Friday, January 31, 2020

Opening of First 3 Stations of Thomson East-Coast Line

Today is the opening day of the first three stations of Thomson East-Coast line.  The first three stations are Woodlands North, Woodlands, and Woodlands South.  From 31 Jan to 2 Feb, 2020, the public can enjoy free travel among these 3 stations. 

I entered Woodlands Station and found a long tunnel to the entrance. 

The station design is very much similar to the circle line.  The station is spacious and well-lit.  During the free-travel period, you will find all the gantries show an X, just ignore that, as the gantries are open, you can just walk in, without tapping your fare card.

The platform is quite big as well.  I didn't do an actual count, but it seems like the length of the platform/train is comparable to that of North-East Line and East-West Line.  I think they have learnt a lesson from circle line and North-East Line.  The trains are too short on these two lines and the trains are always crowded during rush hours. 

The trains look very much like the new trains on NS/EW lines.  At the moment, the frequency is not very high.  It is about once every 7 minutes.  I hope they will increase the frequency when the entire line is open. 

I took the train to Woodlands North.  Woodlands North station has a modern design, and it is very spacious.  I went out of the station, but I was not too sure where I was.  There is nothing much outside.  Woodlands North has been planned as the connection point for the future MRT linking Singapore and Johor Bahru.  With the change of government in Malaysia, that probably will be a very very distant future project. 

Well, that's my experience on the first day of Thomson East-Coast Line.  There were not many people traveling on this line yet, but I hope with its opening, we will see more prosperity along the line. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

R & F Mall Johor Bahru

R & F Mall is pretty huge, it has 3 levels above the ground, not sure whether there is any basement levels.  There are two courtyards, one outdoor, and one indoor, both are big.

Outdoor Courtyard

Indoor Courtyard

On level 1, you can find Jaya Grocer, a supermarket where you can do your groceries.  There are quite a number of restaurants too, including fast food, Chinese food, and local brands such as Soon Huat.

Jaya Grocer

There is a Daiso on level 3, everything is at the price of RM5.90.  Based on the exchange rate of SGD1.00=RM3.00, the price is just a few cents cheaper here.

Daiso on Level 3

On level 2, there is an Emperor Cinema.  The exterior looks pretty luxurious.

Emperor Cinema

There are still many empty shop spaces available for rent on all levels.  I was there on Christmas Day itself, about 3pm.  The crowd at the mall was very thin, at some time I was a bit scared, as I was the only one in that particular area and I could see nobody else.

Oh, what is definitely worth mentioning is their toilets, super clean and well maintained.

The concept of the mall, the layout, the construction and the tenant mix are all quite good.  If R & F Princess Cove condominium is fully occupied, then for sure the residents population itself could support the mall.  However, the condominium's occupation rate is still quite low.    In addition, there are simply too many malls in JB.  Just a 15-minute walk away, you have JB City Square and JBCC.  A bit further away, there are Danga Bay, KSL,  Pelangi Mall and Mid-Valley South Key.  There are many other malls in Johor Bahru, while the total population is only about 500,000.  The locals simply can't support that many malls, and Singaporeans are quite turned off by the constant traffic jams at the Causeway and 2nd Link between Singapore and Malaysia. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

How to Get to R & F Mall Johor Bahru

R & F Mall is a new shopping mall in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, by the developer of R & F Princess Cove, which is a Guangzhou, China based real estate developer.  The mall was soft launched back in March 2019, and now it is already December, so I decided to check it out this Christmas.

Access to the mall is pretty convenient.  Once you come out from the Malaysian CIQ building, you will see JB Sentral.  Don't go there, turn left instead.  You will see a link bridge, and the entrance is where my blue arrow is pointing in the picture below.

At the start of the link bridge, you will see a small signboard indicating that it is the way to R & F Mall. 

You follow the link bridge and keep walking. 

After walking for about 15 minutes, you will find R & F Mall right in front of you.

It is very simple, isn't it?  In my next blog post, I will share with you more about R & F Mall.  

Saturday, July 29, 2017

London Dubai 2017 13 - Westminster Abbey

After our visit to St Paul's Cathedral, we quickly moved to Westminster.  Before that, we grabbed a bite from the nearby Tesco minimart, and enjoyed our lunch just opposite the famous Downing Street.

Street Entrance to Downing Street

Thinking of paying Mrs May a visit?  Well, more likely than not, you will be stopped at the street entrance by the police.  Not even a chance to get close to 10 Downing Street.

Again, here there is a huge cultural difference.  I don't know how the street got its name, but in English, down means down, bring or knock to ground.  Downing means in the process of being brought to ground.  No Chinese leader will ever reside in a street with such a name.  It means bad Fengshui.  The citizens won't be happy either.   If leader lives in a downing street, does that mean the country will go nowhere but down?  Oh, I just found from Wikipedia how Downing Street got its name, it is named after Sir George Downing, who built the street in 1680s.  Anyway, UK as a whole is going down to the toilet these days.  Even changing the name from Downing to Upping is not going to help much.

Entrance to the Westminster Abbey is from the North Gate.  Again and again, the advice is to get there early.  The queue for security check was long, and visitors had to wait under the sun, or rain, before they got checked.

Once you enter the abbey, the first impression was it was very dimly lit.  There is little light along the aisles, save some faint light rays penetrating from the unblocked windows on the side.

The entrance fee was ₤22.00 at the gate, came with a free audio guide, but no photography inside.  I thought I was to visit the British Coronation Church, with religious stories, but I found myself in a huge graveyard.  The moment you walk in, on both sides you could find the burying places of various people.  Then Isaac Newton on some floor, Charlies Darwin on some side wall, along with many that you don't know.

There are tombs on both sides of the high altar too.  And then tombs of this king, that queen, one after another.  For me, the most notable tombs probably belong to Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary of Scot.  Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary of Scot were cousins,  Queen Mary was beheaded by Queen Elizabeth I for plotting against her reign.  Ironically, their tombs are side by side in the same chamber in Westminster Abbey, almost equally well-decorated.  You know why?  Queen Elizabeth I executed Queen Mary of Scot, but after Queen Elizabeth died childless,  the son of Queen Mary of Scot succeeded the British throne, and became King James I.  He made sure his mother's tomb is not any less well decorated than Queen Elizabeth I's.  Well, that's life.  Chinese saying, no matter how calculative someone can be, he can't beat heaven's will.  人算不如天算.

West Gate of Westminster Abbey

At the end of the tour, you will see the coronation chair used by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.  And then you will come out from the west gate of Westminster Abbey.

Wow... it was so nice to come out from the gloom and doom of all that graveyards and ironic historic past, and see the blue sky again.  Human in-fighting is so meaningless and pointless, nonetheless we humans enjoy doing it, sometimes for some trifle matters.  Let's fight less, love nature more.

Until my next post, bye...

Monday, July 24, 2017

London Dubai 2017 - 12 St Paul's Cathedral in London

May 22, 2017, another sunny day.  Our itinerary today will be visiting the great churches in London, The key for such visits will be: get there early, get there early and get there early!

We took a bus very early in the morning from Paddington to St Paul's Cathedral.  On the way, we passed by many landmarks, including the famous Fleet Street.  If you have never heard of it, it was the heart of the press industry in UK.  Who is who in the newspaper line are all here.  However, in recent years, with the decline of the newspaper industry, I heard that many had closed down, or moved out.  Time and tide waits for nobody.

Ok, back to our first destination for the day, St Paul's Cathedral.  The reason I wanted to visit this Cathedral because many years ago, I saw in the internet claiming St Paul in London is the world's second largest cathedral, only second to St Peter's in Rome.  However, as I checked my facts again, obviously that was no longer true, or was never true in the first place.

St Paul's viewed from the South side

Anyway, St Paul's is designed in the Baroque style, with the unmistakable dome dominating the nearby skyline.  Layout is the more traditional cross, with the high altar at the east and the main entrance at the west.  It signifies God rises with the sun.  There is a saying, one man's delicacy is another's poison.  A west facing building commands lots of respect in the west, while in the east, only tombs will face the west, as when the sun sets, it will shine on the building.  Sunset is a perfect metaphor for the end.  

Visitors are to get in from the west gate, at a cost of ₤18.00.  Strictly no photography is allowed inside the cathedral, as it is a "working" cathedral, with hourly prayers and daily services.  For more details of the interior, it is better for you to ask Google.  Nonetheless, I would like to mention to you that there are actually three galleries in St Paul's.  Gallery here is an architectural term, which means a structure like a colonnade  corridor.  If you look at my picture above, the section right below the dome, with many high columns, that is a Gallery!

There are a total of three galleries, two outside, one inside.  On our day of visit, the two outside galleries were closed for renovation work, only the inside gallery, which is called the whisper gallery, was open.

The whisper gallery is at the inside of the dome.  To get there, go to the extreme end of the cathedral, at the left side corner, you will find the entrance.  Once you enter, you have to climb up probably a hundred steps, in a narrow walk way, to reach the base of the dome.  If you are not physically fit, if you have phobia in narrow space, then it is better not to do this.

The gallery is at the base of the dome.  A narrow walkway circles the entire dome.  From there, you can look down at the nave.  Really, it is not for the faint-hearted.  The reason it is called the Whisper Gallery, is because if you whisper to the wall, your friend on the other side can hear you clearly.  I didn't try because there were way too many people trying that, all the signals mix up and became noise :-).

Somehow, I find this echoing effect can be found in any structure with a curve and smooth surface. So far, the single structure that exemplifies this is that rain water collector at Marina Bay Sands in home Singapore!

Visit to St Paul's can be overwhelming.  My friend and I are not history bugs, not architecture bugs, not religion bugs, we are only your ordinary tourists, yet we spend more than two hours there.  If you are planning a visit, it is advisable to set aside 2-3 hours.  And it is a great place as your plan B on a rainy day.

Until my next post, bye...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

London Dubai 2017 - 11 Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill was the destination for the evening.  It is a small hill north of Regent Park, with a slight elevation about the London city skyline.

From Paddington, we took a bus to Camden town, changed to another bus to Primrose Hill.  Camden town appears to be mostly a working class neighborhood.   It is less neat, but probably more vibrant in its own sense.  A noticeable African population is there too.

Primrose Hill itself is quite a quiet neighborhood.  From the bus stop, we had to take a 10-minute or so walk to the hill top.

It seems like a popular place for the young people.  Before sunset, groups of young people gathering on the lawn, looking towards the city-side, waiting for the magic moment.  The atmosphere was relax and lay-back.

View from Primrose Hill

Standing on top of the hill, you could see the city sprawling around the River Thames.  At sunset, the modern buildings glittered upon the golden sun rays, making London literally a golden city.

Until my next post, bye... 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

London Dubai 2017 -10 A Visit To Cambridge

21 May, 2017, a lovely Saturday with the sun shining brightly early in the morning.  We headed to the London King's Cross train station, made world famous in the boy witch fiction Harry Potter.

London King's Cross Train Station

As you would expect, the real King's Cross station doesn't look like the one in the movie at all.  It is modern with a futuristic design.

Platform 9 3/4

However, to satisfy all the Harry Potter fans, they designated a small area as Platform 9 3/4, it is really nothing but a sign.  Potter fans queue up just to take photos for memory sake, to let their imagination fly wild.

The return ticket to Cambridge cost £16.90 for super off-peak, as today was a Sunday.  It seems like the cost for the return ticket and a one-way ticket is the same, so it is better to get the return ticket, instead of just a one-way ticket.  You can take any train for your category and class for the day (only once of course), seating is free.  The journey is ~1 hour, you can enjoy the famous English rural scenery along the way.  It was quite a joy ride.

Cambridge Train Station

Cambridge's train station looked pretty new, at least renovated with modern facilities.  There are some cafes around too.  Good to have sip and recharge while waiting for your train.  The town center is about 15-20 minutes walk from the train station.  You can take a bus, but most tourists seem to choose to walk.

The day before the trip, we found a free Cambridge Walking Tour at this site.  We wanted to go for the 11am tour, so we headed to the Fudge Kitchen right away.  It was quite easy to find, just opposite the famous King's College chapel.

Free Cambridge Walking Tour Meeting Point

King's College Chapel

Our guide for the day was Joe, an English language student at Cambridge University.  Naturally our tour started from King's college, admiring the architecture spectaculars and the long history, with the defining touches by King Henry VIII.  To enter the college, you have to pay a fee, ₤9.00 for King's college, cheaper for others.  As the guided tour was free, admission was not included obviously.  You could visit the college after the tour though.

Just adjacent to King's college, there was this giant Corpus clock.  This is a new addition to Cambridge, said to be designed to run for at least 100 years, counting started from 2008 when it was first unveiled.  You can find more details about the clock here.  

Our next stop was a church-like building.  I thought it was just another chapel from another college, then Joe explained that it was the old Cavendish Laboratory, where DNA was first identified.

Joe, our guide, in front of old Cavendish Lab

Cavendish Lab was not even a biology lab in the first place, it was a physics lab.  Somehow, the research expanded and somehow, work was done on identifying the mystery of life, and then DNA was successfully identified.  Lots of hard work, lots of luck, and the world is just this strange.

Since there is a King's college, a Queens' college became necessary.  Our guide particularly brought our attention to the placement of the ' in the two colleges.  It is a King's college, the ' is before the 's', signifying one king, maybe King Henry VIII?  Although King's college was constructed over the reigns of a number of kings.  For Queens' college, the ' is after the 's', signifying this college was constructed upon the efforts of many queens.  This is one tiny detail the most people won't notice, or even bothered, while our English language student picked up for our entertainment :-)

Queens' College

There was a wooden bridge across the river in front of Queens' college.  Legend had it that it was built by the famous physicist Isaac Newton as a gift to the college.  It was built without the use of a single nail.  His students wanted to challenge their teacher, dismantled the bridge, but unable to put it back.  Newton was furious when he heard of this, refused to help his students to put the bridge back.  At the end, the students could only re-construct the bridge using nails, which is what you see today.

Does the story sound good?  It was just a myth.

Besides King's and Queens' colleges, we also visited many other colleges in Cambridge whose names I could hardly remember.  What impressed me most is their education system, especially their 'supervision' system.

To put it simply, supervision is basically a tutorial session, nothing especial, we have tutorial classes in NUS and NTU too.  However, the staff to student ratio at NTU was like 1:20 for tutorial, in comparison, it is 1:2 in Cambridge!  You can see a supervision session in Cambridge, Queens' college of a computer science student here.  I wish I could get that kind of attention and dedication from my tutor at NTU.

At the end of the day, good education is not defined by how grand the school buildings are, how much money has been spent, it is all about what kind of graduates a university produces.  Would your graduates have independent thinking?  Integrity?  Social skills?  Courage?

These are points for you to ponder.  Until my next post, bye...

Friday, June 30, 2017

London Dubai 2017 - 9

After a tiring day, what better will be to have a sumptuous meal?  This evening, we went to a Chinese restaurant near Bayswater metro station.

The name of the restaurant is Four Seasons in English, 文兴in Chinese.  It is just a stone's throw away from Bayswater station.  

The most famous dish, a must have dish here is the roast duck.  Its roast duck is different from your normal roast duck, which has a very crispy skin layer.  The roast duck here is actually soft, deeply immersed in its own sauce.  The ducks are locally bred in UK.  The temperate weather demands the ducks to grow a thick layer of fat to keep themselves warm.  You can imagine how fragrant that fat becomes after roasting.

I picked up a piece of duck meat, the oil dripped from the greasing fat.  It melt in your mouth, the juice filled your mouth with fragrance.  Oh my, it was so unhealthy; oh my, it was so heavenly.  If you are in London and crave for some Chinese food, I will highly recommend this.  It is unhealthy, strictly speaking, but you will regret it if you don't give it a try.

Until my next post, bye...