Arts Week!


, , , , , , , , ,

Spent lots of time last week on “art” …

22 Nov 2017 (Wed),  went to Little India for breakfast (best appam ever at Madras New Woodlands Restaurant on 14 Upper Dickson Rd ) and ended up visiting LaSalle College of the Arts (see below) and the art supplies shop nearby (shop is call “Overjoyed”, on 89 Short Street).


LaSalle College of the Arts

Then, heading up towards the National Gallery, spouse and I walked passed the China Cultural Centre on 217 Queen Street and saw that there was this exhibition on calligraphy and fan painting from the National Art Museum of China. The exhibition had  very good “fan” paintings which really deserved to be seen by more people (as the only other visitor there lamented to us … on till 6 Dec 2017 btw).

Walking on, we finally reached the National Gallery and were fortunate to be there at the right time to catch a supposedly 30 min tour that turned out to last for about an hour (which was fine with us, since it was really interesting to hear the stories our guide told). The tour took us to two exhibitions actually  – “Between Worlds”, on two South East Asian artists Juan Luna and Raden Saleh, and “Colours of Impressionism”, which had masterpieces from the Musee D’Orsay. (note: entry for teachers free, Singaporeans $15)

And then, for the next 4 days, spent some time doing some sketching at four different locations (Botanical Gardens, thanks to art teacher for holding an outdoor class that day!, Hindhede Quarry, MacRitchie Reservoir, and Duxton Road):

DSC_pigeonsketchDSC_hindhedeDSC_MRduxton rd

I think this could count as a great “Arts” week! 🙂


Endau Rompin & Sungai Lembing


, , , , , , ,

Took a self-drive family holiday to W. Malaysia during the September holidays, spending two nights each at Endau Rompin National Park (Selai entrance, access from Bekok) and another two nights at Sungai Lembing (40 min away from Kuantan).


The first stop was Endau Rompin National Park. The park has three entrances – two from Johor side, and the third from Pahang – and we entered via the one from the western side near to Bekok town. This town is quite accessible (3 hr drive from Singapore, or by KTM train) and a place to stop for lunch before heading into the park itself (4WD is necessary, arrange with Johor National Parks or through a tour operator):

We left our car at the park HQ at Bekok, and transferred to a 4WD that brought us into the Selai entrance of Endau Rompin. The ride in took about an hour before passing a campsite (mostly locals) and the chalet where we booked our two nights stay (brown two storey building, below left):


Note: this is already the most “luxurious” accommodation available; it is spacious but basic (i.e. has ensuite toilet and shower, but no hot water, no wifi, no TV, no cooking facilities). For even simpler accommodation, try the “jungle huts” (see above picture of the yellow huts).

The activities in Endau Rompin? Basically jungle trekking to waterfalls, swimming or dipping in the refreshing (i.e. very cold) waters, night walk,

nature photography,

fish spa (yup, quite interesting that there are fish in the waterfall pools that will nip your skin), getting leech bites or more like preventing them from drinking your blood (all of us got one or two, which is pretty good considering the many hours spent hiking in the jungle) …


fish spa

But the highlight was the water tubing, where we steered a rubber tyre down the river and over some small rapids (very fun, very safe, no worries!) for about an hour:

After breakfast on Day 3, we took the 4WD out to Bekok Park HQ (back to our car, good thing no problems at all leaving it overnight there for 2 nights!) to continue our onward journey to Sungai Lembing, a town in the state of Pahang, and near to Kuantan.

We stayed at the Lembing Riverview Resort (also no wifi, although it is supposed to have; the connection was down the whole time we were there). The owner talked us into changing our plans while there (visit Rainbow Falls first morning, then Panorama Hill the second morning) as he reasoned that Rainbow Falls trip would take a longer duration (ending around 12 noon, and may be tiring for us then to continue our 6 + hours drive back to Singapore; Panorama Hill would end by 8:30 am, and we could freshen up before taking a relaxing drive back). We took up his suggestion, paid the RM60/pax for the Rainbow Falls tour, and spent the remaining time exploring the town on foot (its a very small place, but interesting for its scenery and food e.g. the roasted pork).

The walk took us to the two foot bridges (one is known as the longest, the other is the oldest bridge), pass residential areas (almost every house had a 4WD vehicle that catered to bringing visitors to the Rainbow Falls tour!!) …

and finally, to the roast pork place for dinner (opens 5:30 pm, we reach there 6:10 pm, joined the queue (see earlier photos), but soon found that it was already sold out … boo!!). Well, never mind, just walk back into the town centre and eat zhi char (:P yummz)

After dinner, had a “scary” night walk back to our resort (passing two cemeteries, and deserted houses …), and slept early for the Rainbow Falls tour the next morning (5:30 wait for 4WD at lobby!!).

Unfortunately, a huge downpour at 3 am, lasting all the way to 8 am ended any hope of visiting the Rainbow Falls. Instead, we went to the food centre for breakfast, walked around the Sunday street market and headed to Gua Charas. Just 7 km away from town, this is a limestone cave with a sleeping Buddha, and an interesting light ray that shines onto it around 11 am – 12 noon daily.

After hanging around till noon to see the light rays (most other visitors had left by then), we headed back to town for lunch, and “chilled” for the rest of the afternoon. Evening time saw us up on Sunset Hill where the highlight was this huge scorpion; no sunset was visible as it was too cloudy!


The next morning, again at about 5:30 am, we went for our final adventure: walking up Panorama Hill to catch the “sea of clouds” and sunrise.



Really very impressive scenery, and the hike up only takes 40 min (1 hour if walk slowly).

In all, a very interesting trip to W Malaysia, with good (and cheap) food, great scenery and activities, and wonderful family bonding time!


  1. for the budget conscious, try to arrange the stay at Endau Rompin with the Johor National Park directly (costs RM400-500/pax); doing so through a tour operator from Malaysia costs about RM800-900. Using a tour operator from Singapore would cost much more.
  2. Self-driving – we had no problems at all, and at Bekok on the day we departed, we also saw many other Singapore registered cars parked outside the Park HQ, with the families waiting for the 4WD transport to bring them into the park itself – try to prearrange this or you may need to wait for available 4WD if they are busy. If you have your own 4WD, then you can drive in with your own transport.
  3. Bekok train station is near to the park HQ, and is an alternative to self-driving. However, the onward journey will need to be considered carefully (i.e. how to end up at the next destination, like Mersing, or for us, Sungai Lembing).
  4. Leeches – this is not as bad during dry season, and there are many suggestions of how to deal with it on the internet (including using “leech proof socks”, or using eucalyptus oil). Anyway, it is part of the jungle experience and really quite harmless and painless; only thing is it does take some time for the bite spot to stop bleeding. Direct pressure/putting a plaster works quite well.
  5. Wifi – if you must have connection, sign up on a data plan, as wifi should be assumed to be not available in the national park area.
  6. Food – inside Endau Rompin, there is no food available for purchase; we took a full board plan, but we also saw our neighbours (locals) bring their own stuff (wok, bbq pit, food, etc).
  7. Sungei Lembing – never knew such nice “sea of clouds” could be seen so easily and it also comes with rows of mountain ranges in the background!








, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A few days after returning from Mt Bromo (previous post), went for a family holiday to Yunnan, visiting Kunming, Lijiang and Shangri-La. Here are some of the (photo) highlights of the trip!


Day 1: Shi Lin (Stone Forest) and Jiu Xiang (a very impressive cave – actually several caves in all, quite recently turned into a tourist attraction).

Day 2: Visited the minorities cultural village most of the day, and finished the day with a walk down an old street in Kunming, and dinner around the neighbourhood.

After that, we took an overnight train to Lijiang.


Day 3: Arrived 7 plus am, and went to our (boutique) hotel to drop off our luggage. Then, on the recommendation of our hosts, we took a trip to Lassi Sea area for canoeing, horse riding (along the scenic old Tea Horse route, where salt and tea were carried on horses and traded in Lijiang Old City, long ago). At night, we visited the very happening old city of Lijiang (the one that is biggest, most bustling and touristy) – good for experiencing the vibrant atmosphere as there were live music everywhere, and lots of (young) people wandering around, and shopping.

Day 4: Met up with our guide, who brought us to Blue Moon Valley, the Glacier on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and to watch the very famous Zhang Yimou show “Impressions of Lijiang”, featuring the various tribes of Yunnan performing against the backdrop of the mountain!


We then went to Baisha village (see above picture) for lunch and to walk around this rather quieter old town (certainly has a more “authentic” feel then the one we visited the night before, as the inhabitants of the village can be seen just hanging around the streets, even though the shops are also mostly catered to tourists).


Day 5: Early start for me and Chien to reach the Black Dragon Pond Park for the above (very famous) postcard scene of Lijiang (with water, bridge, pagoda and mountain backdrop). The park entrance fees are 80RMB, but its free before 7 am, for locals to go in to exercise, so if you want to go there, and save on the entrance fees, head there early!!. It is a pretty park, but as our hotel hosts opined, it is rather expensive just to pay 80RMB for the above scenery, and to spend 10 min there! But in my view, you definitely need to spend more than 10 min there (it is not that small a park!), and those who like such spaces will like it there.

After breakfast, we visited ShiGu (Stone Drum, literally) with our guide. This is a village at the “first bend of the Yangtze River”, which is interesting geographically (for the way the river does a dramatic 180 degree turn here) and historically (for its connection to the Long March). Fortunately, it was also a market day where the locals around the area gather to peddle their stuff (mostly food products) and it was interesting with Nongbu, our guide, telling us stories related to the place. If you go on your own though, it may be very much less interesting, if you are not into history …

After lunch at Shigu, it was time for us to do our trek along the Tiger Leaping Gorge. The car took us to Qiaotou, and after dropping off our bigger luggage at Jane’s Guest House, we were taken to the start of the hiking trail (which was some distance from the road, up a dusty road – there’s lots of construction everywhere in the area, I believe, for opening up the place to even more tourists, by building roads and railway lines).

The first part of our trek was a steep upwards climb of 2 hours, until we reached Naxi Guesthouse, where we spent the night. Fine views of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from there; even more magnificent if the mountains were snow capped, and this happens before April; now in June however, the snow has already melted…

Day 6:

After a good night’s rest, we continued our trek. First part was another 2 hour uphill (“28 Bends”), and after that, it was either flat or downhill. Along the way from the highest point after the 28 Bends, after about every 2 hours, you will reach some village with a guesthouse where you can rest and have drinks /food :).  (Tea Horse GH was our first drinks stop, then we had a lunch stop at Halfway GH (see picture above)).

Continuing along, we finally reach Tina’s GH along the main road (after almost 10 hours of walking – including rest, lunch, photo stops etc, but if you just walk, it will take about 7.5 hours), passing by forests, valley scenes, and the very nice waterfall below.


Our overnight stay was at Tibet GH, a further distance from Tina’s but the hosts arranged for a car to bring us there :), which was much appreciated after a long day’s trek.


Day 7: The next morning, on our hosts’ recommendation, we went to the Upper Gorge area (instead of the Middle Gorge) to see the view and roar of the mighty Yangtze river (actually, this part of the river is called Jinsha, and it is the first stretch of the Yangtze river) and the stone where legend has it that the tiger leapt from one side of the gorge to the other! (see above picture, for the stone).

Then we took the long scenic route to Shangri-La …


The highlights here were the wildflowers, valley and mountain scenes, and the Baishui Terrace (very much like what we saw in Huang Long last year during our SiChuan trip)


Finally, we reach Shangri-La late in the day, around 7 pm.


Day 8: First day at Shangri La was spent going to Songtsanlin Monastery (a Tibetan monastery, and a small scale version of Potala Palace), and then walking around the old town (Dukezhong old town):


Every evening, around 7 pm, the locals and tourists do a dance in the square (above), for about an hour; what a great way to end the day!!

Day 9:

On the day of departure (from ShangriLa, to Kunming, to catch our flight back home), we spent the morning visiting Napa Sea and Nila Grassland (actually both are at the same area, just depends on which one dominates during the season you are there: wet season, the sea takes over most of the area, while in dry season, the grassland dominates 🙂 ). If you have time, you can rent a bike and cycle around this 2-in-1 place, or maybe do some horse riding. However, beware of touts and the bad press here – have been reports of tourists being forced to pay to go to this place and paying for horse riding etc, after being brought there by unscrupulous drivers (even official taxis), even though there is no entrance fees at all to visit this natural site.

A GREAT TRIP  for family bonding 😉 , and …

Memorable too, for the little adventures along the way (like when our first night pre-booked hotel stay was not accepted, and we had to find another accommodation on the spot, or the scary car rides along the mountainous roads (to the Upper Gorge, and also to Shangri-La), or the taxi ride into Kunming city on Day 9 to find an arts supply shop during the time we had to spare before our flight home …).

Mt Bromo, one more time!


, , ,

Visited Mt Bromo for the third time (2014, 2015, and 2017) in June, and it is still as magical as the previous visits!!

This time, went with spouse, and we did the sunrise view (from Senuri Viewpoint, a short 1 hr or so walk at 4 am), the Sea of Sand and climbing the steps up to Bromo to look into the crater, and also Madakaripura waterfall.

Here’s a quick look at these places –

  1. Sunrise from Senuri Viewpoint (better compared to the one where the jeep takes you, in my opinion – less crowded, mountains appear much closer, view of starry night while hiking there, and its free!!)

(actually, just before the Senuri Point, there is also a natural space where you can see the sunrise, and we spent most of the time seeing the sun rise from there). The map to this viewpoint can be found on wikitravel site.


like a Chinese ink painting, view of forests from lookout in early morning light (highly zoomed)

2. Madakaripura waterfall

Be prepared to get wet (so good sandals, umbrella and/or poncho are necessary), and as others (e.g. on tripadvisor) have commented, its really quite impressive and well worth a side trip to visit. Indeed, would consider it the most interesting waterfall I can remember visiting, around this part of the world (ASEAN region). We went immediately after breakfast, after doing the sunrise view, although for those heading to Bromo from Surabaya in the morning, it may be better to do the waterfall first, as it is just off the road leading up to the Bromo area.

3.  Sea of Sand and climbing up to Bromo crater rim

On the second morning, we went down to the Sea of Sand. It was eerily quiet and not a single soul was seen all around (even the jeeps, and the horses, and motorbikes, and food places were not opened, even today, am not sure why?? Perhaps the Hari Raya Puasa period?). The mist was not in the caldera too, due to rain the night before, and we could see the path to take towards Bromo easily (unlike in my first visit … where me and Jeff could only see like 5 m ahead, or my second visit).

After passing the Poten (temple in Sea of Sand), we reach the base of Mt Bromo, but had to find the path to the steps (because, there were no other people we could follow). This path is quite easy to find if you look around where the stalls are set up (however, that day, the stalls were there but deserted, and we missed the “opening” that led to the steps and had to do a small detour).

After climbing up to the crater rim (very good views, and quite exciting really at the top, looking into a live volcano and hearing the “angry” sounds it made, and standing at the sloping edge, where there was no fence), we headed back up to our hotel, via the jeep route … for one last view of Bromo (the smoking one, in picture below, the other is Mt Batok) and the Sea of Sand:



Mt Batok, from rim of Bromo, crater mouth on left 

Figure painting (season II)


, ,

In the blink of an eye, the first 12 sessions are over and the new season has started … many in the first class have dropped out and the class now has 8 students (5 “old”, and 3 new students).

We (the “old” ones) basically now go for class to get our works “corrected” (改画) by the teacher, and then do our own thing in the remaining time. The teacher Mr Ang is very busy, as he has to also teach the new students the basics all over again and then come around to give us feedback as we do our stuff at our desks.

Anyway, it is a very interesting and demanding area (figure drawing) and I am happy to have switched over, instead of remaining in the 3 to 5 pm class (last week, they did “roses” as part of Valentine’s Day thing, I suppose! 🙂 ).

I have been painting this cleaner “uncle” who works at Lower Pierce …


(don’t know why really, but I like his boots, life jacket and cap, and his uniform … and everytime that I meet him at Lower Pierce, that is his attire!!).

Also, would be doing more of “dancing figures” in the near future after learning of this artist who does a lot of “dancers” type painting in Chinese ink with very flowing strokes: love how it is so full of vitality!!

Singapore-Chiang Mai overland! (Part 2)


, , , , ,

(continues from earlier post …Part 1 Singapore – Kuala Lumpur – Penang – Hua Hin))

We arrived at Bangkok’s Suvanarbhumi Airport from Hua Hin after about 3 hours, just ahead of our girls who flew in from Singapore direct to Bangkok after their exams. Great timing!! 🙂

A driver came to bring us to our apartment in Bangkok (near Rama IX junction, which is near to the Phra Ram MRT station and Central Plaza, very convenient!). We did the “usual things” for visitors to Bangkok (i.e. shopping at Chatujak and Pratunam markets, walking the shopping malls like MBK and SIAM Center,

and visiting the Grand Palace (went and left by boat, paying the local rate of 14 THB each way instead of the tourist price of 40 THB, by choosing not to take the tourist boat. img20161219104401However, we had to wait a big longer on the return trip due to the frequency of the different boats, and stand along the way, which was ok with us!)

We also did a wat (Wat Pho), eating street and mall food, and finding our way around (taking the boat up and down and across the river, MRT, BTS). Main thing we missed was going to a floating market!


Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, beside the Grand Palace

We left Bangkok after three nights, and took MRT to Hua Lumphong railway station, to go to Ayutthaya which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 1-2 hours journey away (time depends on class of train taken).


Ayutthaya – in its heyday, the most populous city in the world, and known as the Venice of the East

Tickets were bought on the spot at the train station at 1105 am, for 112o am 3rd Class train (costs only 15 THB, no allocated seating and only fan cooling! an interesting experience). They have a separate counter (more like a room) that caters to foreigners, which was good, as the person could speak English well, and off we went! (Note: trains are much more frequent in morning, but we did not want to squeeze with the early morning crowd on the MRT to go to Hua Lumphong, hence the late morning train).

At Ayutthaya, we did a boat ride (2 hr) in evening on the day of arrival, and the next morning, rented a bicycle (50 THB for whole day) to visit the various ruins.

dsc_0891Watch out for “ruins fatigue” though, and pace yourself!! We were very lucky not to have to pay admission fees to visit the major temple ruins in view of the King’s recent passing; this free admission extends to until sometime early next year, usually costs 50 THB for each (of the most visited ruins), for foreigners.


Ayutthaya was a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, and we took things slowly there (i.e. stay in the shade and sketch, hang around, do massage in afternoon when sun was very hot). Depending on whether you are a “ruins buff” or not, but it is quite possible to just make it a day trip from Bangkok, for a more “touch and go” experience.

We then caught the overnight train to Chiang Mai for the last leg of our adventure!! This turned out to be a much newer and quieter train (with onboard announcement monitors on the next station the train would be arriving at, and a dining car (which always seemed to have a queue of people buying food, drinks and snacks). The trip took about 11 hours (from 8 pm to 7 am).

Chiang Mai was about night markets, and adventure tours (including elephant ride and sanctuary) and street food, and also temples (very hard not to do in Thailand!!): Doi Suthep, on the mountain nearby was a “must” and we did that on day 1 in Chiang Mai by getting a songtheuw (500THB, driver brought us all the way to the top, waited 1.5 hr for us, and then got us back to the old town, where we stayed).


Bird’s eye view of Chiang Mai, from Doi Suthep

We checked out a few agencies for the adventure trip and elephant interaction (at a sanctuary) and booked with Chiang Mai Adventures (full day trip, including mountain biking, elephant ride, and white water rafting),

and Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (half day, Saturday morning tour), which was about feeding and “playing with the elephants”:

All in all, a great year end holiday with the family! (interesting accommodation, food, sights, modes of travel, activities, shopping, culture; can’t ask for more!!)


Some tips for doing it:

  1. Trains in Thailand (under SRT) are a bit of a hassle to buy tickets as they do not have an online system and require a person to stand in line at some Thai railway station to buy it. This is unlike the Malaysian railway KTM which does an electronic system and you do get an e-ticket when you buy online. The solution? … (see 2. below)
  2. is a great website for doing the online purchase of tickets for train, bus and other modes (do check it out!!) but the courier fees are quite steep! Another place to try is this travel agency site that gave me a better price (especially the courier fees) on an overnight leg of my train journey (but they took a bit more time to respond, by which time I had already bought it from 12goasia).
  3. Give plenty of time for unexpected delays (e.g. train delays, catching a boat etc) and you will be fine. Don’t cut things too close especially if you need to catch connecting trains/flights, as train travel in SE Asia is not like in Japan, where things run like clockwork!
  4. Prepare to bargain, especially for taking local transport like taxis, tuk tuks, songtheuw (the red taxi “bus” in Chiangmai and elsewhere in Thailand). Beware of taxi drivers who do not go by meter and whether you have any choice in taking them (especially from touristy sites! your bargaining power could be quite limited when they are your only option).
  5. Be adventurous and try the street food! But as there are so many good stuff to try, do strategise and buy the smallest portion available if you plan to do so 🙂
  6. Read up as much as possible to see if it is necessary to take a tour or d.i.y. …the difference of course is the costs involved, the time needed to do it d.i.y., and whether you really want to have a guide to tell you stories!
  7. Make every stage and aspect of the trip an “adventure”: stay in different types of accommodation, travel around using different modes of transport available (including walking and running), eat local, … and most importantly, keep your itinerary “loose” to take in any unexpected detours that interest you!






Singapore-Chiang Mai overland! (Part 1)


, , , , , , , , , ,

Just did an “epic” 2500 km overland journey from Singapore to Chiangmai in 12 days, thanks to wife’s “crazy idea”.  And what a great experience it was! 🙂

Here’s a quick look at the route we took and the places we stopped overnight (or travelled by overnight train): – KL (2 nights) – Penang (1 night) – overnight train to Hua Hin (via Padang Besar, which is at the Malaysia-Thai Border) – Hua Hin (1 night) – Bangkok (3 nights) – Ayutthaya (1 night) – overnight train to Chiangmai – Chiangmai (2 nights).

sg to cm.jpg

First half  of the trip was with wife (from Mon to Sat), making our way from coach taken from Novena Sq to KL (Bangsa) and staying near KL Sentral Station 2 nights, then taking trains the rest of the way: to Butterworth, crossing over to Penang Island by ferry for overnight stay in Georgetown, and then back again to Butterworth for train to Hua Hin via Padang Besar, before ending up in Bangkok (Hua Hin to Bangkok Suvabhubami Airport by coach).

Here are some highlights (in photos) and things we learnt in doing the trip (i.e. “tips”):

(tip: stay near KL Sentral Station, which is the main transport hub for very convenient movement, including the free GoKL bus which can take you to most “important” places of interest :); also, it is where you catch trains to other cities, and there is convenient food places and shopping malls surrounding it).

The crossing from Butterworth to Penang island by ferry is really cheap (RM1.20) and takes about 30 min to do the crossing (ferries are frequent, about half hourly)! (note: ferry from Penang to Butterworth in the opposite direction is free!).However, take note that there are some unfriendly staircases to overcome if you have luggage when moving from train station to ferry terminal!

We stayed in Georgetown at Lebuh Pantai (Beach Road) at this place called Lang Hoose and it was quite cool, with lots of interesting (and “antique”) stuff used to decorate the place:


If the beaches in Penang is your thing, catch Bus 101 or 102 to bring you to Ferringhi Beach for some parasailing, and end up with dinner there, or any of the street food places on your way back:

We next moved further north into Thailand (Hua Hin) by train. This is a more complicated process now that the Thailand train no longer stops in Butterworth (happened very recently only, sometime in 2016).

To catch the overnight train to Hua Hin, first thing is to get a KTM train to Padang Besar on the Malaysia side. Then do the immigration process: first, exit Malaysia at Malaysian counter, then go to the Thai immigration counter to enter Thailand. This all takes place in a small building, and you will feel like you are just going around in circles :).

There is a canteen at this station by the way, and there will also be people offering to sell you SIM card (Thai) which I bought (200 THB DTAC, very good!), and also selling dinner on the overnight train (which I also took, prices are OK, this is the “unofficial”one, and is comparable to what you get if you buy from the menu offered to you once you get onto the train, by Thai railway officials). Difference was mainly that you get served dinner the moment the train arrived and we were seated; for the official one, you give your order and get served later, after the train has started its journey across the Thai border).


2nd class sleeper berth on the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) overnight train

NOTE:  The immigration and railway station is a single building and not barricaded (i.e. you can just move around either side “freely”) and the counters are closed at 5 pm. To add to the “confusion”, the Malaysia and Thai side are on different time zones (Thailand  is one hour behind i.e. 6 pm Malaysia time is 5 pm Thai time). Also, there are TWO Padang Besar (one  at the Malaysia side, and after crossing the border, another Padang Besar on the Thai side!!). Just make sure you arrive early, or you may have to somehow get your immigration to enter Thailand done on the Thai side Padang Besar!! (which is apparently quite inconvenient to do 😦 for how do you get there in the first place??).

After almost 13+ hours, we reached Hua Hin!! The train stops are not announced over any PA system, but at Hua Hin, a conductor will walk around to say “Hua Hin”; alternatively, you can ask what time the train will arrive and set your alarm clock accordingly! and/or use google map to track the train location :), or ask some other traveller to confirm.

And happily, for us, we also met a local (an Englishman who lives 6 months in Hua Hin and the other six in London) who watched out for us, and told us a good way to go from Hua Hin to Bangkok (our next leg of the journey, for which we did not get any bus or train tickets!): book online the VIP Hua Hin to Bangkok airport bus, which was not only very comfortable but most importantly, safer than taking the minivans.


Hua Hin sunrise (as we were taking a jog along the beach; very rough surf and not suitable for swimming!!)

(continues in Part 2…Bangkok – Ayutthaya – Chiang Mai)








Figure Drawing Classes!



Oh Man! figure drawing is really TOUGH!!

Since early November, I have started attending a different class at Tiong Baru CC for Chinese Painting. The original 3-5 pm class is still around, doing the “usual” flower and bird (花 鸟)and landscape (山水).  I decided it was time to move to the category of figure drawing (人物)to get a taste of the three major subject areas in chinese painting that the teacher Mr Ang was offering this time round.

In the four weeks since the class started, we mainly learnt about certain parts of human figure (eye, head, hand, torso) and their “connection” to each other, and the way light falls onto it. We then search for our own subject matter to draw, using pencil, and here are samples of what I did for “well known people” 🙂

and “random people” from the internet and the newspapers:

and “self portrait” (done very quickly while at the light up last weekend at the National Gallery, and for which two ladies said I drew it very well, haha!), and of family members –

Also did some nudes: it is very important to know how the body without clothes looks like, so that the next stage when clothes are added on, the way it “drapes” on the body can be represented, as well as how muscle, bone, and proportion “should” be like!! :

And also “block” figures like these to do a quick sketch to learn proportion and “balance”:

Finally, I also attempted to use ink just this week (so many “wrong” things about them, as the teacher pointed out, which is great for learning, haha! as I told my classmates, I just do for fun only, never mind about “wasting” paper, time, etc):

And so, after 4 weeks, what makes figure drawing so tough?

Basically, the precision level needed to do a good figure drawing is really high  (e.g. eye, nose, mouth level when seen horizontally must be 100% parallel, and then the centering “vertically must also be 100% accurate! or the relative proportions of shoulder width to head width, or lengths of various body parts relative to head length also must be “correct”,  or the way the light falls must also be making sense in terms of light/shadow/shading).

In other words, there is still a long way to go towards mastering line, proportion, light, to name three things at this point of my learning to do “figure drawing”! Not to mention the use of ink in the future lessons … which is great because that is what it is about for me – learning “difficult” things that takes a “lifetime” to master! 🙂





An Exciting Week (12 – 19 Nov 2016)!!


, , , , ,

Have been rather “slack” in writing what’s been happening lately but I think last week deserves a post to document it!! (Yo-yo Ma concert, Small Claims Tribunal Hearing, Sailing, …)

On Saturday (12 Nov), went for Yoyo Ma concert at the Esplanade,


and felt somewhat “cheated” because he did not perform solo, nor took much of the centrestage despite the title of the concert “Yo-yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” that made me think he would be having a bigger presence … anyway, it was still a good concert as the other performers were also brilliant!

Then on Monday (14 Nov), I was at the Small Claims Tribunal for a hearing before a judge (she is known as a referee in this setting) over a dispute that had lasted for more than a year with a tuition agency over some commission fees! It was a learning experience over the whole period of time (from Aug2015 to 14Nov2016), …, and to cut a long story really short, the hearing concluded with the referee ruling that the case was to be discontinued as it was “beyond the jurisdiction of the Tribunals” due to the time frame of 1 year for which such a claim (by the tuition agency, against me) had to be made being exceeded!

Tue (15 Nov), Wed(16 Nov) and Thu (17 Nov) were makan days: lunch with an ex-student of more than 30 years, dinner with a secondary school HOD Math who had received a HQ posting for next year, and breakfast with a university friend.  A rather varied group I must say :)!!

Thursday also now happens to be my “figure drawing class” day (having got myself self-graduated from the Chinese Ink Painting class with this last work from the class:


and have been doing some of these sketches in pencil lately …

18 Nov (Fri) I went sailing with an ex-colleague and his retired teacher friend at Pasir Ris water venture!! Very happy that can still remember how to rig up the Laser and control the boat after all these years, and we tried to end up at Coney Island (but failed due to lack of wind whenever we were near the island) … but overall still very fun (and super cheap to do as it only costs $30 for a whole day rental for a boat with our Passion Card!)

19 Nov (Sat) was also unusual as I went to throw darts with a secondary school friend (what you would call an “old friend”). Practically out of the blue, he contacted me the week before but I was not free, and we postponed it … it was an experience to throw steel tipped darts again after all these DECADES as I had actually had such darts and a dart board in my parent’s home when I was a school student!! And it was great to learn some of the intricacies of the game!! Definitely can go again …:)

And to cap off the this amazing 8 day week,

there was this really cool and free rock concert “Rochestra” at Bishan Park on Saturday night that spouse and me went … many of the top “soft rock” hits of the 80s (?) from Guns n Roses, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, … performed by  local groups (Jive Talking, …) with fireworks and all at the end!

What a week!!