Monday, December 11, 2006

Thong Chai Medical Institution 同济医院

Each time, as I drive past this unique building, a beauty amongst the beasts, I could not help thinking back of the days when its front could not even be seen from the road. In the old days, my young days, there was a big colony of food stalls just in front of the Tong Chek Yi Yii (as spoken in Hokkien, and often, we just called it Tong Chek Yi), selling all the delicious food. At my time, when one mentioned Tong Chek Yi, food came to my mind. Not the free TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) that it was offering to the locals.

From what I heard, the Tong Chek Yi of yesteryears was also a refuge for the dying. Till this day, Tong Chek Yi Yii is still doing a wonderful community service, in a much bigger building, a short distance away, where the kaling (mynah) flies. But this beauty, deserted and left to fan for herself, has lost her soul. She is still crying out for the right one to give her back her soul.

It was in 1978 or thereabout when I brought this German couple, their first trip to Singapore - and we, chik jia kuey chik jia ark (one chicken and one duck), to this place to try local hawker food. I was naive then to believe that because I did not get food poisoning, they would not. Luckily, they did not. We had sugar cane juice freshly crushed but their favourite was pineapple juice. Lo-meh (the Cantonese spread of a wide variety of different food eaten after dipping in sauce, like the Hokkien Gor Hiang Hay Piah) was probably the attraction there with their bright lights, and well, sometimes, colourful speeches from the stallholders.

Tong Chek Yi 'Square' was the "opening" to an interesting part of Singapore, known to the Teochews (this place is the Teochew part of Chinatown) as Cha Chun Tao (the wooden boat quay in Teochew). I remember the wonderful Teochew Raw Fish, a different and lesser known version of Chinese raw fish, being sold at his old kopitiam (coffeeshop). Those interesting scenes of ancient Singapore are but memories. Thanks to this wonderful Singapore watcher, Ronni Pinsler, you can get to see many pictures of this part in the National Heritage Board Archive website.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Electric Trolley Bus

In a recent trip to Shanghai, looking at the electric trolley bus, I couldn't help but reminsced my young days (as a kid) when the STC (Singapore Traction Company) used to run the electric trolley buses in town. It was a noiseless bus that was slow and sometimes caused traffic jams because of problems with the bus. It ran on fixed routes dictated by the overhead electric wires. It had an interesting jerk as it picked up speed. I could only remember the route at Tanjong Pagar Road near to the Craig Road junction, where there was a big mess of wires being stretched across the street.

While Singapore did away with the electric trolley buses, many countries did not. When we looked back, we realised that the electric trolley bus was indeed ahead of time! At least from the pollution point of view. Of course, the messy overhead wires and constant arcing of the wires with the trolleys seemed to cause concern. To my children, it was the first time they were looking at the electric trolley buses and had not ideas that they were once upon a time, a mode of transport in Singapore!

The only regret was we did not get a chance to try the electric trolley bus in Shanghai.

[Pictures of electric trolley bus and overhead wires taken in Shanghai, December, 2006]