Monday, June 30, 2008

leftovers were food for the pigs

in the 50s & 60s and up to the 70s, there were still pig farms in certain parts of singapore. i remember visiting my late uncle's farm in tiong bahru/bukit ho swee area where he reared pigs, ducks, chickens and some geese. the pigs looked like they needed a bath all the time and when they ate, they made slurping noises. by the 70s, pig farming was restricted to lim chu kang and ponggol.

pig farms were found in the rural sections of singapore like changi, mandai, upper thomson, lim chu kang and ponggol and on off-shore islands like pulau ubin and pulau tekong besar. that tiong bahru and bukit ho swee, located quite close to the town, also had pig farms must be quite difficult to imagine for the young people living there today.

pigs, being rather indiscriminate in their eating habits, were fed pig-swill which was a mixture of pig feed and waste product. the swill was collected by farmers from households all over the island. each farmer had his own territory for his collection. i think the swill collector whose area covered our kampong came from 'hai lam sua'. those days, leftovers were thrown into a big tin (used paint container) which was hung outside the house. the swill was cleared on a daily basis.

just before the chinese new year, when the tau yew man came round with his complimentary soy sauce and the provision shop owner dished out his complimentary bottled aerated drink, the swill collector would be distributing free eggs.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

the soursop tree - durian belanda

today, i explored the sungei tengah area and was surprised to see many soursop trees with fruit ripe for the picking. was wondering why they were still there as the fruit is sold at sheng siong at $4/kg.

when we lived in a kampong house, we had a soursop tree growing outside the house, on the other side of the monsoon drain. it was not a very tall tree but it bore fruit throughout the year. we were not particularly fond of the fruit, so sometimes we let it ripen on the tree and it would fall to the ground, squashed.

normally, we would pick the fruit when it had a tinge of yellow. we would leave it laying around for a couple of days till the fruit was soft to the touch before we started to eat it. it is a fruit that cannot be kept for too long after it has been harvested. that is one of the reasons why you do not find many fruit stalls selling this fruit.

i tried unsuccessfully to look for it at fruit stalls in toa payoh, bukit batok and yew tee. the soursop tree may bear fruit anywhere on its trunk and branches. the malays call it durian belanda because it is covered with soft prickles. the chinese call it 'ang moh durian'. the fruit is more or less oval or heart shaped, sometimes irregular, lopsided or curved. the pulp has a slightly acidic, tropical flavour. the seeds are said to be toxic and the skin is not edible.

i remember those days when taman serasi food centre was still around, there was this friendly man from lim hin fruit stall who sold large mugs of soursop drink for $1.50. i heard his fruit stall is now at old airport road food centre.

i have come across soursop trees planted along the roadside at sungei tengah and lim chu kang. i wonder who gets to harvest the fruit when it is ripe. over at lim chu kang, it is quite difficult to find a ripening fruit on any of the trees. however, at sungei tengah many of the ripe soursops are left to rot on the trees.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

60th birthday bash at laguna golf club

the former teachers and principals who turned up included mr e wijeysingha, mr a k sigamoney, mr foo don wan, ms d thambaiyah, mr hector chee, cikgu alias marzuki, mr john tan, mrs sigamoney, mr lee fong seng, mrs wee heng tin, mr mk sharma, mr moses tay, mr ng kim beng, mr patrick pestana, mr s puhaindran, mr tan kim cheng, dr tan wee kiat and mr vincent gomez.

last night about half the 62 -65/67 cohort of rafflesians and twenty of our teachers gathered at the eagle ballroom of laguna national golf and country club to celebrate a common 60th birthday as the majority of us would be this age this year. some of us have not seen one another since we parted way after our senior cambridge examinations some 43 years ago.

the organisers started planning for the reunion more than a year ago. some of our former schoolmates who are based or settled in countries like malaysia, hong kong, china, australia, new zealand and usa made the special effort to be back for this nostalgic get-together.

as expected, some of us took quite a while to place faces and figures that have been reshaped over the years. while a few have grown slimmer, most of us have blossomed, with a prominent 'centre forward'. that was how mr puhaindran, one of our former teachers, described his paunch.

the evening's entertainment programme featured our own home-grown talents like ho ping chan, georgie chia and benny low. dr tan wee kiat, who taught science in ri, gave a rendition of two songs that we sang when we were in school, on his tiny harmonica.

to round off the evening, the two hundred of us and the twenty teachers trooped into a room to have a group photograph.

i was glad to catch up with farhan (middle) whom i have not met since 1965. he is the proud grandfather of five children while sapuan, who was also a teacher like me, has two grand children.
china in december 1994

we first visited china in 1994. as there were 17 0f us, we were one group by ourselves and had the services of an english-speaking tour guide. we spent about a week touring beijing and chengde.

it was the first time ida saw snow. for ivy, it was the second time, having seen it during our first visit to new zealand before ida was born.

i was inspired enough to write a poem which i titled:

the name evokes a sense of grandeur
not of beauty
nor of splendour
it pevades a sense of expanse and spaciousness
in my mind's eye i picture a stretching square
filled with a sea of bobbing hair
red flags swaying above the swarming mass
as the patriotic fervour charged the air
it would seem all the country was gather there
either for:
- a proclamation
- a demonstration
- or a rally call to the entire nation
i had to be there
to be at the square
the infamous square
to capture a morsel
of all the history that had been made there
as well as the future that it beholds...
i tried to imagine how i'd have been stirred
when mao perched at the top of the gate
uttered his godly words
then i tried to emphatise with those
embroiled in passion
misled by western notions
it was just like what i had seen in photos
huge portraits
hanging on the portals
gaint chinese characters bearing messages
extolling virtues, dispelling fears and dispair
this historic square
where history has been written
and rewritten with swords, guns and rifles
and lately with armoured vehicles
tiananmen square
i left my footprints there..
in the snow
on 22 dec 1994.

Friday, June 27, 2008

taken for a walk

when something is offered for a song, be prepared to be taken for a ride. i bought this pair of sandals for $20 because the pasar malam vendor was 'trying to clear stock and this was his last pair'. i congratulated myself for my good fortune because the pair i had bought in johor bahru a few months ago gave up on me.

i first wore them when i went for dinner at eastern restaurant at centrepoint. while waiting for the food to be served, i found out that one of the sandals was without its sole. i checked the other sandal and found that its sole was also coming apart. the dropped sole was beside my chair. i detached the loose one and put both pieces in a plastic bag i had with me.

a few days later i sought my friend, the handyman, for his advice on how to fix the soles. he told me to get a new pair. anyway, he said if i really wanted to try and mend it, i should use contact glue or cow glue from the hardware shop or paint shop. hardware shops do not sell cow glue. when i checked with a paint shop, i was told it was an offence to buy or sell cow glue as a result of glue sniffing.

so i went to the hardware shop and bought a tube of contact cement. they do not call it contact glue but you can tell from the smell that it is glue. i followed the instructions and wore the sandals again after letting the cement to take hold for one day. the soles came unstuck again after i completed my one hour nature walk.

i decided that a professional would be able to do the job and do it better. i sent it to a cobbler at toa payoh. when i went back to collect the sandals, the cobbler told me he gave up after his third attempt at trying to glue the two parts together. they just would not stick. he did not charge me for the failed repair job.

i should have listened to my handyman friend's first advice. my advice: be wary of special offers, especially at pasar malams.

tried fixing the base again using cement glue. the man at the hardware shop explained to me that the rubber cement was not the fast drying type. you would have to apply the glue liberally on both sides, wait until they are almost dry and then press the two pieces together. you also need to apply pressure; in other words, you have to step into it for a while to help the glue to set.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

smooth otters of sungei buloh

today, after more than ten visits to the sungei buloh wetland reserve, i finally managed to set eyes on the smooth otters of sungei buloh. i did not see them on the outward journey. it was when i was walking back to the visitors' centre that i saw three small figures out in the sea on the sand spit. i suspected they were the otters, so i walked right up to the edge of the platform to have a closer look at them.

there were three of them. they were the size of a small dog. they were feeding on some fish which they had caught in the small cove. i had seen the fish, slim and about 30cm long, jumping out of the water when i stopped there earlier. after sometime, one of them continued with his eating while the other two went forlicking in the shallow water. apparently, otters are playful creatures.

i checked with one of the three young soldiers who was there on security duty and he told me that the three otters were frequent visitors to the same spot on the small sand spit. they were not there every day but he had seen them often enough to know their habit.

platform 1 is about 1km from the main bridge across sungei buloh besar. after crossing the main bridge, turn right. at platform 1, there is a shelter erected for the national servicemen who are on surveillance duty.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

what are these structures for?

saw these structures at a farm at sungei tengah. in fact, quite a number of farms that grow food crops are cashing in on the popularity of this fruit. the red variety seems to be the preferred one. do not have the idea that you can get them cheaper from these farms. the one at lane 4 lim chu kang sells it at s$4.00/kilo - used to be $5 - but their produce is bigger and juicier compared to those from vietnam. i find the fruit quite bland, more like a kiwi fruit, but some people say that it is tasty.

i was surprised when i learnt that the dragon fruit came from a climbing cactus vine. i first saw them when i visited kok fah technology farm at sungei tengah end. subsequently, i saw many more when i visited my wife's relatives in kluang, johor. in malaysia, many families grow this plant in their own garden. the flowers are white and large. they produce a nice smell when they are in bloom, which is for one night only.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

12-day tour of switzerland in 2002

we planned our own itinerary with some help from our tour agent who also helped us book the air tickets, train tickets and the accommodations.

day 1 - 6 jun s'pore - zurich via bangkok. flight (on thai airways) leaves bangkok at 12.03 a.m. on 7 jun.

day 2 - 7 jun arrive zurich at 0720hr local time. fast train from zurich to st gallen at the heart of eastern switzerland. in the afternoon, continue train travel from st gallen to vaduz, capital of liechtenstein.

day 3 - 8 jun train ride up the engadine valley to st moritz, the winter playground of the rich and famous.

day 4 - 9 jun st moritz. explore the lakes and take cable car to the top of the mountains. (cable car not in operation)

day 5 - 10 jun st moritz to lugano by the bernina express to tirano in italy. from tirano, take postal coach back to lugano.

day 6 - 11 jun lugano to lucerne. explore chapel bridge on foot. tue and sat are the best days to visit lucerne because of the market.

day 7 - 12 jun lucerne. walk to the 9 towers and the lion monument.

day 8 - 13 jun lucerne to interlaken. scenic ride across the brunig pass to interlaken. visit the ballenberg.

day 9 - 14 jun interlaken. cogwheel train excursion to grindelwald and jungfraujouh.

day 10 - 15 jun interlaken to zermatt. take the panoramic express to zermatt via montreux.

day 11 - 16 jun zermatt & gornergat. explore the hinter dorf area.

day 12 - 17 jun zermatt to zurich. take the glacier express to zurich via chur.

day 13 - 18 jun zurich. quays that line the banks of the limmat and lake zurich.

day 14 - 19 jun zurich to s'pore.

day 15 - 20 jun arrive s'pore at 1000hr.

what we learnt from our trip:

1 eggs are not cheap in switzerland. in s'pore, we pay 13 cents (2002 prices) for one egg; in switzerland, the cheapest is about 60 cents.

2 poultry is not cheap also. at ntuc, you can get a chicken for $2.90 (in 2002). it is $7.90 in switzerland.

3 the swiss are rather reserved. they do not smile much and you hardly hear laughter. it does not mean they are not helpful; you have to approach them and ask if you need help.

4 most swiss speak and understand english but they are reluctant to speak the language. they rather converse with you in german. those in the south, speak italian and those in the west, speak french.

5 they are a hard-working people. some offices are already serving people before 7.00 a.m. sunday is a working day for some of them. the buses run till past midnight and the trains run practically 24 hours.

6 their claim to warm hospitality is disputable. the hotels we stayed in did not go out of the way to please the customers.

7 for us, 14 days is a bit too long. a one-week tour would have been just right.

8 you do not have to pay for a swiss knife. you can earn one by helping to carry bags for ladies at the railway station. i got one from a grateful lady.

Monday, June 23, 2008

ear piercing with a heated needle

in the past, you did not have to go to the professional ear piercer or to the jewellery shop to have your ears pierced. your mom or somebody who had steady hands and nerves of steel could do it for you, for free. those days, only girls had their ear lobes pierced and only one hole on each lobe. if a boy had his ear pierced, usually on the left ear, it was done to correct some 'imbalance'. i remember one of my secondary teachers who wore a ring on his left ear.

most girls in those days would have had their ears pierced by the time they reach puberty. the only tool needed for doing this job was a sewing needle. a length of red thread and a small piece of ginger played a supporting role. in place of the ginger, a piece of potato would do the same job.

the needle would first be heated. i suppose this was to prevent infection. next, the piece of ginger would be pressed against the back of the ear lobe before the needle, with the red string attached, was pushed into the soft skin and pulled out through the other side. the thread would be left in the hole for a while, until and after the end of a toothpick was pushed into the hole.

my elder girl had her ears pierced when she was in primary six but my younger girl had hers pierced when she was in primary three or four. no, the mother did not it for them; they went to a 'professional'.

actually, the new way of doing it with the piercing gun is no less painful than the old way of using a needle. the only improvement is that the pain inflicted by the gun is shorter whereas in the case of the needle, it depended very much on the skill of the person wielding the needle. whether old or new, there is still the risk of infection.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

developments around jln mempurong

things tend to go one full circle in singapore. the sembawang seaports centre used to be located at jalan mempurong, the site now occupied by the bottletree village. in fact, bottletree village had its beginning as sembawang seafood restaurant at the same site. then, it was a small family restaurant catering to the members of sembawang seasports centre and some regulars.

today, when i dropped in at bottletree village, i was surprised to find out that a new project being developed on the adjacent piece of land will be a seasports centre (water venture) to be operated by the people's association. the facilities catering to seasports enthusiasts are expected to be ready at the end of july 2008.

i also found out that there are some additional attractions at bottletree village. they have a fish spa within its premises. the spa, a rectangular pool filled with lots of garra rufa, is quite similar to the one at qian hu. there was also a signboard announcing that prawn fishing would soon be available at bottletree village.

it appears that there are other changes in and around that area. over at masjid petempatan melayu sembawang, they have created a spice garden and it looks like they are doing more to bring back a bit of the kampong scene.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

i have won s$2 399 292

i received the email appended below through my yahoo account. i would like to know how many others were as lucky as i.

with this winning, i no longer have to worry about erp rates going up, petrol prices, food prices, increased tariff for electricity, higher property tax, etc. i can even afford to take taxis if i am in a rush. whenever i eat at restaurants or even food courts, i will no longer need to check the prices beforehand. no need to stick to housebrands when i go shopping at ntuc, sheng siong or giant.

but will continue to go for my nature walks and meet up with my walking kakis.

The Camelot Group,
Operators of The National Lottery.
3b Olympic Way, Sefton Business Park,Aintree, Liverpool ,
L30 1RD
REF Nº:UKL/74-A0802742007
BATCH Nº: 2007UKL-01


The United Kingdom National Lottery wishes to inform you that the results of the E-mail address ballot lottery international program by Great Britain held on the of 30th of May 2008. Your mail account have been picked as a winner of a lump sum pay out of Eight hundred and ninty-one thousand,nine hundred and thirty-four Great Britain pounds £891,934.00 pounds sterlings) in cash credited to fileREFNO.REF:UKL/74-A0802742007.This is from total prize money of GBP 4,459,670.00 shared among the FIVE(5) international winners in this category.

You are to contact our claims agent for validation:

Mr Derek
Tel: +447031967985 +447031949783


1.FULL NAMES:________
10.TELEPHONE NUMBER:__________
11.WINNING NUMBERS:________________
12.REF No:___________13.BATCH No:___________

Mrs. Dianne Thompson
Online Coordinator.
geometry lesson at forest walk

the forest walk is mainly a 1.3km interlinking grated metal walkway. i especially like this stretch of the southern ridges because you can still enjoy your walk in a cool and shaded environment even after 8.00 a.m. another attraction here is the usually large number of birds like the mynahs, drongos and the orioles on the saga seed (adenanthera pavonina) and albizia trees.

it is interesting to note that the majority of the steel gratings are in the shape of an equilateral triangle. they must have a mould to make most of the triangular gratings. however, if you take time to examine them, you will find that some are specially cut and welded to fit into the odd corners or spaces.

so if you take young children along the walkway, you can get them to look for triangles, equilateral ones and right-angled ones, quadrilaterals and pentagons.

are the triangles of the same size?

are there other shapes?

how many triangles make a pentagon?

there are so many things to look out for to make the walk more interesting rather than just walk to cover the distance.

Friday, June 20, 2008

'must eat' food in melaka

most of the time, we may plan what to do and when it comes to doing, we end up not doing according to the plan. before we set off for the trip to melaka, i had actually drawn up a 'must try' food list. the list includes chicken rice-ball, satay celuk, peranakan food, pork satay and ikan bakar. when we were in melaka, we managed to have two of the five items on that list - the chicken rice-balls and the pernanakan food. we did, however, tried some other food not listed, like cendol, yong tau foo, teochew bak kut teh and hotplate noodles.

when we arrived at melaka, it was almost noon. i suggested eating hainanese chicken rice and the others were agreeable. we headed for the chung wah coffee shop, the home of the original hainanese chicken rice-ball in melaka. although it was not yet lunch time, nearly all the tables were occupied. i told nah that we should order the so popular fish-balls as every table seemed to have that dish.

it soon dawned on me that the five balls on each plate were the chicken rice-balls. the last time i ate chicken rice balls at hoe kee and a famosa, the balls appeared larger. the meal, which included chicken, rice-balls and drinks came up to a reasonable rm$19. however, we still prefer our own boon tong kee's chicken rice.

for the second night's dinner, we decided it had to be peranakan food. we went for the tried and tested ole sayang restaurant at jalan melaka raya. we had the daily special which was ayam kunyit, chap chye, sambal prawns, sambal sotong and assam fish.

we always look forward to eating peranakan food in melaka, usually at one of these three restaurants - ole sayang, makko or bibik neo. it is also a 'tradition' for us to visit tan kim hock and the yong tau foo stall next to the defunct federal cinema.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

markers of my former kampong

to most people, these two flights of stairs that lead to nowhere in particular are insignificant but to me, who once lived and played in the vicinity, they serve as a bearing to the location of a kampong which once existed near that area but which has since been obliterated from the singapore streetscape. the road after which the kampong was named does not exist anymore.

the stairs once led to the living quarters for employees of the tan tock seng hospital. there were about six or seven blocks of three-storey buildings. when i was teaching at balestier hill technical school, i used to walk up one of these flights of stairs and past some of the blocks of flats whenever i took a short cut to get to school.

those who occupied the quarters were the hospital amahs, cleaners and general workers. i can still see in my mind's eye the uniform worn by the workers, especially the men. they wore a white shirt with khaki pants.

before the quarters came up, that area was the site of an old chinese cemetery. i remember, when i was a young boy, there were still visitors to some of the tombs during the annual qing ming festival. bush-fires were quite common here during the hot and dry months as the cemetery ground was usually overgrown with tall lallang grass.

the fire brigade would be summoned once in a while to help put out the fire as the kampong folks were afraid of the fire spreading to their very vulnerable attap houses. however, even before the arrival of the firemen, the men and boys of the kampong would pitch in to help kill the fire. we would break off branches from small trees and used these to beat the burning patches and grass.

in time to come, these vestiges will disappear and the last markers of where there used to be a kampong will be lost forever.

this parcel of land bounded by sinaran drive and irrawaddy road has been successfully tendered and a private hospital will be built on the site in a few years' time.

the name of the place is kampong chia heng.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

locking up motorcycles - the melaka way

in melaka, where the motorcycle is a popular mode of transport for the working class people, they have a unique way of securing the motorcycles at the motorcycle-park. at this place, next to the mahkota parade, motorcyclists can park their bikes and have them locked up by the attendants.

the motorcycles are parked neatly in rows and each of the parked bikes is secured by a lock and a rod which is passed between the spokes of the front wheel. the attendant, who has a master key, will lock up the bike and issue you a ticket. i think the charge is rm$1.00 per entry. when you need to retrieve your bike, you just show him the ticket and he will unlock the padlock for you.

it is a neat, safe and secure way of leaving your motorcycle in a parking area.

there is another service available to motorcyclists in melaka which is not found here in singapore. those who do not wish to lug their motorcycle helmets around with them when they go shopping or when going for a stroll in the park can actually leave the helmet in the care of some people for a small fee of 50 sen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

our b&b experiences in uk & new zealand

ida outside mrs jeffreys' cottage in covelly

breakfast with mrs woodill at bay view, kaikoura

bed and breakfast, also known as b&b, is a term, which originated from the united kingdom. it is used for an establishment that offers bed accommodation, and breakfast in return for payment, but usually does not offer other meals. typically, bed and breakfasts are private homes with only one or two bedrooms available.

in our travels to the united kingdom and new zealand, we opted for b&b and met some wonderful people (hosts). in the case of new zealand, it was during our second visit that we went for b&b after our pleasant experiences in the united kingdom.

b&b should not be equated with budget accommodation because you have to pay extra for breakfast and the opportunity to get a feel of the real country and to get to know the people. in new zealand, for example, not all the b&b establishments are private homes, some are actually hotels or guest-houses.

the most suitable time to arrive at a b&b place is late afternoon, and it is best to leave before 10 a.m. in the morning. in the case of new zealand, we pre-booked all our b&b accommodations whereas in the united kingdom, we pre-booked once only and in all the other instances, we would look for the 'vacancy' sign when we reached a certain town and then made enquiry.

most b&b homes have ensuite and private bathrooms which are for your exclusive use but there are some homes where guests have to share a bathroom. breakfast is usually quite substantial and it usually consists of toast, eggs, bacon, fruit, cereal and tea/coffee.

in england, we felt most welcomed at the home of mrs jeffreys at covelly in north devon. she lived on her own and took in boarders for her two rooms. she gave us both rooms. our two girls had single beds while we had a double bed. mrs jeffreys' own children lived about 16km away, in bideford.

in new zealand, we enjoyed most the warm hospitality of mrs margaret woodill whose place at kaikoura was called bay view. margaret, who lived alone in the 5-bedroom house, had an award-winning garden. she was the only host who joined us for our breakfast.

b&b is a good way to see a country and meet its people.

Monday, June 16, 2008

5 a.m. at bukit timah summit

do you know that as early as 5 a.m. you have people trudging up to the summit of bukit timah. because it is still dark, a lot of them have to carry torchlights to guide them along the road. just like at upper seletar reservoir, most of these early risers tend to be hokkien or mandarin speaking.

on the ascent, most people use the road but on the descent, some use the hiking trails. the challenge is in the very steep gradient at the early stage of the climb. quite a number of walkers on the steep road choose to walk backwards, so those who are moving upwards have to look out for such people.

some groups will gather at the base, near the ranger station, before moving up together. when you reach the top, you can hear music being played at the pavilion. there is this small group of 4 or 5 people who will be swaying and doing their workout to the music.

how do i know that there are exercise fanatics at that place at such an unearthly hour? because i have made it to the summit in the darkness before. the first time, i got lost and ended up at the singapore quarry side. it takes about 20 minutes to reach the summit using the road. the descent, although it does not require as much effort as the ascent, also takes about the same time.

both at macritchie reservoir park and bukit timah nature reserve, i have come across some men training their vocal chord - to prepare for some yam seng or karaoke competition? - by making a long-drawn out call. i often wonder if it is vocal training technique or a form of a whole-body work-out.

on a weekend, if you go to bukit timah nature reserve after 6.30 a.m. you will be very lucky if you can find a parking space.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

some not so common fruit trees at the hort park

i missed the fruit and vegetable section during my last two visits to the horticulture park at hyderabad road.

came across some not so common fruits in this section. most of the fruit trees are pot grown and quite a number of them were already bearing fruit. there is this biriba from brazil which i mistook for a custard apple. it belongs to the same family as the soursop. like custard apples, the over-ripe fruit will become unattractively black.

one of the fruit trees laden with lots of fruit is the water apple. although the pale green water apples were not big, there were so many on the tree that it seemed the whole tree was bogged down by them.

another not so common fruit plant found in the garden is the raspberry which thrives in cooler temperate climate.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

the common sun skink

the skink is a rather shy creature. it will slink away, as though it has done something wrong, the moment it encounters humans or sense the presence of humans. i was able to capture this one as it was on a leaf at kent ridge park. if it had been on the ground, it would have been very wary of my approach. the moment you move too near to one, it will disappear into the leaf litter.

skinks belong to the lizard family but they are never found indoors. a skink has a smooth, supple body with small legs and over-lapping scales covering the body, legs and tail. they are active in the day and they enjoy basking in the sun.

during my spider catching days, i often came across them, usually on the ground. i have never like them because of their slimy appearance. however, they are harmless; some species are even kept as pets. skinks feed on insects, earthworms, snails and slugs.

Friday, June 13, 2008

buying durians from roadside
stalls in m'sia

some of the best durians we have eaten were gotten from roadside stalls in west malaysia. i remember having tasted very good durians, in the early days, in melaka and on the way to ipoh, when we bought them from roadside stalls.

the durians were usually the kampong variety. the fruit was usually of average size, not the huge ones like those thai durians. we would buy either by the number of fruit or by weight, then it was in kati. i remember, quite often, we would have to help the vendors to total up the price. even when they started using the calculator, they still needed our help to work out the price.

for these roadside sellers, selling durians was more to have some side or extra income. they did not have mountains of fruit to sell, just a handful of them. they either grew their own fruit or collected them.

then after hearing and reading about singaporeans being ripped off by roadside durian sellers, usually chinese ones, we became very wary when it came to buying durians from roadside stalls. we would park our cars some distance from the stalls and avoid speaking in english in the presence of the durian sellers.

we heard of how some of these unscrupulous fly-by-night durian sellers would quote very attractive rates for their durians but when it came to weighing the fruit, they would cheat by putting some pressure on the scale so that the durians would weigh much more than their actual weight. or some would swop the durians that you have picked with 'rejects' when they packed them into the brown paper bags for you.

these days, most of the roadside durian sellers are full-time fruit sellers. they either set up a stall by the roadside or ply their ware at the back of their truck or inside a van. the one from which we bought our durians in melaka even had tables for customers to enjoy the fruit on the spot.

the durians were priced at between rm$12 and rm$15 a kilo. we bought five durians for rm$53 and 2 kg of mangosteens for rm$8. we finished the whole lot at the roadside stall.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

netting for prawns at sea off ujong pasir

was at the portuguese settlement at ujong pasir when we saw three men, two of them actively, pushing a large triangular net each, parallel to the shore and scraping along the sea bed. the push net or scissors net was being used to catch prawns.

the best time to go prawn netting is at low tide or at the beginning of the incoming tide. the man who was nearest to us was in chest-deep water. each time he lifted the net, he would first discard pebbles and other unwanted stuff and keep the prawns. he had a round container with a cover, into which he would drop the prawns.

the common prawn is a species found in the mud and sand of coastal areas in the tidal zone, in lagoons and brackish waters of estuaries. the activity of the prawn is linked to daylight and the tides. at low tide it burrows into the sand near the low tide mark.

the common prawn is omnivorous; it hunts mainly at night and feeds on algae, planktonic animalcules, marine worms and other small animals and even dead animals.