Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dino-Soarin' - A Kiddy Ride on the Pterodactyls @ Jurassic Park [Universal Studios Singapore]

Dino-Soarin' in Universal Studios Singapore (USS) - when i first explored the theme park back in 2011 under the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences' family day, i thought this ride must have been the most unexciting in the whole of USS.

Take a look - you can easily find this kind of fly around ride catered for the kids even in small scale fun fairs at Singapore's temporary night markets (known locally as pasar malams).

However, take a step backwards and try to recollect the basic purpose of a theme park - to provide entertainment for everyone in the family and that includes very young children (not infants though) who would not have met the minimum height requirements for most rides in USS.

With this mindset (and that i have an annual pass now), it was decided to give Dino-Soarin' a try in my recent trip to the theme park. No doubt, it was embarrassing to have two adult men joining the queue when everyone seemed to have a kid beside them!

Pterodactyls cars - Heck, i don't even know how to pronounce pterodactyls even though these ancient birds were commonly seen in movies revolving around dinosaurs.

What was thought to be a boring ride turned out to be pretty entertaining; thanks to the above button. In order to "fly" your pterodactyl, you have press and hold the button.

Going up gradually was nothing; it was the abrupt descent that was fun! How i wish i have brought Jovyn along! 

By the way, it would be quite a squeeze to have two persons in the car. Could we actually use the pterodactyl's feet as a helpful hanger for my big bag during the ride? 

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Location
Beyond the Gate of Jurassic Park
Lost World Zone
Universal Studios Singapore [USS]
Sentosa Island

For other posts on USS, please click here

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

500 Luohan Temple [五百罗汉庙] @ Bintan Island [Indonesia]

My mind drew a blank when my brother in law suggested a visit to the 500 luohan temple in our recent trip to Bintan Island. Don't get me wrong; i am fully aware of a place that houses five hundred golden statues of arhats but from my understanding, it is in China and not Indonesia.

Whatever the case, this recently completed temple was said to be a key attraction in many Bintan travel itineraries! Our arrival started with a grand Chinese stone archway guarded by two fierce looking heavenly generals.

To enter the vihara's compound, you first have to walk through what appeared to be a city gate built according to Chinese traditional architecture. To be honest, it was weird having such a towering structure on top of a small hill that has no similar building complementing its imposing existence.

Impressive sight that greeted us upon entering and one that took our breath away - the sculptural display of five hundred stone arhats on a tiered platform! More on them later.

Shocking news - deities in captivity! Sacrilegious! No lah, i think they might have just arrived and the caretakers have not had time to put them in their designated spots.

I could not remember who this is although i found it extremely cute to see a modern day pacifier on a religious statue. Beware, it would not be long before we see statues of gods holding mobile phone in addition to their magical weapon in their hands.

This statue depicted the daughter of a dragon who has attained the Buddha status despite her relatively young age at eight years old.

Guanyin Bodhisattva - as you can see, access was blocked to prevent touchy hands from damaging the statue and also to deter non religious visitors from posing inappropriately beside the statues for the sake of photo taking.

She, as in Guanyin (along with two other Bodhisattvas by her sides), was located right opposite the congregation of 500 arahats and it did seem like a religious sermon was scheduled to start; likely at night when all pesky, noisy visitors have left the compound.

Drinks and snacks were available (for purchase) for those who want to take a rest and enjoy the peacefulness and tranquility of the temple.

Steps to the main shrine housing the patron god, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva [地藏王菩萨] who is famous for making a very noble vow; his determination not to achieve Buddhahood until hell is emptied of souls.

Now, we all know that is impossible! Humans are complicated and subject to way too many temptations in life. Having said that, his quest to eliminate human suffering is highly commendable and well respected by Buddhists.

Guess these were blessing papers where devotees wrote their names.

Elevated view of the five hundred lohan and their surroundings. Could you guess another place with a better view to catch the full splendour of the statues?

Answer: the top of the "city gate"!

A pavilion next to the shrine had a golden Buddha statue with Thai elements.

Facing him was the statue of a toddler; that of the Buddha when he was borne as an Indian prince. For more information on the founder of Buddhism, please click here.

Big ass bee with a yellow furry back!!

Coming back to the star attraction; the five hundred arhats (or arahats or luohans or lohans) that everyone is waiting for. Note: avid photographers would absolutely love this place.

Every statue was life liked and similar to the terracotta warriors in Xi'an; each of them has his own exclusive facial expression, features, hand posture with some holding on to weapons, animals, children and other magical possessions.

It was a neat arrangement that screamed of symmetrical order. Once again, visitors were restricted from climbing in, which i thought was a great pity.

You would have noticed the plaque in front of every statue which detailed useful information of the respective arhat's title and his background.

However, the barrier to enter means those plaques at the back would be as good as useless unless you have a pair of binoculars!

The first one looked like the war god; Guan Gong while the second one might have been the holy monk; Tripitaka from the Chinese classic literature, Journey to the West.

Ending the post with an arhat who had a mocking expression directed at the bird!

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Location
Unknown. We rented a car with a personal chauffeur and he was the one who brought us there. If you are keen to engage the service of a reputable car rental company, please click here. Most tour packages to Bintan would also likely cover this temple. Check with them for confirmation.

Additional Information
In the middle of my post, i mentioned having a better view by going up to the top of the 'city gate'. It was a no-go as the access was blocked!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Pork Mee [亚九香菇肉脞麺] & its Teochew Dumpling Soup @ Hong Lim Food Centre [Chinatown]

I am not a big fan of Bak Chor Mee (or BCM; a common abbreviation used in local food forums) but mom was craving for a bowl that day at Hong Lim Food Centre!  =(

As a filial son and also as a curious foodie, i joined the queue at one of Singapore Hawker Legends; Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Pork Mee to see what the fuss was all about for it to have one of the longest queue at the hawker centre.

Actually, my preferred brunch was supposed to be the nearby Ji Ji Wanton Mee and the decision to switch abruptly to the famous BCM rest entirely on one factor; the availability of free flow deep fried pork lard at Ah Kow. 

Six types of noodle choices and i am in a dilemma on which one to select! Eventually, my selection was based simply on the BCM picture on the signboard; mee pok. 

Most customers ahead of me in the queue appeared to order an extra Teochew Dumpling soup and i thought it would be better for us to have that as well!

Teochew Dumpling Soup
潮州饺汤
Despite its delicious outlook with a semi cloudy broth (which i always attribute to a more flavourful taste), please don't expect too much from this bowl of soup.

The generous ingredients didn't justify for the surprising blandness we had. I did enjoy the dumplings very much although they had a harder texture that would benefit with the inclusion of more Chinese chestnuts.

Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles
香菇肉脞麺
With almost seventy years of history (since 1945), Ah Kow was well known for serving traditional BCM coupled with its special chilli sauce and a type of vinegar specially imported from China.

There were a few other things worth noting; the freshness of ingredients (the braised mushrooms were amazing), pieces of dried flatfish and slices of pork that were much softer than those of its competitors!

"Slurp, Slurp, Slurp...." - Japanese would enjoy eating the noodles!

Taste wise, it would satisfy diners who prefer more vinegar in their BCM. For me, it has a unique aftertaste that was likely the smelly effect of dried flatfish even though for BCM, it was really not as impressionable as i expected (kindly note my opening statement). 

As much as i worship pork lard, even their existence failed to better my opinion of Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Pork Mee.

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Location
531A, Upper Cross Street, 
#02-42, Hong Lim Food Centre

Price
Teochew Dumpling Soup - S$4.00
Minced Pork Noodles - S$3.50

Operating Hours
8.00am to 5.00pm
[Closed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday!] 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Countdown - Be Prepared to Confess @ Golden Village Plaza Singapura

To cut the story short, i was invited to register for a preview of a Thai horror movie and i was successful!! Yippeee! As close friends would know, i am a fan of the horror genre!!!

Before i start with my review, maybe you could just give the above video player a click to check out the trailer and have a rough idea of what to expect.

Official Synopsis
4... 3... 2... 1... No matter where you are, everyone in the world is looking forward to the countdown to New Years Day, which includes 3 Thai teens in New York City. They are roommates. 

Jack is a rich kid from Thailand who lies to his parents that he’s in NYC to study, where in reality he is actually spending their money on a daily basis just to have fun. Pam, a materialistic girl who would do anything to impress others and finally, Bee, Jack’s girlfriend, who has yet to reveal to anyone why she came to NYC in the first place. 

The 3 friends want to have a NYE party to remember, so Jack calls Jesus, a drug dealer, to drop off some stuff to their apartment so they can celebrate the end of the year in style. They actually don’t know Jesus that well and don’t really know his background. However, his visit that night will change their lives forever.

4... 3... 2... 1...  They are counting down without knowing for sure that their new day is going to be waiting for them…. if they will be welcoming the new year. 

Given a classification of M18 [sorry kiddos who have yet to reach the age], this drug junkies film was a bit draggy in the beginning with the actual excitement starting only upon the arrival of the flamboyant ang moh drug dealer who looks like Jesus!

Befitting its M18 status, there were gross scenes involving breaking fingers, nail gun, cling wrap, teeth and for the katsaridaphobics; cockroaches. I was expecting a paranormal movie but "countdown" is not exactly it; there were indications but sadly not strong enough. 

Picture taken from http://www.robshep.com/2011/08/20/leaning-on-the-promises-of-god/
I would have placed this under thriller with a bit of spiritual inclinations that ended with a meaningful note. Just to give you a teaser, the ending has something to do with confessions for your sins!

Curious? Catch the movie at all GV theatres from 21 February 2013! 

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