22 February 2009

Old Singapore Quiz (6) - Answers

Here are the answers to Old Singapore Quiz (6)

1. What is the name of this road?
A: Amoy Street

2. Is this portion of the road still in existence today?
A: Yes

3. Who was the OCBC chairman at that time?
A: Tan Sri Tan Chin Tuan

4. What was the tagline of the bank?
A: Solid as a rock

I managed to take a second-shot of the same stretch of Amoy Street as it appears today. Compare the new photo with the old:

Three additional buildings are visible in the new photo. They are, from left, Pickering Operations Complex, Capitol Square and UOB Plaza.

The answers to Questions 3 and 4 could be found in this Straits Times article dated 17 Feb 2001. As reader Kaizhu87 pointed out, OCBC's tagline today is "Ask OCBC". (Hmm... why do I get a feeling that they are asking me to talk to a rock? ;)

Tan Sri Tan Chin Tuan passed away on 13 Nov 2005, at a ripe old age of almost 97. You could read more about his life here. You may notice that his only son is unnamed in that article. Long ago, I heard a bad Hokkien joke about his long life and his son's speculated name. I will leave you to figure this one out as I really should not be repeating it here. (Note: This is not a quiz, so please keep your guesses to yourself.)

Nobody gave correct answers to all 4 questions. The following people made guesses and this is how they fared:

a. Yg gave only 1 correct answer (to Question 3). He thought that the location was Upper Nankin Street (now part of Hong Lim Complex and Chinatown Point). But if it was Upper Nankin Street, the view of OCBC Centre would have been at an oblique angle instead of a direct view as seen in the photo.

b. Peter provided 2 correct answers (to Questions 3 and 4).

c. Icemoon forced me to reveal to him privately the answer to Question 2 by threatening to do a second-shot of the scene.

d. Kaizhu87 thought that it was Canton Street. Again, the angle of the photo ruled out this street as the correct answer. However, he/she did get the Chairman right.

e. Shih Tung thought that the street was "one of the streets that got swallowed by Far East Square or Capital Square". Indeed, a part of Amoy Street is now within the air-conditioned Far East Square. I think he/she could be refering to the portion of Amoy Street shown in the photo below which had been torn down. The old houses facing the camera in the distance were probably located on Pekin Street.

Photo courtesy of National Archives Singapore (NAS). Circa 1980.

Note: The 1st photo (circa 1978) and the 2nd photo (dated last year) were taken from the location indicated by the red arrow in the map above while I believe that the NAS photo was taken from the location indicated by the blue arrow, before Far East Square was built.

16 February 2009

An Unusual Blog And An Appeal

I took this photo on 8 October last year near the famous Sungei Road Laksa stall at Blk 27 Townshend Road. Yes, I was there to defy the PM's order eat the very good $2 laksa with lots of harm (cockles).

Of course, I was not only there just to satisfy my hunger pangs. As usual, I was on a constant lookout for interesting sights for this blog. I spotted this blogsite address displayed on the rear windscreen of a Comfort taxi: "http://victorian-azri.blogspot.com/"

I thought it was interesting for 2 reasons:

1. It was probably a blog by or about an old Victorian. (I am an old Victorian myself and my son is also currently studying in Victoria.)

2. It was the first time that I saw a blogsite being advertised on a taxi this way. Could it be a taxi driver who blogs?

Afraid that I might not be able to remember the blog address, I took a photo of it. I have forgotten all about this photo until I chanced upon it just now while searching for another photo. I visited the blogsite and was surprised to find that the blog belonged to Muhd Noor Azri Abdul Rahman, a 17-year-old who suffered a cable-ski accident in March 2007 and had a stroke. Azri was then a Sec 4 student of Victoria School and was participating in cable skiing at East Coast Park as part of his PE lesson. He now has a severe dent on his head as part of his skull had to be removed to alleviate swelling in his brain.

I remember reading the article in the New Paper some time last year but didn't pay much attention to it then. The Comfort taxi which I took a photo of that day must have belonged to his dad, Abdul Rahman Abdul Hamid, 45, who is a taxi driver.

Azri's blog is titled "Help For Victorian Azri". However, there are no details on how we could help. I have left a comment there to ask in what way I could help. I could certainly contribute a little money and hope you could too.

On another note, I personally feel that the school should stop having cable skiing as part of the PE curriculum, especially after this accident. I for one would be very reluctant to allow my son to participate in such a dangerous activity.

12 February 2009

Old Singapore Quiz (6)

This photo is a video grab of a scene from Saint Jack, a 1979 film that tells the life of Jack Flowers who was a pimp in Singapore. The film was shot entirely on location in various places in Singapore in 1978. This controversial film was banned in Singapore. The ban was lifted only in Mar 2006 and the film is now M18-rated.

However, the quiz is not about the film. That would have been too easy, wouldn't it? It is also not about the name of the skyscraper in the background. Any true blue Singaporean would instantly recognise it as the 52-floor/201-metre OCBC Centre which was built in 1976. It means that the building was only 2-year old in the photo. At that time, it was the tallest building in Singapore as well as in South East Asia.

Instead, I would like to know the answers to the following questions:

1. What is the name of this road?

2. Is this portion of the road still in existence today?

3. Who was the OCBC chairman at that time?

4. What was the tagline of the bank?

If there are no correct answers, please check out this post again in a week's time.

06 February 2009

My Luck In The Toto Hong Bao Draw

Caution: This post is rated NC18. It contains discussion on gambling gaming.

Warning to my 2 sons: You stay away, okay?. (Studies have shown that parents who are avid gamblers gamers are likely to have children who take after them. Wanna bet?)


Many people buy 4D, Toto and Big Sweep for a hope. As they would say in typical Singlish, "Don't buy, no hope. Got buy, got hope. No win, neber mind. I do charity lor." (According to the Singapore Pools' website, its surpluses are "channelled toward funding worthy causes and projects through the Singapore Totalisator Board".)

I seldom buy Toto. Not that my religion forbids it. (I am a freethinker.) Not that I am not greedy for the money either. After all, "something without labour" is always better than Nil Sine Labore ("nothing without labour").

I only buy Toto when the grand prize grows to an astronomical amount and even then, only when I happen to pass buy a Toto outlet with no queue and all the stars are aligned in my favour.

Alright, enough excuses for being greedy. I finally succumbed and bought myself a $10 Prosperity Pack today. (Included in the pack are 2 boards of "Quick Pick System 7" and a "Singapore Sweep" ticket.)

When the results were published, I could not believe that I struck the Group 1 prize didn't even strike a single number out of the 14 numbers I wagered on:

Now could someone good in maths please tell me what were the odds for that happening? If chance was very slim, they ought to award me a prize as well, don't they? After all, if I had picked 38 numbers and didn't strike any of them, the chance would have been the same as correctly picking all 7 numbers that came out in the draw, am I right? (38 + 7 = 45, the total number of balls in the game.)

Frankly, I don't understand why people are so excited about the yearly Hong Bao Toto draws with big prizes. Consider this - the previous "non-Hong Bao" draw had only ONE Group 1 winner who won all of $1,592,705 while this Hong Bao draw had a total of 14 Group 1 winners sharing a prize of about $10 million. Each winner took home only about $732,000, less than half the amount which the previous Group 1 winner won. It doesn't make sense, does it?

In any case, now I feel like a really sore loser charitable person. As they say, it's time to move on and I am looking forward to striking $2.2 million 1st prize in the Singapore Sweep draw on 4 Mar 09.

03 February 2009

The "Celebration Of Life" for Shin Na

I have been following Shin Na's blog for some weeks, ever since a documentary on her was telecast on CNA some time ago. You all probably already know the very sad news by now - Shin passed away last Tuesday. She was truly a brave, remarkable and inspiring woman. I would like to express my deepest condolences to Tony, Josie and Toby.

When I read that her funeral service would be held at Asian Civilisation Museum, I thought it was a rather unusual venue too. But Shin was an unusual woman.

My mind wondered - would a FOYer (Friend of Yesterday.sg) like me be granted this privilege as well when my time comes? Having "written some" philatelic books here and there, I thought it would be nice to have mine held at the Singapore Philatelic Museum. Even better, if I could have a stamp issued in my honour for the occasion.

Haha, I am only kidding, of course. I know that only kings and queens are deserving enough to have their faces published on stamps. Certainly not a peasant like me, am I right, Wee Kiat?

It is just wishful thinking on my part. Besides, my anonymity on this blog should be carried into the nether world. If not my name then at least my face. :)

02 February 2009

A Last Look At Kampong Lorong Buangkok

I blogged about Kampong Lorong Buangkok here before. In that article, I urged you to visit it before it "also disappears in the name of progress and development". Well, did you? It is now confirmed that the kampong will have to go soon. (Read the New Paper article at the end of this post.)

I did manage to pay the kampong a visit on 4 Feb last year and I would like to share the photos with you.

This house belonged to a Chinese family. Notice the red ornamental decorations at its entrance? They were probably decorations for the Chinese New Year which fell on 7 and 8 Feb last year.

More photos of the same house:

A Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) statue in the compound of another house (no. 13) belonging to a Chinese family:

It even had a jackfruit tree bearing fruit! Can you spot it in the next photo?

No? How about now:

Still can't see it? Oh my, you'd better have you eyes checked. :p

Ought to see it now, right?

A 2-storey house - a luxurious home by kampong standard:

This way to the surau (small Malay mosque), please:

More photos of other houses in the kampong:

This one had a signboard above its main door. It was probably operating a home business of sorts, maybe the kampong's grocery store?

The nearby forlorn gate to former premises of SILRA Home. ("SILRA" stands for Singapore Leprosy Relief Association). It is now located at 80 Buangkok View, Singapore 534191.

With the new HDB flats in the background, it seemed to beckon, "Welcome to progress and development."

Although the letters have been removed (no photoshopping at all) and worn by time and weather, a cross and the words "SILRA HOME" are still faintly visible on this wall.

Related Posts About Kampong Lorong Buangkok:

1. Earlier article on this blog

2. Kampong Buangkok Videos made by NTU students on Chun See's blog

3. New York Times article and video dated 3 Jan 2009

The New Paper dated 14 Jan 09

Singapore's Last Kampung - And now, the end is near... - By Desmond Ng

Plans afoot to develop Lorong Buangkok kampung. Once just rumoured, now it's concrete, says and landowner.

'If it happens, it's just too bad'

Owner glad there's something concrete about development plans

TIME once stood still for Singapore's sole surviving kampung. Now, the clock has started ticking, and the pendulum looks like a wrecker's ball.

The Government's plan to develop the kampung land will flatten the last 28 houses standing and erase Singapore's rustic past.

The landowner may become a multi-millionaire from the acquisition. So, why is she looking glum?

For Ms Sng Hui Hong, few things have changed since her father bought this village some 53years ago.

The same old zinc-roofed huts, surrounded by rambutan, jackfruit and banana trees, are still nestled in a hard-to-find forest clearing.

There're no roads here, just a well-trodden dirt path snaking to this quiet enclave.

The air is fresh. It's so quiet that you can hear the chickens clucking and crickets chirping.

At night, the village descends into almost total darkness with so few street lamps in use.

Life in this last surviving kampung in Singapore still crawls at slow pace.

The friendly folks here keep their doors unlocked. Children run and cycle around freely without fear of traffic. The many stray dogs here bark at every stranger or the occassional snake slithering in the undergrowth.

And tourists and locals hunt down this hamlet every weekend for a taste of the kampung lifestyle - a pecularity in this city state.

But it looks like time's up and the wrecker's ball is a-waiting for Kampung Buangkok.

This kampung will be bulldozed and redeveloped, possibly in the near future.

There are plans for this plot of land, along with its surrounding area, to be comprehensively developed, said the Urban Redvelopment Authority (URA).

In its place will be housing, schools and other neighbourhood facilities supported by a road network, added URA. This land is about the size of three football fields. Under the Master Plan 2008, part of the land has also been earmarked for the development of a major road linking to Buangkok Drive.

URA said that the implementation time frame for these plans has not been firmed up.

This death knell came somewhat as a surprise to the kampung's landowner, Ms Sng, when The New Paper met her yesterday.

Said the 55-year-old in Mandarin: 'I've not heard from the Government or anyone about plans to redevelop this area. This is the first time I am hearing this.'

Normally wary and suspicious of the media, this feisty woman, on hearing about future redevelopment plans, invited this reporter into her house.

She proceeded to ask in great detail about the plans and when it'll take place.

Said Ms Sng with great concern: 'I've been living here for so long and there're always rumours about redevelopment. Finally, there's something concrete.'

Ms Sng's father, a Chinese medicine seller, bought the land in 1956. A few dozen colourful huts now dot the landscape, albeit surrounded by looming cranes waiting by the sidelines.

According to Ms Sng, some 28 families live there and pay her nominal monthly rents ranging from $6.50 to $30. Modern amenities like running water and electricity have been in place at the kampung since 1962, she said.

She's ambivalent about the impending change.

She'll miss the village and the rustic lifestyle, but added that she's resigned to the fact that there's no stopping redevelopment.

Said Ms Sng: 'I kind of expected the redevelopment plans. I just had that feeling, I can't explain it.

'I am not sad, this is just life. If it (the acquisition) happens, that's just too bad.'

She's not counting her millions yet either, because she doesn't know for certain what her land's worth.

Previous news reports had valued the land at about $33 million some two years back.

And since then, people (and property agents) have turned up in droves to look at her land, much to the annoyance of this recluse.

'I will never sell this land,' she said then. 'It was passed down by my father and it's my last remaining memory of my mother.'

'What a pity'

Not that she will have much of a choice when the Government comes a-knocking.

In the event of an acquisition by the Government, the compensation will be based on the prevailing market rate, said Chesterton Suntec International's head of research and consultancy, Mr Colin Tan.

'But nothing blocks the way of development - she (Ms Sng) will have to give up her land then. If the land was zoned for agriculture, the compensation will be much less than if it was zoned for residential,' he added.

Ms Sng said she doesn't know the nitty-gritty details of her land except that it's on a 999-year lease.

We spoke to some villagers there who can't believe that they're living on borrowed time.

Said Mr Jamil Kamsah: 'So sayang! ('What a pity', in Malay). Where am I going to keep my plants? I am going to miss my neighbours and our close friendships.'

Mr Kamsah, 55, a make-up artist, has been living in the kampung with his family for over 40 years. Their first monthly rent then was $2. It's now a princely $15. He said: 'I will miss this kampung atmosphere the most. And so will many people.'

He said that every weekend, there'll be strangers strolling around the estate, soaking in the kampung atmosphere.

Like former MP and artist Ho Kah Leong, who spent hours there painting scenes of the kampung.

He showcased 20 paintings of the kampung in his solo exhibition called, 'The Last Kampung Of Singapore - Lorong Buangkok' two years ago.

For Mr Kamsah, he'll take each day as it comes.

'I don't want to think so far now. I've never lived in a flat before and I can't imagine how it'll feel like,' he said.

Another resident, who only wanted to be known as Mr Wong, said he bought and re-built three huts there for over $10,000 each in the last 10 years. The land on which the houses are built is rented from Ms Sng.

He said he bought the houses for his children.

Said Mr Wong in Mandarin: 'I will miss this place but it's not just me alone. There're many residents who've lived here much, much longer.'

Kampung life can still live on - By Ng Wan Ching

AS THE last kampung in Singapore looks set to bite the dust, Mr L T Toh, 62, can't help but remember his own kampung days.

His family lived in the Wu Lin San (Boo Lim Cemetery) kampung.

'Those days, to rent a house in the kampung was very cheap, something like $2 a month.

'We had lots of space to breed chickens, pigs, goats and grow our own vegetables. Water came from wells. If you lost your job, you won't starve. You can live off the land in the village,' said the retiree who is now a freelance hawker.

Now, things are very different for him.

'In a Housing Board flat, there are also conservancy fees and electricity bills to pay. If you lose your job, you'll need help. Kampung life was much simpler,' he said in Mandarin.

He regrets that soon there may be no more kampungs left to show the younger generations what life was like then.

'Young people will not feel any loss or regret because they don't know the difference. But older people like me who have lived in kampungs would like to have some left as a reminder of our past,' he said.

But all may not be lost even if there are no kampungs left. As Singapore Environment Council executive director Howard Shaw puts it, there's nothing to prevent the kampung spirit from enduring.

Said Mr Shaw: 'It will benefit all of us to cultivate certain aspects of the kampung spirit.

'The open way of life, with much sharing and trust among each other. The way things are used again and again, that's very environmentally friendly. All these aspects can live on without the traditional way a kampung is set up.'

The challenges for any government will always be to house Singapore's population, he said.

'What has to be weighed is a sense of nostalgia against the benefit to the greater population,' said Mr Shaw.

There are also other ways to retain aspects of Singapore's heritage such as in the archives or in the way heritage shophouses have been re-developed to retain their character while modernising the interiors.

Best solution

'There is no solution that will please every one, so we must aim for the solution that will please or benefit the most people,' said Mr Shaw.

But there is one thing that the Government must always show in the acquisition of private land, said Singapore Heritage Society president Dr Kevin Tan.

It must show that it is necessary, he said.

He also cautioned against rebuilding everything that is 30 years old.

'If everything gets rebuilt every 30 years or so, there would be no sense of familiarity.

'If the landscape that people grew up with changes all the time, then there will be nothing to bind them to the land.

'There would be no sense of belonging,' he said.