Funan DigitaLife Mall’s rebirth. What’s the big deal? Something you’ll want to think about.

A new mall in Singapore, different from the rest

So what’s the big deal? I’ll give you something to ponder further down in the post but first a little bit about why I even know about this mall.

Funan DIgitaLife mall WAS my go to mall (almost the whole mall was geared towards IT stuff) when I wanted anything electronic (computers, console gaming, camera gear etc). It is a far more “upscale” and the shops were less controversial than its’ main rival Sim Lim Square (I do buy pc parts from shops in Sim Lim Square since you’d be hard pressed to find parts or repair shops in Funan and not all shops are shady. Nowadays it’s pretty much cleaned up, I’m still cautious in there though. Funan was demolished in 2016 and just reopened at the end of June 2019. It was slated to open in 2020. So yeah, I was excited to go stomping in my old IT haunt!

Artistically, I found it very impressive . The color palette used is quite obvious, you can see it everywhere, starting from the outside. The earthy tones are nice and fit their theme but too dim for my liking. To break the usual ho hum square-ish mall design, the interior incorporates a lot of angles, quite stylish and interesting to look at. The outside still looks like a boring rectangle with a few angle elements and the use of color and reflections at one entrance make it a bit more interesting. Since the opening, I’ve been to Funan twice, the first to check it out and the second to buy a Macbook. There’s just something here that bugs me, other than my first reaction of, “wow it’s dim in here,” when I first entered the premises. Something more than my saltiness at the sheer number of eateries, non IT shops and clothing shops. Gone is Funan the Digitalife Mall. Damn it, arrrgh! I’m guessing that IT related shops account for less than 1/4 of the shops here. In their defense, they are not marketing the mall as an IT mall anymore. Instead, it is a mall with shops “clustered around six passion themes Tech, Craft, Play, Fit, Chic and Taste.” So what else is in here that wasn’t before? How about a huge gym, movie theaters, a climbing wall, lots more eateries (of which there’s Carl’s Jr. and Little Caesars), a media studio, local brand fashion stores and a shop that sells fold up bicycles. I think those bicycles look pretty cool and on top of that, you can ride your bike through the mall albeit only on the main floor, only between certain times of the day and at a max speed of 10km/h. Now that’s gotta be a first, well it is for me, anyways. Noticeably gone is the local, big name IT retailer, Challenger, I guess it’s because Funan is to “posh” now for the likes of the budget friendly, general IT shops like Challenger. Near the center, on the main floor, is a flight of stairs that has areas for people to sit and hang out on, which I found weird and interesting at the same time. Hopefully this will free up tables in the multitude of eateries in the building.

I gotta admit, I got so bothered by this new mall in Singapore that I had to Google it and found some interesting yet concerning things. First things first, I’m going to express my opinions and what I’ve experienced, I’m in no way condoning or trash talking anyone or any organization. The words in quotes are from Funan’s Press Release pdf. Here are the links to the Funan’s website: www.funan.com.sg and the press release pdf that I came across in my search for info: https://www.capitaland.com/content/dam/capitaland-newsroom/International/2019/jun/capitaland-unveils-reimagined-funan/190628_News%20Release_CapitaLand%20unveils%20reimagined%20Funan.pdf

The really cool things I found in the pdf but didn’t see or get to use in the mall are:
1) VR pods for movies and games
2) 24h drive through to support the online shoppers
3) E-paying service at the food court accepting cryptocurrencies (this may not be so cool after reading the points in the “NOT COOL” section below)
4) Food ordering through Facebook Messenger
5) “Using one of the about 40 smart directories in Funan, shoppers can browse and search for trending merchandise before mapping the shortest route possible to reach a store with the wayfinding system”
6) “By year-end, shoppers can expect a robot-enabled handsfree shopping and 24/7 click-and-collect drive-through service”
7) The handful of parking spots you can reserve via the mall’s app.
8) Roof top urban farm
9) “Unmanned futsal facility”
10) “Dedicated Bicycle Hub with end-of-trip amenities”

The NOT COOL things (in my opinion) are:
1) “video analytics to measure and analyse footfall throughout the mall and entering each store”
2) “In-store smart terminals further capture transaction data so that tenants can use the analytics to refine their offerings and enhance customer experiences”
3) “smart directories can also make product recommendations based on the shopper’s demographic profile”

So it sounds to me, like as soon as people are picked up on camera, they are profiled and followed by someone/software and that is stored somewhere accessible by someone(s) so that the data can be shared. Admittedly, shared (in a repackeged form) on a public display and to their tenants as detailed reports on shoppers’ choice of store(s), purchases and movement patterns? So how am I supposed to know that the data that’s been captured of or about me isn’t being shared/sold anywhere else and only used for what they say they’ll use it for? How does the smart directory get my demographic profile in the first place?! This is a lot of surveillance going on which raises privacy issues. If you’re the sort who uses crypto currencies for the anonymity, well, if you use it in Funan, you won’t be so anonymous anymore. Couple all this data with the mandatory finger printing going on when you enter and exit customs/immigration at many airports these days a very detailed report can be compiled very quickly by many people/organizations. I can see the point for surveillance as a security measure but to track people and profile them? That seems excessive and I’m pretty sure the majority of people entering Funan do not know they are being surveilled to this extent.

Yesterday, I went to visit Funan Mall just to get some imagery for this post and to see if I could find any of the surveillance, I mean, video analytics cameras. I couldn’t. I did find the facial recognition devices use to access the other areas of the building like the office towers and serviced apartments though. Maybe I’ve just interpreted things very badly and this may all be just fluff, like “who cares kinda stuff” but I really think that we all should care, or at least give a reasonable amount of consideration to. At least consider our willingness to wantonly give this type of access to our personal habits, to a shopping mall no less. How about you? How would you feel if a mall in your area did this? How would you feel if all malls started doing this?

As I was finishing up this post it occurred to me that I watched how data can be used to get sales. I watch this happen on Harajuku’s main shopping street (in Japan) but without the high tech. As I was standing on a corner waiting for my “girls” to finish shopping at one shop, I watched these guys holding binders with images of their wares (basketball related stuff like shoes, jersey’s etc). There were at least 3 of them walking around within a block or two of their shop. Every now and then they would stop a target that they picked out of the crowd (acquiring visual data etc) and try to peddle their wares and at the same time herding them towards their shop. At times they got grabby too. I just pictured myself walking into Funan and as I pass a shop, a sales rep runs out and tells me of a deal “just for me” or something like that, lol. OR if you have the mall’s app, you’ll start getting a barrage of notifications informing you of deals and discounts. Since it’s so easy here in Singapore to pay using your phone, this could be bad, very bad for impulse buyers like me. Food for thought…

All images used in this post were shot using my Samsung Note 8. Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

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A couple hours at the Ceking Rice Terrace

We visited the Ceking Rice Terrace in Bali, Indonesia on our second day in Bali. Now I have to admit, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about going to a rice paddy farm. I mean, not having been to one before, how interesting could it be, right? Boy, am I happy to be wrong!

On the drive in, I began to see the beauty. The rice terrace was in sort of a large ravine, below street level. The golden rice plants really stood out from the surrounding greenery. As we neared the ‘tourist’ area, our driver rolled down the window and spoke with the ticket agent and told us the price, I wasn’t really paying attention, too busy looking for spots to take some photos but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t unreasonable (no one complained about it, haha). This area is just a long stretch of road with souvenir shops and eateries on both sides of the street. To get to the rice fields you had to find the staircase down and fortunately for us, our driver dropped us right in front of it. There was a small sign indicating the entrance but it could easily be missed because if you look down over the railing (in between the shop houses), you’ll just see more shops or eateries. Some have zig zagging paths downwards seemingly into the terrace but they could very easily lead you somewhere like a short rice paddy field or a plank suspended by two tall palm trees (that you can pay to swing on) or a hidden “coffee shop”. Oh, some have a “selfie spot” too so keep an eye out for those as well (they might ‘require’ a donation to use though).

It was starting to drizzle so we went into the shops to look at stuff. There were a lot of local arts and crafts on display as well as the usual touristy souvenirs. Our driver, again, indicated that this area is cheaper than in town and that we should bargain for better pricing. This area’s terraces were more green than gold so I decided to walk a couple blocks back the way we came in to take photos of the golden rice fields, as my family went shopping. At the check point, where we paid the entrance fee, is where the sidewalk ended so I was walking on the street for a bit. Not an issue as the drivers did very well to avoid hitting me. I noticed there were people who looked like tourists in these rice fields so there was an entrance somewhere but unsure of the weather and not wanting to go shot less,  I decided not to take any time to find it. I found a spot along the street, in a building under construction and began taking pictures (I asked the workers in there for permission first, of course). I got some shots I was happy with so i made my way back. At the check point, I just showed my ticket to the ‘guard’ who nodded and I walked back to meet my family. Here’s some shots:

The drizzling had stopped a bit earlier, so down we went zig zagging down the path until it started to get muddy and that pretty much ended our journey into the rice fields. I mean I could have kept going and take photos of other tourists, but i don’t find that fun. So we went to hang out at one of the coffee shops, we picked one that wasn’t crowded and they were more than happy to let me set up for some family shots, even helping me move a table and some chairs! My younger daughter started making a small fuss near the entrance while my older daughter was like “aww cooool!” so I walked over to check it out and saw this:

It may not look big in the photo but it was big enough that when I saw it, I said it was fake. The relief on my younger kid’s face didn’t last too long as the waitress started laughing and said it was real and that there were a lot below in the rice fields. That prompted my older daughter to want to find some but was reminded by my wife about her pretty white sandals. Darn it. So we sat back down and my kids started showing me the loot that they had scored and the “cool” shop that they have to go back to because they saw some other loot that they’ve decided that they were going back to buy.  I guess I should find comfort in the thought that they at least take the time to think about their purchases, sigh. Plus it all goes back to the local artists so it’s great!

Oh, before I forget, after going down the first flight of steps to the shops just below street level, then a short zig zag down a path to the actual start of the path into the rice terraces, there is a person sitting behind a makeshift table collecting a donation based entrance fee.  According to our driver, the rice farmers are paid by the shop keepers on the street to keep the farms going so this “by donation” entrance fee probably goes directly to the farmers. Overall, I had a good time at the Ceking Rice Terrace and am glad that I got to experience it. Sitting in a coffee shop with an ice cold local beer over looking the rice terrace offers a certain tranquility that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Well worth the trip, in our opinions! Here’s some shots from the coffee shop:

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

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