Category: Family

Ah Boys to Men OR Ah Pete to Man? GV Great Movie Race…

By Aussie Pete, December 2, 2012 9:52 pm

Source: Aussie Pete

November 24th, 2012, will go down as a memorable day for a variety of reasons… it was the day that Sammi and I competed as a team in the GV (Golden Village) Great Movie Race, as well as the day that I competed for the screaming fans with the cast of ‘Ah Boys to Men’ and it was also the day that I learned that I cannot trust someone who says, “it’s not that physical – looking at everybody here, it won’t be too challenging”.

Husband and Wife Team - Before The Sweating Started

Husband and Wife Team - Before The Sweating Started

 
Aussie Pete Fans? Or are the there for 'Ah Boys to Men'?

Aussie Pete Fans? Or are the there for 'Ah Boys to Men'?



All pictures in this article are courtesy of GV and OMY. The video is courtsey of OMY (watch the vodcast at the bottom of this article).

It was a bright Saturday afternoon when Golden Village (GV) held its first movie-themed race, known as “The Great Movie Race” at City Square Mall. The race was part of the opening of the 11th Golden Village multiplex at the mall.

My wife Sammi (Zheng Liang) and I formed the OMY media team (aptly named “Aussie Pete Dot Com”) and were the tenth team of finalists competing on the day. Although we didn’t win, we certainly learned all about our stamina limits in this ‘Amazing Race’ style competition, which proved much more physical than intellectual.

Team 'Aussie Pete Dot Com'

Team 'Aussie Pete Dot Com'



The other finalists were shortlisted from over 500 participants to compete in various tasks, including running 2.4 kilometers on a treadmill, guessing ice-cream flavours, a tug-of-war, archery and even testing ourselves in a karaoke version of ‘Don’t forget the lyrics’.

The various pitstops wera all based around movie themes – well-known box-office hits such as “Indiana Jones”, “Ice Age”, “Ah Boys to Men”, “The Hunger Games”, “Sherlock Holmes” and many others.

Sammi and I were actually extremely competitive (we smashed the poor girls who came up against us in the tug of war – their combined weight was probably 20kg less than my individual mass), and more than once my wife proved that she is definitely the ‘better half’ by out-performing me – surprisingly, she ran much further and more efficiently than me in the 2.4km run and was the only one in our team who knew the words to Elton John’s smash hit, ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’.

Sammi beat me hands down in the Karaoke 'Don't forget the Lyrics'

Sammi beat me hands down in the Karaoke 'Don't forget the Lyrics'

 

The problem for us kicked in at the 3rd pit-stop (at Amore gym – the location of the treadmill run). We checked in in 6th postition, and given that only five treadmills were utilized for the event, we could not start until one of the first five tems had completed this mini-marathon… putting us a full 10 to 15 minutes behind the leaders, that we could never make up… although we did almost catch up at the food court pice challenge, where we checked in before the race leaders had checked out.

The 2.4km run spread the field early

The 2.4km run spread the field early

 
Running the 2.4km - Sammi looking on in the background

Running the 2.4km - Sammi looking on in the background

 

Thanks OMY and GV for a fantastic day – we had a blast!! However, I think it will be a long time before I ever attempt again to eat five bowls of dry cereal with no milk or water. :)

Also, a huge congratulations to students Sherman Ho and Gan Chong Zhi (both 23 years old), who checked into the final pitstop first and scored around $2,350 worth of cash and prizes. Well done guys!!

The Winners

The Winners

 
All the Competitiors with 'Ah Boys to Men' Cast

All the Competitiors with 'Ah Boys to Men' Cast

 
Ah Boys to Men - Gangnam Style

Ah Boys to Men - Gangnam Style

 
Watch the VODCAST below:

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Kindergarten Marching Band or Rehearsal for National Service?

By Aussie Pete, October 16, 2012 11:56 pm

Source: Aussie Pete

One of my mates that watched the video below commented that Jaime was very well-rehearsed in his debut in front of a large crowd and obviously knew exactly what he was doing… I agree completely, and this was as a result of months of practice and dedication.

He then went on to say that the marching band reminded him of the structured marching at Singapore’s annual National Day Parade and suggested that perhaps Jaime was being primed for his future in National Service  :)

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I kind of doubt that, but it was wonderful to watch and when the crowd screamed in appreciaton at the end of each segment, I was filled with an uncanny sense of pride. Later, Jaime told me that he was extremely excited and amazed when he marched out to see so many people watching.

The performance was part of the opening ceremony of the 2012 “Singapore Kinderland Sports Fiesta” held at the Toa Payoh Indoor Stadium.

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The day itself was themed around, “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s about having fun” – and this was reinforced by the fact that every single child received a gold medal at the end of the event.

Kudos to the organizers and well done to the kindergarten staff members who went above and beyond their duties as school teachers to make this day a memorable one for all.

Casey also had a great day watching his ‘ge ge’ and was also beaming with pride when he saw his efforts in the marching band – I think his voice was louder than the rest of the crowd combined.  :)

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Although the day was never about winning, it was quite amusing to see how serious some of the parents took the family and parents events… Sammi’s team came first in the ‘Let’s move as a team’ event (a variation of the old three-legged race) and we combined with Jaime to be a part of the first placed team in the ‘We are a Happy Family’ segment.

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Somewhat disappointing was our efforts in the Yio Chu Kang Kinderland team for the ‘Tug-o-War’. If my back was not feeling old and sore before, this event just sought to remind me that I’m not as young and strong as I used to be… (of course I’m kidding – there was no disappointment – we had an absolute blast with our fellow parents)  :)

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Watch the amazing Marching Band Video here (remember, these kids are only Kindergarten age):

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Again, thanks to Kinderland and the staff and volunteers. Special congratulations to the band master, Mr Victor Tan.

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Jaime had his own “End of day Gold Medal Celebrations”:

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Question of Dual Citizenship? We, The ‘People’ of Singapore…

By Aussie Pete, August 10, 2012 2:49 am

Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to create controversy with this article. I speak only from the heart, openly and honestly.

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As we celebrate another National Day and NDP (National Day Parade) in Singapore, we once again open our hearts and souls to this wonderful country.

And I ponder once again, about the possiblity of dual citizenship…

For the first time in our many years of calling Singapore home, Sammi and I were fortunate enough to have been able to attend in person at the NDP preview (held on 4th August), and to celebrate in the pride of the nation along with around 27,000 Singaporeans.

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We have always watched the parade on television, but the experience of the comfort of our own lounge room absolutely pales in comparison to actually being there and soaking up the atmosphere of the moment… I feel that I am still trying to rub the goosebumps off my arms almost a week after the event!!

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Now here’s the strange thing – many people my age might be preparing for what is commonly known as a ‘mid-life’ crisis. However, I think I’m undergoing what might be best referred to as a potential ‘identity’ crisis.

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You see, Singapore is our home and she has been very good to us. We are proud to live and be accepted here.

But I’m wondering – is this enough?

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The things that we do every day, the way we contribute to society and genuinely love our neighbours, the allegiance that we have undertaken in our actions and our hearts… I’m wondering, is it possible to hold ‘allegiance’ to more than one country? More over, is it acceptable to ‘pledge allegiance’ to more than one country?

The reason I ask, is that when it comes time to sing the national anthem of Singapore, ‘Majulah Singapura’ (Onward Sigapore), we do so with heads held high and an unmistakable sense of pride in our home and the nation.

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When it comes time for the nation to recite the ‘Pledge’, we do so… however, we have to omit a few words – I can not hold my hand on my heart and call myself a ‘Citizen of Singapore’ – because I am not. My passport is not that of a Singaporean.

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But I will continue to say the pledge – Why? Because all of the things I am pledging for (alongside my friends and neighbours) are things that I firmly believe and agree to abide by. I am living them everyday – this I can say, with my hand on my heart… regardless of the colour of my passport.

It is common knowledge that holding a ‘dual citizenhip’ is not something that Singapore will allow. I understand all of the reasoning behind this, but I honestly believe that in some cases, exceptions could (and should) be made.

The problem I have, is that if I applied to become a citizen of Singapore, Australia would have no problems at all if I wanted to take up dual citizenhip. However, to be accepted as a citizen of Singapore, I would be required to take an ‘Oath of Renunciation, Allegiance and Loyalty’ – effectively, I would need to renounce my Australian citizenhip… or in other words, I would be required to renounce my heritage, the home where I grew up, the history that made me the person I am today, my family, my friends… how could I possibly turn my back on the country of my birth?

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In my culture, such a renunciation would be completely frowned upon and unforgivable – I would be disowned by the people I love.

I am kind of hoping that among the thousands of people reading my blog, there may just be one person with some level of influence to take my request to the powers that be… there are some people, that would absolutely love to take up Singapore citizenhip, but due to the requirement for renunication of their country of heritage, just cannot morally bring themselves to do so… this does not make us any less dedicated to the success and growth of our nation, or what we are pledging for on National Day.

I will continue to pledge, but may just quietly substitute the word ‘citizens’ with ‘people’.

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To those in authority – please, please reconsider the option of dual citizenship for certain legitimate cases…. the literal definition of ‘allegiance’, is “Loyalty or the obligation of loyalty, as to a nation, sovereign, or cause”… does it really mean that it can only be to one nation or cause?

Interestingly and on a side note, Jaime had his usual National Day celebrations at his kindergarten the other day – it would not even occur to him that as he sings the anthem and then proudly recites the pledge alongside all of his class mates, that he is making the statement that he is a citizen… when in fact he is a permanent resident – as far as he is concerned, he was born here and is Singaporean… he is too young to understand otherwise – I’m sure such allegiances and pride will stay with him right up until he performs his national service and is then given the option himself to become a citizen – if he renounces his Australian allegiance first.

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For more pictures of our experience at the NDP 2012 preview, Click Here.

Below, is a video I took of the ‘Majulah Moment’ – the fly past of the Singapore Flag to the background of ‘Majulah Singapura’ – here come those Goose Bumps again :)

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Source: Aussie Pete Blog

Feeling Sexy and Patriotic at the Same Time – NDP 2012

By Aussie Pete, August 3, 2012 11:11 pm

This August 9th, Singapore celebrates it’s 47th birthday.

So it’s time to get mobilized and do your patriotic duty! The marketing guys at Mentos have provided us with a ‘viral video’ and message to do just that (to be honest, how the mint making giant associates themselves with Singapore’s low birth rate and ageing population by promoting the ‘making of babies’ is quite beyond me – but what the heck, this video is absolute gold!)

I shared the clever rap called ‘National Night’ with many friends and colleagues today, but when I got some blank stares from some ang moh mates who didn’t get all the humour, it dawned on me that many of the references would probably be lost on them… Aside from the obvious ‘making babies’ message of course.

The fact that I found it hilarious (along with most of my local buddies), is I believe, attestation to my successful integration as a heartlander and Singaporean PR.

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Strangely, this affirmation is enough to make me feel proud and patriotic in my own way… as we do every year, we have our national flag displayed in the window of our HDB loungeroom, the mini flag is waving as we drive with it attached to our car window, and this year, I’ve even got a Singapore flag as an iPhone 4S cover!!

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On another note, for many years now, we have ballotted unsuccessfully for tickets to attend the National Day Parade (or NDP preview) at the bay… but this year it’s a different story!! Donning our red and white, we will be heading down tomorrow (4th July) to bask in the glory of the event preview. How exciting, right?

NDP Tickets

And who knows… once the fireworks are over and the kids are in bed, we may just do our own civic duty and create our own fireworks before the 9th August (if I’m lucky). But to be totally honest – ‘putting a bao in the oven’ is not on our agenda right now! :)

So sit back and enjoy the video – and for those who don’t get all the humour in it, I make no apologies – come and live in Singapore!

Finally, for those who don’t know the English meaning of the Malay words of the Singapore National Anthem, ‘Majulah Singapura’, I found this version online with English translation – goosebump worthy, or not!!?

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NB: The logo for this year’s NDP, is the ‘Orchid Star’ and the theme is ‘Loving Singapore, Our Home’!

Source: Aussie Pete

Aussie Pete Needs a Favour – Latest in Fashion… Like, Follow, Visit!

By Aussie Pete, July 18, 2012 9:36 pm

bou·tique /booˈtēk/
Noun:
1. A small store selling fashionable clothes or accessories.
2. A business that serves a sophisticated or specialized clientele.

A Happy Customer is a returning Customer

NB: Dearest readers and friends – never in the many years that I have been blogging have I asked for your help on anything. Today, I have good reason to change this – for one time only. Please read the following article and then offer me the very personal favour of following, liking or visiting (or all three) of the links at the bottom! I implore you – I have never asked anything of you before, and I probably never will again.

For the longest time now – years in fact, Sammi has been talking about wanting to set up a business and an online shop. The idea was always to provide women’s clothing, lingerie and accessories that are all the rage in countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan, but have yet to hit the fashion scene in Singapore.

Her vision of such a ‘niche’ has been simmering, and eventually got to the point where we decided such an idea should finally become reality.

And so it came to pass…

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Online shopping and even the old-fashioned ‘blog shop’ are abundant in Singapore – almost it would seem, to saturation point. So, just like opening any business, the first step was to come up with a robust business plan – what are the objectives, investment required, inventories, supply chains, even payment methodology etc. The most important thing in the front of Sammi’s mind was – “What will set me apart from the (fierce) competition.

Therein lies the opportunity…

After much research (yes, I’ve become like a personal consultant as well as web designer and all-round ‘gofer’), we discovered that there are a number of risks even for those running a simple blog shop. If the authorities ever decide to do a crack-down on the small operators, it will become apparent that most of them are operating without appropriate business registration or required permits.

logo_ACRASo to mitigate this risk and to put some ‘substance’ behind what we are doing, we decided to register the business with ACRA (the ‘Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority’ of Singapore). Quite simple and cheap actually. So we are officially now partners in the registered business, “SG Alternative Shopping”.

Next – and there is a wealth of information available through ACRA and other advising departments – we wanted to make sure that any and all permits or licenses we required were attained. I won’t run you through everything, but there are requirements around customs (if you are importing or exporting) and requirements around location and operation of business (in our case, to operate as a ‘home office’), just as a couple of examples.

In the background, Sammi was madly working with wholesalers and manufacturers to come up with fashion items that may not be readily available in Singapore. She managed completely on her own, to source inventories and set up shipping and supply chains (incoming). She actually displayed some skills that I didn’t even know she had. The first items are now with us and up on the site for sale.

To this point, the investment had been – registration and license fees, inventory cost and shipping / logistics.

dreampurple01Also in the background, was the painstaking front of store and back end development. There are a number of open source solutions out there, but at the end of the day, you are only going to get the basics.

We extrapolated on this, and managed to integrate various modules and extensions (re-taught myself some long-lost java skills) and capitalized on (one of) the URL and hosting that I already had.

Now the site is live – I will probably one day give Sammi and invoice for my services (not really… unless I want to risk death).

Continuing on with the high expectations set on ourselves to ensure we were offering something quite unique to the competition, we decided to brand the store as a ‘boutique’ style and unique shop, with eyes on the latest in Japanese and Korean fashion.

The customer experience is also extremely critical, and in the case of SG Alternative Shopping, we are determined to make it another differentiator – as the adage goes: “a happy customer is a returning customer”.

Research shows that a very high percentage of the population (globally) are still not comfortable using the internet as a means to spending money. Whether they are concerned with supplying PII (personally identifiable information) across cyberspace or perhaps whether or not their credit card or payment details are safe and managed securely… guess what! – these concerns are actually completely very valid.

crownbear01So, after even more research and advice (as well as some self-learnings), we have secured our site with the latest in SSL encryption protocol. This means that the site is certified, and any time a customer is logged in, or a user is providing information, the connection is secured and encrypted – nobody else can see any of the information.

Furthermore, we have very strict policies implemented to manage any information provided to the site or to us. Our privacy policy is very strict and very transparent.

Finally, when it comes to payment and shipping methods, we have found that a surprisingly large number of online businesses require pickup of items and cash on delivery only, or some significant courier costs if they choose to deliver.

In our case, we offer free shipping to all locations in Singapore – however we recommend that our customers take up a ‘registered mail’ option for a very small pass-through fee.

Payment can be made securely through all major credit cards, PayPal, bank transfer or as mentioned above, cash on delivery. For COD, central locations will be arranged with the customer for collection.

koreanstylecollegedress01So there you have it – in short – the differentiators between Sammi’s business and the thousands of other online shops across Singapore, are:

1. Boutique Style – the latest Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese fashion items not often readily available in Singapore

2. Multiple Payment Options: Secure Credit Card, PayPal, COD, Bank Transfer

3. Free Shipping to Singapore Customers

4. Secure, encrypted shopping experience (SSL), with strict data policies surrounding how personal data will be used and managed

5. The highest level of customer service

SG Alternative Shopping officially opened on this past Sunday (15th July), and when I briefly posted a link on my Facebook Page, I received very warm encouragement from friends – both on FB and by email… even a couple of well known local celebrities wished us congratulations and all the best on the launch.

Although Sammi’s ready to rock and she is available at times during the day for live interaction on the site (through site consultant live chat – watch for the green status) and inventory is on hand ready to go (apparel, lingerie, jewellery, etc), we are under no misconceptions that such a business will take time to build (although she – very excitedly – got her first order today.

I will continue to assist (although I won’t be giving up my day job just yet :p), by helping with SEO and social media integration etc. Sammi has her own skillset with Chinese social media and networks such as Weibo.

So, why not offer some support for her to encourage such a bold undertaking – visit the site, interact with her through the site (and news articles), send emails, join the Facebook page and follow her on Twitter (although the accounts are brand spanking new, so don’t be surprised if there are not too many ‘followers’ and ‘likers’ just yet… gotta start somewhere right?)

If you’re a regular (or sometimes) reader of mine or one of my friends, please do me the personal favour and grace SG Alternative Shopping with your presence – in fact, you may just find that something unique for you or your partner or family member that you’d like to purchase!!

Click to visit SG Alternative Shopping Now!!

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Click here to Like the SG Alternative Shopping Page on Facebook!

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Click here to follow SG Alternative Shopping on Twitter

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Thank you, dear friends and readers….!!

Fully Endorsed by Aussie Pete

Oh – I almost forgot – if you have your own website, or you are a blogger and would like the opportunity to earn some cash, you can join us as an Affiliate… simply sign up, copy and paste some code to link to the site or any individual item you’d like to advertise, and for every sale that comes from your blog or website, you will get paid 5% commission!! Examples of the affiliate code are scattered throughout this article where you see an image of one of the products – just click the link and you will see the tracking code (mine) in the URL Click here to sign up as an Affiliate now!!

Singapore in 18 Hours – The Express Tourist

By Aussie Pete, July 17, 2012 11:35 pm

Source: Aussie Pete

Yesterday, I was very fortunate to be able to play the tourist guide for my very good friend, Ralph and his very lovely wife, Lesley. Hailing from Melbourne, the well-travelled pair had just disembarked from a flight out of London after their 5-week tour of Europe. They specifically stopped in to Singapore on their way home to spend time with us and indulge in some Singapore culture.

Ralph and Lesley - The Express Tourists

Ralph and Lesley - The Express Tourists

The only downfall of the entire day, was that in such a short time I did not manage to change or alter Ralph’s very dubious NRL (national rugby league) team affiliations, nor his very unhealthy appreciation of the player commonly referred to as ‘Billy the Kid’ (Billy Slater) – I will save this topic for another article some other time.

Given that flight QF10 touched down in Singapore in the early evening of Sunday, and departed again around 8pm last night (Monday), by the time you take into account the immigration and customs time and travelling to and from our home, it only allowed us around 18-hours to offer up the best of Singapore that we could manage in such a short period (including a night’s sleep). Obviously, the local food culture was a perfect platform to base the visit around.

The Crabs Cannot Be More Fresh

The Crabs Cannot Be More Fresh

Hence follows the ‘Express Tourist – Singapore in 18-Hours’.

8:30pm – Dinner at Fernvale Point Food Court (Koufu hawker centre)

After arrival at our home in Fernvale, quick calls back home, a freshen-up and quick play with the kids, we decided the most convenient way to jump into Singapore food, was to take Ralph and Lesley to our local haunt. The difference here to the standard chicken rice or 1-meat 3-veg options, was that as part of the shops in this hawker centre, we also have a very high standard selection of sit down, a-la-carte style food. This offers a nearly restaurant style menu and experience. And the food is actually awesome.

Ralph and Lesley are not fans of any very spicy food (chilli), so we were a little restricted with the selection. But we were not about to let this small detail hold us back. So we absolutely stuffed ourselves with Salted Egg prawns, hot plate venison, egg with onion, egg with minced meat, lemon chicken, seafood fried rice, Hong Kong style noodles, king of pork ribs… and a couple of other dishes, which allude me right now. Lesley even dared to try local kopi (although she found it a little sweet for her liking – I’ve become immune to the caffeine and sugar kick over the years… still my favourite coffee).

Salted Egg Prawn

Salted Egg Prawn

So we rolled home, showered, gossiped, played with the kids, argued about football and by sometime well after midnight managed to hit the hay for some shut-eye.

8:00am – Pete’s Home Cooked Turkey Bacon and Eggs

Always on the menu for any visitors that stay with us. We rose to alarm clocks at 7:30am, and wiping the sleepy-dust from my eyes and shaking the head clear, I prepared the now traditional Aussie Pete breakfast – accompanied of course by coffee and orange juice.

9:00am – First of the whirlwind outings and photo opportunities

We left home and braved the (close to) peak hour traffic down the CTE – surprisingly enough, the trip showed a very light side of traffic flow in Singapore. We managed to arrive at One Fullerton car park only some 25 minutes after leaving our apartment.
After a short walk around the area and into Merlion Park – we were quite disappointed to find that the icon of Singapore was closed for a facelift (in preparation for its 40th birthday in September) – we jumped on a bumboat with Singapore River Cruise.

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The 40-minute ‘Tale of 2 Quays’ cruise took us around the various tourist hot-spots – photo ops such as the Art Science Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Anderson Bridge, Fullerton, Cavenagh Bridge, Boat Quay, Raffles Landing Site, Elgin and Coleman bridges, Central and Clark Quay and up to Liang Court (and back again).

The Poor Old Merlion - Undergoing a Facelift

The Poor Old Merlion - Undergoing a Facelift

Along with the other passengers (3 other Aussies – 2 cane toads and 1 cockroach), a collective sigh went up, when they tourists realized that Sir Stamford Raffles was actually facing in the wrong direction for a good picture… I didn’t notice, because I was too busy ducking my head away from the financial district in case my boss happened to be peering out of the top floor of our building – here I was gallivanting and playing guide instead of being at work (of course I had taken a vacation for the day).

Upon return to the Merlion Park jetty, we had another quick walk and a cool drink to rehydrate then Lesley wanted a quick browse in one of the souvenir shops.

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12:00pm Lunch (Feast) at Bottle Tree Park

We left the bay area with time enough to collect Sammi from Jaime’s kindergarten and head on out to Yishun, to another of our mandatory visitor treats – and also our all-time favourite dining location, Bottle Tree Park (off Lorong Chencharu).

Here is where the real eating (pigging out) took place. The dishes consisted (among others), of pumpkin and pork rib soup (served in a pumpkin of course), crispy roasted chicken (whole), crispy Shanghai stlye pig trotter (huge), Sea Bass steamed and served in HK style sauce (melt in the mouth), their signature Pork and Egg dish (always popular), and of course the obligatory Chilli Sri Lankan Crab (for the locals) and Creamy Butter Crab (for the non-spicy visitors)… at least I got Ralph to try the chilli crab sauce, by dipping the corner of a fried bun and tasting – although it took him about 15-min afterwards to cool down. :)

Signature - Chilli Crab

Signature - Chilli Crab

As usual, our eyes were too big for our bellies, so we had more than enough to ‘da bao’ for dinner later.

2:30pm – Orchard Road and Shopping

Orchard Road Shopping

Orchard Road Shopping

Back in the car (squeezing) and back down the CTE, we landed in the heart of Orchard Road. We wanted to show a couple of different sides to shopping in Singapore and this globally known strip. So rather than do much walking up and down the length of Orchard Road, we did the up-market and branded type outlets in Paragon and Takashimaya and balanced it off with the bargain-basement style of Lucky Plaza. For those of you already familiar with these local retail landmarks, you will easily identify with the contradiction of these shopping experiences.

Lucky My Boss Isn't Looking Out The Window

Lucky My Boss Isn't Looking Out The Window

4:30pm – Back Home and Departure Preparations

With the family reunited after kindergarten, sightseeing and shopping we took the time for a final catch-up at home (although I was actually feeling quite worn out and succumbed to a 10-minute power nap as well – unplanned).

Dinner (or ‘tea’ as it is commonly referred to in Australia – I sometimes forget local Aussie English, and it actually surprises me to hear how weird some terms that I grew up with actually now sound… the word tea for me now is usually accompanied with another descriptor – ‘green’, ‘ice-lemon’ etc. I forgot that I once used it to describe an entire meal) – did not happen – unanimous decision! At least not so early – we took some food (da bao from lunch) and fed the boys a little later after we returned from the airport.

Some final packing and freshen up and back to Terminal 1 for the Qantas flight.

6:20pm – Check-In at Changi Airport

True to form, I landed us at the check-in counter exactly 2-hours before scheduled flight departure time. With little or no queue to speak of, we all took the opportunity to browse the terminal bookstore (I was actually without reading material for my de-stressing evening bath-time, which is very unusual – so why not kill two birds with one stone).

Some final farewells, and Jaime getting a little sad and watery-eyed (as is always the case with departing visitors), Ralph and Lesley entered the immigration area for the final time on this trip. I am quite certain that after 5-weeks abroad, coping with jet-lag and being walked and eaten off their feet in such a short time in Singapore, they would have been more than happy to return to the comfort of their own bed (I’m wondering if they even managed to wake up for a meal on the plane). :)

Ralph (MBS in the Background)

Ralph (MBS in the Background)

In all, we had a very enjoyable, albeit short time, with one of my best mates and his wife – pictured above with the MBS in the background.

Click here to view all pictures of the Express Tourist (added so far)

HDB or Private? You Can Make Up Your Own Mind Already!

By Aussie Pete, June 26, 2012 1:54 am

Courtesy of Aussie Pete

The following is an article that I wrote for the iProperty website and was published just last week… (all images have appeared before on my blog and were republished to serve the purpose of the article)

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Why I Chose HDB Over Private Property

When deciding on a property—one that you and your family will call ‘home’—there are some important factors besides finance that you should keep in mind.

As a foreign-born HDB dweller, my housing decisions have been often inquired upon. With this article, I hope to shed light on why I chose a HDB flat over private property, and why Sengkang West of all the housing estates. I will also offer some friendly guidance to those also looking to make Singapore their home.

Celebrations at Sengkang West. All images courtesy of Peter Breitkreutz

Celebrations at Sengkang West. All images courtesy of Peter Breitkreutz

Resale HDB: Are you qualified?


This should be the first checkpoint for non-Singaporeans deciding between HDBs and private properties. For those considering resale HDBs in particular, there are quite a few eligibility conditions and legalities you should take note of beforehand. For instance, resale HDB buyers have to be Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents, or have at least one such listed occupant. In terms of regulations, there is one rule widely covered in recent news: you must sell off any private property you already own within six months of purchasing a resale flat. More information can be easily found on the HDB InfoWEB.

Unless you meet the stated criteria, your best bet is private property. In case anyone was wondering, PRs are not eligible to purchase new HDBs.

Condominiums: Are you sure?


Why not a condo, you ask? Very good question!

When we first moved to Singapore sans PR status, we did not want to do the stereotypical expat thing and move into predominantly foreign communities. After spending some time searching for the right location, we thought we couldn’t get any more ‘heartlander’ than moving to Woodlands, the northern-most part of the island.

However, we failed to realise that moving into a rental condominium still meant that we ended up surrounding ourselves with a non-local community. Additionally, security guards and boom gates ensured that we were practically locking ourselves out of the community, and the community out of our lives.

Sure, the facilities (pool, gymnasium, function rooms) and privacy that come with condominiums are attractive. But the security measures, in particular, did little to make us feel safer in a country that already boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Neither was it helpful in integrating us into the community we so desperately wanted to belong to. It felt almost like we were on an extended business trip at a resort; definitely not like a place I’d call home.

After a few years there we decided to explore our options, this time deciding not to rent. The dramatically fluctuating rental market then affirmed our decision, but it was not our main motivation. It dawned on us that to really integrate and root ourselves, boots and all, in Singapore for the long term, we needed to stop living the ‘pretend heartlands’ lifestyle. Even now, we still hold the belief that rent money is dead money when it comes to planning for our future in Singapore.

This decision then led us to the resale HDB option.

We soon realised that many five-room HDB flats (or ‘three-bedroom’ in foreigner speak) were larger than modern condominiums, and the newer HDB buildings and estates were styled similar to condominiums. New HDBs were taller, with fewer flats per floor, an elevator at every level and actual hallways within the flats!

Our current apartment has 22 floors with only four ‘point blocks’ on every level. It has a layout and style similar to our former private home, but with more area and a lovely view. Of course, the difference was the lack of private pool and security.

Sengkang West HDB flat

Sengkang West HDB flat

HDBs: a golden opportunity for integration


If not for living in an HDB estate, we never would have gotten the chance to serve the community.Joining a local grassroots organization not only satiated my passion for charity work, but also afforded us a key opportunity to know and befriend those in our community. Another step towards integration in our new country!

I am now a grassroots leader and member of the Anchorvale Community Club Management Committee, with a community network that now stretches across Sengkang West. We are proud to be part of a strongly bonded community, where it is very rare to visit neighbourhood shops and eating places without running into people we know. We now treat our neighbours like family, and vice versa!

I think such a deep integration at the grassroots level is not impossible should we have opted for yet another private property, but I am sure it would have been much more difficult.

A family carnival at the HDB heartlands makes a good opportunity to get to know neighbours

A family carnival at the HDB heartlands makes a good opportunity to get to know neighbours

Sengkang West: Who are the people in your neighbourhood?

As a young family with two ickle boys, we fit in quite well in Sengkang West, which was then (and is still considered) a relatively new and developing part of Singapore. We have seen so many new buildings sprouting up over the years, and practically grew up with this estate.

Furthermore, as we are still considered a foreign family, joining a blossoming community instead of a mature estate was in hindsight also made it a little easier for us to cultivate a sense of belonging.

Family time at the park

Family time at the park

HDB for the long haul


When it comes to deciding between HDBs and private apartments, it’s all about your personal motivations and your desired lifestyle in Singapore.

For us, we wanted our locally born children to be completely immersed in the culture of their birth country. Our elder boy now attends a kindergarten near our home, swimming classes at the public sports complex, and art classes at the local Zone E RC office. His best friends are Singaporeans too. By living in the HDB heartlands, we plan to eventually enroll him and his brother in a local school.

We would not dream of giving up our HDB lifestyle in a million years.

Meeting Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Meeting Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong

So if you’re looking to truly make Singapore your home, I think the answer is a no-brainer: move out of the expat comfort zones and into the HDB heartlands. It’s a decision that has fulfilled my life; I am certain yours will be too.

A Rising Star – Zheng Jia Kai (郑家恺) the Drypers Ambassador

By Aussie Pete, June 26, 2012 12:46 am

Courtesy of Aussie Pete

Apologies dear readers, for the delay between articles – with the past couple of weeks having been very busy at work, fathers day and birthday celebrations, while battling with a nasty cold, time has indeed been very tight… so now I’m trying to play ‘catch up’.

Friends of mine on Facebook, would be well aware from the random pics I’ve uploaded, that my youngest boy (almost 2-year old Casey or in Chinese, 郑家恺), is the ‘brand ambassador’ for the latest Drypers advertising campaign and catch-phrase, ‘The Best Ever’.

Now that the ads have gone live and Casey’s pictures are appearing all over Singapore, I thought it would be fitting for me to give a quick plug for such a cool and quirky marketing and advertising campaign.

Drypers05

It first started with the main ‘best ever’ image appearing in newspapers across the island a few weeks ago and full page ads in Mother and Baby magazine.

Behind the scenes at the main photo shoot

Behind the scenes at the main photo shoot

Since then, we have seen other pictures from the photo shoot in shopping mall displays, billboards and even bus stops.

A Drypers display that we saw at the Giant hypermaket at Tampines

A Drypers display that we saw at the Giant hypermaket at Tampines

We are still waiting for the viral video campaign to be launched, where Casey will appear as the ‘best ever talking baby’.

Behind the scenes of one of the video shoots (in this one the set has been constructed in our home)

Behind the scenes of one of the video shoots (in this one the set has been constructed in our home)

Needless to say, we are all very proud of him – although I am still to get a cut of his earnings as his ‘manager and agent’ (and chief taxi driver) :p

At the Drypers 'Little Day Out' on Saturday just gone by, we noticed he even now seems to have his own line of 'shopping bags'

At the Drypers 'Little Day Out' on Saturday just gone by, we noticed he even now seems to have his own line of 'shopping bags'

As an aside, Casey had his first live media appearance at the Drypers ‘Little Day Out’, and both Sammi and I were interviewed – be sure to check it out this Thursday night on both Channel 5 and Channel 8 (immediately after the news)… Sammi also performed a ‘celebrity nappy change’ for the cameras

What I Really Said – Singaporean Sentiments Toward Foreigners

By Aussie Pete, June 7, 2012 1:26 am

“More than eight in 10 Singaporeans feel the country needs foreigners, but mostly to do jobs that Singaporeans do not want to do. Those polled say they accept foreigners being allowed in to work – but at a slower pace.”

Source: Aussie Pete Blog

Images Courtesy of The Straits Times

Statistics Courtesy of The Straits Times

Statistics Courtesy of The Straits Times

Now let’s put my thoughts in perspective – and a disclaimer… I am not agreeing nor disagreeing with the report or the comprehensive exposé that covered a number of pages.

Firstly, a survey of 400 people does not provide anywhere near enough data points to draw any statistical conclusions – but that didn’t stop the Straits Times in last Saturdays newspaper.

Image Courtesy of The Straits Times

Image Courtesy of The Straits Times

Secondly, when I took the time to respond in detail to the journalist’s written interview questions and then to also allow myself to be interviewed by telephone for more than a half an hour, the least that the publication could have done is to properly portray my sentiments.

I was aghast when one of my friends approached me and said, “Wah Lau! You attacking government policies now, is it?”

Following at the bottom of this post, you can read my actual responses to the written interview – how this translates simply into the short quotation that appeared in the paper, I have absolutely no idea:

‘Australian Peter Breitkreutz, 45, a senior vice-president at Citibank, thinks the pace of immigration and certain government policies have added to local unhappiness. “It could be due to the rising cost of resale flats. A lot of people say foreigners are pushing prices up when actually, there are a lot of other underlying causes,” he says.’

Courtesy of The Straits Times

Courtesy of The Straits Times

I guess, it’s similar to one of the points I was making, but it does sort of sound like I’ve got a problem with some Government policies when stated without any other context.

According to the Reach website, the results “were among the findings of a Straits Times survey to gauge sentiments towards foreigners. The survey of 400 Singapore citizens shows that the majority believe in the need for foreigners. The responses on why Singaporeans have problems getting along with foreigners indicate that their unhappiness stems from the negative impact on jobs and the environment, rather than discomfort with social or cultural differences.”

Statistics Courtesy of The Straits Times

Statistics Courtesy of The Straits Times

My regular readers know that I always love to set the record straight – so here is a transcript of my responses to the written survey:

1. Do you think Singapore has become less welcoming to foreigners in the past few years?

No, I don’t think Singapore has been less welcoming. When we first arrived many years ago, we were very sensitive to ‘being different’ and felt uncomfortable if people stared or did not necessarily seem to like us. This was more our problem than anything, and can probably be attributed to ‘culture shock’. Over recent years and after sincere effort to integrate, this has changed and we very welcome here now. In my observation, the general election last year definitely saw rise to some ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment, especially in the ‘new media’ space, but my opinion is that it was more centered around concerns on certain policies and living standards rather than specifically targeting foreigners… this was more like a ‘by-product’. (There will always be some people – everywhere in every country – who are not welcoming to foreigners)

2. Would you say that it’s still one of the top destinations for foreigners?

Absolutely I have seen no slow down in the number of people emailing me or contacting me through my blog wanting information on working and living in Singapore, and processes etc. In fact, especially over recent months, I have been overwhelmed with these kind of enquiries from both people I already know as well as total strangers – I cannot answer all of these quickly enough.

3. Why have you chosen to stay/set up base here?

We have chosen Singapore for a number of reasons. Originally, we were enticed by the common-stated benefits – low-crime, safety, high quality education, efficiency (transport, process such as taxation, medical care, etc), low taxes (comparatively), friendly people and culture, great food… the list goes on. It is also ‘central’ geographically when it comes to visiting family, located in both Australia and Shanghai, China. This was our original reasoning behind making the move.

Since then, and after we became permanent residents in 2008 and moved into a local heartlands HDB estate, became involved in grassroots and community volunteer work, our network of friends has expanded exponentially. We feel very much at home and welcome in our local community and our children have become just as accepted, if not more – both boys were born here, and regardless of their citizenship status, see no differentiation between themselves and their local Singapore friends. With this, the boys extracurricular activities (one in kindergarten, learning musical instruments, doing separate mandarin lessons – in which he’s fluent, swimming classes, drawing classes… all of which he loves. Our other boy at one and a half has become a local model of sorts, appearing in print and online campaigns for baby products). I know I digress, but it is all of these things that make us feel at home – the people, our community, the activities we do… moving out of this situation or out of Singapore is not even something that enters our mind.

4. Do you have many local friends, or do you spend time mostly with other foreigners?

Outside of my work environment (which is obviously a mix of foreigners and locals), we tend to spend 100% of our time with local friends. Living in Sengkang West, there are not many other ‘ang mohs’ in our immediate area. Through my grassroots connections and interaction with countless local families and neighbours through community events, we have many, many local friends. When we head out locally, it is very rare that we can go anywhere that we don’t run into people we know and always make the time to stop for a chat or catch-up. It is even more rare that we spend any time with other foreigners (outside of work), unless we have friends visiting from overseas.

5. Do you worry that conditions – or political sentiment – will one day make it difficult for you to stay?

I sincerely hope not. It’s not something that worries me, but just as in any country (Australia included), there will always be a small pocket of people who will not accept foreigners into their every day lives and may at times even be vocal or abusive about it. I’ve been told I’ve got thick skin, but I think it’s more about just being able to ignore any serious attack on my intentions or motivations for living in Singapore. I have learned that life experiences and upbringing are what help us form our ‘ladder of inference’ and it’s not something that’s easily changed, so just as I will tolerate these few people, I hope they will in return learn to be tolerant of me. In most part, Singaporeans are warm, accepting, kind and gracious people. But it does take time to earn such acceptance and respect. I firmly believe the onus is on us, the foreigner, to integrate by remaining respectful to the cultures, behaviors and expectation of the society in which we want to be accepted. In fact, I also strongly believe that it is the inappropriate behavior of others that are not respectful of their host country, which can ‘taint’ the rest of us. When I see an Australian displaying behavior that is disrespectful or unmindful of the local Singapore culture or people and maybe even offensive, it is the one thing that makes me feel very angry and even sad.

I should also add that it is important not to confuse any concerns over government policies with ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment. Open debate over issues facing everyday people is very healthy and should be encouraged. Unfortunately, it is the small pocket of people that will try and turn such debate into ‘foreigner blaming’. Whether it be cost of living, rising home prices, over-crowded transport, medical expenses, income gap, etc, etc – the list goes on… these are all very important issues for people to be discussing (and not just in Singapore – they are common the world over). There will always be a few (also in every country around the world), who will blame all of these debatable topics on foreigners.

I think as long as my family and I remain true to ourselves, our neighbours, our community and actively contribute in a healthy way to Singapore, show respect and gratitude for being accepted here in our new home, then I see no reason why it would become difficult for us in the future (I hope). At the end of the day, it is the way in which we raise our children – the values we instill in them and their tolerance and respect for others. I have great faith in coming generations – children who will have been brought up in a multicultural and truly global community. I think discussion around race or skin colour will become a thing of the past.

Lest We Forget – Thank You From Singapore and the Region to the Aussie Diggers!

By Aussie Pete, April 25, 2012 12:29 am

anzac01

Source: Aussie Pete

As we clock over past midnight to the 25th April, 2012, we welcome the onset of another ANZAC Day.

A national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and to commemorate all those who died and served in military operations for their countries.

anzac04It also serves as a time for reflection for me personally as I recall the various stories that were handed down from my late Grandfather, Henry Thomas Aubrey Bowles, who served as an Air Force navigator.

Given that this year’s ANZAC day falls on a weekday (and there is obviously no national vacation here in Singapore), we will not be heading out to Kranji war memorial for the dawn service. However, every time I have visited the site, I am always overwhelmed at the number of Aussie graves lined up as far as the eye can see.

Therefore, this year, I thought I would offer up a few statistics on the number of Aussie POWs (prisoners of war) and fatalities as recorded in history in Singapore and surrounding areas within the region:

anzac02

Twenty-two thousand Australians were captured defending Malaya, Singapore, and the Netherlands East Indies. Over 21,000 were from the Second AIF (particularly the 8th Division); 354 RAN; 373 RAAF officers; and 71 women from the Australian Army Nursing Service. Of these, 14,792 were captured at Singapore; 2,736 on Java; 1,137 on Timor; 1,075 on Ambon; and 1,049 at Rabaul.

Nearly 36% of Australian prisoners (8,031) died in captivity.

Massacres of Australians occurred at Tol Plantation on New Britain (160 Australians); Parit Sulong in Malaya (110); and at Laha on Ambon (over 200). Twenty-one Australian nurses were executed on Banka Island, and an unknown number of Australians elsewhere in Malaya and in Singapore, especially at the Alexandra Hospital.

Nearly 2650 Australians died on the Burma-Thailand Railway.”

“[In September 1945] the largest numbers of Australians were congregated on Singapore Island and Johore (5,549); 4,830 were distributed in several camps and on a number of working parties in Thailand and remote areas of Burma; 265 were in French Indo-China; about 750 were distributed throughout the islands of the Netherlands East Indies, with the largest group (385) in Java, and in Sumatra (243); about 100 were on Ambon; two were at Macassar, seven on Bali; another 150 were at Kuching in British North Borneo. About 2,700 were distributed between Japan, Korea and Manchuria. About 200 remained on Hainan”. [Wigmore, p. 633]

Sources:

Peter Dennis (et al), The Oxford companion to Australian military history, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1997)

Lionel Wigmore, The Japanese thrust, Australia in the war of 1939-1945, vol. IV (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1968)

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To all past and current Australian service men and women – thank you for what you have done and what you continue to do. I thank you, Australia thanks you… and lest we forget, Singapore and the region thanks you for your continued allegiance.

Video: 15th February, 2012 – The 70th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore:

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