Monday, September 28, 2009

Colours of Heritage - A mobile museum

Singapore's public buses are sometimes all dressed up in ads, some even with 3-D installations. Well, this bus's different. It depicts a girl kicking a shuttercock (or better known as chaptek in local lingo), a boy playing a hoop and a kite soaring. Wait a minute, this is no ordinary bus. It's the new heritage bus.

There you see it. A bus that's been retrofitted so it's a museum on the inside. Whoa. Is that novel or what? Curiouser and curiouser...

The bus comes with a stock of traditional games that Singaporeans used to play. Clockwise from top left: chaptek, five stones and zero point.

Quick glossary:

Chaptek - a feathered thing nailed to a rubber disc that we kick and keep up in the air for as long as possible

Five stones - cloth sewn with beans inside and we play these on a flat surface throwing them onto the surface and then picking and swiping each one or all of them according to a preset pattern with an opponent

Zero-point - A bunch of rubber bands strung to make up a long elastic string, that we used to play a game called zero-point. Just tie them up end to end and perform a series of jumping challenges with your opponent.

I guess it's all kind of Greek to these primary school girls who were invited to the official launch of the heritage bus yesterday at Tanjong Pagar Plaza. Which is why the heritage bus wants to show them the traditional games that their parents played in childhood.

The games provided hours of fun for kids back in the 60s and 70s. They're cheap and fun. No Lego. No computer games. No money to spend on toys. The only masak masak (toys) bought were treats like simple tea sets, or police cuff links and the like..available in the market.

A text panel on the bus showing the props - Kuti kuti, comprising colourful animals like fish, crab, dragon, etc. It's like collecting trinkets. How to play? The object is to try and flick yours over the opponent's kuti kuti. Whichever kuti kuti lies over the other wins...simple as ABC.

These fabrics I saw on the bus are used to tailor the traditional dress of the four major ethnic groups in Singapore ie to make (from left) Indian saree, Chinese cheongsam, Malay batik shirt and lace for an English dress (for the Eurasians). In reality, there are further cultural differences between subgroups within each ethnic group.

Every ethnic group use spices in their cooking. So let's take a look at a few of the spices displayed on the bus.

Candlenut or buah keras have been mistaken for macadamia nuts. They're blended with chillis and other ingredients to make the curry paste or rempah. Malays, Peranakans and Eurasians use this ingredient in their curries.

People grow curry leaves in their garden or backyard (if you live in a house with a garden) as you only need a few leaves for cooking. Now that most Singaporeans live in high rise flats, we buy them off the shelf.

There're air holes and so go closer and you can get a whiff of how star anise smells like. The Chinese use this ingredient in their meat stews and the Indians use it with other spices to make garam masala.

Nuts of different varieties were sold as snacks by the kacang puteh man, an Indian man who in my mind always wear a dhoti. Just point to the type of nuts you want and he will scoop them out of the air tight jar into rolled up paper cones. So economical and eco-friendly. These ones were for show during the launch yesterday.

There is a cool digital touch screen on board the bus that showcases food from different ethnic groups. The one you see here is a page from the screen that appeared when I selected 'Hainanese chicken rice' from the menu.

I thought this bus made by the Tanjong Pagar kindergarten kids for a art competition sums up quite nicely our uniquely Singaporean multicultural people and heritage.

Do you have a mobile museum where you live?

That's my World

Friday, September 25, 2009

Stamford House

I was walking past this building today and looking up, noted its age, 1904 inscribed on its curved central pediment. If you click to enlarge, you can see it for yourself. I think the building looks spectacular. Its ornate friezes in the style of Victorian Renaissance architecture seems almost surreal in contrast with other modern prosaic buildings near it. The building has been gorgeously restored in the early 90s.
It's just a hop and a skip from City Hall MRT. If you dip into the building, you'll enjoy walking on its tropical hardwood chengai lining its interior flooring which has replaced the old rotten floorboards, and skylight that filter into its central arcade, not to mention the cool airconditioning. Its mix of tenants leans towards interior furnishings and art.

For more Skywatch posts, go here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Peranakan Museum

Straits Chinese furniture have intricate inlays of mother-of-pearl. This set is found in the Peranakan Museum in Singapore.

If you're interested in exploring other cultures, the Peranakan Museum at 39 Armenian St is worth a visit. The artefacts of the Straits Chinese on display are quite comprehensive and to me, it's the best museum to visit if you're in Singapore. It is an authentic boutique museum. In fact it is like a huge bungalow and you climb the wooden stairs to get to the upper galleries (three floors), no lifts. The building it inhabits was actually a Chinese school built in 1912, the Tao Nan School.
The style is eclectic classical and you can see the tropical influences like the bamboo chicks.

Peranakan or Straits Chinese culture has its own traditions, notably a hybrid of Malay and Chinese cultures. They are descendants of Chinese traders who settled in Malacca and the coastal areas of Java and Sumatra and then Penang and Singapore. Peranakan Chinese are Chinese in race but Malay influenced in their food and dress, and they speak patois Malay.

A typical kitchen in the Peranakan house.

Marriage rituals are explained in this gallery. This is a mock up of a leg of pork which is given to the bride's family. Actually I thought it should be a whole suckling pig.

Peranakans wear kebayas and these vary from the simple white everyday kebaya to more ornate embroidered ones like this one. One of my neighbours was Peranakan and I remember she wore kebaya tops and sarong as daily wear. Today, kebayas may be worn for special occasions as formal wear.

Kebayas do not have buttons but instead are fastened by brooches called kerosang.

Well, enough nuggets of info about the interesting offerings of the museum.

That's my World

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Flowers, Changi

During my walk in Changi, I took pictures of two types of flowers. Do you recognise what they are? I guessed, 'bluebell' maybe, but I was wrong. Ta da...the above flower's common name is King's Mantle. Its scientific name is Thunbergia erecta.
This is an interesting looking flower that I've never seen before. It's called Russelia (scientific name), or coral plant. Origin: Mexico.
Here's the whole bush of them with their pine like leaves. Well, hope you learn something new like I did. Actually, if not for blogging, I wouldn't be taking pictures of flowers and finding out their names. Anyway, happy to share with you out there and hope these flowers will brighten your day.

Visit Today's Flowers.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Changi Village

My walk on the boardwalk (see previous two posts) is ending. The boardwalk hugs the coastline of Changi..I started the walk at the section of the boardwalk next to the Changi Beach Club and the walk leads me to Changi Village...
These are the bumboats docked near the Changi Ferry Terminal. They ferry passengers to Pulau Ubin. You can see a video of the ferries at the end of today's post.

The old iconic bridge that links Changi Village to the sandy stretch of Changi Beach.

While walking along the boardwalk, I took a shot of this old bungalow which is part of the Civil Service Club today. The bungalow was built by Manasseh Meyer, a Jew who also built the Chesed-El Synagogue. When the British established a military base in Changi, the bungalow was bought over to be used as a school. After WWII, it became the Royal Air Force Transit Hotel for RAF officers.

To be honest, I've not eaten at Charlie's Corner, an eatery at the Changi Food Centre which has become an institution. In the late 70s, it evolved from Changi Milk Bar, which was in Changi from the 1940s. It has a totally laid back vibe and well, it's decorated with an eccentric collection of fake fauna. What's on the menu? Charlie's Famous Fish & Chips, Burgers, Spicy Hot Wings, Chilli Dogs, Sausages, Beers...
Changi Village is a sleepy hollow. You see two rows of low-rise residential blocks with commercial outlets on the ground floor. Beyond the low-rise block you see is the food centre which has an assortment of food stalls to satisfy the palate of locals. You'll notice the International Nasi Lemak stall which has perpetual queues.

The stretch that I've taken this picture from is now lined with eateries and restaurants, from chicken rice to Thai to Spanish to Indian to seafood to dim sum..My favourite in the row is Jacob's cafe which sells Western cuisine in a homely setting.

The bumboats to-ing and fro-ing Pulau Ubin, the last bastion of rural life in Singapore.

That's my World

For more Outdoor Wednesday posts, go here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monochrome - On the boardwalk

On the boardwalk series...

More tomorrow.

For more monochrome maniacs posts, go here.

sailboats, Changi

A coconut palm tree lends a touch of the scenic to the seascape in Singapore.

Another view of the sailboats docked off the sea in Changi..

For more Scenic Sunday posts, go here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Blessing our sky in Hougang is this beautiful church, the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, constructed in 1901 in the Gothic style. It's the oldest Catholic church for the Teochew community in the area and its history intricately overlaps with the community. The church built a number of schools that helped educate generations of Singaporeans. The legacy of the church lives on as schools like Holy Innocents High School, Hai Sing Catholic School, Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Our Lady of the Nativity and Montfort School are still around today. Former students cherish memories of the brothers and sisters who taught at these schools...those were the days where principles of discipline and values were held high.

A closer look at the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in front of the church flanked by angels.

For more Skywatch posts, go here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

National Museum - the old and the new

A modern, whimsical touch to the National Museum, these eight gorgeous swinging chandeliers by Suzann Victor. You can view the video recording at the bottom of this post. Who would have thought up chandeliers that swing, and these do in sequence or in a staggered pattern. Hypnotic gazing...these are located at the new extension wing added to the old building just beyond the glass bridge.
The museum shop is a hodge-podge of vintage stuff..note the paper tear out calendar at the back..This used to hang in my father's house and everyday we'll tear one sheet to start a fresh day. I can still visualise the old vintage clock above this calendar hanging on a wall of our old house. Pity, we don't have these anymore, just boring desk calendars. Some old printers still print this type of calendar. I've seen smaller versions around, and of note are the horse racing dates printed on them.

I was kinda thrilled to see this. It's called tikam tikam and I still remember these at the mama shop (ie neighbourhood Indian shop selling daily necessities). You pay like 5 or 10 cents I think, and tear out one ticket and the prize is printed on it. Prizes like a sweet or a toy. Such were the thrills of childhood.
These moulds are for making traditional biscuits and kueh and I can make out the designs. The ones on the top right are for making love letters which are a rolled up pancake biscuit roll made specially only on Chinese New Year. It triggered memories of my old neighbour who would make batches and store them into reused biscuit tins when the season came. Such practices and rituals add fun and excitement in the preparations preceding the new year. You don't see people making love letters nowadays. They're made in factories and everyone just buys them off the shelf.
In my childhood, there weren't any canned drinks. All soft drinks come in glass bottles like these and the popular brands were Green Spot and Kickapoo. I remember buying these drinks during school recess.
Posters of old Malay movies. The museum screened part of the Pontianak movie which is about a female Malay ghost. Of course, when we see these movies, we're struck by how 'backward' special effects were back then, like Pontianak flying. None of the digital technology that propel special effects to sophisticated realism nowadays.
Look up as you enter the museum and you'll see the stained glass windows in the dome of the National Museum. Aren't they lovely to behold?
The very iconic spiral staircase, reputedly haunted.
Well, this is the far view of the grand old building that's our National Museum. It's been standing at Stamford Road since 1887.

I leave you with swinging chandeliers. There's also a media screen which flickers on and off catching your reflection on the large screen. I was lucky enough to capture a recording when it flickered on, so did this family.

That's my World

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Skywatch Chinatown

Am I looking skyward? Kind of. And this is what I see, a row of holy cow statues lazing on the parapet of the Sri Mariamman Temple, a South Indian Hindu Temple in Chinatown. The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, dating back to 1827 or eight years after the British East India Company got its toehold here. The gopuram of colourful dieties at its main doorway to the right is all covered in tarpaulin sheet, presumably under maintenance, so I'm not flaunting that.

However, what I wanted to point out is to the left side, that yellow building with Chinese characters called the People's Park Complex. It's an old 31-storey residential cum commercial complex, built in the 1970s, and is a so-called prototype of this kind of mixed development complex. Old hat nowadays but new and exciting during its time. What's noticeable about this building is its potholes at the top of the residential block. And that's all I have to say about this brightly painted old building.

For more Skywatch posts, go here.