The Real McCoy

29 07 2016

Like it or hate it, there seems no end in sight to the salted egg craze. Salted eggs, a long time poor Chinese man’s source of protein, now  seem to flavour just about anything from seafood to pastries and burgers here in Singapore.

The Quarters is latest to join the fray with its own take on the slated egg burger popularised recently by a certain fast food chain. The modsin café, which is helmed by Chung Deming – the man behind the out-of-this-world Durian Crème Brulee, intends with the burger’s debut, to show us what the Real McCoy, as salted egg burgers go, should really be about.

The Real McCoy and Shiok Fries.

The Real McCoy and Shiok Fries.

While I am not a huge fan of the taste of salted eggs, I enjoy a good bite with its flavours mixed in and I have to admit that Deming’s Real McCoy is an extremely good bite.  Dripping but not soggy from the creamy rich almost cheese like appearance yellow coloured aioli – which by the way is bottled and sold off the shelf, the burger as a whole is flavourful with many subtle hints of the smaller parts that make the whole. What I also like about the Real McCoy is its wonderfully thick, cripsy and yet juicy oat batter coated American Southern style fried chicken patty that sits on a bed of lettuce and sliced tomatoes – just how I think chicken burgers should be.

Buah Keluak flavoured ice cream.

Buah Keluak flavoured ice cream.

Complementing the Real McCoy very well is Deming’s super shiok Shiok Fries – which can be eaten with the salted egg aioli or better, the chilli crab sauce. Whatever way you like it, remember to also leave some room for the desserts …. the Real McCoy can be paired with the café’s signature Durian Crème Brulee or DurianCanBoleh for a nice price until the end of August. And if durian doesn’t give you enough of a kick, there is something else that will certainly give you one – Buah Keluak flavoured ice cream that tastes just like buah keluak out of the shell when cooked in a Peranakan kitchen.

The café also has a small selection of craft ciders and beer - including this one wth a not so pleasant name. The plae beer or Pilsner is apparently named after a village with the rude sounding name in Austria. Hell means pale in German.

The café also has a small selection of craft ciders and beer – including this one wth a not so pleasant name. The plae beer or Pilsner is apparently named after a village with the rude sounding name in Austria. Hell means pale in German.

The Real McCoy ($16 nett – $14 nett for a limited promotional period only) will be available from 30 July 2016 at both The Quarters at Icon Village (at Enggor Street) and its sister outler, Kush at Timbre+ (at Alexandra Distripark).

 





The Singapore Garden Festival 2016

28 07 2016

The sixth edition of the Singapore Garden Festival is back! Running from from 23 – 31 July 2016 at the Gardens by the Bay, this year’s event covering an area of some 9.7 hectares, is the largest ever. The highlight of the festival is probably at The Meadow. Here visitors will be treated to eye-catching creations by some of the world’s gardening greats including the nine Landscape Show Gardens, six Fantasy Show Gardens, fourteen Floral Windows to the World and five Balcony Gardens – all of which are crowd favourites.

My favourite landscape show garden - The Treasure Box by Inch Lim of Malaysia.

My favourite landscape show garden – The Treasure Box by Inch Lim of Malaysia.

Modern Day Maui - a Fantasy Show Garden by Adam Shuter of New Zealand.

Modern Day Maui – a Fantasy Show Garden by Adam Shuter of New Zealand.

Another favourite will have to be the burst of colours in the Flower Dome provided by the Orchid Extravaganza. On display are a rich heritage of orchids that will provide an appreciation of what the world’s most diverse botanical family has to offer.

An award winning Rawdon Jester 'Great Bee' at the Orchid Extravaganza at the Flower Dome.

An award winning Rawdon Jester ‘Great Bee’ at the Orchid Extravaganza at the Flower Dome.

More unusual orchids.

More unusual orchids.

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A host of other displays and activities are also lined up for the festival including a Learning Garden, a Landscape Design Challenge featuring teams of students, the World Of Terrariums which sees more than 100 creative displays of terrariums put up by students, hobbyists and community gardeners. There is also a Vibrant Marketplace in the non-ticketed area to look out for. This sees over 100 booths offering both sustenance and items such as plants, gardening and landscape products and services, and arts and crafts.

A pineapple plant, one of the many useful plants - kitchen-wise at the Learning Garden.

A pineapple plant, one of the many useful plants – kitchen-wise at the Learning Garden.

The festival also features a photo and an Instagram contest.  The “Tropical Floral Wonderland” Photography Contest offers prizes such as a Nikon D750 kit set, Nikon D7200 (18 – 105mm) kit set and Nikon D5500 (18 – 55mm) kit set. To enter, photos should be submitted by email to sggardenfest@gmail.com by 1 August 2016. For mobile phone photographers, uploading a photo to Instagram with the hashtag #sggardenfest (post has to be set as public) or via the contest page on the SGF Facebook page during the Festival period, will qualify entrants for a chance to win Nikon COOLPIX S7000 cameras.

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The festival runs until Sunday. More information, including ticketing can be found at the Singapore Garden Festival website.


More photographs from the festival:

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More Fantasy Gardens – Mystical Depths by Hugo Bugg of the UK.

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A Garden in a Flower, a Fantasy Garden by Michael Petrie of the US.

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Dare to Dream, a Fantasy Garden by John Tan and Raymond Toh of Singapore.

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Another crowd favourite – Nature’s Resolution, a Fantasy Garden by Stefano Passerotti of Italy.

Power of the Earth, a Fantasy Garden by Katsuhiko Koga and Kazuhiro Kagae of Japan.

Power of the Earth, a Fantasy Garden by Katsuhiko Koga and Kazuhiro Kagae of Japan.

Another view of Modern Day Maui.

Another view of Modern Day Maui.

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The Sugarcane Maze – a Landscape Garden by Kong Jian Yu of China.

The Sugarcane Maze - a Landscape Garden by Kong Jian Yu of China.

Another view of the Sugarcane Maze – a Landscape Garden by Kong Jian Yu of China.

Back to Nature - a Landscape garden by a South African / New Zealand team.

Back to Nature – a Landscape garden by a South African / New Zealand team.

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Benny’s Sunflower Farm.

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Gary’s Musical Flower Field.

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Another view of Gary’s Musical Flower Field.

Winter Wonderland.

Winter Wonderland.

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A Balcony Garden.

Galaxy Floristic - Floral Windows into the World.

Galaxy Floristic – Floral Windows into the World.

Another Floral Windows into the World display.

Another Floral Windows into the World display.

A Celebration Floral Table.

A Celebration Floral Table.


More photographs from the Orchid Extravaganza:
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Lost beauty

15 07 2016

I can’t help but feel a sense of loss wandering around the former Bukit Timah Railway Station. Set in one of the greener and isolated stretches of the rail corridor in the days of the railway, it was a magical place that had the effect of taking one far away from the madness of a Singapore that had come too far too fast. Now a sorry sight behind an unsightly green fence, its still green settings is an much altered one scarred by the removal of the railway’s tracks and ballast, turfing and maintenance work.

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The station had a special charm. Built in 1932 as part of the railway deviation scheme, it wore the appearance of a rural railway station, especially in surroundings that were most unlike the post-independence Singapore we had come to know. A passenger station in its early days and a point where racehorses transported for races at the nearby turf club were offloaded, the station in its latter days functioned more as a signal box for the exchange of key tokens (the token handed authority to the passing trains for the use of the single track that ran south to Tanjong Pagar and north to Woodlands).

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The world around station is due to be upset further. Work to lay a water pipeline that will supply Singapore’s future needs, will start in the area of the station, is due later this quarter.  It will only be at the end of the 2018 before the area is to be reopened, when it will, without a doubt, bear the scars left by the activity. There is however hope for its restoration, at least as a green space. This future, is now in the hands of the winning design consultants for the Rail Corridor concept plan.

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As part of the concept plan, a detailed design exercise is being carried out for a 4 km signature stretch. This includes the area of the former station. Feedback obtained through engagement efforts with various stakeholders and the public is being taken into consideration for this. What is left to be seen is its outcome, which should be interesting to see. This should be made public in the months ahead. It would of course be impossible to recreate the world that once was, but what would be good to see in the detailed design is that it remains a place in which one can run far from a Singapore we already have too much of.

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The last forested hill in Sembawang

11 07 2016

Sitting in relative isolation and surrounded by a lush forest of greenery for much of the 77 years of its existence, Old Admiralty House may soon find itself in less than familiar settings. The National Monument, built as a home away from home for the officer in command of the British Admiralty’s largest naval base this side of the Suez, will soon find itself become part of Sembawang’s sports and community hub.

Dawn over a world on which the sun will soon set on. Old Admiralty House in its current isolation on top of a hill, with the fast invading sea of concrete in the background.

The hub, it seems from what’s been said about it, will feature swimming pools, multi-play courts, a hawker centre, a polyclinic and a senior care centre; quite a fair bit of intervention in a quiet, isolated and of late, a welcome patch of green in the area’s fast spreading sea of concrete. Plans for this surfaced during the release of what became the 2014 Master Plan, which saw a revision on the intended location of Sembawang’s sports and recreation complex from the corner of Sembawang Avenue and Sembawang Road to the parcel of land on which the monument stands.

The original intended location of the sports and recreation complex in Sembawang (area shaded in light green) [URA Master Plan 2008].

The original intended location of the sports and recreation complex in Sembawang (area shaded in light green) [URA Master Plan 2008].

The monument, a beautifully designed Arts and Crafts movement inspired house, is without a doubt the grandest of the former base’s senior officers’ residences built across the naval base.  Set apart from the other residences, it occupies well selected position placed atop a hill in the base’s southwestern corner, providing it with an elevation fitting of it,  a necessary degree of isolation and privacy, and the most pleasing of surroundings – all of which will certainly be altered by the hub, notwithstanding the desire to “incorporate the natural environment and heritage of the area”.

A day time view.

A day time view.

The revised location of the sports and recreation complex in Sembawang (area shaded in light green) [URA Master Plan 2014]

The revised location of the sports and recreation complex in Sembawang (area shaded in light green) [URA Master Plan 2014].

The naval base that Old Admiralty House recalls is one to which colonial and post-colonial Singapore owes much economically. With the last working remnants of the base are being dismantled, the area is slowly losing its links to a past that is very much a part of it and Singapore’s history and whatever change the creation of the sports and community hub brings to Old Admiralty House and its settings, it must be done in a way that the monument at the very least maintains its dignity, and not in a way in which it is absorbed into a mess of interventions that will have us forget its worth.

Detail of a 1945 Map of the Naval Base showing the area where ‘Admiralty House’ is. The house is identified as the ‘Admiral Superintendent’s Residence’ in the map.


More on Old Admiralty House: An ‘English country manor’ in Singapore’s north once visited by the Queen


Around Old Admiralty House

The former Admiralty House, likened by some to an English country manor.

The former Admiralty House, likened by some to an English country manor.

The swimming pool said to have been constructed by Japanese POWs.

A swimming pool said to have been constructed by Japanese POWs.

Evidence of the through road seen in an old lamp post. The post is one of three that can be found on the premises.

An old concrete lamp post on the grounds.

What remains of a flagstaff moved in May 1970 from Kranji Wireless Station.

What remains of a flagstaff moved in May 1970 from Kranji Wireless Station.

Inside the bomb shelter.

An air-raid shelter found on the grounds.





The urban redevelopment resettlement centre that became Funan

1 07 2016

The lights went out on Funan DigitalLife Mall last night. The well-loved mall will be closed for three years for redevelopment and from the sound of the “experiential creative hub” it is being made into, the new Funan will bear little semblance to the Funan we all knew and loved.

The lights of Funan.

The lights of Funan.

While I shall miss Funan, a dignified alternative to Sim Lim Square for electronics and IT related merchandise shopping, I shall not mourn its passing in the same way I mourn the rather iconic Hock Lam Street that it buried. What can best be described as a very colourful example of Singapore in less ordered days, is on the evidence of the many photographs and postcards that exist of it, must have been one of the city’s most photographed streets.

Hock Lam Street, as seen from Colombo Court across North Bridge Road (source: National Archives of Singapore online).

The street, at its junction with North Bridge Road,  was where the Tai Tien kopitiam (coffee shop) was located. Popular with office workers from the vicinity and shoppers from the nearby shopping streets as a lunch destination, the kopitiam or rather the five-foot-way around it, would be where I would often find myself seated for the post shopping treat my parents would give me of Hock Lam Street’s famous beef ball soup.

A popular lunch stop for office workers from the area and for shoppers from the High Street area, the Tai Tien coffee shop at the corner of Hock Lam Street and North Bridge Road (source: National Archives of Singapore online).

It is from Hock Lam that Funan in fact takes its name; Funan being the pinyin-ised Mandarin pronunciation of the Hokkien Hock Lam (福南). The name, an attempt to remember the lost icon,  is perhaps a also reminder of a period in our history when we saw fit to distort place names that reflected the diversity of the Chinese diaspora to Singapore through the Mandarinisation of many of them.

The Hock Lam Street area (in the foreground) in 1976 from which businesses were moved temporarily to the Capitol Shopping Centre - the flat roofed building seen at the top of the picture (image source: http://a2o.nas.sg/picas/).

The Hock Lam Street area (in the foreground) before its demolition  in 1976. Businesses displaced were moved temporarily to the Capitol Shopping Centre – the flat roofed building seen at the top of the picture, before being moved to Funan Centre in 1985 (source: National Archives of Singapore online).

Funan Centre, as it was known in its early days, was completed in 1985 after much delay (it was initially scheduled to be completed in 1979 but a design change resulted in its delay). Built as a permanent “resettlement centre” by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), it’s purpose was to house the many businesses being displaced by the huge wave of redevelopment that was then sweeping through the city, including the many hawker stalls the street had been well known for. Examples of such centres include the former Blanco Court, since converted to Raffles Hospital, and the former Cuppage Centre (now 51 Cuppage Road). The latter was built to house market vendors and food stalls from the former Orchard Road Market and the area around Koek Road and Koek Lane.

Funan with its floors of IT and Electronic shops.

Funan with its floors of IT and Electronic shops.

When it opened in early 1985, Funan Centre featured a mishmash of shops and businesses, organised by the floor according to the categories of goods and services they offered. Many had roots in the area, and moved over from a nearby temporary resettlement centre, Capitol Shopping Centre and the neighbouring temporary food centre. Already then, Funan was touted as a place to shop for computers – its opening coinciding with the dawn of the personal computing age. One floor, the sixth, was devoted to the forty to fifty shops that made up its Computer Mart.

Capitol Centre just before its demolition.

The since demolished Capitol (Shopping) Centre.

The hawkers of Hock Lam Street found themselves elevated seven floors above it in the Funan Food Paradise – described then as Singapore’s first custom built air-conditioned hawker centre, what we today are perhaps fond of referring to as a food court (it actually opened a couple of months before Scotts Picnic Food Court, which was widely recognised as being Singapore’s first air-conditioned food court). Besides the popular Beef Noodle stall from Hock Lam Street, Funan Food Paradise became well known for Carona Chicken Wing, which built up a popular following when it was located at temporary food centre.

Packing the food court up. Some may remember the original food centre on the 7th floor from which the likes of Carona Chicken WIng operated.

Packing the food court up. Some may remember the original food centre on the 7th floor from which the likes of Carona Chicken WIng operated.

The floor below Computer Mart, the fifth, featured hairdressing salons while the fourth was where one shopped for home appliances and music. The third level was where shops dealing with fashion apparel and accessories were found, including a downsized Cortina Department Store, which had moved over from Colombo Court. The second level, as it was before it closed, was the place to buy camera equipment. Fast food outlets such as A&W and Big Rooster were then found on the ground floor. A post office also made a brief appearance, opening at the end of 1985 and closing two years later.

An eatery on the first level.

An eatery on the first level.

The ownership and management of URA owned commercial property passed on to Pidemco Holdings in 1989. Pidemco Holdings, later Pidemco Land, was a privatised property ownership and management arm of URA formed in 1989. Pidemco, which is an acronym for Property Investment, Development and Estate Management Company, merged with DBS Land in 2000 to form CapitaLand, the mall’s current owners. The mall was upgraded by Pidemco in the 1990s and took on a more IT / Computer related flavour. It was renamed Funan The IT Mall in the late 1990s and Funan DigitaLife Mall in the mid 2000s.

More information on the redevelopment can be found at the following links:


Parting Glances

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5 years ago tonight …

30 06 2016

The scene at Bukit Timah Railway Station as the Sultan of Johor drives the last trains through Singapore out of the station towards Woodlands and Johor.

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Hanging on – the amazing hanging bridge near Bilbao

29 06 2016

I love bridges, especially ones on which supporting truss or cable stays structures add to their overall aesthetics.

One rather interesting looking bridge the sight of which I was particularly taken with, is the Puente Vizcaya (Bizkaia in Basque) or the Vizcaya Bridge. I managed a visit to it during a sojourn in the north of Spain in 2013. Straddling the Río Ibaizábal, close to where it spills into the Bay of Biscay, the bridge with its horizontal span elevated some 45 metres above the ground and supported by four lattice ironwork towers, is quite an amazing sight to behold.

The suspended gondola of the Vizcaya Bridge with Portugalete seen in the background.

The suspended gondola of the Vizcaya Bridge with Portugalete seen in the background.

The bridge, a so-called transporter bridge, is not what one might think of as bridge in the conventional sense. Rather than a roadway or walkway across which vehicular of pedestrian traffic is carried, a transporter bridge carries its load on a gondola that is suspended by wire-ropes from a moving trolley running across its horizontal span and is more akin to a ferry.

The Vizcaya Bridge.

The Vizcaya Bridge.

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The bridge in its early days (Gizmodo Australia).

A close-up of the gondola.

A close-up of the gondola.

Developed as a solution to allow the crossing of navigable waterways in areas where space and geography restrict the deployment of the long ramps that  would be necessary to carry vehicular traffic to the deck of bridges elevated high enough to clear shipping, the do have limitations in the volume and rate at which traffic can be moved across the gap and as a result have not seen widespread use. Less than thirty were built worldwide, mostly around the turn of the twentieth century.

The gondola is suspended using wire-ropes from a trolley running across its span.

The gondola is suspended using wire-ropes from a trolley running across its span.

The idea for the transporter bridge has been attributed to Charles Smith, an Englishman from Hartlepool. While his invention was made public in 1873, it wasn’t until two decades later in 1893 that the first such bridge, which was the Vizcaya, was completed. Designed by Basque architect Alberto de Palacio, a disciple of Gustave Eiffel (of the Eiffel tower fame), it sparked off a small wave of construction of several other transporter bridges.

A view of the trolley from the top of the bridge.

A view of the trolley from the top of the bridge.

Known also as “puente colgante” or “hanging bridge”, the Vizcaya Bridge as a structure, takes us back to the heyday of the industrial and maritime age in Bilbao and a time when the area’s deposits of iron-ore fed the hungry blast furnaces of Europe. This, as well as several other factors that include its dramatic presence and aesthetics,  the technical creativity it expresses, and its role in influencing the development of similar structures, has seen its inscription on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Inscribed in 2006,  the Vizcaya Bridge now holds the distinction of being the only World Heritage site in the Basque Country.

A view of the moth of the Ibaizába estuary from the bridge.

A view of the moth of the Ibaizába estuary from the bridge.

The bridge is well worth a visit if you do find yourself in and around Bilbao, a city best known in these parts for its football team and the rather iconic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Besides the unique experience that crossing on its gondola offers, the bridge also features a walkway across its horizontal span, which provides not just a view of its trolley and operating mechanism but also a fantastic view of the towns of Getxo and Portugalete as well as the landscape around the mouth of the Ibaizábal estuary. More information on the bridge, access to its walkway and its UNESCO World Heritage listing can be found at the following links:

Portugalete fron the bridge.

Portugalete fron the bridge.

The gondola, seen from the walkway.

The gondola, seen from the walkway.

The walkway.

The walkway.

Getxo as seen from the bridge's walkway.

Getxo as seen from the bridge’s walkway.

The Ibaizába River.

The Ibaizába Rive, a passage for shipping destined for the old docks of Bilbao.

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The Vizcaya Bridge seen through the buildings of Portugalete.

The Vizcaya Bridge seen through the buildings of Portugalete.

 








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