Tiptoe through the tulips at the Flower Dome

29 04 2013

While you can’t quite tiptoe through the tulips there is a good chance you can imagine yourself doing it right here in Singapore. For what could be the first time in Singapore at the Gardens by the Bay’s Flower Dome, a mini field of tulips will be in full bloom – from today, 29 April 2013 right up to 20 May 2013, the Flower Field will see a colourful sea of tulips. Some 20,000 tulip bulbs which were planted on last Tuesday by 100 volunteers have already started to bloom and are expected to be in full bloom this week.

It won't be hard to imagine tiptoeing through the tulips at the Gardens by the Bay's Flower Dome this May.

It won’t be hard to imagine tiptoeing through the tulips at the Gardens by the Bay’s Flower Dome this May.

Yellow tulips in the Flower Field are already in bloom.

Yellow tulips in the Flower Field are already in bloom.

Some of the other coloured tulips such as the pink ones are expected to bloom from Monday.

Some of the other coloured tulips such as the pink ones are expected to bloom from Monday.

Visitors to the Flower Dome admiring the tulip field which has started to bloom.

Visitors to the Flower Dome admiring the tulip field which has started to bloom.

The 20,000 bulbs in the Flower Field are part of a total 40,000 which were flown in from the Netherlands by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the official sponsor for Tulipmania. The three week event, will not just see the field of red, pink, yellow, white and purple tulips, but also other colourful spring flowers such as  lilies, hyacinths, daffodils and muscari. To complement the display of tulips and the Dutch theme, five miniature windmills and giant wooden clogs placed both inside and outside the cooled conservatory. Further information on Tulipmania is available at the Gardens by the Bay’s Tulipmania page.

Purple tulips in bloom.

Purple tulips in bloom – some 40,000 bulbs were flown in courtesy of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – the official sponsor.

Visitors can pose for a photograph in front of the Flower Field wearing giant wooden clogs.

Visitors can pose for a photograph in front of the Flower Field wearing giant wooden clogs.

More wooden clogs.

More wooden clogs.

A miniature windmill.

A miniature windmill.

Red and white tulips.

Red and white tulips.

There is a chance to smell the roses too.

There is a chance to smell the roses too.

In addition to the tulips there are also other spring blooms.

In addition to the tulips there are also other spring blooms.

Other spring blooms include daffodils.

Other spring blooms include daffodils.

White tulips in the Flower Dome.

White tulips in the Flower Dome.

Pink tulips.

Pink tulips.

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During Tulipmania, visitors can also look forward to activities that will appeal to the young and old. These include the opportunity to learn more about tulips through an Acivity Sheet; create handmade tulip clips; taste Dutch cheeses; create tulip postcards which can be mailed to friends; and celebrate Mother’s Day. Promotions during Tulipmania include discounted admission (15% discount) into the cooled conservatories during Mother’s Day weekend (10-12 May), and  a chance to win a pair of tickets to Keukenhof, Holland, in 2014.

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A look into a tulip (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

A look into a tulip (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

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A world uncoloured

9 04 2013

It is in the colours of a world that has been uncoloured, where we find residues of the many memories there may have been of it. The memories are ones that soon will fade – the world waits the inevitable. It will soon face a destruction many similar worlds have faced, making way for a new world in which its memories of four decades past will forever be lost.

The stairwell of a world about to change (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

The stairwell (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

What now dominates this world at Lorong 6 in Toa Payoh, a recent victim of the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) in which residents and businesses are moved out to allow the neighbourhood to be redeveloped, is its tallest block of flats, Block 28. At 20 storeys high and occupying a prominent position on a low hill at one of the three original points of entry to what was an island-like Toa Payoh, it was hard not to miss the block which is one of a few blocks of flats built by the HDB laid out on a W-shaped plan, especially with the bright orange dragon found at the foot of the block.

A world where memories will soon fade.

A world where memories will soon fade.

A corridor (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

A corridor (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

The dragon is one that has in recent times, come to prominence. It has perhaps come to symbolise a growing desire to hold on to what is familiar in a Singapore many find is changing too fast. It is one of several well-loved creations of the HDB’s Mr Khor Ean Ghee. Mr Khor can be attributed with probably a generation of growing Singaporeans many cherished memories of playing in sandpits and playing on, sliding down or swinging from the terrazzo structures which took the shapes of popular childhood creatures. Besides playgrounds he designed in the shape of the dragon, there were smaller ones which took the forms of the pelican, the elephant and the dove.

The dragon of Block 28 (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

The dragon of Block 28.

The dragon at Block 28 is perhaps the best preserved of the few that have survived. It is one where its sandpit has survived where others may have lost them to the modern materials which provide a soft landing in the ultra sfae playgrounds our children now play in. The future the dragon has, with the intended renewal of the area, been a subject of much speculation. Many harbour a hope that it survives sandpit and all.

The sandpit (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

The sandpit (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

The world the dragon bids farewell to is one that had once been familiar to me. An uncle and his family had lived in top floor flat in Block 28. While my family lived in Toa Payoh up to 1976, we visited frequently, taking walks in the evenings down Lorong 4 or Lorong 5 from where we lived in Block 53.

The back of Block 28.

The back of Block 28.

The block is one known for the magnificent views it offers. We had discussed the possibility of watching the going-ons at the nearby Toa Payoh Stadium through a pair of binoculars but never attempted to do it – possibly because nothing interesting enough did take place at the stadium. It was however the view down the stairwell that would leave the largest impression on me.  The stairwell was unique in the sense that the staircase and its railings wound around the sides of what was a large trapezoidal space that occupied the angles of the W-shape plan. It wasn’t just that it was a much bigger space than one would normally see in HDB blocks of flats, but it offered a somewhat frightening view over the railings especially from 20 floors up.

Another look through the stairwell.

Another look through the stairwell.

Walking around the recently vacated block, its corridors and staircase landings scattered with the discards of former residents who moved to newer flats, there is this sense that I am walking amongst the ghosts that have been left behind.

A partly opened window.

A partly opened window.

A peek into a world occupied only by its ghosts.

A peek into a world occupied only by its ghosts.

In treading through the debris of the former world and pass by louvered windows some opened as if to provide ventilation to the ghosts of the vacated units, I also see colours of the real world left behind: familiar scribblings of loan sharks’ runners, along with familiar splatters of red on doors and windows – one memory that perhaps is best left to fade. It is one that will certainly be forgotten, along with the more than 40 years worth of memories that the now vacated units contain, all of which will all too quickly fade.

Scribblings of the real world along the staircase (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

Scribblings of the real world along the staircase (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

A red paint splattered door that will definitely want to be forgotten.

A red paint splattered door that will definitely want to be forgotten.

A red paint splattered window.

A red paint splattered window.





The rise of the new Ocean

31 03 2013

The vantage provided by Stellar at 1Altitude atop One Raffles Place, one of three tallest buildings in Singapore, gives a magnificent view of the new world around Marina Bay, as well as a building diagonally across Raffles Place from it, the new Ocean Financial Centre. At 245 metres high and with 43 floors, the Ocean Financial Centre, which was completed in 2011, is certainly much higher than the building it replaced, the 28 floor curved Ocean Building – which dominated the skyline of the former waterfront along Collyer Quay for some 33 years from 1974 to 2007. Although taller than its predecessor,  the building is one that does not dominate, becoming absorbed into the backdrop of the rising skyline in the area, a skyline which is no longer associated with the harbour which brought Singapore to life.

The rise of a new Ocean - the Ocean Financial Centre, the fourth Ocean Building on the site (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

The rise of a new Ocean – the Ocean Financial Centre, the fourth Ocean Building on the site (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

The 28 floor Ocean Building was in fact the third building of the same name to rise on the site. It was a name that was very much associated with a one time local shipping giant, the Straits Steamship Company. Incorporated in 1890, the company played a significant role in Singapore’s development as a maritime nation, and at its height, operated a fleet of 53 ships and was instrumental in linking ports in the Malayan Peninsula and British Borneo. Most who were around in the 1960s would probably remember the second Ocean Building which was a grand example of the wonderful works of architecture along Singapore’s bund, standing proudly at the end of the row of the glorious row of buildings along Collyer Quay which we have lost, from 1923 to 1970. More on this an the other Ocean Buildings can be found in a previous post.

Ocean Building in the 1920s (Source: W. A. Laxton, The Straits Steamship Fleets)..

The second Ocean Building in the 1920s (Source: W. A. Laxton, The Straits Steamship Fleets).

A little known fact about the Straits Steamship Company is that it can probably be considered as the founder of a giant in the airlines business, Singapore Airlines. The company registered Malayan Airways which it later sold off. That was to later become Malaysian-Singapore Airlines (MSA) in 1966 which split into Malaysian Airline System (MAS) and Singapore Airlines (SIA) in 1972. With the advent of containerisation, the Straits Steamship company’s conventional regional shipping business became less relevant and the company was sold to Keppel in 1983. A shift in focus to land development saw its name changed to Straits Steamship Land Ltd, before becoming Keppel Land in 1997. With the Straits Steamship Company making a complete withdrawal from the shipping business in 2004 and the demolition of the third Ocean Building which it erected, all that remains to remind us of a once proud shipping, is nothing more than another building named Ocean standing on where the three previous Oceans of the Straits Steamship Company once stood.

The new Ocean Building in July 1974 (Photo courtesy of Peter Chan).

The new Ocean Building in July 1974 (Photo courtesy of Peter Chan).