Sunday, October 14, 2012

Performing for Ghosts

Hungry Ghost month came & went. I don't miss the ashes flying about or watching out where I walk in case I trip over some offering. But I do look forward to the performances. Typically you either get the Getai, which I'd talked about here or the Chinese Opera. 

There were several going on in my neighborhood throughout the month. 
I asked around & made sure we went for one of the Opera Performances. 

Not quite your Orchestra band

The Girl enjoyed the costume & the makeup. 
Since we don't understand Teochew,
we made up stories on what they were saying & doing on stage

Meanwhile the auction & feasting carried on. 
The performance was indeed for the ghosts & a handful of us. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Kinetic Rain

When I mentioned that I was going to the airport, my colleague asked me to check out Kinetic Rain. I thought it was going to be one of those touristy water feature that you would expect to find at Changi Airport. 

Boy, was I wrong. It is beautiful, awesome & we were mesmerised. 

It is apparently the world's largest (it is after all in Singapore) kinetic art installation - computer-controlled aluminum *droplets* 608 of them, moving them up & down fluidly forming beautiful patterns. Created by German ART+COM. Be sure to look for it when you are in Terminal 1. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A walk through Coffee Hill

Bukit Brown Cemetary with 100,000 graves is the largest Chinese burial site outside of China. Growing up in Singapore, I've never heard of it until this whole controversy about building a highway over it & the need to exhume 4000 graves. Since my parents are from China, none of our ancestors are buried there, I suppose. 

I recently went on a visit with the Nature Society & was struck by how little I know about that place. Apart from the controversy, I read about it being the final resting place for a lot of the pioneers of Singapore, names like Joo Chiat, Gan Eng Seng, Boon Lay, Boon Tat - should be familiar as many places are named after them. Lee Kuan Yew's father & aunt are both buried there. 

But I had no idea the size. We walked for 2 hours & covered only about 75% of the area. While we were there, we came across many people walking their dogs, running & riding (the Singapore Polo Club is close by). It really should be called Bukit Brown Heritage Park (something I came across on the internet which I thought was very apt). Why hadn't I known about this place before ? This is truly a hidden gem in Singapore. 

I don't find anything morbid about a cemetery - in fact a walk through it is like a history lesson. Pere Lachaise cemetary in the middle of Paris, is well visited (not in small part due to Jim Morrison's grave). I fully intend to return & spend more time exploring before it becomes yet another casualty of our development plans. 

 Lovely Peranakan tiles

This is where the highway will run through
Experience it before it's gone

 Interesting fauna & trees
The whole area is well shaded 
hence making it a very cool place for walking & jogging

 A Terra Cotta Warrior stands on guard

Little tags highlighting the celebrity graves

A tomb with a man & his 5 wives
A rich man

 The number sign marks it for exhumation

 Mr & Mrs Ong Sam Leong
the largest grave in Bukit Brown

Intricate stone carving depicting 24 Filial Piety stories
on the grave site of Ong Sam Leong

This is the story of Wang Pou. When his mother was alive, she was afraid of thunder. Even when she was dead & buried, he would run over to her tomb to comfort her whenever there was thunder. 

A Sikh guard
Unique to graves in this part of the world

Combination of Chinese lion, Western angel & Gurkha

That huge binoculars helped us see up close a beautiful blue kingfisher

Mr  Wing our guide, showing us how they used nature to craft toys
Here's a garland that they made in the kampong days

 A useful plant to spot if you heed Nature's call
but do not have tissue paper handy
The soft leaves makes for a good substitute

Mass grave site

Bukit Brown is a beautiful place. 
Unspoilt. Quiet. Hidden. Calm. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Off the Beaten Track (not quite)

We're quite an outdoorsy kind of family, if you have not figured out by now. When we have nothing planned for the weekend (ie. shows or activities), we would almost always go walking, cycling, rollerblading or have a picnic at the parks.

So it's not at all surprising that one weekend we found ourselves heading towards Pulau Ubin. That place brings back lots of fond memories of my many many camping adventures during my JC days.

Getting there is easy & part of the fun. Take a bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal (which has been renovated & not as rickety has I remembered). You will be approached by one of the bumboat uncles to ask how many in your party & once there are 12 passengers, he will set off. $2.50 per person each way & $2.00 for your bike. There is a queue of bumboats & the uncles seem to know who goes next even if nothing seems to be organised officially.

A quick 10-15 min ride gets you to the island. Right after you walk out of the jetty, you will feel like you have stepped back in time. Balik Kampung.

Kampung houses


Even the bike rental place is *relax*

Cycling Tip : Due to the bad roads, make sure you check & double check the brakes before you pick a bike. We brought along The Girl's bike but hired ours there. They will provide you with a map of the island & advise you which trails to take. Even though some were advised to be difficult, our 7 year old did alright, as did the adults but expect to walk up with your bikes for some of the steeper slopes.

Quaint, charming, I'm already loving it
There are vans that will take you around the island but what's the fun in that ?

Nothing is a rush here

We took the Western trail, past the Celestial Resort (didn't know there was one on Ubin but it's not exactly your Capella Hotel) in the direction of the Outward Bound School. It's a dead end & we had to retract part of the way back to the east for Chek Jawa.

Not sure what this is but the old guy who runs the stall below was drying these in the sun & claimed to have medicinal value & invited us to try his special concoction

Love this sign
Very Bob Marley Very Kampung Very Ubin

We did as the sign said & stopped for a coconut

He had a whole garden of herbs & plants
And was preparing these for his special soup

It wasn't quite ready yet & we weren't quite so adventurous to give it a try

We met a guide for a group of MBA students
who showed us an unmarked path to a great view of the quarry

The last of the kampung houses

If you are in Ubin, you can't miss Chek Jawa Wetlands
The website lists timings for tides cos the best time to go is at low tide so that you can see all the beauty under the mangrove. It was high tide when we were there & now that I look at the website to see what we had missed, I plan to go back again

A wild boar that caused quite a ruckus amongst the visitors
Another reminder that we are not in concrete Singapore

As per my title, Ubin is off the beaten track but it's not exactly undiscovered, there were throngs of tourists & Singaporeans alike visiting the island. Most hire a van to take them to Chek Jawa whilst others head for the seafood restaurant. We had a modest but delicious meal at the Malay restaurant right next to the jetty.

I really enjoyed our day out & would recommend it for anyone looking for something different to do in Singapore.