Monday, June 30, 2014

NoQ Store - Shop Online for Economically Priced Books and Get Them Delivered for FREE!!

As a rather active blogger, i have been approached quite a number of times for sponsorship and frequently, it was a direct rejection as i don't see the point of mincing my words just because i am getting something free. 

I would rather pay money and write an honest review! This principle doesn't sit well with many sponsors and i was therefore not expecting a reply from NoQ store when the marketing team sent me an email late last month which i replied in accordance to my 'standard' policy. 

Imagine my surprise when the above email was delivered to my singnet mailbox! If there's anything i would appreciate from merchants, it's their confidence and acceptance that sponsorship comes with no strings attached. 

Online shopping is no stranger to me although this would make it the first time i am shopping for books on the world wide web! With over 14 million titles to choose from, i was a tad frustrated when the search function didn't appear to be intuitive. Things got smoother after a few more tries; indicate the "search filter", input the key words and then select the category to streamline your search!

I have always lamented that iPhone has destroyed my love for reading and i spend most of my free time nowadays watching videos and playing mobile games (my recent obsession was Minions Rush)! It took me a while and i finally decided on a 'practical' book; David Busch's Nikon D7100 Guide to Digital SLR Photography! 

Before i click the "checkout" button, i thought it would be necessary to compare the pricing of the guidebook with other local online stores! NoQ's pricing was S$40.00 (with GST) while Kinokuniya was offering it for S$44.14! Delivery for Kino was also chargeable for orders below S$50! 

Order was placed shortly after. As you can see from the print screen, the sponsorship granted to me was a S$30.00 discount that i could offset with any purchase (besides books, NoQ also sells stationery, diaries, calendars, reading accessories etc)! 

The only thing i could not quite understand is why GST isn't included in the initial price shown to interested buyers. It can be irritating when i assume the price is XXX and the final bill comes with an additional 7%! 

Delivery took around two weeks; fifteen days in my case. Why so long?!?!?!?! I have the answer actually; most products are not physically kept in Singapore and could come as far as United States / United Kingdom! 

Do note that there is an option to top-up S$1 an item to gift wrap and attach the present with a card (small one i presume). Since the guidebook is for myself, i am already quite happy to see it being double wrapped. 

Why was it so thick!?!?!?!?! 

Whatever the case, i sure hope this guide would provide me with more insight on the uses of my Nikon D7100. As i mentioned before, i am a lazy photographer and have always preferred the "auto" or "program" mode. Let's keep our fingers crossed that i would be able to advance to the "next" level. 



Readers' Privilege! 
Some of the products are already discounted but all of you would get a much better deal; an additional 15% discount for ALL products in NoQ store! Yes, you read it right; store-wide! Just remember to input the promotion code CAVIN before you click "place order"! 

So what are you waiting for?! Have a fun time shopping at! Do keep in mind that promotion would end on 31 October 2014! 

Additional Information
Up to 50% discount on books; free delivery in Singapore for orders above S$25; numerous payment modes which include credit cards, paypal and even eNets! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

National Stadium - Singapore Chinese Orchestra [Our People, Our Music 2014: My Home - Singapore!] @ Singapore Sports Hub

I am a person who dislikes crowds. Hence, i am rarely excited by any kind of new openings; be it theme park, movie, exhibitions, attractions or other heavily promoted events. 

The latest opening to hit Singapore would have to be the newly minted Singapore Sports Hub! I would likely stay away given its recent hype if not for my old friend, Andrew, who kindly passed me four complimentary tickets  to watch a music performance by Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO)! 

Knowing from the news that parking would be a major issue, my attempt to pre-pay for a car park lot (yes, there is indeed such a service limited to the sports hub) ended in failure as everything was sold out! There was no other choice but to take the train to Stadium station via the Circle Line. 

My first look at the stadium which wasn't much close-up. Like any new buildings nowadays, landscaping work was still ongoing with most offices / commercial entities not ready to be operational. 

H&M was open for business yet there is a more serious problem on hand; a lack of food options in Kallang Wave Mall. I believe this would be rectified in due course as many vendors were still renovating the premises. I also noticed that Fun Toast (owned partially by my cousin) would be opening a branch in the shopping mall as well! 

There are much much more to the Sports Hub, especially sports facilities! However, we didn't have time to explore as dinner was a question mark and the SCO performance would end at only about 9pm. 

Figured it might be advantageous to enter the stadium first as there was a good chance that we can find food / drinks in the food kiosks usually located within stadiums. Furthermore, it was free seating for our section! 

100PLUS Promenade - quite obvious that the isotonic drink company has donated quite a large sum of money to have this naming privilege. 

Map of the entire stadium with its 23 gates. 

Unlike Beijing's impressive bird nest stadium, the new national stadium in Singapore didn't quite stand out as far as architectural design is concerned even though its dome, at a diameter of over 300 meters, is one of the world's largest! 

With glaring evidence of patching work still in progress, i guess many people would have assumed that there must have been an urgent need to open the stadium. I can empathise with the vendor provider since bookings have already been accepted with the inaugural event on 21 June 2014.

Climbing up the stairs after entering Gate 14. At this point, i was fairly eager to see what would appear right in front of me! 

Well, it was another level where we could take a piss before officially stepping into the stadium. So much for the enthusiasm although there was another greater issue on hand; that of food remember?!!?

We were too lazy to check out the rest of the food vendors and proceeded to order from the Snag Bar. Business was so good; we had to wait twenty minutes for our hot dog! 

Without further ado, let me present to you Singapore's national stadium! 

Compared to the old stadium, this new installation has the same capacity to hold a maximum of 55,000 people. It was argued in the media a number of years ago that the new stadium should have a much higher capacity but that was eventually deemed to be non-viable in the long term since it would be an uphill chore to fill up the seating, except for national days! 

What i did like about this new stadium is the open segment that gives way to a landscape view of downtown Singapore! I am aware it isn't as dazzling as that of the central business district at Marina Bay Floating Platform. Better than nothing okay!? 

A key feature of this multi-purpose stadium (it can host rugby, cricket, football and athletic) is the retractable roof which means any event can continue even if it is pouring outside! Note: a twenty-minute wait is needed. 

Some of you would remember how relentlessly hot it can be to be seated in the old stadium. This would be of a lesser issue in this new setup as behind each seat is a piping system that blows out cool air!

Why the use of red and white chairs? I initially thought it would be related to the national colours of Singapore; red and white. The answer is much complicated; it is an optical illusion to trick the eyes into thinking there is a crowd even if there is none. 

A spectacular panorama of the stadium; am i the only one who thought the design felt a bit like a lady bird that was half ready to spread out its wings? 

Now, let's talk about the music performance by Singapore Chinese Orchestra [Our People, Our Music 2014: My Home - Singapore!]. 

I am not musically inclined and could barely hold a decent note when it comes to karaoke. Having said that, i do enjoy listening to music and remember attending a Chinese orchestra performance that took my breath away.

Different from conventional Chinese orchestra performances, what i experienced yesterday was unprecedented as it was said to involve around 5,000 performers with a target audience of 30,000!

That's not all; this mega event would also attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest Chinese Drum Ensemble! This has, no doubt, attracted many photographers to the venue. 

Musicians streaming in to take their seats. Wait, are those cellos?!!??! According to wikipedia (here), it is quite acceptable to have cellos for Chinese orchestras. 

My hotdog! Tasted almost like its delicious cousin in IKEA long time ago (honestly, IKEA's hotdogs cannot make it nowadays), this was way more expensive at S$5 each.

Drummers taking their place. 

Anything strange from this photograph? The roof has already been retracted and goondu me didn't even notice! Was it that silent or the people surrounding me were too noisy?!

The sky had darken; the musicians were ready; the audience were waiting; one person was still missing. The guest of honour; SCO Patron and Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong! 

Taken in my boredom as i played around with the shutter speed of my Nikon D7100. The effect turned out to be quite nice so i might as well share it here. :P 

Okay, PM Lee had arrived! Excuse me for the poor picture quality; my view was blocked and i would like to emphasise again that i am just an amateur when it comes to photography.

Opening segment consisted of a light show that illuminated the entire stadium in various shades of colours. Is there necessary? I don't think so as i attended for a music performance. Nonetheless, having more is often better than having less. 

Remember, i am a music idiot. I knew something was playing even though i am not exactly aware which classical piece is it. From the informative booklet, i guess it should be The introduction from Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op.30".

Second segment was much easier - musical tunes from Teresa Teng songs that often bring to many, nostalgic memories of their past. 

The next piece was a combined effort between the orchestra and Singapore's only World Wushu Champion; ex Mediacorp actor Vincent Ng! Music performed was the theme song from Once Upon a Time in China (黃飛鴻 - 男兒當自強).

My camera could only zoom in to around 200mm and this is insufficient to capture Vincent Ng performing his highly acclaimed martial arts. The available screens were also too small for audience seated on the sides. 

Sadly, i think the fireworks at the Marina Bay floating platform have also drawn away the attention of the audience. I mean, which can resist exploding fireworks right in front of you?! I can't. 

Many in the spectator seats were taking videos / screenshots of the musical performance / fireworks. Technology, to a certain extent, has reduced the attention span of users and i wonder how many are truly appreciating the music. 

Now's the segment that would make history in Singapore; breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest Chinese Drum Ensemble!

Drummers getting ready.

Here goes! To be totally honest, the use of a non-musical based venue has its acoustic disadvantages. The drumming echoed all over the stadium and what i heard was a scattered smattering of drumming.

Disappointment aside, the two emcees tried to excite the audience by having everyone to do the Kallang Wave! If i remember well, this would be the first Kallang Wave in the new stadium! 

The historic moment when it was announced that two Guinness World Records have been broken; for the largest Chinese drum ensemble and largest Chinese orchestra performance (with 4,557 musicians and choir members).

Historic moment mah; must take picture to commemorate the occasion. 

Musicians were drawn to the gigantic screen behind them where they would find snippets of their training and rehearsals that started as early as last year! All the time, the effort, the tears that were spent to make this mega-event a reality. Kudos to all musicians and performers! 

Finale - performance by Dick Lee who sang the song he penned for national day; Home! 

Leaving the stadium before everyone started scrambling out! As i mentioned in the beginning of this post, i don't like the crowd! Furthermore, my car was parked in another area that could only be reached via train or taxi! 

Needed to use the washroom too! 

Failed design for the urinals; i can bet it would not take long before someone mistaken them as toilet bowls and start to shit in them! You mark my words!

By the time we left, the whole place was already choked with people. Thanks to the ushers and police personnel who did a great job in crowd control and in answering many enquiries on directions! 

On a final note, we should also show our appreciation to many of the foreign workers who have to toil day and night in order to present to us the latest jewel of Singapore!


1, Stadium Drive
(Drop at Stadium Station)