Sunday, August 31, 2008

putat laut (barringtonia asiatic)

this beautiful flower, found on the ground at labrador nature reserve, reminds me of the fibre-optic type of light that used to be sold at crystal palace along river valley road.

the flowers, with white stamens tipped with pink, open at night and attract moths and bats.

the fruit, shaped like a lantern, is quite large and it floats on water. the seeds, from the putat laut fruit, which contain saponin, a poison, have been used to stun fish in freshwater stream.

i have seen the putat laut trees at labrador nature reserve, west coast park and sungei buloh wetland reserve.

the putat laut is also known by two other names: fish-poison tree and sea poison tree.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

bull frog in the canal of macritchie

when we were growing up, our parents, especially our mothers, painted an environment which we had always to be wary of. that toads had toxin and we had to keep our distance, so we ended up pelting the toads in our sight with stones because we regarded them as our enemies. we had to make the first move before they poisoned us.

before we went to school, all those creatures that sang or croaked after a night of rain were toads. we did not know the difference between toads and frogs until we studied about them in science. the sounds that they made were actually mating calls, with responses sometimes in the form of a chorus.

now, i know a bit more. generally, toads have short hind legs and their skin is dry and warty whereas frogs have strong, long webbed hind feet and they are usually wet and slimy. so, frogs jump and toads hop. in collective term, we say an army of frogs but a knot of toads. we eat frog legs but not toad legs.

today, after our walk at macritchie park, we saw a bull-frog in the canal of macritchie where the over-flow water drains off. the frog was sitting in the water in the middle of the canal. it did not react when i approached it, near enough to take a close-up picture. my fellow-walkers told me to catch it, saying it was worth about $5.00.

now that i know better, i decided to let it be. no stoning and no catching; just picture-taking.

if you want to visit a frog farm in the lim chu kang area to get closer to these amphibians, go to this website.

Friday, August 29, 2008

parking at unbroken double two yellow lines

we all know it is a traffic offence to park at an unbroken double yellow lines, but is it also an offence to park at the other side of the double yellow lines like the car shown above? it was not parked on the road where it would have obstructed traffic.

that small bay where the car was parked cannot be considered a footway, neither can it be considered turf because it is cemented. it is an offence to park on the footway of a public road and for parking on the turf, the fine is quite stiff.

by the way, not many people seem to be aware that parking within 9m of a bus-stop is a traffic offence. or maybe they know but just like to take the chance.

7 year old player pool and billiard player

great trickshots

Thursday, August 28, 2008

abandoned houses on a hill

today, i deviated from my usual walking route at botanic gardens. instead of walking within the gardens, i decided to walk the periphery of the gardens - holland road, tyersall road and gallop road.

at gallop road, i saw this abandoned house on a hill. as there was no one around, i decided to do a bit of snooping. found out that there was another abandoned building on higher ground, further up the road. the second one, with tiled roofing, was in better shape and condition. the first one, though a bit rundown, was actually more impressive. its roofing seemed to be that of corrugated iron. the facade was however spoilt by the window-type air-conditioner.

what was this building - the one in the top picture - used as before it was abandoned? did it have a name and if it did, what was the name?

old french embassy; inverturret

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the unfinished crooked bridge

they are putting the finishing touches to the soon-to-be opened customs, immigration and quarantine complex in johor bahru but there is one section that has been left hanging... the aborted crooked bridge.

the section in the above picture would have been the beginning of the scenic or crooked bridge had construction not been halted by mr abdullah badawi's government.

where do you go to get a good view of the aborted bridge? this well-patronised coffee shop along jalan kuda lumba in johor bahru. this coffee shop has three equally popular stalls selling braised duck, laksa and beef noodles.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the cashew trees of telok paku school

where was telok paku english school? i just learnt that it used to be at where the changi international airport is. it was not far from changi beach which it faced.

the school seems to hold a special place in the hearts of its former pupils and teachers. two persons - one, a former pupil and the other, a former teacher - who had connections with the school, like to talk fondly about it. especially, about the huge school field which was, at one stage, covered with very well-maintained grass.

along the perimeter of this magnificent field were some special trees - the cashew-nut trees. in those days, they would eat the pseudo-fruit and discard the nut which was outside the fruit. one former pupil maintained that one of her most vivid memory of her days spent at telok paku were eating the fruit from the cashew-nut trees.

"the cashew nut is defined botanically as the fruit. it grows externally in its own kidney-shaped hard shell at the end of this pseudo-fruit, or peduncle. the nut kernel inside is covered with an inner shell, and between the two shells is a thick, caustic, and toxic oil called cardol. cashew nuts must be cleaned to remove the cardol and then roasted or boiled to remove the toxins before they can be eaten."

the school was housed in a single-storey building. the school must have started in the 50s or even earlier because i was told they had latrines - that means they used the bucket system - and this was still in use, up to the early 70s.

the former teacher talked about the prowess of the school in track and field. it consistently won the changi district championship for track and field and they would hold celebrations and camp in the school during the holidays. the school also excelled in the softball and soccer. teachers and pupils would spend their long school holidays camping in school.

this picture from the national archives shows some secondary school cadets at telok paku english school

Monday, August 25, 2008

tell-tale signs of a fake rolex

it is a fake when the hologram, if there is one, looks the same when viewed from different angles. if there is no hologram, there is no need to look; straight away, you know it is a fake. a genuine rolex comes with a hologram-coded (3 dimensional) sticker on the caseback.

in a genuine rolex, the date magnification is 2.5 times. in most fakes, it is usually about 1.5 times. in some cases, the fakes use a bigger font for the numbers.

the sweeping action of the second hand. the movement of the second hand should be smooth, a sweeping kind of action. a ticking or less than smooth movement means it is a fake.

in some fakes, the hour hand is a bit on the short side. in a genuine rolex, the minute hand reaches up to the 'hash' marks.

when you adjust the date manually by moving the hands, the date change should take place at exactly 0000hr (12). in most fakes, the date jumps even before the minute hand reaches 12.

one with a skeleton case where you can see the inside parts of the watch is definitely a fake.

nowadays, the replicas are so well-made, most of us can be fooled into thinking they are the real stuff, so it is best to take it to a professional/the dealer to check. a grade 1 swiss-made replicas come with 100% correct date fonts, real 2.5x date magnification and the green rolex hologram stick, among other things.

the swiss and italian claim that their replicas are superior to the japan-made replicas. the japanese replicas are definitely better than the china-made replicas. the market for replicas must be quite lucrative because they even advise you to buy your replicas from a reputable source.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

where is this building?

where is this neighbourhood police post? hong lim park

what is the name of this police post? kreta ayer neighbourhood police post

what was this building used for before it was converted to a police post? post office

Saturday, August 23, 2008

a betting game using a length of sugar-cane?

a few days ago, i was at a supermarket when i saw cut sugar-cane pieces on sale at 80 cents a piece. these days, when the sugar-cane juice seller buys the sugar-cane, it comes neatly cut and packed in a cardboard box. in the past, he would get the whole length of sugar-canes with the leaves lopped off. he would then have to cut the canes into suitable length to pass through the crushing machine.

however, complete sugar-cane plants are still sold during the few days after the chinese new year, just before the 8th day when the chinese, especially the hokkiens, pray to the sky god (tii kong). the worshippers would buy a pair of sugar cane plants and tie them to the sides of the offering table. at the end of the prayer session, which was usually after midnight, they would break off the leaves and burn them together with the incense papers.

when we lived in the kampong, quite a number of families would have a patch somewhere around the house, either in front, at the back or at the side, growing sugar-cane. sugar-cane plants are not very fussy and so do not require very fertile soil to grow well. i think it was quite easy to propogate the plants - we grew them from the stems taken from the uppermost part of a young cane. the plants grew quite fast and we would usually harvest them before the flowers appeared.

i remember as a young boy, when i still had a full set of teeth and strong ones, i used to buy short pieces of cut sugar-cane at 5 cents a piece to eat. sometimes, we would get the sugar-cane from our home patch. first, you needed those strong teeth to peel off the hard exterior. when the exterior had been stripped clean, you took bite-sizes of the pulpy flesh, again by breaking them with with your teeth. you chewed the pulpy flesh until you have savoured all the juice, then you spit out the pulp.

sometimes we would share to buy the cut sugar-cane and played a game to see who, between the two of us, would get the longer length of the cane or pay for the cane. this was how we played the game. we would buy a cut cane, strip it off its hard exterior and then we would each hold one end of the cane. at the count of three, we would both use our combined strength to break the pulpy fresh.

when the cane broke into two parts, with each of us holding one part, we would compare the length of the fibre at the break point. the one holding to the piece with a longer fibre won. he would either take the longer length or get to keep the whole cane (two pieces) depending on the prior agreement.

Friday, August 22, 2008

the ornate trishaws of melaka

i do not remember the trishaws being so elaborately and colourfully decorated in my previous trips to melaka. it is certainly eye-catching; you cannot miss them as you walk into the dutch square.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

keeping silkworm as a pet

have always been intrigued by this sign along neo tiew lane 3 - the road leading to the kranji golf course. the sign says: singapore zoo. but, how is this possible? the zoo is at mandai and kranji is a long way from mandai. is it possible that this road leads all the way to the zoo?

decided to check it out today. parked my car at the barrier and took a walk along the stretch of road. it was actually a short stretch. it led to a nursery and some of the trees that are planted there reminded me of those days when we used to keep caterpillars as pets. after checking, i can only conclude that the plot of land has been leased to the singapore zoological gardens.

among other plants, there are at least two plots devoted to the growing of mulberry trees. wonder why they grow mulberry trees in singapore. is it food for silkworms?

back in the late 50s or early 60s, i remember there was this craze of keeping silkworms as pets. i kept a few and many of my classmates and schoolmates were also into it. we would take the pets to school and compare their development. fortunately for me, my neighbour, the one who had a jambu mawar tree, also had some mulberry plants. silkworms will eat mulberry leaves only.

could only remember keeping them up to the pupa stage and after that, no idea what became of the cocoons. cannot remember much about silkworm except for the fact that it is white and it has a short anal horn. the adult worm is about 5cm long and it does not need to be fed every day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

sex education of some sort (ra)

it is not like we - the kids of the 50s or 60s - were totally in the dark when it came to sex. yes, generally, most parents would not talk about this topic openly, and many still do not, but we were sometimes treated to mating performances in the open, right at the village square. we may not have formal sex education but we had opportunities to watch formal sex acts in the raw.

first, the male would sniff the rear of the female. when the female was ready, she would lift her tail to the side and strut her legs. the male then proceeded to mount the female. most seemed to lack practice as it would normally take several attempts before penetration occurred.

when penetration took place, the female would sometimes howl. then after a while, it would appear that the two dogs were locked tightly together. the male would then turn around and the two would end up facing the opposite directions. they did not remain still on the spot but tended to move around as a pair. sometimes they would pull in opposite directions but the thing would not be dislodged.

they would remain locked in this state for quite a while. that was when the sadistic nature of man would kick in. maybe, man could not understand why they could be engaged for more than half an hour or so. some onlookers would make attempts to break up the union by beating the dogs with sticks, throwing stones at them or pouring water (i don't know if it was hot water) over their bodies.

these days, such displays are indeed rare because there are no more strays running around the neighbourhood.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

pangolin in the ground

with a dead pangolin recently in the news, i thought of my kampong days when i came across one burrowed in the ground, across the drain near my house. i cannot remember what i was looking for that day when i came across this scaly creature in the hole on a mound. i must have been scared stiff because i thought it was an enormous snake.

it was not uncommon to find snakes around the house in a kampong. once we found a colourful coral snake, early in the morning, on the cement patch just outside our home. i think the snake, though small, was a venomous one.

after i had described my find at the mound to some neighbours, one brave one went to check it out. he came back to report that it was an ant-eater and later on went back to dig it out of the burrow. i have no idea what he did with it. until then, i was not aware that ant-eaters existed in singapore.

Monday, August 18, 2008

the pavilion and ziz-zag bridge of macritchie

the pavilion, ziz-zag bridge and the tea kiosk of macritchie reservoir park must have been around for at least forty years, together with the water-fountain that is still functioning.

the tea kiosk, up on the hill, is the only place where you can get food at the park.

one of the old attractions that is no longer around is the floral clock which i blogged about earlier this year.

more students than genuine park visitors have traversed the bridge when making their way to the start of the cross-country running route. until a few years back, macritchie was the favoured venue for the inter-school cross-country races. lately, they have tried holding them at alternative sites like the old turf club, sentosa and this year, the botanic gardens.

the pavilion, which used to host musical performances on sundays in the past, can now be accessed by members of the public. the place used to be locked up when not in use but these days anyone can walk into the performing area.

macritchie sure holds some fond memories for a lot of singaporeans for a variety of reasons.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

roadside fruit trees of lim chu kang (3)

the jambu mawar (rose apple) trees are also found along neo tiew crescent as well as along one of the lane 6s - there are lanes 6, 6c, 6d and 6f. i am surprised that quite a number of adults have neither seen nor tasted its fruit. as a boy, i would help myself to this fruit on my neighbour's tree.

surprisingly, not many mango trees have been planted at lim chu kang. in fact, i have come across only three mango trees in the whole area. could they have been planted by mistake? over at sungei tengah end, the road is lined by many mango trees.

on the other hand, the langsat appears to be the most dominant tree among the varieties of roadside fruit trees at lim chu kang. the langsat's fruiting season usually coincides with the durian and mangosteen, sometime in the middle of the year.

the surinam cherry is not a common fruit tree. i do not think many singaporeans have tasted its fruit. when the fruit first appears on the tree, it is yellow. it becomes bright red when it is ripe. you should pluck it only when it is so ripe that a touch by your hand will cause the fruit to fall. you will come across some of these trees along the sides of lim chu kang lane 4.

the butterfruit is native to the philippines. a medium to large evergreen, its dense canopy reaches to a height of 25 m. its slightly scented flowers produce fruits which ripen from a pink to a deep red, and is usually eaten raw. characteristically, the fruits are covered with short reddish-brown, silky hairs which are slightly irritating to the hands.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

catching freshwater eels in the stream

when we first moved into the kampong, the stream that flowed by the side of our house was not paved. before it was realigned and before it became a drain, there were more creatures making their home in it. besides, the common longkang fish - the guppies , there were tubifex worms, other types of fish, catfish and eels. eels are an order of fish although they look like snakes.

i seldom saw eels in the day. i think eels are nocturnal and prefer to hunt at night but once in a while you might spy a stray one sticking its head out of its hole at the side of the stream. most of them were about 50cm long, although i have seen longer ones. female eels tend to be bigger than their male counterparts.

it was not easy to catch the eel as it was quite slimy to the touch. we would use a fishing hook attached to a line and supported by a length of stick. we used earthworm or meat as bait. we would look for holes or gaps at the sides of the stream and push the stick with the hook into the opening. then we made a clucking sound and would wait for the belut (malay for eel) to take the bait.

even when the eel took the bait, it was not a forgone case because it would withdraw into its pit deep in the ground. it was a rare time that we managed to win the struggle and haul the eel out of the water.

i just cannot remember what we did with the eels that we managed to catch. however, i do remember seeing eels being sold by this man who would come around with a basket on the back rack of his bicycle. he would have these slimy creatures in the basket; there was not much water in the round tray at the bottom of the basket as eels can survive without water for extended periods of time.

beijing olympics opening ceremony

for those who missed the spectacular opening ceremony held on 8 aug 2008

shine for singapore - ndp08 theme song

my friend kannan (101)is featured in this video clip, delivering newsapers and participating in the vertical run.

singapore has made it!

thanks to feng tianwei, we have finally made it to the list of prize winners in the olympic games again, after 48 years.

Friday, August 15, 2008

roadside fruit trees of lim chu kang (2)

the tall meninjau trees are found mostly along the sides of lim chu kang lane 8. on the female meninjau tree, when the fruit first appear, they are green. then they turn yellow and eventually red, when they are ripe. the male meninjau trees do not produce fruit. the indonesian emping, which we call belinjau, is made from the fruit of this tree.

the monkey/velvet apple trees are found along lim chu kang lane 6. my friend once asked me if the fruit was edible. i told him that the ava would not plant something if the produce was inedible. it is just that the people here are not familiar with the fruit so they do not go for it like, the way they go for langsat, mangosteen and soursop.

the abiu trees are found growing along neo tiew lane 3, the road that leads to the golf course in kranji. the abiu is a smooth, brilliant yellow fruit with sweet translucent flesh. its delicious flavour is reminiscent of crème caramel and it is sometimes used to flavour ice cream and make other desserts. the taste of the fruit is a cross between a mango and a persimmon.

the egg fruit is not the same as the egg plant. the fruit is yellowish to orange with somewhat meaty pulp similar in appearance and texture to a cooked egg yolk embedded often with a single large seed. at maturity, the strong odour of the pulp is musky and the skin colour turns from glossy to dull. there are many such trees with fruit along lim chu kang lane 2, the road where the fire flies health farm is located.

this rambai tree looks very much like the langsat tree and the fruit also can be mistaken for langsat but it does not belong to the same family. like langsat, the fruit hang from the branches and trunk of the tree. there are two rows of rambai trees, one on each side, along lim chu kang lane 3, where it joins with lane 5.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the novena church

( my kampong neighbour cheng and i posing at novena in 1965)

although, for thirty years, i lived a stone throw from the novena church along thomson road, there was only one time when i ventured inside the church building. that was when, as a curious teenager, i accompanied a catholic friend to observe a service in progress. i have also been aware that in the past, the congregations were largest on friday evenings and on saturdays.

before the row of terrace houses along jalan novena terrace were built, there was a short-cut from my kampong to thomson road. it was a path that was not well used because the owner of the house by the path did not seem pleased to have their privacy intruded. we would not and could not use the path at night because there was no lighting at all.

as a young boy, there was one incident that made me realise how tolerant the traditional chinese were of other religions and that they would worship many gods. one day, as my mother and i walked past the novena church, she turned and faced the church and putting her two palms together, she prayed. i asked her why she did that and her reply was: the 'western god' is more powerful than our 'oriental gods'.

the area around the church has undergone very much change but the facade of the church has remained unchanged over the years. the seventh-day adventist school across the road has also remained quite intact but that building was built later. i think the novena church had already been there before we moved into the kampong.

i did not know that it is called the church of st alphonsus. all along, i have referred to it as the novena. it is so well-known that roads, buildings and the mrt station in the vicinity take after its name.

the beauty of nature

even as nature ages, its beauty endures

came across this leafless tree near the venus drive car-park, one of the starting points for the hsbc treetop walk.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

roadside fruit trees of lim chu kang (1)

there are at least 15 varieties of fruit trees planted by the ava (agri-food and veterinary authority of singapore) along the many roads - most of them are actually called lanes - in lim chu kang. if you are not familiar with that area, you can end up going in circles because of the many lanes.

the miracle fruit trees are found mostly on both sides of neo tiew lane 2, where the soon-to-be-opened farm-stay chalets are located. the fruit is also known as magic berry because after eating this fruit, sour or bitter food will taste sweet. i have yet to see any of the trees bear fruit.

there are not many kedongdong trees and these are usually grown interspersed with the other fruit trees. you can find a few along neo tiew crescent, the road that leads to the sungei buloh wetland reserve. i used to be able to buy the fruit from bangkit market on weekends and from sheng siong supermarket on some occasions. in my kampong days, we called them buah long long.

the sour soup trees in lim chu kang are mostly planted along one of the side roads off lim chu kang lane 3. like most of the fruit on the trees in lim chu kang, they hardly get a chance to reach full maturity. once they reach the near ripe stage, some kiasu will quickly pluck it for his own safe keeping.

mangosteen trees take about 9 to 10 years to bear fruit, so most of the trees at lim chu kang are about that old. the ones that have started bearing fruit are found along neo tiew crescent and lim chu kang lane 9. by mangosteen standard, they are considered young. incidentally, there is one outside the visitors' centre at bukit timah nature reserve which is older and much taller. the older mangosteen trees tend to produce more fruit. a mature tree can bear a few thousand mangosteens.

i first came across nutmeg trees when i visited penang in the 70s. so, i was quite excited when i came across them at the lim chu kang area. like the kedongdong, there are not many of them and they are also interspersed among the jambu mawar trees along neo tiew road and among the duku langsat trees along lim chu kang lane 6.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

what building was here?

what was the building that was here before it had to be demolished to make way for the expansion of the national museum of singapore?

drama centre; formerly known as the cultural centre

surely, most people can still remember because it happened less than a decade ago.

the original building was built in 1955 and was known by a different name. it was officially opened by the late mr david marshall.

Monday, August 11, 2008

different stages of the tacca chantrieri flowers

the tacca chantrieri (black bat flower) at bukit batok nature park. the last time i saw flowers on the plants was in february this year. i think this plant likes some shade but plenty of moisture. it thrives where there is good circulation of air. the plant and its flowers seemed to wither during a period when there was no rain but they were soon revitalised when the rain came.

i came upon the same plants along the marang trail, near to the exit to harbourfront. some of them were also with flowers.

in malaysia, they call it the devil's flower.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

kite running
when a kite is cut loose, it becomes a free item and it is fair for everyone and anyone to gain possession of it. some kites can be carried by the wind for long distances before they come to a abrupt halt either on a tree top, a roof top, the compound of a house or on the ground. sometimes you do get kites which are like godsend, dropping right in front of you.

there seems to be a lot of thrills in going after a drifting kite, so much so that these people - children and some grown ups - throw caution to the wind. they are so focussed on getting their hands on the kite that they seem to be oblivious to the things around them. they dash across the road, in front of oncoming traffic, risking their lives for the 5 or 10-cent kite.

the eyes of kite runners are so fixed on the loose kite that they do not seem to see or care what is ahead of them. i have seen people injuring themselves falling into drains in the process of kite running. at the jewish cemetery near my home, they will step on the grave and get on top of the tomb just to reach for their prize.

some carry long bamboo poles - those which their mothers use for hanging clothes to dry. some carry twigs and broken branches, an extension which will enable them to reach the string or the kite before the other kite chasers.

sometimes, the scene can turn ugly when more than one person lay claim to getting hold of the kite. when this happens, more often than not, one of them will damage the kite so that nobody can have it.

for those who do not relish the rush and fight for the kite, they can always look for the trailing string that is attached to the kite. sometimes, this string can be quite long and if you can get hold of it, you can take possession of the kite before it ends in the hands of the mob.
(the kite runner is a novel by afghan writer khaled hosseini. it was adapted into a film by the same name in 2007.)