Friday, 28 February 2014

Baba House

157 Neil Road

Singapore 088883

Yesterday saw me visiting this Perankan Heritage house with a group of friends. 

157 Neil Road was built around 1860 and has been owned throughout this time by the Wee Bin family. Wee Bin was a Straits Chinese trader from Fujian province in China. He sadly died in his 40s his son in his 30s and grandson in his 20s.

In 2005 Ms Agnes Tan, daughter of Tun Tan Cheng Lock, a very well known businessman and political figure who fought for the rights of the chinese in the then Malaya and who also founded the Malaysian Chinese Association, donated a substantial figure to the NUS (National University of Singapore) allowing them to purchase the house and to conserve and restore it. This allows students and the public to study and appreciate the Peranakan heritage. Due to this donation 157 Neil Road was renamed in her fathers honour as Tan Cheng Lock Baba house (commonly known as the Baba House) After much conservation the house was opened to the public in 2008.

Much of the interior furniture belonged to the Wee Bin family whilst others have been sourced from Peranakan families in both Singapore and Malacca. The first 2 floors showcase how life would have been for a Peranakan family in the 1920s, wheres as the 3rd floor has had to be completely rebuilt. This was no thanks in part to a colony of bats that had lived there and with years upon years of guano had speeded the decaying process. As the top had been rebuilt and only one original roof beam remains, this floor now houses temporary art exhibitions. 

The house is set out as it would have been in the 1920s. As you would imagine the building is decorated in brightly coloured tiles so associated with Peranakans. The guide we had called Clara was so knowledgeable and, in a good way, didn't stop talking for over an hour as she showed us each room over the 3 floors. Explaining the meaning behind items, pointing out little quirks such as what she called the 19th century CCTV, floorboards that where cut away and were able to be removed to see who was at the front door and another in the master bedroom looking down into the main hall to view the visitors. For the young ladies that had reached puberty they weren't allowed to mix with males (not even their brothers) so they could watch above and see their prospective husbands! I won't begin to go into all the decorations that we saw, however if interested I strongly advise you to read about the Peranakans, and if in Singapore to visit here, the Peranakan museum and the area around Joo Chiat in the East where there are shops, restaurants and houses and to follow the Peranakan Heritage Trail.

Sadly I cannot provide photos of the interior as only those of the outside were permitted, but I would urge anyone to make the effort to book a tour here. We had many friends that didn't get a chance to visit this time due to the restrictions on numbers, but future bookings are already planned and indeed hubby will be visiting also. Its a great place to take visitors staying with you although tours book up fast so be prepared to book ahead!.

Tours are restricted to 12 people maximum and are free. Appointments times are Mondays 14:00. Tuesdays 18:30, Thursdays 10:00 and Saturdays 11:00. The tours last about an hour.

The nearest MRT station is Outram Park

The raised details were decorated by brightly coloured china cut from porcelain bowls. This meant that it didn't need to be constantly repainted - a clever idea!
Not very clear from this angle but here are the ever present phoenix and peony so important in Peranakan culture. The phoenix representing prosperity and peace and the Peace spring and marriage.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

An interesting day out!

Well my husband and mother thought I was slightly odd but after reading about this deserted HDB estate out in the middle of nowhere mentioned on a couple of blogs, I was intrigued to see this ghost estate. My friend and other blogger L (check out her great blog site at ) decided we'd take a trip out there and explore a different side of Singapore. Although it turned out slightly different than we had expected......

Well just getting there proved an adventure! From the blog posts we tracked it down to the junction on Neo Tiew rd and Chai Chu Kang rd on the otherside of Bukit Panjang. After searching bus routes we set off and at the first stop near Palmer rd wandered up and down looking for the bus stop for bus 982e for the next stage. One good thing here was we spotted Hock Teck See Temple (note to self - need to go and investigate this on another day) anyway we finally found the bus stop and then realised 982e doesn't run until evenings - thanks travel apps. So wandered on and caught 700 up to Bukit Panjang and then caught 975 to the finally destination. Traveling out of Bukit Panjang along Chou Chu Kang rd we passed another temple to add to the list to revisit Leng Hup San Chee Chea temple, Teck Whye lane. 

Anyway I digress as we left Bukit Panjang the bus emptied and soon we were the only female and westerners amongst a handful of young looking servicemen. We certainly felt unusual, what were these 2 odd women doing out here!! We passed camp after military camp, and the landscape changed from urban to open jungle. To be honest it was a surprise (a pleasant one) to see that Singapore does have a vast amount of open space albeit used for the military. 

We travelled on and soon passed an area of cemeteries covering a vast area, Christian, Chinese, Jewish, French, Muslim, Hindu and others and this was just what we saw from the bus. It turns out to be the biggest cemetery in Singapore and the only cemetery still in operation according to Wikipedia. I've since come home and looked at this on the internet and yes you guessed it ........  further visit and exploration needed!!

Soon there were very few of us left. We passed Malays in traditional dress walking along the road, a sign for frog farm, goat farm and various other farmsteads until we alighted in the middle of nowhere at the stop the travel app directed us to. Again to find it was wrong so I guess we walked for a couple of km and finally arrived at the junction with Neo Tiew rd and our reason for the adventure stood in front of us.......

All fenced off, no entry and military signs every couple of feet warning us we'd be shot!!! It was clear it had seen some attention recently with the buildings having a quick coat of paint and the grass having been cut. The military use it for exercises and clearly no longer want us exploring. You could still see the old children's play area but it was a little sad we couldn't go and explore. I was strangely looking forward to see the desolation and how the jungle was retaking manmade structures. I was also secretly hoping to see, along with other wildlife, a snake or two!!

Hey ho! the journey in itself was an experience and at least we can update websites/blogs on the current situation. Plus I've seen two temples to add to the list of places to visit. I've learnt about the cemeteries and realized how green Singapore is in places. We now have farms to visit and I've realized the Sungei Buloh nature reserve and Kranji is achievable by bus, which is something that I had found off putting before this days little adventure. 

All in all the trip didn't turn out as expected, I didn't see what I was expecting to see but in fact I saw much more and and have further places now to explore, so altogether it was a success!

Neo Tiew Rd was named by the Bristish government after Mr Neo Tiew who developed Lim Chu Kang. He cleared the land, paved and built workers quarters. He planted coconuts and pineapples and set up pig and poultry farms in the early 20th century. He also set up the first mini mart in Lim Chu Kang in the village of Nan He so that his workers, farmers and fishermen would have fresh supplies of fresh produce. In the 1930-40s he also built Qi Hua school and a hospital. Reading some of the comments on other blog sites people can still remember living in these buildings. It would be good to hear more from them of their time spent living here.

Sign for Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve, Kranji countryside and heritage trail. Sungei Buloh is a place I am very keen to explore as recently crocodiles have been spotted at this reserve.

More to places to visit and I now know how to get here via public transport. Previously I thought I'd need a car.

hidden in the jungle is a disused Pill Box - you'll have to take my word for it!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Memories and Images of my first Chinese New Year

Well today is the last day of the celebrations for Chinese New Year. This was my first time experiencing it and also seeing how it's celebrated in Singapore. Sadly hubby had managed to schedule overseas meetings for two weeks, so apart  from seeing the decorations and market stalls in Chinatown he missed the whole spectacle. Safe to say he won't be organising anything next year if it can be helped.

So we started off with the build up, the streets and malls were decorated. Shops and flower nurseries were selling decorations and traditional mandarin bushes and other plants. Ever shop and mall played rousing Chinese songs. CNY street market stalls were added to the already bustling Chinatown selling all number of sweet treats. Each time I visited it got busier and busier until it was too manic!

On the eve of the lunar year I met up with couple of friends and waited patiently for a number of hours, drinking gin and tonic what they described as "lemonade" which they had brought along in their hip flask and sampling bak wah for the first time. Bak wah is traditionally a sweet/salty dried barbecue meat. Long queues form outside shops selling them. I only tried the original plain version but it was a success with me for sure! On the strike of midnight the firecrackers were ignited - the noise was deafening you could feel it vibrating throughout your body and this was followed by the firework display where all people, regardless of age, get to feel the excitement as if they were still children. Traditionally these red firecrackers were set off to scare the monster Nian who was frightened off by the noise and the colour red. In modern times though it considered the louder the fireworks the more prosperous the new year will be.

Fireworks to welcome in the Year of the Horse

Next came the public holidays. Many people finished work midday on the Thursday and didn't return to the Tuesday in many cases. Shops closed, wet markets closed and many hawkers stalls were shut as everyone got together with their families and celebrated in style. Yusheng/ Lou hei were tossed, red packets (hong boa) were given and everyone celebrated! Being on my own over this period I enjoyed looking at people's photos on FB and twitter. There was such a feeling of happiness which somehow we have lost in the west when we celebrate Christmas and New Year (although for us in England New Year has never been that important)

Glimpses were seen by me of the River Hongbao festival and Singapores very own Chingay Parade, but these will be explored and left to enjoy until next year. Chingay is out and about this weekend in the heartlands so if you missed it at the F1 buildings you may still get a chance. Check the venues out here

A Dragon Dance

For the whole period I could hear numerous times a day the drums from the lion troupes traveling from venue to venue. To start with I wasn't aware what the noise was. I caught brief glimpses of the trucks and I doubted if I would see a lion dance, how wrong I would be! These troupes travel and perform at people homes, condos, area get-togethers and in shopping malls. It is considered good luck to have these lions perform for you. In the end I think I experienced around 4 of these spectacles. They were of differing quality and expertise but still made you smile each time! They were all so young, agile and extremely fit. The Lions are accompanied by performers playing loud drums and cymbals aiding the lion in frightening off the evil spirits and the lion starts to dance and perform to ward of these spirits. The lion or lions are often accompanied at these events by the God of Good Fortune. During these dances the lions climb and jump over stilts performing cai quing where they seek out lettuce or greens. Hidden amongst these greens are red packets (Hongbao) containing money. The lions "eat" both red packets and greens keeping the money as a reward for seeing off the evil spirits and then spitting out the greens. Often the lions will be given oranges to eat which they will spit out to the audience. When the greens/pomelos/oranges are spat out, it is considered they are spitting out good fortune. They will also sometimes spell out lucky numbers with the orange segments. A fellow blogger has told me she's seen large queues for the lottery today - I wonder how accurate these lions are!!

Approaching the greens and hong bao
Eating the greens and keeping the red packets before spitting out the greens
The lucky numbers spelt out by the lions from the mandarins
God of Good Fortune posing for photos 
Just chilling!

The seventh day of CNY is everyone's birthday. Traditionally in China birthdays weren't celebrated rather everyone became a year older on the seventh day of the lunar new year. Traditionally the fish salad of yusheng was eaten on this day although it's served now throughout the festivities.

For more information on what each day of the festival means can be found here. 

And today is the last day, this year falling on Valentines Day. The 15th and last day of the lunar new year is known as Chap Goh Meh. It's very good luck to meet your partner on this day and as this year falls on Valentines Day, which only happens every 19 years, it's even more lucky. Traditionally girls would throw oranges, with their details on, into the river to be caught by their future partners! Good luck girls!!

Anyway it's now time to take down the decorations and see what the Year of the Horse has in store for us.

Until next year then.................

Video clip of lion dance performed at SunTec in Singapore

Monday, 10 February 2014

Project World Colours - February 2014 -


February 2014

Month 2 and this months colour is RED. Please see below for my contributions in the World Colours Project.

If you would like to take part follow the link below - its easy :)

Bristol UK

Flowers and berries UK

London Eye

Hong Kong


Haw Par Villa

Little India

Chinatown and Chinese New Year

 Gardens by the Bay. Malay Dancers

Joo Chiat 

Singapore zoo