Friday, October 31, 2014 :: My Experience At S.E.A. Aquarium & Ocean Dreams Programme
I had the experience of a lifetime when I got to attend a private Ocean Dreams tour by S.E.A. Aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa. We had a guided tour inside this amazing place and also got a rare peek into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into delivering an excellent customer experience.
Being in the service (retail) line myself, I have always been interested in the process behind experience creation and delivery. Having my own retail shop, I’ve learnt that good service is really important, that’s why I always provide the best quality of service and experience to my customers, as it will pay off in the future. Therefore, it was really such an eye-opening opportunity for me to interact with the folks behind the creation of Ocean Dreams.
About the S.E.A. Aquarium
The S.E.A. Aquarium, if you do not know by now, is one of the world’s largest aquariums. It houses more than 100,000 marine animals from over 800 species across 49 habitats. It is also home to majestic manta rays, enormous goliath groupers, hammerhead and leopard sharks to name a few.
So what is the Ocean Dreams programme? It includes a 90-minute guided tour through S.E.A. Aquarium packed with fascinating information about the many wonders of our blue planet! It also offers visitors an exclusive back-of-house experience in the aquarium!
Having visited the S.E.A. Aquarium twice before – once last year, and at the start of this year, I completed the aquarium with no guidance for both times in less than an hour. So this Ocean Dreams guided tour experience was really different and interesting for me. It has a special sleepover experience, and also a guided tour by the Manta Captains! Sadly, I did not get to experience the sleepover part, but I had the company of my lovely Manta Captains, who guided me throughout this tour and answered all my burning questions patiently. Even though I took longer than an hour this time, it was really an entirely new experience and I learnt a lot through this programme.
Listening to the Manta Captains explaining more about the marine animals and their habitats was a very meaningful and educational experience. In fact, I find it more interesting to have a guide giving extra snippets of info – it makes the experience more dynamic than simply just walking through it on my own.
The iconic Ocean Dreams sleepover programme allows the participants to sleep in sleeping bags right at this spot where I am standing (and directly in front of the tank if you wish!). You get to sleep facing the mega aquarium! You know, in my time, our childhood memories are formed during happier and playful times at The Fantasy Island in Sentosa. But I believe that for my future kids, their childhood memories will come from attractions like this in S.E.A. Aquarium. A sleepover is such a great time for family bonding and I am sure my future kids will be very excited to visit, learn and play at this magical place.
Before reaching the habitat where the dolphins are, my guide, Jun Hao, told me dolphins have the intelligence of a 5-year old human child and after an entire long night with no attention given to them, they will tend to "play" or "interact" with the first human they see at the aquarium. Just as he finished his sentence, the dolphin swam over upon seeing us! It was such a magical experience! Do note the dolphins are NOT trained to do that so this was really an eye-opener and a really pleasant surprise to me! The cutie even posted with me for a photo! Aww..
These 3 lovely young people are Manta Captains who you will meet at your guided tours ;) Besides being great storytelling experts who will captivate visitors during the tour, they also help facilitate all the logistics during the tour such as games and sleeping arrangements.The highlight of my trip has to be this behind-the-scenes moments with Manta Captain and the Aquarist as seen below.
It was such a spectacular sight to see how manta rays are fed by the Aquarist. An Aquarist is a knowledge master when it comes to marine animals. In the case of the 3 lovely and gentle manta rays (cutely named M1, M2, M3), the Aquarists trained the manta rays to recognise their feeding times through conditioning and positive reinforcement. This method ensures the rays receive maximum nutrition.
The Aquarist also works in the kitchen to ensure that fresh food is being prepped and fed to all the marine animals daily. Food has to be prepared in such a way that the blood is washed clean so that the integrity of the water in the aquarium is not affected. I have utmost respect for the people working behind the scenes because this is a job which members of the public DO NOT see and possibly MAY NOT know about. This young and promising lad spoke fervently about his daily grind in the kitchen. Even though the preparation of food is extremely laborious, he enjoys doing these menial tasks day in and out for the love of animals. Today, how often do we see young people like him dedicating their lives and giving up promising corporate jobs for a job that probably pays less but has a more fulfilling purpose and contributes to society? All I know is, my eyes were fixated on him as he spoke about his work in the kitchen and at the end of it, I had the utmost admiration for him.
We even had a mini food preparation challenge to see who can chop and weigh 500g of food prep in less than 3 minutes! Judging from the way I hold the chopper, it is no brainer that I did not win this haha.
Towards the end of the programme, I was given the challenge of being in the shoes of a Manta Captain where I had to capture the kids’ attention, and even teach them how to keep their sleeping bags after a night of sleepover at the S.E.A. aquarium. I have to say.....IT'S NOT EASY, DUDE!
It is extremely tough and challenging to learn the role of a Manta Captain, as you must stay calm and composed while managing groups of participants and have the skills to analyse and profile the families, so that you apply the right communication strategy to engage them! Really, it is extremely tough and not an easy job. Like I said, I have new-found respect and admiration for the staff behind the creation and delivery of Ocean Dreams programme and the running of S.E.A. Aquarium as a whole team.
The Director of the Education and Conversation team of the Marine Life Park, Biswajit Guha, left a great impression on me and I believe that his passionate leadership has enhanced the staff development within the company. Of course, company culture does play a big role, but if you had been in my shoes and had personally experienced interacting with the team here at S.E.A. Aquarium, their passion for their jobs is unquestionable.
Also, having interacted with the people behind-the-scenes that play a big role in contributing to the entire delivery of an experience at S.E.A. Aquarium, I truly believe that the marine animals are happy, protected and well taken care of by these passionate individuals at what they call “something I enjoy doing” and not simply, just a day job.
The group photo with our mentors and the affable team leader on the far left :)
All in all, it was a liberating and enjoyable session with the team at S.E.A. Aquarium especially when we got to enjoy the Ocean Dreams tour (together with the families sleeping over at the aquarium) BEFORE the aquarium opened to the public at its stipulated opening hours. It makes so much of a difference being able to stand in front of the mega aquarium without any silhouettes and heads blocking the majestic view haha. I am sure y'all know what I am referring to, otherwise, the photo for your comparison is attached below :P
The Singapore Experience Awards
Through this experience, I also came to learn about the Singapore Experience Awards, which honours outstanding experiences offered by individual and organisations that have demonstrated the delivery of an exceptional customer experience in Singapore’s dynamic tourism sector. I have to agree that by acknowledging their efforts, it motivates them and encourages healthy competition within the sector to constantly innovate to create distinctive and compelling Singapore experiences.
In fact, S.E.A. Aquarium Ocean Dreams programme has been nominated as a finalist in the ‘Best Learning & Travel Experience’ category. This category recognises programmes curated to allow the curious explorer to discover Singapore’s heritage and culture, world-class attractions and vibrant precincts amidst our cosmopolitan city!Congratulations!! I have really high hopes for them snagging this award, after having experienced the Ocean Dreams programme.
For more information on the Awards, head to their webpage at https://www.singaporeexperience.com. You can also tag experiences you’ve enjoyed with #yoursingapore, and they could be reposted on the @Visit_Singapore Instagram page!
Thursday, October 30, 2014 :: The VGYSTORE @ Haji Lane
Few entries back, I wrote about the new milestones of VGY which I am trying to achieve and fast forward to this date, I can very proudly say I have done it; VGY has done it.Amidst many uncertainties and unexpected delays, I am very excited to announce that the new VGYSTORE at Haji Lane will officially open her doors for a media & VIP mailing list preview on 31st Oct and 1st Nov respectively.
Also, get to preview the new VGY e-commerce site first hand in the Store between 1-3pm!
Achieving this milestone is definitely not easy when I made the decision to stay in Haji Lane and call this place home to VGY. The market conditions and the changing consumer perception made this decision a really hard one but the leap of faith and confidence in my own decisions have brought us here and it will continue to bring us to greater heights. Slow but surely and steadily ;)
Now to quell many queries, VainGloriousYou (VGY) was previously located at 42 Haji Lane, better known as The Vainpot Boutique. This shop was co-owned by 2 online shops namely VGY and Momoteapots (MMTP). The decision was made unanimously to close down The Vainpot Boutique as both myself and my good friend, Serene (the owner of MMTP) are working towards different goals for both our companies. MMTP will be soaring to greater heights by focusing greater efforts in the online business whereas it will be a dual-pronged approach for VGY via our e-commerce store (www.vgystore.com) and a brick and motar retail shop.
Having been in Haji Lane for 4 years now, 42 Haji Lane holds very memorable times for VGY and this is actually why I have decided to stay here at the same address to open the brand new VGY shop front instead of looking for a brand new location :) And this decision is made knowing that consumers may be confused which is why I am investing so much efforts into renovating it with a brand new look to reflect the brand, VGY.
The renovation period was made a hassle free one with the help of my very two young and aspiring interior designers, Hafi and Roxanne, from The Barnett Group, who worked hand in hand with me to create a store that is vastly different from before. Most importantly, they were responsible for overseeing the entire renovation and I could not have done it without them because of my busy schedule. To this, I have to say getting an interior designer really does take off a lot of stress and time on renovation works. Phew.It was not easy sourcing for tiles and with the help of my IDs, they introduced me to one of the biggest tiles companies in Singapore - Soon Bee Huat.
In the end, 2 different set of tiles were selected from SBH to reflect VainGloriousYou and our premium brand, Swan By VGY. I was so so so happy when I saw the tiles after they were installed because it is exactly what I had envisioned! The tiles are so beautiful with the intricate wood carvings and I did not see such tiles from the countless tile companies I visited! Could have save so much time if I came to know of SBH earlier! And I am definitely glad that I chose tiles over laminates because tiles will last even longer and look just like real wood than laminates would. The wood carvings and swirls in tiles will also look more natural! Haha I guess I have learnt so much about renovation, tiles, contractors, all the last minute additions from this experience.
I have to mention that this is not an advertisement for them but I genuinely hope to share this information to potential young home owners as the selection of tiles at SBH are insane. Trust me, I have been to so many tiles companies sourcing for the right tiles for VGY and the service and selection at Soon Bee Huat is unrivalled.
To ensure that I meet my own expectations for the official opening, the team and I have invested a lot of time and efforts into ensuring there is a reason why we do what we do. That includes the companies we have reached out to who will be supporting this event in the form of contribution to a luxurious goodie bag for our #VGYVIP attendees. Haha we at the office were all very excited to announce the sponsors coming onboard this official launch. Have you seen sneaks on our social media platforms? Every brand is carefully curated to ensure the brand's positioning is congruent with the direction that VGY is heading towards. Which is what I meant by, there is a reason why we do what we do ;)
We sought for complimenting brands in specific categories namely Skincare, Makeup, Hair, Lifestyle and Health so be sure to see them around in the Store and your goodie bag! A press release kit will also be provided to let you know more about the Store here in Haji Lane, what is upcoming on VGY and the significance of each sponsor in your goodie bag ;)
Do sign up for our mailing list (by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have not because on the 1st of Nov, Saturday from 1PM to 3PM, it will be a by-invite only VIP preview for our mailing listees and we have a grand total of 300 luxurious goodie bags to be given away while stocks last! You are also able to purchase unlaunched pieces at online prices only from 1-3pm! ;)
Monday, October 6, 2014 :: Styled Wedding Shoot
They say when you radiate positive thoughts or your wants to the universe, you attract positive forces that go in tandem with what you radiate from within. So while searching through the sea of reviews for recommended photographers we can use for our pre-wedding shoot, I receive invitations from a couple of wedding vendors to put together a styled shoot. John and I thought this is the perfect opportunity as it allows us to experience first hand what to expect for an outdoor (or even overseas) shoot, what to keep a look out for, and basically to do this shoot together before we go for the real thang as we have never done any lovey-dovey couple shoots before (well, other than pathetic self-timer shots). Granted I am a camera whore but John is far from it and tend to be queasy in front of the camera, we’d like to be prepared for our shoot in the near future as we are exploring heading overseas to shoot ;)The moment I saw the photos from Smittenpixels Photography, I was captivated by the dreamy, romantic and peaceful nature loving look. Definitely a far cry from our busy lives. Looking at these photos gives us an unpretentious calm of a morning walk, the honesty and bareness of it as you stroll in a quiet park in the wee hours of a morning. Seeing these photos reassured us for the kind of location we are looking at for our engagement shoot – nature, an unpretentious location, with nothing around except us against the world.Gowns by Le Seine Bridal, Styling and Set-Up by Le Fairymeadow, Makeup and Hair by Pearlyn Law and Photography by Smittenpixels Photography. More about these wonderful wedding vendors below.Having worked with Fiona from Smittenpixels Photography since few months back for VainGloriousYou, I like how Fiona allow things to unravel naturally forward in its own fashion with less posing. In that way, Fiona was able to document the romance and initimacy I share with John by capturing the raw emotions. This is about finding a photographer who understands that a wedding shoot isn't just a shoot but more of being able to achieve a photo so powerful that it can evoke strong emotions when viewed. Because ultimately, they are the only tangible thing you hold close to your heart as years goes by.And for this photo, I will always remember John whispering into my ears "You are so beautiful, dear. I love you so much". And I smiled.:*)The ethereal looking fresh-faced makeup and hair was done by Pearlyn Law, who told me on the day "Being perfect isn't real, let me enhance your beauty by playing up your best features to create an effortless flawless makeup". Although I have only slightly-better-than passable standard of makeup, I thought doing my own makeup would be even nicer than working with a makeup artist as "I know what is best for my looks". But Pearlyn actually proved me wrong...I never thought that I would look good with a pinkish tinge makeup look and that I do not need layers of eye makeup to look good for something as important as a wedding shoot. It turned out looking so natural in the photos..:*)I love putting a face to names so let me introduce Pearlyn Law who did everything above and beyond the duties of a makeup artist. She ensured that I was properly hydrated, making sure my hair fall at the right places in every frame. Even John's imperfections were properly concealed to ensure there is minimal touch up on our faces on the computer. She even take it upon herself to take care of my darling, Tintin, who I had insisted to be included in this outdoor shoot as...she is family :)Really love to see behind-the-scenes photos like this which are so memorable..:) The smiles behind each photo also represent how everyone worked in tandem, cooperatively and yet enjoying the moments with each other to ensure the bride and groom feel as comfortable as we can be in the shoot. Haha look, even Tintin feels at ease with so many unfamiliar faces around!Pearlyn has been in this line for the longest time and seeing how much dedication she put in into guiding me on makeup and hair, this woman has so much passion for her job I am sure all her clients felt her heart and soul when working with her. It's no wonder she is always fully booked during peak periods :)My hairstyle inspired by bohemian and braids. It was my concern when I conveyed to Pearlyn I do not wish to do a bun up for all my styles and lose the essence of my signature long hair look so she gave me this by weaving in braids and letting loose wisps of long fringe. Simply adore this look when worn with the matching floral head piece! :*)This shoot was held at a secluded and peaceful location deep inside MacRitchie Reservoir Park and the place came to life by styling from Le Fairymeadow. Zyn (the brainchild behind Le Fairymeadow) knowing that I am someone who have a soft side for flowers, created such a lovely bouquet for me with matching headpiece that is not overdone and unique. I am always endlessly pleased by floral gifts, or anything floral. My heart always melt when John heads out early in the morning to surprise me in bed with a fresh and fragrant floral arrangement before I open my eyes. Don’t ask me why but I like to remember how I received them. They seem to be able to evoke powerful emotions and memory of the person who gives them to me, how it was given, what did he wear, what fragrance did he use when I plant a kiss on his cheek – basically the loveliness of the moment. Just like this moment, captured in time..
Brought this lovely bouquet home with me at the end of the day and it has to be the most beautiful bouquet I have ever decorated the house with. Made of plumosa fern, eryngium, purple mentha, pink peonies, white peonies and pink sweet william, this bloom represents the softer side of me with its softer pinks and rustic greens.
The dreamy floral arch by Le Fairymeadow erected against a backdrop of reservoir, swamp-like trees evoke powerful visualizations of my all-time favourite and highly raved scene from The Notebook. It is against a background like this where I wish to say my vows..For my second bouquet, I tasked Zyn from Le Fairymeadow to give me a bouquet that can emulate the other part of me which is currently discovering her sensuality and womanhood as she progresses on to the next stage of her life. The darker blooms in this bouquet bring out the sensuality in me and no one other than John can put it better in words. His words exactly "You know what dear, this bouquet is just like you - beautiful and soft like a fairy, yet romantic and sexy like how you are when I am around you". (Awww, tell me any woman who will not swoon hearing these words)Pearlyn even changed my hair into a braided up-do in less than 10 minutes!My gowns are from Le Seine Bridal situated in a second storey cosy shophouse at Serangoon Garden (near Chomp Chomp). It was love at first sight for this gown when my fingers ran through the intricate lace of this gorgeous piece even before I took it down from its hanging rack! Liz from Le Seine Bridal had it altered to fit my petite frame even through it is not easy to make alterations on a gown which is adorned in fragile lace fabric. Thank you Liz!!Didn't think I can fit nicely into a mermaid gown given my shapeless petite body. But it is really illusion at its best when I stepped into this gown. John couldn't believe his eyes when I stepped out in this gown, haha that rascal. Liz further advised I am able to take on almost any gowns given my body shape after getting me to try on the big selection of gowns in her bridal boutique in a bid to educate me on gown fittings hehe. It helped that the experience in her boutique is very intimate - unless some of the bridal shops John and I had visited. Liz goes by appointment basis so as to ensure the bride-to-be feels comfortable when choosing and trying out her gowns.The photos from this set of night shoot is so so beautiful on a canvas when printed out.. Want to guess which photo John and I have printed out? ;) It was really hard to choose what we wanted for this night shoot because there are so many things to choose from at Le Fairymeadow! They have everything from lace tents to backdrops and even a real life carriage!John and I are looking at even engaging them for styling up our wedding event as we came to know they also provide stage, aisle, ROM deco and many more. Love working with them and they are extremely meticulous down to the smallest detail and I love to work with such individuals (uh-oh, am I speaking like a future bridezilla?) However, that depends on whether we are holding the wedding banquet in Singapore too so...we shall see! ;)Amid the warm glow of the low hanging candles in the dusk of evening, we danced away as Fiona captured us being just us. The atmosphere and ambience created by Le Fairymeadow is so romantic and pretty.. We opted for a night shoot not knowing what to expect because it is difficult to do a setup outdoors after the sun sets but this place was magically transformed into a romantic pavilion which is pinterest-worthy I would say..:*)I don't know how other women feel but I felt so much love and emotions from this shoot. Because being ourselves and not posing for the camera made us natural, most importantly, allowed Fiona to capture these raw emotions which we (especially John) will not be able to emote if we are posing for the camera. All these moments were very intense for John and I as we held small conversations about our love and future, oblivious to the surroundings and Fiona as she moved around us snapping away.For this look, Pearlyn got my hair up in a high bun up-do with a pearl head accessory to accentuate the style and soften the look like a ballerina. The makeup emphasis is now placed on my eyes for a more defined and elegant look to match the sophisticated classiness of a night shoot.My gown from Le Seine Bridal comes with an incredible bodice and long train in a heavy weighted luxurious fabric with slight sheen. It didn't take me long to settle for this gown in fact, it was the first few gowns which I have picked out and Liz altered this to fit me to a T. There was also no need to wear a tulle underneath as the pleats around the waist is generous enough to form a nice flare from waist down.Sharing this because I genuinely believe in the professionalism displayed by Fiona at Smittenpixels Photography, she will be kicking off 2015 with "Destination Prewedding" at a very affordable price. Do contact her for more details!PROMO PACKAGE FOR 2014 - 2015 BOOKINGSSpecially for my readers, the lovely wedding vendors mentioned in this post have lovingly extended a promo package for all of you!Gowns by Le Seine BridalWebsite: http://www.leseinebridal.com/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leseinebridalInstagram: @leseinebridalStyling and Set Up by Le FairymeadowWebsite: www.lefairymeadow.comFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/lefairymeadowInstagram: @lefairymeadowMakeup and Hairdo by Pearlyn LawWebsite: http://www.pearlynlaw.com/Instagram: @pearlynlawPhotography by Fiona from Smittenpixels PhotographyWebsite: http://www.smittenpixels.com/Instagram: @smittenpixels
To thank some other angels who have made this shoot possible,
Nails are done by Eleen from @DolishNailSpa (located in Tampines)
Natural looking lash extension by the kind japanese folks from @graceous_sg (refer to my previous blog post here)
And lastly, to Dr Tan at IDS Clinic who have been taking care of my skin (will share more about them soon),