Blog To Express

A blogosphere learning experience to express with blog

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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Aug 23, 2014

Membership Has Its Privilege

Congratulations to fellow Singaporeans who are 65 years old or older and have been entitled to join the "Pioneer Generation Club" membership.  Membership has its privilege!

I have found a new innovative way to wear the Pioneer Generation CHAS card with a plastic transparent tag and a lanyard to be worn over the neck.  When I travel in the MRT train or public buses and display my PG card, the seated commuters would immediately offer their seats to me respectfully and graciously.  This is more effective than the courtesy campaigns in the MRT and buses.  Hopefully the LTA could distribute the plastic tags and lanyards to the Pioneer Generation commuters for them to wear; followed with its educational courtesy campaign.  Other community and private organizations are welcome to sponsor and support this meaningful project.

Thanks to Ms Jessica Tan, Grassroots Advisor to East Coast GRC GRO and Member of Parliament for East Coast GRC to pose with me and the Pioneer Generation Package.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong included a personal note in the package. My friends and I would like to acknowledge receipt of the PGP with thanks to PM on Facebook.

How then can the pioneer generation Singaporeans express their acknowledgement for the receipt of the package?

This is the first time since independent Singapore for the pioneer generation scheme to benefit the senior citizens regardless of  race, language, religion or gender. 

Thanks to every pioneer generation Singaporean to help build Singapore in so many ways over the decades.

Source:  LIFE August, 2014


Aug 16, 2014

What We Eat Is What We See And Smell

As Singaporeans, have we ever wondered foodage "culture shock" to foreigners as a traditional practice at roadside or open-air hawker food eating experience since the early days in Singapore?

Why do first-time curious visitors or tourists to Asian countries would watch while their food are prepared and cooked right on the spot at the roadside hawker pushcart or food center in a building?

For cooked food, the hawkers are showing off their cooking skills, the ingredients included in the food, the recipes openly to the customers.  While waiting for the food to be cooked, the customers are given the aroma and smell of the food which they have ordered.

Have we seen the customers and the hawkers sneezing in public and loudly when frying the "chilli belachan" in the frying pan?

Have we ever thought that the food stalls was in effect an "open kitchen" and we know the chef who cook the food?

With the courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board photos archived at the National Archives of Singapore to share on related blog topic here.

For seafood stalls, the customers have the choice to pick the size of the items and whether the seafood is fresh and the cooked flavor they prefer.

Cooked food prepared in the presence of the customers

Tributes to the Hawkers of Singapore

The bronze sculpture of the pedler hawker with his "kitchen" and utensils from place to place to serve the customers.  Photo credit: Remember Singapore blog.

Later, the pushcart hawker stalls are congregated in a convenient place such as the "Glutton Square" at Orchard Road, a carpark in the day and an open-air "hawker center" in the evening.  This was once a popular food place for visitors and tourists.

Business was brisk and the long queues in front of the stall to wait for their food for "self-service".  In the meantime, the customers could watch for the hawkers to perform their culinary skills, "free smelling" as plates after plates or bowls after bowls to prepare and cook their piping hot favorite food to serve the customers.

Life as a hawker was tough.  To stand for long hours in front of the "stage with kitchen" and the customers would complain if the cooking was too slow or have heard the wrong orders ...  too much or too little chilli,  too much or too little "si hum" (cockles) for "char kway teow" or don't want "si hum", to add "towgay" (bean sprout) or not to add, want leek or not ...

The hawkers have to stand for hours when business is good and no time to rest ... working non-stop.  Their arms to stir with strength on the frying pans until his job for the last customer was done.

Photo credit:  keropokman   

Taste of Yesteryear's "Our Hawkers, Our Food" videos to share their experiences:


What is the difference between a cook or chef in a restaurant and a roadside hawker stall or food center?

Customers in a restaurant would not see how the food is prepared or to see and smell the food before they are ready to be served by the waiter to the table.  Everything is hidden and cooked in privacy with secret recipes and the ingredients they used.  If the food is good, the customers would just tell the waiter, "Please send our compliments to the chef for his excellent cooking".  The action are done behind closed doors in the kitchen.

No public performance for the customers.  The customers just enjoy the food and no direct interaction as in the case of the pushcart hawker stalls. The chef in the restaurant could work in peace without complaints or comments directly from the customers.  No tension, no pressure  ... and the ambience to work in aircond comfort.

Hawkers in the Past

PM Lee Kuan Yew watching a street hawker stall in Paya Lebar on 24 Feb 1963
A hawker in a coffee shop in 1980

A hawker stall in Smith Street in 1963
A hawker preparing carrot cake at his stall in 1977
A portable hawker stall on tricycle at Prince Philip Avenue in 1963


Jul 30, 2014

Queenstown Heritage Trail on July 27, 2014

Former Queenstown Driving Test Centre

It was raining heavily when I arrived at the Queenstown MRT station on July 27 2014 at about 8:10am.

Since I was almost an hour earlier, I recce the surrounding areas under the sheltered linkways near the station.

The first colorfully painted building which caught my eyes was the former Queenstown Driving Test Centre at 15, Commonwealth Avenue.

The SLA (Singapore Land Authority) signboard at the locked gates to show that the place is "State property reserved for future development".  That means its "akan datang" ... and not left there for doing nothing, to be neglected for wild lallang to grow and "bochap" by the SLA.  Every little plot of land to utilise is precious in land-scarce Singapore.  Land cannot be grown like plants or trees in our garden city or "Garden by the Bay".  Many places have been developed and redeveloped, build and rebuilt in Singapore over the decades.  Planning to use land (eg MRT network) on the surface, underground, underwater and with buildings higher and higher in the air.

I grew up in Bukit Ho Swee where large areas of land centuries ago were used for cemeteries to redevelop for public housing.  The corpses of our buried ancestors were respectfully cremated according to their respective traditional religious rituals.  In other countries with more land, the cemeteries were untouched for land burial.  Many places in Singapore, including the busy shopping tourist belt of  Takashimaya at Orchard Road, once upon a time, were Teochew cemeteries, land owned by the Ngee Ann Kongsi.

Thanks to Kwek Li Yong, founder of My Community, a civic group that champions the preservation of history and heritage in Singapore to invite fellow bloggers to the media preview of the Queenstown Heritage Trail.

It was cold and chilly in the morning's rain, which drizzled and the rain subsided at 9.00am. The gloomy dark clouds disappeared and the sun arise brightly in the sky. 

The warmth and smiles of fellow nostalgia bloggers who recognize us in person or from our blogs was glad to meet them.  A blessed day indeed.  So nice to say "hello" to everybody.

I am pleased to meet in person for the first time,  Andy Lee, "Daddy of the Sengkang Babies" who posted this blog .

Courtesy of Andy Lee for the "selfie" photo.

My long-time friend and blogger Philip Chew who blogs here

Philip said:  "I was a little disappointed with the Heritage Trial. Blogger James Seah and I were the only two elderly people in the group. The rest was young people interested to know the history and changes of the place".

I  disagree with Philip though.

The younger generation of nostalgia bloggers who are interested in collective memories of Singapore would keep our fond nostalgic memories of Singapore alive.  They would be inspired by old stuff which are worthwhile to remember and learn about the history of Singapore long before the young ones were born.

One of our young energetic and enthusiastic friends, Cheng Pei Yun, blog at "My Queenstown Heritage Trail: The charms of the Queenstown Community".

KL Lee, our "like-minded" nostalgia blogger friend who blogs in Chinese here .

Li Yong describe the coffin-shaped market in Queenstown

 The kinda morbid description of the "coffin market" when the lady covered her nose on hearing this  ...

Not everyone, (especially the non-Queenstown residents in the past) who attended the heritage trail could visualise this empty plot of land at Queenstown in this photo once was the Queenstown Bowl, the NTUC supermarket and the shops in the Queenstown heartland.

Tour leader Li Yong had many stories of this place to share with us at the entrance of the Queenstown Public Library.


The young librarian had more stories to share the history of the Queenstown Library which was built over four decades ago.  She showed us the archived photos which were displayed on the walls of the library at the staircase.

Me too, to share the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Queenstown Library here .

Next on the itinerary of the heritage trail were decades-old church and a Hindu temple at Tanglin Halt, located side by side in multi-religious Singapore.  These places of worship of different religions in Singapore are found common in many places of churches, temples, mosques and religions of various denominations.

The Church of the Blessed Sacrament – Queenstown’s first Catholic church opened on 9 May 1965.  The Church’s most striking feature is the dramatically structured slate roof, which was constructed in folds in the shape of a tent that symbolised the “tent of meeting” in the Old Testament of the Bible.  The Church of the Blessed Sacrament was also gazetted for conservation.

Just beside the church, you will find the Sri Muneeswaran Temple at Commonwealth Drive which is believed to be Southeast Asia’s largest shrine for the Sri Muneeswaran deity.   Many years ago when I worked at the HDB Queensway Area Office at Tanglin Halt, I remember that the Sri Muneeswaran Temple was just a small shrine.  The temple devotees have donated generously to the building fund over many years to build this temple with faith and gratitude.

My memories of Queenstown are shared on these blogs here , here and here .

Happy fond memories of Queenstown shared by all our nostalgia bloggers.  The young generations of Singapore are looking forward to better memories of Queenstown for everyone, the pioneer generations and the current generations to build and develop them for the future.

Happy 49th National Day!  Happy Birthday, Singapore!

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Jul 19, 2014

Scenes of the Markets in Early Singapore

This archived photo from the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) inspired me to blog on this topic on scenes of the markets in Singapore.

I was just like this little boy in the 1950s when I would tag along with my mother to the market every morning when I have not started schooling.  At that time, my mother goes to the market daily to cook for the family because we do not have maids to look after the kids at home or for her to do the marketing.

We did not have fridge to store a week's food in the house as fridge was a luxury, not a necessity.

Our neighbors in the kampong would have to go to the market as a daily chore.

These archived photos of the scenes of markets in early Singapore are curated from NAS with thanks and acknowledgement for sharing collective memories of pioneer generations of Singaporeans.  They would recollect with amusement our trips to the market as an adventure everytime.

The markets I remember vividly are the markets in Bukit Ho Swee and Chinatown in the 1950s.

With the courtesy of the SittingInPictures video, there are some scenes and video footage of the wet market to watch.

Ellenborough Market in 1953
Beo Crescent market after the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961

Roadside Hawker Stalls at Chinatown

Please take a look at "Ways Done in the Past - Wet Markets" blog .

The current young generation of Singaporeans have grown up to a new generation of modern marketing  lifestyles supermarkets here and here .