Old Changi Hospital — a chance to visit for the 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore

9 02 2022

The three blocks that make up the former Changi Hospital are probably some of the most misunderstood buildings in Singapore. Much has been speculated about them and how they were used during the Second World War, leading to the buildings having gained a reputation for something that they are not.

A tour of the former hospital in 2017.

Just what role did two of the hospital’s original blocks play? Why were they built in Changi? How were they part of the overall strategy for the defence of Britain’s possessions in the Far East? What happened in them during the war? These are questions that I hope to answer during a specially arranged visit that will permit us to have a look at the buildings behind the security fence for a tour that I will be conducting in conjunction with Changi Chapel and Museum’s (CCM) programme being organised to mark the 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.

Block 24. What role did it originally play?

Two sessions of the tour will be conducted on 19 Feb 2022, which will begin with a docent-led tour of CCM through which will provide participants with a better understanding of Changi as a military site, how it became associated with captivity – both military and civilian, and provide a deeper appreciation of the experience of the civilian and military internees. Following the docent-led tour at CCM, participants will travel by coach to the site of the former Changi Hospital where my section of the tour will begin.

In a hospital ward with a view that will change the perspective of what the hospital was and what it meant.

Registration for the tour will begin at 10 am on 10 February 2022. Please visit https://ccm1-och22.peatix.com/ for more information, tour times and to register. Information can also be found on the CCM website. I will also be doing two tours of the former Tanglin Barracks (Dempsey Hill) to explore its connections with the Second World War, one on 12 February and another on 5 March 2022, both from 9am to 10.30am (more at this link).


Jumping off in paradise

15 07 2013

Believe me or not, jumping off a cliff from a height five storeys up, has been something I have always dreamt of doing – especially into the crystal clear waters of a far-off tropical island paradise. Doing what does seem like a crazy thing aside, there are many other reasons why, heading to Boracay might seem like waking up to a dream for me.


While diving off a cliff may be an attempt to regain some of a long misplaced youth – the trip to Boracay, despite it being associated with a young crowd, does hold much for me. Who after all can resist relaxing by a sun drenched white sandy beach, bathing in its emerald tinged waters, and the promise of a golden sunset listening to the soothing song of the sea.


Dreams do sometimes come true, even if it does involve jumping from five-storeys up. And thanks to the dream-makers in the form of Tigerair Philippines and the Philippine Department of Tourism as joint sponsors and omy.sg as organisers, I will find myself waking up to that dream on Thursday, when I join nine other bloggers on Tigerair’s inaugural flight to Kalibo Airport for a 5 day / 4 night trip.


The maiden flight is one which does open up a new route from Singapore – making it a lot easier to get to that dream destination, which would previously have required passengers from Singapore to make a transfer to be made either in Manila or in Cebu. What it does take now is a 3 hour 40 minute flight to get to Kalibo, which is on the island of Panay, a transfer to Caticlan Port, and a boat ride over to Boracay which lies off the north-western tip of Panay in the Western Visayas.

What does make Boracay, which measures some 9 kilometres in length and 1 kilometre in width, especially attractive especially to beach lovers (and the beach bum I sometimes imagine myself to be), has to be its famous White Beach – a 4 kilometre stretch of pristine white sand running down its western side. This combined with the draw of its clear waters, sea activities and it numerous resorts and its famed nightlife, has earned the island the accolade of being Travel+Leisure Magazine’s World’s Best Island Destination in 2012.


What I do have in store for me, besides the chance to lose my senses off a cliff (I might just be crazy enough to do the 15 metre dive), is a host of other activities to revisit my lost youth, both in or on the water, and on land. There is that opportunity to snorkel, ride a banana boat, and go on a helmet dive, hopping island to island. A cruise on a paraw, will hopefully be one which will be accompanied by a breathtaking sunset.

Boracay Sunset

On land, there will be lots of free time to have a feel of the place as well as to participate in planned activities which include a ATV tour to Mount Luho, horseback riding and a Zorb. There would also be dinner entertainment to look forward, including watching the Amazing Show and a chance to catch fire dancers by the beach.

Through the trip from 18 to 22 July 2013, the bloggers including myself will be providing updates through feeds on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. That will give all of you back home the chance to see not just what the ten of us would be up to, but also to find out who amongst us did take that 5 storey plunge from Ariel’s Point.

Getting to Boracay

Tigerair Philippines flies three times a week from 18 July 2013 on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Kalibo on Panay Island. The flight time for the route is 3 hours and 40 minutes. Getting across from Panay involves a 1.5 hour transfer to Caticlan Port and 15 minute boat ride.

More information on Boracay can be found at the Philippine Department of Tourism website.

All images: Philippine Department of Tourism Philippine Department of Tourism

This is a repost of my post on Boracay Island Escapade.

Moustaches, Lollipops and Camembert

9 06 2013

Thinking about what or who from the 1960s did serve as an inspiration as part of the themed challenge for this year’s Singapore Blog Awards, it dawned upon me that for some reason, many of the figures I have looked up to at some point in my life who featured in the 1960s either wore masks or moustaches (sometimes both). There were times when I would probably have wanted very much to imitate their appearances, but it wouldn’t have been just my inhibitions that would have prevented me from doing so – a lack of facial hair does prevent me cultivating some of the more exotic moustaches that my heroes seemed to wear. Plus, that more recent attempt by a certain cabinet minister to dress like that rapier wielding masked hero, Zorro, I did look up to as a child in public, does make me feel a lot less inclined to do an imitation.

The Hallucinogenic Toreador (1969 - 1970), Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida (Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/bb/The_Hallucinogenic_Toreador.jpg).

The Hallucinogenic Toreador, Salvador Dalí Museum.

Imitation of appearances aside, one particular mustachioed figure who I often find myself wishing to imitate (his depictions of flies aside), is one for whom the swinging sixties went much further than marking Z rapier cuts on defeated villains and represented a particularly creative period in his life. The figure – with his flamboyant wisp of facial hair which is said to be styled after that of a Spanish artist Diego Velázquez and an artist in his own right, is the somewhat eccentric Salvador Dalí.

Take a peek into the inner workings of the great surrealist artist Salvador Dalí at the ArtScience Musuem in Marina Bay Sands.

A projection of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí seen at an exhibition at the ArtScience Musuem in Singapore.

Known for the somewhat bizarre surrealist expressions of his inner workings, it wasn’t the surreal or peculiar side of him I would have got to know early on in life. Dalí is of course the man being the logo for a brand of lollipops, Chupa Chups, which was to take Singapore by storm in the 1970s – which might have explained the frequent visits I had to make to Pegu Road dental clinic as a schoolboy.

The famous Chupa Chups logo that I did encounter in my childhood was perhaps one of Dalí's less bizarre works.

The famous Chupa Chups logo that I did encounter in my childhood was perhaps one of Dalí’s less bizarre works.

It is however in Dalí’s more bizarre expressions that I have held a fascination for since my encounters with them later in life. It is through them that I see Dalí very much as an artistic genius and a source of creative inspiration (which perhaps explains my bizarre behavioural tendencies), for whom that fine line that is said to lie between genius and insanity doesn’t exist.

Dalí is known for his bizarre interpretation of the world around him which is expressed by depictions of everyday objects in a ways that seem beyond human comprehension.

Dalí is known for his bizarre interpretation of the world around him which is expressed by depictions of everyday objects in a ways that seem beyond human comprehension.

It is in one particular work that was executed at the end of the 1960s, The Hallucinogenic Toreador, where I did find much of that insane genius. A large scale and somewhat mystical piece I had the pleasure of viewing during a visit I just had to make when I found myself in the U.S. to the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida in the summer of 1989, The Hallucinogenic Toreador is one where we see many of the images which he seems to constantly replicate in his work. The images are ones which are depicted with great symbolism, offer insights into the artist’s life and his experience of life, his inner thoughts, as well as his obsessions and fears – presented in a way that could only have come out of that hallucinogenic state of mind he is often said to go deep into.

One of the images we do often see repeated is a somewhat insignificant figure of a little boy. The boy is one Dalí uses to represent himself in his youth and is one who bears witness to much of his work and his journey. It is that image that I often find myself relating to – I do have that little boy in me who bears witness to much of my own life’s journey.

A nice touch added by the curators - a reflection of clocks distorted by their reflection on convex and concave mirrors at the exit from the exhibition.

A reflection of myself and timepieces distorted perhaps in a Dalí-esque melting timepiece fashion by a reflection on convex and concave mirrors at Dalí exhibition held at the ArtSceince Museum.

The seemingly incomprehensible world we do see in much of Dalí does often have me attempting to see the world as how the artist’s might see it. The world is after all an incomprehensible place made comprehensible by only how society would have us see it. What Dalí does somehow tell me is to look beyond all that and to see what is around me and all else as he did see time through a melted piece of cheese. Looking a piece of Camembert has certainly never been the same for me – I stop to take a second look before gobbling down what is one of my favourite cheeses. While it is not the bizarre I seek to show in capturing the experiences which make up my life, through words and photographs – I do stop to ask myself if that is indeed a melted timepiece that I am able to see somewhere in it.

This post is written as a submission for the themed challenge for the Singapore Blog Awards 2013 for which I am a finalist in the Panasonic Best Photography Blog category. If as a reader you do feel that the blog is deserving of the award, I would be most grateful for your kind voting support – reader’s votes do count for 30% of the scoring. To vote, registration (and account activation via an email you will receive upon registration) would required. Voters do stand a chance to win some prizes. Following activation, you may vote for finalists of your choice for each of the ten main categories, seven special categories and two celebrity categories, once a day (calendar day based on Singapore time). For more on what the use of photography means to me, do visit a previous post “Come Walk with Me …“.

Come walk with me …

8 06 2013

I started this blog back in January 2008, intending it as a means for me to take a walk back through my life’s journey. That was some two months into a working stint in Penang which in reminding me of a Singapore I had long forgotten, triggered a deluge of memories of my younger days in a gentler Singapore I had a most wonderful time growing up in which were locked up in me.

Come walk with me ...

Come walk with me …

It was then that I decided on trying to capture my experiences in life, moments not just of my happy childhood, but also the many stops I made on life’s long journey – a blog seemed a good enough way of doing this, allowing me to capture the many impressions made on me of both past and present. A collection of posts related to the early chapters of my life can be found on “The Singapore of My Younger Days”.

277A1152The “bright lights” of Singapore after dark I often seek to capture.

November's a busy time in and around Kyoto when many from far and wide flock to the former imperial capital just to catch koyo - the autumn leaves. Colouring my life with a pause along life’s journey taking in Kyoto’s autumn colours.

The winter landscape at the top of Mount Balwang Chilling out in winter at the top of Mount Balwang on another pause along life’s journey.

The blog has evolved over the years, and has very much been associated with the use of photography, twice being named as the Best Photography Blog at the Singapore Blog Awards and being shortlisted as a finalist for the award at this year’s edition. Photography was never intended as the focus of the blog, nor do I describe myself as a photographer, although photography is a medium I used to help in telling my story. Photographs are to me not just about capturing beautiful or perfect images, but are also a powerful visual means that can be used to convey mood and emotion, a sense of time and place, and a wonderful way to capture the moment and the passing of time.

277A0277bAfter dinner conversations, Chonburi, Thailand.

277A0277bA representation of architectural conservation in Singapore.

It is the consequence of the passage of time I am constantly confronted with in my attempt to connect with my memories, in particular, the rapidly changing landscapes in an island nation which has not stopped to pause in its race to modernise. It is perhaps a regret that I have that I did not think of harnessing this means – which I did have at my disposal, to previously do this, and I set out to also capture the present not just to connect with the past, but also as it will inadvertently become the past.

Capturing time, place and the moment on my journeys out of Singapore.

It is in doing just this, that I am also able to celebrate the wonderful experience I have of living in a Singapore that for me, has more to offer than its bright lights, glossy new icons, busy shopping malls, and eating places that the good folks in our tourism board seem to want to sell above all else. It is however far beyond the tourist view of Singapore, where the real Singapore is to be found, a gentler world in which the rich diversity of cultures and traditions which made Singapore what it was before the modern city took over can still be discovered. A collection of post in which I celebrate Singapore can be found at “Celebrating Singapore”.

Celebrating the arts and entertainment scene in Singapore.

The journey taken with this blog, has been one that is a very enriching one, and one in which I have learned a lot more about myself and my roots in Singapore. The blog has also provided many opportunities for me to broaden my view of and experience of life, including the many new and valuable friendships made with the many I have met along the way.  I am also grateful that it has given me the opportunity to share my impressions and memories through various channels. One is the Singapore Memory Project, a project which aims to collect the many memories we as Singaporeans have of living in Singapore.

Capturing the many facets of Singapore.

I have also been provided with the rare opportunity to exhibit some of my photographs at two recent National Heritage Board (NHB) exhibitions. The first, was a small photo exhibition I was able to curate on the last days of the railway through Singapore, “First Journeys, Last Goodbyes“. This was held as part of the Motoring Heritage Weekend at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in September 2012 and involved a collection of photographs contributed by the community, including some of my own.

The other contribution I made was to an exhibition that is currently being held at the National Museum of Singapore, “Trading Stories: Conversations with Six Tradesmen“. For this I put together a series of photographs which offers my impressions of how spaces in which some of the early traders thrived have been transformed.

One thing that I hope that the blog can help in doing is in raising awareness on the lesser publicised issues which in celebrating Singapore, I am often put in touch with. One issue in which the blog did help in raising awareness on was on the proposal to preserve the rail corridor as a green corridor in 2011. More recently, posts relating to two religious National Monuments which are badly in need of funds for repairs, did help bring the plight of the monuments to the attention of the mainstream media. The two posts relate to the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, the two oldest Catholic churches in Singapore, on which reports in the mainstream media soon followed.

This year’s edition of the Singapore Blog Awards sees some excellent photography blogs. However, if as a reader you do feel that the blog does match up  or exceed the standards of the blogs it is up against at this years award, I would be most grateful for your kind voting support – reader’s votes do count for 30% of the scoring. To vote, registration (and account activation via an email you will receive upon registration) would required. Voters do stand a chance to win some prizes. Following activation, you may vote for finalists of your choice for each of the ten main categories, seven special categories and two celebrity categories, once a day (calendar day based on Singapore time).

This post wouldn’t be complete without me giving a shout-out to some the very good bloggers with who I have become friends with or who have been loyal supporters. These are:

First Journeys, Last Goodbyes at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

5 09 2012

For anyone interested in visiting Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, you will be glad to know that it will be opened for a motoring heritage exhibition this weekend (8 / 9 September 2012). Beside the vintage car display that will be put up by the Malaysia Singapore Vintage Car Register (MSVCR), there will also be a chance to take rides on vintage mini-buses and scooters as well as revisit one of the main reasons why many visited the station before its closure – food. As part of the event, there will be an exhibition along the wider theme of transportation heritage for which the National Heritage Board (NHB) which has organised this event has invited me to help put together an exhibition of photographs from the community on the railway and the station. For this, I have got a group of various people that have an interest in the railway and the station to reflect on the journeys made and the last goodbyes that were said in a small exhibition ‘First Journeys, Last Goodbyes’. The exhibition will be opened from 10 am to 5 pm on both days and there will be free shuttle buses at half hour intervals from Tanjong Pagar MRT Station through the day. For those interested in learning more about the station’s history and architecture, guided tours of the station will also be conducted on both days.

A last goodbye on 30 June 2011.

About First Journeys, Last Goodbyes

For close to five decades after Singapore’s independence, the Malaysian railway continued to operate through Singapore on a piece of Malaysia that cut a path into the heart of Singapore. It was perhaps one of the last physical reminders of the common history that the two countries shared.

The southern terminal at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station completed in 1932, was modelled after Helsinki’s Central Station to give it a grand appearance for its intended role. That role, the grand southern terminal of a pan-Asian railway and a gateway to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, was one it never got to play, serving instead as a focal point of any rail journey into or out of Singapore.

The station best remembered for the high vaulted ceiling with huge panels of batik styled mosaic murals of its main hall was one that saw many visitors over the years. That, the experience of the station, as well as the many personal journeys taken through the station would have left a deep impression.

First Journeys, Last Goodbyes brings a few travellers each with a personal story to share of their journeys, journeys on railway or through the station … journeys that will take a long time to be forgotten …

Contributors to the community photo exhibition are Zinkie Aw, Francis Siew, Loke Man Kai, Tan Geng Hui and myself.

Information received on 7 Sep 2012 on the weekend public tours of the station:

The tours will be conducted by PMB’s Volunteer Guides. No sign-ups are required for the tours. Public tours will be:
• Sat, 8 Sep: 2pm, 3pm and 4pm.
• Sun, 9 Sep: 2pm and 3pm

A tour of Singapore’s food history in 8 hours

11 08 2011

Produced by Sitting In Pictures, Foodage is a series of eight 1 hour episodes shown on Okto at 10pm on Thursdays, which made its debut on 4 August 2011. Foodage traces Singapore’s food history in the years since independence through collective personal memories, home movies and photos, recapturing our lifestyle and food trends over the years.

Catch Ukelele Man, Dick Yip, better known as "Uncle Dicko" amongst his fans and readers of his blog The Wise Old Owl, as he entertains with his ukelele in Episode 2 of Foodage.

The second episode of Foodage, “Food to Roam”, will be on the air this evening (Thursday 11 August). A synopsis of the episode provided on its Facebook Page:

In the 60s, hawkers roamed the kampongs and the streets of urban Singapore. The children who grew up in this foodscape share their memories – the roving calls of these hawkers were music to their ears, and fed their seemingly insatiable appetites. Their memories – both pungent and poignant – are set against a turbulent backdrop of merger and independence, lawlessness and unemployment and the Big Fire. The food on offer in this episode includes, Indian rojak, wanton mee, kaya bread, mee siam and tuckshop tidbits. The Singaporeans sharing their stories, include Jerome Lim, Peter Chan, Shaik Kadir, Yeo Hong Eng, Andy Lim, Toh Paik Choo, James Seah, Lum Chun See, Aziza Ali, Dick Yip, Ong Yew Ghee, Ivy Lim-Singh, Geraldene Lowe-Ismail…. watch out for The Foodage sweet spot moment when the strains of the “lang tin ting” man of the 50s gives way to the “ukelele” man of the noughties.

Do follow Foodage on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/foodage

See also:

Andy Lim: Sounds n Music Of Food Hawkers

Lam Chun See: Foodage Episode 2 (Okto Channel, Thursday 11 Aug, 10 pm)

Psst … guess who dropped in today?

28 01 2010

When I was growing up in Toa Payoh, my family had the privilege of receiving some rather important visitors to our humble 3-room flat. We were living on the top floor of a block of flats that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) built intentionally with a viewing gallery on the roof to provide visiting dignitaries with a vantage point from which the latest public housing project, Toa Payoh New Town, the pride of the HDB’s resoundingly successful public housing programme, could be better appreciated. This, together with the advantage that both my parents had, that given the general view that being teachers, they would have a better command of English than our neighbours on the same floor would have, and living in the flat that closest to the lift landing, had its benefits: the HDB would usually have our flat in mind when there was a need to provide the dignitaries with a view of how the typical dwelling looked like.

So it was with that, that we received out first VIP visitors not long after moving in, in June 1968 – John Gorton, the then Prime Minister of Australia and his family. I guess I was too young to really understand what the fuss was all about and all I can really remember is that towering hulk of a man from Australia who had come by and had given me with a gold-coloured tie-pin which had a figure of a kangaroo on it. I also remember that following the visit, I had somehow developed the fascination that I had with kangaroos as a child.

Photograph and newspaper cutting of John Gorton’s Visit, June 1968

The most notable visitor we had was none other than HM Queen Elizabeth II, who dropped in on the afternoon of 18 February 1972. It was an occasion that deserved quite a fair bit of preparation, and there were several interviews and briefings before on areas such as security and protocol. It was for us an occasion that called for a makeover to be given to the flat. My parents had the flat renovated and terrazzo tiles tinged with green, white and black replaced our original black and white mosaic flooring. Outside, the area below the block of flats had been spruced up by the HDB for the occasion – pots of flowering plants lined the area where the Queen’s car would be driven up to, as well as the corridor leading up to the lift and the lift landing on the top floor. The block of flats had also had in the meantime, been given a fresh coat of paint. The lift cabin was done up very nicely as well, which was a welcome change from the rather tired and dirty looking interior it wore after five years of service.

It was an occasion that I had kept from my classmates in school – not that I would be missed. The schoolboys in the afternoon session, which I was in, were to be distracted, having been tasked to line the sides of Thomson Road to wave flags, where the motorcade that was to carry the Queen was to pass that afternoon. I was certainly happy for the opportunity to skip school, but maybe a little disappointed that I would not get my hands on the miniature Union Jacks my classmate were to be given – a favourite flag of mine back then.

When the Queen finally arrived at our flat that afternoon, I was caught somewhat unawares. I had decided to sit down before she arrived and while daydreaming – which I was fond of doing, Her Majesty had appeared at the doorway, and I was seen on the evening’s news scrambling to my feet!

Scrambling to my feet at the arrival of the Queen.

Shaking hands with the Queen.

One thing I avoided doing immediately after the visit was to wash my hands. A neighbour had told me that I shouldn’t wash my hands that day, as I would wash my luck away, having shaken hands with the Queen. The Queen also made her way to the block of flats behind, where she had visited the flat of another family. A neighbour from the 17th floor, Ranu, related how there were crowds of people who gathered in the car park separating the two blocks of flats, hoping for a glance at the Queen, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Princess Anne. Ranu also related how she had shouted “Long Live the Queen” at the top of her voice, along with the crowds.

Going to school the following day, the driver of the minibus I took to school, was quick to shake my hand having witnessed the events on TV the previous evening – he had wanted to shake the hand of someone who had shaken hands with the Queen. I remember him saying to me: “no wonder you ponteng school lah”, ponteng being a colloquial word used to describe playing truant, from the Malay word meaning the same.

The kitchen during the Queen’s visit.

Somehow, from the evidence of the photographs I have, the kitchen seemed to be the focal point of the visitors, perhaps because it was probably the most spacious part of the flat – unlike the kitchens of HDB flats that were built later, or perhaps it was because of the excellent view we had looking south towards the Kallang area, being on what was the tallest block of flats around.

The kitchen during Sir William Goode’s visit – the man on the extreme left is the late Teh Cheang Wan, the then Chairman of the HDB, who later served as the Minister of National Development.

Over the few years until 1973, when a new and taller “VIP block” was built in Toa Payoh Central, part of housing built to initially house athletes participating in the 7th South-East Asian Peninsula (SEAP) Games (which Singapore hosted for the first time that year) before being sold to the public, we saw a few other notable visitors. The visitors included President Benjamin Henry Sheares, Singapore’s second President, as well as Sir Willaim Goode, a former Governor General of the colony of Singapore who served as the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara of Singapore when Singapore was granted self-government in 1959.

President Sheares saying hello to my sister, June 1971