Monday, 31 August 2015

An urban park in Singapore

Not too far away, is the business district of Singapore, bustling and  keeping  the nation's economic flag flying. This nice park at a little corner at Telok Ayer Street and Maxwell Road may provide some respite. For me, it is a nice walk after tucking in a salted egg yolk and chestnut dumpling at the nearby Amoy Street Food Centre. Of course, you don't have to stop at a dumpling. This food centre is clean and spacious. Most importantly, the stallholders are pleasant and friendly. Some are young and speak English too (like the ones selling the dumplings). The stall is next to the one selling soya bean curds and drinks. She's also very pleasant though she handles a long queue single handedly.  Pictures taken on 29 August 2015.

Besides the swings at the park (so great to sit  in one and watch the world go by) there is also lush greenery, like this banyan tree (?) and ferns growing next to an old crumbling brick wall. The National Development building is just next door. 

The Chinese Methodist Church faces the park. I like its simple and elegant design, with a little bit of old school charm.

View from Amoy Street Food Centre, a short walk to the Telok Ayer Park.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

A morsel of Singapore's past

A lone puppet by the "New Phoenix Globe" (translated literally from Chinese) Puppet Troupe, performing at the Ayer Rajah Food Centre and Market during the start of the 7th Month Festival. 
THERE wasn't an audience (or perhaps there was!) for this puppet show at lunch time at the Ayer Rajah Food Centre. But the show went on with gusto, with the musicians backstage sawing away on their erhus (two stringed instrument) as earnest as could be. They also seemed to enjoy the quiet camaraderie of each other. So, that's good.

Puppet shows may not be as appealing to the general audience as the other 7th month fare, getai (especially since we have been treated to the exciting Getai Challenge recently on Ch 8), but still, they are a part of Singapore's past which I hope will be here to stay. Though, judging from the "seniority" of  the musicians, I seriously doubt so. The getai however, has managed to attract young artistes -- and followers.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Singapore's old gables IV

The gables of the House of Tan Yeok Nee (1885) at the corner of Penang Road and Clemenceau Avenue are among some of the oldest in Singapore which are well preserved. (Another old building with beautiful gables, is the old Thong Chai Medical Institution (1892) at Eu Tong Sen Street.. See

Picture above  and the close up on the left shows gable along the front of the building. The picture below shows the gable found at the side of the building. 

Beautifully preserved, the building used to belong to a businessman from China, Mr Tan Yeok Nee. Built in 1885, the building is now a national monument.  

 The building is typical of Teochew-style residential buildings, with many features representing the five elements that contribute to the balance of Yin and Yang,. The gable end with its serrated ends. seems to depict the fire element, if I am not mistaken.

All pictures in this post taken on 22 August 2015. 

Knock, knock, who's there?

The building has seen many occupants -- and weathered many upheavals through the ages, including the Japanese Occupation.  After the Tan family moved out in 1902, it was once acquired by the Tank Road Station master, then the Anglican Church which used it as a the St Mary's Home and School for Eurasian Girls (1912), and then the Salvation Army (from 1938 with a break during the World War II when the house was very badly damaged, till 1991 when the Salvation Army HQ was moved to Bishan). It was then sold to the Cockpit Hotel and later, the Wing Tai Group. After a very comprehensive renovation, it was leased out to the Chicago Booth School of Business, the lease of which expired this year, with the graduation of the last cohort.

This gable belongs to Tong Sian Tng Temple at Devonshire Road.  It has very pretty motifs (like embroideries) decorating its slopes. Reminds me of a very delicate doily (one which you would use to serve a specially-baked cake).  This gable is just one of the building's many, and one which you can only see after entering its courtyard. About the temple, it was completed in 1870 and is also a teochew-styled building. According to one blogger, it was "super good" fengshui to visit it on 8 Feb, 2015. Anyone visited it on the date? :)

Monday, 17 August 2015

Singapore's old gables III

These gable ends of shophouses along Jalan Besar have nicely rounded mounds. Based on Historic Chinese Architecture of Singapore's ( article on the kinds of gable ends depicting the five Chinese elements (wood, water, metal, earth and fire), their rounded top would depict the metal element. 

This interesting gable with a seemingly almost detachable "knob" at the tip of its apex (so the gable wall looks like the lid of your coffee mug) is at Kitchener Road. Using my favourite "knob" guide/, I can only hazard a guess that it depicts the wood element, rather common for old shophouses. Pictures taken June 2014.

This gable belongs to the corner house at China Street, near Hokkien Street. Notice the fun element added to the wall -- the painting of a woman lowering a basket (which was how one bought stuffs from street hawkers in days of yore).  The gable end with its smooth curve, depicts the metal element.

The gable wall of a short row of shophouses at Waterloo Street. Below picture shows the front of the shophouses.  This row of shophouses is just opposite the Catholic Centre. Notice the bas relief of what seems to me, an angel, on its roof top. Pictures courtesy of Walter Lo. 

Gables of New Bridge Centre (above and below).  Although relatively modern, the roof ridge ends with a squarish knob at the gables -- which according to feng shui, would seemingly depict the earth element. Pictures courtesy of Walter Lo.

Gable with Hindu motif belonging to a Chinese shophouse next to the Sri Mariamman Temple at Temple Street.  Picture courtesy of Walter Lo.

Twin peaks belonging to Yueh Hai Ching Temple at Philip Street. This temple is the oldest Taoist temple in Singapore, constructed between 1850 and 1855, rebuilt in 1895. The gable ends seem to me to be of the earth element, or maybe fire (judging from the two pointed ends on each side of the mound.)  

Old Gables Again:

Old Gables:

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Tea trolleys

Red Star Restaurant Outram still
dishes out dim-sum on trolleys
ONE of the few perks I had when I was working as a daily rated temp at the Ministry for National Development, long ago in the 70s, at Maxwell Road, were those trolleys which came around 10am and 4pm each day (if I remember rightly).  I was working on the fifth floor and my friend on the 2nd floor. Sometimes, my friend would join us on the 5th floor when the trolleys came around.

You can take your picks from the trolleys -- fares like curry puffs, kueh-kueh, coffee and tea. Simple fares -- but it meant that staff could take a short break and yak around the trolley. Staff bonding in those days was simple but effective :) It was those trolley sessions where I learnt about how one pretty colleague avoided a die-hard admirer by taking long routes home; how one knew her boyfriend and was getting married (she even invited me to her wedding though I was a temp, and a newbie!) You got a feeling of being in a family.

I am not sure whether such trolleys still make their rounds at work places. (Certainly not at mine!) But I know for sure you can still find them loaded with dim-sum, at Red Star Restaurant at Outram (Chin See Road, near Manhattan House). This restaurant was founded by the "four heavenly kings" (in cuisine), one of them being Lau Yoke Pui who had passed away. They are probably among the very few which still have such trolleys.

I give five stars for such trolleys of joy.