Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Recycling Ecosystem

At the third storey of Block 34, Upper Cross St, where now the toiletry shops are making great sales, they also have an informal symbiotic relationship with this old lady. When the shops close at 9.30pm, this old lady would come to flatten out all the empty carton boxes that they throw on the walkway.

By midnight, depending on the sales on that day, she would have more or less completed flattening all the cartons and tie them up together. In return for these discarded cartons, she would clean up the whole walkway, making it clean ready for the next day's business.

I don't know where she stays. Sometimes, past midnight I still saw her sleeping by her pile of flattened cardboards. Perhaps, that is the better way to guard the cardboards and bring them to sell the next morning.

There used to be an old man who does the same, but he would go round collected old newspapers. Many neighbours took kindly on this friendly old man and would gladly give him the newspapers and whatever he could sell. He was always grateful, cheerful and friendly. Alas, one day, I saw her being supported by a maid, suffering from a stroke. Since then, I have not seen him anymore. From what I heard, he had been doing this trade for a long time, supporting his children through university education.

There is still another old man who is still collecting old newspapers. But age is catching up. I am not sure for how long I would still be seeing him in the lift and being greeted by him in the traditional Hokkien greetings, "Jia Ba Buay" (Have you eaten enough?). Then, it might be the end of this ecosystem and a way of life.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Old Chinatown

Ronni Pinsler is a familiar face to residents of old Singapore, especially Chinatown, and in the Clarke Quay area. I first met him some thirty years ago when we were taking photographs of a Chinese temple at Duxton Road. Thirty years on, he is still chasing after temple events. Alas, many of the old scenes are no longer around. But Ronni's thousands and thousands of pictures stay, thankfully.

Some of these pictures are archived electronically in the National Archives of Singapore. Go to this website and key in his name, and you may see scenes of Singapore that the young Singaporeans might not be able to relate with.

He shuttles between Singapore and Penang these days, but at times, you could still see him at a Chinese temple events. He still contributes his vast knowledge on the Chinese temples of Singapore, many of them no longer in existence in the email forum: taoism-singapore.

To join in the list, send a blank email to

In many ways, Ronni has helped to archive many scenes of the past, many of which we now have learnt to treasure. We have Ronni to thank for.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Claypot Rice

Chinatown is also about food, Chinese food. In the old days, 1960s, in the evening, one could find tables decked out on the streets and one could order many kind of food. One of the popular ones must be the claypot rice (called sar-poh fan in Cantonese). Rice with an assortment of ingredients and add-ons, depending on the orders, are cooked in a claypot, first on a stove with very strong charcoal fire, and then, moved to the next stove, progressively, with each stove giving less heat.

These days, squeezed in a small stall space in the Chinatown Food Centre (along Smith St), it was quite feat handling it and meeting diners' demands in a small space. For those of us who enjoyed the claypot rice, the patience to find a place and wait for the pot will pay off.

I tried this at the Chinatown Food Centre, the stall named Lian He (Ben Ji) at 02-128, Chinatown Food Centre, facing the Sago Road side. While it may not be the best, well, it is surely something synonymous with the old Chinatown.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Vegetarian Beehoon

In the Chinatown Food Centre (2nd Storey), next to the escalator that goes down to the Sago St side, there is this Vegetarian Stall that has been there for decades, starting from Trengganu St corner, if I am correct.

This used to be my breakfast place in the days when I walked to work. For S$2, you can have a plateful of fried bee-hoon with some of the deep fried beancurd stuff and complete with Vegetarian curry or cabbage/carrot/black fungi gravy. I prefer the latter and by far, have found this stall's bee-hoon the best.

If you go in the morning of the 1st or 15th of the Chinese Lunar Month, you will find a long queue.

I enjoy a plate of the bee-hoon with a glass of Kopi-O.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

All your toiletry needs

Since the old People's Park closed for a year-long renovation, a part of Chinatown disappeared. No scenes of shopkeepers sitting and chatting with each other waiting for customers to come to their shop. Gone too were the days of hearty bargaining for the cloth. While some of the shop owners decided to take a year off, some probably retired, the rest went to a temporary holding place in Queen St.

Popular with the ladies were some shops on the third storey selling all kinds of toiletries. I am not sure if there are other shops that could boast of such varieties and well, reasonably prized. I think three of these shops from the Old People's Park have moved to the third story of the adjacent block 34, Upper Cross St. There were ample signs and banners directing the loyal customers. These are the shops where the customers don't buy one or two items. Baskets are provided for the shopping. No price tags, all are rattled off from the brains of the assistants.

At least some of the Old People's Park crowd has migrated to this otherwise very quiet lorong of Block 34.

Teh Halia Anyone?

Teh Halia, or Teh Sarabat or Ginger Tea is one of my favourites. I am still trying to establish the origin of this tea. It is basically the English Tea with condensed milk and ginger juice. Perhaps, a touch of evaporated milk to give it a flavour and taste.

In Chinatown, my favourite one is the "sarabat stall" in Far East Square along Cross Street. If you go in through the Fire Gate, you will see it. Until 10pm or so, there is a constant crowd of people queuing for various drinks. This is the modern age Sarabat, although you will see the Indian chap doing the "tarik" (pull) to cool the tea and give it some foam.

A great place for after dinner in the area, for those who do not prefer to have alcohol.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Lor Mee, anyone?

A week ago, with the family, we revisited our favourite "Lor Mee" [Lu Mian 卤面] stall at the Amoy St Food Centre, at Amoy St. As usual, there was a queue. From full service in the past to self service recently, the loyal customers never fail to turn up. In many cases, it is a 3-generation affair. And I suppose that's how one passes on the acquired taste down the generations.

I suppose Lor Mee is a Hokkien noodle dish with the gluey sauce over the noodles and topped with fish, sliced braised pork and deep fried flour balls. With sliced chilli and black vinegar, it tastes heavenly.

On Sunday mornings, this stall at the second floor is very busy.

The Place:
Yuan Chun Famous Lor Mee [Yuan Chun Chi Ming Lu Mian ]
Stall No. 02-79 and 02-80
Telok Ayer Food Centre

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sending money is a breeze

This morning, I went to the Western Union to send condolence money to the family of a colleague in the Philippines who had succumbed to cancer. Wow, Western Union has transformed from a telegram company to a money-transfer company!

At the Lucky Chinatown branch, at the corner of Pagoda St, it was manned by a Chinese lady from Shantung and she speaks pretty good English. I guess most of the clients could be Chinese sending back money. But this is also a good and cheap medium for Indonesian and Filipino maids working in Singapore. For S$12 charge, one could send money across, which could be retrieved within minutes. All one needs is to call the other party to inform the MTCN number, the sender's name and the payout amount. Presto! Money is received within minutes!

This service is also available in major post offices.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Sarawak Kolo Mee

Last night, I went to try out the Sarawak Kolo Noodles at the Jia Xiang (Sarawak) Kuching Noodles at 271 New Bridge Road. This is at the row of pre-war houses between Kreta Ayer Rd and Keong Siak St.

At S$5 a bowl, the wriggly noodles (that reminds one of the instant noodles) was surprisingly nice with the mince meat, char-siew and prawns. They have more additions such as meat and abalone if you want. The bowl of wanton soup at S$2 is certainly worth the money. I would go for that anytime. Ah, a little of Chinatown in Kuching has come to Singapore?

Guten Appetit!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Carpark goes hi-tech

Carpark goes hi-techFrom 1 July, 2005, the Park Crescent Car Park went hi-tech using the IU device of the car which is used for the ERP. Gone are the nightmares to the users and the car park attendants when the drivers tried to push in their cash cards when they actually have to press the button for a card. But then, the familiar faces of the HDB carpark attendants are gone too. Wondered what happened to them. Did not get a chance to bid them farewell for their great job and patience handling visitors and residents alike.For residents, driving in and out is a breeze now. The detector seems to be able to detect the IU device very quickly. Gone will be the days when we have to back off just to get our device to be detected.Noticed that there is a similar system at the carpark to the Chinatown Food Centre carpark.