31 May 2010

He Licks And She Sucks

Some time ago, my blogger friend wrote a blog post with a suggestive title, Suck harder! And it will come out. Seeing what big excitement such a title could arouse, I am following in his footsteps. But not by sucking.

Marina Bay Sands (MBS) was the second integrated resort (IR) to open in Singapore this year. The first one was of course Resorts World Sentosa (RWS). Various attractions were opened progressively together with the 2 IRs. RWS had the Universal Studios while the MBS had the Helix (pronounced "he licks") Bridge.

I was at the Helix Bridge to lick soak up the scenic sights on the Saturday night of 22 May 2010. The bridge was crowded.

But only half of it was. The other half was deserted.

Why? Because only half of the bridge was opened; the other half remained closed. Curious people tried to peep beyond the barricade.

Can you differentiate who is the real person in the above photo and who is a cardboard cut-out? (Clue: My younger son is in the photo. Hmm... I can't believe that my 13-year-old son is taller than the adult woman!) Fortunately, the woman is only a cardboard cut-out. If she were real, my son could have been accused of committing khalwat (close proximity).

You could take beautiful photos of the bridge.

You could also take beautiful photos from the bridge.

I am no Feng Shui expert but suddenly, it dawned on me that the bridge should have been more appropriately called Shesux (pronounced "she sucks") instead of Helix. Why, you ask? Get your mind out of the gutter! It is not what you think. The logic is actually quite simple.

See the Singapore Flyer?

It is strategically positioned as the mouth of a giant vacuum cleaner hose while the bridge is the hose itself. This contraption sucks all the wealth from the people into the casino! How evil! How clever!

Moreover, Shesux will surely remind people not to gamble away their life savings at the casino, much better than mild and uncreative warnings like "know the line", "draw the line" or "crossing the line" as expounded by the National Council on Problem Gambling can, I assure you.

Don't believe? Wanna bet?

25 May 2010

Peep! Peep! Bugis Street….Peep! Peep! Bugis Street – By Peter Chan

Long before I kick the bucket, Bugis Street shall always be in my mind. Bugis Street was the street for good food and good-time “ladyboys”. Ask any British Servicemen what he remembers about Singapore, it was Bugis Street and the “Great Trishaw Race” down North Bridge Road.

It’s the beginning of a new busy night at Bugis Street. Street vendors seen here making preparations (c1967).

How did I get to know Bugis Street? Back in the early 1960s, occasional Saturday night outings were a prevailing family practice - my father and my Tai Pak (eldest paternal uncle) took our grandparents out, each person taking turns to pick up the tab. Bugis Street was one of the places we went. There were street food stalls and in some places there were Chinese restaurants with open-air dining at the roof-top terraces. To get a feel of the ambience, you take a walk down the alleys of Lockhart Road in Hong Kong and look up those three-storey buildings. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of roof-top terraces in old black & white Hong Kong movies.

Left photo – “Ladies of the Night” standing close to the public toilet. Right photo - Many would have remembered this public toilet which is now inside Bugis Street shopping mall. This is the famous flamingo dance on top of the public toilet (c 1963).

As we made our way through the crowd, we kept looking at those tall heavily made-up ladies, some standing and some seated on the laps of Royal Navy sailors. My auntie cautioned us to stay close to the adults otherwise we would be kidnapped by those “aunties”. Whilst the adults enjoyed the sumptuous Cantonese meals of suckling piglet, shark’s fin soup and Hor Yip Fan (lotus leaf rice), my cousins and I had better ideas. Here we were up on some “skyscraper” looking at the skyline and the streets below.

Left photo - British military provost on street beat (c 1967). Right photo – ANZUK and U.S. Coastal Patrol (c 1974).

Now we come to the question why “Peep, Peep”? That was because the British military provost blew their whistles and quickly rushed to break up rowdy and drunken sailors or army boys. Sometimes you see the military provost dragging a drunkard lad with a baton close to his neck. There was something special about those military provost guys; they wore shorts, walked with metal-studded boots and red armbands. There was one time we saw this crazy group of British lads armed with cans of Tiger beer climbing up a public lavatory. Many attempted to climb but many fell because they had far too many drinks. When they climbed they were cheered on by others. Once at the top of the public toilet, some went dancing which I now come to know as the “Dance of the Flaming Ar**h***”. I am not sure what was stuck inside but I tell you it was burning alright. After the British pullout in 1971, ANZUK and the U.S. shore patrol provost took over policing Bugis Street until 1975. After 1975 I believe our Singapore Police Force took over.

The impact of Bugis Street could not have been under-estimated. If one thought that Patpong in Bangkok had a reputation, then look no further than the joint promotion by Thai International and Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (now Singapore Tourism Board). This is really strange when Singapore Airlines should have been promoting our tourist attraction.

The Bugis Street Experience promoted by Thai International and Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (c 1970s):

he Experience'

Every night in Singapore, they close off one of the streets to the traffic and throw it open to the people. The result is Bugis Street, a wild conglomeration of music, laughter, food stalls, fruit markets, satay stands, outdoor restaurants, pedicabs, beer vendors, hawkers, kids who play noughts-and-crosses for money (and never lose), students, drifters, eccentrics, hustlers, drag queens and even the odd punch up. It's a place that's always happening and it'll never give up before you do (the character in the picture is singing Santa Lucia - in passable Italian at 3.30 on a Sunday morning).

Bugis Street is an untouched leftover from Singapore's boisterous past. It was an Experience then, and it's an Experience now.

Singapore bade farewell to Bugis Street in 1985 and its demise was even reported with great regret by the The Economist and London’s Financial Times. That was the year the transvestites moved out, some say to Changi Point which has become an attraction today. After the Bugis Street site was up for URA land sale, many debated whether the new Bugis Junction shopping and hotel complex should incorporate any of the old culture and perhaps Singapore’s unofficial tourist attraction. Of course when you were a tourist, you voted with your dollar but the government thought otherwise.

So there is little of Bugis Street remaining except by token name and a drag show at Boom Boom Room, which is by the way not even in the Bugis Street area.

17 May 2010

Old Singapore Quiz (17) - Old School - Answers

I think YG knew the answers to the last quiz but the gentleman in him didn't want to deprive others of the chance to have a go at the quiz. James gave a partially correct answer.

Q1. What was the name of this school in the 1960s - 1970s?

A1. Delta West School, Delta West Primary School or Delta West Integrated School would all have been correct answers. DB1688 attended this school from the late 1960s till the early 1970s. He is appealing for ex-students or ex-teachers of Delta West Primary School from that era to contact him.

Q2. What is/was the school's location?

A2. Delta Avenue was the official address of the school but the school is actually nearer to Indus Road.

Q3. Is the school building still around?

A3. Yes, it is now Delta Senior School of the APSN (Association for People with Special Needs.

Below are the second shots of the 3 photos. You can see how much (or little) has changed over the last 45 years. (I took the new photos in Sep 2009.)

The front gate of the school. Notice that the sign in the old photo says Delta West Integrated School.

The school building.

The school field.

As for the answers to the alternative question to name 3 makes of vehicles shown in the photos, they are a Volkswagen van (as Chun See rightly pointed out), 2 Mini Clubmans and 1 Mercedes Benz. These were quite common makes of vehicles on our roads then. (In fact, my first car was a Mini too.)

Here is another old but well-kept Volkswagen van that is probably still plying our roads today. (I took this photo almost 2 years ago.)

Photo Credits:

All old photos (circa 1965) are courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore.

12 May 2010

Old Singapore Quiz (17) - Old School

You can say that I studied in an old school and belong to the old school. Hence today's quiz is about an old school - one that was probably built even before I was born.

What makes this quiz particularly difficult is that most schools built in the 1950s look similar. They seem to be designed by one architect and built according to one plan. Obviously it is more economical to build schools of similar designs compared to different ones.

It is likely that only 3 groups of people will get the answers right for this quiz, namely:

1. Ex-students of this school;

2. Ex-teachers of this school;

3. People who stayed in the school's vicinity.

Below are 3 different views of the same school:

The front gate of the school. (Note: To make this quiz really challenging, the school's name has been wiped off from the signboard.)

The school building.

The school field.

The quiz questions are:

1. What was the name of this school in the 1960s - 1970s?

2. What is/was the school's location?

3. Is the school building still around?

And for those who don't know the answers to the above questions, below is an easier one:

Name 3 models of vehicles shown in the above photos.

03 May 2010

Where Is 5-1/2 ms Pasir Panjang Road?

Despite the title of this post, this is not a quiz.

Last week, my friend Chun See received an email from someone in UK. In the email, the writer commented, "We lived at milestone 5-1/2 at Pasir Panjang, not all that far from Haw Paw Villa, better known to us as Tiger Balm Gardens."

Knowing that I work around that area, Chun See asked if I could make out its present location. Considering the title of this blog, how could ever I pass up such a challenge?

First Step - Check the 1963 Street Directory

The first step is obviously to check the 1963 street directory. I am quite sure that Chun See also has a copy of this street directory but perhaps he simply forgot to look it up. Old street directories always have the milestone (ms) markers indicated on their maps. The map of the stretch of Pasir Panjang Road between 5 and 6 milestone markers is reproduced below:

I have circled the 5 and 6 milestone markers in red in the map. (Incidentally, the map indicates the markers as 5 MP and 6 MP respectively. MP probably stands for "milestone post" but I am not sure. In the old days, each milestone location actually had a stone post painted in red, white and maybe black impaled into the ground at the roadside. The milestone number was also painted on the post. I think there were also milestone posts for half-mile points as well. I would love to show you a photo of an old milestone post but sad to say, I failed to find one. Anyone can help me out here?

From the above map, 6 ms was at Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Gardens) while 5 ms was between Yew Siang Road and Pepys Road. You could tell that 5-1/2 ms would be probably near South Buona Vista Road, i.e. the location numbered 2 in the map.

Second Step - Conduct a Location Visit

Next, a location visit to the area is a must. This I did last Saturday. First I went to the 5 ms area near Yew Siang Road. This is where a beautiful old bungalow still stands today, i.e. the location numbered 1 in the map.

View of the old bungalow from Pasir Panjang Road (direction of red arrow in the map).

The bungalow looks even more lovely from Yew Siang Road (direction of red arrow in the map).

Incidentally, I found an old lady sweeping leaves on Yew Siang Road just outside of the house. Now she certainly did not look like a cleaner employed by the NEA. (She probably has been sweeping the road regularly and is obviously someone who believes in keeping the environment scrupulously clean.)

I parked my car and talked to her in English. I said I would like to take some photos of the bungalow. She asked me why and I explained that I wanted to post the photos on my blog. She did not understand what a blog was so I said it was on the Internet. She did not know what was that either. She revealed that she was the owner of the bungalow. She probably thought that I was a property agent or an interested buyer of the property. Luckily, she didn't chase me away with that broom! :p

After completing my mission at Yew Siang Road, I went to the South Buona Vista junction to take a photo of the row of pre-war shophouses there from the direction of red arrow in the map. Most of the shophouses there are now restaurants and bars.

I wonder how many people nowadays know that this place used to be 5-1/2 ms Pasir Panjang Road?