An oasis recreated?

8 07 2014

It is good to see that the long overdue Singapore Sports Hub has finally been completed. However, having been built over a part of Singapore that does hold many of my most memorable childhood experiences, seeing the new world complete with the seemingly indispensable shopping mall come up in place of a once familiar gentler world that existed, bring with it a tinge of sadness.

The new National Stadium seen from its south end, looking as if it is about to roar.

The new National Stadium seen from its south end, looking as if it is about to roar.

Reflections on Kallang Basin at dawn - the area where the once iconic Oasis was has since been transformed.

Reflections on Kallang Basin at dawn – the area where the once iconic Oasis was has since been transformed.

I liked that old Kallang, or properly Kallang Park, part of the area where the Sports Hub now stands. That was the Kallang that was shaped by the developments of the late 1960s and early 1970s that were not just to provide Singapore with the highs and lows that the old National Stadium in playing host to Malaysia Cup matches brought, but also a different set of highs-and-lows that the lion-headed roller coaster of the old-fashioned Wonderland Amusement Park did give to many of the younger folks of the era.

The National Stadium provided the setting for a football match in 1974 that left a lasting impression on me.

The odl National Stadium, which provided the setting for a football match in 1974 that left a lasting impression on me.

Beyond the stadium and the place that brought much joy to the children of the 1970s, it was a place where one could take a leisurely stroll by the waters of the Kallang Basin and perhaps watch the setting sun painted a scene made interesting by the silhouettes of boat against reflections off waters that might have been less than welcoming to the recreational boaters we see a multitude of in the Kallang Basin of today.

The new stadium with the silhouette of a dragon boat team in the Kallang Basin seen at sunrise.

The new stadium with the silhouettes of a dragon boat team at practice in the Kallang Basin seen at sunrise.

There was of course the places to dine at – the Oasis Restaurant complex, with its immediately recognisable octogonal shaped pods over the waters of the basin, having once being a popular dining and entertainment destination. Besides the Oasis, the fast-food craze of the 1970s brought with the arrival of fast-food outlets to Kallang Park, with A&W setting up a drive-in restaurant in September 1978. The opening of restaurant would best be remembered for a famous personality who was well-known from his appearances at the nearby stadium, footballer Quah Kim Song, making an appearance.

What used to be the Oasis over the Kallang Basin.

The pods of the once familiar Oasis over the Kallang Basin.

Over the years, we have seen McDonald’s and KFC being set up in the area with a UK based Fish and Chips chain, Harry Ramsden’s opening an outlet in the early 1990s. Over the years – the fast-food outlets have become a popular place for those heading to or from the stadium for a quick and convenient meal.

Another look at the waterfront around where the Oasis once was.

Another look at the area by the waterfront around where the Oasis once was.

The interactions I had with the area also include an episode in my life connected to a well forgotten industrial past, when shipyards lined the banks of the foul-smelling Geylang River on the area’s south-eastern fringe. That was in the 1980s, when I did see the last of Wonderland before it disappeared as many things do – having to make way in 1988 for a huge open-air car park meant to serve Kallang Indoor Stadium.

And another...

And another…

Kallang will of course never now be the same again. Apart from few industrial buildings from the era that have been put to alternative use and a couple of fast-food outlets, there is little left to remind me of a time that now seems so distant. While the much needed new stadium and the associated sporting facilities is much welcomed – I have made use of the competition pool at the OCBC Aquatic Centre and it is fabulous, it will never be the same again, especially without the Kallang Roar, when the old stadium became a cauldron of the collection of noise made by the crowd cheering, clapping and even stamping  that had its structure literally shaking.

An iPhone taken pano of the competition pool at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.

An iPhone taken pano of the competition pool at the OCBC Aquatic Centre (click to enlarge).

The roar had been what our Malaysia Cup opponents had feared most in playing at the old stadium. That, having long fallen silent with the days of the Malaysia Cup, as we knew it, well behind us, would probably never return.


Yesterday once more: The Green Hornet

31 01 2011

My first encounters with the masked superhero wannabe, the Green Hornet, and his trusty (and more able) sidekick Kato, had been during a re-run of the 1960s television series which starred Van Williams as the title character, and non other than the still popular Bruce Lee, as Kato and accompanied by a jazzed up version of The Flight of the Bumblebee. The re-runs that I could remember catching were screened over 1979 and 1980, on Tuesday evenings at 7, during a time when I was completing my secondary schooling, when I should really have been distracted by the preparations that I needed to make for the finishing examinations, then by the antics of the two masked men over half an hours of evening television, once a week before the Malay news came on.

There was actually a lot more to distract us during those days, despite the apparent lack of gadgetry and the wired-up world that keeps our young connected these days. It was exciting times brought about by gyrations inspired by the falsettos of Bee Gees and John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and with Michael Jackson going Off The Wall, amongst other things, as bell bottoms and butterfly collars gave way to pleated pants. It was a time when perhaps the childhood fascination with the superheroes in tights had waned to the extent that the die-cast Batmobile that I had held on to since I was five, with it’s paintwork chipped and damaged from the many occasions that it answered the call of duty in its many years of service it provided, went out with the trash (I now wish I had kept it). Despite that, the Green Hornet, when it remade an appearance, somehow drew us schoolboys to it. Perhaps it was it chance to watch the exploits of a Bruce Lee that had remained a cult hero to many of us, in a language that wasn’t alien to many of my friends, or perhaps it was it cool 1965 Chrysler Imperial known as the Black Beauty that caught our attention, but it had an effect on us that was similar to watching Erik Estrada in CHiPs, so much so that it often came up as a hot topic of conversation on the long bus journeys that we took to school.

I got to re-live my youth watching the Green Hornet courtesy of Domino's Pizza. I was an avid follower of the re-run of the television series screened on Tuesdays at 7pm in 1979 and 1980.

With that in mind, I approached a preview of the newly released remake of the Green Hornet in 3D, courtesy of Domino’s Pizza, with a bit of hesitation. This time around, the Green Hornet had at his disposal, not just a few clones of the Black Beauty, but with a garage full of cool automobiles that would have any one watching drooling, not that the female lead Cameron Diaz, who plays Lenore Case the secretary to the lead character, Britt Reid, a.k.a. the Green Hornet, wouldn’t. In this version, we do not just have the marvels of technology to keep our eyes glued to the screen, but also the silliness of Britt Reid’s character played by Seth Rogen and also of the bad guy, Chudnowsky (Christoph Waltz) who comes across as one who is as much as an narcissistic egomaniac as Britt Reid is, adding to the amusement. My favourite character in the 1960s television series, Kato, is played by the sullen Jay Chou, who somehow seems to mumble through some of his lines with good effect. Overall, watching it in 3D doesn’t seem to have made the experience any more spectacular, even with the generous dose of destruction that the audience is provided with, and I didn’t really think that Seth Rogen did justice to the character, but I guess audiences would still be drawn to the kick-the-bad-guy’s-ass theme, the car-chases to which Kato puts the accessories of the Black Beauty to good use, and the glass breaking and explosive sequences that is always popular with audiences. However, despite having reservations about Seth Rogen portrayal of of the masked Superhero wannabe and the lack of the spectacular, I must admit that not only I wasn’t disappointed with Green Hornet 3D, I did actually enjoy watching it as much as I did the television series.