Sunday, June 28, 2015

[Nature] Sembawang Hot Spring

Piping Hot Water

Latest news and my views about the suggestion on developing the hot spring (9)

Whenever I hear of development, my mind reminds me of how fast Singapore is to making changes to things and how often it is for economic reasons. So when news came up about developing the Sembawang Hot Springs on April 18 2016, I really will like to ask for the government to not develop the place into a paid theme park or spa. The hot spring should be treated like any public park; free for public use.

I agree with Sembawang's Minister of Parliament (MP), Mr Ong Ye Kung, where he opined that the hot spring should not be commercialised. Fellow Sembawang MP Dr Lim Wee Kiak suggested that a shallow pool be built so that more people can enjoy the hot spring. I'd say, make it into a park that incorporate as much of its surrounding and nature as possible. 

Beitou Public Library

I remember walking along Taiwan's hot spring town - Xin Beitou. The municipal government took great care to ensure that structures built there were environmentally-friendly. Take the Beitou library for an example. The building built in 2006 using wood from managed forest. The inclusion of large windows into the building allows for natural light to be harnessed for its internal lighting. (10)

Lovely Beitou man-made river
Instead of letting the hot spring water flow into useless water holes, we can build a nice man-made river that allow for the water to flow. I always love the sound of flowing water. 

Taiwanese artist painting a portrait of the public library

This will give the place a lovely, tranquil feel. The public can relax, do their little exercises and even sit down to do their painting.

I'm also glad that there's a caretaker to this hot spring. Previously when I was there, there were a few people who were washing their clothes using the spring water. It was not just one or two pieces, but bucket-loads. I suspect that these people were doing this for commercial gains. It's terrible as they used soap powder to wash those clothing and as the water goes back into the ground, I'm just concerned that the ground water would be polluted. 

With a caretaker, I am sure that those few recalcitrant will be kept away.  

Updated: April 18, 2016

Spring water in Singapore? How can this be? Singapore is not known for natural structures or formations.

Well, indeed we have a hot spring in our own backyard along Sembawang Road.

The hot spring was first discovered by property owner Mr Seah Eng Keong in 1909, it was the talk of town. (8) Mr Seah then set up a company called Singapore Hot Spring Limited that bottled the water under the name "Zombun". The water was tested to be alkali in nature and the water was "compared very favourably to the best spa waters in Europe". (3)

During the discovery of the hot spring, the water temperature was measured at about 70 degrees celsius. (6)

Fraser and Neave (F&N) with its monetary might then came in to buy over the land in 1921 and continued bottling the spring water under the brand names "Seletaris" and "Zom". (8)

In the 1923, a newspaper reporter encouraged the public to visit the Seletar Springs and as part of that visit, they could also look out for wild animals such as wild boars and possible tiger sightings in the jungles of Mandai. (1)

In 1933, F&N pumped in money to rebuilt the plant and "Singa Water" was born in 1935. These bottled water were then exported. (8) By 1940, a well had already been built over the hot spring. (2)

During the Japanese Occupation, the bottling of water continued but was disrupted in 1944 after the Allied Forces bombed that area. The spring did not start flowing again until 1964.

Interestingly, there used to be two separate springs in that same area - one that has hot water and the other, cold water. The villagers in the surrounding kampongs used the spring water to bathe, wash their clothes and even boiled eggs. (5)

My Experience at the Hot Spring

I never knew how hot Singapore spring water could be until I experienced it myself. There were pails that one can use. Bathtubs even, for those who want a soak of their feet. So since I'd made my way to the hot spring, there's no way that I'd not try out the water.

However, I was ill prepared. Those seasoned campaigners had brought along their own towels. Their towels would then be soaked in the hot spring water before they proceeded to wipe themselves from head to toe.

I managed to find a pail lying around, one of many pails. I filled the pail with about 1/4 of water and seeing that steam was rising from the water, I waited a bit. A few minutes later, I placed my hands above the water and it felt the tingly feeling. I then proceeded to sprinkle the water on my feet. It was HOT!

It was only after about 30 minutes that the heat from the sprinkled water was more bearable. 


1. Seletar Springs. February 6, 1923. The Straits Times. P10.

2. "The Sorcerer" – First Full Rehearsal Of S.A.D.C. Opera. November 1, 1940. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942). P5.

3. Our aerated water trade. January 2, 1932. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942). P23.

4. Koh, B. S. March 15, 1989. Land near 'hot spring' site may be redeveloped. The Straits Times. P17.

5. The Singapore Free Press. March 7, 1960. Precious water runs to waste. P7.

6. The Straits Times. August 17, 1909. Untitled. P6.

7. The Straits Times. September 19, 1941. Advertisements Column 1. P5.

8. The Straits Times. March 10, 1967, SEMANGAT AYER LIMITED. P2.

9.  Ong, J. April 18, 2016. Sembawang Hot Spring: Singapore's next theme park, spa or water-themed attraction.

10. Great Taipei Travel. Travel King. Accessed on: April 18, 2016.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

[Vintage Brand] Farmer Brand Peanuts

Farmer Brand Peanut or 味香園(Wei Xiang Yuan or Mei Heong Yuen) was the talk of town when I posted the photo of this can online. I took the photo of this can when I visited Cameron Highland's Time Tunnel Museum.

The peanuts are grown in the Menglembu Plains of Perak, Malaysia since the 1940s. The love relationship blossomed between Singapore and the Farmer Brand Peanut when the late-Mr Lee Chit Heng decided to move his "processing and distribution operations to Singapore in the 1950s". (1)

Mei Heong Yuen Food Industries Pte Ltd is currently located at 261, Pandan Loop, does the processing, packaging and distribution of these peanuts. (2)

This brand of peanuts has accompanied many through the decades. The public was able to purchase this brand of peanuts from various leading supermarkets and convenience stores (From the old Emporium in the 1970s to NTUC and Cheers in current times). (3)

In Singapore, peanuts are eaten for all occasions - from wedding dinners and regular restaurant dinners, to funeral wake.

Facebook user Larry Lai shared that in the past, "they even use paper-bag to pack their ground-nut if you buy small quantity".

In 1979, a bag of 227g roasted peanuts costs S$0.95. Now, a bag of peanuts comes in 150g and with multiple flavours such as Garlic and Coconut.

Here's the email interview with a representative of the Farmer Brand Peanut.

1. Where was the original shop in Singapore? [Nicholas] Also along Temple Street but not at the present unit.
2. When was the shop set up? [Nicholas] Unable to recall the year. 
3. Was there only one type of peanuts commercially sold in the past? [Nicholas] Yes and it gradually expanded to more flavours.
4. Do any of the peanuts still come from Menglembu? [Nicholas] No, it is now from another country.

Updated: 25 June 2015


1.  Tee, E. April 10, 2012. Historic Singapore: 5 Chinatown businesses that endure. Accessed on June 22, 2015. 

2. Singapore Chinatown Heritage Brands. Accessed on June 21, 2015. 

3. Emporium Holding Group. June 15, 1979. Super Special. The Straits Times. P7.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

[Cameron Highlands] Brinchang: A Stop Point

After spending my first few hours in Cameron Highlands, I was confident enough to go beyond the boundaries of Kea Farm. In truth, there was only one road that leads to the different townships and as such, one cannot get lost. 

Visitors who want to head from Tanah Rata to Brinchang and vice versa will thus need to pass by the this township. To get to Brinchang from where I'd stayed, it took me just a simple 10 minutes drive through the soft meandering road and breathtaking mountains.

This town has its own fire station and mosque. There are also many small hostels if you're looking at budget stays. You can even find Colonel Sander's Kentucky Fried Chicken here! My family drove into this town on a wet evening and we had our very first steamboat in Cameron Highands. It was not the best though. (For our fav steamboat, check out my post on Kea Farm). 

1. Big Red Strawberry Farm

There are a number of strawberry farms in Cameron Highlands. But if you're staying around Brinchang, then this strawberry farm is one that you should visit. The drive in was already interesting enough. I'd to take a 15 degree slope all the way up to the farm. Though called a strawberry farm, the owners chose to also grow flowers and vegetables. They also had a good collection of cactus.

2. Food Galore

Brinchang is brimming with restaurants ranging from normal zhichar (Cooked dishes) to their tall chimney steamboat. If ever you want fast food, KFC is on hand to serve you that 13 herbs and spices chicken. But what got my family excited about was the roadside food stalls that sold fired stuff. From crackers and curry puffs to tapioca and sweet potatoes. We threw all cares into the wind as we usually do not eat road side food. The taste of the food was just extraordinary. I'm sure that the piping hot food also helped play a part in increasing the level of tastiness.

3. Time Tunnel Museum

After all the feasting, you come to this oddity of a place. How is it that there's a museum at 1,000m? Well, the museum provides visitors with the history about the Orang Asli around the mountainous area, and also interesting vintage memorabilia of Cameron Highlands over the years.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

[Cameron Highlands] Kea Farm: 3 Worthy Things to do

Kea Farm is known to be an agricultural area of Cameron highlands. (1) From this area, there is a road that will lead you up the renowned Mossy Forest and the BOH Tea Plantation. It was one adventure that I would have liked to take but I had wanted to spare my elderly parents and children the walk. There were still plenty to do at Kea Farm.

1. Steamboat - Warming Up the Stomach

I've read articles about how good some of the steamboat restaurants are. Some came with tall steamboat chimneys while others proclaimed that kids eat free. But the best steamboat that I've tasted is located at Nova Hotel called Hometown Steamboat Restaurant. Like other steamboat gimmicks, this restaurant uses charcoal stoves for their steamboat. 

Beyond the gimmick, the food quality was pretty decent and the amount of food, enormous. I had with me my family of six, and I was advised by one of the locals that ordering three sets was sufficient. He was totally correct! The serving staff were lovely too, especially the restaurant manager.

Warning: You will smell like BBQ after you have finished your meal. But I loved the smoked smell.

2. Plucking Strawberries

With such a lovely weather that Cameron Highlands offers, fresh temperate fruits are abound. One of which are strawberries. Up in the highlands, strawberries are aplenty and you can buy load full of this fruit. But a better way to get your strawberries is to pluck them yourself. Adults and children alike are able to do their own picking of the reddest and juiciest strawberries from the strawberry plantation. It is something worth experiencing.

3. Fruits and Vegetable Market

Throughout my stay at Cameron highlands, I'd passed by the market numerous times since it was pretty close to my hotel. Nestled just next to a hill, the market sees a narrow two-lane road that made it difficult to drive through. As such, most people would thus park their cars along the side of the main road. Here, you can get oranges, sweet potatoes, corns, and of course, strawberries (Which are much cheaper than if you were to pay for the plucking of strawberries).

Unless you're a vegetable shopaholic, there is really nothing much to do here. Still, it's a good opportunity to soak in the sight and sound of such a market. 


1. Cameron Accessed on June 20, 2015.

Monday, June 15, 2015

[Cameron Highlands] Driving Up the Highlands

We started out at about 2:30pm from Ipoh and the first thing I saw was the massive destruction of nature. Hill after hill have been chopped off and big tipper trucks continued their extraction of stones, rocks and soil from these hills. I'll make this statement and keep it as that because I do not want to be involved in the politics of this matter. I hope the Malaysian government will ensure that the destruction of these hills do come with very good reasons other than just for development and modernization. 

Two Routes to Cameron Highlands

There are two roads from the opposite end that will lead you to this "hill station" in the clouds. Hill station is a term given by the British to signify a town that is up in the highlands or mountains that are generally above 1,000 metres. These two roads are from the western side of Malaysia. 

One is through Tapah which would be a curvy 1.30 hours drive. Even though it's a closer route to Singapore and KL, more people are skipping this route since it's more windy. This route though is more scenic and you can also stop to see the Lata Iskandar Waterfall.

Simpang Pulai
This road starts from Ipoh. As I did not want to be wrecked by the dizzy spell because of the windy road up to Cameron, I used this road. The roads are said to be much wider here. The ride up took me 1:45 hours and it was totally interesting for me. 

Firstly, I enjoyed navigating the bends. I tried to keep my speed low so that when I turn, the car does not gravitate too much to the left or to the right, thus reducing the probability of my passengers getting motion sickness.

Secondly, I faced all the elements as I drove up to Cameron - sweltering sun at the start of the road, then with intermittent showers, before feeling the coldness of the air that started to deep into the car. The temperature monitor in the car showed a drop of temperature from 33 degrees to 21 degrees. What a huge jump in temperature!

Thirdly, the road signs were well put together. So the chances of getting lost is rather low. Halfway through the journey, you will see a sign Tanah Rata (this is the name of one the towns up in the highlands). Follow that signboard, and other signboards with the words "Cameron Highlands" and you should be fine.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

[Ipoh] City of Millionaires

Population size: 700,000
Distance from Singapore: 556km

As so Ipoh is called - a quaint town that seemed deserted as I drove into Malaysia's fourth largest city. "Where are the people?" There were cars, but barely anyone was on the streets.

Seemingly, I found most of them in the shopping mall. Ipoh Station 18 is one of the more happening malls with good restaurants and a healthy sized crowd. Even though it was a Sunday, the crowd size was still manageable. 

There's a straight flight from Singapore to Ipoh but I chose to land at Kuala Lumpur (KL) because I wanted some element of a road trip. Moreover, the big rental companies such as Hertz and Avis were only located in KL.

It was a 2.5 hours drive to Ipoh and the N-S road was well-metalled.

The demographics see a larger group of Chinese whose ancestors had toiled in this state to extract tin as early as the 1820s.

I stayed there for a night in preparation of my drive up to Cameron Highlands. 

Three things that is interesting in Ipoh:-

1. An Interesting Stay

I checked out Trip Advisor for a unique hotel and the name - M Boutique Hotel came up. Situated about 10 minutes drive to the major eateries, the hotel was indeed unique. The hotel had taken on a 1930s theme starting from its reception counter - old jerry cans, wall-to-wall medical boxes, to interestingly decorated rooms. Even the access card was placed in cute cover with the wifi password being written on a movie stub. Just below, the hotel sees a classily designed Old Town White Coffee Restaurant where we had our hotel's complimentary breakfast. 

2. White Kopi Time

The pioneer of white coffee - Kopi Kedai Sin Yoon Loong started serving their first glass of coffe some time in 1937. Now, the coffee shop still sells its brand of coffee. Though they serve food, most of their clientele were there just for their coffee. A must not miss! 

3. Every kind of chicken
You've heard of paper wrapped chicken (纸包鸡), but when in Ipoh, you have to try either the salted chicken or their dried herbal chicken. A number of shops selling these famous-styled chicken can be found along Jalan Yau Tet Shin

We wanted something healthier so we gave the herbal chicken a go. We also topped it up with wanton mee and char siew mee. If you ordered wanton mee, you will only get that, wanton and mee. The herbal chicken was a tad bit dry but was indeed tasty. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

[Special Post] Earthquake at Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu holds a special place in my heart. Though it was about 1,500km away, it was where I celebrated my 40th birthday with my loved one and family friends.

When news broke of the earthquake at Mount Kinabalu and that one of the key rock formations - The Donkey ears - has been destroyed, I felt the loss of all Sabahans.

Picture of the Donkey Ears rock formation
Then news started floating in about missing people and possibility of deaths. My guts wrenched and I felt pain. Pain because those who died were there to conquer a peak. Pain because lives were lost. It has hit even closer to home as of today, a 12-year old Singaporean had lost her life when the earthquake struck. Eight Singaporeans are still unaccounted for.

I whatsapp my guide to find out how is he doing and the reply I had received from him speaks volume. Just two words , "very sad". No further words were needed to express his pain.

The mountain lies in the no-earthquake zone. Really, nobody expected this. Neither did the parents of the young students whose children were there. 

I am a parent myself and I feel pained by this disaster, but I will never ever be able to feel the pain that they are feeling. I pray that they that peace beyond our understanding will transcend upon them.

My guide (with the red haversack), like all other guides, has always put us as his priority

For the guides, I've experienced first hand how they care for tourists. They are even willing to carry tourists on their backs up or down the mountain. They could have saved themselves but it is always in their nature to care for those around them. To these warriors, thank you so much. It's an honour to have walked beside you.

I've written in to Borneo Post to honour these guides. Hopefully, my email will reach the eyes of the Sabahan state government as well as the Malaysian government so that these guides are properly cared for.

I have been closely monitoring the situation at Mount Kinabalu and my thoughts go out to the people of Sabah and Malaysia. I am writing to ask that the government look into honouring the mountain guides for their bravery and for putting Malaysia on the world map.

I was a climber of Mount Kinabalu in 2013 and had the opportunity to experience the true care and concern showered upon us by our mountain guides. They moved quickly up and down the mountain slopes to ensure that we were safe. They carried large bags, and even people when the latter could no longer complete the climb. They were heroes to all who have climbed this mountain.

The local mountain guides had once again stood out as heroes in this recent unfortunate incident. These guides were there to cut out paths and laid lines to ensure that those caught in the earthquake could make their way down to safety. For those who were incapacitated, these guides carried them through the boulder-strewn path.

These mountain guides have indeed put their lives on the line. As such, the Malaysian government should consider honouring these heroes and also, help them through this difficult period where they will be effectively out of job for the next three weeks or more.