A 40 year journey from Essex Road

28 04 2011

I made a journey recently with a group of friends. It could be said that it was a journey that had started some forty years ago, one that had started with the forging of bonds in the classrooms and on the schoolyards at Essex Road in Singapore. Yes, we were schoolmates, seven of us, making a journey in mid-life that was as much motivated by a common passion, as it was by the camaraderie we developed in the course of our Christian Brothers’ education that kept us in touch with each other well into our teenage years.

Flying the flag of our Alma Mater: Seven schoolmates and one we adopted ...

Some of us in Primary 6, St. Michael's School.

The journey we took was one that brought us to the shadow of the roof of the world. An excursion, as one put it, an extension of those we used to look forward to at the end of the year during our primary school days. Having a common interest in photography, we sought to capture, through seven pairs of eyes, how we saw the wonderful world in which we found ourselves immersed in for a few days, coming back not just with a multitude of images, but touched by the beauty and warmth in the simplicity of the people, fond memories of the colourful sights that unfolded before our eyes, and most importantly with the spirit that the ten (some twelve) years in St. Michael’s School (now St. Joseph’s Institution Junior) and St. Joseph’s Institution had imparted on us.

Life on the streets in Kathmandu makes it a wonderful place to see and discover.

Along the three hundred steps to enlightenment: A statue of Buddha on the ascent up the pilgrim path to Swayambunath, a stupa which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

The ancient capital of the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur, seen during the Bisket Jatra festival held during the Nepali New Year in April.

The trip involved not just a visit to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, but also to some of the areas that surround the city, places that have a magical or mythical charm, as well as one that would, on a clear day, have given us a magnificent view of the roof of the world. Kathmandu and the Kathmandu Valley, is certainly blessed with some magnificent cultural treasures, a few which have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including two stupa sites, Swayambunath and Boudhanath, and a former capital, Bhaktapur, and it was these that we focused our cameras on. Along the way, we also visited a Roman Catholic church, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, in Lalitpur on the outskirts of Kathmandu, and along with it the Parish School, the Regina Amoris School, set up and run by the Sisters of Cluny for the children of the needy. All in all, it was a huge and meaningful adventure for us, and one, that I would be touching on in detail in separate posts to come on each part of our visit.

The long, narrow and winding road up to Nagarkot, a hill station near Kathmandu.

Boudhanath, a UNSECO World Heritage Site and the largest stupa in Nepal, is also a centre of Tibetan life.

Durbar Square in Kathmandu, a concentration of monuments which is another UNSECO World Heritage Site.

The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Lalitpur.

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Colours of Bangkok

18 11 2010

As with many other living parts of Asia, there is much to catch the eye wandering around the streets of Asia’s City of Angels, Bangkok. There certainly is a lot more to the city than the abundance of well photographed sights and scenes that the city provides, which often jump out at you without having to strain the eye. Bangkok is a city where there is in fact no shortage of wonderful colours and textures that not just add to the colour of the city, but also brings the city to life …

Local oranges ready for juicing.

Sweetcorn on the steamer.

Groundnuts on the steamer.

Grapes for sale.

Eggs being transported.

Chocolate coated bananas.

Bottled drinks on sale.

In the basket of a food vendor.

Tuk-tuks ...

Graffiti at a construction site.

Books at a second hand book shop.

Overhead telephone lines against a background of ventilation louvres.

Reflection off a puddle of water.

Parasols of street vendors along Sukhumvit Road.

Display of a street footwear vendor.

Shoes on sale at Chatuchak market.

Charcoal stoves on display.

Roofs of stalls at Chatuchak market as seen from the Skytrain.

Three perspectives of a house through ventilation openings at Makkasan Station.

Roofs of houses.

Lines of the Skytrain.


Cans of milk at a tea vendor at Chatuchak.





Raindrops keep falling on my head

16 06 2010

I suppose that some may not agree with me, but the rain this morning is a reason to celebrate. I have always been fond of the rain as I find that there is nothing that compares to the freshness that rain can bring to otherwise angry day. Walking in the rain this morning, as I have always been inclined to do, I was reminded of my days in school, when I never resisted the opportunity to play in the rain and splash in the puddles of water. My white canvas school shoes could never stay white in the rain and my feet were never dry. I guess I was one of the more fortunate, having two pairs of school shoes, allowing me the luxury of washing one pair at any time during the week and leaving them to dry under the refrigerator. This brings to mind a common sight back then when school children in raincoats could be seen walking with bags of plastic over their shoes, with some in flip-flops – all done to protect their only pair of shoes from getting wet.

The rain this morning.

The rain this morning also brings to mind a Hal David and Burt Bacharach song popularised by B. J. Thomas that was popular in the 1970s – one that as school children, we would sing on rainy days:

Raindrops keep falling on my head,
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed,
nothing seems to fit.
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling.

So I just did me some talking to the sun.
And I said I didn’t like the way, he got things done…
sleeping on the job…
those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling.

But there’s one thing I know:
The blues they send to meet me won’t defeat me.
It won’t be long till happiness sleps up to greet me.

Raindrops keep falling on my head,
but that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red.
Crying’s not for me
cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining.
Because I’m free.
Nothing’s worrying me.





Listening to the song of the sea

11 06 2010

Sitting by a beach over the past week and listening to the sound of the waves lapping up the shore, took me back to that wonderful part of my childhood spent by the sea. It was not that I lived by the sea, but it did seem that I was never far from it, having had many wonderous moments in my early childhood along the eastern shores of Singapore. Besides the sandy Changi shoreline, to which I was introduced to at a very early age, there was another part of Singapore close to Changi, in which I had some wonderful experiences. That was where we would sometimes holiday at, a picturesque and idyllic part of Singapore that has since been lost to the massive land reclamation project that has altered much of the eastern coastline. In those days, holidays were rarely taken out of Singapore, and the government bungalows located amongst the coastal fishing villages that dotted the then shoreline running up from around where the southern boundary of Changi Airport is today up to what was the Tanah Merah area which is today right smack in the middle of Changi Ariport, were popular with many, as it was with my parents.

Spending a week by the beach brought me back in time to the wonderful moments I had by a seaside in Singapore that has long been forgotten.

The times we spent by the sea were magical ones, and somehow it was where I never seemed to be bored, which may have been reason enough for my parents to make the regular visits to the seaside that they did, given the restless soul that I was. But, my parents were themselves very fond of the seaside, and by day, the seaside was where we would often go to splash around in the sea. The sand was where I often ended up on, building sandcastles or digging pits in the sand with my spade and pail, which when close to the water’s edge, would fill up with water in which I could spend hours sitting in. Those were the days when sun block was unheard of and the most I would have on to protect myself from the sun was a hat or cap, and the hours spent in the sun always resulted in a painful sunburn, a week after which would be followed by a peeling of skin on the face, arms and back – areas which would have been most exposed to the sun. Somehow, getting sunburnt seemed to be part of the fun, although, I had a fair skinned friend who had it so bad that he had painful blisters on his back, following which his mother never allowed him into the sun again without a tee-shirt on. Playing by the sea did have other dangers besides getting sunburnt – on one occasion, a storm had been brewing and a few friends I was with had resisted many attempts by our parents to persuade us to take shelter. Somehow, we did heed the call and took shelter in one of the wooden huts which beachgoers could rent for the day, and it wasn’t a moment too soon that we did that, for the very moment we had huddled in the safety of the huts, there was a flash of light accompanied by a loud bang! Lightning had struck the very spot that my friends and I had been playing at.

Changi Beach, 1965

Changi Beach, 1965. I had an early introduction to the Sun, the Sand and the Sea.

The evenings by the sea had a magic of its own, and sitting around a fire built on twigs and leaves picked from the shore and fanned by the stiff cool land breeze. It would be where stories were exchanged by the older folks as the delicious aroma of the fruits harvested from the sea being singed by the flames rose from the fire. It was were we would stt for hours on the straw mats that we would have bought from the many vendors that we would have met on the beach, watching the flames reduced to ambers, and staring at the starry night sky from where Orion would cast his spell on me, accompanied by the soothing song of the sea.

I have always since the early introduction I had, been drawn to the seaside.

Much of what had given me that experience is lost today. Much of Changi Beach, which was by far was the best sandy stretch of beach in Singapore, has also disappeared, with only a short natural stretch of it left near the Teluk Paku area. Where we could once sit and listen to the sound of lapping waves in the shade of katapang trees to a view of tall coconut trees leaning to the sea, and rows of casurina trees that lined the shoreline, we now have to contend with the overly crowded man made beaches that over time are eaten up by the sea, listening not to lapping waves but to the rattle of the hoardes of people that descend onto the shoreline at the unnaturally landscaped East Coast Park.

The seaside is a wonderful place to start or end the day with.

As I grew up, I would always be drawn to the seaside, not so much to the ones we have here, but to places further afield. There are some, which from time to time I have the chance to see, where I could sit and listen as I always would to the song of the sea, that would bring me back to the wonderous days at a lost seaside that was much closer to home, back to a time and a place that can only be but a distant memory.

There is nothing more relaxing than listening to the sound of the lapping of waves against the shore.

The coconut fringed seaside at San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. I have been drawn to the seaside, wherever I find myself in. There are some like this one, that would bring me back in time and to a place that is only a distant memory.





My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky

5 06 2010

There are these simple things that can delight a person in the way it did when one was a child. It is these things in which we need not look further than how a child sees it in the way that Wordsworth embodies in his 1802 poem I well well acquainted with as a child, one which brings up one of these simple things, a rainbow. The rainbows that I have seen in the last few days brought me back to that poem and what is embodied in the poem – the simplicity of childhood and how a “Child is the father of the Man”. My heart does leap up when I behold that rainbow in the sky.

My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold ...

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

– William Wordsworth, 1802.