A Narrow Escape

May 28, 2008 at 8:09 pm | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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Do you know where to find the narrowest street in Singapore?

From the bustling Bugis Junction, take a little detour down Arab Street and you would find this narrow street that hardly fits one car.

Haji Lane – the narrowest street in Singapore

The pre-war shophouses had been preserved and now housed a number of indie stores and vintage boutiques. The interesting thing about Haji Lane must be the contrast between the new and the old culture. We were immediately greeted by the numerous street arts on walls and pillars shouting out loudly for attention, a sight usually untolerated by the clean city.

Stenciled street arts… were they trying to stamp out the old look
and imprint some new ideas?

An old metal gate seemed to be guarding the deep-seated cultures in
Haji Lane…

But the new ones retaliated back with a bolder statement!

Somehow this reminded me of one of my favourite illustrators from Hong
Carrie Chau….

Old world charm of the nostalgic facade

A glimpse into the future or reflections of the past?

A trusted brand since 1918…

Versus one that carried lotsa attitude, short of telling you to take it
or leave it…:p

Haji Lane was also a place for artists to show off their talents. Just opposite this ‘bird brain’ shop, we saw a Malay guy who started to display his art pieces for sale. Itchyfingers thought he was very talented, but didn’t go take a closer look or take his picture cos just beside him was a not so fit yet went topless young ang moh sitting there. Shy leh…later the ang moh think I was admiring his “once-upon-a-time-there” muscles then how…? hahah…:D

“Do we see the world change?”

Besides the many fashion boutiques, there were also many cafes and bars mushrooming in the narrow lane, providing an ideal escape from the city area as well as chill out place with friends. 

Soak into the atmosphere in the many cafes lining the street

It was towards the other end of Haji Lane that we also found these interesting graffitis, some of which dealt into controversial political issues…

Stenciled art or ‘censored’ art? Must be from his supporters…

Borat! 8)

More stenciled art…For a while I thought I wasn’t in Singapore, where
graffiti is not allowed in public places…

Arab Street and its vicinity were equally interesting places to explore. We found this set of charming wooden table and benches outside a pub at a corner, kinda reminded us of the nice corner in the ‘secret garden’ in Kampong Lorong Buangkok.

Unlike in the kampong where things were left outside unattended,
these were chained to prevent theft…:( So ugly..

Beautifully carved, these showed the Malay communal way of life in
kampong, with the young paying respect to the elders

So nice I wanna bring them home….no wonder need to chain up…

A kitschy water fountain display of the Barbie family….

Then we found the biggest Mentos in the whole of Singapore…:D

Mint for you? Might take a while to swallow them all…:D

Batmobile at a costume rental shop

Dun wash your dirty linen in public…:p

Building facade decorated with mosaic tiles

Even for the signage!

Sadly most of the old buildings along the road were due for demolition. Some luckier ones might escape and get a makeover in the name of conservation, but more often in the process, lost their original charm and flavour.

This tailor shop with the red number tag would be gone the next time
you pass by the Arab Street areas

With more peoples’ preference for all things new, the old ones would
have to give way…

So next time you go shopping at Bugis Junction, do pop by Haji Lane to visit the many funky shops and cafes and also to take a look at these old buildings around Arab Street. They might be a thing of yesterday very soon!

Also see related posts:
> Secret Garden in the Last Kampong
> Balek Kampong – A Return to Village Dwelling


Water Fools

May 25, 2008 at 11:45 am | Posted in itchy mouth | 4 Comments
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Seen a taxi, a bicycle and a bed riding on water?

The tourists on the bumboat must be more interested in taking
a ride in the taxi…

Having read about these acts on papers by acclaimed French street theatre company Ilotopie, we decided to kay poh a bit at the opening of the Singapore Arts Festivals on Friday night. We reached Boat Quay at about half past seven, and already there were many many people waiting patiently for the performance. We managed to find a place next to the grand stand but it was so cramped that, though we could witness the arrival of the President and his wife and other ministers, we couldn’t really capture pictures of them without getting blocked by the many people in front of us. The performance was great but we were also blocked by a speaker and the many heads in front of us, so our pictures didn’t turn out that good. No shiok leh ! :O

So the next evening after a quick dinner, we headed to Boat Quay again. This time we reached slightly before seven, and again many people had already planted themselves at strategic positions. So we were very lucky to have gotta a place to sit on the ground with just three row of people in front of us. The weather was also much cooler compared to the previous sweat dripping night.

What’s this boy doing here?

At 8pm sharp, a taxi slowing drove in…

Tiny cramp cute yellow cab driving on water…

But not for long…

Aiya! What happened!

Boo, no choice, gotta alight from cab and wait for another one…

How about killing some time reading the Straits Time?

Then, suddenly, the man found himself in an almost surreal situation with strange characters…

A garbage man

A cyclist

Yet another cyclist

Balloons anyone?

A pregrant mother a moment ago now breastfeeding her new born “baby”

He was not dreaming when he saw a floating bed, complete with feathers
from pillow…

A mystical Goatman exposing both male and female sexual organs…

And the Emperor in his new clothes…if you could see it…

A singing Diva on a giant man-powered wheel…reminded me of the alien
diva in the movie “Fifth Element” 😀

All these made his head burst into fire…:D

Oooo…better dun try to use too much brain in case it burst into flames…

Titled “Water Fools”, the performance uses light, sound and pyrotechnics to transform everyday objects into a mystical and magical experience.

Time seemed to rocket past as the lady’s baby had now grown up to a boy 😀

With the King still admiring himself in his new attire…

Goatman playing with fire…

Dazzling lights and fireworks wowed the audiences!

At the end of the 50minutes performance, the audiences were left in awe. It was a totally new experience to see performance this size on our Singapore River. The French performance was excellent not only technically but also in terms of creativity. Though it was the second time we watched Water Fools, it was still very enjoyable and entertaining for us, especially given our better views and the more cooling weather.

I guessed the only unpleasant episodes were when people who came much later tried to squeeze in and caused inconvenience to those who came earlier…A young mother with two small kids was seen asking her kids to squeeze right in front at the river side and after having them seated, she also shamelessly squeezed in, despite being asked by the security to keep the passage way clear in case of emergency. As if it wasn’t bad enough, she tried to ask her husband to join in by squeezing the other people even more. Luckily the husband eventually went to the back. Itchyfingers had the urge to take a picture of her but didn’t to do so in order to protect the identities of the youngs. :p

Tonight will be the last performance of Water Fools. So if you can make it, do try to catch the dazzling performance. Believe me you will not regret having to cramp with thousands of people, but do make sure to stick with your principles and dun be afraid to politely decline people who wants to squeeze their way in. 🙂

Secret Garden in the Last Kampong

May 23, 2008 at 11:33 am | Posted in itchy backside | 5 Comments
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We were wandering around Kampong Lorong Buangkok, the last surviving kampong in Singapore, on a warm Saturday morning. Muddy ground laid with discarded carton boxes, rice sacks or old carpets, wooden houses with zinc roofs, rusty mailboxes, randomly placed household items outside the houses were the norm there. Few residents were seen that day, either still sleeping (though it was already half past nine in the morning), out working or out for grocery shopping at the nearby housing estates. Time seemed to be on a standstill, with people living a simple life in their own enclave, oblivious of the changing world outside which was just a stone’s throw away.

I was exploring around taking pictures when I took a wrong turn and found myself attracted by rows of plants that lead the way to this house sitting quietly at a corner.

Rows of neatly planted birdnests’ ferns opening up the way to this nice
little house sitting quietly at a corner

What followed was a most welcoming sight!

Cosy corner in front of the house welcomed owners and guests for a chit chat

It was a stark contrast from the rest of the houses that we saw earlier! Brightly painted in fresh hues, it was very well-maintained, with plants lovely pruned and the exterior wall adorned with paintings and photographs.

Even the door was different from the rest!

Close up of the door

A gong sat outside the door

An old fashion electricity meter

A dining area at the right. There was this lovely mirror with windows
among the many paintings and photographs

Candle light dinner anyone?

A cute water buffalo ash tray

Wooden clogs…classic kampong look…

The main attraction must be this wooden bed! Such a waste to leave it
outside explosed to the elements. But maybe that added to its charm.
Notice the traditional game on the bed?

All the while we wondered if there was anyone home, but seemed like they were all out. Would be nice to have a chit chat with the owner. They certainly took a lot of pride in their home and made it so cosy, even though it was rented on a land with an uncertain fate. The monthly rental of between S$6.50 to S$30 was really cheap – where else in Singapore could you rent a house with so much space where you are free to grow fruits and plants, leave your belongings outside the house unattended without worrying of theft, have neighbours as close as families, all these and more, at $30?

The late morning sun was scorching hot and a natural mozzy magnet, I had already collected quite a substantial numbers of kisses from the blood suckers. Time to go before we died of hunger and I died of blood lost…:p

We left the lovely wooden house and on our way out, saw a miniature tiger sleeping on a wooden bench…

Haha…just a fat tom cat enjoying the sun lah 😀

We saw a couple of cats in the kampong and so far had been unable to take their photos cos most were too shy and ran back into the house. But this tom cat couldn’t be bothered with our presence, and continued dreaming in his slumberland…

Yawn…so sleepy…

Until we got distracted by another sweet looking white cat…

There was this sweet and innocent look in her eyes…

It was only then that we met a friendly Malay aunty. Our friend tried to have a conversation with her with her rusty and limited knowledge of Melayu. The aunty had been staying in the kampong all her life. Now alone with her pet cats, she would not want to leave if possible. There was a slight saddness in her eyes and I supposed that came with not knowing the fate of the kampong. In a nation caught up with development and progress, and with limited land, it is inevitable that the land where the kampong is sitting now will be acquired by the government sooner or later. All we could do is to try to visit and experience their life, and capture whatever left on photographs to preserve memories of old Singapore.

We bid the aunty goodbye and left the kampong. Hopefully, the last kampong of Singapore is here to stay for many more years…We might come back for another visit, and hopefully we would be able to see more residents so as to understand their lives in the kampong better.

Also see related post:
> Balek Kampong – A Return to Village Dwelling

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