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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Garden by the Bay South - Supertree Grove

After a few runs in the newly opened Garden by the Bay South with nothing to remember the expensive but beautiful trees, finally went back on a non-running day to take some pictures.  Due to time constraint, we went straight to the Supertree Grove. The artificial trees with all the lights remind me of the trees in Avatar the movie. The 18 trees are actually artificial structures resembling trees but they are planted all round with real plant. We went late so there wasn't enough light to capture the plants on the trees but we managed to watch the beautiful light show which comes on nightly at 7.45 pm and 8.45pm.

A little bit of creative play here
The photos are not very well taken though. For a much more beautiful view of the place, visit my friend, Aram Pan's VR site for a virtual reality tour of the garden.

Admission to the Supertree Grove is free but going up to the Skyway cost money.

Hopefully, will be able to find some time soon to visit the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Durian Brulee @ Pepper Bowl

Previously when I ate at Pepper Bowl, I did not had the chance to try the Durian Brulee. I figured it couldn't look and smell good back in the office but what the heck, I couldn't resist today and went ahead.

At $3.50 a pop, it wasn't cheap but it was definitely worth it. It was so smooth not like those available at the many hotels' buffet offering which is so lumpy nowadays. The durian wasn't that over whelming just nice for back in the office conversation.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nparks and Brompton Bikes

The issue over Nparks purchase of the Brompton Bikes have been raging on for some time. The net have been abuzz with speculation and one smart guy even did a "CSI" investigation and came up with several theories and innuendoes. I am a bit kiasee wait kena sue so I am not going to repeat what was written but I am going to go through what our Minister for National Development said in the defence of Nparks purchase and rebut his defence.

1. Why foldable bikes? The good Minister said: "Providing staff with bikes was thought to be a simple and effective way to raise staff productivity as it enables the officer to cover more ground and do more inspections within the same time. And if the bikes are foldable, it would eliminate the need for an office van to transport the bikes and the staff to the areas of their daily rounds. Just like a good baby stroller, NParks officers could just rely on public transport and carry the foldable bikes up and down our trains and buses, without breaking their backs or inconveniencing the public". 

Sure but how many Nparks officers are really going to carry their foldable bikes around, take public transport and to to the parks for their rounds? Since January until now when the bikes were purchased, have anybody seen any? I for one can't imagine any public servant willing to lug the bike around say from Nparks office, take the train to Bedok MRT and then cycle to Bedok Town Park and continue to cycle there. The bikes may not be that heavy but try carrying it around the whole day and I guarantee no Npark staff is going to be thankful to their office for "improving their productivity"

2. Why Brompton? NParks clarified that it had no particular brand in mind. It was open to considering all brands. Hence, the quotation on the Government website adopted general specifications to ensure that as many dealers as possible could come in.
Unfortunately, at the close of the quotation, only one vendor responded with two options, offering Brompton and another brand (at a higher price). NParks made some research, tested the equipment and after noting that the Brompton bid price was lower than the listed retail price of the same model, proceeded with the procurement.

As the smart CSI had investigated and stated in his post, in fact the Nparks appear to have a particular brand in mind judging from the very specific specifications that was stated in the tender. Further, the tender period was unnaturally short, lasting all of 5 days including a weekend and during the CNY festive period to boot, and therefore did not attract the attention of any other bike supplier. Instead of accepting that only one vendor had responded, the Nparks should have called for another tender and this time giving a longer notice period. But of course there seems to be some reasons why this could not be done.

3. Right bike? Mr Khaw said "Cyclists who are familiar with foldable bikes assured me that a Brompton bike, while costing more upfront, is durable and requires less maintenance, especially if heavy usage is anticipated. Its unique folding mechanism also makes it easy to carry and store. This is a useful feature for the female staff. 
I have accepted NParks’ explanation.
It looks like NParks has bought the right equipment."

Yes the Brompton is without doubt a good bike. I have a friend who have 2 of them and he swears by them but even he disagreed with the Minister's view.

i). The Brompton bike is durable but it is a road bike first and foremost. The Nparks officer in their course of work will have to cycle within the parks. Some parks are pretty straight forward like Punggol Waterway. Others are a mixture of pavement and trails like Admiralty Park. So what happen when the Nparks spot something in the bush or trees further away and has to take a closer look? Are they going to ride the bike onto the grass? push it? or leave it on the PCN and walk into the bush? 

ii) Durable and require less maintenance. Less maintenance does not mean no maintenance and from what I heard, the vendor in this case is not the authorised dealer and will not be able to provide the necessary support notwithstanding that they have given a 1 year warranty. And everybody knows that the maintenance parts really only kick in by the 2nd or 3rd year by which time the warranty would be over. What then? Write off the bike? And by the way, if Nparks had got the bike from the authorised dealer, the guarantee will be for 5 years!

Right equipment? I doubt!

Finally, there are serious allegations being raised on the web about the tendering process. Whether these allegations are unfounded or not, the authorities should initial an investigation. If there are impropriety by anybody, the culprits should be punished according to the government's usual high standard of governance. If there is no wrongdoings, then those people who have been named in the postings can be exonerated and maybe even sue their accusers for defamation.

In the name of greater transparency and to satisfy the public clamour, why not ask the CAD, CPIB or the Auditor General to launch an investigation? What say you, Mr Khaw?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

River Valley Swimming Pool

Those of us old enough will remember River Valley Swimming Pool. For the younger generation who have no recollections at all of what used to stood on that now bald piece of land there was once a trinity of very significant buildings, the National Theatre, the Van Kleef Aquarium and the River Valley Swimming Pool.

As a student at Outram Seconday School, despite we having our own swimming pool, we use to frequent the River Valley Swimming Pool for its length and depth. It was an Olympic size pool and its deepest end was if I remember correctly, 12 feet deep. We used to try touching the bottom of the deep end either by swimming right in or "sitting in" allowing ourselves to slowly sink to the bottom. Not many of us succeed though as it was really deep and we could not hold our breathe for so long or take the pressure.

River Valley Swimming Pool was closed in April 2003 as the dwindling population around the area and the opening of more modern swimming pool and condominium with pools led to the decline in use. It has sat vacant since then until recently when the Nparks took over and converted it to a park housing a gallery, Nparks office and renamed it The Foothills Fort Canning Park

Here is a before and after photo of the main pool. Very crowded in those days
Photo from the National Archives
Nothing left of the pool. Only a vacant piece of grassland where the pool used to be

The main entrance has been retained though. Spiced up a bit as can be seen from the picture above compared to the one below
Photo from National Archive
The stretch of buildings on the left has also been retained but converted to a gallery, npark office and the toilet is still standing.
The old buildings. Photo from Law Gazette
The rejuvenated buildings

The original revolving gate is still there
Photo from the Law Gazette
The gate all spiced up
As is the fish shaped grill
Photo from Law Gazette
The retained window with the fish shaped grill

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Singapore Garden Festival 2012

Another year of Garden Festival. This time round we focus more on the various garden displays and exhibits unlike the previous years when I was more intend on admiring the orchids at the Orchid Show, a side event of the festival.

Some of the entries

These few were designed and set up by school childrens

Some bonsai and miniature plant

And of course orchids.

And other flowers and plants

More photos here

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Buckaroo BBQ & Grill

A friend had suggested some options for dinner after the Republic Run in Woodlands and somehow we found our way to this very ulu place in Sembawang. It was tucked away in a housing estate nestled among residential houses. But I was suitably impressed by the crowd that had formed there even though it had just rained some time ago.

Fortunately for us, we had booked in advance and got our place straightaway even though our party was almost 8 strong. 

I like the ambience. It was a bit dim, there was nice country music and the menu look interesting. While waiting for some other to join us, we ordered some appetizers. 

First off was the fried mushroom. This was big solid mushroom fried crisp golden brown. I normally don't take fried stuff but this was good.

The place is supposed to be renowned for its buffalo wings which comes in different level of spiciness. We ordered level 1 and 2 spiciness but the staff suggested 1 and 3 as he claimed the differences between 1 and 2 were minimal. So we took his advice and ended up with 2 plates of chicken wings.They must have prepared a lot of the wings in advance because ours came cold. That turns me off straightaway and it was as spicy as it made itself out to be.

We order the clam chowder and the mushroom soup which comes served in a big loaf of bread. The soup was good but the bread was too big and in the end even though there were 10 of us, we couldn't finish the 3 loaves of bread.

We also ordered the onion rings which comes cutely stacked in a wooden stand.

And then we had our mains. Between the 10 of us, we ordered

1) Blacken salmon

2) Lasagane

3) Grill Chicken x 2

4) Barbecue Pork Ribs and 5) Ribeye steak (no picture)

Price were, most were fairly reasonable with the mains costing on average $25.00 or below. Taste wise? Maybe we were hungry after the run and it was quite late then but we wolfed down the dinner pretty fast and nobody really commented whether the food was good. But I did enjoy the ribs. 

The place is worth a visit. If not for the food, just to soak in the "country" style atmosphere.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Safari World Bangkok

About the only sightseeing place that I wanted to go to in Bangkok was the Safari World having seen pictures of it in some travel sites. And I was not disappointed. or maybe I was. 

There was a mini safari course where we could see some animals, actually a lot like the giraffe, rhino, camel, zebra and all sort of African birds and deers up close. Even lion, tigers and bears. The way they do it, any vehicle including coaches can drive in. In our case, our cab driver drove in all the way. That was the interesting part.

The not so interesting portion was the "River Cruise" which was just a ride amusement park style. And to make it worse, there were no animals - only fake animals and figurines! Definitely something to pass over.

Some poor imitation of an African dwelling
The other sad part about the place was that apart from the open safari ground (which I think is a bit overcrowded), was the enclosure for the other animals. Being used to Singapore Zoo open concept, it is a bit disturbing to see the animals confined in cages. Certainly the cages are now bigger, better landscaped than some other zoos I seen but still it looks very cramped to me. And of course the wire made it difficult to take photographs although I did managed to pull off a few nice one:

The biggest highlight must be the Giraffe where one can get up close and personal to the giraffes and touch and feed them. This alone is to be worth the price of the admission ticket!

More pictures here