Archive for February, 2007

If I had 10 million dollars…

It’s the annual S$10 million HongBao draw!

Granted, you probably won’t win the entire pot, but hey, even 10%’s pretty decent loot too.

The draw’s this Friday, so if you plan to try your luck, now’s a good time to place your bets – not that I’m encouraging gambling or anything…

No smoking please

A couple of weeks back, I was at one of the pubs I used to frequent pretty often with my group of friends. I noticed that they had banned smoking in the upper levels of the pub, where the live band plays. While I think it’s a great thing that the government and the authorities are concerned about the health and wellbeing of our citizens, I can’t help but miss the whole smoky, true-nightlife kind of atmosphere that I didn’t feel when I was there on that night. Needless to say, the place probably had lost quite a few of their customers who were smokers too.

Keeping the tourists happy

Some friends from overseas were visiting Singapore this weekend and they went on one of those cruises that ply the Singapore River. As expected, it was not exactly cheap: $12 for 30 minutes or $15 for 45 minutes travelling in an un-airconditioned bumboat — yes, those old ones that used to transport goods and supplies from the ships moored off what is Marina Bay today. Back then (i.e. as recent as the early 1980s), the bumboats moved cargo up to warehouses and godowns along the Singapore River. Today, they ferry tourists.

I didn’t tag along for the ride with my friends. After all, I’m the one that rolls my eyes when I see tourists on those cruises and resists the urge to shout at them, “You’ve been cheated!” I mean, how exciting can it be to be chugging along a sanitised river with concrete riverbanks in the tropical heat?

I’d even warned my friends to be prepared for a tacky pre-recorded audio tour that would play during the cruise. It’s loud enough to be semi-audible from the riverbank on a quiet afternoon. My friends thought that was preferable to having an actual tour guide who’d try overly hard to be entertaining and/or hip.

But, as they reported to me via astonished SMSes, what they weren’t prepared for was a pre-recorded audio tour in an American accent.

On the one hand, it seems logical (if culturally imperialist): an American accent is, by far, the most recognisable English language accent worldwide, so it’s probably the easiest one for a group of international English-speaking tourists to follow.

On the other hand, this meant that words like “satay” and “Palembang” ended up being rendered as “suh-TAY” and “PAL-um-bang”. That’s hardly how they ought to be pronounced! Any hapless tourist who picks up the pronunciation from the cruise recording and asks a Singaporean for recommendations on where to get some “suh-TAY” is likely to be met with a blank stare.

Admittedly, most Singaporeans are relatively used to parsing peculiar foreign interpretations of local words and can eventually suss out what was meant. But tourist-oriented media really doesn’t have to replicate (and hence perpetuate) such mistakes.

Tourists and non-native speakers of Singapore English who want to get a handle on the right pronunciation of local terms, check out the mrbrown show. It’s also more entertaining and authentic than any pre-recorded audio tour at a tourist desination.

Chingay’ 07

It’s gonna be the annual parade once again with them floats and all, the riot of colours and the entire Orchard Road filled with people. While it definitely is a spectacle for the young and old alike, I personally have not been to any of those parades before. Anyone going today?

Anmitsu for you?

Dessert, Japanese style There seems to have been a little explosion of Japanese dessert houses lately — or maybe it’s just the one chain, Aji-Tei, and I just keep seeing it everywhere.

Not that Japanese desserts are hard to find in Singapore. While some restaurants only offer token matcha or black sesame ice cream flavours, there’s been a healthy stock of individually wrapped Japanese delights on sale in the Ngee Ann City basement for several years now. They don’t come cheap — each sweet costs several dollars and is usually good for only a couple of mouthfuls, assuming you can bear to tear into the pretty packaging and bite into the equally pretty sweet treat at all. But they taste so different from American, European or local desserts that I think it’s worth every bite.

What they serve at dessert houses like Aji-Tei seems to be a little more elaborate. There’s matcha- and black sesame-flavoured options galore, but they’re all served with ice cream, tinned fruit, red bean paste and agar agar cubes. There were also some iced concoctions that reminded me of ice kachang. East meets West, East meets East? A nice change of pace from the usual overly sweet dessert choices at Swensen’s or Haagen-Dazs, anyway.

Back to normal — or not

The extended Chinese New Year holidays are over, which means that it was back to school for the kiddies this morning and it should be back to work as well for most adults.

Except that this morning, there was such a preponderance of cabs slowing down hopefully in front of me at the bus stop, that I can only surmise that a lot of people must not have gone to work today. Whereas one would usually have to call for a cab at that hour, at least 10-15 empty ones passed me in the 10 minutes I spent waiting for my bus.

I also spotted some couples in residential areas wearing red (for good luck) and toting oranges, so they were obviously out visiting rather than off to work.

And one of the companies I freelance for is closed for business for the entire week! Though I think that’s the exception rather than the norm. Most Chinese-owned businesses should open tomorrow (the fifth day of the new year) for good luck, if they haven’t already.

Singaporeans may work like crazy caged rats for most of the year, but at least some people are having a good break this week.

Happy Lunar New Year

For all of those out there who celebrate Chinese New Year, a very Happy New Year from me! may the rest of your year be filled with good health, prosperity and good fortune.

Now go forth and eat as much of them titbits as possible! Ha!

Those Chinese New Year traditions

My family isn’t terribly traditional, so I’m hardly an authority on Chinese New Year traditions. In fact, I only learned about most of these traditions from reading Culture Shock! Singapore as a child.

"Level up" ang pows But since it’s only once a year and one should get into the spirit of things, I don’t mind obliging some traditions even though I don’t have to. Which is why this Chinese New Year, you’ll find me:

  • Emptying all the trash in the apartment before the end of the day.
  • Which includes changing the kitty litter today instead of tomorrow, which is when I’d usually do it.
  • Not wearing black or predominantly dark colours for the first couple of days of the New Year.
  • Preparing ang pows with an even number of dollar bills inside.

I don’t think I’m going to wear red on the first day of the New Year, though. That’s a bit much, innit?

On the eve of New Year’s Eve

I’m referring to the Lunar New Year, of course, or the Chinese New Year as it’s more commonly referred to here (though the Chinese are hardly the only people to celebrate it).

Anyway, I’m still at work, but passing through town during the lunch hour, I was dumbfounded at the number of people who are already out and about. Sure, all schools probably ended the day early, which explains the hordes of teenagers flooding the shopping malls and fast food joints.

But it looks like a lot of working adults have been liberated too. A number of my friends are enjoying a half-day at the office, while others just took the day off. I’m not sure what there is to do besides last-minute New Year shopping or, well, regular shopping (practically the national pastime), but on Orchard Road, it looks and feels like the long weekend’s already kicked in.

Not that all the shops and restaurants will be open through the public holidays. I’ve had to call around to find a place that will be open on the third day of the New Year (next Tuesday), and I’m thinking I should stock my fridge with a little food for the first day of the New Year, lest I be left at the mercy of fast food delivery!

Phew…

Weather

Is it me, or is the weather getting warmer and with a hint more moisture than before? Even the nights are this hot…

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