Sunday, December 4, 2016

[Movies] The Way of the Dragon - In Singapore

Original Hong Kong Movie Poster

Bruce Lee's movie produced in 1972 - The Way of the Dragon - was Lee's debut into movie directing. It was a big deal in Singapore. It was shown simultaneously, midnight on Saturday, November 11, in only THREE cinemas - Odeon, Cathay and Orchard (Currently Orchard Cineleisure). (1) The movie was shown later in the open air Jurong Drive-in. (2)

Tickets were all sold out on its premiere night and the movie was so popular that the government had to warn the public against buying movie tickets from touts (3) All these happened even before its launch. But still, you can't stop the desire of the public. The public stood in line for hours but unfortunately, many could not get hold of the tickets. The tickets at the box office were sold at S$1, S$2 and S$3 and each member of the public was only allowed the purchase of 4 tickets.(4)

"Touts sold the movie tickets at DOUBLE the price and people were still buying off them", shared my father.  

This martial arts movie reached out to people of all ages, gender and races and was shown in the cinemas for about two months.


1. The Straits Times. November 9, 1972. World premiere of new Bruce Lee film in S'pore. P15. 
2. New Nation. December 19, 1972. Miscellaneous Column 2. P2.
3. The Straits Times. November 11, 1972. Bruce Lee Film Tickets Warning. P20.
4. New Nation. November 10, 1972. Advertisements Column 2. P15.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

[Vanishing Trade] The Mamak Shop along Jln Todak

Mr Majid standing proudly in front of his mamak store
Tucked away along the five-foot way of Jalan Todak stands a provision shop or what we locally call, a Mamak Shop. I've passed by the shop many times but today, there was something about the shop that caught my attention.

The owner did not seemed too bothered whether there was business or not. In the 30 minutes that I'd observed the shop from the opposite coffeeshop. He sold just two packs of cigarettes and in between, he'd just plonked himself down on a plastic chair, looking out towards nothingness.

Looking out towards Lorong Todak
I cooked up an excuse to stop by his shop, saying that I'd wanted to buy some sweets. His shop offered none as he said that, "the sweets will melt. Maybe you want to go to 7-Eleven".

The ice was broken and this was the opportunity for me to have a closer look at his wares and at the same time, find out more about this interesting mamak shop.

Cigarettes, cigarette paper, lighters, lighter fuel

Looking at what Mr Majid has at his hole-in-the-wall shop, there were really nothing that interest me, actually. It's cigarettes, cigarettes and more cigarettes.

Though I did not buy anything from this veteran owner, he was still more than willing to talk about the nostalgic past. He claimed that he has been running this Mamak Shop for about 45 years. The building in which the mamak shop is located was said to be built in He's kept the shop opened 365 days a year. In his heydays, his shop used to span about twice its current length and to manage the shop, he used to employ four others, including his brother.

Mr Majid also mentioned that he indeed, sold more items in the past. But now, he has cut down on the items that he's selling. Business was booming in the past as there were popular coffeeshops and a market nearby.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

[Food] Heritage Dish of Johor: Laksa Johor

Laksa Johor [Photo Source: The Star Online]

When I first saw the headlines, I thought it must have been one of those arguments between countries over who has the heritage rights over a certain food. Though what Johor is saying here is that they want to gazette two of their local dishes - Laksa Johor and Asam Pedas. (Musa, 2016)

State Youth, Sports, Culture and Heritage committee chairman Datuk Zulkurnain Kamisan vaguely explained the difference of Johor's Asam Pedas to that of the other Malaysian states, saying that there's a difference in terms of its "hot and spicy gravy".

Laksa Johor
It's much clearer a difference for the Laksa Johor dish. It is said that the late Sultan of Johor, Abu Bakar, visited Italy in the 1800s. After that particular trip, he came up with the idea of replacing normal noodles with Italian spaghetti.

According to Makansutra, this dish is not commonly found even in Johor as it is tedious to prepare. The website then went on to provide the addresses of places that are offering Laksa Johor.

Even in the Johor Istana, the dish is only served at "special occasions and Hari Raya celebrations" (Loh, 2016). I'm pretty sure that our Singapore Ministers would have the opportunity to try the very best of Laksa Johor when they visit the Sultan during Hari Raya.
only at special ceremonies and Hari Raya celebrations.

Read More :
only at special ceremonies and Hari Raya celebrations.

Read More :

So other than being a favourite dish of royalty, what else makes Laksa Johor a heritage dish? I like how this article puts it - it's a heritage dish when it helps to Bind Generations. (Ismail, 2016)


Ismail, S. September 22 2016. Dishes that bind generations. New Straits Times Online. Accessed on October 2, 2016.

Loh, P. July 15 2016. Rich and royal taste. New Straits Times Online. Accessed on October 2, 2016.

Makansutra. November 26 2013. The Royal Laksa Johor. Accessed on October 2, 2016.

Musa Z. September 30 2016. The Star Online. Johor to gazette ‘laksa’ and ‘asam pedas’ as heritage dishes. Accessed on October 1, 2016.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

[Food] Blk 644 Hougang Mee Chian Kueh

Freshly-Made Bee Chiang Kueh

People live and die for food. People will also defend the origins of some of these food and this peanut pancake is something that some countries in Southeast Asia and even Taiwan lay claim to.

The Chinese name it 面煎粿 (Mee Chian Kueh or Min Chiang Kueh) or Apam Balik in Malay. Though the name may be similar, the end product differ from country to country.

Peanut-filled, the traditional ones that we see in Singapore are fluffier. Seasoned opposition leader Mr Chiam See Tong is said to be a lover of this tasty snack. (1)

The Mee Chian Kueh of Hougang

Making the First Slice

The timing was just perfect. Mr Lee, the owner of the Mee Chian Kueh stall at Blk 644 Hougang Avenue 8 had just put the final touches to his first batch of Mee Chian Kueh. Freshly made!

Focused on Cutting it Right

Having a go at the Mee Chian Kueh, I'd just wished that there were more grounded peanuts within. But I guess customers always want more of the best stuff.

Other Old School Peanut Pancake Stalls

Tiong Bahru Mian Jian Kueh
30 Seng Poh Road, Tiong Bahru Market
#02-34, Singapore168898

Tanglin Halt Original Peanut Pancake
48, Tanglin Halt Road, Tanglin Halt Market
Stall 16 Singapore 142048 


1.Lee, M. K. August 23, 2015. Cheap & Good, How does Chiam See Tong's favourite peanut pancake taste? The Straits Times.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

[Art] Singapore's $50 note: A work of Art

Do you realise that many of us have been carrying around works of art in our wallets and purses and yet not know it? Well, I came to realise this truth only after visiting the National Gallery Singapore.

Opened in 2015, the gallery is located within the Old Supreme Court building and the City Hall. The gallery houses the largest collection of Singapore and Southeast Asian art collection.

Now let's get back to the crux of the matter - our $50 note.

If you were to take a look at the reverse side of the Singapore $50 note, you will see two very distinct work of art. One is of gibbons by artist Chen Wen Hsi, and the other are of people in the market with hanging dried fishes by Cheong Soo Pieng. Both of these paintings are now housed in the National Gallery Museum.

Chen Wen Hsi's Gibbons. Picture source: (1)

Cheong Soo Pieng's Drying Salted Fish. Picture source: Straits Times (2)


1. Hong, G. April 1, 2015. Lee Kuan Yew: The man and his art.

2. Ong, S. F. November 30, 2015. 7 things to know about Singapore pioneer artist Cheong Soo Pieng. The Straits Times.

Monday, August 29, 2016

[Transportation] Road Tax disc: 3 things that you may not know about this piece of paper

In today's news report, the Land Transport Authorities (LTA) has rung the death kneel on Road Tax Disc. Come February 15 next year, motorists will not be required to display road tax discs on the windscreen of their vehicles. (1) For years, this is one piece of paper that had accompanied all road worthy vehicles in Singapore. Failure to display a proper road disc, or putting up an expired one, had seen fines being meted out to these motorists.

Soon, motorists can keep their windscreen clear of clutter. If not, at least one lesser piece of paper to be pasted on the windscreen. But what are the interesting facts about this small but important piece of paper?

1. Where are road tax discs positioned on the windscreen?

It is by law that road tax dics are positioned on the left of the windscreens.

In a forum reply dated January 11, 1969, the secretary of the Automobile Association of Singapore brought up the Road Traffic Ordinance - Motor Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) Rules Part II, No.28 where it reads "The licence shall be carried...on the left side of the vehicle facing towards the near side of the road." (2)

The rule was updated in 1972 to ensure that the wording as to how to place the disc clearer.

"The road tax should be placed at the left lower corner of the windscreen facing forward so as to be clearly visible from the front at all time whether the vehicle is moving of stationary". (3)

2. Were there instances where motorists were fined for not displaying the road tax disc?

Indeed. In 1971, a Mr Tan was fined S$20 for not displaying his Registry of Vehicle (ROV) tax disc (4)  while in 1970, a Mr Quek was fined S$30 for driving with an expired road tax disc. (5) Both of the men were caught in 1968. It seemed that after more than two years, the courts had wanted to get hard on these motorists and to show the importance of displaying the road tax disc in a proper manner.

3. Did the rule of displaying the road tax disc on the left of the windscreen worked for everyone?

Well no. In 1969, a motorist questioned this decision as at that time, there were left-hand drive cars. The motorist said that it would obstruct the view of drivers if the road tax disc was displayed on the left. (6)   


1. Road tax disc to be phased out from February next year. August 29, 2016. Channel News Asia.
2. Right place for that 'tax disc. January 11, 1969. The Straits Times. P16.
3. Her tax disc was too high. december 1, 1975. New Nation. P5.
4. Tax disc fine. April 28, 1971. The Straits Times. P9.
5. Road tax fine. October 6, 1970. The Straits Times. P8.
6. Untitled. January 15, 1969. The Straits Times. P10.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

[Buildings] Jurong Country Club: Another One Bites The Dust

Main building of Jurong Country Club

By November 2016, Jurong Country Club will be no more. This was announced in 2015 where the government will be acquiring the country club to establish the High Speed Rail Terminus between Singapore and Malaysia. (1)

Lush golf course

I for one, had wanted to see the place before it demolition. Entering the country club somehow brings forth the feeling of serenity. It was all so quiet and peaceful.

Having a Meal at the golfers' Terrace

The Cafe Does a Good Ribeye

Stained Glass Entrance


Lim, J. May 12, 2015. Golf club to make way for high-speed rail terminus. Straits Times.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

[Local Brand] Chewing-gum of the Orientals

A 2016 packaging of this local cuttlefish brand

The tagline - "Chewing -Gum" of the Orientals is still way beyond our time. How did the makers foresaw that Singapore would ban the sale of chewing gum in 1992 and thus, they becoming the heir-apparent of all "chewing gums" was indeed quite interesting.

That said, Ken Ken Prepared Cuttlefish is still on sale in supermarkets after more than 50 years. Produced by Ken Ken Manufacturing Pte Ltd, most of their advertisements are joint promotion with major supermarkets such as Giant and NTUC. They had also formerly worked with Carrefour, Isetan and Econ Minimart.

Straits Times, April 17, 1977. Page 15 (1)
The company had gone through an expansion in 1977 where they purchased Pon Pon cuttlefish. Other than the trademark, Ken Ken also took over the Pon Pon's factory space over at Chin Bee Road. (2)

The cuttlefish was one of my fav snack of the 80s and though it cost quite a bit especially since I was just a little tween with only a little money in my pocket. It was popular amongst kids and they were readily available at the mamak stores. 

The company is currently operating out of a factory at 20, Senoko Way. Prior to this, they were located at 324 Tanjong Katong Road. (1)


1. The Straits Times. April 17, 1977. Advertisement. P15.

2. The Straits Times. July 30, 1976. Advertisement. P22.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

[Singapore Movies] Kallang Roar! Only at the National Stadium

Singapore's National Stadium - taken in 2010

The chant rang out loud amongst the Singapore soccer players of the 70s. It was a shout of intent; A shout of believe.

"Untuk Bangsa Dan Negara", Uncle Choo Seng Quee with his voiced raised. That was quickly followed up by the players shouting with conviction - "MAJULAH"!

Singapore soccer players fought tooth and nail for just one reason - National Pride. The phrase "Untuk Bangsa Dan Negara" as translated in English means "For the people and country". Not only was it meant to bring together soccer players of different races and religions, it was also reflective of how a young Singapore was at that point in time and their aspiration of wanting to fight together, regardless of race, language or religion.

Kallang Roar: The Movie

The movie - Kallang Roar - brought back wonderful memories of yesteryear. Those time where stood together as one to cheer on our soccer team. Part of the location was filmed in the old National Stadium, which has since been demolished and replaced with a spanking new stadium. Led by veteran actor Lim Kay Siu who took the role Singapore's most successful and controversial coach,  Uncle Choo Seng Quee, the movie cast its focus on Singapore's soccer glorious days of the 70s.

Worth a watch to know the history. 

The National Stadium

Here're more photos of the stadium that I took in 2010 before it was torn down.

Both tears of joy and sadness were shed here
People of all walks of life going through the gates to watch their soccer stars
A view from inside the ticketing booth

Sunday, April 3, 2016

[Transportation] Singapore Traction Company: A Bus Company That Served Singaporeans

Three different-valued STC bus tickets that I'd purchased previously

"You must have not taken a STC bus before", said an elderly man who was waiting patiently behind me to board a re-modelled Singapore Traction Company's (STC) public bus. Indeed, I had not had a ride in one as I was a 1973 baby. STC went into debt and was sold off in 1971. (1)

Boarding a STC bus
Frontal View of the STC bus
Four circled-round lights; Rivets used to hold the shell of the bus together; a singular gear stick; The re-modelled bus was painstakingly put together by the Singapore's statutory board - the Land Transport Authority.

In the past, the assembly of such buses was taken on by local companies such as Lee Kiat Seng Private Limited. (2)  This company was previously located at 50, Kallang Pudding Road. (3) They have been building the bodies of buses since 1924. (4)

Inside of the bus

View from the driver's seat
In the past, the driver's role was just as their designation suggests - drive. The conductor job was then to help to collect the fare. I'll always remember how the conductor will use the ticket puncher to tap on the metal ticket holder, signifying that he's about to collect the fare.

Where people once smoked on board buses
There were also a number of old notices that were included in this STC bus. One, to warn passengers against smoking and the hefty fine that would come along with it. The other notices include one that advised passengers not to stand on the steps (Many still did) and the other was about an emergency door.

Fine specimen of a bus, I'd say.


1. Singapore Traction Company begins operation. Accessed on April 3, 2016.

2. Assembly of Singapore Traction Company Nissan bus body at Lee Kiat Seng Private Limited. National Archives of Singapore. Accessed on April 3, 2016.

3. Advertisement, Column 2. July 6, 1962. The Straits Times. P6.

4. Agents appointed for tube investments. June 16, 1964. The Straits Times. P13.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

[Singapore Islands] Pulau Blakang Mati: Mt. Imbiah Battery

Mr Peter Stubbs Sharing About the Gun Placement

Give me a storyteller and I'd be totally engaged. So when Mr Peter Stubbs came forward to lead the tour, I can sense his strong passion of military matters at Sentosa formerly known as Pulau Blakang Mati. He had dedicated large amount of time to explore the area and is also the author of the Fort Siloso website.

Mounting of Mt. Imbiah's 9.2-inch guns

Peter walked with us to the top of Mt. Imbiah (Or previously spelt as Mt Imbeah). From there, he brought to life what life was like for the British gunners. Peter also dispelled the mistruth that the guns were pointed the wrong way and how the 6-inch guns were used against the Japanese forces, though Mount Imbiah saw no bombings by the Japanese while the sister sites at Fort Siloso and Mount Serapong were battered by Japanese fighter bombers.

The holding area where the ammunition were stored

We saw the gun placement as well as the magazine tunnels under the gun placement where the explosive shells were kept. The cylindrical-shaped marks have now been etched into the ground.

Walking Through the Dark and Narrow Tunnel

3 Interesting Facts about Mt. Imbiah

1. Mt. Imbiah was spelt as Mt. Imbeah till the late 1970s. 1
2. The gun at Mt. Imbiah was regularly fired as part of the British Forces practice run since the 1920s. 2
3.  Mt. Imbiah was known as Point 202, Blakang Mati Island 3


1. Siloso's Big Bang. August 12, 1979. The Straits Times. P14.
2. Untitled. February 15, 1913. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. P6.
3. Untitled. June 4, 1924. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. P12.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

[Singapore Islands] Pedra Branca

Pedra Branca: The Book (Amazon)

In the past, Pedra Branca was every sailor's nightmare. But in 1979, Malaysia and Singapore clambered over this rocky outcrop, together with two other outcrop called Middle Rocks and South Ledge. The deliberations and discussions as to who owns Pedra Branca and the other outcrop spanned more than a decade. The two governments then agreed to allow the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to determine who has the sovereignty over these outcrop. (Jeyakumar and Koh, 2009)

The book - Pedra Branca - published in 2009 had also prove to be a very good read.

As of February 3, 2017, Malaysia has lodged an appeal to the ICJ to revise the previous ruling made. The Malaysian government has said that they have discovered three new documents from the United Kingdom National Archive. (Naidu, Feb 2017)

The three documents are:-

1. An internal correspondence of the Singapore colonial authorities in 1958
2. an incident report filed in 1958 by a British naval officer and
3. an annotated map of naval operations from the 1960s

[Update: 12 Aug 2017]: Malaysia has even built a base on the Middle Rocks to stake their sovereignty over the rock outcrop.


So why is this situation so important to both countries? Well, the first reason is about sovereignty. In a very basic playground talk, "If it's mine, it's mine". Also, though Pedra Branca may be just a small outcrop, occupying it will mean having control of the maritime movement in and out of the Straits of Singapore.


1.  Most Easterly Island of Singapore

Pedra Branca (Pulau Batu Puteh as it is known in Malaysia or the former Coney Island) is the eastern most point of Singapore. It's situated at approximately 24 nautical miles to the east of Singapore. The island is actually closer to Indonesia's Bintan Island than to Singapore. (ibid)

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2. It's all about rocks and stones

The British erected a lighthouse on Pedra Branca in 1850 and named it after the late Captain James Horsburgh, a navigator and hydrographer. (Koh and Chew) Pedra Branca itself is an uninhabited "reef of white stone-rocks of granite". (Cornelius-Takahama)  The granite stones used to build the lighthouse came from the granite quarry of Pulau Ubin. (Koh and Chew)

Aerial View of Pedra Branca. Source: China Post

3. Invited and Uninvited Dignitaries

When the foundation stone was laid on May 24, 1850 to commemorate the Queen's birthday. British dignitaries including government officials, naval personnel, foreign consuls and merchants graced the launch. (The Straits Times)

Fast forward to 1998. Relation between Malaysia and Singapore were going through a rough patch as both countries were fighting over who had the sovereign rights over Pedra Branca. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir tried to get close to the outcrop but was then warned by the Singapore Navy to stay away, in which he did to prevent any potential skirmishes. (Hussein, 2009)

A litograph by J. T. Turnbull and T. Picken produced in 1850. (Horsburgh Lighthouse)

References Accessed on January 30, 2016. Retrieved from,204,203,200_.jpg

Cornelius-Takahama, V. Pedra Branca. Singapore Infopedia. Accessed on January 31, 2016.

Foo, Y. C. May 24, 2008. World Court rules Singapore owns strategic isle. China Post.

Horsburgh Lighthouse. University of Otago. Accessed on January 31, 2016.

Hussein, Z. December 20, 2008. Pedra Branca: Behind the scenes. The Straits Times. P26.

Jayakumar, S. & Koh, T. (2009). Pedra Branca. The road to the world court. NUS Press: Singapore. P 161.

ibid. P162

Koh, Q. R. V and Chew, V. Horsburgh Lighthouse. Singapore Infopedia. Accessed on January 31, 2016.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accessed on January 30, 2016.

Naidu, S. (February 4, 2017). 3 UK documents cited for Malaysia's application to revise Pedra Branca decision. Channel News Asia. Accssed on February 4, 2017.

The Horsburgh Lighthouse. May 28, 1850. The Straits Times.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

[Organisation] Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Source: The Straits Times

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) - saviours of animals for over 100 years. Prior to their move to their new premises at 50 Sungei Tengah Road, they were housed along Orchard Road in the 1950s and in 1984, moved to 31, Mount Vernon Road. (SPCA Singapore)


The confluence of an agricultural island that needed oxens to till the land in the 1800s, to the aristocratic horses that pulled along their carriages and how they were treated must have moved the hearts of residents in Singapore to set up the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). (Tay)

The earliest record of SPCA was found in an archived copy of The Straits Times dated March 4, 1876. (Cruelty to animals) A Second Police Magistrate and a Malay language scholar D. F. A. Hervey was the first person to ask for SPCA to be set up. (The late D. F. A. Hervey) He was appalled by how animals were treated in Singapore. (Cruelty to animals)

Two weeks later, the society was established and a merchant by the name of Sir William Adamson was appointed to lead the society. (Straits Observer)

The first step taken by the society was to "issue notices in English, Chinese, Malay, Tamil" of illegal actions that constituted to cruelty to animals. (Singapore Chamber of Commerce)

One of the first punishments meted out in Singapore was called upon by SPCA against a prisoner who wounded an animal. The prisoner was fined $1. (Straits Times Overland Journal)

SPCA had also brought to court 22 cases of cruelty to hack ponies and bullock. I'm pretty sure the local community would have find this rather amusing during that time especially when bullocks were used for work.  (Untitled, June 1, 1878)


Cruelty to animals. March 4, 1876. The Straits Times.  P2.

Singapore Chamber of Commerce. May 27, 1876. Straits Times Overland Journal. P8.

SPCA Singapore. About us. Retrieved on January 17, 2016. 

Straits Observer (Singapore). March 28, 1876. P2.

Straits Times Overland Journal. June 9, 1877. P 14.

Tay, T. F.  January 16, 2016. SPCA moves to Sungei Tengah next Monday. The Straits Times. Singapore

The late D. F. A. Hervey. July 4, 1911. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. P10.

Untitled. The Straits Times. June 1, 1878. P3.