Sin Hock Hin Village 7th Lunar Month Dinner in 2017

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The “Seventh Lunar Month Dinner” organised by the Sin Hock Hin Society on 23 August, 2017 at 7.30 pm at the open space and playground at Guan Chuan Street in Tiong Bahru.

Although the location for the dinner was surrounded by the flats, the residents (many of whom also attended the dinner) are understanding and did not complain to the organising committee.

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Many decades ago, the Tiong Bahru housing estate was developed by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT)  in 1936, some parts of the village were swampy ground for the planting of taro.  109 years ago, the villagers formed the Sin Hock Hin Society to organise the 7th Lunar Month festival  (also known as the ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’ or the “Festival for the Wandering Souls” (Zhong Yuan Jie 中元节 in Chinese)  every year.

The censer or incense burner used for the first time 109 years ago, it is kept safely and carefully by the Sin Hock Hin Society to use today.

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Educational tour by Kelvin Ang, Jeffrey Eng and Tiong Bahru Heritage Volunteers 

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Reserved tables for friends of Kelvin Ang 

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Kelvin Ang chatted with Jeffrey Eng before the dinner started.   They are the pioneers and guide leaders of the Tiong Bahru Heritage Volunteer group.

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Unlicensed waiter serving to the friends

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Favorite dishes for tasting experiences

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Auction for Good Luck & Blessings

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The famous golden hen filled with donations of blessings from all attending the dinner.

Toasting with Ms Indranee Rajah, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC – Tiong Bahru

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More about the ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’

This year, the ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’ starts on August 22 and end on September 19, 2017.

It is believed that the gates of the netherworld are opened during this time for spirits to roam the living world.

The eResources of the National Library Board are available here and the Visit Singapore site  are available  here .

Taboos to Follow:

1.Avoid swimming during the 7th month. It is believed that those previously drowned evil ghost might cause you to drown in
the swimming pool. Such ghost need to find victims in order for them to be go for rebirth.

2.  Children and young adults are also advised to return home early and not to wander around alone at night. This belief is due to the reason that the wandering ghosts can possess children easily.

3. Avoid moving into new homes and opening new businesses this month as it is considered inauspicious and bad luck on new ventures.

4. Avoid getting married during this month because couples will have bad ending. Some bad ghost may cast a bad spell on couples during their wedding.

5. Avoid going for jungle trekking and going on camping trips as chances of injuries, possession and death are high.

6. Drive very carefully during this month to avoid accidents, as there may be many wandering spirits who died of accidents
previously that are searching for next victims so that they could be reincarnated.

7. Protect your entrances with the genuine. Peachwood Sword. This is the most excellent protector of ghost and evil spirits, claimed by many of our customers. Alternatively one may also choose to use the Seven Stars Sword of Chung Kwei.

8. Avoid starting any construction work or engaging in renovation repairs at home such as fixing a tile or banging the floor and wall for the entire month.

9.  Avoid spitting and blowing your nose in the street or at any tree/plant.

10. Do not leave open wounds unattended as this will attract ghosts in following you home. Keep them plastered at all times.

11. Do not make negative comments or crack jokes about offering items in the streets or poke fun about chinese opera seen with empty chairs of chinese communities. Those chairs are for the ghosts.

12. Do not pick up anything including money found on the street and never bring it home.

13.  Avoid getting emotional and crying in the middle of the night. A weak, sad and emotional mind gives ghosts the
opportunity to possess you and harm you.

14. Do not whistle after the sun set. This will attract the attention of ghosts that may stick to you for a long time giving your a spate of long term bad luck.

[Acknowledged with thanks to Lina Koh, Kelvin Ang and Jeffrey Eng for sharing the memorable photos on this blog].

Where in the world is the Piccadilly Circus?

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The entrance of the Royal Air Force Seletar, Singapore  c 1950.  Courtesy of Simon Hawketts.

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The entrance of the Royal Air Force Seletar, Singapore  c 1950.  Courtesy of Derek Lehrle who contributed the photo to the National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

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The entrance of the Royal Air Force Seletar, Singapore  2012.  Courtesy of Frank Yap.

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The entrance of the Royal Air Force Seletar, Singapore.  Photo taken by James Seah on  8 August, 2017.

The juxtaposed photos of the entrance of the RAF Seletar in Singapore are posted on this blog to show the same place, different times, different memories for many of us.

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Where in the world is the Piccadilly Circus?   More than one place with the same name but the most famous original Piccadilly Circus in London.

Piccadilly Circus is a road junction and public space of London’s West End in the City of Westminster, built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly. In this context, a circus, from the Latin word meaning “circle”, is a round open space at a street junction.

Another Piccadilly Circus is found at Seletar in Singapore.

My long-time friend and school-mate, Uncle Frank, blog about his first experience to visit Piccadilly Circus here .

Road Names in Singapore of British places

As a former British colony, Singapore is full of British road names – for instance, those based on places such as Lambeth Walk , Maida Vale, Edgeware Road, Mornington Cres, etc.

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The majority of Singapore’s roads and places were named during the colonial period, but there was no move to remove these names after 1965, unlike other post-colonial cities that have been only too eager to erase such signs of their colonised past.

Behind every road name is a story of Singapore.

Indeed, so little of the past has been preserved that it can be hard to keep in mind Singapore’s rich history.  What has survived, though, is a tapestry of road and place names going back decades and even centuries, which serve to anchor the past in our ever-changing landscape.

In particular, many road names point to individuals and communities who helped shape Singapore, and whose stories are quietly embedded in our surroundings, awaiting our discovery.  The Piccadilly Circus at Seletar is in existence in Singapore for over a century.

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Memories of RAF Seletar

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This shabby building (photo above) was once a part of Seletar Camp. Now, its paint is peeling and the signboards are rusting away. Seletar was one of three Royal Air Force (RAF) bases here before the British pullout in 1971.

The juxtaposed photos (above & below) of the same building beside the side entrance into the RAF Seletar airbase.

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The front (above) & back (below) of the same heritage building.

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Since 2002, the camp’s entrance has been moved deeper into the complex, and the old main gate, guardhouse and several buildings have been abandoned since. A group of former airmen from the RAF and the Republic of Singapore Air Force want the entrance preserved as a historical site.

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Within the compound, not much has changed either. Houses there have retained their black and white exteriors, and roads still bear names like Regent Street, Oxford Street and Sussex Garden. There’s even a Piccadilly Circus.

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In an interview with The Straits Times on 21 February, 2014,retiree Ho Bak Hai, 76, paints an idyllic picture of life in Seletar – he spends some afternoons playing football with his grandson in their garden.In the evenings, he takes a quiet, solitary stroll around the estate.

He sees colourful birds circling the area’s undulating terrain and well-manicured green fields. Butterflies, dragonflies, frogs and even the occasional snake visit his Maida Vale home. “The fresh air is good for the soul. It’s a quiet respite and a nice place to retire with the company of your family.”

His neighbour, Dutch national Edith Kraaijeveld, 45, a Seletar resident of nearly two decades, feels its beauty and heritage should be shared with the rest of Singapore. An interactive gallery showcasing the area’s heritage, with artefacts such as vintage cars, will be one way to engage families.

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Architectural historian Lai Chee Kien hopes the history and culture of the area’s original occupants – the Orang Seletar or sea nomads – can be showcased.

The area has special significance in Singapore’s history – it’s changing occupants reflecting the changes in the region and the Singapore’s rise and fall. From the early 1800s until the 1950s, “the riverine landscape was home to the Orang Seletar and their boats”, says Dr Lai. Immigrants from China and India who settled there grew pepper, gambier and rubber.

The colonial government set up a camp – the largest British RAF base in the Far East then. It became operational in 1928. To ease servicemen’s homesickness, roads and roundabouts were named after places in London, such as Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park Gate and Baker Street. There still stand today.

The camp fell into the hands of the Japanese navy during World War II. In the late 1960s, after the British withdrawal, the Singapore Armed Forces took over the eastern part of the camp and its residential and commercial parts were made public.

Ms Kraaijeveld says: “Seletar is a really special place with a rich history longing to be told.

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The 2 military buildings at the former Royal Air Force (RAF) Seletar camp.

Block 179: The RAF’s station headquarters, along Seletar Aerospace Drive, is one of the oldest buildings in the area. It
was the target of air raids and suffered extensive dame in World War II.

Block 450: This was desigwas one of several large barracks in the area. Lke nearby Block 179, it was designed in the tropical Art Deco style.

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RAF Air Show at Seletar in 1953

“The Silver Hanger” fly past marking the 13th anniversary of the Battle of Britain on 11 September, 1953.  (Archived photos with courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore).

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Inspirations from “Lost Films” Website

With thanks to Simon Hawketts who created this special site, a bit different from a lot of photo sharing sites because the pictures are not attributed to any particular photographer but are pictures which were taken by lots of unknown photographers, using unknown cameras and in unknown locations. These are pictures found on rolls of film in second hand cameras that I’ve bought, or in boxes of colour slides which I’ve picked up on auction sites and car boot sales.

Although it is common these days, in the age of social media, to share a lot of pictures, years ago pictures were only shared amongst family and friends. It’s interesting to think that over the last 100 years there must have been millions of pictures taken which have only ever been seen by a handful of people or by no one at all. Many have been destroyed, many are sitting in people’s attics and cupboards forgotten about and many partially exposed rolls of film are still sitting in a lonely camera somewhere waiting to be discovered. The aim of this site is to release those pictures and allow people to view them.

Please find out more about Simon’s innovative ideas shared here .

This blog is inspired by Simon’s archived photo of the RAF Seletar airbase entrance and led me to research the relevant sources to share with our friends at the RAF Seletar Singapore, RAF Seletar & Tengah, Ex Far East Brit Brats groups on Facebook. I hope to bring them fond nostalgic memories of their days in Singapore and their RAF services at Seletar.

Please watch the video of the old photos developed from the “found films” here .

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The archived photo of the Seletar Swimming Pool in 1950s, courtesy of NAS.

The Sumiko Phenomenon

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This article is reproduced with courtesy of The Straits Times, 10 December, 2000 to share on this blog.

The Sumiko phenomenon, celebrated columnist.

Serene Goh examines the Sumiko Tan Pheomenon, the turn of the spotlight from newsmakers to the people who write the news – journalists.  Tan Dawn Wei contributed to this report.

Heroes.  Those necessary icons of our generation.  Move over Gandhi and Lennon.  In today’s Singapore, one name stands out above the rest:  Sumiko Tan.

We know her as the dulcet belle and deputy editor on The Straits Times’ Life! section.  A celebrity in her own right, here is a faithful following besotted with her fortnightly Sunday Plus diary entries on her life.

And it’s been so since July 3, 1994, with some 135 pieces on a plethora of topics: her career, her love life, disrobing for a Japanese bath, her break-up, her addiction to watching the Olympics, her love life.

When Sumiko goes to the hawker centre, it’s a Kodak moment.  Her A-Z shopping guide is a clip-out op.  Her insights into bad hair days display a deep understanding of the true disaster of unyielding tresses.  Thriving in the new economy, her online chat generated marriage proposals in a stream of hits only marginally less mighty than the Senior Minister’s.

Let’s face it:  She’s a star.  Telling, then, that at one Star Awards, the camera rested on her face, seated among local television glitterati.  After all, it’s a face that’s as much recognised for gracing and campaigns for UOB Lady’s Card and Lee Hwa Jewellery, as for being protagonist of the running serial, the Life! and times of Sumiko Tan.

Call it a Zeitgeist in journalism.  The New York Times reports that the modern byline doesn’t simply identify authorship, but works like a conventioneer’s identification tag.

It puts a human face on the institution, writes Felicity Barringer, citing the growing trend for newspapers to run e-mail addresses and/or telephone numbers with bylines.

Whereas in the past, the invisible journo played wall-flower to hardcore news, or expert commentary on current events, today, the author’s personality is a selling point too.

Stalwarts such as Dave Barry or Zuzie Menkes, for instance, have long been prized as specialists on humour and fashion.

But Sumiko has gone a step further.  She isn’t beloved for being the respected journalist of 15 years that she is.  Most don’t realise her influences include Time magazine’s Pico Iyer and feminist writer Camille Paglia.  Or even that she’s authored 12 books on crime, corporations, The Singapore Parliament, as well as co-authored a biography of  Lee Kuan Yew.

Rather, she’s most famous for her columns on her after-office hours.  Confessional and earnest, the flavour of her columns don’t quite fit the beefy blend of the five-sectioned Straits Times.  Yet, it’s a voyeuristic taste that’s addictive.

Alwyn Lim, sociology tutor at the National University of Singapore, said this is due to an emerging culture where people are induced to tell all.  “It’s like that with popular talk shows and people who post their diaries on the Internet.”  Her insights, he said, are a necessary breather.  “Sumiko Tan’s (columns) are about the most open we can get in Singapore’s newspapers, since any highly personal political opinions would probably be directed to the Forum or the Speakers’ Corner.”

Such as, say, braving Speakers’ Corner in Moschino sling-backs.  It’s not every nation that can boast a journo who’s popular simply because, well, she shares deeply.

London’s Sunday Times columnist Zoe Heller came close, detailing her trysts in what she called a horribly indiscreet weekly narrative.  Though wickedly funny, her pieces were largely popular among what she calls “dirty old men”.  She finally stopped because she was typecast as a “girly writer”.

“I thought: ‘why am I telling three million people the intimate details of my life every Sunday morning?'” she said.

“Before I started, I worked for four years as a features journalist at the Independent on Sunday.

“After a couple of years, I was only ever asked to write giggly pieces about condoms, or articles such as Whither Romance In The 21st Century/”

Sumiko faces the same pigeonhole.  As with pop icons, she has detractors; harsh ones, whose criticisms involve such words as “juvenile”, “uninspiring” and “diabolically insidious”.

Readers such as Annie Leong, restaurant owner and biochemistry graduate, pulls no punches.  “She whines, and she whines.

“I would have thought she was fresh out of school.  There’s no depth,” Leong complains.

“I don’t have any arguments with her topics, but her approach is just not worth the ink.”

No stranger to venom, Sumiko reckons her positive feedback outweighs the negative by about 7-to-3, with some comments getting very personal.

“I remember a man who left a message in my office mail saying sneeringly and condescendingly:  “Please Sumiko Tan, do you really think people care about what you say?  Your pieces make me sick.  Why don’t you just shut up,” she said.

“Mostly, it’s from folks who say they are disgusted at how I keep writing about myself, or how my topics are always trivial (love, relationships, hairstyles, clothes), and how dare I take up space in a national paper with my petty concerns.”

But, she counters: “It is not as if I’m some exhibitionist who takes great joy in revealing intimate details of my life.  It’s just that over the years, I’ve realised that it is usually anecdotes that get people hooked onto a story.

Because my column is meant to be a ‘personal’ one as opposed to, say, a political-analytical type of column.  I’ve concluded that it is only anecdotes from my own life that I can tell with honesty and sincerity.”

It’s  a formula that works among those who identify with bleeding hearts than a hulky-sulky Xena.  Ultimately, there’s a comfort in knowing someone – anyone – faces the clumsy everyday we call life with the same lows we do.

As Lim points out: “Sumiko’s column ‘happens’ for the same reason people watch Ally McBeal: They want to take a lighthearted look at their everyday lives.”  And if you even have a trace of an inner sap, you’ll say aww to that.

The truth is – are you sitting down? – Sumiko has outgrown herself, becoming greater than the sum of her parts.

If you think the sole distinction between her and creations such as Ally McBeal or Bridget Jones is that Sumiko is a real person expressing real thoughts, you are mistaken.

In the world of everyday heroes, journalistic personalities such as her mark the industry’s contribution to mass mascots.

So she isn’t a morose lawyer, or a chubby media toady.  Still, her column, and consequently her persona, functions as a behind-the-scenes look at a profession built on exposing others.  Sociologically speaking, it’s an answer to intellectual snobbery:   Mass communication at its purest.

For Sumiko, it’s an objective fulfilled.  “I have a column to write … my job is to get them read.

“From feedback, I gather that some of my columns like those on death and relationships, have been cathartic for readers, because I am voicing for them what they have experienced.”

After all, even her harshest critics still follow her, whatever their morbid fascinations.

As Lim points out: “Love her or hate her, people will still continue to read Sumiko’s column because she has offered herself as the voice of fluff of the nation.  And what’s wrong with that?”

Nothing, of course.  Not even if that means working through the lachrymose tale of a tortured Tamagotchi-lookalike pet called Dinkie who shrivelled up and died from neglect.

Sob.

Note:  The quoted italic passages above are highlighted to share my personal sentiments.

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AskST@NLB at the Central Public Library

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The new series of talks held on the first Friday of every month at Programme Zone, Central Public Library.  The askST@NLB talks, a joint effort between The Straits Times and the National Library Board (NLB).  There are 12 in each run.

Starting it off is the talk by Executive Editor of The Straits Times, Sumiko Tan as she shares about her experiences with life, love and loss.

Sumiko Tan wrote her first personal column as a young reporter in 1994.  Over the next 22 years, her fortnightly column in The Sunday Times gathered a faithful readership and made her a household name.  With heartfelt honesty, her columns chronicled the ups and downs of singlehood, working life and when it finally happened when she was 46, married life.

Her new book “Sundays with Sumiko” was recently launched.  It is a collection of her most representative columns over the past two decades, exploring family, love, friends, career, dogs, death and marriage.

I am pleased to attend an enlightening talk by Sumiko Tan and she graciously agreed to pose a photo with me for keepsake.20170802_172400

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

App for Queenstown Heritage Trails

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They do not live in the neighbourhood, but a pair of undergraduates have made it their mission to document Queenstown’s heritage.

Mr Kwek Li Yong lives in Jurong and Mr Jasper Tan in Sengkang.  They spearheaded the creation of the MyQueenstown mobile app.

Launched in 2013, the app guides users along six heritage trails in the estate.  It has hundreds of photographs and audio-visual material relating to the memories of the estate’s long-time residents.

The duo, both 28, have worked painstakingly to piece together the neighbourhood’s history and published a book to commemorate the estate’s 60th anniversary in 2013.  It was published by The Straits Times Press.

They also plan to launch similar projects in two other neighbourhoods: Bukit Merah and Tampines.

Ten years ago, Mr Kwek visited some elderly folk in Queenstown while doing community service and became intrigued with the area.

“While older people tend to talk about themselves or their families, the people I visited in Queenstown kept talking about their estate and its history,” says Mr Kwek, a final year economics student at the National University of Singapore.  “They were clearly very proud of it.”

He had met Mr Tan while they were serving their national service, and approached him about working together to collect stories from Queenstown folk to feature on a blog (www.myqueenstown.blogspot.com), which is no longer actively updated.

“At first, it was just fun to hear stories from residents.  Then we started to realise that their personal and collective histories were very much linked,” says Mr Tan, an economics management graduate of the Singapore Institute of Management.  “Many of them tell the same stories.”

For example, many of the students spoke of an old kampong called Bo Beh Kang (literally “no tail river” in Hokkien) which Queenstown grew out of, and where Mei Ling Street is located now, says Mr Tan.

“I managed to find some of the original residents from the kampung and realised they knew one another because their memories were so similar.  They hadn’t been in contact with one another for decades.”

The pair founded MyCommunity, an informal grassroots group which they registered as a society to begin documenting the history of Queenstown.  It now comprises a dozen other heritage buffs.

Mr Kwek recalls the first time they went to a market in the neighbourhood and told an egg-seller about their project.

“She immediately called the whole market to come and help us,” says Mr Kwek with a laugh.  “It’s this kind of community spirit that I don’t see elsewhere.”

The two bachelors say they are expanding the scope of the project to include more estates as they feel that Singaporeans are slowly forgetting the ways in which their lives have changed.

Bukit Merah will mark a natural transition as it is “an old estate with a similar demographic” to Queenstown, says Mr Kwek.

“There is a large elderly population and many old housing blocks.  Many of the residents have lived there for 50 to 60 years.”

As for Tampines, the MyCommunity group is still in the preliminary stages of their research into the town’s history.  “Its a younger estate that has been shifting eastwards, but there’s still a lot of history there, including old fish farms and quarries most people don’t know about, says Mr Kwek.

While the positive feedback they have received from projects has whetted their appetite for more, both of them will not be documenting their own estates any time soon.

Mr Tan thinks his neighbourhood is too new to document.  Conversely, Mr Kwek feels recording his, Jurong, will prove too mammoth a task for now.

“I marvel at countries such as China and the United States and how they manage to document their history so well,” says Mr Kwek.

“The onus is on Singaporeans, not just those in Queenstown, to capture their own memories.

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[Source:  The Straits Times and NewspaperSG of the National Library Board, Singapore]

With thanks to Mr Kwek Li Yong and Mr Jasper Tan who invited me to attend the Media Preview of the Alexandra Heritage Trail on 4 April, 2015 as posted on this blog .

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Fellow blogger friends at the “Alexandra Heritage Trail on 4 April, 2015.

Legend of Maxwell Road Hawker Centre

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Screenshot_20170720-003920Maxwell Road Food Centre in Singapore (‘Now’ photo above, ‘Then’ photo below)

Thanks to the invitation of “China Street Fritters Group on Facebook” in a message sent me last week.

“We are featured in this year Singapore Food Festival. Hawkers Spotlight 2017. On 16 July, 2017 from 3.00pm to 4.30pm, Media, Bloggers & Writers will tour that few Spotlight stalls lead by Moses Lim. There will be a making of Hum Chin Pan & Food photography contest for Media & Guests.
Do come to support this event.
Cheers!”

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City Gas and Singapore Tourism Board pay tribute to second and third-generation heritage hawkers at Singapore Food Festival.  Maxwell Food Centre takes centre stage at Hawker Spotlight 2017.

For the second year running, Singapore’s town gas and natural gas utilities provider, City Gas, collaborated with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to host the Hawker Spotlight for the Singapore Food Festival (SFF).  Previously held at East Coast Lagoon Food Village, the moving hawker showcase took place at the iconic Maxwell Food Centre this year; right in the heart of Chinatown.

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The official explaining the instructions for the events of the Singapore Food Festival at Maxwell Food Centre.

“City Gas believes in paying tribute to heritage hawkers as they play a central role in shaping Singapore’s food landscape.  We are pleased to partner STB and Canon, and together, we hope to raise the profile of pioneer hawkers and encourage the younger generation to step forward to keep our hawker tradition alive,” said Mr Kenny Tan, Chief Executive Officer, City Gas.

Ms Ranita Sundramoorthy, Director, Attractions, Dining & Retail, STB added:

“We are thrilled to work in partnership with City Gas and Canon for Hawker Spotlight, an event where we showcase our hawkers and share their multi-generational passion for food with locals and visitors.  Hawkers are an integral and unmistakable part of Singapore’s multi-faceted food landscape, so it is fitting to shine the spotlight on them at the Singapore Food Festival, the only event here dedicated to showcasing local cuisine and culinary talent.”

The showcase served as a platform for the local media to connect with second and third-generation hawkers, the unsung heroes who form the backbone of our cherished hawker heritage.  Through first-hand interactions, media enjoyed a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the local hawker food scene with these heritage hawkers on 16 July, 2017.

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Led by local celebrity and food connoisseur, Moses Lim, the media entourage was given an intimate insight to Maxwell Food Centre, and was introduced to six heritage hawker stalls such as China Street Fritters, well-known for its traditional handmade Hokkien ngoh hiang,

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and Hock Soon Roasted Duck Rice, a stall name that speaks for itself.

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Hawker Spotlight 2017 also included a new kid on the block, 3rd Culture Brewing Co., a hawker stall which specialises in pairing local food with craft beer.

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To complete the entire experience, the media also had the opportunity to try their hands at making and frying their own hum jin peng, a fried dough snack with either sweet or savoury filling.  The interactive session was helmed by hawker stall owner, Ms Li, who has been making the traditional snack from scratch since 40 years ago.

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Those Cantonese dough-nuts, harm jeen beng, two of which alone could satisfy any breakfast requirement, were a steal at 10 cents each although a customer had to fry them himself.   (Photo source:  The Straits Times.  Courtesy of NewspaperSG).

In the olden days, Ms Li’s father was a pedler hawker who ply his harm jeen beng in a cart in Chinatown.   Today, Ms Li demonstrate how to fry the heritage food at the Hawker Spotlight 2017 (photo below).

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The interactive hands-on session with the participants

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Ms Deenise Yang, the winner of the “hum jin peng” contest with her prize presented by Moses Lim.

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Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food.  The most popular items on the menu includes sup tulang merah, mutton ribs and ghee rice with fried kampong chicken.  Every flavourful dish is meticulously prepared using his grandfather’s traditional recipes.

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Rojak, Popiah and Cockle is owned and operated by the Lim family for over 25 years. Mrs Lim is the owner while Mr Lim, her husband and his sister.  Ms Lim, serves up delicious rojak, popiah and cockle.  The ladies from Russia (photos below) sampled the popiah and rojak at the stalls.
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Of all the drink stalls in Maxwell Food Centre, Ho Peng Coffee Stall is not only the most popular, it is also the most eco-friendly drink stall.

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Ho Peng Coffee Stall was awarded the Green Hawker Award for use of empty milk cans (photos below) for drink takeaways for over 60 years.

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Old Place. Heritage Hawkers: History of Maxwell Road Market

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The empty plot of land (where a horse stood in the photo above right), the Maxwell market was built beside St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital (later the Outpatient Services Headquarters) at Kadanayallur Street.

It curled out at the top, the Maxwell Road Market was a stereotype wet market of bygone years.  Its non-aesthetic but staunch architectural characteristic that long retained the atmosphere of a wet market so blissfully ignored by its hungry habitues.

But in the early 1980s, this facility situated at the busy junction of Maxwell Road and South Bridge Road ceased being a market and became a food centre.

But during the period of massive urban development in the 1980s, cooked food vendors famed for their exquisite viands in China Street and roadside hawkers in Chinatown were resettled here.

From near and far, those seeking mouth-watering and economical breakfast, lunch or dinner made a bee-line to this city food centre.

Built years before World War II, this relic of a wet market served its Chinatown neighbourhood well and its wide surrounding spaces were put to good use by itinerant hawkers.

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Seventy backlane hawkers in China Square moved to the nearby Maxwell Road Market on 6 December, 1986.

They were the last lot of backlane hawkers to be re-housed in hygienic centres.  They operated from open-air, makeshift stalls in China Street.

The shift wraps up the Government’s long and mammoth resiting programme which started in the early 1970s with the building of hawker centres.  The programme is to ensure that hawkers conduct their business in a clean and hygienic environment.

The temporary zinc-and roof shelter at China Street  was inadequate.  But the eating spot was popular with office workers, drivers and odd-job labourers, although it has no electricity and proper ventilation.  The hawkers have to tap electricity from shops nearby.

The new place at Maxwell Road is slightly bigger and comes with modern amenities.

According to an interview in the Straits Times on 18 September, 2000, Mr Ng Kok Hua, 29, a ngoh hiang seller, said: “We have built a reputation together for generations since the time we were at China Street.

“This will be lost if we were broken up and moved to different places.  Regular customers like to order dishes from several stalls at one time because of the attractive variety we offer.”

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China Street Fritters

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Mr Ng Kok Hua and his brother, Mr Richard Ng are the pioneers of the China Street Fritters since they moved from China Street and started business at Maxwell Road Food Centre in 1986.

China Street Fritters are famous for their traditional handmade Hokkien ngoh hiang. This stall has won not one but two awards – Best of the Best Ngoh Hiang and the Heritage Hawker Award.  The owner, Mr Ng, is the 2nd generation managing the stall.  After completing his bond in the shipping industry, Mr Ng decided to join the family business together with his elder sister, younger brother and sister-in-law.

Please check out the nostalgic memories of the China Street Fritters here .

To cut a long story short, a link to a previous blog to share my sentimental bonds to my affiliation with Maxwell Road Food Centre (formerly a wet market with a few hawker stalls catering nearby workers for meals) and Ah Hua’s China Street fritters.

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Walk Down Haji Lane in Singapore

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Entrance of Haji Lane from North Bridge Road, Singapore c 1963

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Entrance of Haji Lane from North Bridge Road, Singapore 2014

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On a sunny day in 2014 when I walked down Haji Lane, I was surprised that there were many young people, Singaporeans, visitors and tourists from various countries.

I felt awkward and out of place in this quaint, narrow alleyway in Singapore.

Haji Lane – Singapore’s original hipster neighborhood.  A buzzling, all-hours enclave in Kampong Glam peppered with charming boutiques, watering holes, cafes, and restaurants that rank high on hip factor.

The photos of the colorful and funky murals on the buildings are shared here on this blog.

The shophouses of Haji Lane have a history no less interesting than the stores they house now. In the 60s and 70s, the area provided lodging for poor Malay families, and also gave shelter to pilgrims on their annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Incidentally, that’s where the name of the street has its roots — ‘Haji’ is the Malay word for a Muslim man who’s completed a pilgrimage to Mecca.

It’s pretty apt that the first shop which took on the monumental task of reviving the area’s nightlife scene was a Middle Eastern-style café. Café le Caire, an Arabic hookah restaurant which started up in 2001, was then the only establishment in Kampong Glam willing to open at night and on Sundays. According to the café owner, Ameen Talib:

“The whole Haji Lane area was totally dead…There were basically just a lot of empty shop houses. The ones that were occupied were used as storage spaces.”

Almost 50 years later, Haji Lane which is the shortest street in Singapore is transformed into the most popular “in-place” to chill when night falls.

Once an empty street of pre-war shophouses, Haji Lane has been given a new lease of life by local designers and young entrepreneurs who have set up their quaint boutiques proffering fashionable wear and products boasting made-in-Singapore designs. Here, you will find excellent vintage shops selling an array of contemporary, quirky garments and accessories as well as local boutiques by up-and-coming designers that have been refurbished in their own unique style. Just a street away, you’ll find textile shops that have been in business since the 1950s! There’s a raw, energetic vibe that’s worlds away from the polished international stores which makes Haji Lane so undeniably fascinating.

The backlane with nothing exciting for anyone to do in the past is now packed with the latest hotspots in the area bar-restaurant that’s a mishmash of urban street art, art deco, Georgian, Victorian and modern furnishings—a great backdrop to a small alley filled with independent designer stores that have thrilled the likes of Gwen Stefani. Your local shopping trip in Singapore simply wouldn’t be complete without a stop at this much-loved alley.

The drab and dull grey walls once upon a time are now filled with colorful coats of psychedelic paintings to fill the walls on every sides along the alley. Have a walk in the night at Haji Lane to meet everyone from everywhere all over the world and have a place to remember.

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Chinese “getai” stage in Haji Lane c 1980

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The juxtaposed photo of Haji Lane in 1968 when it was an ordinary backlane outside the upper floor of the building with the “flag-poles” of clothings on bamboo posts to dry in the sun. (Photo credit: National Archives of Singapore).

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Haji Lane in 2014

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A video clip with courtesy of Phenomenal Travel Videos on YouTube is posted here to share.

The House in Singapore Painted Red

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When I visited Katong last week to blog the walk the memories of the old places in Singapore, I discovered many new stuff which I did not know before.

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With courtesy of Warees Investments, the investment arm of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, the big posters with information and photos were displayed below the overhead bridge, along the corridors of the shops for the public to read and share on this related blog.

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More than a dozen organisations and individuals have expressed interest to run a confectionary business at Red House Bakery, the iconic bakery at East Coast Road – with about half of them being Malay-Muslims.

The bakery is part of The Red House, the first endowment project in Singapore to incorporate the social enterprise element.  It is managed by Warees Investments, the investment arm of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

The Red House managed by Heavenly Wang

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I accepted the invitation to “来 LA KOPI WITH US!” at the Heavenly Wang and walked into the refurbished Red House of Katong for breakfast.

To capture the “memory-aid” photos here to share:

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The old sofa set (foreground) and the original designed floor tiles are the relics of the Red House Bakery.  (The white table and chairs at the back are new).

Time for Breakfast at Heavenly Wang

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Please come join me to “la kopi” if we meet …