Tuesday, September 30, 2008

house built in 1927

three quizzes making the round: there is the old singapore quiz by victor; old circus quiz by chun see and mine is the old building quiz.

i do not know how to use photoshop to remove the name on this building and the two young women who were seated near the steps. this two-storey building used to be the family home of a well-known writer, leslie charteris.

1 what is its present use of this building? kindergarten

2 what was its original name? westbourne

3 what two other names was it known by? kriegsmarine hqs; field house

4 what is the address of this building? 25 gilstead rd

Monday, September 29, 2008

buddhist cremation 50 years ago

my grandaunt passed away when i was in primary school. she had been sick for sometime and during her last few days, she was moved to a room set aside for the dying at the kong meng san phor kark see temple at bright hill road. in those days, cremation was still not so widely accepted. the hindus cremated their dead and some buddhists practised it because buddha was also cremated. people of other faiths generally did not accept cremation in the past.

those were the days when there was no gas furnace and the cremation was actually carried out in the open within a building which looked like a pagoda. the dead was not placed in a coffin but in a wooden structure that resembled a huge metronome. i remember my late grandaunt was placed upright and seated in a lotus position and all around, she was propped up by incense papers. the bundles of incense papers were stuffed into the spaces around her. when all was done, they sealed the metronome-like structure.

a few buddhist monks chanted prayers and carried out the ceremony before the fire was lit and the pyre was soon consumed by flames. however, the burning lasted much longer than today's gas furnace. i cannot recall how we collected the ashes. today, my grandaunt's remains are still stored in a urn at the kong meng san temple. every year, during qing ming, some members of my family will be there to pray for her.

today, for practical reasons more people have accepted cremation although there are some religious groups that discourage it and there are some that forbid it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

caning led to koro?

"koro is also thought to be transmitted through food. in 1967, there was a koro epidemic in singapore after newspapers reported cases of koro due to eating pork which came from a pig that had been inoculated against swine fever. not only did pork sales go down, but hundreds of koro cases followed. the power of the press to cause panic was matched by their equal power to quell the imbalance they had caused. they gave ample access to the singapore medical association and ministry of health who convinced the people that koro was a result of fear, thus ending the epidemic."

the eating pork theory did not hold water because a small number of malays and those belonging to other races were also hit by the epidemic. it was the fear that gripped a lot of men, especially those who were not very well-endowed. already they did not have something that they could crow about and if that should retract, then what would be left.

there was an incident which happened many years after the epidemic had passed which reinforced my belief that koro did not afflict the chinese exclusively. this malay boy was punished by the discipline master for some serious breach of the school discipline. he was caned on the buttocks. the discipline teacher, though small in physical stature, wielded the cane powerfully.

sometime after the pain was inflicted, the boy reported to his parents that his organ appeared to be shrinking. he was taken to a doctor for a proper examination. the doctor suspected that it was koro. thankfully, the boy recovered and everything returned to normal.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

parking at changi village on a weekend

it has been sometime since i visited changi village at night on a weekend. with the opening of a few new food outlets, the place seems to be drawing more and more people from all corners of singapore. the people eating the restaurants and food centre could not all be from the holiday bungalows and chalets located nearby. it would seem to me that the majority of the people there were those who enjoy eating out.

because of its popularity, finding a parking space on a weekend is a problem. the upgraded car-parks in the vicinity of the food centre are always fully parked. where else can you park? one alternative is to park at nicoll drive - it's free parking after 5 p.m. on a weekday and saturday - then walk across the stone bridge to get to the food centre. another place where you may find parking space is the car-park of the civil service club but here you will have to pay parking charges.

for free long-term parking - say, you are going for an overnight trip to pulau ubin or penggerang in johor - then you should park your vehicle along halton road, the road leading to the former changi general hospital. there are plans for the building to be converted into a spa resort. it is a good 800m walk to the ferry terminal.

Friday, September 26, 2008

the blue bottle fly

cane across this blue bottle fly at the main bridge of sungei buloh wetland reserve. the blue bottle fly is also called a blowfly. the green ones are known as green bottle flies. this type of fly is slightly larger than the common housefly. they lay their eggs on decaying meat, decomposing matter and faeces.

during those kampong days, we would see them in the latrines and sometimes around dead animals. occasionally, they would fly into the house and we would try our best to chase them away because we considered them dirtier than the ordinary house flies.

the blue bottle fly does not just visit putrid stuff; it also visits flowers because it is a pollinator. i suppose it will visit flowers that emit an odor resembling rotting meat. it should be attracted to the stinkhorn. the blue bottle fly has red eyes and clear wings.

(still no entomologist; i had to google to find the name of the fly.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

flies on green and white anthurium

i am puzzled as to why the green and white anthurium seems to attract this particular species of flies. the peculiar thing is that when the spadix is green, you do not see any of these flies. the flies are attracted to the spadix when it turns white or beige.

i also realise that when the spadix is green, the spathe is also green and when the spadix turns white, the spathe changes likewise. the spathe is the hood-like bract found alongside the spadix.

(for victor's information, i took sometime to recall the name of this plant. i only found out when i visited hort park on 20 sept. as for the name 'spadix', i google image for anthurium and found it. just in case, you still do not believe i am not a 'boh terr ni' person.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

mui chye with braised duck/pork belly

ivy and ida, another dish you may want to try cooking.

the other day, i went with with uncle victor samuel for lunch (duck noodles, dry) at bangkit. not unexpectedly, he was there earlier and he ordered two big portions of takeway for dinner (duck rice with duck and pork jelly) - one for himself and one for me. he also added vegetable and yong tau foo which he bought from another stall in the same coffee-shop.

after dinner that night, there were so many unfinished pieces of braised duck. i decided to cook the duck with mui chye. mui chye is preserved mustard cabbage. i bought one packet of the salty type from sheng siong for $1.50. i used half the portion to prepare the dish.

you have to soak and wash the mui chye thoroughly because there is a lot of salt and sand. i soaked it for about an hour, with at least three changes of water.

first, i fry about six pieces of crushed garlic. after that i add in the braised duck - the bony parts - and the canned pork belly. you must drain off all the oil from the can of pork belly. after that, throw in the cut pieces of mui chye. add water to cover the mui chye. not necessary to add sauce or salt but i do add a bit of my favourite sauce - oyster sauce.

this dish is like wine; it becomes more flavourful as it 'gets older', after subsequent cookings. it usually does not taste so nice initially because the ingredients have not soaked in the flavour.

i think you should be able to get the mui chye from the asian grocery at clayton. it may be sold in a loose form but it sometimes comes in a sealed pack. you can actually mix the salty type with the sweet type of mui chye to cook this dish.
where is this 46-year old church?

i have been to this church twice; once to attend a friend's wedding and the other time, also to attend a wedding of my former colleague from monk's hill secondary school.

if you know the church, you should also be able to identify this unique building because they are related. this building is just across the road from the church. at the moment, it is undergoing some reconstruction and extension.


1 what is the name of this church?

life bible presbyterian church

2 where is its location?

gilstead road

3 what is the building, across the road, with a tower called?

beulah house

4 what will be the purpose of this building?

bible study centre

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

who feed the strays at sungei buloh?

if you visit sungei buloh often enough, you will know that a pack of stray dogs roam free in the reserve. most of the times, they try to avoid contact with humans. maybe they can sense that they are not welcome company at the reserve. the people at the reserve have been using baited cages to try and trap these dogs. so, most of the times, when they see people, they will move away quietly and quickly.

i often wondered what was sustaining the many stray dogs at the sungei buloh wetland reserve. there are no houses within the wetland, only on the fringe of it and that is beyond the fence. with no houses, it means no leftovers for the dogs. so, in the wild, what do they feed on. i suppose there is enough wildlife in the reserve to serve as food for the dogs.

the national park board advises visitors who encounter the stray dogs at the wetland to leave them alone. the second advice is a bit difficult to follow: it says avoid showing signs of fear. i believe dogs can read body language and when they sense that you are scared of them, they will become bolder and more aggressive. by the way, the dogs at the wetland all look lean and hungry.

today, i found out a source of food for the dogs. it was low tide and there were hundreds of fish - most of them milkfish - at this small bay near the wetland. four light brown dogs were there and one of them - the one nearest to the camera - was having a meal of raw fish.

just a few days ago, i was watching the same pack of dogs foraging for something in the ground. one of the dogs was excitedly using its front paws to scrape the earth from a depression in the ground. it must have seen or detected some creature in a burrow. according to information on the sungei buloh wetland reserve web-site, the dogs do harass the wildlife in the wetland.

each time i get close to nature, i am learning new things. today, for example, i learn that dogs can hunt for fish and they do eat the fish that they catch. all these years, i have associated fish with cats and bones with dogs. today, i learn something new: dogs do eat fish, even raw ones.

i spotted the otters of sungei buloh again today. there were two of them and i watched them enjoying a good rub against the sand on the sand-spit. after the sand massage, they swam up the sungei buloh kechil.

Monday, September 22, 2008

global economy, global agony, global pain

who, among us laymen, would have thought that a globlal investment bank like lehman brothers could collapse just like that. if i had, i would not have suffered a financial loss. i had put some money in minibonds nearly two years ago. my relationship manager had assured me that the principal would be protected and that the risk was really minimal. "do you know how big lehman is?"

when i read that lehman brothers had filed for bankruptcy, i was prepared to say bye-bye to my ill-advised investment. but, there was still a glimmer of hope in getting something back. it was reported in the papers that we might be able to get back about 30% of the sum. however, the amount seems to be dwindling as my relationship manager called to inform me that i might be lucky to get back 15% of the principal sum.

a number of my retiree friends have been hit, some quite hard. one of them could not sleep the whole night thinking about the loss of her hard-earned saving. i did not lose any sleep; i was just resigned to my fate. when my elder daughter heard about my misfortune, she was quite worried for me, and kept asking if i still had enough money for my retirement years.

did not tell her i have been hit at a number of fronts, not just this one. on paper, i have also lost in the stock market and in dual currencies.

looks like i may just have to collect more aluminium cans each day. if i collect 120 cans a day, in about 25 years' time, i will be able to get back the amount i have lost.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

mosques with impressive architecture

can you identify all the three mosques?

where are these mosques located?

hajjah faitmah mosque, beach road; sultan mosque, muscat street; and abdul gaffoor mosque, dunlop street.

cannot give any clue, otherwise using the key words, you can 'google' the answer.

i used to stay with a relative - during the school holidays - whose house was about 100 metres from one of these mosques but i had not known of its existence until i happened to eat teochew porridge at one of the shops along the same street many, many years later.

most of the worshippers of this particular mosque are indian muslims.

from harbourfront to canopy walk

today, at our balestier group monthly walk, we missed the company of our regular walkers teck seng, seck yeong and puay heian. albert poh wanted to but could not make it also. albert koh and his wife are still in melbourne. puay heian was down with flu while teck seng had to go for a check-up because of fever, low blood pressure and multiple joint aches.

eight of us gathered at the meeting point at car-park b, kent ridge park. lay bee and i went in nah's car to seah imm car-park near harbourfront while william's wife drove william, pastor phua and his wife to the same car-park.

when we reached the end of the marang trail, it started to drizzle. at the place where we sought shelter, see thiam met some of his relatives, including his sister. all the way to the hort park we met quite a number of groups on an organised outing.

our walk ended at kent ridge park. according to nah, we covered a distance of nearly 7km. this time, he and betty got into our car for the ride to seah imm car-park. see thiam dropped william off at his pasir panjang's place before proceeding to met us at harbourfront for lunch.

this was our group's third time at the southern ridges. the first two walks were done in parts and today's walk was a combination of the two. there is actually another section leading to the west coast park which we chose to skip.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

you own the road outside your house?

talking about buying houses, i think some house owners seem to give the impression that when they buy a house, they automatically own the road space just outside their house.

my friend was trying to explain that the tyres could have been placed there by the people who live in the house opposite to this one as they may have problem reversing the car out of their driveway if a vehicle is parked at where the tyres are.

some use tyres. some use dustbins. some use broken furniture. some use heavy metal pieces. some use bricks. what else can be used to 'chope' the space?

Friday, September 19, 2008

film show in the open

(photo from national archives of singapore)

before the advent of black and white television, entertainment for the masses was not something that was readily available on a regular basis during those early kampong days. the screening of old movies and documentaries by the ministry of culture, which was awaited eagerly by the children especially, was carried out a few times a year. in spite of the inevitable breakdowns and sometimes, lengthy intervals, nobody really complained. sometimes, we would watch 'silent movie' when the sound system failed. in the dark, we would have to wait for sometime while the projector man changed the spool.

long before the projector was set up, the younger ones in the village would have taken up their positions at vantage points near the huge piece of white cloth. we had to wait until the lighting condition was right before screening began. while the majority watched the show from the front, there were some who opted to watch it on the other side of the screen. it was standing room or sitting or standing on chairs or stools.

as the show was practically at our doorstep, nobody bothered to dress up for this kind of 'outing'. we went in our singlets, pyjamas and whatever home clothes we were in. although some of the films might be re-runs, it did not really bother us as we were there more for the chance to enjoy the togetherness and the atmosphere.

the kachang puteh man, the drink seller and the other small-time hawkers would be there to cash in on the large number of people outdoors at such an occasion.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

memories of balestier road

further to chun see's blog about the thomson/balestier heritage area and my exchanges with one of his ardent readers, i have decided to add a bit of what i know about balestier road.

the bottom picture shows the corner of jalan raja udang. i used to visit a former colleague who lived in the private apartment block on the other side of the road. because of an en-bloc sale, he has moved out of the place.

when anonymous/katherine mentioned that she lived above peking studio, i knew exactly where because i am familiar with that area. i started my teaching career at balestier hill integrated secondary technical school (bhists). then it changed its name to balestier hill technical school (bhts). some years after i left the school, it became balestier hill secondary school (bhss). today, the school is still around. the two primary schools - balestier hill east and balestier hill west - have become one: balestier hill primary school.

certain things have not changed. the rakyat (people's) clinic, associated with the barisan socialis political party, is still around. one of the bars, a legacy from the 70s, is also still in business. the glass merchant at the corner of irrawaddy road has not moved out yet. the bird shop, located along the same road as pegu road outpatient dispensary, is still chirping away. on the other side of balestier road, the spectacle shop and the hardware shop, nearer to the former towner road, have withstood of the challenges of the time.

the other two pictures show the newly-renovated balestier market which is no longer a market. it is now a 24-hour food court.

when it was a wet market, i hardly stepped into it and the couple of times when i did, i did not buy anything from the stalls. however, i know of an old neighbour - who used to live at jalan tenteram - who preferred to go marketing at this small wet market to the one at whampoa.

beneath the veneer of a staid facade, balestier is actually quite a colourful place. away from the old cinemas, bars, temples and makan places are private apartments where the rich and wayward men like to house their mistresses. in a way, it is like river valley road but not so upmarket. hidden among these apartments are also gambling dens and places which offered discreet massage services. i am not so sure if the massage services are still available nowadays.

i am not a cinema fan and i have not been inside a cinema for more than twenty years but i do remember going to watch some shows at hoover and ruby cinemas when i was a teenager. i also used to accompany my mother, at an unearthly hour, to pray at the tua pek kong temple on the 9th day of the lunar new year. when i had bad cough or had flu, i would visit the outpatient dispensary at pegu road. the building is still around but it is leased to some private company.

so, balestier is not just about bak kut teh, boon tong kee chicken rice, tau sar piah and durians; it offers much more.

campervan tour of new zealand

this morning, i was at bukit timah nature reserve visitors' car-park when i saw this campervan parked in one of the corner lots. took some pictures of it and found out that it belonged to a french family on a world tour. it brought back memories of our first trip to new zealand and our own small adventure in a campervan. of course, our two-seater campervan, rented from newmans, could not be compared to this luxurious iveco fiat.

the campervan that we used was actually a converted toyota hi-ace. it had a pop-up roof so as to provide more head-room. this had to be kept when the vehicle was on the move. there was a wash basin, a cooker, a fridge, a heater and a range of cooking utensils. there was a foldable table and a bed that could sleep two adults. because of the tight space, i opted to sleep under the bed. there were also curtains all around it - on the inside, of course. the water-tank which we had to top up at camp-sites, was hidden.

just before night-fall, we would try and reach the campervan site. at some of these sites, such as the one at glentanner park, there was a kitchen-cum-lounge, where we cooked our dinner and ate it around a proper dining table. powered sites charged nz$7 for an adult and half the price for a child. although it was late spring/early summer during our first visit, it was quite cold so we needed the power to run the heater.

driving a campervan did not require any special skill; it was very much like driving a bigger and heavier car. nevertheless, one had to be careful when driving it into a covered area because of the greater height of the roof. one friend got his van stuck in a covered car-park. i had a slight problem handling it in dunedin because of the many steep roads.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

masked plovers @ upper seletar

i seem to be meeting not so common species of birds at upper seletar reservoir park. the last time i came across hornbills, two days ago came upon these six plovers feeding on the grassy slope facing the executive golf course at upper seletar.

"the masked plover or masked lapwing, also commonly known simply as “plover” is a medium-sized conspicuous bird with loud, penetrating calls. it is a bold bird that swoops at intruders and its apt scientific name of miles comes from the latin for soldier and refers to the spurs, which give an armed appearance.

features that distinguish the masked lapwing from other plovers are its black crown and nape separated from the mantle by a white collar; white underparts; yellow bill; bright yellow wattle that reaches well behind the eye and hangs down beside the chin; and a long and sharp wing spur."

these birds are known for their swooping actions when their youngs are still not mobile. they will attack any intruder, including human beings. sometimes, venturing into their territory called the swoop zone is enough to invite an attack.

(p.s. victor, please do not assume that i am a bird expert (ornithologist). the last time you labelled me a botany expert, now my walking kakis call me ' the boh terr ni man'.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

the koyok man - s'pore busker

(photo from national archives of singapore)

in the 60s, entertainment also came in the form of the chinese medicine travelling salesman and his assistants. we refer to this wandering salesman as the koyok man. koyok means 'quack medicine' in malay. koyok is also the name of a plaster, concocted by the koyok man, to treat all kinds of aches and pain.

a number of these itinerant salesmen were martial art exponents and they used their strength, knowledge of the art and technique to demonstrate amazing feats like bending long iron rods pressed against the throat, eating fire, breaking bricks with their bare hands and other feats requiring extraordinary human strength.

some were also jugglers, entertaining us with juggling acts with pins, hoops, balls and the fire torches. these performances were usually scheduled somewhere in between all the sales talk. first, the assistant would hit a gong loudly and repeatedly to draw the crowd. once they had attracted a sizeable crowd, the medicine salesman would begin his proclamation of the merits of his wonderful products, which we children paid scant attention to as we were there solely for the show.

the hitting of the gong by his assistant was done throughout the performance: when the koyok man had emphasised or wanted to emphasise a point, at the end of a long sentence, at the start of the demonstration of strength and when the performance was building up to a climax.

i do not remember staying behind to find out how much sale was made at the end of the performance. at my kampong, the koyok man normally made his appearance in the evening but, in the past, i have seen the koyok man making his sales pitch in the day at sungei road thieves' market.

when i visited covent garden and watched the non-singing buskers, they reminded me of the entertainment provided by the koyok men in the old days. the difference was the koyok man entertained to promote his products whereas the busker showcased his talent only.

Monday, September 15, 2008

hotel 81 rochor

this hotel located at the corner of jalan besar and mayo street used to be a popular drinking place for british soldiers during the pre-war days. today, it is called hotel 81 rochor.

what was its original english name? white house hotel

Sunday, September 14, 2008

the backlanes of jalan besar

today, i went to walk the back lanes of jalan besar to take pictures of some elegant and curvy structures that are a feature of houses built before the wars. most of the spiral staircases are stone structures but there were some that are made of metal.

the spiral staircase is the title of a 1946 classic. a remake of it was screened in 2002. it is also the title of a book by karen armstrong. maybe we can get victor to write a poem entitled ' the spiral staircase'.

i have yet to see anyone using the spiral staircase at these houses. is it meant to serve as a fire escape, for use in an emergency?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

why mca?

by comedy court

the triangular indian curry puff

one type of curry puff that we do not see much of these days is the large, triangular, indian curry puff. i suppose if you go to tekka market or the serangoon road area, you may be able to get it without too much difficulty. i enjoyed eating this curry puff in my younger days and i still do. i like it when it is hot, and i like the hard and crispy edges. in those days, there was one type of filling only - curry potato.

i remember there was this indian shop at the corner of owen road and dorset road. the sikh shop owners would bake these triangular curry puffs in a stone oven, the type of oven they use for baking naan and pizzas in some places. i would go and buy it in the evening when it was freshly baked. if i remember correctly, it was ten cents a piece, which was quite worth it because it was big and much more filling (for the stomach) than the malay epok epok.

another way i used to get to eat this puff was to buy it from this sikh man who came around the kampong on a bicycle to sell bread. he also sold these curry puffs. as it was quite a mouthful (to eat, not to say it) for us small boys, we would request him to cut it into two equal pieces. he would do this using a pair of scissors.

today, i came across mention of a shop in joo chiat, along onan road, which sells a very good variety of this curry puff. anyway, i bought mine from a shop in my neighbourhood for $1.10. back in those days, it cost 10 or 15 cents a piece.

a check with my friends indicate that not everybody was particularly fond of eating it. the complaints were: it was too oily; it was too flaky; and they were quite stingy with the filling.

Friday, September 12, 2008

netted or veiled stinkhorn

today, we walked the prunus-petai trail. nah, betty and i had to wait more than thirty minutes for 'the bendemeer gang' who were caught in a massive traffic jam, no thanks to the new leonie flyover.

as we were walking back, nah pointed to a plant on the track and exclaimed 'mushroom'. i looked and thought someone had placed a protective covering over the plant. the mushroom was enclosed in a lacy, pink, net-like veil. it reminds me of roti jala. on closer examination, we found a lot of tiny flies and small insects inside the net.

two caucasian lady joggers who joined us to admire the netted stinkhorn provided us with more information on it. one of them said that she had come across a similar stinkhorn, with a larger pink veil at the beginning of the prunus trail. the other enlightened us on the name and explained that the stink attracts insects to the mushroom. some sources say that you will smell the stinkhorn before you see it. we actually did not get a whiff of anything.

"their method of reproduction is different than most mushrooms, which use the air to spread their spores. stinkhorns instead produce a sticky spore mass on their tip which has an odor of carrion, dung, or other things that attract flies. the flies land on the stinkhorn and in doing so collect the spore mass on their legs and carry it to other locations."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

safra yacht club @ admiralty road west

if you love listening to the sound of the waves lapping on the shore and taking in the sight of our northern neighbour, you can do it at the safra yacht club. the club located at admiralty west is open to the public. as a non-member, all is required of you to gain admission to this place is to register yourself at the security post.

in the past, you had to surrender your identity card at the entrance to the army guards before being allowed into the base. today, there is no such restriction. some friends have celebrated their birthdays at the club before. i remember we had a bbq there to celebrate either jim or freddie's birthday.

the food is so so and the prices are quite reasonable. it is soothing to be seated by the side of the sea while enjoying your food. there is a bar and a karaoke lounge next to the restaurant aptly named gallery by the straits. my friend, who has eaten there, recommends the fish-head curry.
for entertainment, there is live music on friday, saturday and sunday's nights.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

two kampong mosques

these two kampong mosques have a few things in common. they are the old style mosques built to serve the kampong folks living around it. in both cases, the residents have been resettled and have moved out of the respective areas for sometime already but the mosques continue to serve the people. both mosques are nearly 50 years old; the one at jalan mempurong - masjid petempatan melayu sembawang - is about 48 years old and the other is 46 years old. both mosques have undergone upgrading. the sembawang mosque was upgraded recently and it has been designated a national heritage site. the other mosque, built in 1962, was rebuilt in 1999.

quiz questions:

where is this second mosque? jalan ibadat, off choa chu kang road; opposite keat hong camp

what is its name? al' firdaus mosque

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

pumpkins grown in singapore

visited this farm featured in seenthisscenethat's blog. the farm - kin yan agrotech - located at 220 neo tiew crescent is not at the road level; that may explain why i have missed it all this time that i have been touring the kranji area. the farm is open every day of the week, from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

after viewing the wheat grass and the different types of mushrooms in the special enclosure, i went to look at the plants that were outside. the aloe vera did not really interest me because i had seen similar ones at kok fah. the mexican cactus was also not something i was seeing for the first time. on seeing the pumpkin vine on the ground, that perked me up.

the pumpkin plant has male and female flowers. the second picture shows a male flower and the one below it shows a female flower. the female flower can be identified by the bulge at its base.

these days, with fewer bees and other pollinators around, humans can play a supporting role. when the birds and the bees do not do it, then man must come in and play his part. to hand pollinate, pick a male flower, remove its petals and then dab the pollens on the stigma of the female flower. the pollens have to be mature. you can tell if the pollens are mature when they readily come off the stamen and onto your finger.

i talked to one of the helpers on another farm and he was telling me that this has been the way - hand pollination - when they were growing pumpkins in the 70s.

Monday, September 8, 2008

graffiti - is it a form of art?

i was walking alongside the canal behind chestnut avenue when i saw some graffiti on the walls of the canal. they look like the work of some youths who had too much time on their hands. this reminds me of the graffiti that i came across when i travelled by train in melbourne.

my initial impression of graffiti was that it was some scribblings by gang members who were out to mark their territory or some rebellious youths' way of self-expression. i think graffiti started as a form of vandalism - unsolicited marking of a private or public property. in fact, they first started appearing on the trains in new york city.

a piece of graffiti art from melbourne

however, after viewing some of the pieces in melbourne, my perception of it has changed. i would say that graffiti has evolved into a form of art. i am not referring to the graffiti that you find in some of our public and coffee shop toilets. those telephone numbers and crude and suggestive drawings cannot qualify as art.

the complexity and size of some of the graffiti on the walls of buildings near the railway stations suggest that these pieces were not the work of one individual but more like the combined effort of a group of graffiti artists.

there appears to be a standard way in which the graffiti artists form the letters, though sometimes reading the calligraphy may need a bit of deciphering. the mutlicolour works which they produce exhibit creativity and vibrancy and have an aesthetic appeal of their own.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

sentul, santol or lolly fruit
some tropical fruits like the sentul, abiu, egg fruit and butterfruit which do not originate from malaysia or singapore are sometimes cast aside by singaporeans as being inedible or avoided because we do not know much about the fruit as we have not tasted or eaten them. however, some of these fruits that we side-step are actually sought after in their country of origin and in some of our neighbouring countries.

if you have been to qian hu fish farm you will have seen the egg fruit on some of the trees lining the road that leads to the farm. nobody seems to be interested in the fruit as the ripe fruits are strewn on the ground near the tree. along the same stretch you can also find the sentul fruit tree. again, because we know next to nothing about this fruit, the ripe fruits are left to rot. if you turn into jalan semangka, you will find many of the surinam cherry trees fruiting. the over-ripe cherries are all over the ground.

today, i took a drive to track 14 and jalan lekar as i wanted to check out the place mentioned in chun see's blog. it was at the junction of the two roads that i came across the sentul trees.

the sentul, which is known by the name 'santol' in the philippines, is a fruit popular with the filipinos. in indonesia, the same fruit is called kechapi. another name for it is the lolly fruit because you have to suck it to get the flavour. the seeds of the sentul are not edible.

the fruit looks like an over-sized duku. one variety has fruit as big as a softball. some filipinos eat the santol with rock salt. they also made the pulp into a jam, after removing the seeds.

脸青青 face green green (teochew song)

sent to me by nah. i had come across it on youtube before he sent it to me.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

hoppy herbal duck in johor bahru

i first tasted hoppy restaurant's herbal duck when my ex-colleague shin huat took us to this coffee-shop along jalan wang ah fook. he being a former malaysian from the state of johor, i would trust him to know some of the better eating places in johor bahru. the dongguai duck that we had tasted better than any we have eaten in singapore, and it was comparatively cheap.

i went back to the shop one more time on my own. subsequently, when i went to the place at jalan wang ah fook, i found the shutters down. it was after another visit that i learnt that they had moved out of the place.

one day when i took the bus into johor bahru with my regular walking and makan kaki victor samuel i mentioned how i missed the herbal duck at jalan wang ah fook. he then took me to the main branch which was along jalan harimau, much closer to the causeway.

hoppy restaurant sells a whole range of herbal ducks which include shi chuan, pi par, ginseng, dongguai, ming lor and hong kong style. basically, the ducks are roasted in the same way; it is the herbal gravy that gives it the special flavour. so, if you buy a ginseng herbal duck, you will get a roast duck which has been doused with ginseng gravy.

a takeaway herbal duck costs rm$38, which works out to less than s$20. each time i go to the shop to buy 'takeaway', while i am waiting, they will serve me a complimentary drink. they do that for all their 'takeaway' customers.

Friday, September 5, 2008

playing tarzan on the bus
(photo of an stc bus from the national archives of singapore)

just found out that there were at least 11 bus services serving the whole of singapore in the 60s. they were: changi bus company limited, easy bus company, green bus company limited, hock lee amalgamated bus company limited, kampong bahru bus service limited, katong-bedok bus service limited, keppel bus company limited, paya lebar bus service company, puggol bus service company, singapore traction company (stc) and tay koh yat bus company limited.

of the 11, the two biggest were singapore traction company and tay koh yat. stc had a depot at mackenzie road and tay koh yat had one at thomson road, where the concorde block of apartments now stands. these were the same two bus services which i was more familiar with.

i would take the tay koh yat bus to tekka occasionally and to beach road almost daily to get to school. when i was in primary school, i sometimes took the stc service number 1 to clemenceau avenue. i also remember the few times i took the changi bus from capitol theatre to changi point.

i was quite naive when it came to payment for the bus-ride. once, i accompanied a neighbour to tekka. i did not have the money to pay for the fare and so he gave me a treat. when we boarded the bus, he handed the conductor some money and i overheard him say "5 cents, two tickets". not knowing that he had paid 10 cents, i had this silly idea that you could request two tickets with a 5-cent payment.

those morning rides to school were something i did not look forward to. sometimes i chose to walk all the way to school. the buses were so crowded that most times you could not get on board the first bus that came along. when i finally managed to get a grip on the bus, i usually had to cling on to the hand hold for dear life, literally.

in our teenage and youthful years, we liked to 'play tarzan' when boarding and alighting the public buses. what is meant by 'play tarzan'? well, we acted macho and hopped onto the moving bus just as it was pulling out of the bus-stop and we jumped off the bus even before it came to a complete stop. you had to do it right or else you might end up with an embarrassing fall.when alighting, you had to jump backwards to counter the forward momentum.

in those days, every bus had a driver and a conductor. the driver did not need to double up as a fare collector. his job was to drive. the fare collection was done by the bus conductor. there were no specially built bus bays for buses to stop; the buses stopped at the bus-stop by the side of the road.