Dubai (Day One)

It’s almost end of March and I have yet to post anything here this month.

I was in the Gulf Countries or Cities of Dubai, Doha, and Bahrain from 10-20 March 2016. I came back a week ago, last Sunday, but it feels like ages ago. I still haven’t unpacked my luggage bags yet!

I don’t even know how to document my trip here. I saw and experienced so many things. I posted quite a few photos on FB. But there’s just a bit too much to write up. Maybe I’ll start with Day One in Dubai.

Marcelita and I went to a Persian & International buffet restaurant that’s about 10 minutes from the Hyatt Place Baniyas Park. Here is a photo of the hotel.

Hyatt Place Baniyas

The restaurant, Apple Creek Cafe and Restaurant, was located inside a small shopping mall within the Twin Towers. This is the not so glitzy part of Dubai.

The food was pretty good. The meal came up to AED100 (S$38) each. It would have been cheaper if I didn’t blur-blur take a bottle of Perrier water and a bottle of yogurt mint drink! Those were not included in the AED80 dinner buffet.

The view of the Dubai Creek was excellent. The environment, a little smoky because the people around were hookah shisha smoking.



The waiter even brought the mini flags of Argentina and Malaysia when Marcelita requested for them. We had a good time of catching up. The weather was surprisingly chilly and cloudy that night.

When we were leaving the mall, we noticed all the shops selling fur coats! Fur coats in the Middle-East, how odd, or not 🙂 Anyway, a great beginning to my Middle East tour!

One last thought: Would the Arab Muslim ladies wear the fur coats over or under their black abayas? 🙂


Projects 90: Song Dong

Projects 90: Song Dong
Go to the link to read up on this masterpiece.

For this exhibit, instead of snapping photos of everything, I was careful to look for objects that I could relate to or something totally unique.

I had to smile when I saw the plastic bags folded into triangles. My mom does that too 🙂

The small stack of little red Mao books caught my eye.

The mineral pot! That was so crazy popular many years ago.

The plastic handle things at the bottom of the picture look familiar but I can’t figure out what they are for.

Styrofoam city.

Mosquito mat vaporizer. Once a fixture in my life.

A metal babychair. I’ve never seen one before.

And here are more photos of the exhibit.

But there was something that I thought I would find here but I didn’t….a brightly colored enamel potty!

Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

Highlights from MOMA.

1. Projects 90: Song Dong

I’ll dedicate my next post to this project.

2. Audio-guides

At MOMA, the audio guide gadget (a cell phone look-alike) came rent-free with the general admission ticket. You just key in the number and it will give you additional information regarding the piece. For example this piece: Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso.

And then you key in the number that’s on the plaque.

And that’s when I was clued in to the dog by the musicians’ feet. The narrator said something about the whimsical-ness of that piece.

Audio guides definitely help me look at the art pieces with slightly more enlightened eyes.

3. Sketch books

I like looking at incomplete pieces, especially the artists’ sketchbooks. My first experience was at the Met, several years ago, when I saw Van Gogh’s drawings, drafts, sketches, and incomplete paintings.

When I see all these big finished masterpieces it always seem so effortless for the artists. It looked like a lot of talent and not much hard work. It looked like the artists never made any mistakes.

The drafts and sketches somehow made drawing and painting feel more accessible to me. Maybe I should pull out my sketchbook and some pencils and start doodling again 🙂

At MOMA, there was a special exhibition of James Ensor‘s work. Very interesting stuff. His sketchbook was filled with many cartoonish figures. His work ranged from traditional painted portraits, really large pencil/charcoal drawings, and really modern looking pieces.

4. The “Hey! I also can do that” paintings

At the Met, there were so many old portraits that I know I’ll never be able to reproduce something remotely similar. At MOMA, I came across pieces that I felt wasn’t that difficult to reproduce.

Suprematist Composition: White on White by Kazimir Malevich (1918).
I can definitely do something like this.

Composition C by Piet Mondrian (1920)
I think I can do something like this too.

The Park by Gustav Klimt (1910)
Hmmm…definitely more difficult but still doable.

The Red Studio by Henri Matisse (1911)
This piece is inspirational. I once tried to paint a picture of my childhood room. But I was all caught up with the correct perspectives and details, I gave up after several ugly strokes. I guess I don’t have to cram every single detail or make my painting look like a real room. Looking at the “simplicity” of this painting, I realized that reproducing an exact replica of this piece may be doable but painting my room in this style will definitely take a lot more creativity and work.

Noticed the bright pink that Matisse used on the painting on the left? I once used the same shade of pink for a carpet in a painting of my room (again! I must be somewhat obsessed with painting pictures of my room). That piece of carpet was in the middle of the room on the floor. The perspectives of the room was correct (smaller stuff in the back compared to the front). I remembered I painted a pink carpet because I messed up the gray for the cement floor and it looked really bad. Well, my art teacher said I shouldn’t have used such bright pink for the carpet. I guess she never saw Matisse’s work!

5. The Beautiful

Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Felix Feneon in 1890 (such a long title!) by Paul Signac (1890)
This is beautiful. I love the dots and colors. I’ll never be able to reproduce something like this.

And then there are those phenomenal over the top famous paintings.

Close-ups of Starry Night by Van Gogh.

6. Modern art in real life

I’ll end with some photos of the special exhibition of Ron Arad’s work called No Discipline. The objects were located in this cage-like construction called Cage sans Frontieres.

7. Some sketches

When my camera ran out of battery power, I had to resort to some good old sketching.

New York City: Mini Vacation

I’ve been working on my research through the summer. It’s been tiring and eventually my participants, in their own way, sort of informed me that it’s time to take a break. That’s what I did.

I went for a 2 days 1 night trip to NYC. Visited two museums [i.e., Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) and Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)], saw two music performances (i.e., free John Scoffield show at the Madison Square Park and a chinese pipa western fusion music performance at MOMA), had Malaysian food for dinner, and walked A LOT.

Knowing that I’ll possibly end up with a case of art overload and overdose at the MET, I tried to view the art pieces through my eyes and not my camera. Didn’t take a single photo there. But still I suffered from art overload…too much to see and there was only so much my brain could absorb before it all became a blur.

The next day, I went to MOMA. I’ve never been to MOMA before, so I was able to absorb more here and had quite an enjoyable time.

Clowning with the Dinosaurs

It was the Campus Philly day last Saturday in Philadelphia. On that day, students get to visit local museums for free. I went to the Rodin Museum, the Franklin, and finally the Academy of Natural Sciences (ANSP).

And of all the museums, I had the silliest time with my two South American friends, Marcie and Nadia, at the green screen video room at the ANSP.

By the way, I added all the sound effects. On the original video, I could only hear Nadia laughing the whole time.

The sacrificial mooncake

I’m back in the US after a 3-week vacation in Malaysia. One of my luggage bags didn’t make it on the same plane and had to travel to the US via Amsterdam. Two days later, my left behind suitcase finally arrived at my door around midnight yesterday.

Surveying the contents, I immediately saw a piece of yellow paper informing me that my two packages of dried sliced ham (bak kua) has been confiscated. Bummer 🙁

A thorough check led to the sacrificial mooncake-prodded and poked by the officers of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As I had specifically bought only mooncakes with no salted egg yolks, I’m glad the officers checked first and did not blindly confiscate all of them. Because of one mooncake’s sacrifice, the other 12 mooncakes survived the journey intact.

From Cha-plang photos
From Cha-plang photos

At least the mooncake was smashed while still in the plastic wrapper, so it is still edible.

Sight and Sound: Abraham & Sarah

My small group went for the replacement Sight and Sound show last Saturday. Our first Sight and Sound show — Daniel and the Lions’ Den — was canceled halfway through, so we had tickets for a replacement show. Instead of going for another Daniel show, the group decided to go to the Abraham & Sarah: A Journey of Love show at the smaller Living Waters theater. Here are the highlights of my second trip to Strasburg/Lancaster:

1. An interrupted journey

Two cars left Bethlehem in the morning. I was in the first car. After an hour plus in the car, we received a call from the second car informing us that they ran out of gas. So we had to turn around, go to a gas station, buy a special container, fill it with 2 gallons of gas, get to the second car, and fill the empty tank. Then there was this debate of whether the second car should go to the nearest gas station and get more gas before going to the show. It was already 1pm now, the show started at 1pm. Becky, the driver of the second car, decided to go to the show first and fill up later, which troubled many of us: What if the car runs out of gas again? What if the car does not have enough gas to go to the nearest gas station after the show? What if? What if? Anyway we honored Becky’s decision and continued on to the theater.

2. An interrupted show

We finally arrived at the theater at 1:20pm. The ushers had to wait till an appropriate time before letting us in. We had seats in the first 2 rows in the center block and they didn’t want us to interrupt the show for everyone else. We went in stood at the side of the theater at the very front. Just as Abram and Sarai entered Egypt, I bowed low and ran in from the side towards my seat in the first row, right in the middle. Two of my friends ran in after me. The others were able to sit on the available empty seats at the side till intermission before taking their proper seats.

3. Keen sandals

Sitting at the very front of the theater, I saw everything clearly. I noticed that all the casts wore Keen leather sandals and they looked really comfortable. I kept wondering if the sandals will get sweaty after prolonged wear. They looked odd but quite cute. After closer observation, I noticed that Sarai was wearing foot covers underneath her sandals. Yes, I was that close to the stage. Hmmm….if she’s wearing foot covers, I guess the sandals aren’t that comfortable after all and it will probably get icky after prolonged wear. Maybe I’ll get Crocs instead.

4. Floods of dry ice

Sitting at the very front of theater, I experienced everything more intensely. When they pumped out the dry ice, I felt the full effect. And I felt and smelled it again and again.

5. God’s sacrifice

After these things, God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:1-2)

As Abraham was on his way with Isaac to Mt Moriah, it was one long sad and heart-wrenching scene. Finally, on Mt Moriah, Abraham placed Isaac on the altar and was ready to slaughter Isaac with a knife.

But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:11-12)

And I realized then that God spared Abraham the pain and suffering of killing Isaac, but He didn’t spare Himself the pain and suffering of giving His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us.

6. Donkey droppings

As Abraham and Isaac were heading home from Mt Moriah, the real donkey (Sight and Sound theaters like to have real animals in their shows) left a trail of donkey droppings all over the stage. Yes, I was that close to the stage. At least the droppings were dry, like brown stones falling and rolling around the stage…hahaha.

7. Shady Maple Smorgasbord

After the show, we went to Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Smorgasbord is sort of a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of buffet-style restaurant. There are many smorgasbords all over the Lancaster area. And the Shady Maple is the Smorgasbord of all smorgasbords. That place can seat 1200 people. It looked like a megachurch from the outside. My friend commented that it’s the Church of Gluttony. The food was pretty good but I wasn’t that impressed with the place. They haven’t seen the food places that we have in Malaysia. Our varieties and tastes will trump all smorgasbords!

Top 10 D.C. Highlights

I’ve been wanting to write about the things that caught my eye at the museums in D.C. but things got really busy at school. So three weeks after the trip, here’s my top 10 in no particular order:

10. The cherry blossoms.

9. The lone duck (AIM)

I saw this lone duck swimming in the man-made waterfall (Grandfather Rocks) outside the National Museum of the American Indian (AIM). I found it really charming because it was the only duck there, so I didn’t suffer from the “see one, seen it all” syndrome here.

8. IMAX show: To Fly (Air & Space)

I’ve never seen an IMAX show, so it was a must see when I went to the National Air and Space Museum. I decided to see To Fly because it was the first and the most popular IMAX show. It was pretty good. However towards the middle, the horizon started to swerve left and right following the movement of the jets and the hand-glider and that was when I felt a bout of motion sickness. After that I just wanted the show to end and spare me the agony.

7. Planetarium show: Cosmic Collisions (Air & Space)

And I’ve never seen a planetarium show, so it was another must see. It was an ok show. But then I heard the narrator, Robert Redford, announced:

And in less than a month… incredible as it may seem…our moon was formed. That’s right. It took only one month to create our moon.

And that got my mind reeling: How did they know it was one month? How can they be sure of it?

Anyway, when the lights came up, I saw a 4-year old boy, who came in with his mom, sleeping soundly in his seat. So funny, he slept through the cosmic collisions.

6. Ghost dance statue (AIM)

I thought this was so adorable.

5. Creation story (AIM)

An American Indian creation story mural.

4. Gut-skin raincoat (AIM)

I almost bypassed this exhibit but I stopped when I read the plaque and learned that the raincoat was made from the gut-skin of seals. Gut-skin raincoat..that’s amazing! Actually, I don’t think it rains much in Alaska, so I should call it a gut-skin windbreaker instead.

3. American Indian baby cradle (AIM)

Beautiful and unique.

2. Allies in War, Partners in Peace bronze statue (AIM)

This little girl was at the back of the statue. What is she looking at?

1. Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800) (Sackler Gallery)

I was at the Freer and Sackler Gallery towards the end of the trip. Tired and suffering from the “See one, Seen it all” syndrome. And then I saw these two Japanese screens by Ito Jakuchu.

According to wikipedia:
Another of his famous pieces, dubbed “Birds and Animals in the Flower Garden,” is arguably one of the most modern-looking pieces to come out of Japan during this period. The piece, one of a pair of six-fold screens, depicts a white elephant and a number of other animals in a garden. What makes it unique, eccentric and modern is the division of the entire piece into a grid of squares roughly a centimeter on each side. Each square was colored individually, in order to create the resulting aggregate image.

This is my number one D.C. highlight.

DC Highlights: Cherry Blossom Festival

I always associated cherry blossoms with beauty, tranquility, harmony, sort of zen-like. I was expecting that when I was on my way to the National Cherry Blossom Festival. But instead of a nice stroll in a peaceful Japanese garden wrapped in cherry blossoms, I found myself walking in an atmosphere that was almost Pesta-Pulau-Pinang-like.

A museum burnout in D.C.

The Smithsonian Castle

Museum admission in NYC is usually around $12-20, so free admission to any good museums sounds real good. That’s why I like the idea of visiting Washington D.C., all those museums with free admission in one area…wonderful!

However, after running through 3 museums (National Air & Space Museum,
Museum of the American Indian and the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Asian Art)
in 6 hours, I realized that too much of a good thing is bad. I ended up browsing through many things but learning nothing much. I became a museum burnout.

After I’ve seen one porcelain vase from the Tang dynasty, I felt like I’ve seen them all.
See one japanese screen, seen them all.
See one chinese calligraphy, seen them all.
See one old aircraft, seen them all.
See one space capsule, seen them all.
See one native women’s dress, seen them all.
See one portrait, seen them all.
Seen them all, seen them all, seen them all, I ended up not really seeing anything.

I guess to make things worse, there were just too many people.
Long lines to enter the museum.
Long lines through security checks and metal detectors (yes, there were security checks at each museum, and the bigger museums have metal detectors too).
Long lines to the restroom.
Long lines to the cafetaria.
Lots of stress!!

I’ve learned my lesson, next time I’ll choose just one museum and spend my time slowly looking through the things and actually learn something during my visit.