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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Random Musings

Got so many things to write about but yet don't know what to write. Shall I blog about the new food places that I went to recently like Salta, the Argentina restaurant or the nice dessert at Chinatown which I have been patronising for the longest time but somehow never got to write about. Maybe the Teochew porridge at Ang Mo Kio which I keep asking my friends to try but never blog about here?

Or how about what has been going on in this little red dot? The Punggol East by election? Nah, too common. How about the nightmares that keep me awake at night: 6.9m population; $90,000+ COE; sky high properties (wait I think I wrote about that) and golf courses; my pet peeve. Oops I also wrote about that.

Talking about the latter 2, I can't believe that I am so "chun". A few days after I blogged about the properties prices, the government announced Cooling Measures No 7! That blog post alone garnered 674 views, a record for this blog considering that it was up only since 9 January this year. Then on 17 January 2013, I talked about the acquisition of the fish farms in Pasir Ris and why they should acquire golf courses instead. I followed this up with another piece on golf courses and concluded that golf courses are scared cow and untouchables! Then I read in the papers today; that in order to cater for the nightmarish 6.9m population in 2030, the government will set aside 5,600 hectares of land. Unexpectedly, the MND announced that apart from Bidadri, Bukit Brown, Tampines North and Tengah, it will also acquire golf courses! It doesn't said how many or which golf courses but al least there is now signs that golf courses are no longer "untouchables". Hurray!

So me think I should write about something else that matter to me like maybe the stratospheric COE. Maybe then the government will surprise me a 3rd time with an announcement to manage the COE prices?

Finally before I go off for my holidays, I going to end this posts with some amusing English translations of Chinese text from Facebook posts of a friend who love to post in Chinese. Hope you have a chuckle!

Original FB post                                    Translation by FB(Bing)

踏破草鞋无觅处,得来全不费功夫! Step broken straw sandals find no, delaiquanbufeigongfu!

开饭喽!                                             The meal myself!

The postman ... Do not. Should be a postman, son. Lie downin and polite. Full of cavities in northern Mandarin-speaking. I don't have problems. But how he wants to talk to I'm Malay and India fellow family communication? He said he was there to several dozens of people!

这场雨来匆匆,去得也匆匆。。。      The rain rush, go up

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh

Have passed by this new bak kuh teh outlet at Jalan Kayu but had not walked in previously. One evening decided to pop by to try it out.

First thing first was the pork knuckle. Their version was really jet black, a bit sweet but soft enough. Much better than most of the pork knuckle at other bak kuh teh joint.
We also ordered one of their house speciality the tofu .Topped with spicy taucheo, it was soft and succulent and just slide down the throat.
We also have the claypot sesame chicken. This was just average and nothing to rave about.
Finally the item that we had come all the way to try. The pork rib soup. Their version is the herbal type and not the light spicy Teochew type. I didn't think it was that great. The meat was not soft enough and could not be chew off easily.

Overall, I felt the food was a tad too pricey and not really worth it. The hype over this place was more because this is a social enterprise outlet opened by a ex-prisoner and employing many more ex-convicts to run the place. But at least there is now another reasonably ok bak kut teh joint in this area of town and I don't have to travel to Katong or Balestier for my fix.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Golf Courses

The URA, JTC, Land Office or whatever authorities claimed that the fish farms in Pasir Ris have to go as the land is required for industrial development. Same with the dragon kiln in Jurong. One URA official was quoted as saying “Not all agriculture activities can be accommodated in the long term. General farming activities such as ornamental fish farming can be catered to in the interim where land is not needed for other critical needs”

In this statement, I can easily replace agriculture activities with ‘nature reserve’; “woodlands”; ‘open areas” and general farming activities……farming” with Bukit Brown, Dragon Kiln and still end up with the same point i.e. non viable or economically beneficial activities will always end up the loser when competing for land in Singapore.

Why do I say so? Are we really so short of land for industrial development that we need to acquire 21ha of fish farm lands or 2 smallish dragon kiln? As I stated in my earlier post, Singapore do not a lot and I really mean a lot ie all 1600 ha of land and that is our golf courses.

Singapore, according to an SSC report, has a total of 12 golf clubs with 22 golf courses and 3 driving ranges.. According to the same SSC report, there are about 55,000 golfers in Singapore of which about 30,000 are members of these clubs. Contrast these with the 25 public pools for about half a million swimmers!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fish Farms and Golf Courses

I have been visiting the fish farms in Singapore for the longest time ever since I discovered the fish farms at Old Tampines Road.ever. I love going there to look at the fishes especially the koi  It was a sad day when the whole area was acquired for a new expressway. Fortunately, some of the farms eventually moved to Pasir Ris Farmway. Although the area has lost its charm as compared to the country like feel of Old Tampines Road, it was still a place where I spent quite a number of weekends just gazing at the fishes and getting replenishment for the fish tanks at home.

So it came as a shock to read in the papers and found out that the fish farms has got to go again because the area is needed for “industrial” development. The 13 affected fish farms including the popular Mainland Tropical Fish Farm occupy an area of 21.6ha of land. What I don’t understand is why the farms have to go? Does Singapore really need more industrial space? From what I heard and read, everybody is complaining about the expensive land cost here, scarcity of workers and moving out to Johore and China. So where is the demand for the industrial land coming from?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse

We generally do not go to high class restaurant as I believe there are better ways to spend money than to eat it up and then discharge it the next day but this being the Kid's 21st, it called for a big celebration. While most people will throw a party at home, at chalet or the rich holds a coming of age party at posh hotels, we decided to keep it simple by having a family dinner.

To make up for it, we decided to break the piggy bank and splurge on an atas dinner. Our choice of venue after doing some research was Wooloomooloo Steakhouse at The Swissotel.

Since we do not have much experience in dining at this type of place, we decided to play safe and ordered the food based on what was recommended by bloggers and the staff at the restaurant.

So for starter, having read that this was a must have, we ordered the crab cake. It can the size of a moon cake which we promptly cut into 4 to share. 

The uber friendly waiter recommended the tuna crab cake
The kid asked us to try the ham which he claimed was very different from what we always get from the supermarket.

We were going to order the mushroom but the waiter very politely warned us that we were ordering too much for the 4 of us. That was a pleasant surprise to us. Rare for places like that not to try to earn more.  

And then of course we had the steak which was what we came for. I ordered the ribeye. It was a 80 ounces piece and quite probably the biggest piece of steak I have ever had in my life.
Having read that the portion here can be quite big, M and the Princess decided to share the 200 ounces t-bone steak. It certainly was huge

And the kid had the Wooloomooloo steak.
Having never been to any other similar class joint, I can't really compare the standard of the food, like said to Morton or Ruth Chris. The closest I can compare it to was Angus Steak House and Black Angus Steakhouse but the steak there were cooked slightly differently and it would not be fair to compare them here.

At over $500.00 including a bottle of wine, it was certainly the biggest most expensive meal we ever spent on for only 4 persons but I think we do enjoy the food and the big slab of meat. The staff were so friendly and attentive. We even got a complimentary corn soup or something that looks like baby food to me. I would certainly recommend this place for those who have an occasion to celebrate and want to make a good impression.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Of HDB flats and Executive Condominium

Prices of property – private or public has continued to increase despite various measures implemented by the government.. The people from Redas have been making a lot of noise about the government’s curb on property. They are warning of dire consequences should the government increases the curbs. What dire consequences? And to whom? Redas warned that quote “decline in property prices might lead to “undesirable consequences” as 90 of Singaporean households are homeowners”. Really? How?

I am a HDB flat owner. As far as I am concerned, it does not matter what my unit will fetch. So what if its goes up to a $1m. Can I cash in on it, sell it and buy a similar size unit for less and keep the profits? Can I go to the bank and take out a loan on the value of the property? The truth is unless I am prepared to downgrade, whatever value my property appreciate to is of no use to me. What if it goes down then? Obviously if I sell it, I may loose some money but if I stay put, does it really matter? Will the banks call upon me to top up the loan? I really doubt so. So I don’t think there are any undesirable consequences of a slight decline in property prices. If anything, the only undesirable consequences will be the bottom line of the developers who have been bidding sky high prices for the land and trying to squeeze blood from the buyers. What with the penthouse and million dollar price tag for an Executive Condominium? 

Me think the government should continue to implement more measures to curb property prices. Maybe first start with the Executive Condominium scheme. Last I checked, EC are for the sandwich class – the people who earns not more than $12,000.00 and cannot afford private property and do not qualify for HDB subsidised housing. But if developers are building million dollar EC and people are snapping them up then maybe these people surely they don’t belong to the sandwich class? I say for a start - scrap the EC scheme. Why should the government allow developers to buy land on the cheap and sell them high? Next remove the subsidy for EC since there appear to be no more price disparity between the EC and the low end condominium. 

And while we are on the subject of measures, I think the government is not doing enough to curb the rising prices. I for one could like to see more restrictions on the rental of HDB market. One of the reasons for the increase in HDB prices is that somehow despite the rules, many HDB owners are renting out their flats and staying in private property. This is something I don’t understand. HDB should not allow HDB flats to be used for passive income. It should be solely for the owner’s own occupation unless there is a really valid reason like overseas posting. If a person can afford both HDB and private property, then the person must stay in the HDB flat and rent out the private property and pay higher rated tax on it. Blocking this avenue of income should hopefully ease the pressure of some HDB units which are perceived to be favoured by cash rich PR for rental income.

Speaking of rental, the IRAS has announced that property tax for HDB flats will increase this year because rental value for them has increased. What! Again I am dumbstruck! According to HDB, in the third quarter of 2012, about 43000 approvals were granted for sub-letting and it is based on these data that the so called market value has been revised. That is like how many % of the total stock of HDB flats? Again according to information, there are currently about 900,000 units of HDB flats not counting those under construction. That makes it errrr 4.7% of flats rented out. Then how can the minority’s actions affects the majority’s pockets? Granted that the government is going to give a subsidy equivalent to the increase in tax to cover the increases. But why go through this charade in the first place? 

And while we are still on the subject of rental, HDB has about 45000 rental flats available for direct rentals to needy and those in transit. This is not enough to meet the demand and there is a 6 months waiting list. So why the hell is HDB renting out its flats to corporation to house their foreign workers? Like the SBS bus drivers. Something is wrong somewhere if the need of our citizens are not given priority over foreign employees of local corporations. Surely these companies can afford to build their own dormitories for these workers instead of competing with our needy for them. I can’t imagine the plight of these families who have to share a small apartment with strangers while foreigners sleep soundly on their own double decker bed!

Minister Khaw – can you do something about these ridiculous affairs?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Butterflies at Cameron Highlands

There are 2 butterfly farms at Cameron Highlands.Since we were free, we decided to go look at the butterflies. The 2 farms were next to each other and so in the end we went to both places. These are the butterflies that we saw there. Most of the butterflies were at the Butterfly Garden. At the other Butterfly Farm, the butterflies were all on top of the netting and out of sight.