28 June 2009

Durian Challenge

Earlier this month, Chun See threw a challenge for some bloggers to name 5 places where you still could find durians in Singapore. Contrary to the title of this blog, I didn't take up the challenge as I was pre-occupied with another incidental topic.

However, The New Paper seemed to have gotten wind of Chun See's article and today it published an article seemingly in answer to Chun See's challenge. The article is reproduced below. (You have just saved yourself 80 cents which can go towards buying yourself a grapefruit-sized durian.)

As for me, I would rather pay for my durians than to risk getting a hundred puncture wounds in my skull while going in search for free durians. And indeed, I just paid $5 for a very good durian sold at Marine Parade Central yesterday. No fighting with fellow durian-pickers, no enduring of mosquito bites, no driving 20 km to Punggol end and no waiting for long hours. Isn't $5 worth paying for all those exemptions? You decide.

TRIUMPH: Mr Tay Joo Mong found this large specimen in the forest near Punggol Road.

27 June 2009

A Business Proposal For Marina Bay - Will It Work?

(This is an article written by my friend Peter Chan.)

"Singapore needs to plan for and invest in our city so as to safeguard our position as a premier place for business and talent. With its waterfront location and availability of unencumbered land, the Downtown at Marina Bay can be Singapore's competitive advantage, providing the opportunity to develop a unique business and financial hub as a seamless extension to the existing CBD (Central Business District)."

Photo 1: Model of the Downtown at Marina Bay

“The planning vision is to develop the area to provide prime office space for global business and financial institutions, complemented by a full range of residential, shopping, dining, and cultural and entertainment activities. Hence, the Downtown at Marina Bay will not be just a place for work but will be a business and financial hub that is integrated with quality housing and recreational and leisure facilities to provide a total live-work-play environment.” URA Vision Statement (2004)

So far, the progress has been very impressive:

Photo 2: Left; Marina Sands Casino, Right; One Raffles Quay, The Sail and Marina Bay Financial Center.

Hmmm…another project, another concrete jungle! How about some rustic charm that beats everything that has been called “entertainment” so far?

Photo 3: Floating Bar & Restaurant in the middle of Marina Bay with transfer service from pick-up points at Clifford Pier, Marina Sands Casino and the Promontory@Marina Boulevard.

Photo 4: Options for Transfer Services; “Quickie Quickie” or “Slow Boat”.

Photo 5: If you happen to lose your way, just look out for these prominent signboards.

Photo 6: On-board the deck is the “watering hole”, there will be space for a bar and a restaurant. Diving is also permitted.

Photo 7: Variety and reasonable prices on food and drinks.

Will this proposal work?

21 June 2009

Third Shot Of Club Street

Above: Club Street from Ann Siang Hill (Circa May 1998)

Above: Club Street from Ann Siang Hill (Circa 2006)

Above: Club Street from Ann Siang Hill (Recent photo)

After several second shot attempts, it is time to up the ante and attempt a triple shot. Alright, I admit I cheated - the first two photos above were taken from this link. Also, the third photo could have matched the first two better. But believe me, this was yet another of my "last-minute" attempts.

Club Street extends from Ann Siang Hill on one end to Cross Street on the other. It is located in the vicinity of Chinatown and is another part of old Singapore where many pre-war houses have been conserved. Nothing much has changed in the architecture of these houses for the past century or so, except perhaps for some repainting and minor renovation done.

However, most of these houses are used differently now compared to yesteryear - from being mainly shopfronts below and residential abodes above to mainly bars, restaurants, boutiques and curios shops.

Below is the entry in Singapore The Encyclopedia on Club Street:
"Located in Chinatown, Club Street's name is believed to have been derived from the various Chinese clubs and associations sited along the thoroughfare. However, the establishment of Chinese clubs in the area was gradual, and occurred over a long time, so this explanation seems unlikely. The name may have originated from one particular club in the area, perhaps the Chinese Weekly Entertainment Kee Lam Club (established in 1891), or the Chui Lan Teng Club (approximately the same vintage). Recently, a number of restaurants and bars have opened along the street, rejuvenating the area."
For more information on Club Street, you can read Wikipedia's entry here. Below is a view of Club Street from Cross Street side, reproduced from the same link.

14 June 2009

Second Shot - Masjid Sultan (The Sultan Mosque)

Sultan Mosque is one of the oldest and most important mosques in Singapore. It also has impressive architecture, the most distinctive features of which must be its minarets and its two domes. The mosque looks like it is located in North Bridge Road but its address is really No. 3 Muscat Street, Singapore 198833. The mosque is situated in an area of old Singapore called Kampong Glam.

In the above illustration, the left image is by courtesy of Michael Frost who took the photo in 1948. Michael wrote a caption in very neat handwriting:

"The newly painted Sultan Mosque stands like a cake decoration amid the squalor of North Bridge Road."
With modern and imposing buildings in the North Bridge Road area now, i.e. Parkview Square, Golden Landmark Hotel, Raffles Hospital, Bugis Junction and Hotel Inter-Continental, I am not sure if the word "squalor" is still an apt word to describe this locality.

The right image in the above photo was taken by me recently. On the right side of the image, you could see a partial view of Parkview Square. On the left, The Gateway (West) in Beach Road is partly visible. There are several other things that stand out in stark contrast. For example, you could tell that the prewar house standing near Arab Street looks different. In addition, several trees have sprung up around the mosque, testament to Singapore's reputation as a Garden City. The trees have almost completely obscured the lower facade of the mosque. Notice also that the antique car has been replaced by a modern luxury model.

Here's a 2nd "second-shot" taken from Jalan Pinang:

From the above photo, it is evident that the prewar houses on the left side of Jalan Pinang have been demolished.

The following passage is reproduced from "Singapore Guide and Street Directory, 7th Edition, March 1963":
"Masjid Sultan - The Sultan Mosque, designed by Swan & MacLaren and built in 1924-8. The earliest mosque on this site was built about 1823-4, before North Bridge Road extended beyond the present Arab Street. In June 1823, Raffles promised that the East India Company would pay $3,000 towards the cost of its erection; and it was certainly completed two years later when Lt. Jackson laid down the remaining section of the road, and had to make a kink in it to get past the mosque."
Below is the entry in "Singapore - The Encyclopedia":
"Regarded as Singapore's principal mosque, it began as a simple structure with a three-tier tiled roof on North Bridge Road. This was built in 1826, in accordance with the 1824 treaty ceding Singapore to the British, which also promised a sum of money for rebuilding an old mosque in the Sultan's enclave.

The mosque has since been rebuilt on land added by the Sultan's descendants. In 1925, Dennis Santry of Swan & Maclaren was commissioned to design the present structure, paid for by grants from the royal family and contributions from the Muslim community. This included donations of green glass bottles from the poor, which have been incorporated into the base of the dome. After its completion, a constitution was drafted stipulating that the trustees of the mosque must comprise Malays, Javanese, Bugis, Arabs, Tamils and North Indian Muslims, to represent the multiracial nature of Singapore's Muslim community.

The mosque was gazetted as a national monument in 1975. In 1993, an annex was added for an auditorium and a multi-purpose hall. Sultan Mosque remains one of the largest mosques in Singapore. Its prayer hall can accommodate 5,000 worshippers."
Below are two more photos - one was taken in 1972 while the other is a recent photo. Both are purportedly taken from Bussorah Street. However, I don't know why the orientation of the mosque looks slightly different in the two photos. Perhaps you can help me solve this mystery?

You can read more about the Sultan Mosque in this Wikipedia entry and here.


Pinto is right! (Please see this post's comments for his very keen observations.) The mystery of the last 2 unmatched photos taken from Bussorah Street has been solved.

Indeed, when I flipped the older photo horizontally, the two photos look more alike:

(Note that it is possible for an old photo to be inadvertently flipped horizontally. This can happen during the printing process, i.e. when the negative is fed in the wrong side up. Of course with digital photography nowadays, flipping is always done on purpose, using a software like Photoshop. This was how I flipped the photo back to the correct side too.)

About the photos of the mosque taken from North Bridge Road, I have forgotten to point out the following differences:

Note that in the old days, traffic on North Bridge Road was two-way. Now, the traffic is one-way, i.e. moving in the direction away from the photographer.

The power cables for the trolley bus system are visible from the old photo too. Of course, now the power lines have been been replaced by the "yellow line", i.e. the bus lane painted on the road. Arrows have also been painted to indicated the traffic flow.

Update again:

I still had one more question (in the comments of this post), especially for Pinto:
"If the views of the mosque from Jalan Pinang and from Bussorah Street are on opposite sides of the mosque, then how come the "opening" of "star-and-moon" sign on top of the dome is at 1-o'clock position in both views?"
And bingo for Pinto again! (Rhyme incidental.) His reply came quick and swift:
"Ah, that one had me stumped for a few moments.

And then I thought of the answer: There are two domes! I figured if the dome as seen from Jalan Pinang is the same as the dome viewed from Bussorah Street, then Sultan Mosque is a very small mosque!

A check with Google Maps confirms this."
I also found a postcard offering an aerial view of the Sultan Mosque that shows the 2 domes clearly:

The far side is at North Bridge Road and the near side is at Bussorah Street. Mystery solved again, thanks to Pinto.

07 June 2009

Old Singapore Quiz (8) - Answer

Undoctored photo of the old house

Here is the answer to Old Singapore Quiz (8):
Geylang Road
In fact the house is situated between Lorongs 35 and 37 at address 681 Geylang Road.

The reason for YG's deliberate comment about the "heavy chested" Chinese woman should now be obvious. For those still in the dark, that is the time when you should visit Geylang to find out, i.e. when it is dark. However sometimes, such activities occur in the daytime as well. But mostly, these activities happen after sunset and are confined to the even-numbered lorongs around Lorong 20 (plus or minus a few lorongs).

Okay, enough said about that distraction incidental topic. Back to the topic at hand. Below are more photos of the dilapidated house taken on 30 Apr 2007.

This photo shows the matching forlorn and rickety gate

The queer "dollar-signed" fence

Perhaps the fence was designed with wealth and prosperity in mind?

A few days ago, I passed by 681 Geylang Road and it looked like this:

So Question No. 6 in my last post is pertinent:
"Will it be demolished soon or will an impending makeover completely deprive it of its original character, like what has happened to so many other similar buildings in Singapore?"
Do you know the answer to that question? I certainly don't... but I fear the worst.

Update on 8 Jun 09:

I found this Chinese video from this blog post dated 21 Oct 2007 (click to play):

Besides giving you a close-up view of the house and its compound, the video also reveals some interesting information about the house and its owners. According to the narrator, the house is distinctively Malay in style and is gazetted for conservation. It has been left vacant for 15 years (17 years now).

The original owner of the house was an Arabic merchant. When he passed away 15 years ago, he bequeathed the house to his 5 children. However, his children subsequently sold the house to another party.

Update on 10 Jun 09:

Surprise, surprise! This house is going to be turned into a hotel.