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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The glow of the new day

21 08 2013

An unusual sight at sunrise at 7.03 am on 18 August 2013 with the clouds parting to leave a clear band of sky at the horizon coloured by the rising sun.

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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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Colours of independent Singapore’s 48th birthday

9 08 2013

Colours of the new day breaking at 6.51 am on the occasion of independent Singapore’s 48th birthday. Happy National Day Singapore!

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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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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.

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Colours of the morning, 24 July 2013

25 07 2013

The colours of the sunrise seen at 6.47 am from a wild and forgotten shore along which I find quiet moments on many a morning.

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The Bench through the rain

11 07 2013

A view of The Bench through the rain with the colours of the rising of the sun in the backdrop at 7.06 am on 9 July 2013. The Bench is very much a part of the scene along the top of an old seawall that used to belong to Kampong Wak Hassan at the end of Sembawang Road. That it is there, under the cool shade of a tree, is a mystery. Nobody does seem to know why it is there or who it had belonged to. It does serve to connect us with the kampong (now spelt kampung) or village which might otherwise be forgotten. The village was one of the last of the villages which one featured across much of rural Singapore to be cleared in 1998. More information on the village can be found on a previous post Monoscapes: Kampong Wak Hassan beach. The beach along the seawall is also one of the last natural sandy beaches left in Singapore and serves as a welcome escape for me from the overly urbanised landscape of modern Singapore (see: The song of a forgotten shore).

A view through the rain, 7.06 am, 9 July 2013.





Light through the darkness

9 07 2013

While a storm sweeping in at dawn does usually bring with it a muted celebration of the new day, the effort to catch the break of day is sometimes rewarded with a surprise as it was today when the storm clouds parted to reveal a spectacular view of the coloured light of sunrise filtering through the darkness …

The colours of sunrise seen through the gathering of storm clouds at 6.48 am on 9 July 2013.

The colours of sunrise seen through the gathering of storm clouds at 6.48 am on 9 July 2013.





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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Light through the darkness

12 06 2013

A sunrise seen through the darkness of a storm blowing in on to the northern coast of Singapore on 9 June 2013.

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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 .





A simple pleasure

31 05 2013

Possibly one of the best places in Singapore to enjoy the rising of the sun is along the northern shoreline just east of Sembawang Park. It is in the area where of the last natural sandy beaches left on the island can be found. Wild and untamed, it is full of character which is no longer found in the manicured seaside parks we now have too many of. The beach, off the former Kampong Wak Hassan, is one I often find myself at, partaking in one of the simple joys that nature brings – the painting of the sky by the colours of the rising sun – made even more of a wonder to behold by the beauty it reveals of a beach that is like none other in Singapore – at least for now. The signs are there that it will not be long before a now all too familiar world descends upon it. Until then, it will be where I will be able to cling on to a little reminder of a past we have otherwise discarded.

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7.00 am the sun appears at the horizon.7.00 am the sun appears at the horizon

7.10 am 7.10 am

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A secret garden

30 05 2013

One of the wonderful things about Macau is its little pockets of surprises which await discovery in the midst of the urban sprawl. One seemingly unlikely place that I was to find on a recent trip is one which in being well hidden behind its walls must surely have once been a secret garden. The garden, landscaped in the classical Suzhou style and now public garden, the Lou Lim Ieoc Garden (Jardim Lou Lim Ieoc / 盧廉若公園), was built as a private garden.

A secret garden in Macau where touch of Suzhou in a colonial style house can be found.

A secret garden in Macau where touch of Suzhou in a colonial style house can be found.

A lady practicing tai-chi chuan at the garden.

A lady practicing tai-chi chuan in the garden.

The garden with its winding paths, some leading to spaces hidden behind artificial concrete “rock” formations and weeping willows, provides an escape for many residents of the overly crowded city. Constructed around a large pond with the colonial style column lined Spring Grass Pavilion which served as a guest residence at one edge, it does perhaps reflect one of the quirky sides of what was an enclave in China which for long was caught in between the West and the East.

The Spring Grass Pavilion across the pond.

The Spring Grass Pavilion across the pond.

A bridge of twists and turns takes one across the northern end of the pond. The bridge, a nine-turn bridge laid out such that evil spirits, which as belief would have it, can only navigate on the straight; leads to an area at the northern fringe of the garden at which an imposing pastel green coloured building can be seen beyond the fence – that, which became the Pui Ching Middle School in 1938,  apparently was the mansion that the garden was built to serve and the residence of a wealthy merchant Lou Wah Siu.

The nine-turn bridge with the former mansion, now part of Pui Ching Middle School, beyond it.

The nine-turn bridge with the former mansion, now part of Pui Ching Middle School, beyond it.

Based on information found at the Macau Cultural Institute’s website, the garden’s construction was started by Mr Lou, who purchased the land on which the mansion and the garden was built on – a plot of vegetables in what then was Long Tin Village, in 1870. Mr Lou also started with the building of the garden which was later completed by his son Lou Lim Ieoc, after who the garden is now named. The garden’s most notable visitor was the great Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen. Dr Sun was a guest at the Spring Grass Pavilion in May 1912.

A pavilion at the edge of the pond - the garden is an oasis of tranquility in a sea of concrete.

A pavilion at the edge of the pond – the garden is an oasis of tranquility in a sea of concrete.

The back part of the Spring Grass Pavilion - with Chinese  architectural features. The former guest house - now used as an exhibition space, played host to Dr Sun Yat-sen in 1912.

The back part of the Spring Grass Pavilion – with Chinese architectural features. The former guest house – now used as an exhibition space, played host to Dr Sun Yat-sen in 1912.

The grounds were split up and sold to separate buyers after the junior Lou’s passing, the mansion passing into the hands of the school. By the time the administration in Macau bought the southern side of the garden which wasn’t owned by the school in the early 1970s, it was in a poorly maintained state. It took some restoration effort before it was opened as a public garden in 1974. The garden has today become a popular spot for many of the area’s residents and comes alive in the early part of the morning. Taking a stroll, one sees many using it for their daily exercise, to meditate, read the newspaper or a book, or to practice tai-chi moves which does make it an excellent place to take in a slice of daily life in the former Portuguese colony as well as provide many opportunities for photography.  The Lou Lim Ieoc Garden is found off Estrada de Adolfo Loureiro and is close to Praça do Tap Seac and the beautiful St. Lazarus area. Opening hours are from 6 am to 9 pm.

The inner entrance arch to the garden off Estrada de Adolfo Loureiro.

The inner entrance arch to the garden off Estrada de Adolfo Loureiro.

The garden is particularly busy in the mornings - many of the area's residents use it for their daily exercise.

The garden is particularly busy in the mornings – many of the area’s residents use it for their daily exercise.

Migrant workers seen taking in the calm at one of the gardens pavilions.

Migrant workers seen taking in the calm at one of the gardens pavilions.





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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The joy of solitude in a world forgotten

22 05 2013

It is in a world by the sea that lies forgotten that I often find myself in silent solitude to celebrate the joy of the morning. Spared from the obsessive desire we in Singapore have to manicure and introduce clutter to our public places, it is a world which connects me with the wonderful memories of childhood holidays by the sea in a gentler Singapore that we long have left behind. I do hope the day when this world is made to catch up with the new is far away, but it probably will be a case that it will come sooner rather than later with developments in the area gaining pace to bring us that promise land some find little promise in. But before that happens, it will serve as an escape from a world it increasing is hard to find an escape from and a world we I can at least feel at home in.

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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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The light in the darkness

5 05 2013

Once again, I found myself seeking the peace and joy of the twilight at Lower Peirce Reservoir away from the crowds on a Saturday evening, and have these two photographs taken in the semi-darkness with just enough light in the sky to permit both the sky and the surroundings to be evenly exposed. The photographs were taken at about half an hour after sundown, the first at 7.37 pm and the second at 7.43 pm.

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Welcoming the first of May

3 05 2013

It is for this treat that was a most beautiful welcome to the new day that I am glad that I resisted the urge to have a sleep-in on the first of May – despite having arrived back in Singapore late the night before.

6.35 am.

6.35 am.

6.39 am.

6.39 am.

6.43 am.

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6.47 am.

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7.03 am.

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7.06 am.

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7.09 am.

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Monoscapes: Dawn on the strait

18 04 2013

7.20 am on the last day of March 2013, a man is seen casting a net, dwarfed by the silhouettes of towering structures of the approaching new world. The casting of the net, was an economic activity on the strait which was common in times past. Economic activities of the modern world have in the last four decades or so, made their appearance on the strait, and have made the activities of the old world less relevant.

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The Straits of Johor where this photograph was taken, also known as the Tebrau Strait or Selat Tebrau, was once the domain of a group of sea dwellers, a nomadic people referred to as the Orang Laut (which translates to “Sea People”) or Sea Gypsies. The sub-group of the Orang Laut,  referred to as the Orang Seletar or in their own language, Kon Seletar, moved around on boats which also served as homes through mangroves which once dominated both sides of the strait, living off the waters. The boats they lived on were about 20 feet long with a stove at one end and their dwellings at the other end under an awning of sorts.

The suggestions are that the group, who had already established themselves in the area well before Raffles landed in 1819 – it was reported that there were an estimated 200 Orang Seletar living on some 30 boats in Singapore when Raffles landed, took its name from the Sungei Seletar or Seletar River – which once spilled into the strait (it has since been dammed at its mouth).

Another suggestion is that the group had in fact given their name to the river. Seletar is also a name that the northern coastal area of Singapore which included what is Sembawang today (Sembawang Road was originally called Seletar Road) became known as. Seletar Island which is close to the mouth of Sungei Simpang, had in fact hosted a community of Orang Seletar up to 1967 or so.

One of the last to settle on land, the Orang Seletar have today largely assimilated into the larger Malay society and a greater number of them now live on the Johor side of the strait. In Singapore, there were several individuals from the community who intermarried and settled in Kampong Tanjong Irau. The kampong was also known to be the home of some Orang Kallang, another Orang Laut group who were originally from the mouth of the Kallang River who had initially been displaced from places such as Kampong Kallang Rokok on the Kallang River, moving first to the Seletar area. The construction of the airbase at Seletar meant they had to move again and some chose to move westwards to Tanjong Irau.