Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Dog who rules Chinatown

Yesterday, as I was on my "patrol" of Chinatown, cutting into my way was this dog. Could anyone identify the specie? Oblivious to me nor to anyone walking infront, by the side and behind him, he walked, at its own pace, apparently knowing its way. He walked alone with the owner trailing behind.

The proud owner (I am not sure who owns who) declared to anyone who wants to hear, in Mandarin, that his dog knows its way home. He even offered anyone who wanted it. I suppose with a dog which knows its life, it is not going to happen.

The many pet-friendly people were soon trying to pat it or follow it. Ah, probably this chubby dog will beat any baby to it! Apart of pausing awhile, obliging the pats occasionally, it strolled its way home.

Let's see if our paths crossed again. If so, I might want to interview it. (^^)

Ah and this brought to mind an old black dog who lived in my block. That must be some 2 decades ago. It lived on the 4th storey, where there are associations/offices with an open air space. When it felt too tired to climb up the stairs or walked down the stairs, it would take a lift, waiting patiently for it to stop and open. Sometimes, it would patiently wait for the lift to go up to 19th storey before descending down to ground floor to get out. Those who knew it, would help to press 3th storey for it to get out when going up.

A dog's life in Chinatown.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Li Jia Ba Buay 你吃饱没?

A couple of days ago, as my wife and I went into the lift, we met this friendly old man, who lived a couple of floors down. His greeting to us was "Li Jia Ba Buay 你吃饱没?" in Hokkien, which is "have you eaten enough" (ba in Hokkien is full). I suppose this has been the greetings between Chinese in Singapore for a long time. Even in China too.

It was some 20 years ago, when even in China, the greetings have started to change from "Li Jia Ba Buay" 你吃饱没? to "Li Jia Ho Buay"你吃好没?, meaning "have you eaten?". In Mandarin, it would be Ni Chi Bao Le Ma 你吃饱了吗 to Ni Chi Hao Le Ma 你吃好了吗? In our exchange of notes between friends in China and Singapore, we agreed that perhaps times had changed and it was time to use the latter greetings.

In the old days, hunger would probably be the constant in many of the lives of Chinese. It is also true in old Singapore. For the elderly, who are probably in their seventies now, their greetings would have already been ingrained in them.

And so, in Chinatown, it could be greetings in Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese or any Chinese dialects, such greetings would still be the same. Listen for the key words the next time you come across such a greeting. Of course, in the morning, it would be Gao Zha (in Hokkien or Teochew) and Jo San (in Cantonese).

Ths same old man who greeted us on this morning, he has been collecting the discarded cardboards (from boxes) and read newspapers to sell as part of his income. While it could have been his means of income and survival, unknown to him and to many, he helps to recycle many materials which would have found their way to the garbage dump or incinerator, long before the word green become vogue. He must be in his 70s now, a tad older, slimmer and less steady, but he carried on his work.

There was another friendly old man in the block whom I used to meet, almost on the daily basis some 10 years ago, if my memory does not fade. He worked hard collecting the cardboard boxes, flattened them and pushed in his little push card to sell. He worked hard so as to help his son go to school, university right to his PhD, I was told.

Unknown to many, he is amongst many of the builders of modern Singapore, pushing relentlessly on themselves so that their children could have a brighter future. And collectively, the nation - Singapore. They might be illiterate, but they are educated (through operas, through story-tellers, through radios and TV) and they are very focussed on their vision and mission. A better tomorrow for their children, and their children's children.

We must remember the "source of the water from which we drink from" as the saying goes. Yin Shui Si Yuan 饮水思源

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Singapore in 1957 - see part of Chinatown

Thought that this footage on Singapore might bring back memories for some of you, especially on Chinatown.

Come share your memories then.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chinatown welcomes Autumn

Tonight, 11 Sep 10, Chinatown in Singapore welcomes Autumn with a lights-up and grand performance as we prepare for the Mid-Autumn Festival - Zhong Qiu Jie.

What was missing were the delightful clear-glass lanterns that would have been of fishes and even aeroplanes (considered as modern then). Tonight it was modern technologies in full display with dance modernised with modern beat. Something that is atuned with the younger Singaporeans.

While the older people sat back, or rather stood, to watch the performance, it must be the performers who enjoyed and probably appreciate the Mid-Autumn festival of current times.

With full grandeur, performance after performance graced the stage and carried on to perform on the streets to the people who came from afar to watch. It was an event where Singaporeans, working foreigners and tourists came together to enjoy.

Wait, it was not just the younger people who performed with their energetic leaps and dance, the other slightly older group from Sokka Association was also there - 36 of them I heard, performing the fusion line dance!

The young parents and the grandparents must have been the ones busy trying to carry their children/grandchildren over their shoulder to get a glimpse of the actions. An introduction to the culture of Singapore. Just the beginning.

Hakka Songs Event @ Hong Lim Green

On 10 Sep 10, the Hakka community in Singapore and Malaysia came together to share a night of singing at the Hong Lim Green. Thanks to modern day Karaoke system and disks, there were plenty of songs from which the participants could use to sing and perform.

To the delight of the grandchildren who called out to their grannies as they walked to the stage to sing their favourite Hakka songs. There must have been some three to four generations of Hakkas present at this event. And there must be more than 200 of them as they sat, listen and cheered the performers on.

And from Johore came four members dressed in kabayas.

With the popular Taiwan soap opera on the TV, this Hokkien song also has a Hakka version.

Mid-Autumn Festival comes to Chiinatown

As Chinatown feted the Good Brothers with grand offerings and sending off, the scene changes very quickly. 8 September 2010 is the first day of the 8th Lunar Month. The 15th of the 8th Moon (as described in Chinese) is the day dedicated to the full moon in the cool Autumn Night. In Singapore, the cool Autumn night might be missing (but who knows as cool to the Singaporeans could just be a drop of one or two degrees) but the celebrations will be colourful and loud. And almost hot!

As we await for the lights-up on 11 September, hours away, here is a sneak preview of what it is like this year.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ghost Festival in Chinatown - Zhong Yuan Jie 中元节

Chinatown used to have many activities during the 7th Month or what is known to the English speaking world as Ghost Festival. And it would happen at various spots in Chinatown. Chinatown is known to most Singaporeans, and probably the world, to be from Sago Street to Temple Street, where the streets are interlinked by Trengganu St. These days, the ghost festival activities are somewhat concentrated in the still available free space next to the Tooth Relic Temple. But then, the activities are getting bigger and when there is a getai (variety show) on the street, then it would be jam packed.

I went to the Kreta Ayer Square (next to Chinatown Complex, which houses the wet market, small shops and a food court) where there is a stage and a free space. On the opposite end are the "dum" and chess tables which  seem to be forever occupied no matter what time I was there. A favourite gathering place of the older men who exercise their brain over the strategy games.

This year, apart from the exhibition on Taoism, organised by the Youth Group of the Taoist Federation (the exhibition was enlarged compared to the last year), there was also a talk show conducted by Master Leong from HongKong who spoke in Cantonese and translated by Wei Yi, the General Secretary of the Youth Group. It was a very interesting presentation and if only more people were there. Many of the older people even stood right to the end to follow the explanation followed by short demonstrations by the Taoist Priests. Suddenly it seemed somewhat clearer to me as I listened to the explanation and then, the demonstration. I wish there are such narrations that could be put on slides that could be placed next to the event when the Taoist Priests are performing the rituals. Our command of the language, be it Cantonese, Hokkien, Mandarin or any dialect in which the priests are conducting are not enough to comprehend, not to mention understanding the intentions and objectives of the rituals. It was a good start. If the video taken of the event could be put into youtube, more people could learn. (^^)

While this was going on, another group of Taoist Priests were walking along the streets. I traced them to the tentage nearby where they were conducting the Zhong Yuan Jie. I was to learn later on that under this tentage, over two weeks, there were actually two Zhong Yuan Jie being conducted. On the first night I was there, it was organised by the occupants of the Chinatown Complex - probably from the wet market stallholders to the Food Court stallholders.

In the following week when I was there again, it was organised by the Chinatown Business Association. In conjunction with the Zhong Yuan Jie 中元节, Chinatown Business Association also works with Singapore Tourist Board to offer tours for tourists and Singaporeans to better understand Zhong Yuan Jie and getting to visit various interesting parts of Chinatown, led by two very knowledgeable Heritage Guides, Diana and Charlotte. On one tour, the participants even got to join in the grand dinner to experience a typical Zhong Yuan Jie dinner that comes with auctions.

14th evening of the 7th month is said to be the day when Cantonese would make their offerings to the "Good Brothers", a polite term used for the wandering souls. For the Hokkien, it would be 15th as well as the 1st and last day of the 7th month, when they would be receiving them with offerings and sending off with offerings as well. The 7th month is a reminder to the Chinese about their ancestors. Many would make offerings at home to their ancestors. For many who these days have the ancestor tablets in clan associations or temples, families would make a trip there. On the 15th day, Taoists would pay respect to the "Earth Official" known as Di Guan 地官.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Chinatown Hungry Ghost Festival 2010

The Ghost Festival will start from 10 Aug 10 (the first day of the 7th Lunar Month). As residents and businesses of Chinatown prepares to make offerings during this month, the Chinatown Business Association is also sharing some of its activities with visitors. Read more from the poster below or at the Chinatown Business Association at

Hungry Ghost Festival Cultural Exhibition (No admission charges)
10 Aug to 7 Sep
Kreta Ayer Square (Sago Street)
10am to 10pm, daily
Free Entry
Staged in partnership with the Taoist Federation (Singapore), this month-long exhibition is an indept look at the mysteries of the Hungry Ghost Festival as it is celebrated in Singapore. What is the origin of the festival, what are its do's and don't's, and the significance of its rituals and offerings? Catch the festival in action too through staged demonstrations of rituals by the Federation's priests.

Hungry Ghost Festival Walking Tour
Birth, Life & Death in Chinatown
(All about Chinese Beliefs, Myths and Taboos)
14, 15, 28, 29 of Aug & 4, 5 of Sep
4.30pm - 8pm (dinner provided)
$33 per person
This tour gives you the lowdown on everything you ever wanted to know about Chinese beliefs, myths and taboos. Our guide will walk you through Chinatown to see Chinese beliefs as they are lived, through birth, marriage and death. Consult the Almanac and get your fortune told. Find out what lies behind ‘Dead Man’s Street’ and watch real-life demonstration rituals performed by the Taoist Federation. We’ll answer some burning questions too, like why it’s not safe to point at the moon, when it’s perfectly alright to not wash your hair and of course, how to live the great prosperous life!

Walking With the Good Brothers
(THE Hungry Ghost Festival Walk)
21 Aug (Sat) and 22 Aug (Sun)
6pm - 9.30pm (dinner provided)
21 Aug: $33 per person
22 Aug: $43 per person
Enter into the world of deities, spirits and beliefs of the Hungry Ghost Festival. Our guide will take participants through a mystical evening of the Hungry Ghost festivities in Chinatown. Find out which deity acts as the festival’s ‘policeman’, what secrets lie in the ‘Fa Cai Ang Bao’ (prosperous red packet), watch the rituals and be immersed in the loud and electrifying action of the Ge Tai and Auction Dinner*. Walk with the ‘good brothers’ (a euphemism for the spirits) as they walk the earth once more.

* Auction dinner is on 22 Aug only. 

ack: Chinatown Business Association

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Food Festival in Chinatown

On 24 July 2010, there was a Cantonese Food Festival in Kreta Ayer Square, as part of the bigger Singapore Food Festival. A modest setup it did get a crowd going for their favourite food. The most popular queue was the roast meat, as one would expect.

Alas, I was looking forward to the lesser-filling food that one could take as Tim Sum (Dim Sum) for breakfast or anytime (it is said that in Asia, notably in Singapore? we eat only one meal, one long meal that is). And so, after looking at the displays of the stalls and peering into what was being bought (There was a Ramli Burger too! A rare sight in Singapore other than at the KTM Tanjong Pagar Railway Station), we decided to go to the food centre to check out for my favourites.

Since we were in the mood, we decided to take the Chee-Cheong-Fun (literally names as Pig Intestine as it looks like one but actually it is rice flour roll) and Wu Tau Koh (Yam Cake) with the typical chilli and Tim-jeong (sauce). I preferred the dark red sauce that seems to be less popular these days. And I tried the Chow-mei-fun (fried Beehoon or vermicelli) (I wanted the chow mien - fried noodles - but it was sold out - well, they replenished it later) and then, the Tao-Chung (bean dumpling) with custard sugar, my childhood favourite. Somehow, the taste was never the same, compared to the young days when we had it. Most of these food these days are factory-produced and not home-cooked.

My favourite stall in the Chinatown Complex food centre is still the Vegetarian BeeHoon, which I have been taking for decades. Other than the stall owners, I have seen how many hands had taken over the wok. Now, it is in the hands of the mainland Chinese. Ordering the beehoon has also been changed from Cantonese to Mandarin, unless the locals are around. (^^) In many Chinatowns around the world, Cantonese is the franca lingua. In Singapore, it might be diminishing .. fast.

I hope in the next Cantonese Food Fest, more typical Cantonese dishes, from the humble home-cooked ones to the banquet, could be on show, and of course, for tasting and purchase too. Maybe, we can ask the Grandma to share their recipes too. How about a cookbook by the Cantonese Ah Mah and Ah Por.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Singapore Food Festival: Chinatown offers Cantonese food on 24-25 July 2010

In this year's Singapore Food Festival, Chinatown is going to throw up the best Canto food that you can find in Singapore. At least the traditional ones. It would be fun checking out what's in store. So, if you are a foodie, a Canto food diehard, bookmark the dates - 24 & 25 July, 2010.

Cantonese Cuisine Food Expo 

Enter the world of Cantonese Cuisine, as you explore and rediscover the many
reasons why Singaporeans love Cantonese Food so deeply!

Date: 24th & 25th July 2010, Saturday & Sunday
Time: 11.00 am to 9.00pm
Venue: Kreta Ayer Square
Fee: Free Entry 

Family’s Cantonese Recipe Cooking Competition

Chinatown invites all food-loving families to take part in this year’s inaugural Cantonese Recipe Cooking Competition.
Whip up any Cantonese dish in the given 45mins to impress our chef judges!
The winning family can win up to the 1st prize of $1000 worth of Cash and Hampers!
Experience and enjoy the fun-filled, adrenaline pumping cooking competition and be crowned the
King of Family Recipe Cooking Competition in this year’s Singapore Food Festival!

Date: 24th July 2010, Saturday
Time: 12.00pm to 2.30pm
Venue: Kreta Ayer Square
Registration Fee : $10

Singapore’s LONGEST ‘Chee Cheong Fun’ Record 

150 Chefs from Society of Chinese Cuisine Chefs (Singapore) will gather at Chinatown to challenge this amazing feat for charity!
The targeted 80m long Chee Cheong Fun will write history as it gets recorded in the Singapore Book of Records! 

The completed Chee Cheong Fun will be pan-fried immediately on site to be sold at a nominal price to the public in efforts to raise funds for charity.

Date: 25th July 2010, Sunday
Time: 3.00 pm
Venue: Kreta Ayer Square
Fee : Free Entry

For more details:
6474 7909 or 
 ack: CBA

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lor Mai Kai

Last weekend, with wife and daughter, we decided to retrace one of our favourite food in Gau Che Shui (Bullockcartwater in Cantonese). Alas, the original stalls were no longer there. But new generations stalls or restaurants have taken their place, albeit with cleaner facilities and even air-conditioning, but alas, somehow not with the same taste. At least for this old man.

Along Smith Street, at the corner of the shophouse with the lane, there used to be a very busy tim-sum stall with its for-kei (waiters) shouting orders from all over the lane. Menus were long strips of coloured papers with beautifully calligraphed dishes (one has to understand Chinese and how Chinese food is named, not necessarily directly related to the contents of the dish) pasted in a slanted form on the walls at the lane and in the shop.

To compensate the dirtiness of the environment (which was oblivious to us), when we had a place to sit down, the for-kei would come along with a towel over his shoulder and a kettle of boiling water in one hand and a small enamel basin containing chopsticks and tea cups. He would place them on the table and pour the boiling water into the small basin (size of a soup bowl). With the steam coming out of the sprout as the water went into the basin, one could be sure the germs will be dead in no time. Chinese tea was taken for granted. Then, at least at this place, we were not sophisticated enough to have a selection of tea. I remember when I first went to HongKong in 1976, the waiter and I were shocked about the selections of Chinese Tea. The waiter must have thought me a dumb, and I was dumbfounded with such a wide selection of tea! When he first asked me "Oi yum mi ye cha", my answer was "zhong kok cha". I have learnt since then.

Ah and so when we went to this restaurant the last weekend, we were wiser and indeed, they asked what tea we would want. In the old days in Singapore, probably the Poh-Lei and Lok-Poh would be the popular Cantonese tea. These days, Huong-Pin (Xiang Pian) is also popular. We had Poh-Lei. We had quite an assortment of Har-Gau (Prawn Dumplings), Hor Yip Fun (Lotus Leaf Glutinous Rice), Chee Cheong Fun (Rice Rolls) with prawns and Char Siew (grilled pork strips), and Wu Tao Koh (Yam Cake). And of course my favourite Lor Mai Kai (glutinous rice with chicken).

In my childhood days - 1960s - with my friend, we would try to save up to 30 cents before we would then venture into the heart of Chinatown, yes, to this lane to have a plate of Lor Mai Kai. With hot steaming tea and just one Lor Mai Kai, we would savour every grain, and enjoy the din of the for-kei shouting out the orders in codes. I always remember that for "7", they would call "lei-pai", meaning Sunday, but in reality seven. In this way, it was easier for the backend to hear clearly versus the word "chak", the Cantonese for seven.

When it comes to identifying the customer, the for-kei can be very creative and certainly colourful in their descriptions.

In those days, it was business like and very brisk. The moment you leave the table, someone would come up to clean up almost immediately, and someone would take over the place. And the next cycle of business began. I moan when I think of the current hawker centers these days. There was this old lady waitress serving up last week. It was pure down to earth Cantonese warmth as she spoke between Mandarin and Cantonese (because we preferred to speak Cantonese .. imagine ordering Lor Mai Kai in any language other than Cantonese!) advising us of the dishes to pick and serving us. Ah, the granny warmth! Next table had three young children (3 years old) and she went to advise and help to put a sweater for them lest they caught the chill from the drafts of the air-conditioning. Something that we did not encounter in the old days and found it so refreshing that it is there today.

Could anyone recommend the best Lor Mai Kai in Singapore? It would certainly no longer be 30 cents. (^^)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Historian Painter Marcus Lim & the Chinatown Connection

Ever heard of historians? Plenty. Ever heard of Historian Painter? Huh? Got such person meh? Ah, as Marcus Lim would passionately and patiently explain to you. "ya got!". A historian writes about history, a historian painter paints about history. Ask Marcus about history, and he will paint you a picture!

Said to be the only Historian Painter in Singapore, or for that matter, in Asia, Marcus looks set to strike out a new path. He is already recognised by the Asian Geographic.

copyright: Marcus Lim

Somehow, our paths crossed (how, I am still wondering) and of course, I asked him if he or his relatives were once residents of Chinatown, the inner or the greater. Indeed he has. And chances are most Chinese in Singapore would have the Chinatown connection.

" I guess my main connection with Chinatown would be with my granduncle and his family who used to live around Chin Swee Road area. I can still remember the smells of sea-salt beaten boats, stinking river and mouldy wood, the faded peeling paints on the 5-foot way buildings. My granduncle stayed on the third floor, and so whenever we go visit him we had to climb dangerously up the creaky old wooden staircase, that felt like giving way whenever my little foot climbed the stairs. It was nerve-recking but exciting; I dared not climb back down when I was about to go home.
The juxtaposition of old and new buildings in that area is etched in my mind; seeing the buildings nearby being demolished was had my memory branded.

Let's not forget the people from traditional trades. The affable old man who used to hawk the big-head paper masks. The soy sauce seller who goes around with his rattan bag with bottles of 头抽...that strong sweet smell of the freshly made soy sauce mixed with the rattan smell creates an interesting combination.

These are the little affinity that tied me to Chinatown."

And what has our Historian Painter captured from Chinatown. Like most artists, he did also roam the streets of Chinatown. He tried to capture the essence of Chinatown with a historical perspective. One day down the road, when photos fade, his paintings will be around to tell our descendants more about the Chinatown we know.

copyright: Marcus Lim

I hope that he will continue to capture the life of Chinatown, absorbing the atmosphere and the way of life, before they also become history. Hopefully, if he could recapture from the memories of the old folks of Chinatown, we would have further depth into the history of Chinatown Singapore.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My favourite Chicken Rice

While Singaporeans and visitors to Singapore would know about the famous Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice, I kindda miss the Cantonese Chicken Rice. I am not sure if there is a similar Cantonese Chicken Rice, but I know long long ago (not that long really), at the corner of Smith Street and Trengganu St (where the Sex Shop is now?) was a bustling stall selling the "steamed" or "boiled" Chicken Rice. And the stall only appeared in the evening, probably from 5pm.

Those were the days when the Art-Deco flats were still there, just across from where the stall was, by the side of the road. There would be queues to buy the Chicken Rice. And there were tables, many of them, laid out on the street, as what you would see on the other side of Smith St (now called the Food St).

It was the time when we poor young folks were dating and looking for some more "luxurious" for dinner. Ah a chicken rice dinner with two chicken wings (sometimes, the stall would not sell us, apparently being one of the popular items), soup, two plates of rice, with the Cantonese chilli sauce and maybe Kai-Lard (I cannot remember if they had - it is mustard, somehow that went well with Cantonese steamed or boiled chicken) - we were happy. And these days, that girlfriend turned wife often laments that she missed the Kai-Lard.

And yes, the "spare parts" (innards) which were just great to chew on - crunchy. Gizzards & Liver and yes, the almost transparent intestines. I wonder what happened to these intestines. One can no longer find them, not even in the market to bring home to cook up a great meal!

It is interesting that while on the streets, the Chicken Rice stall was flourishing with long queues of diners. When the Chinatown Food Centre came up and all the wonderful street hawkers had to move indoors, it started losing its customers. Would it be fengshui (it was located in a rather good position, next to the escalator)? or just customers getting more impatient or distracted by more stalls within a same area? Or a drop in customer service because the stall now had no tables of its own?

Ah, I still long for that chicken and its wonderful chilli sauce. Anyone knows if the stall still exists?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Thian Hock Keng celebrates its 170th Anniversary

170 years ago, a small temple was built at the coast so that the freshly arrived could thank Mazu for their survival over the treacherous seas. Mazu 妈祖 was their Goddess of the Seas and the guide to their new land of hope (to earn money to bring back to Tng-Sua - Tang Shan).

As the number of immigrants increased, the need for more help for them grew. It was not just worship to Mazu but also help for the newly arrived to find a place to stay and jobs to look for. It was a community centre, the earliest to the current day community clubs.

170 years on, as the later generations of these forefathers, many of whom stayed on in this tiny island, we saw a rich heritage of Thian Hock Keng 天福宫, the temple that had a very small and humble beginning. We marvel at a piece of the ancient Chinese architecture brought all the way from China, so that we descendants could appreciate the beauty of the culture and traditions of the Chinese. That link that was forged 170 years ago, continues till this day, with many of the descendants going back to China to provide expertise in business and organisation, and increase more two-way trade.

And so on 2 May 10, Thian Hock Keng celebrated its 170th Anniversary with the launch of a book on the history of the temple (couldn't be a better timing) and an exhibition on its history too. For many of us old enough, we could recognise some of the old artifacts of the temple. The Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, RADM(NS) Lui Tuck Yew was the Guest of Honour.

In the Guest Book at the Exhibition, RADM(NS) Liu Tuck Yew thanked the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan for its sterling efforts in preserving this precious temple which is so much a part of our early history.

The who's who in the Chinese community in Singapore were present to witness the launch of the book: Nan Hai Ming Zhu Tian Fu Gong 南海明珠天福宫 and the opening of the exhibition at the neighbouring complex, Chong Wen Ge 崇文阁. The exhibition is from 2 May 10 to 9 May 10. For those who have been to Thian Hock Keng with their grandma or grandpa, you might be able to spot a thing or two at the exhibition.

In the evening, there was a concert by Deng Zhi Hao 邓志浩 from Taiwan. No one could better share the philosophy and outlook of a typical Chinese life than he did through his songs and interactions with the audience. In the almost 2 hour non-stop concert, he brought his audience through laughter and tears, sharing the sorrows, love and joys of typical Chinese families and their relationships. He even shared stories about Mazu's life and her unconditional response to people in danger. The characteristic from which we also worship Mazu for.

A great job by the organising committee of this event from Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan and the Thian Hock Keng Management Committee. Keep it up! Maybe, we could still invite Deng Zhi Hao back in 10 or 15 years time (when he is 70) to sing for us. (^^)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Catching Bus is no fun

A few Saturdays ago, I took a bus (I have not taken one in months) and had a great view sitting on the upper deck and watching the streets as if I were a tourist. A tourist indeed, I was.

I could not help reminiscing the days when everyday was a struggle chasing after the bus. It was in my secondary school days when I had only 30 cents to 50 cents to take me to school, had my recess and back. Bus fare was inexpensive (when we look back) at 5 cents on way. But catching that bus was not easy. 7am in the morning was too late.

Each morning, it was a prayer hoping that the bus would stop at the bus stop just near to the end of Bukit Pasoh Rd with New Bridge Road. There was only one bus, No.4 (Hock Lee Bus). Almost inevitably, it would not stop. So, our best bet then was that the traffic light went red at the New Bridge Road/Cantonment Road junction. It would have been already jammed back, but getting to school on time was important. Or it would be detention class. And so, lugged with a heavy bag that seemed to fly, a few of us would be dashing to the slowing bus, oblivious to the other cars coming along. And then, it would be Tarzan and the Bus as we clung for life as the bus did it right angle turn. The bus conductor would be shouting away but no body mind. Often, one might hear him shouting "Ou Way Wu Kiu Arh?" (Are the ghosts at the back?), trying to get the passengers to move to the back so that we poor souls could get a better foothold.

With the rushing wind brushing against our face as the bus moved, it was quite thrilling. We were too young (maybe) and too worried about going to school on time to worry about the dangers. Years later when I saw such scenes in India, I could realise the dangers, but it was also nostalgic at the same time. (^^)

Those were the days when there would be Bus Inspectors who would appear (out of no where) to check out if we had bought enough fare. There were many tricks for those who did not, especially when they were sitting. They would pretend to be sleeping. Some might not have even bought the tickets! It was a skill for the Bus Inspector to be able to squeeze through the crowded bus to check the tickets. And as soon as he was done, he would glide off the bus as the bus came to a stop. Wow, he looked cool sliding off the bus. And of course, many a times, we did the same too since we were just standing by the bus steps.

There were days when I thought I would tighten my stomach and catch the bus a different way. In this case, I would cross to the opposite side of the road to catch the bus to the terminus as North Canal Road. There was the infamous smelly public toilet there that I wondered how the bus workers could tolerate. But then, that was probably the only public convenience there. Catching a bus to the terminus would cost be 5 cents and following it back to school, which was now twice the distance would mean 10 cents.

There were better days when my uncle would be working in the afternoon shift at the then Singapore Harbour Board (one of the prerequisites of Harbour Board workers was that he must be able to ride a bicycle because he has to go from wharf to wharf to carry the bales of rubber sheets or sacks of rice or flour. And so, with a lot of dented shins and knees, I would brave the same rushing bus to cycle to school at Kim Seng Road. Closes brushes came by the dozens each week, but it was a less stressful way to go to school.

Ah, those were the days my friend.

PS: Anyone has a photo of the Hock Lee Bus ticket to share?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sri Mariamman Temple Consecration Ceremony on 11 Apr 2010

I managed to walk past the Sri Mariamman Temple tonight, after the consecration. I could hear the prayers still going on. There was still a large crowd of devotees inside the temple.

The lights at the temple shows the beautifully repainted temple, back to its original splendour.

Chinatown boasts of two old places of worship, and Sri Mariamman is one of them.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Die & Dye

Long ago, at this corner of Kreta Ayer Rd and New Bridge Road, facing the Oriental Theatre across Kreta Ayer Rd, was a small shop. It's specialty was to dye any clothing to black.

It was a time when black was not the fashionable dress or clothing as most Asians, if not, Chinese, considered it as one of mourning. Indeed this was the shop that dyed clothing of any colour to black for those in mourning.

In the old days, when someone in the family died, all were expected to wear black. For some, like the children of the deceased, wearing back might be expected for a longer period of time. Mourning period could last (or is expected to last) for 3 years. It is unlikely that anyone had black clothing in those days. And so, if there was such a bereavement in the family, getting some clothing to be dyed black was one of the priorities.

It could well be the beginning of the fast service that one expects of any funeral activities today. In those days, one could expect to get the black clothing, perhaps in two days after sending in.

And so, in this little hut, there seemed to be constant activity as clothing was sent in to dye to black. The proximity of Sago Lane (known to the Chinese as Sei Yan Kai - dead people street) could be a reason for the brisk business.

These days, black is a fashion. So, there could be ample supplies at home. If not, the nearest shopping centres could yield abundant black clothing, in various styles and design.

We have yet to see the mourners coming with black lipsticks or eye shadows (^^). Makeup was a no-no then, when in mourning. Nor watching wayangs or movies. But with TV these days, no one observes such rules.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Qing Ming Festival 清明节

5 April is Qing Ming Day, 104 days from Winter Solstice (read more on wikipedia). In Singapore, this is one month that all Chinese remember their ancestors. With changing times, different people will remember their departed in various ways. Some would go to the temples where they place the tablets of their ancestors and pay their respects. There are still many who would go to the cemeteries where their departed relatives are buried. For those who were cremated, the descendants and relatives might go to the government, temple or even private company run columbaria where the ash niches are kept.

Traditionally, for the Taoists, they would bring along the favourite food of their departed (in this case, mainly for their departed parents or grandparents, or in some cases, siblings or children) to offer to them. In the old days, extend families would organise to get a lorry (truck) to load all the necessary praying paraphernalia and food for each departed relative and to go from tomb to tomb. Traffic jam, during the weekends, would not be in the city, but in the cemeteries.

I remember those days when my late maternal grandma would organise such trips. For us kids, it was fun. First we got to sit in a lorry (the type with wooden structures) and get to meet all the aunties, uncles and cousins. And there would be plenty of food to eat, after the offerings. We would be going to different places in Bukit Brown area (the wider area known as Kopi Sua - Coffee Hill to us. It is said that once, there was an attempt to plant coffee here) and Peck Shan Ting (in Cantonese, what is Bishan now). My mum's late adopted father was buried without any tombstone during the Japanese occupation, and in each Qing Ming she would have to depend on the landmarks, such as trees or other tombstones to locate this small mound.

And a few times, I followed by late Mother-in-law to the Qing Ming outing with the Zhong Shan Association (a dialect group from Zhong Shan in GuangDong). They have one area in Peck Shan Ting where all the Zhong Shan people were buried and there was one common one of the Association. Here, the members paid respect to the common ancestors of the Zhong Shan people. The fellow members would sponsor many roast pigs and after the prayers, we would be sitting in groups to have a picnic with freshly cut roast pork with buns. The best roast pork to me!

There are some Chinese customs in that for the long dead, offerings of respect could be made within 10 days from Qing Ming (known as Cheng Beng in Hokkien) Day, before and after. For those who just passed away, there seems to be some particular rules about the day for prayer.

Apart from the 7th Month (known as the Hungry Ghost Festival to many), Qing Ming is another month where the Joss-shops are very busy offering praying paraphernalia of many kind. The focus now is on the people who have departed. In the past, it could be simple papers with printings of clothings. With modernization, creativity and innovations, the paper offerings have evolved. There are almost real paper models of shirts, blouse, samfoo, and shoes of all kinds. This year, I spotted bras or could they be bikinis? For the more technically inclined, there are handphones, computers and these days, notebooks. I-phone lookalikes could be on its way. With I-Phone applications, well, maybe, there could be less burning. (^^)

For those who have enjoyed life, there are cans of beer and stout and now, cognac and wine.

In Chinatown, there are two shops which probably have been doing such a business for a long time. One is at Banda St and the other at Smith Street. They are also favourite haunts of tourists, led by the tour guides to show them about life after life for Singapore Chinese.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Kitchen God has returned and the Tee-Kueh already hardened

The favourite story with the sending off of the Kitchen God on the 24th day of the 12th Lunar Month was the offering of the Tee-Kueh 甜糕 (Hokkien) or Nian Gao 年糕 (Mandarin) to sweeten his mouth or got his mouth stuck with the sticky Nian Gao that he would not say much. The kitchen used to be the place of gossips, quarrels and scoldings (if you can imagine the communal kitchens in the old houses in Chinatown).

In the good old days, when the Nian Gao is made through natural process, after a week, it is as hard as a rock. In tropical Singapore, sometimes, it got mouldy. But it did not matter as you might see Grandma washing the hardened Nian Gao and putting it in the sun. It should not be put to waste.

And so, it was time to use a chopper to slice the Nian Gao into thin square slabs. I loved to just chew on those slabs of Nian Gao. Sometimes, it is still a little moist on the inside.

Grandma would make a dough from some flour, water and perhaps, an egg or two. Whipped them into a sticky mixture, somewhat more dilute as your would see the stalls selling the Pisang Goreng (banana fritters), Grandma then would dip the sliced Nian Gao into the dough mix, making sure that it is covered and then into the kuali (wok) of boiling oil. Ah, the aroma .. but one must be careful not to eat it after it has been taken out of the kuali, hot and nice. That is sure to get scalded lips and probably stucked teeth.

Once it cools down a little, with Chinese Tea or even Kopi-O (black coffee), the fried Nian Gao fritters make good tea. For hungry kids like us .. this was heaven-sent! Ah, we had them because of the Kitchen God!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chinese New Year also means rest and relax

If you wander around, especially in Chinatown and in many shopping centres as well, you will find many closed, even on the third day of the Chinese New Year! Since the past decades, the number of days closed for the Chinese New Year (acronym CNY) for the shops has been reduced. In the old days, one could close the shop for as long as nine days. Especially for the Hokkien, they might open their shops after the prayer to the Jade Emperor (more popularly known to the local Hokkiens as Pai Ti Gong or Bai Tian Gong in Mandarin), which happens on the 8th night of the Chinese New Year. For many, they might open the shop on the second of the CNY or a suitable date (which could be advised from the Almanac) for a couple of hours to indicate that the shop has been opened, and then it was closed again.

For many of such family owned businesses, they hardly take any day off in the year and so, the long period off during CNY was the only time off for them.

I remember the days when my late Mother-in-Law used to run a shop at the "old" People's Park selling cloth. She worked every day, Saturday and Sunday included. So, the only days off was just before the Chinese New Year and a few days into the CNY. In the good old days, many people still bought cloth to sew their own clothes or send to the tailor to make. Ready made clothing was not so popular for the ladies. Many of the cloth available were for the making of samfoo (literally translated from Cantonese as blouse and pants). Of course, some of the materials could be made into "modern" and more westernised style blouses or dresses. I used to get some cloth to make shirts too.

There was also the black cloth, in various designs (black of course) and of different make. In the old days, when one reaches 50, it was time to wear black pants and probably blouse (of the samfoo cut) in shades of blue. My Mum was starting to wear less bright coloured clothes when she passed 30! And then, the world changed. Everyone began to wear brighter colours. That must have been an indication to the shops selling cloth, much of which were from Japan.

Some of you might have heard of Japanese cloth brand like Toray. But to the customers, they were not really interested in the brand as in the quality of the cloth, would it stick in the sweaty Singapore, was it reasonably priced. Buying cloth in the old People's Park could be both an adventure and a nightmare if you are not good at bargaining. And you could even risk being scolded if the shop was making its first sale for the day to you and despite giving you the best price, you walked away. Business people could be really superstitious and a first successful sale could mean more successful sales! (^^)

Ah, but I was no salesman and did not understand the intricacies of bargaining and why prices were always offered high. You see the wholesalers would only sell the cloth in sets, meaning if a pattern comes in five colours, the retailers have the buy all five. But one would be lucky if two of the five colours sell. So, the shops have to make up for the other three which could not be sold or sold below cost. Some people got good deals out of the bargain, others don't.

My task was to help to close the shop with the old planks, making sure they are fitted to one another vertically (they are numbered) before finally fitting the door post, and door. These days, one pull of the shutter is good enough.

Come towards the last week or two before the Chinese New Year, sales would have diminished and no one could be able to buy the cloth and got them made in time for the New Year. It was time to do the annual clean up. On a good morning (usually weekends so that we would be around) we would be carrying out the rolls and rolls (or bales) of cloth out of the tiny shop. I often marvel at how much could be put into the tiny shops. Then, it was time to clean the wall, the railings, the fans and yes, perhaps, add a new coat of paint.

Talking out the cloth and dismantling the setup, of which the rolls of cloth were placed such that there would be no cloth avalanche, was easy. Putting them back was a challenge. Ah, new the boss of the shops knew precisely how and where the cloth should be put. It had to be and was important to be able to know where to get specific cloth than a customer might ask for.

After a long day, the job was done and the shop closed, for the next week or two. It was the end of an ardous day and a cleaned shop with new Chinese characters indicating prosperity was ready to greet the new year when it was reopened again.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Temples in Chinatown Welcome the Year of the Tiger

As with each Chinese New Year eve, the Chinese temples in Singapore await to welcome the New Year. And so is this year. As the heart of Chinatown was filled with lights, music and fun, in the other parts of the greater Chinatown, temples were filled with devotees who went to offer their first joss sticks to the Deities.

Smokes of the joss sticks and the continuous calls of the temple assistants for the devotees to the Deities informing them of their wishes for good health, peace and prosperity brought back wonderful memories. The one memory that was permanently etched in my mind was arriving in Thian Hock Keng at the stroke of twelve midnight in a trishaw to offer our prayers to Ma Chor Po (Mazu - Goddess of the Sea). It was a teary night as the fumes hit the eyes. But that added to the memory too.

But last night at Thian Hock Keng, it was a different sight. There seemed to be a bigger mix of age group. Interestingly, there were less of the more senior citizens. There were more children. Led by three Buddhist monks, many of the devotees joined in the chanting of the sutras. A few were outside watching the Marionette Theatre. A caucasian family was also there to soak in the event. The prayers ended at midnight with the beating of the giant drum and bell.

The temple then exploded with the fire crackers, alas, the electronic version but the noises were getting more like the real thing. The Cai Sheng Ye (Deity of Wealth) came in with the dragons and the lions. The devotees went after them with their cameras or handphone cameras. Some went after the Cai Sheng Ye for his sweets. To the Chinese, sweet is important. Everyone looks towards a "sweet" life, compared the the "bitter" life experienced by many of their ancestors. And of course, the typical Hokkien phrase is "Jia Tee Tee, Si Hao Si" (literally meaning if you take something sweet, you will get a son!)

I did a lightning visits to the other temples in Chinatown, covering Wak Hai Cheng Beo (Yue Hai Qing Miao) which is a temple often frequented by the Cantonese and Teochews (Thian Hock Keng is frequented by the Hokkiens, but these days, the dialect lines are blurred) and Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple (the only Hakka Da Bo Gong Temple in Singapore, as I understand).

Tradition is alive! In greeting a new year, going to the temples as our ancestors had done over the millennium, we continue with the tradition. And the latest Hokkien exclaimation: HUAT AH! Prosperity to all!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Chinatown Secret

Being old but young at heart, I thought I could try out a little fun with barcodes.  I am still trying to explore ways to make this fun for anyone - residents, local & foreign tourists. Let our handphone (well, not all of them) do some work for us .. and tell us more about it. It could be a place, a thing or even a message!

So, anyone wants to share with me what's locked inside this? And better still, share with me (and us) your brainwave about how this box of black and white could make a tour of Chinatown more interesting. (^^)

Monday, February 08, 2010

It's the time for Chinese New Year goodies

As kids, the one thing that we looked for, other than new clothings and Ang-Pows (red packets stuffed with money), it was the drinks and cookies. In those days, it was not soft drinks at any time as we would these days. Main reason was probably that it was something we could not afford and could afford to do without.

It was and still is customary to have some kueh-kueh (cakes) and cookies during Chinese New Year time so that we could entertain visiting relatives and friends with them and soft drinks.My favourite drink then was F&N's Sarsaparilla, which has been shortened to Sarsi these days. Ah, somehow, the taste has changed too. Or was it just my tastebud?

And for prayers, Mum would also start preparing to steam the Chinese kueh-kueh. One was the Kueh-Nern-Koh (Kai Dang Kohl in Cantonese or literally read as Qi Dan Gao in Mandarin). We youngsters, full of energies would be the best candidate to help beat the eggs. Often, we would use a big glazed earthen pot, which looked more like a garden pot without the holes. With a beater (that looks like a spring with a handle), we would have to beat the number of eggs cracked into the pot - gosh how many were there - until it seemed to grow in volume. We could not stop until Mum said so.

The other was the Huat Kueh (Fa Gao) which most of the aunties and grannies would be very superstitious about. No unnecessary comments, lest the Huat Kueh (which has yeast included) does not "huat" - "grow" up evenly like a flower just bloomed. Ah, here, we were warned not to say anything, just beat! For this Huat Kueh, we had to have the yeast with the dough overnight.

When these were ready, the special baskets (weaved with bamboos?) with the "glass papers" laid in the baskets would be prepared for the beaten eggs or dough into, and then, placed into a huge kuali (wok) already steaming hot with boiling water and a bamboo tray sitting on the wok. The baskets were placed onto the bamboo tray that was way above the reach of the boiling water. And a huge cyclindrical cover was placed over these dough on the wok. Wet towels (like those used as face towels) were place around the cover to prevent excessive escape of the steam.

Home-steamed kueh kueh are probably the best, with the best ingredients and no preservatives and well, there could be secret methods of preparing them. Alas, I think much of the arts could have been lost. Grandma's legacy.

In making the other cookies, there seemed to be a mix of Chinese and Malay (or was it Peranakan) cookies. I only had the experience of making "love-letters". Well, that was no fun when you have to roll the flat pancake into a roll, like a cigar. In our days, we used to love to emulate our grandpa by "smoking" these love letters. Imagine in those days, they even has candies made to look like cigarettes!

These days, one could almost get most of the common kueh-kueh in the shops. Ah, but, it will never be the same as those made by Mum, Grandma or Auntie.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Singapore through the eyes of a British serviceman

I think. Interesting to see some old sights and sounds. You might hear some familiar ways of descriptions on life in old Singapore. Can you spot any familiar sights?

ack: thanks to the alert from Kelvin

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chinese New Year Tours by Geraldene Lowe

Ever want to know more about Bullockcartwater or the Singapore Chinatown? Listen to our walking encyclopedia, Geraldene Lowe. She will share with you tales of old and modern Chinatown.

EMAIL TO Geraldene @  to book the tour as she is out of town until 29 Jan 2010.

31 Jan - SUNDAY
- START 10am corner Everton Road & Neil Rd- Everton Park is a block of HDB flats -there are seats up the steps behind Bus Stop. This is near Baba House Museum - there is parking behind the HDB block - enter via Everton Rd. However the tour ends in heart of Chinatown - so could taxi back!

Cost of Tour $40 (half for kids) payable on day of tour - includes drink & cookies and sample delicacies along the way. Ends about 1pm - could have lunch in Chinatown -Chinese handmade noodles, best Thai food in S'pore, or explore Chinatown Market & take Taxi or MRT home!

(minimum 10 persons to operate) On day of Tour Tel: 81551390

 - START 10am corner Everton & Neil Rd same tour as above.

- Same Tour repeated BUT START 9.30am same corner as Listed above. Tour lasts approx 3 hours

 - START 9.30am corner Everton Rd & Neil Road. THis is CNY Eve so extra bustling with last minute frenzy! Best to take MRT!

(Disclaimer: No Commercial Interests)
Photo Ack: Charlotte

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Singapore Chinatown Lights Up

It was Ren Shan Ren Hai 人山人海 (People Mountain People Sea) as many Singaporeans flocked to Chinatown to await the light up. Waiting with patience, the people lined up the entire New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen St from Upper Cross St to Kreta Ayer St.

Save those nearer to the Peoples' Park Complex who could see the ceremony on the screen, the rest had to wait patiently "in the dark". Only invited guests could get to see the main stage where the main event was held. And when the DJ led in the counting from 10, many who were sitting on the kerb (ah, on normal days one would risk being run over by sitting on the kerbside) stood up, cranking their necks to look for action. When it hit zero, the entire streets lit up with Chun 春 floating all above us. Somewhere above the Peoples' Park Complex, the sound of fire crackers came, followed by rain of fine red paper, the remants of the fire crackers. For some reason, a breeze was blowing bringing the snow of red dust onto us. Ah, perhaps, that was indication of good luck to be brought by the Tiger.

While thousands waited patiently for the show, hundreds were enjoying the popular Si Chuan Huo Guo 四川火锅 - fiery steam boat from Szechuan. A new shop selling porridge was seen offering competition to the established one by the corner of Keong Saik Rd and New Bridge Road. Into Smith St, more people walked, attracted by the calls of the stallholders to try out their fair. From the famous Cantonese waxed goods - sausages, waxed ducks, Wong Fa Yi 黄花鱼 (Huang Hua Yu), Yunnan Ham - to melon seeds to golden pumpkins, bottle gourds 葫芦 (hu lu) to Japanese dried mushrooms. There was even a queue at Wurstand for the german sausages served by the Austrian chef, dress in red, but of course.

Outside the Chinatown Complex, oblivious to the din, a few crowds were focussing on the intense game of  'Dum" (draughts). On the other end, a young band was belting out the popular Chinese New Year songs. And further up Spring St, where the huge tentage was set up for the Chinese New Year mart, the crowd was less. The two auctioneers (they sounded like Taiwan or Mainland Chinese) were calling out for bids for the numerous good luck collectibles. Plants are part of Chinese New Year decorations, with many helping to usher in a good year, like the specially arranged Guan Yin Bamboo, aptly called Bu Bu Gao Sheng 步步高生.

At the South Bridge Road end, probably because most of the goldsmith shops used to be here, the decorations has the upsidedown Fu 福 (prosperity) hanging across the road. The Chinese love to think that an upsidedown Fu means that Prosperity has arrived, instead of the other sound. I often wondered if someone had made a mistake and got a saving grace coming up with this story. (^^)

If the crowd tonight continues for the next two weeks, it will spell well for the Chinatown economy and certainly for the economy of Singapore! (^^)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chinese New Year is around the corner

Chinese New Year is barely a month away, and although there are more shopping centres and shops all over Singapore, there is nothing like a touch of the Chinese New Year festive atmosphere in the Chinatown. Chinese New Year this year falls on 14 Feb 2010. Light up of the decorations in Chinatown will happen next week, 23 Jan 2010. While this adds to the gaiety of Chinatown, many local visitors to Chinatown have other objectives in mind.

I did a quick recce this evening to measure the "barometer" of the atmosphere. The crowd was certainly there but not to the huge surge yet. Cars were waiting bumper to bumper for the nearest carpark at Chinatown Complex. It is a Sunday and many of the mainland Chinese were also gathered in the small but growing eateries that cater to the northern Chinese cuisines.

The place is certainly getting redder with all the things related to Chinese New Year, ranging from angpow (red packets in Hokkien) to lanterns to all kinds of decorations for the home. New stuff Tigers to greet the year of the Tiger were there, and some lion dance toys became tiger dance toys.

At the huge tentage, setup each year specifically for pre-Chinese New Year sales, along South Bridge Road facing the Maxwell Food Centre, the early-bird vendors were calling for business. At two diagonal corners, the interesting sales by auction were already in progress. Calling prices started as small as one Singapore dollar!

The all important kamquats and greenery were in place. This year's specialty seems to be this particular cactus plant (which the Chinese believe could ward away negative entities) with a flower-like part on top of it. They did not look like parts of the same plant. The popular Guanyin bamboos now come in arranged in the shape of a boat.

I could only spot one stall offering couplets, with the hand written Chinese calligraphy. What happened to the "Dui-Lian" 对联 (the longer couplets) that was the tradition for the Chinese to paste on both sides of the doorway? Ah, with most people living in HDB (housing development board) flats, there's hardly any space at the doorway to paste these couplets. In the old days, the letter writers, who wrote letters for the Chinese migrant workers or immigrants to be sent back to China, would also write these Dui-Lian. And there would be single characters being written on a diagonal paper, with words such as "Man" 满, meaning full on the important rice jars. Of course, there is the all popular "Fu" 福, meaning prosperity, which many would paste it upsidedown, where one could read as Fu Dao, which has similar sounding as Prosperity having arrived. Ever since the old days, and still is so with many mainland Chinese and Singapore Chinese, many are still on the journey to become prosperous. These days, there's more hope for material prosperity than the all encompassing belief of prosperity which includes a big happy family.

Would there be more people going to buy the traditional Chinese clothes to wear during Chinese New Year? For sure, the parents would buy the cute samfoos or qipao for their little kids. Ah, what about the adults? Ladies are more apt to wear the beautiful Chinese clothings and perhaps, men would also go for the traditional Chinese shirts with the cloth knotted fasteners. We will see. Ah, but what about the youngsters? Would red be the trend or black, much to the horrors of the grannies. But these days, many of the grannies are the baby-boomers who might not be very particular. Still, won't it be fun to paint the town red?

Time to stock up the Chinese delicacies and sweets for family reunions and for visiting guests. The typical kueh-chi 瓜子 (melon seeds) and groundnuts have yet to make their appearance. The waxed ducks, Yunnan Ham and Chinese sausages in various sizes are already available, but I could only spot one stall at the traditional spot, outside CK Departmental Store of Chinatown Complex.

Along the main New Bridge Road, a small queue was already formed getting the first batch of the famed Lim Chee Guan bak-kwa 肉乾 (BBQ sweet meat).