2020, the year the world changed.

It happened once in my lifetime as far as I can remember and as far as global repercussions are concerned. It was on September 11, 2001 when two planes were hijacked and crashed through the World Trade Center in New York. Instantaneously, the future trajectory of the world changes. If we could invent a dimensional portal to another parallel universe where this didn’t happen, the world will definitely have looked very different indeed. This singular event threatened global stability.

Other events that threatened global stability include the SARS of 2003 (which served as a wake up call for the world in handling future pandemics) and the global financial crisis of 2008.

But now as we see Covid-19 making its way around the world, we are only starting to see the damage that is being done to the global economy as billions of people are in lockdown in their respective countries, trying their best to slow down the spread of the virus, so that health care needs are not overwhelmed.

We can only stay home, wait and see till it all blows over to see the extent of the damage.

For now, I am lucky to be in Singapore. With an excellent health care system, a highly transparent government that gives detailed press briefings on the situation of the pandemic on a daily basis and the measures the government is taking to slow down infection rates an prevent the virus from spread within the community on a large scale, day to day life is still relatively normal in Singapore. Retail outlets, bars and restaurants are still open. Of course there are minor inconveniences here and there, such as filling out personal details for contact tracing, temperature screenings, and Business Continuity Plans being in placed to reduce social mingling among colleagues. These are truly minor inconveniences as compared to near total lockdown other country have imposed on their people. They can’t work, shops and restaurants must be closed and personal movement is restricted. All these is done so as to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow down the spread of the Coronavirus. I cannot imagine how it must have felt when suddenly you are told that you cannot go outside except to buy groceries, seek medical care or walk your dog. Literally overnight your daily routines are upended.

Coronavirus, my two-cents

Also known as COVID-19, its been a little over a month since China announced sweeping restrictions on the movement of people during the Lunar New Year Holiday. Entire provinces are shut down, transport networks on land, sea and air is in shambles and tourism around the world is in the doldrums, especially with travel bans imposed by many countries on China. On the trade and economy front, supply chains from the manufacturing of cars to phones have been disrupted, leading to industry-scale manufacturing issues and shortages of goods.

I live in Singapore and we have seen a slow uptick of people getting infected with the virus. The government is doing its best in containing the outbreak and preventing a wider spread of the virus in to the community. So far the efforts have borne fruit as the infections are largely contained to known clusters that various government agencies painstakingly traced through contact tracing. I really applaud their efforts and despite the virus being out there, overall, I trust in their system deeply in keeping us safe. I feel save overall, even when I am outside and in public places. All of us need to do out part by practising good personal hygiene as a first line of defence for an individual. Let the government and health care workers do the rest in keeping us safe.

The consequences of this disease can be felt and seen. Tourism numbers are down, by a lot. This is evident in my time spent at the Merlion Park while I was taking photos of the place with my new Fujifilm X-Pro 3 a couple of weeks earlier. When you singlehandedly band an entire population (Chinese citizens from China) from entering Singapore, naturally, you will lose a significant portion of tourists into the country. While I was there, it was so quiet. Sure, there are a few tourists here and there. But were there large groups of Chinese tourists with their tour leader walking explore Merlion Park? Were there tour buses parked just outside the park. Not a single one of them were there. It is with my understanding that the Merlion Park is usually riddled with tourists no matter what day of the week. I was there in the afternoon on a Friday, and it was disturbingly quiet. You can almost feel a shift in the air that something has changed. Something has gone terribly wrong and this COVID-19 is the cause of it. With more 75 000 people infected with the virus, most of them in China, dealing with an unknown is always scary, especially with a novel virus like COVID-19.

I went to Orchard Road, a popular shopping belt in Singapore on two weekends, and the atmosphere was different. There were hardly any tourists. The people who were there, were mostly Singaporeans. It was initially difficult to wrap my head around the idea that you hardly see large crowds in Orchard Road on a Weekend. Where have they gone? The different in the number of people in Orchard Road before and after the spread of the virus is palpable. You can feel it. Personally, I feel sorry for those who are working in the retail industry. They must be hit pretty hard as a result of COVID-19. Tourism forms a significant portion of Singapore’s GDP. With one month and counting, the effects are going to get worse as the time goes by. The tourism industry in Singapore and in the rest of the world is bleeding badly. Every day we don’t have tourists for China, is a significant loss for the country, especially those who depend on them for their livelihoods.

No one can predict when this virus will stop spreading and blow over. Personally, I feel that we will be in this conundrum for quite a while, because so long as china reports a significant amount of new infection without their ability to track down where those clusters originate, it will be a difficult call to make as to when the government and lift travel restrictions of Chinese citizen to Singapore. We cannot be complacent as it takes only 1 person to develop an illness, and spread to other people, forming an infectious cluster. Because of nature of the virus, it being highly infectious and its ease of transmissibility between people, There has to be a significant reduction in the number of new infections, or no new infections followed by another 14 days to ensure that it maintains it so, because travel curbs can be lifted.

And now, we are seeing new and worrying trends of significant spread in Korea, Iran, Japan among the local population. If contact tracing is overwhelmed due to a sheer number of new infections in a day, and if they don’t act quickly to contain the spread, then it is essentially fighting a losing battle. Mass quarantine of entire towns, counties and cities will have to be impose in order to truly slow down the spread of the virus.

It’s scary to see how much a dent this virus can put on the world economy, especially if this issue drags on for months into the future. China can only do so much to cushion the impact of the epidemic. Eventually, the rest of the world will be hurt badly. Like a sick man in an ICU, as he stays there longer, first days, then weeks, the body will change. He will start losing weight, then lose muscle mass, followed by mental acuity. This wasting is what the world is experiencing now, where the economy is concerned. We only have so much in reserve, soon, everyone will feel the pinch if this drags on longer than anyone predicted. At this stage, so long as we see local outbreaks of COVID-19 somewhere around the world, the world will never go back to normal anytime soon.

Singapore Airshow 2020

The Singapore Airshow 2020 was the first such airshow that I ever had the chance of attending. The airshow happens once every two years, and the biggest names in the aerospace industry will gather in Singapore along side defence officials representing their home countries. There, they will set up various meetings and make multi-million dollar deals to buy and sell defence related items to the various governments. That’s mainly the purpose of the airshow in Singapore, touted as the biggest event in Asia.

As a sideshow, there are also a lot of military hardware proudly on display, such as helicopters, jet fighters, military airplanes and many more for the trade partners to exhibit as well as the public to enjoy, once the trade event is over.

However, in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak happening around the world, (Singapore is not spared) the anticipated event is somewhat muted this time around. A number of companies and trade partners pulled out of the show in the interest of public health and safety and because of that, trade dealings were substantially less. Even the military aircraft that were supposed to be on display were significantly less than past events.

But still, as it was my first time to the show, I had a great time at the Singapore Airshow, gawking at the state-of-the-art fighter jets, military drones, military planes and even a live band performed by the US army. It was still overall, an impressive lineup of military hardware on display for the public to enjoy and take pictures with. Even I couldn’t pass up on the chance to take good shots of those planes and helicopters on my new X-Pro 3. I set my camera to Classic Chrome as my main film simulation mode on that day and stuck with that throughout my shoot. The results turned out fantastic. Despite the grueling hot weather, the skies were mostly clear and blue, great conditions to take photos with stark contrasts.

I thoroughly enjoyed my photo shoot of the event despite the hot weather. I was glad to have chosen Classic Chrome as my main mode of film simulation on that day. Somehow the pictures of the aircrafts that were on display looked stunning. Metals and grays on the surfaces of these fighter jets and planes look stunning against the blue hue of the clear sky. Personally it seems that Classic Chrome seems to be a good film simulation when taking photos of inanimate objects on a bright sunny day.

Although I cannot make direct comparisons, there were definitely less people attending this year’s airshow when previous years due to the Coronavirus outbreak happening around the region. It was a smooth experience getting on the shuttle bus from Expo to the Changi Exhibition center. There were no snaking queues to get on the bus. Even going back to Expo wasn’t difficult either. Sure, there were substantial crowd, but it was not to the point suffocating. I didn’t have much trouble getting my desired shots of the various planes on display without people all around ruining my shots.

Overall, I had a great time. My only complaint would be the hot afternoon weather.

For more pictures, you can click on the link here.

Merlion park in times of coronavirus outbreak

As you know, Singapore is in a midst of the Coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak with over 70 people infected as of today. While the spread of the virus is not as severe or far reaching as that of China, Singapore has imposed travel limitations to anyone coming to Singapore from China. This has terrible consequences to the tourism industry in Singapore.

I was at the Merlion Park one weekend to gauge for myself how severely impacted Singapore is to the effects of the Coronavirus, especially the number of tourists visiting Singapore this part month or so. Because of the travel limitations imposed, there is definitely a significant decrease in tourism arrivals, especially when Chinese tourists make up the bulk of visits to Singapore as a holiday destination.

I took pictures of the Merlion Park with my new X-Pro 3 and noted the drop in the number of visitors in the areas. It was a blessing for me, as I was able to take pictures of the Merlion without much interference. It was overall, a pleasant picture-taking experience. Although I must add, that the Merlion, if it was a real creature, would have been sad to see so few visitors coming to Singapore to take pictures with him in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Chingay 2020

Chingay is an annual street parade that is celebrated in Singapore and Malaysia. It is in celebration of the various birthdays of the Chinese deities or the procession of the Goddess of Mercy. In recent times, the annual street parade consists of floats and processions from various communities in Singapore and abroad. This year is my first time that I actually attended the parade with a ticket. Previous years, I would usually watch the performance on TV, which is broadcast live.

The Chingay performance was a dazzle of lights, colour and music, with numerous floats representing the various Chinese deities, social groups in Singapore, associations and even foreign delegates from various countries around the world. The performance took place at the F1 pit and I was lucky to be seated relatively close to the action. I brought my camera along to capture some of the action. Despite only owning a 23mm f2.0 lens on my newly acquired Fujifilm X-Pro 3 camera, I still managed to get some great shots of the various floats and performances during the parade.

The parade was better than expected, partly due to the sound and lights that nicely complemented with the performance. Aside from that, there were the occasional fireworks, laser light shows and drone performances. Everything was tightly coordinated. The highlight of the entire parade was the 100 meter long dragon that floated and drifted along the length of the F1 pit. It was truly impressive to see it in person.

Seats filling up just before the parade starts.
The start of the procession. It was truly colourful and lively with great music and light shows that accompanied the entire performance.
They even did some interesting stunt on top of the usual dragon dance routine.
The god of wealth (I think) sitting on a flamingo, distributing wealth.
Lightsaber action!
The various floats on display, this one the famous squirrel of POSB bank.
The float from the People’s Association.
Representatives from Japan even took part in the parade!
Behold the dragon! Making its way along the parade. It’s more than 100 meters in length and the head is supported by a helium balloon and steered by a couple of guys on the ground.
Nodding and starring at us while it makes its away along the parade. It was spectacular!
The dragon blessing everyone with wealth and health before returning to its lair.

Trevor Noah is coming to Singapore!!

Trevor Noah is making a stop to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, the only three Asian stop for his Loud and Clear tour. He will be coming to Singapore on the 19th of August and I cannot wait! I never dreamt that he would make a stop in Asia for his stand-up comedy tour. And the best part: I got tickets!

Tickets were sold out in Singapore within 5 minutes, with sporadic seats in odd places were all that was left after that. I somehow knew that it was going to be a sold out performance, so I made sure to get my credit card and website ready the moment when SISTIC ordering page was open. I wasn’t interested in getting front line seats. For attending a stand-up comedy performance, personally I feel that any seats anywhere is fine. You don’t have to be smack at the front to fully enjoy the show. I’m sure there are secondary screens for those at the back, and seeing him from a distance yet right in front of you live on stage is still a surreal experience. I attended the Jeff Dunham stand-up comedy act a few years back, he was best known for his ventriloquist skills of Achmed The Dead Terrorist. That was hilarious!

No doubt I am definitely looking forward to his act in August. He will be performing at the Star Theatre in Buona Vista.

The Apple Store @ Orchard

When Apple announced that they were going to open an official Apple store in Singapore, I was stoked. For years I had been hoping for an official store to make their landing on this tiny island nation. Previously, I visited other Apple store around the world, like those in Hong Kong, and The Netherlands. Those stores were beautiful, airy and just fantastic, with great professional Apple Geniuses all around rendering their assistance to any customers who might need help in their purchase.

The design ethos of what makes an Apple Store anywhere in the world a fantastic place to not just make your purchase but to learn more about its products and services is one of the great hallmarks of retail. The Apple Store @ Orchard is no different. In fact, it has one of the more unique storefront designs as compared to other Apple stores around the world.

apple-orchard-road-store-singapore-1926

I remember the day (May 26 2017) when Apple opens its doors for the first time in Singapore to customers. I wasn’t there at the opening hour. I was there sometime around 12 noon. The store was crowded, but not overly packed. They did a pretty good job with the crowd control, letting small batches of people in to maintain the crowd in the store at manageable levels. But boy, it was beautiful. I have never seen a more beautiful retail store ever. Imagine long massive panels of glass, three panels layered side by side spanning the entire 2 floors of the store’s facade from top to bottom. The second floor looked almost like it was magically hovering. On the second floor houses this huge LCD panel display, super high resolution and gorgeous to gawk at. Dotted throughout the store are real trees that give the store a very natural and equatorial ambience that much resembles tropical Singapore.

On launch day, I remembered receiving a free T-shirt with three red symbols; an Apple logo, a heart logo and a red dot. Put it together, it says, ‘Apple Loves Singapore’, the red dot referring to our tiny island nation, a small red dot on the world map.

And just like that on day one, I see so many people already making Apple purchases, from iMac, to Macbook Pro, to iPhones. Sales were no doubt brisk just like any other Apple store around the world.