Sunday, May 31, 2009

one tree hill at bukit panjang

what you see in the above picture is some new development taking place at bukit panjang new town. this area bounded by senja way and senja road will be called senja green. the housing and development board (hdb) is building 474 new flats in this area. in addition, some 300 rental flats will be built in the vicinity, nearer to woodlands road.

the new flats will be close to the 10th mile junction shopping complex, senja light rail transit (lrt) station and two schools - westview primary and westview secondary.

earthwork has started. they have almost completed hoarding up the work-site and the vegetation has been cleared almost totally, save for the tree you see in the picture. this used to be a semi-forested (secondary forest) area.

quiz question: why did they leave this tree alone?

is it a heritage tree?

is it a tree that was planted by the town mayor?

is there a plan to build a road circus around the tree?

can you think of any plausible explanation? (what is the reason?)

maybe the spi (s'pore paranormal investigators) might be interested to find out if there is a spirit residing in this tree. that's why the workers dare not 'touch' it?

maybe there is something else on this tree that is stopping them for cutting it down at this stage.

maybe they want to have a 'one tree hill' in bukit panjang.

i am going to be a copycat (not plagiarist) - to copy mr philip chew and mr victor koo, i will provide the answer in one week's time (by which time i will be in melbourne, victoria, australia).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

kuthu prata - southern indian carrot cake?

this morning, i drove victor samuel to sethi's place, parked my car outside sethi's house and took bus service 166 at 9.05 a.m. - so as to enjoy the senior citizen's concession - to tekka. victor had been insistent on us trying this dish called kuthu prata. i asked him if the word should be 'putu', he said 'no'. 'kuthu' is a tamil word, not the malay word for 'hair mite'.

it is actually a normal prata, with some vegetables and an egg thrown in. the circular prata is cut into bits and after some frying with the added ingredients, the result is kuthu prata. it looks and tastes a bit like the chinese white carrot cake. all three of us finished our respective plateful of kuthu prata.

we were also introduced to a new blend of tea - at least to me and sethi - today. it is the punjabi masala tea. the tea comes with a mixture of spices such as cardamon, cloves, cinamon and fennel seeds. according to the owner of the place - gholia's village - if you want more 'power' in your tea, add star anise. i think it was powerful enough for us.

gholia's village is at the junction of chander road and kerbau road, very near to the northern indian hindu temple which i blogged about not long ago.

the verdict for both kuthu prata and punjabi masala tea: no need to die to try and you won't regret it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

what brings joy to these people?

it seems to light up quite a few women's life judging from the facial expressions and other manifestations of their unbridled joy when it is in use. this object is generally about 10cm long, some maybe a bit longer and a few, shorter. yes, the same object does make some men happy and gay.

although generally used for sexual social intercourse, it has more than one function.

sometimes, i wonder, if without this in hand, will some people's life be less fulfilling and even incomplete.

i, too, have one of these objects; though not something that i am proud of.

what is it i am referring to? scroll down, down, to see the......... offending right object.
if you are below 18 years of age, you cannot proceed

if you get offended by picture of a body part, you can retreat now

i am sorry to say that this is not it.
this is the object that seems to give much joy to some people. i often see happy faces when they are using it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

accidents waiting to happen

each time there is a crash involving a lorry carrying workers, especially foreign workers, there will this clamour for this form of transportation to be banned. the latest crash was the one in which four foreign workers were killed after the lorry they were in crashed into the back of a stationary trailer in tuas in the early hours of the morning this month.

according to a new paper report, the accident prompted member of parliament halimah yacob to call it a tragedy waiting to happen. from my own observations of how fast these vehicles are being driven and the manner in which they are driven, i have always thought that it is a matter of time before an accident, in which lives will be lost, happens.

land transport authority (lta)'s ruling is that vehicles carrying workers cannot travel faster than 60km/h. there is a label on the lorry to indicate this speed limit and another label to indicate the maximum number of passengers it can carry. it is rare to come across such vehicles sticking to the limit laid down by lta.

actually, all these labels are quite confusing because they do not appear to be consistent but anyway, they are just a label. on goods (g plate) vehicles i have seen some displaying 60km and some 70km. yet, there are some that display both 60km and 70km. even on mini buses (p plate) , i see two different figures.

i have not made an attempt to count the number of passengers; what i do know is that sometimes when i am travelling at 80km/h on the expressway, i have been overtaken by these workers-carrying lorries.

the other night i was driving at about 60km along kranji way when something quite alarming happened. a lorry, carrying a full load of foreign workers, thundered past me along the narrow and dimly lit road. it must have been travelling in excess of 80km/h. could you imagine the consequences if another lorry or other vehicle had been speeding in the opposite direction.

what i am trying to put across is that it is not the type of transport that is causing workers to lose their life; it is the recklessness of the drivers that cause such things to happen.

i do not know if the apparently rare sight of the traffic police on our roads these days has anything to do with the change in driving habit. i get the impression that the wild, wild west is making a come-back. i read about night races organised along orchard road. in my own neighbourhood, i seem to hear more frequently modified cars roaring down the road.

nowadays, drivers do not just beat red light, they ignore it. all kinds of drivers are into it - bus drivers, lorry drivers, truck drivers, taxi drivers, woman drivers, elderly drivers and executive drivers. maybe because of the heavier volume of traffic on our roads, they do not want to wait for another minute or so for the change of lights.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

changes to the pasar malam scene

photo from national archives of singapore

pasar malam (night bazaars) have been around from as early as the 60s. maybe, even earlier. in those early days, the hawkers set up everything themselves. they set up their own portable tables or just lay a mat on the ground to display their ware and they provided their own lighting, using those kerosene pressure lamps or even carbide lamps. before the generator made its appearance at night markets, some would also use those florescent lights that ran on batteries.

in the old days, most pasar malam were a one-day affair. the pasar malam were scheduled according to location. ( i think, they still have this system for small towns in malaysia.) so, for example, on monday night it would be along a certain stretch of thomson road, tuesday night, it would be held at balestier road and so on.

because it was a one-day happening, the stall-holders could be seen packing up slightly after 10 p.m. when the crowd would have thinned considerably. nowadays, the stall-holders either sleep at the site or they just cover everything with the blue and white tarpaulin sheet and leave for home.

in the early days, there was no protection offered from the elements. they did not have the canvas or tarpaulin shelters put up by the contractors for the present day stall-holders. in those bygone days, when it rained, the wares would be hastily bundled up and the pasar malam would come to a close. today, when it rains, business can go on as usual although takings will definitely be affected as most potential customers will stay away.

photo from national archives of singapore

today, the stall-holders at pasar malam (night bazaars) are still itinerant: they move from one location to another location. after a few days' stay at one part of an estate, they will move on to another part, in the same estate or to another estate. depending on the lucrativeness of the location, today's pasar malam may last from 3 days to 2 weeks. (we are not talking about those housed under one huge tent or those at chinatown, geylang and little india prior to the respective festive seasons; those go on for one month or longer.)

these days, the pasar malam is not really the place to seek out cheap bargains because the stall-holders have to pay a fee to the residents' committee or the town council for the use of the place and for the facilities that are provided for them. lately, these facilities include the installation of wash basins and provision of fire extinguishers at the site. i observe that the wash basins are meant only for the stall-holders to use.

today, this banner - advertising the ramly burgers - can be seen at every pasar malam. the stalls manned by malays are mostly food stalls. besides the very popular ramly burgers, you can also get other popular malay food like nasi lemak, epoh epoh, otah and goreng pisang. other stalls managed by malays are those selling clothing and health tonic or ointment. so far, i have come across one manned by indian - two indian ladies selling vadai.

the prices are comparable to those at neighbourhood food courts and the stalls outside some shopping centres. a beef or chicken burger is priced at $2.80, a canned drink cost $1.00 and otah costs 30 cents a piece. one large mango cost about $2.00 and durians are at $10.00 for three fruits.

one type of snack food sold by the chinese, which can be bought at pasar malam only, is the tea egg. i have never tasted one and i do not think i will ever do because i am put off by the smell.

tea eggs are simply hard-boiled eggs that have been further stewed in a salted tea liquid. other flavourings such as soy sauce and the five-spice powder are often added as well.

the name 'pasar malam' does not seem appropriate in these modern times; it seems like a misnomer. since they pay rent, the sellers try to maximise the opening hours and some actually start operation as early as eight o'clock in the morning. (these pictures were taken at bangkit road in bukit panjang at about 9.00 a.m.)

although, much has changed over the years, the fact remains that the pasar malam is the place to go to savour local delicacies and to buy accessories, clothes, cds (tapes in the past) and toys.

like in the past, there are still game stalls where the children can have some fun fishing for artificial fish or frogs, spin a numbered wheel or throw balls to knock down some objects (toys) for them to take home.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

the pink torch ginger

two plants of the ginger family that i often come across in my nature walks are the torch ginger and the african spiral flag.

the bud of the torch ginger is used by the rojak seller to spice up his salad. some penang laksa sellers also used the shredded bud in their laksa.

the torch ginger plant can be found growing in the wild. it is quite easy to identify as the plants are taller and the leaves are larger than other ginger species.

the torch ginger blooms all the year round. its inflorescence comes in three colours - pink, red and white. i have not seen the white variety. i think it is the rarest among the three. the pink variety produces the most flowers. maybe, that is why we always see the rojak seller using the pink bud.

Monday, May 25, 2009

how would you feel if you were
unceremoniously dumped?

after serving people faithfully at the supermarket, how would you feel if you were dumped like this? this trolley ended up in a drain near the zhenghua park. those who push one of these trolleys home are really committing theft in broad daylight. or do some of them do it under the cover of darkness, at night?

how this chair ended up in an area which is home to birds, snakes, skinks and wild boars is a mystery. this executive chair ended up in some secondary forest at neo tiew lane 2. what did this chair do to deserve such treatment?

lest i be condemned as a lazy old blogger, let me state categorically that this is not a quiz.

anyway, there is one adult quiz on the way.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

the tembusu tree (fagraea fragrans)

tembusu tree at macritchie park along the lornie trail

talking about the use of the unripe fruit of the 'buah cheri' tree as ammunition for our toy guns, chun see mentioned two postings by his friend chuck; one was on lastik and the other on toy gun. i am very impressed by the trouble that chuck went through to present photographic illustrations on how to make the lastik (malay word for catapult) and the toy gun.

i agree with chuck that the fork branch from the tembusu tree makes the best catapult. if properly treated, it can withstand any amount of tension exerted on it by the user. in fact, during my kampong days, we did not know of any other tree which could provide that kind of wood with such resilience and strength.

i remember i used to visit the jewish cemetery nearby which had a few tembusu trees. i would climb the tree to look for a branch of the right shape and size so that i could fashion a lastik out of it. as i was not very skilful at using the lastik, i did not use it very much.

why i am talking about the tembusu tree? because you cannot fail to notice the tembusu trees at this time of the year. they are in full bloom. when i drive along sungei kadut avenue, we i go to macritchie reservoir park (for my nature walks) and even when i visit the marsiling housing estate, i am greeted by the sight of the small, light yellow flowers on these trees.

even when i went to jalan bahar to find out the answer to an interesting quiz question posed by this chap, i could not fail to notice the tembusu trees in bloom at the muslim cemetery of lim chu kang.

the tembusu tree is one of the easiest to identify. apart from the light yellow flowers - which appear twice a year - the distinctive cracked bark is a giveaway. it bears small red berries which attract a lot of birds. as its botanic name suggests, the flowers have a certain fragrance. the smell is strongest in the evening.

one of the most iconic trees in singapore is the tembusu tree. it is found at lawn e of the botanic gardens. it should be more than 150 years. it has been featured on the singapore $5 note and on postage stamps.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

haw par swimming pool

the site of the former haw par swimming pool

according to my 80-year old walking kaki, haw par swimming pool which was located near 5 ms pasir panjang road was a private swimming pool which was open to the public. it also had a pagar out in the sea like the former chinese swimming club. today that site, near jalan pelepah, is used by ava as the centre for animal welfare and control.

in this 1969 road map, the location of the former haw par swimming pool should be close to the end of jalan pelepah and near batu berlayar school.

it had its beginning as the private swimming pool of the aw boon har/aw boon par family. after it was opened to the public, it became so popular that they added another pool to it. this addition, which was 40 yards by 20 yards in dimension, was used as the training pool for water-polo. the pool had two shallow ends with a deeper trough in the middle. the tiger (haw) swimming club's polo team trained in this pool.

this is the public car-park behind the ava centre for animal welfare and control

it was very crowded on weekends and there were a few cases of drowning in the pool. the swimming pool had no filtration system. the water was pumped in from the sea and after a few days of use, the water would be discharged (back) into the sea. the pump attendant had to work at odd hours because the timing of the tides would decide the pumping of water, either in or out.

another friend who had swum at the haw par pool could only remember that he paid 10 cents to swim at the pool. at that time, in the 50s, the other pool opened to the public was the mount emily swimming pool. however, at mt emily, because the pool was usually so packed, those who were still in the queue were sometimes denied admission.

i believe that what used to be where the pagar was located could now be the site of the pasir panjang distripark.

Friday, May 22, 2009

an encounter with a snake of the dangerous kind(?)

if each time i came across a snake during my nature walk and i had to call the police - like what one woman did when she came upon a mangrove snake resting on the branch of a tree at macritchie - i would have disturbed the police about a dozen times. i think my encounter with snakes are greater because i choose to walk around places where few people choose to tread. these are usually deserted places where i hardly meet any fellow walkers.

yesterday, i was at neo tiew lane 2, walking towards the kranji reservoir pumping station when an auxiliary policeman shouted to me: bang, watch out, there is a black cobra near the barrier to which you are walking. i stopped in my track and looked around. there was no sign of the snake. if i know snakes, it will have slither away quietly to avoid humans.

coincidentally, today, along this deserted stretch of road leading to, or rather away from, the singapore quarry pond, i happened to stop and saw something by the side of the road. it appeared to be a small snake but i was not going to take chances. i wanted to wait for it to disappear before i proceeded. i think the snake was as wary of me as i was of it. it retreated into the undergrowth before appearing further ahead.

as it started making its move to get to the other side, i realised that it was much longer and larger than i had thought. the snake was at least two metres in length. it was slimmer at the head and tail but its middle portion was quite thick. it looked like a cobra - those i had seen the snake charmer worked with - but it was not agitated enough to show its hood. then again, maybe, it was not a cobra but a harmless snake.

here's so information on snakes in general.

"snakes are listed here first, not because they are a great danger but because so many people fear them. in general, this fear is overblown. contrary to common myths, snakes have no desire to bite people. in fact if given the chance nearly all will avoid us. they swallow their prey whole and we are too large for them to eat."

"the only reason a venomous snake will bite a human is because it thinks it must defend itself. either it was startled or someone appears to be threatening it. indeed the great majority of snakebite victims saw the snake but failed to take common-sense precautions, such as simply moving away. many of those victims were deliberately teasing or trying to catch the snake, often under the influence of alcohol or some other form of chemical stupidity."

"if you are careful in snake country there is no reason you should ever be bitten. snakes like to hide in holes and under logs or boards. be careful about turning over rocks, boards or logs or reaching blindly into anything."

"snakes feel vibrations in the ground better than they hear sound, so walking heavily will warn them of your coming. wear solid shoes or boots. going barefoot, especially after dark, is associated with many snakebites since that neither protects the feet nor warns the snake as shoes or boots do."

stay alert and take the necessary precautions and you will have no problem with snakes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

who helped build the chinese swimming club's

olympic-sized pool?

photo from memories of singapore

a friend was wearing the chinese swimming club tee-shirt, so i asked if he was a member. he is. he went on to tell me that the club started as tiger swimming club. i told him i would get an elderly friend to verify that. my old friend used to represent the chinese swimming club and the state in water-polo.

according the club's website, it started as tanjong katong swimming party.

the first time i visited the chinese swimming club, i remembered there was a pagar out in the sea. they also had a small 25-metre pool slightly inland. i cannot remember if the olympic-sized pool was there or not.

today, i checked with my walking kaki if it was called tiger swimming club back in the 50s. i asked the right person. he was the one who started the tiger swimming club. it was based at haw par swimming pool in pasir panjang. he and some of his nephews played for the tiger swimming club while his other siblings represented the chinese swimming club. eventually they came together to represent the chinese swimming club. so, tiger swimming club was never at amber road.

he then went on to tell me about the person who funded the building of the olympic-sized pool. the club at that time did not have the money to finance the project. this person was a very keen swimmer and a philanthropist. he was also a member of the club.

photo from national archives of singapore

swimmer neo chwee kok being congratulated by sir franklin gimson in the presence of philanthropist lee kong chian at the prize giving ceremony

he told the management committee that he would come out with the money to pay for the building of the pool on one condition. that is: he be allowed to use the pool on sundays at 8.00 o'clock in the morning. of course, they agreed to his condition. in fact, they would have let him have use of the pool anytime he liked.

those were the days before the chinese swimming club installed those money churning machines - the jackpot machines - in their premises.

according to my friend, they were automatic members of the club because they represented the club in swimming and waterpolo. however, he regretted that he did not sign up as a life member. these days, he still swims regularly but not at the chinese swimming club. he swims at public pools or at the civil service club pool at bukit batok.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

wild boars at lim chu kang

picture from wikipidea

when i mentioned my sightings - i have seen wild boars on three occasions - to mr lee, a farmer in lim chu kang, he shared with me enthusiastically his experiences with wild boars on his farm and its vicinity.

first saw wild boars here (in lck)

he confessed that he used to trap wild boars with metal cages that he constructed himself. he would have the assistance of his two thai workers and his dogs. the heavy penalties, especially the jail term, has deterred him from carrying on this activity. according to him, you are not even allowed to keep the little wild boar if it happens to stray into your compound. a neighbour of his was fined for keeping a young wild boar which had fallen into one of his ponds.

they used to be so plentiful that he could get four piglet wild boars in one cage. however, he cautioned that it could be a dangerous or even fatal experience if you encounter an enraged sow wild boar. one of his dogs was charged at and gored by a sow wild boar. the dog died.

although some of the wild boars breed locally, quite a number of them come from across the causeway. wild boars are good swimmers and they do not need any flotation device to make the more than one kilometre crossing across the straits of johor. (wonder if mas selamat ran into any sounder of wild boars while swimming to stulang.) mr lee said he had seen as many as twenty-four wild boars making a beach landing at one time.

wild boars usually make their appearance at dusk, especially after a period of heavy rain. out of the three times that i have seen wild boars at lim chu kang, twice they appeared after the rain had stopped.

young wild boar meat is tastier than the meat of domesticated pigs. according to mr lee's wife, you must slaughter them the correct way if you do not want to end up eating meat with an overpowering smell. the female wild boars do not pose any problem; it is the male that you have to exercise care. you have to castrate the two testicles before doing anything else, then the smell will not get to the meat.

the fully-grown wild boars do not give tasty meat. the best meat comes from those that are about 10kg in weight and aged about 5 or 6 months. one of my friends who used to be a regular soldier told me that the commandoes, in their jungle survival training, learn how to slaughter and cook wild boars. wonder if they also know how to get rid of the smell.

according to mr lee, the number of wild boars has decreased over the years because of culling by the authorities. over at ivy singh's bollywood, wild boars have reportedly been spotted in the vicinity.

i have eaten wild boar meat but not in singapore. i had it in my curry noodles in a coffee-shop in kulai, johor. one of my friends used to get to eat wild boar meat when he was serving as an instructor in a leadership camp on tekong island in the early 70s. another friend told us that the meat was sold by his neighbour in his kampong in sembawang.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

spring water for washing motor vehicles

when i lived at hillview housing and development board (hdb) housing estate - now demolished - for a short while in the early 80s, i remember seeing across cars parked by the roadside, usually in the mornings or evenings, near the end of hillview avenue before it joined the former jurong road.

nothing unusual about cars parked by the side of the road except that the owners were seen collecting water from some source nearby, in the drain, to wash their vehicles. the water was clean and the supply of it was continuous. i did not have a car then, so i did not avail myself to this free car-wash.

with the developments and changes in the area, i thought that the flow of water would have been diverted or blocked completely.

today, i decided to deviate from my usual working route at bukit batok nature park. i decided to walk to the heavy vehicle car-park located along bukit batok avenue 2 east, which is actually a continuation of hillview avenue. i remember studying an old map of the area which showed the car-park as part of an old quarry.

it was a discovery walk for me. i discovered that there is still a constant supply of clean water for washing cars and buses from certain points by the sides of the drain around the heavy vehicle car-park.

i spoke to one man who was washing his toyota altis at the car-park and he told me that there is a non-stop supply of clean water from the outlets. day and night, water is gushing out from the ground.

the heavy vehicle car-park is located just before bukit batok nature park along bukit batok east avenue 2.

since i was nearby, i was tempted to wash my car there but changed my mind. after all, it costs 25 cents to wash it myself at my hdb car-park.

my car is not washed on a regular basis. i do not pay the man to wash my car in the car-park because i feel i would be abetting him in stealing water from the hdb. do you find out where he gets his water to wash your car? no, not from the 25-cent source. he has this device which he uses (illegally) to turn on the taps which the hdb cleaners are authorised to use.

Monday, May 18, 2009

chiam tau loti (french bread)

long before gardenia came onto the breadfast scene, our breakfast diet was a loaf of french bread which we called 'chiam tau loti'. the crust, when fresh, was so crispy that you could eat it on its own. it did not have such a fanciful name as baguette when you get it from delifrance. we bought ours from the bayi who came around on his bicycle or from the kampong coffee shop. each loaf - enough to feed the whole family - cost 25 cents.

the french bread in those days was leaner and longer. i was told you could not keep it for too long as it would turn stale after a day or so. anyway, our breadfast food did not get a change to reach that stage because it was always consumed within a day or rather, within a morning.

i liked, and still like, the two ends which my friend's daughter referred to as the 'elbows'. i think it is the crispiest part of the french bread.

like the hard biscuits (which i blogged about), i liked to eat it after dipping it in hot black coffee. you could also spread kaya and/or planta margarine - that came in ayellow metal can - on it. some children liked to spread a layer of margarine and then sprinkled white sugar on it.

when we became more 'affluent' in later years and could afford pricier food, we would still buy the chiam tau loti and dipped it in curry, especially chicken curry.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

what are they building in the canal?

this construction has kept me wondering. what are they building in the canal and what is its purpose?

looking at the pictures, can you guess the purpose of this structure across the bed of the canal.

the level of the water in this canal is not directly affected by the tides. most of the time the water flows along a shallow channel in the middle of the canal (the darker patch in the 1st and 3rd pictures). the water level goes up only after some continual rain or a heavy downpour.

before they started construction on this, i was not aware that there are fishes (of two different species) of about 12cm long in the water of the canal. it was only when the water was held back slightly and its level rose that i noticed the fish.

since chun see has answered the question on behalf of victor, i am showing the photo of the net that they secured to one of the outlets. over the weekend, the net has been filled to capacity.

did they build this so that the fish can have a race, taking up position behind the 12 holes, when the water level is high?

in these hard times, to make it easier for poor people like me to catch the fish?

to trap the flotsam and jetsam that is making its way to the sea along this canal?

to make the canal look a little bit aesthetically pleasing?

maybe you can think of other reasons for the building of this structure.