Saturday, May 30, 2009

Read: Go put your strengths to work

I have just finished reading the book titled Go put your strength to work written by Marcus Buckingham a few days ago.

This is quite an insightful read, and I hope that with time to come, I could learn to identify what my strengths are and spend more time contributing to this world by actively using my strengths.

This online site gives a fairly concise summary of what one will learn by reading the book:

The examples in the book are thoughtfully chosen to demonstrate the concepts. It's quite a thoughtful read for anyone who wants to learn how to better put his or her strengths to work.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A break from the city: Farms in Northwestern Singapre

17 May 2009: Dear Eastcoastlife very generously and graciously treated me to a delicious lunch after our visit to Kampong Lorong Buangkok.

After the lunch, we headed for the farms in the Northwestern part of Singapore. This website of the Kranji Countryside Association ( offers a glimpse of the recreational and educational value of the farms in the Kranji countryside.

Of particular interest to me was that the ignorant part of me finally realised that the dragon-fruits that I know of are actually fruits of specific cactus species. Such fruits are known as pitaya. Eastcoastlife pointed me to a farm that cultivates a species of cactus plant that bore the dragon-fruits. I was fascinated simply to see dragon-fruits bearing cactus plants!

The cactus that bears the dragon-fruit.

A dragon-fruit.

One of the farms that we had visited was the Hay Dairies Farm. This farm currently produces fresh goat milk for sale. Visitors could have a chance to view the milking demonstrations from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the morning. Due to imposed restrictions, we were not allowed to walk too close to the goats during that visit. I was rather intrigued how the goats have learnt to drink from man-made taps.

The last farm that we visited for that day was Bollywood Veggies Singapore. Eastcoastlife pointed me to the signboards that were placed outside the farm. Don't they look simple and pleasing?

Many different kinds of plants were being grown in Bollywood Veggies Singapore. Entry to this farm is $2 per person. One gets to view plants such as banana, fig, lemon grass, padi, papaya, rambutan and lots more. The Poison Ivy Bistro in the farm serves various food. The vegetables served at the Bistro are gathered fresh from the Bollywood Veggies Singapore farm.

My words of appreciation to Eastcoastlife and her husband for taking the time and thoughts to accompany me to a few of the farms in the Kranji countryside area. The visits to the farms helped me get close to the land. It was a refreshing break from my usual tours of the Singapore city.

For the folks who would like to find out how to visit these farms using public transport, you would be pleased to know that there is a shuttle bus service that is known as the Kranji Express that will operate daily to take visitors to the Kranji Countryside from Kranji MRT station. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A break from the city: Kampong Lorong Buangkok

Eastcoastlife has a most creative way to celebrate yours truly's birthday, and that was to take yours truly to a kampong (village) and farms in the rural area of Singapore. It was a refreshing break from city life for yours truly. Many thanks to Eastcoastlife and her husband for their time and thoughtfulness.

17 May 2009: For the special trip to the rural parts of Singapore, we visited Kampong Lorong Buangkok first.

This village is possibly the last surviving village on the main island of Singapore. Blogger, Victor Koo, wrote a blog-post on Kampong Lorong Buangkok quite a while ago.

The weather was bright and sunny that day. It may not be a kind weather for folks who would prefer shade and breeze. However, it was a great day for photography.

The village, was possibly a Malay village from the structure of most of the houses in the village. At the very least, when I showed the photos that I had taken that day to my maternal grandmother, she claimed that the houses were of the Malays. To better appreciate how is it that there could be different kinds of villages, I would suggest that readers please read More than 1 type of kampong in Singapore found on the blog Good Morning Yesterday. Frankly speaking, yours truly would need quite a bit of help to tell the difference between a Malay village and a Chinese village. How does one do so with mastery?

I have made a couple of observations while I was at Kampong Lorong Buangkok. There was a sense of community spirit in the community. I saw for myself how one of the families shared part of its food with another family which is living in the same village. It appeared to me that to some extent, people look out for each other.

I also took note that although internet access was possibly not easily available in the village, the fresh air and the large spaces of land in the village probably make up for the lack of easy access to modern-day convenience. The plants in the village acted like air-conditioners to help make the environment a little more cool and less hot.

While I was at Kampong Lorong Buangkok, Eastcoastlife pointed me to two of the houses which looked relatively new. I wonder how much it would take to build and rent a simple house there?

Life itself can be simple.

For the folks who could do a bit of walking, Kampong Lorong Buangkok is within walking distance from Gerald Drive. One could alight at the bus-stop along Yio Chu Kang Road, opposite the Church of St Vincent de Paul. Afterwhich, take a relatively leisure walk into Gerald Drive. Lorong Buangkok is within walking distance from Gerald Drive. Bus services 70, 103 and 854 ply along this stretch of Yio Chu Kang Road. Look below for a snapshot of the bus-stop to alight at in order to walk to Kampong Lorong Buangkok.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Black Earth Art Museum

Earlier this month, I was celebrating Eastcoastlife's birthday along East Coast Road. Eastcoastlife very graciously and kindly took time to accompany to a nearby museum that was located in a red building.

I was quite into visiting museum and was curious to take a look at that museum which I have never visited before. Located at 352 Joo Chiat Road, the Black Earth Art Museum is housed in a building whose walls are painted red. That certainly will catch the attention of any passerby. It looked like a boutique hotel initially, but if one could just enter, one finds himself/herself in a non-commerical art gallery.

I learnt from Eastcoastlife and this blog named Void Deck that the Black Earth Art Museum is opened by the owner of Ho Kee Pau.

The gallery is simple and unpretentious. While I felt that there was still a limited number of art works on display at the Black Earth Art Museum, the far-sighted vision of supporting the arts scene in Singapore is definitely worth commending.

The Black Earth Art Museum is opened from Tuesdays to Sundays, from noon to 9 p.m.

Friday, May 15, 2009

My recent sketching trip

11 May 2009, Mon: One of my good friends graciously went along with me to do some sketching. I realised I actually did not do any sketch at all on my sketch book for the year of 2008! I do remember carrying my sketch book out in the year 2008 on a few occasions but I had end up not doing any sketch at all last year.

Anyway, I am pleased to share that I was in the inspiration to sketch when I was out on my recent sketching trip on 11 May 2009. I did two sketches that day. In this post, I shall share one of the sketches that I had done that day. I sketched it from Esplanade Promenade.

Many thanks to my friend for accompanying me on my sketching trip and for her generous treat to a post-birthday dinner. She even did a lovely sketch for me as a gift! All these thoughtfully gestures are greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Read: First, Break All the Rules

I was reading First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

In short, it is a book about how the best managers handle employees. I was not drawn to read it from a management's point of view. I had picked up the book in hope to learn how I could better manage myself as an individual.

I am particularly drawn to the concept that great managers often follow this insight:

"People don't change that much
Don't waste time trying to put in what was left out.
Try to draw out what was left in..."

In short, the book discusses how great managers would select an employee for talent rather than for skills and experience; how they would define the right outcomes; how they would motivate people; and develop people.

It took me close to two weeks to finish reading this book, yet it was quite an insightful read.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A fairly new local walking tour to check out

Friends who know me well enough would have realised that I have a liking to tour Singapore. Is there so much to visit in Singapore? Why not? There is still a lot to learn about Singapore even if many things seem to be so familiar already (that we could take for granted).

On my birthday recently, I went for a walking tour by the Society of Tourist Guide. The tour was named Hainan Kopi Tales. The key reason to go for this walking tour is that I am a Hainanese, and in fact, my parents and grandparents are too. Yet I realised I need to know a bit more, so I decided to go for the tour.

Middle Road

It gave me a better appreciation of the lives of the Hainanese immigrants who came to Singapore before the 1960s. After the tour, I have learnt more about the context that have led people to refer Purvis Street as The Second Street of the Hainanese. Then, the connotations that my elders had used to refer to some parts of Singapore starts to make more sense.

Singapore Hainan Hwee Kuan

The Singapore Hainan Hwee Kuan (Hainan Clan Association) is an essential place to visit for such a walking tour that is about the Hainanese community in Singapore. Admittedly, I had visited it a few times, and on one occasion, I had visited it while I was on another walking tour in Mandarin led by Mr Han Tan Juan. Anyway, inside the Singapore Hainan Hwee Kuan is a Chinese temple that is dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea.

According to a source from SingaporeInfopedia, this Chinese temple, as well as the clan associaton, was "first built in 1857 in three adjoining shophouses at No. 6 Malabar Street. It moved to its present location along Beach Road in 1878 and later underwent renovations in 1963." As best as I could make out from another SingaporeInfopedia article, Malabar Street connects Middle Road and Malay Street.

Seah Street

Purvis Street

By the way, the famous cocktail, Singapore Sling, was concocted by a Hainanese, Ngiam Tong Boon, who was the bartender at Raffles Hotel's Long Bar. I suppose while the Hainanese is considered a minority Chinese dialect group in Singapore, they contribute in their own ways too.

Raffles Hotel

Walking tours like Hainan Kopi Tales give one a deeper appreciation to Singapore and the various communities living in Singapore. I have learnt a couple of interesting things about the Hainanese community after the tour.

At the same time, it made me realised that I should actually find time to talk with my maternal grandmother and my elders who are Hainanese to learn about the Hainanese culture because there is no better way to learn about the culture than to learn it directly from the people who actually practised it.

Information about the walking tour, Hainan Kopi Tales, can be found on: Advanced booking to the tour is required.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Music delights

On 26 Apr 2009, I visited the Singapore Botanic Gardens to catch an outdoor concert performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO). The concert is sponsored by CIMB in celebration of the SSO's 30th birthday.

Earlier in Apr 2009, I had attended an outdoor concert by the Singapore Chinese Orhcestra at the same venue, and it was very clear that there was more audience attending the concert by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. I wonder if it was due to the better weather or the better publicity. Whatever it is, it is a joy to be out in the open-air to listen to music. Many of the members of the audience brought along champagne and food to have a picnic in the park while listening to the concert.

There will be another concert at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, at the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage. Details are as follow:

17 May 2009 (Sunday)

4.45 p.m. - 5.30 p.m.
Philharmonic Youth Winds
Adrian Chiang conductor

6.15pm - 7.15pm
Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Lim Yau conductor
GERSHWIN - An American in Paris
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS - Fantasia on Greensleeves
IRVING BERLIN - A Dance Tribute to Irving Berlin
MASCAGNI - Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana
KANDER, JOHN - Chicago (from the film “Chicago”)
TCHAIKOVSKY - 1812 Overture, Op. 49

Admission is free.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A window to Europe's rich culture: The European Union Film Festival

Photo courtesy of Eastcoastlife.

I had the honour to watch a preview of a Swedish film, Wolf, directed by Daniel Alfredson on 29 Apr 2009 (Wed) at the Swedish Embassy Residence. Wolf is one of the films that will be featured during the 19th European Union Film Festival. The festival will be held from 7 May to 17 May 2009 at Golden Village VivoCity.

Wolf is a film that is scripted by Swedish author Kerstin Ekman. In this film, other than getting a brief view of the vast landscapes of Northern Sweden, audience could be offered a glimpse to the language, culture and way of life of the Sami, who are the indigenous people of Northern Europe. I learnt that a large part of the Sami's culture involves the herding of reindeer. Two days after watching the film, I found a website that gives an introduction to the Sami people and found myself reading about the Sami people's way of life. That is possibly an example of how films can be a platform to encourage the learning of another culture.

Other than having to awe at the vast and beautiful landscapes of snowy Northern Sweden, I have learnt a little more about Sweden through the film. Thanks to this film did I get to know that the killing of the wolf is illegal in Sweden. Wolf poaching in Sweden is a crime that is punishable by up to four years in prison. This is because the wolf is considered one of the endangered species in Sweden.

While subtle, tension and conflicts can be fairly easily identified in Wolf. Essentially, as the synopsis to the film has suggested, Wolf shows the conflict between tradition and modern-day society. I would see that these tensions and conflicts are rather universal. They do not simply confine themselves to the Swedish society.

When it would have been more expected for the 18-years-old male character in the film to be interested in computer games and modern-day entertainment, he was instead interested in the reindeers, the traditional way of life for the Sami. Modern needs suggest that the 18-years-old male character should go to school to receive formal education yet his interest is in taking care of the reindeer. It makes me wonder, should we as individuals put the needs of the modern society before our own, or should we follow what our hearts lead us to?

At a more macro level, I would see that there is an inherent conflict between the legislation and the Sami's herding of reindeer. Like any herdsman, the natural instincts would be to protect one's herd from predators. Yet again, to kill the wolf, which is the predator in this film, is an offence in Sweden. Reconciliation seems to be an act requiring delicate balancing. At times, it seems that something has to be sacrificed as a result of the conflict.

If you would like to find out what had been sacrificed in this story, it may help to watch this film at the upcoming European Union Film Festival. It was touching for me to witness how one can make sacrifices for another human being.


In the meantime, for anyone in Singapore who would like to have a glimpse of Europe's rich culture, the European Union Film Festival will be an event that should not be missed. The film festival showcases critically acclaimed films from European countries such as Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and more. For more information, please visit the following websites:

European Union Film Festival
ENCORE! The European Season in Singapore

Tickets are available at S$10 at GV VivoCity box office, online at and at AXN stations islandwide.

All movies are subtitled in English.

Last but not the least, my words of appreciation to the Embassy of Sweden for organising the private movie preview of Wolf and to Eastcoastlife for making it possible for me to attend the event. Eastcoastlife has blogged about the 19th European Film Festival right on her blog. Do take a read of it.

It happens to be Eastcoastlife's birthday today, and I would like to wish her Happy Birthday here. Cheers.