Monday, 28 December 2015

Balustrades by the sea

Nice, old fashioned balustrades at the Changi Beach Club, previously the Changi Swimming Club. In 1972, the Singapore Sports Council (then known as National Sports Promotion Board) took this building over from the British Airforce Officer's Club when the British forces pulled out of Singapore. It became a private club in 1988. 

I am very fond of balustrades (don't know why). Here are the links to my other stories on balustrades: 
Mar 12, 2014 ... Balustrade outside temple (Tong Sian Tng Temple, built 1870) at Devonshire Road. Pic taken March 2014. I remember there was a little sandy ...
Mar 27, 2014 ... But I discovered so many other favourite things instead, like spiral staircases and balustrades. The irony was, I couldn't find the well despite ...
Mar 24, 2014 ... Raffles Hotel's trademark palm green balustrades Close up of those vase-like balusters below. Raffles Hotel was established in 1887. Pictures: ...


Sunday, 27 December 2015

A Christmas gift for M2

Look who has got a nice bright yellow raincoat. Mao Mao (M2) of course. Just that it is a wee bit too small and cannot buckle up at the tummy (er, waist).

Boxing Day trip to find an old friend

An old friend of ours, a tubby and friendly cat, lives in this monastery in Geylang -- the Foo Hai Chan Monastery. It wasn't anywhere in sight when we visited. Must be snoozing in some shady nooks. I would too. It is a peaceful place, with many bonsai trees and benches. 

The bodhi tree in the compound of the monastery. 

The Sri Sivan, view from the monastery. Glorious blue skies on 26 Dec 2015.

A boardwalk walk

I was early for dinner (a meet up with former colleagues from People's Association's The Citizen, and their spouses) so I went for a walk nearby -- the Changi Boardwalk at Fairy Point. 

I much prefer this place to any where in Sentosa. It has the old rustic charms of Singapore's former beaches.

The Goldenbeach Seafood  Paradise restaurant at Changi Beach Club. It's open to the public;
serves a mean black pepper crab. Peking duck too :)

The Cliff Walk which leads towards Changi Village.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Crescendo blues 2

I DO believe that my Crescendo blues -- or post Crescendo blues to be more exact -- are beginning to pale a little. Dream Makers 2 is beginning to pick up. There's another facet to Li Nanxing's character which the actor is better at portraying -- a side of him that is more brooding and serious. He was excellent in The Golden Path (2007). I always welcome serials with him in the starring role but I think he doesn't come across very natural when cast in comic roles.

Now, as for Dream Makers 2, the plot is finally beginning to boil.

Still, I hope there will be a Crescendo 2 ;)

Sunday, 20 December 2015

All I want for Christmas

Picture taken 20 Dec 2015 -- if you look closely you can see the number of parking lots available at the various shopping malls -- on the board near the X'mas tree. Surprisingly, there were two lots at Paragon still!

Toy soldiers on the roof of the bus stop outside Tang's. 

THIS Christmas season we have had two X'mas trees bursting into flames, a restaurant kitchen which caught fire and a blackout in one shopping centre. And of course, the collapse of a hotel roof. But the most important thing is nobody was injured -- seriously. And that's a blessing already. All I want for Christmas is that all creatures in this world be safe and sound -- and happy!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Crescendo blues

I was enjoying Crescendo quite a bit, the drama serial on ch 8 which ended recently. Acting was great, the plot was thick with ups and downs. There were those nice xinyao songs to boot. It is now replaced by a new serial, Dream Makers 2. It has most of the artistes I like -- Zoe Tay, Rui En and Huang Biren (she was great in Tiger Mum). But why is it that I always fell asleep halfway through the show? It could be the nice, cool weather. But after two weeks, it is still lacking little crescendos. So blah. The characters are just not very plausible. (Or do glitzy characters really behave like this in Caldecott Hill?) The plot has no texture, unlike Crescendo. Veterans Zoe Tay, Huang Biren and Qi Yu Wu pull their weight, but why is Li Nanxing's and Romeo's acting so exaggerated? I have enjoyed their acting in other productions. What happened ah? Nevermind, I'll watch some more. Maybe it will improve, when the plot thickens.

Monday, 7 December 2015

A love for humanity

The bas reliefs of animals at Wak Hai Cheng Bio (3, Philip Street) are my favourite, especially this family portrait. The three tiger cubs are so adorable. Below, tiger mum snarling just a little and the cubs trying hard to look fierce, but very cute nevertheless.  All pictures taken on 4 Oct 2015.

YOU can see the love this artist and craftsman (or artists and craftsmen) had of the world around. Why else would they have crafted them so lovingly, with such fine proportion and such spirit and character? True, the scenes, people and animals were mythical but they were modelled from this world, with loving care. One can spend hours just looking at all those wall carvings and murals, trying to decipher the stories behind.

The temple (built between 1850 and 1855) was made from rosewood and it is the only temple in Singapore to have such detailed sculptures on its roof and engraved on its external walls (practically every corner and cornices). The Guangxu Emperor presented a plaque to the temple in 1907. Crafstmen from Chaoshan region (east of Guangdong, China) were brought in to restore the fine work in 2011 (2nd restoration so far.) This was completed in a year's time.

Michaelangelo was not the only one who had to paint on a scaffolding, and probably with wet plaster dripping onto his face. 
The sun (?) is a soft-boiled egg -- the type you can find at Ya Kun, hehe.
Painting on the wall that looks almost like a water colour. 
This door god has a rather quizzical look. While the one below (on the right door), has a more stern demeanour. But he looks to me, to be pondering on some issues, stroking his beard.  I do believe they are among the best dressed generals in Singapore's Chinese buildings. Just for comparison,  two other gentlemen guarding the doors of another temple (bottom pics).


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Clifford Pier: Changed... but not so changed

When I was a kid,  the waters here were never so calm. It was exciting to stand near the water, separated by just a very heavy black chain at Clifford Pier (the one with the red roof in the picture).  So holding dad's hand, I would watch the waves make the buoys dance. There were lots of buoys, often rather colourful ones. I loved to watch the waves -- as they rushed up to crash against the embankment and then receded only to come crashing in again. Reminded me of thick agar agar on the boil. And I loved to hear an occasional blast of the ship horn. There were many boats and tongkangs here. Change Alley which was nearby, would have many sailors who looked exactly like they were out of an old-fashioned movie -- in white caps (with a blue strap) and white tunics with bell-bottomed white pants -- and those cute black boots. Picture taken 30 October 2015.

Monday, 23 November 2015

100 steps

The famous "100 steps" (left) that lead to Mt Sophia and the old Methodist Girls' School. Picture taken 21 Nov 2015.
THE skies could be more blue. Nevertheless, too beautiful to give photography of this place a miss. This is the famous "100 steps" (left of the picture) at Handy Road which lead to Mt Sophia and what used to be Methodist Girls' School. My niece was the smart one who attended this school, not me. So she was the one who has memories of these steps which got her super fast to Yaohan (used to be at Plaza Singapura). I only used the steps once or twice and I couldn't remember why I had to. However, these flight of steps that look so picturesque and sort of pastoral, had a dark side. According to Frederick E La Croix who wrote "The Sky Rained Heroes: A Journey from War to Remembrance", severed heads were placed on pikes along the stairs as deterrence against "aberrant" behaviour during the Japanese Occupation.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Change Alley: So changed

This is Change Alley now.  Not at all like the Change Alley of my childhood.

My best memories of this place was dragging dad impatiently through the lane to look at the toys. Those days (in the 60s) rubber animals (from bears, dogs to birds) which squeaked when you pressed them, were my favourite toys. And you could find lots of them at Change Alley.

We would give each a name -- moving them around and making them talk to each other. Sometimes, when my second brother was not around to play with me, I would make the animals enact some scenes by myself. I remember one such exciting solo performance -- the bird (which had a flower on its head) had taken on the role of a courtesan. She was held captive by the emperor (the dog, with one paw raised). So, there were a lot of dialogues going on and I was really doing very well and enjoying myself tremendously. All was brought to an end when my eldest brother who was studying in the same room was driven insane and shouted at me to shut up.

Anyway, back to Change Alley. Once upon a time, it was known as Spottiswoode Lane. Lots have been written about this little alley linking Collyer Quay to Raffles Place. The crowded lane, lined with  stalls selling everything from cosmetics, clothes to toys,  was squeezed between Singapore Rubber House and Wincester House. It was gone in 1989 -- 30 April to be exact -- with shopkeeprs desperately trying to clear their stocks before being shifted to elsewhere. The bazaar had been around for more than 100 years. 

Walk through Change Alley today --  into to a very changed Raffles Place too. Remember Robinson used to be here before the terrible fire -- destroying my magical place to visit each Christmas?

Friday, 13 November 2015

Blue skies again

I haven't been able to take pictures with blue skies and white clouds for some time because of the haze. Most of the time, the sky was just a yellowish blanket, rather depressing.  Picture of Clarke Quay taken on  10 November, 2015. 

Aside: I am not sure how true, but I have been cautioned against sitting at the ledge and the steps (like the person behind the lamp post) that lead to to the river. This area being a big watering hole, not a few people must have tried to puke into the river -- and missed. (You see that enough in locally produced dramas -- some depressed soul would get drunk and bend over.) So...

Monday, 9 November 2015

T'is the season to be jolly

You can imagine them (the pigeons I mean) singing "T'is the season to be jolly... tra lalalala,..." It was a wet afternoon on Saturday. But the pigeons enjoyed themselves. How they fluffed... and preened at this nice water feature along Orchard Road, contributing to the festive mood.  And it's ok that they are not doves (which actually belong to the same family as pigeons) nor a  partridge on a pear tree -- or any other bird usually associated with Christmas. Pic taken 7 Nov 2015.

Monday, 2 November 2015

River Valley's spiral staircases

Old spiral staircases at the back of the row of shophouses along River Valley Road at Zion Road junction.

It used to be that many from the old Times House at Kim Seng Road (demolished, the land now occupied by a condominium development) ran across the road (especially when waiting for their stories to be cleared by the editors) to take a breather at one of the coffee shops along this row of shophouses. Now, there are new eateries, and even a dentist and a hair salon -- Tony and Guy no less. When the SPH newspapers were operating at Kim Seng Road, this stretch of shophouses was a great makan place. There was a really old school provision shop, chicken rice and hor fun stalls -- and I remember an Indian stall which served Maggi mee with a fried egg. It didn't taste too bad!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Blast from the past

I think this is more effective than the series of TV ads. The tagline "The building has changed. The values remain" is short but powerful, striking a chord with the decal of the old Bonham Building on the glass facade. The old building opened for business as the United Chinese Bank in 1937,  the original UOB headquarters. It became the United Overseas Bank in 1974 when a new 30-storeyed building was declared open, exactly on the old site. The old building is more effective in evoking steadfastness than the TV ads -- one of which took some time for me to figure out -- the one with the father breaking a very precious vase to make a point.  The ad has the old Nanyang flavour, the family looks bourgeoisie -- besides expensive china, plush leather sofas, there's a chauffeur and there's a servant.  In any case, rich enough to break antique vases as a lesson for his son. Upon rather long reflection though, this message does come through -- that principles are more valuable than wealth. 

Postnote: I noticed a new ad, this time, rather "working class" as opposed to the earlier ads which show quite a bit of opulence.

Picture taken 4 October. UOB celebrates its 80th Anniversary this year.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Squares of captured time

I don't know why, but these square, translucent glass panels (with a faint tinge of green) on the floor used to be my favourite features of the old Fullerton Building, when it was still the General Post Office.  There was a whole row of them on the corridor of the building. Walking on them was such a thrill because of the feeling that you were actually walking on the roof of the basement below. Then there were those mysterious ventilation slits  -- black cast iron grills -- at the side of the brown granite walls which you could peer through, to catch glimpses of the happenings in the basement. I remember that it was lighted up with yellow bulbs -- and there were people there working quietly -- were they sorting out mail? (The glass squares shown in this picture belonged to the OCBC Building at Chulia Street. Picture taken on 4  October 2015. Are there any more buildings with such glass panels on the floor?)

Today, I look in vain for those glass panels on the floor outside the building which everybody knows, is now the Fullerton Hotel. But enough that I know they once existed. They may still be there now, just covered by the sands of modernity. I am glad I had many happy moments skipping over those little squares  -- sometimes with a little help from Dad as he helped me leap over a few squares in one great standing broad jump. And I loved to hear my parents pronouncing it as "Foo-ler-ton Bil-lor-ding" -- in thick Cantonese accent. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Croc beats haze

This croc is having lots of fun despite the haze, at Marina  East. It is a really nice walk from Tg Rhu, with separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists. You walk about 600m till you past the Marina Barrage. Then you walk a bit more and suddenly you are on this nice open space, with the sea on your right, ships in the horizon, and some people flying kites on your left.

After a while, you will see this map. Onward, follow the narrow trodden path which will open into the vast open space. You will also see a building called Ventilation Building (whatever that is) on your left. The sea is on your right as you enter this open space.

Hazy. No nice blue skies. Next time. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Mask for Mao

Not exactly N95, but better than nothing, The haze is un-un-un-un-believable! I better not sit at my favourite position near the kitchen sink next to the window and breathe in the haze. Better relak  one corner, as they say, and not indulge in strenuous lizard-catching activities too.  The  24-hr PSI reading for the western part of Singapore was 292 at 2pm, and the 3-hour PSI was 80! Well, I am going to wear mao mask anyways.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Ms Qua's Kitchen

Nonya kueh -- a first attempt by the chief chef at Ms Qua's Kitchen -- and a great success.
MS Qua's Kitchen offers some of the best memories of school days. From learning to ride bicycle (and knocking down countless dustbins in the attempt) to exploring old kampung places in the area which is now the Hougang HDB estate. Remember Jalan Hock Chye which had an old temple with a stage? I think I remember a well near the temple as well. It was such a lovely, long sandy road to explore on bicycle. It was a neighbourhood where "short cuts" may turn out to be rather long but scenic routes.

In the vicinity was the Daily Book Store (you remember, of course). It was along a row of old shophouses at 6th Mile. The market at 6th Mile had really great food. We always counted the attap-jis in the ice kacang. But my favourite was the slightly greenish brown grass jelly served with ice cubes in a small china bowl.

We didn't watch too many movies at the Zenith, more at Kok Wah I think. But anyway, the theatre (with a zinc roof) was more or less a landmark. And if you were taking the bus to Changi, using the old Tampines Road, you won't miss it.

Back to Ms Qua's Kitchen. It is an embodiment of the good old times. Even the telephone number remained almost the same (except that you need to add a number in front, or by now, two numbers). An old classmate once observed that if he couldn't trace any of us, he would just need to dial Ms Qua's Kitchen.

Although Ms Qua's Kitchen serves great dishes -- and memories  -- you won't find it listed in the yellow pages. So, it is a privilege and an honour to be invited to Ms Qua's Kitchen for lunch and tea. If you get an invitation to Ms Qua Kitchen's it would be a sin to reject.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Assassin: Not the official review

THE guy next to me yawned once every 10 mins, and gulped down mineral water after each yawn. His girlfriend though, seemed to be attentive throughout the whole show. The guy in front of me was watching something else on YouTube after the 3rd "black out" scene (there were a few of such long pauses in the movie when the screen just silently blacked out). I heard a soft snore arising from a nearby seat.

This was The Assassin (which won the Best Director Award at Cannes). It was not all that bad. Yinniang (Shu Qi) was the Angel of Death --  moving effortlessly as the wind, tall and grim. Quiet as air too -- I read that she had just 10 lines in the entire movie. She was trained from young (by a nun) to kill -- equiped with the best of skills for this function. But Yinniang has a soft heart and did not complete what she was tasked to do.

What's the takeaway for me in this movie? That you may possess the best skills in the world, but they aren't of any use if they don't result in anything meaningful (for you). At the end of the movie, Yinniang managed to find good use for her martial arts -- more for preventing deaths than to kill.

One of the best scenes in the movie was in black and white -- when death was seen through the eyes of a dying man as he was shot by an arrow and fell from his horse -- the sky through a tangled mess of twigs, leaves and branches -- and the great rustling of leaves as the wind blows through them. At the moment of death, the senses are sharpened. And then, darkness. (Okay, this is just my interpretation and may not be the director's intent.)

Here's the written story (which is still very complicated to me)

Monday, 7 September 2015

A morning at the quarry

Cross this little bridge from Fu Yong Estate at Upper Bukit Timah Road (near the Rail Mall) -- and you will be on your way to the quarries. BTW, the Rail Mall used to be an old row of shops specialising in tyres if I remember rightly, from my days living in a rented room at Dairy Farm (in the late-1980s and early 90s). At the end of the row, was a "jir char" stall selling cooked dishes such as hor fun etc. It had light bulbs hanging from wires on poles, rather like those restaurants you see in Malaysia. The food and atmosphere was good. But now, at Rail Mall, you can find all sorts of hip and happening restaurants, from Korean to Japanese to Italian. There is even a Cold Storage. 

Pictures taken on 6 Sept 2015, a very hot Sunday and pre-election time! See the  WP van in picture left, wending its way through the Fu Yong estate? Later on, there was a PAP van which went on its rounds too. 

After crossing the bridge, you step onto an old tarred road which will take you all the way to the Singapore Quarry at one end. Head the other way and you will hit the MOE Adventure Club and the Dairy Farm Quarry. We chose the Singapore Quarry as our destination. 

You'll see some interesting flowers, cuckoo birds and one or two timid black squirrels -- and the occasional cyclist emerging from one of the side paths like the one below.

After about half an hour's walk and a climb up a gentle slope, you will reach a wooden platform with shelters.

And this very helpful map.

You can back track to the Rail Mall for brunch, or proceed to cross the KTM railway bridge and onto another adventure. Or, you can visit the Dairy Farm Quarry. This quarry has been filled and the view I understand is rather splendid -- a vast green field with rather sheer, stark quarry walls.