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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Are luxury hotels worth your buck?

I've been to Bali thrice and each time it's a different experience. 
Each time i left with some regret that i haven't done more.

The first time was for a photo shoot and i only got to see the four walls of my bedroom suite and the fortress of hotel Intercontinental. The second time was a little bit more exciting with my first ship wreck dive. Most of my escapades are action packed, for a destination like Bali where there is the sand sun and sea, i would think plenty of activities awaits me. The fact is, there are but Bali has a certain lull to it that when you arrive, you just want to indulge in spicy food, daily massages and sitting around, doing nothing.

That's the beauty of Bali.

I usually stay at the cheapest hotels possible since my itinerary is chock block, a hotel is merely an accommodation where i return for a shower and sleep. It was a nice change and i stayed at 2 boutique hotels.

The Amala

The Amala is in Seminyak, a quieter town compared to Kuta. However Seminyak has its share of shops, pubs and restaurants. Rowdy backpackers are not part of it.

You're a fool to trust pictures off a website, they look a lot more spacious and the gloss makes you dream and drool. What looks like this on official websites:

Actually look more like this:
Sans the lighting, the dead leaves in the jaccuzi (not pool and no warm water) and wide angle professional lens. I was disappointed when i arrived at the villa but am impressed with its deluxe hand-made bath soaps and ipod dock. I'm easy to satisfy.

An open concept, zen with bamboo and pebbles with a tinge of being Oriental is the theme of The Amala.
Open air bathtub next to an outdoor shower with frosted glass
Outdoor vanity area.
The hotel is located right in the middle of a busy street yet the beauty of it is once you step off the streets, you enter an unsuspected tranquil and serene area.
 My favourite part of the resort was the dining area, The Bamboo.
Choose from a wide selection of healthy but yummy dishes for breakfast. None of the usual international buffet that consists of oily fatty sausages, bacon and such. Using the finest ingredients, each dish has its calorie stated, you can order as much as you please. The Amala concentrates on your well-being and healthy living thus their specially thought menu.
After two days of aimlessly walking around Seminyak, getting daily massages in town ($8!) and retreating to watch DVDs, i had enough of The Amala (it's quite a small space, frankly).

Travelling up to Ungasan, a no man's land, the new Banyan Tree greeted me.

The lobby wasn't impressive and i was set up for disappointment (again) from the pictures online. I was gladly proven wrong. It certainly lives up to its name!
A fortress like exterior protects your privacy.

Speaking of privacy, you can skinny dip as the private pool is intelligiently covered with much flauna and each villa is on higher ground on a steep slope.
Every night your butler will turn down the room for you by setting the air con right, putting out bedroom slippers and lighting up aromas. A beautiful sight beholds.

A sprawling villa with a huge living room space with an attached open kitchen with BOSE surround sound serenading Banyan tunes throughout the villa.
Already impressed the minute i stepped through the door, my jaw dropped further when i walk down the hallway into the bathroom and bedroom.

Fluffy bathrobes and bountiful towels, the bathroom alone is as big as a 2 room HDB flat. A His & Hers vanity kit is provided with compliments, there is an indoor as well as outdoor shower.
The beauty of Banyan Tree's villa is it is connected throughout. From the pool outside, you can make your way to the bathroom without your wet foot prints through the living room. From the bedroom or the living room, you can step outside into the pool.

There's a different flavour of incense for each day!

Banyan Tree resorts tend to be on no man's land, self-contained. We had nowhere to step out to, not that we wanted to anyway. Nowhere else to eat, we had to patronize the resort's restaurants. The food was nothing worth mentioning but the location is.
Resembling Greece, the Ju Ma Na was the highlight of the resort. The degustation menu was prepared by a Michelin star chef.

There really isn't much to do at Banyan Tree except the gym and 3 hour spa where for the first time i laid on the bed (with a rainforest shower) and people (2 girls) scrubbed me from head to toe. It was very uncomfortable lying there, not allowed to shower myself.

They have a private beach but the shore is rocky. No sea sports available, you can only take sunset/rise walks/jogs.

I'd say Banyan Tree is an experience worthwhile to shell out for once-in-a-lifetime. Perhaps as a honeymoon, after both are absolutely worked to the bone planning the wedding. 2 nights will be enough before you get bored of the silence and lack of activities.

I'd like to try Club Med next!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Death by Zombies

America’s Center for Disease Control recently launched a commendable tongue-in-cheek campaign. They warned the world about a possible zombie apocalypse. I personally love zombie movies no matter how done-to-death the plot is. Even if every zombie movie always starts and ends the same, 100% predictable, I won’t miss it.

There is that certain draw about Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days and I Am Legend. Zombie movies signaling the end of the world has its attraction to a niche audience (like me) over alien invasion or astronomical tsunamis.

Some fear apocalypse (otherwise known as doomsday phobia), some lust for it, eager to see how the world ends. Its human nature to fear and be curious, Hollywood understands it well.

Be it death by zombies, aliens or disasters, we know we all can run but we can’t hide.

If I were to predict how the world ends, I’ll start with disasters first, then zombies, and alien invasion.
There's been alot of debate over CDC's execution. Flabbergasted, some Americans criticise CDC for mocking their intelligience.

The people feel from a practical standpoint, a zombie apocalypse is highly unlikey. Which spark off many amusing content creation on the internet like this:

Osama Bin Laden rises from dead, zombie apocalypse upon us

from The Scribe

The zombie apocalypse may be upon us. After being killed by Navy Seals on May 1, Osama Bin Laden has come back as a zombie. The terrorist rose from the dead one week after his death and has been steadily consuming victims since. He started by chewing the face off the guard in charge of watching his body. Then he moved on to the general population, which is rapidly becoming more zombie than human. To stop the spread of zombies to the rest of the world, world leaders are proposing sealing off the entire Middle East, where it is spreading rapidly.

As well as this one from shortly after Osama bin Laden’s reported death and burial at sea:

Zombie Osama bin Laden Rises from Indian Ocean!

From Celebrity

PAKISTAN – As the world celebrated the death of international terrorist leader Osama bin Laden on Sunday, the undead corpse of the slain criminal mastermind rose from the Indian Ocean and vowed increased terrorist activities.

In a top-secret operation last Sunday, U.S Navy seals entered a fortified compound in Pakistan and shot the architect of the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. In accordance with Islamic law, bin Laden’s body was washed, covered in a white sheet, and buried in the Indian Ocean within the 24 hour timeframe dictated by sacred Muslim rituals. This gave the government little time to conduct a thorough study of the remains in order to ascertain whether bin Laden was actually dead.

It turns out he wasn’t. The zombified corpse of Osama bin Laden rose from the Indian Ocean floor early this morning. He immediately made another video promising to renew his global jihad against the “brains of the living.” His plan apparently involves biting as many people as possible until “the whole world is consumed by a zombie plague that will make 9/11 look like a trip to Zionist Disneyland,” said zombie Osama.

I think it's highly likely that Earth faces a zombie apocalypse, that is if a tsunami or earthquake or false prophets doesn't kill us first.
The characteristics of being zombified other than chewing off people or the need to feed are
a) it starts with an infection
b) confusion (as seen in the Hollywood movies, you confuse a zombie because it's dumb)
c) clumsy
d) agitation
e) abnormal behaviour
d) falling flesh
f) there is no cure


Rabies is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the brain in warm-blooded animals. It is transmitted by animals, most commonly by a bite from an infected animal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death.

The rabies virus is concentrated in the saliva of infected animals and is spread when they bite or scratch. It also can be passed through the saliva of an infected animal wound or into the eyes or mouth of a person handling a rabid animal without an actual bite occuring.

Thus in theory, if a human gets rabies from an animal, he can pass it to another human with a love bite. Although no cases have been recorded.

The symtoms of rabies is all of being a zombie except falling flesh. The production of large quantities of saliva and tears coupled with an inability to speak or swallow are typical during the later stages of the disease; this can result in hydrophobia, in which the patient has difficulty swallowing because the throat and jaw become slowly paralyzed, shows panic when presented with liquids to drink, and cannot quench his or her thirst.

Nuclear Radiation
The recent Japan disaster is an imminent sign of deformities in the near future.
Many people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki died not directly from the actual explosion, but from the radiation released as a result of the explosion.
At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the few surviving doctors observed symptoms of radiation sickness for the first time. In his book Nagasaki 1945, Dr. Tatsuichiro Akizuki wrote of the puzzling, unknown disease, of symptoms that "suddenly appeared in certain patients with no apparent injuries." Within seven to ten days after the A-bomb explosion, people began to die in swift succession. They died of the burns that covered their bodies and of acute atomic disease. Innumerable people who had been burnt turned a mulberry color, like worms, and died... The disease," wrote Dr. Akizuki, "destroyed them little by little. As a doctor, I was forced to face the slow and certain deaths of my patients."

Doctors and nurses had no idea of how their own bodies had been affected by radioactivity. Dr. Akizuki wrote, "All of us suffered from diarrhea and a discharge of blood from the gums, but we kept this to ourselves. Each of us thought: tomorrow it might be me... We became stricken with fear of the future."

The survivors have suffered physically from cataracts, leukemia and other cancers, malformed offspring, and premature aging, and also emotionally, from social discrimination. Within a few months of the nuclear explosions, leukemia began to appear among the survivors at an abnormally high rate. Some leukemia victims were fetuses within their mothers' wombs when exposed to radiation.
The similarities of nuclear radiation and zombies are there is no cure and falling flesh.

Lastly, Sexually Transmitted Disease.

There is no need for much of an explaination, but STD(s) are transmitted between humans by sexual intercourse. Some are curable, some are not (like herpes). Aids and HIV are  now also a pandemic around the world and on the rise in Singapore.

The similarities of being infected with STD and being a zombie is

a) it starts with an infection: SEX

b) confusion: WHO WAS IT WHO PASSED TO ME?
d) agitation: ANGRY AT THE WORLD
d) falling flesh: SEE PICTURE
f) there is no cure: AIDS/HIV

In a rapidly evolving world like ours today, bacteria may take on mutation and zombie apocalypse may happen (see CDC's official release here on what to do, a twist on realistic disasters and emergencies).

We can run, but we can't hide. So pick a faith today! Hahaha. Ok, life to the fullest!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Art Jam

When musicians gather in a studio with proper facilities, they call it a jammin' session. On Saturday, it's my first time hearing Jam Art , the latest "in" thing to do for the quiet afternoons.

I used to be able to walk into a cinema on a weekend without any booking and buy tickets to a movie. Now, tickets are sold out every showtime and across every cinema. Even film titles that are unpopular or ending its run can be sold out. That's how deprived, uncreative and pathetic Singaporeans can be over weekend activities.

So here's a date idea, a weekend activity to occupy your afternoon.

Jam Art at My Art Space, 22 Tanjong Pagar Rd level 4.
Paint, brushes and canvas are provided for a fee. Professional help is provided at a minimum. Artists with a laid-back attitude, they wave their hands and ask you to "chill, don't be perfect, that's art."
 Call to enquire beforehand, i'm not too sure about the prices, hours and such. I hear it's $50 to paint, sip wine and nibble cheese for 2 hours. Prétendre.
If you go alone, you may meet a potential lover over nibbles or art. Like those Hollywood films where romance starts in a library or a bookstore.
Sparks at first bite with Yongwei

I haven't painted since 12. Inspired by smoke breaks that people take so often, a healthier break is to replace a ciggie with a chocolate stick! Eat in moderation, of course. Not forgetting a sexy mole.

Alvin, a talented writer from SPH and artist, drew this for his wife who is expecting a little one. His painting reminds me of this:
This is an ad from 15 years ago.
If you remember this ad, along with teletubbies which is aired 10 years ago.
The oldest Spice girl is now 38 and Backstreet Boys 39.
There haven't been a new Goosebumps title in 14 years.
The Macareena is 16 years old.

You're over the hill.

Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat. Carpe Diem!

Photo credits: & Alvinology

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Fame Monster

Being a calefare (extra on a tv set) is one way wannabe(s) get their foot in the doorway of fame. Fiona Xie started as one. I believe Singapore's media industry is still pretty decent, none of the sleeping your way to fame. However, becoming famous also largely depends on luck, a lot of it.

Some do get it via hard work, unrelentlessly knocking on all doors, facing many rejections before that one big break. Like my friend Melissa, she pursued her dream hard and she is only eating her desserts now.
I woke up early on Sunday to participate as a tv set extra. I wasn't hungry for fame, but i couldn't pass up the opportunity to fulfil a childhood ambition. Even if i am only paid $10/hour and the director and producers didn't give two hoots about the "extra".

First station for any actor/calefare is here.
You change into your costume, every detail is accounted for. A lady fusses over how you should put it on ("button up! you can't be too sexy), and warn you about losing the clothes hanger ("$0.50 a peice!")
Nailing the look down to a T, it is all part of the movie magic.

The next station: Make-Up

Here is where you do most of your celebrity sightings. Where there's usually a din as the celebrities gossip amongst themselves. Make-up artists (also known as MUA, industry jargon) is the CNA/Center/HQ of all gossips.

And so, i woke up bright and early on a Sunday morning to fulfil a childhood ambition. No, my ambition wasn't to be an actress, much less a calefare. But...

A stern looking Madam! I wanted to be a prison officer when i was 16. Everyone talked me out of it, and so off i pranced onto on a office lady route *yawn*

The uniform made me feel very smart, neat and sharp. It is 100% authentic and geniune (i think. looks like it), which is a danger if it falls into the wrong calefare hands! When i stepped out of filming location to the hawker next door, i could feel everyone's eyes on me! In awe or in fear i can't quite tell, but i was crossing my fingers that a crime better not happen right in front of my eyes otherwise the admiring gaze i held from everyone will turn to shame when i can't defeat the robber.

At least the baton i had wasn't plastic. If the need arises, i can still hamtum the robber and save some face.

The uniform is form fitting which gives you a great look but i wonder how do the police run in this get-up. Great fashion sense, but low practicality. It is also VERY warm.

A TV station has many departments. One department takes care of sourcing locations specifically. Sourcing locations is alot more cost and time efficient than building a set. Caldecott Hill do not have that much space anyway.
Here we are on location, a dilapitated detention center.
It will make a great horror scene.
Offerings are often made at any location shoot due to the superstitions of the production team.
They did warn me about walking in to them. I wanted to walk down the row of cells, with no lights but it was broad daylight. They told me it is "very dirty". I changed my mind. Then i thought, "This was a detention area. Not the hanging gallows. Why would ghosts haunt this place?" Oh well, but better safe than sorry.

Hollywood have trailers. Mediacorp has one bus-multiple use.
You see that male prison guard standing by the corner? That's my calefare role. When Mediacorp called me and asked if i wanted to participate on Sunday, i asked, " Oh, you're from the calefare department?!"

Then the girl was alittle embarrassed and tried to be politcally correct/ PR me.

"No lah...not calefare. You're more important. You've some lines."

When the script came, my 2 lines was "时间到" and "走了".
I was ectastic and i had one NG. That's sarcasm, if you can't tell from text.

That's some Taiwanese actress whom i don't know. She is really skinny and small, her manager has to buy rice for her and share one packet with her. She has nice hair, big eyes and teeth too big for her small face.
That's my calefare role, opening and closing cell gates with TWO VERY IMPORTANT LINES. Without me, the show CAN'T GO ON! No one will let the main actress out you know...
Relax, the cuffs are tight because they are new.

No, we don't have quotas.
We used to have but now we are allowed to write as many as we want.

$40 and a childhood ambition fulfilled. That's how my Sunday was spent.
True Story

A couple goes on vacation to a fishing resort in Lake Taupo. The husband likes to fish at the crack of dawn. The wife likes to read.

One morning, the husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a shor distance, anchors and continues to read her book.

Along comes a fishing warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says," good morning Ma'am. what are you doing?"

"Reading a book," she replies, (thinking, "isn't it obvious?")
"You're in a restricted fishing area," he informs her.
"I'm sorry officer, but i am not fishing. i am reading."
"Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all i know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up."
'If you do that, i'll have to charge you with sexual assualt," says the woman.

"but i haven't even touched you,"says the game warden.

"that's true, but you have all the equipment. for all i know you could start at any moment."

"Have a nice day Ma'am", and he left.

I'll want a wife like that.

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