Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Month: February 2017

Guns N Roses: Live in Singapore 2017

I took my time buying a ticket to this as my experience attending Metallica at the Singapore Exhibition Centre in 2013 was one I wanted to forget. I bought a ticket.

Without doubt, the Singapore Exhibition Centre is the worst venue for a concert in the world. Situated in the middle of nowhere nearly floating adrift into the Singapore Strait it sits with indignation and aloofness. It’s so far away from civilisation you can see stars in the sky and phones lose the will to live and lose any sort of coverage.

I spent over an hour in a taxi slaloming through gridlocked traffic jams getting to the venue and even after that I got out and walked the rest of the way once on the final never-ending stretch of a road (which doubles as a construction route with dumpster trucks careening back and forth).

So, GnR was meant to start at 8pm, I arrived at 8:15pm after leaving my house at 6:50 or so. They started playing at 8:34pm. Many hundreds of people missed the start of the show, without doubt. I knew getting home was going to be terrible so I planned to leave before the encore (just like I did with Metallica in ’13).

Looking at LAMC Productions’ Facebook page comments, I got away lightly. Many people queued hours for food only to find everything was sold out and they had no way to spend the money they had put on their RFID bracelets (LAMC have posted on their page that they are proud of bringing GnR here!! And then mentioned they will work on refunding the credit left on RFID bracelets). Ridiculous! It’s all summed up by this guy’s experience, VIP packages ranged from $1,038 to a staggering $2,063 for a lounge experience!!

Anyway, to the concert itself I guess!

Guns N’ Roses Setlist Changi Exhibition Centre, Singapore, Singapore 2017, Not in This Lifetime

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Guns n Roses were good, it was fantastic to see Axl ,Slash, and Duff do what they do. Highlights for me were “Rocket Queen”, “Estranged”, “Yesterdays”, and “Double Talkin’ Jive” as the latter three brought me back to the “Use your Illusion” days with my brother heading off to Slane to see GnR with Faith No More in support. With me at home, too young to go. To see Slash…slashing away at another classic and instantly remembered solo and to hear (barely) Axl whining his whine is something to experience. I still remember the blank BASF tape we had “Appetite for Destruction” copied on to.  They were the first band I listened to where it felt kind of naughty to listen to their music and lyrics. I also had “Living on a Prayer” on a blank tape back then so the contrast was very stark! I went along the GnR path of enlightenment from then on…
Back to reality…
Sadly I can’t really talk too much about the music without mentioning the organisation of the concert. Pen B suffered from muffled and low vocals from Axl’s mic. When you can’t hear a word that Axl is singing and hear the people around you singing louder then there’s something amiss. The stage was so so far away that we all ended up just watching screens which were out of sync somewhat with reality.
The fact that you have to start planning your escape route early is never good. I should be able to enjoy all of the concert and leave when I want. As I made my way outside and wrapped alllll the way around to the back of Pen B it was then I realised I could have just stood out there and watched the concert for free as it was all open and visible to all.
Thankfully I got on one of the first buses out of there (ticket wasn’t checked, could have got on for free) and, although happy to see GnR finally, it is overshadowed by incompetent organisation and planning starting with venue choice.
 
Some say there are still ghosts of people waiting for transportation home….

James Taylor: Live in Singapore 2017


Not my video. I paid for the cheap seats.

I’m not sure how James Taylor found his way into my maelstrom of heavy metal and hard rock listening habits back in my younger days. But found his way, he did. To be honest it was a James Taylor “Best of” CD and I didn’t venture too far away from his “best ofs”. Funnily and mirroring my experience with his experience, during his concert at the Star Theatre this week James Taylor quipped many times about his new songs and how “they won’t take too long” to play and he would go back to his “best ofs” soon after each one.

I think, perhaps, I was in need of wistful and melodic vocals along with soothing and relaxing music to counter-point roaring electric guitars and ear-splitting drumming that heavy metal produced. I guess I still am as listening to James Taylor still has the same calming effect. The irony is not lost on me that I saw James Taylor in the middle of these concerts I am going to:

Metallica – James Taylor – Guns N Roses – Megadeth.

Mirrors my teenage years perfectly.

On the night, any doubts that Taylor’s voice or guitar playing has weakened with age disappears with his first song “Wandering”. His voice still has the caramel essence that permeates throughout this discography. Backing up Taylor on his current tour is a plethora of esteemed musicians in their own right and it shows with each note; there is musical mastery with every trumpet note and guitar strum.

Each of Taylor’s “best ofs” are present as expected with each one holding its own unique melancholic story at it’s core. “Walking Man” centred on Taylor’s absent father throughout childhood, “Fire and Rain” about his depression and drug addiction, and “Carolina on my Mind” and “Copper Line” expressing Taylor’s longing and pining for his rural home life. “Copper Line” had passed me by and it really stuck with me during the concert and I’ve been hitting it up on Spotify a lot the past few days.

If another voice sung those songs they wouldn’t work nearly as well. Taylor’s voice and song composition adds meaning that many many musicians have tried and failed to muster since we started enjoying the sound that banging stones together made.

So musically the concert was excellent. Taylor has a 20 minute interlude which he seemed to question why light heartedly beforehand. He spent the time signing a never-ending autograph/selfie line from the stage (which over-ran the said 20 minutes and got everyone a little impatient).

The Star Theatre is a fine venue for concerts and I’ve seen quite a few there; sound always seems to be excellent. The never-ending escalator journey up from ground level can be a little vexing though.

Next up on the concert to-do list…Guns N Roses…a little different.

James Taylor Setlist The Star Theatre, Singapore, Singapore 2017, 2017 World Tour

Day Trips From Zurich by Train

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On top of Rigi Klum

December. What do you want? Sunshine and beaches to not think about the festive season or cold and snow and mulled wine to soak it all up? If it’s the latter then you can do a lot worse than travelling to Switzerland for the festive season.

We had 5 nights based in Zurich over the Christmas period and took full advantage of the amazing train network they have in Switzerland to explore some of the surrounding areas.

Train Details

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No problem to have a few beers on the train. There is an amazing beer shop in Zurich Bf called “Drinks of the World”

Although convenient they are expensive so do the math and explore purchasing a Travel Pass for the amount of days you need it. We got it at Zurich HB (central train station) and you need to have a valid photo ID with you. Our Singapore work passes were good enough. We opted for the 3 day pass as we would do the bulk of our travelling in the middle three days of our stay. I used the Swiss Rail website to predict how much our train journeys would total without the pass and it was financially worth it to buy the pass. Do it if you will save money.

Zurich

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Zurichsee

Zurich has a reputation for nothing much going for it. True that it is a business city but it’s certainly worth a night or two to see the sights. Perhaps, without the delightful Christmas markets, there may not be much of a vibe apparent but we enjoyed our time wandering around. Looking at how we travelled over the 3 days it probably makes more sense to base yourself in Lucerne. We stayed in the Central Plaza Hotel which was a couple minutes walk from the train station and across the road from a Starbucks (if that floats your caffeine boat).

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Fraumunster Church

So, in retrospect, we didn’t really do much in Zurich apart from walk the old town areas and visit the few churches they have there, wandered down Bahnhofstrasse (the main shopping street), and took in all the festivities at the various Christmas markets. There is a National Museum and a few other museums but time wasn’t on our side with all the day trips we took.

Rheinfalls

A quick 50 minute train trip out on the S9 regional train to Neuhausen Rheinfalls station then a brisk walk over the Rheinfallweg bridge and you get to the Schlosslaufen (Castle overlooking the Rheinfalls). The entrance fee is 5CHF per person which you tap on an entrance gate before descending to the falls.
The falls are a must-see if you’re in the region and the vantage point you get viewing them is very unique. You make your way down right to the falls where you can touch the thunderous water flowing down the falls at a break neck speed. Worth the entrance fee.
There is a train stop right at the castle if you can’t walk back to the Neuhausen stop but there didn’t seem to be a ticket machine there and you can’t buy on the train. So be fore-warned on that.

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Winterthur

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Winterthur is not prominent on the tourist trail but it was another 40 minute short hop on the train from Rheinfalls so we went. Winthertur’s art gallery wasn’t open when we went so we just spent time wandering down towards their Christmas market then looped back towards the train station. Moving on.

Stein am Rhein

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Again, another spur of the moment trip but I heard this place was quaint and worth the trip. 40 minutes on the train from Winterthur wasn’t going to kill us. It IS a quaint and cool little town. Little. And nothing was open for the Christmas period apart from one bar/restaurant where we killed some time downing a Swiss beer before making our way back to the train station. The buildings are cool and walking around the silent streets we could have been in the 16th century.
I would imagine it’s quite a nice place to visit in the Summer with bustling restaurants, a beautiful river-side vantage point, and perhaps some markets in the town square.

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Rigi Klum

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We got up early on one of our days to reach the heady heights of Rigi Klum. No cable cars for us so this was a perfect option due to its cog-wheel train that runs up every hour from Arth-Goldau. So that was our route: Zurich HB-Arth Goldau-Rigi Klum. We then descended the other cog-wheel train to Vitznau and got a boat (boat tickets included in the 3 day travel pass too!) back to Lucerne.
The ascent to Rigi Klum was misty until we got above it then you start to see the breath-taking mountains surrounding the area. It was misty every day in Switzerland in December so I feel we missed out on some lovely scenery while travelling around.

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Being at the summit of Rigi Klum takes your breath away. Literally. Icy blasts pummel you into near submission but the views from the top sate the urge to run for shelter. Something about looking over landscapes from great heights rustle up some primal feelings of power and awareness of life. We had a mulled wine in the small cafe up there before heading back down to…..mull….over existential ponderings.

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Vitznau after the descent on cog-wheel train isn’t worth it’s own little section here. We had to wait for the boat so we had a beer and something to eat in a cafe. Nothing much else to see but, again, I’m sure it’s a lovely place to stroll along the water front in the Summer time.

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Lucerne

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When in Lucerne, you must see “the Lion statue”

Lucerne feels a little more lively than Zurich. It seems to be a hub for tourists rather than business. One of the main highlights is the “dying lion” statue which on paper doesn’t really seem to justify so much attention. In my opinion, it’s well worth the attention. It’s one of the most powerful statues I’ve seen. Somehow it’s much much bigger than you can expect from photos. The facial expression, the body position, and the lion’s place embedded into the rock face all culminate in a truly powerful work of art. Venus de Milo? Pffttt in a very distant second place.

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Lucerne also has areas for just wondering around taking in the architecture. Chapel Bridge cuts an interesting slice down the middle of the city. Built in the 14th Century (what?!?!) it provides an interesting angle on the city from the river’s vantage point and adds a unique flavour to Lucerne’s appeal as a tourist destination.
We actually visited Lucerne twice in our travels. On the second visit we spent time at their Christmas market/ice rink beside the Lucerne HB and then popped into see the Art Museum. The Swiss Travel pass guarantees you free access to some museums and art galleries around Switzerland and this museum is part of that package. This art museum was okay, nothing special.

Basel

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This ferry uses the river currents to get across.

Again another hour or so away from Zurich we popped along to Basel. Another plethora of Christmas markets to distract us. Got in from the cold to visit their Museum of Fine Arts (another free admission with the Swiss Travel Pass) which was quite good and they had a Jackson Pollack exhibition on which was interesting to see. Like other towns we wandered around, taking in the architecture and finding a vantage point over the Rhine from a Christmas market.

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Bern

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Finally, our last stop of this whirlwind trip to Switzerland we stopped off in Bern (1 hour train journey from Basel). It was bloody freezing. We needed warmth and food but we settled for more mulled wine at one of their biggest Christmas markets.

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Bern, through my frozen eyelashes, felt older and more historical than any other city. It felt like nothing had changed apart from cars and electricity. The buildings all looked unchanged. Not feeling like any museum visits we took in Bern by walking around and eyeballing the different sights that Google told us we had to (Zytglogge, Käfigturm, Kindlifresserbrunnen, Bern Minster). No, I didn’t just make all those names up.

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Child-eater statue…gulp..

Ende. It was great to see all these areas of Switzerland (and remember my fading German) and left me wanting to see other areas in more affable weather. I contemplated the long trip to Jungfraujoch but maybe next time….

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Bis bald Schweiz!

Thaipusam Festival 2017

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Religious fervour has had its fair share of bonkers moments throughout history. Sadly, most of it involving killing/torturing non-believers or other people that an old book told you to…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Thaipusam, thankfully, restricts the torture to its very friendly and devote Hindu followers. Not that torture should play a part anywhere in life but there you go. Here’s where Thaipusam originates from:

This festival was created during one of the battles between the Asuras (or to be more specific Soorapadman) and the Devas. At one point, the latter were defeated several times by the former. The Devas were unable to resist the onslaught of the Asura forces. In despair, they approached Shiva and entreated to give them an able leader under whose heroic leadership they might obtain victory over the Asuras. They surrendered themselves completely and prayed to Shiva. Shiva granted their request by creating the mighty warrior, Skanda, out of his own power or Achintya Shakti. He at once assumed leadership of the celestial forces, inspired them and defeated the Asura forces and to recognise that day the people created the festival, Thaipusam.

According to Skanda Puranam, the legend of Murugan, and Thirupugal which are divine verses on Murugan, adhere to Shaivam principles. Murugan is the embodiment of Shiva’s light and wisdom and devotees pray to him to overcome the obstacles they face, as He is the divine vanquisher of evil. The motive of Thaipusam festival is to pray to God to receive his grace so that bad traits are destroyed.

Today, Thaipusam centres around the Kavadi Attam or the “burden dance” where Hindu followers ask for help through physical burden. This can be as little as carrying a jug of milk on your head to piercing yourself like a human-porcupine hybrid.

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Thaispusam in Singapore

This was my second time experiencing Thaipusam in Singapore. On the second day of festivities devotees get all prepped up (and poked up) at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (SSPT) and take the 4km trek to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (STT).
SSPT is where it’s at as an observer/weirdo taking photos of people getting impaled and/or possessed. I spent nearly 3 hours there taking it all in. Smoke, skull shaking drumming, incense, crushed squeezed limes under feet, sweat, throngs of devotees and observers clambering over each other to experience…something, and every sense under siege with every turn of your head.
When I stood still allowing the drumming to wallop over me and the smoke to fling itself around me I got a vague semblance of how these environments could elevate the stirrings of devotion you may have inside you to something more….tangible. When you have so much attacking your senses you get to lose a lot of sense. I was physically and mentally exhausted after it. I can only imagine how the people who actually took part in it felt. I loved it.

If you find yourself in Singapore for Thaipusam you need to experience it for yourself. Here’s some photos.

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What I felt like after it all…

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