Chinese New Year Celebrations 2020 @ Chinatown Singapore

Rats! Lots and lots of them in Singapore’s Chinatown! Big ones, small ones, all gaily dressed in their Chinese New Year finest. Yes, as you read this at the start of 2020, the Year of the Rat will be upon us faster than you can say, er, “Rats!”

This year’s Lunar New Year is from Jan 25 till Feb 8, and Chinatown is already all geared up to usher in the Metal Rat with a host of festive activities and celebratory events. Musings on the M49 was chuffed to be invited to a media preview organized by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens Consultative Committee to have a close-up look at this year’s lights!

Street Light-Up

In collaboration yet again with students from the Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD), the annual Street Light-up boasts 1,388 handcrafted lanterns—in the form of rats, gold coins, ingots, mandarin oranges, and firecrackers, etc—projecting much glow on Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road and Garden Bridge.

There are 200 rat lanterns in all, mostly placed along Eu Tong Sen Street, with the main 12m-tall centrepiece (see top main picture) located at the junction where the street meets Upper Cross Street.

Amongst the rat lanterns, look out for many a ferris wheel made of gold ingots (with mini rats inside a few of them) which represents an eternal cycle of luck and wealth.

The Year of the Rat also marks the start of the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac. According to legend, the Rat outsmarted larger animals such as the Tiger, Ox, Dragon, etc, to win the race set by the Jade Emperor and hence that is why the little creature ended up being at the head of the Zodiac. Lanterns of the other 11 animals that made it to the Zodiac (pictured above) can be spotted a distance behind the main centrepiece.

Official Light-Up and Opening Ceremony: Sat Jan 4, 2020

If you want to see the Chinatown lights, you can actually go now. BUT, if you enjoy big dazzling excitement and pomp, the official Light-Up and Opening Ceremony will be on Sat Jan 4 from 6pm-10pm at Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road and graced by Singapore’s President, Mdm Halimah Yacob. There will be music, dance and Cantonese Opera performances, and a lion dance troupe performing “21 Plum Blossoms Poles”, a festival first. And oh, stay on till the sure-to-be-explosive fireworks and firecrackers finale!

Heritage & Food Trail: Weekends Jan 5-19, 2020

Among the many activities planned for Chinatown’s 7-week Chinese New Year celebrations is the Heritage & Food Trail with an emphasis on Cantonese influence. The guided tour (available in English and Mandarin) takes one through the culturally-rich streets of Chinatown, before descending on Chinatown Complex Food Centre where participants will indulge in delicious Cantonese cuisine such as Yam Ring and Yam Cake from five popular hawker stalls including Heng Kee Cantonese Cooked Food and Jia Ji Mei Shi (pictured). A ticketed event, visit chinatownfestivals.sg for more information.

Other Highlights

Other Chinatown Chinese New Year events include a Festival Street Bazaar (Jan 3-24; 6pm-10.30pm daily and 6pm-1am on CNY eve) with over 300 stalls selling Chinese New Year delicacies, decorative items, apparel, etc; nightly stage shows at Kreta Ayer Square (Jan 4-24, 8pm-10.30pm) including lion dances and musical performances; and a Wishing Tree at Chinatown Point (Jan 3-24; 11am-9pm) where each “Make A Wish” card costs $2 and all proceeds will benefit the underprivileged elderly residing in Chinatown. A Countdown Party will also take place on Chinese New Year Eve on Fri 24 Jan.

Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre will also host a special Cantonese Opera show on Sun Jan 5, as well as the 13th International Lion Dance Competition on Sat 11 and Sun 12 Jan. For enquiries and ticket purchase, call Kreta Ayer Community Club at 6222 3597 (9am-9pm).

Last but not least, Chingay 2020 (Jan 31-Feb 1), Asia’s largest annual street performance and float parade, will make an appearance at Chinatown on Sun Feb 2, 6-10pm along New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street. So, if you can’t get to the F1 Pit Building for the parade, get on down to Chinatown instead!

For more info on all events, visit chinatownfestivals.sg.

All photos by Marguerita Tan.
No text or photos to be reproduced without the blog author’s permission.

i Light Marina Bay 2016

Photo by Marguerita Tan

Photo by Marguerita Tan

i Light Marina Bay 2016
On Friday, after a late afternoon meeting in town with a dear friend, I decided to play tourist and checked out i Light Marina Bay, the annual sustainable art festival which was being launched that night.

This year’s festival features 25 light art installations by local and international artists made with eco-friendly materials and/or energy-saving lights. These are strategically placed around the bay along Marina Bay Sands’ Waterfront Promenade, The Promontory @ Marina Bay, OUE Bayfront and The Float @ Marina Bay.

I only had the time (and energy) to check out the west side of the bay (read: missed out those at The Float) and even then, a few installations seem to be either not lit up or yet to be set up. Anyway, here are the few that caught my eye:
2016-03-04 19.48.26 (360x640)Neon Man, standing tall on the Waterfront Promenade.  Not sure if he’s part of the 25 installations but he was certainly one of the top attractions in the park.
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This doesn’t look like a light installation but what it does do is make bubbles when the people pull the strings at the other end. Fascinating nonetheless. At the back is the i Light Carnival which will run alongside the Light festival.
L1130571 (480x640)#10 Shadow Bath (UK) – cool shadows created on the ground and supposedly provide a stunning light show when one stands within it. Alas, the periods when one can stand inside weren’t on when I was there…
L1130574 (480x640)#11 Lampshade (Norway) – looks like a glowing tent made of giant diamonds especially when sighted from afar. Stood out well especially against the commercial buildings in the background.
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#12 Angels of Freedom (Germany & Israel) – these angel wings that change colours every few seconds made them one of the most popular exhibits with shutterbugs. Altogether now: “Halo from the other siiiiideeee eye…”
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#13 Moon Haze (China) – These two ladies were certainly feeling the burden of the whole world (or the moon) on their shoulders. It got funnier when strong winds blew and the giant balloon almost knocked them off!

If you plan to check #ilightmarinabay out, best to pick up a festival map so you can see where exactly the 25 pieces are placed around the bay. The 3 information counters are at The Promontory @Marina Bay, Art Science Museum, and The Float @Marina Bay. Otherwise, there are light boxes showing the map at various spots along the bay.

Mobile toilets are available at The Promontory as well as a beer tent with live band, an ice-cream saloon and a food van (The Travelling Cow).

i Light Marina Bay will run till March 27 nightly from 7.30pm to 11pm (extended to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays). Admission is Free. Nearest MRT: Downtown or Bayfront

 

 

 

The New Capitol & Angelina (of Paris, not Jolie)

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Another old classic building in Singapore has been restored and this time it’s the Capitol Theatre, hallelujah! Located at Stamford Road diagonally opposite Raffles City, the old cinema and its white bricked perimeters – built in 1904 – have been totally refurbished and revamped with new lifestyle stores and eateries, complete with an adjacent piazza with even more shopping and dining outlets.

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Now in the complex known as the Capitol Galleria, the Capitol theatre is off and running – the Singapura musical premiered here – and it feels so good to know it can have a new lease of life rather than being abolished like our poor National Theatre.

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The Galleria seems almost completed with many lifestyle stores (jewellery, beauty, fashion) opened in the outlets facing the street. The eateries here – such as Tap Craft Beer Bar, 1933 and Dazzling Cafe are already doing brisk business, especially Angelina of Paris (more on this later).

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Over at the Piazza side, things are rather quiet in the early evening with many of the basement dining outlets seemingly yet to start business. Eateries such as Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant and Palette (kind of an atas Food Republic with individual restaurants within rather than hawker stalls) though were in operation but  very empty for a weekday evening. Maybe 630pm was too early for dinner…

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Wanting to eat at a place where there are “more people”, I opted for Angelina back at the Galleria side. Though they have meaty (and veggie) main courses, I decided I shall try their famous gourmet pastries for dinner.

Must say the service staff here is impressive – the moment I sat down (and I was asked where I prefer to be seated), I was told they can’t serve me drinking water as “the building has some problem with the tap water” but will do so once they are given the go ahead. No worries, coffee will do fine for the time being, I told the affable waiter (whose name is Harun if the bill is right…)

When I asked Harun whether I should go for an éclair chocolat or their signature offering, the Mont-Blanc (the pastry, not the pen), he politely said it’s my preference BUT hinted quite adamantly that for something different and not ordinary (like an eclair), I should go for the signature item. Well, it was certainly unique. The Mont Blanc (pictured above) is like a cupcake with chestnut cream vermicelli covering a mould of light whipped cream with meringue beneath it. It was delightful but not something that rocks my world…

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Which was why I decided to go for something familiar like the Opera. Harun agreed “if you are a chocolate of coffee lover, you’d love this!” I’m both so bring it on! And oh, what a choice. It’s  layers of soft coffee and milk chocolate mousse one of top of the other, followed by almond chocolate biscuit soaked in coffee and ending with a crunchy praline biscuit at the bottom. Every slice I cut and eat was a slice of goodness. This, I would come back for! It came up to about $38 for a coffee  and two gourmet pastries, but I guess you are paying for the quality and the name… (and most probably the rent…)

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Well, glad to see another new place to explore new dining and shopping options. Must say it’s nice to see a new venue where you don’t see brands that you would find in every other mall. Hopefully, the new Capitol is here to stay for good…

Sneak Peek @ “Naked Museum”

Last Sunday, Musings on the M49 was fortunate enough to be invited to the National Gallery Singapore’s “Naked Museum” tour which offered a sneak peek of the premises minus the artworks. Housed in two national monuments City Hall and former Supreme Court and restructured to the tune of S$500 million,  the visual art institution is sure to become one of top attractions in the country come October.
L1100444 (800x534)The tour started at the City Hall end at The Singapore Courtyard (above) which is a new structure carved out of the former carpark and which is quite cool as its woody texture adds some warm colour and texture to the mostly stark white “stone and mortar” feel of the 1929 building. Sited outside the DBS Singapore Gallery which will feature Singapore art from the 19th century to the present, the space will likely be renamed as The DBS Singapore Courtyard.
L1100451 (800x534)From the courtyard staircase, visitors will arrive at The Chamber which is the biggest room in the City Hall building and has these magnificent marble columns. Infamously known as the site where the Surrender of Singapore was signed, the nice museum guides reminded us that this was also the place where our first President Yusof Ishak was inaugurated and where Lee Kuan Yew was sworn in as our first Prime Minister in 1959. Yes, preserved this room we must….
L1100476 (800x534)The City Hall Rooftop is going to be a real happening place with lots of F&B options. It has two levels – on Level 5 you’ll find two reflection pools (for fengshui reasons, no less), art installations and lots of greens …
L1100471 (800x534)… while Level 6 has a public viewing deck which offers great panoramic viewd of the Padang and the Civic District, not to mention, a fabulous bird eye’s view of the Singapore F1 raceways!
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Linking the City Hall and former Supreme Court Buildings are two skybridges and they hung over the Gallery atrium which will serve as the main entrance. The design here by Studio Milou Singapore, which features giant metallic tree-like structures holding up leaf-shewn shades, is to give an impression that people are walking through a tropical rainforest. Nice…

L1100495 (800x534)We are now over at the Supreme Court side on a newly-created terrace that was formerly the  rooftop which was never opened to the public. Now the area is an air-conditioned “resting area” where visitors can find restrooms, benches, drink machines and also view the amazing Rotunda room dome which officially marks the centre of the 1939 building (and not the iconic green dome which stands stall on the outside).  Walk round the rotunda, and a staircase plus a door will bring you to…
L1100504 (800x577)…the historical lobby of the former Supreme Court. Pretty much of everything from the past – the flooring, the ceiling, the judges’ honour roll, etc – has been conserved. Had the chance to see this area here at a previous press conference so the thrill for me here was…
L1100515 (800x534)… stepping out to the Balcony which may not be opened to the public when the Gallery opens. Which will be a pity really as there is so much history to be learnt from the building’s facade characterised by its tall Corinthian columns and which offers a great view of the Padang area as well. Let’s hope the powers that be changed their minds by then. They can always limit the number of people allowed on the balcony…
L1100521 (800x570)The other thrill was finally getting to see what they have done to the courtrooms and corridors and really, they have done a brilliant job. At Level 3 where the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery will be sited,  spaces such as the Rotunda Library (above) and various courtrooms were impressive and make for decent rooms where artworks can be appreciated.
L1100536 (800x545)Last but not least, the area I was dying to see was – whether the holding cells used for housing prisoners during their trials were still intact… Well, two of them are (above) – preserved and located within the Gallery’s office, complete with the toilet flushing tanks outside the cells (to prevent prisoner’s from killing themselves with the chains…)

Not sure if they will be accessible to the public when the Gallery opens but they sure are a fascinating part of Singapore’s history, just as is the time capsule said to be buried underneath the eight-sided foundation stone in the Supreme Court Foyer that contains Singapore newspapers from 1937 and a handful of Straits Settlements coins is scheduled to be opened in the year 3000….

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All in all. Sure is “something old, something new” to look forward to come October. Wished we had such restoration technology back then when we could have saved other historical buildings like the National Theatre….