Dec 30, 2009

2010 New Year Greetings

It has been a fulfilling year for Second Shot with all the exploration and blogging and of course a surprise appearance in the paper. I thank the reporter Lu Caixia who made it happen. I also thank readers who visited this blog to show me their support. Keep your comments coming!

The backlog is growing and so is my list of places to explore, so you can expect more variety and original topics in future. Perhaps they are not meant so much to educate than to take stock of what I have learnt about Old Singapore and our world in general.

I will be away from 1 to 7 so this will be my last post in 2009.

See you in 2010!

Dec 23, 2009

They are tearing down Queenstown Central!

Have you read the news? Our gahman will be tearing down Queenstown Central coming July.

Dec 13, 2009

"The fishes sink, the geese plunge, the moon and flower retreat in shame" - Searching for the Four Beauties in Simei

Welcome to Simei Estate

Most of us would consider Simei ("See-May") a small heartlander estate. With a general hospital and learning hub at Eastpoint Mall but no cinema, the estate is not a crowd-puller unlike neighboring Tampines. But the estate has a little secret. Hidden among the housing blocks are the legendary four beauties in Chinese history who reputedly gave the estate its name. Not many people know of their existence, much less seen all four of them.

In November '08, I combed the whole estate to "uncover" the beauties.

Dec 6, 2009

From Soo Bee to See-May

Jalan Soo Bee

The last time I counted, four MRT stations had hanyu-pinyin mandarin names, out of the 70-odd stations in operation today. You may enumerate them - Yishun, Bishan, Hougang, Simei - and recall their old dialect identities - Nee Soon, Peck San, Ow Kang .... wait a minute, what's the last one again?

Nov 22, 2009

When Joo Koon is not a Station but a School

Pioneer Station - To Joo Koon

I'm not yet 30 but is perilously close to behaving like one at 60. When you start blogging about cinemas and schools you have not attended like this and this, check that you are just feeling nostalgic curious about heritage and this is not a sign of premature ageing.

Nov 17, 2009

Pawagam Odeon - Odeon Theater in Kuala Lumpur

Odeon Theater

After my 'waterfall lunch' at KL Sogo, I went for a self-conducted heritage tour of the neighbourhood. The first stop was Pawagam Odeon located diagonally from the shopping centre.

Nov 14, 2009

What I Ate in KL (2) - Hokkien Char and Penang Cendol by the Waterfall


Where can you enjoy Malaysia's signature food by a waterfall rain or shine?

Nov 7, 2009

2nd Shot: Emerald Hill to Pavilion Cinema

Emerald Hill to Pavilion Cinema

Peter Chan asked if I would like to take a second shot from the middle of bustling Orchard Road. I gladly took up the challenge.

Nov 3, 2009

Female Nudes and Dead Horses at Deepavali Open House (Answer to Red Dot Quiz 5)

National Museum Annex

National Museum Annex

Quiz 5 was conceived at the National Museum and foreground shows the roof of the museum new annex. Thanks to all who participated. Once again, Victor never ceased to amaze us with his googling (and triangulation) skills.

Oct 28, 2009

I saw God in the Shopping Center

I was at Lot One Shopping Mall during the Mid-Autumn festive season when I saw God.

Oct 21, 2009

Rediscovering the Secret Tunnel under Orchard Road

Pedestrain Underpass Notice

Thanks to all who commented, I have finally unravelled the mystery of the secret tunnel. The evidence has became indisputable, with multiple photos and eyewitness account. Because Second Shot is not Second Shot without the ground research, I took a trip down Orchard Road to see for myself the tunnel.

Oct 18, 2009

Amazing Red Dot Quiz (5) - Where is this in Singapore?

My quiz is never difficult and there is no need to cheat. So dear readers, can you answer the following questions?
  1. Where was this picture taken?
  2. What's the 'thing' in the foreground?


Here is a hint to make subsequent guesses more fun. This is not a polygonal quiz but a geography quiz after all. I took the photo below at .. you know where. Too bad this is not the quiz or everybody will get the correct answer.

Oct 11, 2009

2nd Shot: CHIJMES from Bras Basah and North Bridge Road Junction

CHIJMES at Bras Basah and North Bridge Road Junction

The second shot was taken in 2004, proof that my hobby predated the blog. It was memorable shooting from the hedge along Raffles Arcade, with vehicles coming in my direction. I was able to align the steeple of CHIJMES Chapel with the roof of the foreground building, so this second shot is one of my most satisfying to date.

Oct 7, 2009

Mooncake Galore, Tea Parade, Lantern Riddles and the Goodie Bag at NHB Mid-Autumn Party

The FOYERs were cordially invited to NHB's "exclusive celebratory private party" - By the Light of the Lanterns - at Hua Song Museum. I have blogged about the museum tour; part 2 is about the party. It's party time!

Oct 4, 2009

Free Tour of Hua Song Museum at NHB Mid-Autumn Party

Pigtail Man

The FOYERs were cordially invited to NHB's "exclusive celebratory private party" - By the Light of the Lanterns - at Hua Song Museum. I RSVPed, in anticipation of the free things what is to come.

Sep 30, 2009

A Secret Tunnel under Orchard Road?

Pedestrain Underpass Notice

I was at Orchard Road doing heritage research when I came across the notice. It was a total surprise as I did not know of a "pedestrian underpass connecting Specialist Shopping Centre to Centrepoint Shopping Centre".

Sep 28, 2009

What I Ate in KL (1) - Roti Canai, Teh Tarik and Limau Ais by the Pool

Egg Prata Close-up
I watched the cultural theft across the causeway with amusement. For Pedra Branca, we lost our chilli crab and Hainanese chicken rice. Let's see whether we will lose all our food featured in Uniquely Singapore. Of course, the food listed are not uniquely Singaporean, I'm sure you can find them pretty elsewhere. Rather it is the way they are prepared and presented that's unique.

Sep 23, 2009

Fun and Nostalgia at Army Open House 2009 (II)

Previously I blogged about fun at AOH'09 and how Yours truly the civilian soldier nearly lost to Ah Tiong at SAR-21 firing. You can read my adventure, including witnessing bobo shooters, here. While I brought Ah Tiong to marvel at our latest military gimmicks, I also relived some army nostalgia - at Pasir Laba Camp.

Sep 19, 2009

Fun and Nostalgia at Army Open House 2009 (I)

I'm not a fan of military open house in general, but this year I'm making an exception for my Ah Tiongs and to give SAF a chance to show off their gimmicks. My Ah Tiongs were skeptical initially; they thought the Open House is not open to foreigners. I assured them the Open House is not only open to all but free - free entry, free photo-taking, free shuttle service and no dress code. I painted them a carnivorous carnival setting with opportunities to shoot live rounds and ride combat vehicles into our sacred training grounds. They were sold.

Sep 14, 2009

2nd Shot: Peranakan Place at Orchard Road

Peter was kind enough to share with me a 1948 photo of Orchard Road at the junction with Emerald Hill Road. Following his suggestion that I do a 'then and now', I made a trip to Orchard on a Sunday morning. I suppose this is one 'mission' oldies like Chun See, Peter, Victor or YG will loathe to undertake.
Peranakan Place at Orchard Road
Foreground shows an itinerant fruit hawker, an interesting sight for me because I've read about roaming hawkers of yesteryear selling Laksa and Nasi Kandar but not fruits. I see pears, bananas, cut watermelons and what I think is a chopping board on the pushcart. I wonder whether the cut watermelons are plastic-wrapped like today.

Background shows the original double-storey shophouses dating back to 1902 that would become, through URA restoration, Peranakan Place in 1985. A pity the 'now' version is too heavily decorated with banners and a sidewalk cafe occupies what was once Emerald Hill Road. So I searched and found the following from the archives. Peranakan Place in her stark naked form:

Peranakan Place

The restored facade can be seen clearly and note the facade in the 1948 photo is very similar (other than the roof). You can see on the Emerald Hill side, the third and fourth porticoes (sorry, what's the proper architectural term for that structure along the walkway?) are higher than the first three. I love such nitty-gritty details.

The archive photo should be dated around 1985. You can see Centrepoint Shopping Centre (opened 1983) in the background. By then, bus lanes had been introduced.

Sep 7, 2009

Vignettes in Time: Singapore Map and History Through the Centuries

"This exhibition depicts Singapore as seen by cartographers, geologists, mariners, military generals and town planners. Beginning with the arrival of the British from the East India Company, to military strategists of Imperial Japan and postwar city planners, Vignettes in Time provides eclectic snippets of an emergent Singapore seen over the past two centuries."
I visited the much anticipated exhibition on Saturday, September 5. There was an English Tour conducted from 3-4 but I only came to know of it at the NLB building lift lobby. The queue was empty so I went up on my own. I was halfway into the exhibition when the Tour arrived, announced by the crisp voice of the guide. Surprise surprise, the guide was a pretty librarian the curator Lim Chen Sian ("Chen") who was in the exhibition before the group offered to lead the tour.

I was really lucky. According to NLB website, from September to October, a Tour is scheduled every Saturday - four English Tours, three Chinese tours and one Special Curator's Tour in English. I'm guessing Curator Chen will appear in the last one on October 10, but I caught him on September 5!

There is just too much to absorb from the exhibition. According to Chen, the librarian guides were put through a gruelling 5-6 hours of training to prepare them for the role. As visitors, we get to choose the galleries and exhibits to focus on. Here are the five galleries:
  1. Metropolis: The Growth of Modern Singapore 1965 - Present
  2. The Post War Aftermath 1945 - 1965
  3. The Rise and Fall of a Gilded Age 1900 - 1945
  4. 19th Century Origins 1819 - 1900
  5. Obscure Origins Pre - 1819
Here is the floor plan from the pamphlet, so you have an idea how the exhibition is organized:

Note that the galleries are arranged in reverse chronology. This was Chen's plan and I think he is smart. Lim Chen Sian is an archaeologist by training, but he did not follow the conventional chronological arrangement for galleries.

The two star attractions are the Secret Papers of General Utsunomiya on Operation Nanpo and The Earliest Images of Singapore.

If you like Singapore map and history, do head down to the National Library. The exhibition will end 31 October 2009.

Sep 4, 2009

Beautiful Landscape at Choa Chu Kang

Now, this is a topic which yg and seen this scene that might not have blogged about.

I won't tell you where exactly is this place. If you have served your time, this place should not be unfamiliar.

A gigantic residential complex sprawling a few neighborhoods, the units collectively set a record of having the shortest TOP to En-Bloc time. 15 years to be exact.

Blk 2En-Bloc
Left and right: What was once neighborhood 2 is now empty land. Even the tree and branches do not wish to live.

Pictures were taken in October 2008. As you are reading this, old units are coming under the wrecking ball and new units are built.

Rows and Rows
These are some of the smallest units around. I wonder who live inside them.

This shall be my blog contribution for the 7th month.

See more places. Live more life.

This was not meant to be a quiz, but it somehow turned out that way. As requested by Chun See, here's a map of the place. Don't be misled by the crosshair, the location should be beside the cemetery office. But weird, my photo shows the street sign as 'Chinese Cemetery Path 7', but there is no such road in the street directory! I'm spooked! Maybe I'm seeing double during the 7th month, not a good sign.

Perhaps I should throw an ad-hoc quiz this time. Why was I in Choa Chu Kang Cemetery? Not there to ask for 4-D, not there to find a 'good brother' (好兄弟), and of course not there to investigate the soil condition.

Answer will be revealed in a future 'second shot' blog post. Stay tuned. :)

Aug 29, 2009

Where I Stayed in KL (2) - Guesthouse in the Golden Triangle

After kondominium, what's next? We will leave the 19th storey unit in KL suburb and visit the heart of Kuala Lumpur city, where I booked a room for two nights in January 2009. The guesthouse, at Jalan Mesui, is within walking distance to Bukit Bintang, the main shopping belt of KL. The January trip was a shopping extravaganza of sort.

Map of Tiara Guesthouse

(Guesthouse is 500m from nearest monorail at Raja Chulan. The next station to the south is Bukit Bintang, the main shopping belt.)

My guesthouse was a two-storey townhouse, a totally different kind of accommodation from Gurney Height. Even the geography is different:

Jalan Nagasari

(Jalan Nagasari connects Jalan Mesui, where guesthouse is located, to Jalan Raja Chulan, the main road. The walled compound is Hotel Istana, with Jalan Raja Chulan running in the background.)

As you can see, Jalan Nagasari is sloping. So Jalan Mesui is somewhere at the "valley" bottom. I have to trudge up this unavoidable slope to Raja Chulan Monorail everyday. This is definitely a steeper incline than the one at Gurney Height. While Gurney Height rests on a "bukit", this guesthouse lies on lowland.

This is my guesthouse. Yes, the middle one .... without a gate!

Tiara Guesthouse

(Don't know about you, but I feel insecure without a gate. I won't endanger the occupants by revealing whether the front door is locked.)

According to the caretaker, the guesthouse is safe due to the presence of security (or carpark 'jaga') at the opposite building and the crowd in the pub next door. You can see them here.

(A pub, yeah, so it can get noisy at night. You heard that.)

The caretaker can vouch for safety inside the guesthouse, but that didn't allay my fear walking back from Bukit Bintang one night. The street is pretty desolated and crowds stay indoor (guesthouse, sarabat? stalls, pubs etc.), not out. I made a few turns and thought I was lost. I panicked seeing the occasional man 'following' me.

(This is Malaysia after all and even locals do not sing praise of Kuala Lumpur. My fertile imagination warns me gang fights and gang rape mass sodomy may happen along these desolated streets.)

Finally, my single room for RM 55. Unlike my room at Gurney Height, this one has air-con, but no window or wardrobe. There is an extra cushion too.

My Single Room at Tiara Guesthouse

Rate is inclusive of breakfast and towels. Exclude them and you pay only RM 50.

(I should have paid only RM 2 more for the towels, i.e. 50 + 2 = 52. I was expecting the staff to prepare scrambled eggs and sausage a decent breakfast for me. Unfortunately the staff with good culinary skills wasn't around that morning and I had to make do with a 'tabao' breakfast. So they bought nasi lemak and prepared a small banana for me. The nasi lemak was too spicy and unpalatable for my taste. It was my longest breakfast in a while.)

The townhouse has 13 air-conditioned rooms and 5 bathrooms with hot water shower. The 'highlight' (for me) got to be the bathroom "open to the sky". It is true. They have this bathroom "where guests can see the beautiful sky in the city centre".

(I must be too distraught to take a picture after seeing a building with the sky. There I was, in the bathroom, totally uncovered, looking up and saw a building at the edge of the uncovered roof. Ladies beware. If you can see 'em, they can see you too.)

To quote the website, this is "an experience not to be missed". Haha.

Aug 24, 2009

Where I Stayed in KL (1) - Kondominium with Superb View of KL Skyline

My zest for historical and urban adventure finally took me beyond the shores of Singapore. Unlike typical backpackers, I travelled alone because my decidedly weird interest and orientation (yg commented I'm young but think old) made it hard to find a partner in crime. So from January 2009, I have designed, planned and executed a couple of 'missions' to Malaysia (Malaysia because you go regional first before you go international right?). These were shoestring missions because Second Shot's modus operandi for missions is - cheap transport, cheap room, cheap food. No money, no honey. No Hyatts or Hiltons.

(Cheap here has no negative connotation and simply means the subject is affordable to the author who derives pleasure from it, i.e. most bang for the buck. I mean sensory, intellectual and spiritual pleasure. Not physical banging carnal pleasure.)

This August, I gave NDP a miss and was in Kuala Lumpur (KL) during the long weekend. I was spared missed the pledge at 8:22pm and the chance to showcase my solidarity and unity with other Singaporeans. How unfortunate fortunate because I was enjoying my dinner and the free wireless with my paperweight in a quiet cafe at one of KL's largest shopping malls. In fact, I was having an email conversation with Peter when the pledge was read. Records show I replied his email at 8:24pm.

Back to cheap room. What can you get for RM45 a night? I got this:

Night View from KL Retreat

Absolutely mesmerizing. KL city skyline glowing in the distance and nice suburb houses littered along a brightly lit but unbusy road. Away from congestion and pollution, the din and fast-moving lifestyle of city dwellers, I began to savour KL the city from my open window in the suburb. Alone in the room and lost in thoughts, I didn't even notice the soft country breeze blowing gently. For that fleeting moment, I wished I had a Chardonnay.

(In the picture, the bright phallus-like object is the famed Petronas Tower. Look for the horizontal lightstick object near the top left edge, that's their MRT Station.)

Day and night, the view is stunning. So this is KL to me:

Day and Night View from KL Retreat

(From top to bottom, pictures taken (on three different days) at 7:02am, 7:18am, 8:17am and 10:44pm respectively. I have taken up Victor's challenge with a fourth shot.)

That moment in the room was indeed fleeting. The caretaker came back shortly after.

Huh .... an intruder in my room?! No lah, he was really the caretaker and I was actually in the living room of the condominium unit. I arrived at around 10:40pm on my first night in KL. While he was off retrieving my room keys, I took a shot of the KL city skyline.

So back to our original question. What can you get for RM45 a night? You won't find the answer (read: photo) in their website. Only the more glamorous packages are advertised. Obviously mine was not. I got this:

Single Room at KL Retreat

You won't see the aircon because there was none. You won't see the fan because even though it was there, I think it is 'unglam' to include it - a standing fan - in the composition.

(The RM45 package includes body and face towels and unlimited use of a shared bathroom. The room is spartan, with only a bed and wardrobe. The window is hidden by the nice flowery curtain and protected by mosquito mesh. This single room faces the common corridor and the lift.)

Welcome to Gurney Heights Kondominium!

Sunrise at KL Retreat

(I have omitted the name of the 'guesthouse' because they never paid me to be their reviewer and for the free advertising. I take this to mean I can write good and bad things about the place. Enjoy the photos - above is silhouette of the kondominium at sunrise.)

When I think 'condominium', the swimming pool immediately comes to mind. Here is the pool in Gurney Heights:

KL Retreat and Pool

Excellent! This can rival even yg's famous photo of Kallang River Walk that was much admired by Chun See.

(You know, a still pond pool is indication of a non-working pump which means water is not continuously filtered. Apparently the swimming pool had been 'under maintenance' for some time.)

Next comes the facilities. No, I don't think I skipped the sauna and I can't imagine how the gym will look like if there is one.

Facilities at Gurney Heights
From left to right,
1. Colorful playground in a 'drabby' condominium.
2. Business Center. Opens daily from 12pm to 12am. Internet at RM3 for 30 minutes.
3. Interior of Business Center.
4. Swimming pool from a vantage point - some landscape rocks if I remember correctly.
5. 24 hours Indian 'restoran' and mini-mart beside.

These facilities are located on the 5th floor. My unit is on the 19th floor. No babes were swimming or sun-tanning. Anyway the pool is not visible from my unit which, luckily, faces the KL skyline. Some units indeed face the pool - how depressing.

I will blog about this Indian restaurant in future. Shiok, so you hear only positive comments.

You may want to give the facilities a miss, but you can't ignore the lift/ground lobby and the guardhouse/gate that you walk past everyday:

Gurney Heights Kondominium
Clockwise from top left,
1. Lift lobby. Taken at 5th floor, where there is access to the open area with the facilities. This explains the reflected sunlight on the lift door. My most vivid memory of the 19th floor lift lobby - it was almost pitch dark one night when I got back.
2. Ground lobby.
3 and 4. Guardhouse at main gate.

The world outside holds more attraction so how conveniently located is the condo to the nearest public transport?

For starters, the condo encourages pre-travelling workout because the main gate is located on top of a slope. So every morning, I do my warm-up by going 'up the hill' and when I get back at night, I do my cool-down by going 'down the slope'. It helps that the air is cooling at night.

(Look at the map below carefully. You see a main road from bottom left meeting another one from bottom right at the cross-junction where Block D (my block) is located. They are both 'Jalan Keramat'. Gurney Heights is at Jalan Bukit Keramat (emphasis mine). You get the idea.)

Map of Gurney Heights

There are two LRT Stations in the vicinity of Gurney Heights. The guesthouse website recommends Damai (bottom left). I don't recommend it. From the map, don't you think Dato Keramat Station (bottom right) is nearer to Gurney Heights? On my arrival night, I tried their recommendation and didn't like it. On exit at Damai, you actually walk back along Jalan Datuk Keramat then forward along Jalan Keramat. I don't like the idea of regressing, furthermore that stretch of Jalan Keramat has too many side roads. You don't see a single side road along Jalan Keramat to Dato Keramat Station.

What I like about Gurney Heights is its suburb location that is only three LRT stations away from KLCC/Petronas Twin Tower, which means you are not far from the 'center of action' at KL's Golden Triangle. But the best part has to be the sight along Jalan Keramat to Dato Keramat Station. A very suburb feeling that I could not experience in Singapore or even downtown KL:

Jalan Keramat
Clockwise from top left,
1. Char Koey Teow stall. I think their version of our Char Kway Teow?
2. The school near Dato Keramat Station. Together with the mosque, prominent landmarks at the fork junction and navigational sight posts to Gurney Heights. One night, I keh-kiang and chose the right (read: wrong) fork to Jalan Keramat Dalam.
3. Provision shop in a zinc-roofed building.
4. Near Dato Keramat Station. LRT viaduct in the background. A pasar across the road.
5. I think their neighborhood pasar at Dato Keramat. Condominiums in the background.
6. Bus terminal below Dato Keramat Station with RapidKL T307.

Also I rate my 'guesthouse' pretty decent in terms of cleanliness and facilities. The owner has two units on different floors and I got the one above the caretaker. The living room, with an attached balcony, is air-conditioned with TV and sofa. There is a dining table for communal meals and a fridge in the kitchen. The spacious bathroom has a powerful shower and dummy-proof water heater. Down at the caretaker's unit, there is also free internet access - you can use their desktop or just ask for the wireless password.

(I took a video of my unit. Opps, I forgot the bathroom and kitchen but hey, you can see the KL skyline from the balcony. )

For RM45, I got them all.

Aug 16, 2009

Second Shot @ Orchard Central: Then & Now Photo Exhibition

Orchard Central - Then & Now Photo Exhibition

I visited Orchard Central on Saturday to check out this new shopping mall as well as the "My Life: Then & Now" photo exhibition organized by TODAY newspaper. The 50 best entries were showcased, out of over 900.

Here is the contest:

Here are the top three entries:

Orchard Central - Then & Now Top Three Entries

I must say the grand winner is really creative in his choice of presentation. I read in the news he is a designer. He is Kendrick Wong and goes by the nick redmonsoon in cyberspace. You can read his flickr here and how he composed the winning shot here. Congratulations Kendrick!

Here are the 'second shot' related entries, not in order of merit:

Orchard Central - Then & Now Second Shot Entries

Here is one photo I find outstanding because of its historical value. It shows a flooded Newton Circus in 1969. How many can recognize the place if this is a quiz? :)

Orchard Central - Then & Now Flooded Newton Circus

Here is another one, showing a flooded rural area in Pasir Panjang. A flood brings inconvenience (see above) but somehow these kids enjoyed themselves! From the contestant - Us kids loved to splash in the murky water, despite the occasional "floating objects" passing by. Eh, I hope the floating objects are at most animal carcasses and not human corpses. (Update: this received a special mention during the National Day Rally)

Orchard Central - Then & Now Flooded Children at High Tide

Here is one I find cute. From two pretty ladies, we now have two old fogies. I guess they are now attractive in other ways - like their storytelling abilities and culinary skills.

Orchard Central - Then & Now Grand Aunts

These and other entries are available for public viewing in the Today gallery. But the gallery, broken up into 24 pages, takes a while to load even the thumbnails because the photos are preloaded as well. I've compiled all 24 pages into 1 mosaic so it is now easier to view all the thumbnails. Find a photo you like from the mosaic and go straight to the gallery page to download. I realize Mediacorp uses Silverlight for the gallery. Silverlight is a technology similar to Flash but because it is still not as pervasive as Flash, your browser may not have it and it will prompt you for installation.

Then & Now Gallery

The exhibition will run from Aug 9-21 at level one, Orchard Central. If you are interested, do note it is just inside the entrance from Killiney Road. Do not be like me - entered Orchard Central from Orchard Road entrance, searched high and low from 1st to 8th floor, then realized it is at the Killiney Road side entrance of 1st floor.