Thursday, July 31, 2008
when we had our bath where all could see
used the monsoon drain as our lavatory
went about bare foot all day long
had on only one layer of garment
those were carefree days
when catching fighting spiders
chasing kites that went untethered
trapping longkang fish with our hands
threading for tubifex worms in the sand
gave us much more fun then
than enrichment and other
structured things of now
when playing cards and tikam tikam
inventing games with improvised stuff
climbing trees to grab the ripening fruit
shooting birds with home-made catapult
filled our carefree days with boundless fun
kampong days must have been happy ones
falling down (from climbing trees)
getting cuts (from going about bare foot)
were all part of growing up
until the chain slipped
and the bottom hit hard
raining days were even more fun
playing in the rain with kawan kawan
when water overflowed into the house
we had fun scooping and chucking the water around
those were the days
when 'why worry, be happy'
was our maxim for the day, every day
how we still hanker for those nostalgic days!
(on friday, as we walked the petai trail, three of us were reminiscing about our kampong days)
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
(this picture was taken near the warren country club)
our last visit to melaka was made memorable not because of the accommodation, food or attractions; it was the sight of the cattle egrets returning to roost on the trees that made the trip and stay at mahkota hotel worth the while.
the hotel apartment is typical of the state of affair. the state of maintenance is still not compatible with the four-star status. when we finally checked in, after a long delay, the toilet light was out of order and in nah's case, the room's water closet was not functioning properly.
the food in melaka was so so. as i mentioned in my earlier blog, i prefer the singapore's version of chicken rice although the rice-balls may be a kind of novelty. the peranakan fare that we get in singapore is as authentic as you can get anywhere.
the attractions like the old churches, the stadthuys, st paul's hill, the dutch cemetery, a famosa and others are all in the history books and i had seen them all though this was the first time i explored them quite closely.
but the returning of the egrets to their roosting place was the most fascinating. i have read about egrets in singapore spreading out to all corners of the island in the day and then returning to the jurong bird park vicinity in the evening to roost. but, it was in melaka that i witnessed for the first time flock after flock coming back to spend the night on the trees.
just before twilight time, they started coming back in batches. some flocks were as large as twenty birds but some were as few as eight birds. they seemed to come from one direction. while a distance from the roost, they would have decided which tree/s to descend upon. because once they settled on a tree, there was very little movement.
in the morning, it was like watching the whole thing in reverse. the birds would take off in batches, circled around and headed as a group for their own 'hunting ground'. in the day, egrets fan out in groups to open fields, canals and wetlands to look for insects and small animals.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
i give myself credit for being able to convert my friend victor samuel from a convectional film camera owner to a digital camera owner. victor is a person who seems to be averse to anything and everything that is modern. he does not hold any credit card; he has no atm card and he does carry a mobile phone. he drives a manual car. so to get him to settle for digital photography was quite an achievement.
the digital camera is a boon especially to bloggers like me who like to have pictures to go with the words. i do not think i could have so many pictures if they were not digital images. with digital images, you do away with film processing and pictures taken with a digital camera literally cost nothing. with growing storage capacity, thousands of pictures can be stored in a single memory card or stick.
there is instant feedback as the pictures can be viewed on the lcd screen almost immediately. if you are not satisfied with a shot, you can always do a re-take. pictures that are not to your liking, you can delete them to make space for new pictures.
there is the ease in editing a digital image. you can also email the pictures, put them on a web-site (blog), burn them into cd or dvd and store them in your computer.
best of all, digital photographs never lose their quality.
with all these advantages, my friend victor has definitely got it right this time to embrace modern technology.
the only problem is that young people feel the need to upgrade every few years. when ivy came back in january this year, she upgraded her faulty fuji finepix to a panasonic lumix. when ida came back in july, she upgraded from a canon ixus i to a canon ixus 860 (the one above). as for me, i am still faithful to my canon ixus 700.
Monday, July 28, 2008
today bought 7 golden phoenix (kim hong) and 2 cat mountain king (mao shan wang) durians for around $100 from my regular vendor at woodgrove. yesterday, i had gone there with the intention of placing today's order with him but at 7.00 p.m., he was nowhere to be found. today, he explained to me that his whole lorry-load of durians had been bought over by someone on saturday.
we actually had a proper home-cooked dinner and so the durians were part of the after-meal dessert. we had chicken curry, chap chye, honey pork ribs and kong bak with tau pok. these could go with either the steamed rice or the toasted garlic bread.
pei ling bought a cake for her father's birthday.
the eight of us managed to finish about four durians, both the mao shan wang and about two of the golden phoenix. i say about two because we opened four of the golden phoenix durians but not all the segments. so, they ended up having to tar pau durians and other unfinished food home.
i think these were about the best durians we had tasted for a long time.
has he been found? today, when i went to kranji reservoir park, there were no more soldiers on surveillance duty. the tent has been taken down and all the barriers removed. to confirm that this was not the only place where they have stopped watching the coast, i drove to admiralty road west. found out that the police tent was also no longer there and there was no policeman in sight.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
those of us who lived in kampongs and the rural areas in the 60s often lament how today's children and even some adults do not know the proper way to draw water from a well. they simply throw the pail in and expect it to fill up automatically.
there were a handful of wells in the kampong where i lived for nearly thirty years. we did not have to get water from a well. i first learnt how to draw water from a well when i went to pulau tekong besar to attend a leadership training camp.
my friend who lived in chia keng village, which used to be somewhere opposite kovan road, had a well near his home but his family would often go to the standpipe to collect water. most wells were about a metre in diameter but some large wells could be as wide as three metres.
some wells in his village were big enough for the children to go in for a dip. yes, some kampong children swam in wells. these were the wells which were wider in diameter and there was some way of getting in and out of it. there were even fish in such wells.
just as there is more than one way to skin a cat, there are more than one way to draw water from a well using either a container or a pail with a length of rope attached to it.
one way is to hold the metal pail with the bottom facing up and drop it vertically into the water in the well. if the pail is heavy enough, it will hit the water and tilt for water to get into it.
another way is to drop the pail onto the surface of the water. with the empty pail resting on the surface of the water, using your wrist, you flip the pail by using the length of rope and the water will then flow into the pail.
yet another way is to throw the pail or container into the well and just before it hits the water, flip the pail by jerking the rope so that the container or pail ends up hitting the water at an oblique angle. the water will flow naturally into the pail or container.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
how many of these tropical fruits -being sold at one of the stalls along the malaysian lebuhraya makan and rest stops - can you find in our nature parks, nature reserves and along the sides of some roads?
mango ( y)
mata kuching (longan) (y)
starfruit (small) (y)
looks like practically all the tropical fruits that are on sale at this stall in johor can be found growing either in our nature parks, nature reserves or planted by the sides of some roads in some outlying areas.
today, when i walked the trail from zhenghua to rifle range road, i came across two trees heavily laden with mata kuching (longan), apart from the more common durian, rambutan and papaya trees.
Friday, July 25, 2008
the 'cooked' papadam is crispier and drier than if you deep-fry it.
faster and healthier (?).
can do the same with fish and prawn crackers.
papadums are typically served as an accompaniment to a meal. it is also eaten as an appetizer or a snack and can be eaten with various toppings such as chopped onions, chutney or other dips and condiments.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
whoever designed and built this pedestrian bridge forgot about the pedestrians who need to bypass the bridge and move by the side. if you are doing so, you may have to step onto the road to walk past this overhead bridge. (see middle picture)
it must be one of the earlier pedestrian bridges because it is totally iron - rust has set in at a few points - and concrete and there are no troughs at the sides for the bougainvillea plants.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
when i first came upon these abandoned buildings in march 2007 during one of my nature walks, i had mistaken it for the site of the old dairy farm. it turned out to be an old warehouse. the work now being done will convert this place into classrooms and a centre showcasing the heritage of the area.
at that time, i was thinking that had i been a businessman, i would develop the place into an eatery and cafe. it reminded me of another way-out place in sembawang, the bottle tree village. here, although you are not by the sea, you are right in the middle of a nature reserve, away from all the hustle and bustle of urban life.
the bungalow will be converted into a ranger station and a volunteers' lounge. there is a big rambutan tree in front of the bungalow on the right side and behind the house is a big durian tree. as i was approaching the bungalow, a man emerged from the back with a durian in hand. i am not a durian hunter, so i do not go out of the way specifically to look for durian trees.
at the moment, retricted access for vehicles to this worksite is via the track at 100 dairy farm road. there is going to be an open car-park by the side of this track, which will eventually be widened to a road.
the dairy farm nature park is expected to be ready by the end of this year.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
came upon this lovely purple hibiscus at spring orchard, the red dragon fruit farm at lim chu kang lane 4. at this same farm, i saw a white hibiscus last year.
this sea hibiscus is a common find at sungei buloh wetland reserve. this one was seen at the kranji trail, just outside the reserve. if you look up at the sea hibiscus tree, you will actually see yellow and orange flowers. this is because the flower starts as a yellow one and turns orange as it gets older. so, when it drops to the ground, it is an orange flower.
following chun see's blog on a sign city, here is a sign quiz.
sighted this sign in one of our nature reserves. but it is not one of those common ones. thought it looks like the chinese character 'chong', as in 'hong chong'.
where - which nature reserve - can you find this sign?
to which group of users is it directed/targeted?
everyone is eligible to participate; no age limit.
Monday, July 21, 2008
i was invited to a primary school to be a part of the racial harmony day celebration which was held in most schools on monday, 21 july.
i always find it odd that schools choose to accentuate the racial differences on this day by encouraging the pupils to report to school in their ethnic costumes. so, the malays will come in their baju kurung/baju melayu, the chinese in their cheongsam or qipao and the indians in dhoti & kurta/saris and the eurasians in their 'western' clothes. those who do not have any appropriate costume will opt for the everyday school uniform.
no, i did not turn up in any traditional garb. my mission there was to prepare and cook some traditional indian snacks - murukku and papadam. to ensure that there would be enough for all the pupils in the school, the school bought some commercially produced ones.
i was there primarily to demonstrate how to cook/make murukku. i bought six packets of murukku flour, six packets of papadam, a packet of sesame seeds, a piece of butter and a bottle of cooking oil. the portable gas stove and the wok were both new.
the children seem to like the murukku which they found not as hard as those bought from the shops and also not as spicy.
who meet for a moment then sail out of sight,
with never a backwards glance of regret,
friends we know briefly, then quickly forget.
then there are friends that sail together,
through quiet waters and stormy weather.
helping each other through joy and strife,
these are the friends who bring meaning to life.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
whenever i want to eat good durians, ...... no, i do not sneak into the parks, nature reserves and cemeteries at night to hunt for durians. in fact, i have not tasted a durian picked on my own. also, i do not go to sims avenue to buy them because i do not know the vendors well enough.
i go to this malaysian durian seller who sets up his stall at the woodgrove, just in front of the 7-eleven store, along woodlands avenue 1. there is always a queue of regulars at his stall. mr so is reliable and trustworthy and he sells good durians only. you do not see him at the beginning of the season because the first batch of durians are usually mediocre in terms of quality. he also disappears at the tail end of the season for the same reason.
durians which are good but not outstanding are sold by the fruit. usually, it is $20 for 3 big durians or $10 for 3 small durians. premium durians like mountain cat king (mao shan wang) and golden phoenix (kim hong) are sold by weight.
he also gave us some pointers on how to tell if a durian is a genuine mao shan wang. one is the colour of the husk; it has a distinctive colour (see picture on left). two is the small flat area at the base of the fruit and three, the colour of the flesh of the durian.
the other day, i got two big mao shan wang for $59, at $13/kg. today, my former colleague bought one mao shan wang and three golden phoenix durians for $67, at $12/kg. the golden phoenix durians are much smaller in size.
i find the taste of the creamy mao shan wang better than d101, d24, red prawn and xo. my friend thai soon, a fruit lover, eats only mao shan wang these days.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
i headed for the mangrove area and spent sometime watching three foreign nationals trying to catching fish with nets at low tide in the river sungei cina. they did not seem to have much luck. from the shaded track i walked on and crossed the second bridge to get to the wider unshaded track.
as i walked past the first clump of nipah palms, i heard a thumping sound. turning to where the sound came from, i saw two snakes - about 1.5m long - tangled together.
the two snakes must have been as startled as i was because by the time i got my camera out, they had untangled themselves and disappeared into the grass. at least, snakes have some sense of modesty and decency - they quickly get out of the act in the presence of a spectator.
Friday, July 18, 2008
i came across a bee nest on a tree at the edge of the pond at bukit batok nature park. as it was not a danger to the park users, i did not report it to the national park board. the hive is too far away from places where human activities are carried out for it to be disturbed or for the bees to pose a threat to people.
with reports that population of bees and other pollinators are declining worldwide, we should not be too hasty to destroy their nests. i remember, decades ago, how we came across a bee hive on our way to school. the hive seemed to grow by the hour and we stood to wonder if the heavy lump would just drop to the ground.
as recently as last year, there were two reports of people stung by bees. one incident was near the zion road food centre and the other, where a big group of school children was involved, happened at labrador park.
in the 70s when we conducted outdoor camps for our students, we used to practise 'hornet or bee drill'. while out hiking, once a loud blast of the whistle was heard, the campers would have to fall flat to the ground and cover their heads. seems like this is not the best thing to do.
according to the advice from the experts, you should try and outrun the bees. "run in a straight line for at least 400m and protect your face with a piece of towel or cloth, if you have one. do not attempt to jump into the water to escape from the attack because the bees will wait for you."
how do you tell a bee from a wasp? a bee has a rounder body and it has more hair on its body and legs; a wasp is slimmer, it has a narrow waist and much less hair on its body.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
last saturday, we had buffet lunch at the straits cafe on the ground level of rendezvous. rendevous, which is touted as a four-star hotel today, had a humble beginning. it started off as a coffee shop at the corner of selegie road and dhoby ghaut. i remember it as a place very popular for its nasi padang.
i used to walk past this place sometimes on my way home from school but it did not get much of my attention because i was more interested in the second-hand books at the rows of book stores along bras basah road. apart from the many book shops, there was also a cathay silk store and a cathay photo store.
across the road, where the singapore managment university (smu) now stands, was the ymca and some tennis courts which extended right up to bencoolen street. i can vaguely recall that i attended some first aid course in one of the buildings - could have been the ymca - there.
(my friend victor samuel, whose family was a tenant on the 2nd floor of the rendezvous building for 24 years, will take you down -memory lane - the row of shops up to waterloo street)
right across rendezvous was a triangular field with a huge angsana tree, nearer to the cathay cinema. it was a play area with swings and see-saws. at the other end, nearer to the former st joseph's institution was another yma called the catholic young men association (cyma). for a while in the 50s, it housed the royal english school.
in the 1950s, rendezvous had a bar on the ground floor. the first floor was already a hotel. the second floor was tenanted. the tenants, protected by the rent control act, enjoyed low rentals and later, many refused to move out until they were adequately and satisfactorily compensated. right at the top of the building, the huge circular sign was an advertisement for 'green spot'. in the 80s, it was changed to 'nikon'.
to the left of the entrance to rendezvous was a small mamak stall. the indian family lived above the shop.
the nasi padang business which started in the 50s was already doing a brisk business. next door to rendezvous was a chinese coffee shop owned by a foochow family. in front of the coffee shop, on the left was a char kway teow stall and on the right, a malay food stall. the next shop was manir udin shop managed by an electrical contractor. cathay photo store subsequently took over this shop. the next shop was ong hock mein fish tackles, which also sold stationeries and just before the lane was modern book store.
modern book store and the next shop was separated by a small lane - lorong pulai- with about ten houses along it. you could get to bencoolen street via this lane.
on the other side of the lane was a cobbler shop and a plumbing contractor; the next shop was cathay silk store. then there was tattooist johnny 'two thumb', sharing his shop with rudgee astrology. next was oriental book store and another shop selling books & other stuff. along this strtech was a shoe shop, western corporation selling sports goods, another foochow coffee shop, wong photo shop, owned by a hainanese and at the end, an indian stationery shop.
turning left into bencoolen street, at the corner was ratna sports, followed by a provision shop and a small alley that led to an open space which was the back of lorong pulai. (i remember ratna sports because it always fascinated me watching him restring the guts of the wooden badminton rackets.)
on the other side of bencoolen street were 3 chinese bridal shops before you came to a small alley leading to beng swee place. after the alley was another popular book shop, s s mubarak, then there was a sports shop, another 2nd-hand book shop and yet another sports shop.
turning into waterloo st, you would come to a foreign news agency. that was where i got my copies of beano and dandy comics.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
went back to khtaib bongsu after a lapse of more than a year. my last visit there was in april 2007. then i could still drive my car all the way to where the fishing pond was. today, it is a slightly different scene altogether. the fishing pond has since closed down and the last two squatters have moved out of the area.
although that area is designated a protected area, residents of yishun still venture into it when they want to be close to nature and to enjoy the quiet and peace of the surroundings. my friend, who lives near the orchid country club, was surprised to hear that i, a resident of bukit panjang, know about khatib bongsu and know my way around the place. he frequents the place on weekends to indulge in his passion for nature photography.
the track that i had driven on has now become a narrow path, with creepers encroaching on both sides. the barrier at the entrance to it meant that it is no longer accessible to four-wheel vehicles; motor-cycles and bicycles can still sneak in. in fact we came across two motorcyclists today. we had to back-track after a certain point because the path was muddy and wet.
at this time of the year, this nature haven sees more visitors than usual because it is the durian and rambutan season. along the way we came across lots of discarded durian husks and rambutan skins.
the fruit trees are the legacies of the chinese and malay kampong folks who once lived as farmers and fishermen in this part of singapore.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
on saturday morning i felt excruciating pain when i attempted to get up from the bed. i quickly messaged seck yeong to tell her to go ahead with the walk without me. anyway, i 'deputise' kwan to lead the group for the walk from telok blangah hill to the hort park. i had emailed directions to the group to park at car-park 3.
this was also the first time albert poh finally managed to join the group for the walk. most of the time he was either overseas or tied up with work. the one time he was around and could have make it, he got the time wrong: he had thought that the walk was in the evening.
i think there was another first. for the first time, seck yeong and teck seng were joined by their son for the walk.
i heard puay heian could not make it because she was down with flu.
Monday, July 14, 2008
duku-langsat galore at lim chu kang
they came on foot. they came on bicycles. they came on motor-cycles. they came in cars. they came in taxis. they came in trucks. they came in lorries. they came to invade the duku langsat on the trees along some of the roads in lim chu kang. for some, it was like a family weekend outing. armed with plastic bags, long poles and nets, they had a field day picking the ripe and big ones from the heavily-laden trees.
the sad thing about this fruit gathering is that some people in their greed to 'sapu' as much as they can, damage the trees, especially the mangosteen trees. because the tree is taller and some of the fruits are out of their reach, they pull down the whole branch just to get what they want.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
this picture - from the national archives of singapore - really transports me back to the days where floods was something we had to live with year in and year out. we were quite ambivalent about it because on one hand, we could have fun playing in the rain and with the water but on the other hand, we had to lend a helping hand when it came to clearing up the mess after the deluge.
i like sharing my experiences from the past so as to give the younger generation a glimpse of how life was like in the 60s. floods visited us a few times every year, especially during the north-east monsoon season, when we lived in a kampong more than 30 years ago.
when it rained heavily and for sometime, we would be prepared for the milk-tea (teh susu) colour flood water entering our homes. the drains would overflow first and when the water level rose above the threshold, water would get into the house. initially, we would try to fight the 'tide' by using used cloths and old towels to build 'embankment' and to seal up the entry points but once the water entered the house, we would just be resigned to cleaning up after the water had receded.
from experience, we would make only feeble attempts to stop the water from making its way into the inside of our homes. it would be an exercise in futility. because there was no way we could seal all the gaps and points of entry. we just had to wait for the rain to stop and the water to subside, then we would get out our scoops and pails to bail out the water.
when flooding was severe, a lot of things would be carried away. the wooden planks that we had placed across the drain and things that were not anchored would be swept 'downstream'. your shoes, slippers and char kia (clogs) must be placed at places where the water could not reach. even the heavy buckets with human excreta from the common latrines would be carried away.
those crawly creatures whose homes had been disturbed would make their appearances. cockcroaches and centipedes could be seen on the walls and in areas not covered by water.
after the rain, children would be out of their homes to wade in the flood water. it was, however, a dangerous time to move around. no, not because of the creatures. the drains would be covered by the flood water and you would not know where the edges of the drains were. some could slip into the drain. once i had to drag to safety a smaller boy who had fallen into the swollen drain.
floods in the those days were usually blamed on the poor drainage system and heavy downpour coinciding with the high incoming tide.
when we moved into high-rise housing and development board (hdb) flats, the threat from overflowing drains just simply ebbed away.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
instead of ornamental trees or trees that provide shade, some housing and development board estates are populated by fruit trees like rambutan, mango, buah belimbing and guava. in keeping with the farming landscape image, the sides of the roads in lim chu kang, seletar, pasir ris, mandai and sungei tengah are also planted with fruit trees.
but who harvest the ripe fruits? today i called up the town council to find out and was directed to someone in the maintenance department. i asked if residents were allowed to pluck the rambutans on the trees in my estate. the reply: only members of the residents' committee are authorised to do it.
it is not worth the effort of the rc members to pluck them because the fruit is not in abundance and they will not be able to gather a presentable amount to distribute to the old folk home or any charitable organisation. may be this is the first year of fruiting and so the produce is a bit meagre. so far, i have yet to see a member of the residents' committee going around to harvest the rambutans.
i made it known to the town council personnel that those people whom i have seen enjoying the fruit of other people's labour did not look like rc members. i have seen a foreign national, who sweeps the car-park, helping himself to the fruit. two days ago, i saw a chinese couple eating the fruit from the same tree. and today i saw two deliverymen doing the same.
along the roadsides at lim chu kang, i have seen branches of the mangosteen trees damaged by person or persons who had been trying to get at the fruit. and there are those who unknowingly pluck the unripe ones and take them home, hoping that they will ripen over time.
with no residents' committee in such area like lim chu kang, who is authorised to pluck the fruit?
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
kong kong is a quiet fishing village about 42km from johor bahru. it is located on the west bank of sungai johor. according to the johor tourist website, it is a haven for anglers and seasports enthusiasts and also a place famous for its seafood. my friend nah, who had seafood at one of the restaurants, cautions about the hygience of the place.
my first visit to kong kong was made last year when we drove to masai and from there made a side trip to kong kong, which is about 18km from masai. from masai, you just stay on route j10 and that will lead us to the fishing village.
while we were there, the construction of the 1708m long sungai johor bridge was still in progress. when completed - which it should be - it will be one of the longest single plane cable-stayed bridges in malaysia. it connects kong kong on the west bank to teluk sangat on the east. telok sangat, near desaru, is another laid-back place, well-known for its seafood.
the bridge was scheduled for completion in june 2008. it is about time we visited kong kong again to travel across the cable-stayed bridge.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
after reading the june 22 posting in yesterday.sg about the kwong hou sua teochew cemetery, i decided to pay another visit to the place. my previous visits did not take me beyond the temple as i seemed to sense that the caretaker was somewhat suspicious of me. this time i parked my car within the compound of the temple but took a different route to get to the cemetery.
as i walked alone along the track, i could hear dogs barking from somewhere within the cemetery. they could be strays or they could be indications that there are people occupying some huts or shelters in the cemetery. for fear of being attacked by the dogs, i did not attempt to check this out.