Celebrating Singapore’s Biodiversity

4 09 2016

Great fun awaits visitors to the Festival of Biodiversity 2016 being held at the Singapore Botanic Gardens this weekend. There is much to do and learn about Singapore’s surprisingly impressive biodiversity at the fifth edition of an event held to celebrate of the community’s efforts to conserve Singapore’s natural heritage, as much as it is one to discover the island’s rich biodiversity (Singapore is home to more than 400 species of marine fishes and 250 species of hard corals – almost one third of the diversity found in the world!).

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The focus of this year’s festival is on native species as well as on recovery efforts aimed at the island nation’s rare flora and fauna. 46 species of land based and marine native flora and fauna have been targeted for these efforts, all of which have been identified as under threat in Singapore’s Red Data Book. Species that have been identified include the Raffles’ Banded Langur (also known as the Banded leaf monkey), the Sunda pangolin, the Hawksbill Turtle and the Giant clam. Previous successful recovery efforts include the propagation and introduction of epiphytic native orchids under the Orchid Conservation Programme and an increase in natural populations of the Oriental pied hornbill.

Threatened species such as the Sunda pangolin have been identified for recovery.

Threatened species such as the Sunda pangolin have been identified for recovery.

Held at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Eco Lake Lawn, the festival features exhibitions on the Species Recovery programmes and the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. Booths have also been set up by various groups including OtterWatch, The Pangolin Story and Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) – which will has a live reticulated python on display as part of the effort to educate the public on the cruel regional practice of skinning these reptiles alive for their skins.

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Also to look out for are a host of activities and arts and crafts workshops for the kids. More on the Festival of Biodiversity, which runs on 3 and 4 September 2016, can be found at the festival’s website.

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Another Ubin celebration

24 05 2016

Just as the festivities in honour of the Taoist deity Tua Pek Kong are taking place at Pulau Ubin, a celebration of a different kind was being held in another part of the island at the Ubin Living Lab. Graced by Senior Minister of State (Home Affairs and National Development) Desmond Lee, the event, held in conjunction with the International Day of Biological Diversity on 22nd May, was marked by the planting of mangrove saplings by volunteers of all ages at  the lab’s rather muddy mangrove arboretum.

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The former Celestial Resort, now used as the Ubin Living Lab.

The mangrove arboretum.

The mangrove arboretum.

Those present for the event also learnt of several important and timely initiatives – all part of the Ubin Project, to enhance the island’s biodiversity and to protect its badly eroded northern shoreline from further damage. These include species recovery efforts aimed at increasing the diversity of insect eating bats on the island and the Oriental Small-clawed Otters. Native to Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong, this species of otters are less commonly seen than the Smooth-coated Otters that have been making waves across Singapore and are critically endangered.

Senior Minister of State (Home Affairs and National Development) Desmond Lee speaking.

Senior Minister of State (Home Affairs and National Development) Desmond Lee speaking.

The effort to rehabilitate the northern shoreline, which includes the badly eroded Noordin Beach – once a popular camping spot, will also see a 500 metre coastal boardwalk being built (see photographs below). Work on this will commence in 2017 and more information on this and on the species recovery efforts can be found at the NParks website.

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Volunteers planting trees at the mangrove arboretum at the Ubin Living Lab.

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The younger ones got involved too.

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Posters on display at the event with information on the initiatives

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Ubin’s biodiversity.

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Species recovery efforts on Pulau Ubin.

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Restoration of the shoreline.

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Restoration of the shoreline.

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The proposed boardwalk off Noordin Beach.


 





Launch of the Ubin Living Lab at the former Celestial Resort

28 02 2016

The first phase of the transformation of the former Celestial Resort into the Ubin Living Lab (ULL), an initiative announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as part of The Ubin Project on November 2014, has been completed with the launch of the ULL (Phase 1) on Saturday by Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee.

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A Singapore conversation taking place by the mangrove tree lined Sungei Puaka?

Set in the midst of the mangroves of Sungei Puaka – one of the largest patches of mangroves left in Singapore, the ULL, intended as an integrated facility for field studies, education and research, and community outreach, will also see a mangrove arboretum set up. The arboretum will see eight critically-endangered local mangrove tree species re-introduced as part of NParks’ ongoing reforestation and habitat enhancement efforts on Ubin.

SMS Desmond Lee at the launch - with ITE College East staff and students working on setting up nesting boxes around the island for the Blue-throated Bee-eater.

SMS Desmond Lee at the launch – with ITE College East staff and students working on setting up nesting boxes around the island for the Blue-throated Bee-eater.

JeromeLim-9942The first phase sees the restoration of two buildings on the site to accommodate a field study laboratory, seminar rooms for up to 100 people and basic accommodation facilities. An outdoor campsite is also being set up to take up to 100. The first users of the ULL will be students from the Republic Polytechnic and ITE College East who are looking at setting up roosting boxes in Ubin for insect eating bat species and nesting boxes for the Blue-throated Bee-eater as part of a biodiversity enhancement and species recovery programme.

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The setting for the ULL – the former Celestial Resort.

The Ubin Project is an engagement initiative launched by the Singapore Government aimed at enhancing the natural environment of the island, protecting its heritage and also its rustic charm, involving a Friends of Ubin Network (FUN) that has been set up. More information on the project’s initiatives can be found at the Nparks website. Members of the public can look forward to a series of activities organised by NParks and the National Heritage Board – who have recently concluded an anthropology study on the island, aimed at bring the rich natural and cultural heritage to a wider audience. Information on the activities NParks already has planned can be found at a NParks news release Celebrating Ubin.

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Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, launching Phase 1 of the ULL.

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SMS Lee putting the finishing touches on a nesting box.





Open up a box full of memories at the library

14 04 2013

As part of the Singapore Memory Project (SMP), an exhibition, “My Home, My Library” is being held at the Public Libraries. The exhibition which runs from 25 March to 29 April showcases many precious memories which have contributed by residents of each of the neighbourhoods the libraries are in, with the aim of serving as memory triggers to help more Singaporeans to add to the 830,000 pledges and contributions made thus far to the SMP.

Visitors can take a photo at the exhibition or of themselves at a photo wall, share it on Twitter or Instagram with a #sgmemory hashtag, in order to stand a chance to win up to $200 weekly.

The My Home, My Library exhibition offers visitors a chance to take a photo at the exhibition or of themselves at a photo wall and to share it on Twitter or Instagram to stand a chance of winning up to $200 weekly.

The biscuit tin of keepsakes and memories at the Library @ Esplanade.

The biscuit tin of keepsakes and memories at the library@esplanade.

At the exhibition, visitors will open a biscuit tin of memories, in the way that their parents or grandparents might have opened their tins and boxes with their mementos and keepsakes stashed in them, through a huge human height biscuit tin (which resembles a popular brand of biscuits many would have been familiar with). There are some 500 memories in the tinboxes found across all the libraries and in them, there may perhaps be some which could evoke a memory stashed away somewhere.

Front and Back Covers of the "Log Book" that I used.

My own tinbox of keepsakes includes a book bought from the bookshops along Bras Basah Road.

The exhibition offers visitors a chance not just to relive precious moments but also to win attractive prizes every week in the Snap & Share social media contest. All that is needed is for visitors to take a photograph of an interesting exhibit or of themselves at the photo wall (which has on its backdrop an image of the respective neighbourhood in days past), and share it via Twitter or Instagram hash-tagged with #sgmemory to stand a chance to win up to $200 in shopping vouchers on a weekly basis. What’s more, the most retweeted tweet will win a prize of $50 in shopping vouchers!

The memory submission stand.

The Memory Submission Stand.

Visitors will also have a chance to submit their memories at the Memory Submission Stand – fashioned from a large scale version of the all familiar Carnation Milk tin. Kids will also have a chance to stamp their mark at the at the Kids’ Stamping Station – I know stamping was one of my favourite activities as a child. There are 6 different locally inspired rubber stamp designs and kids can either bring that stamping work home or contribute their work towards the SMP.

The Kids' Stamping Station - surely a hit with kids.

The Kids’ Stamping Station – surely a hit with kids.

In conjunction with My Home, My Library the libraries also organised a couple of tours involving small groups of bloggers. I got a chance to bore a few bloggers all of whom were a lot younger than me, taking them to places in and around the library@esplanade in a nostalgia tour last Saturday. The places involved some which were close to  my heart and some in which I am still able to find memories of times which would otherwise have been forgotten. The places were ones which I hoped could also trigger the memories of the four bloggers who came along.

A stop on the nostalgia tour - the Children Little Museum.

A stop on the nostalgia tour – the Children Little Museum.

The first stop on the tour was at the NParks roving exhibition “Playsets of Yesteryears” currently at Raffles Place. In spite of the rain, we spotted a little girl in a raincoat determined to have a go at one of the swing sets. That brought back not just memories of playing in many similar playgrounds in my swinging sixties (and seventies), but also of times looking forward to the rain so as to play in the falling rain, splashing in the puddles and wading in the flood waters (I still sometimes look forward to doing some of that!). The installation has been organised by the National Parks Board (NParks) for the commemoration of 50 years of Greening Singapore and is in collaboration with the SMP. More on the installation and where it can be seen at can be found in a previous post The 1970s playground reinterpreted.

The temporary Playsets of Yesteryears at Raffles Place.

The temporary Playsets of Yesteryears installation at Raffles Place.

From Raffles Place, a place which holds a lot more memories of days shopping at Robinson’s and John Little’s and having chicken pies around the corner, we boarded a bus which took us to the next stop, Albert Centre. There we had a look at a wet market and at some street traders along the pedestrian mall at Waterloo Street. The market isn’t one that I had my main wet market experiences at, but as all wet markets are, they are (or at least the used to be) where life revolves around, as well as providing a multi-sensory experience with their sights, colours, sounds and even smells. The market at Albert Centre is one which probably carries with it the memories of what the streets around used to hold, the original vendors having moved into the residential cum commercial Housing and Development Board (HDB) complex when it was completed in 1980, having been displaced from the street markets at Queen Street  and Albert Street by urban redevelopment efforts which swept across the area at the end of the 1970s.

A vegetable vendor at the wet market.

A vegetable vendor at the wet market.

Markets were always fascinating places for me, until that is, when a vendor’s daughter pushed me into a basin of salted vegetables. It is in the markets that I find many of the memories I have of my childhood, although the sights, sounds (one particular sound was that of the cha-kiak – wooden clogs on the wet floor) and smells may now be a little different. Many revolved around live chickens, seeing them in cages, being chosen, weighed, slaughtered and de-feathered and occasionally being carried home alive, struggling in brown paper bags with red and white strings. There are many more memories I have which I do have some posts previously written on.

One particular memory I have of is mutton butchers towering over their huge log chopping blocks at Tekka Market (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

One particular memory I have of is mutton butchers towering over their huge log chopping blocks at Tekka Market (photograph taken with LG Optimus G).

Just next to Albert Centre is a concentration of street traders at the end of  Waterloo Street and Albert Mall. The area sees high pedestrian traffic because of the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho and the Sri Krishnan Temples in the area which attracts a lot of devotees. Their presence there harks back to days when similar traders were commonly found on many other streets and one can find Chinese medicine men (that were especially common at pasar malams), fortune tellers, cobblers, as well as what one might expect, food, devotional objects and flower vendors.

A fortune teller's stand along Waterloo Street.

A fortune teller’s stand along Waterloo Street.

From Albert Centre, we headed to Bras Basah Complex, another HDB residential cum commercial that came up in 1980 – this without a wet market. The complex was also one which took in many traders from the area it is in. This included the many watch dealers, book, optician and stationery shops that occupied the shophouses that were cleared on North Bridge Road and the bookshops that the shophouses at Bras Basah Road between Waterloo and Bencoolen Streets were well visited for. Those bookshops were where I got my textbooks and revision books such as the ever so popular “ten-year-series” from and their move in 1980s drew many of us who went to school in the area to Bras Basah Complex. While many of the original bookshops have moved out, there are some of the other original stores that remain including some old school stationery shops (where we could get not just stationery but calculators, sports goods and harmonicas) and watch shops which take us back to its early days. Of the watch shops – it was from a similar one in Katong Shopping Centre where I obtained my very first wrist watch, an Otis for $70 back in 1976.

An old school watch dealer at Bras Basah Complex.

An old school watch dealer at Bras Basah Complex.

The next stop we had was Esplanade Park, better known as Esplanade or Queen Elizabeth Walk in the days when it was a popular outing spot to catch the sea breeze and indulge after in some satay and chendol. Back then walks in the evening were always interesting, not just for the sea breeze, the flicker of lights of the ships in the distance, or the beam of light from Fullerton Light that swept across the harbour, but also for the many traders scattered around the promenade. There were the usual kacang putih man, the balloon vendor who supported his colourful air-filled balloons with long tubular ones, and the snake charmer.

In search of the satay club at the Esplanade.

Bloggers +1 in search of the satay club at the Esplanade.

No longer there are the satay club which was at the location from 1971 to 1995, having moved from its original spot at Hoi How Road where we would sit at low tables on low stools and where satay would be piled up on a plate and charging was by the number of sticks consumed, as well as the semi-circular laid out Esplanade Food Centre which went in 1980 and which was possibly Singapore’s first built hawker centre coming up in the 1950s, which had been well known for its chendol. However, there are several memories including the Tan Kim Seng Fountain which used to serve as a marker of the former Satay Club, as well as another first – Singapore’s very first pedestrian underpass (as well as non surface pedestrian crossing) built in 1964 which connects Empress Place with the Esplanade.

Composite photograph of the Satay Club (and Esplanade Food Centre) and Esplanade Park today.

Composite photograph of the Satay Club (and Esplanade Food Centre) and Esplanade Park today.

From Esplanade Park, we moved next to the library@esplanade for the My Home, My Library exhibition there – that provided not just a look at the tinbox of memories but also provided some welcome relief for what was an extremely hot and sweaty morning. From that it was a drive by of the former site of the New Seventh Storey Hotel, and the DHL Balloon, which some may remember as landmarks (the DHL Balloon for a short while) in the Bugis/Rochor area, enroute to the Children Little Museum on Bussorah Street which holds in its toy shop full of old school toys and its museum of many full memories, many reminders of my (if not the other bloggers’) childhood. The toy shop and museum does also provide an appreciation perhaps of childhood toys and games over the generations – from simple cheap to make toys and low cost games, many a result of invention and improvisation, to more expensive and sophisticated ones, to the handheld electronic games which made an appearance in the late 1970s – the predecessors of the handheld video game consoles of today.

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There was time at the end of the tour and before the heavy downpour that was to come, to have lunch nearby. That was at the Seow Choon Hua Restaurant at Sultan Gate, popular for its Fuzhou (Foochow) dishes including Foochow fish ball noodles – which I had. There was also some time for me to share my experiences accompanying my maternal grandmother on a trishaw to the area nearby – Arab Street to be precise, an area she referred to a “Kampong Jawa” (as the area hosted a Javanese community), to do her shopping for items such as batik sarongs and bedak sejuk (powder sold in tablet  form). The street then as it is now, plays hosts to many textile shops – a reminder of a time it was common to have clothes made-to-measure. While such shops in other areas have gone – the popularity of ready-to-wear clothes from the late 1970s onwards meant that demand for textiles fell. Many such shops, especially those found in Toa Payoh Central, turned to selling ready-to-wear clothes and a large concentrations of them are now found only on Arab Street.

Foochow Fishball Noodles at Seow Choon Hua.

Foochow Fishball Noodles at Seow Choon Hua.


About My Home, My Library:

The Singapore Memory Project presents “My Home, My Library” – a nationwide exhibition showcasing personal memories contributed by residents of each neighbourhood. From library romances to tok-tok noodle carts and kampong life, each memory tells a unique story that forms a portrait of our home and our libraries. Take a peek into our treasure trove of stories and share some of your own precious memories with your fellow residents. For more information, please click here. My Home, My Library runs at all public libraries (except for Geylang East which is under renovation) until 29 April 2013.


About the Singapore Memory Project (SMP):

The SMP is a national initiative started in 2011 to collect, preserve and provide access to Singapore’s knowledge materials, so as to tell the Singapore Story. It aims to build a national collection of content in diverse formats (including print, audio and video), to preserve them in digital form, and make them available for discovery and research.

Currently, members of the public can submit their memories for the project by”


Do also read about the impressions My Home, My Library left on some of the other bloggers:






The 1970s playground reinterpreted

27 03 2013

Stepping out from the MRT Station at Raffles Place, the sight of swing sets, see-saws and a merry-go-round, set on a bed of sand as playgrounds of the 1970s might have been, would probably seem odd. That, especially so considering what Raffles Place has become. What perhaps isn’t odd in the context of today’s world is how we have chosen to interact with it … not, if I may quote a friend “enjoyed with head in the wind”, but with the “face on the screen”.

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The playground at Raffles Place is part of a National Parks Board (NParks) roving exhibition, “Playsets of Yesteryears” held to commemorate five decades of greening Singapore. The exhibition which also provides visitors with a look at the history of 12 parks including Toa Payoh Town Park and the Singapore Botanic Gardens will remain at Raffles Place until mid May before moving to East Coast Park in June and July, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park from mid August to mid October, and the Singapore Botanic Gardens in November to December.

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Gardens of enchantment

7 07 2012

Fresh from my visit to the ‘Enchanted Garden‘, I found myself visiting what has to be several gardens of enchantment – exquisite garden displays that I got a peek at during a media preview of the fourth edition of what had to be the top garden and flower show in Asia – the biennial Singapore Garden Festival (SGF). The event which opens today at Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, will be held from 7 to 15 July 2012, bringing together some 39 designers from 19 countries who have produced some exquisite garden and flower designs and displays and is expected to draw some 300,000 visitors over the nine-day period.

Visitors to the 4th edition of the Singapore Garden Festival will get to have a feel of some exquisitely designed gardens of enchantment.

The draw of the exhibition must certainly be the experience on Level 6 where 37 masterpieces, the most since the Festival started in 2006 – 15 Fantasy and Landscape Show Gardens and 15 Floral Windows to the World, and seven Balcony Garden displays are displayed, featuring both local and international garden designers – 80 percent of whom are making their debut appearance.

Some 37 masterpieces are on display on Level 6 including this show garden in the Landscape category – the work of Sarah Eberle of the UK entitled ‘Continental Drift’ which investigates natural habitats and varying landscapes around the world.

The elevator all dressed up in a garden theme – with artificial turf on its floor, was perhaps a sign of what was to come – stepping out it is the land of fairy tales that greets the visitor – the walkway leading to the exhibition has been dressed up with a fairytale castle themed entrance display with 5-metre tall topiary arches, animal-shaped topiaries, pixies and frog soldiers peeking out from colourful flowering plants and simulated castle walls decorated with climbing plants.

Even the elevator is dressed up for the event.

A fairy tale world welcomes the visitor on Level 6.

One of the winning Fantasy show gardens does in fact incorporate a fairy-tale theme – ‘Garden of Tales’ which is the creation of award-winning local designer Damian Tang which was not only a Gold Medal winner but was also named as the Best of Show for the Fantasy Category. It was one of two that I was drawn to – the other being ‘Luminescent Perspective’ by John Cullen … ones that will certainly leave the visitor enchanted. The ‘Garden of Tales’ inspired by children’s love of fairy tales, is one that through the clever use of frames into each of its five areas – scenes each with a fairy-tale to discover, draws one into it – well described in the fact sheet as “tempting us to peek into different realms of magic, mystery and wonder”. The garden features a one-thousand year old olive tree which was specially shipped in from Spain in a refrigerated shipping container – we were told that the roots of the tree were over two metres wide and the tree almost cold not fit into the container.

I was drawn into the ‘Garden of Tales’ through windows into each of the five scenes that depict scenes from popular fairy-tales.

A scene from Alice in Wonderland.

And one from Little Red Riding Hood.

The creator Damian Tang posing for a photograph.

John Cullen’s ‘Luminescent Perspective’ is one that celebrates the ever-changing nature of gardens and features a lighting sequence that every two minutes will take visitors through the changes in light through the day – from dawn to dusk. The garden which picked up the Gold and People’s Choice Award also features a rotating carousel and was my personal favourite – being one that welcomes the visitor in – one in the word of the designer in which children can be children in.

John Cullen’s ‘Luminescent Perspective’.

Another display which has lighting effects – as well as sound and movement, is New Zealand’s Danny Kamo’s and Andy Ellis’ ‘Ruaumoko’. The Fantasy Show Garden is named after the Maori god of earthquakes – Ruaumoko – the unborn son of Rangi (Sky Father) and Papa (Earth Mother) whose movements in his mother’s womb is said in Maori mythology to be felt as earthquakes across the world. It features an earthquake like movement that lasts 40 seconds – the length of the large shock that hit the designers’ home city of Christchurch in February 2011. The garden picked up a Gold Medal for SGF.

An image of Ruaumoko at Danny Kamo’s and Andy Ellis’ fantasy themed garden.

An eye-catching display in the Floral Windows to the World Category is the ‘Floral Kaleidoscope’ designed by Harijanto Setiawan which picked up a Gold Medal as well as being named the Best of Show for the category. I loved kaleidoscopes as a child and seeing the display has certainly rekindled my fascination for kaleidoscopes. The display is a celebration of life and the never end change in nature.

The kaleidoscope (in the window below) makes use of a reflection of an illuminated floral display on the ceiling.

A look into the kaleidoscope.

A new and interesting category at this year’s festival is the Balcony Gardens competition. This will feature displays that are very appropriate for us in Singapore – displays that creatively make use of 3 metre by 3 metre spaces. Out of seven entries, there were two Gold Medal winners – Toh Lee Hua and Veera Sekaran. Toh Lee Hua’s ‘A Breath of the Wind’ – the Best of Show winner, takes city-dwellers’ busy lifestyles and creates a green space in an urban environment that requires minimum upkeep.

Toh Lee Hua’s ‘A Breath of the Wind’ uses neat displays of terrariums which require little maintenance.

Veera Sekaran’s ‘Living Green Balcony’.

On the evidence of what I had a quick glance at, there is a lot more visual treats that’s there to discover and I would, if I could, have spent the entire day walking around the displays on level 6 (there is more to see on level 4 which I have not yet seen) and I would certainly be back for more over the next nine days. Tickets for the show are available at the ticketing kiosks located at level 3 of the Suntec Convention Centre during the show period. Ticket Prices are S$10 (Weekdays – Monday to Friday) and S$14 (Weekends – Saturday and Sunday) for adults and S$5 / S$8 for children, students and senior citizens (children under 0.9 metres in height go in free). Family Tickets (2 Adults and 3 Children) are also available at S$20 (weekdays) and S$38 (weekends).

Gold Medal winner Andrew Seccull’s ‘Mazu’s Garden’ is set on a platform that represents a floating house – with many elements that relate to the sea – a garden for the protector of fisherman in Chinese belief, Mazu, to meditate.

The are a lot more visual treats to discover beyond the winning entries.

Visitors to the show can also participate in the SGF “Colours” photography competition which offers great prizes that include a Sony Nex-F3 camera. Participants can take a photo they feel best depicts the theme “Colours” and submit it through Singapore Garden Festival’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/sggardenfest. The public can then vote for their favourite photo on the Facebook page’s contest tab. A range of prizes are up for grabs for both participants and voters. The Festival is organised by the National Parks Board (NParks) and its key partners, the Agri-food & Veterinary Authority (AVA), the Orchid Society of Southeast Asia (OSSEA), Singapore Gardening Society and Singapore Tourism Board (STB). For more information, please visit the Singapore Garden Festival website or Facebook page.


All photographs accompanying this post have been taken using a Sony α57 (SLT-A57) DSLR camera.






The new light in the old harbour

29 11 2011

There’s a new world out there, right where the flicker of the dim lights of the hundreds of ships at anchor and where the occasional moving of beam from the top of Fullerton Building would have once swept across. Built on a large finger of land that had been reclaimed from what had mostly been the Outer Roads of the harbour, the finger of land now also forms part of what encloses what is now Marina Bay – and is perhaps where Singapore’s transformation to a modern new city would best be seen. It is in place of the dim lights of the ships, that the glow of a new world has begun to emerge, first with the Marina Bay Sands complex and now across the expressway at the soon to be completed Gardens by the Bay. It is at the Gardens, of which we had a sneak peek at during the recently concluded 20WOC World Orchid Show, where a fantasy land of illuminated structures that look like they come from a set of a sci-fi movie will emerge, which on the evidence of the preview, would certainly be something to look forward to when the Gardens by the Bay opens in June 2012.

A new world emerges out of what had once been the harbour. Supertrees llluminate the nightscape at the Gardens by the Bay under the gaze of the Marina Bay Sands complex and a rain cloud laden sky.

Changing hues of the Supertrees.

The view across the Dragonfly Lake from the Dragonfly Bridge.

The Chinese Garden - part of the Heritage Gardens.

Frames of the Flower Dome by night.





Finding a colourful little bit of paradise at Marina Bay

15 11 2011

Advertising brochures and banners for the 20th World Orchid Conference (20WOC) World Orchid Show, now on at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre beckons visitors by promising to find them a ‘little piece of paradise’. While orchids are not what I would naturally associate with a piece of paradise, being amongst the colourful displays, 75 in all, of 50,000 orchids of about 5,000 varieties – it wasn’t hard to imagine that I had found myself in that little bit of paradise that seems to elude me wandering around the cityscape we are immersed in in much of Singapore. The show is part of the 20WOC which was opened by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Saturday, giving Singapore the distinction of being the only Asian city to host the WOC for the second time, the first being in 1963. The WOC is a triennal event which is the largest in the international orchid calendar and the 20WOC sees participation from 55 countries and comprises of three components – the conference, the orchid show and a marketplace which features orchids, orchid related and themed products on offer by 80 vendors from 17 countries.

The World Orchid Show sees a dazzling array of 50,000 orchids of about 5,000 varieties on display at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

It was the colour and variety at the show that most attracted me, the displays of which I could take in a leisure before the crowds arrived during the first two hours of the show’s opening to the public – many varieties of which I had seen for the very first time and I was contented just to immerse myself in the stunning displays of orchids of a variety I never had in my previous encounters with orchids, realised that were!

Paphiopedilums - ones that I took a particular liking to.

The show offers more than just competitive floral arrangements, one feature is the educational displays which include information on the Orchid Programme undertaken by the Singapore Botanical Gardens, Seed Germination and In-vitro Cultivation, a display of orchids named after VIP visitors to Singapore, and a Walk of Fame. There are several interesting themes within the display as well – including competitive Ikebana Arrangements – a total of 55 arrangements are on display (3 of which are non-competitive) and other Floral Arrangements which include Table Arrangements and Bridal Bouquets. The various competitive components of the show sees more than 743 ribbons, medals, and trophies awarded by over 210 orchid judges to the best orchids with the Chaiwathana Orchid Garden and the Orchid Society of Papua New Guinea clinching the top honours.

Ikebana Inspiration - an Ikebana orchid arrangement by Dab-Gil Jose Adoyo of the Philippines at the World Orchid Show.

Another Ikebana arrangement on display.

The show is on until the 20th of November and a bonus awaits visitors to the show – a sneak preview of the Flower Dome and parts of the wonderful new Gardens by the Bay (the garden, less the Flower Dome, is also opened to members of the public without a ticket to the World Orchid Show during the period), which is scheduled to open in June 2010. Information on the 20WOC, including admission and ticketing to the World Orchid Show, can be found at the WOC’s site. Further information on the Gardens by the Bay can be found at their website.

Orchids and more orchids of a variety and quantity I had never in my life known to exist.

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A sneak peek at the Gardens by the Bay

13 11 2011

Latest updates and a preview of Cloud Forest
Latest updates (from a 3 Apr 2012 Media Preview) on the Gardens by the Bay’s Bay South Gardens opening, opening hours, admission rates and the Cloud Forest can be found in this post: An ascent into the clouds.


It is hard not to notice that massive project that is being undertaken by the National Parks Board (NParks) to create a garden in the Marina Bay area that is part of a greater effort to transform Singapore from a ‘Garden City’ to a ‘City in a Garden’ with the obvious signs from the sprouting of the supertrees that are very visible in the area. Occupying 101 hectares of prime land by the waterside in Singapore’s new downtown, the Gardens by the Bay will, when the first phase is completed in June 2012, offer visitors an opportunity to savour a 54 hectare site at the Bay South, just across the East Coast Parkway from the Marina Bay Integrated Resort, designed by UK-based landscape architecture firm Grant Associates, that will offer Horticultural Themed Gardens, Supertrees and a chance to experience the environments of the cool-dry springtime climates of the Mediterranean and semi-arid sub-tropical regions as well as the cool-moist climate of the Tropical Montane regions such as in Mount Kinabalu in two cooled glass conservatories.

It is hard not to notice the futuristic looking glass domes, and ...

... the sprouting of the Supertrees.

Several of us were able to have a sneak peek at what will be on offer at the Gardens by the Bay, which will feature as one of the venues in the 20th World Orchid Conference (20WOC) World Orchid Show, which Singapore is hosting for the second time this November, yesterday. What we were able to see were the sections which were made ready for the preview – the Heritage Gardens, Dragonfly Lake (and Dragonfly Bridge which connects the strip of land between the ECP to the Gardens), the Supertrees at the Golden and Silver Gardens and one of the cooled Conservatories – the Flower Dome, which features some never seen before and thoroughly fascinating plants from the cool-dry Mediterranean and semi-arid climates around the world.

The foliage of Supertrees, which are tree-like structures 25 to 50 metres in height are vertical gardens with an emphasis on creating a 'wow' factor, seen with a natural tree.

The preview, which was for members of the media, started with a briefing chaired by the CEO of Gardens by the Bay, Dr Kiat W. Tan and the COO, Mr Kenneth Er. We were guided through a plan of the Gardens and the features of each area of the Gardens – which would cost approximately SGD 1 billion to build. The Gardens by the Bay would include the current area of focus, the Bay South area, as well as a 32 hectare site at Bay East which is being designed by another UK firm Gustafson Porter, and Bay Central – which will have a 3 km waterfront promenade that will offer stunning views of the city.

The Dragonfly Lake with the Supertrees at the Silver Garden in the background as seen from the Dragonfly Bridge.

Next it was a preview of the opened parts of the Gardens itself, which we were told, needed a huge effort to get ready for the WOC sneak preview, which will include the Flower Dome, where there is a display of some 14,000 orchids – 150 hybrids and 30 species from around the world which include Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and South America.

One of the parts of the Gardens by the Bay opened for the sneak preview was the Flower Dome.

The external areas we had access to did appear to be short of tree cover and shade, and perhaps a little too much concrete for a garden – perhaps as the space was one that was created to blend in with the area and one that required itself to be different from the existing parks and gardens. The fact that the garden was new was another factor and perhaps a more garden-like feel to the garden would come as the trees in the garden matures. The Heritage Gardens was an interesting concept, and allows visitors to move through spaces that are connected with the three major ethnic groups that featured in the development of Singapore as well as with the colonial establishment, with plants and trees which feature in the cultural practices and cooking of the respective ethnic groups.

A sculpture in the Chinese Garden - to represent the numerous Chinese who have left their homeland to seek a better life elsewhere.

A rockery with palms and cycads in the Chinese Garden.

The highlight for me was the visit to the Flower Dome, which covers an area of 1.2 hectares (or 2.2 football fields) under a steel frame supported glass structure which features 3,332 glass panels of 42 varying shapes and sizes and is 45 metres high. What was interesting to learn during the briefing about the Flower Dome – and the smaller neighbouring Cloud Forest (which isn’t completed yet), was of the innovative cooling system which makes use of biomass from horticultural waste generated by NPark’s parks and gardens. An holistic approach is also taken to maintain both temperature and humidity, resulting in an estimated 30% savings in energy consumption compared to conventional methods which also involves:

  • Minimising solar heat gain while allowing maximum light through the use of spectrally selective glass and light sensor operated shadings,
  • Cooling only of the occupied areas through thermal stratification which ensures cool air settles on the ground and warmer air is vented to the upper levels, and,
  • An efficient dehumidification process which de-couples the de-humidification of air from the cooling process using a liquid dessicant to first remove moisture.

Innovative energy efficient methods involving the use of NPark's own biomass waste is used to cool the Conservatories.

Chilled water pipes run below the Flower Dome to cool the ground.

Walking into the cool Flower Dome, one can’t help but be impressed with what has been achieved, as well as with the visual treat provided by the curved glass and steel roof. The Flower Dome is arranged to move the visitor from one cool-dry region to another, from semi-arid regions that represent areas such as the Australian Bush, South Africa, South America, the United States and Madagascar to the springtime climate of the Mediterranean. On display are Baobabs (Bottle Trees), Ghost Trees, Cacti and Succulents, as well as the fire adapted plants of the Australian Garden, the moisture rich plants such as various species of Aloe Vera in the South African Garden, the trees of the Mediterranean region in the Olive Grove such such Fig and Olive Trees, as well as some fascinating trees such as the Monkey Puzzle Tree and the Chilean Wine Palm in the South American Garden.

The Baobabs.

The Succulent Garden.

Cacti in the Succulent Garden.

A Ghost Tree - planted near graveyards in Madagascar and is said to have medicinal uses.

An Aloe plant in the South African Garden.

The leaves and branches of the Monkey Puzzle Tree - so named because a UK based specimen owner remarked that it would 'puzzle a monkey to climb the tree'.

Chilean Wine Palms - natives used to fall the trees to harvest the sap which is used to make an alcoholic beverage.

The highlight for me - 1000 year old olive trees in the Olive Grove. The trees were ones that were affected by development in Spain and transported by refrigerated container to Singapore.

The trunk of an Olive Tree.

The Flower Dome also features a Flower Field, which will feature changing displays of flowers to reflect different seasons, themes and festivals – including its current display of orchids for the WOC. The Flower Dome will also see two F&B outlets, as well as an event space for 800 to 1000 people. The event space will be used to host a gala dinner for the WOC.

The Flower Field in the Flower Dome which will feature changing displays of flowers to reflect different seasons, festivals and themes. It currently displays orchids for the 20th WOC.

Phalaenopsis on display in the Flower Field of the Flower Dome during the WOC.

More Phalaenopsis on display.

And yet more!

Visitors to the WOC would be able to visit the Flower Dome for a sneak preview during a one week period from the 14th to the 20th of November with a ticket to the WOC. Further to this, visitors as well as members of the public without admission tickets to the 20WOC World Orchid Show would also be have a look at the external areas of the Gardens by the Bay which are ready. Information on the 20WOC World Orchid Show, including admission and ticketing, can be found at the 20WOC’s site. Further information on the Gardens by the Bay can be found at their website.





A gradual reopening of the Rail Corridor

2 09 2011

Members of the media and the Rail Corridor working group were provided with an update on the track removal works and plans to reopen parts of the Rail Corridor as work is being completed early this morning during a walkabout in the vicinity of Bukit Timah Railway Station with Minister of Law, Mr. K Shanmungam, the Minister of State (National Development) BG Tan Chuan-Jin, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Law, Ms Sim Ann, and officers from the SLA, MND, URA and Nparks.

Minister of Law, Mr Shanmugam briefed members of the media and the Rail Corridor Consultation Group on the progress of SLA's track removal work and the reopening of the Rail Corridor for use by the community.

Mr Shanmugam being briefed by a SLA officer near the truss bridge.

The Minister also responded to concerns raised by members of the public about damage to existing vegetation during track removal works in the vicinity of the station and explained that the SLA had been “aware of the need to preserve vegetation and no trees were removed”. He also stated that turfing works over the area of the removed tracks, which is now quite evident, was necessary to ensure that there was little risk of water ponding. The tracks, all ancilliary structures such as signal posts, kilometre markers and the ballast are being removed and returned as part of the agreement with Malaysia, with the exception of a stretches in way of the platforms of the two conserved stations and the three bridges that will be retained.

Turfing work south of Bukit Timah Railway Station.

A section of the tracks in way of the Bukit Timah Railway Station platform is being retained.

Another view of Bukit Timah Railway Station. Besides the tracks, one sign and several other structures are being kept.

A map at the station showing SLA's removal plans which identify the bridges that will be retained.

The truss bridge at Bukit Timah / Dunearn Roads with trufing work and the portion of tracks to be retained very much in evidence.

The SLA also announced the reopening of a 1.4 kilometre stretch of the Rail Corridor where track removal and turfing work is being completed from the 16th of September. The stretch is from the steel truss bridge over Bukit Timah / Dunearn Road southwards. This will allow members of the public to enjoy walks along the stretch. Work to remove the tracks is scheduled to be completed by 31st December this year and portions of the former railway land will be progressively opened to the public as the removal works are being completed.

Rather than the green SLA signs we are used to, signs welcoming the public are being put up along the stretches of the Rail Corridor that are bing reopened.

The portion of the track being retained at the truss bridge at Bukit Timah / Dunearn Roads. a 1.4 km stretch from the bridge southwards is being opened up to the public from 16th September.

Mr Shanmugam being interviewed by members of the media at Bukit Timah Railway Station.

Mr Shanmugam speaking to Mr Leong Kwok Peng of the Nature Society (Singapore).

The public will also have access to the former Bukit Timah Railway Station building. Members of the public are advised refrain from acts vandalism, which the bridges and the tracks have been subject to. The station as we see today, has been stripped of items belonging to the railway, including signalling equipment and signal levers (except for six that remain). The station sign on the north end has also been returned to Malaysia, with Singapore retaining the one on the south end. The longer term plans for Bukit Timah Railway Station will be part of the URA’s comprehensive review of development plans for the former railway land and their surrounding areas and as part of its review, the URA will study the possibility of marrying development and greenery, such as applying innovative strategies to maintain a continuous green link along the rail corridor without affecting the development potential of the lands.

The Station Master's room at Bukit Timah Station, stripped of the safe which sat on the yellow support structure next to the door.

Another view of the room where the key token signal equipment had once been placed.

All that are left are six signal levers.

Another view of the six signal levers.


Photographs proivided by SLA explaining the track removal process: