There’s a little place snuggled into a far corner of Gardens By The Bay where people go to find an elusive patch of grass and feel free. And fly kites.
Marina Barrage makes Marina Bay. The water slowly lapping at the feet of downtown skyscrapers and the Merlion is a man-made reservoir created by the dam at Marina Barrage. Also worth noting is that it is a freshwater reservoir. Another Lee Kuan Yew vision ticked and in working order. Water supply, flood prevention, and another place for residents to chillaxe. Result.
The wall that makes it all
So instead of having another gray, montone building blotting the landscape some clever people created the building into an arching, swirling, grass roofed structure where people like you and me can run around, play ball, fly kites, and lounge around. One can marvel at downtown Singapore on one side and a slice of the seemingly permanent armade of cargo ships waiting to dock at the Port of Singapore.
It’s worth the extra walk away from the touristic happenings at Gardens By The Bay. It’s quiet, chill, and a nice relaxing viewpoint of Singapore which differs from other vantage points around the island. Of course, there are rules. It’s Singapore afterall. Check out last picture below (from a design point of view, the red lines go behind all the icons which could signify they are all unstoppable!). You can still have fun, don’t worry!
Bond. James Bond. The movies go hand in hand with the theme music. Maybe even, in some cases, the songs eclipse the actual movie. Oscar nominations and wins prove that point, actually!
Thus and therefore we have concerts and performances centered purely on the classic Bond music over the past five decades and further thusly 007 in Concert was performed in the Marina Bay Sands MasterCard Theatre on the 19 and 20th January. British conductor, Pete Harrison, led his 28 piece orchestra accompanied by two vocalists (Laura Tebbutt and Tim Howar) for the more…vocal…of numbers
It was an excellent night all around and musically a treat for sore ears which are bombarded by a mish-mash of fake music vomited out of taxi radios and Uber Food scooters on a daily basis.
The concert was done (thankfully) chronologically which means starting off with the “we all know it” James Bond theme from Dr. No. Continuing through, one would argue, probably the most richest and charismatic suite of songs from the Sean Connery era. From Russia With Love (Matt Monro), Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey), and Thunderball (Tom Jones) are absolute belters of songs. Vocally exploding at various times they are a magical trio of theme songs that befit the era and ooze secret service and danger. You Only Live Twice takes the James Bond theme in another brilliant direction. More swinging and soothing vocals by Nancy Sinatra which still exudes Bondism; intrigue, dangerous romance, and secrecy. Amazing. Diamonds Are Forever wraps up the (real) Connery era with Shirley Bassey annunciating the words as only she can. The song perfectly portrays the major roles women have in the Bond universe.
All songs were delivered perfectly by Tebutt and Howar who both did an amazing job all night.
Let’s not forget On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with George Lazenby. It actually had two amazing songs; both the instrumental theme music of the same music (a masterfully Barry composed spy-laden swooping musical number) and the sentimental Louis Armstrong We Have All The Time In The World. Sung, on the night, by a local guest singer it was well sung but a bit smarmy; like a drunk wannabe Bond waiting to leech on a couple of nuns.
On to Roger Moore; my era’s bond. Live and Let Die was done as an encore (which I missed as Mrs. Horizons was falling asleep). I’m sure it was great and rocking! This era was one of female lead vocalists and a general theme of slow-paced reflective pieces. Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better is a classic; a melancholic nod to Bond’s trail of influence he leaves behind him. Radiohead (who will pop up later) covered this at some point; check it out. Shirley Bassey’s Moonraker was skipped over for some reason with an instrumental from that movie played. Sheena Easton’s For Your Eyes Only keeps up the Moore era theme of the female perspective; a little schmalzy for me but still a strong song. All Time High (originally sung by Rita Coolidge) from Octopussy was sung by a local singer whose dress almost passed her butt cheeks. Great voice but, yeah…Also probably the weakest song of the night. Tebutt did a great job on all the other songs.
Moore and Dalton overlap thematically for me with two songs/movies. And the conductor agreed as they played them together. A View To A Kill (Moore) by Duran Duran and The Living Daylights (Dalton) by A-Ha are both quite a dramatic synth-pop turn after all the female driven thematic era of Moore Bond music. I like them both though and they are also songs I remember from the time. Both performed well by Howar on the night. Dalton’s final movie as Bond License To Kill I actually don’t remember if they played it….(Gladys Knight sung the original)…Hmmm. I’m sure I would have remembered….odd..
Pierce Brosnan time, to be sure. A pretty weak run of songs here in my opinion with Tina Turner’s Goldeneye being the only powerful Bond song from the era. On the night they bundled them altogether too as they really don’t warrant any major time separately. Sheryl Crow’s Tomorrow Never Dies is okay if not a paint by numbers run through of a Bond song. The World is Not Enough by Garbage (how the hell did they get that gig?!) is pretty…garbage to be honest. Die Another Day by Madonna is up there with the worst of the Bond songs ever. All sung admirably well on the night by Tebutt again.
Finally the Daniel Craig era. Howar took on Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name from Casino Royale (with a very nice “this one’s for you Chris” before singing) and did it justice. It’s hard to do Cornell. Some instrumental from Quantum of Solace followed (I think) before the final two recent Bond songs. Adele’s Skyfall is a hark back to classic Bond songs whilst Sam Smith’s Writing On The Wall from Spectre will always be a little too..weird for me as a Bond song. It doesn’t help knowing Radiohead’s Spectre was booted for Smith’s cracking-glass-high-pitch effort. Rejected for being dark?! It should be and it suited Spectre a million times more than Smith’s song. Smith won an Oscar though…maybe I’m out of touch with reality.
Both Tebutt and Howar did well (with Howar doing his utmost with Smith’s crazy high vocals) with these show enders.
Also played during the set was The Pink Panther theme and a medley of American cop shows; most notably Police Squad! Welcomed.
I’ll leave you with what could have been…
That’s it. Surprisinghorizons will return in….Another Blog Post.
A couple of weeks ago I managed to get to see the NASA exhibition at the ArtScience Museum in its final week. I had been meaning to go since it arrived back in November 2016 and was looking forward to seeing some space loot. Tickets were 2-for-1 in the final few days so it was all systems go for….sigh….launch.
We’ve all heard the theories about the moon landings being fake well “fake” is actually the key word I would choose to describe this entire exhibition as a vast majority of the exhibits were replicas and models. What’s the point? I would get a more engaging experience looking up picture of the real space artifacts on the internet rather than staring at plastic effigy that some dude in an office in Cape Canaveral rustled up with some Cornflakes boxes and sticky tape.
So spoiler alert; I didn’t really enjoy it and it was pretty disappointing. As I went around I just ended up reading the information signs and lowering my head every time I read the ubiquitous “replica” in brackets after the description.
First part was focused on the space race. Above us was a replica of Sputnik satellite. Graphically fine but nothing to write home about. Some old 60’s memorabilia set the scene for the era involved.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”
I guess the few authentic highlights were the REAL engine parts..at least I think they were real. Seeing the innards of wires and industrial tape and basic soldering really puts into perspective how innovative yet daring the NASA scientists were. I guess it was rocket science after all.
So after the engines you pretty much went through a model show-room of cockpits, modules, and rockets. It got boring where it should have got awe-inspiring.
Near the end there was a little miniature version of that big G-Force astronaut thingy (you know the one, James Bond was locked in one back in the day) for people to try out and that was pretty much that. I waited around to see if the door opened at the end of a spin and a pool of vomit would just flood out. It didn’t, people came out with faces asking “that’s it?” and just wandered off in a daze to the exit.
Sadly, I followed them too, in a daze, and was not sad to leave.
What was I looking for in a space exhibition? I was looking for real artifacts and an exhibition that left me with more questions than answers and a sense of awe. It failed on both counts…
After spending two nights in relative solitude at Sofitel Sentosa Resort and Spa we targeted Marina Bay Sands for the next hit on our life savings and senses. Marina Bay Sands is always busy. 24/7.
The day before while basking by the pool at the Sofitel I got an SMS from MBS asking for time of arrival etc. etc. “to expedite check in”. No worries. Off I sent the SMS with a cheeky upgrade request.
Arriving by taxi to MBS at Tower 1 you are faced with a permanent Pokemon Go gathering. Seems that there is some good stuff in the lobby to be caught. While I waited in the queue to check in a staff member came up to me and asked for my details. Ok. So I said them again. And off he walks. No reason given. No advantages apparent. Worse was to come. Room wasn’t ready. SO WHAT WERE THE SMS AND ALSO THE DUDE IN THE SUIT ASKING FOR MY INFO FOR?!
Ok, I know check-in around the world is 3pm but it was around 12:30 we were there and the MBS has plenty of rooms to spare.
To cut a boring long story short, we went back at 3pm and got an upgrade to a suite with access to the Club55 lounge for drinks and nibbles from 7-9pm. Which was nice.
The suite was big and fine. We were greeted by window washers trying their best to wash the windows without peering in at the pseudo-rich peeps in the la-de-dah suite. The room smelled of stale smoke like a lounge bar in the 80s. I double checked the “No Smoking” sign on the wall again just in case I had imagined it. There was some sort of stain on the sliding door. I didn’t smell it to find out.
Sit. Watch TV. If you want.
Spacious balcony to go with the spacious suite.
The infinity pool is a must visit. You zap your card to gain access. The left side was the quietest, if you ever go and if you’ve read this far. The feeling of falling off the edge of the world slowly dissipates as you get near the edge and realise there are many platforms underneath you as you peer over.
View from the infinity pool
Night life in the infinity pool.
Looking down on Singapore
Anyway, we won’t go back unless they read this and want to make it up to me as they messed us around with check-in and even though we got the upgrade (I believe they do this with every first visitor) the suite had seen many cigarettes-a-smokin’ and I still can’t forget about that stain….
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.
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.
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
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.
Recommended? Yes. Just dip into your life savings first and enjoy every mouth-watering mouthful.
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.
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.
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…..:)
Unlike S.E.A. Aquarium I would highly recommend you buy your tickets online for Gardens by the Bay, print them out, and get them stamped at the turnstiles in to the two conservatories. Because they are actual tickets! Yes! The queues for tickets were horrendous when we went (Good Friday) so online tickets are a good thing.
It’s free to wander around the Gardens by the Bay park but it’s $20 for local residents to see two conservatories and $28 for horrible, yucky, non local tourists. That’s $8 extra for cleaning costs after you touch everything with your filthy hands. You can visit one conservatory at $12 if you’re a local and I haven’t a clue what it is if you’re a tourist. Probably $50. We went to see two.
First up was the Cloud Forest conservatory which is pretty impressive. It’s also pretty cold in there if you don’t like that sort of thing. You see, it’s replicating the climate of high altitude flora. Science. You take an elevator from the ground floor to the top and then work your way down. It’s pretty neat and has some walkways creeping out over the dome so if you’re afeared of heights you can skip that. Yeah, so that’s that one. Some nice things to see on the way down.
Next one is the Flower Dome conservatory. This was hell. There was too many people and the flowers were just not that interesting if you are being pushed and prodded from all angles. The Cherry Blossoms were in bloom but the walk through them was like wading through a tube of congealed human matter. Wasn’t fun. The blossoms weren’t even in the anticipated Japanese-esque vibrancy. Didn’t stop people stopping and taking selfies every ten seconds though. GET THE HELL OUTTA MY WAYYY!! *SOB*…
We got out of there. It’s about 15/20 minute walk to Bayfront MRT (depending on how much energy and soul was sapped from you) to escape the madness.
So if you like flowers and stuff it’s a must see. If you want to just see an interesting attraction just pay to visit the Cloud Forest conservatory and take a wander around the park. And don’t visit on public holidays.