Perception can make a small offshoot as big as a big tree. Sometimes we view our problem as a mountain when it is really just a pebble.

Time and tide waits for no man. Like a sunrise or sunset that is the most golden for only a short while, so is youth and life just as fleeting.

A goodbye may be the start of a beautiful beginning. hope is the eternal sunshine.

Don’t chase after the sun to be on the bright side. It’s exhausting and it burns.




Stranded in the City

A late afternoon presentation to a client wrapped up during the end-of-work-day rush hour and I found myself stranded in the heart of Singapore’s financial district. I waited for about 40 minutes but couldn’t get a cab back to my office.

Since I couldn’t get a taxi, I decided to diffuse and distract my misery with some snaps. This photo is the strapping UOB Plaza reflected on a building hobbitised by the former’s height.

Failing to out-queue the suits for a taxi, I decided to take the long walk to Clarke Quay MRT Station and prepared myself to slip into the sardine jacket that is our public transport since our population has burgeoned to the current 5.31 million from 4.59 million just under 5 years ago. And we are not stopping.

The recent White Paper projection of 6.9 million by 2030 has brought Singaporeans out on the streets to protest.

Singapore River was very muddy and brownish today but after applying a fliter from Instagram, it turned gold!

Having been a Singaporean for almost 4 decades, that was the first massive protest I can recall, crowding during last year’s hotly ‘contanted’ General Elections not counted.

What’s my stand on the government’s population ambition? When 69 ceases to be a position but a survival proposition, will we still be having fun?

Elgin Bridge. It’s one of the oldest bridges in Singapore believed to be present since 1819 as a foot bridge, the only bridge across Singapore River. Today, it is a vehicular bridge and makes for a rather beautiful retro photo in black-and-white. But of course, standing in the middle of the road to take a picture is foreplay with the Grim Reaper!

Personally, I feel the world is so borderless now. We are kind of a global tribe. If population growth is identified as the way to go for economic sustainability especially for natural resource-poor Singapore, my question is whether do we have the long-standing power to attract high-calibre foreign talents to take root here in competition with other nations who are also tapping the same pool to boost their demographic reliant GDP (as opposed to an economy supported by agriculture, export and industry)?

We are not the only country facing the woes of a low birth rate and rapidly greying population. According to a 2050 projection by the Taipei’s Department of Manpower with data drawn from a 2009 population survey by the United Nations, Singapore is amongst the top 5 fastest greying population (also making the list are United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Taipei). Competition for young mouths seems perched to heat up. Why will foreign talents want to come here? Will they stay? Xenophobia is definitely not going to make Singapore attractive. So is congested roads, packed public transport, and living so close we can smell each other’s laundry.

As the sunset begins to fade, street lamps along the Singapore River flickered to life.

Will Singapore end up as a country of massage parlours? They are everywhere now. Not that I’ve anything against legit businesses that knead and soothe our high-strung backs crushed by inflation and rising costs of living, but my concern is more of the make-up and credentials of foreigners being offered the Singaporean citizenship. I’m proud of my country and I just don’t wish to see our citizenship being lelong-lelonged just so we can meet a quota.

Anyhoo, I’m not a political analyst or population specialist. Not being able to get a cab, of which there could be many reasons not linked to our need for headcount, just ruffled my feathers since I had lots of work to complete. Singapore is facing another prosperity challenge, like it always had, and instead of protesting or asking questions, what solution/s can we as a people propose?

No wonder Yusof Ishak looks pensive on our dollars. He isn’t smiling. Who can when our nation’s growth, or any country for that matter, is dependent on foreign investment, trade and internal consumption. We have no natural resources  such as land, produce, petrol, precious metals or gems to sell, remember? Ours is a people economy. If Singaporeans are not delivering more Singaporeans because of high living costs, long working hours and no fire to stoke the libido (pornography is outlawed and sex remains a taboo subject), how can we turn Mr Ishak’s blank stare into a triumphant glare? What’s our Vendetta agenda beyond anger?

The colourful underpass linking Riverwalk to The Central Mall at Clarke Quay. I’d seen illegal graffiti with more soul than this.

Unknowingly, I’ve walked through a key part of our country’s history that started at the very mouth of this river where many of our ancestors first stepped foot on Singapura.

A vibration of the old, neo-colonial and modern footsteps of Singapore coursed through me. We have always been a population of immigrants. Our today is the light from yesterday, and tomorrow, is what we set aglow today. 🙂

Day 351 : Living Rituals

I’ve always found Hindu temples to be somewhat overpowering. If not because of the cacophony of figures on the gopura, then it’s the half-naked temple sages who serve the gods. The temples echanted, but at the same time, intimidated me to go no further than the door.

One of my biggest worries of stepping into a Hindu temple or mosque is that I may upset some rituals or sacred rules. I’m not sure if photography is considered disrepectful except during Thaipusam and if it’s okay to be wandering around the temple halls like a lost soul.

Photographed here is the side wing of Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Temple along Serangoon Road. As a boy, the giant statue of Hanuman (the monkey god) was the object of my profuse fascination. To this day, whenever I pass by it, the huge green figure continues to be the only thing I see of the temple.

I’ve never once been inside the temple even though I’d pass it by so many times. I hope me and my camera will be welcomed.

Day 311 : Flush and Flash

Work today brought me to the recently revamped NEWater Visitor Centre. I’ve been assigned to shoot the centre and its new exhibits since I have some experience with photography. It is not within my job scope but I don’t mind helping my company, Digimagic Communications, save some cost.

Procuring clean and safe drinking water for an ever growing population has always been a strain on our land scarce petite nation and a politcal tumour with Malaysia where we import most of our water supply from.

To satisfy our thirst, Singapore began recycling water in 1974 for industrial purposes to free up reservoir catchments for human use. More than 20 years later, water purification technology came of age and the reclamation of wasterwater from sewage was made possible. In 1998, NEWater was born.

The NEWater Visitor Centre traces Singapore’s hydro-struggles and the evolution of NEWater as our long-term solution to hydrating the nation through a highly interactive gallery and a peek into the wastewater treatment processes.

More than 70% of earth is covered in water but only less than 1% of that ratio is fresh water. A human can generally survive for 3 weeks without food but only 3 days without water. That’s why clean water is so precious!

Getting to the NEWater Visitor Centre can be inconvenient as it sits at an obscure location. I took a cab here.

Reception lobby of the centre with a mosaic of images showing people’s relationship with water.

The gallery comprises 2 zones – 1 zone features a hive of interactive exhibits to help visitors learn about water conservation; the other is a walk-in tour of the NEWater factory that helps visitors understand the various filtration and purification process that NEWater deploys.

The night soil man brings back memories of my childhood staying at my grandparents’ shophouse at Bencoolen Street. Back then, our toilets didn’t come with a flushing system and we depended on these men to clear the wastes daily. The stench was unbearable.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the NEWater production facility to learn about the various steps in reclaiming sewage water.

These are not bolsters for a mega pyjamas party but a magnification of the filtration barriers that block large sediments.

Purification capsules at work to clean wastewater.

A commitment hall where visitors can post a digital pledge to conserve water.

This replica of a deep sewage tunnel links one zone of the gallery to another.

Learn more about water usage and wastages in our daily life with this installation to identify areas and ways to conserve water.

Partial pano view of the interactive zone of the gallery which features some pretty cool games.

My company produced the floor-to-wall interactive map projection where visitors can learn about where our water sources come from. Known as the 4 National Taps, Singapore gets our water supply from reservoirs, purchases from Malaysia, desalination of seawater, and NEWater.

It’s a long way in and out of the NEWater Visitor Centre. After my photography session, I waited for a long time but no cabs came to the centre so I walked all the out to the main road to get one. Shortly after I got into a taxi, heavy rain came. Phew!

NEWater Visitor Centre

Address : 20, Koh Sek Lim Road, Singapore 486593

Tel : 6546 7874

Opening Hours : 9am – 5pm (Tuesday – Sunday)

Guided Tours : 9am, 10.45am, 12.30pm, 2.15pm, and 4pm

Admission : Free

Day 218 : Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery

This used to be my playground. From age 8 to 28, I stayed at Block 195 Kim Keat Avenue, which is right next to Siong Lim Temple. That’s how I used to spell the temple’s name until 莲山双林寺 ‘Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery’ (Twin Groves of the Lotus Mountain Temple) emerged as its official name when I Googled today.

Back in those days, the temple grounds provided much enjoyment and playthings for us neighbourhood kids. It used to have a huge pond which we used to come by often to catch guppies and small shrimps as pets. The place was also overgrown with wild balsam plants and vegetation, providing endless hours of acquiring butterfly and spider specimens in addition to our aquatic keepsakes.

Photo circa 1991, age 17. Wearing a big cross to the temple… what was I thinking?!

The other thing I remember fondly of the temple is the gong. Everyday at 6am, the temple bell will chime and its solemn signal of a new day accompained my morning routine of getting ready for school.

To this day, whenever I hear the timbre of a Chinese monastic gong, I’m brought back to those teenage reveries. But how things have changed. The temple ground is beyond recognition to me now. These old pics, abett only partial snippets, showed how the temple looked like back in the early 90s.

It is good that some things never changed… my displaced fashion sense. What I wore for today’s photography outing to the temple continues to be comic. I used to be very skinny and favoured long-sleeved garbs to hide the twigs I had for arms. That explains the hooded jacket I had on despite the tropical heat!

LOL at the hilarious Puyi sunglass that was all the rage back then.

Wahahahaha… this pose is retro and revolting, it makes the hair on my arms stand!

Looking back at these old photos taken at Siong Lim Temple, I wanna dig my eyes out. Such a poser! And an obiang (awful) one at that. This series of photos were taken with my ex-secondary school classmates who initiated me into camwhoring.

Twenty-one years later, Siong Lim Temple has gone through a major restoration and comestic overhaul. While the improvements made it look very good with the manicured bonsai trees and stone pathways, it felt devoid of life.

There were many things I used to be able to do here but were amiss. I used to be able to take photos in the temple, but now, photography is prohibited in the monastery. I used to interact with the surroundings, today I just admired how neat and proper everything looks.

The organic pond I grew up with used to be just a huge hole dug into the ground and home to scores of tortoises, fish and small prawns. Now it is a much smaller fountain feature enlivened only by water spewing from dragon-headed spouts.

I wanted to cry “murder!” seeing how my growing up memories were defaced, but I guess it’s about moving with the times and getting reacquainted with an old friend who ordered every item on the plastic surgery menu.

New, plumper stone lions replaced the old, skinnier ones. The yesteryear gate guardians were green in colour with a rotatable sphere in the clutches of the male lion. The new male has no movable ball. It is the belief that visitors can change their luck for the better by physically spinning the ball.

Holding in heaven. The entrance used to be just a brown dirt road with rough-hewned concrete slabs leading a path to the temple’s entrance. Now there’s this elaborate wall that creates a courtyard before the entrance.

Bronze lotus-shaped incense holder within a huge censer in the central courtyard that separates the entrance prayer hall from the inner Buddhist sanctum.

Burning pearl adornment atop the censer that symbolises the sun.

The grand Mahavira Hall of the inner sanctum framed with the inspiration that christened the monastory’s name.

The bamboo-carved Chinese characters reads 惜福 (xi fu), which is a call for gratefulness of one’s blessings and to treasure them, but not be indulgent in the good fortunes. There were quite of few of these tablets hung at the door.

佛在心中莫浪求。When we have God in our hearts, whether it is Buddha, Jesus, Allah or Khrisna, happiness and contentment need no longer depend on external torrents of possessions, needs and desires. This shot is an attempt to reflect that message by using one of the bamboo tablets as a frame.

Interior of the Mahavira Hall. Photography strictly prohibited inside but it’s okay to take a shot at the doorway.

Buddhism believes that time is cyclical in nature where mortals are trapped in the eternal cycle of reincarnation until one attains enlightenment.

A glimpse of the original guardian lions through a makeshift workshop by the side of the temple. Built in 1902, Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery is the oldest Buddhist temple in Singapore and is gazetted a National Monument. The first phase of the temple’s restoration commenced in 1991 and completed in 2002.

I was so excited at the unexpectedly rare opportunity to see part of the decorative 剪粘 (pronounced ‘Jian Nian’, meaning cut and paste) roof ridges at an intimate range. It was taken down for restorative work and I could study closely what I’ve seen from afar for many years. The artform is also called 剪花 (Jian Hua – cut flower) and sometimes 鱼皮像 (Yu Pi Xiang – fish scale sculpture).

Jian Nian sculptures frequently depict celestial beings and auspicious icons in Chinese legends and mythology and are used to decorate the roofs and eaves of buildings, usually temples. Originating from the Ming Dynasty Wanli period (circa 1600), great masters are not only skilled at the laborious production method where porcelain shards are painstakingly cut and pasted into moulds of sticky rice lime, but must be knowlegeable about fabled characters and their symbolism as well.

This boulder was the backdrop in the retro photo where I placed a thumb on my chin earlier in this post. It used to sit atop a well in the inner courtyard of Shuang Lin Monastery. Looks like it will be given a second life seeing that it has been ‘saved’ for restoration (I think).

Dragon Light Pagoda. This is a relatively new addition to the temple site.

View of the pagoda from the Guan Yin Dian (Godess of Mercy Hall). The religious site is made up of three temples with Shuang Lin Monastery in the middle and flanked by Guan Yin Dian to the right and Cheng Huang Miao to the left. See map at the end of this post.

Age 38. I’ve also gone through some renovations over the last two decades from a brown stick insect to a white… hmm… dugong?

Lotus motifs leading to the entrance of Guan Yin Dian.

The centrepiece is a 11.2m bronze statue of the thousand-hands-and-eyes Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy).

The Goddess of Mercy is the bodhisattva of compassion and her thousand hands and eyes manifestation represents her all-giving, all-seeing nature.

The deity’s actual name is 观世音 (Guan Shi Yin) – 观 (Guan) translates as observe / view / watch / see; 世 (Shi) meaning the world; 音 (Yin) being the word for sound or voice. So the goddess’ name means someone who monitors the world of its lamentations and offering help.

A leap back in time!

It felt rather surreal being here so many years apart. It’s a pity I arrive only about an hour before closing time and didn’t get to explore more familiar grounds. Besides, the last section of Shuang Lin Monastery was hoarded up for renovations.

Nonetheless, there was still enough points of interest to explore for a late-afternoon photo outing. Do check out this old, well, now it’s new playground of mine…

Getting Here : From Toa Payoh MRT and Bus Interchange, take feeder bus nos. 232, 237, or 238 (less than 10 minutes journey)

Address : 184E Jalan Toa Payoh, Singapore 319941

Tel : +65 6259 6924

Opening Hours : 8:30am – 5:00pm daily (Free admission)

Click map to enlarge.

Day 211 : Sun Chasing at Southern Ridges

Living in the urban jungle provides many conveniences but robs us of unobstructed views to admire the beautiful sky cloak at the end of every day. Unless one stays atop a west facing skyscraper, places to catch the full splendour of sunset are few and far in Singapore. And one of these few, and not so far spots to frame the dusking hues of a dusk would be at Henderson Waves.

Part of a 10km green spine that connects various parks in the southern ridge of Singapore (collectively known as the Southern Ridges trail), Henderson Waves is a 274km long pedestrian bridge that qualifies as one of my favouritest sunset destination on our tiny country-state.

Although we can’t really see the sun dipping into the horizon, the organically-shaped bridge offers an awesome vantage point to admire the colour parade as a day bids its farewell. So goaded by the recently anointed princess of nauture and adventure, I came on a photo outing and here’s the celebration of they evening’s colours…

Entrance to Marang Trail. Love the secret garden feel.

Rolling into the deep of Singapore’s manicured green fingers where even the wilderness observes obedience.

The sun batted its leafy eyelid at me.

Have I discovered Jack’s beanstalk?

Trying to e cool on a scorching hot day.

Along the way, we passed by Mount Faber that offered a smattered aerial view of Sentosa, a.k.a. Pulau Belakang Mati (Back island of Death).

‘S’ marks the spot. Stepping onto the boardwalk of Henderson Waves with Juliana’s kick-s gorilla sneakers. This gal is so full of monkey business!

Artistic, stylish and organic… Henderson Waves is paved with all-weather timber and a lot of character.

Love how the lines and curves look so dramatic in photos.

Spotted! Butterfly on the bridge bench. Or is that a caterpillar?

Keeping the photo outing light and handy with my Casio Exilim ZR200 digital compact camera.

What a great place for romance while CCTVs keep a close watch over any hanky panky.

Goodbye Sunday… Although the sunset was obscured by a tree and the hillside ti sits on, the celestial palette was delicious nonetheless. Shot with in-camera Sunset Mode to enhance the orangey warmth.

I’ve been to Henderson Waves on a few occasions but this is the first time I shot a sunset here. And I have a feeling this won’t be my last 🙂

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: