End of Robinsons

COVID-19 has claimed another victim. It’s not a person but the iconic Robinsons department store in Singapore.

When news broke this morning, social media was all abuzz with people lamenting the end of the 162-year-old retail institution. I was saddened too as it’s a place that I’ve visited since my schooldays.

The deaprtment store is synonymous with quality products and offering great service by long-serving staff. Its regular “The sale worth waiting for” sales never fail to pull in the crowd. I know of people who take leave just to grab the sales items. And there are even those who spend thousands to snag a free mobile device.

Why close?

If it’s so popular, how then did it reach this state, you may ask. Well, the pandemic definitely played a major part — no tourists, people losing job or taking pay cuts, safe management measures are just a few key reasons.

Admittedly, Robinsons also carries a range of products that is way beyond my means in my younger days. And I’m sure the products are still more pricey for this current generation of youngsters who are more accustomed to buying more affodable products online.

With the pandemic, e-commerce has boomed. Amazon, Aliexpress, Lazada, Qoo10, and Shopee are packed with products available at competitive prices. Consumers get to see which products are popular, how many are being sold, and the all-important customer review and rating.

Plus, the platforms offers the convenience of ordering from the bed or in a park and having the products delivered for as quickly as the next day.

Robinsons’ online presence becomes a work in progress

The sad thing is that even going online is not a viable option to keep Robinsons afloat.

“In our experience, the online model is not one that works for department stores, due to individual brands wanting to maintain brand ownership online, as well as stiff competition from full-fledged e-commerce sites,” a spokesperson told CNA.

More closures ahead?

Robinsons is not the first and neither will it be the last of the retail giants to be dealt the death knell.

With a new normal dawning, more and more may have to transform to a onsite-online business, go online completely, or risk closing shop for good.

Seeing parts of our growing up years disappear is a tough pill to swallow but it’s a sad reality that all of us have to face.

The crowd headed to the Heeren outlet after hearing about the impending closure

If it’s any consolation, crowds headed to the two outlets after hearing the news of the closure. If only they were out in force throughout the year, Robinsons may then have a fighting chance of surviving the downturn.

Oculus Quest 2: Enter an alternate reality

I had my first taste of virtual reality (VR) when my colleague brought his Oculus Quest to the office last year and let us play Beat Saber on it. As I put on the headset and slipped on the controllers, I stepped into a whole new world of musical star wars and fruit ninja, slicing flying boxes to the beat with my light sabers. When I took the headset off, I was transported back to the office. It was an incredible experience and since then, I was secretly hoping for the day I could have my own Oculus Quest.

Fast forward a year and I now find myself a proud new owner of an Oculus Quest 2, having received it as an early birthday present. Released on October 13 and arriving at my doorstep halfway across the globe in sunny (and almost COVID-19 free I hope) Singapore on October 16, the Oculus Quest 2 was a portal into an alternate reality I could not wait to enter again.

It came in a sleek box and with a spacer (a plastic piece to add more distance between your face and the screen) for folks who wear glasses like yours truly. It was a breeze to set up once I linked it up with my Facebook account.

PSA: you have to link your Quest 2 to your Facebook account and there have been stories of people who have had their Quest 2 downgraded to paperweights as they were locked out of their Facebook accounts. You have been warned. A further look into those accounts shows that it mostly happens to those with new/throwaway accounts which aren’t tied to a person’s real identity. That would bring us down another rabbit hole of the “omniscience” and intrusiveness of Facebook… but tldr; if you aren’t willing to connect your Facebook account with your Oculus, the Oculus Quest 2 is definitely not for you.

Now that I’ve owned it for more than 10 days, here are five reasons why I think you’ll like it:

  1. It’s an incredibly immersive experience. As you don the headset and look around you, there’s only the ground under your feet that tethers you to reality. Ok, so I’m exaggerating a little bit – but at any rate, I’d encourage you to try a VR headset and you’ll see what I mean.
  2. It’s convenient. There are no wires involved! This is a departure from most other VR headsets which can be a bit cumbersome to set up. The headset and controllers are all you need, and this makes the set very portable. This might seem intuitive and easy to take for granted, but not too long ago, VR required the setting up of additional “base stations”/poles to get started.
  3. It’s value for money. The Oculus Quest 2 64GB is currently available for S$440 on Amazon Prime and I consider it quite affordable for a VR headset. In comparison, a Nintendo Switch console retails at S$459. A single Beat Saber game at Headrock VR which would set you back S$35 when bundled with 2 other VR games (the latter 2 are a bit harder to replicate on the Quest so maybe you could head down to Headrock to try it out!). Given it’s arguably the cheapest of the 3, I would put it at S$5 per play. The game itself cost me S$50 including an Imagine Dragons music pack and I’ve played it a tad too many times to count. I’m working on bringing the average cost per game (including the headset) to below S$5…
  4. It can provide a good workout. There are pretty good exercise games available for purchase. My only game thus far is Beat Saber and my heartbeat has gone above 150 bpm when playing this game.
  5. It’s great for connecting with friends. While there aren’t many collaborative games that I know of which you can play on a single headset, it is still great for connecting with friends. Most folks still have not really tasted the VR experience yet and when I brought it over for social gatherings, my friends thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were bowled over by the technology. A couple of them are thinking of getting it for themselves too.

However, there are a few drawbacks to the Quest 2 that you may want to be aware of too.

  1. The head strap can take a bit of getting used to and it wasn’t as hardy as I hoped for it to be. It takes a bit of adjusting to have it sit comfortably on your head.
  2. The battery life of two hours could be considered short for some. I consider it a reminder that it’s time to come back to reality though. If you’re planning to play with friends, you’ll want to make sure it’s fully charged.
  3. The game selection is rather limited compared to other platforms, and they also can be a bit more pricey. To manage costs, I’m spacing my game purchases out so I can enjoy them fully and get my money’s worth out of it.
  4. This isn’t quite a drawback, but a reminder to consider getting some hygienic disposable eye masks so that everyone’s sweat doesn’t get absorbed into the same sponge.

In short, if you’re looking for a new immersive experience to share with your friends, the Oculus Quest 2 will be a great gadget to get!

Verdict

Novelty: 👍👍👍👍👍

Value: 👍👍👍👍

Overall: 👍👍👍👍👍

Jurassic Mile rocks!

With travel almost non-existent, many in Singapore are suffering from a massive withdrawal. While the government is trying to encourage local tourism, it just doesn’t feel like the real thing of hopping on to a plane, landing in another country and taking in the sights and food!

As we struggle with the travel withdrawal symptoms, there was a glimmer of hope when social media broke news of a new attraction in Singapore. Dinosaurs (not the living kind) were spotted near Changi Airport.

As an avid cyclist who enjoys riding along the airport route, this was right up my alley and I started planning for trip to the said part of the airport. However, my plan had to be shelved when the authorities boarded up the location and placed a “Coming soon” sign.

Imagine my delight when a friend messaged me that the new attraction was opening on October 11.

The next day, I packed my bike and headed to the nearest car park in East Coast Park. Even though it was a Monday, that part of the park was surprisingly busier than usual with walkers, joggers and cyclists, including a couple of young ladies who were struggling big time on a tandem bike.

I joined them and headed towards the freshly-minted Jurassic Mile at Changi Airport Connector. The route was fairly straightforward, just cycle towards the Eastern end of East Coast Park and follow the signs.

Jurassic Mile is a one-kilometre stretch with dinosaur exhibits making for lovely Instagrammable opportunities.

The path is wide enough for three bikes to ride astride so both bikers and walkers/joggers need to exercise lots of grace and patience, especially along spots where people stop for photos.

A surprise is that beyond Jurassic Mile, the park connector extends all the way past Changi Airport Terminal 4 to Terminal 2.

The end point is the Terminal 2 arrival hall next to the car park.

Here are my thoughts on Jurassic Mile:

  1. It’s free. I can’t think of many places we can go for free but this is one and one that’s worth a repeat visit. Next time, I may consider putting my bike in one of the lockers and walk to Jewel for a meal.
  2. It’s open 24 hours a day. You can technically go anytime but bookings are needed for visits on Fridays to Sundays. This is understandable as the path is quite narrow and overcrowding may lead to mayhem.
  3. It is easily accessible. Take your pick. Cycle, walk or jog. It’s so convenient to get there. Park at T2 if you want to get some exercise or nearer at T4 if you want to reach the destination faster. A bicycle rental kiosk is located between Terminals 2 and 4.
  4. It offers loads of photo opportunities. The dinosaurs make great backdrops and photo companions.
  5. It’s a good way to spend family time. When I was there, both adults and children were awed by the displays. Besides posing for photos, the attraction is also great for walking and cycling at your own pace.
  6. It has cycling facilities. From renting to parking, everything is taken care of for cyclists, including a self-service bicycle repair station where you can pump your tires or tighten screws. And if you like, you can even take a shower before heading home.
  7. It has a cafe. This is so thoughtful. The Hub and Spoke Cafe is just reward for that exercise from the dinosaur adventure.
  8. It provides an access to airport terminals. I can now cycle to the airport. Before this opened, it’s always a case of so near and yet so far. I have cycled on the outskirts of the airport but could not get to the terminals before.

If there are areas of improvement, my wish is for some form of interactivity with the exhibits instead of them being purely static. Another is for the path to be wider so that it’ll be safer for all.

Overall, this is a place that is worth visiting at least once. I can foresee myself heading there again and again.

Verdict

Quality of exhibits: 👍👍👍👍

Facilities: 👍👍👍👍👍

Experience: 👍👍👍👍

Value for time: 👍👍👍👍

Overall: 👍👍👍👍

Secretlab chair: Not just for gamers

Working from home means that I spend lots of time with my work chair. Over the years, I have worn out quite a few — from an Ikea version to one bought at a hefty price (for me at least) just a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately, the pricey chair did not last long before the hydraulic gave way. It will slide down after a short while of sitting. And it’s handle broke off easily one day.

Enough of the justification. I started keeping my eyes out for a good chair — one that is durable, comfortable and sturdy.

With more people working from home, my Facebook feeds began showing people with their Secretlab chair. It became something like a badge of honour for them.

I never considered Secretlab in the past because it was positioned as a gaming chair — and I am not a gamer. However, the folks who bought them are not gamers either.

So, I began reading up and was intrigued by how a Singapore company found a niche and is now a household name in gaming chair.

The price of its chair was close to my previous one and the reviews were generally good.

I decided to give it a shot and ordered one online with delivery more than six weeks’ away because of the demand.

The package promptly on the expected delivery date. It comes unassembled so some work is required to put the chair together.

Here’s why I enjoy the Secretlab chair buying experience:

  1. Pleasant ordering process: Secretlab has nailed it. The customer experience was great. Buying a chair at this price is a big investment for many so it helps that the site was informative, right down to choosing an appropriate chair based on height and weight, and stating up front the delivery timeline.
  2. Easy assembly: The chair came in a box with assembling instruction. For added convenience, there is an instructional video that shows step-by-step assembly. The caveat is that the parts are pretty heavy so it helps to have an additional pair of hands to put the chair together.
  3. Great final product: The chair is as I had imagined it to be. It feels sturdy, sits comfortably and gives me confidence that it’s doing to be durable — having a five-year warranty helps give peace of mind.

As with others, I posted about my purchase and the general response was “Wow!”. After a few weeks of using it, I would highly recommend it if you’re working from home and spend hours on your chair — even if you’re not a gamer. If you’re keen, order it from Secretlab.

Verdict

Price: 👍👍👍👍

Quality: 👍👍👍👍👍

Overall: 👍👍👍👍👍

This little (Thunlit) light of mine!

I recently needed a light for my room – a light bright enough to be used as a side table lamp yet dim enough to not disrupt me as I prepare for bed.

Thunlit LED Eye Protection Lamp

My parents chanced upon the Thulit LED Eye Protection Lamp on Shopee earlier last month and after reading through the reviews, they decided to purchase it for me. They shipped it over to where I’m at right now and boy, am I enjoying it!

The whole lamp is covered in white PU leather and has a very clean feel to it. The base of the lamp also has a small groove that allows one to rest your phone there. Weighing a mere 480g, this light-weight lamp is sturdy and can be tilted at different angles for optimal brightness. The fact that it can be shifted to any angle makes it very flexible and suitable for small rooms.  

With three colour temperatures, this lamp provides white light, warm light and a seemingly other white colour (supposedly different but I can’t tell the difference). My go-to colour is the warm light as it makes the place look very warm and homely at night.

This light illuminates the room pretty well. The touch button function also makes it easy to turn on-and-off. One downside to this model is that the touch function is slightly below the printed ‘on-off’ button on the base of the lamp. We actually thought that we had received a malfunctioned one when we first got it.

Warm light in a dark room

The model I have is the USB-plugged in version without an in-built battery. However, it suits my needs as I have a power socket near my bedside. I do believe there is a model that has an in-built battery though!

If you’re looking for a flexible, small bedside lamp, you may want to give this a shot. It is pretty inexpensive, is aesthetically-pleasing and brings light to the room (literally).

The Thunlit lamp can be folded for easy storage too!

Verdict

Price 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

Performance 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

You can check it out on Shopee here.

Slice of Love brownie: Rich and so intense

Brownie is a word that stirs the mind and dispatches saliva to the mouth. So far, most of the brownies I’ve tasted in Singapore and during my travels have been good.

Pair a hot slice with ice cream and all the good feelings are released. Problems and worries just disappear, if only for a while.

I was gifted with a slab of brownie, lovingly made by Slice of Love, a home-based bakery in Singapore. The Fudge Brownie made of dark chocolate was packed with walnuts.

My family, including our Filipino expat, tried it and the verdict was unanimous — it’s great. It’s so rich and intense that a slice was enough for us — and most of us have a sweet tooth!

Here are four reasons why we think it’s worth the calories

  1. Rich and dense. The moment we sunk our teeth into it, we could feel just how decadently rich it was. And it was so dense — packed with dark chocolate fudge — that we stopped at just one inch cube each. It just means that we get to enjoy it again and again.
  2. Great bite feel. Inside the brownie are chunks of walnut that gives a great complementary bite feel. The soft crunch and bitter taste go so well with the slight sweetness of the brownie.
  3. Loaded with antioxidants. We think that using dark chocolate is a masterstroke. Besides not being too sweet, dark chocolate also packs more antioxidants.
  4. Nice packaging. The packaging speaks volumes with its simplicity (without been overwhelmingly loud) and practicality (the slab fits nicely in the box). Having it in brown is a wonderful way of creating a sense of expectation of what’s inside without exposing too much.

This is one fudge brownie we’d go for if we feel the urge for something rich and intense, or as a gft to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. Actually, anytime is a good time to have a slice of this dessert.

Priced at S$37 (750g) and S$27 (480g), the fudge brownies are available for order at mysliceoflove@gmail.com.

Verdict: 👍👍👍👍👍