Archive for the ‘People’ Category

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The Reason

March 19, 2008
Early this morning, the current Thai prime minister, Mr Samak Sundaravej, dropped in for a visit.

I wasn’t there when it happened.

Anyway, this signage made it crystal clear why there were so much “touch-up” painting activities going on for the last whole week.

And I thought it was some routine maintenance.

So if you want to experience how Tiong Bahru Market was like when it 1st opened about a year and a half ago, today would be a good day.

And when you visit the market, please take care of the place as we do not want to depend on such VIP visits to look fresh and clean.

Mr Samak Sundaravej’s trip to Singapore was not just about official business. The Thai leader had requested a taste of Singapore’s food culture, and got that when he toured the Tiong Bahru market. And he proved to be quite a food-lover too! Mr Samak said, “My favourite (dish) is fried rice, we call it ‘fried rice, governor style’. But now I am not the governor anymore, I call it ‘fried rice, ex-governor style!'”

excerpt from ChannelNewsAsia, 19th March 2008

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Trishaw Man

March 18, 2008

I was pleasantly surprised during my “early” morning stroll today.

As I stepped off the escalators within the Tiong Bahru Market, happily sipping my coffee, I spotted this trishaw man resting in his “sar leng chia”. (It means a 3-wheeled vehicle in Hokkien).

He is resting in the exact spot where many of his “KAKIS” (Buddies) used to hang out.

In the distant past (in the 1970s), a dozen of them could be found here in the mornings and many uncles and aunties would use them to get around. Some of my classmates even travelled to school in them.

My grandma, on days when she needed to get to Neil Road to visit her relatives, would bring my brother and me to board a trishaw at the exact spot where this guy is sitting. (She only rides the trishaw when she won money in the “Chap Ji Kee”, otherwise, it would be leg power.)

I could still remember the trishaw man pedalling tirelessly through the “SI PAI POR” compound to get us to Neil Road.

Now that I am much heavier, I don’t think this guy would be interested to help me ride down memory lane today. So I just took some pictures (secretly) and carried on with my stroll.

Doing some online research on Trishaws in Singapore (History of Trishaw), I found out that Trishaw became popular back then because petrol was not readily available.

With the petrol prices hitting the roof, maybe, we will see more of these “uncles” around.
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Tiong Bahru Hokkien Prawn Noodles

March 13, 2008

Extracted from
The Tanjong Pagar Town Council’s WINDOW

Number 48 (February 2008)

This stall is located ar #02-50 within the Tiong Bahru Food Centre.

Mr Soh Chuan Siew runs the stall with his wife.

He’s the 3rd generation in his family to sell prawn noodles.

When he came from China, his grandfather sold them from a pushcart here – for 30 cents per bowl!

He taught his son who used to sell them at $1.20 a bowl in the eighties.

Now Mr Soh sells the same great prawn noodles for $3 a bowl.

But he also sells a smaller serving for $2 – and that’s what most people buy.

“We’ve had customers in Tiong Bahru since 1951.

We are well-known.”

The noodles are perfect, the soup rich and tasty, and the prawns are so fresh you expect them to swim to the bottom of the bowl!

Open 6am to 2pm, closed on Mondays

Additional picture from my computer

Mr Soh Chuan Siew’s father, who operated the “HEY MEE” stall at the original Tiong Bahru Market in the 1980s.

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TBone Steakhouse Cafe

March 12, 2008

The Business Times

Wine, Dine & Unwind
Dec 01, 2007
By Geoffrey Eu

It may be the new kid on the block, but it looks like it’s ready to stay awhile.
A trendy steakhouse in sleepy Tiong Bahru may not be the most outrageous culinary concept in the world – but it comes close. And that’s not all – if you haven’t heard of the One-Concepts group, chances are you might be visiting, uh, one of their outlets sometime soon. In addition to the recently opened Tbone, which takes up two shop lots just down the road from Tiong Bahru market, One-Concepts is planning a virtual onslaught of outlets in the near future.

Next up is Riverone bar and restaurant by Robertson Quay, followed next year by Unopuro, an Italian trattoria-style place, and Soi One, both also along the river. There will also be sister restaurants, cafes and bars in Bali and a catering company, One Private Dining. The entire brand exercise will be capped off by the arrival of a 60-metre luxury schooner that is being built in Kalimantan.

The man behind One-Concepts is Adrian Hobbs, a Bali- and Hong Kong-based concert promoter who has big plans to grab a slice of the burgeoning lifestyle market, or as he calls it, the luxury market. ‘I’ve been doing entertainment for years and I’ve also had a passion for food,’ says Hobbs. ‘When I looked at places like St James (Power Station) and Ministry of Sound, I decided to get into the lifestyle business, but I wanted to take it one step further and get into the luxury business.’

Hobbs has kept a low profile here since 2004, when he was involved in a dispute involving a cancelled Jose Carreras concert at The Padang. He looks to be making a comeback of sorts in a related field. ‘Tiong Bahru is the last location in Singapore that is Central Downtown,’ he says. ‘I wanted a British-style steakhouse that could serve the locals and the expat community as well. Tbone is very casual – we’re trying to do a total fresh food style, very much like what you would get in Australia.’

He adds: ‘It’s a two- or three-year market sentiment play – I just felt that this is the right time and I didn’t want to miss the boat.’

The menu at Tbone runs the gamut from a 520g T-bone wagyu steak ($110) and a more moderate Black Angus tenderloin ($45) to burger, fish & chip and steak & cheese pie options. There’s also a beef rendang dish, courtesy of the Indonesian-born chef who came here by way of New Zealand. Tbone may be the new kid on the block, but it looks like it’s ready to stay awhile.


TBone Steakhouse Cafe
42 Eng Hoon Street
(S)169785
Tel: 6220-2927
Copyright ©2007
Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.

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TIONG BAHRU WALKING TOUR – SUN 24 FEB 2008

February 19, 2008

Here’s an opportunity not to be missed!

Heritage Guide, Geraldine, will be conducting a tour this weekend (24th Feb 2008) from 9:30am to approximately 12:30pm.

If you are keen, please give Geraldine a call at +(65)6737-5250 or +(65) 8155-1390.

Cost per person is SGD$30/=

The following is what you could be expecting from the tour :

Heritage Guide Geraldine will start the tour with a short talk of the history of the area and Cheong Hong Lim, the donor of the most amazing Geok Hong Tian Temple 1887.

The group would be able to witness devotees celebrating the birthday of the Jade Emperor & the Monkey God which happens around the ” Chap Go Mei” – first full moon after Chinese New Year.

The walk will bring the group past some interesting trees and also the grave of a well-known philanthropist, Mr Tan Tock Seng, founder of 4 hospitals in Singapore!

The group will stop to have refreshments near the famous Singing Bird corner that was once a Tiong Bahru Landmark. The bird corner is closed temporarily but we all hope it would be back in a jiffy!

Along the way, the group will also check out the best local cake shop and the new Tiong Bahru Market whilst walking through some of the 1930’s Art Deco block of flats.

The tour will end with a visit to Eng Hoon Street to observe the Monkey God’s birthday celebrations and to hear about the rituals & customs that are practiced there.

After which the group can have lunch at the numerous eating places nearby.

If you are interested to join this tour, pick up the phone and call or SMS Geraldine now. Don’t procrastinate.

______________________________________________________

Acknowledgement

Many thanks to Kelvin Ang and Melvyn Wong for forwarding the email for this event to me.

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Interesting Shops in Tiong Bahru

November 8, 2007
The Straits Times – Urban Section
8 November 2007
Tan Hsueh Yun
LE BON APPETIT

MARCHE CACHE: Shirley Tang and Stephane Herve invite you to sample their wares, like the Emmanuelle Baillard juices and nectars and the clementines in vanilla syrup.

With so many gourmet shops popping up all over the island – selling meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruit and gourmet groceries – it is quite possible to do like chi-chi Europeans do and patronise only small shops.

The latest one to open has all the fixings for dinner and then some.

At three-week-old Le Bon Marche in Tiong Bahru, you can get some plump chicken, luscious San Marzano tomatoes on the vine, French cheeses, anchovies from Barcelona and premium smoked salmon – champagne-glazed no less – from French brand Labeyrie.
Soon, there will be Donegal oysters from Ireland.

The shop is run by Stephane Herve, 37, who was a chef at various restaurants and a food division manager at gourmet chain Culina.

He and his wife Shirley Tang, also 37, provide the kind of friendly, knowledgeable service lacking in Singapore.

Try some nectarine juice, they’ll say. Want a taste of anchovies? How about some cheese?

Shopping here is such a pleasure, with new things to discover on every shelf.

I highly recommend the Emmanuelle Baillard juices and nectars.

Emmanuelle Baillard juices and nectars

For people who don’t want to drink wine with dinner but want something more exciting than water, try the Chardonnay grape juice ($6.50 for a 250ml bottle).

It is pressed from the same type of grapes used to make the wine and the non-alcoholic juice has a light, floral scent that’s quite irresistible.

The raspberry nectar ($6.90 for a 250ml bottle) has a deep berry flavour which makes it a great cocktail mixer.

I also like the clementines in vanilla syrup ($13.50 for a 150g jar).

Clementines in vanilla syrup

The slices of small mandarin oranges taste so tangy and fresh on buttered toast.

Or use them to top a lemon curd tartlet.

If you like gingerbread, pick up some Mulot & Petitjean gingerbread with apricot ($21 for a 200g box).

The little round cakes are lightly and aromatically spiced.

Bite through the thin shell of cake and the decadent apricot jam starts spilling out.

Tiong Bahru has always been a magnet because of its old-style architecture and the great food served in atmospheric coffee shops.

Herve says it was this charm that drew them to the neighbourhood. I’m hoping they stay a while.

hsueh@sph.com.sg

Le Bon Marche, 78 Guan Chuan Street, 01-41, tel: 6226-3269. Opening hours: 10am to 7.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 11am to 5pm (Sundays). Closed on Wednesdays.

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Interesting Shops in Tiong Bahru

November 8, 2007

The Straits Times – Urban Section
8 November 2007

Tan Hsueh Yun

PS OF HEAVEN


Right next door to Le Bon Marche is a cake shop with a screaming pink and white sign.

Walk into Centre Ps (pronounced centrepiece), and you’ll find another very pink wall.

I’ve never been so glad to see dark brown from the dark chocolate used in the rather fancy-looking cakes in the display case.

They are the creations of pastry chef Steven Ong, 39 (above), who is letting his imagination run wild and free after leaving the hotel industry, where he’s worked for 20 years.


The unfettering was a good thing too. D’Tanjung Katong ($7 a slice), named after another old, charming area of Singapore that he likes, has a dark chocolate ganache and sweet, chunky bananas in between layers of coconut dacquoise.

I like how the bananas still have bite and provide a sweet counterpoint to the dark chocolate.

The cake sounds terribly rich, but it isn’t.

Dark chocolate fans should try the Grand Cru Royale ($7 a slice) – a deeply chocolatey cake on a crunchy hazelnut base.

I’ve eaten more ethereal macarons ($18 for a box of 18) but I am going back for the chocolate and cafe creme ones.

The violet one, in a bright blue hue, is fantastic.

Ong says he’s happy to customise cakes for his customers.

He also has a terrific sugee cake, made originally for a resident in the neighbourhood who used to go to the East Coast to satisfy her craving.

I had a taste of one of these cakes warm from the oven, and it was a springy, buttery thing.

Soon, the shop will also offer quiches, pies and pissaladiere, a Provencal-style pizza topped with caramelised onions, olives and anchovies.

hsueh@sph.com.sg

Centre Ps, 78 Guan Chuan Street, 01-43, tel: 6220-1285. Opening hours: 10am to 8pm (Mondays to Thursdays), 10am to 9pm (Fridays and Saturdays).

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Seah Eu Chin (1805 – 1883)

September 15, 2007
The street within the Tiong Bahru Estate is in memory of Seah Eu Chin (1805 – 1883), who left his native Chenghai, Zhaozhou, for Singapore in 1823.

He worked his way here as a clerk on board a Chinese junk.

Five years later he worked as a treasurer with one Kim Swee Company.

At 25, enterprising Eu Chin was established as a commission agent in Circular Road, dealing in native produce.

At the same time, he supplied the junks plying the ports of the Malay Peninsula with all they wanted and received from them all the produce they had collected for sale on commission.

A man known for his integrity, Seah later acquired large pieces of land from Irwell Bank Road to Bukit Timah and Thomson roads, on which he planted gambier and pepper.

He was also a trader in cotton goods and tea.

It was he who led the Chinese in welcoming Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General of India, in 1850 on his visit to Singapore during the time of Governor Butterworth.

Seah later became a member of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

When the Tan Tock Seng Hospital was founded, Seah became its general affairs officer.

During the riots between Fujian and Guangdong secret society members in 1854, he and Tan Kim Seng settled their disputes as mediators.

In 1851, Seah was appointed as a special juror and later a senior juror in 1864. Seah was made a Justice of Peace and an honorary magistrate in 1872.

Seah Eu Chin also wrote the first account of the Chinese community in Singapore.

He is the father of Seah Peck Seah, another well-known member of the Chinese community in the nineteenth century.

He died in Singapore at the ripe age of 78.
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‘What are they doing to my buildings?’

September 14, 2007
The Straits Times
Sep 14, 2007
PEOPLE & POLITICS

In the redevelopment wave that is sweeping the country, one group has been looking on in horror as its work and a part of Singapore’s identity is slowly being demolished.
JEREMY AU YONG talks to three veteran architects, who speak out against what they consider to be the dirtiest of words: ‘en bloc’

CAIRNHILL LANDMARK: Mr Victor Chew designed the 17-storey Hilltops Apartments in Cairnhill such that no unit looked into another. — ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

IT USED to be that Mr Victor Chew could not drive past Cairnhill Circle, Holland Road or Orchard Road without getting hot under the collar.
‘I’d start uttering four-letter words,’ says the 80-year-old architect.
But he was not swearing at traffic. Rather, it was buildings – or what’s left of them – that made him fume.
Mr Chew, who belongs to Singapore’s first generation of architects, believes he did some of his best work in those areas.
In Cairnhill, he designed Hilltops Apartments which, when completed in the 1960s, was a 17-storey residential building at a time when most apartments stopped at four floors.
In Holland Road, he designed the Holland Road Apartments, a block of walk-ups that stood on pillars called pilotis. Built before independence, these were, as Mr Chew describes, ‘the first void decks in Singapore’.
At the top end of Orchard Road, he designed Ming Court Hotel, which in the 1970s was one of the city’s most recognisable hotels.
Today, to Mr Chew’s four-lettered dismay, barely a trace of his work is left.
Ming Court Hotel, later renamed Orchard Parade Hotel, was refurbished in 1998, resulting in a new facade and a new terracotta colour scheme.
The other two – Hilltops Apartments and Holland Road Apartments – had their date with the wrecking ball, thanks to that now all-too-familiar mechanism: the collective sale.
‘When it hurts the most, it’s not because of the beauty of the building. That part is just vanity.

‘It hurts when the building was significant, when it led the way to other buildings in Singapore,’ says Mr Chew.
Yet, by no means is he the only one to have seen his work crumbling into dust in the current property market boom.

In the long-running debate over Singapore’s strategy of redeveloping sites through collective sales, one voice tends to be unheard – that of the architects.
More specifically, the generation of veteran architects who shaped the country’s skyline in the early days, but are now resigned to watch helplessly as their work is wiped out en bloc by en bloc.
While accepting that renewal is inevitable in land-scarce Singapore, they make a call for a rethink of how buildings are redeveloped and the pace of such changes.
The concern is that what is being swept aside is not just a few architects’ legacies, but more significantly, a country’s memories, identity and history.


SINGAPORE’S FIRST CONDO: Among Dr Timothy Seow’s favourite works was Beverly Mai condominium, the first to have shared facilities. — ST FILE PHOTO

It is a part of history that architect Timothy Seow calls a ‘Singapore built by Singaporeans’.

He says: ‘Before independence, you had colonial buildings designed and built by the British architects. The formative post-colonial years of the 1960s ushered in an era where a majority of projects were designed by home-bred architects.

‘Following which…there was an influx of foreign architects into the local scene, with the local architects playing the secondary roles.’

It is a view shared by the younger generation of architects.

Says architectural designer Eugene Lim, 28: ‘Of late, you definitely see more foreign architects at the concept stage, with the local ones doing the implementation.

‘I’d like to see local guys given more credit than they are getting.’

Says Dr Seow: ‘It was a short period (when local architects’ work dominated) and it would be a pity if the projects from the 1960s were wiped out. But in a few years, it will be all gone.’

Dr Seow, managing director of CPG-Timothy Seow Studio, is possibly one of the hardest hit, since much of his early work was in condominiums.

Horizon View, Futura, Beverly Mai, Westwood, Maxima, Belle Vue and Oxley Rise are all his projects, and all are either sold or in talks for sale.

Until the sale fell through on a technicality recently, Horizon Towers in Leonie Hill was also on that list.

Of the lot, Beverly Mai ranks among Dr Seow’s favourites. For one, it is widely credited as being the first condominium in Singapore.

It was the first to have shared facilities, first with maisonettes, and the first to have units with no party walls (walls shared by two units).

Ironically, it was also one of the first to be sold.

STILL UP: Mr William Lim’s jewel in the crown, Golden Mile Complex, is still standing, though some owners have lobbied for a collective sale. — ST FILE PHOTO

Architect William Lim, 75, says he has lost count of the number of buildings he designed that have been destroyed.

Unlike the other two men though, his jewel in the crown, Golden Mile Complex in Bras Basah, is still standing.

For now, that is.

Some owners of the mixed development have lobbied for a collective sale, though it is far from a done deal.

The long- time opponent of Singapore’s urban renewal strategy feels Singapore is now at a critical juncture if it is to rescue any of the country’s architectural heritage or, for that matter, its memories.

‘With the aggressive collective sales, Singapore will soon lose most of its post-war buildings. This is our last chance to do anything about it,’ he says.

The Government also appears concerned with the en bloc wave, though perhaps not for the same reasons that upset the architects to whom Insight spoke.

Last month, a raft of changes were introduced in Parliament to legislation that governs collective sales.

They would give home owners more say and make the entire process more transparent.

Real estate analysts also expect the rule changes – when they kick in – to slow down the boom.

As it is, the collective sales market has been pushing on full tilt. According to figures compiled by Credo Real Estate, there were a total of 62 collective sales worth about $11.86 billion in the first seven months of this year.

That works out to an average of nine buildings slated for demolition a month, or more than one a week.

An architect like Mr Chew would, in his lifetime, work on around 30 buildings, most of which are private houses.

‘Take away about a dozen or so houses and in the end I think only four or five have any real significance,’ he says.

At its peak, the en bloc wave could theoretically wipe out the life’s work of two Victor Chews a month.

‘The way things are going now is pure madness,’ he says.

‘I don’t think people understand what they are doing. They see the big money and they sell but they don’t know what they are losing.

‘In Hilltops, no unit looked into another. Now they are going to build twice the number of units.

Are people going to get the same thing even if they bought a unit back there?’

Whether the legislation changes will be enough remains to be seen.

Mr William Lim says that the system currently is weighed unfairly in favour of those who want to redevelop a site and home owners who want to sell.

And what has to make way is collective memories.

‘The Red House Bakery in Katong, the National Theatre – these may not be fantastic examples of architecture but they said something to the people,’ he says.

‘But there is no respect for the memories of the invisible public. We even destroy cemeteries. If you ask me, a cemetery is more important than Golden Mile.’

The recent proposed changes to en bloc legislation may make it harder for deals to go through, but the veteran architects are calling for a more formalised structure for conservation.

Says Mr Chew: ‘Right now we seem to be interested in only gazetting buildings built before independence. But that’s not us.

‘It’s like Australia preserving only buildings by the Aborigines.’

What he would like to see is each building being examined to determine its value.

‘And I cannot accept something like Chijmes as a conservation project. You must understand what the building meant to the people before. It’s like turning the old Supreme Court into a food court.’

Mr William Lim would like to see the Preservation of Monuments Board and Singapore Heritage Society play larger roles.

‘I know they have lists of buildings worth preserving. They could make these lists public and maybe the Government can pass a law to say that these buildings should be exempt from collective sale,’ he says.

Dr Seow, in turn, would like the opportunity to upgrade his buildings.

‘Honestly, a lot of my buildings are now 30 to 40 years old. These buildings have set a trend for the present-day condominiums in Singapore…These are well-designed buildings which, if given a chance to be upgraded, would still be able to take on a new look that is relevant to the times.’

Yet for all their impassioned pleas to save buildings, there seems in each one of the three architects a palpable sense of resignation.

‘When someone dear dies, one invariably feels sad but one still has to get on with life. Living in this current climate, one has no choice,’Dr Seow says.

Mr Chew adds: ‘Time marches on and something must give way. What can you do?

‘For creative people, you want to create something timeless. Authors want to be Shakespeare.

But can you be Shakespeare in Singapore?

‘I’m retired now and my legacy is in rubble.’

jeremyau@sph.com.sg
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Low Kim Pong (1837 – 1909)

September 4, 2007

Low Kim Pong
Collection of Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts,
Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

Kim Pong Road, within the Tiong Bahru Estate, was named after philanthropist Low Kim Pong (1837 – 1909).

Born in 1837 in his native Zhangzhou, Fujian province, he came to Singapore in 1858. He started as a small time businessman and went on to set up a medical shop, Chop Ban San and later Chop Hock Nam, which eventually became one of the largest Chinese druggist stores. He also dealt in private banking. Committed to social services, he was a member of the Chinese Advisory Board, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Royal Society of Arts.


A devout Buddhist, he established the Siong Lim Temple in Kim Keat Road in 1902. (Siong Lim Temple is the common Hokkien or Fukien name of the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery (Chinese: 莲山双林寺), literally Twin Grove of the Lotus Mountain Temple)

At the age of 60, Kim Pong had a dream where he saw a golden light rising from the west over the sea (the west being symbolic of Buddhism which originated in India, and is west of China). He took the dream to be an omen, and went to the coast the next day. At dusk, he met a unusual Hokkien family arriving by boat.

The entire family had taken Buddhist vows and were on their way home to Fujian after a pilgrimage to Sri Lanka. Low, moved by their devotion, tried to persuade them to stay in Singapore and spread the faith. He promised to build a temple for their use. The head of that family, Xian Hui, eventually became Siong Lim’s first abbot.