The sun sets on the first half of 2013

4 07 2013

Colours after the sunset, 7.16 pm, 30 June 2013, taken from the former Royal Malaysian Navy jetty at Woodlands Waterfront looking across towards Johor Bahru.


Watching the stars under the stars

29 05 2013

The last place in Singapore to soak in the atmosphere of the festivities which accompany a religious festival in a setting most of us may not seen for a quarter of a century is Pulau Ubin, the last island off Singapore (save for Sentosa) which has a community of residents. It is in the remnants of a village close to the island’s jetty where a Chinese Taoist temple, the Tua Pek Kong temple (Pulau Ubin Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong Temple or 乌敏岛佛山亭大伯公庙) dedicated to the Earth Deity 土地公 (Tu Di Gong in Mandarin) who is also commonly referred to in Singapore as 大伯公 – Tua Pek Kong in Hokkien or Da Bo Gong in Mandarin, is found. It setting is very much one that is reminiscent of many of the rural Chinese villages which were common on the main island of Singapore up until the 1980s, with a village temple at its centre with a permanent Chinese Opera (referred to locally as “wayang”) stage often located across a clearing from it.

Devotees offering candles at the Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Temple. The temples celebrates two festivals in a big way.

Devotees offering candles at the Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Temple. The temples celebrates two festivals in a big way.

Colours painted by the setting sun - setting the tone for a colourful night of entertainment under the stars.

Colours painted by the setting sun – setting the tone for a colourful night of entertainment under the stars.

The temple plays host twice a year to a series of festivities which are held to commemorate two important Chinese festivals which the temple celebrates in a big way. The bigger of the two is the Tua Pek Kong festival, celebrated to commemorate the birthday of the Earth Deity around the 15th day of the 4th Chinese month, while the Hungry Ghost festival which is celebrated with an auction around the 15th day of the 7th month, is a relatively quieter affair.

An image of the Earth Deity, Tua Pek King at the main altar of the Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Temple.

An image of the Earth Deity, Tua Pek King at the main altar of the Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Temple.

It is during both the festivals that the wayang stage sees use. Wayangs in the form of Teochew opera performed by the island’s Teochew Opera Troupe  (which I photographed at last year’s Hungry Ghosts Festival – click on this link for the post) based at the temple, are staged for the entertainment of the temple’s devotees (also for the visiting spirits in the case of the Hungry Ghost Festival)  providing a wonderful opportunity for Singaporean’s to revisit an almost forgotten tradition. In keeping up with the times, the stage also plays host to what perhaps is the new-age wayang – the getai (歌台), a somewhat kitsch (some even consider it crude) form of entertainment which by and large have replaced the wayangs of old during similar celebrations around Singapore.

A brightly dressed dancer on stage - getai is often seen as kitsch and somewhat crude, but it does have a huge following in Singapore.

A brightly dressed dancer on stage – getai is often seen as kitsch and somewhat crude, but it does have a huge following in Singapore.

I had the opportunity to see the new wayang in action in the old village like setting provided by Pulau Ubin’s stage last evening. The getai was held on the last evening of the series of festivities held over six days from 23 to 28 May this year and saw a huge turnout  – boats worked like clockwork ferrying a steady stream of visitors to the temple and the festivities – which certainly made the atmosphere very festival like. Under the stars in in the comfort of the cool breeze, the audience had the seats provided already filled as the stage came alive with lights and action matched by the brilliant colours provided by the of rays of the setting sun.

The large crowd seated in front of the stage.

The large crowd seated in front of the stage.

While I would not be one to admit to being a fan of getai, I will admit that the experience of watching the gaudily dressed stars of the song stage, entertain with song many which were could well be tunes of yesteryear, as well as converse and joke in Hokkien on a stage under the stars, was one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was particularly heartening to see the large crowd – many who broke out into smiles and laughter as the evening entertainment progressed, enjoy themselves. The atmosphere was such that it did also seem to free both young and old from the distractions we have to much of in the modern world (I must have been the only one not taking a photograph or a video clip with a mobile device who was seen to be fiddling with my mobile phone).

Marcus Chin (陈建彬) on stage.

Marcus Chin (陈建彬) on stage.

Members of the audience had their eyes glued to the stage throughout most of the evening.

Members of the audience had their eyes glued to the stage throughout most of the evening.

The getai show which was hosted by Xu Qiong Fang (浒琼芳) and Wang Lei (王雷) saw a string of getai stars appear on stage. Not having admitted to being a fan, there is also no need for me to pretend to know who I was being entertained by. I did however recognise one of the stars from a previous experience watching getai under the Flyer. That was veteran entertainer Marcus Chin (陈建彬). I was able to identify the Babes in the City (宝贝姐妹) pairing, only through a comment left on my instagram post  by filmaker Royston Tan (the pair featured in a video he produced, “The Happy Dragon“, to promote Safe Sex) .

Babes in the City (宝贝姐妹).

Babes in the City (宝贝姐妹).

Host Wang Lei (王雷) also entertained - standing next to him is Lee Bao En (李宝恩 ), a young getai star from Johor.

Host Wang Lei (王雷) also sang – standing next to him is Lee Bao En (李宝恩), a young getai star from Johor.

A relatively more recently introduced  form of festival entertainment, the getai does in fact have a long enough tradition, having gained in popularity during the 1970s as interest in the traditional forms of entertainment such as the Chinese Opera and Puppet Shows was waning. On the evidence of the turnout, it does seem that, love it or hate it, it does have a following and being more adaptable than the more traditional street theatre, it certainly is here to stay.  It was nice to be out under the stars in a setting one can otherwise no longer find. It felt as if it was yesterday … almost. It would have been nice to see just one thing more – the mobile food vendors (particularly the bird’s nest drink and the steamed sweet corn seller) who never were very far away whenever the wayang came to town.

The view backstage.

The view backstage.

A view through a window of the permanent wayang stage.

A view through a window of the permanent wayang stage.

More photographs of the stage and audience:








Light after dark (Pulau Ubin)

28 05 2013

The light after dark at 7.35 pm on 28 May 2013 on Pulau Ubin, an island off northeast Singapore.


Light after dark

20 05 2013

An attempt to capture the beautiful light as darkness falls at 7.42 pm on 19 May 2013 at Lower Peirce Reservoir.


The golden glow of the Golden Land

6 05 2013

Suvarnabhumi Airport is probably one the the few airports in the world to which I don’t mind getting in early to catch a flight out. Besides the array of quite affordable food that is available at the terminal building, there is also the wonderful architecture of the terminal building to marvel at, particularly when the westward facing end of Concourse F catches the light of the setting sun. Bathed in the glow of sunset, the concourse of the airport, the name of which in Sanskrit translates to “Golden Land”,  does literally turn into a golden visual treat. The terminal building was designed by German born American architect Helmut Jahn and was completed in September 2006.



The light in the darkness

5 05 2013

Once again, I found myself seeking the peace and joy of the twilight at Lower Peirce Reservoir away from the crowds on a Saturday evening, and have these two photographs taken in the semi-darkness with just enough light in the sky to permit both the sky and the surroundings to be evenly exposed. The photographs were taken at about half an hour after sundown, the first at 7.37 pm and the second at 7.43 pm.



The sun sets on the last working remnants of the Naval Base

27 04 2013

6.55 pm, 26 April 2013. The sun sets over an area which was once part of the huge British Naval base in the north of Singapore . The base which stretched some six and a half kilometres from where Sembawang Park is today across to the area close to the Causeway, was vacated in 1971. A commercial shiprepair yard, Sembawang Shipyard, was established in 1968, taking over the facilities of the former Naval Dockyard for a token sum of S$1. The yard, the north wall and finger pier of which is seen in the photograph, and the former Stores Basin – now used as a US Navy logistics facility and cargo berth, are the last working parts of the former base still with us. Based on the Land Use Plan recently released to support the somewhat unpopular Population White Paper, the yard will move its operations to the west of Singapore to free the land it now occupies for future development – a move which will erase a significant part of the memory of the  role the area played in Singapore’s economic development


Twilight’s colours

18 03 2013

The colours of twilight, Lower Peirce Reservoir, 7.21 pm, 16 March 2013. I thought the cloud formation together with its reflection off the waters of the reservoir resembled inkblots used in Rorschach psychological tests.

7.21 pm

The sun sets on a Singapore we want only to forget

13 03 2013

The Singapore of my wonderful childhood, was one that was very different to the one I now find myself waking up to. It was one where we could find pleasure not in the clutter of the pompous paraphernalia we now seek to embrace, but in a simplicity we can no longer find beauty in. It was a world of places marked not by the cold hard stare of concrete, glass and steel that had rendered them faceless, but one where escapes could be found in the unique charms of places that even today, we seek to forget.

Twilight in a world we seem to want to forget.

Twilight in a world we seem to want to forget.

Colours after Sunset

5 01 2013

Colours after sunset, 7.50 pm, 5 January 2013.


The night before the end of time

21 12 2012

A couple of photographs taken of the orangey night sky about half an hour following sunset on the last evening before time was supposed to end.

The first was taken at 7.28 pm and the second at 7.35 pm.



A beautiful end to a beautiful day

25 11 2012

The wonderful colours of sunset that brought what turned out to be an exceptionally beautiful day to an end …

Colours on a Sunday evening

30 07 2012

The colours of the fading of day to night seen at a spot that I consider to be one of the more scenic places in Singapore and a place that I often find an escape in.

Evening Calm (II)

12 06 2012

A reflection off the surface of Lower Peirce Reservoir of the afterglow of what had been a glorious sunset on the 11th of June 2012.

Evening calm

19 05 2012

A capture of a reflection of the evening’s light off the surface of Lower Peirce Reservoir just as rain clouds were moving in this evening.

Sunset on a Sensation

15 07 2011

Sunsets can be dramatic at times, especially ones that in combination with unusual combinations of cloud formations, light and colour. One such sunset was the one last evening that I captured, believe it or not, with a HTC Sensation mobile phone that I got to play around with.

Last evening's dramatic sunset.

The colours of the day

10 02 2010

There are those days when the sunrise or sunset delights us with a spectacle of colours. Somehow up till now, I have not given much thought as to what sometimes makes the transition from night to day or from day to night such a marvellous sight. I guess it is one of those things like art and music, that we should appreciate by sitting back and marvelling at.

The afterglow of sunset on 8 Feb 2010.

Sunrises in particular have long been my favourite time of the day. It is a time when the day is abound with freshness and with the anticipation of the new day. It is a time when a sense of calm and peace envelopes the atmosphere around us. There is nothing that beats watching a sunrise, as the darkness is transformed to light, revealing the beauty that surrounds us. As the sun – our source of life, makes it journey over the horizon, sometimes preceded by the announcement of her arrival by the wonderful colours of the morning, we can find the time to contemplate and be thankful for the beauty that mother nature has provided.

Sunset on Tasik Bukit Merah, Northern Perak.

Sunrise on Tasik Bukit Merah, Northern Perak.

Sunsets bring the day to a close, when the tiredness and heat of day is transformed to the cool quiet darkness of night when we are free to be lost in our dreams. Sunsets can surprise us sometimes … when the heat and anger of red and gold is suddenly transformed into blue and red afterglows that mesmerise as the sun bids farewell to our day …

Whatever it is, I just adore sunrises and sunsets!

San Juan del Sur

9 05 2009

There is an idyllic bay in some far flung corner of the world I spent some three weeks at, which had some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. Clear blue waters and a wide sandy beach lined with wooden beach side cafes, San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua seemed like paradise, particularly with the exchange rate on got on the black market for the US Dollar which was controlled by a leftist leaning government that came to power on the back of a bloody revolution fueled by a intense resentment excesses of the US supported dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza (Jr). As a result, the locally brewed Cerveza Victoria cost something like 10 cents a bottle, a bottle of the local rum went for something that translated to maybe $2, and a plate of Langostino grilled to perfection and served with a generous serving of plantain prepared as we would french fries, and fresh salad, cost maybe $1.50.

Las Lugos Restaurant Receipt, Dec 1984.

Las Lugos Restaurant Receipt, Dec 1984.

Evidence of the Revolution was everywhere … the uniformed soldiers, the murals of the revolutionary figurehead, an Augusto César Sandino, who had led an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Somoza’s father, the senior Anastasio Somoza in the early 20th century, and the black and red flags of the FSLN, the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation, named after Sandino, and numerous walls scarred with bullet holes.

The Beach, San Juan del Sur

The Beach, San Juan del Sur

The hardship caused by the economic sanctions imposed by the Ronald Reagan led Presidency was also very evident. Even basic neccessities such as soap and toothpaste was in short supply. Shelves of the few shops I found would seem like how Mother Hubbard’s  cupboard would have appeared to her poor dog. What made up for the dire situation the people were in was the warmth they exhibited. Somehow, admidst the hardship and poverty, there was also hope for a brighter future promised by the Revolution. Also, for the first time, I witnessed how, with so little in life (from a material standpoint), people were happier – thankful for the little that they have. The local beverage, referred to as Refresco, made from pureed melons, sweetened and served with ice, was a nice discovery I made, particularly refreshing in the muggy climes of the tropics.

Sunset over the Bay, San Juan del Sur

Sunset over the Bay, San Juan del Sur, 22 Dec 1984

Sunset over the Bay, San Juan del Sur, Christmas 1984

Sunset over the Bay, San Juan del Sur, 5 Jan 1985