Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Changi Point revisited

Changi beach on New Year/s Eve, late afternoon. Weather (though the sky was overcast)  was perfect for a leisurely walk.No crowds here, except for one or two couples, and a few family outings. The crowds were at the Village food centre, long queue at the nasi lemak store, the outermost stall facing the row of shops. The other one was still setting up. Chicken wings not fried yet :)
CHANGI Point is very different from the one I knew as a child  where there were lots of canvas deck chairs for you to sit as you drink your Green Spot (or Sinalco?) and gaze out to sea.  However, it is not too different from my teenage memories. Especially the bus terminus which has been at the exact spot since time immemorial. And if I am not wrong, the same pavement stones skirting one end of the terminus!The shops have retained their flavours too.

There was a  fishery station or something by the Primary Production Deparatment which is now gone from the spot. The link bridge is still there. The waters are much cleaner than what I remember. The beach  as well. The new (new to me, but has been around for some time) boardwalk is great!

The old jetty has of course, been spruced up years ago. You can catch a boat to Pulau Ubin, and if you have your passport with you, to Pengerang for seafood :)

I still like Changi and prefer it to the East Coast Park (though of course, East Coast Park is very nice too.) In my childhood days, the beach at Bedok was a great contender to Changi, as I remember we could walk far out into the sea during low tide and stand among its corals and watch tiny waves lapping by our feet. There were nice beaches at Pasir Ris and Pasir Panjang too, but the beach we visited most during my childhood was Changi Point.

Postnote: A little trivia on the area, which I got from the NetOriginally called Tanjung Rusa in the 1600s, the name was later changed to Tanjung Changi two centuries later. The area was a low-lying mangrove swamp and the name Changi most likely came from changi ular, a climbing shrub, or from a tree called chengai. Even as late as the 1900s, tigers came to Changi Hill to deliver their cubs. This hill was totally flattened to provide the soil for reclamation that created the land on which Changi Airport is built.

Nice  stone benches instead of those old canvas deck chairs of my childhood. I vote Changi as the No. 1 beach in Singapore.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Wet, wet, wet

Snowy scene through the window of bus 143. Actually it was just rain lashing at the window pane. I was lucky enough to get the seat by the window.
Even Chinatown, which was not dolled up for Christmas, gets a Christmasy feel because of the rain. I don;t know whose face was reflected on the top right hand corner of the window pane.. Probably the girl behind my seat? Didn't see it till now. Interesting...
T'WAS a very wet Boxing Day. But if you are not getting off the bus, it is a great way to see the Christmas sights along Orchard Road. So I sat tight... Didn't want to get my socks and shoes wet, you know :)

The Saturday after Boxing Day wasn't so rainy, but there was front page news of the flood in Malaysia. The young counter girl at Cold Storage where I bought my papers, pointed at the picture on the page and exclaimed, "Oh no, it's flooded now. That's my hometown!". She was very worried but mastered a smile for me when she gave me the change.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

T'was the week before Christmas: A lobster's adventure

T'WAS the week before Christmas that the little lobster decided to escape from the tyranny of the catfish. It scampered all the way from the tank to the bathroom whereby a blood curdling scream was heard.

"Ma'am! Ma'am! Big scorpion!" Maria screamed. frantically looking for the Bygone.

The "big scorpion" was gingerly lifted by its claw and released back into the tank.

A little while later, the family decided to check on the lobster again, but couldn't find it anywhere, not even under the conch shell where it usually resided, out of harm's way.

A bit of red stuff was sticking out from the catfish's mouth. Its stomach was peculiarly shaped too, sort of bloated and pointy at places.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Nice long walk and Capitol revisited

Two chi lins
 guarding the roof top of a building at South Bridge Road. The faithful lions, custodians of the past, haave weathered all sorts of elements -- and gathering storm clouds are sup, sup sui (minor obstacles in Cantonese.)

And another one on the next building.
TOOK a walk  from Chinatown to Raffles City. I owe myself a treat after working so hard for the year, so I took a few days off.

After passing rows and rows of my favourite shophouses, I eventually reached Stamford Road.

 I haven't seen the old Capitol for some time. But it was different from what I saw in 2013 The entire building has been given a white wash.

And I noticed something else which I have completely missed before, even when it was still a cinema.

Capitol, dressed in snowy white. Pic: 22 Dec 2014.
Yes those old lamp posts! I am not sure they are originals of the era the building was erected (it was completed in 1930) but they were sure different from the modern ones across Stamford Road, at the SMU side.
See the lamp post with the really big round bulb? And yes, this building, Stamford House (1904), has those nice green balustrades like those of Raffles Hotel.
The bus stop was exactly where I remember it, even when I was a kid. There was a restaurant behind this bus stop selling Ipoh hor fun. I think it had wooden swing doors nut I can't remember its name.
Do you remember the shops along this corridor towards Capitol? Swee Lee Music used to be there. And through the eras, was there a dentist there too? And the Singapore Dispensary?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Those old bus rides again

Clack, clack, clack, ticket please....
DO you remember how you rolled up your bus tickets and stuck them between the metal strip and the wooden back of the seat in front of you? Your ticket stub won't be the only one stuck there. Other bored passengers may decide to scratch stuffs like "I. T. A. L. Y." on the wooden back. Some may doze off only to be woken up by the bus conductor rattling his ticket puncher on the back of your seat or the metal railing to signal either bus stopping or bus moving. (I was reminded of this by fellow blogger, Street Scenes of Singapore.)

Or it could be the bus inspector who wanted to wake you up and inspect your ticket. You would then wake up and show him your ticket. Inspector then said you have not paid enough fare. You then explained that you have overslept and missed your bus stop... and hurriedly alight at the next bus stop.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Goat's head and bri-ia-a-ak

You need to press once at the red spot
 (no need to press until shiok)
and it would go "br-riing".

WAS sitting in a double-decker yesterday, on my way to Orchard Road to soak in the Christmas decorations. For some reason, I recalled what a Pre-U friend recounted. She has encountered a  very conscentious bus conductor who shouted "Br-i-a-a-a-k" (brake!) at every stop, then "goats-head" (go ahead) when all the passengers have alighted.

The driver wasn't so great, she continued, because each time the conductor shouted "br-i-a-a-a-k", he would do an emergency brake and send everyone plunging forward.. My friend finally figured out why this conductor was going on so (after going with the flow up and down the bus aisle a few times) -- the stop bell wasn't working so each time a passenger indicated that he was going to alight, he would do his "br-i-a--a-AK!" thing. The sustained "br-r-r-r" prelude was supposed to give the driver some warning but perhaps not enough. Hence another jerky stop.

Just an aside: Talking about emergency brake, my driving instructor used to tell me that it would only be a good "brake" if all those iron poles he stored behind in the boot (for practising parallel parking), rolled about and "clanged" against each other loudly. Otherwise, I wouldn't have executed a good emergency brake. Of course, I am talking about an era which was quite long ago, I seem to hear that no poles are needed these days for practising parking.

And of course too, stop bells (or rather buttons, as they don't go ding-dong any more) work very well these days. There being no bus conductors today, I can't imagine passengers having to shout "br-i-a-A-AK" for themselves when they want to alight.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Ride the waves

Clifford Pier (the white low lying building with the tirangular pink roof) looks almost the same as I knew it from this angle. So happy to go on a river taxi ride with my friend early this year. The weather was perfect and there were no irritating taped commentaries like those rides for tourists. We took the taxi from Jiak Kim to Marina Bay Sands, and then back again to Jiak Kim.
MY DAD had a rather adventurous spirit. One day, as we were walking past Clifford Pier (it might be a Sunday afternoon, I couldn't really remember), he suddenly had a brainwave and wanted to take a sampan all the way to Kallang Park.

We were stepping onto the boat when mum noticed that there were ominous black clouds in the horizon, where presumably, the sampan man would be rowing towards. Dad poohed-poohed away her concerns and we hopped on board.  Sure enough, just as we were in the middle of the sea, little raindrops began to fall. The waves were rocking the little sampan quite a bit.

Passing cloud, Dad said. But the raindrops got bigger. Mum insisted that we turn back. The sampan man said we would be reaching Kallang Park soon. But Mum was petrified and told the sampan man to row towards the nearest land and let us out. Sampan man said the nearest land would be Kallang Park.

So since this boat ride, each time Dad suggested another sampan ride, Mum would give a very firm NO.

View from Marina Bay.

Interesting sights from a different perspective. Also brought back some memories for my friend. She remembered that one of her first jobs upon getting her A levels, was to work for a little Chinese company with office in one of the godowns along Singapore River. She was doing accounts for the company. The pay was miserly. The hours were long.  The boss was grumpy and naggy. And she had to climb this narrow wooden staircase up and down several times in a day.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Old gables II

"Dragon" gables of the old Thong Chai Building, Eu Tong Seng  Street. Picture taken September 2014.
HOW can I miss blogging about these famous gables of the old Thong Chai Buiilding of Chinatown? Instead of straight slopes, these gables have wavy slopes. (Besides spiral staircases, one of my other fond subjects is gables.)

The Thong Chai gables belong to three main halls, built in the Southern Chinese architecture style. Constructed in 1892, the curvy gables were not characteristic of the style (so I read from the write-up in Wikipedia). But I like to think that they depict the serpentine body of the dragon (like the dragon kiln?). Just my guess and not based on any in-depth study of architecture and culture :)

The building's former address was 3, Wayang Street which had disappeared from present day Singapore Street Directory.

Meet you at the "calculator building"

Still a very outstanding building. 
My trusted Sharp calculator (given  to me by a former colleague).
No need battery -- works using solar energy. Hi-tech, eh?
 IT is an impressive landmark by any name. The OCBC building at Chulia Street was nicknamed "calculator building" when it was the highest building during the era (the 52-storey skyscraper was completed in 1976).

The nickname is certainly apt. It is indeed shaped (with buttons to boot) like one of those calculators which were so handy in those days -- when handphones were not around (and even when they came into the scene, the early day handphones, though the size of an elephant tusk, did not have such features).

And OCBC being a bank, there must have been a lot of calculating going on. So my friends and I agreed wholeheartedly that the nickname suits the building to a T. I haven't gone into the building too many times though -- only once when I met a friend there who was working as a public relations officer at the bank..

Taken from North Bridge Road. 

View from a backlane off North Bridge Road. 

Former OCBC Bank at South Bridge Road.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Siakson Spiral

Siakson Buidling, next to Bras Basah Complex.
THIS spiral staircase has always held a lot of charm for me. It has always captured my attention each time I passed by it in the bus to town. It is part of the Siakson Building on 3 Miller Street.I wish I know how Miller Street got its name. The earliest Eurasian enclave was around the area -- Waterloo Street, Bras Basah Road and Middle Road. So it could be named after an Eurasian. ( Cashin Street nearby, was named after the first Eurasian millionaire in Singapore, Mr E Cashin.who started his career as a lawyer's clerk.) I know of a few Eurasian friends with the surname, Miller. This is just my conjecture of course as I couldn't find any information on Miller Street -- yet.

Just an aside, there was a song popular in the 30s and 40s, made popular again by Manhattan Transfers in the 70s, called On a Little Street in Singapore. One of the singers who sang it was Glen Miller. But of course, it couldn't possibly be named after Glen Miller. After all, Frank Sinatra sang it too,and the street wasn't named "Sinatra". But Miller Street is indeed a "little street".

Anyway, I would not have done justice to myself, my ramblings and pictures on spiral staircases, if I did not include this spiral staircase at Siakson Building (which I have never stepped into and got myself a coach tour, by the way).

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Chinatown, where seniors are happiest

My brother told me of a survey he read somewhere, that senior citizens are happiest at Chinatown. I couldn't agree more. It's a place where old timers do not feel displaced. It's a place where they can still sit around and stare into space (if they so wish, with no one giving them queer second looks). And it's a place where they can sit around and yak -- and put their feet up, fiddling their toes.

The place always makes me happy, whatever time of the day. On weekdays, the buzz of office workers at lunchtime gives the place an extra breadth of vitality (not that it is lacking). The hustle and bustle is what I like about the place too.

Here are more photographs which I hope, capture some snippets of life in Chinatown.
Sorry, just got to have this picture in this post again. My favourite -- Trengganu Street  intersecting at Smith Street, 2 March 2013, 5.15pm. 
With so many yummy eateries in Chinatown, it isn't a wonder why there's a Cooks' Association here. Wonder whether they exchange recipes :)
The iconic 1939 building at Teck Lim Road which brought many to tears when the old coffee shop had to move out.

Coffee shop at Keong Saik Road corner. Good place to sit and watch the buzz.
Old lady who asked me for directions to Amoy  Street at the Ang Siang Hill Park.
The board walk at Ang Siang Hill Park offers good
respite from the heat and crowds.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Fatman of Whampoa West

Found, near Boon Keng MRT. Pics taken by Walter Lo, 18 August 2014. .
I AM quite sure this was the old Fatman of Jalan Besar. It's now at Whampoa West. Established since 1955, the signboard says. The cigar is still hanging from his lips... and the prominent paunch hasn't shrunk an inch.The font for the logo was exactly how I remember it -- fat font (aptly so).

Watch this space again please, as I will try to get the history of this tailor :)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

In search of 'Fatman'

Fernloft Hostel is now where Fatman used to be at Jalan Besar. Or could Fatman be lurking somewhere inside the hostel...Could I have missed this "fat" signboard?
DO you remember seeing this very well groomed gentleman in full suit with a cigar hanging at his lips, gracing the facade of an old shophouse along Jalan Besar? This profile with the prominent paunch, belonged to a logo used by a tailor on his signboard. It certainly left a big impression in my memories of the 70s and 80s -- when I sat in the bus going to town, looking out of the window.

The signboard was there for the longest time and I always looked out for it as it meant that my bus would soon be reaching Bras Basah Road where I would alight to browse at the row of shophouses there selling used school textbooks, silver jewellery, sports goods and other interesting stuffs. I ceased to look out for Fatman when I no longer take that bus route.

Anyway, recently I Googled "Fatman Tailor Singapore" and Fatman Singapore Gents Wear appeared -- one with address along Jalan Besar, No. 257; and one at 34 Whampoa West. I checked out the Jalan Besar address and found that the unit is now Fernloft Hostel. Couldn't find the Fatman signboard anywhere.

I cannot be sure that the one which used to occupy this unit was the same Fatman of yore though. Haven't checked out the Whampoa West address yet. Watch this space :)
Thai Sun Pawnshop is another landmark from my childhood days which remains today at Jalan Besar. I am going to find my Fatman... I am quite sure it's the same one, now at Whampoa West.

Friday, 1 August 2014

LKF, the tireless axe

Leung Kai Fook Building at No. 84 South Bridge Road.

LEUNG Kai Fook was an extremely familiar name in my childhood days. It cropped up very often in conversations between Mum and Dad. Not sure why. Perhaps it was the name of the company marketing the Axe brand of medicinal oil that was widely used then (and even now). And perhaps my parents admired the man behind the oil -- a Mr Leung Yun Chee (c1900 to 1971) for his entrepreneurial spirit. Mr Leung was from Shunde, China. He came to Singapore in 1922 -- a manager with a silk company before running his own medicinal business. Mr Leung also started the Shin Min Daily News in 1967 (which was sold to SPH some 20 years later).

The smell of the oil was pervasive in my childhood days. Mum had headache quite often... and you can always smell it when you are in the bus. Someone seated way behind at the back was probably carsick and would be dabbing a knotted handkerchief soaked with the oil on the nose. Even today, I could smell it when I went on bus rides.

But it was a little mystery to me why the company was called Leung Kai Fook and not Leung Yun Chee -- till I read the history on the company's website. Kai Fook was the name of his old silk shop in Shanghai. He added his surname to it when he changed it to a drug store.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Metro of High Street

The Treasury now stands at where the first Metro store was in Singapore, in High Street. Pic taken 29 July 2014.
I have my LDDS (Literary, Debating and Drama Society) teacher to thank for my first visit to Metro, the department store. The teacher wanted all of us to get a black t-shirt for the "drama" part in the society I joined during secondary school.

So, my very fashionable friend said we should all go to Metro to get a black t-shirt. Metro in the late 60s was still in High Street -- No. 72, a unit along a row of old shophouses. I remember climbing up a narrow staircase to the upper floor where apparels were displayed in glass cases as well as racks.

After a whole heap of black t-shirts were laid out on the glass shelves by a very helpful salesgirl for us to select, my friend eventually selected a Ladybird black t-shirt -- and also got a stylish orange-green striped t-shirt.

Did anybody know that Ladybird t-shirts were extremely expensive (in my eyes)? Just the black t-shirt almost busted my entire POSB account. So this black t-shirt was a valued item for the rest of my secondary school days.

But I did get to buy a lot of stuff from Metro as I progressed in age. In the earlier days when it was still in High Street, I managed to buy one more t-shirt from there -- a velvety lemon yellow one. And still later in my working life, many dresses and shoes. My favourite brand was Chocolate. This brand had a lot of clothes which suited my style -- and not that terribly expensive :)

Friday, 25 July 2014

Kian Hua Hotel: Postcard from the past

This old picture taken in 1982, opens a window to Kian Hua Hotel. The little alley (most likely Lorong Mandai, now expunged) off Bencoolen Street led into a community, a village of sorts. The hotel has gone but the building (81, Bencoolen Street)is still standing. 

Before development took plakce at Bencoolen Street, there was also Nam Hai Hotel, the building was not as "grand" as Kian Hua Hotel though. Today, there are still a lot of hotels along Bencoolen Street. 

Monday, 9 June 2014

Findings at a cul de sac

Sian Teck Tng at the end of Cuppage Road.
SOMEHOW, I never knew the existence of this nice Chinese building (built in 1883) at the cul de sac of Cuppage Road -- though I have been to Centrepoint numerous times. (Centrepoint is just a building away.)

According to this blog, the building, Sian Teck Tng, was built for widows and orphans --  a vegetarian house. When I was there on a Saturday afternoon (trying to take some pictures of the end wall of Cuppage Terrace) its front doors were closed, though the front gate was thrown wide open. So I didn't have the opportunity to nose around the interior -- or partake in any free vegetarian meals :)

You can also read about this temple by The Intercontinental Gardener.
Statue of Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) in the front garden.
It would house some inner courtyards, judging by the gables.
Incense lit at the front. 
Red pomegranates in abundance.
Looking through the front gate (into Cuppage Road), from the garden.
A wall mural at the gate depicting the Eight Immortals. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Ways to keep your socks up

WHEN we were kids, even getting new socks was a luxury. Though it wasn't often that we got new socks, we didn't have to "darn socks" as often described in Enid Blyton's books (we kept wondering what that was). Socks were hardy in those days (and present days too, I suppose) -- so we seldom had to mend holes. But what usually gave way was the elasticity at the legs so that they drooped further and further down to the ankles and even further as the day passed. So that when the bell rang for home, you found your socks had slipped right down, bunching on the in soles of your shoes. Hmm, not good.

An ingenious idea was to use a rubber band to keep the socks up. You then fold the flappy end over the rubber band to hide it. But it got painful after a while as the rubber band bit into your flesh. (There was a myth during my school days that rubber bands sucked blood.)

Another less painful way -- you roll the loose ends of your socks (like rolling Swiss rolls)  all the way down to almost the ankle So the "roll" should just sit on top of the heels of your shoes. So "stylo". This worked only if the elasticity wasn't totally non-existent.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Memories of Kapok

D Chord, my favourite.
THE guitar was one of the first instruments I learnt to play from friends. Before I progressed to chords, I was just picking out tunes. I can play by ear, so I could pick out tunes quick easily. But it wasn't fun enough doing just that. And my friend, Margaret, could strum quite well.

She showed me a song book from the "100 songs" series -- you know, those thick books with lyrics and chords, and charts at the back?

"OK, just learn these chords first, C, D, G and A. Ok, G7 too. Good chord. Might as well learn A7, D7 and C7."

So I did. My first guitar was a "Kapok" from the Chinese Emporium. This is a Chinese brand originating from Guangzhou which has been around since 1957.  (When I started work, I splurged on a Yamaha classical guitar and took proper lessons. My teacher vomited blood over my rhythm and timing. But hey, I could play half of Romance de Amor and almost progressed to Classical Gas and Deer Hunter before I stopped.)

Anyway, back to those early lessons by my good friend, Margaret -- "You strum, strum, strum... then until here (she pointed to the place on the page of the song book) you change chord. Then strum, strum, strum...."

Granite or concrete "seats" at each of the gate pillars. These were
 common for houses, especially terraced ones built in the 50s and 60s.
It was a very truncated way of playing. And I didn't quite dare to sit on the "stone" (there were two rectangular granites at each end of the gate) outside the house -- and strum. Margaret used to do that each time she came to visit with her guitar (her brother's actually) -- her long hair falling over the guitar, and her bell bottomed legs crossed.

What were those stone seats for, if not for sitting on and strumming on the guitar in the evening -- and looking cool. All teenagers in the 70's seemed to be able to do that.

An afternote on the Kapok -- it was kaput for my Kapok when my brother used it to swing at a bully tom cat which chased our kitty into the house through the window -- two fluffed-out fur balls. A few pegs went flying as the guitar smashed against the window grills, narrowly missing the errant tom cat.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Old gables

Gables of Pahang Street. Amost "house of seven gables" -- short of one. 
Gable walls at Arab Street.
Pahang Street.
WHEN I first read "The House of Seven Gables", I was wondering what those were. It's the portion of the wall exposed, shaped by the roof -- so usually it is triangular in shape. I like those old gables in Singapore. Those retaining old markings of the next building (that is no longer around) could be rather interesting. Or those with a little motif just below the tip of the triangle -- or the "knob" that you see in old Chinese buildings -- like the one in the picture shown below:
Bali Lane.

 Gable wall at Amoy Street. Interesting how the markings on the wall denote separate floors of the building. These markings could have belonged to the next unit which was torn down.

In the pink. Armenian Street. 
Serangoon Garden Way.
I wonder if anyone (in my era) can remember those toy building bricks. They were not at all like the Lego sets of today. Each set came with ready made windows (with green or red cellophane window panes), balustrades... and yes, gables. The pieces were made of light wood. When the house was completed, it looked like a simple version of this one at Brighton Crescent.
Bt Pasoh.

Gables with spiral staircases  of shophouses (backview) at Amoy Street.
Adis Road. Picture: 1982.
Not sure architecturally, this is considered a "gable".  This is a wall of the communal centre of the Sri Krishna Temple at Waterloo Street, added  in 2002. The temple itself was erected in the 1870s when there was a large community of Hindus in the area. It started the shrine of Sri Vigneshwara and Sri Hanuman at the foot of a banyan tree. Later, the image of Lord Krishna was added. (Lord Krishna is the ninth incarnation of Vishnu). 
Gable wall of a row of shophouses as seen from the busy Temple Street.  Picture taken: in April 2013.

A very cheerful gable wall, if I may say so, belonging to Tin Sing Goldsmiths at South Bridge Road.

At junction of Upper Cross Street and South Bridge Road.
Gable wall belonging to the last house at Cairnhill Raod before it meets Orchard Road. This picture and the one below taken on 7 June 2014. Slightly overcast skies. A sweltering hot day. It's school holiday and the Great Singapore Sale too. So, beware the crowds :)
Old gable wearing contemporary badges at Cuppage Road.
A rather "skinny" gable belonging to a row of shophouses at Lorong Bachok, Geylang. 
Gable of a three-storey house on Simon Road, seen through the gateway of a temple at Simon Lane (off Upper Serangoon Road). The house seems to be renovated as it rises above its one-storey neighbours with red-tiled roofs  along the road.  Picture taken April 2013.