Monday, January 23, 2012

Year of the Dragon

The city is decked out in red and gold, the shelves of every bakery are packed with cookies, and the lines at the bak kwa stalls are stretching down the block. It can only mean one thing - Chinese New Year! My favorite part? The 4-day weekend that we get to celebrate!

This Lunar New Year marks the beginning of the year of the dragon, which is, in my personal opinion, the most awesome of all the animals on the lunar calendar. There are 12 in all: horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, and snake. Come on now. Dragon is obviously the winner. It could destroy all the other animals on the calendar. The monkey's pretty cool too. I'm a rat. I think I got the short end of the stick there.

It's been a quiet holiday for us. After two weeks in the US, Bryan's friend visited us here in Singapore for a week. Between that and applying to graduate schools (yikes!) it's been a very busy few months. So we've been laying low this weekend. In the year of the dragon, I'm hoping to get back on track and start updating the blog more regularly now that grad applications are out of the way.

In our weekend of relaxation, we did find some time to celebrate Chinese New Year by watching How to Train Your Dragon!
Clearly the coolest animal in the lunar calendar (Toothless, from HTTYD)
Image: Dreamworks Animation

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Night on the Town

My 27th birthday was recently, and Bryan went out of his way to make it extra-special. He even took the day off work to go follow monkeys around the jungle with me! When we got home, he told me to get dressed, but wouldn't tell me where we were going. So we put on some nice clothes and got a taxi. Bryan told the driver to take us to Marina Bay Sands. Then I said, "OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!! ARE WE GOING TO SEE WICKED?!?!" And Bryan said that we were indeed going to see Wicked, and I got really, really excited.

So we drove through the pouring rain and arrived at Marina Bay Sands, which we have never visited before. In fact, when we first moved here, we enjoyed watching the building get taller and taller as they built it. It was kind of surreal to be going to the finished product for a night out.
Standing at the bottom of MBS

We were early for our dinner reservations, so we explored a little bit. The place is so over-the-top I can't even handle it. I've never been to Vegas but it's what I imagine Vegas would be like. I mean, there's a canal inside the building. Inside.
Woah. There are people in boats...inside the building.

There was even a huge fountain flowing into the canal. I'm not gonna lie, it kind of looked like a giant toilet bowl emptying out.
The fountain, from inside and outside

Roaming around the Marina Bay shops was a little mind-boggling. I think every designer name I've ever heard of had its own store. There was Gucci, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Armani, Dior, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Versace, and lots more. I don't think I've ever owned anything as fancy as the stuff they sell at MBS. Well, maybe I have. But I probably got it at Goodwill.
A fancy Louis Vuitton on the bay

We went out the back of the building, and the views were amazing. We could see the skyline, the Esplanade, the Singapore Flyer, City Hall, the Supreme Court building, the Merlion, and tons of other Singapore landmarks. It was pretty impressive. Oh, and there were tons of big white beach balls floating in the bay, apparently in celebration of the holidays.
Downtown skyline
Slightly hazy view of the Esplanade

After we spent some time admiring the city and gawking at all the glitzy stores, Bryan led me to Mozza, where we were having dinner. And our friends Brian and Andrea were waiting there for us! The surprises just kept coming!
Oooh, it looks so fancy. And I bet they have loads of cheese.

We were seated and started perusing the (pricey!) menu. Everything looked amazing, and we decided to start with, of course, a mozzarella sampler.There were three kinds of cheese, all fresh and soft. The sampler was served with toast saturated with really good olive oil. The kitchen also sent out an hors d'oeuvre: crispy crackers topped with more cheese and tangy olive tapenade. Yum. Our main courses were served, and things just kept getting better. I got ricotta gnocchi with wild mushrooms.
Ricotta gnocchi with wild mushrooms

It was definitely an "only-on-your-birthday" kind of meal - cheese pasta in a brown butter sauce. Luckily those mushrooms were there to make me feel like my dinner had some nutritional value! But wow, it was super tasty. It was the kind of dish where every bite is a little different - sometimes I could really taste the smooth, buttery sauce, other times the savory gnocchi were at the forefront, and sometimes it was the earthy mushroom flavor that dominated. Bryan let me taste his meal too - cheese ravioli with five different types of onions, also in a butter sauce. My meal was great, but Bryan's was even better!

We had some time to kill between dinner and the show, so we walked around a little more. I was glad we did! One of the stores we passed (a place called Robinsons) had two Wicked costumes on display! I was very excited, because I knew I wouldn't be able to take photos in the theater. I was even more excited when we watched the musical and the costumes worn by the lead performers matched the ones we'd seen almost exactly!
Galinda's beautiful dress
Elphaba's witch dress. As our friend accurately stated,
"It looks like something Helena Bonham Carter would wear."

So then we went to the show. It was strange to walk into the theater, because it kind of just looked like another mall storefront but then you got inside and it was massive! We took our seats and things got underway pretty quickly. The show was amazing. I've been listening to the Wicked music for years, but I'd never actually seen the musical, so it was really fun to hear each song and think "Ohhhh that's what they were singing about!" I also read the book on which the musical is based (Wicked by Gregory Maguire), so it was interesting to see how the musical's storyline differed from the book (in my opinion: the musical is way better). I couldn't take pictures inside the theater, so here are photos of some sketches that were on display with the costumes!
The lovely Galinda
Dark and mysterious Elphaba. See that reflection?
It's a subliminal message telling you to go see Wicked!

I can't really say enough good things about the musical. The singing was fantastic, the cast was super talented, the dancing was exciting, the theater was lovely, and I would totally do it all over again. When Elphaba starts flying around and singing "Defying Gravity," you just might want to hop out of your seat and fly around with her. If you'd like to experience it for yourself instead of just listening to me prattle on about it, Wicked will be showing at Marina Bay Sands Grand Theater until February 26, 2012. It's fantastic, and I highly recommend checking it out. You can purchase tickets here.

So that looks like a night all wrapped up, but it turned out we still had a bit of a hassle to deal with. When we left the theater, we were greeted by the longest taxi queue I've ever seen - literally hundreds of people and not a taxi in sight. The bus stop was mobbed, and we weren't particularly close to an MRT station. We waited a comically long time at the bus stop before we gave up and just started walking. But our transportation woes turned out to be sort of a blessing in disguise, because it gave us a chance to appreciate downtown, beautifully lit up at night!
When the walk is this scenic, who can complain?!
Night skyline

After our surprisingly pleasant walk to Raffles MRT station, we learned that we'd had so much trouble due to an MRT outage, which had caused some of the buses to be diverted to take on MRT passengers, and lots of taxis to be taken up by stranded MRT riders. So it goes. The next day we learned that it was one of the biggest MRT service disruptions in history. What can I say? The city shuts down for my b-day!