November 29, 2011 at 12:31 am | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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On 20.11.2011, where were you and what did you do?

On 20.11.2011, Itchyfingers had a taste of the sweetest bottled water again after climbing 73 storey, 1,336 steps up to the helipad of Swissotel the Stamford. Like last year, Itchyfingers joined the Lovebirds Challenge for the Swissotel Vertical Marathon.

The goodie bag for the climb. Last year’s bag was better and the contents
were better too…hahah…Was expecting to get another pair of bears for
our category but was a bit disappointed to find none…Would be nice to be
able to collect one series of bears for the climb….

As usual, we reached earlier to kaypoh around…Boy, the weather was hot!

Like last year, drinks were abundant…They gave out these Vitamin Water
this time…First time to try these, we had this orange and the other clear
one. Tasted a bit like diluted sugared water…

Results were already out for those categories that started earlier… 

Remember this uncle? He’s the oldest participant for the previous few years.
What was he looking at?

Ah, uncle was looking at these photos! It was a nice gesture of the hotel
to take and print these complimentary photos for us!

No more chocolates and chicken essence hampers for this year’s prizes! 😀

There seemed to be some delay for the Men’s Open category. Either they were waiting for the stairways to clear before starting or the VIP was late…So this was what happened….

The guys in the first line seemed to be protesting in silence by sitting down
doing their stretching…They looked like Nepalese…

Itchyfingers near the starting line  

We spotted one guy with soiled tee, shoes and compression socks. I think
he might have just done another run earlier in the morning before rushing
down for this climb. As it was a day with a rather unique date, there were
a couple of other races held today…

When the elites were climbing, there were a lot of people crowding around
waiting to see who would emerge as the champion. This year the screen
only showed one angle at the final steps to the helipad. Last year was better
as we could see more action at the stairs

Finally it was the Lovebirds’ turn!

Many had already assembled around the waiting area. This tee the guy
was wearing was for another vertical marathon, which we didn’t participate…

We din manage to get to the front of the queue this time. It was already very hot as it was close to noon. Wonder why the Lovebird category always has to start so late…We had drank so much water and visited the loo three times while waiting!

Then, finally it was our turn! My heart raced as we waited to be flagged off. Due to work and time constraint, we only did two practises before the race. But from last year’s experience, I know I must really control my pace properly…Though I tried to take it slow and steady, my heart soon started pounding harder and harder, same with my breathing. Had to fight not to look at the number of storeys climbed. At a few points we were blocked by some couples..was too exhausted to say ‘excuse me’ and maybe my body wanted the excuse to slow down too. We eventually overtook them and a few others. I started to slow down at about 45 floors…It was a mistake to take a peep at the floor numbers!

Finally, Itchyfingers saw the end of the last flight of stairs! Wanted to speed up but the legs did not do as I commanded…Claps from staffs welcomed us as we approached the finishing line! We were then presented our medals and a bottle of water. I remembered the familiar taste of this water. Someone once commented that rather than spend so much money, so much effort to climb up, we are better off taking a lift up to the highest level and spending that money for a drink at comfort. But I think it is just different when you get things so easily…Will you remember the taste of that drink you bought years later? I know I will remember my bottled water that I exchanged with sweat after climbing 1,336 steps.

But the bonus was the clear and fine sky up at the helipad! The view was even better than last year!

Beautiful weather!

Hotels and offices… 

See those colourful blocks? These are the blocks at Rocher Centre which would
be torn down to give way to the North-South Expressway soon

Can you see the Chinatown and Singapore River area? Where else can
you recognise? 

Time to try out the lomo-effect on iphone! 😀

A picture at the finishing line! 

One more! 

Medals! Same design as last year but no more die-cut…Save cost?

The good thing about starting so late is that we were given more time to spend on the helipad since there was only the Corporate Challenge category behind us. No one even asked us to make a move this time round. Would love to stay even longer if not because it was so hot and we needed to fill our tummies!

More couples finishing…

The defending champion for the Women’s Open, Ms Suzanne Walsham, 
an Australian resident here. Her time was 8.23min! 

The defending champion for Men’s Open, Mr Thomas Dold, couldn’t make
it this year for the climb. So it was Mr Matthias Jahn who won with a time
of 7.16 min

Tokens of appreciation were presented also to the physically challenged
participants. The double amputee, Mr Mr Fernandes Dwayne, was also here
last year. We saw the gentleman in red during the Terry Fox Run early this

We also found our photo on the board! Too bad it was taken while queuing
for our turn and not the one at the helipad. The polaroid was taken by
another couple who wanted to clear the last shot from his camera

It was later when the full results were out that Itchyfingers found that we were among the top 15 in our category! Hahaha…it was slow even though we had more than a minute of improvement from last year…Maybe next year we should really train harder to squeeze into the top 10? Hahaha…Then the bottle of water will taste even sweeter!

Also see related posts:
> Scaling New Height
> Taking Baby Steps
> Stepping Up @ NLB

Seeing Red in a Tent – Spidey Galore #3

November 23, 2011 at 11:54 am | Posted in itchy mouth | 1 Comment
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This day Itchyfingers were at the Botanic Gardens when we saw a Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) in the thick bush. No doubt it’s a very common bird in Singapore, but somehow Tisu Boy has no good picture of it. So when we saw it not moving, we thought it was a good chance to take some nice pictures.

Then suddenly the bird swooped down and started attacking at something. A look through the binos showed a big spider web, but we couldn’t see any spider except some dried leaves hanging on it. The oriole continued raiding the web but it must be quite a strong and sticky one cos the bird seemed to be having some difficulty getting passed to its prey.

The persistent Black-naped Oriole raiding at the web

We couldn’t see any spider so Tisu Boy had a tough time taking all the actions
as we didn’t know where the Oriole was aiming for. But it seemed like he was
going for the dried leaves! A pity we couldn’t get the whole bird in the frame…
Everything happened so fast, like a flash! 

We didn’t witness the oriole with any catch from the web. He must be exhausted and didn’t want to risk being stuck by the spider web as he eventually gave up after a few more failed attempts and flew off in search of easier prey

It was only then that we could go slightly nearer to take a closer look. The web was hidden among the thick bush and there was no way we could bash in to examine closer. Looking through the binos, we finally saw the spider!

So it was a Red-tent Spider (Cyrtophora unicolor)! Itchyfingers has
read about this spider but this was the first one I ever saw it in the wild!
Red-tent Spider is a kind of Orb-Web Spider that builds what appears
to be a three-dimensional irregular web

Then on another day, Itchyfingers were at Pasir Ris Park walking on the mangrove boardwalk when we chanced upon this one at eye-level…Finally we could take a better look at the Red-tent Spider!

Wow! It was huge! I think the body must be about 20 mm long. Females are
bigger at 17 – 20 mm. This site suggests that males are rarer to find possibly 
because they are smaller and less conspicuous compared to the females.
The web of the Red-tent Spider usually has one or two curled up dried leaves
in the centre where the spider would be hiding inside 

We were totally unprepared for this find as we only had our long lens for taking birds. Imagine Tisu Boy having to step as far as possible to the edge of the boardwalk in order to focus and photograph this spider! Hahah…

Although the Red-tent Spiders are supposed to be quite common, but I think you will still have to be quite observant and lucky to find one, especially when they are found in dense vegetation in mangrove swamps. So certainly Itchyfingers didn’t expect to be third time lucky! This time we saw one at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve…and boy, what a beauty!

Look at the red colour on her body! This time we had macro lens but the
three-dimensional web got into the way so that was the closest we could go.
The spider was having her packed lunch of what looked like a silk-bundled
beetle meal! 

Also see related posts:
> Jaws – Spidey Galore #1
> Eating Its Own Kind? – Spidey Galore #2 

Revisiting the Old Residents @ Bukit Brown

November 20, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Posted in itchy backside | 1 Comment
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On our last trip to Bukit Brown Cemetery, Itchyfingers didn’t manage to find the largest tomb in Singapore there. This day, we went again with the API map, determined to find it.

The government has already made plan to open up roads there and some tombs will have to make way soon. The remaining tombs will also have to be exhumed for yet another condominium projects in a few years’ time. So we were expecting to see researchers, photos and history enthusiasts racing against time to document the thousands of famous as well as unknown tombs here. But surprisingly this time there weren’t many visitors.

As we drove in, something caught our eyes…

Oh my goodness! Whose head was this?? Hahaha…Dun worry, it was 
just a rubber mask with wig laid here by some prankster…But it happened to
be Halloween when we visited…Haha…who said Singaporeans have no
sense of humour? 😀

Soon we were at the prominent tomb with these Sikh soldiers. There was
now a paper behind one of them. So this tomb belonged to a Mr Chew
Geok Leong, a Chinese physician who died in 1939. He prepared his own coffin,
tomb and the Sikh statutes when he was still alive and kept them in one of
the servants rooms 

Even with the map, we failed to locate the largest tomb belonging to Mr Ong Sam Leong. We couldn’t find those red-and-white plastic tape left on trees by the API as markings leading to the prominent tomb. So we reckoned we were in the wrong way as we had seen on tv how the API founder, Mr Raymond Goh, brought reporter to the tomb and it seemed like a rather straight forward route. So Tisu Boy studied the map again and went into the woods to check out one more time. He came back to say he saw a huge one but it seemed to be blocked by a fallen tree. It was indeed quite tough to locate cos we had to bash through long knee-height grass before bending down to pass the fallen tree. Maybe the recent heavy rainfalls had caused the path to be obstructed by the fallen tree?

But it was well worth the effort! Not too far away from the fallen tree was a big tomb….

This was another big double tomb, but it was not the one we were looking
for. Tisu Boy, being taller, could peep behind the fallen tree and see the
much bigger tomb. So he was very sure that must be the one!

There were a pair of Sikh soldiers too! Will check out this tomb again later….
cos I was really anxious to see just how big is the largest tomb in Singapore!

Meanwhile Tisu Boy was already at the tomb waiting for me…

Oh my goodness!!! Really such a huge tomb!!!! 

This was from the back of the tomb, at the top of the hill…This site said  the
tomb is “comparable to the size of 10 typical three-room flats in Singapore” or
600 square metres!

I’m not sure about the exact size…but it was BIG!

There were patched up work with ugly white tiles among these original
ones. Obviously it is not easy to find similar substitutes today… 

In front of the tomb was this long, huge and deep ditch for drainage…
It was almost to my hip…and supposed to be 15 metres long!

A Sikh soldier by the left…

Another on the right…this one was missing part of his rifle…Ok, Itchyfingers
was not fooling around…This was for size comparison! I think the soldier
should be about 1.5 m tall… 😀 Oh by the way, if you like 
my tee-shirt,
you can get it from the SPCA!  

Tomb of Mr Ong Sam Leong (1857-1918), a prominent Straits Chinese 
businessman. He was the sole supplier of mining workers to phosphate rich
Christmas Island. Sam Leong Road in Jalan Besar was named after him

Wife of Mr Ong Sam Leong, Madam Yeo Yean Neo

Relief depicting Chinese deities lined the walls of the tomb

Besides the Sikh guards, there were other statues guarding the tomb….

I think this should be the 金童 (translates as Golden Boy)

This should be the 玉女 (or Jade Maiden)

There were a pair of these lions…

On the moat were yet another pair of lions in this different style… Can you
see the tomb behind?

From far this looked like another big tomb of some rich people, though
compared to Mr Leong’s tomb, this is quite modest. But when we went
closer to look, we realised it was actually for the 福神 which we reckoned
should be the 土地公 or the Earth Deity! Many of the bigger tombs we saw
at Bukit Brown had their own Earth Deity Shrines which were normally
about the size of a brick. But this one is as big as a typical tomb! And yes,
this is also part of Mr Ong Sam Leong tomb! 

It even has its own pair of lion statues. This style is rather uncommon…I
dun think we saw any of these anywhere here. Quite cute with two buck teeth…

We went back to take more photos of the large tomb and it was only then we noticed this sign…

A small laminated namecard size card was stapled with the red-and-white tape 
on a trunk. Ong Boon Tat? So Boon Tat Street in the Central Business
Distinct was named after him? 

So the double tombs Itchyfingers saw before that of Mr Ong Sam Leong’s 
belonged to his son Mr Ong Boon Tat (1888-1941) and his wife! Together with
his brother Ong Peng Hock, they started the New World Amusement Park at
Jalan Besar before selling it to the Shaw Organisation in the 1930s

As we made our way down, we stopped by these two nearby tombs. They looked rather modern and modest…Again, there was a small sign referring this tomb to that of a Mr Ong Peng Hock…As there was no description hung on the tomb like those we saw on the previous trip, we didn’t know the relation of these two tombs to that of Mr Ong Sam Leong. But since they were all of the same family name, we guessed that they should be related.

It was only after I did some research that I realised that Mr Ong Peng
Hock was the other son. He died in 1968. Both his and his wife’s tombs were
erected by their
 Granddaughter according to the English inscription. As to
why the tombs were not as elaborate as his father and brother, we also
do not know

The Earth Deity shrine at Mr Ong Hock Peng’s tomb

Luckily we decided not to turn back the same way we came from but looked
for alternative way out! From Mr Ong Peng Hock’s tomb were a few steps
made of bricks, and from there we saw this well-trodden track!

Follow this path and soon we were out! This was the path I saw on tv where
the report took! How did we end up at the other unused track??

This was what we saw when we were finally out at the main road. A clear
path could be seen here and if you see this tomb circled here, you will be on
the right track

The circled tomb belonged to this Madam Tay Tam Neo

Still cannot find or cannot read map? Then look for the caretaker’s tentage 
at the left of this picture. Guarantee you wouldn’t be lost! Now, Itchyfingers
must had read the map wrongly!

Another interesting find was these four tombs near the main road not that far from the main gate. Somehow we never noticed them…

The design of these tombs was unique with a roof over them. I think these
belonged to two brothers and their wives. Only the last one
 at the far right
had English inscription below. According to it, it belonged
 to a Dr Ho Siu
Khan (1886 – 1958)

See, from the back who could have imagined they are tombs?

I was walking far behind Tisu Boy after taking photos of these tombs. Chatted with an elderly man who came in his jeep with his indian workers, carrying big boxes of paper offerings for his grandfather. Then as I walked alone leisurely, a simple tomb at a distance caught my attention. I don’t think I have seen another other tomb with a black slab of marble (?) here at Bukit Brown. There was a gentleman cleaning the tomb. A lady was waiting at the car by the roadside and I found out that the tomb belonged to the man’s grandfather. The gentleman returned after finishing his cleaning and asked if I know about the story behind this tomb. I was totally surprised when he asked if I know of Dr Sun Yat Sen and then said this was the man who helped Dr Sun with his revolutionary work in Singapore. Immediately I looked through my bino at the tomb. Oh my goodness! I was looking at the tomb of Mr Tan Chor Nam and talking to his grandson!

Tomb of Mr Tan Chor Nam 陈楚楠 (1884-1971). According to the grandson,
Mr Tan, like Dr Sun, was a forward-thinking man of his time and so he
preferred to have a simple and modern-looking tomb

The freshly cleaned-up tomb. Mr Tan had five children and the guy is
one of his two grandsons…

People in the olden days had two names…

Luckily Itchyfingers had been watching the news and also visited the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall recently when it reopened after renovation so we had heard of Mr Tan Chor Nam. According to the grandson, there weren’t much historical record about the elder Mr Tan as he preferred to have a low-profile life after the Xinhai Revolution in 1911. He wouldn’t have shared with me stories about his grandfather if he didn’t think that I had already knew about the tomb from the recent Chinese newspaper report. In fact, earlier on there was a professor who came specially to look for the tomb. He was also looking for the 12 other founding members of the Singapore branch of the Tong Meng Hui, or the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance, all buried in Bukit Brown. Though he was only seven years old when Mr Tan Chor Nam passed away, the younger Mr Tan was obviously very proud of his grandfather as a selfless person who, like Dr Sun, wanted the best for China and the Chinese people at that time.

Itchyfingers were lucky to have met and talked to the younger Mr Tan. I think like many younger Singaporeans who aren’t too familiar with the Chinese history, we didn’t understand the significance behind the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall and the work done by Dr Sun and his compatriots. We actually thought we were forcing the connection just because Dr Sun had three brief stay at the villa here. But after talking to someone who is closer to the man who helped with the revolution and had close ties with Dr Sun, I couldn’t help but feel that we chinese people from all over the world really owed it to Dr Sun and his friends. Without them, the men may still be wearing pigtails on their half-shaven heads and the women may still have to bind their feet, and lived under the Feudal System. Mr Tan was not sure if his grandfather’s tomb would have to give way to the road. It would really be a pity if it has to go as Itchyfingers feel that Mr Tan Chor Nam deserved to be recogonised for the contribution he had made. And what better way than to have something physical for people to come and learn more about the man rather than read about him on books?

Itchyfingers really hope that Bukit Brown can be preserved and not be exhumed for future development. Not only it is full of life with mature trees, birds and insects, there are also so many stories and histories behind the numerous tombs there, waiting for us to discover. If you have not visited Bukit Brown Cemetery, do make a trip down. If more people are aware of its beauty, historical and cultural values, maybe we can save Bukit Brown with our collective voices to the government. Singapore has already lost so much of its rich history in the name of development. Take action before it is too late!

Also see related post:
> Saving the Old Residents at Coffee Hill

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