Sunday, July 26, 2009


Singapore's first colonial governor commissioned the Istana building which is in the neo-Palladian style and completed in 1869. The Istana is today the official residence of the President of Singapore. It is where the President receives and entertains state guests and where ceremonial presentations take place. In reality, no president has resided there since 1959. Our current president stays somewhere in the East.
Members of the public, including foreigners, may visit the Istana grounds on special occasions. The dates of the next Istana Open Houses are 2 August 2009 (in celebration of National Day), 21 September 2009 (in celebration of Hari Raya Puasa) and 18 October 2009 (in celebration of Deepavali). Expect to go through security checks at the entrance at Orchard Road.

The sprawling lawn of the Istana is akin to a public park with lily ponds and filled with interesting species of flora. The experience is somewhat like walking in the Singapore Botanical Gardens. A feeling of serenity and community with nature. There are some ancilliary buildings and a point of interest is the display of the Japanese Gun, presented to Lord Mountbatten after the Japanese surrender in 1945.
An artist drawing his impression of the Istana within its grounds.

That's my World

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple

Colourful deities on the entrance of the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Saik Road, in the Chinatown district of Singapore. The Hindu temple was built in 1925 by Nattukottai Chettiars, a money lending community from Tamil Nadu, India. The temple recently underwent renovation works. Its riot of colours add to the vibrancy of the street. It's worthwhile taking a walk around the shophouses here as there're some genteel establishments that have sprung up, including bookshop, retail outlets, besides coffeeshops. There's even a boutique hotel, the Royal Peacock Hotel, which is a nice alternative to staying in a big city hotel. Keong Saik Road used to be the red light district of Chinatown in the 1960s.

You'll see many shophouses being rented out as offices. I used to work in an office housed in one of those Art Deco shophouses along Bukit Pasoh Road which is just a lane away. A scenic place to walk around..

Color Carnival

Scenic Sunday

Thursday, July 23, 2009

bullock cart water train station

You know you're in Singapore when public announcements are in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. Public signages though, are in English and Chinese only. I was struck by the Chinese characters of the Chinatown train station. It translates to "Bull car water". The name is so lyrical that I googled to find out the origin of the name. And this is it: In the 19th century, water was transported to Chinatown via bullock carts.

By the way, the courtesy reminder on the door is courtesy of Rosie, the tai tai (lady of leisure) of Singapore sitcom, Phua Chu Kang (PCK). It's the sitcom that turned PCK (the renovation contractor known by this moniker) into a Singlish icon.

This Way Thurs-Way

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A for Chinese arch

A Chinese archway to the Yueh Hai Ching Temple (meaning 'temple of the calm sea') at Phillip Street. The temple stands as a reminder of early days of Chinese migrants. This one was first built in 1826 by Teochew migrants, traders and sailors to thank the goddess of the sea for their safe arrival by sea to Nanyang (Southeast Asia). The temple was rebuilt in 1895. Its architecture is a cultural touchstone compared to the tall office towers in the heart of the financial district.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

walkup apartments

Old private walkup apartments along River Valley Road. Signs of wear and tear, these apartments are more than 40 years old. Some owners still reside here...
These three or four storey walkups are not retrofitted with lifts. So if you live on the third storey you need to use your legs climbing stairs everyday.
Some owners rent out the units out as offices so you may find a new door replacing the old one. If the tenants do renovations then the place will be nice. This place is near to the city.
The grilles are so retro..The apartments are old but they're worth much..the trend for the past decade is for owners to put them up for collective sales. Until the current slide into recession, the buzzword is enbloc sale. Millions will pass hands and these buildings will be bought by a condo developer, to be torn down for the building of condos.
These walkups at St Thomas Walk are already empty and will be demolished for exactly the purpose. So this picture captures something that will soon be gone.

That's my World

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Boat Quay

A view of the shophouses lining Boat Quay, on the southern bank of the Singapore River. Once godowns that received their loads of cargo from bumboats, now the setting for cosmopolitan fine dining and watering holes by the river. A hotspot for expatriates who come here for their sundowners.

For more Scenic Sunday posts, go here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

over the rooftops, Bukit Timah

The sky looks angry over the rooftops of houses in the prime residential suburb of Bukit Timah. The road names are inspired by royalty, like Duchess Walk, Coronative Drive, Princess of Wales Road, Prince of Wales Road, King's Road, Queen's Road. Residents should feel like lords and duchesses. The houses and condos here are each worth upwards of a million bucks. The city skyline's in the horizon.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Raffles Place green

Raffles Place, the heart of the financial district, has these lawny patches that has such a lovely, calming ambience. There're always people reposing on the seats by them and taking a breather. Lots of buzz in this place, as corporate suits in ties whizz by on their cell phones or linger under their offices for a smoke. The triangular neo-classical facade is of course, the entrance to the Raffles Place train station.
There's a sculpture by Aw Tee Hong, Struggle for Survival, shaped like a boat, on one of these grassy patch right in front of OUB Centre. OUB Centre, designed by renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, has the prestigious address of 1 Raffles Place. OUB or Overseas Union Bank has been bought over by UOB (United Overseas Bank) and so the bank no longer exists.
Compare the scenery with this vintage postcard picture of old Raffles Place. I wonder why no one thought to put in a fountain here, like in the old days. Oh, I see where the neo-classical facade got its origin from, see the building on the left.

For more Outdoor Wednesday posts, go here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Capitol Theatre

Before today's multiplex cinemas housed in shopping malls, there's the Capitol Theatre, built in 1929 by a Persian family, the Namazie brothers. It was a lofty colossal single cinema hall with two storeys providing 1686 seats and feature a large screen. The grandeur of its neo-classical architecture made it a total cinematic experience, however. The building was bought over by Shaw Organisation in 1946 and the theatre became its flagship. Before it screened its last Hollywood movie, Soldier, starring Kurt Russell, on 29 December 1998, many Singaporeans, myself included, watched dozens of movies here on dates with friends. The milkshakes at Magnolia Snack Bar were popular with cinema goers.

Here's a vintage photo of Capitol Theatre in its heyday. You can see a trishaw rider on the left and the cars look really vintage.

The future development of the building, now called Capitol Building, is yet to be decided.

For more That's My World stories, go here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Iluma : a play on textures

Iluma, which opened in March 2009, is dubbed an urban entertainment centre in the historic Bugis area. The building has really striking textures. You see the snow crystal like texture on one side and the linear textures on the other side. It's quite captivating.
Designed by WOHA architects, it is said to blend abstract futuristic shapes with a 1970’s Vegas style. A tessallated pattern made up of physical plastic bodies, and there's a matrix of flourescent lamps superimposed onto it to produce a display screen, so the surface can light up like a light fixture. I've yet to see the illumination for myself.

The geometric lines here contrast well with blue watercolours of the sky.

Sunday Stills

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Goodwood Park Hotel

The landmark Goodwood Park Hotel is more than a century old, having survived two World Wars. Built in 1900 as the Teutonia Clubhouse for the German community here, it is designed after a Rhineland castle. Its turret is charming and distinctive.

A closer look at the ornamental trimmings. In 1929, the former owners, the Manasseh brothers, turned it into a five-star heritage hotel. Many members of the glitterati have stayed here including the Duke of Windsor, later the Prince of Wales of England. The hotel is noted for its famous English Afternoon Tea.

The hotel's present owner is the family of the late Mr Khoo Teck Puat who bought over the hotel in 1963. One of his sons, Mr Eric Khoo, is a critically acclaimed movie-maker who has won several awards for his Singapore-made films. His latest film, My Magic (2008), was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, receiving a standing ovation. An earlier film, 12 Storeys (1997), was the first Singapore film to take part in the Cannes Film Festival. In contrast to his being born with a silver spoon, all his films including Mee Pok Man (1995) and Be With Me (2005) deal with the underdog and the grittier side of life.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

shophouse windows

This series of shophouse windows are side by side each other along a street in Chinatown. They're full of old world charm. I wonder what the Chinese characters refer to...if someone else could enlighten me, I'll share with everyone out there.

Window Views

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

art by the Singapore river

Salvador Dali's sculpture, Homage to Newton, in the atrium of UOB Plaza. As the placard explains, the suspended apple is a reference to the aha moment when an apple fell on Isaac Newton's head and led him to discover the law of gravity. The open torso signifies open-
heartedness. A stone's throw away is Fernando Botero's Bird sculpture by the Singapore River. Signifying the joy of living and the power of optimism, qualities that Singaporeans should live by.

A serene mood of relaxation descends on those lounging around the Singapore river when evening comes and the city offices disgorge workers who head home after a hard day's work. A sea of tranquillity can be felt when you stop for a minute by the river.

For more Watery Wednesday posts, go here.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

quaint traditional shops

In the days before gourmet chocolates and Western pastries altered our tastebuds, there're the traditional confectionery shops selling Chinese pastries. The assortment of biscuits and cakes are great for snack attacks. Somehow these have a more homely bite to it. It's still possible to find quaint old confectioneries like this one along our streets.

It's like a provisions shop but with a twist. This shop in Chinatown stocks clothes, household appliances and all things imaginable, using only paper. The Chinese burn them as paper offerings to their ancestors.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Singapore River scene

This view by the Singapore River seems pretty majestic to me, a confluence of different architectural styles. Dominating the north bank of the river is the neo-Palladian facade of the Empress Place Building which houses the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), a museum featuring different Asian collections. Up till the late 1980s, the Empress Place Building had housed government offices, notably, the Registry of Births and Deaths and the Immigration Department.
To its left, the circular disc of the new Supreme Court building (a modern interpretation of the dome of the old Supreme Court, you could only see the top of that dome peering above ACM in this picture). Rising behind ACM, the clock tower (completed 1906) of the Victoria Memorial Hall (first opened in 1905 and in 1979, renamed Victoria Concert Hall after renovations done to house the Singapore Symphony Orchestra). The tall modern tower you see next to the clock tower is Swissotel The Stamford, the tallest hotel in Singapore.

Watch this space for another post on what's interesting around the Singapore River.

For more Scenic Sunday posts, go here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Singapore Racetrack

Those horses are the masthead of the Singapore Racetrack at Kranji. If you take the East West bound train you'll pass by the track and this is where I snapped the photo.

Horseracing in Singapore began in 1842. Formerly the Singapore racetrack was at Bukit Timah, till this state-of-the-art racecourse was completed in August 1999. Measuring 81.2 hectares, it holds its ranks among premier racecourses. Racing days are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tours for tourists can be arranged. Singapore Turf Club is the only authorised operator of horseracing and totalisator (horse betting) services in Singapore.

What can I say? The Chinese are inveterate gamblers. I see the gamblers alighting at Kranji station to try their luck and this place is where the action is, at least until the Integrated Resort open heralding the arrival of the legalised casino in Singapore...

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Here you can watch the prestigious Singapore Airlines International Cup held in May 2009 vicariously.