Windows into Singapore: juxtapositions of time

27 03 2014

A view out of the window from the POD atop the National Library building, out towards what would once have been an almost clear view of the sea off the promenade that ran along Nicoll Highway.

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Part of what has been a landmark along Beach Road since its completion in 1976, Shaw Towers, can be seen on the right of the photograph. Built over a site that had previously been occupied by the Alhambra and Marborough cinemas, the 35 floor Shaw Towers was at the point of its completion, the tallest kid on the block at Beach Road. It was also the first building in Singapore to house two cinemas, Prince and Jade, built in a decade when cinema going took-off in Singapore. Prince was at its opening, the largest cinema in Singapore with its 1952 seats. Prince occupied the second to the seventh floors of one corner of the building’s podium. Its screen, at 28 metres wide, was the widest in the Far East. Jade was to provide a more intimate setting, holding less than half the crowd Prince would have held. The cinemas were converted in the late 1980s to cineplexes – the first multi-screen cinemas to make an appearance in Singapore.

A close up of the boats in the Kallang Basin close to Nicoll Highway (posted in Facebook group, On a Little Street in Singapore).

Nicoll Highway, Singapore’s first highway, did once run along the coast right behind Shaw Towers. Completed in 1956 - after the closure of Kallang Airport permitted a much needed link to be built along the coast, it provided an artery to take vehicular traffic from and to the populated eastern coast into and out of the city. Offering a view of the sea and the scatter of boats up to the early 1970s,  a drive today provides a view of a scattering of trees and isolated structures that herald the arrival of a brand new world - where the wooded patch is in the foreground of the first photograph.

Nicoll Highway, the Merdeka Bridge, Beach Road and the Kallang Basin, 1967 – before the 1970s land reclamation (posted in Facebook group, On a Little Street in Singapore).

A view down Nicoll Highway. A new development South Beach is seen rising beyond Shaw Tower.

A view down Nicoll Highway. A new development South Beach is seen rising beyond Shaw Towers.

Another view down Nicoll Highway during peak hour.

Another view down Nicoll Highway during peak hour.

The body of water beyond which we can see the Benjamin Sheares Bridge rising, is itself one that has seen a significant change. Where it once was the sea, it now is a body of fresh water, forming a part of the huge Marina Reservoir, having been cut-off from the sea by land reclamation and the construction of the Marina Barrage. The barrage, closes up the channel between Marina East and Marina South, Marina East being land reclaimed off Tanjong Rhu, a cape once referred to as a “curious ridge of sand” on which shipyards, the charcoal trade and a flour mill had once featured.

An advertisement for Khong Guan Flour Mills. The grain storage silos once dominated a landscape at Tanjong Rhu now dominated by condominiums.

An advertisement for Khong Guan Flour Mills. The grain storage silos once dominated a landscape at Tanjong Rhu now dominated by condominiums.

A more recent landmark on Beach Road, the 41-storey The Concourse and a view toward Tanjong Rhu beyond it.

A more recent landmark on Beach Road, the 41-storey The Concourse and a view toward Tanjong Rhu beyond it.

Reclaimed land by Nicoll Highway, the Kallang Basin area of Marina Reservoir and Tanjong Rhu beyond it.

Reclaimed land by Nicoll Highway, the Kallang Basin area of Marina Reservoir and the Marina South area beyond it.

It is at Tanjong Rhu, where Singapore first million-dollar condominium units were sold, that the eastern end of the iconic 1.8 km long Benjamin Sheares Bridge comes down to earth. Opened to traffic on 26 September 1981, it provided the final link for a coastal highway that had been built to take traffic around and not through the city centre, the planning for which went back to the end of the 1960s (see The Making of Marina Bay).

Land reclamation in the Kallang Basin / Tanjong Rhu area in 1973 (posted in Facebook group On a Little Street in Singapore).

This stretch of that coastal highway, East Coast Parkway (ECP), did take up much of the traffic that was being carried on what was becoming an increasingly congested Nicoll Highway that had been built some 25 years before it. Now, some 32 years later, as with the highway it took traffic away from, it sees its role taken up in a similar fashion by a new highway, the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE). Built at the cost of S$4.3-billion, the 5 kilometre MCE runs mostly underground and partly under the sea and see the series of coastal highways move with the shifting of the coastline. The MCE features a 3.6 km tunnel and has a 420 metre stretch that runs under the sea.

Tanjong Rhu and the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.

Tanjong Rhu and the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.

The expressway, which opened to traffic on 29 December 2013, was built so as to remove the constraints that the ECP, in running right smack through the centre of Marina South, had placed on the development of Singapore’s new downtown (the expansion of the city to Marina South that was really an afterthought, having come after urban planners had realised the potential that land, which had initially been reclaimed for the construction of the ECP, had in providing much needed space for the expansion of the city). The availability of new and undeveloped land through reclamation did allow parts of old Singapore slated for redevelopment, to be spared the wreckers’ ball.

A view over the Marina Reservoir and Marina East, with the Benjamin Sheares Bridge seen to the left of the capsule.

A view over the Marina Reservoir and Marina East, with the Benjamin Sheares Bridge seen to the left of the capsule.

The deceptively blue waters in the first photograph’s background, is that of the Eastern Anchorage. It is at the anchorage that ships lie patiently in wait, far removed from the frenzy at the wharves of what is one of the world’s busiest ports. It is one place in Singapore where time does seem to stand very still, at least for now. Time doesn’t of course seem to stand very still in a Singapore constantly on the move, and time will certainly bring change to shape of the distribution of the shipping infrastructure along the coast- with the journey to west for the city shipping terminals, at Keppel, Pulau Brani and Tanjong Pagar, due to completed by 2030.

The Eastern Anchorage.

The Eastern Anchorage – where time does seem to stand still.

There is of course the potential that developments away from Singapore has for influencing change. One possible game-changing development we in Singapore are keeping our eyes on is the possibility that of a dream long held by Thailand, the cutting of a shipping canal through the Isthmus of Kra, coming true. If a recent report, purportedly from the Chinese media, is to be believed, work is already starting. The cutting of the so-called Kra Canal is an idea that was first mooted back in the late 17th Century (see: How a Thai Canal Could Transform Southeast Asia on and talk of building it does crop up from time to time – the effort required and the associated costs in recent times serving as a huge deterrent. If built, the canal would save shipping a 1,500 nautical mile journey through the Straits of Malacca and around Singapore.

The proposed canal does have the potential to undermine Singapore’s so far unchallenged strategic position with regards to shipping, although it would probably take a lot more than a canal to do that. In the meantime, it is the change that is driven within that we will see add to another area in Singapore in which change does seem to always be a constant.

Reflections on the new world

15 03 2014

The new world at Marina Bay, seen at twilight on 6 March 2014 from the edge of the pond at the ArtScience Museum. Built on land reclaimed from the sea that, the ArtScience Museum is part of the new Marina Bay Sands Complex that lies on top of the area where the detached mole that separated the inner roads from the outer roads once was. The complex looks across to what had been the old waterfront built along a bund, which did have some grand works of architecture to welcome the many who came ashore at old Clifford Pier. Much of all that has unfortunately been lost, replaced by the new world of glass and steel that does serve to impress all who set eyes on it.

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Marina Bay, 7.42 pm, 6 March 2014.

A sneak peek at i Light Marina Bay 2014

7 03 2014

From the eye-catching, to the fun and quirky, there is something that will certainly catch your attention as Marina Bay brightens up from this evening until the end of March 2014, all in a sustainable way I should add - the festival’s 28 light art installations have been picked so as to convey the message of sustainability through art – a key area of focus for the three week long festival. It would probably take more than one visit to take in all 28 – especially with the installations spread around the bay area and that is just what the curatorial team hopes visitors would do, taking in the lights, as well as the fun that does come from some of the interactive installations.

From the pick of installations participants of a preview were introduced to, my favourites are in fact the interactive ones as well as the somewhat quirky ones. These are CLOUD by Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett (which I only got to see from afar) – judging from what has been said about it, Jen Lewin’s The Pool, and Happy Croco by Bibi – who some may remember for his igloo installation during the last festival. The festival will be opened this evening and will be on every evening  until 30 March 2014. More information on the festival and the host of fringe events and activities can be found at the festival’s website.

A pick of installations

The Pool 

Jen Lewin Studio (USA)

Marina Bay waterfront promenade near The Promontory @ Marina Bay (A14 on the map)

Promises to be lots of fun, especially for the kids and those like me who want to be kids again. Watch as circular pads arranged in concentric circles change hues through movement – an effect that will best be seen when a group of people play together. The installation was created in a way that it can quite easily be recreated anywhere it needs moving to.

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Jan Lewin at The Pool


Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett (Canada)

The Float @ Marina Bay (B9 on the map)

The CLOUD apparently has people pulling at strings – literally, by getting people to congregate under a rain cloud, the aesthetic of which is influenced by those under it pulling at light switches. The CLOUD features a contrast of old and new technologies, and is intended to demonstrate how an individual has the power to impact progress and achieve change. The real magic happens when multiple visitors work as one towards a unified response.

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Happy Croco 

Bibi (France)

Marina Bay waterfront promenade near Mist Walk (A4 on the map)

Happy Croco is a happy and somewhat quirky luminous 20 metre long installation – made with a backbone of traffic cones. There is an underlying message in the so-called urban crocodile though – in being made of items we discard everyday, Bibi, attempts to bring to attention the issue of plastic waste. 

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Jason Bruges Studio (UK)

Marina Bay City Gallery (A7 on the map)

Another that will be a favourite with the kids would be Mimosa – a work that uses organic light-emitting diodes to mimic the leaves of the responsive plant by sensing hand movements. 

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Uno Lai (Taiwan)

Marina Bay City Gallery (A9 on the map)

The work, which features giant teddy-bear heads and intended to revisit childhood memories in which the soft toy would be a feature of , encourages the visitor not only to give the installation a hug, but also, judging to the response take lots of photographs with it.

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Uno Lai


Light Collective (UK)

Marina Bay City Gallery (A8 on the map)

An installation made up of individual and personalised light boxes – the work of students from different schools in Singapore that emphasises the role of education in guiding the future generation towards a sustainable future.

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Arup (Singapore)

In front of Marina Bay Sands (A1 on the map)

An installation that appeals to the instinct to  touch, simulating a response from lighted globes that then adopt a human heart beat light pulse – another favourite with the kids.

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SUTD (Singapore)

In Marina Bay, near Bayfront Taxi Stop (A3 on the map)

A luminous swarm of “sea creatures” that interact with passer-by through light sensors.

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Floating Hearts

Travesias de Luz (Spain)

Marina Bay waterfront promenade, near Marina Bay Link Mall pop-up structure (A10 on the map)

A wall of illuminated hearts that invites passers-by to play with them.

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The Guardian Angels

Maro Avrabou and Dimitri Xenakis (Greece and France)

Marina Bay waterfront promenade near Breeze Shelter (A12 on the map)

Echoes the preservation of the garden and plants, and by extension, nature – a tribute to gardeners and artificially created gardens.

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Ryf Zaini (Singapore)

Marina Bay waterfront promenade (A11 on the map)

Giant speech bubbles that displays thoughts and messages akin to comic strips – a humourous reference to the shift in the way we interact socially in the digital age towards screen-based forms of communication.

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Fool’s Gold

Vertical Submarine (Singapore)

The Promontory (A13 on the map)

A work that alludes to a Chinese idiom about a fool who hides his gold but gives it away by erecting a sign to disclaim its existence. 

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1.26 Singapore

Janet Echelman (USA)

The Float @ Marina Bay (B10 on the map)

A huge illuminated net that depicts the force of nature that uses space-age Honeywell Spectra fibre. Suspended over the floating platform, the work is a 3D representation of the force of a tsunami created by the 2010 Chile earthquake and draws on laboratory research done by NASA and NOAA on the earthquake. The earthquake resulted in a shift in the axis of the earth’s rotation, which shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds – hence the installation’s name.

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1.26 Singapore

Justin Lee and Dornier Asia Pte Ltd (Singapore and Switzerland)

ArtScience Museum (B14 on the map)

Celebration of Life is a large-scale projection by local artist Justin Lee on the ArtScience Museum – the first time he has taken on such a challenge. The projection takes viewers through a commentary on the role and value of traditional culture on contemporary society, blending traditional Eastern icons with modern day symbols.

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Digital Wattle 

Out of the Dark (New Zealand)

Near The Float @ Marina Bay (B11 on the map)

Based on the Golden Wattle, the installation explores the interplay between individual ethnic groups that co-exist within a city – the change of colours of the flowers swaying in the breeze representing the new mix of cultures.

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i Light Marina Bay 2014 related:


Colouring the new world

6 03 2014

The Marina Bay area will be brought to life this month of March as i Light Marina Bay returns from the 7th to 30th. The latest edition of the biennial light art festival, Asia’s only sustainable light art festival, sees 28 installations spread across what is already a visually stunning new world, a large part of which, rose from the sea.

1.26 by Janet Echelman, seen in Amsterdam (Photo-Courtesy-of-Janusvanden-Eijnden)

Highlights of the festival will include seven installations, each of which is being put up by an invited artist, one of whom is the internationally renowned Janet Echelman. Known for her sculpture environments that respond to the forces of nature, Ms Echelman will illuminate The Float @ Marina Bay with ’1.26 Singapore’, a large floating fluid installation that uses space-age Honeywell Spectra fibre. Suspended over the floating platform, the work is a 3D representation of the force of a tsunami created by the 2010 Chile earthquake and draws on laboratory research done by NASA and NOAA on the earthquake. The earthquake resulted in a shift in the axis of the earth’s rotation, which shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds – hence the  installation’s name.

Mimosa by Jason Burges

Celebration of Life by Justin Lee

Another of the festival’s highlights to look forward to will be ‘Celebration of Life’, a large-scale projection by local artist Justin Lee on the ArtScience Museum that sees a commentary on the role and value of traditional culture on contemporary society. There are also several interactive installations, one of which is ‘Mimosa’ by UK based Jason Bruges Studio at the Marina Bay City Gallery. The work mimics the behaviour of responsive plant systems such as the mimosa and uses organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) arranged to open and close in response to hand movements.

CLOUD by Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett (Photo Courtesy of Doug Wong)

Another interactive work that will surely be a hit is ‘CLOUD’ by Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett, who are from Canada. Located at The Float @ Marina Bay, ‘CLOUD’ features 5,000 new and recycled lightbulbs (of which some 200 are functioning) on an installation that resembles a rain cloud, extending an invitation to strangers to come together under it and play. Visitors will be able to pull on switches, triggering a shift in the aesthetics – intended to demonstrate how an individual has the power to impact progress and achieve change. The real magic, we are told, does however happen when multiple visitors work as one towards a unified response.

The Pool by Jen Lewin

iSwarm by SUTD, Suranga Nanayakkara and Thomas Schroepfer

Other highlights are ‘JouJou-Ours’ by Uno Lai of Taiwan, which revisits childhood memories beside the Marina Bay City Gallery; the very colourful ‘The Pool’ by Jen Lewin Studio of the US, which is at the Promontory @ Marina Bay; and iSwarm by a team from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) – swarming the water near the Bayfront water taxi stop  with light that is reminiscent of naturally occurring phenomena such as bio-luminescent algae.

JouJou Ours by Uno Lai

Besides the invited artists, the remaining installations in i Light Marina Bay 2014 were selected through an open call, 13 of which are the creations of locally based artists. The three-week festival will also see several fringe activities and offerings that will include opportunities for fun with the family, to complement the installations – with food never far away. More information on the host of activities and culinary offerings is available at the festival’s website.

Giant Dandelion by Olivia D’Aboville

Along with the festival and fringe events, there will also be the i Light Symposium 2014, which will see three sessions held, the last of which will feature Janet Echelman. More information on the symposium and how to register can be found on the events listing page on the festival’s website.

i Light Marina Bay 2014 related:

Recoloured waters

2 03 2014

A view of the Singapore River from my favourite bridge, the Cavenagh Bridge. The view is now very different one from the one I did when I first set my eyes on it as a child, with the river emptied of its seemingly overladen twakows – lighters that seemed to have non-existent freeboards. The twakows provided the means to bring goods from the ocean going ships anchored in the harbour to godowns upriver and were the backbone of trading business on which Singapore owes much of its early success to. 

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The once filthy waters of the river, spilling not anymore into the harbour, but into a body of sweet water – the Marina Reservoir, carved amazingly out from the sea and is now surrounded by the modern skyline that has come up at what is today Marina Bay, has since been cleaned up – the result of a huge ten year effort that began in 1977 that also saw it emptied of its twakowsIt is the new trades – that serving new temporary imports in the form of tourists, have replaced the old, and it is this that now recolours the river’s once dark and murky waters, bringing new life to the area. 

More on the Singapore River and the old harbour:

Splashing by the bay

30 11 2013

A sneak peek at the Gardens by the Bay – Far East Organization one hectare Children’s Garden which is scheduled to be open in January 2014. The garden, being set up on a site adjacent to the Cloud Forest will feature river scapes, lush greenery, a special toddler’s play zone, Rainforest tree houses and a water play area and on the evidence of the sneak preview that the young guests of the Gardens by the Bay and Far East Organization got over the weekend, will provide kids a splashing good time.

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The lost waterfront

19 09 2013

The former waterfront at Collyer Quay is certainly one place which exemplifies how Singapore has transformed over the years, discarding much of what made Singapore a Singapore which was full of character and flavour, to the sea of glass, steel and concrete Singapore has become today.


The waterfront we inherited from our colonial masters was one of wonderfully designed buildings which might have rivaled Shanghai’s Bund. Even in 1971 after the Overseas Union Shopping Centre (see image above) did spoil some of that flavour, it still retained much of its original character. Then, the three “skyscrapers” that came up in the 1950s: the modern looking 15 storey Shell House (1959); the Bank of China Building (1954); and the Asia Insurance Building (1954) (out of picture), still dominated. It was however the grand looking edifices – several of them attributed to architecture firm Swan and MacLaren which designed many notable buildings from our past, which would have been noticed. This included the Maritime Building (former Union Building) with its tower and the HongKong Bank Chambers (1924) next to it. The Fullerton Building (1928) which housed the General Post Office also wouldn’t have been missed.

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The beginning of the end for the old waterfront came at the end of the decade with the demolition of the HongKong Bank building notable not just for its English Renaissance style design, but also for its stained glass skylight over its main banking hall and huge bronze entrance doors, in 1979. The Maritime Building, built originally for the Union Insurance Society of Canton and which once housed the Far East headquarters of the Royal Air Force, soon followed in the early 1980s. What we do see today is a towering skyline of glass and steel against which the surviving “skyscrapers” of the 1950s are now dwarfed. The buildings along old waterfront which did survive are the Fullerton Building (Fullerton Hotel), Clifford Pier (part of Fullerton Bay Hotel), Bank of China Building, Customs House, and the Asia Insurance Building (Ascott Raffles Place).


A nation celebrates!

9 08 2013

Photographs from last week’s National Day Parade preview show how the nation will celebrate its 48th anniversary of its independence from Malaysia.


















The new world rising from the sea

30 07 2013

A view along Singapore’s former waterfront at 7.37 pm on 28 July 2013. To the left of the photograph, a brand new world has grown on land reclaimed more recently from the sea, dwarfing the Asia Insurance Building, once the tallest building in South East Asia. What has been left behind from when the waters were those of the old harbour can be seen on the right side of the photograph. These include the Fullerton Building (former General Post Office) and Clifford Pier, both built along a bund that was in itself build on land reclaimed in the mid 1800s – one of the first land reclamation to take place in Singapore. The bund was completed in 1864 along with a road which has since been named Collyer Quay.


Dawn in the new world

26 07 2013

6.38 am on 23 July 2013. The colours of the breaking day illuminate the icons of the new Singapore, which the Merlion probably best represents. The body of water, Marina Bay, now a reservoir of fresh water, had once been the sea where the inner harbour, the Inner Roads, once fed Singapore with its immigrants and with goods from east and west , the foundation on which Singapore’s early success was built upon.


Reflections on Marina Bay

3 06 2013

For me, the story of Singapore is very a reflection of the way in which what we call Marina Bay today, has been transformed. Once the harbour at the heart of Singapore’s early success, the bay, like it or hate it, is today a magnificent sight to behold – particularly at certain times of the day, and a celebration of the tremendous strides Singapore has taken as a nation since the tumultuous events which surrounded a somewhat reluctantly achieved independence.

Marina Bay seen through the light rain at 6.30 am on 2 June 2013.

Marina Bay seen through the drama of the rain coloured scene at first light (photograph taken at 6.30 am on 2 June 2013).

The so-called bay itself (now a fresh water reservoir) and the developments that have taken root around it, was an afterthought made possible by massive land reclamation works which were started in the early 1970s – initially to provide land for a road which would bypass the already congested city (more information on which can be found in a previous post “The Making of Marina Bay“). While it did result in the disappearance of the old harbour – one of the things which did make Singapore, Singapore, it did provide new land for development. It is perhaps because of this, it became possible to widen the scope for conservation of Singapore’s built heritage, particularly in areas of the old city such as in the Tanjong Pagar / Chinatown area and other areas which had previously been earmarked for redevelopment .

The faces of Chingay 2013

24 02 2013

If anyone reading this appears in any of the photographs below (or in this album), I would be pleased to extend a higher resolution copy of the photograph to you if you can drop me an email.

Photographs from what was certainly a feast for the senses, Chingay 2013, which was held at the F1 Pit Building over two evenings on 22 and 23 February 2013. The annual event, touted as “Asia’s Grandest Street Parade”  is organised the People’s Association. In its current incarnation, Singapore’s Chingay was conceived as a street parade to celebrate the Chinese New Year in 1973 in the wake of the ban on the tradition of letting off fireworks, the parade has evolved over the years into the spectacular celebration of Singapore’s rich multi-ethnic mix and includes participants from many other countries. The event wouldn’t have been a success if it wasn’t also for the efforts of many participants and volunteers, to whom this post is dedicated to:
















































Celebrating the Lunar New Year at Marina Bay

12 02 2013

In celebration of the Lunar New Year, The Float @ Marina Bay once again plays host to River Hongbao. The annual event, now in its 27th year, is organised by Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SCCCI), Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and People’s Association (PA) with the aim to allow both locals and visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere. This year’s fair sees a display of lanterns including some of the largest which have been designed and specially handcrafted for River Hongbao on display at The Float. This combined with the host of fringe activities including amusement rides and carnival games; nightly shows on the main stage and; brought specially this year – food and handicraft from Guangdong Province, will certainly make this year’s River Hongbao one that will certainly be worth a visit.

The Guangdong Arts Troupe during the Countdown Ceremony on Saturday.

The Guangdong Arts Troupe during the Countdown Ceremony on Saturday.

The Float coming to life for River Hongbao 2013.

The Float coming to life for River Hongbao 2013.

The lanterns will definitely be a draw this year – the most eye-catching one being the towering 18 metre tall God of Wealth, as well as two large Screen Lanterns, which measuring 30 metres by 10 metres, will certainly not be missed. The lanterns have all been locally designed and handcrafted by craftsmen in China and also include zodiac lanterns – 12 of them each with a zodiac animal – the one with the snake will of course be taking centre stage. One rather interesting lantern is that resembles a Chinese Opera or Wayang stage – with lantern puppets as well as puppet show performances at selected times throughout the day. Visitors can also look forward to receiving fortune numbers from the God of Wealth at two hourly intervals from 1 to 11 pm.

The lanterns will add light and colour to The Float over the nine days.

The lanterns will add light and colour to The Float over the nine days.

The 18 metre tall God of Wealth.

The 18 metre tall God of Wealth.

The zodiac lantern featuring the snake.

The zodiac lantern featuring the snake.

A floating lantern.

A floating lantern.

A lantern featuring giant pandas.

A lantern featuring giant pandas.

Besides the lanterns, the happenings on the main stage which comes alive every evening, should also not be missed. The shows on the main stage will over the nine evenings, feature performances by both local and foreign performers, including acts which hail from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.  The highlight includes the performances which feature dancers from the National Taiwan University of Arts and the Nanfang Song and Dance Company, as well as acrobats from Shantou Acrobatic and Magic Troupe. In addition to these acts, the evening of 13 February will see a “Local Talent Night”,  14 February a “Youth Night” which showcases upcoming young talents and 15 February, a “SFCCA Night” during which the clan associations will put up both Mandarin as well as perfromances in dialects. The last evening (16 February) will see a “Harmony Night” when the different ethnic groups come together in a grand finale. For more information on the programme, please visit the River Hongbao’s Programme page. River Hongbao 2013 runs from 8 to 16 February 2013. More information on River Hongbao can also be found at the event’s website and Facebook Page.









Further information on River Hongbao 2013:

Working with Guangdong

As part of efforts to further cultural cooperation with Guangdong Province, River Hongbao will be partnering the Department of Culture and Department of Tourism of Guangdong Province to bring the region’s highlights to Singapore. Visitors to The Float will be entertained by the Guangdong Arts Troupe, which comprises of performers from the highly acclaimed Nanfang Song and Dance Company and acrobats from Shantou Acrobatic and Magic Troupe. Guangdong is also well known for its popular Cantonese cuisine so expect your tastebuds to be tantalized by the region’s delicacies available at the River Hongbao Food Street. Handicrafts from from different provinces of Guangdong like silk scarves from Shunde, Guangzhou bone and jade sculptures, Foshan paper cuttings and souvenirs from The Musuem of Dr Sun Yat Sen will also be available for visitors to bring a small piece of Guangdong back with them.


River Hongbao Food Street

Continuing with 2012’s success, River Hongbao’s Food Street will bring back last year’s winning local fare like Char Kway Teow, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Fried Hokkien Noodles, Satay Bee Hoon, Oyster Omelette, as well as Asian street favourites from Taiwan and Thailand. Guangdong chefs will also be flown in to entice palates with popular Guangdong delicacies like Grilled Quail’s Eggs, Soup Dumplings, Oysters steamed with garlic mince, Traditional double boiled soups and many more.


Memory Collection Drive

This year, River Hongbao will work together with the Singapore Memory Project (SMP) to collect memories of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore. Visitors can share their memories of the festive traditions or past River Hongbao events at the Memory Collection Drive. For memories contributed, they will receive specially designed hongbao packets, while stocks last. These memories will enable future generations of Singaporeans to understand the collective journey of our nation and the different facets of Singapore. Members of the public can also submit photos and stories via or the SG Memory iOS App.


Minister for Prime Minister’s Office Mr Lim Swee Say joining the countdown celebrations.

Minister for Prime Minister’s Office Mr Lim Swee Say joining the countdown celebrations.

The fireworks display at the countdown.

The fireworks display at the countdown.

Singapore’s gods of fortune, old and new …

9 02 2013


A sunrise over the new Singapore

8 02 2013

Singapore has, in close to half a century of its existence as an independent nation, seen a dramatic transformation not just as a nation but in the development of the city. There is nowhere, perhaps, where the change is as striking as it is in the new city that has risen from the sea – the Marina City Centre, built on land reclaimed on what had once been the old harbour. The new world is also perhaps where some of the more dramatic sunrises over the city can be observed, particularly against the silhouettes of what has certainly become one of the most photographed places in Singapore, the very iconic Marina Bay Sands complex.

Sunrise over the new world 7.29 am 8 February 2013.

Sunrise over the new world 7.29 am 8 February 2013.

The search for love and happiness in Marina Bay’s secret spaces

8 01 2013

It was around midday on the first Sunday of 2013 that I found myself on an exploration of what can be said to be secret spaces around Marina Bay, an exploration which was to lead me and the group I found myself in the company of, to the search for happiness during which I did also find love. It was an exploration of places and spaces in which we might have expected love and happiness to be in short supply including a lawyer’s office and as well as the offices, meeting spaces and even a boardroom and trading floor of one of the world’s largest financial institutions.

The search for happiness ...

The search for happiness.

Secret travelator.

involved a passage on a secret travelator.

A page from Kafka's The Trial ... discovered on the secret travelator.

A page from Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ … found at the secret travelator.

A participant takes a closer look at 'Fragile Structures' - the work of Frayn Yong which involves wireframe like models of structures found around Marina Bay made of mechanical pencil lead.

A participant takes a closer look at ‘Fragile Structures’ – the work of Frayn Yong which involves wireframe like models of structures found around Marina Bay made of mechanical pencil lead.

The search for happiness did lead us to a seemingly happy space – the offices of Google Asia Pacific. There I did momentarily find that elusive emotional state – I was very happy to have a peek into Google’s much talked about working spaces. The goal however was a happy looking abstract art installation, Eeshaun’s ‘The Search for Happiness’, one of several installations awaiting discovery along a rather unique trail, touted as Singapore’s only art walkabout, OH! (or Open House). OH! Marina Bay, The Happiness Index, is the latest edition – three previous sell-out events had some 5,000 strangers taking a look at art installations in real life homes in Niven Rd (2009), Marine Parade (2011) and Tiong Bahru (2012).

Detail of 'The Search for Happiness' - an abstract piece by Eeshaun in the offices of Google Singapore.

Detail of ‘The Search for Happiness’ – an abstract piece by Eeshaun in the offices of Google Singapore.

For OH! Marina Bay, there is a shift from the more personal and intimate spaces that the previous OH!s explored. For the latest edition, participants take a look instead into corporate Singapore. This shift is explained by Alan Oei, the co-founder and curator: “I thought Marina Bay was all office, glass, steel and mirrors. But there is a secret and fascinating life beneath all that. In many ways, one can look at it as manifesting a kind of zeitgeist. It’s a really interesting moment in Singapore now, and the arts should be part of that conversation.”

The corporate offices around the new downtown in Marina Bay is the focus of the latest in a series of OH! events.

The corporate offices around the new downtown in Marina Bay is the focus of the latest in a series of OH! events.

That the arts is part of the conversation, OH! leaves little doubt. OH! Marina Bay features the installations of twelve artists, in very different and exclusive locations. There is a little bonus in that as well as the installations (some of which I could identify with), the walkabout does offer that peek into the ultra modern offices of major financial institutions housed in the glass and steel structures which have risen where the sea once stood – as well as taking participants back some three decades to an office that once housed the practice of renowned architect Tay Kheng Soon, who played a role in shaping the architectural landscape of Singapore back then. The office, now hosts the law practice of Ann Tan and Associates, and does still bear some evidence of Tay’s interventions within its space.

Love broken by a bomb in Deutsche Bank's offices.

Love broken by a bomb in Deutsche Bank’s offices.

It was at the lawyer’s office that one of what I did think was one of the more interesting installations – sound artist Tan Peiling’s ‘And they gathered them together in heaps’ was to be discovered. Set amongst stacks of documents stored in files are the records that perhaps have not been stored – a visual record as well as one of the sounds of the old harbour – once only an earshot away.

Tan Peiling's 'And they gathered them together in heaps' is made up of visual ...

Tan Peiling’s ‘And they gathered them together in heaps’ is made up of visual …

as well as sound records ... in this case sounds of the old harbour which used to be an earshot away.

as well as sound records … in this case sounds of the old harbour which was once only an earshot away.

The installations that to me delighted the most however was Joy Abigail Ho’s lighthearted and interactive piece at the first stop, as well as the tea ladies dancing to the strains of Bengawan Solo entertain also at the first stop. And it is for this as well as the little discoveries along the way that makes OH! Marina Bay worth the two hours spent.

Joy Abigail Ho's work at DBS Asia Central.

Joy Abigail Ho’s interactive piece at DBS Asia Central.

Joy Abigail Ho.

Joy Abigail Ho.

Dancing tea ladies at DBS Asia Centre.

Dancing tea ladies at DBS Asia Centre.

There was a little to discover as well of the area’s development history. Land reclamation which started in the 1970s has shaped much of what we do see today, including the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC). It is from there as well as from the offices visited where we are able have a better appreciation of this, as well as have a peek into the future of the area. Just beyond the MBFC we see a multitude of cranes, cranes which help in the spread of the new downtown southwards on what is now bare reclaimed land. It is also a less known fact that even the area we see as the older part of the financial district centred on Shenton Way, was in fact built on land some of which was reclaimed as far back as the 1880s – the shoreline prior to that had been located at Telok Ayer Street!

OH! Marina Bay besides taking one into the modern glass and steel buildings of key financial players, also offers a glimpse into the past buried in the present.

A view of the past from the modern boardroom of Deutsche Bank. OH! Marina Bay besides taking one into the modern glass and steel buildings of key financial players, also offers a glimpse into the past buried in the present.

It is close to where the walkabout began – at Deutsche Bank’s offices which does offer a great view of the past, the present and perhaps the future from its boardroom, where it ends. It is here where the largest collection of works can be found – including many which is in the bank’s own collection. It is also here where we find love, which takes the form of a love bomb – a bomb like installation with the Chinese word for love on it. There are also some accompanying paintings which spread the message of love on the walls. It is also here where another highlight of the walkabout lies in waiting – a look at the trading floor on the 18th. The trading floor’s location was one selected for its auspicious number we are told.

Participants heading to the 18th Floor - the trading floor of Deutsche Bank where photography is not permitted. The Deutsche Bank mural painted entirely by the bank's staff is seen in the foreground.

Participants heading to the 18th Floor – the trading floor of Deutsche Bank where photography is not permitted. The Deutsche Bank mural painted entirely by the bank’s staff is seen in the foreground.

There are four more days during which you can seek love and happiness in and around some of Marina Bay’s secret spaces. Further runs of OH! Marina Bay will be held on 12, 13, 19 and 20 January 2013. Tickets are $20, and can be bought only at the door from 11am, at DBS Asia Central Branch, Marina Bay Financial Centre, Tower 3, Level 3. Last tours leave at 3pm daily. See for more information.





The making of Marina Bay

8 11 2012

The decades that followed Singapore’s somewhat reluctant independence from Malaysia were ones of enormous growth and development which has led to an amazing transformation of a city state, with a burgeoning population, the threat of unemployment and facing much uncertainty into the modern city that it is today. One place where that transformation is very apparent is in and around the city centre, particularly in the Marina Bay area which has seen it morph from the old harbour on which Singapore’s wealth was built into the city of the future built around what has become Singapore’s 15th fresh water reservoir that it is today.

The dawn of a new Singapore at Marina Bay.

View of Clifford Pier, the Inner Roads and the Breakwater in the 1950s from an old postcard (courtesy of Mr. Low Kam Hoong).

Map of Singapore Harbour in the 1950s showing the Detached Mole, Inner Roads and Outer Roads.

The transformation that took place was a story that began in the years that followed independence. Singapore embarked on the State and City Planning Project (SCP) in 1967, assisted by the United Nations under the UN Development Programme’s special assistance scheme for urban renewal and development for emerging nations. The SCP which was completed in 1971, Singapore’s first Concept Plan, identified the need to build an adequate road transportation network. This included a coastal highway to divert traffic that would otherwise have to go through the city. For this land was to be reclaimed, with the construction of what is today Benjamin Sheares Bridge providing a vital link. Initial thoughts were that a green belt could be created on the reclaimed land with space created providing for a future expansion of the city. What did become of the plan and further developments over the years was to give us not just the highway which is the East Coast Parkway (ECP), but in addition to that a city of the future, a city in a garden, and certainly what is a truly amazing new part of Singapore we celebrate today.

Singapore’s City in a Garden concept is very much evident in the transformation of Marina Bay.

The last decade has seen the many developments which were the result of decades of planning take shape around Marina Bay.

You can find out more about this transformation and how it took place by participating in a guided walk this weekend or the next, ‘The Making of Marina Bay‘ which be conducted by Zinkie Aw, held as part of a month long ‘Loving Marina Bay‘ event organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Details of the walk (and also one more that I will be conducting on 25 Nov 2012 entitled ‘A Walk Around the Old Harbour’) can be found at The Loving Marina Bay site. To sign up for the walks, do visit the Eventbrite signup page. The month long event will also feature a street museum exhibition at Clifford Square (in between Clifford Pier and One Fullerton) in which photographs of the old have been superimposed on the new to provide an appreciation of the changes around the bay through which you can also discover where places such as the Satay Club once were.

A ‘Street Museum’ panel at Clifford Square.

Discover where places such as the Satay Club were through the street museum.

About Loving Marina Bay

See the story of Marina Bay through our AmBAYssadors

Located at the heart of Singapore’s city centre, Marina Bay is the centrepiece of Singapore set to be a thriving 24/7 destination with endless exciting events and a necklace of attractions where people from all walks of life come together to live, work and play.

This photography exhibition showcases the different facets of the Marina Bay precinct through over 100 enthralling photos taken by 20 of our beloved AmBAYssadors made up of Singapore’s popular bloggers and photographers.

Heritage is very much part of the precinct’s foundation, captured in key historical landmarks such as Merlion Park and Collyer Quay.

An interesting Street Museum section chronicles Marina Bay’s story over its first few decades since the 1960s, telling a story of strategic, far-sighted and meticulous planning and committed engagement to reach its present state through archive photos superimposed on its modern-day context.

Join us during the month-long event where every weekend is full of exciting activities such as heritage walks and photography workshops led by our very own AmBAYssadors. We want you to be part of Loving Marina Bay too – submit a photo taken at Marina Bay anywhere, anytime to win prizes; or simply pen a Love Note to your family/friends, drop it into the red pillar post boxes at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore and we will send it anywhere in the world for you! Visit for more details.

Marina Bay in the pink

7 10 2012

Three landmarks, the ArtScience Museum, the Helix Bridge, and Marina Bay Sands Hotel, in the Marina Bay area, turned bright pink on Friday evening, coloured in a global effort that has seen some 200 well-known landmarks and monuments across the world such as the Taj Mahal, the Empire State Building and Harrods take on the same pink glow. All this is part of an initiative by Estée Lauder, the Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign, intended to promote breast health and early detection in an effort to defeat breast cancer through education and medical research.

The ArtScience Museum awash in pink for the Global Illumination Initiative.

In its 20th year, the BCA Campaign was initiated by the late Mrs. Evelyn H. Lauder of The Estée Lauder Companies in 1992. It aims at creating a global impact to motivate women all around the world to see doctors regularly, perform monthly breast self examinations, and get an annual mammogram if they’re over the age of 40. Together with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) as the official venue partner, the landmarks were illuminated at a ceremony at the ArtScience Museum which was graced by Guest-of-Honour Dr. Amy Khor, Minister of State for Ministry of Health and Manpower, Ms Grace Ban, Managing Director of The Estée Lauder Companies, and Mrs. Noor Quek, President of the Breast Cancer Foundation (Singapore).

The ever lovely Sharon Au was the host for the evening.

Ms Grace Ban, Dr Amy Khor, Mrs Noor Quek with host Sharon Au, launching the illumination.

Watching the illumination of the Helix Bridge.

A toast to the campaign.

Host Sharon Au was her usual animated self.

The ceremony with the ever beautiful Sharon Au as host had guests turning the area under the fingers of the ArtScience Museum into a sea of pink, and saw a fashion show segment in which ten breast cancer survivors including Singapore Woman of the Year 2012, Ms Theresa Tan, take to the catwalk. Also on hand was Japanese artist, Takeshi Sato, wowing the crowd by painting a likeness of Mrs. Evelyn H. Lauder on stage whilst moving in sync to music that was being played, as a tribute to her.

Takeshi Sato at work.

Ms Theresa Tan and daughter down the catwalk.

This year’s message, is Courage, Believe in a world without breast cancer. Know we’re here until its true. It highlights The Estée Lauder Companies’ 20-Year commitment to defeating breast cancer through education and medical research and celebrates the life and legacy of BCA Campaign Founder and Pink Ribbon co-creator, Mrs Evelyn H. Lauder.

The Helix Bridge lit up in pink.

The campaign this year also sees for the very first time, an online charity auction, which was launched on 26 September to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation, Singapore. For the auction, many local celebrities have donated personal items. One is Michelle Chong, who donated a dress her character wore in Already Famous. The items also includes those donated by Andrea de Cruz, socialite Leonika Kei, model Serena Adsit and popular mandarin radio DJ Lim Peifen. Bids for the items can be placed online via The Estēe Lauder Companies’ microsite at Bidding will close on 31st October 2012. Apart from celebrity donated items, the auction will also feature various luxury items and services donated to raise more money for the charity.

The view from the other side …

13 08 2012

While some 26,000 in Singapore had gathered for the wonderful show that was this year’s National Day Parade on 9 August at The Float@Marina Bay, another 10,000 or so had turned The Promontory@Marina Bay across Marina Bay into a sea of red. The 10,000 were at the Promontory to participate in Young NTUC Celebrates! National Day 2012 – an event organised annually for the Labour Movement since 2007 to celebrate National Day. The event brought many families out together in a community celebration of National Day which allowed participants to watch the parade on giant LCD screens as well as watch up-close crowd favourites such as the Red Lions parachute team, the aerial fly-past as well as the always spectacular fireworks display that lit Marina Bay up at the end of the parade. The highlight of this year’s parade came at the end of the event when the Promontory was transformed into a sea of candlelight during a symbolic candle lighting activity, “A Celebration of Unity” held to signify the solidarity and mutual support of the Labour Movement and its role in the building of the nation.

No wild boars here but definitely a ‘wow’

29 06 2012

Singapore wakes up today to a new wonder, the latest in a series of projects which sees a brand new world being built on land that was once the sea, as the Bay South Garden of the Gardens by the Bay opens to the public. The highly anticipated Bay South Garden was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last evening at a ceremony held in one of the two cooled conservatories at the garden, the Flower Dome, which was attended by some 700 guests. Mr Lee in his speech touched on the ‘wow’ factor of the garden, remarking how he had looked up at 30 metre high waterfall in the Cloud Forest (the second cooled conservatory) and exclaimed ‘wow’, and being informed that was what one ‘was expected to say’.

The 30 metre high waterfall on the Cloud Mountain that had PM Lee exclaiming ‘wow’.

Mr Lee also spoke of the value of creating a green space as a motivating factor in the decision to devote what would essentially be prime real estate, giving Singaporeans not just a green lung, but also as a green oasis in the city where Singaporeans can enjoy and identify with much as New York’s Central Park is to New Yorkers. Mr Lee in touching on the desire to bring flora and fauna made mention of bringing plants, flowers, butterflies and ‘once in a while, a few wild boars’. A tongue-in-cheek reference to the recent debate on the wild boar population and the need to cull it.

PM Lee Hsien Loong speaking about being wowed and about wild boars.

One of two cooled conservatories – the 58 metre high Cloud Forest which replicates the cool-moist climate typically found in Tropical Montane regions between 1,000 to 3,500 metres above sea level.

Guests for the official opening visiting the Cloud Forest.

Although there were no wild boars in sight, I had a chance to say ‘wow’ by taking my own walk inside the completed Cloud Forest. I had once previously seen it during a media preview I had the privilege to attend in early April. Then, the man-made Cloud Mountain which dominates the interior of the conservatory, wore the green not of plants attached to its side, but the green of the netting that was laid around its sides mixed with the dull grey of the scaffolding that was put up all around it. It was a very different view that I got this time around. The 35 metre Cloud Mountain, on its 35 metres takes a visitor up some 1000 to 3500 metres above sea level to a replicated environment of high altitude tropical zones, was not just a lot greener, it was also shrouded in mist and certainly gave mean impression of an ascent into the clouds.

The mist shrouded Cloud Mountain. There are two walkways at its side, a 122 metre long Cloud Walk (above) and a 130 metre long Treetop Walk (below).

Guests for the official opening walking along the Cloud Walk.

The waterfall isn’t the only wow about the Cloud Forest. Ascending into the clouds – with the help of the modern convenience of an elevator, gives the visitor a whole new set of experiences that go beyond the display of fauna some of would not otherwise have been seen in Singapore. The ascent takes the visitor to the top of the ‘mountain’ to the Lost World featuring cloud forest vegetation typically found at around 2,000 metres above sea-level where the ‘source’ of the waterfall is and down a 122 metre cantilevered walkway, the Cloud Walk from which the visitor takes in a spectacular view in descending through the mist covered exterior of the Cloud Mountain which also offers the visitor a glimpse of the epiphytic plant species on the side of the ‘mountain’ – another big ‘wow’. It is this ‘wow’, as well as for the other cooled conservatory – the Flower Dome which features some curious looking trees, including one commonly referred to as a Monkey Puzzle Tree, as well as twisted and bent 1000 year old olive trees, that makes the garden well worth a visit. More information is available on my previous posts on the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.

The Lost World at the top of Cloud Mountain is where the waterfall falls from.

The Lost World at the top of the Cloud Mountain.

The waterfall.

Flowers found in the Lost World.

A plant in the Lost World.

The mist shrouded view from the Cloud Walk down to the Treetop Walk.

Part of the Cloud Walk seen above the mist.

Another view of the Cloud Walk.

The external walkway offers a chance to get up close to the epiphytic plant species on the side of the ‘mountain’.

Besides the cooled conservatories, the 54 hectare site which is designed by UK-based landscape architecture firm Grant Associates also features vertical gardens taking the form of 18 Supertrees in the Golden Garden, Silver Garden and Supertree Grove; the Heritage Gardens; The World of Plants; the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes. The Supertree Grove features a suspended aerial walkway, the OCBC Skyway and the OCBC Light and Sound Show (making its debut on 2 July 2012). Bay South is also the largest of the three gardens which form the larger Gardens by the Bay. When completed, the Gardens by the Bay will occupy a total of 101 hectares of land by the water around Marina Bay and will include the 32 hectare Bay East Garden which will be linked to the Bay South Garden by Bay Central which will feature a 3 km promenade that offers stunning views of the city.

The Cavern.

The Treetop Walk seen through an opening in The Cavern.

Light streaming into The Cavern.

Another view of the Cloud Walk and the Treetop Walk.

Through the waterfall.

The opening of the Bay South Garden is expected to draw large crowds to it, especially with the host of exciting events lined up to coincide with its opening. The opening weekend (29 June to 1 July 2012) will see a series of events that is collectively named as Rhythm with Nature. More information on the events can be found at the Gardens by the Bay’s website. While entry into the garden is free, there is an entry fee to visit the two cooled conservatories and the OCBC Skyway – a 128 metre long aerial walkway suspended 22 metres above the ground at the Supertree Grove. Information on admission charges is available at the Gardens by the Bay’s website.

Opening Scenes

Guests gathered in the Flower Dome for the official opening.

There was food too!

Dr Kiat W Tan, CEO of Gardens by the Bay.

Host for the evening, the very lovely Glenda Chong.

More information:


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