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A look into Pottermore


J.K. Rowling, retrieved from Pottermore.com

J.K. Rowling certainly does not want the Harry Potter popularity to wane – even after the extraordinary success of the film series and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Her latest project, Pottermore, is an online experience developed with Sony. The website was described as an extension to the 7-book series, providing not just new supplementary reading materials, but also an almost immersive world for fans to role-play in.

Part of the start-up hype was a 7-day campaign called the “Magical Quill Quest” where 1 million hopeful wizards and witches could register to become an early access user. From 15 August 2011, Pottermore has rolled out invitations to a small amount of users. After about 13 days, the number of players are just above 78,000. Pottermore is expected to be open to all in October 2011.


Welcome letter

I was not exactly optimistic about getting early access as I usually have poor luck for lucky draws. Due to sheer dumb luck (as Professor McGonagall might say), I received a welcoming letter from the website stating that I can explore Pottermore. After completing the main story experience, I’ve decided to write a short review about Pottermore and explain (without spoiling too much) how some parts of the website works.

Story Exploration

In Pottermore, each book is divided up into chapters, and key Moments in those chapters are highlighted as explorable scenes. Most scenes are animated artwork that has exactly three layers of depth. Users can shift between each depth layer either by double clicking or using arrow keys on the keyboard. Objects can be discovered in the scenes and they can either be extra Galleons, potion ingredients, books, keepsakes or random objects – all can be collected into one’s trunk.

Story scene
One of the memorable scenes from Chapter 1, where Dumbledore would use his Deluminator (Put-Outer) at Privet Drive. You can hover over most parts of the artwork and things will start animating.

I am not going to post any more screenshots to keep most of the website a surprise for all. Most of the artwork are faithful to the books and there are a lot of detailed animation happening in each scene. You have to explore the chapters sequentially, no skipping to the end! Some chapters are locked until you perform a certain action – it’s fairly obviously where most of these occur if you’ve read the book.

You might notice a column of icons on the left. These are links to articles about the Harry Potter Universe – Characters, Places, Artifacts and Animals. Some clickable objects will unlock new material written by Rowling for Pottermore, marked with a red quill icon. Users can leave comments at the end of each chapter – though most of them are on the lines of “add music please” or “more interactivity” suggestions.

Elements of gameplay

While the story experience takes place in the same point of view as the books, each Pottermore user could start their own stories by participating in the roleplaying portion of the website. That is, to be like a student at Hogwarts. The journey begins from Diagon Alley (like Harry’s first visit) where you will have to do a lot of shopping for school needs.

Gringotts
First you need to set up your Gringotts account. Sorry, no fancy ride here. Allowance for all users is 500 Galleons, to last until the release of the next book in Pottermore.

Shopping spree at Diagon Alley
Time to go shopping!

Flourish and Blotts

Unlike the story, Diagon Alley (and actually every other location) can be revisited at any point of gameplay. It is the only location where items, such as potion ingredients and wands, are sold.

Two critical moments

There are two very important moments in Pottermore: Wand Choosing at Ollivander’s and of course, the famous Sorting Hat Ceremony at Hogwarts. Both moments are simply 7-question quizzes, but it is a one chance deal and decision is final. Yes, Rowling believes that her 7-question tests are more discerning than any psychometric tool available in the muggle world. You have to accept the results – perhaps there was an undiscovered personality trait you never knew, or something.

Obviously, there have been countless dramatic reactions to the Sorting hat’s decision, but take it this way – this is J.K. Rowling’s Sorting Hat. Whatever it says, stays. Well, you can always sign up for a new account and “fake it” but really, the whole point is to be frank with your answers, just have faith in it, and embrace your new-found magical identity.

I am not sure if the wand has any influence on gameplay, such as casting spells. Houses at Hogwarts however, are as important as in the books – Houses compete for the House Cup and players will have various opportunities to earn (or lose) points for their houses. Points can be gained for exploring scenes and finding objects, brewing potions and dueling a student from another house.

Great Hall Scoreboard
The Great Hall is the leaderboard in Pottermore. Click for a larger view to see how many students have enrolled into Hogwarts and the size of each House when this screenshot was taken.

Beyond the Story: The Life and Times at Hogwarts

The story can be completed fairly quickly, since only Book 1 (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) is available and it is the shortest book in the series. Users can then focus their time on remaining activities such as Potions and Wizard’s Duel.

Potions
Potions
Hmm, needs more snake fangs.

Potions

Brewing potions is what I can describe as “Cooking Mama” style of gameplay, except Mama is not going to hold your hand throughout the process, and neither will Professor Snape – although I think no one would want that either. Recipes can be found in a Potions textbook (only one for now and it’s the compulsory purchase from Diagon Alley) and basically, that is it. As long as you have the ingredients (buy from Diagon Alley or find them in Moments), a serviceable cauldron and time, you can start brewing potions. Funny thing here, although it was clearly stated by Snape that there is “no foolish wand-waving” in Potions, you have to wave your wand to complete a set of instructions.

Potions can be challenging, as instructions have to be followed PRECISELY and completed within a time limit. The potions will then need to be left to brew for quite some time – an hour and longer. This can become frustrating when the server goes down for maintenance or some glitch occurs – causing the potion to brew incorrectly (lose house points and waste ingredients), or worse, an exploding cauldron. This means that Potions could become very expensive.. but wait, actually it already is. You see, you only gain house points for brewing potions correctly. You can’t do anything with potions, apart from gifting them to friends. There is no way to earn Galleons in Pottermore except for the handful one-time appearances scattered throughout Moments.

Wizard’s Duel

Unfortunately I cannot comment about Dueling because it has not been working properly, or at all. It is supposed to be a turn-based dueling game where two players cast spells and the better performer will win. Spells are performed by pressing a key in time with wand movement. A line would appear and as it touches a letter, players will need to click it or press the key, causing a circle to appear. Players should keep the pulsing circle as large and as centered to the letter as possible. The line then travels to the next key and – you get the picture.

Dueling Practice
Dueling Practice

It takes a while to learn the right timing but spell casting is a lot simpler. Best of all, it doesn’t cost galleons.

Spells
No, you won’t be learning unforgivable spells.

Some spells can only be unlocked by discovering new books, so keep an eye out when exploring the scenes!

Thoughts

Pottermore can be a rather short experience, especially if you are not into staying for tasks like Potions and Dueling, or perhaps not exactly motivated to compete with your House for the House Cup. I went exploring the story scenes very slowly and it took about 1.5 hours to finish the materials from Book 1. Then again, this is designed for Harry Potter readers of all ages, so obviously most features need to be kept straightforward.

I have not mentioned this, but a fast connection and relatively up-to-date computer is required to experience Pottermore. Most pages are image-heavy and often filled with Flash elements. Pottermore is obviously not optimized for any tablet devices, at least for now.

In short, here’s what I think.

What is great so far:

– Beautiful art and interface design
– Seamless integration of Flash and amazing use of CSS.
– Faithful interactive representation of the book’s scenes
– Experiences such as getting your own wand and sorting
– New written material by J.K. Rowling
– Not some money-making framework for Harry Potter franchise

What needs to be worked on:

– Not particularly exciting after initial story exploration
– Wizard’s Duel is not working
– No way to earn Galleons (you are expected to scrimp until 2012)
– Lack of sound effects and music (although putting any would cause bandwidth problems)
– Less than 10% early registrants given access

While yes – this is beta, and problems do exist all the time and can be fixed… The developers have less than 5 weeks to resolve issues and put in all the other features for the October launch.

Hogwarts Stats

Here you can find information about the current enrollment figures at Hogwarts in Pottermore:
Gryffindor: 23,320
Ravenclaw: 24,278
Hufflepuff: 23,370
Slytherin: 23,033
Total students: 94,001
Last updated 12:08PM 28/08/2011 (GMT+8)

Lastly

I have intentionally left out details in this review. If you do have any questions about Pottermore, such as where to find ingredients and similar, feel free to leave a comment.

1

Natsu Matsuri 2011

Entrance Ticket

Natsu Matsuri, or Japanese Summer Festival, is an annual event held at The Japanese School (Primary Level) in Changi, Singapore. Highlights include festival games, performances and a bazaar sprawling across almost all major hallways at ground level.

Although I knew about this event for years, I have not been to the festival until mere days ago. This is the first time I secured my admission ticket before the event, thanks to Dwight and his connections at the NUS Japanese Studies Society. Each ticket costs $2 – just a token fee – but the most important thing is getting tickets BEFORE the event, so that you could bypass the long line outside the school and enter the festival compound quickly.


Entrance
The queue is actually 6-7 times longer than what it appears here.

There are actually 3 lines at the festival: Queue to buy tickets, queue for those with tickets on hand, and queue for those who wish to rent yukatas. Yukata and Obi goes for $2 and $1 respectively and can be worn throughout the evening until the festival programme ends.

Yukata zone

As for the bazaar, it’s a mix of the usual Japanese snacks, such as Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, to bento boxes and some unusual treats – the infamous candy apple for example, which gets sold out within the first hour of the festival. Food here is slightly marked up compared to outside, but hey, it’s really all about the atmosphere here! As for the merchandise available here, well, there was a stall selling some figurines at fire-sale prices. If you are in the market for Japanese trinkets, there were quite a selection available. There was even a random nubox outlet selling accessories for Apple products(?!). The main problem really was getting around because of crowd issues, despite the organiser’s efforts.

School Grounds
School Grounds

The expansive grass field is most people would end up later in the evening, either to enjoy their picnics in the open and/or watch the performances. Festival games are located at a far corner of the field.

Game Coupon

Festival Games (as in, the “official” games conducted by the event organisers) cost $2 per game round. One tip: Buy game tickets early if they are offered for sale by roving staff members! The queue to buy tickets at the game booths are just as long as the line to ENTER the school. Anyway back to games: there were three stalls this year.

Yoyo Tsuri
Yoyo Tsuri

Yo-yo Tsuri, or “Yo-yo Fishing” involves picking up a floating water balloon from a pool of water. The thing is, you are only given a “W” shaped hook that is attached to a curious white “string”. Sounds easy? Unfortunately most players end up catching nothing! Well, the white string is just rolled tissue paper. The game keepers are kind though, and give away “sympathy” water balloons even if one fails. The trick here is to find the lighter balloons – those that are floating higher than the rest. I managed to catch one water balloon (which had barely any water), but made the mistake of swishing the hook around to get a better view of the rubber band loops – the paper broke when I tried to lift another balloon.

Shooting Game
Shooting Game

The second game, which I will just call Shooting Game uses NERF guns instead of the traditionally seen BB guns, thanks to local regulations. One game coupon gives you just two foam bullets – it is more of a game of luck than skill. Prizes include well, Collon biscuits, pocket notebooks (which go for $0.30 outside ??!) and some toys for children (the real prizes).

"Pull String" game

The last game is Senbonbiki (千本引き). I don’t know what’s the right translation but most people call it the “Pull String” or “Lucky String” game. Each game station is a box with a lot of strings from the centre. These strings are connected to items flowing out from the sides of the box. To play this game you simply have to choose a string and pull it, causing an item to rise. You just win that. Prizes range from small packs of snacks, cute trinkets, toys and even shockingly, the worst prize possible: a bottle of mineral water.

Since this is really based on luck, there really aren’t any strategies at all. There are three lines for this game, each with a different choice of toys: Boys, Girls and Unisex.

Natsu Matsuri

The last event at Natsu Matsuri is the Bon Odori, which is a sort of dance around the stage at the grass field. Everyone is encouraged to take part in this simple, rhythmic dance which lasts for about 90 minutes. I didn’t stay late enough for most of the Bon Odori though.

0

COTEetCIEL Laptop Messenger Review

COTEetCIEL Messenger

I have grown out of Crumpler and Timbuk2 bags, which are too common and do not last as long as they did before – Plus these brands release bags in all sorts of bright colours that could become hard to wear sometimes – so that you have to always buy one in black, or feel pressured to buy a few of your favourite colours. I’ll just be honest here and say that none of the designs really “speak” to me anymore, plus I hate the amount of noisy Velcro on those bags. Dumping the Crumpler is an important phase of any youth’s rite of passage to adulthood. I’m sure the world-famous tea noir agrees with this statement.

Hailing from France, COTEetCIEL (pronounced like “kote-a-seal”) is one of the rising makers of stylish lifestyle products for the “modern nomad”. As they have clearly put it: Practicality and a pure aesthetic colliding in innovative products for professionals on the move. A strong sense of aesthetics and functionality from Paper Rain (the designers of COTEetCIEL) can be both seen and felt in their COTEetCIEL products. Their other notable products include Diver Sleeves for MacBook Pro and some slim cases for iPhone.

The Messenger bag is well-built and simple in design – with the use of purposed lines and recycled materials, in an ensemble of discreet colours. It has a dedicated laptop sleeve, the right amount of compartments at the right places and expandable to accommodate A3-sized articles. This is one of the rare messenger bags to make it on the pages of Bagaholicboy and if that is saying nothing about style to you, I don’t know what does.


COTEetCIEL Messenger
Flip open the flap and you get two zipper pockets, useful for stuffing with small gadgets and other necessities.

COTEetCIEL Messenger
The flap, when left unclipped, expands to a large, A3 sized compartment.

COTEetCIEL Messenger
Inside the main compartment is a hidden zipper pouch and slots for pens.

COTEetCIEL Messenger
Clips hold down the main flap and can be adjusted to keep the bag’s physical form very compact.

COTEetCIEL Messenger
The laptop sleeve compartment at the back is tailored to fit a 15″ MacBook Pro.

Clips and zippers, which are a lot quieter to use, are found on COTEetCIEL bags – so you won’t get looks in a library trying to fish out your stationery. I have also found the dedicated laptop compartment to be very useful for dumping small items for quick retrieval later.

The Messenger uses recycled PET canvas marketed as CetCycle (known as C&CCycle in 2011) which is rather impervious to most stains, dust or marks. Just a wipe with a damp cloth and it’s good to go. The shoulder strap is not the typical ballistic nylon found on messenger bags, also known as the “seat belt strap”. Instead, it is a thick fabric strap similar to the textile shoulder strap found on Louis Vuitton’s men’s collection and other good brands. This is quite important because the “seat belt strap” will eventually cause some section of shirts (especially around the shoulder) to wear off due to friction. Of course if you are the sort of person with camp t-shirts making up the bulk of your wardrobe, this is then not a matter of concern.

Speaking about colours, the Messenger comes in Black, Black Melange, Grey Melange, Toffy Brown and Navy Melange. Take a look at the colours here. The Melange types are not flat colours, but a subtle, rock texture-like blend of tones, similar to what Mélange actually means. The bags I owned and featured here are in Black and Black Melange.


Some stores stock a revised series of COTEetCIEL bags. As I have not seen any coverage about the 2011 editions, I’ll just share the info here.

In 2011, Paper Rain has renamed the label, from COTEetCIEL to Côte&Ciel. This has been reflected in products manufactured in 2011. Do not be alarmed if you see the slightly different name on products.

Similarly, the marketing term for the textile used for their bags have been changed from CetCycle to C&CCycle.


COTEetCIEL Messenger
Zippers have changed from the clunky and large sort to something flat and discreet. The zipper pull design is now a ring, instead of a tab. This design change makes the bag much quieter – that slightly annoying noise of metal tab rattling is no longer present.

COTEetCIEL new label
The label is no longer a piece of hard plastic (which gets scratched easily) but a suede-like fabric tag with (removable) rolled cardboard inside to retain the cylindrical look.

There is also a new CetCanvas colour available : Green. It is similar to COTEetCIEL’s Urban Chic colour, but darker – like Filson’s green canvas. Definitely not the same shade as those cheap SAF backpacks. It is exclusive to the Rucksack line for now.


Items from COTEetCIEL can be found in many stores in Singapore, including Apple resellers as well as specialty lifestyle stores such as Cumulus. For a full list of stockists, refer to this page: http://www.coteetciel.com/find-a-dealer

6

Trip to Hong Kong 2011 – Day 3 and 4

I’ll just consolidate the last two days of this trip into one post!


Nathan Road
Skip Skippity Skip
Typhoon 
Alert #3

The weather forecast warned us about Level 3 typhoon winds – and it was accurate. It was very comfortable to walk outdoors, but the wind brought about several bouts of unpredictable sweeping rain. Most of the day we were inside shopping malls on the third day.

In Search of the Summicron-M 35mm in Hong Kong
I tried my luck searching for 2nd-hand Leica and Zeiss lenses in Hong Kong, but the only reliable place was some shops at Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. Tin Cheung Camera has a few stores in the area so I visited their newly-relocated store in a mall called K11 – great selection, they have almost every essential lenses BUT the reason why they still have stock? The prices are not exactly great, in fact um – it’s at the level of “I just want it even if it’s $1500 more” sort of price. The second shop I went to was Tin Cheung Camera Classic, a pre-owned photography store. The prices are close to what you see on eBay, but at least you could inspect the lenses and try your luck bargaining.

Canton Road

The Southern part of Canton Road is better known for its incredible concentration of European flagship boutiques, but also the Louis Vuitton Maison store – that is easily twice the size of outlet at ION Orchard in Singapore. This entire stretch is linked together and is part of a larger mall called Harbour City.


Mak's Noodles
Mak's Noodles

One notable place we had lunch was Mak’s Noodles, located in Causeway Bay. They have a few branches in Hong Kong, so either Google it yourself or contact me for details. The original restaurant is at Central though. Even if you are not a fan of Wanton noodles, you should really try Mak’s! The noodles have a fresh, crunchy texture – coupled with plump, scrumptious wantons that is served with fragrant soup stock in a small soup bowl. You might end up having a few extra servings!


Mong Kok area
Mong Kok area
Street food

As usual, the streets of Hong Kong at night are more characteristic. Locals roam the streets and shop till very late at night. It is not surprising to see crowded shops even at 11pm – unlike back in Singapore where most shops close at 8pm and even if they are open (like most stores at Marina Bay Sands), it’s mostly deserted.


Morning market
Towel vendor

We explored Garden Street again on the last day. In the morning there aren’t as many shops open but there are still interesting things to see. This microfiber towel stall, for example.


road works
Public light buses

Apart from the usual public buses, there are also light buses that seems to stop at almost random places (without bus stops) to pick up passengers. For tourists I think taking a cab to get around is best option.


hope it holds up
scaffolding

The buildings in Hong Kong seem to be always in a state of construction (or re-construction). Bamboo is used for scaffolding and it seems rather precarious to walk under them when there are strong winds, especially when you discover how they’re held in place together!


near jade market
Jade
Stalls
Clarity

The northern section of Canton Road houses Jade Market. According to my Mom, it is very difficult to find any good deals here anymore if you are in search of higher quality jade. Apparently there is now an EVEN higher concentration of mass-produced altered jade, so do be watchful and well obviously, bargain!! until the stall owner brings her broom out to chase you away, that is.


Cooking Mama 360
Cooking Mama 360
Cooking Mama 360

At last, it was time to go to the airport. There is now a very large food court in the departure hall, but it was too crowded and crazy so we just went to this restaurant with an quaint name – Cooking Mama 360. There is no relation to the famous series of video-games, but the food served here is more interesting than their name – there’s a mix of Korean and Japanese dishes that are coupled with Pasta-style mains, but with thick wheat noodles. Worth a try!


All photographs were snapped using my NEX-5 with a rather old LEICA Summicron-C 40mm f/2.

The complete flickr album can be found here.

0

Overview of the new USS Annual Passes

The new Annual Pass programme for Universal Studios Singapore (USS) was finally announced on 6th July 2011 – three days after the pioneer batch of Annual passes expired. Here is their official page. As I found their information to be jumbled – difficult to weigh the cost and benefits of each Annual Pass, I have decided to write this entry to help readers make sense of the new programme. All prices are in Singapore Dollars.


Note: The Annual Pass programme has been completely revamped in November 2012.

The three Annual Passes documented in this entry are no longer offered. Information here will be kept for reference.
Please refer to this entry for the latest programme.


Annual Pass Office
At the Annual Pass office, May 2011

New Annual Pass Programme – Comparison Chart

Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) has introduced the new programme this year, which includes a reasonable price adjustment to the Superstar Pass and brings in a new tier known as the Action Pass, which has the same benefits as a Fun Pass but does not have any black-out dates, granting the Passholder 365 days of unlimited access to the park. In the mean time, the price for the entry-level Fun pass has increased by $20 across the board.

  Superstar Pass Action Pass Fun Pass
Adult Price $638 $488 $338
Child Price $558 $408 $258
Senior Price $508 $358 $208
       
Welcome Gift (Lanyard + Pins) 4 Pins 2 Pins 2 Pins
Access via VIP Turnstile into USS
Monthly E-bulletin from RWS
Sneak previews of new attractions
Discount at all retail and F&B outlets in USS 10% 5% 5%
Discount at selected retail outlets in RWS 10% 5% 5%
Discount at KT’s Grill and Hollywood China Bistro 20% 20% 20%
10% Discount for all USS tickets (max 6 per transaction)
20% Discount for USS VIP Tour
10% Discount for USS events and selected RWS events
Unlimited admission with no black-out dates for 365 days
Unlimited climbs at Amber Rock Climb
Unlimited Universal Express access to all USS attractions
Complimentary rental of strollers and wheelchairs
Room upgrade for Festive Hotel (Deluxe Room to Deluxe Family Room)

Click here for the black-out dates for Fun Pass.

Terms and Conditions apply for some benefits. Do check the details at the Annual Pass info page.


Park Crew
Annual Pass office around this area of the Hollywood zone. In case you’ve forgotten!

Renewal Rates for Expired/Expiring Annual Passes

Universal Studios Singapore offers a $20 renewal discount for holders of existing (and for some, expired) Annual Passes. They can choose to keep or change their current type of Annual Pass.

  Superstar Pass Action Pass Fun Pass
Adult Price $618 $468 $298
Child Price $538 $388 $238
Senior Price $488 $338 $188


Some points to take note:
• Renewals requests are accepted from 9 July 2011 onwards.
• Annual Passes can be renewed 2 months before the expiration date at the Annual Pass Office located inside the park.
• Annual Passes may be renewed up to 30 days after the last day of validity at the Guest Services Office at the entrance of the park.
A renewed Annual Pass will be valid for one year after the last day of the current (or previous) validity period, regardless of the actual date of renewal.
• Renewal benefits are non-transferable, non-exchangeable and non-refundable.

You may want to refer to the official page for renewal information.


At the Annual Pass Office!
Friends getting their shiny passes, May 2011

Comparison between the 2010 and Mid-2011 Programme

Lastly, you might be interested in the other differences between the new and old programmes, including the prices. I have only listed the benefits that have changed at this section; do refer to the chart above for the full list of benefits.

Superstar Pass Comparison

The original Superstar Pass introduced a bundle of benefits as it was priced as the ultimate, “first-class” Annual Pass, providing passholders with a “Superstar level” of benefits. With the new reduced price, there are definitely many changes with the pass’ perks. The most important features of the Superstar Pass, such as year-round unlimited admission and unlimited use of Universal Express, remain unchanged.

  2010 ~ Mid-2011   Mid-2011 onwards
Price (Adult) $1098   $638
Price (Child) $828   $558
Price (Senior) $738   $508
       
Resorts World Sentosa gift voucher $100  
Discount at all retail and F&B outlets in USS 5%   10%
Discount at selected retail outlets in RWS 5%   10%
Discount at KT’s Grill and Hollywood China Bistro   20%
USS Day Pass discounts Birthday Month: 10% discount on all day passes during birthday month, up to 5 passes per passholder   Discount extended to 10% all year round, up to 6 per transaction
Complimentary ticket to Halloween Horror Nights One ticket per Passholder
*Removed in Mid-2010
 
Discount for RWS VIP Tour 30%   20%
Complimentary hotel room upgrades Festive Hotel: Deluxe Room to Deluxe Family Room
Hotel Michael: Deluxe to Club Deluxe Room
  Festive Hotel: Deluxe Room to Deluxe Family Room
Complimentary rental of strollers and wheelchairs  
Access via VIP turnstile into USS  

Fun Pass Comparison

There aren’t many changes for the Fun Pass, however the 10% discount could be an easy draw to bring more friends into the park.

  2010 ~ Mid-2011   Mid-2011 onwards
Price (Adult) $318   $338
Price (Child) $238   $258
Price (Senior) $188   $208
       
Discount at KT’s Grill and Hollywood China Bistro   20%
Resorts World Sentosa gift voucher $25  
Discount at KT’s Grill and Hollywood China Bistro   20%
USS Day Pass discounts Birthday Month: 10% discount on all day passes during birthday month, up to 5 passes per passholder   Discount extended to 10% all year round, up to 6 per transaction
Discount for RWS VIP Tour   20%
Access via VIP turnstile into USS  



Annual Pass Office
Accompanying my sister for her Annual Pass renewal, July 2011

Annual Pass Office
These are the pins that passholders are able to choose from. Only two pins (The Purple Star and Gold Globe) are exclusive to Annual Passholders. The rest is available for sale in the park.


FAQ

Q: Can I borrow someone’s Annual Pass to enter the park?

A: No, it is not transferable and each Annual Pass has the Passholder’s name and photograph printed on it. The entrance crew has the right to refuse admission if the credentials do not match up. Believe it or not, I’m always asked this question from a lot of people who are new to the park.

Q: How do I get an Annual Pass?

A: You will need to pay for the full price of the Annual Pass at the park entrance, then proceed to the Annual Pass office with your temporary ticket. After the registration process in the office, you will receive your welcome gift and the actual Annual Pass card. Alternatively, if you have a day ticket and wish to upgrade, see the next question.

Q: Can I upgrade my normal day ticket to an Annual Pass?

A: Yes, simply visit the Annual Pass office and pay the difference to upgrade to an Annual Pass. However, do note that some promotional tickets, like complimentary passes, may not be upgraded to an Annual Pass. For confirmation, please ask at the Annual Pass office.

Q: Is there a “Family” Annual Pass?

A: All Annual Passes are designed for personal use only. You will need to buy separate passes for each family member.

Q: Are there discounts for Annual Passes?

A: Not at this moment. However, you might be able to find people online selling Annual Pass Certificates (or Vouchers) which can be redeemed for an Annual Pass, as low as $240 for a Fun Pass (Adult). However, do take note that the authenticity of such vouchers may be unverified. If you do chance upon a good deal, I would recommend meeting the seller at RWS and verifying that the certificate/vouchers are valid before handling over your money.

Edit (6/12/2011)

Good news! Christmas Promotion for Annual Passes:
From now till 2nd January 2012, enjoy 10% off the Fun Pass, Action Pass and Superstar Pass (annual passes), up to 12 per transaction.

Christmas Promotion Prices (Adult, Child, Senior)

Fun Pass ($304, $232 $187)
Action Pass ($439, $367, $322)
Superstar Pass ($574, $502, $457)
Promotion Ends 2nd January 2012!
Buy at www.rwsentosa.com or at Universal Studios Singapore Park Gates.

Q: Which Annual Pass is right for me?

A: It really depends on how often you wish to visit the park and your preferred days of the week to visit. The Fun Pass is the cheapest option if you plan your visits during off-peak weekdays and weekends, avoiding all peak days completely. It would allow you to comfortably enjoy the attractions as much as you wish.

The Action Pass allows for more flexibility with no black-out dates, but you may be caught in long queues during holidays and other peak seasons.

The Superstar Pass completely eradicates any reservations to visit during a very crowded day as you will have priority access to almost all attractions, plus you may actually have an easier time dealing with the free rental period for lockers in the park (see “locker trick” below). However, you will not have any priority access for F&B outlets or stores, so some planning may still be necessary.

Q: What are main differences between the Superstar Pass and Fun Pass?

A: The main benefits of Superstar Pass that the Fun Pass does not offer: Unlimited access to the park during day-time operations with no black-out dates, unlimited Universal Express access, 10% discount on food and merchandise (5% more than Fun Pass) and complimentary climbs on Amber Rock Climb ($5 for other guests), Festival Hotel room upgrade and rental of strollers and wheelchairs.

Q: What are main differences between the Superstar Pass and Action Pass?

A: The main benefits of Superstar Pass that the Action Pass does not offer: Unlimited Universal Express access, 10% discount on food and merchandise (5% more than Action Pass) and complimentary climbs on Amber Rock Climb ($5 for other guests), Festival Hotel room upgrade and rental of strollers and wheelchairs.

Q: What are main differences between the Action Pass and Fun Pass?

A: The Action Pass has the same benefits as the Fun Pass, except that it also includes Unlimited access to the park during day-time operations with no black-out dates.

Q: Which are the least-crowded days of the week to visit?

A: During an off-peak season, the usual good days are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. Peak periods are usually in Late May ~ June and Late November ~ December period (School Holidays) and around public holidays. Of course, there are some unforeseen events, such as family days or foreign public holidays or similar events that do not show up on the park’s monthly calendar.

Q: How many times must I visit to “break even”?

A: It really depends, but generally after 6-7 visits, the Annual Pass would “pay for itself”, including the more expensive annual passes. More details about this will come in an upcoming entry “Universal Studios Singapore – Tips and Tricks”.

Q: What is the “Superstar Pass Locker” trick?

A: The free rental period for lockers at Battlestar Galactica and Revenge of The Mummy are linked directly with the waiting time for the attraction. The locker exploit gives Superstar Passholders a huge advantage during visits on high-peak days, as they can leave their bags for a longer span of time without renewing their locker box (opening and rehiring), maximizing the number of ride counts between locker renewals when Universal Express is used by the Superstar Passholder.

Q: What is the difference between the Superstar Pass and Universal Express Pass?

A: Universal Express Pass is an add-on to day passes and the Fun/Action Annual Passes. It offers guests priority access to attractions. Each pass can only be used once per attraction. The Superstar Pass offers unlimited use of Universal Express.

Q: What is this “VIP Turnstile”?

A: The VIP Turnstile is located at the left end of the entrance gateway to the park. It is for Annual Passholders and rather possibly, VIP Tour guests. It is only available in the first three hours after the park opens. Usually there is no queue at this turnstile, which is a godsend to Annual Passholders – The regular turnstiles sometimes have lines leading up to the Universal Globe!

If you have any other questions do post in the comments and I will try to find the answer for you


Personal Thoughts

By offering the passes at 3 levels, with a difference of $150 between each level, the park provides customers with clearer options to pay for what they want. This is certainly an improvement from the old Annual Pass which had a large gap of $780 in between Fun Pass and Superstar Pass.

It appears that the park has enjoyed its success during soft-opening and is shifting its strategies to pump attendance rates – by luring as many regulars as possible. It might be a good time to start work on seasonal programme now if the park wishes to retain large pools of long-term passholders. Perhaps the park could offer complimentary parking in the future for the upper-tier Annual Passes, or sell it as an add-on.

As for the Action Pass, I felt that it was a right move. In my opinion, it doesn’t make much sense to get a Fun Pass anymore as a year’s access only cost $150 more. While the Fun Pass’ validity dates are very generous (Black-out dates on those high peak days that you’d wish you’re never at the park anyway), from personal experience it can become a hindrance when you have to bring a group of friends into the park and half of them can only make it on a black-out day. It happens. However, if you only want to visit during off-peak periods then there is really no point in spending the another $150 for access on black-out dates.

Other nice touches include a VIP turnstile into the park which will be very useful to get into the park quickly, as Annual Passholders do not have “idiosyncratic ticketing issues” at the park gates. This VIP turnstile is at the extreme left end of the park entrance. Just scan your Pass card and enter!

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Trip to Hong Kong 2011 – Day 2

The second day in Hong Kong was mostly spent at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Just like Universal Studios Singapore, Hong Kong Disneyland is located far away from the busy city center. It rests on reclaimed land at Lantau Island. There are a few options to travel to the park: the most popular being public transport, the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) of course.

Day Tickets at Hong Kong Disneyland goes for HK$350, which is equivalent to about S$56. The price is the same for any day in the year and can be used on most days, anytime 6 months after date of purchase. However, for some special days, such as public holidays, tickets will need to be purchased with a confirmed date of use.

The park also offers Annual Passes, called the Magic Access which is split into 4 tiers of membership and is priced from HK$2400 to HK$650.


Sunny Bay MTR Station
Disneyland Resort Line Train

The Disney experience begins the moment one arrives at Sunny Bay, the interchange station between the Tung Chung line and the Disneyland Resort line. Typically, the iconic Disney train will be there waiting for eager guests to run across the transfer platform.

There is a little fanfare during the ride to Disneyland Resort, with a special message being played in the train cabins. It is all part of a thematic journey, transforming from “modern city of Hong Kong” to the “magical world of Hong Kong Disneyland”. Visually, the stations were designed very differently as well – with the Sunny Bay station having a lot of glass and white roof work, looking like most of the other stations in Hong Kong. Visitors will be surprised with a spacious Modern-Victorian design at the Disneyland station.

The entrance area of the park has been decorated for the park’s 5th Anniversary festivities, Celebration in the Air. It is quite a cohesive theme and includes some tweaks to the park’s merchandising, decorations and is supported by a very impressive daytime parade show and night castle show.


Esplanade Gateway
Tinkerbell

It was a Tuesday when my family went to the park – although marked as an off-peak day, there was a lot of people. FASTPASS is no longer a novelty, it is a necessity if you wish to do the rides multiple times. As for the park crowds, it’s comparable to a school holiday weekend at Universal Studios Singapore.

If you are wondering why the photos below show an empty park, here is the explanation: The main gates of Hong Kong Disneyland opens 30 minutes before the scheduled timing (usually 10:30AM). Only the Main Street area is accessible, for some quick bites or (hopefully not) overly well-planned shopping. A rope is held in place at the end of Main Street, just before the roundabout (where Sorcerer Mickey is) in front of the castle. Moments before 10:30AM, there is a ceremony called “First Family” where a family is chosen to open the park by “cutting” a ribbon. The First Family thing is an opportunity is given out to families with small children who at the gates during park opening. Apart from this little fanfare and some special photo-op moments, I recall reading somewhere that the First Family also rides down Main Street before a parade starts, but I’m not sure if that is done anymore during the 5th Anniversary Celebrations.


The Castle
The backdrop

The location for Hong Kong Disneyland is unlike any other Disney parks. The lush mountain backdrop frames the park beautifully, masking any hints of the outside world. While yes, the park is entirely artificial and built on reclaimed land, the surrounding landscape creates an illusion – a “magical” one that is reinforced with thematic music – to trick the guests that they are in some other world. I really wished Universal Studios Singapore had the large walking spaces between park zones, which offers breathing space between each zone’s thematic design.

Tinkerbell Castle
Tinkerbell Castle
Tinkerbell Castle

As part of Celebration In The Air, Sleeping Beauty Castle has embellished with golden trails and sparkly pixie dust by Tinker Bell! The “sparkly” effect is made out of shiny metallic discs that moves with the wind, creating a graduated shimmering effect. This is similar to the kinetic art by Ned Kahn, which has been replicated at many places, including the Wind Arbor at Marina Bay Sands. Hidden behind the curtains of discs are LED lighting arrays. The evening castle show, known as Tinker Bell Castle Illumination, is a dazzling spectacle.

Another important element of Celebration In The Air is the Flights of Fantasy Parade which unfortunately I have no photos to provide. It is a stunning parade and has been compared to some of Tokyo Disneyland’s parades by some theme park fans. There are 7 parade floats in total: Dumbo + Mickey and Friends, Winnie The Pooh, Disney Princesses, Jungle Book/Lion King, Tinker Bell, Lilo and Stitch – and lastly, Toy Story. The theme song is very catchy, memorable and uplifting (well, it’s about flying, after all).



Flights of Fantasy Parade, © Disney

Flights of Fantasy Parade

Main Theme – English Lyrics

It’s a sky high celebration,
So come on! come on! come on!
Let’s fly away!

Take a flight on imagination,
So come on! come on! come on!
It’s a brand new day!

We’re chasing rainbows,
Wherever the wind blows.
So come on, come on,
The Flights of Fantasy!

Hey, Hey, Hey

I can only grasp this line from the Cantonese version of the song:

我會帶你飛越萬里, 常飛起,飛起,飛起!

Interestingly, the parade theme music is also used in the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim but with a different narrative altogether. It is called Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. In the chorus instead of “The Flights of Fantasy!”, you get “It’s Soundsational!”


Notable Attractions at Hong Kong Disneyland


it's a small world
Excited girl
Marie

it’s a small world

Originally created for the UNICEF Pavilion in the 1964 New York World’s Fair, it’s a small world is one of the few attractions that exists in all Fantasyland zones around the world. It is a gentle indoor boat ride that sails through various colourful scenes with animated characters singing the same tune. Although the music might drive some people crazy, this attraction is well-known for its very high-capacity per hour, which has influenced future Disney attractions in their design, such as Pirates of the Caribbean (from a walkthrough attraction into boat ride). In Hong Kong Disneyland, it is also one of the most comfortable rides to enjoy in a hot summer day.


Space Mountain
Space Mountain queue
Space Mountain queue
Space Mountain queue
Space Mountain queue

Space Mountain

In contrast to Universal Studios Singapore, which has several roller-coasters, Space Mountain is now the only high adrenaline adventure in Hong Kong Disneyland. One commonly heard rationale is that the locals prefer photo opportunities compared to intensive rides. This is set to change with the construction of new attractions in the three new themed zones, to be completed in 2013.

Despite being a smaller, more compact version compared to the other Space Mountain attractions in the world, this ride has a slightly different theme and queue design. There is also a lot of detail in the design of the loading/unloading area. The ride safety video is also carefully done to be both succinct and heavily themed, something which was perfectly executed for Battlestar Galactica in Universal Studios Singapore back in 2010, but was unfortunately altered in the 2011 reopening with “real-world videos” spliced in between themed sequences.


Other activities

Apart from rides, shows and parades, there is also a special summer event going on called Rev Up Your Summer Fun! which is tied closely with the new CARS 2 film.


Cars Secret Mission
Cars Secret Mission

Cars Secret Mission is an activity that involves finding game stations scattered around the park and playing minigames. Players will need to get a little leaflet from a cast member (My sister’s holding it in the photo above) that has a QR code on it. At each station, players will need to scan their leaflet and proceed on with a simple minigame, which varies from memory to “spot the difference”/”find a character” style games. Cast members will invite players to get a stamp on their leaflets. Upon completion of all game stations… you actually get nothing except for a (presumably) random Cars character profiling and a certificate which you have to print online on your own. Well, you didn’t pay to participate in this anyway.

There are also Cars photo opportunity zones (which are actually, just large 2D installations) themed to certain cities around the world. It doesn’t just stop there – the theming continues with snacks offered at each zone, such as sushi rolls for sale at the “Tokyo” zone, for example!

Seen around the park


Theatre in the wild
Queues for Festival of the Lion King, a short musical performance of the popular hits and compressed narrative from The Lion King.

Fantasyland
The area behind the Castle in Fantasyland

Dumbo
Dumbo: The Flying Elephant ride

Moving bin
Talking Bin in Tomorrowland

Lantern
Lantern at the interactive zone in Adventureland

Royal Banquet Hall
Royal Banquet Hall – We had lunch here.

Royal Banquet
Mixed Grill Set

Main Street snaps
Happy couple at Main Street

While not exactly comparable to the other larger Disney Parks in the world, Hong Kong Disneyland still retains Disney magic – with the successful formula in designing and running theme parks that Disney has decades of experience to rely upon. I have visited the park a handful of times for the past five years and the park has always been improving, with exciting seasonal and milestone events. Things will get very exciting at the resort when three new themed zones – Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point – are completed in the years to come.


After spending almost a full day in Hong Kong Disneyland, we got tired of the heat and went back to Kowloon. Yep, we gave the evening shows a miss.


Garden Street
Garden Street

My family went to this night market street called “Fa Yuen Street” which translates to “Garden Street”. There’s always those usual night market stalls selling cheap clothes, souvenirs and trinkets. The more interesting parts are actually the shops hidden out of the florescent glow of the night markets though. My sister goes to a random shop and after some bargaining and trying them out – if I remember correct – paid S$80 for 4 pairs of shoes.


Sabotage??
Investigation

I witnessed this interesting incident of a billboard being sabotaged and the canvas was flapping dangerously in the wind – it was fixed the next day though, which was good as the Typhoon warnings started coming up the next morning.


All photographs were snapped using my NEX-5 with a rather old LEICA Summicron-C 40mm f/2.

The complete flickr album can be found here.

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Trip to Hong Kong 2011 – Day 1

Just mere days after finally completing National Service, I found myself at Hong Kong with my family. We’ve not traveled together since late 2009.


CX710

We took the 8:05AM flight on Cathay Pacific. Upon arriving and dropping our luggage at the hotel, we went straight to Causeway Bay for lunch at Hunan Garden. Located at Level 13 of Times Square Food Forum, the restaurant offers Hunan cuisine in a European setting. It’s interesting to note that the Times Square Food Forum is very popular and during the lunch hour it becomes necessary to actually queue (à la theme park rides) for the lift to the higher levels.


Hunan Garden

Hunan Garden

Hunan Garden

Hunan Garden

Hunan Garden

At the ground level of Times Square was.. Hogwarts Express! It was accompanied with Platform 9¾ (and yes, the trolley was there as well.) Unfortunately it seems like classes has just ended and the whole area was flooded with students!


Hogwarts Express

We then went to SOGO at Causeway Bay. Despite being owned by a Hong Kong company, it still has the strong makings of a Japanese department store – with a structured department store layout and even greeters at every floor and the lift attendant ladies. There was a memorable moment where two of the attendants were in a lift, filled to capacity and when a shopper wanted to squeeze her way in, the lift attendant said “Sorry we’re full already” politely, only to receive a snide “Why are there TWO of you in there??” back.


SOGO Hong Kong

street.hk


Found at SOGO Causeway Bay is one of the only two Kura Chika boutiques in Hong Kong. Kura Chika deals with items from PORTER TOKYO and YOSHIDA & CO. While the store does not have the full PORTER TOKYO collection, they do have the classic items and if you’re lucky, some obscure limited edition items.

Like I’ve told many people (and countless people have told me), if you want to get a PORTER bag, please only buy either a PORTER TOKYO or HEAD PORTER product. Stay away from PORTER INTERNATIONAL (based in Taiwan). While the designs may look similar (to some), the INTERNATIONAL label is not directly related to the Japanese company and most importantly, those items are not Made in Japan. There is an exciting tale about how this Taiwanese company came about, which I will save for another entry – or you can ask me for a short version in person.


Edit: Since I’ve received many emails about this, I’ll just post it here:

I’ve been told by streetwear and bag aficionados that Porter International (Taiwan) started off as a knock-off brand, copying designs of PORTER TOKYO/JAPAN and HEAD PORTER. Instead battling through copyright lawsuits, both Porter International and YOSHIDA & CO. came to a settlement. They now work in a partnership and the Taiwan brand now produces their own designs and collections, though some of them share the same look as the Japan variant.

Under the partnership, Porter International also operates KURA CHIKA, a chain of stores that sells Porter Japan items outside of Japan.


After spending some time here, my Dad finally decided on a nice PORTER canvas shoulder sling. We then traveled back to the hotel and took a short rest. We then decided to head to another mall which we’ve never been to, called ELEMENTS.


road works

ELEMENTS

Louis Vuitton, ELEMENTS

Surrounded by major road works and urban redevelopment, ELEMENTS is perhaps, a diamond in the rough. Like other similar malls in Tsim Sha Tsui, it is clearly aimed for the Upper-Middle class in Hong Kong. The mall is uniquely structured into 5 zones, themed after the Chinese elements of nature: Water, Fire, Wood, Earth and Metal. While each zone has a specific “subject area”, i.e. Wood zone for health, well-being stores, there are some minor inconsistencies. The Metal (or more accurately, GOLD) zone however, is strongly focused for an ensemble of the most coveted luxury brands. It feels like the Middle section of Marina Bay Sands Shoppes.


Hermès, ELEMENTS

miu miu, ELEMENTS

Unlike the highly illustrious lane in Canton Road where stores have to temporarily close at times to accommodate their patrons, ELEMENTS was quite deserted and could offer a safe haven for those who seek a tranquil shopping experience. At least you don’t have to wait for your own SA here. My sister finally found the bracelet she wanted.


night life

night market

It was a very relaxing experience to walk around ELEMENTS and soak in the intoxicating aroma of European leather goods, but we decided to travel back to the drastically different streets of Mong Kok. This is where most of the shopping took place for the next few days – major bargains to be found, even for items bought at retail, they’re usually 10-20% cheaper than Singapore!

There’s probably too many stores to list, but if you are looking for something and would like addresses or names, just let me know via comments or messaging. Of course, the famous Sino Centre, Langham Place and Argyle Centre are some of the must-go places for clothes and other knicks-and-knacks.

Mong Kok is also where Hong Kong’s iconic night markets happen. There are several streets, each (supposedly) catered to certain groups of people (Ladies’ Market, Temple Street’s Men’s Market etc) but over the years it has become “everything” night market.


Gong Cha

The last stop of the day was GONG CHA. For just HK$13 (that’s about S$2), you get the large cup of milk tea. In Singapore, the small cup goes for S$2.80. What is this?

The adventure continues in the next entry!


All photographs were snapped using my NEX-5 with a rather old LEICA Summicron-C 40mm f/2.

The complete flickr album can be found here.

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Transformers: a look at the concept art

TRANSFORMERS is an upcoming attraction at Universal Studios Singapore. Scheduled to be open in the second half of 2011, the attraction is an indoor sit-down ride that uses vehicles similar to motion simulators, but can also travel along a track. The ride should be using improved technology from “The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman” rides in Universal Studios Orlando and Universal Studios Japan with some new advancements, such as High-Definition 3D displays and of course – impressive looking robots. To add more excitement, the attraction will feature elevation changes and potentially: dual-level scenes!

Some concept art have been leaked recently on Theme Park Insider, giving us a first glimpse of how the queue area and show scenes might look like.



Preshow area


Queue area that revolves around the AllSpark


Loading area, looking somewhat familiar..


One of the ride’s scenes.

It certainly looks exciting! The concept art appears to be more believable as compared to the sketches for Battlestar Galactica (which had rather ambitious plans for large, elaborately themed queue areas such as vast hangars – in the end it looks more like a little shed for just one lonely Viper).

Information is scarce about this ride and there isn’t anything much to see from within USS itself, unlike the other recently opened (and RE-opened) attractions which are situated very close to park guests. From what I’ve heard, the company involved with its construction has announced that their project will be completed by June 2011. The very same company was also contracted to rework some parts of Madagascar: A Crate Adventure and according to them, their work was done in March 2011. Crate Adventure opened about 2 months later. Perhaps we might see Transformers open much sooner than we thought, but let’s not keep our hopes too high – the park only promised that it will be open before the year ends!

Photos: Robert Niles, Theme Park Insider

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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station – Photowalk

Slated to close on 1st July 2011, the 88-year-old Tanjong Pagar Railway station is a place lost in time, and space.

The entire compound felt rustic and rather laid-back; almost as if I’ve stepped into a portal to Malaysia. Even the food vendors speak Malay almost exclusively.. just that payment is in Singapore dollars!

Fence

Framing the Orient Express

E&O in a Circle

Changing roles

Beyond the station

The rope

Metal tool things

Jelly lights

Life on the line

STOP

There are two coffee shops in the station (or Stesen), a bookshop that sells anything but books and some kampung hut in the center of all the business. I felt one momentary breeze of cool air in the hot weather – it came from the VIP Lounge for the Eastern & Oriental Express.
After walking to the end of the platform, there is a path which leads to some abandoned buildings, an outdoor restaurant (of sorts) and the train depot which is rather empty and weathered. Many opportunities to take photos of yourself standing/planking on some railway tracks here! Of course, do not wander to the actual working tracks!

The LEICA SUMMICRON-C 40mm Short Review / Thoughts about the Leica lens
For this photo trip, I used a LEICA SUMMICRON-C 40mm f/2 made 38 years ago. Most close-up and shallow DoF shots are taken at f/2.

After months of using the Carl Zeiss Planar lenses on my NEX, I have chanced upon some articles about Leica’s most underrated offering. The price seemed affordable (Leica-wise) and reviews just kept praising this tiny German-made lens – which was often overshadowed by its SUMMICRON-M brothers but yet appears to offer almost similar optical performance for the lenses within the same era. This means of course, no comparison with Aspherical lenses please – just not sensible. I then spoke to Desmond, who is very knowledgeable in this field – but also a very dangerous person to speak to when it comes to photography and audio equipment! Then yes, the DECISIVE MOMENT arrived.

Fine lines

I am enjoying the film-like colours and look of the Leica. The Summicron is sharp wide open, yet produces a pleasantly soft effect at the same time. The colour signature (out of camera) is quite similar to what I have to process for the high-contrast, vibrant images from Carl Zeiss lenses. I guess I am not the type of person who loves vividly loud colours. I prefer smooth, subtle and subdued (Triple-S? ha!) tones and surprisingly, this 38-year wonder just does it for me. There is just something about this lens. It brings out the very fine subtleties in colour tone.

Of course, even though it’s a Leica, it is not miracle glass. Understandably, the lens was made decades ago, so it does not have the best lens coating to suppress flare. I am using it with a camera it was not designed to pair with. Being a Leica rangefinder lens, the minimum focus is at a shocking 0.8m (0.1m more than the Nokton lenses and 0.3m more than the Contax G Zeiss lenses!). It does bring a lot of challenges in real-world use and I am being brought back into the tedious (and rewarding) experience of using M lenses again. I will probably write an entry soon about all the lenses I have used so far with the NEX – Both to document the experience and also help fellow “Mirrorless Cameras” enthusiasts in making acquisition decisions.

NEX-5 right now

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The Grand Opening of Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore - Grand Opening 2011 - Parade 17

Universal Studios Singapore marked an important milestone on 28th May 2011 with a glitzy, action-packed event filled with celebrities and a grand procession show.


2014 Remaster – Happy USS 3rd Anniversary!


In Celebration of Universal Studios Singapore’s 3rd Anniversary, this entry has received the Remaster Enhancement treatment. I have revisited the digital negatives and re-processed the photographs taken back in 2011. Apart from improved colour, clarity and consistency with my current visual aesthetic, there are also some photos that are published for the very first time. This is an opportunity to relive the magic of the Grand Opening Celebration. Enjoy!


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