Goodbye Mandai Orchid Garden

December 31, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

Today is the last day of operation for the Mandai Orchid Garden. News of its closure due to expiry in lease was out some times back but Itchyfingers only found time to revisit it again two weeks ago. According to the news and from the staff there, they will be moving to the Kranji area. But to Itchyfingers, it would not be the same anymore. It was at Mandai Orchid Garden that we spent hours waiting for and photographing the birds, especially the sunbirds. It was at Mandai Orchid Garden that Tisu Girl and Tisu Boy, or rather, the mascot of Tisu Girl and Tisu Boy were born.

In recent years, we have not been visiting the garden due to few reasons – more photographers seemed to have discovered the place, making it less conducive for close observation of the birds. Later on, we found the state of the garden deteriorating… No doubt they had tried to spruce up the place as well as business by adding a restaurant and later on a science discovery place. But the condition of the plants seemed to be not as good as when we first started birdwatching and photographing there. Fewer birds species seemed to visit the place. One of the mistakes they made was to remove a pavilion at one end of the garden…

We used to sit and chit chat in the pavilion while waiting for birds to come.
There were many torch ginger plants around the area and many birds were
attracted there…It was at the pavilion that Tisu Girl and Tisu Boy were born…
So when we found the pavilion gone, we were quite sad

Besides the sunbirds, the pavilion also provided an easy birding and
photography spot for spiderhunters. This is the
Little Spiderhunter
(Arachnothera longirostra). We would know about their arrival as
they would often make a distinct call…

There was also the less common
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter
(Arachnothera chrysogenys) dropping by for a nectar meal…

These stairs led you to another row of torch ginger plants to find more
sunbirds. But it was not as comfortable as sitting in the pavilion…

Plain-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) is the biggest
sunbird found in Singapore. This is a male with iridescent green and purple
upperparts with chestnut on the wing-coverts and scapulars; it is primarily
yellow below

The Plain-throated Sunbird is also known as the Brown-throated Sunbird

The female Plain-throated Sunbird is olive-green above and yellowish below

You could always find resting areas in ‘secret’ spots like this…

And still find birds like this
Olive-backed sunbird (nectarina jugularis).
This is the more attractive male

Another common visitor to the garden – the
Crimson Sunbird
(Aethopyga siparaja)

The juvenile male Crimson Sunbird – notice the red colours that are

Of course, we used to see other birds like the Pink-necked Green Pigeons and also the Gray-headed Fish Eagle soaring in the sky. I also remembered being nearly attacked by a wary Racket-tailed Drongo when we were observing its nest under a tree outside the garden. And of course, I also remembered having to climb out the gate after being locked up in the garden when we missed its closing time…Not forgetting the gardening lady who would tell us about nesting birds around the garden…Didn’t see her in our last visit though…Sigh…so much memories…

We spent some time looking back at time and the changes around the
garden from the first time we visited…This view showed the restaurant
which I had only visited once with some friends from my volunteering

Turning to our left was this path leading to the wooden steps. This was
added later…

Taking the steps up brought us to this wooden platform with chairs for
alfresco dining at the restaurant near the entrance…should be quite nice…
except being a mossy magnet, I would be bitten and sucked dry…hahah…

The view from the platform…

Ironically, we seldom venture into the cultivated orchid garden area as
it was an open area without any shelter…we preferred the other side of the
garden with more shade…

Also most of the time, we were busy looking and photographing birds at
the other side….I think I only walked this part about two or three times…

I do like orchids and find them beautiful and hardy plants…

But I can never tell the species apart…haha….Last night’s news said one
of the precious species was being cut and stolen!

Was surprised to see the Dragonfruit here among the orchids! It was the
first time I see it so near! When we were driving back from Malaysia on
one of our birding day trip, we saw one dragonfruit plantation but didn’t
stop to take photos as we were tired and wanted to get back to the custom
earlier to avoid jams….

If it reminded you of cactus, then you are right, for Dragonfruit belongs
to the cactus species…It just reminded us of our Vietnam trips where
the fruit was a must-have at meal!

It was kinda nice to be able to revisit the Mandai Orchid Garden again before its closure. I think we were not the only ones who will miss the place, as there was a preparation for a wedding function at night…I think “the Government has identified the plot to be part of a 30ha site, about three times the size of VivoCity mall, to be developed as a nature-themed attraction in Mandai.” Sigh…Actually I am not sure if it is a good idea…nature should be left as it is….


First Marathon…

December 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Posted in itchy fingers | Leave a comment

After participating in a few 10 km runs, Itchyfingers finally did our first marathon….but as spectators! Hahahah!!!

Normally registration for runs opens few months before race day. So when registration for the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore opened few months back, Itchyfingers didn’t sign up for it cos firstly we weren’t sure if we would be in the country; and secondly, having only started joining races in the middle of the year, we weren’t sure if we were up to it to enter for the full marathon, though Tisu Boy did manage to complete the Army Half Marathon later.

Since we missed the chance to race in one of Singapore’s biggest running events, we thought the next best thing to be involved would be catching the action through our lenses. But we were too lazy to get up in the wee hours on a Sunday to see the 5 am flag-off at Orchard Road…The 6.30 am flag-off for the half marathon at Sentosa was too much a hassle. So we chose to wait for the runners at the finishing point instead.

We reached the Padang area before 7 am as we know the first runner should
be able to complete the run in slightly more than two hours…The finishing
point was already crowded with photographers and volunteers, so we
had to station ourselves somewhere near the 150 metre mark away from
the finishing point

We waited patiently. It didn’t take too long before the first runner appeared…

Mr Kenneth Mburu Mungara from Kenya…

Look at his long stride! No wonder he appeared to be cruising so effortlessly!
He finished at a time of 02:14:06 hr. Amazing! Guess what’s his prize
money? $66,500!!! My goodness!

The second and next few fast runners were all Kenyans…We were curiously if any Chinese or Singaporean could finish closely with the Kenyans. Then from far, I finally saw one man that was not black!

Initially I thought finally we had a Chinese. But looking closely, we realised
that he is a Nepalese Gurkha in the Ekiden Race consisting of six team
members to complete the full 42.195 km distance…

Few more Kenyan guys passed by…Then the first woman marathoner arrived! As expected, that would be a Kenyan! 😀

Miss Irene Jerotich Koskei from Kenya, the first woman to cross the finishing
line at 02:35:22 hr. Thumbs up!

Seconds later, these two ladies arrived in style…it was assumed that they
would secure their positions as second and third….

But volunteers at the side of the road started shouting at this lady,
Ms Annerien van Schalkwyk, to warn her about the lady behind her…

…as Ms Ayelu Lemma Geda started to pick up speed, obviously trying
her best to catch up!

It was such an exciting moment! You could see that Ms Annerien was keeping to a steady pace while Ms Ayelu started sprinting!

It was tough fight as Ms Ayelu finally caught up at around 50 metres to the
finishing point!! I wished I was stationed at the finishing point to see them
closer! So exciting!

And yes! The two ladies finished off with a mere one second apart!!!! Ms
Ayelu earned her second place at 02:35:31 hr! Ms Annerien was great too
as it was her first full marathon race!

Just when we were taking a breather from the excitement, we saw a Chinese guy from far running our way!

We realised that was our local triathlete, Mr Mok Ying Ren. This would
be his second marathon, taking the first place in local category at 2:38:27 hr.
Besides him was his pacer, whose name on his bib was different from that on
this account on this site

As Itchyfingers have not participated in a full marathon before, we were
not too sure about the role of a pacer. As seen here, the pacer seemed to
be a stronger and faster runner…but I couldn’t find his finishing time on
the official site. Why would a fast runner want to be a pacer and get
no timing? Maybe pacers are paid to set new records for runners?

Another two running closely together, not sure if they were pacers but
both of them wore tee that said “Marathon Pacer Support” with 1:45 hr
on the tag. Eventually, both the Japanese and Singaporean guys finished
at 01:44:32 hr. Nice…

As the sky turned brighter, more and more spectators and photographers came…

The most interesting ones must be these Japanese mother and daughter pair.
Were they dressed as such to support someone?

Finally saw paraplegic athlete Dr William Tan in action. He finished
his 10 km in 23:37 min

For the wheelchair race, they were escorted by a few volunteers in

Although there were different starting points, all merged to finish at the
same point. Many runners were confused though there was big banners
for direction…But when you were so tired, you tend to miss things…It didn’t
help that there were so many categories, hence different bib colours which
did not have the race categories printed on them, making it difficult for
volunteers to guide the runners to their respective finishing point.  Here
the wheelchair bound athelete was pointed to the right finishing point
by his escorts….

It was already past 8 am, which meant that there were no more sub-3 (under 3 hours) runners. At 03:12:24 hr, we saw our first local category woman winner!

Ms Qi Hui!

We were wondering if we could spot our friend among all these runners but ended up catching all these other familiar faces in the running scene…

We only found out on the paper that Ms Sumiko Tan was just 50 metres
away from a silver medal
after collapsing to her knee, struggled but
failed to get up. Eventually she had to be stretchered  off by medics. What
a waste!

Does he look familar? That’s our ex-national sailor, Dr Benedict Tan. He
finished third in the 2008 marathon in 2:56:20 hr but having concentrated his
time more on his medical career now, he still managed to clock 03:22:02 hr
for this year. We were excited to see him in action!

The last familiar face – Ms Jeanette Wang, editor of Shape Magazine and
an athlete, finished the half marathon at 01:57:18 hr

It was a pleasant surprise to see my long lost friend also taking part in
the half marathon! Didn’t wanna distract her from finishing the last
stretch so didn’t call her. I hope to be able to run a good timing as her
one day – 02:16:37 hr

There were also some runners who were more ‘outstanding’ than others, not necessarily in terms of timing, but perhaps, the dressing… :p

Mr Flamboyant Man…hey he came in number 9 for the half marathon okay!

Mr Translucent Man in white compression suit leaving nothing to the
imagination! Hahahah!  He was pissed with the confusion of the different
finishing point…He was quite fast too!

Ms Covered Up! Seriously, I wouldn’t bother to wear the official tee, just
the bib would do…hahah

Mr Star Man! So he was the one the mum and daughter were waiting for!

Mr Leopard Man…anyone understands the Japanese words? Does it mean
some blood donation drive?

Mr Banana Man! He ran to raise awareness for the Dyspraxia Foundation

Ms Hawaiian Woman! This lady is a regular dresser at marathons. Saw
her at the Real Run dressed like a yellow feathered chicken…a bit showy
for our liking…hahah…

Little Miss Fairy at the Kids’ 750 metre dash!

Mr Marathon Man! Look, he has a website! 😀 He also ran for a cause

And since it was near Christmas, we had this one…

Mr Snow Man! Oh my goodness! Looked really hot running in this plastic
thing! Wonder why he din get heat stroke!

Mr Snow Man was so hot! Pun intended! Hahahaha!!!

Hahah! Even the camera crew was covered up! 😀 Strange it wasn’t
turning cloudy in the morning…but he took it off later… too hot! 😀

Under the hot humid weather condition, it made running long distance a real challenge. We saw at least three runners collapsed in front of us, so near to the finishing point….

He was jogging slowly with the others when suddenly the legs looked like
they had turned jelly and he slowly walked towards our direction before
I tried to encourage him to move on but I think he was too tired…

I think he got a bad case of muscle cramp…such a waste…

Another runner suffered even worse pain that he couldn’t get up to the side…

…and had to be stretchered off….seriously to run a full marathon is no

Good training is important. Joining a local running club is a way to get
support from fellow runners…whether you are aiming to just finish the
full distance or aiming for a personal best timing…

Another very active local running club – the Team FatBird

Getting the right pair of running shoes that suits you is as important. Here
this lady was spotted with the Vibram Five Fingers which is the closest to
barefoot running…I am curious to try them on! :p

Hydration is very important too! We saw people running in East Coast
with these, but this was the first time we spotted people actually running
with them in a full marathon! Er, not heavy meh? :p

As the weather was so hot, sunshades and a cap would be very useful to provide some protection…But in the absence of these, you gotta improvise then!

Cover up with shirt!

But dun cover so much till you look like a terrorist! Hahahaha!

No scarf or shirt? Hahahah..then borrow lor…

Reuse carton box lor! Hahahah! Just dun be shy! You can do it!  😀

Some say life is like a marathon, there are moments of happiness and excitement…

…moments of agony and pain….

..moment of disappointment….She must be thinking, “Arrrgh…so slow!”
By the way, notice her bib is a guy’s name? Transferring or selling of
race slots is not allowed mainly for safety reason cos in case of an
emergency, the organiser would not know about your medical condition
and the person to contact as the record would be different. However,
many people ignored it. I have friend asking if I wanna buy over a half
marathon slot. But, safety reasons aside, where’s the satisfaction when
the bib, the official result and finishing certificate do not bear your name?

Like life, running a marathon involves stages of learning and preparation. You can start young or old…just don’t give up!

Old Japanese ojisan (uncle). We thought he was already quite old…

Until we saw this even older one! So cute, he got a 86 year old bib! Hahaha!
He completed his half marathon in 03:47:23 hr! Bravo!

It’s good to start young..

She looked a bit too young…hahahah! While some kids
older than her were
pushed by parents
in strollers, this little girl walked all the way with
encouragement from mummy. Many volunteers found her so cute that
they cheered and hi-fived with her along the way!

Some chose to finish their marathons together just like in a life’s journey…

And it’s good to start young! Hahaha….

Others chose to stick through thick and thin together as a family… 🙂

We stayed until around noon when the sun got unbearably hot and
we were also getting hungry. Pity those 10 km runners who started much
later and some slower marathon runners…

But when they reached the finishing line, most of them were so happy

Kudos to the many energetic volunteers who had to stand under the hot
sun to cheer the runners! You guys were great! They might even have to
help with the cleaning up after the race

But thumbs down for those who dumped these around…or were these done
by spectators?

It was definitely a great experience to be involved in a marathon for the first time even we were just spectators. Itchyfingers hope we will be able to be part of a marathon running as a participant soon!

Also see related posts:
> Scaling New Height
Taking Baby Steps
Life is Great – Great Eastern Women 10K Run
The Ultimate X-Terrain Challenge – New Balance Real Run 2010
Ten Ten Ten Ten – The Prelude
An Uphill Task
Getting into Shape
Stepping Up @ NLB
Tortoise and Hare

Scaling New Height

December 26, 2010 at 1:35 am | Posted in itchy backside | 2 Comments
Tags: ,

The day finally came. Itchyfingers only managed to find time to do four practice climbs in preparation for the Swissotel Vertical Marathon. Each time we made a little progress – from 15.35 min on the first climb to 14.34 min for the last training; with a lapse of about two minutes to wait and take the lift down for a second round of climb on the 40 storey flat.

During registration, I found that the starting times for the men and women categories were quite far apart..and you would only be given 10 minutes on the helipad to take photos and rest. So, if Itchyfingers were to enter into our own categories, then chances of us meeting up at the helipad would be quite slim. In the end, I persuaded Tisu Boy to join the category for couples – the Lovebirds’ Challenge. The name is quite mushy for our liking actually….hahahah…but that would be the only way we could take photos together lor…hahah….

Collected our goodie bags a week prior to race day. The bag design and colour
was nice…the tee and the content not too bad also, with Shape magazine for
girls and Men’s Health magazine for guys. Haha…got chicken essence also!
Notice the pair of bears? Got one each in our bags, not sure if other categories
also have one too. Of course, both girl and boy bears ended
up in my bag…wahahah… 😀

Our reporting time was late at 11.30 am. But we decided to reach earlier to take photos and soak into the atmosphere…There were already so many people, some had already finished while others were waiting for their time as each time only six participants were flagged off to avoid overcrowding on the stairways.

Long queue forming at the reporting time for each categories

A tv screen was set up next to the starting line for live telecast –  the top
left was the first entry point to the stairway; the top right was recorded at
the 42th floor and the bottom two showed the finishing point. Many were
dead tired at the 42th floor….we gotta remind ourselves not to show any
sign of fatigue in front of the camera…hahahah….

We decided to take a ‘before race’ shot…after which I asked the guy who
helped us take this picture how was the race…he said gotta pace ourselves
and not go too fast at the beginning…

Our shoes…

Wow! Chocolates in the prize hampers! I want.. :p

Hahah…more chicken essence in the hampers…

Great to have free flow of drinking water as the weather was so hot!

I’m gonna climb all the way up! So exciting and scary! 😀

In the meantime, results for those categories that started earlier were out.
My goodness! 8.31 minutes for the first guy in the under 20s category!

We went back to take some photos of those at the starting line…

On flagged off, we gotta run about 50 metres or so around the building…

Before running into the shopping area and turning around a corner into a door.
Couldn’t see beyond that…I guess that would be where the climbing starts?

Last year’s Men’s Open champion, Mr Thomas Dold from Germany gave
some tips to fellow participants. His time was 6.46 minutes! Amazing!
He has also won several other vertical marathons. Good news for the Men’s
Open – they wouldn’t be competing against him
this year! :p

Next to start – the Women’s Open. The lady in black is Ms Suzanne Walsham,
winner for last year’s race with a time of 8.29 min! Despite having just given
birth few months’ ago, she won again this year with a time of 9.13 min! The
last lady is Ms Jeanette Wang, editor of Shape magazine. She was the winner
in 2003

Then it was the highlight of the day – the Ultimate Championship. The men started first…

The horn sounded and there they ran! Mr Thomas Dold was on the left, while
a double amputee, Mr Fernandes Dwayne from Australia was on the left

When these elite ladies runners were racing, a lot of people gathered at the tv screen to see their progress. But when these gentlemen started their race, there were even more people gathering around to catch the action. Everyone wanted to see if Mr Dold could defend his title and at what time he could finish. So intense! Hahaha….And yes! He didn’t disappoint everyone! He raced up to the helipad in 6:51 minutes! My goodness! It must have taken lotsa training to achieve such timing!

We missed the Women’s Ultimate Championship cos our category would be starting after that. As it was close to noon and the sun was getting burning hot, we didn’t want to waste time queueing for our turn. So we made a quick last toilet visit and got back in time to be among the first few groups in the queue…

Lovebirds forming the queue. There were a total of 133 pairs!

And that’s Itchyfingers getting to the starting point!

Among us were this newly engaged couple in full wedding attire all ready
to bring their love to the highest point! They aimed to finish within 25 – 30minutes
with her trying to complete the race in her heels as much as possible… :p

They were given the priority to start the race..with them were their
entourage of bridesmen and bridesmaids…

The organisers from Swissotel gave the couple a little more time before flagging off the first groups of three couples. Itchyfingers were in the third group. By now I was feeling a bit nervous…cos seriously we had been training on lesser numbers of steps though the number of floors were more….and we always had a break in between taking the lift to the ground floor and climbing up again…This time we had to climb all the way without stopping…I mean you could always stop anywhere to take a rest, but we were aiming for a timing not too far from our training time, which would be around 14 minutes…Can we do it?

Soon it was our turn. We were given 30 seconds to get ready…soon it was 10, 9, 8, 7,6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…borrrr (horn)!!!!!

Wow! I nearly started before the horn sounded! Hahah…nervous mah! 😀

Like what we saw earlier, we had to run pass some cafes and then enter
the shopping arcade before taking a turn into
this doorway…I had thought
earlier that was the start of the climb…

But nope, we had to run through some corridor first to to get there…It was

now I remembered reading online about this stretch

And then finally we saw the stairs! Strange, I found myself suddenly
losing pace right from the start… 😦

I was totally out of form! Even though we had wanted to take it slow at the beginning, I found myself starting to pant really hard even before level 10 or earlier although we managed to catch up with the couples from our group and one or two other couples… 😦

What happened to you Tisu Girl! Totally cannot make it!

This time round, it was Tisu Boy who was in better shape! All the while he was in front of me unlike during our training!

I forgot at which floor did we catch up with the couple and their entourage
happily taking photos…managed to congratulate them despite feeling so

I dared not even look at my watch when we reached halfway…cos at the rate I was going, it definitely would not look so good…my calves felt so heavy, my heart was racing as if they were going to pop out from my mouth…Tisu Boy was obviously feeling great, climbing seemingly effortlessly and kept encouraging me to keep going…The volunteers were great too…When we reached the 42nd level, it was really hard to squeeze out a smile to face the video recorder! My goodness! Another 20 more storeys to go! Gotta push on! It was really a case of mind over body!

Pant pant pant….

It was a bit disappointing when Tisu Boy told me when he checked his watch that we had exceeded our 14 minutes target. Nevertheless, we still had to push on! Come on Tisu Girl! We could already hear the cheerings from the helipad!

Taking a few second break at the 72nd storey for a so-tired-but-so-happy

And then yes! We reached the 73rd storey! Wow, and that was not the end, cos still a few more steps to get to the helipad! 😮

But we made it!!!!! It was a welcoming sight seeing the helipad, the staff and volunteers. We were given a bottle of icy water and our medal as reward for our hard work…hahahah!

Medals for all!

Wow the medals had diecut!

Tisu Girl feeling so happy at the helipad and forgotten how tired I just felt
at the stairs…It was great to see the view of the city after climbing 1,336 steps!


After the hard work of climbing, obviously we had to take more photos!

Some of the Ultimate Championship runners were still hanging around, probably they had interviews with the media…We saw Mr Champion and this time, I was not gonna miss the chance like the Great Eastern Run. So I went up and asked for a photo together! :p

Tisu Girl with the fastest climber, Mr Thomas Dold!

I saw the double amputee Mr Fernandes Dwayne and nodded to him before taking photo with Mr Dold. When we finished, we couldn’t find Mr Dwayne around so missed getting a photo with him…

The Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort…

Singapore Flyer and the nearby hotels…

The Singapore River precinct


More hdbs…

The newly webbed couple made it in 32.09 minutes! Not sure if the lady

climbed all the way in heels though…hahah. For the Lovebirds’ Challenge,
we had to finish together and cross the finishing line hand in hand… :p
That was why Tisu Boy cannot go ahead without me! Hahahahah!

The couple that were married for the longest – 25 years! They made it up
in 23.46 minutes! Not bad for their age!

A last photo before heading down. I think we stayed more than 20 minutes
maybe cos we were the last race category other than the Corporate category
so it was less crowded

Haha…after climbing so many stairs, we still had to climb down two
more floors to get to the lift…hahah…

Earlier on at the starting point we saw Mr Kunalan, who set the national record at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and at the 5th South East Asian Peninsula (SEAP) Games the year after. He broke the Asian Games 200m record with a time of 21.3s. In 1981, he clocked 48.8s for the 400m at the age of 39. Didn’t have a chance to ask him for a photo but when we were at the lift lobby, we saw him again…But before I could open my mouth, the lift was here…So…

Tisu Girl asked Mr Kunalan, or Mr. K, for a photo in the lift itself! Hahaha!!!!!

Back at the starting point area, results for the Lovebird’s Challenge were
out! The winning team made it in 11.34 minutes! The no. 8 team finished
in 14.40 minutes!

Wow! If only I was in my usual form, Itchyfingers could have made it to the top eight list! We took more than 16 minutes to the top…far slower than our training time…but I guessed I needed the rest period in between…to climb all the way up was definitely more tiring… 😦 Nevertheless, it was a good experience and I had to say though I felt unusually tired and breatheless, I enjoyed myself…Come to think about it, it is still easier to complete a vertical marathon than a horizontal one, which would require hours to finish!

My last photo request was with the oldest participant – Mr Tan Soo Cheng,
who had been a regular face for the past eight Swissotel Vertical Marathon.
Before meeting him, I had thought he must be a very fit and energetic old uncle.
But when I saw him, I was surprised to see him actually moving very slowly,
typical of someone his age! At 84, he completed the climb in 37.17 minutes!
Absolutely fabulous! I hope I can be like him when I am 84! Great human

It was great to see the medic idling cos that means no one needed first aid!

With the scaling of Swissotel the Stamford, Itchyfngers put a memorable end to our series of races for the year 2010. We would be back for next year’s climb, this time hopefully we will be able to beat our own timing!

Cute to find this pair of fat lovebirds at the Cartlon Hotel after our climb…hahah

Also see related posts:
> Taking Baby Steps
Life is Great – Great Eastern Women 10K Run
The Ultimate X-Terrain Challenge – New Balance Real Run 2010
Ten Ten Ten Ten – The Prelude
An Uphill Task
Getting into Shape
Stepping Up @ NLB
Tortoise and Hare



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