Think of NUSS as “country club lite”, offering many of the benefits of a club without the high costs of membership. You have sports facilities, dining facilities, hosting facilities, regular activities, reciprocal golf arrangements with larger country clubs etc.
Each NUSS member can redeem a maximum of 2 complimentary passes from 1 Dec 2016 to 1 Dec 2017. There is a maximum of 250 passes that can be redeemed by members each quarter, i.e. Dec 2016- Mar 2017, April 2017- Jun 2017 etc etc.
The booking interface should be familiar to anyone who has used the NUSS portal to book any facilities. Not the prettiest but it gets things done.
If you’ve exhausted your 2 complimentary passes you can buy a maximum of 5 additional passes per quarter at the following discounted rate-
DBS NUSS Cardholders- $10 each
Regular NUSS members- $25 each
Regular priced passes start at $50 for adults and $30 for children up to the age of 12. Children below the age of 6 do not require a pass. Have a full read of the FAQ here.
In Terminal 1, dnata operates the Skyview lounge that is used by Cathay Pacific, Delta, Finnair, Priority Pass, Airport Angel and pretty much any other airline/lounge program. I remember visiting this lounge a long time ago and was generally impressed, it was quite good for a contract lounge. You can read a proper review on the lounge here.
EDIT: Since November 2015 dnata is operating a new lounge in T1 that looks a lot nicer. Check out the review here. Thanks Alvin.
I’ve not yet visited the Terminal 3 facility, but here’s the account of someone who has. Again, if you go in expecting First Class Terminal or Private Room levels of luxury you’re going to be disappointed, but if you see it as a quiet place to catch up on some work before your flight, or to unwind with a free drink and watch Netflix I think you’ll be just fine.
My stance has always been that Changi Airport is good enough that you don’t really need lounge access (and so efficient that you don’t need to show up that early). However, if you’re already a member, no reason not to take advantage of this.
NUSS membership usually costs S$10,700 but if you’re within 36 months of the date of your graduation (first degree/postgraduate degree provided you’re taking it within 12 months of your first degree) you pay S$2,140.
If you’re thinking of joining, consider using my referral- we’ll each get $250 worth of vouchers (F&B at NUSS for me, Robinsons/CapitaLand for you). You’ll need to provide my referral code WA738R when you sign up.
Regular readers will know I’m a big tennis fan (and player- if anyone out there is ~NTRP 4.0 and wants to play do reach out). And I just wrote a report about the US Open, including a visit to the SPG Luxury Suite.
The WTA Finals are in Singapore this week, and although I think it’s fair to say that women’s tennis doesn’t attract nearly the same amount of interest as the men’s tour, it’s still a chance to see the best 8 in women’s tennis in one place.
Through a series of unexpected events (the details of which I will not bore you with) I received an invitation to the BNP Paribas hospitality suite for the Thursday evening session. I was keen to see how this corporate hospitality experience would stack up to the one at the US Open, and would like to share some highlights and photos with you all.
We were bussed into the grounds at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from our meeting point for the evening session which started at 7.30pm. We reached at 6.15pm, which gave lots of time for wining and dining.
All corporate hospitality suites at the WTA Finals are part of The Racquet Club (The Racquet Club is the official hospitality program of the WTA Finals). The Racquet Club is an annex built alongside the Indoor Stadium (but isn’t physically part of the stadium, a minor inconvenience I’ll touch on later)
The buses dropped us off here and we headed inside for registration.
The registration counter was chaotic but everyone was processed quickly enough.
I received 2 passes- one of which would get me into the BNP hospitality suite, the other into the Aces Lounge. The Aces Lounge is (and here’s where it gets a bit confusing) within the Indoor Stadium but it’s a much parred down selection of F&B. The hospitality suites are where you really want to be.
The first floor of the Racquet Club contains the reception area as well as a handful of suites for companies like Rolex.
There is also a spanking new Porsche Panamera parked in the middle of the room as a sort of conversation piece (Porsche being one of the headline sponsors of the WTA Finals)
There is a big sign on it saying “not for sale”. Which is disappointing. Because I was totally going to take out my PRVI Miles card and earn 1.4 miles per $1 on it.
Up the stairs and you’ll find more suites, as this very poorly taken photo shows. I really need to hire a professional photographer for this site.
The BNP Paribas suite is a sizable suite, as you would expect from the title sponsor of the WTA Finals. I reckon it could take up to a 100 people with some standing.
The Suite is a place to hobnob before the game (or during, if you don’t really care for tennis and just want to network, as it appeared many did) and it’s well set up for that. There are a few sit down private tables, but the majority of them were communal high chairs that make it uncomfortable to sit for too long. There was also a fully stocked bar where the champagne (Moet, sadly. Come on guys, even prosecco would be preferable to Moet) flowed freely.
The menu today was created by Emmanuel Stroobant of the ES Group. The ES Group is behind some really nice restaurants in Singapore including Picotin, Brussel Sprouts, Saint Pierre and Rocks Urban Bar and Grill. I knew the food was going to be excellent when I heard the chef barking in French at his crew.
The actual spread was different from the printed menu. The romantic in me would like to believe that the truck delivering fresh produce from the farm had been waylaid because the young man driving it had suddenly found the words he for so long had lacked in describing his affection for the quietly aloof sous chef who was at home with her bedridden grandfather and the bewildered head chef had no choice but to modify the menu on the fly all while fighting with his dastardly landlord who wanted to repossess the premises and lease them out to a fast food chain. Although in reality someone probably messed up the printout.
There was a very generous appetizer spread of mini bagels with smoked salmon, tomato confit, tomato gazpacho and assorted charcuterie.
There were some roasted root vegetables. No description here because it wasn’t on the printed menu.
Goose-fat duck leg confit, ratte potato, balsamic and honey jus.
This dish was heavenly. The goose fat that lined the duck leg melted in your mouth and made you come to the realization that people who went on diets simply had no joy in their life. I attribute my wheezing during the tennis game the morning after solely to this one dish.
Roasted white Miso cod, grilled Kinome rice, poached jade eggplant
Cod tends to be a more forgiving fish because of its high fat content, but credit where it’s due, the caterers got this spot on. The skin was flakey and the meat did not have a hint of overcooking. When I returned to the suite about 3 hours later however the cod had become mushy, probably as a result of being left on the heat for too long.
There was a ravioli dish that had some meat that I couldn’t quite place.
And mushrooms with other greens.
There was also a carving station with beef wellington.
I assembled myself an unphotogenic plate or two or three. I rationalized that we were at a tennis event and surely the cuisine served would be in line with the healthy ethos of the overall setting.
The desert tray featured a fruit salad, apple pie and various fruit tarts. It was a bit muted compared to the main courses, or maybe I expected a bit more given the French reputation for killer deserts.
That said, one standout item was the Louis XV Guatemala chocolate cake, which came topped with milk chocolate popped rice. It’s the two cakes in the top left hand of this photo.
There was a bar area to round things out serving red and white wines and champagne.
The waitstaff were very generous with the bubbly and proactively went around giving people top ups. Why couldn’t we have this at the US Open, I thought.
The crowd that evening was a mixture of industry movers and shakers, as well as what I presume must have been HNWIs, based on the number of pretty private bankers swarming around the tables.
I contemplated picking up my phone and shouting “If you clowns at UBS don’t wake up your ideas and do this simple $50M trade I’m going to take all my business to BNP” to see whether I could get some of them to accost me but decided against it in favor of remaking loudly to no one in particular how damned expensive private school fees were in Zurich. It didn’t work. But that could also be because I had a very messy table. That was probably it.
Midway through dinner, an emcee came on stage to introduce the first of two tennis personalities who would visit the suite that evening.
I forget the name of the first guest. But I gather she was a former woman’s champion.
The second was Caroline Garcia. I felt really bad for her, because no one really cares about doubles. I mean, I certainly don’t. I often wonder how the players feel about such publicity events. They have to disrupt their match prep to visit each and every suite for a 5 min cameo where they have to smile and answer inane questions like “do you think you have what it takes to win this year?” and try not to say “actually no I don’t, I just came to Singapore for the chili crab and pleasant climate”. I mean, I don’t think I could resist that sort of temptation to snark.
But to Caroline’s credit she took the questions with grace and aplomb. And signed commemorative tennis balls after the Q&A.
I asked her if she could make mine out to “The Milelion” but after several seconds of stunned silence I thought it better to use my birth name.
Adequately fed and watered, it was time to go for the tennis. If there’s one problem with the layout at the Indoor Stadium it’s that the hospitality suites are physically disconnected from the action in the stadium. To get to the stadium you need to walk about 100m under a sheltered walkway into the stadium grounds. It wasn’t like the experience at the SPG Luxury Suite where you could go out onto the balcony to watch (but of course, the F&B here was way superior to that at the SPG Suite)
The Indoor Stadium is a cozy an intimate venue and if you’re not in the upper balcony there really aren’t any bad seats in the house per se. I had tickets just behind the baseline which was awesome, but the view 10 rows back was perhaps half the price and just as good.
Here’s the view from the top of the second tier.
I think it’s great that Singapore finally has a world class tennis event here. (I do not consider the ridiculous International Premier Tennis League to be a real tournament. I mean, just read these ridiculous rules and tell me if this sounds like tennis to you-
Each team can call a power point once in each set when receiving serve, and the next point played will count double. Effectively, a player trailing 15–0 can directly get to 15–30 by winning the power point. Games are played to four points using no-ad scoring. Each game won by a player or doubles team adds one point to the team’s score in the match. The team with the most points at the end of the five sets wins the match. Each set is won when a team is the first to reach six games won. If the score is five-games-all, a timed five-minute shoot-out will be played. The player or doubles team leading at the end of five minutes wins the set.
Omg power points!!one11!!)
The WTA contract is currently under renegotiation to see if Singapore can become the permanent venue after the current iteration expires in 2018. I certainly hope it continues to stay here because it can only be a good thing for the tennis community. And who knows, maybe before long we’ll get a men’s tour event too!
Back when I was serving NS there was one evening when my buddy and I drew the short straws for the 3 a.m. guard duty shift. I’m normally a cheerful, avuncular individual but deprive me of my sleep and I get sullen and moody. So I didn’t say a single word as we geared up and prepared to defend our camp from the imminent danger of an errant possum scaling the fence and stealing our military secrets.
After trekking in silence for about 20 minutes my buddy asked me whether I believed in ghosts.
I conceded that I did not.
He affirmed that not only did such apparitions exist, they lurked in the deepest darkest night, waiting to emerge and torture the unsuspecting living.
I gently suggested to him that he might perhaps have watched one too many movies. He insisted that he had seen them before, and we were now in grave danger at this very point in time.
I was perplexed as to why he would be scared. After all, each of us had an assault rifle with five rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition. I wasn’t what you might call a crack shot, but I did fancy our chances of, between my buddy and I, winging a wraith with at least one shot. The odds were exceedingly in our favor.
Eventually we finished our shift without any incident. We had not been assaulted by any spirit, demon and/or woman who lost her baby under tragic and suspicious circumstances. My buddy was thoroughly concerned about my hubris towards the supernatural, and assured me that “one day I’d see”.
I mean, I’m hardly a brave person. I am terrified of antibiotic resistance, the likelihood that cured meats are carcinogenic, the struggling fortunes of Blackberry and Rafael Nadal, and the liberal agenda. Oh, and spiders too.
I guess you could say my fears are somewhat more existential.
Given this background, I am probably not the ideal candidate to write a review of USS’s Halloween Horror Nights. After all, I don’t care much for Halloween. It’s full of high-energy young people, I’m too old to get candy and the entire occasion veers to much into the occult for my comfort.
But our office informed us that in lieu of a bonus, we would each be given a ticket (and an express pass- it had been a good financial year) for the event and we were expected to go and partake in some mandatory fun.
Which is how I ended up at the gates of USS on a balmy and humid Saturday night. To be honest, I was already experiencing a great deal of fear because the young lady I was earnestly courting ended up not being able to attend that evening, and I was having progressively mounting visions of dying alone.
USS had a high bar to reach that evening.
Ask any theme park designer what Disney does better than anyone else in the business and he or she will tell you one word- immersion.
Immersion is when the line between reality and fantasy is blurred. When you can believe, if only for a few fleeting moments, that you are in fact not you, but a character in the world of the story. It’s why Disney situates Disneyland away from any built up areas and constructs high walls, fake mountains and backdrops so little Sally can feel like a princess admiring the ramparts of Sleeping Beauty’s castle without catching a glimpse of a yellow schoolbus in the parking lot reminding her that come Monday, it’s back to school.
But true immersion is not always possible. See, USS has the unenviable task of trying to scare people while dealing with all the logistics, health and safety complications a mass event like this generates. Therefore, it’s inevitable that immersion will be broken. It’s not “talking through the fourth wall” levels of breaking immersion, but it’s certainly a hefty wink at the audience that prevents people (at least me) from being truly scared. This isn’t so much a failing on the part of USS per se, but rather a by-product of the environment in which they have to operate.
First, all performers have a set of ground rules that they need to abide by-
(1) Do not touch the guests
(2) Seriously, do not touch the guests
(3) When in doubt see (1) and (2)
This is a perfectly rational restriction. USS wants to avoid situations from escalating, and the last thing they want is a scenario where a chivalrous but ill-advised gentleman decks a zombie for physically accosting his date. In fact, there is a well-lit sign outside each haunted house that says something to the tune of “anyone who physically assaults the performers will be ejected”.
The result is you wander through a haunted house with perhaps the most well-behaved ghosts ever. As scary as they may appear, they’re probably more scared of you than you are of them.
Second, USS is deathly afraid of corporate liability. So each haunted house needs safety personnel inside with flashlights to shepherd the guests through safely. Nothing breaks immersion like seeing a polo T clad USS employee standing in the midst of an orgy of body parts waving guests along with a flashlight and warning them to mind their heads on the low clearance ceiling.
Third, the economics of the evening dictate that USS try and get as many people through the haunted houses as possible, subject to some fire safety restriction on maximum occupancy. The result is that you’re never really alone. I can imagine I’d be significantly more scared if I were wandering through the exhibit alone, but it’s really hard to be frightened when you’re surrounded by other guests Instagramming the entire experience.
Fourth, all the haunted houses rely on the same basic tropes
(1) Sudden loud noises/gushes of air
(2) “Jump scares” where performers jump out from behind some obstacle
(3) Gross out body parts, blood and guts
And once you’ve figured out this pattern there really isn’t anything novel they can do to frighten you, apart from more of (1), (2) and (3). I mean, they could have a ghost at the exit telling everyone that the CPF minimum sum is expected to grow to $445,200 by 2040 at a 4% moderate inflation scenario, but I somehow think that wouldn’t quite elicit the desired response.
So even though I shriek like a little girl when I see a cockroach, I just can’t bring myself to be scared in a haunted house. Call me irrationally rational.
USS has divided its haunted houses into five different zones. Since the whole of USS is basically a giant circle, you’d have to be some sort of colossal dunce to miss any of them. So naturally, I somehow conspired to miss both Hu Li’s Inn and the Salem Witch House. I comforted myself with the fact that 3 out of 5 wasn’t bad, and that the scale of the Salem witch trials as an actual history event was horribly overblown with only 20 women ever executed for witchcraft. I was, however, upset to miss Hu Li’s inn because that one is supposed to have chiobu.
My colleagues and I made our way to the first haunted house.
Bodies of Work
Artist Damien Shipman takes fans on a heinous trip down memory lane as he unveils his controversial exhibition titled Bodies of Work. Displayed in a macabre fashion, his twisted memories are played out in this horrific homage to his family who perished tragically in a fire.
The basic premise of this house is that mild mannered everyman Damien Shipman has one bad day at the office where his family dies in a fire. So naturally, instead of investing in better fire-suppression equipment, he creates an art gallery of dismembered body parts. “It sort of reminds me of Alan Moore’s “Batman: The Killing Joke” and the premise how one bad day is enough to turn any man insane” I said aloud. Then got sad because no one got my pop culture reference.
At the entrance, as a sort of precursor, we were presented with a family style portrait of the happy Shipman family. Pre-fire, I assumed.
“Why are they all white people?” I wondered aloud to my colleague. “Couldn’t we have localized it a bit?”
“Yeah, but it’s sadder when white people die,” he quipped. I guess I couldn’t argue with that.
The house itself is basically Shipman’s art gallery of horrors. There are random body parts scattered around, disfigured gallery staff and victims who have had body parts chopped off and resewn on in really inconvenient locations. “This draws very heavily from the Sander Cohen level in the original Bioshock,” I said aloud. Then felt sad again because no one understood what I was saying.
Audience members are then treated to a series of exhibitions, one for each member of Mr Shipman’s departed family. His wife has an installment dedicated to their wedding. Think Corpse Bride and you’ll get the gist of it. His daughter’s room has an installment dedicated to her life as a ballerina. Think Black Swan but without Mila Kunis. And his son’s room has the usual assortment of tired horror cliches, from psychotic clowns to creepy dolls to something I think was a Frankenstein-esque monster.
Immersion was somewhat ruined by the fact the video montage of Mr Shipman’s happy family had a very visible Windows Media Player box around the edge. And that one of the monsters was wearing a t-shirt with a very large Transformers logo on it. Product placement of key Universal Studios I.P must have been high on the list of KPIs for this gallery
I left the house convinced more than ever that modern art was a big sham.
Old Changi Hospital
The infamous Old Changi Hospital puts Singapore on the map as one of the most haunted places in the world. Visitors who dare enter will chance upon vengeful ghosts from Singapore’s bloodiest history – from patients who do not know they are dead to the Pontianak, a female Malay vampire who wanders the hallways
The premise for Old Changi Hospital plays upon a common trope in Singapore folklore that the place is haunted. Inside, you’ll find psychotic surgeons, disfigured patients and ghosts of unborn babies. Basically, it’s what happens if you let socialized medicine and Obamacare run to their logical conclusions.
Old Changi Hospital was part of a Japanese prison camp during WW2 and allegedly housed a torture chamber for the Kempeitai. There are clear call outs to this. In one room, a character dressed in an army uniform (but strangely with an armband in Chinese rather than Japanese) inflicts punishment on his victims.
I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this house drawing upon the horrors of war as source material for amusement. I mean, I guess you could argue that this is an alternative form of National Education where we all come out the wiser for knowing how safe and blessed we are today in Singapore, but you’d have to do some sort of mental gymnastics to see it that way.
In any case, Old Changi Hospital was doing a great job of triggering many of my repressed fears. My fear of injections, beautiful nurses and colonoscopies had all come together in one place. Just then, a group of foreign tourists rudely brushed past us, triggering my fear of immigration.
This was probably also my favourite haunted house because it featured one room with particularly strong air conditioning. I don’t know if it was meant to be the morgue and they air conditioned it to make it more convincing (and if so, that’s great attention to detail. Morgues are meant to be maintained between 2 °C and 4 °C )
My one biggest thought as I was going through the haunted houses was “man, I feel bad for the performers”. I was only in there for 5 minutes and I was sweating like a pig. These guys were wearing layers of costumes and make up and had to gut it out for, I don’t know, the entire evening (do zombies have understudies?). The houses in general have very poor ventilation, and when a nurse with blood running down her scalp ambushed us at the turn of a corner, I almost felt like asking her to drink more water and not exert herself too much.
Thus ended Old Changi Hospital. “Still better than Delhi public hospitals”, my Indian colleague remarked at the exit.
Hawker Centre Massacre
Mayhem breaks loose at the Hawker Centre Massacre where a meal turns into a banquet of horror as victims of radioactive food poisoning transform into savage, flesh-eating creatures.
When I first heard of the title I was mightily intrigued by the overall concept. Could this house be a cautionary tale of our dying Hawker trade? Would I see dioramas of famous marquee hawker stalls closing down when the next generation refuses to take up the spatula? Perhaps the final scene would be a dystopian vision of air conditioned food centres serving bland, anonymous versions of the classics we all knew and loved. That sounded scary.
Unfortunately, reading the description put that possibility to bed. Still, the premise confused me. If you fed people radioactive food would it be more of a Alexander Litvinenko type situation rather than a zombie apocalypse?
But I wasn’t scared. No hawker centre could scare me. I had survived Kofu at SMU for 4 years.
I walked in and screamed.
In front of me was a Halal tray return station. But I didn’t see a corresponding non-Halal tray return. Which meant that this was a halal hawker centre. Which meant it wouldn’t be serving my favourite lard-infused char kway teow. What other horrors awaited in here?
I was so upset at this I shuffled mindlessly past the first room of zombies feasting on hawker centre partons. That’ll teach them to leave tissue packets on chairs to chope seats, I thought.
Some aspects of the house were particularly well done. There was a counter where you had to pay 10 cents to access the toilet. This was a common nightmare scenario of mine. What if I didn’t have my wallet with me? And what if there was no one manning the booth but I didn’t have exact change? And what if they were out of toilet paper? Some fetid water then dripped on me from the ceiling, jolting me out of my thoughts.
There was also a walk through market with hardware and household stores. It was scary that none of them took credit cards, because think of how many missed mile earning opportunities take place there all the time.
Oh, and just before you exit the hawker centre there’s a (possessed?) truck that lurches at you before stopping a few feet away. Most people were shocked by this but my time in Mumbai trained me to deftly dodge out of the way and shout “chutiya” at the driver.
I was bummed out that I missed Hu Li’s inn, because I totally dig the whole 1930’s era Shanghai vibe. That said, I thought the house perpetuated unfair stereotypes of mainland Chinese women. I mean, not all of them are out to rip out your intestines and cut out your tongue. Some of them just want your CPF money. In any case, it was probably going to be the only time an attractive woman paid attention to me so it has to go down as a wasted opportunity.
The scariest event of the evening? That would have to go to the crashed car exhibit around the Suicide Forest area with a dead zombie inside. I felt shivers down my spine seeing it, knowing I would never be able to afford a car in Singapore, what with the COE prices and everything.
On that note, it was close to midnight and past my bedtime and I was afraid of the long term medical consequences of not getting enough sleep so I headed home.
Back when I was in Hwa Chong there was an event called Fright Night. At least I think it was named Fright Night. It might have since been renamed to Hwalloween. Which is an altogether better name.
This event is towards the end of October where J2s are going all out for A Level preparation. They segment the school pretty well to avoid disturbing exam prep but I had had a particularly grueling day and in my distracted state managed somehow to wander into the haunted house zone while making my way to the exit.
It was then that I ran into a group of J1 students in the corridor. They paused and stared at me as if they were unsure whether I was part of the haunted house or not.
I decided to try my luck
“This is you in one year’s time”, I told them with my heavy set of past year papers in my hand.
They didn’t scream and run like I thought they would, which really reflects more on them than it does me. But I’d like to imagine that at least one of them woke up screaming in the middle of the night.