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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Uncle's House

This unit at the junction of Circular Road and Canton Street used to be where my mum grew up in and was the home of my uncle for many years.

Right now it houses a restaurant and  a yoga gym at the premises but in those days in the seventies, it was home to my uncle and 2 other families.

It was a 3 storey building. On the ground floor was a provision shop and the owner and his family stayed there as well. I don't really remember much about the shop though.

Entrance to the upstair was via a side door. On the 2nd floor was a man who keeps rice there. Rumours has it  that he keeps a python at the premises to eat the rats. Whether that is true or not I really don't know since I never seen him or the python.

My uncle and his family stayed on the 3rd floor. The interesting thing about his place was that the main door was a trap door type of door and not the usual vertical door. So upon reaching the top of the stairs, one has to push the door which was about 6 feet long and 2 feet wide and it was no small feat for us kids! My uncle had also build an extension to make up the 4th floor which was where he and my aunt and their 7 children sleep. My maternal grandmother sleeps on the 3rd floor. I remember she had a giant of a wooden platform bed and we kids loves to climb on top to play on.

When we visits, we were sleep on the 3rd floor with the younger cousins of our age. For this purpose, my aunt had a stack of mattress just for us. The highlight of our trip to my uncle's house was of course their television and we spent many happy hours watching the black and white cantonese movies.

Even though my Uncle stayed near to the Singapore River, we were not allowed to go there on our own. In those days, the river was a bustling place with tongkangs and a lot of coolies loading and unloading cargoes. From time to time, we were hear of bodies being discovered floating in the water which was pitch black most of the time. My uncle used to tell us that these people were mostly opium addicts who either killed themselves or were so high they fell into the water and drown.

My greatest memory of the place though was the Robinson fire. At that time, Robinson department store was the biggest department store in Singapore and located at Raffles Place where the current OUB Plaza was. We were at my Uncle's house the night of the fire and we could smell the flame from where we were. There was even talk among the adults whether we should evacuate just in case the fire spreads over. Fortunately for my Uncle, the firemen managed to contain the fire.

Unfortunately, with the repeal of the Rent Control Act, my uncle was forced to move but by then he had in his foresight already prepared for it by buying a house in another part of town.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sin Hoi San Seafood Restaurant

Was looking for a place to eat on Mother's Day and since was in the town area, decided to check out more new  places. Went by Tiong Bahru area and decided to try our luck at Sin Hoi San. As we were rather early, managed to get a table. Whew!

Have heard about this place but never ate there. So wasn't really sure what to order and ask the China lady to recommend and we just went along.

Of course, no outing to a seafood restaurant is complete with seafood so the main items we had were crab and more crab!

First was the obligatory black pepper crab. The crab was huge. It was fairly well done cooked just right.

Since the children had suddenly developed a craving for crab beehoon, we also asked for crab beehoon although it was not on the menu. No problem - said the China lady. Actually this was a bad choice cause the beehoon was almost tasteless. In the end, we didn't finish it and ask for it to be doggy bagged. Mum had to refried it the next day to make it more palatable.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Chinese Funeral 4

Typically, during a funeral, friends and business associates of the deceased and deceased's families will give wreath, banner and of cash known as "pek kim" or white gold. The former are valued by businessman as the more their are on display, the more status and prestige is accorded to the deceased and family. The pek kim is to help in defraying the cost of the funeral which can runs into thousand of $$$.

On the day of the funeral, the elaborate altar is removed and replace by a long table laden with offerings.

There are food galore

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tampines Eco Green

Living in the east, previously the only natural greenery Eastsider have was the reclaimed land of Changi Beach. Otherwise, it was the usual small little town parks scattered all over the HDB estates + of course the 3 big beach park. But unfortunately, all of them are nicely manicured products – the products of the zombies sitting in their nice air con offices in the Nparks. How much better for the people in the West and Central where they have the Bukit Timah nature reserve, the various reservoirs, even “Little Guilin” in Bukit Batok and Mount Faber.

However, within the span of a year, things have started to look up in the East.

First, there was the opening of the Lorong Halus wetland. The artificial part is still there but right next to it is a vast piece of wild reclaimed land where mud, oil and slime fertilize the plants and feed the many birds that called the piece of junk land home.

Wide open green carpet trail
Then recently opened is the Tampines Eco Green. I used to see this vast piece of empty land when I go to my father-in- law’s place.  I have expected HDB flats to sprout out from that land but surprise surprise, what came up almost 20 years later was a beautiful piece of park land called the Tampines Eco Green.

Leaving most of the natural vegetation untouched, the park planner has cleverly designed a 3 km walking trail around the 36.5ha Park. What is unique about this park is that the paths are not the usual concrete or asphalt path or dirt ground. In fact it is covered with a layer of “carpet” grass that is so soft to the touch that it was almost like walking on air!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Chinese Funeral 3

Throughout the funeral wake, prayers are held for the deceased. In Buddhist funeral, Buddhist monks will conduct the prayers. For those who are members of Buddhist temples, the relatives may invite the Temple members to perform the prayers as well. These members are usually dr essed in black robes and led by lay monks instead of Buddhist monks. In addition to this, the relatives may also invite a religious organisation "Siang Tong" 善堂  to chant the final prayer on the eve of the funeral. The prayer is to pray for a smooth journey to the nether world. The priest and his group will sing prayers asking for the protection and blessing of the Gods, sing praises of the deceased and ask for guidance for the deceased. Even the address of the deceased is mentioned!

The Priest saying their Sing Song prayer

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Canon SX210

Got sick of the crappy image from the Casio Exlim. Was hoping that will drop it during one of the runs so that got excuse to go and buy a new one but it never happened. Decided to bite the bullet and just get a new compact camera. One that I can carry around easily, light enough to run with and yet powerful enough to do all sort of things that a DSLR can. And volia I think this is it!

The Canon SX210. Last year edition but it suit me fine cause it means cheaper. And just look at the features.
14.1 megapixel
28mm to 392mm
Image stabilizer
Macro: 5cm
Mode available:
- Auto
- Aperture priority
- Shutter priority
- Program
- Manual
- Usual preset modes

Color Accent
Color Swap 
Smart shutter - no more timer!
Fisheye effect
Miniature effect
HD movie
3 inch LCD

More specs than my current Nikon D60 DSLR and at a fraction of the price!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Chinese Funeral 2

In Chinese traditions, even numbers symbolises joy event such as wedding and birth and odd number for funeral. Chinese funeral wake in Singapore are therefore usually held for odd number of days but it can go up to 49 days although this is unheard of nowadays. Usually it is for 3, 5 or 7 days with 5 the most common since 3 is deemed too short and 7 too long.

The deceased in the coffin is placed with the head facing the house and the feet pointing towards the main door so that the coffin can be carried away feet first. (That is why it is consider bad fengshui for people to place their bed placing the doorway). In days gone by, the ladies will sit on the right of the coffin (facing outward) and the men sits on the right. When a guest comes to pay respect, the men will bow to him and the ladies will wail loudly to show their respect and filial piety respectively. That of course is no longer practice nowadays.

In front of the coffin is the altar. The Buddhist funeral altar is a simple affair comprising of a photo placed on a chair with the deceased's clothing, a table with some vegetarian food and an oil burner and a incense joss stick holder. The more traditional altar is a more elaborated affair.

There are 2 lanterns one on each side of the altar. One bears the name of the deceased and the other the age of the deceased. The practice is to add 3 more years to the actual age of the deceased. Not too sure why this is so maybe traditionally the mourning is for 3 years so this represent the final age of the deceased?  Or it represent Heaven, Earth and Man as some website said?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Singapore General Election 2011

I am not so keen to write anything about politics on this blog but this being a very special General Election, I think I need to pen this down somewhere before my memory fails me.

First, the background. Out of 87 seats, 82 are being contested. That in itself is a historical first. And with these numbers, there is a possibility, abet very teeny weenie possibility that the incumbent Pay and Pay  party will lose their majority and not be able to form the next government. A distinct possibility but still possible especially if everybody thinks their one vote for the opposition doesn’t matter. There are 6 opposition parties this time round and all of them have in their ranks some ex-military or ex-civil servants and most are more highly qualified. This time round there are no weirdos or wacko. Only very charismatic people like Chen Show Mao of the Workers Party, qualified people like Tan Jee Say, Tony and Hazel Tan and of course not forgetting the pretty and charming Nicole Seah.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Chinese Funeral 1

Having participated in a number of Chinese funeral and being a classic kaypoh, let me try to pin down the various practices in a Chinese Funeral. A lot of practices have changed and evolved in line with the time. Will spread this over a few posts. Please correct me if I get some of the facts wrong.

In Singapore, there are 2 type of Chinese funeral. One is the purely Buddhist funeral where the rituals are more simple and Buddhist monks conduct the prayers.  In strict traditional Buddhist funeral, there is no burning of joss paper or  金纸 'gold paper' or paper mache items. Purely Buddhist funeral are rare in Singapore. What is more common is the other type of Chinese funeral - which is a mixture of Buddhist and Chinese ancestral worship rites all designed to send off the deceased in the best and 'safest' manner possible

Let's start from the time a person pass away. After collecting the deceased from the mortuary, the deceased is  taken directly to the undertaker's premises where it is embalmed and dress up.  In the not too distant past, the dress of choice was the traditional Chinese skull hat and traditional Chinese robe but nowadays it is in his/her favourite cloth or in the case of a Buddhist follower, the black robe. Previously all this was done at the deceased's place or the location of the wake but the practice of embalming on site has now been banned for health and hygiene reasons. There is actually no real need to embalming the body but in this tropical heat, the body will decompose rapidly without the embalming. A body that is embalmed can have an open casket - one that is not embalmed must have the casket closed. Most family of the deceased will choose the former so that friends and relatives paying respect can have a last look at the deceased. Unlike Western funeral, only the face portion of the casket is open and covered with a piece of glass. There is no touching or kissing of the deceased allowed. In the past when embalming was not so common, the casket was closed and covered with a beautiful robe.

A closed casket
One other thing is that joss paper are usually placed in the casket together with the deceased. This is to provide money for the deceased to spend in the nether life.