27 April 2010

How Mummy Took Her Revenge

I visited Universal Studios with my family last Saturday. (Universal Studios Singapore opened its doors on 18 Mar 2010.)

Having survived the Giant Drop and the Tower of Terror at the turn of the last century, I was looking forward to riding the Battlestar Galactica. However, I was deeply disappointed that it remained closed for safety inspection and review.

We headed straight for the Waterworld as the first show was scheduled to start at 11.30 am.

There we witnessed some explosive action and got to experience first hand what terrorist attacks would feel like.

You see, besides the loud explosions, you might also get terrorised by having water splashed over you if you chose to sit in the blue seats in front. No need to go to Thailand for Songkran Water Festival... and risk another explosion over there.

After the show at the Waterworld, we proceeded to the next most exciting ride after the Battlestar Galactica, i.e. the Revenge of the Mummy.

Somehow this ride reminded me of the Ghost Train I used to sit in the old New World Amusement Park of the 1960s. It has similar scary sights and ghostly figures to scare the wits out of you. Only this time, the advanced electronic effects are 10 times as realistic and hence 10 times as scary. (No such thing as silly coconut husk for the hair of the mummy.) The train car can take about 10 times as many passengers, i.e. 20 people compared to only 2 in the past. It also moves 10 times as fast and effectively costs 10 times more to ride. Finally, the screams are 10 times as loud and I am not joking.

But I was definitely joking when I told my two boys after the ride that no wonder the scary ride was called the Revenge of the Mummy - it's because mummy was wise enough not to join us for the ride. She thus took her revenge by leaving us to suffer and scream all by ourselves. :-)

Omigosh, after the scary ride, this man looked like the friendly guy next door:

And did we travel so fast that we entered a time warp to before 1962 when Marilyn Monroe was still the reigning screen idol?

After experiencing almost the whole gamut of human emotions, we felt hunger pangs, naturally. So we entered this fast food joint called Mel's Drive-In. Parked outside were several old beauties which my friend would certainly love to use for his quizes.

It was crowded inside and all tables were occupied. I joined the queue at the cashier to place my order. I could not believe my ears when a while later, a female staff approached the queue to announce that our orders would take one-and-a-half hours to fulfill! Wow! Mel sure gives a whole new meaning to the term "fast food". While he is at it, he might as well change the name of his outlet to Mel's Crawl-In instead of Drive-In. ;)

In the end, we settled for a $6.90 chicken pie each from this stall. Half of my money probably went to pay for the stall owner's monthly installments for the expensive-looking vehicle prop.

Obviously still hungry, we later had pizza and honey chicken wings at Loui's Pizza and then finished off with desserts at KT's Grill.

Despite the small glitches, overall it was still an enjoyable experience for the whole family. Highly recommended but you should go on a weekday instead. Why? Because you have to wait up to 80 minutes for some of the rides on weekends. With only 9 hours available (Universal Studios is open from 9 am to 6 pm daily), how many such rides can you take in a day? It doesn't take a Maths genius to work out the answer. Even mummy can.

19 April 2010

Singapore's Version Of Eyjafjallajokull

Sorry that I was MIA (missing in action) last week. No, I was not stranded in Europe because of the volcanic eruption in Iceland. (On a related note, I hope that Vivian Balakrishnan and George Yeo could catch a flight home soon. I am sure that there a lot of things waiting for the 2 ministers to do.) The reason is that I was busy submitting my income tax returns. Not that I had a lot of income to declare that it had to take me off blogging. It is just that I have a tendency to keep procrastinating unpleasant tasks. Declaring one's income is not exactly an enjoyable task. Even much less so is paying taxes. But like they say, death and taxes are the only two certain things in life - one is "do, do, must die" while the other, "die, die, must do".

So I was at Telok Blangah Hill last Saturday to destress after filing my income tax returns and to breathe in some fresh air. Or so I thought...

Suddenly I saw a huge plume of black smoke in the distance. For a moment there, I thought that ashes had blown over from Eyjafjallajokull. (By the way, what kind of name is that? I won't even try pronouncing it, even though they told me it sounds like EY-ya-fyat-lah-YOH-kuht. I just thank my lucky stars that I didn't have to spell this Icelandic volcano in our Geography lessons some 40 years ago. Phew!)

I was wondering, where did all the pollution come from and who was the culprit? As for all things for which I don't know the answers, I did some research search on the Internet. I found out that the flame is called a "flare" and it came from a newly commissioned ethylene cracker at the Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex. According to the website, it is a "safe and routine part of commissioning a new unit, such as a cracker". It went on to say that "the flares are likely to be seen from the last few days of February to early March".

But hey, it is now nearly late April. So like what the New Paper asked of the volcanic eruption, "When will it be over?"

Further Reading:

1. http://wildshores.blogspot.com/2010/02/flaring-up-at-pulau-bukom.html

2. http://singaporeseen.stomp.com.sg/stomp/sgseen/what_bugs_me/346444/pulau_bukom_flaring_continueseven_into_the_night.html

03 April 2010

Albert Street SIT Flat

Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) was set up in 1927 by the British colonial government in Singapore to build affordable public housing for the common population. In 32 years, it managed to build only 23,000 flats, mostly within or near the city area. It was replaced by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) in 1960. HDB is celebrating its 50th year anniversary this year. However, with the recent run-up in prices for both public and private properties, people are divided as to whether HDB still provides affordable public housing.

Do you remember the quiz question which I asked of this photo in my blog post about traditional coffeeshop snacks? I asked readers where was this block located. Eight months has passed and nobody has come up with the correct answer yet.

Well, I have done some investigative work as well as attempted a second shot. I can now say with certainty that the block was located in a portion of Albert Street which is now called New Bugis Street. A view of New Bugis Street from Queen Street is show below:

Now compare the following photos:

Take note of the patterns on the pillar of the building which could be partially seen at the left edges of the above photos. Do they look similar?

Yes, and there you have it! The block was located in Albert Street, the street just next to Cheng Yan Place where I stayed in a similar block from 1956 till the mid-1970s. Today, the block which I stayed in has also been replaced with a red building (on the left of the photo below). The spanking new Iluma Shopping Centre is directly opposite. How I wish that it had opened 40 years ago!

But do you know when were the 2 blocks constructed? Ahh... I have the tender notice from Straits Times dated 5 December, 1947...

Singapore Improvement Trust

Tenders are invited for Concrete Piling at Albert Street and Cheng Yan Place.

Tender Form, etc. may be obtained at the office of the Trust on payment of a deposit of $50/- which will be refunded if a bona fide tender is submitted.

Sealed tenders are to be deposited in the Tender Box in the Office of the undersigned by 4 p.m. on 19 December, 1947.

The lowest or any tender will not necessarily be accepted.

Singapore Improvement Trust
Municipal Offices.

...as well as a 1946 aerial photo of the empty plots land:

Above is a map of the same area in 1961, with the two blocks indicated in red.

The two blocks of flats were constructed in the late 1940s and probably demolished in the early 1980s, some 30 years later.