Tag Archives: Singapore

Gardens by the Bay

Some of you came by and left happy birthday wishes last week.  I was not able to immediately reply because I was in neighboring Singapore and was too skinflint to spring for the cost of wifi.  Nevertheless, thanks for the messages which I appreciated even though I don’t normally observe that day in any special manner.  ( I am still annoyed and have been for many years that I can no longer claim to be an ‘irresponsible’ teenager).

Anyway, I spent most of my birthday on the open road, driving to Singapore.  However, the point of this post is to share with you my experiences at one of Singapore’s more recent attractions, the Gardens by the Bay.

The place is located on reclaimed land within a stone throw away from the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel (well, it’s a stone throw if Hercules was doing the throwing).  There you will find open gardens showcasing different types of flora to which admission is free and is a great place to walk around and get some serenity in the midst of bustling Singapore (avoid school holidays and public holidays though when the people throng through like sardine schools).

However, there are also the very spectacular Supertrees.  These are tall 25 -50 m structures shaped like trees with a spreading canopy but most special of all is that vegetation has been encouraged to grow on the structure creating a natural green and living wall.  At night, the Supertree Grove is lit up and twice a night a very beautiful light show is performed.  The Supertrees are also linked by a walkway that allows you to take in the Supertrees and the view of the gardens from several storeys up.  These Supertrees alone are probably worth making the trip to the Gardens.

However, there are two enormous greenhouse like domes; the Flower Dome and the Cloud Dome.  The former is basically a large climate controlled greenhouse for plants including arid desert plants and flowers.  When I was there, the focus was on orchids.

The Cloud Dome is a massive structure that  houses a huge man-made hill complete with waterfall.  The uniqueness is that the whole structure houses plants normally found in tropical cloud forests.  Apart from the spray from the waterfall, the dome creates its own mist cloud every few hours to keep the riot of vegetation happy.  It is quite the sight.  Walkways bring you in and out of the structure so that you can get views of it from a distance, up close, from above, by its side and from below and every other possible view.

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I hope you enjoyed the photos.  It is a great place although the price of admission to the two domes seemed a little bit steep and although the cloud forest dome was very stunning, I found the variety of plants there more limited than I had expected.  As for the Flower Dome, I have seen far more impressive floral displays elsewhere.

So, overall, I think it is worth a visit especially for the Supertrees.  For the rest, I hope they will work at improving it further.

City of Lions and Merlions

Funny thing.  When I first went to the United Kingdom to study back in 1978, Malaysia was still relatively not well known internationally.  When I told people that I was from Malaysia, I got all kind of replies;

“Is that an island in the Pacific?”

“Is it a real country?”

“Is that part of Singapore?”

It kind of upset me that Singapore was much better known despite really being just a tiny island at the tip of the much larger Peninsular of Malaya.  However, I got the most signs of comprehension when I told them that Malaysia was just north of Singapore.

However, back in the 3rd century AD, it was the Malay Peninsula that was ascendant and Singapore was just a backwater.  A 3rd century Chinese written record appears to refer to Singapore as the island of Púluōzhōng (蒲羅中), which was probably a transliteration of the Malay Pulau Ujong, “island at the end” of the Peninsula.

The name Singapore actually is derived from the name “Singapura” which was given to the island in the 13th century AD by a prince of the Srivijaya empire (based from Palembang, Sumatra in what is now Indonesia) who reportedly saw a lion when he landed on the island and therefore named it “Lion City” or Singapura; “singa” being sanskrit for “lion” and “pura” meaning “city”.  In one of the peculiarities of history, the prince was probably mistaken as lions have never been found on the island.  It is most likely that he actually saw a tiger and not a lion.

Anyway, Singapore adopted as its symbol the “Merlion” a mythical creation of a PR company that has a head of a lion and a tail of a fish.  Thus acknowledging its historical link with the lion and its importance as a maritime trading port.

The original Merlion statue was set up at Merlion Park which is located on Marina Bay.  Much development has occurred along Marina Bay and the nearby Singapore River in recent years and the Lone Grey Squirrel risked life and sanity under the hot tropical sun to bring you pictures from the surrounding area.

I  hope you will enjoy them.

The Merlion of Singapore (Merlion Park)
Merlion - Singapore's Mascot
The New Marina Sands Complex
Esplanade - Theaters on the Bay (also affectionately known as the Big Durian)
Multi-racial Meeting Ground
Fat Bird City
Chapel of the Convent of the Infant Jesus - now part of the Chijmes Historic Building Complex

Mad Dogs and Sun Stroked Squirrels

from “http://treesong.org/node/558”
“In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire, to tear their clothes off and perspire.
It’s one of those rules that the biggest fools obey,
Because the sun is far too sultry and one must avoid its ultry-violet ray —
Papalaka-papalaka-papalaka-boo. (That’s natives)
The natives grieve when the white men leave their huts,
Because they’re obviously, absolutely nuts —
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”  
(Noel Coward; 1931)

Mad dogs and Englishmen and so it would seem, stupid, sun stroked, squirrels.

Hi guys, sorry for the short absence.  I was recuperating.  Last Tuesday, I popped down to the neighboring island republic of Singapore and I had a few hours to kill.  So I decided to do a tour of the Marina Bay area including the Theaters on the Bay, Merlion Park, and along the Singapore River all the way to the Clarke Quay.  Basically a number of boat tours are available covering the same area but this skinflint squirrel was happy to walk the entire distance to save paying the USD 29 tour fees besides the entire distance could not have been more than about 4 inches as seen on the tourist map!

And so, in the company of a few mad dogs and a scattering of similarly mad tourists, I went out in the mid-day sun without even a hat or an umbrella.  I had a bottle of water in my backpack but somehow I failed to use it.  Three hours later,  overheated, exhausted and sweat soaked, I managed to stagger into an air-conditioned food court.  I thirstily and rapidly quaffed three large cups of icy cool sweetened  liquids.

That was another mistake.  Suddenly my core body temperature plummeted due to the cold drinks and the action of the air-conditioning on my sweat soaked clothing.  I began shivering and had to go back out it the sun to feel warm.

Basically, I got sun stroked and my body’s temperature regulation system was placed out of whack.  My head throbbed, my muscles ached, I developed a really bad cough and a mouth ulcer and I have been ill for the last few days.

The moral of the story is …..that mad dogs and Englishmen are bad influences on innocent squirrels.

Unburied Nuts from 17th November 2006: Goodnight, Mrs. Legatt

The “Unburied Nuts” series is an unashamed effort to recycle some of my earlier postings when I am too stressed out to create something new to post. This offering is certainly from the earliest period when the Lone Grey Squirrel was not so grey but going through a mid-life crisis anyway. I hope you like it.

As we travel through life, we pick up a lot of junk. Not surprising, I am a bit of a pack rat and will not allow things I collect to be put out for a yard sale without a fight. For me, these are more than just items, they are symbols of my life journey. More than things though, we each meet a whole host of people. Some have been a big influence on our lives while others less so but they all touched our lives and were part of the shaping of who we are and what we believe. Some of them taught us great life truths and yet others got us wondering about life.

Tonight, I find my mind traveling through time and space until I find myself sitting by the bedside of Ms. Legatt. My younger self was a thin insecure teenager who found himself thousands of kilometers away from home in a strange and cold place called Brighton, United Kingdom, so as to have the opportunity to study. Once a week, I took part as a volunteer in a community out reach project. My assignment was to visit shut-ins. These are elderly people who are pretty much bed-ridden or house bound. Food is sent to them by Meals-on-Wheels which are run by other volunteers and they get a visit from the community nurse a few times a week. Very often their only other visitors and social contact was with volunteers like myself.

Brighton Pavillion

The truth was that for many of the community volunteers, visiting shut-ins were the least desirable of assignments. There was always the smell of urine or worse. The rooms or apartments were generally unkept and you might be asked to clean mouldy dishes or throw out the rotting garbage. Many felt that the hour spent there was the most boring way to spend 60 minutes.

Not for me. I was able to ignore the lack of hygiene and cleanliness and perhaps I was also alone in a strange land, I was genuinely able to enjoy the fellowship and because of that I was able to learn quite a lot. So I spent many hours visiting and sharing a cup of tea and a cookie with Ms. Legatt at her bedside. Ms. Legatt was pretty much alone in the world. She had no close family. She was diabetic and bedridden with an amputated leg.

However, we made a connection and in her tales and stories, she was a young girl with the world at her feet. She was thrilled to learn that I was Malaysian. It seemed that she spent the best part of her life traveling in the Far East. She was adventurous for her time. She took on a job with the British Foreign Service and left the dreary British shores soon after the end of the Second World War aboard a warship. Her first port of call was in Singapore where she served in the British Administration and took part in the post war rebuilding. I know many British, like Ms. Legatt, were really carrying out their imperial and colonialist duties. Yet, I believe Malaysians inherited a relatively prosperous and peaceful country at independence and in part it was because of the services and sometimes sacrifice of these servants of the setting Empire. So in all sincerity, I wish to say thank you to all of them.

Ms. Legatt spoke of some girlfriends of like mind and spirit. They made Singapore their playground. They partied and attended all the social events. They rubbed shoulders with high society and my eyes opened wide at some of the adventures and hi-jinks that she related that she sweared involved the crown prince, heir to the Sultanate of Johor.

It was a colorful and exciting life. Ms. Legatt was one of the flowers that shone brightly at the twilight of the Empire in one of the most exotic parts of the world at that time. Somehow she never married, eventually came back to Britain and grew old alone. Somehow she was forgotten.

I remember Ms. Legatt tonight and wonder about my own life. How would I be remembered? All my memories, the victories I celebrate, my loves, my friends, my struggles, my fights, what would they mean when I am old. Who would remember? Who would care? What would my life really count for? Why am I pondering these things? Well, I am about the age where I am due to have a mid-life crisis and as one of my friends is prone to say, “it’s right on time.”

Seriously, I think it is good to take stock of our lives from time to time to see if the things that occupy us, whether it is our work, careers, hobbies, friends, dreams, problems really remain as important against the test of time. As for me, I think you lived a full life, Ms. Legatt and you contributed to shaping a great country. Many may have forgotten but I remember and I enjoyed tea, cookie and friendship. Good night, Ms. Legatt, wherever you are.

Singapore Girl in Blue

Here’s a little insight into my thought processes; What shall I post? –> My last post was “Feeling blue” –> Okay, I’m still not quite out of the blues. –> Need to project a more positive attitude. –> Blue doesn’t have to be bad or sad. –> What is blue and positive? –> Blue accentuated photography (like in previous post) can be beautiful. –> What photo series is both blue and beautiful? Something I like. –> Singapore Girl.

“Singapore Girl — You’re a great way to fly”. This advertisement campaign started in 1972 at the very inception of Singapore International Airlines or SIA. It has been one of the most successful branding exercises in Asia and after 35 years, one of the longest running advertising campaigns. Wonderfully taken and quality photographs of beautiful girls in kebaya with warm, welcoming smiles against fantastic and sometimes fantastical backgrounds were a regular theme and blue was a prominent colour. It won many fans, who like me, collected their postcards and calenders just to admire the photography. “Singapore Girl” would come to mean more than that though and become an icon of both an airline and a country.

The Singapore Girl
The personalization of the Singapore Airlines brand is the mixed male and female cabin crew, where especially the flight stewardesses commonly referred to as Singapore Girls have become very well-known. SIA engaged French haute-couture designer Pierre Balmain at the inauguration of the airline in 1972. He designed a special version of the Malay sarong kebaya as the uniform which later became one of the most recognized signatures of the airline. A very designated and visual part of the entire brand experience.

The Singapore Girl strategy turned out to be a very powerful idea and has become a successful brand icon with an almost mythical status and aura around her. The Singapore Girl encapsulates Asian values and hospitality, and could be described as caring, warm, gentle, elegant and serene. It is a brilliant personification of SIA’s commitment to service and quality excellence. The icon has become so strong that Madame Tussaud’s Museum in London started to display the Singapore Girl in 1994 as the first commercial figure ever.

Singapore Airlines also runs one of the most comprehensive and rigorous training programs for cabin and flight crew in the industry to make sure the SIA brand experience is fully and consistently delivered.

The social status of the Singapore Girl has also reached near-celebrity in Asia. This has allowed Singapore Airlines to be highly selective in the recruiting process for talent which has added further to the strength of the brand icon and the myth around it. “

(Extracted from allaboutbranding.com)

Last month, SIA announced that it was possibly bringing to an end their 35 year relationship with Batey Ads and invited other ad agencies to submit proposals and make bids for the future. This sparked speculation that the “Singapore Girl” may fade into history.

Critics say that “Singapore Girl” has gone on too long, that it is sexist and dated. The image projected of the “sub-servient Asian woman stereotype” is offensive according to several women’s groups.

Supporters, of which there are many, counter by saying that it is actually a celebration of womanhood and represents qualities of warmth and hospitality. They also note the success of the campaign and urge SIA “not to fix what ain’t broke”. When news of the possible change of ad agency was announced, more than 3000 emails from around the world was sent within two days in support of continuing the “Singapore Girl”.

What would be your advice to Singapore Airlines?

Romance at the Speed of Light

Recently, Dave, managed to dig up an old advertisement poster where the Canadian Government tried to encourage women to go west and get married with statements like “anything in skirts stands a chance”. It of course reminded me of how different things are today. Women, for one would not stand for this kind of malarkey. We have all grown more mature as a global culture and are better educated on issues like etiquette, equality, respect and commitment. Yeah, right (sarcasm).In today’s mad rush of living, is there time for love, romance and family? Many people are finding it hard to cope. Some caring governments are once again entering the fray to help out and surely the award for the most “caring” government goes to Singapore.

Singaporean professionals are too busy spending more hours than there are in a day, just to achieve the minimum 5 C’s required to enter the dating game. How are the poor dears ever going to find a match and get married? The super-caring Singapore Government has been in a huff and a puff over the fact that fewer citizens were getting married and many of them later in life. Even when married, the couples were not productive. According to statistics for 2002, Singaporean women give birth to 1.37 babies in a lifetime, down from 1.87 in 1990. Since a replacement level of 2.1 is required to keep a country’s natural population stable, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong elevated baby-making to a national priority. The concern was that the declining fertility rate would lead to economic crisis, increased security risk and political instability.

With admirable determination, the Singaporeans took action on bachelors and bachelorettes. In 1984, the Working Committee on Marriage and Procreation was formed with the task of increasing the birth-rate. Figuring that Singaporeans respond well to financial incentives, they introduced the “baby bonus’ incentives. I do not have figures to show how successful this program was.

This did not solve the issue of fewer and later marriages. Thus the Social Development Unit or SDU was formed which came out with 70 recommendations for increasing baby production. SDU was to succeed where earlier efforts failed because they would tackle issues like dating and matchmaking because as was said earlier, hardworking Singaporeans do not have time for such distractions. SDU’s efforts have earned them the nickname of Single, Desperate and Ugly.

Not swayed by such popular opinion, SDU went on to implement their plan which included compulsory dating courses in the first year of Universit, the “Love Boat Cruises” and the “Love Plane Flights” which include on-board lectures on seduction. The latter two, were subsidized holidays for singles and I believe, if any couple ended up getting married, the fare for the holiday was reimbursed.

Nowadays, Single, Desperate and Ugly hides behind their campaign brand of “Romancing Singapore” which organizes state-sponsored matchmaking events like speed dating (e.g. meet 6 guys/gals in 60 minutes), rock climbing for couples (an opportunity to get sweaty), love boat river race and midnight walks, just to name a few.

SDU produced an official eight-page guidebook called “When Boy Meets Girl! The Chemistry Guide” which teaches busy engineers and IT nerds how to court a girl, where to go, and what to do on a date.
Don’t you hate it when
the chemistry’s all wrong?
Singapore even has its own celebrity love guru, Dr. Wei, who also is known as Dr. Love. Dr. Love runs love cruises, Baby Planing Camps and was planning in 2004 to do an “edutainment” reality TV show called “Dr. Love’s Super Baby-Making Show”. This never materialized, perhaps because it went too far for “prudish” officials, despite Dr. Love’s assurance that it would be done very clinically. Hmmm, very romantic indeed.And has all this government plotting worked? In 2003, Durex did a sexual habits survey amongst 34 nations and Singapore ranked last for the second consecutive time. With Singaporeans reported having sex less than 8 times per month on average or 96 times per year. For the curious, it was the Hungarians, fortified with spicy paprika that took first place with 152 rolls in the hay per year.

Alas, so sad to see the fine efforts of Single Desperate and Ugly produce such poor results. Perhaps the expert readers in the blogosphere can give some advice on how we can avoid a movie entitled, “The Last of the Singaporeans”.

“I am a Satire, yes?”