Friday, October 03, 2008

a sip of autumn - rangoon road

It was in October, a Sunday morning last year, along Rangoon Road hunting for the bak kut teh - 肉骨茶 - rougu cha - shop made in-famous by the visit of HKG governor , I chanced upon this row of un-occupied houses.

Perhaps the clear blue sky and the bright morning sunlight did the tick of enhancing the old charm of these houses, and brought about a mosaic of colors. Moreover, the thin cluster of bamboo trees in front of the yellow house embellished the scene with a classic poetic look. For a while I thought autumn was in air, even in tropical Singapore!

Well, these old houses – the so named Straits town house or the Straits shop houses- is old charm Singapore, which I always find endearing, and uniquely of this part of the world. Pockets of them are still found on the island and whenever I see them in their best of light in the Sunday morning or evening walks, I will never failure to whip our my camera, and capture their beauty.

A year has passed since, & time to go for another sip of the tea and tuck in to the succulently fragrant pork ribs dip in deep dark sauce. And check it out if the autumn scenery is still there.

Considering that the area is a hot spot for boutique apartments, perhaps these houses being not under heritage protection should be razed to the ground by now, and the piece of autumn in the tropics is forever memory.

Well, perhaps not, since the dizzying prediction of the SGX hitting a 4K point by that year end, it has gone on a free slide with the pandemic from the america. That, should save the autumn sonata for a while ..

Reference -

a ) Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut teh - 黄亚细肉骨茶


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

a postcard from beijing

The postcard was stamped 1984.09.30,北京(Beijing). It had a brief message written in Japanese which reads:


Genki desu.
Kokkeisetu ga tanoshimi!
10/30 Pekin nite
Utan koto

I’m fine.
Looking forward to the National Day Celebration
10/30, in Beijing
From Utan,

In the haste of writing the postcard, he had mistaken it to be already in Oct, and had signed it off as 10/30 or Oct 30. For the next day was Oct 1, China’s 35th National Day Celebration.

Utan was his self-styled name that he gave himself. We were in the same research laboratory at university in Japan, and he was one of the closer friends among the lab mates. He was an undergraduate then, and I was towards the final year of my study when he joined the lab.

Utan was hairy for Japanese, and as he was coaching tennis, he was tanned and had a dark complexion. Coupled with his longish facial structure, and the fact that I was from the south where Orang Utan is a native; he jokingly gave himself this pet name. When I left Japan in the April of 1984, we continued to correspond for some years, sending each other festive greeting cards, and he would sign off with this pet name.

In that year, Utan was in the contingent of 3,000 Japanese youth. The invitation to the Japanese was extended by the President of China, Hu Yaobang,, when he was on a state visit to Japan in 1983, and with the intent of promoting understanding and friendship between the two nations.

The 1984 National Day celebration was a historic event, as it was the first major National Day celebration after the end of the Cultural Revolution. . Deng Xiaoping’s policy of reform and opening up – 改革开放- gaige kaifang - was into it’s 6th year, and the country was making steady but careful steps into market socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The National Day celebration of that year was a milestone, and a coming out party of sort to put aside the self-isolation policy of the old communist regime and to bury the misery of 10 years of internal fights – 无产阶级文化大革命 – wuchanjiejie wenhua dageming - of the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution.

It’s 24 years, since this postcard came from Beijing, and this is the 30th year of the reform policy. Needless to say more, the face of China has changed beyond recognition, and the geo-political order East Asia, has undergone a silent transformation.

In the early 1980/s, the books on the shelves were - Ezra Vogel, Japan as Number One (written in 1979) , and ‘China, Alive in the Bitter Sea – by Fox Butterfield (1982). These were the two books I remember reading during my student years in Japan.

Fast forward to 2008 - how the world has changed. It is no less a year to remember with news out of Beijing.

Hardly has the warmth of the torch cooled off, with the promise of - one world one dream, 一个世界, 一个梦想 – yigezhijie, yigemengxiang - from the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the world suddenly found itself in the melamine nightmare.

However, for Utan, it started much earlier in Japan – it was with the gyoza - 饺子- jiaozi -(flour dumplings with filling such as minced meat with vegetables), contaminated with insecticide.

Perhaps Utan could relate it well to what they have go thro too, but on ten fold the scale and affecting not only the country but the world at large, with the Tokyo Olympics of 1964, it came with the Minamata.

Well, perhaps that's part of the vicissitudes of - the rise of a nation – just as in life ...

Postscript -

1. Oct 1 - it’s a Hari Raya Puasa holiday in the Lion City.

The local newspaper has an analogy that - what the Beijing 2008 Olympics had done to Beijing, the F1 Grand Prix has equally done to the city state, i.e the prestige that it brought. The night race has transformed the city literary overnight in the eyes of the world is the jewel in the F1 crown that rivals Monaco!

Was it perhaps to justify for the investment poured in to get the venue ready, despite news of financial gloom and doom.

Reference :

1. Disclosing the "1984 secret"

The Beijing News (Chinese): Disclosing the secrets of 3,000 Japanese young people visiting China in 1984

During Hu Yaobang's 1983 state visit to Japan, he invited 3,000 young Japanese to visit China. The Beijing News looks back at that visit and reveals that one-third of those visitors now head Sino-Japanese Friendship Associations

2. Minamata disease