The Mah Piu Poh intersection vendors

29 03 2013

It was in the semidarkness that accompanied the evenings, in days long forgotten that we would have heard a once familiar sound. It was of a chorus of youthful voices calling out “Mah Piu Poh“, in almost a musical fashion, heard above the grumble of engines and rattling dashboards of traffic slowing to a standstill. The voices were those of boys who looked no more than nine or ten, who risked life and limb for a handful of loose change in weaving their way through traffic to hawk the evening’s newspapers. Referred commonly to as “Mah Piu Poh“, the papers, the predecessor to today’s Shin Min Daily News (新明日报), were a popular read during the weekends, not so much for the gossip it carried, but for the day’s all-important news (especially so in the pre-internet days), that of the horse racing related 4 digit (4D) lottery results. Hence, the name “Mah Piu Poh” or “马票报” which in Cantonese translates to “Lottery Newspaper”, “Mah Piu ” (马票) being a horse-racing lottery, and “Poh” (报) meaning newspaper.

The Mah Piu Poh boy, once a feature of some road junctions and roundabouts. Where I most remember seeing them at was at Guillemard Circus.

The Mah Piu Poh boy, once a feature of some road junctions and roundabouts. One place I well remember seeing them at was at Guillemard Circus.

The boys would be seen at many of the busy intersections. One intersection I well remember seeing them at was at the rather lively Guillemard Circus in the light of the neon billboards that gave the roundabout a unique character. That would have been in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With a few newspapers in hand, the boys would attempt to sell them to the occupants of cars as they slowed through windows opened out of necessity (it was rare to have a car fitted with air conditioning in those days). While similar road junction vendors are still a fairly common sight in parts of Asia such as in India and in the Philippines, it was something that, by the time the late 1970s arrived, we were to see the last of on the increasing busy streets of a modernising Singapore in which there was little place for unregulated practices such as this.





A labyrinth of food and much more

15 10 2012

Besides Coloane Village, another place in Macau that I would surely find many happy moments exploring in is Taipa Village. In the shadow of the new at the not so far away Cotai Strip, and closer to Macau Peninsula, the village is on the island of the same name. In it is not only that meeting of east and west to discover, but also several well preserved colonial era buildings centered on the Avenida da Praia and also at Carmel Square. It is also a world where one can lose oneself, wandering the streets and finding little bits of not just the old world, but also some rather delectable treats – one famous one being the famed Tai Lei Loi Kei Pork Chop Bun, to indulge oneself in. Although not comprehensive, the following are seven things that one must do to discover that bit of old Macau in Taipa:

Taipa Village as seen off the reflection of a convex traffic mirror.

The new world of the Cotai Strip looms over old Taipa.

The streets of Taipa offer a fascinating insight into life in older Macau.

As the group of bloggers were to discover.


Old World Discoveries

Taipa is rich in the old world, including several well preserved buildings from the colonial era centered in the Praia area. On the heights above the Praia is a delightful little square with some excellent examples of public and religious architecture including Taipa Library and the Church of Our Lady of Carmel. Below this on the Avenida da Praia, there are also a row of five very pretty houses from the colonial period – beautifully preserved as the Taipa Houses-Museum. In each house, visitors are offered a look back in time into the colonial life with the first furnished much as it would have been during the colonial era, as well as Portuguese traditions, and into traditional industries.

(1) Carmel Square

Taipa Library at Carmel Square (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Church of Our Lady of Carmel, Carmel Square built in 1885 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).


(2) Avenida da Praia and the Taipa Houses Museum

The Taipa Houses Museum, a row of 5 colonial heritage houses along the Avenida da Praia (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Ai Sakura at the Avenida da Praia.

Taipa Houses Museum.

The Taipa Houses Museum offers a peek into an old world.

A child’s toy at the Taipa Houses Museum.

Admission to Taipa-Houses Museum (Closed on Mondays):
MOP/HKD5 per adult
FREE for visitors under 12 yrs old and above 65 years old
FREE admission on every Tuesdays.


Food Glorious Food

Taipa is also well known for its food and snacks with a host of well established eating places that offer Cantonese, Macanese and Portuguese cuisine including the O Manuel Portuguese Restaurant. There are also several food discoveries to be made, and besides the famous Pork Chop Bun there is also the famous Taipa Food Street,Rua do Cunha, lined with confectioneries and snack shops to discover, and not to forget, another must try are the Birds Nest Egg Tarts from San Hou Lei a little eatery on the Rua do Regedor.

(3) Rua do Cunha (Taipa Food Street)

The writing on the wall of a confectionery at one end of the famous Taipa Food Street (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Almond cookies in the works at Taipa Food Street (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Valyn seen along the Food Street.

More Almond Cookies!

The Food Street offers lots of snacks to satisfy any craving!

Taipa Food Street (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).


(4) San Hou Lei – Bird’s Nest Egg Tarts

Bird’s Nest Egg Tarts!


(5) O Manuel Portuguese Restaurant

Sardine at O Manuel Portuguese Restaurant.

And lots of meat!

(6) Tai Lei Loi Kei Pork Chop Bun


Object of desire … can’t leave Taipa without sinking one’s mouth into one of these! The famous Tai Lei Loi Kei Pork Chop Bun.

Tai Lei Loi Kei in Taipa.


Roaming the Streets

One thing that I would certainly do when I do return to Macau is to roam the streets of Taipa (as well as Coloane and the area around Senado Square) just to get lost and find what Macau is truly all about. On the evidence of that little bit of time when I did actually get lost as the group walked ahead while I waited for Chun See who had paid a visit to the gents was that there was a wonderful labyrinth of lanes and alleyways – each with a unique charm and certainly one to discover and to photograph.

(7) Getting lost

The streets of Taipa make it a wonderful place to roam around …

… and get lost in …

Street scene.

The streets offer lots of little discoveries.

There’s lots of colour ….

The streets also offer a peek into life in the old world ….

… through its labyrinth of alleyways.

Village street (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A shady tree lined road in Taipa Village (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Street sign.

Street scene.

Another street scene.

More street scenes …. (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Houses (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

More houses (leading up to Taipa Food Street) (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A shuttered shop.

A sidewalk in Taipa.


The trip was made possible by the kind sponsorship of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) which included a three night stay at the Grand Lapa Macau, and also Tiger Airways who sponsored the two way flights.


Links to discovering Taipa:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Taipa
Museums (including Taipa Houses-Museum
Taipa Food Street on Wikipedia
O Manuel Portuguese Restaurant on HK Magazine
San Hou Lei on Macau24.com
Tai Lei Loi Kei on metropolasia.com


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy.sg My Macau Experience 2012 site which sees 10 bloggers share experiences of their visit to Macau. Readers will get a chance to vote for their favourite My Macau Experience 2012 blogger and stand a chance to win $1000 worth of Macau travel vouchers. Voting has started (on 28 September 2012) and ends on 15 October 2012. Votes can be cast on a daily basis at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.






Gold that certainly needs guarding

11 10 2012

It was right on the last day that we found it, coming away with bagfuls of what must surely have been a very precious commodity that we had two of our toughest ladies, Valyn and Yiwei, to stand guard over it.

Pure gold that required two of our toughest ladies to stand guard over! (Photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The commodity has to be nothing short of pure gold – many come from near and wide, descending on a humble village away from the bustle of Macau’s bright lights and fluid streets just for it, or rather a taste of it. The golden item, is nothing less than the most sought after piece of pastry in the territory, a Lord Stow’s egg tart, smooth and creamy custard given a tinge of gold when baked in a pastry cup.

Gold in a pastry cup, Lord Stow’s Egg Tarts (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The egg tarts or pastéis de nata (pastel de nata, singular), is what certainly draws the crowds to the sleepy village, Coloane Village, which is as far away as one can get in the tiny 29 square kilometres that is Macau. The village takes its name from the island, the southernmost of two main islands beyond the Macau Peninsula – an island that is sometimes referred to as Macau’s countryside. It was for long a neglected part of the former Portuguese colony, becoming a hotbed of pirate activity until the problem was eventually dealt with by the Portuguese in 1910.

Coloane Village is a sleepy village that seems far removed from the bright lights of the nearby Cotai Strip (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The village, as is the bakery, is a curious place. Seemingly out of touch with the glitz and glamour of the integrated resorts sprouting up not so far away on the Cotai Strip – a piece of reclaimed land which has connected the Coloane Island to its northern counterpart, Taipa Island, it (and what is found in it), must be a wonderful example perhaps of how east and west has blended during the rule of the territory’s former masters.

Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane Village – it is not just in the bakery, but in the entire village where east has blended well with the west (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

At the heart of Coloane Village is a little piece of Portugal, the Eduardo Marques Square (Largo da Eduardo Marques). The square takes its name from the Portuguese governor Eduardo Marques who oversaw the victory over the pirates. This is in fact commemorated in the square in the form of a monument which stands at one end of it. It is at the opposite end however, that the attention of the visitor will be drawn to – the yellow of the baroque façade of the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier is one that will certainly not be missed.

A monument in the Largo da Eduardo Marques to commemorate the defeat of the pirates in 1910 (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The Eduardo Marques Square is also known for its food outlets which apparently are a must-try (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The yellow baroque façade of the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier at the other end of the square.

The yellow chapel, built in 1928, is definitely one that should not be missed. Besides containing some of the most sacred Catholic relics found in Asia (at one time it also housed relics of St. Francis Xavier – the missionary who is attributed bringing the faith to Asia), it does also contain a rather interesting religious painting. On the painting there is an image of a woman bearing the likeness of the Chiness Goddess of Mercy, Kun Iam or Kuan Yin, carrying a child, which is in very much a similar fashion as a very popular Catholic depiction of the Mother and Child. This surely is a wonderful example of how well east and west have blended here.

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier was built in 1928 and once housed some relics of St. Francis Xavier, a missionary who is attributed with bringing the Catholic faith to Asia.

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier is where many important Catholic relics are found (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

An example of east and west meeting inside the chapel – a painting with the likeness of Kum Iam carrying a child shown in a popular pose used by Catholics to depict Mother and Child.

The peace and calm that is the sanctuary of the chapel (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The narrow lanes that took us through to the main square, the Largo Presidente António Ramalho Eanes, where gold was to be discovered, are equally captivating. Full of colour and interesting details, the streets are ones that I would, if I had another opportunity, like to spend perhaps a whole day exploring. There certainly is much more in the sleepy little village than the golden coloured pastries. Time I didn’t have, and with the egg tarts calling, it was to Lord Stow’s Bakery for our final stop at the village before we were to have lunch.

A colourful narrow lane in Coloane Village (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

A village shop (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

The area around Largo Presidente António Ramalho Eanes is certainly worth exploring (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Largo Presidente António Ramalho Eanes is also where the bus stop is (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Another shop found in the narrow lanes of Coloane.

That Lord Stow’s is as curious as the village is, there is no doubt. The bakery, is the brainchild of an English pharmacist (yes you read right!), the late Andrew Stow (whose ex-wife serves a slightly sweeter version of the popular pastry at Margaret’s Café in downtown Macau). He started the little bakery in 1989, perfecting his recipe using his skills as a pharmacist, achieving phenomenal success very quickly – with the bakery itself becoming a tourist draw. Many tourists make it a point to head to the bakery to pack the tarts, which are sold for MOP/HKD8 per piece, MOP/HKD45 for a box of 6, or MOP/HKD90 for a box of 12, before heading home.

Gold production (photographs taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Curiosity aside, the bakery does make that egg tart that is certain to give one a ‘love at first bite’ experience and certainly with a taste that is no less than divine – well worth that pilgrimage to Coloane just to worship it. That together with the desire to explore the narrow lanes of the charming little part of Macau and the rest of the island (which does seem well worth exploring), will make it my first, and also last stop the next time I am in Macau.

An extremely happy customer (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Look how much this one bought! (Photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

More expressions of happiness (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).

Worship (photograph taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF5).


The trip was made possible by the kind sponsorship of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) which included a three night stay at the Grand Lapa Macau, and also Tiger Airways who sponsored the two way flights.


Links to finding gold:

Macau Government Tourist Office
Tiger Airways
Coloane Village (MGTO site)
More on Coloane Island (MGTO site)
Lord Stow’s Bakery


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy.sg My Macau Experience 2012 site which sees 10 bloggers share experiences of their visit to Macau. Readers will get a chance to vote for their favourite My Macau Experience 2012 blogger and stand a chance to win $1000 worth of Macau travel vouchers. Voting has started (on 28 September 2012) and ends on 15 October 2012. Votes can be cast on a daily basis at the My Macau Experience 2012 Voting page.






Varying moods of a most beautiful place

2 08 2012

The varying moods of a place that in being left behind (at least for now) by the rest of Singapore, that in its imperfection holds a beauty we seem to have forgotten how to appreciate …





Colours on a Sunday evening

30 07 2012

The colours of the fading of day to night seen at a spot that I consider to be one of the more scenic places in Singapore and a place that I often find an escape in.





A Rose-Ringed Parakeet

20 05 2012

Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer:

A place where I capture my glimpses of the green beyond Singapore’s jungle of grey …

Originally posted on The Birds and the Bees:

A Rose-Ringed Parakeet spotted feeding in the foliage along Sungei Sembawang on the morning of 19 May 2012.

View original






An ancient world in new Hanoi

8 01 2012

Seemingly far removed from the commotion of Hanoi’s busy streets, lies a sanctuary of serenity – one that takes one away to a Hanoi of a thousand years ago. Built first to venerate the great Chinese sage Confucius, the Van Mieu or Temple of Literature, dates back to an era in which the city that it finds around it was founded, and is a wonderfully preserved work of architecture and one that serves as icon of Hanoi’s cultural heritage and a beautiful representation of Confucian inspired architecture that has survived to this day. The Van Mieu has also greater cultural significance to Hanoi and to Vietnam, being the site of the country’s first university – it is within its grounds, not long after it was built in 1070 that a centre of learning was established in 1076 – one that served to educate the elites for a system of public administration that was greatly influenced by Vietnam’s neighbours to the north and one that functioned for some seven centuries.

The Temple of Literature offers an escape from the crowded streets of Hanoi to a beautiful ancient centre of learning.

The Van Mieu complex we find today is one that has been built over a long period and is laid out around five courtyards, each with an ornamental portal serving as an entrance. Stepping through the first, the Van Mieu Gate, even with the buzz of the weekend’s crowd that was there, the tranquillity of the Van Mieu soon overcomes you as the dissonance of the busy streets left behind quickly fades away. The crowd – flocks of pretty ladies – fresh graduates from the city’s newer universities dressed in the traditional Ao Dai behind the layers of less traditional outerwear on what was a chilly winter’s day, seemed to blend into the well manicured gardens of the first courtyard and beyond the second gate in the second courtyard.

The Van Mieu Gate which is the main entrance to the Temple of Literature complex.

The well manicured first courtyard as seen through the second gate.

At the end of the second – the third gate, Khue Van Cac or the Constellation of Literature – a much more recent addition built in 1805 is one that is hard not to notice with an upper level where four radiating suns can be seen facing the four cardinal points of the compass. Through this gate, one is confronted by what seems like a huge reflecting pool – Thien Quang Tinh or the Well of Heavenly Clarity, flanked one both sides by open sided buildings that house 82 surviving stone stelae (out of the original 112), set on pedestals of giant stone tortoises – that of those conferred with Doctorates during the 15th to the 18th centuries.

The Constellation of Literature (Khue Van Cac). The third gate leading into the third courtyard where the Well of Heavenly Clarity is located.

A lady in an Ao Dai poses at a side portal into the third courtyard.

The Well of Heavenly Clarity in the third courtyard.

Some of the 82 surviving stone stelae of scholars who passed the examinations at the Temple of Literature.

The part of the complex where Confucius is venerated lies beyond the fourth gate, one that is flanked by two stone warriors. It is at the end of the courtyard where the Temple of Confucius is found. The two incense filled buildings are ones that house the Altar of Confucius, in the Bai Duong – the open sided House of Ceremonies where the Altar of Confucius at which the Emperor and Mandarins are said to have make offerings at, and in the red lacquered building behind the Bai Duong. Behind the red of the wooden panels that line the second building that the statues of the Great Sage and his four main disciples are found.

A stone warrior stands guard at the gateway into the fourth courtyard.

The fourth courtyard with the Temple of Confucius.

Reflection of the Temple of Confucius in a pail of water.

Wooden wall panels on the Temple of Confucius.

View through the Temple of Confucius.

Wall and door panels on the Temple of Confucius.

Temple of Confucius.

Statue of Confucius in the Temple of Confucius.

Inside the Temple of Confucius.

Beyond the Temple of Confucius, the fifth and last of the courtyards where the Quoc Tu Giam – the academy was located. The original buildings were destroyed by French bombing during the 1940s and much of what can be seen today is a reconstruction carried out in 2000. In the main building at the end of the courtyard, the altars to three of the Ly Dynasty emperors are found. On either side of the buildings, there is also a huge drum and a huge brass bell housed in two pavilion like structures – popular spots for those seeking a photo opportunity.

Altar to one of the Ly Dynasty Emperors in the reconstructed Quoc Tu Giam - the National Academy which was established in 1076 to educate Mandarins.

In the two hours I spent exploring the Van Mieu, it did feel as if I had lost myself in that ancient world that it had emerged from. Stepping back into the world that Hanoi has now become, I felt first a realisation and then a sense of wonderment of what I had just emerged from – a significant piece of the history of the country that I was visiting, one of a beauty and elegance that is a joy to behold, and one that goes far back to a time long before the country I am from was even put on the map.

Shadow and light - inside the Quoc Tu Giam.

A view through a screen towards the fifth courtyard.





Seeing the world clearly through the lens

28 11 2011

I chanced upon Bausch and Lomb’s new contact lenses while doing the preparation works for a photo shoot. I then had the opportunity to try on a pair of PureVision2 HD (PV2 HD) contact lenses and also appreciate the difference it makes to photography compared to wearing a pair of glasses or my earlier contact lenses.

Bausch and Lomb’s PV2 HD contact lenses I was to understand are silicone hydrogel lenses and being amongst the thinnest monthly disposable lenses, they are also extremely comfortable and allow more oxygen to reach the eyes as well as featuring a unique rounded edge. It is in another feature, Bausch+Lomb’s proprietary technology – High Definition™ Optics, which is now available in silicone hydrogel monthly contact lenses, that would probably benefit someone behind the camera most, enhancing vision with reduced blurriness, particularly so in low lighting conditions, as well as reducing glare and halo from lights and helping to improve photography where the glare of lights can sometimes affect the ability to compose a shot and focus.

I had one previous experience with contact lenses. It was in the days when playing a variety of sports appealed more to me than photography did, and that was when I first invested in a pair of soft lenses. Outside of the sports field, I had always found it easier to keep my glasses on as it was sometimes uncomfortable to keep the contact lenses on for too long a time, so much so that I soon reverted to using spectacles and never again thought of using contact lenses – that is until recently when a good friend and an avid photographer explained how contact lenses helped improved his photography experience by allowing him to get his eye right into the cup of the view finder. And so, when I received the invitation to try a pair of PV2 HD out, with all its stated benefits, I did not hesitate.

The true test of the PV2 HD contact lenses for me was of course in using them when I took photographs. The first opportunity I had was during a daytime visit over the weekend to a wooded area of Singapore where I was hoping to capture shots of nature and of birdlife. I was quite happy with the benefits of using the lenses over glasses, finding it much easier to spot, compose and react much better and faster allowing me to get a few quick shots away of a woodpecker that I had spotted in the trees.

I also had the opportunity to use them during a night-time, low light shoot at the Geylang Serai Hari Raya light-up. Again I was very satisfied with the PV2 HD lenses as the glare and halo reduction features allowed me to compose night shots in conditions where there is the glare of lighting, more often than not, interferes with attempts to quickly compose a shot. Another distinct advantage I found during the shot on the hot and muggy evening was that I did not have to stop to wipe my glasses from smudging and the perspiration that very often clouds the spectacle lens and interferes with the shoot.

Putting a pair of the PV2 HD lenses on the first time – there wasn’t a sense at all of any discomfort. I did, in fact, not feel that the lenses were there at all throughout the 8 hours I had kept the lenses on. What makes it all the more comfortable I suppose is the three in one solution, Biotrue, that is used to clean, rinse and soak the lenses, working as is described by Bausch and Lomb like natural tears. This keeps the lens and also the eyes moist at all times. This was very evident especially compared to my first experience with contact lenses when I needed frequently to use eye-drops to avoid dryness and irritation in my eyes.

Overall, the experience I had with PV2 HD and Biotrue was very positive – and one that helps to improve the way in which I can express myself with a camera, especially shooting for long hours – something that I would certainly look forward to doing more of and something that I would highly recommend to other spectacle wearing photographers.





From a little street in Singapore – Hock Lam Beef 100 years on

11 10 2011

I first came to know of Hock Lam Street’s famous beef noodles back in heady days of the late 1960s. I must have been about three then when I willingly accompanied my mother on her regular shopping forays to the area around, an area that was the 1960s equivalent of today’s Orchard Road, only because of the promise of a reward of what had become my favourite bowl of beef balls floating in the piping hot rich brown broth of beef soup. The memory that I have is not of the stall in particular, which to be frank I don’t have a recollection of, but of sitting at a table laid out on a five-foot way on the outside of a coffee shop at the corner of North Bridge Road and Hock Lam Street, eargerly awaiting my reward which my mother would have placed an order for and the taste of the broth and bouncy beef balls which I somehow could never have enough of.

A long way away from the five-foot ways of the 1960s Hock Lam Street.

The Hock Lam Street where my first encounters with the piping hot bowl of beef ball soup was (photo source: http://picas.nhb.gov.sg).

Today, a little over four decades have passed since the last time I found myself at a table on that particular five-foot way, and it is comforting to know that it is not just that distant memory of a long lost Hock Lam Street that remains. And while the area in which it operated has undergone a complete transformation into a soulless and sober place that bears little resemblance to the bustling streets where shoppers came for the latest fashions and to indulge in some of their favuorite hawker fare – Hock Lam Street itself now buried under a shopping mall, the folks behind the beef noodle stall are still dishing out noodles in their signature beef broth. The business is still very much in the family and is now run by Ms Tina Tan who seeks to continue with a tradition that goes back three generations before her, albeit in the much more comfortable surroundings of the three outlets that she now operates under the name Hock Lam Beef. The business was featured on a television programme on Singapore’s food history in the years since independence, Foodage, which aired on Okto recently in which Tina recalls a very different environment that her father, Mr Anthony Tan operated his stall in – the hot and sweaty and rat infested streets of the old Hock Lam Street, has certainly come a long way. Last weekend, Hock Lam Beef which traces its history back to Tina’s great-grandfather, celebrated its 100th anniversary with a celebration which included lion dances in which all proceeds for the day was donated to the Make A Wish Foundation. For me, it was a reason to celebrate with Hock Lam Beef, not just because of its centenary, but also because it is wonderful knowing that one of the things that I remember my childhood for, is still around in a world that has changed too fast.

A lion dance to celebrate 100 years of Hock Lam Beef.

Inside the China Street outlet.

Ms Tina Tan and staff at Hock Lam's China Street outlet during the 100th Anniversary Celebration.

Mr Anthony Tan, Tina's father who ran the stall when it served my favourite bowl of beef ball soup.

Mr Anthony Tan and staff at the China Street outlet.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.





The final evening of a wonderful trip to remember – in photos

5 10 2011

At the end of three wonderful days exploring Melbourne and some of the areas around being treated to some wondrous sights, tastes and experiences courtesy of Tourism Victoria, Jetstar and omy.sg, the good life had to end, and we were down to one last evening before the bulk of the group was to head back home. The evening started with an awesome treat – an early dinner on a historical tramcar – The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, which takes one in a lavishly decorated tram that smacks of an opulent and forgotten time, around the streets of Melbourne including Toorak Road and St. Kilda Road. In an evening in the company of good food, good wine and great new friends (and a singing waiter), the three course dinner went all too quickly, and we soon found ourselves taking a walk back in the cool spring evening back to the hotel, not before a walk through the casino in the Crown Entertainment Complex – where we almost left Pete. We paused to take a group photograph on a footbridge as we crossed the Yarra for the very last time together, and as the night was still young, decided that we should head to a nearby Brunetti’s outlet before turning in – or so I thought. Abandoned by the other guys, I ended up being entertained by ladies talk well into the wee hours of the morning before finally calling it a night. It was a short, but thoroughly enjoyable experience and one where not only was I glad to have experienced but also one in which I discovered that there is a lot more to see and do in and around Melbourne – some of which I was able to in the three extra days I had which as it turned out wasn’t quite enough.

Early dinner on The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.

Everyone was busy taking photographs of each other.

So, I decided to get into the act as well.

The pretty ladies at the next table.

My table.

And the handsome guys at the other table (except for Jenny of Tourism Victoria).

Across the Yarra for one last time.

We waited in the glow of Flinders Street Station for Daphne's sister to join us for coffee at Brunetti's.

Valyn, Deenise and Yiwei looking at snaps Valyn took.

Valyn looking pretty.

St. Paul's Cathedral en route to Brunetti's on Swanston Street.

We indulged in a last evening of sin at Brunetti's.

Karen was at her iPhone all evening.

Back past Flinders Street Station ... where ...

we were in for a treat ...

She ... er, he, blew a kiss in our direction ...

The ladies chatted until it was almost two in the morning ....


Colonial Tramcar Restaurant offers lunch and dinner in some of Melbourne’s oldest trams dating back to 1927, which have been elegantly refurbished in Pullman style decor to become the world’s first mobile tramcar restaurant. Glazed windows allow diners to privately enjoy the passing scenery while enjoying a meal.

Colonial Tramcar Restaurant
Tram stop 125
Normanby Road
South Melbourne VIC 3205
Tel: (03) 9696 4000
Contact: Ingrid Marshall
www.tramrestaurant.com.au






Rush hour on Summerland Beach

2 10 2011

Leaving A Maze’N Things, it looked like we might be in for a cold, wet and windy evening, as we headed towards what would be the evening’s rush hour on Summerland Beach – that of the daily frenzied (if you can call it that) procession of individuals in black and white suits back from their day in the office. The rush hour is one that is one that certainly isn’t a pain to be caught up in – that of the Little Penguins of Phillip Island, returning from their daily duties in the office that is the cold waters of the Bass Strait.

A detour en route to the rush hour on Summerland Beach - a drive by the Nobbies with the promise of stunning views of the rugged western coastline of Phillip Island facing the Bass Strait.

With a wee bit of time to spare before we need to make our way to catch Summerland’s evening crush; we were able to take a short detour to the wild, wild, west of Phillip Island. It is on the western tip of the island where we find the rugged geographical features known as the Nobbies that overlook the rough white waters of the Bass Strait breaking over the rocks that dot the coastline. The stunning views we were treated to standing on the high windswept cliffs that are the Nobbies that evening were made even more dramatic by the storm that appeared to be brewing – the precipitation in the atmosphere painted a spectacular rainbow that seemed to promise a lot more than a pot of gold. It wasn’t just stunning views of the coastline that we got as we made our way to the intended destination – the heads of several wild wallabies on their evening’s forage through the tussock grassland that surrounded us were very much in evidence.

The stunning geographical features of the south western coastline of Phillip Island known as the Nobbies.

The spectacular view of the white of waves breaking on rocks to the setting of the sun.

The Nobbies and the wind tossed tussock grassland on the high cliffs.

The breaking of waves over the rocks that dot the coastline.

The rainbow over the Bass Strait that the precipitation painted.

View of the coastline on the approach to Summerland Beach.

Sunset greeted our arrival to the Phillip Island Penguin Parade’s visitor centre, as did signs prominently displayed that reminded drivers to look below their parked cars for penguins when they were eventually prepared leave after getting their fills of the evening’s procession. We were soon armed with a cup of hot chocolate and an MP3 player – an audio guide included with the tickets for Penguin Plus that provides commentary with information on the penguins, their habitat and their habits, and ready to brave the stiff breeze that brought a chill to the boardwalk that led us to the beach.

Sunset greeted our arrival at the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre.

The grey of the incoming storm mixed with the fading light of sunset.

Signs reminding drivers to check under the car for penguins.

Several options are provided to allow visitors to get up close and personal with the penguins – Little Penguins that at 30 centimetres high are the smallest penguins in the world. Penguin Parade provides general viewing from tiered seating on stands by the beach. The option which we got – Penguin Plus, allows a more private viewing at an area where more penguins come up the beach – this is limited to 150 people each evening. More private viewing options are also available. The popularity of viewing penguins at Summerland Beach has increased substantially since the initial viewings were organised in the 1920s (now attracting over half a million visitors each year) – and steps were put in place to minimise human impact and damage to the habitat in the 1960s with fences and boardwalks constructed, which today boardwalks allow visitors to get close enough to the penguins to be able to observe them at arm’s length. Photography in any form, with or without the use of flash is not permitted to protect the penguins.

The procession of Penguins takes place every evening on Summerland Beach (photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks).

Getting up close allowed us to observe the habits of the penguins that waddled up in waves in the safety of numbers, with tummies full of the day’s harvest of fish that would be regurgitated to feed nestlings. Sensing danger the scout penguin pauses – preening with oil from glands to keep their feathers waterproof – the penguins in the parade behind the lead penguin doing the same. Despite the rain that came down as darkness fell and the stiff cold wind that blew across the beach and the boardwalk behind it, it was a wonderful experience getting that close to the adorable little creatures in their natural habitat – I had only previously come close penguins separated by the thick glass panel of the zoo enclosure.

The boardwalks allow visitors to get up close to the penguins without disturbing the penguins or their habitat (photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks).

To bring a wonderful day out on Phillip Island to a close, from Penguin Parade (after checking for penguins under the car), we made our way to Taylors Waterfront Restaurant where the scrumptious treat of a huge seafood platter that included oysters, lobsters, king prawns, mussels, octopus and calamari awaited. The restaurant is one that is situated on cliffs that overlook the Bass Strait and must provide spectacular views in the day time – the view that we got that evening was no less spectacular, with the full blast of the stiff wind from the sea sweeping over the cliffs driving the rain that was falling horizontally to the huge window panes as we dined to the sound of the weather cock spinning furiously on the roof. A couple of us – Pete and Valyn were crazy enough to brave the wind and the rain and take a walk around on the outside. The coffee and ice-cream that we finished with also brought to a close what was a long but thoroughly enjoyable day out on Phillip Island – a must visit for anyone visiting Melbourne.

Taylors Waterfront Restaurant by night.

The huge seafood platter was a wonderful treat!

The force of the wind coming from the sea over the cliffs blew the rain horizontally against the windows of the restaurant.

Two mad bloggers braving the wind and the rain outside Taylors - the cliff drop was just beyond the edge of the grass that you see.


Phillip Island Nature Park

The Phillip Island Penguin Parade, the star attraction of the Phillip Island Nature Park, has been delighting visitors for many years with little penguins making their way up Summerland Beach each night at sunset. Over 500,000 visitors make the Phillip Island Penguin Parade the third largest visited natural attraction in Australia.

Phillip Island Nature Park
Summerland Beach, Ventnor Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5951 2879
Fax: (03) 5956 8394
www.penguins.org.au


Taylors Waterfront Restaurant
5 Phillip Island Tourist Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5956 7371
Fax: (03) 5956 6540


This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.






A chocolate waterfall on Phillip Island

28 09 2011

The second day of the bloggers’ trip to Melbourne, made possible by Tourism Australia, Jetstar and omy.sg, looked to be an exciting one, even for the less adventurous ones who decided against going on a helicopter ride or hurtling down the snow lined slopes of Mount Buller. There was the promise of penguins of course – but what was to start a visit to Phillip Island, a two-hour drive south-east of Melbourne was a visit to a chocolate waterfall near Newhaven. At the start of the trip, the wet and wild morning that was very evident threatened to give us a real waterfall instead as heavy rain pelted on the windscreen of the rental that Tourism Victoria’s Media and Trade Relations Coordinator, Tony Poletto, drove us in. The grey skies accompanied us throughout the drive up to the point that we reached San Remo, from where a bridge connects the mainland to Phillip Island and what welcomed us to the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory were bulls and brilliant blue skies.

The brilliant blue skies that greeted our arrival at the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory.

The overhead lines of the trams seen against the backdrop of the grey skies through the rain pelted windscreen of the car as we started the journey.

The coastline close to San Remo on a wet and wild morning.

Stepping inside, we were greeted by Panny Letchumanan, whose brainchild the chocolate factory and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate is. Panny who hails from – would you believe it – Klang in Malaysia, after a short introduction, led us through a corridor lined with mock chocolate into his Amazing World of Chocolate, but not before we were reminded not to lick the very real looking mock chocolate lining.

A reminder not to lick the walls.

Inside, we first came to an educational exhibit of the steps in the chocolate making process from the harvesting of cocoa to the finished products we see on the shelves, which anyone, chocolate lover or not, would find interesting. Further in, we were greeted by some amazing chocolate creations. These include an eye-catching 12,000 piece chocolate mosaic of Dame Edna Everage – a popular Australian TV character, a huge one tonne block of chocolate, and a miniature village crafted completely out of chocolate complete with working model trains. It is also in Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate, that we encounter Phillip Island’s chocolate waterfall. Some 400 kg of molten chocolate flows over what should really be called a chocolatefall once every three minutes – an amazing sight!

The 'chocolate waterfall' over which 400 kg of molten chocolate flows once every three minutes.

A wheel indicating when the chocolate would fall over.

A mock cocoa tree at the Educational Exhibition section.

A mosaic of Dame Edna created entirely out of chocolate.

A miniature chocolate village.

We were also able to try our hand at our own creations – which we could eat. Valyn, of the Best Fashion Blog fame tried her hand at something better – a weird combo of wasabi and cola flavoured chocolate made at the press of a few buttons and the pull of a lever at Panny’s Amazing Chocolate Machine. One bite of that was certainly enough to clear the sinuses! As we walk through there is also a section where we are able to see chocolate being moulded and it was at this juncture that the short but thoroughly enjoyable tour of Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate ended and it was time to say our goodbyes after a quick look around the retail shop and Pannys Chocolate Café.

Valyn making her cola-wasabi bar at Panny’s Amazing Chocolate Machine.

Chocolate making.

The Retail Shop.


Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
930 Phillip Island Rd
Newhaven VIC 3925
Tel: (03) 5956 6600
Fax: (03) 5956 6823
http://www.phillipislandchocolatefactory.com.au/


This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.


Brief history of Pannys and the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

A tin shed on a busy road may not the ideal spot for the next big thing on Phillip Island, but Panny Letchumanan has been able to turn an underperforming coffee shop into a stunning tourist attraction in just a few short years. The Phillip Island Chocolate Factory at Newhaven is home to Pannys, both the chocolate brand and the man himself, and has become a key destination for chocolate lovers.

Panny has led a fascinating life. Born in Malaysia of Indian heritage, he trained as a Mechanical Engineer and worked extensively in his chosen field throughout the coconut and cocoa plantations of Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. He moved to Australia in 2000 to join his family, who had relocated earlier, and purchased a chocolate manufacturing business in Queensland.

The brand Pannys was born. In November 2005 he relocated the business to the tin shed in Newhaven and commenced his relentless evolution of his business.

A true mechanical engineer just cannot leave something alone. Panny started to tinker with the chocolate making as soon as he bought his business, driven to perfect the process.

The secret behind the best chocolate is the blending of ingredients and the tempering process and Panny was keen to crack the formula. Tempering is where the fats naturally found in cocoa are crystallised through gentle heating. If the blend is right, and the tempering process achieves the right type of crystallisation, the chocolate becomes glossy, firm and snaps crisply. It also tastes superb.

Once Panny had perfected the art of chocolate tempering, the ideal fillings were the next challenge. His signature chocolate is a white truffle, a sample of which is given to each visitor as they enter the building. Its name is a bit of a misnomer, as it is neither white nor a fungus. It is a milk chocolate bud with a soft and gently sweet filling that cannot be described. It is only after tasting one can you learn how skilled Panny has become as a chocolatier.

Pannys offers a range from traditional bars through to chocolate truffles in a wide range of unique designs and flavours. There is a vast assortment of hand made delicacies, ranging from traditional creams through to the exotic. A favourite for those in the know is a chilli infused truffle that starts sweetly and finishes in a warm, spicy sensation.

Pannys daughter, Nithia, is the custodian of the chocolate truffles and spends many hours lovingly creating tray after tray. She also sculpts chocolate creations that are works of art in their own right. Currently there are six chocolate people on display, one of which is an accurate replication of Panny himself, a range of houses, and a collection of designers shoes that should get every fashionable girl in a bit of a tizz. Should they eat the shoes, or start collecting the full range?

The tinkering hasn’t ended with the chocolates. Panny’s passion is to develop an A to Z chocolate experience, the first stage of which open last December. Pannys Amazing World of Chocolate is a fascinating, interactive and educational celebration of all things chocolate. Visitors move through a series of display spaces, each dedicated to a facet of chocolate, where they are invited to get “hands on” in the process. Chocolate in history, chocolate in advertising, chocolate in art and chocolate in play are all explored in this unique and wondrous world. The chocolate factory can also be observed in action, with the entire production facility on full view with Pannys team creating chocolates non-stop.

The self guided tour concludes with the opportunity to make your mark in chocolate on the Swirl machine and design your own combination of flavours using Pannys Amazing Chocolate Machine. With flavour combinations of milk, white or dark chocolate coatings and fillings that can consist of any and all combination of strawberry, cola, vegemite and wasabi, there is the chance to see if you have the flair to create a signature chocolate.

Pannys team includes two other leaders of their industries. Geoff Moed from Amaze N Things and Keith Tucker from Megafun have partnered with Panny to develop the Amazing World of Chocolate. In a highly competitive market it is refreshing to see businesses working together, proof that a joint venture can provide a greater result than the sum of the individuals.

Pannys current focus is the re-engineering of his café and retail outlet. Pannys Chocolate Café has recently been extended and reopened with much acclaim. A new menu of chocolate desserts combined with ever popular favourites can now be enjoyed in a bright and airy café. The deck has been extended, providing the chance to enjoy the fine Phillip Island weather when enjoying a fine Pannys feast. And every coffee is served with Pannys white truffle, making it even more tempting to stay for a feed. The retail area is the next focus, and is about to be doubled in size.

Panny is not about to slow down. His vision for The Chocolate Factory has many more stages ahead of it, although for the next twelve months the focus is on building the skill of his team and delivering the ultimate chocolate experience to his customers.

Pannys is open 7 days a week from 9:00am and is located at 930 Phillip Island Rd Newhaven. Ph 03 5956 6600 or email info @ phillipislandchocolatefactory.com.au.






The 7 links project

6 09 2011

This is a long overdue post and probably one that requires a lot more effort than it appears to need, one that requires a fair bit of reflection on how previous postings I have made can be seen from the perspective of seven categories so identified by a 7 Links Project. The 7 Links Project is one in which a blogger is to post links to 7 blog posts that falls into each of the 7 categories, and in what seems like a chain letter, nominate 3 other bloggers to do the same. Chain letter or not, it does seem like a great idea which prompts a blogger to take a look back and reflect and I am thankful for my friend and fellow blogger, Aussie Pete, for nominating me. Except for maybe two categories in which the choice wasn’t difficult, the others actually required quite a fair bit of effort in identifying a post that best matched them. And so, after considerable thought, here are my 7 links:


Most Beautiful

The most beautiful post is always one that is going to be difficult to identify, as there would be many interpretations of what constitutes beauty. After much thought, I thought it would be one that captured emotion of an occasion, and one about the passing of the days of the old railway through Singapore, which for me and many others, represented the last days of the romance of a train journey starting from Singapore. The post that I selected, :”Amidst the rising tide, a tearful farewell to Romance“, is one that I thought best captured the poignancy of all that and one which I wrote on the last departure of a luxury train service, steeped in the majesty and romance of the great train journeys, from the now closed station in Tanjong Pagar. The post was also featured on asia!, an online portal which tries to provide a glimpse of the Asia that lies beyond the news headlines.


Most Popular

Identifying the most popular post was a lot easier. It is one that caught the attention of many, and one that was a start of a series of posts that I had put up in the lead up to the ending of train services to Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in which I had featured some of the anonymous faces of the Malayan Railway. The faces are those of men and women who had in their many years of dedicated service keeping the railway running safely through Singapore, who many have not taken the time to take notice of. As a tribute to them, I decided to feature some of those I had a chance to say hello to, and it started with one dedicated to a tireless and unassuming gentleman who was to be one of the two last Station Masters at Bukit Timah Railway Station. It was at Bukit Timah that the last of the key tokens on the Malayan Railway was exchanged as the old fashioned practice was phased out elsewhere along the line. The post is: “Faces of the Railway: the last Station Master at Bukit Timah“.


Most Controversial

Identifying a controversial post was always going to be a tough one. The subjects which I post on are as far from controversy as we are from the sun. The closest that any would come to controversy are perhaps those where opinions that I have made are questioned or challenged. One that comes to mind with respect to that is a post in which I highlight the problem of widespread littering in Singapore in spite of over 40 years of the keep Singapore clean campaign: 42 years of Keeping Singapore Clean and still trying to keep Singapore clean“. The post did draw a few comments, online and offline froma number who disagreed with my suggestion that it was Singaporeans and not just foreigners or new immigrants who were just as responsible for the littering, and even if it isn’t controversial by itself, did succeed in stirring up some controversy..


Most Helpful

There were a series of posts related to the closing of the railway through Singapore that was helpful to many Singapore residents that were trying to catch their last glimpses of the Malayan Railway’s operations and trying to participate in the making of history, which are consolidated in a page Journeys Through Tanjong Pagar “, that I had put up. If I were to identify one, it would be the one in the series entitled: Don’t miss the last train!The post provided information on where and when the trains could be spotted and was even referred to by news and media representatives and filmmakers documenting the passing of history.


Most Surprisingly Successful

The post which success surprised me the most was one that I put up on one of my memories of what was once a bustling village in the Sembawang area of Singapore, Chong Pang village, which was flattened at the end of the 1980s. It was a village which I had many interactions with in my youth and many former residents of the village found their way to the post and that help to reconnect many of them not just with the village, but together. The post is: Forgotten with time: Chong Pang Village “.


Most Underrated

There are a few post that may be considered to be a little underatted of which I thought the most was one that involved a experience of a lifetime. It was one in which I had found myself right at the heart of the action in the midst of a boisterous street festival, the Bisket Jatra, in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Bhaktapur, Nepal: In the eye of the frenzied storm of the Bisket Jatra.


Most Proud Of

The post that I am most proud of would be : A night when the stars shone “. It wasn’t so much the post, but what the post represents, which was the recognition I received as photographer when I received a request to be the official photographer at the Seri Temasek Awards 2011. The event was also special for me as it brought me up close to some of the legends of Malay cinema and the Malay entertainment world, including the likes of international divas Anita Sarawak and Ning Baizura, the man who played Singapore’s version of James Bond (Jefri Zain), Jins Shamsudin, and other well established names such as Rozita Rohaizad, Jack Neo, Sarah Aqilah and Najip Ali.


And last but not least, the nominations I have made for the project are as follows:

Blog to Express
Thimbuktu

The author of the blog is the now extremely well known James Seah who describes himself as “a ‘recycled teenager’ learning to blog”. James was deservedly mentioned by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech for his efforts to preserve the memory of the Bukit Ho Swee fire.


Love You Wrong Time
Estelle Kiora

Estelle’s blogsite is specially set up for friends and girls around the world who love:
Their job (at least most of the time), God, clubbing, cars, shopping, food, Muay Thai, make up, music, the colour pink, water-sports, the beach, chicken rice, comedies, culture, art, travel, family, friends, and cute animals. Boys are welcome if they like shopping, pink and cute animals too.


PY
oceanskies79

I travel about Singapore in the hope to learn more about life itself and my own country. I’m someone who enjoys being in a peaceful and spacious environment. Blue is my favourite colour.






In search of angels in the City of Angels

24 04 2011

Bangkok, the City of Angels, is a city that has always managed to surprise me with a delightful find every time I have the time to wander around it. So it was to be on my last visit there recently, in which I was able to seek out not one, but two beautiful houses of worship, both Catholic, along the Chao Phraya River. The first, off Charoen Krung (New Road), which I understand is the first paved road in Thailand, is set amongst some delightful pieces of European style buildings in the old Farang Quarter of Bangkok, far, as it seemed to be; from the hustle and bustle that Bangkok has come to be associated with. The house of worship is the Assumption Cathedral, built in 1910 with an Romanesque fashioned red brick exterior with twin towers and a centre rose window, featuring an elaborately gorgeous Rococo style interior that is unusual as churches in this part of the world go.

The gorgeous Rococo style interior of the Assumption Cathedral.

The rose window see from the interior.

The Romanesque red brick exterior of the cathedral.

Another view of the Rococo interior of the Cathedral.

Stained glass panels inside the Cathedral.

Around the square where the Cathedral is are some other wonderful examples of European style architecture, the Venetian style East Asiatic Company building by the river being one, complete with a Venetian style skyway. Another notable building is the Renaissance style Catholic Centre, also by the river, from which I chanced upon the Archbishop Emeritus of Bangkok, Michael Michai Cardinal Kitbunchu emerging. The area around the Cathedral also contains the Assumption College, the Assumption Convent, the Catholic Mission and several other buildings.

The East Asiatic Company building as seen from the river.

The East Asiatic Company building as seen from the side.

Arches along the building's side.

A skyway between buildings.

The Renaissance style Catholic Centre by the river.

Chanced upon His Grace, Michael Michai Cardinal Kitbunchu, Archbishop Emeritus of Bangkok emerging from the Catholic Centre.

The Assumption Convent.

From the area where the Cathedral is, I continued further north along the river. This took me past the Central Post Office and about a kilometre up Charoen Krung, I came to the Neo Gothic style Holy Rosary Church, referred to locally as Wat Kalawar, after the Thai word for Calvary. The church had its origins in the Portuguese who settled in Bangkok, and was built originally in the late 1700s, and one that was rebuilt at the end of the 1800s, and now catering to the Vietnamese and Cambodian community. The church’s interior has been wonderfully restored over the years and features a gilded ceiling and some magnificent Romanesque stained glass. Certainly, the search for angels in the City of Angels, was one that yielded not just a few angels, but some gems of churches in a city that is perhaps better known for its beautiful Buddhist temples, gems that on the evidence of what I had seen, are some of the best to be found in South East Asia.

I continued north up Charoen Krung ...

... past the Central Post Office ...

... coming to another Catholic church by the river, the Holy Rosary Church, built originally by the Portuguese.

The façade of the Holy Rosary Church.

Where, I did find an angel, in the form of a holy water font.

The interior of the church.

Another view of the interior.

The church features some wonderful Romanesque style stained glass panels.





Wonderland and the thrill of Bangkok

6 01 2011

I guess the school of thrills for me was the roller coaster of the wonderful Wonderland Amusement Park in Singapore, back in my wonderful childhood in the Singapore of the 1970s. Then, Wonderland was the world to me and the roller coaster was where I spent most of my time at whenever I succeeded in pestering my mother to take me there. Wonderland offered no end of fun, and besides the roller coaster, I could also remember the kiddie train that went round a track and the Ovaltine cups that span around – ones which could be made to spin faster by turning a wheel in the centre of the cup (which I did very often, much to my younger sister’s discomfort).

A photo in the National Archives collection of Wonderland under construction in 1969 (source: National Archives of Singapore's online catalogue).

A view of Wonderland in 1970 with the tracks of my favourite roller coaster (source: National Archives of Singapore's online catalogue).

The park had opened in 1969, just in time for me to have the many thrills and spills as I sought as a primary school boy. It was a time when interest in the “Worlds” of Singapore was waning and Singapore needed a new amusement park to bring fun to its children. The park, built on reclaimed land that had once been part of the old Kallang Airport, in its time hosted many corporate events as well, probably being one of the first places which saw family days being held in Singapore. It was a place that I enjoyed until I guess I outgrew the rides as I entered secondary school in the early 1980s and it was after this, in 1984, that an accident occurred in which planes fell off a merry-go-round injuring 16 people – the first accident in my memory what had been 15 years of accident free operation up to that point in time. I can’t quite remember when and what had shut the park, but based on newspaper archives, the park closed in 1988 to make way for the large open air carpark meant to serve the Kallang Indoor Stadium, a car park which is still with us today, bearing nothing to remind us of the good old amusement park.

The merry-go-round of planes which also a favourite. An accident in 1984 in which planes fell off resulted in 16 injuries (source: National Archives of Singapore's online catalogue).

The Ovaltine cups were evil!

News on the Indoor Stadium's opening in 1989.

By that time, my idea of thrills had evolved and looking for something more than what Wonderland offered, I was soon to find that in Bangkok. It was in the year of the accident (and around the time of it) that while in the Thai capital, I came to hear of a water themed amusement park (possibly the first water themed park in South-East Asia and one that featured a wave pool), some 20 kilometres outside of Bangkok, Siam Park. The park, which had opened some 4 years before, featured a looping roller-coaster, the Loop-the-Loop, something that had been unheard of in this part of the world. Without knowing a word of Thai, I bravely set out on the public transport system (being on a shoestring) that carried me over the dusty streets out of Bangkok, and there I soon was, staring in awe at what was in fact South-East Asia’s very first looping roller coaster.

South-East Asia's first looping roller coaster at Siam Park, outside Bangkok, in 1984.

My first ride wasn’t actually the best of experiences. Getting into the prime front row seat, I was soon locked in by the safety bar and looking forward to what was surely going to be the ride of my life. In all the excitement, I had somehow forgotten (as well as not being reminded by the staff on hand) to remove my glasses and was soon caught up in the anticipation of the ride as the roller coaster rode up on end of the rail and prepared for its descent. Down it quickly went amidst a chorus of screams, up the loop, as I braced myself for what would be my first heads-down roller coaster experience. That feeling that came with the moment the world turned upside down I still remember very well, with my heart feeling as if it had fallen out of my chest. The moment that happened, I felt my glasses falling as well, and that being something that I would have been at a lost without (being shortsighted and not having a spare pair on me), I shot my arms out, managing to somehow grab my glasses out of the air, relying perhaps on the reflexes that my early days playing football as a goalkeeper had developed in me. I had several more rides on the roller coaster, taking a break from it only to have the occasional dip in the wave pool, during which I made it a point to remove my glasses, and it was only at closing time that I made my way back into Bangkok, tired from the thrills and glad to have survived my first ever looping experience.





2010 in review

2 01 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 150,000 times in 2010. If it were an exhibit at The Louvre Museum, it would take 6 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 206 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 267 posts.

The busiest day of the year was May 15th with 910 views. The most popular post that day was The “Corner House”.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were yesterday.sg, sgblogs.com, singaporedaily.net, goodmorningyesterday.blogspot.com, and sgblogawards.omy.sg.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for the hallucinogenic toreador, hallucinogenic toreador, how to tie a bow tie, renoir, and dali.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The “Corner House” May 2010
6 comments

2

Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre July 2009





Adios Amigo! The beginning of the end of the National Stadium

8 09 2010

Preparation work for the long anticipated demolition for one of places in Singapore for which I have many fond memories of, the National Stadium, has finally begun. Last Friday, heavy equipment started moving in, occupying the open space in front of the East Entrance, and this week, we see a fence being erected around some parts of the much loved stadium as she is being readied for demolition work proper which should commence in October, based on a news release by the Singapore Sports Council on 25 Aug 2010. Besides the heavy equipment and the erection of the fence, there is also quite a lot of activity happening inside the stadium, where salvageable and reusable items including the wooden planking that served as benches on the terraces are being painstakingly removed and moved out of the stadium before the wrecker’s ball descends on the grey concrete terraces in October …

Heavy equipment has been moved to the site of the former National Stadium as preparation work is being carried out for its eventual demolition.

Mobile cranes and parts of the fixed tower cranes that the mobile cranes will erect moved into the area in front of the East entrance last Friday.

A fence is being erected around the former stadium ... and we would soon lose sight of it.

The wooden seating in the gallery has been ripped out of the terraces.





The next poster boy of football?

31 08 2010

Having been caught up in the wave of hysteria and euphoria that accompanied the appearance of some good looking Korean pop stars, in particular, a certain Alexander of the band U-KISS on my recent trip to Hong Kong, I was caught up with a mini-version of that for who is potentially a hero in the making in not so much the local music scene, but in the local sports scene. It was in sitting on the stands of the Jalan Besar Stadium during last Wednesday’s bronze medal playoff for the boys football competition for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG), that I may have observed the making of this new cult hero, a certain Brandon Koh, who plays as a midfielder for the Singapore youth football team that participated in the YOG. Brandon certainly has a small fan base amongst the members of the fairer sex on the evidence of the air of disappointment that seemed to overcome the many school girls that had gathered on the stands, when it became apparent that Brandon was missing from the starting eleven. The girls did not have to contain their disappointment for long though, when Singapore’s captain Jeffrey Lightfoot had to go off very early on with a bad gash which needed stitches. Amidst the concern and disappointment at the loss of the skipper, excited screams rose above the din to greet the entrance of the substitute in place of the unfortunate Jeffrey, none other than Brandon Koh.

Excited screams from the stands greeted Brandon Koh

Throughout the rest of the match the focus of many of the girls was on Brandon, with screams ringing out each time he touched the ball, but it was the hysteria that came at the end has to be the one which confirmed that we have a potential cult hero in the making in Brandon. Both at the end of the match, when the jubilant Singapore team, which had beaten Montenegro for the bronze, did a lap of honour (Brandon included), and later after the medal presentation ceremony, when they ran towards the celebrating fans in the stands, the school girls had gathered along the edge of the gallery, screaming their lungs out.

The jubilant Singapore players did a lap of honour at the end of the game, greeted by the screams of school girls who only had eyes for Brandon (left).

Team Singapore running towards the screaming girls in the stands after the medal presentation ceremony.

The excitement of the school girls was clearly visible, as they gathered at the edge of the gallery screaming their lungs out.

It certainly was very apparent who the screams were for, with shouts of “I love you, Brandon” rising above the uncontrolled screaming, as the girls jostled for the best position to catch a glimpse of Brandon, throwing whatever they could get their hands on for him to autograph, with even school text books and exercise books being flung onto the pitch by the screaming girls!

Brandon Koh was a big hit with the screaming girls in the stands.

School girls gathered along the edge of the gallery to catch a glimpse of Brandon Koh at the end of the medal presentation ceremony. School exercise books were among the things that were thrown down on the pitch to Brendon Koh to get him to put his autograph on them.

It somehow is nice to see scenes such as this. Perhaps, this is just what we need to generate interest in our local sporting scene which is sorely lacking. We have not in fact had many (at least in football) whom we can identify as poster boys for some time … not since Singapore’s participation in the Malaysia Cup perhaps, when the likes of Fandi Ahmad, Quah Kim Song, Dollah Kassim and many others before them gave local fans someone to identify the sport with. That had certainly stoked interest and inspired many taking the sport up, as well motivated the tens of thousands of fans who packed the National Stadium, and before that, the Jalan Besar Stadium, to cheer their exploits on the field.

Brendon seemed to be comfortable with all the attention and affection ... as screams of "I love you Brendon Koh" rose above the uncontrolled screams, as he posed for the girls.





Was this a comet seen in the skies over Singapore this evening?

4 08 2010

Photographed in the skies over the Kallang area this evening … what certainly looks like a comet. Somehow, I can’t seem to find any information on it … perhaps someone is able to shed some light on it.

Comet seen in the skies over Singapore on 4 August 2010?








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,158 other followers

%d bloggers like this: