Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thought of the Day 11: Island Galaxy

barred spiral galaxy

"No man is an island."  - John Donne

Some believe galaxies revolve around them.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Thought of the Day 10: Early Bird and Owl

benedict cumberbatch
English night owl partying the night away with the ladies

"Early bird gets the worm."  - English proverb.

Night owl gets the bird(s).

Monday, 28 September 2015

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Thought of the Day 8: It Does Not Add Up

Rome wasn't built in one day

"The world was built in six days."  - Bible

"Rome wasn't built in a day."  - French saying

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Thought of the Day 7: Apple and Doctor

"An apple a day, keep the doctor away."   - Welsh proverb

Throw a rotten apple, the doctor will not stay.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Authentic Thai Nakhon Kitchen in Holland Village

Since we live within walking distance from Holland V., we would quickly check out any new restaurant opening. We checked out Nakhon Kitchen last December (2014). At the time, there was only 3 tables (including us) with customers, and there wasn't any table set up outside the restaurant.

We were quite happy with our 1st meal. There's no shortage of Thai restaurants in the Singapore food scene, but is dominated by franchises that are catered for Singaporean palate. Let me just say that I had been disappointed with Thai food in Singapore in the last 5 years until I found Nakhon Kitchen.

Nakhon Kitchen, Singapore
Very authentic Thai setup

Nakhon Kitchen belongs to the minority that falls into the authentic Thai cuisine. Apart from its authentic Thai taste, there're many other authentic Thai touches. Take the drinking fridge-bar / counter that's commonly seen around Thailand.

 The Place 
To keep cost down, toilet rolls are used for tissues. Another very Thai touch that you will never see in other Thai restaurants.

Nakhon Kitchen, Singapore
A Touch of Thai Tissue

The prices are also quite Thai, considerably lower than the few Thai competitors in Holland V. Mains are typically $6 to $8. Don't expect anything lower than $13 in the other Thai places. Their location at the quieter end of town (right behind Cold Storage) would probably let them have slightly lower rent (I imagine), and keep the cost down.

Low prices and authentic Thai taste do draw crowds who long for authentic Thai food (and who doesn't like lower prices?). If you go there after 6pm, especially on the weekend, expect a long wait (as they don't take booking).

Nakhon Kitchen, Holland Village, Singapore
The typical 6:30 - 7:30 weekend queue

You know they're doing a brisk trade because they can actually afford to close between 2:45 to 5:30pm. When we walked past it a few times before 5:30pm, there were eager beavers making a beeline outside the shut gate, buzzing with stomach gases and anticipation.

They now have tables that filled their sidewalk and flowed into the street. When we sat down about 5:45pm, there was only one unoccupied table. Quite an outcry comparing to our 1st visit when there was only 2 occupied tables. Words travel fast in Singapore, especially when it comes to low price, delicious food.

 The Food 
We ordered a couple of things between us in this visit.

Nakhon Kitchen, Singapore
Fish cake

We ordered an old trusty Thai favourite of fish cakes. It didn't disappoint. Skin were nicely fried with content still moist. 8.5 / 10.

Nakhon Kitchen, Singapore
Basil chicken rice

While the basil chicken rice is on the slightly small size, but for $6, it's more like a food-court price than restaurant price. Even though we asked for less spicy, it was still too hot for us to handle. Still, it was yummy. Singaporean may find it just the right amount of spiciness. 8 /10.

Ah, yes. The services are quite prompt, and food dishes were dished out of the kitchen at a reasonably rapid click.

This is cheap (and delicious) eat in Holland V.

In future visits, because of the proximity of our place, we would order take-away. The budget setup means that there's little difference in temperatures inside or outside the restaurant. So eating it in our own place seems a better option for us.

Mid Autumn Festival at Esplanade 2015

The Hainan Opera kicked off a series of Mid-Autumn Festival (MAF) that took place in Esplanade - Theatres of the Bay at the west side of Marina Bay. This is the 1st time I watched such a traditional opera in Singapore. I'm glad they're still around.

Hainan opera, Mid-Autumn Festival, Esplanade, Singapore
Hainan opera on Esplanade

This bought back so much memories, which stretched back to more than 3 decades, and in another SE Asian city of Saigon (former Ho-Chi-Minh City).

Hainan opera, Mid-Autumn Festival, Esplanade, Singapore
Makeshift opera stage at the Esplanade

These kinda operas were setup during the Hungry Ghost Festival (the name known in Singapore, but in all other SE Asian Chinese communities, the name would likely be different) in Saigon. The makeshift opera (not dissimilar to the one in the photo above) was setup to perform for the invisible guests sitting on the 1st row. Of course, the opera in Esplanade was performed during the MAF for people. So 1st row was occupied by people, and I did sit in the front row during the viewing (and feeling like a VIP).

In Singapore. getai was setup, not opera during HGF. Perhaps, I'm guessing that Chinese operas such as this was setup before. With the waning interests in traditional Chinese operas, modern entertainment like getai took over. I'm guessing.

In any case, the time before Saigon (same Chinese name as the well known place in HK called Sai Kung 西貢 in case you don't speak Chinese) was being rechristianed to Ho-Chi-Minh City, Chinese opera was staged during the Vietnamese equivalence of HGF in District 5. I rarely missed those operas during my pubescent years.

Hainan opera, Mid-Autumn Festival, Esplanade, Singapore

Since the area I grew up was predominantly populated by Hokkien, and naturally the operas was sung in Hokkien. Since my father speaks Cantonese (and majority of Chinese in Saigon spoke Cantonese), and my mother was Teochew, and so I didn't understand anything the thespian sung. The stage was setup in a basketball court in a high school opposite where I lived. Guess what? The name of school was "Hokkien Middle School" (福建中學).

Actually, even if you're a Hokkien, can anyone honestly say they understand the lines being sung in any Hokkien opera the FIRST time? I doubt anyone can understand everything being sung by anyone in any language once only (with the exception of those songs that really only have 3 or 4 lines that sung over and over again for 3 mins). I did understand some Hokkien dialect, having been living among them for those years.

So it doesn't matter if it's Hainanese opera, Hokkien opera, or even Cantonese opera, they all sounded Greek to me (except for Greeks, then they all sound like Hokkien dialect to them).

And there was no 1st row that was reserved for the special invisible guests that they performed for because there was no seats (as we were living in the 3rd world, and Vietnam still is).

Hainan opera, Mid-Autumn Festival, Esplanade, Singapore Hainan opera, Mid-Autumn Festival, Esplanade, Singapore
Hainan opera, Mid-Autumn Festival, Esplanade, Singapore Hainan opera, Mid-Autumn Festival, Esplanade, Singapore

My love for the Chinese opera was quite superficial then. To me, the Hokkien opera was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. But I was attracted to it by the flashes of colours, movements, music and special effect sounds. TV programs weren't as entertaining as they're today. And with only 2 channels to choose, and they were in grainy black and white, and also spoke in languages I didn't really understand. One was in Vietnamese, and devoted much to propaganda (which could be very entertaining and moving if they're done well), and the other an American run English channel. As you can see, the Chinese opera was a real contender.

Fast forward 35 years later, I actually understood the dialogues in the Hainan opera in Esplanade. This was because the dialogues were shown on the large monitors in both Chinese and English. Especially in Singapore where there're 4 official languages. So for once, some 3.5 decades later, I can appreciate the opera a little bit more than skin deep.

Dialogue screen, Hainan opera, Mid-Autumn Festival, Esplanade, Singapore
Dialogues for benefit of the multi-dialect Chinese speakers,
non-Chinese speakers and tourists

It's a shame that fewer and fewer people can appreciate this. With the pace of living today and the many choices of not only different media but types of entertainments, this form of art is difficult to survive. They're becoming an endangered heritage. I don't see new faces appear in it.

Having said that, the audience of the getai was composed mostly old folks. It isn't like the youths alone are deserting the traditional art form. The old folks are apparently enjoying pop music and magic acts. To survive, the opera just need to evolve with time. If they're not, they will be listed as intangible culture heritage.

Hainan opera, Mid-Autumn Festival, Esplanade, Singapore
Where are the young audience? Where are the young thespians? Where art thou?

The folks at Moonfest was nice enough to organise a Backstage Tour, which I couldn't make it. It's a shame. I hope they do this next year when I will know this in advance and make time for it.

There were also roving stilt walkers. Unfortunately few kids were here to enjoy their appearances. Because of the forest-fire produced haze from Sumatra and Kalimantan, schools were closed. This also explained the low turn-out for the opera. The haze affects the young and old more severely.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Thought of the Day 6: Gold and Silver

gold wedding rings

"Every cloud has a silver lining."   - John Milton

Every marriage has a pair of gold rings.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Thought of the Day 5: Right and Wrong

"Two wrongs don't make a right."   - English proverb

Two Mr. Rights do make a wrong.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Mid Autumn Festival Light Up in Chinatown 2015

Most celebrations and festivals occurs in this year of SG50 so far were one way or another took on the SG50's flavour. As far as the street lantern designs on this Chinatown's traditional Mid-Autumn Festival (MAF) street light up are concerned, its main theme is SG50.

In the past, the lantern designs were based mainly on the Chinese zodiac animal of that year, plus perhaps a few other auspicious animals like dragons or bats, or the figures from folklore related to MAF like Chang Er and Jade Rabbit. They may leave that for the lantern display in Gardens by the Bay.

This year, in keeping with the SG50 theme, all the lantern designs are based on Singaporeana. I.e. Singapore icons and mascots in the past 50 years of nationhood. The mascots are associated with various national campaigns.

The national campaigns are part of the social engineering that made Singapore society what it is today, shaping and guiding the Singaporean pro-social behaviour as they moved from the 3rd world to the 1st world (a phrase originated by LKY and repeated many times by many Singaporean. I will be pedantic and say that it should be from a developing economy to a developed economy. Even this, I'm told is a wrong characterisation. Well, whoever it is, he or she is surely an esteemed member of TPS (The Pedantic Society)).

For those who think all these campaigns are too heavy-handed. Let say even Singapore's neighbour a little further down south of the continent Australia liked one of these campaigns so much in the 1970s, it was exported to that sun-drenched country. While other countries are concerning selling products, Singapore government were selling and exporting social movements. I think Singapore has been exporting that to China in the last 30 years. I think PRC can make very good use of these national campaigns for all those uncivil public conducts (mostly coming from the Mao generation) as they're - borrowing LKY again - going from the 3rd to the 1st world (actually PRC is moving from the 2nd to the 3rd world, but economically they're going from the 3rd to the 1st world. It's very confusing. See? I'm not being pedantic).

I agree that these national campaigns are more suited for the period of socioeconomic development from the 3rd to 1st world (yes, I'm quite happy to parrot this ad nausea). Not so much from the 1st world to the 0th world. Why not? Because there's no 0th world (or should it be -1th world using the same mathematical logic?). Not yet, any way. I say that just to cover all bases. I'm just way too smart, and extremely modest.

Looking at these mascots is like a walk down memory lane. Although most of the young Singaporean are unlikely to know some of these mascots, and least of all, foreigners like myself would be clueless what all these mascots are. So without further ado, let me (re)introduce them to the young Singaporeans and foreigners.

Singa the Courtesy Lion (1982 - 2001)

Probably the most often seen. At least, going by my own experience. Probably because it's lasted the longest, and being re-introduced recently. It's part of the Kindness Movement campaign. This is in fact the only mascot - out of all the ones displayed in MAF - I have actually came across. At least during this SG50.

There's even a Kindness Gallery. No other mascot has such VIP treatment, and popularity.

HK locals is considered by tourists as one of the rudest countries to visit (the list of top 10 rude countries include NYC, and Paris), Singapore is ranking disappointingly low. I duuno if this national campaign has something to do with it. I would be surprise if it has zero effect.

Singa the Courtesy Lion, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore
Singa the Courtesy Lion (middle row)

Teamy (1982 - 1999)

For the tenderly young, they might mistaken Teamy for Princess Dot in A Bug's Life (1998), but in different costume. Nah, 10 year old kid today are very smart. They don't make mistake like we did when we were 10 year old. The new 10 is the old 15, arguably 20 (my 20 anyway).

Teamy the productivity bee is borrowing the idea of the busy bee, which is a social insect. While other countries were selling products, NPB were selling productivity.

The team that created Teamy had considered if they should use an ant or a bee (as both are equally busy social insects) for the mascot. The bee won out because it has wings. Actually Princess Dot is an ant, but has a pair of wings too. That's why I say they could be easily mistaken (by older people. Not young ones).

Teamy, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore

Captain Green (1990 - 1997)

Probably one of the more short-live mascot. As it name suggests, it's created as a face for the environmental movement.

I used to join an ISP with an uncanny similar logo. Since it was in Australia. No legal conflict. In any case, the company went bust.

I do like the idea of a frog as a mascot because frogs eat insects and cleaning up the undesirable (for most people. For biologists, everything is desirable, including roaches. Do frog eat roaches too? I think they do. Frog have good taste (and so they taste good), that's why I like to eat frog. Especially frog congee. You can go and eat at one of my recommendation of Eminent frog Porridge. You don't like to eat a mascot? Then you'd better not eat lion or merlion).

Captain Green, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore
Captain Green

Water Wally (2005 - )

When I gave this mascot a casual - very casual - glance as it was hung above the wire, I mistook it for the Irish pixies because it's green with pointy hat and very tiny and cute. Well, either pixies or one of the other Irish folklore creatures like gnomes or leprechauns.

On closer look, with the help of my 200mm zoom lens, it turned out to be a drop of blue water. Blue in orange street light looked green. Irish green, that is, Paddy.

Water Wally, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore
Water Wally

Sharity Elephant (1984 - )

You don't really need me to tell you that what this mascot is intended to inspire. In some European languages (including English sometimes), 'C' is pronounced as 'S'. And it could therefore either read as "charity" or "share".

Its ears aren't so big that the kids would mistake it for Dumbo.

Sharity Elephant, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore
Sharity Elephant

Of course, there're a lot of mascots missing. I think it's impractical to put them all up except for the popular ones. I think the old ones are more preferable over the new ones as this is about reminiscence. So don't expect to see mascots that was created for the public transport graciousness campaign like Stacey, Martin and Glenda. Well, you see them when you walk into a MRT.

Apart from mascots that are hung above the main road, some of the icons are installed in the traffic islands.

Singlish, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore
Singlish is of course a Singaporean icon

Singlish, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore

Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore

Changi airport control tower, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore
Changi Airport Control Tower
ArtScience Museum, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore
ArtScience Museum
Supertrees, Gerdens by the Bay, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore
Supertrees, Gardens by the Bay

Hand painted lanterns, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore
The simpler traditional lanterns, hand-painted, can be seen in Food Street in Chinatown

Ice kachang, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore tea cup set, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore

Oh, I almost forgot, the most iconic of Singapore icon, the Merlion. It deserves to be the centre piece.

Merlion, Mid Autumn Festival Light Up, Chinatown, Singapore
Is this comparable size to the one in Marina Bay?

As I was on my way to a bus stop, I walked past the stage that set up for MAF with live performances. So I stopped for 5 mins. I should've stayed for 4 mins because my bus just left secs before I arrived.