About Anniversaries

Marina Bay (Singapore)

Heartland. Singapore CBD at twilight.

It’s been a while since my last write-up (or to be more accurate, since I last travelled).  Honestly, I have maxed out my paid leave for the first three quarters of the year and have to wait for a few more weeks to be able to make use of the available balance.  But that may not happen.  I have resigned from my current post which might cause that balance to be forfeited; and it will take another long period before I could be allowed to take a long leave under my new / future employer.  The good thing is that Singapore will have 7 long weekends next year.  Some of the public holidays in 2017 will fall either on a Monday or Friday; so I am looking forward to working my road trips and photography projects around those long weekends.  At least; until I get to my next major holiday.  Meantime, I take the time to write this post to feature this beautiful country that has been second home to me for almost a decade.

It’s my 9th year working as an FT here in Singapore (Foreign Talent, as they call it) and my first time to find new work since I came here.  This post simply could have waited for my 10th year anniversary (which sounds more appropriate) but it couldn’t; thanks to this period of inactivity and travel hiatus.  Honestly, I just felt guilty I didn’t write about Singapore’s 51st Anniversary which happened last month.  None of the fireworks photos I took during the celebrations was really successful; which was supposed to be the highlight of my aborted Singapore Anniversary write-up.  So I simply write here and make use of the photos I have; images I have created recently as well as those I have amassed during my long stay here.

Fullerton Hotel at the Blue Hour.

You know what’s good about anniversaries?  They actually help you remember.  I have been blogging for a year now and I just realized I really haven’t featured this beautiful city.  How could I forget a country that took care of me for the last 9 years and that has allowed me to do my best work and rewarded me accordingly?  Ten years ago, I never would have imagined working here; much less move outside my own country and travel to see other places.  But now I am here; and for too long.  Familiarity does breed contempt (or even complacency); and you’ll never know of the wonderful things you have until you find yourself stuck somewhere in limbo with all the time available in your hands (which happened to me just recently). 🙂

Anniversaries also remind you to be thankful.  The problem with being a foreign talent is uncertainty.  I honestly feel quite fortunate for still finding new work in a foreign country especially at a time when most companies are either downsizing, reorganizing, or folding.  Back where I come from, it will require an enormous amount of fortune, an intricate network of connections, and a miraculous economic upheaval to be able to succeed in my profession.  Working in another country has levelled the playing field for me and has allowed myself and others to reap the benefits of meritocracy.  So like any foreigner working in another country, my mantra has always been “to endure and succeed, or pack up and go home”. 🙂

Lastly, anniversaries allow you to start afresh.  It allows you to take stock, appreciate your own uniqueness or strengths, and assess what worked well and what didn’t so you could better prepare and be stronger the next time around.  We are only as good as our last projects; and this tempering process has painfully changed me from being an impractical theorist to more of a humble, open-minded learner.  This recent activity of finding new work has taught me just that (the hard way, to be honest). 🙂

Marina Square (Singapore)

These City Walls. Blue hour at Marina Square in Central Singapore.

In most of my posts, I usually write a short historical background of the place or city being featured.  But in this case, I am happy to forego that one and just allow the images to speak of the beauty and wonder of this place (hopefully).  I just wanted it to be more personal and leave all the researching to you.  Travel photography is all about shooting places in the best available light (those fleeting moments before sunrise and after sunset) which you do not have a lot of when you are traveling (how ironic isn’t it?).  The best thing about living in a photogenic country is that you have all the time to do just that.  So I share them here; my personal postcards from Singapore (my favorites) which I hope will entice you to visit this surprising and beautiful country (in case you haven’t done so).  Enjoy the images and stay grateful and inspired. 🙂

See you in my next post.  Cheers!!! 🙂

(Click on any of the images below to activate the photo carousel.)

 

A Year in Postcards

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Postcard Merlion. Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort with Merlion Park in Singapore, the city where I am currently based.

I could have called this post “A Year in Review” or “My 2015 Travels” but I thought it would be a cliche.  We always do this year-end post or write-up where we cross out a few items in our travel bucket list (or any bucket list for that matter) and admittedly, this post is in some ways no different.  But it’s a little bit more than that.  As I was writing the draft for this post, I breathed a prayer of thanks to my Maker for helping me get past a year of office work marked by an organizational mayhem caused by some internal special elite force who obviously refused to work for the common good.  We are happy that we were able to neutralize that group and have put them all in the past. Peace has been restored and now we are back to doing the things that we are supposed to do, and that is (as a colleague puts it) “to work hard, to play hard, and to travel harder”. 🙂

Looking back at my calendar, I noticed that I did spend a large amount of time travelling.  I realized that in part, these sporadic wanderings somehow helped to put a lot of things in my life and work in perspective and has enabled me to better understand my peers who come from all sorts of backgrounds and temperaments.  Funny thing though is that I only started travelling recently (just this year actually).  These however are not extravagant travels but are rather short trips within the region and to neighboring countries.  Travelling is never cheap (even the ones done on a budget). 🙂  And if you’re like me travelling with a family, you understand how challenging it is both financially and logistically.

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LuminoCity. Lights exhibition at the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resorts in Marina Bay, Singapore.

So why this sudden passion for travelling?  Well for one thing, I needed an excuse (an expensive excuse) for learning and practicing photography. 🙂  In the past, I also passed off a lot of opportunities in the office for free travel.  And lastly, I got this big scare from a fitness consultant a few years ago (which is perhaps my real and silly reason for this travel frenzy).  The consultant took a quick BMI check and told me I have a somewhat high level of fat in my system (which is quite surprising considering my thin body frame) and that I might even get a massive heart attack by age 45.  I was not sure if he was just trying to make me sign up for a gym program.  Anyway, I didn’t buy into the program but I did freak out a bit after that.  I did give it a thought and made a few lifestyle changes over the following months.  Alongside those changes is a list of the places I wanted to visit (kinda like a 1001-places-to-see-before-you-die sort of stuff).  So I told my family that from then on, we will meet regularly in some distant foreign lands and we’ll explore those places together. 🙂

I am still doing the things that I love very much and care passionately about; but now with more of the things I really don’t like to do but I needed to do (e.g. exercise, strength training); and eating less of the food I love and more of the ones I really didn’t care about before (e.g. greens).  Nowadays, the only time I eat with reckless abandon is when I am travelling. 🙂  When eating in another country, you should have a mantra.  I have one (something I learned from my church apprentice).  “Counting the memories and not the calories” is a reminder of why we eat and travel and why nothing that you eat in any foreign land will have any bad, real-life impact on your health and body. 🙂  Kidding aside, eating is my excuse and the best way for me to learn and to experience another country’s culture.

So here you go.  My postcards from 2015 (the very cliche I was trying to avoid).  Sorry for this.  I didn’t mean to brag or boast about these modest travels.  I just turned 45 three months ago and still feeling quite grateful (and obviously still alive at the time of this writing) for each day I receive past that 45-year mark. 🙂  I am currently looking at travelling outside the region.  It may take a while for this to happen as it will require a more challenging planning strategy.  Meantime, enjoy the images as much as I do and I hope I kept you inspired and always grateful.

1) Visiting Victoria Peak and Victoria Harbor (Hong Kong: Fabruary 2015):  Didn’t have much time to take so many photos but tried my best not to miss these spots.  I have seen this view of Hong Kong so many times that it was almost a cliche.  But seeing it personally gives one a different kind of high.  Taking photos at night in Victoria Peak was a challenge with children either knocking the camera tripod or extending their arms into the camera’s frame.  Not to forget the crowd behind me pushing each other to capture a photo.

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City of Embers.  Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong at night.

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Blurring the Lines.  Night view from Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

2) Anniversary with the missus in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia: April 2015):  Kuala Lumpur is just an hour away by plane from Singapore.  So it would be a sin to miss the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.  As an architect, I made sure I didn’t miss this one as well as other places of interest.

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Atmospheria.  The city of Kuala Lumpur viewed from the top of KL Tower.

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Unbroken.  Petronas Towers viewed from a somewhat awkward angle.

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Dataran Merdeka.  The historic Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

3) Team Building in Bali (Indonesia: May 2015):  I think our company did well the previous year so we had this weekend in Bali.  It was not the best part of Bali but it was a great opportunity to connect and re-establish relationships with our colleagues.

Children of The Light. Kuta Beach at Sunset.

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Edge of Tomorrow.  Twilight at Jimbaran Beach in Bali, Indonesia.

4) Road trip to Legoland Malaysia (Malaysia: July 2015):  I found myself stuck during a public holiday so I decided to take this last minute road trip.  The decision was perfect as the journey ended with me being reminded of why I became an architect in the first place.

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Legoland Hotel. The LEGO-inspired hotel located just across the park entrance.

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Imagination. The home for the true LEGO fan where children and adults alike can play with the LEGO bricks.

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LEGO Academy. This is also home to Mindstorms where you can build and program LEGO robots.

5) Photowalk at the Bund and Pudong Districts in Shanghai (China: September 2015):  I quite enjoyed this one despite the long-haul flight.  The weather was pleasant with the air starting to get cooler (the beginning of autumn) and the skies a perfect blue.  There’s no need for me to saturate the sky colors in the post-editing of the photos.  Not to forget the amazing architectural wonders in this area.

Historic Buildings along the Bund Strip in Shanghai, China.

Storm brewing above the Shanghai Pudong CBD.

Shanghai viewed from the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center.

6) Visit to Bangkok (Thailand: November 2015):  It was quite sad I didn’t have my family to join me in this trip.  Nevertheless, Bangkok surprised me with its unique flavor and twist to every experience possible.  Not to forget the food that you could enjoy just almost anywhere in the city.

Tourist Duty. Temple structures inside the Wat Phra Kaew grounds in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.

Wonderful sunset viewed from Cielo Skybar in Bangkok, Thailand.

Enjoy the holidays!!

See you in my next post. Cheers!!! 🙂

A New Orient

Quiet After The Storm. Sunrise at the Shanghai Pudong District.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”– Anonymous

This fascination with the east has been going on for quite some time now.  Well obviously, I grew up in this neighbourhood.  And if you are here, you are spot on.  Now is the perfect time to be living, thriving, and breathing in this part of the world.

So why Shanghai?  Because Shanghai is positively electric.  It is a testament to China’s aspirations and a centerpiece of its status as an emerging global economy.  A place rich in tradition and dreams for the future.  It is a fascinating mix of traditional buildings, colonial architecture, and futuristic skyscrapers most of which have no precedent.  Shopping, dining, sightseeing, museum, or bar-hopping; Shanghai has all that and more.  Not so surprised why so many people want to come here.  I read somewhere that people in Shanghai are smart.  To this a local cleverly replied: “Not really.  But only smart people come to Shanghai”.  So I guess that’s why I’m here. 🙂

Old and New. Historic buildings along the Bund Strip in Shanghai, China.

I have a thousand and one photos from this recent Shanghai trip which I plan to share and write about in a next post.  Sorry about that.  So what I wrote up there was sort of a false introduction.  I have this problem.  Everytime I want to write about something, some flow of random thoughts come to mind and I end up writing about something else.  It does bother me at times but I couldn’t discount it either.  Just wanted to share it here and get it off my system.  So bear with me for a while.  This could get a little sappy.

Honestly, I wanted to go as far and as high as I could.  They call Shanghai “The Paris of the East”.  I really wanted to go as far as Paris but at the moment, this is as close as I could get to being there. 🙂  So here I am on Day 5 of this trip (my last night here) standing on top of the Shanghai World Financial Center as high as I could get at 474 meters with the office 2,363 miles behind me.  I am looking through misty glass windows towards a horizon that seems to stretch on forever; oblivious of the maddening crowd of smartphone-wielding tourists around me trying to get photos and the usual selfies.  I am looking at the city below but with part of my mind somehow still back there with the work that I love very much and a heart disappointed by a few personal plans that didn’t turn out the way I expected.

You know what?  We all get tired, drained, stressed, disappointed, and confused (distracted) sometimes.  It’s the design fault of human nature.  Constantly running does not always get you somewhere.  Activity does not necessarily mean achievement.  One philosopher said that the unexamined life is not worth living.  So we stop and drop everything.  We take a few steps back and try to see where we are in the grand scheme of things.  A few weeks back, I heard a senior mentor say that standing too close to the tree makes you lose sight of the forest.  He was right.  Recently, I was doing exactly just that.  So I was snapped out of this selfish daze.

So that is why I am here.

One Last Look. Shanghai viewed from the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center.

  1. Maybe that’s why I love the Orient (the East).  The Orient is a descriptive word which means appearing or rising especially from below the horizon.  Like the morning or orient sun.  It is a promise of something better and a chance to make up for opportunities lost.  The verb form of the word means to re-align or to position oneself towards a proper direction.  Put simply, to focus on the path that is more important.  Much like the way you use a compass when you get lost somewhere.  I love the way that sounds.
  2. That’s why I love architecture.  It helps me think in three dimensions.  In my line of work, we call it perspective.  On this side of heaven, we only see things in two dimensions.  The perspective is the master architect’s way of communicating to laymen and mere mortals the meaning of two-dimensional drawings.  It helps us understand context and where things are in the masterplan of everything.  Nothing exists in a vacuum.  The tree mentioned above needs to co-exist with the other trees in the forest.  All things work together for the good.  We call it the big picture.
  3. That’s why I love high places like this.  It helps me experience and appreciate the perspective mentioned above.  It is also comforting to know that there is someone up there who is really in control and who sees my life (our lives) from this point of view.  Someone who sees every beginning and ending from a higher vantage point.  I like the illustration of the tapestry.  You  don’t get to appreciate a tapestry when you are still working on it from the underside.  Only when the workings on the underside are done can you only look at it from the top and understand its real beauty.  It’s pretty much like that.

Fly by Night. After-hours at the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center.

So while waiting for the daylight to fade and the city lights below to turn on,  I noticed my reflection on the glass before me.  I suddenly remember a conversation I read somewhere a few years back.  I could almost hear the reflection speaking to me with the words from that dialogue:  “Hey brother.  I miss you already.  Snap out of the daze and get back on track.  Life is short and architecture is too long.  There’s still a lot of things to do.  And one more thing:  take care of yourself because if you drop dead, I will kill you.” 🙂

See you in my next post.  Cheers!!

 

I will be adding more photos from this Shanghai trip here in this link.