Northern lights

15 06 2014

This evening’s spectacular show of colours over Johor Bahru at 7.19 pm, as seen from the north of Singapore at Woodlands Waterfront - a stretch of the northern coastline running from the former Royal Malaysian Navy (TLDM) jetty westwards to the Causeway. The stretch had once been part of the huge British naval base, within which the TLDM operated and maintained their main base. The TLDM continued to operate the base after the British pull-out in 1971 and up until 1979 maintained it as their main base, vacating it only in 1997. Since the opening up of the base this stretch of coastline has been left relatively untouched until it was redeveloped as the Woodlands Waterfront.

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Light after dark, Lower Peirce Reservoir

7 06 2014

7.50 pm 7 June 2014, a long exposure at twilight, taken at Lower Peirce Reservoir.

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Light after dark: Twilight falls on West Hill

24 03 2014

7.44 pm, Sunday 23 March 2014. Night falls on an area around where West Hill had once stood, at  the end of extremely hot day in Singapore.

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The now forgotten West Hill was a relatively high point that rose above the swampy ground around Sungei Sembawang. It had lent its name to West Hill Village – a village that grew around the south-eastern fringes of the huge naval base that once dominated Singapore’s northern coast. The village that was in more recent times known to us as Chong Pang Village in which names of schools such as West Hill School and Si San (西山 – West Hill in Chinese)Public School served to remind us of the village’s original name. There is little that remains of this part of the area’s past and much of the area is now dominated by the public housing estate that has come up around the Sembawang area.





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.





The garden at Suvarnabhumi

18 02 2014

The view of the garden oustide the passenger terminal building of Bangkok’s futuristic looking Suvarnabhumi Airport at sunset on 17 Feb 2014 that does perhaps resemble a scene from a sci-fi movie.

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The sun rises on the year of the horse

2 02 2014

Photographs taken as the sun set on the Chinese year of the snake on 30 Jan 2014, rising at dawn on 31 Jan 2014 in a golden welcome to the year of the horse.


Colours of the sun setting on the year of the snake, 7.24 pm 30 Jan 2014.

Colours of the sun setting on the year of the snake, 7.24 pm 30 Jan 2014.

Early light as the sun rises on the year of the horse, 6.46 am 31 Jan 2014.

Early light as the sun rises on the year of the horse, 6.46 am 31 Jan 2014.

A couple watching the changing hues at sunrise, 6.56 am 31 Jan 2014.

A couple watching the changing hues at sunrise, 6.56 am 31 Jan 2014.

Colours of the sunrise, 7.01 am 31 Jan 2014.

Colours of the sunrise, 7.01 am 31 Jan 2014.

The rising sun, 7.17 am 31 Jan 2014.

The rising sun, 7.17 am 31 Jan 2014.

The rising sun, 7.22 am 31 Jan 2014.

The rising sun, 7.22 am 31 Jan 2014.





The calm after the storm

26 12 2013

Pink and purple tinged clouds, coloured by the clearing storm, seen just after sunset at 7.15 pm on 14 December 2013, over Sembawang Hills Estate. The private residential estate of mainly terrace and semi-detached houses dates back to the mid 1950s, when a semi-detached house there (based on a 1956 advertisement), would have cost $11,500; with terrace houses going between $8,000 and $9,425. The face of the estate is one that is changing and besides the newer and taller houses erected in place of the original structures, many of the original businesses occupying the shop lots including an old provision shop (Soon Huat) and a traditional bakery, have made an exit, replaced by businesses that seem to be more relevant to today’s society.

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Light after dark: The Pier @ Peirce

21 12 2013

Capturing the cloud painted twilight, 7.44 pm 21 December 2013, Lower Peirce Reservoir.

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The magic of O Cebreiro

11 10 2013

It was late on an autumn day at the tail end of a road trip with three friends which took me across the length of the varied landscapes of northern Spain that I found myself marvelling at this magical sight. The sight was of the gorgeous purple and orange hues painting the evening sky over the mountain top hamlet of O Cebreiro in Galicia in the far northwest of Spain.

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The village is one which on its own is a magical place – it is where in an stone church set amongst narrow cobblestone streets, stone village houses and thatch-roofed pallozas, a miraculous holy grail is kept. The village, located midway between the León and the the pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela, lies along the French route of El Camino de Santiago or The Way of St. James, a medieval pilgrimage route and comes at the end of a steep climb and is place to rest and reflect for many pilgrims.

The pilgrimage route, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, can involve pilgrims walking along entire lengths of several routes, some with starting points in the south of France over distances that typically are in excess of 700 kilometres.

The routes have long been a source of fascination to me – and I hope to have the opportunity to walk at least part of it one day.





Silhouettes of times soon to be forgotten

28 09 2013

The silhouette of a coconut tree along the shoreline at Sembawang is seen against colours painted by the setting of the sun at 7.09 pm on 22 September 2013. Coconut trees bending to the sea, once a common sight along the shoreline, are becoming less common with development which has taken away much of Singapore’s natural coastline as well as the manicuring of many of our coastal areas. The beach at Sembawang is one of the last natural beaches left on the main island and is one of the few places left in Singapore where I am still able to find bits of that wonderful Singapore I grew up in.

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The area where the coconut tree is, just around the bend of Beaulieu Road leading to the jetty (we could once drive down to the jetty), is at the western end of the beach. The waters of the sea just beyond the little stretch of beach and rocks just below the tree was where, on the many nights I spent at the jetty fishing for crabs, I would had have a grand time in catching scooping pufferfish out of the waters and watching them inflate in the 1970s and early 1980s. The area is in the midst of change with both luxury residential housing just to the east of the beach and public housing developments fast coming up which will alter the area’s character. Another change which is imminent is the moving of the shipyard – a finger pier with its cranes and ships and floating docks moored along it is also seen in the photograph. The shipyard, Sembawang Shipyard, is a remnant of what was once a huge British naval base (the yard was the former naval dockyard)  which stretched all the way to the Causeway.





Light after dark (Lower Peirce on the rocks)

24 09 2013

Twilight, 7.33 pm 21 September 2013.

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Sunset over the strait

27 08 2013

The setting sun over Johor Bahru, seen across the Tebrau Strait or Straits of Johor from Woodlands at 7.04 pm on 25 Aug 2013.

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Light after dark (Lower Peirce Reservoir)

16 08 2013

Capturing the beautiful light after darkness has fallen, this time at 7.43 pm on 7 August 2013 at Lower Peirce Reservoir …

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Light after Dark (The lookout point)

5 08 2013

A view from the lookout point along one of the more scenic roads in Singapore, Mandai Road at 7.43 pm on 4 August 2013. The view is one in which the foreground is partially illuminated by the street lamps, with the rest of what’s in the picture, lit by ambient light, captured through a fairly long exposure. The lookout point, provides some picturesque views of Upper Seletar Reservoir, and is one of my favourite scenic spots in SIngapore, having first taken in the views at the end of the 1960s.

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Rebirth

17 07 2013

The demolition of the former National Stadium in 2010 and the construction of a new National Stadium within the Singapore Sports Hub does bring to mind an art installation I stumbled upon at Sculpture Square back in 2010 – around the time the demolition work started. The work of local artist Ngim Kum Thong, Deconstruction, Destruction and Destination, examines the inevitability of deconstruction and destruction, the eventuality of which is a destination – much as what we have seen in the dismantling and demolition of an icon and the creation of another to replace it.

The sun sets on the National Staidum. The final stand as the old stadium built in 1973 was being demolished at the end of 2010.

The sun sets on the National Staidum. The final stand as the old stadium built in 1973 was being demolished at the end of 2010.

The former National Stadium, was completed in 1973, playing host to Singapore’s very first mass participation international sports event. Through the years, the 55,000 seat capacity stadium (it did take in crowds as large as 70,000 during its early days hosting Malaysia Cup matches) played host to many sports events including the well supported Malaysia Cup football matches and also National Day parades. It’s demolition in the second half of 2010 was a long delayed one – work on the Singapore Sports Hub was originally meant to have started back in 2008. More recently an announcement was made by the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) on the occasion of  the Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth’s visit to view the installation of the highest truss of the new stadium – approximately 77.5 metres above pitch level, confirms that the project is on track and the stadium will be opened as scheduled in April 2014.

The sun rises on the new. The new National Stadium and the Sports Hub takes shape - seen in April 2013. The Sports Hub is scheduled to be completed in April 2014.

The sun rises on the new. The new National Stadium and the Sports Hub takes shape – seen in April 2013. The Sports Hub is scheduled to be completed in April 2014.





Light after dark (Upper Seletar Reservoir)

8 07 2013

Light after dark at 7.44 and 7.50 pm on 7 July 2013 taken at Upper Seletar Reservoir.

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The sun sets on the first half of 2013

4 07 2013

Colours after the sunset, 7.16 pm, 30 June 2013, taken from the former Royal Malaysian Navy jetty at Woodlands Waterfront looking across towards Johor Bahru.

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Watching the stars under the stars

29 05 2013

The last place in Singapore to soak in the atmosphere of the festivities which accompany a religious festival in a setting most of us may not seen for a quarter of a century is Pulau Ubin, the last island off Singapore (save for Sentosa) which has a community of residents. It is in the remnants of a village close to the island’s jetty where a Chinese Taoist temple, the Tua Pek Kong temple (Pulau Ubin Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong Temple or 乌敏岛佛山亭大伯公庙) dedicated to the Earth Deity 土地公 (Tu Di Gong in Mandarin) who is also commonly referred to in Singapore as 大伯公 – Tua Pek Kong in Hokkien or Da Bo Gong in Mandarin, is found. It setting is very much one that is reminiscent of many of the rural Chinese villages which were common on the main island of Singapore up until the 1980s, with a village temple at its centre with a permanent Chinese Opera (referred to locally as “wayang”) stage often located across a clearing from it.

Devotees offering candles at the Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Temple. The temples celebrates two festivals in a big way.

Devotees offering candles at the Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Temple. The temples celebrates two festivals in a big way.

Colours painted by the setting sun - setting the tone for a colourful night of entertainment under the stars.

Colours painted by the setting sun – setting the tone for a colourful night of entertainment under the stars.

The temple plays host twice a year to a series of festivities which are held to commemorate two important Chinese festivals which the temple celebrates in a big way. The bigger of the two is the Tua Pek Kong festival, celebrated to commemorate the birthday of the Earth Deity around the 15th day of the 4th Chinese month, while the Hungry Ghost festival which is celebrated with an auction around the 15th day of the 7th month, is a relatively quieter affair.

An image of the Earth Deity, Tua Pek King at the main altar of the Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Temple.

An image of the Earth Deity, Tua Pek King at the main altar of the Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Temple.

It is during both the festivals that the wayang stage sees use. Wayangs in the form of Teochew opera performed by the island’s Teochew Opera Troupe  (which I photographed at last year’s Hungry Ghosts Festival – click on this link for the post) based at the temple, are staged for the entertainment of the temple’s devotees (also for the visiting spirits in the case of the Hungry Ghost Festival)  providing a wonderful opportunity for Singaporean’s to revisit an almost forgotten tradition. In keeping up with the times, the stage also plays host to what perhaps is the new-age wayang – the getai (歌台), a somewhat kitsch (some even consider it crude) form of entertainment which by and large have replaced the wayangs of old during similar celebrations around Singapore.

A brightly dressed dancer on stage - getai is often seen as kitsch and somewhat crude, but it does have a huge following in Singapore.

A brightly dressed dancer on stage – getai is often seen as kitsch and somewhat crude, but it does have a huge following in Singapore.

I had the opportunity to see the new wayang in action in the old village like setting provided by Pulau Ubin’s stage last evening. The getai was held on the last evening of the series of festivities held over six days from 23 to 28 May this year and saw a huge turnout  - boats worked like clockwork ferrying a steady stream of visitors to the temple and the festivities – which certainly made the atmosphere very festival like. Under the stars in in the comfort of the cool breeze, the audience had the seats provided already filled as the stage came alive with lights and action matched by the brilliant colours provided by the of rays of the setting sun.

The large crowd seated in front of the stage.

The large crowd seated in front of the stage.

While I would not be one to admit to being a fan of getai, I will admit that the experience of watching the gaudily dressed stars of the song stage, entertain with song many which were could well be tunes of yesteryear, as well as converse and joke in Hokkien on a stage under the stars, was one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was particularly heartening to see the large crowd – many who broke out into smiles and laughter as the evening entertainment progressed, enjoy themselves. The atmosphere was such that it did also seem to free both young and old from the distractions we have to much of in the modern world (I must have been the only one not taking a photograph or a video clip with a mobile device who was seen to be fiddling with my mobile phone).

Marcus Chin (陈建彬) on stage.

Marcus Chin (陈建彬) on stage.

Members of the audience had their eyes glued to the stage throughout most of the evening.

Members of the audience had their eyes glued to the stage throughout most of the evening.

The getai show which was hosted by Xu Qiong Fang (浒琼芳) and Wang Lei (王雷) saw a string of getai stars appear on stage. Not having admitted to being a fan, there is also no need for me to pretend to know who I was being entertained by. I did however recognise one of the stars from a previous experience watching getai under the Flyer. That was veteran entertainer Marcus Chin (陈建彬). I was able to identify the Babes in the City (宝贝姐妹) pairing, only through a comment left on my instagram post  by filmaker Royston Tan (the pair featured in a video he produced, “The Happy Dragon“, to promote Safe Sex) .

Babes in the City (宝贝姐妹).

Babes in the City (宝贝姐妹).

Host Wang Lei (王雷) also entertained - standing next to him is Lee Bao En (李宝恩 ), a young getai star from Johor.

Host Wang Lei (王雷) also sang – standing next to him is Lee Bao En (李宝恩), a young getai star from Johor.

A relatively more recently introduced  form of festival entertainment, the getai does in fact have a long enough tradition, having gained in popularity during the 1970s as interest in the traditional forms of entertainment such as the Chinese Opera and Puppet Shows was waning. On the evidence of the turnout, it does seem that, love it or hate it, it does have a following and being more adaptable than the more traditional street theatre, it certainly is here to stay.  It was nice to be out under the stars in a setting one can otherwise no longer find. It felt as if it was yesterday … almost. It would have been nice to see just one thing more – the mobile food vendors (particularly the bird’s nest drink and the steamed sweet corn seller) who never were very far away whenever the wayang came to town.

The view backstage.

The view backstage.

A view through a window of the permanent wayang stage.

A view through a window of the permanent wayang stage.

More photographs of the stage and audience:

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Light after dark (Pulau Ubin)

28 05 2013

The light after dark at 7.35 pm on 28 May 2013 on Pulau Ubin, an island off northeast Singapore.

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Light after dark

20 05 2013

An attempt to capture the beautiful light as darkness falls at 7.42 pm on 19 May 2013 at Lower Peirce Reservoir.

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