Thursday, 26 February 2009

Playing Mahjong in Singapore

A favourite past time of the Singapore Participating Youth (SPY08) of the SSEAYP, mahjong was frequently played at the Dolphin Lounge on Nippon Maru. They had brought a miniature set on board! Haha!

When I visited Singapore, N, C, V and I played the game until the wee hours of the night. It was at about 4am, we decided to call it a night. Indeed, my stay in Singapore had not only been a fulfilling learning experience, it had also been fun-filled as I sometimes crave for the noisy game with my loving friends. Hehehehe! For the first time in my life, I played mahjong with N, who's an Indian. I found it interesting and amusing at the same time. Way to go, N!

Monday, 23 February 2009

The Philatelic Museum, Singapore

Philately is the collection or study of postal materials such as the largely-collected stamps, postcards, post offices' stamp marks and so forth. And, Singapore has just the place to learn and experience about them; the Philatelic Museum, which is a few minutes walk from the Peranakan Museum. The Philatelic Museum is competitively interactive as the Peranakan one.

Before I go on to talk about the museum and its stamp collections, you may find more about our Brunei stamps on Brunei Resources' blog where he also keeps a separate blog about his money and stamp collections. His interesting entries on Brunei stamps are found here and here. And, there's also a nice history of Brunei stamps on the Brunei Postal Service Department website though many of the other links do not work.

Ok, back to the museum.....

In the first room, the concept of philately is introduced where records of living and non-living things, ideas and events can be finely-printed onto stamps. The picture below shows how learning philately jargons is done through invertible tile pieces.

As I walked along the walls of the rooms, I couldn't help but feel like I am reading a gigantic and responsive story book where along some paragraphs, something can be flipped, opened, magnified, turned on giving yourself the sense of discovery besides from just plain reading. And, whatever you may have to do to discover, these "doors" come in all sorts and sizes as shown in the following few pictures.

Interestingly, there were such things as fake or forged stamps! Those on display was a comparison between the fake ones from the real ones. Unlike counterfeit notes, their differences could be in ink colour, the price value and sometimes the design.

I know collecting stamps is a popular hobby but, never did I realised it is also a much revered one. They even have stamp competitions! And, distinguished international awards for stamp collectors! 0_o

So, for all you philatelists out there who didn't know, the closest, big stamp event is just a sea away. Look out for SINGPEX.

You will be surprised to find that stamps come in all novelties. Below is a Republique de Djibouti stamp that's made of wood.

From Bhutan, we have stamps in the form of vinyl records that could be played! The record has the national anthem and a brief description of Bhutan. Click here to see other distinctive stamps from Bhutan. Talk about a great tourism marketing strategy!

Crystal-studded stamps from Austria.

Halogram Stamps from New Zealand

Glow-in-the-dark stamps from Singapore of some nocturnal animals

Gold-plated stamps from Mauritius

Customising your own stamps with British stamps.

Here is the entire collection of Singapore stamps from its first to the current.

The Singapore stamp collection occupied more than half of a wall in the room.

Some other interesting facts about stamps. Genuine stamps with mistakes are definite-keeper items.

There is a room on the first floor of the museum dedicated to the olden times of Singapore where history is depicted in the stamps.

A cupboard of stored knowledge waiting to be opened. These are mostly describing the different cultures in Singapore.

Stamps of junks

No doubt stamps and letters carry a sentiment that emails cannot equate.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Night lights at Merlion Park, Esplanade and Singapore Flyer

After a whole afternoon of shopping, C and I took a bus over to Merlion Park where we met up with P and later on, N and W at the satay place which I cannot now remember the name.

The night lights around Marina Bay was indeed magical as I looked around at the landmarks which granted Singapore her fame and identity.

I once had a chat with my facilitator from SSEAYP about countries and it is amazing that Singapore is a country built on brilliant minds though its natural resources are low.

During my short stay, I learned about her ERP system, the "new" water (which I had wanted to try but apparently, the water in Singapore is a mix of new water and bought water), the fancy civil gadgets like the parking indicators at the Changi Airport and the LEAPS Education System which I will probably write about in my post on school orientation there.

The Singapore Merlion throwing out water into Marina Bay

The sparkles of the Esplanade

The lights of Singapore Flyer ....

... changing colour

What does this look like to you? Looks to me like a sci-fi Japanese anime of a technological world.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Ya Kun Kaya Toast Coffeestall, Singapore

A kopitiam franchise in Singapore! How impressive! These were my very first thoughts when V brought R and me out for breakfast prior to R's departure.

It was fascinating to observe how Ya Kun gave its shops a modern, red outlook while retaining the essence of a kopitiam (coffee stall) with menu items such as the half-boiled eggs, the toasts and the old style self-roasted beans for coffee. It has incorporated the system of a fast food restaurant of self-service where your orders are made at the counter and you wait to bring your food to a table. So, there's no "kopi OooOO" yelling or anything of that.

I believe all of Ya Kun's branches maintain the similar interiors of red walls which give it its identity, for I frequented another at a different building. On both occasions, I had the half-boiled eggs, kaya and butter toast and coffee. I made the mistake of ordering coffee with milk "kau" (thick) during the first time. Boy, the coffee was awfully strong!

The logo of Ya Kun

The order counter

A picture of their menu items. They sell their own merchandise of kaya and coffee powder. This reminded me of my dad's story of how he used to roast coffee beans for my granddad's kopitiam and how their coffee used to be really popular.

This is V carrying a tray of half-boiled eggs in saucers.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Bomb Shelter in a HDB Flat, Singapore

I've been extremely busy at work lately and finding time to write is difficult. Today, I went straight to bed and konked out right after I reached home from work. I've been going to bed as early as 10 plus these days too especially on days when I come home completely drained.

I thought what a strange coincidence it was that prior to posting this entry up, I went to watch Valkyrie with the ladies in my family.

Anyway, this is a bomb shelter which has been made-shifted into a storeroom. All the new HDB flat units now come with this special room. When V, my Singaporean cabin mate, was getting things from this room, I had mistaken it to be a store room. At the same time, I was much puzzled by what a big, thick metal door this tiny room has.

According to her, the pillars of bomb sheltered rooms are supposed to be left untouched if the whole place was splattered with bombs. N, another SPY, added that this, however, has not been tested though I am sure they might have with miniature versions, perhaps?

Check out the little vent for ventilation just above the doorway and the one inside.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Arab Street, Singapore

After my visit to the Peranakan Museum, bigR brought R and me to Arab Street where I met the SPYs08 for a dinner. We ventured around before we congregated at the restaurant. As dusk was falling, the sky casted a nice blue illumination behind the Sultan mosque. This mosque is situated at Muscat Street near Arab Street where many middle-eastern shops sell carpets and textiles while restaurants serve shishas or hookahs besides food. There are some modern, artsy boutiques along the street as well.

As we walked along the street from the picture above, we found ourselves wandering into this tiny shop of interesting antiques with the huge "Children Little Museum" sign by its entrance.

The buildings here reminded me of the vintage Malaccan ones except these ones are notably of the Muslim or Malay community while the ones I saw in Malacca were mostly of Chinese influence.

While night was coming upon us, it was still never too dark to admire some of the street art that was splashed on the walls of these buildings.

I am intrigued by how this one is done for it looked like it was done with stencils!

I enjoyed the beautiful architecture of these colonial buildings.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Peranakan Museum, Singapore

I was quite surprised to find a museum on the peranakans in Singapore. I thought peranakans are found only in Malacca! At home, we call them the baba-nyonya people who originated from a mixture of chinese, eurasians, indians and malay who lived in the region of and during the time of the Straits Settlements. To date, there are many peranakans living in Singapore. In fact, there's a room full of portrait pictures of them!

I am much impressed by how the old building has been done up looking brandishly new yet retaining its vintage feel. I love old things because they have a history, a story to tell.

The wedding headdress for the ladies reminded me immediately of the Berbedak wedding ceremony. It's interestingly quite similar!

Gilded Pagoda Trays used most likely for bearing important items during the Peranakan wedding like jewellery. How magnificient it is to find the most intricate of things in old items!

Bakul Siah are wedding baskets which are used for gift exchange. Now, doesn't this connect to a Malay wedding?

A fusion between modern art and vintage artefacts, the museum also provides electronic kiosks where one can view videos of the cultures of the Peranakans such as the different wedding ceremonies. This place is impressive! It doesn't just go down to the look and feel, it's the interaction too! I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

They retained the old structure but pimped up the place with trendy, colourful artwork.

I can't help but want to show this pic of C with the big pork leg, which is a ceremonial item for the wedding.

Another similar-looking item to the Berbedak wedding ceremony of the Brunei Malay people

The living room of a Peranakan household.

Finely crafted motifs on their silverware

This is the nuptial bed, which I could not go further to admire its heavily crafted designs. It looked like it was something out of an olden Chinese martial art movie, hehehe.

Every utensil and furniture were all finely-designed. Their ceramicware were all finely painted too.

The Peranakans did not only show their appreciation for fine arts in day-to-day things, they also expressed them in writings and drawings.

Pardon me for the crooked photo. I was in the section on religion and this is actually a lacquer and gilt spirit house. I believe the museum is a little TOO interactive for they also showcased artefacts and videos of a Peranakan funeral which at the point this photo was taken, there was crying of a woman coming out of a speaker somewhere. 0_o