Monday, 30 September 2013

City Gallery

Popped into the City Gallery this morning just opposite Maxwell Food Court.

If you want to experience the plans for Singapores future and the reasoning behind it, this is well worth a visit. There are a number of scale models of the island and CBD. Amongst other things it was fun for the four of us to find where we lived and to spot known landmarks. It also helped us realise where the areas are situated, something you dont get a feel for travelling around on buses or the MRT, you get to realise how small the island is and how we are usually just around the corner from "somewhere".

Very clear, well thought out place and very surprisingly free admission - we must of spent a couple of hours in there. Well worth a visit to understand the geography of Singapore.

The changing shoreline of the CBD area and East Coast. Note Katong on the East. It was once on the coast and is now inland. This is close to where we now live.

Several views of the island on the various models they have on display. There were people working on them. With the speed Singapore is currently evolving it must be a very secure job for someone!

 Model below of CBD area

Marina Bay, Art Science Museum, Kallang basin, Singapore Flyer, floating stadium and at the top the new sports stadium opening early 2014.

Singapore River,
Chinatown with the Pinnacle in the foreground 

Gardens by the bay and Marina Bay
I can spot our condo on this one!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Orangutans - Singapore zoo

I coudn't wait until I got around to writing a blog post about our trip to Singapore Zoo - I just had to add these photos now.

I had never seen an Orangutan before and this was my magic moment of the visit (hubbys was the elephants as he had never seen those before).

I took so many photos but below are just a few.The youngster on his own was 2 years old and had been adopted by the mother in the other photo who already had twins. His natural mum was too ill to look after him but later went onto have another.

We watched as the keepers tried to call him down from the tree to go in.... he was having none of it! it was so funny, just like a naughty child, he knew exactly what he was supposed to do but had no intention of complying. In the end they sent "mum" up another tree and along to above him where she pushed him down the trunk - priceless.

Recent purchase - Peranakan bowl

I've been quiet on here for the past week as one of my sons has been for his first visit out here. He left his girlfriend at home and brought his friend as they came to predominantly watch the F1 Grand Prix (not to see little 'ole mum!!!) Anyway we had to show him the usual places on the tourist map... Chinatown, Little India, Botanical Gardens, Zoo (post to follow later on that!) and Kampong Glam - Arab St.

Whilst visting Kampong glam we took them down Bussorah St which is awash with souvenir shops and restaurants, full of the usual tourist gifts. One such shop which I feel is certainly different is the Little Shophouse (43 Bussorah St). Little Shophouse sells amongst the tourist trinkets Peranakan/Nonya wares. Hubby and I have visited a few times and in the past chatted with the owner Robert Sng who was very knowledgeable and friendly.

This time its was the owners sister that was there and we watched enthralled as she stitched the minute beads into cloth to make the Peranakan slippers.

Auntie at work stitching the minute beads 

These slippers are one of the products they specialize in and retail around S$980 a pair, quite a price until you realise that they take her over 2 months of beading to make before being sent to a cobbler to make the leather shoes. Kakak Irene (a lovely auntie) told us that there are only 2 of these shoemakers left; another art thats threatened with extinction. Auntie also said at the moment there is noone to take over from her as her neices are to young.

Little Shophouse also sell Peranakan china. They have many small pieces, jugs bowls, spoons etc. After chatting for a good time hubby spied in a corner a large Peranakan bowl full of trinkets - we emptied these, blew away the dust and fell in love!!! Auntie explained that they only had a few of these older large pieces left, as in China now you cannot find any artists that are willing, or able, to decorate on this large scale, it could of been "a line" but we believed her, you can also see the difference in the quality of the painting compared to the smaller pieces.

Needless to say we purchased, carried it extremely carefully and caught a taxi back home (we werent going to risk MRT and bus plus it was very very heavy) the bowl now sits pride of place on a sideboard back at home

The bowl measures 40 cm in diameter and 16 cm tall. It is decorated with peonies and phoenix motifs, both which are a popular decoration on Peranakan ware. Peranakan ware is commisioned and then made and decorated in China before being exported back to Singapore. The phoenix symbolizes the south and peace and prosperity. The dainty peony flowers in the springtime. Together, they indicate marriage and fertility and were the main design seen on nearly all nonya porcelain. Nonya is a Peranakan women and Baba the male. The phoenix and peony can also represent the history of the Straits Chinese (Peranakan) culture which prospered as a result of the Chinese immigrants whose hard work, perseverance and intermarriages exerted great influence in Singapore.  

Little Shophouse is open daily 10:00 - 18:00  tel no 62952328. They hold one to one beading lessons for Peranakan slippers on Wednesdays and Saturdays S$320 which includes the materials - my eyesight isn't good enough even with my glasses on!


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Peranakan Chinese and Baba-Nyonya are terms used for the descendants of late 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants to the Indonesian archipelago and British Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore).
Members of this community in MelakaMalaysia address themselves as "Nyonya Baba". Nyonya is the term for the women and Baba for the men. It applies especially to the ethnic Chinese populations of the British Straits Settlements of Malaya and the Dutch-controlled island of Java and other locations, who have adopted to Nusantara customs — partially or in full — to be somewhat assimilated into the local communities. Many were the elites of Singapore, more loyal to the British than to China. Most have lived for generations along the straits of Malacca and most have a lineage where intermarriage with the local Indonesians and Malays have taken place. They were usually traders, the middleman of the British and the Chinese, or the Chinese and Malays, or vice versa because they were mostly English educated. Because of this, they almost always had the ability to speak two or more languages. In later generations, some lost the ability to speak Chinese as they became assimilated to the Malay Peninsula's culture and started to speak Malay fluently as a first or second language.
While the term Peranakan is most commonly used among the ethnic Chinese for those of Chinese descent also known as Straits Chinese (土生華人; named after the Straits Settlements), there are also other, comparatively small Peranakan communities, such as Indian Hindu Peranakans (Chitty), Indian Muslim Peranakans (Jawi Pekan) (Jawibeing the Javanised Arabic script,[3] Pekan a colloquial contraction of Peranakan[3]) and Eurasian Peranakans (Kristang[3]) (Kristang = Christians).[3][4] The group has parallels to the Cambodian Hokkien, who are descendants of Hoklo Chinese. They maintained their culture partially despite their native language gradually disappearing a few generations after settlement.[5]

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


Back in July I posted about the changeable lizards I see most days on my morning walk

As mentioned then during the mating seasons the head and necks of the males turn orange through to bright red, making themselves more attractive to the females.

For the past fortnight I have started spotting this spectacle, so have been itching to write an update on the previous post. Nearly every tree I have passed on the East Coat Park section A has one of these lizards clinging to the base of the trunk, so no problem then getting some photos.... not so.... as soon as I get my phone out, pause and go to press the button.... flash they have a scarpered. Anyone following my Facebook page Singapore Tales will have seen the photo below of a lizard shaped blur of one of my attempts!                             
note the blur along the lefthand side of the trunk
One day not only could I see this vivid male but I could hear him. He was making a loud clicking noise and I noticed nearby a lizard that was smaller and still in the grey brown colours which I assumed was a female. He was clearly very appreciative of this female. Yet again he scarpered as soon as I went snap. Below you will just see him hiding behind the tree trunk and then see a red flash through the hedge where he went to hide from me!!

can you spot him? just above the trunk on the left!
I can still see you.......
This is the female he had the hots for
I was getting really frustrated but yesterday I managed to get some photos of a couple of them. Not great as taken on my phone from a distance ( I tend not to take my camera when I'm exercising)

Anyway below are a few snaps. Just imagine if the human male went through performance to attract us females!

You can see that there is a variation in colours from orange through to bright red and some also have a black patch on their necks. I have also watched one go from orange back to brown as I tried to take a photo, clearly it couldn't be bothered to run away from me so just made it that it wasn't worth a photo!

Anyway hope you enjoyed the photos. I don't think we have anything like them in the UK.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Mid Autumn Festival - Mass Lantern Parade Sunday 15th Sept '13

As mentioned before in Singapore when one festival finishes there's another one just there waiting to start and again September is no exception. I blogged awhile back about the Chinese Hungry ghost festival which ends Sept 4. Could there be anything now I could post about? Of course!!!!!! It's the Chinese mid Autumn festival!! Also known as Mooncake Festival, Moon Festival or Peh Goeh Cheh. In Singapore and Malaysia it is also known as the Lantern festival, however this is a different festival to the Lantern festival celebrated in China on the 15th day of the first lunar month. The festival is celebrated by both the Chinese and Vietnamese and although not in Singapore, it is a Public Holiday in both these countries. Just like Harvest Festival in the UK this festival celebrates the end of harvest.

The actual date of the feast this year falls on Sept 19 which will be the 15th day of the 8 lunar month during a full moon (hence moon festival and the eating of mooncakes) in the Chinese calendar. However, why celebrate one day when you can celebrate for a month!!!  As the name Mooncake Festival suggests it is celebrated by the consumption of mooncakes.

Mooncakes are round sweet pastries about 10cm wide, with various fillings including lotus paste, red bean, nuts or egg yolks. I purchased a packet of mixed nut ones as they can be very sweet. An ok delicacy but am happy to wait until next year for the next, especially as they are around 1000 calories each!!!

To the Chinese moon worship is important as it signifies rejuvenation and it is a good time to marry or find your partner. During this festival, time is spent with the family when traditionally the head of the family will divide and dish out the mooncakes to other family membes. Businessmen will also give them out to clients.

Down in chinatown there is a month long celebration, this year running from Sept 7 to Oct 4. I visited with a friend on the afternoon of the 15th in anticipation of the Mass Lantern walk that evening. I wandered around the stalls beforehand while I waited. At this time of year there are stalls everywhere selling mooncakes and also lanterns for the children to carry. As ever it is full hustle and bustle with vibrant colours everywhere you turn. You will also find a number of stores selling Pomelos (thai grapefruits) a fruit I have yet to get around to experiencing but will do soon I'm sure.

lantern kits
box of moon cakes
mooncake stall

Lanterns decorated by local school children

May be rather tacky and touristy but I love these dragons puppets!

As has become the norm for me I visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. This was also stunningly decorated for the Festival, something that I wasn't expecting. An onslaught of colour and light.

At 19:00 the walk started from next to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, masses of parents with children, holding lanterns followed behind four Dragons, amongst them were also dancers and people playing drums. Sadly from our vantage point we could only see things from afar, apparently it was the most people that had ever attending the walk. The parade wound its way through the streets of chinatown until it passed us at the spot where we had moved to, close to the end of the Parade. Sadly I'm not too happy with the photos as they passed by very close and the dragons, at such a speed with their dancing, that I think the photos are poor, but I hope it gives a feel for the colours, noise and atmosphere of the evening.

We didn't stay until the very end as we were by then quite hungry (as you always seem to be in SG with all the great food that's on offer) however there were groups playing drums, choirs and dancers all rounded off with fireworks, which we heard from the restaurant!! An enjoyable time was had although in all honesty it was I think more aimed at the children. Well worth coming to watch if you are in Singapore at this time of year.