Wednesday, December 31, 2008

many millipedes?

what is the picture at the top?

is it a nest of millipedes?

or just a miniature walking stick?

is it some sweet kiddy stuff?

maybe a plant found in the wild?

talking about millipedes reminded me of a trip we made to penang many years ago. we were so confident of getting a room in a hotel that we did not pre-book our accommodation. we ended up scouring the whole of georgetown and the batu ferringhi area but there was not a single room in sight. desperate we decided to try our luck at the hotel atop penang hill.

i think the hotel is called the bellevue. although we were afforded a panoramic view of the surroundings and we enjoyed some of the attractions on the hill, it was quite a bother to travel to gurney drive and other places of interest in penang because we had to make use of the funicular railway service. our car was parked at the base of the hill.

i cannot remember much about the hotel except that it was quite spartan with basic amenities. but what i can remember quite vividly is the 'giant' millipedes that we chanced upon in the flower pots outside our hotel room. there were two of them and they were as long as an adult centipede. we only looked and did not dare to touch.

you can see a picture of giant millipedes here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

leong san see and mee toh school

leong san see or 'dragon mountain' temple is a taoist/buddhist temple built in 1913 by a buddhist monk from fujian, china. he bought a plot of land at race course road where he built a simple leong san lodge. in 1926, the temple was rebuilt with funds donated by devotees. the temple was constructed in the chinese temple style with a traditional roof, with intricate carvings of dragons.

in 1954, a school called the leong san school was set up. it was later renamed mee toh school. the temple managed the school until 1957, when it became a government-aided school. the school relocated to edgedale plains in ponggol in 2004 but the former school building is still around at race course road.

along serangoon is an arch referred to as the leong san gate. the 'mountain gate' leads the way to the former mee toh school and the temple; however, if you drive you cannot come through this arch because the one-way traffic goes from race course road to serangoon road.

i used to visit this temple when i was young because my late grandmother used to help out at the temple. once a month, the temple would serve a free vegetarian lunch. i think that this is still the practice. at that time, the abbot was the late venerable sek kong hiap. a small built man, he was well-liked and respected by the worshippers at the temple.

on the other side of the road is another well-known temple, the sakya muni buddha gaya temple. built in the 1920s, it is also called the temple of a thousand lights.

adjacent to leong san see, on the right side, is a row of four unoccupied houses. each of these houses has a pair of distinctive gate pillars.

Monday, December 29, 2008

going into battle with the crabs

i have blogged about this before here. each time i want to cook chilli crabs, it seems like i am going into battle with them. i will be armed with an array of knives, especially those with a sharp pointed end, a pair of scissors and pliers. i am quite wary of mud crabs because i had a painful experience before.

the recommended way - printed at the back of the pack - is to submerge the live crabs in cold water until they stop moving. i prefer the traditional way, the way used by my mother: that is plunging the knife right into the heart of the crab. the pliers i use are to aid me in removing the shells and the scissors are used to cut away the sharp tips of the legs.

if you use the prima's ready-to-cook meal kit for singapore chilli crab, do not use the whole portion of the chilli crab premix - which is actually corn starch, otherwise your gravy will turn out to be very starchy. use slightly more than half the portion with the same amount of water (30ml).

these days, the crabs sold at the ntuc supermarket seem to be smaller in size but the price per kg remains at $13.90. with chilli crabs, there is no need for extra ingredients. still, sometimes i add spring onion although the recommended garnishing is coriander leaves.

three of us had the chilli crabs, together with bread which we dipped in the gravy, for lunch today.

mark & michelle's wedding dinner @ amara sanctuary
ida posing with the bride

ida with puay ngan and elijah

michelle dancing with the priest

ida and ting ting (pei chun school mate)

go to this site to view wedding photos.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

the vespa scooter

visited the national museum on christmas day as admission charges to all the exhibition areas were waived. did not have the leisure of visiting all the exhibition halls because i had to go for a christmas day lunch, one that i have not missed for a decade, at least. so, i settled for the canyon where they had on display 'weapons of mass desire'. one of the exhibits was this vespa scooter.

the vespa scooter is an italian post-war invention. it was a machine meant for all people, men and women. it was built on a spar-frame with a handlebar gear change, and the engine mounted directly on to the rear wheel. the front protection "shield" kept the rider dry and clean in comparison to the open front end on motorcycles. the pass-through leg area design was geared towards all user groups, including women, as wearing dresses or skirts made riding a motorcycle a challenge.

what i remember most about the vespa scooter is not the time i used to ride one but more the time when there was this gang of riders whom were referred to as the 'green hornets'. they all rode souped up vespas that were painted green. these modified scooters were capable to hitting a top speed of 128 km (80mph). they not only made changes to the engine, but they also trimmed the 'shield' to reduce the drag.

they would race among themselves or with other scooter gangs. sometimes the scooters would race with the motor bikes. in the 60s and 70s, a popular racing venue was the changi coast road.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

no hamburgers at this macdonald house

(photo from national archive of singapore)

many people, especially the young, who walk past this building along orchard road, are totally unaware that more than forty-three years ago, this building was the object of a terrorist attack. a bomb went off and it killed three people and injured many others.

you can read more about it at this website and this newspaper report.

this historic building, built in 1949, used to house the hongkong and shanghai banking corporation (hsbc) on the first few floors. it was vacant for a number of years before reopening in 2005. today, a different bank (citibank) occupies the lower four floors.

another building nearby - demolished in the early 80s to make way for the dhoby ghaut mrt station - was the subject of a bomb hoax during the same time. amber mansions was located at the corner of penang road and orchard road.

two other interesting buildings located along the same row are one housing the bmc academy and its neighbour which houses the mdis. one of them used to be a motor-car showroom. which one?

mark & michelle's church wedding reception


some pictures taken at michelle's church wedding reception. the ceremony was held at catholic church of st ignatius, 120 kings road. the food - catered by grand hyatt - was good but i did not eat much because of the crowd - there were more than 600 guests. no, there was more than enough food but i was just not comfortable eating with so many unfamiliar people. ida and i became lobsters after drinking a glass of champagne each.

the wedding dinner will be held tomorrow night at amary sanctuary resort, sentosa.

more pictures tomorrow.

go to this site to view wedding photos.

Friday, December 26, 2008

theft of bicycle parts and bicycles

they say ' a picture is worth a thousand words'. there are 'three thousand words' here. these pictures were taken at the bicycle bay of one of the mass rapid transit (mrt) stations.

written answer to parliament question on ' how many bicycle thefts have been reported each year over the last 5 years'

over the last 5 years, an average of 590 cases of bicycle theft were reported each year, with a peak of 790 cases in 2005 and a low of 580 cases last year. for the first two months this year, there were about 80 cases of bicycle theft reported, which is the lowest number when compared to the corresponding periods from 2005 to 2007. bicycle thefts have been on a downward trend since 2005.

bicycle thefts typically take place at common areas in public housing estates such as void decks, corridors, staircase landings, lift landings as well as at bicycle bays located at mrt and lrt stations. in most bicycle theft cases, the culprits tampered with the bicycle chains or locks used to secure the bicycles. there were also cases where opportunistic perpetrators took off with bicycles that were left unattended or unsecured.

hula hoop basics: part 1 : how to hula hoop

for those of you who want to learn how to twirl the hula hoop

Thursday, December 25, 2008

season's greeting

merry christmas and a happy 2009

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

birthday celebration at spom

the balestier group met again this month at the senior police officers' mess at mt pleasant road to celebrate seck yeong's birthday. i have visited the former junior police officers' mess at ladyhill a few times but this was my first visit to the mess for senior officers. the mess is in a very secluded location, quite close to the old police academy and the onraet road's detention centre.

hiang kwang, who is based in sydney most of the time, was supposed to be there but he could not get on a flight on 19 dec, the date he had planned to fly back. wing choy could not make it as he had a wedding dinner to attend. the welcomed surprise was the presence of khoo boo sun, who has kept away from the group for quite some time. we congratulated him on his esteemed appointment as an international race officer - the highest level of running and managing sailing races.

before the commencement of the dinner, we were taken on a tour of the mess by teck seng. we were shown the spa, the jackpot room, the billiard room, the hall - where christmas parties used to be held - and the photo gallery where the photographs of all the police commissioners were on display.

i do not know how many courses there were for dinner but we had a lot to eat. after eating the birthday cake, we adjourned to the karaoke lounge and room. my wife must have let my former students in on my 'croaking' at home, so they were trying to get me to 'start the ball rolling' by singing the first song. cheng hong sang the first song, a mandarin one.

there was some discussion on the next gathering before we left the place just before 11 p.m.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

rhoeo discolor - the oyster plant

if you see the flowers, you will know why the common name is oyster plant. the hokkien call it 'ang teck heok'. actually it is more purple in colour than red. we used to a clump of them growing across the drain from our kampong house. once in a while, my mother would gather some of the leaves to make a drink for us. after drinking it, we noticed that our urine underwent a change of colour. it had a tint of purple in it.

she would boil the leaves with either rock sugar or the flattened slab of sugary stuff which the hokkien called 'tang kway chek'. for added flavour, you can add pandan leaves to it.

all this while, i had thought that we took this drink for its cooling effect until i came upon this small signboard next to the plants at fort canning spice garden. it says: treats coughs, haematemisis, diarrhea, epitaxis, acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.

Monday, December 22, 2008

what will be the name of this stretch?

come 2010, this is the view you will enjoy when you walk along the 1.5km coastal promenade to the 9-hectare park. the old jetty nearby will be refurbished to allow for recreational activities. there is another jetty in this area, a functional one; it is an oil bunkering jetty which belongs to the shell petroleum company. what will be the name of this stretch of coastline that faces the johor skyline?

the promenade, in the form of a boardwalk, will be built over the seawall to allow visitors to get closer to the water's edge.

the area where the 9-hectare park will be developed used to house some workshops and a junkyard. my previous car was serviced and sometimes repaired by a malaysian mechanic who had a workshop there. there was also a car spray-painting workshop adjacent to it. when we needed some cosmetic job done to our cars, we would visit this workshop.

i have one regret when i think of the memories i could have captured along this stretch of road. up to almost the 90s, there was this structure, which was part of the pillars of a gate known as the rotterdam gate. i took a picture of it for some school project but i have not been able to find that particular photograph. i should have taken more pictures.

at the moment, this is a pleasant place for a walk or jog because traffic is very light and you have a good view of the causeway and the johor waterfront. at low tide, you see the occasional fisherman casting his net in the sea.

where sungei china drains into the straits of johor, this is a favourite spot for a troop of monkeys. in the past, i have seen residents from the nearby marsiling estate feeding them but now they having stopped doing so.

eventually, this stretch will be connected by a park connector to the newly opened admiralty park and the woodlands town garden.

answer: this stretch will be called the woodlands waterfront.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

white and pink glutinous rice balls

tang yuan is a dish of glutinous rice balls served in a sweet broth. in chinese culture, it is traditionally served on dong zhi (the shortest day or longest night of the year), the winter solstice. by eating tang yuan, you become one year older.

when we lived in the kampong, my mother would prepare the tang yuan one day before dong zhi, which usually falls between 21 and 23 december, just before christmas. this year, dong zhi is on sunday, 21 dec 2008.

dong zhi is the chinese equivalent of thanksgiving. it is an occasion for the family to get together to celebrate the good year they have had. in most chinese homes in singapore, it has lost much of its significance.

as children, we enjoyed helping to roll the paste between our palms to make the round rice balls. however, some were rejected because they were either too big or too small. then, we had to re-roll them. my mother, the 'quality control manager', insisted that they had to be uniform in size and shape.

when we were younger, we also enjoyed eating the tang yuan in a bowl of sweet broth. the sweet broth was made from adding brown sugar to the boiling water. as we grew older, the tang yang seemed to lose its flavour. it could be that we did not want to add one year to our life so quickly. however, my mother would insist that we ate at least one tang yuan.

these days, it so easy to prepare the tang yuan. you can buy the ready to roll paste from the supermarket. they also sell pandan leaves to give that sweet and aromatic flavour. no much else is needed except a few slices of old ginger and the brown sugar. when the glutinous balls float to the surface, they are ready for eating. i realise that the balls expand slightly when they are cooked.

tang yuan can be plain or filled with sesame, peanuts, red beans or almonds. ( at food centres, those sold, all year round, with fillings are called ah boling.) the round shape symbolizes wholeness and unity.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

the baby sarong cradle

the sarong cradle seems to be swinging itself out of fashion. it could be the result of horror stories associated with its use. you hear of babies receiving hard knocks after falling from the cradle; of the spring snapping and the baby ending up on the floor; you are told that vigorous rocking can cause injury to the baby's brain; and there have been reported cases in which babies got choked or strangled by the folds of the sarong.

the people who advocate its use will usually cite the following advantages: the rocking movements lull the baby to sleep faster than other method and sleeping in a sarong will give the baby a round head, which has not been scientifically proven.

before the advent of the motorised sarong cradle, the requirement and equipment for setting up a sarong cradle included the following: a strong beam in the house, a solid metal piece shaped like a clothes hanger with a hook at each end, a set of springs and a sarong.

the sarong cradle was usually suspended about 60cm from the ground/floor. sometimes a mattress was placed under it to cushion any accidental fall. usually the cloth at the end where the baby's head was would be held together by a safety pin. this was to prevent the head for slipping out and the baby falling head-first onto the ground/floor.

all my siblings and i slept in a sarong cradle when we were babies. when my elder girl was born, we tried to get her to sleep in one but it did not quite work out, so we abandoned the idea. needless to say, when my younger girl came along, she slept in a cot.

today, it is rare to see the sarong cradle that makes use of springs. those who use the sarong cradle today will go for the motorised type with a portable stand.

Friday, December 19, 2008

toddy (coconut wine)

when i was young, i remembered seeing a toddy shop at jalan berseh, near sungei road and another one in the vicinity of newton circus. there must have been toddy shops in other parts of singapore. mr chew, in his blog about joo chiat post office, mentioned that the post office was at one time converted into a toddy shop. the ord bridge, near clarke quay, used to be known as toddy bridge as there were toddy shops in the nearby pulau saigon. (pulau saigon does not exist anymore.)

most of the customers were working-class indians. the sale of toddy was regulated by the authorities and the shop was open for business during certain hours only. the need to control the distribution of toddy was necessary because unscrupulous suppliers would use additives which were often toxic to preserve the toddy. regulation was to ensure that only fresh toddy was sold to the customers. i do not know when the sale of toddy in singapore was stopped but i do know you can still get toddy from across the causeway.

in the 70s, when i went pond fishing at yio chu kang, i can vaguely recall seeing some indian "tappers" climbing up the coconut palms to collect the sap from a pot that was left on each of the coconut trees. there were quite a number of coconut palms around the fish ponds.

toddy is made from the sap collected from the cut flower shoot of the coconut tree by a tapper who fastens a container to the flower shoots to collect the sap. up to 27 litres of sap a day can be collected from one coconut tree. the sap is collected in a pot made of clay, tied around the waste of the tapper.

the sap that is initially collected is very sweet and non-alcoholic; the sap has to be left to ferment for a few hours to become toddy. the coconut sap has a short shelf life as fermentation starts within a few of hours of collection. if left too long, it proceeds to quickly becomes vinegar – unless it is distilled to form a stronger alcoholic drink.

"the young inflorescence is tightly bound with twigs and beaten with a weighted wooden mallet, morning and evening, for a number of days. when the inflorescence begins to ooze its sap, the tip is cut and the sap allowed to trickle into an earthenware pot. owing to the yeasts and other organisms already present in the used pots, alcoholic and other fermentations begin immediately."

"each morning and evening, a "tapper" climbs the tree to collect the toddy, and at each visit he shaves off a fine tranverse section of the inflorescence so as to leave a new oozing surface. the fermented toddy, which is milky in appearance, is brought to the government toddy-shops for sale within a few hours of collection."