Tuesday, September 29, 2009

three weddings in three countries

they say a wedding is an expensive affair. wait till you have an international wedding and you will know how expensive it can get. imagine having three wedding receptions, having to pay for at least beauticians, three videographers, three photographers, printing of three sets of invitation cards, floral arrangements for three wedding venues, decorating three bridal cars and getting down to deal with lots of nitty gritty stuff. and it took me away from blogging as i had to be at all three weddings.

my elder girl, ivy married ian, a kuching boy. the first round of celebrations took place in kuching on 19 september. we had to fly in one day earlier. the wedding entourage from singapore were accommodated in seven rooms at the four points sheraton hotel in kuching. we were hosted to lunch at the heritage restaurant in town and a 9-course chinese dinner at the hotel's ballroom.

we flew back to singapore one day after the kuching's wedding reception. the wedding party from the groom's side stayed at the four seasons hotel where the second wedding reception was held. because the date was so close to the f1 race, they had to pay nearly double for their stay in the hotel.

the final round was held in melbourne where ivy and ian, the bride and groom, are living and working. it was a garden party held up in the dandenong mountains. the tulips were in bloom and so they went to the tesselaar tulip farm for some photo shoots. the ceremony was conducted in a small chapel, where most of the guests had to stand throughout the slightly more than an hour programme.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

another waterfront park in the making

now that the dairy farm nature park has finally been opened to the public, i am looking forward to the completion of another nparks project in the north of singapore - the woodlands waterfront promenade. i enjoy following the progress of the work at such sites. i will go back once in a while (few months) to update myself on the development. this was my second visit since they hoarded up the place.

they had already hoarded up the entire stretch of the proposed promenade, and construction works started a few months back. looks like the old path will be replaced by a boardwalk that will extend over the water of the straits. the skyline of johor bahru will be just a bit nearer and more visible.

work on the vacant land at the end of the promenade had started earlier. there will be picnic areas, fitness corners and playgrounds for children. included is also a nature trail which will link up with the one at admiralty park, located just across the road.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

the little grebes at the s'pore quarry

picture from another source

today, i visited the s'pore quarry, a part of the newly opened dairy farm nature park. there are a few ways to get to this enclosed disused quarry. most people would park their cars at car-park 'a' and walk past the moe adventure camp to get to the road leading all the way to the quarry. a shorter route can be had by parking your car at railway mall and walking to the end of jalan asas, which will eventually join up with the road to the quarry. a third way is to follow the mountain bike trail till you come to the tunnel. above the tunnel is the same road that leads to the quarry. you can actually get to the s'pore quarry from the bukit timah nature reserve by following the mountain bike trail.

besides enjoying the serenity of the place, we also indulged in a bit of bird-watching today. i have read about the precious little grebes that inhabit the shallow waters of the quarry pond. some visitors pointed them out to me and i realised that i had seen similar birds somewhere, though i am not able to put a finger to the place.

the little grebe was too far away from me. if you follow the streak in the water, you can visualise the bird at one end of it.

there was another majestic bird we saw - the white bellied sea-eagle perched high on a 'matchstick' tree. according to another regular visitor to the place, two young eagles are often seen in the vicinity. i am familiar with the eagles because i always hear and see them from my bedroom windows, though the same ones.

i also managed to spot another medium-sized bird on a raft-like structure. i was told that it was a common sandpiper. the sandpiper has this peculiar habit of bouncing a few times when it lands on the ground or any surface.

however, what really captivated me was the playfulness of the little grebes and their ability to disappear and reappear somewhere else. from my two visits to the quarry pond, i have observed that this bird is very fond of diving. the birds build their floating nests among the reeds. you can tell that there is a family among some reeds when you hear their distinctive trill.

if you visit the singapore quarry, you should armed yourself with a pair of binoculars otherwise you may miss the sight of these beautiful birds. a lot of people miss this attraction because the little grebes tend to keep far away from humans and they hide themselves by diving into the water the moment they are disturbed by loud noise.

most visitors notice the kois, tiger barbs and other small fish in the water. unfortunately, a lot of them miss seeing the liitle grebes. they may also notice the'sausages' on the reeds sticking out of the water but not the birds hidden among the reeds.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

what used to be here?

in the second photo, bounded by the four lamp-posts was a structure. what was the structure that used to occupy this irregular patch. i do not think it was octagonal in shape (like this).

Friday, September 11, 2009

pick up at east coast park and
drop at changi village

when my two girls were younger, we travelled extensively, and we enjoyed self-drive tours, especially in australia. we have also driven in new zealand, west malaysia and the united kingdom. for self-drive, it is cheaper to return the rented vehicle to the point of collection. however, there were instances when we had to drop the car at another point; for example, when we drove from sydney to melbourne, we dropped the car at the agent's office in melbourne.

now, in singapore, there is also this sort of arrangement. you can rent a 'vehicle' from east coast park and drop 'it' at either changi beach park, near changi village, or a choice of a few other locations that suits your purpose and need.

today, i rented a bicycle from the station at changi beach park and cycled to the east coast park. however, i did not drop it at east coast park because i had to get back to my car which was parked at changi. this was my second time cycling along this section of the eastern park connector. one week earlier, i had cycled with my blogger friends, peter and victor, from east coast to changi village and back. then, we used our own bicycles. to be exact, i rode a bike provided by victor.

it is literally a 'breeze' cycling on this 42-km eastern park connector. you get the breeze blowing in your face even on a warm afternoon. the track is flat most of the way and there is no need to huff and puff because you have to conquer some steep gradient.

so, this second trip, i rented a bike from the pitstop. it cost me $6 for a two-hour ride. any additional hour, you pay another $3. the bike and skates rental company have two outlets at east coast park (car-parks c4 and g1), two at changi beach park (car-parks c1 and c7), one each at telok kurau and sun plaza. so, you can pick up the bike at east coast park and drop it at changi beach park if you have had enough of pedalling.

as you cycle along the stretch of changi coastal road, you get to meet a lot of cyclists, some of whom appear to be tourists, going in either direction. you also get to see planes taking off and landing at the changi international airport. on the ground, there are also some interesting mushrooms, some of which look very much like those grown on the mushroom farm in kranji.

on both occasions, we cycled in the mid-afternoon, just past noon. although it was warm, with the light wind coming in from the sea, we did not feel the 'burning' effect. in fact, we felt quite comfortable cycling at that time of the day. however, we were advised to hydrate ourselves by drinking plenty of water. there are a few drinking fountains along the way from which you can refill your water-bottle.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

this used to be a one-storey building

black and white pictures from national archives

two simple quiz questions:

1 where is its location?

2 what was the one-storey building?

Monday, September 7, 2009

two dragons at lorong tawas

i have always had the impression that there was only one dragon kiln left on the whole island - the one at thow kwang pottery. today, i discovered another dragon, nestling further inside the track of lorong tawas. it is located at 97l lorong tawas and it is referred to as the jalan bahar clay studios. according to one source, there used to be three dragon kilns in singapore. the defunct one used to be somewhere in the yio chu kang area. it was called the sam mui kwang dragon kiln.

checking on its history, i found out that this dragon kiln was started in 1958 as the guan huat dragon kiln. its dimensions are identitical to the one at thow kwang, that is, 43m long, 2.2m high and 2.5m wide. today, when we visited, the caretaker of the place, switched on the lights in the tunnel for us to get a better idea of how it was like inside the bowel of the dragon.

when renowned singapore potter iskandar jalil was compelled to stop working from home because some neighbour complained that the huge gas tanks installed in his house were a fire hazard, he moved to jbcs (jalan bahar clay studios) to carry on his pottery work. he has since moved back home after some engineers from exxon helped him to modify the gas tanks so that they would meet the requirements for home use.

unlike thow kwang which has on display and for sale a very huge collection of pottery and porcelain wares, the jbcs does not seem to be into sales of finished products.

if you have children, they will definitely prefer thow kwang pottery because there are children's toys and other things that will interest them. however, not all the artifacts and items on sale at thow kwang are their own products. there are also some antique stuff and some creative pieces of art works.

other attractions at thow kwang, where you can spend a whole morning exploring it, include a pond, a tree-house (?) and pottery pieces done by school children.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

where is this campus?

when i first saw this banner, i did a double check to see if the word 'singapore' appeared anywhere on it. even then, i find it misleading. however, if you can read mandarin, which i cannot, then you will know that it is associated with a university in the united states of america.

quiz question: where, in singapore, is this campus?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

pictorial answers to 'who was wallace'?

1 where is the wallace education centre located?

what is full name of this place?

who was wallace?

alfred russel wallace, naturalist

where are the two designated car-parks?

junction upper bukit timah road and dairy farm road

near petir road and dairy farm road junction

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

the hungry ghost month

the hungry ghost month is still quite widely celebrated in singapore. i have come across quite a number of tents and performance stages erected or being erected, especially, in hdb estates. in geylang, which i visited on monday, in practically every other lane, there is some form of celebration.

i remember, as children, we were quite ambivalent about the hungry ghost month.

we looked forward to it because of the sumptious food and the entertainment part of the celebration. in the early years, the celebration took the form of chinese wayang staged for one or two days, depending on the funds available. in lean years, it was in the form of hand-held puppet theatre. this eventually gave way to the one-night getai performance.

however, there were the restrictions that came into force during the seventh month. as children, we quite wary of the unseen that were supposed to be roaming all around us. they were kindly referred to as 'good brothers'. we were not allowed to go swimming; not just at the public swimming pools but there was also to be no swimming in the sea, canal or pond. we were warned that the water ghost (chwee kui) would drag us into the deep.

we also had to be home early - before it got too dark - because our mothers did want us to be nabbed by some wandering spirits. generally, there was some sort of curfew during this not so auspicious month. however, we could watch wayang or getai right up to the end of the performance.

in connection with the celebration in my old kampong, there would also be a dinner for all those who have made the once-off monetary contribution to the celebration. it was also just before the dinner celebration that the ' keeper of the urn' and 'deputy keeper' were picked. in the course of the dinner, there would be an auction of all the blessed objects and foodstuff. the money raised from this auction would be used to subsidise the cost of the next year's celebration.

everyone had an equal chance to be one of these holders of position - the keeper and the deputy keeper. the names of all those who have contributed towards the celebration would have been written on a piece of rolled paper. these slips of paper would be put in a container and shook in front of the offering table. the names on the two rolled slips that were shaken out and 'approved' would be the holders.

as there was no fixed home for the worshop items, especially the two urns for joss-sticks at the altar, these would be left in the safekeeping of the keeper and the deputy keeper until the next year's celebration.

for $80 (this year's amount), a participant would take home a red pail of goodies, with a triangular paper flag stuck in it. in those kampong days, we children enjoyed playing with the flags, imagining ourselves as some courageous warriors. apart from the goodies, there was a sit-down dinner and the getai for entertainment.

when i was older, i would represent my mother at the dinner. my father never liked attending any formal function. i would be there just to eat; i did not ever place a bid for any of the auction items.

i asked those who were involved in the organisation how the money collected was sufficient to cover goodies, dinner and entertainment. some of the money for the dinner was raised from auctioning the blessed items. in the past, the top money spinning item was the 'black gold'. 'black gold' refers to a large chunk of charcoal. it could fetch as much as $10K; today, this item has lost its lustre. for the wayang or getai to be staged, a rich benefactor or a few of them would have to come forward as sponsors.

according to one organiser, the amount raised from the auction has shrunk over the years. at the same time, cost has also gone up. the cost for erecting the stage and the sheds takes up about $5k. the cost of the getai is also about $5k. the getai is usually sponsored by a number of people who contribute varying amount.

other beliefs related to the seventh month include not moving house during this one month period. if you are wondering why you have never been invited to any chinese wedding this month, here this is the answer. it is taboo for chinese to get married during the seventh lunar month.

individual families usually offer prayers on the 1st, 15th and last days of the 7th lunar month. but those organised on a community scale can be held on any day of that month. the day will be decided by committee with consultation with the 'spirits'.

the proper name for this chinese festival is zhong yuan jie.