Of Mission Impossible, the SMRT, Cars & Shopping in Johor Premium Outlets

What a hectic Christmas weekend with Mission Impossible movie, the SMRT and shopping at the new Johor Premium Outlets, it is anything but boring.

Mission Impossible. That is the television series I always like from a child and updated thanks to Tom Cruise looking for some other vehicles after his dogfighting days in Top Gun. I think he did it well with the franchise with the latest installment called “Ghost Protocol”.  The series is a superbly smart take on the James Bond franchise where everything based on one man saving the world verus the IM theme of saying that nothing gets done without the work of the many, to achieve a single aim. Teamwork has always being the hallmark of the series and it is fun to watch how characters grate each other but overcome the problems to get something done together.  I think this is one area that SMRT, heck even the whole country should start to work on if we are to improve on things we already have done.

Honestly, I appreciate Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s take of our future in his book: Hard Truths. With the warnings of being complacent being the main theme of the book, it is really hard to explain why critical organisation such as the SMRT can fail so miserably when Quality Management and Control has been inculcated in our minds since the 1980’s (still remember Teamy the Bee?).  I don’t think the government is wholly to blame for this apart from the oversight of the LTA in monitoring the organisation that has our lifeline on the line (pardon the pun) but we sure do need a bit more of teamwork for the whole country, the companies involved and the small groups of people that is in our lives. It is bad that things are already breaking down. It is worse when misinformation from sites such as The Online Citizen (TOC) incites unnecessary venom on the SMRT management and perceived racist remarks.  I do think good comments that gives constructive ideas of improvement will bring about change.  Bad comments, or worse unsubstantiated misreports,  will only serve to shut out legitimate concerns out from the ears of people who have the power to change.  Who would listen to anyone who keep spewing nonsense?  We need teamwork to get things going. We need teamwork so everyone can feel that everyone’s efforts are appreciated.

So when it comes to the movie when everyone’s finger is pointing to everyone except oneself, it is good for some people to realise that things only work when everyone works together.  I guess that the system of meritocracy has to have its own marker or boundary. When one feels that one’s place in society is due to the work of oneself, then it is only fair to make the person to realise that without teachers, without the system, without the school, without the people running the school (including the lowly caretaker and cleaner), that person won’t get the place that he is in now.  We are now in that precarious position where the best thinks only the best for themselves, the have-nots are pointing fingers at the elites for making them not having anything and the newly minted PRs and Citizens, not knowing what is happening, as they got into this dream country that is turning out to be a nightmare state for them where racism is starting to come out just because some PRs don’t seemed to know what is socially acceptable in this country.

Teamwork guys…teamwork.  Everyone has to put in some effort to make sure everyone gets the best out of the future.

The thing about MI4 is that it is a nice film but unlike the first movie, it has started to rely on a lot of whiz-bangs on screen to tell the story.  I really like the first movie as it is intriguing, it makes one think, it keeps you guessing, the heart is always pounding not because of what special effect one is seeing but the possibility of failure for the wrong reasons.  But credit is due where it is given. The latest movie did not rely too much on CGI and have beautiful gadgets that makes the story a bit more kancheong. That’s nice. The visual effects do and will show what is possible in the future like the Heads Up Display in Cars where one can manipulate things in the air. Yes we saw that in Minority Report but it looks cooler when one is in the car.

If Hybrids and EVs look this great, I will change my petrol car right now.

About the car. Damn..the car. If BMW styling design can translate it to their REAL cars, that would add more eye candy to the plethora of Asian cars on Singapore roads. It is great that KIA got the designer from Audi (Peter Schreyer ) to redesign their cars and look what has Mr Schreyer got them to now. I am super glad that KIA cars are giving some much needed image overhaul of Korean cars partly because the COE is now at a ridiculous level and the only practical option is to get a Korean car that also looks good. I have heard that reliability has been better too. I can only know this when I see my uncle’s Forte Koupe if it can last the distance in another 2 years time.  I am not disparaging his choice and honestly the Koupe is something I would have bought if it has Honda mechanical parts. I really wish KIA can prove me wrong in this department (and Honda should start to do something to its cars too, judging from the design of the CR-Z hybrid car)

Hyundai has also got the hint and got a new designer, Christopher Chapman from BMW who has a hand in the concept car above.   I think it is a good move as the design on the new Elantra where everything is smooth and flowing but resembles more of a Honda Civic rather than having its own distinctive style. And looking at its i-class of vehicles with its fugly rear lights, I won’t make another glance until something dramatically beautiful turns up in their brochures.

The other alternative is the Volkswagen Polo. It is smaller than my Honda Jazz but in terms of reliability, I would pay a good price for a continental than an overpriced Kah alternative. Good thing that Volkswagen has decided to deal directly with the local customers and that itself has proven to be the antidote for the COE debacle that we are seeing now because it can offer a price that is “sane-r” without the need to pay for the Authorised Dealer’s (AD) bottomline.  Volkswagen name means people’s car but its prices in Singapore was anything but when it was in AD’s hands.

Contrast this with Kah with its old 2008 Jazz sitting still in storage because of its high price it got for its Jazz (my car price or Open Market Value is over SGD 20K).  Kah is slowly losing the business as it tries to hold a price premium for the Honda cars in this high COE world.  It is tougher when people now know Kah is selling them old 2008 manufactured Jazz.

For goodness sake, the 2nd Generation Jazz/Fit is now in its 2nd iteration now. Who wants to buy old look Jazz when the new look ones are driven around in our neighbours’ roads? If they don’t cut their losses now, no one would buy their cars when 3rd Generation Jazz comes a knocking a couple of year’s time judging by its popularity.  Owners will also not flock to their showrooms and get burned for getting old cars, like what my cousin Alvin has realised much to his dismay; so much so he has written to the papers to complain about this (http://www.straitstimes.com/STForum/Story/STIStory_745795.html).

All the talk about cars, I am glad I did not drive into Johor Bahru (new Johor or JB as we called it) which is in Malaysia. Why? Everyone seems to have the same idea of visiting the newly minted Johor Premium Outlets (JPO) causing a huge jam at the customs over at the 2nd link. Premium Outlets is a fancy name telling us mere mortals that we can now buy old stuff that the rich did not buy when it was overpriced. Yeah I know it sounds crude but fact of the matter is that the material used are much better and it last longer and at a price that is not going to force someone to murder a rich relative for inheritance just to pay for them.

So, we are glad we did not take the car as the bus lane was relatively free from cars (as the shoulder lane of the expressway was a bus lane) and we got through pretty quickly.  Still, I can get through faster if I use the MACS system (http://www.imi.gov.my/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=377&Itemid=75&lang=en). Will be doing that this week in JB when I go to City Square to do some errands for the SPIN Membership cards.

Like its counterparts in the rest of the world, the place is designed like a small town. It has eateries, cafes and of course the shops. It is located in JB so that we Singaporeans can spend our money elsewhere rather than the overpriced items we see in Orchard Road.  Even the NIKE Outlet in West Coast Plaza (formally known as Ginza Plaza) is still not as cheap for certain items. How I know? I got my street Nike shoes there at $70 3 years ago, I got the new Nike Capri II at $60.  A quick check on some shoes in the local Outlet, the cheapest is $80. As  you know it, I quickly bought it.

How we get to JPO. From 2nd link, look out for exit 304 after the second toll plaza then when you are near, you can see the sign (below) then use exit 302A. Keep left and get into the car park.

This is the sign you will see once you use exit no. 304 going towards Kulaijaya from the second link. Once you see this keep left and exit the expressway.

The streets of JPO. Some shops are not opened yet. Nice place to go once devoid of crowds

Long Queue outside coach and inside the shop just a handful of customers. Same goes with Burberry’s. Polo Ralph Lauren has not started business yet.

Ferragamo do not have a lot of customers which is just opposite Coach.

Some eateries. This one serves Crepe. It has a long queue too.

Starbucks. I know it sucks. Coffee Lover can go to Coffee Bean which is on the lower floor. Confused? Yes the whole place is built on two levels. One on top of the hill and the other at the foot of the hill.

Perhaps I should have just waited because down the row of shop fronts is the Skechers sports shoes. Yes, they primarily do sports shoes for ladies and the design shows. I understand that they do have shoes for guys but the image that it is a ladies sports shoes maker get stuck since it was introduced in the late 90s in Singapore. So back to buying shoes, I was quite set to get the fit flop street shoes after wearing the superb sandals wife bought for me a year plus ago mainly because the thick soles do make walking very comfortable and it helps with my reconstructed knee. I am not going to go through another 12k worth of surgery so getting a $200 shoe seems like a good idea.  And the extra height that goes with the shoe? Priceless.

The Fit Flop Kooper Leather Shoes for Men.

Nike Capri II Velvet Brown. Actually not a lot of velvet lah at MYR 149 or SGD60

But the price is not cheap. The Fit Flop website sells this at GBP 66.50  or SGD 135 and plus the associated transportation cost, it is around SGD200. Besides, the range in Singapore is not huge too and the shoe price quoted above is discounted. Not cheap. So when I see that JPO have Skechers, I basically kick myself for getting the Capri first as I could have saved SGD60. Oh well…

So what is so good about the Skechers?  Well, it is the true alternative to the Fit Flop as it has the thick, shock absorbing soles for reduction in impact on feet and knees. It is more curved so as to create micro imbalances so you are forcing the body to adjust itself even while standing up. The marketing says burn more calories lah, better standing and walking posture lah blah blah blah…but in the end, to me at least, it is comfortable, my knees not making noise (literally) and makes me taller (haaa.). Of course when it comes to shopping, the price is the deal maker. How much does it cost? MYR 219 or SGD 89. Not bad…not bad at all considering the same would have cost me above SGD120 in the Compass Point store.  However I also know of people who got injured because of these shoes.  The only way to know if the shoes are of any good is to buy one and wear it as per normal shoes.  Can read more about it here: http://thegloss.com/fashion/do-skechers-shape-ups-really-work/ and http://mightyreview.blogspot.com/2010/02/skechers-shape-ups-shoes-fun-but-get.html.

The Skecher Shape Up Biathlon.

So is JPO worth going? I would say again, it depends on what you are getting. I think for luggages and leather goods, there isn’t much differences or the savings is nothing to shout about. If it is, I would have seen more shopping bags coming out of Burberry’s and Coach stores. As for the sports shoes, generally they are ok priced but with Army giving me money every year to buy on army stuff and the latest Asics is now in the list, the motivation is not as strong. As for shops such as Lacoste, my wife has some hard time finding sizes and the price of a Polo T is around SGD100 anyways so the girls may appreciate the cheaper price?.

There is also Cotton On which is in some ways cheaper than Singapore. Timberland shoe price is still on the higher side depending on models as well but they are priced to clear (but not at the price I am expecting for me to buy them to clear their stocks). In the end, it is really the model, size, design that will determine if the price is very much cheaper than what one would prefer to pay. Perhaps I would say, it is the hunt for the best bargain that will make one happy from the experience. I for one got what I wanted at a cheaper price, saving perhaps $50-$70 off the normal price if I got them when the goods are in season.

Would I go again? Perhaps as a side entertainment after doing shots, going to some place to enjoy good food and/or after pumping petrol.

More on JPO:




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