Friday, June 22, 2007


Ah, the good old Chinatown, probably since the time when Sir Stamford Raffles started work in Singapura, is getting new interests. Yes, a new Buddhist Temple and Museum has sprung from where the dead or the dying used to stay. More memories will have to be archived as layers and layers of history would push them further underground.

Nothing is more refreshing than the young - our future - takes an active interest in Chinatown, the past, the present, and possibly shape the future. Chinatown is not just an attraction for tourists, it has to be our town, our home and in that way, the visitors can see and appreciate the lives of Singapores, from past to present. It is not disneyland or any theme park, although from time to time, we could re-create some theme-like-park scenes for locals and visitors to experience the heydays of the old Chinatown.

Chinatown continues to haunt us of the past, of those struggling to lead a decent life, and yet, it also continues to display the opportunities from which one could survive through grit and sheer determination. Reminds me of this old man who collects thrown away cardboard boxes (mostly from cosmetic packings) and newspapers to put his son to school right to his PhD! And this old man now has a stroke and only has the good support of a maid. Life has been tough but he is happy knowing that his next generation will have a better life.
It is with such scenes in the "heartland" of Chinatown that gives it its character, and I am glad to know that Chinatownology is going to capture such stories, on top of many useful tidbits and information both for the residents and visitors to Chinatown. Soon, Singapore Chinatown will have a big window to the world .. and then the door will be wide open. Visitors to Singapore Chinatown could do some pre-trip gazing and decide what he/she could do in the Chinatown, in a DIY tour. Or course, tour groups and tour guides would give the value-added service of stories and give a better understanding in a time-jam-packed tour. But for those who are on free and easy, nothing like sitting down by the coffeeshop and enjoying the ambience of Chinatown. Ah, perhaps, we should have Chinatown-borns to come and sit by the kopitiam to share their stories.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Junk or Treasure?

To many it could be junk, and yet to many, it could be treasure.

Many had thrown away what they considered as junk, and the same many could now be regretting that they have thrown away treasures. The "junk" that has escaped from the inferno could stay to be discovered again.

In Singapore these days, there might be too few of such diggers of treasure and so, according to Juzer Saifee of Odds "n" Collectables fame, junks are hard to get these days. Ah, many have become wiser and know the value. And so, it would not be cheap to try to get an old disused opium pipe or even an old picture of the then dirty Singapore River.

Nested in a row of pre-war houses (as we call them) along Telok Ayer St. is a shop that is filled to the bream with all kinds of things. There must be thousands of them and one could spend hours there just looking through them to get that treasure one could hope to find. An old glass-vacuum flask that probably keeps the water hot for hours compared to current day metal flask. A statue of Guan Gong, the famous Chinese warrior of the Three Kingdom. It is said that the beard of such statues actually grow over time! If you are lucky, you could even find your school's class photo!

Ah, just make sure you do not have butter-fingers. That junk could well turn out to be a very valuable antique!

According to Geraldene, our famed local Heritage Guide, Juzer takes a hour or more to open shop and that equal amount of time to close the shop. How did she know? Well, she would always bring her tourists to visit his shop. History is displayed all over the shop! What was used in the era gone by, these are represented in this small and compact shop. It's a museum of another kind! And I think Geraldene is probably an expert in these little histories. (^^)

I once visited a smilar shop in Shanghai in the old quarters .. both have the same characteristics and atmosphere. These are but getting rarer, but they are the depositories of our past!

So, if you happen to be at Telok Ayer, pay Juzer a visit. And well, if you have something to throw, maybe, he can buy from you too. (^^)

The place: 128 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068597
Tel: 63230043