppes was PACKED on the day I stayed there, and noisy too. All the noise came from one end of the mall - the skating rink end. People were congregating there since early afternoon, and by the time I went out at 6.30PM to see the fuss, it looked like this.


"For my birthday?! Aw, you guys shouldn't have." 

Yeah, nah. It just so happened that Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie and director Joe Russo was also in town to promote 'Captain America: Civil War'.

I did harbour dreams and wishes of seeing Chris Evans from afar, BUT then I was not prepared to sacrifice hours of my birthday (my very expensive, I paid RM800.00 to stay in this vicinity birthday) just to wait in a massive crowd to see a good-looking man.

My happiness and comfort > seeing a glimpse of a good-looking man.

Even if aforementioned good-looking man looks very good in a certain helicopter scene.

But I digress.

The birthday dinner and meetup with UCF also took place in Marina Bay Sands Shoppes, at the far end opposite the whole Captain America fandom wailing and screaming thing.

We dined at Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay.

Service was attentive, and I asked to be seated near the windows after being seated elsewhere that was unbearably hot.

Unbearably hot was a theme throughout my stay in Singapore. Thanks, climate change. Thanks, equatorial line and tropical region.

I cannot even recall the name of what I ordered - it was neither truly excellent or bad - it was too average for that.

What I DO recall, however, is truly relishing this complimentary dish.

Is it philistine of me to love the bread and butter? It IS named Bread Street Kitchen after all, is it not? (The crackly cracker thing with the sesame seed was OOMPH, by the way)

...

I just had a quick look at the menu on the Bread Street Kitchen Singapore website, and learned that I had this.

The steak and ale pie with potato, mushroom, puff pastry, and spatzle.


Being such a tremendous philistine to food, I had no idea what spatzle was. I was wondering if it was pasta, but then it tasted too different to be pasta.

Google (Wikipedia) enlightens me on the matter. It says that:

"Spätzle are a kind of soft egg noodle found in the cuisines of southern Germany and Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Alsace and South Tyrol."

The more you learn.

I would have happily eaten more bread and butter in place of the steak and ale pie.

Portions were quite big here, at least for me. They offered us complimentary cookies, and I actually had to decline.

I DECLINED COOKIES.

In other circumstances, I would have demanded to be checked into a hospital immediately to find what out what is wrong with me. HOW COULD I HAVE DECLINED COOKIES.

At least this part of the plan for the day was progressing smoothly, if a bit sweaty. The moment I stepped out of the Shoppes I felt an instant regret, in the form of instant sweat.

Why must South-East Asia be so hot. Why.

I am phrasing those as questions, but they really are long lamented statements.

Let it be a testament to my willpower of making my holiday go my way no matter rain or shine, because we trudged on anyway to Gardens by the Bay.

FOR SPARTA.


We were there for the free Supergrove Tree Light Show, which takes place every day at 7.45PM and 8.45PM. They have different musical themes each few months and when I was there, it was MUSICAL-themed.

"Memory" from 'Cats' played. So did "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" from 'Evita'.


Singapore happens to have a pretty hopping musical scene, with international musicals heading over many times. 'Wicked' the musical is heading over to Singapore again this year, and needless to say, I am endlessly jealous.

MY FAVOURITE MUSICAL.


The night view of Gardens by the Bay by my room was better by a hundred times compared to the day one. So shiny.

The rest of the night was pretty much spent lounging in bed, after checking out the infinity pool at the rooftop. I think more people were in it to take pictures rather than to swim.

Of course, we (that's UCF and me) were no different.

Too knackered from the day, we simply left it to the next morning where we woke up early and headed straight up to the roof.

"With no bathtub, this is where our money goes to!" I harped. "To pool maintenance!"

I think we spent less than 15 minutes in the pool, though. In and out, with pictures for commemoration.

If you ask me, the highlight of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel was not the infinity pool, as stunning as it was. I merely kept saying "I have to hold my phone with the grip of death" as I took pictures of a bleary-eyed self with the Singaporean city skyline in the background.

No, the highlight was...

The Jacuzzi.

No need for a grip of death, for I left my phone on the lounger along with my robe in near sight. I sat in the Jacuzzi with a deep sigh of contentment as it bubbled up.

I did not move for the next half hour. In fact, I did not want to move. I just wanted to sit in the Jacuzzi all day.

Yet move I had to, because it was almost time for checkout after my 19 hours of "luxury".

Sigh.


We scuttled back up one more time to take more presentable pictures that could be used on social media aka with makeup and nice clothes on.

Then it was time to say  goodbye to Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

It was a... intriguing... dip into the luxury side of things. I was a TAD disappointed I did not run into Chris Evans at the lobby. Chris Evans probably stayed in the penthouse in Tower 1 or something. Tower 3 was for the "peasants", such as myself.

Would I pay RM800.00 again to stay at the hotel? No, no I would not.

I am still not over the bathtub-less room, Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

While the luxury was nice and all (and the Jacuzzi was REALLY great), I do not in any way think that it is significantly better than my holidays of eating cheap food from night markets and convenience stores, and sleeping in tiny hostels with even tinier bathrooms attached.

Perhaps it is because I could gain more meaningful experiences with the latter sort of holidays, while I could only stay one night at the Marina Bay Sands due to my financial limitations. I do not feel like I can justify staying more than one night, however, especially if I am to move out of the Marina Bay Sands area.

For now, I am glad to have had the first-time experience. It will probably remain a one-off experience, though, until I make ten times my current expected salary and become capable of flinging such money around with ease.

Until then, well...

Saving up for longer holidays of night markets and cheap hostels it is, then.