World Will End in Year 2000


Everybody’s favorite scapegoat

In Computerworld’s first 50 years covering the tech industry, it’s possible that no single IT topic got as much attention as the so-called “Y2K crisis.”  In the second half of the 1990s, IT organizations spent billions patching systems and replacing hardware and software that had been designed to support only a two-digit year format.  Because of the unprecedented scope of the work required to address the problem, what became known in industry shorthand as “Y2K remediation” projects turned out to be the biggest challenges many IT leaders faced in their careers.  The world knew the problem by many names – Year 2000 Bug, the Millennium Bug and simply Y2K – and just about everyone had heard dire predictions that business operations would spiral into a state of total paralysis as the clock struck midnight on Dec 31, 1999.  And then it was over.

As Robert L. Mitchell wrote in “Y2K: The good, the bad and the crazy,” a Computerworld feature looking back at the Y2K phenomenon 10 years after the fact), the world held its breath on New Year’s Eve 1999 – and nothing happened.  Jan 1, 2000 came in just like any other day.  There were no major failures to report anywhere.  In the aftermath, or non-aftermath, Mitchell reports that some pundits said all the preparation had been overkill. Others maintained that only the hard work of IT pros kept the information systems of the world on track.  Whatever side you take in that debate, there’s no argument that Y2K had a big impact on the psyche of IT professionals and the world at large.  The Millennium Bug became a convenient scapegoat for everyone from CIOs to litte kids with messy bedrooms.  And it certainly provided a wealth of material for our editorial cartoonist, John Klossner.  We hope you enjoy this wry look back at the way we obsessed over, sought to profit from or tried to ignore the looming spectre of Y2K.


Web presence not enough

20181229_143038Mr Alex Siow  (2001)


Name:  Alex Siow

Age    :  46

Interests:   Bowling and golf

Reads an average of two novels a month

Marital Status:  Married with two children

Career:  CIO of HDB

Other Hats:  President of Singapore Computer Society, assistant general secretary of South East Asia Regional Computer Confederation Adjunct associate professor of Nanyang Business Choo, National Technology of University

The coming decade will be an era of e-enabling the business.  Mr Alex Siow, chief information officer of HDB and president of the Singapore Computer Society speaks with JENNY CHIN about his views on what the challenges are and how CIOs can prepare themselves to meet the demands.


If you look at the horizon, what do you see are the technology challenges facing companies?

Prior to the year 2000, the emphasis was on the Y2K bug.  There was fear then of absolute chaos in the systems.  The emphasis then was to make all systems Y2K complaint.

But when 2000 came and the Y2K bug was not an issue, companies began to focus on how to communicate with their customers and business partners over the Web.  There is now a swelling demand for Internet enabled applications and this is the main challenge facing companies.

But most companies have a Web presence already, haven’t they?

Here, we are not just looking at a Web presence.  That is a given and it is important that every company must be accessible to the public on the Internet.  This is because it is becoming common for people to go to the Web and look for information and companies without a Web presence will be regarded as second rate.

But beyond Web presence, companies must now look at Internet-enabled customer service application and transaction based application.

This is going to be a medium to long-term investment.  It is true that many people who have invested on the Web have found the payback in financial terms to be slow.  I urge for patience.  The young people will begin to transact soon and the momentum should snowball.

What is the CIOs role in this whole exercise?

It has only been in the last five years that large corporations here have appointed CIOs.  Before that, this position did not quite exist.

The CIO’s job is to do strategic planning for the company and fit IT into the business model of the organisation.  His job description is much more than looking after the day to day operations.  He is supposed to look into the horizon and chart the IT manpower, systems and business plans for the company.

The IT manpower shortage is for real.  Mr Alex Siow shares his views on how companies can handle this issue and still stay on track to roll out e-enable applications.

Do you find difficulties hiring IT staff?

There has been a global shortage of IT staff.  The crunch started in 1999 and we have not been able to operate to full strength.

Then, how can companies get around the issue of manpower shortage?

Basically, we can look at tackling the issue in four ways.  These are hiring second rate staff, getting contract workers from overseas, outsourcing, or using the application service provider (ASP) model.  The ASP supplies you with the application you need over the Internet and maintain them on your behalf.  You pay based on per user per month or per use.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these methods?

Personally, hiring second rate staff can only be temporary solution.  In the long-term, it impacts the level of intelligence of your organisation.  I am not trying to be arrogant here but you must set a benchmark for your organisation and find people that can raise the benchmark.

Personally, I am in favour of hiring contract workers from abroad but this pool seems to be drying up too.

The third alternative, outsourcing, is not popular in this part of the world partly because companies want to have more control over IT, which is increasingly  a core competency for a business.  So, whenever we outsource, it is mainly for a project where the outsourcing company has expertise not available in-house.  This is a workable solution except that the outsourcing company also runs into manpower problems.  To retain its staff, it has to pay a premium.  That’s why outsourcing is a viable but an expensive option.

How do you classify first grade staff?  What do you look for in a fresh graduate during an interview?

Here, I am not just looking at workers but someone who can be a strategic planner as well and develop the business skills.  That’s what IT in the new economy is all about.

How about existing mainframe staff?  Are they dead and how do you pan to convert them to the new economy?

The CIO needs to draw up a strategic plan, which classifies the existing manpower and draws up a training programme for them to adjust to the New Economy.  It is not easy for someone conversant with mainframes to come out of his comfort zone and fit into the new economy.  Even with training, they may never be able to be as conversant with Java as someone trained in it.

Yet, because they know the legacy systems, they are the ones who help you to e-enable your legacy and mainframe systems.

But mainframes are being phased out, aren’t they?

If you are a big organisation with lots of systems and manpower trained on existing systems, you are not going to throw them out overnight.  The cost of doing so is enormous.  Instead, you will try to extend the life span of your legacy systems, adding functionality and interactivity with the Web economy to it.  There is nothing like the mainframe – an old, reliable, trusty workhorse.

opening-slide_620181229_142833[Source: The Straits Times, 21 February 2001]

WTF – Where’s The Food?


WTF is not the abbreviation of a vulgar phrase in English.  On the Duck & Hippo ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ signboard on the bus, it means ‘Where’s The Food?’

A Moving Dining Experience

A first-of-its-kind dining concept in Asia, the Singapore GOURMETbus combines scenic city tours with the enjoyment of a specialty meal.

Now, enjoy the best of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand Award 2017 local fare in its cool, air-conditioned interior, while cruising past scenic views of iconic landmarks.  Forget long queues for multiple stalls, or sweating it out in a humid and warm hawker centre.   We bring the food to you.

We created a truly unique way to experience Singapore – enjoying our sights while sampling the best menu from the MICHELIN BIB GOURMAND AWARD 2017 and present to our guests.

Tour Singapore the DUCK & HIPPO Way!

Look at Singapore through our DUCK’s eyes and have a splashing fun time!

There is no better way to tour Singapore than catching a ride on the ORIGINAL DUCKtours.  This hour-long journey brings you up close to Singapore’s famous skyline, historical landmarks and gorgeous bay view.  The very first amphibious themed attraction in Asia, this award-winning DUCK is rated Number One in Singapore.  1 million passengers, 14 years of perfect safety record, best in tour experience!  Ride the one and wacky DUCK and embark on a unique city and harbour sightseeing tour in Singapore.

More than a tour, it’s 60 minutes of full-on thrill where you go on a voyage to discover the past, present and possibly the future.  Hear the captivating Singapore story from our well-loved DUCKtainers commentating onboard the craft while you capture snapshots of our city’s major monuments.


Embark on a land and sea adventure onboard a remodeled Vietnamese warcraft that promises great family fun.











Why the Duck and Hippo Tours almost did not do business in Singapore?

At the National Day Rally 2004 held at the University Cultural Centre, NUS on Sunday, 22 August, 2004, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned in his speech:

“As a government, we have to rethink all over problems, big and small.  Nothing should ever be set in stone.  We’ve made big changes recently.  The GST changes is a big one.  The CPF cut was a big one and now, we are working on wage reform.  That’s another big one which will take some time and this will have a significant impact on our future.  So, we’ve got to change our policies or look at our policies.  We’ve got to support entrepreneurs.  We’ve got to support Singaporeans being spontaneous , being unconventional.  We should not put obstacles in their way.  We should help them to succeed.

Let me give you one example.  These are the Duck and Hippo Tours.  You know what’s a Duck Tour?  It’s a boat with wheels where you take a ride, you go into the harbour, you sail around, you come back.  The Duck took two years to get a licence – nearly died.  Very difficult because they went to the LTA (Land Transport Authority).  LTA says, “Your duck has a propeller, how can it be a car?”  They went to the MPA (Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore).  MPA says, “Your duck has wheels!”  So, ding-dong, it took two years.

Eventually, we sorted the problem.  The Duck became a success.  So came the Hippo.  The Hippo is a bus with no tops, okay?  So, you sit on top, you drive around.  It’s just like in London or one of the other Western cities.  Question — is the Hippo a bus?  A very important question because if it is not a bus, it is not allowed to stop at a bus-stop.  So, that one we did better.  Six months, we solved the problem.  I think we have to do better than that”.

[Source: Prime Minister’s Office]

How Duck tours nearly ended up a lame duck 

By Karl Ho

[Source:  The Straits Times, 24 August 2004]

Entrepreneur mentioned by PM Lee took two years to register his tours after going through endless rounds of negotiations

When Mr James Heng tried to get his Duck tours off the ground in December 2000, he nearly cried in frustration.

He had spent $1 million on buying and rebuilding two American amphibious vehicles to turn into tourist vehicles to turn into tourist vehicles here, but could not get a licence for them.

“I had to present the vehicles first before we could have serious engagements with the authorities,” he said yesterday.

He went through endless rounds of “negotiations, discussions, presentations and re-submissions”, and had to deal with at least seven agencies.

“Every entity was pulling me from all sides,” said Mr Heng, 43, the chief executive officer of Duck Tours.

Along the way, he was told he had to abide by some strange rules.

One agency said bumpers had to be built round the 13-tonne vehicles, which are popularly known as “Ducks” in tourism circles.

“This was to protect pedestrians from being pulled under.  But we’re travelling at a safe speed of 30kmh and are so big,” he said.

Another said the Ducks required “police escort” because of their size.

It took two years before he got a licence to run his tours.

His plight was highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as an example of how policy makers should not put obstacles in the way of entrepreneurs.

Mr Heng said it was sweet vindication to hear Mr Lee talk about his experience.

Trained in architecture and with a master’s in business administration from the University of Hull in Britain, he started out as a marketing executive with Neptune Agencies, the marketing agent for Neptune Orient Lines.

He later went into various businesses, including running his own freight-forwarding company.

In 2000, he chanced on the concept of Duck tours on the Internet.  He and a silent partner poured $1.5 million into the project.

Another 180,000 passengers have taken the tours so far.  They are given a ride around the city before making a splash in Marina Park for a harbour tour.  Adults pay $33 and children $17.

Mr Heng said he knows of other businessmen who have faced red tape.

“One thing about the civil service is it is easier for it to say ‘no’ rather than ‘yes’,” he said.

“If you approach it the other way round with a ‘why not?’, we’ll have so may more interesting things here.”

In fact, even when the Ducks were finally allowed to operate in May 2002, he was told he could ferry only 12 passengers at a time instead of 31, its full capacity.

“We were bleeding because 12 passengers just isn’t viable.  And we had to work like dogs, not ducks.”

However, help came from the government-led Pro-Enterprise Panel, set up in 2000 to remove red tape.  It facilitated meetings between Mr Heng and government agencies.

In September 2002, the Ducks were allowed to carry 31 people.

Earlier this month, Mr Heng launched Hippo tours.  Hippos are open-top buses which ferry tourists for a fee of $23.  The concept took six months to get clearance.

His company made a $500,000 loss in its first year but posted a $350,000 profit last year.

“We started off as a lame duck, but now we’ve taken off pretty well,” he said.  “Hopefully the Duck will be a springboard for many better things.”


Last Farmers in Singapore



With thanks to MediaCorp Singapore for Documentaries On Five on “The Heritage Series” video featured on “The Last Farmers of Sembawang” here .

Watching this video inspired me to blog about the disappearance of kampongs and the farmers in Singapore which the younger generations to understand why these changes had happened in Singapore; the causes for the transformation of land use over the decades.

Singapore’s food production in 1962,  although the number of farmers engaged in agriculture was relatively small, they produced a considerable quantity annually:  750,000 pigs, 20,000,000 poultry, 200,000,000 eggs, 34,000 tons of vegetables, 1,800 tons of fruits.


Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Mrs Lee visit the Horticulture and Aquarium Fish Show at National Stadium on 5 November, 1971.

Alternatives for the resettled farmers

In 1976, Mr Lee Kuan Yew assured pig farmers in Punggol that the PAP Government would do all it could to help those settled elsewhere to re-adjust to their new environment.

At a rally in Tampines Way, the Prime Minister said it was inevitable that farmers would have to be settled in view of the development taking place in the area.

He said he understood that those affected would need some time to re-adjust, be he assured that the PAP candidate for Punggol, Mr Ng Kah Ting, would help them overcome their problems.

Of the farmers affected, he said the bona fide ones would be given alternative farmland elsewhere while the small farmers would be offered alternative employment at hawkers.

Mr Lee later spoke at another rally at Lorong Tai Seng in Paya Lebar where he told residents that the constituency would undergo phased development to make it as attractive to live in any other place in Singapore.

Speaking at a rally at Chong Pang Village, Mr Teong Eng Siong said that apart from the Sembawang shipbuilding yard, the government had allocated 1,174 hectares of land in the area for development into an industrial estate.

At another PAP rally, in Tampines Way in Punggol Estate, Mr Ng Kah Ting said:  “What the Workers’ Party wants to do is to set the clock back to the early 1950s when there was wide-spread unemployment labour exploitation and industrial unrest.  [Source:  Straits Times, 22 December, 1976]

Question mark over future pork supplies

Dr Goh Keng Swee’s policy statement on the future of pig farming in Singapore has pointed to a likelihood that we will have to import pork and poultry in large quantities.

Dr Goh, who has taken over the Primary Production Department, to the Parliament on 12 March, 1984 that “the future of Singapore pigs look to me to be very bleak”.

Though he had yet to touch on poultry farming, the general line of thinking on the long-term policy of primary products was made clear.  It was mainly the economics that would dictate the fate of the farming sectors here.

In other words, if the production costs of the food produced locally are higher, the Government prefers to get supplies from other countries.

However, the phasing out of the pig farms, if it happens at all, may disrupt the price mechanism of the pork supply here, according to an earlier study made by the PPD on pig farming.

img0008In 1964, Minister for National Development Lim Kim San (sixth from right) during his week-long tour of rural districts and installations of the Primary Production Dept.

Field  trips for farmers organised by the Primary Production Dept.



img0035This is an animal husbandry field station in a rural part of Singapore.  The Colonial Government of Singapore use these field stations to decentralize veterinary services to livestock farmers living at Changi, Ponggol-Tampines and Yio Chu Kang.  That about 80% of Singapore’s population is Chinese, is reflected in the fact that production is concentrated on pigs and poultry.  There are 750,000 pigs and 24 million birds in 1958.  Up-to date information and results of research on genetics and nutrition are disseminated to livestock farmers through these field stations.




Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew meeting Chinese farmers during his tour in 1963


img0055-lky tour of bt panjang 03031963

img0109-pm tour bt timah

Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Yusof Ishak greeting guests at a reception for farmers from Tampines area at Sri Temasek hosted by PM Lee Kuan Yew on 16 February, 1963.





District for farmers to resettle

Over 2000 farmers were resettled in Ponggol, Tampines and Teban districts.

The 420 hectares of land were allocated by the government to resettle farmers from all over the island.  Most of the farmers were affected by resettlement were mainly in the Yio Chu Kang, Lim Chu Kang and Chua Chu Kang.

Meanwhile, over 300 land-owners in Ponggol, Tampines and Teban were served with quit notices by the government.

On the question of compensation for the farmers affected by resettlement, Mr Lai Fee Kwong, president of the Singapore Livestock Farmers’ Association said the government has not given any definite reply.

He said: “We understand that resettlement is necessary but financial aid and concessions for farmers to develop their farms on new lots must be given”.

Small pig farmers agree to quit and take compensation

Most of the small pig farmers in Punggol, Jalan Kayu and Lim Chu Kang have agreed to quit their farms – a dramatic switch in 1983 when they fought hard to keep them.

Seventy farmers in Punggol, who keep fewer than 1,000 pigs have indicated in the Housing and Development Board that they prefer to get compensation early and quit farming.

The decisions follow a policy statement by the First Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Goh Keng Swee, in Parliament that preliminary study had shown that it would be cheaper to import pork than to keep pollutive pig farming in land-scarce Singapore.

He added that the authorities were looking closer into the alternative sources of supply for pork.

Most of the small pig farmers have decided to call it a day because of the bleak future in pig farming here.

Another reason if the over-supply of pigs, which has made the prices go down.  Furthermore, diseases are not uncommon in the farms.  [Source:  New Nation, 13 January, 1975]

Please check out the related blogs “Ways Done in the Past – Rural Farming” here and “Memories of Woodlands – Jessica Bong” here .

The relevant photos on this blog to share with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore.


Singapore Food Ambassador Violet Oon


[Photo of Violet Oon, courtesy of Anna Chittenden]

Violet Oon is considered by many to be one of the leading authorities on Asian cuisine, having written about food professionally early on in her career.

However, few people know that Violet is the Singapore Food Ambassador.

In 1988, the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (now Singapore Tourism Board) and the Singapore Airlines sent the food envoy to the US to promote Singapore as a food paradise.

She went on a 3-week media promotional blitz of eight American cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Diego, Chicago, Miami, Seattle, Washington and New York.

During her trip from April 30 to May 20, 1988, she was interviewed by the media and also give food demonstrations on television food programs.

She said: “I am really pleased that STPB is now using food as an introduction to Singapore.  To me, food is the more distinctive part of our culture”.

Born a Singapore Nyonya in 1949,Violet Oon is the grande dame of Singaporean cooking and is widely considered to be an authority on Asian cuisine, specialising in Nyonya food. Her reputation as a chef and food connoisseur spans the international arena and she often represents Singapore as a food ambassador abroad.

An Interview with Violet Oon by Anna Chittenden, author of the book “SINGAPORE, a unique, stylish and offbeat travel guide to Singapore.”

How did you get started on your food journey?

I first learnt the art and skills of Nyonya cuisine at the age of 16, when I took lessons from my aunts, my father’s sisters.  They were the ones that carried on the heritage of the cuisine from our ancestors.  In Singapore, my mother was liberated – she was a secretary and a career woman, and did not learn the nuance of this type of cooking.  In those days, you were not meant to be a superwoman, so if you were a secretary, you did not do the housework.

My first teachers were my aunt, Mrs Nona Bong and my great aunt by marriage, Mrs Nanny Khoo.  I also learnt in the traditional Asian way from Sifus (masters), who come from a long line of family chefs and cooks, and teach the next generation to carry the torch.  My first cooking classes were in Singapore in 1965-1966.  My aunts didn’t have proper recipes, but they were very accurate, because they were cooking everyday.  Recipes used to be written in five cents of this, three cents of that and one cent of this, so that makes no sense 30 years later!  So I asked my aunts to show me, and I would write as they cooked.  I then got very good at estimating the measurements, such as how many teaspoons and tablespoons went into the dishes.  When you actually watch people cooking, it is different from a recipe.

How did you become a chef?

Cooking and becoming a chef happened by chance.  I started off my career as a journalist in 1971, becoming the arts and music critic and features writer in the now defunct newspaper called the New Nation.

I then started writing about food in 1974 – my editor David Kraal said, “We had better have someone who can cook to write about food”.

During my career as a food journalist in the 1970s to the late 1990s, chefs would open their kitchens and invite me to cook with them.  I visited professional chefs in restaurants in Singapore (doing French, German, Italian, Chinese and Malay cuisine) and also abroad to places such as New Orleans, Paris, London, Australia and Hong Kong.  In this way, a lot of my cooking skills came by observation and osmosis.  The experiences that were of particular value to me though was when I was invited into kitchens in homes, where I would see each families’ own particular interpretation of well-loved dishes.

On the international food scene in the 1980s and 1990s there was a whole generation of highly respected women chefs who did not go through training in culinary schools, or who did not rise up the culinary ladder through working in hotel or restaurant kitchens, including Julia Child and Alice Waters from America, and Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander from Australia.  You could say I became a chef in the same way as these women did, by starting with a love and abiding interest and dedication to the art and craft of cooking a particular cuisine, and then sharing it with other people.

Peranakan culture is a marriage of the East and East with a strong dose of the West.  Starting with the native Malay culture in Malacca and Penang and finally in Singapore, where Chinese male immigrants married Malay maidens.

My culture, that of the Peranakans, evolved more than five centuries ago, with the flourishing of trade between China and the Malay Peninsula, although it started to die out from the 1970s.  It seemed as though there were very few of us, mainly concentrated in the Katong area of Singapore, which today is still the heartland of the Peranakan culture.  Having been born in Singapore and brought up for much of my childhood in Malacca, I was very much in touch with the essence of Peranakan life, with their specific art, music, food and dress.  In the 1950s living in Malacca, I saw a world from a past age.  For example, there were multi-generational families living in mini-apartments in courtyard house, family dinners where the men ate first and wives and daughters last, and women who dressed in opulent, richly embroidered kebayas over hand-painted sarong skirts from Pekalongan in Indonesia.  Yet coming from a modern Peranakan family, we were more in tune with the 20th century than of the past, and I did not quite live the life of a Peranakan.  At home, we did not speak Peranakan patois, ate both Chinese Hokkien home cooking as well as Peranakan dishes and Western food.  My mother did not dress the way Peranakan women did in their sarong kebayas, choosing instead to wear modern dress and the Chinese cheongsam.

Peranakan food is very strongly Malay based with the addition of Chinese Hokkien dishes.  The Chinese originators of the culture came from the Fujian Province in China, and so the Chinese part of cuisine is Hokkien – a lot of dark soya sauces, taucheo, garlic and shallots.  Indians, who came from Southern India, brought with them their curries and rich aromatic seed spices which added to the cuisine, as well as a strong touch of British cooking which you’ll see in the cakes and morning breakfasts.

What are your favourite Nyonya dishes?

Kuay Pie Tee (also known as ‘top hat’) – Julienned bamboo shoot and turnip poached in a prawn bisque served in a deep fried ‘top hat’ cup topped with prawn, chilli sauce and a sweet fruit sauce.

Ngoh Hiang – Deep fried prawn, crab and chicken with water chestnut seasoned with five-spice powder wrapped in bean curd skin.

Beef Rendang – A creamy and spicy Nyonya dish with Malay and Indonesian Padang cuisine origins.  Tender beef shin braised with spices of galangal, shallots, ginger, garlic, belacan (shrimp paste) and chillies.  It has a Malay bouquet with turmeric leaf, kaffir lime leaf, and local bay leaves (daun salam).

Do you have a favourite ingredient?

The combination made in heaven is the marriage of coconut milk and gula Melaka (palm sugar).  For savoury flavours, essential ingredients include galangal, turmeric, lemongrass, shallots, chillies and belacan.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I’m inspired by home cooking.  My whole childhood was spent going to my aunts’ and different people’s homes.  What you eat at home with your family is a reflection of your life and your family’s life, your travels, and where you have been.  For example, Anglo-Indians have a unique food, which is neither Indian, nor English.

I’m fascinated by dishes or recipes that are locked in time.  The food, as well as drinks that would have gone with it, represents a certain time and place.  I was born in 1949, so in my restaurant there are these different layers of time.  These dishes are like archaeological records.  The restaurant is the brainchild of my two children, but for them, it’s also about capturing and remembering the family cooking.

How important do you think food is to the Singaporean culture and identity?

It’s very important, more so in the last few years, as people start to question what is dying off, such as the hawker culture.  It’s so essential to our psyche, more so than people realise, because expenditure on food here is much higher than in other cultures.  A lot of disposable income goes into food.  Food seems to be the tie that binds us culturally and emotionally as a people, much more so than a shared history of art or music or dance or literature.

What other chefs in Singapore do you admire?

I like what Willin Low, chef of Wild Rocket does.  In the end, it doesn’t matter what cuisine you do, the test is whether it tastes good.  He has taken a lot of traditional flavours from his culture (Singaporean), which is different from mine, and reworked it.  It’s all very delicious, and not only delicious but cooked properly technically.

But I’m more concerned with eating local hawker food that is very old, and sooner or later, the people running the hawker stalls are going to retire and nobody’s going to be able to eat their food.  It’s scary.

Which restaurants do you most enjoy eating at on your day off?

For nostalgia and old-fashioned authentic tastes, I love the Ngoh Hiang at China Street Fritters in Maxwell Food Centre.   They are the last in the whole of Singapore for what they do.  The food wouldn’t even taste the same as if you tried it in China, as they came over 70 years ago, so their cooking style has evolved.  I want to be able to savour flavours and textures that may die off within the next generation.  Already, many old-school hawkers have closed their shutters due to the extreme hard work it takes to cook authentic, old-fashioned food as well as the high cost of employing kitchen helpers.

I love the pau at Teck Kee Tanglin Pau and at Tiong Bahru Pau.  To me that’s the real Singapore texture.  The Singapore pau pastry and the Hong Kong style pau pastry are very different, for instance, when you to the tim sum restaurants in Hong Kong, there’s a very fluffy texture.  I want to see places like Teck Kee preserved.   It’s interesting because it’s truly Singaporean.  This type of food originally came from China, but now they use a particular recipe and a particular style that doesn’t exist in Hong Kong.  Those are the things that I want to see and I want people to know, not whether somebody cooks very well, but whether these nuances are kept.  At Tiong Bahru Pau, that’s the actual Singapore texture and dough preserved.  It’s very important.

I would like to see the children of the old hawkers take over.  They grew up watching their fathers cooking these dishes for 20 years, so there’s a certain osmosis and DNA which is so difficult to capture.  You can’t teach it.  There are things that they know, that they don’t even realise that they know.  You may be able to cook the food excellently as a new chef, but there are certain touches, which you would only have if you grew up with it.

What do you love most about Singapore?

I love our inclusiveness, and our unique Singlish multi-cultural sense of humour; our classic put-downs that speak a volume in a word or two.  I love our whole natural environment.  Our urban jungle is literally a jungle with lots of plants, tree and foliage.  I love our built and unbuilt environment.

Singapore has much more character than people think.  What I find very funny is that a lot of westerners coming to the Far East think that exotic means dirty.  If it’s dirty, then it’s exotic.  They can’t believe that it can be clean and have character.  You just have to go to any of the HDB areas and just hangout.

I also love the diversity.  It’s got a bit of Britain here, a bit of India there; it’s got a bit of everything.

What are you most proud of as a Singaporean?

I think what make me most proud is our inclusiveness, which is now the more obvious in the midst of non-inclusiveness in many societies.  A mosque will be next to a temple, which is next to a church.  To us, religious tolerance and racial harmony is so important, for example, in the schools, children celebrate a racial harmony day.  Regarding our respect for each other’s religion, customs and sense of private cultural space, although we may not be the best at this in the world, we can be proud of what we are and where we are.

[Source:  An Interview with Violet Oon by Anna Chittenden in her book, SINGAPORE. 1st Edition of LOST GUIDES].

Please check out Violet Onn’s ‘Spice of Life’ here .


Goodwill Liaison Committee


People’s Association (PA) headquarters in Kallang.  Established on 1 July 1960, PA’s aim is to foster racial harmony and social cohesion in Singapore.

Race, language and religion are fault lines that have torn many societies apart, PM Lee Hsien Loong noted in his Facebook post on 20 July 2017.

“Singapore is a rare and precious example of a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-religious society where people live harmoniously together,” he wrote.

“This is not by chance.  The Government and the different communities worked hard together to make this happen.”

We know why here .

With the courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore, the text of broadcast talk by the Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, over Radio Singapore on Friday, 24 July, 1964 at 8.00 pm to share on this blog.

[In the last 24 hours the situation improved.  The number of incidents has gone down by about half.  The first phase of rioting is over.  The Police and Military are sufficiently deployed all over the island and heavily concentrated in the affected areas of Geylang Serai and Kampong Kembangan to prevent any further clashes.

The problem now is fear and suspicion.  Groups of Malays is predominantly Chinese areas are fearful that they may be attacked.  So, too, groups of Chinese in predominantly Malay are afraid for themselves.  In fact, in one incident last night in the Geylang Serai area 2 groups became frightened of each other as each thought that the other was about to attack and had armed themselves with sticks and weapons.  Fortunately there were men courageously enough amongst their midst who went forward and questioned each others intentions.  They discovered that each were afraid of the other, and neither had intended to attack.  So they got together and formed a ‘Goodwill Liaison Committee’ to jointly protect each other from extremists and lunatics.

Our business now is to dispel this fear and to restore confidence.  In those parts of the island, where the Chinese are in the majority, make it a duty to shelter and protect your Malay fellow citizens from mischief.  Similarly, in those parts where Malays predominate, give shelter and protect your Chinese neighbours.  If your neighbour’s house is now empty, make it your duty to do all you can to see that no harm comes to it.  In this way goodwill and confidence in each others’ intentions will be re-established.

This afternoon in twelve constituencies, where large Malay kampongs adjoin Chinese villages, local village elders and kampong ketuas, together with members of the Citizen Consultatuve Committees, with Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries have gone round to set up Goodwill Liaison Committees to restore morale and confidence.  This work will go on tomorrow as more and more Police can be spared to escort these teams.

Eventually, the work will blanket the whole island with the help of community leaders, kampong ketuas and penghulus, leaders of Trade Unions, Chambers of Commerce and Social and Civic organisations.  They will help to spread goodwill and confidence.

Meanwhile the life and health of our city is being maintained.  Distribution of food, essential services, medical and health  services and most important of all city cleansing is going on.  There were a few deplorable incidents yesterday when city cleansing labourers who had gone out on their public duty to clean the streets and dustbins of garbage were attacked.  This is madness.  We should thank and help protect these men who are risking their lives and limbs to ensure that there are no epidemics.  The Police are giving them protection, but they cannot be everywhere in strength at the same time.  Anyone who injures as essential worker is a fool and a criminal.  The Police have orders in such situations to act first and ask questions later.

To get things back to normal quickly, there must be close co-ordination and co-operation with the Central Government.  They are in direct charge of the police and military operations. We have a common purpose and a common responsibility.  As the Police and the Army scrub out violence and restore law and order, the civil administration and civic organisations must get to work to restore morale, confidence and a spirit of compassion and understanding in the face of a common calamity.  Meanwhile people must get back to work and earn their living.  Day by day as the situation improves. the curfew will be relaxed for all of you to resume the normal business of life and living.  We cannot afford this idleness.

Meanwhile, look after your families and yourselves and prevent evil men in our midst from preaching more hatred and generating more violence.

Meanwhile to those who have suffered as a result of the calamity over the last few days, may I give this word of comfort: the Government will help you to rehabilitate yourselves, your families and your homes.]

Source:  National Archives of Singapore.

Archived photos of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew during his visit to Geylang Serai on 24 July, 1964.






Birthday of Tua Pek Kong 2018


戊戌(狗)年二月初二日 : 大伯公千秋
Lunar: 2nd of 2nd mth – Birthday of Tua Pek Kong Celebration at the Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple on 18 March, 2018.

In the morning, the ceremony was held at the temple and conducted by the Taoist priest who chanted the century-old Tua Pek Kong sutras in Hokkien.

The Taoist priest and the Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple Committee Members.


The devotees and their family at the Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple to celebrate Tua Pek Kong’s birthday and to offer with good luck and blessings.


戊戌(狗)年二月初二日 : 大伯公千秋
Lunar: 2nd of 2nd mth – Birthday of Tua Pek Kong Celebration at the Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple on 18 March, 2018.

The Origin, Legends & Power Of Tua Pek Kong (大伯公) – Fu De Zheng Shen (福德正神) – Chinese Earth Deity

Fu De Zheng Shen (福德正神) is the Earth Deity worshipped by Chinese folks. In China and Taiwan, he is addressed as Tu Di Gong (土地公) or Tu Di Shen (土地神). In South East Asia, he is often called Da Bo Gong (大伯公) – The Great Grand Uncle. In Indonesia, he is known as Dewa Bumi. In Ryukyu – Japan (日本琉球), he is known as 土帝君(トゥティークー).

In ancient time, Chinese Folks pray to Earth God for the abundance of crops, grains , healthy livestocks etc. In this modern era, Earth God is prayed for prosperity, wealth ,safety and happiness. Fu De Zheng Shen (福德正神) is also revered as one of the Chinese Gods of Wealth.  He can even be sought after to win the lottery / 4D, if you know the way.

Within the celestial pantheon, Tu Di Gong occupies a unique position, as he is at the same time the lowest ranking official in the bureaucracy, yet also the most commonly worshiped deity. Almost every homes of the Chinese Folks in South East Asia, has an altar of Fu De Zheng Shen (福德正神) in the main hall / living room.

Today, many Chinese young adults still pray to him but without knowing the origin, the legends , the way to pray , and the power of him. This is the article to share with you the knowledge and information of  Fu De Zheng Shen (福德正神).  [Source:  Taoist Sorcery website].

Since my birth at the Bukit Ho Swee kampong, my mother and our neighbors worship to Tua Pek Kong.   The framed image of Tua Pek Kong was placed just below the ceiling of the house and my mother, a pious Taoist since young, would offer 3 sticks of joss-sticks every morning to pray to Tua Pek Kong to bless the family.

Please check out the related blog on Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple here .

I am pleased to share the YouTube video-clip of the Tua Pek Kong birthday ceremony at Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple on 18 March, 2018 here .

River Hongbao 2018 in Singapore



The God of Wealth statue is re-located at the River Hongbao at Marine Bay in 2018.

In 2017 at River Hongbao, the statue was positioned in the middle of the road from the main entrance.  The God of Wealth statue appears to be slimmer, cheerful with outstretched hands to embrace everyone to bless them with good luck in the Year of the Dog.

An Endearing Home for One and All

More than 500 lanterns are featured at this year’s River Hongbao.

About 35 craftsmen from Sichuan, China took about three months to handcraft and assemble the lanterns here into more than 60 display sets.

The lantern sets are displayed at River Hongbao 2018, themed An Endearing Home for One and All, which will run from Feb 14 to 24.

Prosperous Nation, Flourishing People


The largest display set at 50m long and 15m tall is called Prosperous Nation, Flourishing People, and is inspired by Singapore’s skyline.

Based on the theme 繁荣兴旺 (Prosperous Nation, Flourishing People),  this display bears our well wishes for Singapore our nation to continue to flourish as a prosperous nation and our people enjoying the fruits of the prosperity.

In the centre of the display is a happy 6.5 m tall giant dog running out from a time tunnel with LED lighting effects.  The time tunnel represents the zodiac cycle and the dogs exiting from the tunnel symbolises the arrival of Year of the Dog.


The Chinese characters on the four windows are 国旺 (a thriving nation) 家旺 (a happy family), 身体旺 (a healthy body) and 财富旺 (a prosperous wealth) respectively.  They represent our aspirations an d well wishes for Singapore, all families and individuals to thrive, prosper, and enjoy good health and wealth in the New Year.

The bundles of mandarin oranges and pineapples in the foreground are icons of great fortune and good luck for the Chinese New Year.



Other lanterns will feature 13 different dog breeds, accompanied by information on each breed’s characteristics.

There will be 11 consecutive nights of fireworks and lights shows, an exhibition, food, games and performances.

River Hongbao 2018 is organised by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Tourism Board and People’s Association.

The event will be held at The Float@Marina Bay from 2pm to 11pm daily, except on Chinese New Year’s Eve on Feb 15, when it will be extended to 1am. Admission is free.
(Source: The Straits Times)


Main Entrance Arch

Welcome to River Hongbao 2018! You are greeting by the Main Entrance Arch inspired by Singapore’s iconic shophouses.

Standing at a height of 15m, measuring 26m across, the arch features facades of shophouses in Art Deco and Straits-Chinese architectural styles with a fusion of modern and traditional elements.

The open windows signifying us looking forward to the New Year with full confidence anticipating good fortunes and opportunities. Meanwhile, the lead character in this year’s didplay, Man’s best friend, welcomes you from the open windows with warm smiles.

You are also greeted with our New Year message [犬吠汪旺迎新春] which means welcoming the New Year with joyous and auspicious barks. With this message, we wish you prosperity, wealth and success in the Year of the Dog.

On the entrance pillars are a set of spring couplets or 春联 (chunlian) that expresses our joy in the festive celebrations and our aspirations for a better future.  It is a tradition for Chinese families to put a set of couplets on their door frames during Chinese New Year.

We hope you and your family enjoy your visit at River Hongbao 2018.

For the security and safety of the visitors, the check-points are stationed at the entrance to the River Hongbao at Marina Bay.


Entrance Walkway

Be dazzled at the start of your magical journey in River Hongbao 2018!

The entrance walkway is a 30m stretch of stunning stylised light columns representing growth and good fortune. The character on some of the columns signifies success and prosperity . This character is also a homonym with the character which means a dog’s bark. The overhead canopy of fairy lights with sweeping ribbons projects a festive and celebratory atmosphere.

Walking along this entrance signify embarking on a bright and prosperous year ahead of us. We hope you enjoy this festive and celebratory atmosphere.

Take a photo with your family and friends and tag us @RiverHongbao2018 or hashtag #RiverHongbao2018!


Hao Cai Tou

Inspired by the phrase 好彩头 (good omen or good luck), this lantern depicts a joyful family celebrating a bountiful harvest of carrots. It is based on a Chinese nursery rhyme where a farmer could not pull out a giant carrot during harvest. He then enlisted the help of his whole family, including his wife, children and pet dogs, to pull out the carrot. The moral of the story is about the importance of teamwork and family cohesion.




Remaking our Heartland


This lantern showcase pays tribute to the “Remaking Our Heartland” initiative to renew and develop existing estates, to ensure sustainability and vibrancy of our heartlands.

The 18m long lantern portrays Singaporeans enjoying leisure activities in a park with clean waterways and lush greenery. This is set against a backdrop of our HDB (Housing Development Board) flats – Singapore’s public housing which house more than 80% of our population.

The display is a reflection of our aspirations and continuous plans to rebuild our heartland, revitalise our garden city, enhance our infrastructure and improve our quality of life. Together, we strive to build a distinctive and endearing home for all.

“Zheng Cheng”


This 11m (length) by 5m (height) display features translucent lanterns displaying positive virtues associated with our furry friends.

  • 真诚        zhencheng (Sincerity)
  • 忠诚        zhongcheng (Loyalty)
  • 信赖       xinlai (Trust)
  • 勇敢        yonggan (Courage)

These are also virtues that we value in all our friends and loved ones.

There is an interactive element incorporated into this lantern set.  There are 2 pairs of stationary bicycles for the visitors to pedal.  They convert human mechanical energy to generate electrical power to light up 2 LED scrolls with Chinese New Year greetings.

Chinese Zodiac of Animals







For your convenience, please check out the past related blogs on Hongbao River linked by year: 1992 , 2014 , 2015 , 2017 .

Firework Display at River Hongbao 2018

Please watch the video on YouTube the firework display at the River Hongbao 2018 at Marina Bay Singapore on 21 February, 2018 here .

River Hongbao 2018 at Night