Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Tomorrow I plan to do something I rarely do - I am going to join thousands of Singaporeans in bidding farewell to our first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Parliament House.

The one quality that I admire most about Lee Kuan Yew is “perspicacity”.  This is the ability to judge and understand people and situations. To me, it includes the ability to see into the future.
I think it was Confucius who said; “If a man takes no thought for what is distant, he will find sorrow close at hand”. I believe that, had it not been for Lee Kuan Yew’s perspicacity and his constant preoccupation with Singapore’s future, we Singaporeans could be facing a very different kind of sorrow today, as we mourn the passing of this great man.

Lee Kuan Yew was a great orator. As a young man, I listened to all his speeches. The speech that I remember best was the one he made in 1971 in Helsinki at the General Assembly of the International Press Institute. (Actually it was not so much his speech as his handling of the reporters’ questions after the speech that impressed me). I recall that at that time, we were facing much criticism by the Western press because of our government’s perceived suppression of press freedom. Many advised him not to accept the invitation to speak at this event as he was bound to be thrashed by the hostile gathering of his ‘enemies’.  

But as this Chinese idiom goes; “明知山有虎,偏向虎山 (to venture into the mountain knowing that there are tigers lurking there), he went anyway. And instead of being mauled by the fearsome tigers, he had them eating out of his hand like docile pussycats. Such was the persuasiveness of the man and the strength of his arguments. Watching his masterly performance made me feel proud to be a Singaporean.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Return to Batu Maung


This is a photo taken during my first holiday in Malaysia in December in 1970. This was just after I had completed my HSC Exams – the equivalent of today’s A-levels – and waiting to be enlisted into the army for my full-time National Service. All these years, I had assumed that this photo was taken in Malacca. It was not until relatively recently, when I shared this photo with members of a Facebook group in Malaysia called Down Memory Lane that I discovered this place was actually in Penang. Through some clever detective work, readers there managed to figure out that this place was Batu Maung, near the southern part of Penang.


In December last year, I visited Penang with my wife and some relatives and decided to revisit this place. Thankfully this stretch of the beach is still there as you can see from the photo above. It was just next to a Chinese temple known as the Sam Poh Footprint Temple.
 
 
Other places that I revisited in this trip down memory lane were the Snake Temple, Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si and a Thai temple at Burma Road which had 2 huge fearsome-looking idols in front of it. I was surprised to see that the temple has remained practically unchanged. Unfortunately, of the four persons in this photo, I am the only one still living.


 
On the trip back, we decided to take the ferry instead of the Penang Bridge even though the latter was faster. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful sunset which I saw in December 1970, and which I blogged about here. Unfortunately the scenery I saw in December 2014 was quite disappointing.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bus stops quiz


I like to take pictures of bus stops in Singapore. Here are 5 from my collection. Nos. 1, 2, and 3 are fairly common. But how about 4 and 5? Have you seen them before? Do you know where I took them?
No. 6 is a 1970s bus stop at Bukit Timah 7th Mile, near Beauty World. This photo is from the National Archives collection.

 
At Margaret Drive
 
 
 

I have seen another unique design in Jurong Island. But I dare not stop my car to take a photo for fear of being questioned by the security personnel. If you have such a photo, please share with me. There’s another one at Old Choa Chu Kang Rd that I have seen on Facebook. One of these days, when I am in the area, I will take a photo. Hope I’m not too late.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Memories of Queensway Shopping Centre

It is sad to see many parts of Queenstown that I have been visiting for decades disappear one by one. When I was living in Farrer Road, I often went to Queenstown for my shopping and leisure needs.

Even after I got married and moved to nearby Sixth Avenue, my family continued to go there regularly. Among the places that we frequented were the wet market at Tanglin Halt, Queenstown Library, the NTUC Fairprice Supermarket and Big Bookshop at Margaret Drive, Margaret Drive Hawker Centre, Tah Chung Emporium, the BP petrol station at Queensway and Queensway Shopping Centre. Most of these places have disappeared but Queensway Shopping Centre is still a landmark in that part of Queenstown; but I suspect that its days are numbered.




My earliest memory of Queensway Shopping Centre was in the mid-1970s when I was still doing my National Service. I remember going to a Malay barber who was operating from some makeshift stalls at the fringe of Rumah Bomba Circus just before returning to camp on Sunday evening. I think, at that time, Queensway Shopping Centre had not been built yet. Subsequently, after Queensway Shopping Centre was completed, these stalls moved into the complex and I continued to patronize the Malay barbers there. But when my favourite barber, a quiet, gentle old man by the name of Din retired, I stopped going.

Besides the barbers, I also became a regular customer of a tailor there called Benz Tailor until today. I cannot recall how I came to know this shop which is run by a gentleman by the name of Simon. 

During my NS days in Mandai Camp, our S1 (Manpower Officer), a Lieutenant Tay introduced us to a spectacles shop there run by his relative. Other than that, there are the famous photocopy shops on the third floor.

At one time when LDs were the rage, I signed up a membership with a video rental shop at the 3rd floor. Subsequently, the shop closed and moved out before I could redeem all my coupons. Also on the 3rd floor was Christian book store. I bought some books and CDs here. And I also bought some CDs from a shop on the ground floor; including this Bread CD.

There was also a Jumbo Coffee House on the 3rd floor which served pretty good western meals. You can see the name of the restaurant in big letters on the glass window facing Queensway. 

When I was working at the National Productivity Board in Bukit Merah Central, I had to pass by the Queensway Shopping Centre on the way home. Sometimes, I would stop here to buy some kueh tutu and muah chi for my children to snack at night.  It’s fun to watch them prepare the snack. Makes one feel like a kid again.

Another thing I remember about the Queensway Shopping Centre was the basement carpark. The layout of the parking lots were rather strange, like in concentric circles. The entrance is from Queensway and the exit is at Alexandra Road. Exiting the carpark is rather difficult especially if you drove a manual gear car as you have to stop for a long time for the heavy traffic at Alexandra Road.

Today, I seldom go to Queensway Shopping Centre. I feel out of place there with the many shops selling sports goods and shoes and the loud funky music. Still I will miss the place when they finally demolish it.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Here one day, gone the next (Braddell Rise School compound)

It’s finally happened! They’ve completely demolished the buildings that once housed my beloved primary school – the Braddell Rise School.



 Although Braddell Rise School itself had ceased to exist for a number of years now; having moved to Toa Payoh and adopted a different name, the old buildings had been retained and housed a number of different welfare homes such as the Minds Tampines Home, and the Society of Moral Charities. Hence, over the years, whenever I drive past this place; especially when I was on the MacRitchie Viaduct, I could catch a glimpse of my alma mater where I enjoyed many fond childhood memories.



Sorry, the date on the new photos should be 29/8/2014
Still I am comforted by two facts. One, the buildings were not torn down to make way for another condo; but for the expansion of its neighbour, the Assisi Hospice. Two, they had not done this earlier. When I first blogged about BRS in November 2005,  I speculated that when they started building the MacRitchie Viaduct, they certainly would have to clear this piece of land. But to my pleasant surprise, they did not; and over the years, I was able to visit it a few times. And in fact just last year, I was there with my friend James Seah for a photo shoot for an article in the Straits Times.

Still, I cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness when I pass by this place now and take a habitual glance towards where BRS once stood and realize the harsh reality of life in Singapore. We simply have no room for sentimentality on the little island ‘paradise”.

PS – You can read more about my memories of BRS, as well as those of my classmates Kim Aii Chan and Lee Sock Gek in my book, Good Morning Yesterday.