Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Month: October 2016

Let’s Tessellate: MC Escher Exhibition at ArtScience Museum

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What is art?

Baby, don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me no more.

I think that’s the way the song goes.

MC Escher. You know him. You know at least one of his creations from somewhere. It’s maybe his tessellations of animals where fish turn into birds who turn into fish again and in turn..turn into blocks.

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It might be his multi dimensional brain spasm inducing creations where people are seen walking in ways you can only do so with the aid of illegal substances.

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It might also be his reality distorting pieces where never-alive things come to life. Like The Walking Dead but without the zombie thing.

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If you’re not aware of Escher you should be. He’s a nice entry-level artist into the realm of art history. His work merges happily into math and science while also engaging and amazing people who may turn their noses up at a Monet or Picasso.

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Ambidextrous much?

I got into Escher in my teens when warping realities was all I cared about. Dali was too insane. Munch was a one hit wonder (not really, but you know..). Escher is the thinking man’s artist. His work, while twisting your reality, makes sense. In a way. His work is grounded in reality that our brains latch onto but then he grabs our ankles flips our brains upside down, slaps us in the face with a fish, then shows us the evolved version of reality he creates. I’ll take an exhibition by Escher over a roller coaster any day.

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The exhibition “Journey to Infinity” at the ArtScience Museum comprises over 150 works (which are mostly wood prints or lithographs). There are a few activities for children (a big tessellation jigsaw) throughout the exhibit and with its small enough size and engaging works it should be a fun few hours for the family.
For a mere $13 (residents) entry fee it is really good value. Go at a nice quiet time, like we did, and it’s even better.

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This drawing inspired me way back when I did art to try and draw reflected portraits. I didn’t fare as well as Escher.

Have a look at some of his work that is on show below. And my words.

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Love the inter-twining of worlds

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Day and Night. Night and Day.

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When you both have a hangover.

Bite Size Review: Spago by Wolfgang Puck

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www.marinabaysands.com

Mr. Puck has two restaurants now in Marina Bay. His first one “Cut” is a steak-centered nosebag joint. So one of us being a vegetarian can’t really go there (they check at the door). So we opted for his new California inspired Spago restaurant which had one more option for vegetarians (one option).

Spago is on the 57th floor of Marina Bay Sands. You get there by losing the will to live via multiple elevators. Tower 2 is the one you want to go up to. Up until the 55th floor and then switch to another elevator up to the 57th floor dodging sweaty patrons going to and from the gym on that floor.

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On the 57th floor is where the cool infinity pool is so you get to see a lot of people wandering around in their swimwear. Bodies that should not see the light of day trundle by while you sip $26 cocktails in Spago’s adjoining bar. It didn’t put me off my food, though. I was fasting all day so I could enjoy every dollar in every mouthful.

We were walked from the bar through some large rustic blue doors to our inside table. We weren’t splurging too much and just opted for some mains.

Weiser Farm’s Roasted Baby Beet Salad

Weiser Farm’s Roasted Baby Beet Salad: Toasted Hazelnuts, Watercress, Citrus, Goat Cheese, Aged Balsamic

The vegetarian went for the salad which was a space like oddity and I opted for the chicken dish which was really delicious. A beautiful blend of puree, jus, and truffles with each bite of succulent chicken. It was worth the $55. Yeah that’s right.

Pan Roasted Organic Chicken: Manjimup Black Truffles, Artichoke-Black Truffle Puree, Natural Cooking Juices

Pan Roasted Organic Chicken: Manjimup Black Truffles, Artichoke-Black Truffle Puree, Natural Cooking Juices

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Fingerling Potatoes ‘Patatas Bravas’

We also shared a small bucket of potatoes!

To finish up we had a plate of camembert and brie cheese with some chutneys on there. Lovely end to a lovely meal. We also had a glass of wine each to wash our meal down which were excellent too.

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Recommended? Yes. Just dip into your life savings first and enjoy every mouth-watering mouthful.

Bonus pre-meal $26 cocktail

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Seoul Survivor

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Changing of the guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace.

We recently visited South Korea (with a few footsteps into North Korea) for the first time since we arrived in Asia all the way back in 2008. I don’t know why we waited so long but I guess there were other places clambering for attention before it. So South Korea was that quiet kid in the corner patiently waiting to be picked for the sports team at lunch time. WHY WAS I ALWAYS LAST?!!?

Anyway.

We flew Korean Air for the first time. It had a pretty good reputation. It was okay, food was not good (is it ever?) but the in-flight entertainment was immense.

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Didn’t fly on this 747 but they still are the coolest looking planes around.

After much trundling around the various tourist websites I decided to pick Metro Hotel Myeongdong (my Trip Advisor review here) for its location and proximity to grab a tour bus to the DMZ which left from the nearby Hotel President. Why not stay there then I hear you splutter through some oat cakes?! It was quite bit more expensive. So there. The Metro Hotel was small but it was comfortable and there was a Starbucks in the lobby. And if you didn’t manage to grab a Starbucks in the lobby there was another one around the corner. And another one. And another one. Oh, but the aircon was right over the bed and just blasted our heads with icy wind all night. I think it helped in me getting a weird headache in the coming weeks but that’s for me and my health insurance company to figure out.

Here’s what we did in Seoul….to survive…nah, doesn’t work. Not changing the post title though…

Panmunjom Tour

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North Korean soldiers used to stand at the blue sheds too but have stopped. I wonder why…?

I have a fascination with North Korea. I want to go there. This will have to do for now. I did a lot of research on what tour to take. A lot of people said just take the Panmunjom tour as the whole DMZ tour is not worth it. Panmunjom is what you see on TV. You know? The steadfast, ready for action South Korean soldiers and the baggy uniformed, emaciated North Korean soldiers facing off against each other in between United Nations blue coloured huts.

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View from the North.

The tour I chose from Tour DMZ took half a day with a departure at 7:30am and arrival back in Seoul at 1:30pm. This was perfect as we didn’t feel like being on a tour for a full day as was the case with most of the other tours on offer.
The tour itself is, obviously, a surreal journey. If it was anywhere else in the world it would be a bit “meh” as most of the time is spent on the bus. As it is the border between North and South Korea it elevates the whole experience to something that is definitely worth doing.

The amount of time you spend in the secure border area is very rushed as you try to take in what you are seeing. Yes, those are North Korean soldiers about 100 meters away! Yes, where the well manicured gravel stops and the dusty brown dirt starts is the difference between two warring countries! Yes, the building a couple of hundred meters away with the soldiers looking through binoculars IS North Korea! Yes, if you did run a few meters of gravel you would cause a major international incident!
After very little time, it is all over. Worth it? Yes. Enough time to analyse what you’re seeing? Hell no.

Deoksugong Palace

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We walked to this palace through a Gay Pride festival and the opposite of a Gay Pride festival – an anti-homosexual religious protest vomit gathering. It’s always weird to see religious people spew hatred and anger towards something they should care less about. Get on with your lives idiots.

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Twats.

Deoksugong is nice enough if a little underwhelming. It was 1,000 Won to get in. I was instantly befriended by a Korean tourist who wanted his photo taken on his broken screened phone. Pleasure. Walking around is quite pleasant and peaceful as overly busy streets surround the palace grounds on all sides.

Yeah, you may as well visit this place, it’s right there.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Another palace, this one built in 1395 and the biggest of the palaces from the Joseon Dynasty. It’s been rebuilt since a big fire so it’s a bit dubious to what is authentically 14th century and what was plastered together by a drunk builder-hack in the 20th century.. It certainly is interned in a huge garden and palace grounds. It’s a pretty popular place but didn’t feel too crowded. The koi pond is a nice area to make your way towards. Take a few hours and head here.

Lotte Giants v Busan Bears Baseball Game

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Buying a baseball ticket online for a Korean game is impossible. Don’t even try. Don’t even bother researching it for weeks on end, like I did. Don’t ask anyone. Just go to the stadium it’s at an hour or so before the gates open and line up like everyone else. Which is what we did. We were quite unsure if we could make ourselves understood where we wanted to sit as it was one of those “talk through this 5 inch thick glass window and see if we can understand each other” which is hard enough when both speaking the same language. But worry we should have not, the lady spoke enough English to get our preferred seats.
The game was enjoyable in the way an amateur game can be. Lots of walks, lots of dropped balls, so lots of runs. The constant singing, cheering, dancing, and overall noise from the crowd makes the game a worthwhile thing to go to while in Korea. We didn’t eat any of the local faire on sale there but saw enough of it to deem our decision was a good one.

Well, that’s our South Korea trip in a nutshell.

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Other things to note:

Vegetarians don’t have a good time in Seoul.

The 6015 Airport Limousine bus from the Airport to Myeongdong (and vice versa I would imagine but it was raining hard for our return to the airport so we grabbed a taxi) is cheap, pretty reliable and stress free.

You may have issues getting money from ATMs. We did. There’s something weird about international cards and ATMs there. The ones that worked for us were in one place: underground at the Euljiro 1-ga metro stop. There’s a bank of 5 ATMS with one or two that say International on them. Or something like that. Head there.

Taste of Tasmania Part 4

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

Part 3 here.

This is the final part of our Tasmania trip report. It only took 10 months to complete. Writing about it. Not the trip.

Richmond

26629494296_763f127854_kThe drive down from Tamar Valley region to Richmond takes about three hours and is pretty decent drive on motorways and straight roads. It gets a little windy leading up to Richmond but all in all very doable. We stayed at an AirBnB for the first and only time in the trip at Every Man And His Dog Vineyard (my TripAdvisor review is here).

26050430744_528a2046cb_kThe only thing we wanted to do around Richmond was to head to Bonorong Sanctuary. Travelling around Tasmania it is astounding the amount of roadkill you see. This sanctuary takes in injured animals that can’t make it on the outside. I enjoyed it immensely seeing all the native animals of Tasmania and feeding and petting the chilled out kangaroos. It’s not cheap but it is places like this where you know the entrance fee is helping out with running the place and making sure the animals are well looked after. The guided tours are a bit of a scrummy mess with hordes of people taking them. We decided to ditch that and do our own thing. This was the only time we saw the famous Tasmanian Devil and it was worth the wait.

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Richmond itself is a quaint little town with an old bridge and jail. We stopped off for an afternoon snack and had a little walk around. Nothing much to see apart from the bridge but we made use of the ATM in the store there (which was conveniently placed beside the frozen meats section in case you were looking for it).

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Hobart

26562798352_5bb7755754_kHobart! Our last port of call in Tasmania. The famous Taste of Tasmania was on and the yachts from the Sydney-Hobart race were in town too. Making it a very busy time of year for Hobart. We donated one kidney and one lung to pay for our hotel there. We visited The Taste every day we were there and although busy it really was well run and very manageable with many drink and food options. Also for the first year, you could just wave your credit card (over a cash point tablet) and that was it you paid. Dangerous but convenient!

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Other things we did in Hobart include heading up to the top of Mount Wellington (seeing an echidna along the way) for stunning view of Hobart and the surrounding areas. Must see. We went to Cascade brewery for a quick beer tasting which was awesome too. 26590559751_906aa1f3a5_kWe took a lunch cruise with Peppermint Bay Lunch Cruises. We paid a little extra to be seated on the top deck which really didn’t bring any significant advantages other than we weren’t down below with a massive and loud family party. Result!

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The restaurant they take you to has excellent food and good beer on tap.
We finished off our Tasmania trip with a visit to the famous MONA. You can pay for the cruise up the river to it which was nice and we got some tasty brunch on board. MOMA itself is a bit of a mixed bag. The temporary exhibit which was on while we visited sucked a bit. The rest of the permanent collection is also a mixed bag of shock art with a few real historic pieces interspersed in between. It definitely is a must see while in Hobart but be careful if you are bringing children as a lot of the exhibits are a bit un-child friendly (or child unfriendly).

26629356306_e2a9fec75d_kSo that’s it! Tasmania was great. Very much like Ireland with it’s small towns, friendly locals, stunning rural scenery, excellent food and drink, and a little inclement weather thrown in for good measure. Go there.

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Bootleg Beatles: Live in Singapore

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There’s something weird about going to see a cover band and people reacting as if they’re the real deal. It’s like taking your photo with a wax effigy of your favourite movie star. Bit strange.

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So it was at the Bootleg Beatles who played at the Marina Bay Theatre recently. There were screams of exultation of “John!” and “George!” and “Oh my God, ‘Hey Jude’!! Alright people, settle the hell down. It’s a bunch of blokes who are quite good musicians and dress up like the Beatles. But they ain’t them.

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Having said all that, they put on a good show and musically they are on point. We saw them before a few years ago and they have the same in between song banter scientifically laid out by now. I don’t think a sitting down venue is the best for them though. People wanted to get up and dance (to the songs that were a hit before your mother was born) and the refined affair that is the Marina Bay Sands Theatre handcuffed people to merely rattling their jewelry throughout. Although there was some spontaneous standing up for “Help!”

At $75-ish for a seat in the back row of the ground floor it wasn’t the worst value for money but if they came around again we probably would just let it be…..:)

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