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We have lift-off, NASA – A Human Adventure opens today

2016 November 19

Space exploration, fuelled by the cold war rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, made significant progress in the 1950s and 1960s. As a child of the 1960s, I was caught up in its excitement of it and especially of its most significant outcome – the landing of the first man on the moon in July 1969. The space programmes that led to the landing had itself generated huge interest during the decade. It was a space exploration flavoured decade in many ways and I took great satisfaction in rocket shaped ice-lollies, ice-cream packed in a Mercury spacecraft inspired container and on getting my hands on moon-landing inspired action transfer sets. For a child it seemed a most exciting of times; times that certainly came back to me visiting a preview of NASA – A Human Adventure, which opens today (19 November 2016) at the ArtScience Museum.

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A Mercury Spacecraft, the first US manned spacecraft.

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The exhibition, which is arranged around five galleries, takes visitors into a fascinating journey through space exploration and starts with the dreams humankind had long had of venturing into the unknown. There is an amazing collection of over 200 artefacts on display, several of which have flown in space, connected with both the Soviet and the NASA efforts. There also is get a chance to get up close to several training modules and full or large scale reconstructions of space craft including one of the Space Shuttle’s front section in which the flight deck and the mid-deck – where the crew eats, sleeps and works, complete with a vacuum toilet.

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The first gallery – which tells us all about the Dreamers.

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A re-creation of the Space Shuttle’s Flight Deck.

The Space Race, prompted by the Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and the US, is well documented in the second gallery, Go Fever. The intense rivalry provided much impetus for the rapid progress made by both countries in  space exploration and resulted in the first manned flights and the eventual moon landing. A model of Sputnik, the first satellite, which started the Space Race in earnest is on display. The early lead that the Soviets took is also seen in several rarely seen Soviet space artefacts and in a remembrance of the first human in space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

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A model of Sputnik – the very first artificial satellite, launched by the Soviet Union. The reflection on it is that of Go Fever, the second gallery.

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The Soviet Space programme put the first man in Space – Yuri Gagarin, who is remembered in Go Fever.

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Soviet space programme artefacts – including a briefcase carried by Yuri Gagarin into space.

The exhibition has three other galleries, Pioneers, Endurance and Innovation – tracing the evolution of rocket technology, how the challenges of space travel were overcome and how ground breaking technologies have been created through the programme. There is also a rather interesting art installation, The Indonesia Space Science Society by Indonesian artist, Venzha Christ that includes a 3 metre sculpture and invites visitors to listen to space.

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A scale-model of the very long Saturn V rocket.

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The Jupiter nose cone – launched into space and recovered from the sea – the experimental nose cone was a crucial step in development of re-entry vehicles – necessary for manned space flights.

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Titan I LR-87 rocket engine.

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The installation by Venzha Christ.

A highlight of the exhibition is the G-Force Astronaut Trainer ride, which simulates the flight of the 1961 Liberty Bell 7 with forces of up to 2G. The ride takes up to four and costs $6 on weekdays (Mondays to Thursdays) and $9 during the weekends.

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The G-Force Astronaut Trainer Ride.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the ArtScience Museum is also running the Art and Science of Space season. Several programmes are lined up including an Insights Tour during the opening weekend, given by Jukka Nurminen – an avid aeronautics enthusiast and the producer and curator of the exhibition. Two sessions will be held at 11.30am  lasting an hour on 19 and 20 Nov, which will be complimentary to ticket holders but limited to 25 per session (stickers will be given out 5 minutes before the tour begins). There are also public guided tours on 25 Nov at 3-4pm and on 27 Nov at 11.30am-12.30pm. A series of workshops will also be held. The exhibition runs until 19 March 2017 and more information on it, its programmes and ticketing can be found at the exhibition’s website.

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Jukka Nurminen, Producer and Curator of the exhibition.


More exhibits:

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Spacesuits.

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A Soviet lunar vehicle.

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Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle.

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Moon rock collection case, bags, a glove and a boot.

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An Apollo survival kit.

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Command compartment of a Gemini Spacecraft.

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A command module.

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Apollo Command Module.

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Space Shuttle front section.

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An actual unused leg for the Apollo lunar landing module

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Film shot by Apollo astronauts.

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A Hasselblad camera of the type used for lunar operations.

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TV camera of type used for lunar operations.

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Lithium hydroxide canister for removing carbon dioxide. This featured in the Apollo 13 near tragedy that left the Command Module with limited electricity supply. To save power in the Command Module that was crucial for reentry, the Lunar Module was kept attached as a “lifeboat”. The Lunar Module did not have sufficient LiOH canisters and ground engineers very quickly found a way make join the rectangular canisters from the Command Module to the cylindrical canisters of the Lunar Module.

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An flight computer – which weighed about 100 kg.

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A photograph of the Apollo Lunar Module.

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A replica of the module with the triangular window seen in the photograph above.

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An actual Command Module parachute for descent back to earth – notice the burns from reentry on it.

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A heavily built Command Module front hatch.

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Models of Hubble and the ISS.

The gun battery set up for the defence of Singapore at Pengerang

2016 November 2

Hidden in the vegetation on a knoll just by the Tanjung Pengelih Jetty in Pengerang is the little that remains of a 6″ gun battery that was set up for the defence of Singapore in the 1930s. The battery was one of several that came under the Changi Command. Positioned at the southeastern tip of the Malay Peninsula, the battery, along with others at Pulau Tekong and Changi, protected the eastern approach to the Straits of Johor and thus the Naval and Air Bases constructed up the strait at Seletar. All that now seems left of the battery – the guns were destroyed by the British just before Singapore fell, at least from their accessibility to the public, are the positions where Defence Electric Lights or DEL’s were placed.

Structures belonging to a DEL position at Tanjung Pengelih in Pengerang.

Structures belonging to a DEL position at Tanjung Pengelih in Pengerang.

One of the DEL positions, with part of its roof collapsed.

One of the DEL positions, with part of its roof collapsed.

DEL’s, powerful searchlights,  supplemented coastal artillery. They could be used to search for and pick out targets, a practice that apparently had been used by the Royal Artillery since the late 1800s. These searchlights would be mounted in fortified positions closer to the coast and housed in concrete emplacements . Essential electrical power would be provided by generators housed in well-protected engine rooms, often built deep into the terrain.

A view from the inside of the DEL emplacement.

A view from the inside of the DEL emplacement.

Singapore's Defences, 1937 (Source: Between 2 Oceans (2nd Edn): A Military History of Singapore from 1275 to 1971 by Malcolm H. Murfett, John Miksic, Brian Farell, Chiang Ming Shun.

Singapore’s Defences, 1937 (source: Between 2 Oceans (2nd Edn): A Military History of Singapore from 1275 to 1971 by Malcolm H. Murfett, John Miksic, Brian Farell, Chiang Ming Shun).

Such would have been the case with the searchlight positions in Pengerang. Its remnants include both searchlight emplacements and an engine room, as well as supporting infrastructure such as accommodation blocks and storage rooms. These are all placed on the small hill that lies in the shadow of Bukit Pengerang or Johore Hill, on which the two 6″ guns of the battery were positioned.

A 1935 map showing positions or intended positions of Defence Electric Lights at the eastern entrance to the Straits of Johor (including those at Pengerang) and their coverage (National Archives of Singapore online).

An extract from a 1935 map showing positions or intended positions of Defence Electric Lights at the eastern entrance to the Straits of Johor (including those at Pengerang) and their coverage (National Archives of Singapore online).

An observation post above the DEL emplacement.

An observation post above the DEL emplacement.

I managed to join a visit to the site over the weekend orgainsed by a grouping of urban exploration enthusiasts who collectively brand themselves as the Temasek Rural Exploring Enthusiasts or TREE. For the visit, the group had tied up with guides and representatives from several Malaysian organisations and groups. These were the Muzium Tentera Darat (Army Museum) in Port Dickson, the Yayasan Warisan Johor (Johor Heritage Foundation), the Malaya Heritage Group and the Jabatan Warisan Negara (National Heritage Department). We were also joined by a Soko Jampasri,  a Japanese researcher who is based in Bangkok. Soko brought with her a Japanese military account of the war, contained in a book published by the now defunct Imperial Japanese Army Academy.

Kapten Zuraiman of Muzium Tentera Darat.

Kapten Zuraiman of Muzium Tentera Darat.

Information provided by Kapten Muhd Zuraiman Abd Ghani of the Muzium Tentera Darat as well as members of the Yayasan Warisan Johor (Johor Heritage Foundation) and the Malaya Heritage Group, point to Pengerang, a remote and isolated corner of the Malay Peninsula, being among the last positions in Malaya to have been surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Army. The army’s arrival coming a week or so after Singapore’s 15 February 1942 fall and this allowed several members of the forces based there to attempt an escape to Batam, where they were to be rounded up by the Japanese. Those that remained at Pengerang were captured and sent over to Changi.

Soko Jampasri, the Japanese researcher and Zafrani Arifin from the Malay Heritage Group.

Soko Jampasri, the Japanese researcher and Zafrani Arifin from the Malay Heritage Group.

Zafraini showing a map of the Japanese invasion of Singapore from Sako's book.

Zafrani showing a map of the Japanese invasion of Singapore from Soko’s book.

There was a little uncertainty if the guns at the position were fired at all in anger. Information provided in the Karl Hack and Kevin Blackburn’s “Did Singapore have to fall? Churchill and the impregnable fortress” point to them being used to fire at a junk on 11 February 1942. The guns might not have been used again and were destroyed on 14 February 1942 along with those at Sajahat, Ladang, Calder, Sphinx and Tekong as the loss of Singapore seemed imminent. The gun positions on Bukit Pengerang are now within the confines of the TLDM KD Sultan Ismail, the Naval Base now at Tanjung Pengelih, and it is not known if any traces of their emplacements are still around.

Another observation position,

Another observation position,

An accommodation block.

An accommodation block.

One of the structures that remain is one that greets the eye just around the bend in the road from the jetty – a machine gun pillbox. The pillbox, which is now decorated will Johor state flags and a strange collection of old items, is quite readily accessible and is one that takes me back to the days of my childhood. There were many such pillboxes found across the southern shores of Singapore up to the early 1970s and several at the Changi area, including one at Mata Ikan where I would have the holidays of my early childhood at, served as places of play and adventure despite the strong smell of rotting matter that accompanied an entry into them. Most were removed as the coastline was being pushed out during the reclamation efforts of the 1970s. One that is left, at Labrador Park, now has its openings sealed and there no longer is a possibility of an adventure in them.

The machine gun pillbox by the coast and at the foot of the knoll on which the battery's searchlights were positioned.

The machine gun pillbox by the coast and at the foot of the knoll on which the battery’s searchlights were positioned.

Inside the pillbox.

Inside the pillbox.

Several other gun emplacements and positions remain intact, including the publicly accessible No. 1 gun emplacement at the Johore Battery in Changi, now topped by a replica 15″ gun as well some substantial remnants of the Faber Command positions in Blakang Mati. However, what is left now at Pengerang is especially of interest, as it is a reminder that the protection of the garrison island, even if it was to prove ineffective in the entire scheme of things, involved positions outside what we see today as the boundaries of Singapore.

The naval base at Tanjung Pengelih, with Bukit Pengerang in the background.

The naval base at Tanjung Pengelih, with Bukit Pengerang in the background.


More photographs taken at the site can be found on my original post: 

https://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/the-gun-battery-set-up-for-the-defence-of-singapore-at-pengerang/

Further information on the Pengerang Battery and the Coastal Defences of Singapore can also be found at:


In Singapore today, the amazing human tower of Catalonia

2016 October 21

A Catalonian tradition that dates back to the 1700s, a human tower or castell building performance is being seen for the first time in Southeast in Asia. One of the many rich and interesting cultural practices of Spain as a whole, and of Catalonia, the tradition – usually performed on important festivals, is inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The Minyons de Terrassa at Kidzania, Sentosa.

Close to 300 castellers from the Minyons de Terrassa are in Singapore, brought in by Qatar Airways and the Catalonia Tourism Board. The group has recently broken the world record for the biggest human tower ever built.

Practice makes perfect.

Practice makes perfect.

The building of castells involve a huge group forming the all important base on top of which tiers of more castellers are progressively built up, supported by the shoulders of those in the tiers below. The bigger built of the castellers form the lower tiers with brave young children climbing higher up to form the summit.

Forming the base.

Forming the base.

Forming the lower tier.

The Minyons de Terrassa, who have performed at Raffles Place on 19 October and at Kidzania in Sentosa today, will hold two more performances on 21 October 2016, at 4.30 pm for ITB Asia at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre and again at 5.30 pm at Customs House. On another note, Qatar Airways, flies from Singapore to Barcelona (and Madrid) via Doha’s Hamad International Airport. The airlines is offering special fares, which start from SGD 945, until 24 October 2016 for travel until 30 June 2017.

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More photos at this link.

10 reasons (out of possibly thousands more) to want to win that trip to Spain

2016 September 19

Spain with its rich history, diverse cultural and culinary influences and its much varied geography, is a country that offers a wealth of experiences to the traveller. There are many reasons to want to visit it, much more than the ten that follow and you now have a chance to find that out for free with TripZilla. The travel magazine and portal is looking at giving  a 12 D/11 N trip sponsored by the Spain Tourism Board and Turkish Airlines away in  Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines through its SPAIN IN THE EYES OF SOUTHEAST ASIA giveaway.

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The contest is open only to residents of each of the countries mentioned who are between 23 and 55 years old. To take part, a minimum of three smart phone taken photographs (taken in their respective countries of residence) that participants feel best represents Spain, need to be submitted. Participants will have until 24 September 2016 to do this, after which one winner will be selected from each of the three countries. The trip to Spain being given away will include round-trip tickets, hotel accommodation and guided tours.

Just four simple steps are needed for the chance to win this valuable trip, which are:

  1. Sign-up @ https://www.tripzilla.com/spain-tourism-board-giveaway
  2. Take a minimum of 3 snapshots of places, items or colours in your country that you think best represents Spain
  3. Upload your photos onto the TripZilla Facebook page event with the hashtags #visitspain #winatriptospain #spainintheeyesofsoutheastasia
  4. Add a caption to describe why you think that place/item/colours in your photos best represents Spain

More information on the giveaway can be found at TripZilla.com and also TripZilla’s Facebook page event.


10 (out of possibly thousands more!) reasons to want to win that trip

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The stunning sight of Toledo rising above the River Tagus

The historic city of Toledo, as view from Cerro del Emperador. Toledo, as viewed from Cerro del Emperador.The vista from the Cerro de Emperador after dark is just as stunning ... The vista from the Cerro del Emperador after dark is just as stunning …As it is just before sunrise. … as it also is just before the sunrise.

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Quaint villages right out of a book of fairy tales

Twilight descends on O'Cebreiro, a hilltop village along the French route of the Camino de Santiago. The village church is where the Holy Grail is housed. Twilight descends on O’Cebreiro, a hilltop village along the French route of the Camino de Santiago. The village church is where the Holy Grail is housed.A traditional thatched roof stone hut known as a palloza at O'Cebreiro. A traditional thatched roof stone hut known as a palloza at O’Cebreiro.The village of La Riera in the Asturias. The village of La Riera in the Asturias.

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The opportunity to spend a night in a historic building

Parador Hostal Dos Reis Catolicos in Santiago de Compostela, built as a hospital in 1499. Parador Hostal Dos Reis Catolicos in Santiago de Compostela, built as a hospital in 1499.Inside the Parador Hostal dos Reis Católicos. Inside the Parador Hostal dos Reis Católicos.Parador Hostal de San Marcos in León, built in the 16th century as a military building. Parador Hostal de San Marcos in León, built in the 16th century as a military building.

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A wealth of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that span a period of more than 2000 years

The amazingly well preserved 2000 year old Roman aqueduct in Segovia. The amazingly well preserved 2000 year old Roman aqueduct in Segovia.The gondola, seen from the walkway. A UNESCO World Heritage site from more recent times – the Vizcaya “hanging bridge”.

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Its gorgeous seaside towns

San Sebastian in the Basque Country. San Sebastian in the Basque Country.Castro Urdiales, a grogeous seaport in Cantabria close to Bilbao. Castro Urdiales, a grogeous seaport in Cantabria close to Bilbao.

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Some of the oldest university towns in Europe

The University of Salamanca, which dates back to 1134, is the oldest in Spain and the third oldest in Europe. The University of Salamanca, which dates back to 1134, is the oldest in Spain and the third oldest in Europe.Salamanca. Salamanca.The original university at the town of Alcalá de Henares goes back to 1293. The original university at the town of Alcalá de Henares goes back to 1293.Alcalá de Henares. The town is also known for its famous son, Miguel de Cervantes, Spain’s most celebrated literary figure. Alcalá de Henares. The town is also known for its famous son, Miguel de Cervantes, Spain’s most celebrated literary figure.

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To learn about its rich and fascinating history, particularly that of the Rerconquest

The reconquest - in which this cave in Covadonga in the Asturias, featured. A cave in Covadonga in the Asturias, which featured in the launch of the Reconquest,  a significant event in Spain’s history that remains very much embedded in the Spanish psyche.The walled medieval town of Ávila, whose walls date back to the 11th century and are said to be the best conserved of the age. The walls were constructed following the reconquest and repopulation of the area. The walled medieval town of Ávila, whose walls date back to the 11th century and are said to be the best conserved of the age. The walls were constructed following the reconquest and repopulation of the area.

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A set of still used pilgrimage routes that date back to the 9th Century

Pilgrims on the long road to Santiago de Compostela. A well used route is the Camino Frances, which involves a 780 km walking journey from the south of France. Pilgrims on the long road to Santiago de Compostela. A well used route is the Camino Frances, which involves a 780 km walking journey from the south of France.The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the relics of St. James (Santiago), one of the 12 apostles, is kept. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the relics of St. James (Santiago), one of the 12 apostles, is kept.The city of Santiago de Compostela. The city of Santiago de Compostela.

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Its impressive Gothic cathedrals

Toledo Cathedral. Toledo Cathedral.Burgos Cathedral. Burgos Cathedral.Stained glass inside León Cathedral. Stained glass inside León Cathedral.The walled town of Segovia is topped by its impressive cathedral. The walled city of Segovia is topped by its impressive cathedral.

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The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

The Gueggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The Gueggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

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The author also blogs on The Long and Winding Road.

Illuminated rememberances at the Wan Qing Yuan

2016 September 9

The terrazzo and mosaic faced playgrounds of yesteryear, symbols today of our longing for a Singapore we have discarded, have come back as lanterns.  Illuminated representations of four of these playgrounds, an elephant, a pelican, the iconic dragon and a watermelon, will decorate the lawn of the Wan Qing Yuan – the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall (SYSNMH), for the museum’s Mid-Autumn celebrations. The lantern display is show every evening from 7 to 10 pm from 9 to 18 September.

A pair of lanterns depicting the watermelon playground at Tampines. A pair of lanterns depicting the watermelon playground at Tampines.

The bulk of SYSNMH’s celebrations will be held over the weekend on 10 and 11 September. Activities to look forward to include lantern making and arts and crafts workshops, evening cultural performances, a public talk and shadow puppetry performances. Admission is free. More information on the Wan Qing Yuan’s celebrations and activities, do visit their Facebook Page.

Lanterns depicting the well-loved playgrounds of yesteryear at the Wan Qing Yuan. Lanterns depicting the well-loved playgrounds of yesteryear at the Wan Qing Yuan.jeromelim-2067 Impressions of the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations at the Wan Qing Yuan.

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Catch the fire dragon of Sar Kong this Sunday

2016 September 5

The fire dragon of Sar Kong, in a rare reprise of the its smoking performance earlier this year, will come alive once again this September on the occasion of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the temple its lair is found in, the Mun San Fook Tuck Chee (萬山福德祠) . The temple has its origins in Sar Kong (沙崗) or “Sand Ridge, where a community of Cantonese and Hakka coolies had settled in.

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The practice of parading the burning dragon has its origins in Guangdong – the origins of many in the community. Made of straw that has been imported from China, such a dragon would previously have been constructed for the feast day of the temple’s principal deity and sent in flames to the heavens.  In more recent times, such straw dragons would be paraded on an average of once every three years.  This particular dragon, which made for a more recent Chingay Parade, is not burnt but set alight only by the placement of joss sticks on its body.

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More information on the practice, as well as the historic setting for the village and the temple, can be found in the temple’s heritage room. More on the temple and its history can also be found at the post: On Borrowed Time: Mun San Fook Tuck Chee.


Schedule for the Mun San Fook Tuck Chee 150th Anniversary Celebrations

A number of events held from 9 to 11 September 2016 in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Mun San Fook Tuck Chee: Taoist priests from Ching Chung Koon in HK invited here to conduct rituals over 3 days, a seminar on Dabogong (Tua Pek Kong), a heritage exhibition, a book launch, and the finale – the one and only fire dragon dance in Singapore. Further details are found at this link.


Photographs from the parade of the Fire Dragon in March 2016

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The Moon Goddess descends to colour Chinatown

2016 September 4

One of my favourite times of the year as a child was the Mooncake Festival, as the Mid-Autumn Festival is commonly referred to in Singapore.  It is a time for mooncake shopping, running down to the bakery or sundry shop to buy pig-shaped pastries packed in plastic baskets resembling those commonly used then to transport live pigs, and the excitement that came with picking out a cellophane lantern from one of the colourful displays that seemed to decorate the fronts of just about every sundry shop there was found in the neighbourhood.

The Moon Goddess, Chang'e, will descend on Chinatown this Mid-Autumn Festival. The Moon Goddess, Chang’e, will descend on Chinatown this Mid-Autumn Festival (played by a dancer who will perform at the opening ceremony on 3 September).

The festival is one I still look forward to with much anticipation. The celebration is one that at a community level seems to be celebrated on a much grander scale these days and one thing in more recent times to look out for is the colourful displays of lanterns at several events being held across Singapore. One event that always seems to draw the crowds is the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens Consultative Community’s (KA-KS CCC) Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival and its colourful street light-up. The event this year returns on Saturday 3 September 2016 and will certainly not disappoint with its display of 900 hand crafted lanterns as well as a host of activities that will take visitors on a journey back to the stories at the very origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

The Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinatown and its annual light-up is always something to look forward to. The Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinatown and its annual light-up is always something to look forward to.Light clouds over Chinatown this Mid-Autumn. Magical light clouds will be seen over Chinatown this Mid-Autumn.

The centrepiece of this year’s light-up is a 12 metre high sculptured lantern. Located on the divider at the junction of Upper Cross Street with Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road, it depicts the moon deity Chang’e. It is in honour of the goddess that the festival is commemorated. The moon goddess is accompanied by three other large scale lanterns, two of which are also characters central to the folktale that serves as the basis for the festival, Hou Yi and the Jade Rabbit. The other large scale lantern is of the Moon Palace in which Chang’e resides. These can also be found along the divider between Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road.

The 12m high Chang'e lantern. The 12m high Chang’e lantern.The large-scale moon palace lantern. The large-scale moon palace lantern.And the jade rabbit with the elixir of immortality. And the jade rabbit with the elixir of immortality.

The characters and the Moon Palace, are also represented in a smaller scale over South Bridge Road, nestled in magical looking coloured clouds. Hou Yi, the archer, is depicted taking aim at the nine suns that folklore tells us he brought down. The act, which left us with one sun, saved the Earth from a fate that we now seem again to be threatened with.  The Jade Rabbit, is seen pounding away in the clouds. A resident of the moon, it is the rabbit who prepares the elixir of immortality, a dose of which Hou Yi was rewarded. A popular version of the tale has it that in a bid to prevent it from falling into the hands of a would be thief, Chang’e swallowed her husband’s elixir. As an immortal, she could no longer live on earth and was sent to the moon, the celestial body closest to her husband. Clouds are also seen above Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road and altogether there are about 900 lanterns, the result of a collaboration between the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and expert craftsmen from China, on display.  LED lighting is being employed for the first time, saving some 70% in energy usage. The illuminations will colour Chinatown for about a month from 3 to 30 September 2016.

Hou Yi, Chang'e's husband and the archer who shot nine or ten suns scorching the earth, also features. Hou Yi, Chang’e’s husband and the archer who shot nine or ten suns scorching the earth, also features.As does the moon palace and the jade rabbit. As does the moon palace and the jade rabbit preparing the elixir of immortality.Clouds over New Bridge Road. Clouds over New Bridge Road.

One thing that also draws the crowds to Chinatown are the festive bazaars. For the event, the ever popular Mid-Autumn bazaar is being held. Lining Pagoda Street, Trengganu Street, Sago Street, Smith Street and the open space in front of People’s Park Complex, the bazaar is always one to soak in the festive atmosphere and crowds are expected to throng streets that will be filled with stalls that offer a range of festive goodies such as traditional mooncakes and delicacies, as well  as decorations, lanterns and much, much more. The bazaar start a day earlier on Friday 2 September, and will be held until the night of the festival proper, which falls on Thursday 15 September 2016,

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There are also many other activities to look out for, such as the popular Chinatown Mid-Autumn Walking Trail. The trail, now into its third year, is free. Registration is however required as each trail session is limited to 10 persons. Sessions will be conducted at 3.30 pm on 4, 10 and 11 September 2016 and lasts about an hour and a half. Registration, on a first-come-first-served basis, can be made at this link.

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Another popular activity is the Mass  Lantern Walk at which 3000 participants are expected. This will be held on Sunday 11 September 2016 and will follow a route around Chinatown. The walk commences at Kreta Ayer Square at 7 pm and will end at the Main Stage in front of Lucky Chinatown at New Bridge Road.

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For the first time, the event will feature a Learning Journey. This closed activity is being conducted for a group of 200 students on 10 September in an effort to have the younger ones better appreciate Chinatown and the story behind the festival. Other activities during the festive period include nightly stage shows that feature performers from Singapore and also from China and Celebrating the Moon at Chinatown Heritage Centre (normal admission charges apply). More information can be found at http://chinatownfestivals.sg/.

The Singapore Garden Festival 2016

2016 July 28

The sixth edition of the Singapore Garden Festival is back! Running from from 23 – 31 July 2016 at the Gardens by the Bay, this year’s event covering an area of some 9.7 hectares, is the largest ever. The highlight of the festival is probably at The Meadow. Here visitors will be treated to eye-catching creations by some of the world’s gardening greats including the nine Landscape Show Gardens, six Fantasy Show Gardens, fourteen Floral Windows to the World and five Balcony Gardens – all of which are crowd favourites.

My favourite landscape show garden - The Treasure Box by Inch Lim of Malaysia. My favourite landscape show garden – The Treasure Box by Inch Lim of Malaysia.Modern Day Maui - a Fantasy Show Garden by Adam Shuter of New Zealand. Modern Day Maui – a Fantasy Show Garden by Adam Shuter of New Zealand.

Another favourite will have to be the burst of colours in the Flower Dome provided by the Orchid Extravaganza. On display are a rich heritage of orchids that will provide an appreciation of what the world’s most diverse botanical family has to offer.

An award winning Rawdon Jester 'Great Bee' at the Orchid Extravaganza at the Flower Dome. An award winning Rawdon Jester ‘Great Bee’ at the Orchid Extravaganza at the Flower Dome.More unusual orchids. More unusual orchids.

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A host of other displays and activities are also lined up for the festival including a Learning Garden, a Landscape Design Challenge featuring teams of students, the World Of Terrariums which sees more than 100 creative displays of terrariums put up by students, hobbyists and community gardeners. There is also a Vibrant Marketplace in the non-ticketed area to look out for. This sees over 100 booths offering both sustenance and items such as plants, gardening and landscape products and services, and arts and crafts.

A pineapple plant, one of the many useful plants - kitchen-wise at the Learning Garden. A pineapple plant, one of the many useful plants – kitchen-wise at the Learning Garden.

The festival also features a photo and an Instagram contest.  The “Tropical Floral Wonderland” Photography Contest offers prizes such as a Nikon D750 kit set, Nikon D7200 (18 – 105mm) kit set and Nikon D5500 (18 – 55mm) kit set. To enter, photos should be submitted by email to sggardenfest@gmail.com by 1 August 2016. For mobile phone photographers, uploading a photo to Instagram with the hashtag #sggardenfest (post has to be set as public) or via the contest page on the SGF Facebook page during the Festival period, will qualify entrants for a chance to win Nikon COOLPIX S7000 cameras.

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The festival runs until Sunday. More information, including ticketing can be found at the Singapore Garden Festival website.


More photographs from the festival:

JeromeLim-0183 More Fantasy Gardens – Mystical Depths by Hugo Bugg of the UK.JeromeLim-0191 A Garden in a Flower, a Fantasy Garden by Michael Petrie of the US.JeromeLim-0186-3 Dare to Dream, a Fantasy Garden by John Tan and Raymond Toh of Singapore.JeromeLim-0195 Another crowd favourite – Nature’s Resolution, a Fantasy Garden by Stefano Passerotti of Italy.Power of the Earth, a Fantasy Garden by Katsuhiko Koga and Kazuhiro Kagae of Japan. Power of the Earth, a Fantasy Garden by Katsuhiko Koga and Kazuhiro Kagae of Japan.Another view of Modern Day Maui. Another view of Modern Day Maui.JeromeLim-0230 The Sugarcane Maze – a Landscape Garden by Kong Jian Yu of China.The Sugarcane Maze - a Landscape Garden by Kong Jian Yu of China. Another view of the Sugarcane Maze – a Landscape Garden by Kong Jian Yu of China.Back to Nature - a Landscape garden by a South African / New Zealand team. Back to Nature – a Landscape garden by a South African / New Zealand team.JeromeLim-0207 Benny’s Sunflower Farm.JeromeLim-0208-2 Gary’s Musical Flower Field.JeromeLim-0210-3 Another view of Gary’s Musical Flower Field.Winter Wonderland. Winter Wonderland.JeromeLim-0211 A Balcony Garden.Galaxy Floristic - Floral Windows into the World. Galaxy Floristic – Floral Windows into the World.Another Floral Windows into the World display. Another Floral Windows into the World display.A Celebration Floral Table. A Celebration Floral Table.


More photographs from the Orchid Extravaganza:
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The last forested hill in Sembawang

2016 July 11

Sitting in relative isolation and surrounded by a lush forest of greenery for much of the 77 years of its existence, Old Admiralty House may soon find itself in less than familiar settings. The National Monument, built as a home away from home for the officer in command of the British Admiralty’s largest naval base this side of the Suez, will soon find itself become part of Sembawang’s sports and community hub.

Dawn over a world on which the sun will soon set on. Old Admiralty House in its current isolation on top of a hill, with the fast invading sea of concrete in the background.

The hub, it seems from what’s been said about it, will feature swimming pools, multi-play courts, a hawker centre, a polyclinic and a senior care centre; quite a fair bit of intervention in a quiet, isolated and of late, a welcome patch of green in the area’s fast spreading sea of concrete. Plans for this surfaced during the release of what became the 2014 Master Plan, which saw a revision on the intended location of Sembawang’s sports and recreation complex from the corner of Sembawang Avenue and Sembawang Road to the parcel of land on which the monument stands.

The original intended location of the sports and recreation complex in Sembawang (area shaded in light green) [URA Master Plan 2008]. The original intended location of the sports and recreation complex in Sembawang (area shaded in light green) [URA Master Plan 2008].

The monument, a beautifully designed Arts and Crafts movement inspired house, is without a doubt the grandest of the former base’s senior officers’ residences built across the naval base.  Set apart from the other residences, it occupies well selected position placed atop a hill in the base’s southwestern corner, providing it with an elevation fitting of it,  a necessary degree of isolation and privacy, and the most pleasing of surroundings – all of which will certainly be altered by the hub, notwithstanding the desire to “incorporate the natural environment and heritage of the area”.

A day time view. A day time view.

The revised location of the sports and recreation complex in Sembawang (area shaded in light green) [URA Master Plan 2014] The revised location of the sports and recreation complex in Sembawang (area shaded in light green) [URA Master Plan 2014].

The naval base that Old Admiralty House recalls is one to which colonial and post-colonial Singapore owes much economically. With the last working remnants of the base are being dismantled, the area is slowly losing its links to a past that is very much a part of it and Singapore’s history and whatever change the creation of the sports and community hub brings to Old Admiralty House and its settings, it must be done in a way that the monument at the very least maintains its dignity, and not in a way in which it is absorbed into a mess of interventions that will have us forget its worth.

Detail of a 1945 Map of the Naval Base showing the area where ‘Admiralty House’ is. The house is identified as the ‘Admiral Superintendent’s Residence’ in the map.


More on Old Admiralty House: An ‘English country manor’ in Singapore’s north once visited by the Queen


Around Old Admiralty House

The former Admiralty House, likened by some to an English country manor. The former Admiralty House, likened by some to an English country manor.The swimming pool said to have been constructed by Japanese POWs. A swimming pool said to have been constructed by Japanese POWs.Evidence of the through road seen in an old lamp post. The post is one of three that can be found on the premises. An old concrete lamp post on the grounds.What remains of a flagstaff moved in May 1970 from Kranji Wireless Station. What remains of a flagstaff moved in May 1970 from Kranji Wireless Station.Inside the bomb shelter. An air-raid shelter found on the grounds.

The amazing “hanging bridge” of Bilbao

2016 June 29

I love bridges, especially ones on which supporting truss or cable stays structures add to their overall aesthetics.

One rather interesting looking bridge the sight of which I was particularly taken with, is the Puente Vizcaya (Bizkaia in Basque) or the Vizcaya Bridge. I managed a visit to it during a sojourn in the north of Spain in 2013. Straddling the Río Ibaizábal, close to where it spills into the Bay of Biscay, the bridge with its horizontal span elevated some 45 metres above the ground and supported by four lattice ironwork towers, is quite an amazing sight to behold.

The suspended gondola of the Vizcaya Bridge with Portugalete seen in the background. The suspended gondola of the Vizcaya Bridge with Portugalete seen in the background.

The bridge, a so-called transporter bridge, is not what one might think of as bridge in the conventional sense. Rather than a roadway or walkway across which vehicular of pedestrian traffic is carried, a transporter bridge carries its load on a gondola that is suspended by wire-ropes from a moving trolley running across its horizontal span and is more akin to a ferry.

The Vizcaya Bridge. The Vizcaya Bridge.u8aosehucpgef69zqep5 The bridge in its early days (Gizmodo Australia).A close-up of the gondola. A close-up of the gondola.

Developed as a solution to allow the crossing of navigable waterways in areas where space and geography restrict the deployment of the long ramps that  would be necessary to carry vehicular traffic to the deck of bridges elevated high enough to clear shipping, the do have limitations in the volume and rate at which traffic can be moved across the gap and as a result have not seen widespread use. Less than thirty were built worldwide, mostly around the turn of the twentieth century.

The gondola is suspended using wire-ropes from a trolley running across its span. The gondola is suspended using wire-ropes from a trolley running across its span.

The idea for the transporter bridge has been attributed to Charles Smith, an Englishman from Hartlepool. While his invention was made public in 1873, it wasn’t until two decades later in 1893 that the first such bridge, which was the Vizcaya, was completed. Designed by Basque architect Alberto de Palacio, a disciple of Gustave Eiffel (of the Eiffel tower fame), it sparked off a small wave of construction of several other transporter bridges.

A view of the trolley from the top of the bridge. A view of the trolley from the top of the bridge.

Known also as “puente colgante” or “hanging bridge”, the Vizcaya Bridge as a structure, takes us back to the heyday of the industrial and maritime age in Bilbao and a time when the area’s deposits of iron-ore fed the hungry blast furnaces of Europe. This, as well as several other factors that include its dramatic presence and aesthetics,  the technical creativity it expresses, and its role in influencing the development of similar structures, has seen its inscription on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Inscribed in 2006,  the Vizcaya Bridge now holds the distinction of being the only World Heritage site in the Basque Country.

A view of the moth of the Ibaizába estuary from the bridge. A view of the moth of the Ibaizába estuary from the bridge.

The bridge is well worth a visit if you do find yourself in and around Bilbao, a city best known in these parts for its football team and the rather iconic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Besides the unique experience that crossing on its gondola offers, the bridge also features a walkway across its horizontal span, which provides not just a view of its trolley and operating mechanism but also a fantastic view of the towns of Getxo and Portugalete as well as the landscape around the mouth of the Ibaizábal estuary. More information on the bridge, access to its walkway and its UNESCO World Heritage listing can be found at the following links:

Portugalete fron the bridge. Portugalete fron the bridge.The gondola, seen from the walkway. The gondola, seen from the walkway.The walkway. The walkway.Getxo as seen from the bridge's walkway. Getxo as seen from the bridge’s walkway.The Ibaizába River. The Ibaizába Rive, a passage for shipping destined for the old docks of Bilbao.

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The Vizcaya Bridge seen through the buildings of Portugalete. The Vizcaya Bridge seen through the buildings of Portugalete.


The author also blogs on The Long and Winding Road.



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