Tampines 1 Open For Business

Singapore has a heavy shopping culture. Imagine your high school days when you had to wear the right clothes to be part of the “in” crowd. Now imagine that experience on crack. You’ll sort of get the picture. Most of the younger Singaporeans pride themselves on their handbags, mobile phones, shoes or having the newest Mango apparel. They crave the latest and greatest items and pursue the hottest fashion trends. I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong with the Singaporean love for shopping, but it definitely takes some getting used to. Keeping that in mind, imagine the chaos that surrounds the opening of a new mall, especially one in a prime location.

The mall was packed tight with people and everyone was excited to explore the mall and see all of the new shops. While walking through the mall I saw people of all ages, as if elderly mothers and fathers had been dressed and dragged out of the house for the big event. I also saw quite a few foreigners wandering around, which is highly unusual for an area so far from downtown Singapore. In fact, the people were almost as fascinating and entertaining as the mall itself.

Unfortunately, it seems that there was such a rush to cash in on the excitement and newness factor that the mall was opened before it was completely finished. With the interior of the mall not quite polished, the “Wow” effect wasn’t as great as it could’ve been. For example, the tile flooring was still a bit dusty and the fountain on the bottom floor seemed more like it was leaking than running. While I was walking around the mall I sneezed frequently and I was happy to be able to blow my nose when I got home later.

Besides the incompleteness of the mall itself, not all of the stores were open. In fact, some were still under construction, including the HSBC bank pictured below, which is on the lower level. Hope you brought cash with you, because these ATMs are still down for the count!

Handling all of these minor (and in some cases major) issues, work crews were scattered throughout the mall, hurriedly trying to apply their finishing touches. Still, they did a great job getting the place ready before opening the doors today. Just a week ago I would have said that the mall couldn’t have been opened any earlier than the end of the month, judging by the exterior and what I could see through the windows. They must have been pulling all-nighters to make sure they met their opening deadline, or at least partially met it.

Still, those minor eye sores didn’t detract from the overall appearance of the mall. Have a look at the shot below, which was taken from the top floor near the Petstation store.

The overall effect of the mall and the quality of the decor in the shops is reminiscent of the malls you find along Orchard. When the interior of this mall is actually completed, it should be fantastic!

Also, as a side note, if you take a close look in photo above (click it for a larger image) you’ll see an information panel on the ground floor near the round railing that lists the stores in the mall. Going a step beyond the average poster board, this little marvel is completely touch screen and interactive. Despite its lonely appearance in this photo, every time I tried to get near it there was a mob of people trying to play with it, so I couldn’t really dig into it to see if it went further than just listing locations. It does feature a nifty “You Are Here” arrow though!

One of the special things about Tampines 1 is that the building designers seemed to have recognized peoples’ desire to just hang out at the mall and incorporated it into their building plans. Tampines 1 has multiple outdoor viewing decks that you can relax on. The lower viewing deck offers a very nice, mostly unobstructed view of the Tampines Central area as well. As with the rest of the mall, these areas seemed a bit unfinished, especially in the lack of benches, but there’s definitely potential in these areas for cart vendors and perhaps an outdoor coffee shop.

Also, here’s a shot I took of the Tampines MRT station from the lower viewing deck:

One of the great things about this mall is the variety of stores. I was somewhat concerned that this mall would be just a rehash of what was already available in the two existing malls: Tampines Mall and Century Square. Thankfully, this didn’t turn out to be the case. There are a few stores that seem to have migrated over, Times being the one that sticks out most in my mind. It was a good choice for them to make the move. One of the problems with Century Square and Tampines Mall is that the store spaces were just too small. Tampines 1 is generous with its floor space and Times took advantage of that to bring in a wider variety of books, which will be better for their business in the long run. Like I said, though, there are plenty of new stores, or new to Tampines anyways, and I’m glad that I have one less reason to have to venture all the way down to Orchard just for shopping.

Something my wife and I love to do is eat out at good restaurants. The few that were previously available in the malls in Tampines were starting to get old, so I’m glad to see that there are some new options. Here are some I’m very excited to try in the near future:

This first one is called Manpuku, and is a Japanese food restaurant. In the second photo you can see some of the menu items. The wall to the right of the restaurant entrance is a glass display area that showcases their offerings. It’s really a great way to encourage people to try the food and keep coming back for more.

This second restaurant is called Sushi Tei. Looking into the restaurant, the first thing you’ll notice is the conveyor belt of sushi dishes sliding past the bar. It’s a very entertaining and engaging setup and reminded me of the sushi restaurant located near the gym and pool just a short distance from Century Square. I took a look at the menu and the prices are reasonable for most of the items, though the food at the sushi place by the gym looked better and is better priced. I wish I could remember the name of the place.

There were a few other restaurants I noticed but most of them were generic.

The last place I want to mention is called “teadot”. My wife and I enjoy having tea in the evening sometimes, so I’m excited to try this place out. Coffee Bean and Starbucks serve tea, but more as just an option than with any real focus. “teadot” should be a nice treat, and besides that, look at the furnishings. It would be cool just to sit there.

Overall, Tampines 1 is a fantastic addition to the shopping scene in the Tampines area and I’m sure my wife and I will be spending a lot of time there in the future, window shopping and actually shopping too!

I hope you enjoyed my review of Tampines 1 and I hope you enjoy your first trip there!

Beer & Cigarettes in Singapore

Differences in prices between locations is nothing new to me, but I was shocked to see the price of alcohol and tobacco products in Singapore.

I spent most of the years I lived in the US in the southern states, where prices are more reasonable, due to lower taxes. I won’t go into the “when I was younger” stuff, but when I left the US in 2008 you could get a pack of cigarettes for about 3 dollars in Texas. It was about the same in Georgia. When I would visit my mother in New York City I would typically bring cigarettes with me, because they’re about 7 dollars a pack there, which I thought was ridiculously expensive. Beer is about 5 to 6 bucks a pack regardless of where you are in the States.

So, like I said, I was used to seeing different prices for these items. Still, I was shocked when I saw that in Singapore the average price for a pack of cigarettes is 11 Singapore dollars and the average price for a six pack is about 15 to 18 Singapore dollars. I had to wonder why the prices were so high, and after having spent some time here, I think I’ve found the reason. Singapore is a country that prides itself on cleanliness and that carries over into a push by the government to promote healthy living.

That’s not all bad, of course. I’ve never seen a place with so many parks, free work-out areas, and playgrounds, all of which are kept in near pristine condition. On top of that, each regional area has a gym and pool, which have very low entrance fees. If you’re a swimmer or you like to work out in a gym then you’ll definitely appreciate the Singapore government’s health initiatives.

On the other hand, the Singapore government has also put steep taxes on the alcohol and tobacco, to influence people to use them less, if not quit entirely. Again, that’s not exactly a bad thing. However, for foreigners who come to Singapore to live, it requires a slight lifestyle modification.

I never really drank much anyways, so cutting alcohol almost completely out of my life didn’t phase me. The cost of the cigarettes, though, makes my wallet cry. It’s hard to go from carefree smoking to counting your cigarettes and counting your puffs. I remember tossing half smoked cigarettes into butt cans on my way into buildings, but now I stop to finish the cigarette before continuing.

So, if you move to Singapore and like to drink and smoke, expect the amount of time you spend partying to get cut down. On the bright side, you can take advantage of the convenience of the gyms and pools to get back into shape, so you can look good when you take vacations to the numerous, gorgeous beaches in the Southeast Asia area.

Whitening Products in the Philippines

One of the most peculiar things I found in the Philippines is the array of whitening products available in the stores. The range of the products is impressive to the point of national obsession. There are whitening soaps, whitening creams, whitening powders, whitening deodorants, whitening pills, etc etc.

(And as a side note, you can see in these commercials that most of their actors / actresses are mixed Filipino / Caucasian, further promoting the white is better mentality.)

It took me a while to wrap my mind around the purpose of these products, because the concept of wanting to whiten your skin was entirely foreign to me. In the US, people like to have a tan, and on the extreme side may visit tanning beds occasionally. Plus, becoming more tanned due to sun exposure is natural and normal. The idea of popping pills (or using any of these other products) to try to force your skin to turn a color it’s not meant to naturally be is absurd.

First of all, how healthy can it be to use these products to change the color of your skin? Second of all, there’s nothing wrong with the color of Filipinos’ / Filipinas’ skin in the first place! That naturally tanned skin is part of a Filipina’s appeal, at least from my perspective anyways. It’s part of what makes them unique and desirable. I’m not a make-up artist or expert, but beauty products should be used to augment your natural beauty, not change it entirely.

My wife explained what she thinks is the reasoning behind this fashion trend. The Philippines has been repeatedly dominated and/or occupied by other countries, including Spain (300 years of occupation), the US and Japan. This constant domination by fair skinned peoples may have caused a “whiter is better” mentality to set in and eventually become part of the national media/pop/fashion mainstream. My wife went on to say that fair skin has an impact on social status as well. The darker your skin is, the more likely you are to be ridiculed or socially ostracized from your peers. This perception is also carried over to visiting foreigners, in that white foreigners are placed on a pedestal and black foreigners are seen simply as a curiosity and an opportunity to try to make some money.