Singapore’s Geylang Serai

This post is one month late (and eleven months early).

The photographs here were taken in late July, one or two days before Hari Raya Puasa, a religious festival celebrated by Malay Muslims in Singapore at the end of the fasting month.

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My wife decided we should join in the festivities and so here we were at Geylang Serai. We had a fantastic dinner.

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The lady who took our order.

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There was a long line in front of the cashier but it’s good as I got to take quite a few photographs.

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So yes, we were at the Kampong Cafe.

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Finally – the front of the queue.

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Yummy roti john!

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Yummy spicy shrimp rolls!

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I can’t figure out what she’s holding – it’s pastry…

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Yummy er … roti john?

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Yummy fried vadai!

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Yummy pancake!

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More vadai!

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It is really possible for one to be hungry again just after dinner.

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Yummy kebab!

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Food is meant to be eaten.

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Okay – this is my wife’s favorite part of the bazaar… lots of textiles.

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Lots of cloth frilly fabric-ish things…

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Dress things.

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He was carving a small figurine.

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A carpet auction in progress.

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Prices start at S$200.

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Very colourful drinks …

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Thanks for reading!

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Searching for Singapore II

I usually have 2 cameras with me during a photo-walk.

The previous post was with my stealthy Olympus XA2 loaded with Ilford XP2 400 film, while this is a Summicron 50mm Type II Rigid on a Leica M6 loaded with Kodak Portra 400.

I sometimes go all Daido Moriyama with my Olympus XA2 (or I try, at least), while with the Leica, I get that understated Martin Parr social commentary look (or I try, at least).

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So that’s the flat visible from Bras Basah Complex, my favourite haunt since when I was a teenager as it’s the place to go to for secondhand books.

I took an Irish colleague there once and he said quite accurately that he could see that Bras Basah Complex was a formative part of my education.

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Good old civil defence!

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Singapore, along with its many historical landmarks, are works under construction.

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That’s just outside the Arts House. I supposed you could call this commissioned graffiti.

“If You Dream Too Long” calls to mind If We Dream Too Long, the title of a novel by the late Goh Poh Seng. I met him once at a literary festival.

The author of yet another great Singaporean novel, Heartland,  Daren Shiau, once told he admires the writings of Goh a lot. Heartland is many ways a response to If We Dream Too Long. Read these two books if you want to know Singapore.

Yes, yes, that’s my inner Singaporean literature nerd emerging.

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That’s outside Ngee Ann City, a very appropriately named shopping complex because it’s so gigantic.

Yes, the humongous bookstore Kinokuniya Books is in there. It’s a place I go to for inspiration.

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The stone lion outside Ngee Ann Complex, representing prosperity and all the good stuff and guarding all that conspicuous wealth inside the shopping mall.

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That’s the ice-cream uncle at Orchard Road. I’ll usually buy a durian ice-cream wrapped in bread from him. It costs all of SGD$1. Pretty amazing.

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That’s “Urban People”, the art sculpture in front of Ion Orchard, delighting tourists always.

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We’re always being framed by brand names at Orchard Road, with fashion models watching over us, reminding us of what we could be if only we’re willing to spend just a little bit more …

Thanks for reading!

Searching for Singapore I

I’ve been living and working outside of Singapore for many years now, and every time I return, I’m reminded that I’ll never truly return to the Singapore I know.

It’s like that quote from Heraclitus – you’ll never step into the same river twice. It’s never the same river, and you’re never the same you.

My long-suffering wife knows of my street photography obsession (passion). She understands (bless her!) that I get cranky sometimes and need to go away for a while for an afternoon or two whenever we’re in Singapore.

I can’t help but walk around with my camera(s) with a sense of both recognition and alienation.

That’s the “chwee kueh” (water rice cake, according to Wikipedia) hawker auntie at the market near my place, where I also satisfy my cravings for “chai tow kway” (fried carrot cake) and “char kway teow” (unhealthy rice noodles with black sauce, pork fat, pork lard and cockles).

I have a mental checklist of food to tick off every time I’m in Singapore, such as satay, mee siam, mee rebus, hor fun…

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That’s the uncle who for some reason, prefers to sleep at the void deck on most afternoons.

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The above are homely scenes for me, while some of the scenes below remind me how commodified Singapore has become.

That’s a tourist, who, for some reason decides to lie down and take a nap near the Merlion Park.

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That’s another tourist … every time I am here I am reminded of how Singapore is a place for tourists… I wonder how many Singaporeans actually come here to take photographs …

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That’s at Waterloo Street, where you could find a street bazaar.

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And of course, that was the Chinese New Year period. Huat ah!

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And lion dance performances can really be mesmerizing…

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This is Ion Orchard, the shopping mall at Orchard Road.

And there’s something about the architecture that puts together celebrity culture with consumer culture.

We’re all encouraged to shop like celebrities.

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Sometimes we “relac one corner” (relax) and claim a little space for ourselves.

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And maybe we’ll find something meaningful after all …

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This is “Searching for Singapore I”. Part Two, in full colour, will arrive in due time.

Thanks for reading!